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Letter I.,
To Dionysios.

THE nine1 Letters of Isokrates may best be taken in their probable chronological order.

1. To Dionysios [Ep. I.]—This is the proem of a letter to Dionysios the Elder, tyrant of Syracuse from 405 to 367 B. C., urging him to interfere, for the common good, in the affairs of Greece. The fragment breaks off just as Isokrates is going to explain the purpose for which he asks this interference. But the purpose, which could hardly have

Object of the Letter.
been doubtful, is expressly stated in the Philippos (§ 8). Isokrates wished Dionysios to undertake the work which he had already2 pressed on Athens and Sparta and which he afterwards pressed on Archidamos and on Philip—the leading of united Greece against Persia.

Three points are helps towards fixing the date.

(1) Isokrates is too old and infirm3 for a voyage to Sicily: § 1. (2) The Spartan supremacy is past; the Carthaginians are in such a plight as to be thankful if they can keep their own territory: § 8. (3) Friendly relations exist between Dionysios and Athens. Now the references in § 8 might be applied to the latter part of 394 B.C.; in which year the defeat at Knidos destroyed at least the naval supremacy of Sparta, and Dionysios imposed an humiliating peace upon Imilkon. But in 394 B.C. Isokrates was only forty-two. And the good understanding between Dionysios and Athens was not established before 369 B.C.4 The time indicated is more probably 368 B.C. In that year Dionysios was again at war with the Carthaginians, and was at first, though not finally, successful5. This letter may have been written at the time when the report of his first successes had reached Athens. Three years before, the Spartan empire had been finally overthrown at Leuktra.

‘Were I a younger man, I would not have written but

come to you. Written advice is at many disadvantages as compared with oral. But I trust that these disadvantages will be neutralised by your interest in the substance of my letter. Some have pretended that you prefer flatterers to advisers; but I do not believe that your pre-eminence in counsel and in action could have been reached if you had not been willing to gather the best thoughts of every mind. (§§ 1—4.) Do not take this letter for a rhetorical composition. Had display been my object, I should have sought my audience at some great festival. But my object is practical; I want a certain thing done, and therefore address the man who is able to do it. Purposing to give counsel for the welfare of Hellas, to whom ought I to speak but to the first of Hellenes? The time is opportune for such counsel. While Sparta was at the head of Hellas, you could not have interfered in our affairs without adding rivalry with Sparta to your actual struggle against Carthage. Now Carthage has been humbled; and Athens is ready to be your ally. (§§ 5—8.) Do not think it strange if one who is neither statesman nor general presumes to speak in the cause of Hellas, and to you. I can at least claim a share of culture, and of that culture which concerns itself with the greatest questions. But you shall at once judge for yourself whether my advice is worth any thing...’ (§§ 9—10.)

1 The letter beginning πρόπομποι καὶ ῥαβδοῦχοι, κ.τ.λ., which is printed in the older editions, with the heading ΔΙΟΝΥΣΙΩΙ, as the Tenth Letter of Isokrates, is not his. It is by Theophylact Simocatta (flor. 610—629 A.D.) in whose extant collection of 85 letters it stands 79th. By a strange mistake it was added to the letters of Isokrates in the Basel edition of 1546; and, with a stranger negligence, it was retained in every subsequent edition until Baiter and Sauppe, in their Oratores Attici (1839— 43), set the example of expelling it. See their Preface to the text of Isokrates, p. vi.—This is the substance of the Byzautine letter:— ‘Escorts, ushers, heralds, the acquisition of a great throne are a mist upon philosophy, a severance from virtue. You have not changed your nature with your fortune; the shell which encases your spirit is still fleshly; why, then, are you so puffed up with vainglory? The soaring flights of your fortune have taken you out of your old sphere of quiet thought—have quelled your sober madness of philosophy. Of old you were sublime in your humility; now you are low and earthy in your high estate. Resign, then, this false prosperity; desert the fortune which will desert you; for, if you are beforehand with the heartless goddess, you will not grieve when the change comes on you suddenly.’ (§§ 1—2.)

2 In § 129 of the Philippos (346 B. C.) Isokrates says that he had urged Athens to lead Greece before he had asked any other power to do so. If this was taken literally, it would show that the Letter to Dionysios is later than the Panegyrikos; i.e. than 380 B.C. Such an indication could not safely be used as an independent argument. But it may be noticed as agreeing with the hypothesis about the date advanced below.

3 § 1, προαπείρηκα—in which, as the context shows, the προ does not mean ‘before my natural time,’ but ‘before the destined time for the war against Persia.’

4 When Dionysios began to take part with Athens and the Peloponnesian allies in the war against Thebes. As to the Athenian flatteries of Dionysios at this time, see Schäfer, Dem. u. seine Zeit, I. 80.

5 Grote, ch. 83, vol. XI. p. 61.— Dobree (Adv. I. p. 283) thinks that the Letter is written ‘ad Dionysium iuniorem, sub regni initia’ [i. e. 367 B.C.]. But in 367 the statement regarding Carthage would have been much too strong. Nor has Dobree observed that § 8 excludes the supposition of the Letter being addressed to the younger Dionysios:—ὅτε μὲν γὰρ Αακεδαιμόνιοι τὴν ἀρχὴν εἶχον, οὐ ῥᾴδιον ἦν ἐπιμεληθῆναί σοι τῶν περὶ τὸν τόπον τὸν ἡμέτερον, οὐδὲ τούτοις ἐναντία πράττειν ἅμα καὶ Καρχηδονίοις πολεμεῖν. Sparta lost the ἀρχή four years before the younger Dionysions came to the throne.

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    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Selections from the Attic Orators, l.3.4
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