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192

ESSAYS OF MONTAIGNE

a natural endowment. Regarding this subject, some one asked Agesilaus what in his opinion children should learn. “What they must do when they are men,” he replied.[1] It is no wonder that such an education produced results so admirable.

Men used to go to the other cities of Greece, it is said, in search of orators, painters, and musicians, but to Lacedæmon for legislators, magistrates, and generals; at Athens they learned to talk wisely, here to do wisely; there to extricate themselves from a sophistical argument and to frustrate the imposture of words craftily intertwined, here to extricate themselves from the allurements of pleasure and to frustrate with a high heart the threats of fortune and of death; there men were occupied about words, here about things; there there was continual exercising of the tongue, here continual exercising of the mind. Wherefore it is not strange that, when Antipater demanded of them fifty children as hostages, they replied, altogether contrary to what we should do, that they would rather give twice as many grown men, at so high a cost did they value the loss of the education of their country.[2] When Agesilaus invites Xenophon to send his children to Sparta to be educated, it is not to learn rhetoric or dialectics, but to learn, so he says, the noblest art that there is, namely, the art of obedience and of command.[3] (c) It is very amusing to see how Socrates, after his fashion, laughs at Hippias[4] when he tells him how he has earned, chiefly in certain small hamlets in Sicily, a good sum of money by teaching, and that in Sparta he has not earned a farthing; that they are stupid folk, who can neither measure nor reckon, who make no account either of grammar or of rhythm, caring only to know the succession of their kings, the rise and fall of states, and such a jumble of idle stories. And at the end of it all, Socrates, forcing him to admit step by step the excellence of their form of public government, and the happiness and virtue of their private life, leaves him to divine, in conclusion, the uselessness of his occupation.

  1. See Plutarch, Apothegms of the Lacedæmonians.
  2. See Ibid.
  3. See Ibid., and Life of Agesilaus.
  4. See Plato, Hippias Major.