Agesilaus by Xenophon
It only remains for me, under the form of headings, to review the topic of this great man's virtue, in hopes that thus his eulogy may cling to the memory more lastingly.
Agesilaus reverenced the shrines and sacred places even of the enemy. We ought, he said, to make the gods our allies on hostile no less than on friendly soil.
He would do no violence to a suppliant, no, not even if he were his own foe; since how irrational must it be to stigmatise robbers of temples as sacrilegious and yet to regard him who tears the suppliant from the altar as a pious person.
One tenet he never wearied of repeating: the gods, he said, are not less pleased with holy deeds than with pure victims.
In the day of his prosperity his thoughts were not raised higher than befits a man; he gave thanks to the gods; and offered more victims when he had nothing to fear than he registered vows in time of apprehension.
He was accustomed in the midst of anxiety to wear an aspect of gaiety, but, when the victory was won, of gentleness.
Amongst friends his warmest greeting was reserved, not for the most powerful, but for the most ardent; and if he hated, it was not him who, being evil entreated, retaliated, but one who, having had kindness done to him, seemed incapable of gratitude.
He rejoiced when sordid greed was rewarded with poverty; and still more if he might himself enrich a righteous man, since his wish was to render uprightness more profitable than iniquity.
He made it a practice to associate with all kinds of people, but to be intimate only with the best.
As he listened to the praise of this man, or the censure of another, he felt that he learnt quite as much about the character of the speakers themselves as of those whom they discussed.
To be cheated by a friend was scarcely censurable, but he could find no comdemnation strong enough for him who was outwitted by a foe. Or again, to dupe the incredulous might argue wit, but to take in the unsuspecting was veritably a crime.
The praise of a critic who had courage to point out his defects pleased him; and plainness of speech excited in him no hostility. It was against the cunning rather of the secretive person that he guarded himself, as against a hidden snare.
The calumniator he detested more than the robber or the thief, in proportion as the loss of friends is greater than the loss of money.
The errors of private persons he bore with gently, but those of rulers he looked upon as grave; since the mischief wrought in the one case was so small, and so large in the other. The proper attribute of royalty was, he maintained, not an avoidance of responsibility, but a constant striving after nobleness.
Whilst he would not suffer any image of his bodily form to be set up (though many wished to present him with a statue), he never ceased elaborating what should prove the monument of his spirit, holding that the former is the business of a statuary, the latter of one's self. Wealth might procure the one, he said, but only a good man could produce the other.
As for riches, he employed them not with justice merely, but with liberality, holding that for a just man it is sufficient if he let alone the things of others, but of a liberal man it is required that he should take of his own and give to supply another's needs.
He was ever subject to religious fear, believing that no man during his lifetime, however well he lives, can be counted happy; it is only he who has ended his days with glory of whom it can be said that he has attained at last to blessedness.
In his judgment it was a greater misfortune to neglect things good and virtuous, knowing them to be so, than in ignorance. Nor was he enamoured of any reputation, the essentials of which he had not laboriously achieved.
He was one of the small band, as it seemed to me, who regard virtue, not as a thing to be patiently endured, but as a supreme enjoyment. At any rate, to win the praise of mankind gave him a deeper pleasure than the acquisition of wealth; and he preferred to display courage far rather in conjunction with prudence than with unnecessary risks, and to cultivate wisdom in action more than by verbal discussion.
Very gentle to his friends, to his enemies he was most terrible. Whilst he could hold out against toil and trouble with the best, nothing pleased him better than yielding to his comrades. But passion was kindled in him by beauty of deed rather than of person.
Skilled in the exercise of self-command in the midst of external welfare, he could be stout of heart enough in stress of danger.
Urbanity he practised, not with jest and witticisim, but by the courtesy of his demeanour.
In spite of a certain haughtiness, he was never overbearing, but rich in saving common sense. At any rate, while pouring contempt upon arrogance, he bore himself more humbly than the most ordinary man. In fact, what he truly took a pride in was the simplicity of his own attire, in contrast with the splendid adornment of his troops; or, again, in the paucity of his own wants, combined with a bountiful liberality towards his friends.
Besides all this, as an antagonist he could hit hard enough, but no one ever bore a lighter hand when the victory was won.
The same man, whom an enemy would have found it hard to deceive, was pliability itself in the concerns of his friends. Whilst for ever occupied in laying these on a secure foundation, he made it a ceaseless task to baffle the projects of the national foe.
The epithets applied to him are significant. His relatives found in him a kinsman who was more than kind. To his intimates he appeared as a friend in need who is a friend indeed. To the man who had done him some service, of tenacious memory. To the victim of injustice, a knight-errant. And to those who had incurred danger by his side, a saviour second only to the gods.
It was given to this man, as it appears to me, to prove exceptionally that though strength of body may wax old the vigour of a man's soul is exempt from eld. Of him, at any rate, it is true that he never shrank from the pursuit of great and noble objects, so long as his body was able to support the vigour of his soul. Therefore his old age appeared mightier than the youth of other people. It would be hard to discover, I imagine, any one who in the prime of manhood was as formidable to his foes as Agesilaus when he had reached the limit of mortal life. Never, I suppose, was there a foeman whose removal came with a greater sense of relief to the enemy than that of Agesilaus, though a veteran when he died. Never was there a leader who inspired stouter courage in the hearts of fellow-combatants than this man with one foot planted in the grave. Never was a young man snatched from a circle of loving friends with tenderer regret than this old graybeard.
The benefactor of his fatherland, absolutely to the very end; with bounteous hand, even in the arms of death, dealing out largesse to the city which he loved. And so they bore him home to his eternal resting-place; this hero, who, having raised to himself many a monument of his valour over the broad earth, came back to find in the land of his fathers a sepulture worthy of a king.