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20. Of their aversion to long speeches, the following apophthegms are proof. King Leonidas, when a certain one discoursed with him out of all season on matters of great concern, said: ‘My friend, the matter urges, but not the time.’ Charilaüs, the nephew of Lycurgus, when asked why his uncle had made so few laws, answered: ‘Men of few words need few laws.’ [2] Archidamidas, when certain ones found fault with Hecataeus the Sophist for saying nothing after being admitted to their public mess, answered: ‘He who knows how, knows also when to speak.’ Instances of the pungent sayings not devoid of grace, of which I spoke,1 are the following. Demaratus, when a troublesome fellow was pestering him with ill-timed questions, and especially with the oft repeated query who was the best of the Spartans, answered at last: ‘He who is least like thee.’ [3] And Agis, when certain ones were praising the Eleians for their just and honourable conduct of the Olympic games, said: ‘And what great matter is it for the Eleians to practise righteousness one day in five years?’ And Theopompus, when a stranger kept saying, as he showed him kindness, that in his own city he was called a lover of Sparta, remarked: ‘My good Sir, it were better for thee to be called a lover of thine own city.’ [4] And Pleistoanax, the son of Pausanias, when an Athenian orator declared that the Lacedaemonians had no learning, said: ‘True, we are indeed the only Hellenes who have learned no evil from you.’ And Archidamus, when some one asked him how many Spartans there were, replied: ‘Enough, good Sir, to keep evil men away.’

[5] And even from their jests it is possible to judge of their character. For it was their wont never to talk at random, and to Jet slip no speech which did not have some thought or other worth serious attention. For instance, when one of them was invited to hear a man imitate the nightingale, he said: ‘I have heard the bird herself.’ And another, on reading the epitaph:—

Tyranny's fires they were trying to quench when panoplied Ares
Slew them; Selinus looked down from her gates on their death,
said: ‘The men deserved to die; they should have let the fires burn out entirely.’ [6] And a youth, when some one promised to give him game-cocks that would die fighting, said, ‘Don't do that, but give me some of the kind that kill fighting.’ Another, seeing men seated on stools in a privy, said: ‘May I never sit where I cannot give place to an elder.’ The character of their apophthegms, then, was such as to justify the remark that love of wisdom rather than love of bodily exercise was the special characteristic of a Spartan.

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