Oeconomicus, by Xenophon

IV

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 citizen55 is allowed to exercise any mechanical craft at all.

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?56 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.

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 targeteers57 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,58 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.59 Wherever the commandants of garrisons, the captains of thousands, and the satraps60 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 superintendents61 in their stead. Such conduct, I think we may say, indisputably proves the interest which he takes in matters military.

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?62

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 commandant63 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.64

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,65 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?”

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,66 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.67 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.68 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.69

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.70 Lysander was astonished at the beauty of the trees within, all planted71 at equal intervals, the long straight rows of waving branches, the perfect regularity, the rectangular72 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.”73 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 splendour74 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,75 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,76 since you are happy in being a good man.’"77

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

56 “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.

57 Or, Gerrophoroi, “wicker-shield bearers.”

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

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

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

61 Or, as we say, “inspecting officers.” Cf. “Cyrop.” VIII. i. 9.

62 Lit. “by those who guard and garrison it.”

63 Or, “garrison commandant.” Lit. “Phrourarch.”

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

65 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.

66 Cf. “Anab.” I. ix. 29 foll.

67 Cf. “Hiero,” xi. 12, and our author passim.

68 See “Anab.” ib. 31.

69 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.

70 See “Hell.” I. v. 1.

71 Reading oi’ isou pephuteumena, or if ta pephuteumena, transl. “the various plants ranged.”

72 Cf. Dion. Hal. “de Comp.” p. 170; Cic. “de Senect.” S. 59.

73 Lit. “of these” deiktikos, i.e. pointing to the various beauties of the scenery.

74 Reading to kallos.

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

76 Or, “fortunate.”

77 Or, “you are a good man, and thereby fortunate.”

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