Isocrates Sends Greeting to Dionysius
If I were younger, I should not be sending you a letter, but should myself take ship and converse with you there; but inasmuch as it so happens that the fruitful period of my life and that of your own affairs have not coincided—since I am already spent with years, and with you it is the high time for action—I shall try to disclose to you my views about the situation as well as I can in the circumstances.
I know, to be sure, that when men essay to give advice, it is far preferable that they should come in person rather than send a letter, not only because it is easier to discuss the same matters face to face than to give their views by letter, nor yet because all men give greater credence to the spoken rather than to the written word, since they listen to the former as to practical advice and to the latter as to an artistic composition1
but also, in addition to these reasons, in personal converse, if anything that is said is either not understood or not believed, the one who is presenting the arguments, being present, can come to the rescue in either case; but when written missives are used and any such misconception arises, there is no one to correct it,2
for since the writer is not at hand, the defender is lacking. Nevertheless, since you are to be the judge in this matter, I have great hope that I shall prove to be saying something of value, as I think you will disregard all the difficulties just mentioned and will direct your attention to the matters themselves.
And yet, certain persons who have been admitted to your presence have attempted to frighten me, saying that while you honor flatterers, you despise those who offer you advice. If I had believed their words, I should have remained quiet; but as it is, no one could persuade me that it is possible that a man should so surpass others in both judgement and action, unless he has become a learner, a listener, and a discoverer, and has drawn to himself and collected from every possible source those means which will enable him to exercise his own intellectual ability.
It was for these reasons, then, that I have been moved to write you. I intend to speak to you about important matters, matters about which no living person may more fittingly hear than you. And do not think that I am earnestly urging you in this way that you may become a listener to a rhetorical composition; for I am not, as it happens, in a mood to seek glory through rhetorical show-pieces, nor am I unaware that you on your part are sated with such offerings.
Furthermore, one thing is evident to all, that while our public festivals offer fitting occasions to those who want to make an oratorical display （for there, in the presence of the greatest numbers, they may spread the fame of their eloquence abroad）, yet those who wish to bring some serious thing to pass should address the man who is likely most promptly to accomplish in deed that which the word has proposed.3
No, if I were offering advice to some particular state, I should address its leading men, but since I have determined to give counsel looking to the salvation of all Hellenes, to whom could I more appropriately address myself than to him who is the foremost of our race4
and the possessor of the greatest power?5
In truth, it will be seen that not inopportunely I make mention of these matters. For when the Lacedaemonians were in power, it was not easy for you to take upon yourself the responsibility for the affairs in our region, nor to oppose the Lacedaemonians and at the same time fight the Carthaginians. But now, when the Lacedaemonians are in such a plight that they are content if they can remain in possession of their own land, and when our city would gladly join with you as ally in any struggle that you should care to make in behalf of the welfare of Greece, how could there befall a more favorable opportunity than that which now presents itself to you?
Do not think it strange6
that I, who am not an orator who moves public assemblies, nor a leader of armies, nor otherwise a man of power, am undertaking so difficult an affair and am attempting two of the most serious things—to speak on behalf of Greece and at the same time to give counsel to you. For at the beginning of my career I stood aloof from participation in public affairs （the reasons for this would be tedious to relate）,7
but of that culture which contemns the petty things and attempts to achieve the great things I should not be found to be entirely destitute.
Consequently, it would not be surprising if I should be better able to see something to our advantage than those whose public life has been but guesswork, though they have acquired great renown. And so, without further delay, but from what will presently be said, I shall make it clear whether I really am worth listening to. . .