Agesilaus by Xenophon
To describe his patriotism point by point in detail were a tedious story, since, as I suppose, there is not one of his several achievements but must finally resolve itself into that. For, to put it briefly, we all know well that where Agesilaus expected in any way to benefit his country there was no toil he shrank from, no danger he avoided, no money he stinted, no excuse whether of age or body he admitted, but deemed it ever the true function of a good king to shower blessings to the utmost on the subjects of his rule.
And for my part I hold it as chief among the magnificent benefits so conferred by him upon his country that, being the most powerful member of the state, he made no secret of his absolute submission to the laws, since what lesser man, seeing the king's obedience, would take on himself to disobey? Who, in discontentment at his own poor lot, would venture on revolution, knowing that the king himself could condescend to constitutional control? And that, too, a king who bore himself towards political opponents with a paternal mildness. If he rebuked them sharply for their misdemeanours, he none the less honoured their high endeavours, and proved himself a present help to them in time of trouble. No citizen could be his personal foe; of that he was assured. His desire was to commend them one and all alike, counting the common salvation of all a gain, and reckoning it as a loss if even a mean man perished. For thus he reasoned, nor made a secret of the conclusion he had come to: so long as her citizens continued tranquilly adherent to the laws the happiness of Sparta was secure. And for the rest Sparta would once again be strong on that day when the states of Hellas should learn wisdom.
And if, by admission, it is noble for every Hellene to be a lover of his fellow-Hellenes, yet we must fare far afield to find another instance of a general who, expecting to sack some city, would have refused to seize the prize; or who regarded victory in a war waged against fellow-Hellenes as a species of calamity. Yet this man when a message was brought him concerning the battle at Corinth, in which but eight Lacedaemonians had fallen, but of their opponents ten thousand nearly, showed no sign of exultation, but sighed, saying, "Alas for Hellas! since those who now lie in their graves, were able, had they lived, to conquer the hosts of Asia." Again, when some Corinthian exiles informed him that their city was ripe for surrender, and showed him the engines by which they were confident they would take the walls, he refused to make the assault, saying that Hellene cities ought not to be reduced to slavery, but brought back to a better mind, and added, "For if we lop off our offending members, haply we may deprive ourselves of the means to master the barbarians."
Again, if it is a sacred duty to hate the Persian, who of old set out on a campaign to enslave Hellas; the Persian, who to-day makes alliance with these (no matter to him which the party, provided it will help him to work the greater mischief); or gives presents to those (who will take them and do the greatest harm to his foes the Hellenes); or else concocts a peace that shall presently involve us in internecine war, as he anticipates:--but why dwell on facts so patent? --I ask, did ever Hellene before Agesilaus so enter heart and soul upon his duty; whether it were to help some tribe to throw off the Persian yoke, or to save from destruction a revolted district, or if nothing else, at any rate to saddle the Persian with such troubles of his own that he should cease to trouble Hellas? An ardent hater of Persia surely was he, who, when his own country was at war with Hellenes, did not neglect the common good of Hellas, but set sail to wreak what harm he might upon the barbarians.