The Economist by Xenophon

Etext prepared by John Bickers, The Economist By Xenophon Translation by H. G. Dakyns Xenophon the Athenian was born 431 B.C. He was a pupil of Socrates. He marched with the Spartans, and was exiled from Athens. Sparta gave him land and property in Scillus, where he lived for many years before having to
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Etext prepared by John Bickers,

The Economist

By Xenophon

Translation by H. G. Dakyns

Xenophon the Athenian was born 431 B.C. He was a pupil of Socrates. He marched with the Spartans, and was exiled from Athens. Sparta gave him land and property in Scillus, where he lived for many years before having to move once more, to settle in Corinth. He died in 354 B.C.

The Economist records Socrates and Critobulus in a talk about profitable estate management, and a lengthy recollection by Socrates of Ischomachus’ discussion of the same topic.


This was typed from Dakyns’ series, “The Works of Xenophon,” a four-volume set. The complete list of Xenophon’s works (though there is doubt about some of these) is:

Work Number of books

The Anabasis 7
The Hellenica 7
The Cyropaedia 8 The Memorabilia 4
The Symposium 1
The Economist 1
On Horsemanship 1 The Sportsman 1
The Cavalry General 1 The Apology 1
On Revenues 1
The Hiero 1
The Agesilaus 1
The Polity of the Athenians and the Lacedaemonians 2

Text in brackets “{}” is my transliteration of Greek text into English using an Oxford English Dictionary alphabet table. The diacritical marks have been lost.

The Economist

by Xenophon

Translation by H. G. Dakyns


A Treatise on the Science of the Household in the form of a Dialogue

Socrates and Critobulus

At Chapter VII. a prior discussion held between Socrates and Ischomachus is introduced: On the life of a “beautiful and good” man.

In these chapters (vii.-xxi.) Socrates is represented by the author as repeating for the benefit of Critobulus and the rest certain conversations which he had once held with the beautiful and good Ischomachus on the essentials of economy. It was a tete-a-tete discussion, and in the original Greek the remarks of the two speakers are denoted by such phrases as {ephe o ‘Iskhomakhos–ephen egio}–“said (he) Ischomachus,” “said I” (Socrates). To save the repetition of expressions tedious in English, I have, whenever it seemed help to do so, ventured to throw parts of the reported conversations into dramatic form, inserting “Isch.” “Soc.” in the customary way to designate the speakers; but these, it must be borne in mind, are merely “asides” to the reader, who will not forget that Socrates is the narrator throughout–speaking of himself as “I,” and of Ischomachus as “he,” or by his name.– Translator’s note, addressed to the English reader.


I once heard him[2] discuss the topic of economy[3] after the following manner. Addressing Critobulus,[4] he said: Tell me, Critobulus, is “economy,” like the words “medicine,” “carpentry,” “building,” “smithying,” “metal-working,” and so forth, the name of a particular kind of knowledge or science?

[1] By “economist” we now generally understand “policital economist,” but the use of the word as referring to domestic economy, the subject matter of the treatise, would seem to be legitimate.

[2] “The master.”

[3] Lit. “the management of a household and estate.” See Plat. “Rep.” 407 B; Aristot. “Eth. N.” v. 6; “Pol.” i. 3.

[4] See “Mem.” I. iii. 8; “Symp.” p. 292.

Crit. Yes, I think so.

Soc. And as, in the case of the arts just named, we can state the proper work or function of each, can we (similarly) state the proper work and function of economy?

Crit. It must, I should think, be the business of the good economist[5] at any rate to manage his own house or estate well.

[5] Or, “manager of a house or estate.”

Soc. And supposing another man’s house to be entrusted to him, he would be able, if he chose, to manage it as skilfully as his own, would he not? since a man who is skilled in carpentry can work as well for another as for himself: and this ought to be equally true of the good economist?

Crit. Yes, I think so, Socrates.

Soc. Then there is no reason why a proficient in this art, even if he does not happen to possess wealth of his own, should not be paid a salary for managing a house, just as he might be paid for building one?

Crit. None at all: and a large salary he would be entitled to earn if, after paying the necessary expenses of the estate entrusted to him, he can create a surplus and improve the property.

Soc. Well! and this word “house,” what are we to understand by it? the domicile merely? or are we to include all a man’s possessions outside the actual dwelling-place?[6]

[6] Lit. “is it synonymous with dwelling-place, or is all that a man possesses outside his dwelling-place part of his house or estate?”

Crit. Certainly, in my opinion at any rate, everything which a man has got, even though some portion of it may lie in another part of the world from that in which he lives,[7] forms part of his estate.

[7] Lit. “not even in the same state or city.”

Soc. “Has got”? but he may have got enemies?

Crit. Yes, I am afraid some people have got a great many.

Soc. Then shall we say that a man’s enemies form part of his possessions?

Crit. A comic notion indeed! that some one should be good enough to add to my stock of enemies, and that in addition he should be paid for his kind services.

Soc. Because, you know, we agreed that a man’s estate was identical with his possessions?

Crit. Yes, certainly! the good part of his possessions; but the evil portion! no, I thank you, that I do not call part of a man’s possessions.

Soc. As I understand, you would limit the term to what we may call a man’s useful or advantageous possessions?

Crit. Precisely; if he has things that injure him, I should regard these rather as a loss than as wealth.

Soc. It follows apparently that if a man purchases a horse and does not know how to handle him, but each time he mounts he is thrown and sustains injuries, the horse is not part of his wealth?

Crit. Not, if wealth implies weal, certainly.

Soc. And by the same token land itself is no wealth to a man who so works it that his tillage only brings him loss?

Crit. True; mother earth herself is not a source of wealth to us if, instead of helping us to live, she helps us to starve.

Soc. And by a parity of reasoning, sheep and cattle may fail of being wealth if, through want of knowledge how to treat them, their owner loses by them; to him at any rate the sheep and the cattle are not wealth?

Crit. That is the conclusion I draw.

Soc. It appears, you hold to the position that wealth consists of things which benefit, while things which injure are not wealth?

Crit. Just so.

Soc. The same things, in fact, are wealth or not wealth, according as a man knows or does not know the use to make of them? To take an instance, a flute may be wealth to him who is sufficiently skilled to play upon it, but the same instrument is no better than the stones we tread under our feet to him who is not so skilled . . . unless indeed he chose to sell it?

Crit. That is precisely the conclusion we should come to.[8] To persons ignorant of their use[9] flutes are wealth as saleable, but as possessions not for sale they are no wealth at all; and see, Socrates, how smoothly and consistently the argument proceeds,[10] since it is admitted that things which benefit are wealth. The flutes in question unsold are not wealth, being good for nothing: to become wealth they must be sold.

[8] Reading {tout auto}, or if {tout au} with Sauppe, transl. “Yes, that is another position we may fairly subscribe to.”

[9] i.e. “without knowledge of how to use them.”

[10] Or, “our discussion marches on all-fours, as it were.”

Yes! (rejoined Socrates), presuming the owner knows how to sell them; since, supposing again he were to sell them for something which he does not know how to use,[11] the mere selling will not transform them into wealth, according to your argument.

[11] Reading {pros touto o}, or if {pros touton, os}, transl. “to a man who did not know how to use them.”

Crit. You seem to say, Socrates, that money itself in the pockets of a man who does not know how to use it is not wealth?

Soc. And I understand you to concur in the truth of our proposition so far: wealth is that, and that only, whereby a man may be benefited. Obviously, if a man used his money to buy himself a mistress, to the grave detriment of his body and soul and whole estate, how is that particular money going to benefit him now? What good will he extract from it?

Crit. None whatever, unless we are prepared to admit that hyoscyamus,[12] as they call it, is wealth, a poison the property of which is to drive those who take it mad.

[12] “A dose of henbane, ‘hogs’-bean,’ so called.” Diosc. 4. 69; 6. 15; Plut. “Demetr.” xx. (Clough, v. 114).

Soc. Let money then, Critobulus, if a man does not know how to use it aright–let money, I say, be banished to the remote corners of the earth rather than be reckoned as wealth.[13] But now, what shall we say of friends? If a man knows how to use his friends so as to be benefited by them, what of these?

[13] Or, “then let it be relegated . . . and there let it lie in the category of non-wealth.”

Crit. They are wealth indisputably, and in a deeper sense than cattle are, if, as may be supposed, they are likely to prove of more benefit to a man than wealth of cattle.

Soc. It would seem, according to your argument, that the foes of a man’s own household after all may be wealth to him, if he knows how to turn them to good account?[14]

[14] Vide supra.

Crit. That is my opinion, at any rate.

Soc. It would seem, it is the part of a good economist[15] to know how to deal with his own or his employer’s foes so as to get profit out of them?

[15] “A good administrator of an estate.”

Crit. Most emphatically so.

Soc. In fact, you need but use your eyes to see how many private persons, not to say crowned heads, do owe the increase of their estates to war.

Crit. Well, Socrates, I do not think, so far, the argument could be improved on;[16] but now comes a puzzle. What of people who have got the knowledge and the capital[17] required to enhance their fortunes, if only they will put their shoulders to the wheel; and yet, if we are to believe our senses, that is just the one thing they will not do, and so their knowledge and accomplishments are of no profit to them? Surely in their case also there is but one conclusion to be drawn, which is, that neither their knowledge nor their possessions are wealth.

[16] Or, “Thanks, Socrates. Thus far the statement of the case would seem to be conclusive–but what are we to make of this? Some people . . .”

[17] Lit. “the right kinds of knowledge and the right starting- points.”

Soc. Ah! I see, Critobulus, you wish to direct the discussion to the topic of slaves?

Crit. No indeed, I have no such intention–quite the reverse. I want to talk about persons of high degree, of right noble family[18] some of them, to do them justice. These are the people I have in my mind’s eye, gifted with, it may be, martial or, it may be, civil accomplishments, which, however, they refuse to exercise, for the very reason, as I take it, that they have no masters over them.

[18] “Eupatrids.”

Soc. No masters over them! but how can that be if, in spite of their prayers for prosperity and their desire to do what will bring them good, they are still so sorely hindered in the exercise of their wills by those that lord it over them?

Crit. And who, pray, are these lords that rule them and yet remain unseen?

Soc. Nay, not unseen; on the contrary, they are very visible. And what is more, they are the basest of the base, as you can hardly fail to note, if at least you believe idleness and effeminacy and reckless negligence to be baseness. Then, too, there are other treacherous beldames giving themselves out to be innocent pleasures, to wit, dicings and profitless associations among men.[19] These in the fulness of time appear in all their nakedness even to them that are deceived, showing themselves that they are after all but pains tricked out and decked with pleasures. These are they who have the dominion over those you speak of and quite hinder them from every good and useful work.

[19] Or, “frivolous society.”

Crit. But there are others, Socrates, who are not hindered by these indolences–on the contrary, they have the most ardent disposition to exert themselves, and by every means to increase their revenues; but in spite of all, they wear out their substance and are involved in endless difficulties.[20]

[20] Or, “become involved for want of means.”

Soc. Yes, for they too are slaves, and harsh enough are their taskmasters; slaves are they to luxury and lechery, intemperance and the wine-cup along with many a fond and ruinous ambition. These passions so cruelly belord it over the poor soul whom they have got under their thrall, that so long as he is in the heyday of health and strong to labour, they compel him to fetch and carry and lay at their feet the fruit of his toils, and to spend it on their own heart’s lusts; but as soon as he is seen to be incapable of further labour through old age, they leave him to his gray hairs and misery, and turn to seize on other victims.[21] Ah! Critobulus, against these must we wage ceaseless war, for very freedom’s sake, no less than if they were armed warriors endeavouring to make us their slaves. Nay, foemen in war, it must be granted, especially when of fair and noble type, have many times ere now proved benefactors to those they have enslaved. By dint of chastening, they have forced the vanquished to become better men and to lead more tranquil lives in future.[22] But these despotic queens never cease to plague and torment their victims in body and soul and substance until their sway is ended.

[21] “To use others as their slaves.”

[22] Lit. “Enemies for the matter of that, when, being beautiful and good, they chance to have enslaved some other, have ere now in many an instance chastened and compelled the vanquished to be better and to live more easily for the rest of time.”


The conersation was resumed by Critobulus, and on this wise. He said: I think I take your meaning fully, Socrates, about these matters; and for myself, examining my heart, I am further satisfied, I have sufficient continence and self-command in those respects. So that if you will only advise me on what I am to do to improve my estate, I flatter myself I shall not be hindered by those despotic dames, as you call them. Come, do not hesitate; only tender me what good advice you can, and trust me I will follow it. But perhaps, Socrates, you have already passed sentence on us–we are rich enough already, and not in need of any further wealth?

Soc. It is to myself rather, if I may be included in your plural “we,” that I should apply the remark. I am not in need of any further wealth, if you like. I am rich enough already, to be sure. But you, Critobulus, I look upon as singularly poor, and at times, upon my soul, I feel a downright compassion for you.

At this view of the case, Critobulus fell to laughing outright, retorting: And pray, Socrates, what in the name of fortune do you suppose our respective properties would fetch in the market, yours and mine?

If I could find a good purchaser (he answered), I suppose the whole of my effects, including the house in which I live, might very fairly realise five minae[1] (say twenty guineas). Yours, I am positively certain, would fetch at the lowest more than a hundred times that sum.

[1] 5 x L4:1:3. See Boeckh, “P. E. A.” [Bk. i. ch. xx.], p. 109 f. (Eng. ed.)

Crit. And with this estimate of our respective fortunes, can you still maintain that you have no need of further wealth, but it is I who am to be pitied for my poverty?

Soc. Yes, for my property is amply sufficient to meet my wants, whereas you, considering the parade you are fenced about with, and the reputation you must needs live up to, would be barely well off, I take it, if what you have already were multiplied by three.

Pray, how may that be? Critobulus asked.

Why, first and foremost (Socrates explained), I see you are called upon to offer many costly sacrifices, failing which, I take it, neither gods nor men would tolerate you; and, in the next place, you are bound to welcome numerous foreigners as guests, and to entertain them handsomely; thirdly, you must feast your fellow-citizens and ply them with all sorts of kindness, or else be cut adrift from your supporters.[2] Furthermore, I perceive that even at present the state enjoins upon you various large contributions, such as the rearing of studs,[3] the training of choruses, the superintendence of gymnastic schools, or consular duties,[4] as patron of resident aliens, and so forth; while in the event of war you will, I am aware, have further obligations laid upon you in the shape of pay[5] to carry on the triearchy, ship money, and war taxes[6] so onerous, you will find difficulty in supporting them. Remissness in respect of any of these charges will be visited upon you by the good citizens of Athens no less strictly than if they caught you stealing their own property. But worse than all, I see you fondling the notion that you are rich. Without a thought or care how to increase your revenue, your fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love,[7] as if you had some special license to amuse yourselef. . . . That is why I pity and compassionate you, fearing lest some irremediable mischief overtake you, and you find yourself in desperate straits. As for me, if I ever stood in need of anything, I am sure you know I have friends who would assist me. They would make some trifling contribution–trifling to themselves, I mean–and deluge my humble living with a flood of plenty. But your friends, albeit far better off than yourself, considering your respective styles of living, persist in looking to you for assistance.

[2] See Dr. Holden ad loc., Boeckh [Bk. iii. ch. xxiii.], p. 465 f.

[3] Cf. Lycurg. “c. Leocr.” 139.

[4] Al. “presidential duties.”

[5] {trierarkhias [misthous]}. The commentators in general “suspect” {misthous}. See Boeckh, “P. E. A.” p. 579.

[6] See Boeckh, p. 470 f.; “Revenues,” iii. 9, iv. 40.

[7] Or, “to childish matters,” “frivolous affairs”; but for the full import of the phrase {paidikois pragmasi} see “Ages.” viii. 2.

Then Critobulus: I cannot gainsay what you have spoken, Socrates, it is indeed high time that you were constituted my patronus, or I shall become in very truth a pitiable object.

To which appeal Socrates made answer: Why, you yourself must surely be astonished at the part you are now playing. Just now, when I said that I was rich, you laughed at me as if I had no idea what riches were, and you were not happy till you had cross-examined me and forced me to confess that I do not possess the hundredth part of what you have; and now you are imploring me to be your patron, and to stint no pains to save you from becoming absolutely and in very truth a pauper.[8]

[8] Or, “literally beggared.”

Crit. Yes, Socrates, for I see that you are skilled in one lucrative operation at all events–the art of creating a surplus. I hope, therefore, that a man who can make so much out of so little will not have the slightest difficulty in creating an ample surplus out of an abundance.

Soc. But do not you recollect how just now in the discussion you would hardly let me utter a syllable[9] while you laid down the law: if a man did not know how to handle horses, horses were not wealth to him at any rate; nor land, nor sheep, nor money, nor anything else, if he did not know how to use them? And yet these are the very sources of revenue from which incomes are derived; and how do you expect me to know the use of any of them who never possessed a single one of them since I was born?

[9] Cf. Aristoph. “Clouds,” 945; “Plut.” 17; Dem. 353; and Holden ad loc.

Crit. Yes, but we agreed that, however little a man may be blest with wealth himself, a science of economy exists; and that being so, what hinders you from being its professor?

Soc. Nothing, to be sure,[10] except what would hinder a man from knowing how to play the flute, supposing he had never had a flute of his own and no one had supplied the defect by lending him one to practise on: which is just my case with regard to economy,[11] seeing I never myself possessed the instrument of the science which is wealth, so as to go through the pupil stage, nor hitherto has any one proposed to hand me over his to manage. You, in fact, are the first person to make so generous an offer. You will bear in mind, I hope, that a learner of the harp is apt to break and spoil the instrument; it is therefore probable, if I take in hand to learn the art of economy on your estate, I shall ruin it outright.

[10] Lit. “The very thing, God help me! which would hinder . . .”

[11] Lit. “the art of administering an estate.”

Critobulus retorted: I see, Socrates, you are doing your very best to escape an irksome task: you would rather not, if you can help it, stretch out so much as your little finger to help me to bear my necessary burthens more easily.

Soc. No, upon my word, I am not trying to escape: on the contrary, I shall be ready, as far as I can, to expound the matter to you.[12] . . . Still it strikes me, if you had come to me for fire, and I had none in my house, you would not blame me for sending you where you might get it; or if you had asked me for water, and I, having none to give, had led you elsewhere to the object of your search, you would not, I am sure, have disapproved; or did you desire to be taught music by me, and I were to point out to you a far more skilful teacher than myself, who would perhaps be grateful to you moreover for becoming his pupil, what kind of exception could you take to my behaviour?

[12] Or, “to play the part of {exegetes}, ‘legal adviser,’ or ‘spiritual director,’ to be in fact your ‘guide, philosopher, and friend.'”

Crit. None, with any show of justice, Socrates.

Soc. Well, then, my business now is, Critobulus, to point out[13] to you some others cleverer than myself about those matters which you are so anxious to be taught by me. I do confess to you, I have made it long my study to discover who among our fellow-citizens in this city are the greatest adepts in the various branches of knowledge.[14] I had been struck with amazement, I remember, to observe on some occasion that where a set of people are engaged in identical operations, half of them are in absolute indigence and the other half roll in wealth. I bethought me, the history of the matter was worth investigation. Accordingly I set to work investigating, and I found that it all happened very naturally. Those who carried on their affairs in a haphazard manner I saw were punished by their losses; whilst those who kept their wits upon the stretch and paid attention I soon perceived to be rewarded by the greater ease and profit of their undertakings.[15] It is to these I would recommend you to betake yourself. What say you? Learn of them: and unless the will of God oppose,[16] I venture to say you will become as clever a man of business as one might hope to see.

[13] Al. “to show you that there are others.”

[14] Or, “who are gifted with the highest knowledge in their respective concerns.” Cf. “Mem.” IV. vii. 1.

[15] Lit. “got on quicker, easier, and more profitably.”

[16] Or, “short of some divine interposition.”


Critobulus, on hearing that, exclaimed: Be sure, Socrates, I will not let you go now until you give the proofs which, in the presence of our friends, you undertook just now to give me.

Well then,[1] Critobulus (Socrates replied), what if I begin by showing[2] you two sorts of people, the one expending large sums on money in building useless houses, the other at far less cost erecting dwellings replete with all they need; will you admit that I have laid my finger here on one of the essentials of economy?

[1] Lincke [brackets as an editorial interpolation iii. 1, {ti oun, ephe}–vi. 11, {poiomen}]. See his edition “Xenophons Dialog. {peri oikonomias} in seiner ursprunglichen Gestalt”; and for a criticism of his views, an article by Charles D. Morris, “Xenophon’s Oeconomicus,” in the “American Journal of Philology,” vol. i. p. 169 foll.

[2] As a demonstrator.

Crit. An essential point most ceertainly.

Soc. And suppose in connection with the same, I next point out to you[3] two other sets of persons:–The first possessors of furniture of various kinds, which they cannot, however, lay their hands on when the need arises; indeed they hardly know if they have got all safe and sound or not: whereby they put themselves and their domestics to much mental torture. The others are perhaps less amply, or at any rate not more amply supplied, but they have everything ready at the instant for immediate use.

[3] “As in a mirror, or a picture.”

Crit. Yes, Socrates, and is not the reason simply that in the first case everything is thrown down where it chanced, whereas those others have everything arranged, each in its appointed place?

Quite right (he answered), and the phrase implies that everything is orderly arranged, not in the first chance place, but in that to which it naturally belongs.

Crit. Yes, the case is to the point, I think, and does involve another economic principle.

Soc. What, then, if I exhibit to you a third contrast, which bears on the condition of domestic slaves? On the one side you shall see them fettered hard and fast, as I may say, and yet for ever breaking their chains and running away. On the other side the slaves are loosed, and free to move, but for all that, they choose to work, it seems; they are constant to their masters. I think you will admit that I here point out another function of economy[4] worth noting.

[4] Or, “economical result.”

Crit. I do indeed–a feature most noteworthy.

Soc. Or take, again, the instance of two farmers engaged in cultivating farms[5] as like as possible. The one had never done asserting that agriculture has been his ruin, and is in the depth of despair; the other has all he needs in abundance and of the best, and how acquired?–by this same agriculture.

[5] {georgias}. See Hartman, “An. Xen.” p. 193. Hold. cf. Plat. “Laws,” 806 E. Isocr. “Areop.” 32.

Yes (Critobulus answered), to be sure; perhaps[6] the former spends both toil and money not simply on what he needs, but on things which cause an injury to house alike and owner.

[6] Or, “like enough in the one case the money and pains are spent,” etc.

Soc. That is a possible case, no doubt, but it is not the one that I refer to; I mean people pretending they are farmers, and yet they have not a penny to expend on the real needs of their business.

Crit. And pray, what may be the reason of that, Socrates?

Soc. You shall come with me, and see these people also; and as you contemplate the scene, I presume you will lay to heart the lesson.

Crit. I will, if possibly I can, I promise you.

Soc. Yes, and while you contemplate, you must make trial of yourself and see if you have wit to understand. At present, I will bear you witness that if it is to go and see a party of players performing in a comedy, you will get up at cock-crow, and come trudging a long way, and ply me volubly with reasons why I should accompany you to see the play. But you have never once invited me to come and witness such an incident as those we were speaking of just now.

Crit. And so I seem to you ridiculous?[7]

[7] Or, “a comic character in the performance.” Soc. “Not so comic as you must appear to yourself (i.e. with your keen sense of the ludicrous).”

Soc. Far more ridiculous to yourself, I warrant. But now let me point out to you another contrast: between certain people whose dealing with horses has brought them to the brink of poverty, and certain others who have found in the same pursuit the road to affluence,[8] and have a right besides to plume themselves upon their gains.[9]

[8] Or, “who have not only attained to affluence by the same pursuit, but can hold their heads high, and may well pride themselves on their thrift.”

[9] Cf. Hom. “Il.” xii. 114, {ippoisin kai okhesphin agallomenos}, et passim; “Hiero,” viii. 5; “Anab.” II. vi. 26.

Crit. Well, then, I may tell you, I see and know both characters as well as you do; but I do not find myself a whit the more included among those who gain.

Soc. Because you look at them just as you might at the actors in a tragedy or comedy, and with the same intent–your object being to delight the ear and charm the eye, but not, I take it, to become yourself a poet. And there you are right enough, no doubt, since you have no desire to become a playright. But, when circumstances compel you to concern yourself with horsemanship, does it not seem to you a little foolish not to consider how you are to escape being a mere amateur in the matter, especially as the same creatures which are good for use are profitable for sale?

Crit. So you wish me to set up as a breeder of young horses,[10] do you, Socrates?

[10] See “Horsemanship,” ii. 1.

Soc. Not so, no more than I would recommend you to purchase lads and train them up from boyhood as farm-labourers. But in my opinion there is a certain happy moment of growth whuch must be seized, alike in man and horse, rich in present service and in future promise. In further illustration, I can show you how some men treat their wedded wives in such a way that they find in them true helpmates to the joint increase of their estate, while others treat them in a way to bring upon themselves wholesale disaster.[11]

[11] Reading {e os pleista}, al. {e oi pleistoi} = “to bring about disaster in most cases.”

Crit. Ought the husband or the wife to bear the blame of that?

Soc. If it goes ill with the sheep we blame the shepherd, as a rule, or if a horse shows vice we throw the blame in general upon the rider. But in the case of women, supposing the wife to have received instruction from her husband and yet she delights in wrong-doing,[12] it may be that the wife is justly held to blame; but supposing he has never tried to teach her the first principles of “fair and noble” conduct,[13] and finds her quite an ignoramus[14] in these matters, surely the husband will be justly held to blame. But come now (he added), we are all friends here; make a clean breast of it, and tell us, Critobulus, the plain unvarnished truth: Is there an one to whom you are more in the habit of entrusting matters of importance than to your wife?

[12] Cf. “Horsemanship,” vi. 5, of a horse “to show vice.”

[13] Or, “things beautiful and of good report.”

[14] Al. “has treated her as a dunce, devoid of this high knowledge.”

Crit. There is no one.

Soc. And is there any one with whom you are less in the habit of conversing than with your wife?

Crit. Not many, I am forced to admit.

Soc. And when you married her she was quite young, a mere girl–at an age when, as far as seeing and hearing go, she had the smallest acquaintance with the outer world?

Crit. Certainly.

Soc. Then would it not be more astonishing that she should have real knowledge how to speak and act than that she should go altogether astray?

Crit. But let me ask you a question, Socrates: have those happy husbands, you tell us of, who are blessed with good wives educated them themselves?

Soc. There is nothing like investigation. I will introduce you to Aspasia,[15] who will explain these matters to you in a far more scientific way than I can. My belief is that a good wife, being as she is the partner in a common estate, must needs be her husband’s counterpoise and counterpart for good; since, if it is through the transactions of the husband, as a rule, that goods of all sorts find their way into the house, yet it is by means of the wife’s economy and thrift that the greater part of the expenditure is checked, and on the successful issue or the mishandling of the same depends the increase or impoverishment of a whole estate. And so with regard to the remaining arts and sciences, I think I can point out to you the ablest performers in each case, if you feel you have any further need of help.[16]

[15] Aspasia. See “Mem.” II. vi. 36.

[16] Al. “there are successful performers in each who will be happy to illustrate any point in which you think you need,” etc.


But why need you illustrate all the sciences, Socrates? (Critobulus asked): it would not be very easy to discover efficient craftsmen of all the arts, and quite impossible to become skilled in all one’s self. So, please, confine yourself to the nobler branches of knowledge as men regard them, such as it will best befit me to pursue with devotion; be so good as to point me out these and their performers, and, above all, contribute as far as in you lies the aid of your own personal instruction.

Soc. A good suggestion, Critobulus, for the base mechanic arts, so called, have got a bad name; and what is more, are held in ill repute by civilised communities, and not unreasonably; seeing they are the ruin of the bodies of all concerned in them, workers and overseers alike, who are forced to remain in sitting postures and to hug the loom, or else to crouch whole days confronting a furnace. Hand in hand with physical enervation follows apace enfeeblement of soul: while the demand which these base mechanic arts makes on the time of those employed in them leaves them no leisure to devote to the claims of friendship and the state. How can such folk be other than sorry friends and ill defenders of the fatherland? So much so that in some states, especially those reputed to be warlike, no citizen[1] is allowed to exercise any mechanical craft at all.

[1] “In the strict sense,” e.g. the Spartiates in Sparta. See “Pol. Lac.” vii.; Newman, op. cit. i. 99, 103 foll.

Crit. Then which are the arts you would counsel us to engage in?

Soc. Well, we shall not be ashamed, I hope, to imitate the kings of Persia?[2] That monarch, it is said, regards amongst the noblest and most necessary pursuits two in particular, which are the arts of husbandry and war, and in these two he takes the strongest interest.

[2] “It won’t make us blush actually to take a leaf out of the great king’s book.” As to the Greek text at this point see the commentators, and also a note by Mr. H. Richers in the “Classical Review,” x. 102.

What! (Critobulus exclaimed); do you, Socrates, really believe that the king of Persia pays a personal regard to husbandry, along with all his other cares?

Soc. We have only to investigate the matter, Critobulus, and I daresay we shall discover whether this is so or not. We are agreed that he takes strong interest in military matters; since, however numerous the tributary nations, there is a governor to each, and every governor has orders from the king what number of cavalry, archers, slingers and targeteers[3] it is his business to support, as adequate to control the subject population, or in case of hostile attack to defend the country. Apart from these the king keeps garrisons in all the citadels. The actual support of these devolves upon the governor, to whom the duty is assigned. The king himself meanwhile conducts the annual inspection and review of troops, both mercenary and other, that have orders to be under arms. These all are simultaneously assembled (with the exception of the garrisons of citadels) at the mustering ground,[4] so named. That portion of the army within access of the royal residence the king reviews in person; the remainder, living in remoter districts of the empire, he inspects by proxy, sending certain trusty representatives.[5] Wherever the commandants of garrisons, the captains of thousands, and the satraps[6] are seen to have their appointed members complete, and at the same time shall present their troops equipped with horse and arms in thorough efficiency, these officers the king delights to honour, and showers gifts upon them largely. But as to those officers whom he finds either to have neglected their garrisons, or to have made private gain of their position, these he heavily chastises, deposing them from office, and appointing other superintendents[7] in their stead. Such conduct, I think we may say, indisputably proves the interest which he takes in matters military.

[3] Or, Gerrophoroi, “wicker-shield bearers.”

[4] Or, “rendezvous”; “the ‘Champ de Mars’ for the nonce.” Cf. “Cyrop.” VI. ii. 11.

[5] Lit. “he sends some of the faithful to inspect.” Cf. our “trusty and well-beloved.”

[6] See, for the system, Herod. iii. 89 foll.; “Cyrop.” VIII. vi. 11.

[7] Or, as we say, “inspecting officers.” Cf. “Cyrop.” VIII. i. 9.

Further than this, by means of a royal progress through the country, he has an opportunity of inspecting personally some portion of his territory, and again of visiting the remainder in proxy as above by trusty representatives; and wheresoever he perceives that any of his governors can present to him a district thickly populated, and the soil in a state of active cultivation, full of trees and fruits, its natural products, to such officers he adds other territory, adorning them with gifts and distinguishing them by seats of honour. But those officers whose land he sees lying idle and with but few inhabitants, owing either to the harshness of their government, their insolence, or their neglect, he punishes, and making them to cease from their office he appoints other rulers in their place. . . . Does not this conduct indicate at least as great an anxiety to promote the active cultivation of the land by its inhabitants as to provide for its defence by military occupation?[8]

[8] Lit. “by those who guard and garrison it.”

Moreover, the governors appointed to preside over these two departments of state are not one and the same. But one class governs the inhabitants proper including the workers of the soil, and collects the tribute from them, another is in command of the armed garrisons. If the commandant[9] protects the country insufficiently, the civil governor of the population, who is in charge also of the productive works, lodges accusation against the commandant to the effect that the inhabitants are prevented working through deficiency of protection. Or if again, in spite of peace being secured to the works of the land by the military governor, the civil authority still presents a territory sparse in population and untilled, it is the commandant’s turn to accuse the civil ruler. For you may take it as a rule, a population tilling their territory badly will fail to support their garrisons and be quite unequal to paying their tribute. Where a satrap is appointed he has charge of both departments.[10]

[9] Or, “garrison commandant.” Lit. “Phrourarch.”

[10] The passage reads like a gloss. See about the Satrap, “Hell.” III. i. 10; “Cyrop.” VIII. vi. 1; “Anab.” I. ix. 29 foll.

Thereupon Critobulus: Well, Socrates (said he), if such is his conduct, I admit that the great king does pay attention to agriculture no less than to military affairs.

And besides all this (proceeded Socrates), nowhere among the various countries which he inhabits or visits does he fail to make it his first care that there shall be orchards and gardens, parks and “paradises,” as they are called, full of all fair and noble products which the earth brings forth; and within these chiefly he spends his days, when the season of the year permits.

Crit. To be sure, Socrates, it is a natural and necessary conclusion that when the king himself spends so large a portion of his time there, his paradises should be furnished to perfection with trees and all else beautiful that earth brings forth.

Soc. And some say, Critobulus, that when the king gives gifts, he summons in the first place those who have shown themselves brave warriors, since all the ploughing in the world were but small gain in the absence of those who should protect the fields; and next to these he summons those who have stocked their countries best and rendered them productive, on the principle that but for the tillers of the soil the warriors themselves could scarcely live. And there is a tale told of Cyrus, the most famous prince, I need not tell you, who ever wore a crown,[11] how on one occasion he said to those who had been called to receive the gifts, “it were no injustice, if he himself received the gifts due to warriors and tillers of the soil alike,” for “did he not carry off the palm in stocking the country and also in protecting the goods with which it had been stocked?”

[11] Lit. “the most glorious king that ever lived.” The remark would seem to apply better to Cyrus the Great. Nitsche and others regard these SS. 18, 19 as interpolated. See Schenkl ad loc.

Crit. Which clearly shows, Socrates, if the tale be true, that this same Cyrus took as great a pride in fostering the productive energies of his country and stocking it with good things, as in his reputation as a warrior.

Soc. Why, yes indeed, had Cyrus lived, I have no doubt he would have proved the best of rulers, and in support of this belief, apart from other testimony amply furnished by his life, witness what happened when he marched to do battle for the soveriegnty of Persia with his brother. Not one man, it is said,[12] deserted from Cyrus to the king, but from the king to Cyrus tens of thousands. And this also I deem a great testimony to a ruler’s worth, that his followers follow him of their own free will, and when the moment of danger comes refuse to part from him.[13] Now this was the case with Cyrus. His friends not only fought their battles side by side with him while he lived, but when he died they too died battling around his dead body, one and all, excepting only Ariaeus, who was absent at his post on the left wing of the army.[14] But there is another tale of this same Cyrus in connection with Lysander, who himself narrated it on one occasion to a friend of his in Megara.[15]

[12] Cf. “Anab.” I. ix. 29 foll.

[13] Cf. “Hiero,” xi. 12, and our author passim.

[14] See “Anab.” ib. 31.

[15] Possibly to Xenophon himself {who may have met Lysander on his way back after the events of the “Anabasis,” and implying this dialogue is concocted, since Socrates died before Xenophon returned to Athens, if he did return at that period.}

Lysander, it seems, had gone with presents sent by the Allies to Cyrus, who entertained him, and amongst other marks of courtesy showed him his “paradise” at Sardis.[16] Lysander was astonished at the beauty of the trees within, all planted[17] at equal intervals, the long straight rows of waving branches, the perfect regularity, the rectangular[18] symmetry of the whole, and the many sweet scents which hung about them as they paced the park. In admiration he exclaimed to Cyrus: “All this beauty is marvellous enough, but what astonishes me still more is the talent of the artificer who mapped out and arranged for you the several parts of this fair scene.”[19] Cyrus was pleased by the remark, and said: “Know then, Lysander, it is I who measured and arranged it all. Some of the trees,” he added, “I planted with my own hands.” Then Lysander, regarding earnestly the speaker, when he saw the beauty of his apparel and perceived its fragrance, the splendour[20] also of the necklaces and armlets, and other ornaments which he wore, exclaimed: “What say you, Cyrus? did you with your own hands plant some of these trees?” whereat the other: “Does that surprise you, Lysander? I swear to you by Mithres,[21] when in ordinary health I never dream of sitting down to supper without first practising some exercise of war or husbandry in the sweat of my brow, or venturing some strife of honour, as suits my mood.” “On hearing this,” said Lysander to his friend, “I could not help seizing him by the hand and exclaiming, ‘Cyrus, you have indeed good right to be a happy man,[22] since you are happy in being a good man.'”[23]

[16] See “Hell.” I. v. 1.

[17] Reading {oi’ isou pephuteumena}, or if {ta pephuteumena}, transl. “the various plants ranged.”

[18] Cf. Dion. Hal. “de Comp.” p. 170; Cic. “de Senect.” S. 59.

[19] Lit. “of these” {deiktikos}, i.e. pointing to the various beauties of the scenery.

[20] Reading {to kallos}.

[21] The Persian “Sun-God.” See “Cyrop.” VII. v. 53; Strab. xv. 3. 13.

[22] Or, “fortunate.”

[23] Or, “you are a good man, and thereby fortunate.”


All this I relate to you (continued Socrates) to show you that quite high and mighty[1] people find it hard to hold aloof from agrictulture, devotion to which art would seem to be thrice blest, combining as it does a certain sense of luxury with the satisfaction of an improved estate, and such a training of physical energies as shall fit a man to play a free man’s part.[2] Earth, in the first place, freely offers to those that labour all things necessary to the life of man; and, as if that were not enough, makes further contribution of a thousand luxuries.[3] It is she who supplies with sweetest scent and fairest show all things wherewith to adorn the altars and statues of the gods, or deck man’s person. It is to her we owe our many delicacies of flesh or fowl or vegetable growth;[4] since with the tillage of the soil is closely linked the art of breeding sheep and cattle, whereby we mortals may offer sacrifices well pleasing to the gods, and satisfy our personal needs withal.

[1] Lit. “Not even the most blessed of mankind can abstain from.” See Plat. “Rep.” 344 B, “The superlatively best and well-to-do.”

[2] Lit. “Devotion to it would seem to be at once a kind of luxury, an increase of estate, a training of the bodily parts, so that a man is able to perform all that a free man should.”

[3] Al. “and further, to the maintenance of life she adds the sources of pleasure in life.”

[4] Lit. “she bears these and rears those.”

And albeit she, good cateress, pours out her blessings upon us in abundance, yet she suffers not her gifts to be received effeminately, but inures her pensioners to suffer glady summer’s heat and winter’s cold. Those that labour with their hands, the actual delvers of the soil, she trains in a wrestling school of her own, adding strength to strength; whilst those others whose devotion is confined to the overseeing eye and to studious thought, she makes more manly, rousing them with cock-crow, and compelling them to be up and doing in many a long day’s march.[5] Since, whether in city or afield, with the shifting seasons each necessary labour has its hour of performance.[6]

[5] See “Hellenica Essays,” p. 341.

[6] Lit. “each most necessary operation must ever be in season.”

Or to turn to another side. Suppose it to be a man’s ambition to aid his city as a trooper mounted on a charger of his own: why not combine the rearing of horses with other stock? it is the farmer’s chance.[7] Or would your citizen serve on foot? It is husbandry that shall give him robustness of body. Or if we turn to the toil-loving fascination of the chase,[8] here once more earth adds incitement, as well as furnishing facility of sustenance for the dogs as by nurturing a foster brood of wild animals. And if horses and dogs derive benefit from this art of husbandry, they in turn requite the boon through service rendered to the farm. The horse carries his best of friends, the careful master, betimes to the scene of labour and devotion, and enables him to leave it late. The dog keeps off the depredations of wild animals from fruits and flocks, and creates security in the solitary place.

[7] Lit. “farming is best adapted to rearing horses along with other produce.”

[8] Lit. “to labour willingly and earnestly at hunting earth helps to incite us somewhat.”

Earth, too, adds stimulus in war-time to earth’s tillers; she pricks them on to aid the country under arms, and this she does by fostering her fruits in open field, the prize of valour for the mightiest.[9] For this also is the art athletic, this of husbandry; as thereby men are fitted to run, and hurl the spear, and leap with the best.[10]

[9] Cf. “Hipparch,” viii. 8.

[10] Cf. “Hunting,” xii. 1 foll.

This, too, is that kindliest of arts which makes requital tenfold in kind for every work of the labourer.[11] She is the sweet mistress who, with smile of welcome and outstretched hand, greets the approach of her devoted one, seeming to say, Take from me all thy heart’s desire. She is the generous hostess; she keeps open house for the stranger.[12] For where else, save in some happy rural seat of her devising, shall a man more cheerily cherish content in winter, with bubbling bath and blazing fire? or where, save afield, in summer rest more sweetly,lulled by babbling streams, soft airs, and tender shades?[13]

[11] Lit. “What art makes an ampler return for their labour to those who work for her? What art more sweetly welcomes him that is devoted to her?”

[12] Lit. “What art welcomes the stranger with greater prodigality?”

[13] See “Hellenica Essays,” p. 380; and as still more to the point, Cowley’s Essays: “Of Agriculture,” passim.

Her high prerogative it is to offer fitting first-fruits to high heaven, hers to furnish forth the overflowing festal board.[14] Hers is a kindly presence in the household. She is the good wife’s favourite, the children long for her, she waves her hand winningly to the master’s friends.

[14] Or, “to appoint the festal board most bounteously.”

For myself, I marvel greatly if it has ever fallen to the lot of freeborn man to own a choicer possesion, or to discover an occupation more seductive, or of wider usefulness in life than this.

But, furthermore, earth of her own will[15] gives lessons in justice and uprightness to all who can understand her meaning, since the nobler the service of devotion rendered, the ampler the riches of her recompense.[16] One day, perchance, these pupils of hers, whose conversation in past times was in husbandry,[17] shall, by reason of the multitude of invading armies, be ousted from their labours. The work of their hands may indeed be snatched from them, but they were brought up in stout and manly fashion. They stand, each one of them, in body and soul equipped; and, save God himself shall hinder them, they will march into the territory of those their human hinderers, and take from them the wherewithal to support their lives. Since often enough in war it is surer and safer to quest for food with sword and buckler than with all the instruments of husbandry.

[15] Reading {thelousa}, vulg., or if after Cobet, {theos ousa}, transl. “by sanction of her divinity.” With {thelousa} Holden aptly compares Virgil’s “volentia rura,” “Georg.” ii. 500.

[16] “That is, her ‘lex talionis.'”

[17] “Engaged long time in husbandry.”

But there is yet another lesson to be learnt in the public shool of husbandry[18]–the lesson of mutual assistance. “Shoulder to shoulder” must we march to meet the invader;[19] “shoulder to shoulder” stand to compass the tillage of the soil. Therefore it is that the husbandman, who means to win in his avocation, must see that he creates enthusiasm in his workpeople and a spirit of ready obedience; which is just what a general attacking an enemy will scheme to bring about, when he deals out gifts to the brave and castigation[20] to those who are disorderly.

[18] Lit. “But again, husbandry trains up her scholars side by side in lessons of . . .”

[19] {sun anthropois}, “man with his fellow-man,” is the “mot d’order” (cf. the author’s favourite {sun theois}); “united human effort.”

[20] “Lashes,” “punishment.” Cf. “Anab.” II. vi. 10, of Clearchus.

Nor will there be lacking seasons of exhortation, the general haranguing his troops and the husbandman his labourers; nor because they are slaves do they less than free men need the lure of hope and happy expectation,[21] that they may willingly stand to their posts.

[21] “The lure of happy prospects.” See “Horsmanship,” iii. 1.

It was an excellent saying of his who named husbandry “the mother and nurse of all the arts,” for while agriculture prospers all other arts like are vigorous and strong, but where the land is forced to remain desert,[22] the spring that feeds the other arts is dried up; they dwindle, I had almost said, one and all, by land and sea.

[22] Or, “lie waste and barren as the blown sea-sand.”

These utterances drew from Critobulus a comment:

Socrates (he said), for my part I agree with all you say; only, one must face the fact that in agriculture nine matters out of ten are beyond man’s calculation. Since at one time hailstones and another frost, at another drought or a deluge of rain, or mildew, or other pest, will obliterate all the fair creations and designs of men; or behold, his fleecy flocks most fairly nurtured, then comes murrain, and the end most foul destruction.[23]

[23] See Virg. “Georg.” iii. 441 foll.: “Turpis oves tentat scabies, ubi frigidus imber.”

To which Socrates: Nay, I thought, Critobulus, you full surely were aware that the operations of husbandry, no less than those of war, lie in the hands of the gods. I am sure you will have noted the behaviour of men engaged in war; how on the verge of military operations they strive to win the acceptance of the divine powers;[24] how eagerly they assail the ears of heaven, and by dint of sacrifices and omens seek to discover what they should and what they should not do. So likewise as regards the processes of husbandry, think you the propitiation of heaven is less needed here? Be well assured (he added) the wise and prudent will pay service to the gods on behalf of moist fruits and dry,[25] on behalf of cattle and horses, sheep and goats; nay, on behalf of all their possessions, great and small, without exception.

[24] See “Hell.” III. i. 16 foll., of Dercylidas.

[25] “Every kind of produce, succulent (like the grape and olive) or dry (like wheat and barley, etc.)”


Your words (Critobulus answered) command my entire sympathy, when you bid us endeavour to begin each work with heaven’s help,[1] seeing that the gods hold in their hands the issues alike of peace and war. So at any rate will we endeavour to act at all times; but will you now endeavour on your side to continue the discussion of economy from the point at which you broke off, and bring it point by point to its conclusion? What you have said so far has not been thrown away on me. I seem to discern already more clearly, what sort of behaviour is necessary to anything like real living.[2]

[1] Lit. “with the gods,” and for the sentiment see below, x. 10; “Cyrop.” III. i. 15; “Hipparch,” ix. 3.

[2] For {bioteuein} cf. Pind. “Nem.” iv. 11, and see Holden ad loc.

Socrates replied: What say you then? Shall we first survey the ground already traversed, and retrace the steps on which we were agreed, so that, if possible we may conduct the remaining portion of the argument to its issue with like unanimity?[3]

[3] Lit. “try whether we can go through the remaining steps with like . . .”

Crit. Why, yes! If it is agreeable for two partners in a business to run through their accounts without dispute, so now as partners in an argument it will be no less agreeable to sum up the points under discussion, as you say, with unanimity.

Soc. Well, then, we agreed that economy was the proper title of a branch of knowledge, and this branch of knowledge appeared to be that whereby men are enabled to enhance the value of their houses or estates; and by this word “house or estate” we understood the whole of a man’s possessions; and “possessions” again we defined to include those things which the possessor should find advantageous for the purposes of his life; and things advantageous finally were discovered to mean all that a man knows how to use and turn to good account. Further, for a man to learn all branches of knowledge not only seemed to us an impossibility, but we thought we might well follow the example of civil communties in rejecting the base mechanic arts so called, on the ground that they destroy the bodies of the artisans, as far as we can see, and crush their spirits.

The clearest proof of this, we said,[4] could be discovered if, on the occasion of a hostile inroad, one were to seat the husbandmen and the artisans apart in two divisions, and then proceed to put this question to each group in turn: “Do you think it better to defend our country districts or to retire from the fields[5] and guard the walls?” And we anticipated that those concerned with the soil would vote to defend the soil; while the artisans would vote not to fight, but, in docile obedience to their training, to sit with folded hands, neither expending toil nor venturing their lives.

[4] This S. 6 has no parallel supra. See Breit. and Schenkl ad loc. for attempts to cure the text.

[5] See Cobet, “N. L.” 580, reading {uphemenous}, or if {aphemenous} transl. “to abandon.”

Next we held it as proved that there was no better employment for a gentleman–we described him as a man beautiful and good–than this of husbandry, by which human beings procure to themselves the necessaries of life. This same employment, moreover, was, as we agreed, at once the easiest to learn[6] and the pleasantest to follow, since it gives to the limbs beauty and hardihood, whilst permitting[7] to the soul leisure to satisfy the claims of friendship and of civic duty.

[6] {raste mathein}. Vide infra, not supra.

[7] Lit. “least allowing the soul no leisure to care for friends and state withal.”

Again it seemed to us that husbandry acts as a spur to bravery in the hearts of those that till the fields,[8] inasmuch as the necessaries of life, vegetable and animal, under her auspices spring up and are reared outside the fortified defences of the city. For which reason also this way of life stood in the highest repute in the eyes of statesmen and commonwealths, as furnishing the best citizens and those best disposed to the common weal.[9]

[8] Cf. Aristot. “Oec.” I. ii. 1343 B, {pros toutois k.t.l.}

[9] Cf. Aristoph. “Archarnians.”

Crit. I think I am fully persuaded as to the propriety of making agriculture the basis of life. I see it is altogether noblest, best, and pleasantest to do so. But I should like to revert to your remark that you understood the reason why the tillage of one man brings him in an abundance of all he needs, while the operations of another fail to make husbandry a profitable employment. I would gladly hear from you an explanation of both these points, so that I may adopt the right and avoid the harmful course.[10]

[10] Lincke conceives the editor’s interpolation as ending here.

Soc. Well, Critobulus, suppose I narrate to you from the beginning how I cam in contact with a man who of all men I ever met seemed to me to deserve the appellation of a gentleman. He was indeed a “beautiful and good” man.[11]

[11] Or, “a man ‘beautiful and good,’ as the phrase goes.”

Crit. There is nothing I should better like to hear, since of all titles this is the one I covet most the right to bear.

Soc. Well, then, I will tell you how I came to subject him to my inquiry. It did not take me long to go the round of various good carpenters, good bronze-workers, painters, sculptors, and so forth. A brief period was sufficient for the contemplation of themselves and of their most admired works of art. But when it came to examining those who bore the high-sounding title “beautiful and good,” in order to find out what conduct on their part justified their adoption of this title, I found my soul eager with desire for intercourse with one of them; and first of all, seeing that the epithet “beautiful” was conjoined with that of “good,” every beautiful person I saw, I must needs approach in my endeavour to discover,[12] if haply I might somewhere see the quality of good adhering to the quality of beauty. But, after all, it was otherwise ordained. I soon enough seemed to discover[13] that some of those who in their outward form were beautiful were in their inmost selves the veriest knaves. Accordingly I made up my mind to let go beauty which appeals to the eye, and address myself to one of those “beautiful and good” people so entitled. And since I heard of Ischomachus[14] as one who was so called by all the world, both men and women, strangers and citizens alike, I set myself to make acquaintance with him.

[12] Or, “and try to understand.”

[13] Or, “understand.”

[14] See Cobet, “Pros. Xen.” s.n.


It chanced, one day I saw him seated in the portico of Zeus Eleutherios,[1] and as he appeared to be at leisure, I went up to him and, sitting down by his side, accosted him: How is this, Ischomachus? you seated here, you who are so little wont to be at leisure? As a rule, when I see you, you are doing something, or at any rate not sitting idle in the market-place.

[1] “The god of freedom, or of freed men.” See Plat. “Theag.” 259 A. The scholiast on Aristoph. “Plutus” 1176 identifies the god with Zeus Soter. See Plut. “Dem.” 859 (Clough, v. 30).

Nor would you see me now so sitting, Socrates (he answered), but that I promised to meet some strangers, friends of mine,[2] at this place.

[2] “Foreign friends.”

And when you have no such business on hand (I said) where in heaven’s name do you spend your time and how do you employ yourself? I will not conceal from you how anxious I am to learn from your lips by what conduct you have earned for yourself the title “beautiful and good.”[3] It is not by spending your days indoors at home, I am sure; the whole habit of your body bears witness to a different sort of life.

[3] “The sobriquet of ‘honest gentleman.'”

Then Ischomachus, smiling at my question, but also, as it seemed to me, a little pleased to be asked what he had done to earn the title “beautiful and good,” made answer: Whether that is the title by which folk call me when they talk to you about me, I cannot say; all I know is, when they challenge me to exchange properties,[4] or else to perform some service to the state instead of them, the fitting out of a trireme, or the training of a chorus, nobody thinks of asking for the beautiful and good gentleman, but it is plain Ischomachus, the son of So-and-so,[5] on whom the summons is served. But to answer your question, Socrates (he proceeded), I certainly do not spend my days indoors, if for no other reason, because my wife is quite capable of managing our domestic affairs without my aid.

[4] On the antidosis or compulsory exchange of property, see Boeckh, p. 580, Engl. ed.: “In case any man, upon whom a {leitourgia} was imposed, considered that another was richer than himself, and therefore most justly chargeable with the burden, he might challenge the other to assume the burden, or to make with him an {antidosis} or exchange of property. Such a challenge, if declined, was converted into a lawsuit, or came before a heliastic court for trial.” Gow, “Companion,” xviii. “Athenian Finance.” See Dem. “Against Midias,” 565, Kennedy, p. 117, and Appendix II. For the various liturgies, Trierarchy, Choregy, etc., see “Pol. Ath.” i. 13 foll.

[5] Or, “the son of his father,” it being customary at Athens to add the patronymic, e.g. Xenophon son of Gryllus, Thucydides son of Olorus, etc. See Herod. vi. 14, viii. 90. In official acts the name of the deme was added, eg. Demosthenes son of Demosthenes of Paiane; or of the tribe, at times. Cf. Thuc. viii. 69; Plat. “Laws,” vi. p. 753 B.

Ah! (said I), Ischomachus, that is just what I should like particularly to learn from you. Did you yourself educate your wife to be all that a wife should be, or when you received her from her father and mother was she already a proficient well skilled to discharge the duties appropriate to a wife?

Well skilled! (he replied). What proficiency was she likely to bring with her, when she was not quite fifteen[6] at the time she wedded me, and during the whole prior period of her life had been most carefully brought up[7] to see and hear as little as possible, and to ask[8] the fewest questions? or do you not think one should be satisfied, if at marriage her whole experience consisted in knowing how to take the wool and make a dress, and seeing how her mother’s handmaidens had their daily spinning-tasks assigned them? For (he added), as regards control of appetite and self-indulgence,[9] she had received the soundest education, and that I take to be the most important matter in the bringing-up of man or woman.

[6] See Aristot. “Pol.” vii. 16. 1335(a). See Newman, op. cit. i. 170 foll.

[7] Or, “surveillance.” See “Pol. Lac.” i. 3.

[8] Reading {eroito}; or if with Sauppe after Cobet, {eroin}, transl. “talk as little as possible.”

[9] Al. “in reference to culinary matters.” See Mahaffy, “Social Life in Greece,” p. 276.

Then all else (said I) you taught your wife yourself, Ischomachus, until you had made her capable of attending carefully to her appointed duties?

That did I not (replied he) until I had offered sacrifice, and prayed that I might teach and she might learn all that could conduce to the happiness of us twain.

Soc. And did your wife join in sacrifice and prayer to that effect?

Isch. Most certainly, with many a vow registered to heaven to become all she ought to be; and her whole manner showed that she would not be neglectful of what was taught her.[10]

[10] Or, “giving plain proof that, if the teaching failed, it should not be from want of due attention on her part.” See “Hellenica Essays,” “Xenophon,” p. 356 foll.

Soc. Pray narrate to me, Ischomachus, I beg of you, what you first essayed to teach her. To hear that story would please me more than any description of the most splendid gymnastic contest or horse-race you could give me.

Why, Socrates (he answered), when after a time she had become accustomed to my hand, that is, was tamed[11] sufficiently to play her part in a discussion, I put to her this question: “Did it ever strike you to consider, dear wife,[12] what led me to choose you as my wife among all women, and your parents to entrust you to me of all men? It was certainly not from any difficulty that might beset either of us to find another bedfellow. That I am sure is evident to you. No! it was with deliberate intent to discover, I for myself and your parents in behalf of you, the best partner of house and children we could find, that I sought you out, and your parents, acting to the best of their ability, made choice of me. If at some future time God grant us to have children born to us, we will take counsel together how best to bring them up, for that too will be a common interest,[13] and a common blessing if haply they shall live to fight our battles and we find in them hereafter support and succour when ourselves are old.[14] But at present there is our house here, which belongs like to both. It is common property, for all that I possess goes by my will into the common fund, and in the same way all that you deposited[15] was placed by you to the common fund.[16] We need not stop to calculate in figures which of us contributed most, but rather let us lay to heart this fact that whichever of us proves the better partner, he or she at once contributes what is most worth having.”

[11] (The timid, fawn-like creature.) See Lecky, “Hist. of Eur. Morals,” ii. 305. For the metaphor cf. Dem. “Olynth.” iii. 37. 9.

[12] Lit. “woman.” Cf. N. T. {gunai}, St. John ii. 4; xix. 26.

[13] Or, “our interests will centre in them; it will be a blessing we share in common to train them that they shall fight our battles, and . . .”

[14] Cf. “Mem.” II. ii. 13. Holden cf. Soph. “Ajax.” 567; Eur. “Suppl.” 918.

[15] Or reading {epenegke} with Cobet, “brought with you in the way of dowry.”

[16] Or, “to the joint estate.”

Thus I addressed her, Socrates, and thus my wife made answer: “But how can I assist you? what is my ability? Nay, everything depends on you. My business, my mother told me, was to be sober-minded!”[17]

[17] “Modest and temperate,” and (below) “temperance.”

“Most true, my wife,” I replied, “and that is what my father said to me. But what is the proof of sober-mindedness in man or woman? Is it not so to behave that what they have of good may ever be at its best, and that new treasures from the same source of beauty and righteousness may be most amply added?”

“But what is there that I can do,” my wife inquired, “which will help to increase our joint estate?”

“Assuredly,” I answered, “you may strive to do as well as possible what Heaven has given you a natural gift for and which the law approves.”

“And what may these things be?” she asked.

“To my mind they are not the things of least importance,” I replied, “unless the things which the queen bee in her hive presides over are of slight importance to the bee community; for the gods” (so Ischomachus assured me, he continued), “the gods, my wife, would seem to have exercised much care and judgment in compacting that twin system which goes by the name of male and female, so as to secure the greatest possible advantage[18] to the pair. Since no doubt the underlying principle of the bond is first and foremost to perpetuate through procreation the races of living creatures;[19] and next, as the outcome of this bond, for human beings at any rate, a provision is made by which they may have sons and daughters to support them in old age.

[18] Reading {oti}, or if with Br. {eti . . . auto}, “with the further intent it should prove of maximum advantage to itself.”

[19] Cf. (Aristot.) “Oecon.” i. 3.

“And again, the way of life of human beings, not being maintained like that of cattle[20] in the open air, obviously demands roofed homesteads. But if these same human beings are to have anything to bring in under cover, some one to carry out these labours of the field under high heaven[21] must be found them, since such operations as the breaking up of fallow with the plough, the sowing of seed, the planting of trees, the pasturing and herding of flocks, are one and all open-air employments on which the supply of products necessary to life depends.

[20] “And the beast of the field.”

[21] “Sub dis,” “in the open air.”

“As soon as these products of the field are safely housed and under cover, new needs arise. There must be some one to guard the store and some one to perform such necessary operations as imply the need of shelter.[22] Shelter, for instance, is needed for the rearing of infant children; shelter is needed for the various processes of converting the fruits of earth into food, and in like manner for the fabrication of clothing out of wool.

[22] Or, “works which call for shelter.”

“But whereas both of these, the indoor and the outdoor occupations alike, demand new toil and new attention, to meet the case,” I added, “God made provision[23] from the first by shaping, as it seems to me, the woman’s nature for indoor and the man’s for outdoor occupations. Man’s body and soul He furnished with a greater capacity for enduring heat and cold, wayfaring and military marches; or, to repeat, He laid upon his shoulders the outdoor works.

[23] “Straightway from the moment of birth provided.” Cf. (Aristot.) “Oecon.” i. 3, a work based upon or at any rate following the lines of Xenophon’s treatise.

“While in creating the body of woman with less capacity for these things,” I continued, “God would seem to have imposed on her the indoor works; and knowing that He had implanted in the woman and imposed upon her the nurture of new-born babies, He endowed her with a larger share of affection for the new-born child than He bestowed upon man.[24] And since He imposed on woman the guardianship of the things imported from without, God, in His wisdom, perceiving that a fearful spirit was no detriment to guardianship,[25] endowed the woman with a larger measure of timidity than He bestowed on man. Knowing further that he to whom the outdoor works belonged would need to defend them against malign attack, He endowed the man in turn with a larger share of courage.

[24] {edasato}, “Cyrop.” IV. ii. 43.

[25] Cf. “Hipparch,” vii. 7; Aristot. “Pol.” iii. 2; “Oecon.” iii.

“And seeing that both alike feel the need of giving and receiving, He set down memory and carefulness between them for their common use,[26] so that you would find it hard to determine which of the two, the male or the female, has the larger share of these. So, too, God set down between them for their common use the gift of self-control, where needed, adding only to that one of the twain, whether man or woman, which should prove the better, the power to be rewarded with a larger share of this perfection. And for the very reason that their natures are not alike adapted to like ends, they stand in greater need of one another; and the married couple is made more useful to itself, the one fulfilling what the other lacks.[27]

[26] Or, “He bestowed memory and carefulness as the common heritage of both.”

[27] Or, “the pair discovers the advantage of duality; the one being strong wherein the other is defective.”

“Now, being well aware of this, my wife,” I added, “and knowing well what things are laid upon us twain by God Himself, must we not strive to perform, each in the best way possible, our respective duties? Law, too, gives her consent–law and the usage of mankind, by sanctioning the wedlock of man and wife; and just as God ordained them to be partners in their children, so the law establishes their common ownership of house and estate. Custom, moreover, proclaims as beautiful those excellences of man and woman with which God gifted them at birth.[28] Thus for a woman to bide tranquilly at home rather than roam aborad is no dishonour; but for a man to remain indoors, instead of devoting himself to outdoor pursuits, is a thing discreditable. But if a man does things contrary to the nature given him by God, the chances are,[29] such insubordination escapes not the eye of Heaven: he pays the penalty, whether of neglecting his own works, or of performing those appropriate to woman.”[30]

[28] Or, “with approving fingers stamps as noble those diverse faculties, those superiorities in either sex which God created in them. Thus for the womean to remain indoors is nobler than to gad about abroad.” {ta kala . . .; kallion . . . aiskhion . . .}– These words, wich their significant Hellenic connotation, suffer cruelly in translation.

[29] Or, “maybe in some respect this violation of the order of things, this lack of discpline on his part.” Cf. “Cyrop.” VII. ii. 6.

[30] Or, “the works of his wife.” For the sentiment cf. Soph. “Oed. Col.” 337 foll.; Herod. ii. 35.

I added: “Just such works, if I mistake not, that same queen-bee we spoke of labours hard to perform, like yours, my wife, enjoined upon her by God Himself.”

“And what sort of works are these?” she asked; “what has the queen-bee to do that she seems so like myself, or I like her in what I have to do?”

“Why,” I answered, “she too stays in the hive and suffers not the other bees to idle. Those whose duty it is to work outside she sends forth to their labours; and all that each of them brings in, she notes and receives and stores against the day of need; but when the season for use has come, she distributes a just share to each. Again, it is she who presides over the fabric of choicely-woven cells within. She looks to it that warp and woof are wrought with speed and beauty. Under her guardian eye the brood of young[31] is nursed and reared; but when the days of rearing are past and the young bees are ripe for work, she sends them out as colonists with one of the seed royal[32] to be their leader.”

[31] Or, “the growing progeny is reared to maturity.”

[32] Or, “royal lineage,” reading {ton epigonon} (emend. H. Estienne); or if the vulg. {ton epomenon}, “with some leader of the host” (lit. of his followers). So Breitenbach.

“Shall I then have to do these things?” asked my wife.

“Yes,” I answered, “you will need in the same way to stay indoors, despatching to their toils without those of your domestics whose work lies there. Over those whose appointed tasks are wrought indoors, it will be your duty to preside; yours to receive the stuffs brought in; yours to apportion part for daily use, and yours to make provision for the rest, to guard and garner it so that the outgoings destined for a year may not be expended in a month. It will be your duty, when the wools are introduced, to see that clothing is made for those who need; your duty also to see that the dried corn is rendered fit and serviceable for food.

“There is just one of all these occupations which devolve upon you,” I added, “you may not find so altogether pleasing. Should any one of our household fall sick, it will be your care to see and tend them to the recovery of their health.”

“Nay,” she answered, “that will be my pleasantest of tasks, if careful nursing may touch the springs of gratitude and leave them friendlier than before.”

And I (continued Ischomachus) was struck with admiration at her answer, and replied: “Think you, my wife, it is through some such traits of forethought seen in their mistress-leader that the hearts of bees are won, and they are so loyally affectioned towards her that, if ever she abandon her hive, not one of them will dream of being left behind;[33] but one and all must follow her.”

[33] Al. “will suffer her to be forsaken.”

And my wife made answer to me: “It would much astonish me (said she) did not these leader’s works, you speak of, point to you rather than myself. Methinks mine would be a pretty[34] guardianship and distribution of things indoors without your provident care to see that the importations from without were duly made.”

[34] Or, “ridiculous.”

“Just so,” I answered, “and mine would be a pretty[35] importation if there were no one to guard what I imported. Do you not see,” I added, “how pitiful is the case of those unfortunates who pour water in their sieves for ever, as the story goes,[36] and labour but in vain?”

[35] “As laughable an importation.”

[36] Or, “how pitiful their case, condemned, as the saying goes, to pour water into a sieve.” Lit. “filling a bucket bored with holes.” Cf. Aristot. “Oec.” i. 6; and for the Danaids, see Ovid. “Met.” iv. 462; Hor. “Carm.” iii. 11. 25; Lucr. iii. 937; Plaut. “Pseud.” 369. Cp. Coleridge:

Work without hope draws nectar in a sieve, And hope without an object cannot live.

“Pitiful enough, poor souls,” she answered, “if that is what they do.”

“But there are other cares, you know, and occupations,” I answered, “which are yours by right, and these you will find agreeable. This, for instance, to take some maiden who knows naught of carding wool and to make her proficient in the art, doubling her usefulness; or to receive another quite ignorant of housekeeping or of service, and to render her skilful, loyal, serviceable, till she is worth her weight in gold; or again, when occasion serves, you have it in your power to requite by kindness the well-behaved whose presence is a blessing to your house; or maybe to chasten the bad character, should such an one appear. But the greatest joy of all will be to prove yourself my better; to make me your faithful follower; knowing no dread lest as the years advance you should decline in honour in your household, but rather trusting that, though your hair turn gray, yet, in proportion as you come to be a better helpmate to myself and to the children, a better guardian of our home, so will your honour increase throughout the household as mistress, wife, and mother, daily more dearly prized. Since,” I added, “it is not through excellence of outward form,[37] but by reason of the lustre of virtues shed forth upon the life of man, that increase is given to things beautiful and good.”[38]

[37] “By reason of the flower on the damask cheek.”

[38] Al. “For growth is added to things ‘beautiful and good,’ not through the bloom of youth but virtuous perfections, an increase coextensive with the life of man.” See Breit. ad loc.

That, Socrates, or something like that, as far as I may trust my memory, records the earliest conversation which I held with her.


And did you happen to observe, Ischomachus (I asked), whether, as the result of what was said, your wife was stirred at all to greater carefulness?

Yes, certainly (Ischomachus answered), and I remember how piqued she was at one time and how deeply she blushed, when I chanced to ask her for something which had been brought into the house, and she could not give it me. So I, when I saw her annoyance, fell to consoling her. “Do not be at all disheartened, my wife, that you cannot give me what I ask for. It is plain poverty,[1] no doubt, to need a thing and not to have the use of it. But as wants go, to look for something which I cannot lay my hands upon is a less painful form of indigence than never to dream of looking because I know full well that the thing exists not. Anyhow, you are not to blame for this,” I added; “mine the fault was who handed over to your care the things without assigning them their places. Had I done so, you would have known not only where to put but where to find them.[2] After all, my wife, there is nothing in human life so serviceable, nought so beautiful as order.[3]

[1] “Vetus proverbium,” Cic. ap. Columellam, xii. 2, 3; Nobbe, 236, fr. 6.

[2] Lit. “so that you might know not only where to put,” etc.

[3] Or, “order and arrangement.” So Cic. ap. Col. xii. 2, 4, “dispositione atque ordine.”

“For instance, what is a chorus?–a band composed of human beings, who dance and sing; but suppose the company proceed to act as each may chance–confusion follows; the spectacle has lost its charm. How different when each and all together act and recite[4] with orderly precision, the limbs and voices keeping time and tune. Then, indeed, these same performers are worth seeing and worth hearing.

[4] Or, “declaim,” {phtheggontai}, properly of the “recitative” of the chorus. Cf. Plat. “Phaedr.” 238 D.

“So, too, an army,” I said, “my wife, an army destitute of order is confusion worse confounded: to enemies an easy prey, courting attack; to friends a bitter spectacle of wasted power;[5] a mingled mob of asses, heavy infantry, and baggage-bearers, light infantry, cavalry, and waggons. Now, suppose they are on the march; how are they to get along? In this condition everybody will be a hindrance to everybody: ‘slow march’ side by side with ‘double quick,’ ‘quick march’ at cross purposes with ‘stand at ease’; waggons blocking cavalry and asses fouling waggons; baggage-bearers and hoplites jostling together: the whole a hopeless jumble. And when it comes to fighting, such an army is not precisely in condition to deliver battle. The troops who are compelled to retreat before the enemy’s advance[6] are fully capable of trampling down the heavy infantry detachments in reserve.[7]

[5] Reading {agleukestaton}, or, if with Breit, {akleestaton}, “a most inglorious spectacle of extreme unprofitableness.”

[6] Or, “whose duty (or necessity) it is to retire before an attack,” i.e. the skirmishers. Al. “those who have to retreat,” i.e. the non-combatants.

[7] Al. “are quite capable of trampling down the troops behind in their retreat.” {tous opla ekhontas} = “the troops proper,” “heavy infantry.”

“How different is an army well organised in battle order: a splendid sight for friendly eyes to gaze at, albeit an eyesore to the enemy. For who, being of their party, but will feel a thrill of satisfaction as he watches the serried masses of heavy infantry moving onwards in unbroken order? who but will gaze with wonderment as the squadrons of the cavalry dash past him at the gallop? And what of the foeman? will not his heart sink within him to see the orderly arrangements of the different arms:[8] here heavy infantry and cavalry, and there again light infantry, there archers and there slingers, following each their leaders, with orderly precision. As they tramp onwards thus in order, though they number many myriads, yet even so they move on and on in quiet progress, stepping like one man, and the place just vacated in front is filled up on the instant from the rear.

[8] “Different styles of troops drawn up in separate divisions: hoplites, cavalry, and peltasts, archers, and slingers.”

“Or picture a trireme, crammed choke-full of mariners; for what reason is she so terror-striking an object to her enemies, and a sight so gladsome to the eyes of friends? is it not that the gallant ship sails so swiftly? And why is it that, for all their crowding, the ship’s company[9] cause each other no distress? Simply that there, as you may see them, they sit in order; in order bend to the oar; in order recover the stroke; in order step on board; in order disembark. But disorder is, it seems to me, precisely as though a man who is a husbandman should stow away[10] together in one place wheat and barley and pulse, and by and by when he has need of barley meal, or wheaten flour, or some condiment of pulse,[11] then he must pick and choose instead of laying his hand on each thing separately sorted for use.

[9] See Thuc. iii. 77. 2.

[10] “Should shoot into one place.”

[11] “Vegetable stock,” “kitchen.” See Holden ad loc., and Prof. Mahaffy, “Old Greek Life,” p. 31.

“And so with you too, my wife, if you would avoid this confusion, if you would fain know how to administer our goods, so as to lay your finger readily on this or that as you may need, or if I ask you for anything, graciously to give it me: let us, I say, select and assign[12] the appropriate place for each set of things. This shall be the place where we will put the things; and we will instruct the housekeeper that she is to take them out thence, and mind to put them back again there; and in this way we shall know whether they are safe or not. If anything is gone, the gaping space will cry out as if it asked for something back.[13] The mere look and aspect of things will argue what wants mending;[14] and the fact of knowing where each thing is will be like having it put into one’s hand at once to use without further trouble or debate.”

[12] {dokimasometha}, “we will write over each in turn, as it were, ‘examined and approved.'”

[13] Lit. “will miss the thing that is not.”

[14] “Detect what needs attention.”

I must tell you, Socrates, what strikes me as the finest and most accurate arrangement of goods and furniture it was ever my fortune to set eyes on; when I went as a sightseer on board the great Phoenician merchantman,[15] and beheld an endless quantity of goods and gear of all sorts, all separately packed and stowed away within the smallest compass.[16] I need scarce remind you (he said, continuing his narrative) what a vast amount of wooden spars and cables[17] a ship depends on in order to get to moorings; or again, in putting out to sea;[18] you know the host of sails and cordage, rigging[19] as they call it, she requires for sailing; the quantity of engines and machinery of all sorts she is armed with in case she should encounter any hostile craft; the infinitude of arms she carries, with her crew of fighting men aboard. Then all the vessels and utensils, such as people use at home on land, required for the different messes, form a portion of the freight; and besides all this, the hold is heavy laden with a mass of merchandise, the cargo proper, which the master carries with him for the sake of traffic.

[15] See Lucian, lxvi. “The Ship,” ad in. (translated by S. T. Irwin).

[16] Lit. “in the tiniest receptacle.”

[17] See Holden ad loc. re {xelina, plekta, kremasta}.

[18] “In weighing anchor.”

[19] “Suspended tackle” (as opposed to wooden spars and masts, etc.)

Well, all these different things that I have named lay packed there in a space but little larger than a fair-sized dining-room.[20] The several sorts, moreover, as I noticed, lay so well arranged, there could be no entanglement of one with other, nor were searchers needed;[21] and if all were snugly stowed, all were alike get-at- able,[22] much to the avoidance of delay if anything were wanted on the instant.

[20] Lit. “a symmetrically-shaped dining-room, made to hold ten couches.”

[21] Lit. “a searcher”; “an inquisitor.” Cf. Shakesp. “Rom. and Jul.” V. ii. 8.

[22] Lit. “not the reverse of easy to unpack, so as to cause a waste of time and waiting.”

Then the pilot’s mate[23]–“the look-out man at the prow,” to give him his proper title–was, I found, so well acquainted with the place for everything that, even off the ship,[24] he could tell you where each set of things was laid and how many there were of each, just as well as any one who knows his alphabet[25] could tell you how many letters there are in Socrates and the order in which they stand.

[23] Cf. “Pol. Ath.” i. 1; Aristoph. “Knights,” 543 foll.

[24] Or, “with his eyes shut, at a distance he could say exactly.”

[25] Or, “how to spell.” See “Mem.” IV. iv. 7; Plat. “Alc.” i. 113 A.

I saw this same man (continued Ischomachus) examining at leisure[26] everything which could possibly[27] be needful for the service of the ship. His inspection caused me such surprise, I asked him what he was doing, whereupon he answered, “I am inspecting, stranger,”[28] “just considering,” says he, “the way the things are lying aboard the ship; in case of accidents, you know, to see if anything is missing, or not lying snug and shipshape.[29] There is no time left, you know,” he added, “when God mkes a tempest in the great deep, to set about searching for what you want, or to be giving out anything which is not snug and shipshape in its place. God threatens and chastises sluggards.[30] If only He destroy not innocent with guilty, a man may be content;[31] or if He turn and save all hands aboard that render right good service,[32] thanks be to Heaven.”[33]

[26] “Apparently when he had nothing better to do”; “by way of amusement.”

[27] {ara}, “as if he were asking himself, ‘Would this or this possibly be wanted for the ship’s service?'”

[28] “Sir.”

[29] Or, “things not lying handy in their places.”

[30] Or, “them that are slack.” Cf. “Anab.” V. viii. 15; “Mem.” IV. ii. 40; Plat. “Gorg.” 488 A: “The dolt and good-for-nothing.”

[31] “One must not grumble.”

[32] “The whole ship’s crew right nobly serving.” {uperetein} = “to serve at the oar” (metaphorically = to do service to heaven).

[33] Lit. “great thanks be to the gods.”

So spoke the pilot’s mate; and I, with this carefulness of stowage still before my eyes, proceeded to enforce my thesis:

“Stupid in all conscience would it be on our parts, my wife, if those who sail the sea in ships, that are but small things, can discover space and place for everything; can, moreover, in spite of violent tossings up and down, keep order, and, even while their hearts are failing them for fear, find everything they need to hand; whilst we, with all our ample storerooms[34] diversely disposed for divers objects in our mansion, an edifice firmly based[35] on solid ground, fail to discover fair and fitting places, easy of access for our several goods! Would not that argue great lack of understanding in our two selves? Well then! how good a thing it is to have a fixed and orderly arrangement of all furniture and gear; how easy also in a dwelling-house to find a place for every sort of goods, in which to stow them as shall suit each best–needs no further comment. Rather let me harp upon the string of beauty–image a fair scene: the boots and shoes and sandals, and so forth, all laid in order row upon row; the cloaks, the mantles, and the rest of the apparel stowed in their own places; the coverlets and bedding; the copper cauldrons; and all the articles for table use! Nay, though it well may raise a smile of ridicule (not on the lips of a grave man perhaps, but of some facetious witling) to hear me say it, a beauty like the cadence of sweet music[36] dwells even in pots and pans set out in neat array: and so, in general, fair things ever show more fair when orderly bestowed. The separate atoms shape themselves to form a choir, and all the space between gains beauty by their banishment. Even so some sacred chorus,[37] dancing a roundelay in honour of Dionysus, not only is a thing of beauty in itself, but the whole interspace swept clean of dancers owns a separate charm.[38]

[34] Or, “coffers,” “cupboards,” “safes.”

[35] Cf. “Anab.” III. ii. 19, “firmly planted on terra firma.”