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Anabasis

Page: 39

Proxenus, the Boeotian, was of a different temperament. It had been the dream of his boyhood to become a man capable of great achievements. In obedience to this passionate desire it was, that he paid his fee to Gorgias of Leontini (1). After enojoying that teacher's society, he flattered himself that he must be at once qualified to rule; and while he was on friendly terms with the leaders of the age, he was not to be outdone in reciprocity of service (2). In this mood he threw himself into the projects of Cyrus, and in return expected to derive from this essay the reward of a great name, large power, and wide wealth. But for all that he pitched his hopes so high, it was none the less evident that he would refuse to gain any of the ends he set before him wrongfully. Righteously and honourably he would obtain them, if he might, or else forego them. As a commander he had the art of leading gentlemen, but he failed to inspire adequately either respect for himself or fear in the soldiers under him. Indeed, he showed a more delicate regard for his soldiers than his subordinates for him, and he was indisputably more apprehensive of incurring their hatred than they were of losing their fidelity. The one thing needful to real and recognised generalship was, he thought, to praise the virtuous and to withhold praise from the evildoer. It can be easily understood, then, that of those who were brought in contact with him, the good and noble indeed were his well-wishers; but he laid himself open to the machinations of the base, who looked upon him as a person to be dealt with as they liked. At the time of his death he was only thirty years of age.

 (1) The famous rhetorician of Leontini, 485-380 B.C. His fee was 1
    minae.

 (2) Proxenus, like Cyrus, is to some extent a prototype of the Cyrus
    of the "Cyropaedia." In other words, the author, in delineating
    the portrait of his ideal prince, drew from the recollection of
    many princely qualities observed by him in the characters of many
    friends. Apart from the intrinsic charm of the story, the
    "Anabasis" is interesting as containing the raw material of
    experience and reflection which "this young scholar or
    philosopher," our friend, the author, will one day turn to
    literary account.

As to Menon the Thessalian (3), the mainspring of his action was obvious; what he sought after insatiably was wealth. Rule he sought after only as a stepping-stone to larger spoils. Honours and high estate he craved for simply that he might extend the area of his gains; and if he studied to be on friendly terms with the powerful, it was in order that he might commit wrong with impunity. The shortest road to the achievement of his desires lay, he thought, through false swearing, lying, and cheating; for in his vocabulary simplicity and truth were synonyms of folly. Natural affection he clearly entertained for nobody. If he called a man his friend it might be looked upon as certain that he was bent on ensnaring him. Laughter at an enemy he considered out of place, but his whole conversation turned upon the ridicule of his associates. In like manner, the possessions of his foes were secure from his designs, since it was no easy task, he thought, to steal from people on their guard; but it was his particular good fortune to have discovered how easy it is to rob a friend in the midst of his security. If it were a perjured person or a wrongdoer, he dreaded him as well armed and intrenched; but the honourable and the truth-loving he tried to practise on, regarding them as weaklings devoid of manhood. And as other men pride themselves on piety and truth and righteousness, so Menon prided himself on a capacity for fraud, on the fabrication of lies, on the mockery and scorn of friends. The man who was not a rogue he ever looked upon as only half educated. Did he aspire to the first place in another man's friendship, he set about his object by slandering those who stood nearest to him in affection. He contrived to secure the obedience of his solders by making himself an accomplice in their misdeeds, and the fluency with which he vaunted his own capacity and readiness for enormous guilt was a sufficient title to be honoured and courted by them. Or if any one stood aloof from him, he set it down as a meritorious act of kindness on his part that during their intercourse he had not robbed him of existence.

          

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