1. To Demonikos
[Or. I.]—The person to whom this Letter of Advice is addressed is known only from the Letter itself. Demonikos lived in a monarchical State (§ 36), which may have been Cyprus1
. He was still a youth (§ 44); rich, and of distinguished (§ 49), though not of royal (§ 36), birth2
. His father, Hipponikos, lately dead (§ 2), must have been in some way a well-known man (§ 11).
The date at which the Letter was written cannot
be determined; but it may be assigned conjecturally to about the same time as the two other Hortatory Discourses—the Letter to Nikokles
and the Nikokles3
The Letter consists of three parts: I.
Introduction, §§ 1—12; II. Precepts, §§ 13—43; III. Epilogue, §§ 44—52.
I. There is no greater difference between good and bad men (σπουδαῖοι—φαῦλοι
) than in the durability of their friendships. Isokrates wishes to testify his friendship to Demonikos, and his regard for the young man's late father Hipponikos (§§ 1—2). He does not intend this letter to be a mere stimulus to intellectual exertion (παράκλησις
) but an exhortation to moral excellence (παραίνεσις
§§ 4, 5).
II. The following are the principal heads under which the precepts in §§ 13—43 may be brought:—
1. Duty towards the gods;
2. Duty towards men;
prescribed generally as the obligation to be just (§§ 38, 39) and true (§§ 22, 23); and specially in three chief relations, (a
) as towards the State, §§ 16, 37: cf. § 36: (b
) as towards parents, § 14: (c
) as towards friends, §§ 24—27, 33: cf. § 30.
3. Duty of regulating personal character
, in respect (a
) to the use of wealth, §§27, 28, and of pleasures, §§ 17, 32:
) to the exercise of body and mind, § 40; and particularly to the acquisition of knowledge, §§ 18, 19; (c
) to demeanour in society, §§ 15, 41, 42, 31.
III. Many of the rules just given will not suit the present age of Demonikos; but by and by he will need them, and this letter will then serve him as a storehouse (ταμιεῖον
) of advice (§ 44). The reward of Herakles, and the doom of Tantalos, are warnings to strive after real nobleness (τῆς καλοκαγαθίας
); and, in so striving, we must seek help from every quarter. ‘For hardly, by this care, may we master the failings of our nature’ (§§ 51—52).
The authenticity of a treatise remarkably
Genuineness of the Letter needlessly doubted
characteristic of its author has, with singular perversity, been questioned both in ancient and in modern times. ‘Feebleness of diction’4
is the trait which the writer of the Greek argument mentions as having been found suspicious in this and like compositions of Isokrates. Alleged peculiarities or solecisms in language, dialect or grammar,—the occurrence, in a few instances, of hiatus,—and defective arrangement of subject-matter, are the tokens of spuriousness which the most recent and most careful sceptic5
has discovered. It is needless, here, to examine these objections in detail. It is enough to say that, even if they could all be proved, they would be decisively outweighed by the thoroughly Isokratic stamp of the treatise as a whole, in
language, in structure, in spirit. As to external testimony, Dionysios6
are affirmative witnesses; in Harpokration8
two passages cancel each other.
The distinguishing mark of the Ad Demonicum
viewed as a treatise on morals, is a combination of loftiness and meanness. It is the man of the world who assumes the part of the preacher. Where he gives, in a simple form, the maxims of a somewhat vulgar prudence, he is excellent; it is when he strives to connect them with doctrine that he fails. The morality of the Ad Demonicum
is probably at least on a level with the average practical morality of Greece; on the other hand, the higher sentiment which it contains is not affected; but the absence of harmony between them is Isokratic.