Idea of invasion of Asia.
How were these evils to be cured? By inducing the Greeks to lay aside their quarrels with each other, and to unite in some common cause. And Isokrates conceived that there was but one cause which could so unite them—war against Persia.
He was not the first advocate of this idea. Gorgias had long ago proclaimed it in his speech at Olympia. Lysias had eloquently urged it at the same festival in 3881
. Isokrates set it forth with all the power and finish of consummate art, in his Panegyrikos;
a work which he had probably conceived during his visit to Gorgias in Thessaly. It is said to have occupied him ten years2
, and was published in 380 B.C., probably at the time of the Olympian festival in the autumn; though it is
Possible leaders of the invasion. Athens and Sparta.
unlikely that it was actually spoken. He calls upon Athens and Sparta to forego their jealousies, and to take the joint leadership of an expedition to Asia.
The appeal failed. Isokrates ceased to hope that either of the foremost States, as such, would lead forth the united Greeks to the East. But for thirtyfour years he persevered in the endeavour to find some man who would lead them.
Jason of Pherae was master of Thessaly from
374 to 370,—a man of great ability and great ambition3
; he had talked of a war with Persia, and
had gained popularity thereby. He was the pupil of Gorgias and the friend of Isokrates. If the latter did not directly appeal to him he must certainly for a time have hoped in him. Jason was assassinated in 370. It was then, probably, that Isokrates turned his eyes on Dionysios I., tyrant of Syracuse. The
fragment of the extant letter to Dionysios is only prefatory; it appears to have been written in 368 B.C. and encourages Dionysios with the prospect of Athenian support; elsewhere he takes credit for having spoken boldly4
. Dionysios died in 367. Archidamos
III., who succeeded his father Agesilaos as a king of Sparta in 361, next attracted the hopes of Isokrates. The letter to Archidamos belongs probably to 356 B.C. It urges him to undertake a task to which his father Agesilaos was devoted, and in which he failed only because he tried to do two things at once—to make war on the Great King and to restore his political friends to their cities5
. But meanwhile Philip of Macedon had become strong. After a fitful
war of ten years, peace was made between Philip and Athens in March, 346. The letter or pamphlet which bears his name was addressed to him by Isokrates about April in 346. Philip is summoned as a Greek and a descendant of Herakles to levy war against Asia. Either he will conquer Persia, or at least he will detach from it all that lies
westward of a line drawn from Cilicia to Sinôpê. In either case he will free the Asiatic Greeks and make new settlements for the Greeks who are now homeless. Seven years later—in 339—Isokrates remonstrates with Philip for recklessly exposing his life in frays with barbarians which only delay his real task6
. In the Third Letter—of which the genuineness, though not unquestioned, is hardly questionable —he rejoices, a few days before his death, that he has lived to see part of his hopes fulfilled by the battle of Chaeroneia.
In the conventional view this is enough. Isokrates is condemned. He has blindly abetted, to the last moment, the destined enslaver of Greece, even if he has not congratulated him on success. It may be worth while, however, to consider these two questions;—first—what was the abstract worth of this ruling idea of Isokrates—war with Persia? Secondly—how far is he to be held the dupe, or, if not the dupe, the unpardonable accomplice of Philip?
Isokrates believed that the first necessity of the
War with Persia as a cure for the ills of Greece.
day was to heal the strife of Greeks with Greeks by enlisting all Greeks in one cause. This was undoubtedly true. He believed that such a cause would be furnished by an aggressive war on Persia. Here he was probably mistaken. The state-life of the separate cities, and consequently their capacity for acting, as cities, with each other, was so thoroughly undermined that they could be united by nothing
but an evident and imminent danger. Now Persia did not represent such a danger. On the contrary, the Great King influenced Greek affairs, in so far as he did so, through Greece itself. Union might have been had for a war of defence. Union was not to be had for a war of aggression. Demosthenes saw the truth, when speaking in 354 of war with Persia, and of the proposal to anticipate the rumoured preparations of Artaxerxes Ochus by a bold initiative, he said—‘Do not talk of calling the Greeks together when they will not listen to you.
The special results which Isokrates expected obviously do not affect the merit of his scheme as a remedy in the first instance for disunion; and it is of secondary importance that here he was partly wrong. He expected three main results:—(1) the liberation from Persia of the Asiatic Greeks; (2) the drafting of the dangerous classes into new Asiatic settlements; (3) a certain influx of wealth into Greece Proper. Now when a Greek expedition against Persia really took place, the chief result corresponded to the second of the hopes of Isokrates— only it was on a much grander scale. The new settlements were made; but then all Hellenism moved eastward; Pergamus, Antioch, Alexandria became the Athens, Thebes, Sparta, of the future8