2. To Nikokles.
[Or. II.]—Nikokles, to whom the Second and Ninth Discourses are addressed and for whom the Third was written, succeeded his father Evagoras as king of the Cyprian Salamis in 374 B.C.
It was probably soon after the accession of
Nikokles that Isokrates addressed this speech to him. The opening words have a formality which suggests that the writer is either wholly or almost a stranger; and the tone of the Letter generally implies that Nikokles was young both in years and in office. The intercourse thus opened appears to
have become intimate; and it is possible that Nikokles may have been among the pupils of Isokrates1
‘The usual offerings to a king, Nikokles, are garments, or
gold, or bronze, things in which he is richer than the givers: I offer you advice. Private men are schooled by the struggle of life, by the laws, by the poets: kings have little schooling. Hence those frequent disasters which, even in vulgar eyes, balance the pleasures of a royal lot. People fancy that the office of a king, like that of a priest, may be assumed without any special preparation2
. In particular crises, you will have the counsel of others: my counsels shall be general (§§ 1—8).
‘First—What is the function of a king? To stay the troubles, to guard the welfare, to raise the greatness of his realm (§ 9).
‘In order to perform this task well, you ought, in the first place, to be intelligent. By converse with the ablest men, and by reading, you must make yourself capable of deciding small questions, and of grappling with great3
‘Next, you must be the friend of mankind and of your realm (§ 15). Keep the people alike from doing, and from suffering, outrage (§ 16). Let your laws be not only just and consistent, but framed for the settlement, rather than for the raising, of issues (§ 17). Rule the State like your own house, generously but carefully (§ 19). Let your word be held surer than other men's oaths. Honour less those strangers who bring gifts than those who deserve to receive them (§ 22). Be royal, not in severity, but by the recognised supremacy of your wisdom: warlike in knowledge and preparation, peaceful in abstinence from aggression (§ 24). Choose your associates with care, knowing that the many
will judge you by them (§ 27). Deem it the most kingly thing of all to be subject to none of your own desires (§ 29). Take it as a sign that you are reigning well if you see your subjects growing richer and better (§ 31). Let your dress be splendid and your life hardy (§ 32): be witty, and be dignified (§ 34). Observe the fates of kings and of private persons; and divine the future from the past (§ 35). Let safety for the State and for yourself be your first object: but, if you are forced into danger, choose a noble death before a life of dishonour. In all things remember your royal office, and be mindful to do nothing unworthy of it (§§ 36, 37). Since your body must die, seek to make the memory of your spirit immortal (§ 37). If you emulate a man's fame, copy his actions (§ 38). Think those wise who can speak well on great questions, not those who can refine on trifles;—and those whose prosperity shows their prudence, or whose resignation proves their philosophy (§ 39).
‘Practical advice must not aim at being novel, and can hardly hope to be amusing (§§ 54—56). Hesiod, Theognis, Phokylides are praised—and neglected: Homer and the dramatists are the poets of the people (§§ 40—49). You, Nikokles, are a king, and ought to think first of what is useful. A good adviser is the most royal of possessions (§§ 40—53). Encourage others to bring you gifts like mine; gifts which, instead of wearing out in use, become more valuable the more they are used’ (§ 54).
Isokrates wrote for the cultivated. His idea of
Claim made for the Nikokles in the Antidosis
an expedition to Asia needed the help of the powerful. On both grounds it was natural that he should cultivate friendly relations with Hellenic kings and tyrants,—with Nikokles of Salamis and Timotheos of Herakleia no less than with Dionysios of Syracuse and Philip of Macedon. In the Antidosis
, (where he is answering the imputation of being too much a friend to monarchy,) he quotes the speech which many years ago he had addressed to Nikokles.
He claims to have spoken in it ‘freely and worthily of the city’; to have upheld the cause of the people; to have ‘reproved monarchy’ by observing how ill monarchs are usually trained for their duties. The claim is somewhat exaggerated. On the other
hand, Isokrates might fairly have taken credit for setting before Nikokles a standard, higher than the common, of the king's duty to the subject. His ideal monarchy is absolute, but it is intelligently and honestly paternal.