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Character of Isokrates.

In his strength, as in much of his weakness, Isokrates may be compared with Cicero. He was a master of expression, with few ideas, but with much ingenuity in combining and varying these; a politician between whom and the power of seeing facts as they were, over any wide field, there usually floated the haze of some literary theory which vanity made golden; a man of warm, if somewhat exacting, benevolence, always ready to do his best for those who believed in him; industrious, earnest, with that simplicity which has been called an element of nobleness, and with the capacity for a generous enthusiasm which was never kindled to a brighter flame than by the glories of his city or his race. Cicero's powers, naturally more various, were more thoroughly brought out and far better disciplined by a life in which studious retirement alternated with public cares. Isokrates missed those lessons of the world which are proverbially useful to a successful teacher; but in an unbroken privacy he kept his ardour for work unchilled and the purity of his ideal hopes unstained. His chief efforts were given to promoting what he believed to be the interests of Athens and of Greece; and it has been the misfortune of his fame that his conception of these interests set him in contrast with a loftier genius and a more heroic nature than his own. In his school he did a service peculiarly valuable to that age by raising the tone and widening the circle of the popular education, by bringing high aims and large sympathies into the preparation for active life, and by making good citizens of many who perhaps would not have aspired to become philosophers.

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