1095. Isocrates, Ad demonicum. Trexler Library | Muhlenberg College

A fragment of an oration known by its Latin title Ad Demonicum by Isocrates (436-338 BC), an Attic orator; the papyrus was probably written  fourth century AD.

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[Recto] (40) “. . . [intellect]; for the greatest thing in the small compass is a sound mind in a human body.  Strive with all your body to be a lover of toil, and with your soul to be a lover of wisdom, in order that with the one you may have the strength to carry out your resolves, and with the other the intelligence to foresee what is for your good.

(41) Always when you are about to say anything, first weigh it in your mind; for with many the tongue outruns the thought.  Let there be but two occasions for speech --when the subject is one which you thoroughly know and when it one on which you are compelled to speak.  On these occasions alone is speech better than silence; on all others, it is better to be silent than to speak.

42) Consider that nothing in human life is stable; for then you will not exult overmuch in prosperity, nor grieve overmuch in adversity.  Rejoice over the good things which come to you, but grieve in moderation over the evils which befall you, and in either case do not expose your heart to others; for it were strange to hide away one's treasure in the house, and yet walk about laying bare one's feelings to the world.

(43) Be more careful in guarding against censure than against danger; for the wicked may well dread the end of life, but good men should dread ignominy during life.  Strive by all means to live in security, but if ever it falls to your lot to face the dangers of battle, seek to preserve your life, but with honour and not with disgrace; for death is the sentence which fate has passed on all mankind, but to die nobly is the special honour with nature has reserved for the good.”

[Verso] (44) “Do not be surprised that many things which I have said do not apply to your at your present age.  For I also have not overlooked this fact, but I have deliberately chosen to employ this one treatise, not only to convey to you advice for your life now, but also to leave with you precepts for the years to come; for you will then readily perceive the application of my precepts, but you will not easily find a man who will give you friendly counsel.  In order, therefore, that you may not seek the rest from another source, but that you may draw from this as from a treasure-house, I thought that I ought not to omit any of the counsels which I have to give you.

(45)  And I shall be most grateful to the gods if I am not disappointed in the opinion which I have of you.  For, while we find that the great majority of other men seek the society of those friends who join them in their follies and not of those to admonish them, just as they prefer the most pleasant to the most wholesome, you, I think, are minded otherwise as I judge from the industry you display in your general education.  For when one sets for himself the highest standard of conduct, it is probable that in his relation to others he will approve only of those who exhort him to virtue.

(46) But most of all you would be spurred on to strive for noble deeds if you should realize that it is from them most of all that we also derive pleasure in the true sense.  For while the result of indolence and love of surfeit is that pain follows on the heels of pleasure, on the other hand, devoted toil in the pursuit of virtue, and self-control in the order of ones life always yield delights . . . [that are pure and more abiding.]”
(Source: Isocrates, Isocrates with an English translation by George Norlin, Loeb Classical Library [London: Heinemann, 1923])

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