ESSAYS OF MONTAIGNE
difficult is it to shield oneself against an enemy who wears the mask of the most assiduous friend we have, and to know the inward desires and thoughts of those who are about us. It avails him little to employ foreign soldiers for his guard, and to be constantly surrounded by a hedge of armed men — he who holds his own life cheap can always make himself master of another’s. And then this constant suspicion, which makes the prince doubt every one, must wonderfully torment him. (b) For this reason, Dion, being warned that Callipus was watching for the means of bringing about his death, was never minded to search into the matter, saying that he liked better to die than to live in this wretched plight of having to guard himself, not only against his foes, but against his friends as well. A feeling which Alexander shewed forth much more vividly and more courageously by deed, when, having been warned by a letter from Parmenion that Philip, his favourite physician, had been bribed by Darius’s money to poison him, at the same moment that he gave Philip the letter to read, he drank off the draught that he [Philip] had handed him. Was not this giving expression to the determination that, if his friends wished to kill him, he consented to their doing so? This prince is the supreme pattern of venturesome deeds; but I know not any feature in his life which shewed, from so many points of view, more firmness, or a more honourable beauty. They who teach princes such watchful distrust, under colour of teaching them [to regard only] their safety, teach them their ruin and their shame. Nothing noble is done without risk. I know a man (c) of very valorous and enterprising spirit by nature, (b) whose good fortune is marred every day by such arguments as this: “Let him be surrounded by his friends; let him listen to no reconciliation with his former foes; let him stand apart and not trust himself to stronger hands, what-
- See Seneca, Epistle 4.8.
- See Plutarch, Apothegms of Kings, Life of Dion, and elsewhere.
- See Idem, Life of Alexander; Quintus Curtius, III, 6.9. Montaigne probably took it from Witart’s translation of Arrian’s history of Alexander.
- In 1588: La vaillance n’est pas seulement à la guerre (Valour is not shewn in war alone); omitted in the Édition Municipale.