Letter II., To Philip.
6. To Philip.
[Ep. II.]—In §§ 5—12 of this Letter, Isokrates remonstrates with Philip for recklessly exposing himself to personal danger; and, in § 12, says:—‘I would give a great deal that I had written this to you before the expedition;
since then, if you had listened to me, you would not have run so great a danger; or, if you had not listened, at least I should not have seemed to be repeating in my advice what all the world has been persuaded of by the event.’
Philip was engaged in a Thracian War from 342 to 339 B.C.1
War between Philip and Athens was declared in 340 B.C. Now it is clear from the tone of § 14 that, when this Letter was written, the hostility between Philip and Athens was not yet open. Further, in 342, Philip had given a new constitution to Thessaly, appointing tetrarchs for the four chief districts2
. Isokrates alludes to this—evidently as recent (§ 20); and urges Philip to intervene, with the same prudence, in the affairs of Athens;— meaning that he should come forward as the reconciler of factions, and as the leader in one great common purpose — an expedition against Asia. The date of the Letter is probably the end
of 342 B.C.3
‘Men are more grateful for praise than for advice. But
having undertaken once before to advise you as to what it would best become you to do, I must not shrink, in a more urgent crisis, from pronouncing upon what you have done. You are universally condemned for courting danger with a headlong rashness unbecoming a king. In the conduct of war you ought to imitate republics. When they send forth their armies, they are careful to keep safe at home those who are responsible for the commonweal. If the Spartan kings take the field, it is with a devoted body-guard of the most distinguished citizens. The value of a king's life may be judged from the cases of Xerxes and of Cyrus. Xerxes, when his troops were beaten, guarded his own life, and lived to restore the greatness of Persia; Cyrus, by throwing away his life, cancelled an actual victory, and brought upon his followers the extremity of suffering. (§§ 1—8.)
‘It is unworthy of you to aim at a reputation for mere reckless courage. The special risks of a monarch are enough without adding to them the risks of a soldier. Glory of a higher kind is within your reach. Carry war against the barbarians on your frontier no further than is necessary for the safety of Macedonia; and set the Greeks an example of making war upon the Great King. I wish that this advice had been given before your expedition; for then it might have averted your danger, or at least have proved my foresight. (§§ (—12.)
‘Though this letter is already too long, a word must be said in conclusion about Athens. If you blame Athens for listening to those who slander you, do not listen to those who slander her. The influence which worthless men have here is only the influence that might be yours. I do not deny that Athens has made some mistakes; but I maintain that no city in Hellas could be a more useful ally for you. Her merely passive friendship would give you strength both in Hellas and against the barbarian. You have been applauded
for your just and benevolent interference in the affairs of the Thessalians, a high-spirited people torn by factions. Confer the same benefits upon Athens. The Thessalians are your neighbours in territory; we, in power. It is nobler to take gratitude, than cities, by storm. (§§ 13—21.) You may believe me when I speak of Athens; I have never been her flatterer, but always her severest censor. The careless crowd suspect you and me alike; you, because you are great; me, because I think. You can easily dispel that prejudice; for me it is too late. This, then, is my advice;— give your kingdom and your prosperity into the keeping of the goodwill of the Hellenes.’ (§§ 13—23.)