Dio Chrysostom, Discourses 75. On Law

LCL 385: 242-243

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Dio Chrysostom

ἀνθρώπων καὶ θεῶν κέκληται, τὴν μὲν βίαν καταλύων, τὴν δὲ ὕβριν καθαιρῶν, τὴν δὲ ἄνοιαν σωφρονίζων, τὴν δὲ κακίαν κολάζων, ἰδίᾳ δὲ καὶ κοινῇ πάντας τοὺς δεομένους ὠφελῶν, τοῖς μὲν ἀδικουμένοις βοηθῶν, τοῖς δὲ ἀπορουμένοις 3περί τινος μηνύων τὸ δέον. ὅταν γάρ τις συμβάντος τινὸς αὐτῷ δυσκόλου πράγματος ζητῇ τὸ συμφέρον, οὐδέν, οἶμαι, δεῖ φίλους παρακαλεῖν οὐδὲ συγγενεῖς, ἀλλὰ ἐλθόντα παρὰ τοὺς νόμους πυνθάνεσθαι. καὶ γὰρ1 οὐκ ἂν τὸ οἰκεῖον σκοπῶν χεῖρον ἐκείνῳ παραινέσειεν οὐδὲ2 ἀγνοήσας τὸ βέλτιον, οὐδὲ3 δι᾿ ἀσχολίαν τινὰ ἢ τὸ μὴ φροντίζειν τοὺς σκεπτομένους4 παραιτήσαιτ᾿ ἄν. τοὐναντίον γὰρ ἁπάντων ὁμοίως κήδεται καὶ σχολὴν ἄγει πρὸς τὰ τῶν ἄλλων πράγματα καὶ οὐδὲν ἴδιον οὐδὲ ἐξαίρετόν ἐστιν αὐτῷ.

4Καὶ μὴν τοσούτῳ γε τῆς παρὰ τῶν θεῶν μαντείας ὠφελιμώτερός ἐστι νόμος, ὅσῳ τοὺς μὲν χρησμοὺς ἤδη τινὲς ἠγνόησαν καὶ δοκοῦντες πράττειν κατ᾿ αὐτοὺς τἀναντία ἐποίησαν, ὅθεν, οἶμαι, συμφοραῖς ἐχρήσαντο· παρὰ τοῦ νόμου δὲ οὐδέν ἐστι σκολιὸν οὐδὲ ἀμφίβολον, ἀλλ᾿ ἁπλῶς ἅπαντα ἃ προσήκει τοῖς δεομένοις φράζει. ἄρχων δὲ ἁπάντων καὶ κύριος ὢν χωρὶς ὅπλων καὶ βίας κρατεῖ· τοὐναντίον γὰρ αὐτὸς καταλύει τὴν βίαν· ἀλλὰ μετὰ


The Seventy-Fifth Discourse

been called “king of men and gods”1; for law does away with violence, puts down insolence, reproves folly, chastises wickedness, and in private and public relations helps all who are in need, succouring the victims of injustice, and to those who are perplexed about a course of action making known what is their duty. Whenever, for instance, a man is confronted by a perplexing situation and is seeking to discover what is expedient for him, he need not, I believe, call in friends or kinsmen, but rather go to the laws and pose his question. For the law would not, having an eye to its own advantage, give him inferior advice, nor yet through ignorance of the better course, nor would it because of some engagement or lack of interest beg its consultants to let it be excused. For, on the contrary, it has regard for all alike, and it has leisure for the problems of all others, and for it there is no private or special interest.

Again, law is more serviceable than the oracular responses of the gods in that, while there have been some who did not understand the oracles, and, supposing that they were acting in harmony with them, have done the very opposite—which accounts, I imagine, for their having met with disaster—from the law there proceeds nothing which is tortuous or ambiguous, but, instead, it puts in simple phrases everything which is appropriate for those who are in need. Besides, though ruler and master of all things, it exercises its authority without the use of arms and force—on the contrary, law itself does away with force; nay, it rules by persuasion and governs

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.dio_chrysostom-discourses_75_law.1951