Tuesday, August 25, 2020



Isocrates, Panegyricus 50 (tr. George Norlin):
And so far has our city [Athens] distanced the rest of mankind in thought and in speech that her pupils have become the teachers of the rest of the world; and she has brought it about that the name Hellenes suggests no longer a race but an intelligence, and that the title Hellenes is applied rather to those who share our culture than to those who share a common blood.

τοσοῦτον δ' ἀπολέλοιπεν ἡ πόλις ἡμῶν περὶ τὸ φρονεῖν καὶ λέγειν τοὺς ἄλλους ἀνθρώπους, ὥσθ' οἱ ταύτης μαθηταὶ τῶν ἄλλων διδάσκαλοι γεγόνασι, καὶ τὸ τῶν Ἑλλήνων ὄνομα πεποίηκε μηκέτι τοῦ γένους ἀλλὰ τῆς διανοίας δοκεῖν εἶναι, καὶ μᾶλλον Ἕλληνας καλεῖσθαι τοὺς τῆς παιδεύσεως τῆς ἡμετέρας ἢ τοὺς τῆς κοινῆς φύσεως μετέχοντας.
Werner Jaeger, Paideia: The Ideals of Greek Culture, tr. Gilbert Highet, Vol. III: The Conflict of Cultural Ideals in the Age of Plato (New York: Oxford University Press, 1944), pp. 79-81:
Isocrates is not discarding the powerful ties of blood. They are dearer to him than to most of his fellow-citizens, because he is constructing a Panhellenic morality on the consciousness of racial unity, and by that new moral system he is endeavouring to set limits to the egotistic power-politics of the separate Greek states. But he believes that intellectual nationalism is nobler than racial nationalism, and when he states his views he knows exactly what they will mean for the political position of Hellenism in the world. When he calls all the Greeks to help in his plan for conquering the barbarians, he is basing it much more on the Greek feeling of vast intellectual superiority to other races than on the actual power and resources of the Greek states. At first sight it looks like a gigantic paradox for Isocrates to begin his proclamation of the supra-national civilizing mission of Greece by an extravagant utterance of national pride; but the apparent contradiction disappears when we connect the supra-national ideal of Greece—its universally valuable paideia—with the realistic political plan of conquering Asia and settling it with Greek colonists. In fact, that ideal contains a higher justification for the new national imperialism, in that it identifies what is specifically Greek with what is universally human. This is not actually said by Isocrates; and some may object to our interpretation. But the only meaning that can possibly be given to the universal exaltation of Greek paideia which fills Isocrates' thought is this: the Greeks, through the logos, over which they naturally have command, have revealed to other nations a principle which they too must recognize and adopt because its value is independent of race—the ideal of paideia, of culture. There is a form of nationalism which is expressed by keeping oneself apart from other races. That is produced by weakness and self-limitation, because it is based on the feeling that it can assert itself only in artificial isolation. In Isocrates, national feeling is that of a culturally superior nation which has realized that the efforts it has made to attain a universal standard of perfection in all its intellectual activities are its highest claim to victory in competition with other races—since these other races have accepted the Greek forms as the absolute expression of civilization. We might easily think of modern analogies, talk of cultural propaganda, and compare rhetoric to the modern machinery of press publicity which grinds into action before economic and military conquest begins. But Isocrates' faith grows from a deep insight into the true character of the Greek mind and of Greek paideia; and history shows that it was something more than political propaganda. From all his words we can feel the living breath of Hellenism. The new era actually did fall into the forms which Isocrates had thought out before its advent. Without the idea which he here expresses for the first time, the idea that Greek paideia was something universally valuable, there would have been no Macedonian Greek world-empire, and the universal culture which we call Hellenistic would never have existed.

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