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But, Alexander! would you rather be Agamemnon, or Achilles, or any other of those heroes, than Homer? Nay, said Alexander; I should choose to surpass by many degrees both Achilles and the rest. For I neither look upon you as inferior to Peleus, nor Macedonia as less powerful than Phthia ; nor should I speak of mount Olympus as less illustrious than Pelion: nor in fact have I enjoyed fewer advantages of education under Aristotle, than Achilles under Phenix, a fugitive from his country, and at variance with Amyntør his fa. ther (m). Not to mention, that Achilles was in subjection to others, and goes on a military expedition with a small force under the orders of a foreign general: but I would submit in no case to the controul of any king alive. Then Philip, somewhat exasperated by this declaration : And are you not, Alexander, under my controul? In no wise, said he: for I do not obey you as a king, but as a father,
Surely, however, you cannot call yourself the son of a goddess, as Achilles was ? continued Philip. Or will you presume to compare Olympias with Thetis ? Indeed, Olympias, father ! surpasses in masculine dignity the daughters of Nereus ; says Alexander, with a complacent smile. Philip laught at this: Verily, my son! he replied, she is not only more masculine
than they, but has more of the warrior about her. With me at least she wages an eternal war (n).–So far they discoursed together with a mixture of jocularity and seriousness.
Then Philip renewed the conversation by this question: With your excessive admiration of Homer, how is it, Alexander! that you overlook his skill and excellence as a poetic artist? Because, said he, at the Olympic games also, I should like to hear the herald make proclamation with a voice distinct and loud; not, however, of others' victories, but of my own. By which remark he manifested his opinion of Homer, as a divine herald of virtue ; but insinuated himself to be a champion and competitor of merit, with the heroes of that poet. In truth, father! it were no strange event, said he, if nature had made me also excellent in poetry. Rhetoric too might have been full as necessary to a king. You accordingly are frequently compelled to write and speak both against Demosthenes, a most formidable and bewitching orator ; and against the rest of the Athenian statesmen. Assure yourself, said Philip playfully, that I would give up Amphipolis to the Athenians for the oratorical energies of Demosthenes. But what, think you, were Homer's sentiments on rhetoric ? He appears to me, father! an admirer of that art : otherwise,
he would never have attached Phoenix to Achilles as his instructor in oratory; who says, that Peleus sent him to be an example to his son(o),
By acts and eloquence, of words and deeds.
He has exhibited the noblest and most kinglike of his other heroes also, Diomed (p), Ulysses, and Nestor, as no less emulous of this accomplishment: and says accordingly of Nes. tor, in the beginning of his poem (9),
Words flow'd, than honey sweeter, from his tongue:
so that even Agamemnon prayed for ten such counsellors as Nestor, in preference to ten youthful heroes like Ajax and Achilles ; as the means of a speedier termination to the siege of Troy (r). He has shown, moreover, the great utility of eloquence in another place. When the Greeks were at length wearied of the expedition from the tediousness of the war, and the difficulties of the siege, and in part, no doubt, from the pestilence, which had seized them, in addition to the quarrel of their princes; and, at this juncture, a certain demagogue presented himself before them, and threw the assembly into confusion; the multitude rusht to the ships, went on board, and were disposed to an immediate departure: for no man was able to restrain them, nor could Agamemnon devise any expedient in this emergency (s): Ulysses alone had the address to divert them from their purpose ; and, by his harangues with those of Nestor, finally persuaded them to stay. This exploit, therefore, was manifestly an achievement of those orators: and we might produce many other specimens also to the same effect.
Besides, Hesiod too, no less than Homer, is manifestly of opinion, that true rhetoric as well as philosophy are accomplishments adapted to a king, from what he says of Calliope (1):
She with her presence deigns those kings to bless,
However, to make epic poems, father! or compositions in prose, as you write epistles, with extraordinary credit to yourself, I am told, is a talent not altogether requisite for kings, except perhaps those who have youth and leisure: as, they say, you also, when at Thebes(), went through a complete course of study upon language. Nor, on the other hand, is a profound application to philosophy adviseable for kings, but rather an unsophisticated and simple cultivation, by a practical display of benevolent and gentle and just deportment, with an elevation and manliness of character; and especially by a pre-eminent delight in acts of kindness and beneficence, which constitutes the closest approximation of human nature to the divine (v). Yet kings should listen with pleasure to philosophical instruction in it's season, as in no wise contradictory, but consonant, to their modes of life. I would not, however, advise a king, of a soul generous, and worthy his exalted rank, to suffer his mind to be delighted by every species of poetry, but by the most honourable and dignified alone ; such as Homer's is acknowledged to be, and the corresponding portions of Hesiod's works : with any other poet of similar excellence to these. For neither, continued he, should I choose to learn on every kind of musical instrument, but the harp only or the lyre, for the hymns and services of the Gods, and the praises of virtuous men: nor would it be decorous for kings to chant the love-verses of Sappho and Anacreon ; but perchance, if occasion should demand, the lyric stanzas of Stesichorus (w) or Pindar. Yet, peradventure, Homer alone is sufficient even for all this.