Book III

At another time he fell in with a man who had been chosen general and minister of war, and thus accosted him.

Socrates. Why did Homer, think you, designate Agamemnon "shepherd of the peoples"?[1] Was it possibly to show that, even as a shepherd must care for his sheep and see that they are safe and have all things needful, and that the objects of their rearing be secured, so also must a general take care that his soldiers are safe and have their supplies, and attain the objects of their soldiering? Which last is that they may get the mastery of their enemies, and so add to their own good fortune and happiness; or tell me, what made him praise Agamemnon, saying--

He is both a good king and a warrior bold?[2]

Did he mean, perhaps, to imply that he would be a 'warrior bold,' not merely in standing alone and bravely battling against the foe, but as inspiring the whole of his host with like prowess; and by a 'good king,' not merely one who should stand forth gallantly to protect his own life, but who should be the source of happiness to all over whom he reigns? Since a man is not chosen king in order to take heed to himself, albeit nobly, but that those who chose him may attain to happiness through him. And why do men go soldiering except to ameliorate existence?[3] and to this end they choose their generals that they may find in them guides to the goal in question. He, then, who undertakes that office is bound to procure for those who choose him the thing they seek for. And indeed it were not easy to find any nobler ambition than this, or aught ignobler than its opposite.

After such sort he handled the question, what is the virtue of a good leader? and by shredding off all superficial qualities, laid bare as the kernel of the matter that it is the function of every leader to make those happy whom he may be called upon to lead.[4]

[1] "Il." ii. 243. "The People's Paster," Chapman.

[2] "Il." iii. 179; cf. "Symp." iv. 6. A favourite line of Alexander the Great's, it is said.

[3] Of, "that life may reach some flower of happiness."

[4] Cf. Plat. "Rep." 342.