Dio Chrysostom, Discourses 29. Melancomas 1

LCL 339: 384-385

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Dio Chrysostom

νομίζων τὸ μὲν πληγῇ νικῆσαι καὶ τοῦ φαυλοτάτου1 ἔσθ᾿ ὅτε εἶναι τὸν βέλτιστον, εἰ τύχοι· τὴν δὲ ἀληθεστάτην νίκην, ὅταν ἄτρωτον ἀναγκάσῃ τὸν ἀντίπαλον ἀπειπεῖν· οὐ γὰρ τοῦ τραύματος, ἀλλ᾿ ἑαυτοῦ ἡττῆσθαι· καὶ τὸ ὅλῳ τινὰ τῷ σώματι ἀπειπεῖν, ἀλλὰ μὴ τῷ πληγέντι μέρει, λαμπρόν. τὸν δὲ ἐπειγόμενον ὡς οἷόν τε τάχιστα νικῆσαι καὶ παίοντα καὶ συμπλεκόμενον αὐτὸν ἡττῆσθαι τοῦ καύματος καὶ τοῦ χρόνου.

13Εἰ δέ τις οὐ ταύτῃ ὑπολαμβάνει, ἐννοείτω ὅτι σύες καὶ ἔλαφοι, μέχρι μὲν αὐτοῖς ἡ ἰσχὺς πάρεστιν, οὔτε ἀνθρώποις οὔτε κυσὶν ὁμόσε χωροῦσιν· ὅταν δὲ ἡττηθῇ καὶ κάμῃ, τηνικάδε συμπλέκεται, καὶ μᾶλλον ἐθέλει τιτρώσκεσθαι καὶ ἀποθνῄσκειν ἢ πονεῖν ἔτι διωκόμενα. ὁμοίως δὲ καὶ ἄνδρες ἐν πολέμῳ, καίτοι εἰδότες ὅτι μᾶλλον ἂν παίοιντο φεύγοντες ἢ μένοντες, διὰ τὸ μὴ βούλεσθαι πλείω χρόνον κάμνειν ἀπίασι παραδόντες αὑτοὺς τοῖς ὄπισθεν παίειν. οὕτω τό γε τραυμάτων καταφρονεῖν οὐκ ἀνδρείας ἐστίν, ἀλλὰ τοὐναντίον.

14Οἶμαι δὴ ἐν ταὐτῷ πάντα εἰρῆσθαι καὶ περὶ ἀνδρείας καὶ περὶ εὐψυχίας καὶ περὶ ἐγκρατείας καὶ περὶ σωφροσύνης. εἰ μὴ γὰρ ἐγκρατής τε καὶ σώφρων ἦν, οὐκ ἄν, οἶμαι, τοσοῦτο τῇ ῥώμῃ ὑπερέσχεν οὐδὲ εἰ φύσει ἰσχυρότατος ὑπῆρχεν. καὶ ἔγωγε οὐκ ἂν ὀκνήσαιμι εἰπεῖν ὅτι καὶ τῶν


The Twenty-Ninth Discourse

thinking that it was possible at times for the least competent boxer to overcome by a blow the very best man, if the chance for making it were offered; but he held that it was the truest victory when he forced his opponent, although uninjured, to give up; for then the man was overcome, not by his injury, but by himself; and that for an adversary to give up because of the condition of his whole body and not simply of the part of his body that was struck, meant brilliant work on the part of the victor; whereas the man who rushed in to win as quickly as possible by striking and clinching was himself overcome by the heat and by the prolonged effort.1

But if anyone does not look at the matter in this light, let him reflect that boars and stags, as long as their strength holds out, do not come to close quarters with either men or dogs, and that it is only when they give out from exhaustion that they come in close and prefer wounds and death to enduring the fatigue of pursuit any longer. It is the same with men in war: although they know well that they are more likely to be struck when in flight than when they stand their ground, yet because they are unwilling to suffer distress through weariness any longer, they retire, in this way exposing themselves to the blows of their enemies in their rear. Therefore contempt for wounds is not a mark of courage but of the opposite.

So I think that under one and the same head everything has been said, not only about manliness and courage, but also about self-control and about temperance. For if Melancomas had not been self-controlled and temperate, I imagine that he would not have been so superior in strength, even if nature did make him the strongest man. And I for my part

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.dio_chrysostom-discourses_29_melancomas_i.1939