21. “‘But I am pondering over the skill with which you have presented the whole argument in support of your proposition, Ischomachus. For you stated that husbandry is the easiest of all arts to learn, and after hearing all that you have said, I am quite convinced that this is so.’  “‘Of course it is,’ cried Ischomachus; ‘but I grant you, Socrates, that in respect of aptitude for command, which is common to all forms of business alike—agriculture, politics, estate-management, warfare—in that respect the intelligence shown by different classes of men varies greatly.  For example, on a man-of-war, when the ship is on the high seas and the rowers must toil all day to reach port, some boatswains can say and do the right thing to sharpen the men's spirits and make them work with a will, while others are so unintelligent that it takes them more than twice the time to finish the same voyage. Here they land bathed in sweat, with mutual congratulations, boatswain and seamen. There they arrive with a dry skin; they hate their master and he hates them.  Generals, too, differ from one another in this respect. For some make their men unwilling to work and to take risks, disinclined and unwilling to obey, except under compulsion, and actually proud of defying their commander: aye, and they cause them to have no sense of dishonour when something disgraceful occurs.  Contrast the genius, the brave and scientific leader: let him take over the command of these same troops, or of others if you like. What effect has he on them? They are ashamed to do a disgraceful act, think it better to obey, and take a pride in obedience, working cheerfully, every man and all together, when it is necessary to work.  Just as a love of work may spring up in the mind of a private soldier here and there, so a whole army under the influence of a good leader is inspired with love of work and ambition to distinguish itself under the commander's eye.  Let this be the feeling of the rank and file for their commander; and I tell you, he is the strong leader, he, and not the sturdiest soldier, not the best with bow and javelin, not the man who rides the best horse and is foremost in facing danger, not the ideal of knight or targeteer, but he who can make his soldiers feel that they are bound to follow him through fire and in any adventure.  Him you may justly call high-minded who has many followers of like mind; and with reason may he be said to march “with a strong arm” whose will many an arm is ready to serve; and truly great is he who can do great deeds by his will rather than his strength.  “‘So too in private industries, the man in authority —bailiff or manager—who can make the workers keen, industrious and persevering—he is the man who gives a lift to the business and swells the surplus.  But, Socrates, if the appearance of the master in the field, of the man who has the fullest power to punish the bad and reward the strenuous workmen, makes no striking impression on the men at work, I for one cannot envy him. But if at sight of him they bestir themselves, and a spirit of determination and rivalry and eagerness to excel falls on every workman, then I should say: this man has a touch of the kingly nature in him.  And this, in my judgment, is the greatest thing in every operation that makes any demand on the labour of men, and therefore in agriculture. Mind you, I do not go so far as to say that this can be learnt at sight or at a single hearing. On the contrary, to acquire these powers a man needs education; he must be possessed of great natural gifts; above all, he must be a genius.  For I reckon this gift is not altogether human, but divine—this power to win willing obedience: it is manifestly a gift of the gods to the true votaries of prudence. Despotic rule over unwilling subjects they give, I fancy, to those whom they judge worthy to live the life of Tantalus, of whom it is said that in hell he spends eternity, dreading a second death.’”
This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.