Book III

At another time, seeing Nicomachides on his way back from the elections (of magistrates),[1] he asked him: Who are elected generals, Nicomachides?

And he: Is it not just like them, these citizens of Athens--just like them, I say--to go and elect, not me, who ever since my name first apepared on the muster-roll have literally worn myself out with military service--now as a captain, now as a colonel--and have received all these wounds from the enemy, look you! (at the same time, and suiting the action to the word, he bared his arms and proceeded to show the scars of ancient wounds)--they elect not me (he went on), but, if you please, Antisthenes! who never served as a hoplite[2] in his life nor in the cavalry ever made a brilliant stroke, that I ever heard tell of; no! in fact, he has got no science at all, I take it, except to amass stores of wealth.

But still (returned Socrates), surely that is one point in his favour --he ought to be able to provide the troops with supplies.

Nicomachides. Well, for the matter of that, merchants are good hands at collecting stores; but it does not follow that a merchant or trader will be able to command an army.

But (rejoined Socrates) Antisthenes is a man of great pertinacity, who insists on winning, and that is a very necessary quality in a general.[3] Do not you see how each time he has been choragos[4] he has been successful with one chorus after another?

Nicomachides. Bless me! yes; but there is a wide difference between standing at the head of a band of singers and dancers and a troop of soldiers.

Socrates. Still, without any practical skill in singing or in the training of a chorus, Antisthenes somehow had the art to select the greatest proficients in both.

Nicomachides. Yes, and by the same reasoning we are to infer that on a campaign he will find proficients, some to marshal the troops for him and others to fight his battles?

Socrates. Just so. If in matters military he only exhibits the same skill in selecting the best hands as he has shown in matters of the chorus, it is highly probable he will here also bear away the palm of victory; and we may presume that if he expended so much to win a choric victory with a single tribe,[5] he will be ready to expend more to secure a victory in war with the whole state to back him.

Nicomachides. Do you really mean, Socrates, that it is the function of the same man to provide efficient choruses and to act as commander-in-chief?

Socrates. I mean this, that, given a man knows what he needs to provide, and has the skill to do so, no matter what the deparment of things may be--house or city or army--you will find him a good chief and director[6] of the same.

Then Nicomachides: Upon my word, Socrates, I should never have expected to hear you say that a good housekeeper[7] and steward of an estate would make a good general.

Socrates. Come then, suppose we examine their respective duties, and so determine[8] whether they are the same or different.

Nicomachides. Let us do so.

Socrates. Well then, is it not a common duty of both to procure the ready obedience of those under them to their orders?

Nicomachides. Certainly.

Socrates. And also to assign to those best qualified to perform them their distinctive tasks?

That, too, belongs to both alike (he answered).

Socrates. Again, to chastise the bad and reward the good belongs to both alike, methinks?

Nicomachides. Decidedly.

Socrates. And to win the kindly feeling of their subordinates must surely be the noble ambition of both?

That too (he answered).

Socrates. And do you consider it to the interest of both alike to win the adherence of supporters and allies?[9]

Nicomachides. Without a doubt.

Socrates. And does it not closely concern them both to be good guardians of their respective charges?

Nicomachides. Very much so.

Socrates. Then it equally concerns them both to be painstaking and prodigal of toil in all their doings?

Nicomachides. Yes, all these duties belong to both alike, but the parallel ends when you come to actual fighting.

Socrates. Yet they are both sure to meet with enemies?

Nicomachides. There is no doubt about that.

Socrates. Then is it not to the interest of both to get the upper hand of these?

Nicomachides. Certainly; but you omit to tell us what service organisation and the art of management will render when it comes to actual fighting.

Socrates. Why, it is just then, I presume, it will be of most service, for the good economist knows that nothing is so advantageous or so lucrative as victory in battle, or to put it negatively, nothing so disastrous and expensive as defeat. He will enthusiastically seek out and provide everything conducive to victory, he will painstakingly discover and guard against all that tends to defeat, and when satisifed that all is ready and ripe for victory he will deliver battle energetically, and what is equally important, until the hour of final preparation has arrived,[10] he will be cautious to deliver battle. Do not despise men of economic genius, Nicomachides; the difference between the devotion requisite to private affairs and to affairs of state is merely one of quantity. For the rest the parallel holds strictly, and in this respect pre-eminently, that both are concerned with human instruments: which human beings, moreover, are of one type and temperament, whether we speak of devotion to public affairs or of the administration of private property. To fare well in either case is given to those who know the secret of dealing with humanity, whereas the absence of that knowledge will as certainly imply in either case a fatal note of discord.[11]

[1] Cf. "Pol. Ath." i. 3; Aristot. "Ath. Pol." 44. 4; and Dr. Sandys' note ad loc. p. 165 of his edition.

[2] Cf. Lys. xiv. 10.

[3] See Grote, "Plato," i. 465 foll.

[4] Choir-master, or Director of the Chorus. It was his duty to provide and preside over a chorus to sing, dance, or play at any of the public festivals, defraying the cost as a state service of {leitourgia}. See "Pol. Ath." iii. 4; "Hiero," ix. 4; Aristot. "Pol. Ath." 28. 3.

[5] See Dem. "against Lept." 496. 26. Each tribe nominated such of its members as were qualified to undertake the burden.

[6] Or, "representative."

[7] Or, "economist"; cf. "Cyrop." I. vi. 12.

[8] Lit. "get to know."

[9] In reference to the necessity of building up a family connection or political alliances cf. Arist. "Pol." iii. 9, 13.

[10] Lit. "as long as he is unprepared."

[11] L. Dindorf, "Index Graec." Ox. ed.; cf. Hor. "Ep." II. ii. 144, "sed verae numerosque modosque ediscere vitae," "the harmony of life," Conington.