Isokrates on Foreign and Domestic Policy.
Such was the Athens to which Isokrates had to address his counsels. The Speech On the Peace was written probably in 355, just before the conclusion of the treaty which closed the Social War and broke up the Naval Confederacy of 378. Athens is urged to resign the dream of supremacy, and to treat allies as friends, not slaves. In his fervour the orator personifies that Empire which, like a false mistress, has allured and betrayed the two foremost Republics of Greece. ‘Is she not worthy to be hated?’1
Let Athens turn from her and prize, next to the favour of the gods, the esteem of Greece. It is substantially the policy of Eubulos which is advocated; but it is advocated on higher grounds than those of the holiday-makers or the merchants. Isokrates held that hegemony passes into empire, and that empire begets an insolence which at last
ruins the imperial State. The experience of Athens and of Sparta bore him out: and, as he conceived the interests of Greece, there was nothing to be gained by Athens striving at all hazards to keep the League together. The Areopagitikos
(also 355 B.C.) supplements the De Pace
with his view of what
Isokrates on Home Policy.
is wanted in home politics and in private life. ‘We sit in the taverns abusing the state of affairs; we say that never under a democracy were we worse governed; yet in practice and in our policy we prefer this to the democracy handed down by our fathers.’2
His ideal is the elder democracy of Solon and Kleisthenes. Under it, citizens were not to be seen casting lots for their daily bread outside the law courts, while they paid mercenaries to fight their battles—nor choregi, splendid in golden robes, who were destined to shiver through the winter in rags3
. Let us return to the elder democracy of Solon and Kleisthenes, when equality meant honour where honour is due, and magistrates were not chosen by lot. Above all, let us restore to the Areiopagos its control over the education of the young and its general censorship of morals. When habits of industry are enforced, there will be no more pauperism; and when public men are forced to be respectable, the affairs of the city will go on well. Isokrates was certainly right in holding that a great need of the day was a sense of shame; though he was probably mistaken in thinking that the vices of a society such as that of the new Athens were within the reach of a censorship. To govern Athens
by the Areiopagos would indeed have been like governing Greece by the Amphictyonic Council4