Book III
III
 

The following conversation with a youth who had just been elected hipparch[1] (or commandant of cavalry), I can also vouch for.[2]

Socrates. Can you tell us what set you wishing to be a general of cavalry, young sir? What was your object? I suppose it was not simply to ride at the head of the "knights," an honour not denied to the mounted archers,[3] who ride even in front of the generals themselves?

Hipparch. You are right.

Socrates. No more was it for the sake merely of public notoriety, since a madman might boast of that fatal distinction.[4]

Hipparch. You are right again.

Socrates. Is this possibly the explanation? you think to improve the cavalry--your aim would be to hand it over to the state in better condition than you find it; and, if the cavalry chanced to be called out, you at their head would be the cause of some good thing to Athens?

Hipparch. Most certainly.

Socrates. Well, and a noble ambition too, upon my word--if you can achieve your object. The command to which you are appointed concerns horses and riders, does it not?

Hipparch. It does, no doubt.

Socrates. Come then, will you explain to us first how you propose to improve the horses.

Hipparch. Ah, that will scarcely form part of my business, I fancy. Each trooper is personally responsible for the condition of his horse.

Socrates. But suppose, when they present themselves and their horses,[5] you find that some have brought beasts with bad feet or legs or otherwise infirm, and others such ill-fed jades that they cannot keep up on the march; others, again, brutes so ill broken and unmanageable that they will not keep their place in the ranks, and others such desperate plungers that they cannot be got to any place in the ranks at all. What becomes of your cavalry force then? How will you charge at the head of such a troop, and win glory for the state?

Hipparch. You are right. I will try to look after the horses to my utmost.

Socrates. Well, and will you not lay your hand to improve the men themselves?

Hipparch. I will.

Socrates. The first thing will be to make them expert in mounting their chargers?

Hipparch. That certainly, for if any of them were dismounted he would then have a better chance of saving himself.

Socrates. Well, but when it comes to the hazard of engagement, what will you do then? Give orders to draw the enemy down to the sandy ground[6] where you are accustomed to manouvre, or endeavour beforehand to put your men through their practice on ground resembling a real battlefield?

Hipparch. That would be better, no doubt.

Socrates. Well, shall you regard it as a part of your duty to see that as many of your men as possible can take aim and shoot on horseback?[7]

Hipparch. It will be better, certainly.

Socrates. And have you thought how to whet the courage of your troopers? to kindle in them rage to meet the enemy?--which things are but stimulants to make stout hearts stouter?

Hipparch. If I have not done so hitherto, I will try to make up for lost time now.

Socrates. And have you troubled your head at all to consider how you are to secure the obedience of your men? for without that not one particle of good will you get, for all your horses and troopers so brave and so stout.

Hipparch. That is a true saying; but how, Socrates, should a man best bring them to this virtue?[8]

Socrates. I presume you know that in any business whatever, people are more apt to follow the lead of those whom they look upon as adepts; thus in case of sickness they are readiest to obey him whom they regard as the cleverest physician; and so on a voyage the most skilful pilot; in matters agricultural the best farmer, and so forth.

Hipparch. Yes, certainly.

Socrates. Then in this matter of cavalry also we may reasonably suppose that he who is looked upon as knowing his business best will command the readiest obedience.

Hipparch. If, then, I can prove to my troopers that I am better than all of them, will that suffice to win their obedience?

Socrates. Yes, if along with that you can teach them that obedience to you brings greater glory and surer safety to themselves.

Hipparch. How am I to teach them that?

Socrates. Upon my word! How are you to teach them that? Far more easily, I take it, than if you had to teach them that bad things are better than good, and more advantageous to boot.

Hipparch. I suppose you mean that, besides his other qualifications a commandant of cavalry must have command of speech and argument?[9]

Socrates. Were you under the impression that the commandant was not to open his mouth? Did it never occur to you that all the noblest things which custom[10] compels us to learn, and to which indeed we owe our knowledge of life, have all been learned by means of speech[11] and reason; and if there be any other noble learning which a man may learn, it is this same reason whereby he learns it; and the best teachers are those who have the freest command of thought and language, and those that have the best knowledge of the most serious things are the most brilliant masters of disputation. Again, have you not observed that whenever this city of ours fits out one of her choruses--such as that, for instance, which is sent to Delos[12]-- there is nothing elsewhere from any quarter of the world which can compete with it; nor will you find in any other state collected so fair a flower of manhood as in Athens?[13]

Hipparch. You say truly.

Socrates. But for all that, it is not in sweetness of voice that the Athenians differ from the rest of the world so much, nor in stature of body or strength of limb, but in ambition and that love of honour[14] which most of all gives a keen edge to the spirit in the pursuit of things lovely and of high esteem.

[14] See below, v. 3; Dem. "de Cor." 28 foll.

Hipparch. That, too, is a true saying.

Socrates. Do you not think, then, that if a man devoted himself to our cavalry also, here in Athens, we should far outstrip the rest of the world, whether in the furnishing of arms and horses, or in orderliness of battle-array, or in eager hazardous encounter with the foe, if only we could persuade ourselves that by so doing we should obtain honour and distinction?

Hipparch. It is reasonable to think so.

Socrates. Have no hesitation, therefore, but try to guide your men into this path,[15] whence you yourself, and through you your fellow- citizens, will reap advantage.

Yes, in good sooth, I will try (he answered).

[1] Cf. "Hipparch."

[2] Lit. "I know he once held."

[3] Lit. "Hippotoxotai." See Boeckh, "P. E. A." II. xxi. p. 264 (Eng. tr.)

[4] Or, "as we all know, 'Tom Fool' can boast," etc.

[5] For this phrase, see Schneider and Kuhner ad loc.

[6] e.g. the hippodrome at Phaleron.

[7] Cf. "Hipparch," i. 21.

[8] {protrepsasthai}. See above, I. ii. 64; below, IV. v. 1.

[9] Or, "practise the art of oratory"; "express himself clearly and rationally." See Grote, "H. G." VIII. lxvii. p. 463 note; "Hipparch," i. 24; viii. 22.

[10] Cf Arist. "Rhet." ii. 12, {oi neoi pepaideuntai upo tou nomou monon}.

[11] {dia logou}.

[12] See Thuc. iii. 104; and below, IV. viii. 2.

[13] See references ap. Schneider and Kuhner; "Symp." iv. 17.

[15] Or, "to conduct which will not certainly fail of profit to yourself or through you to . . ."