Bouleuesthai

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This is part 2 of 3. Part 1 is here. Part 3 is here.

Ἐγὼ δὲ οὐδεμιῇ σοφίῃ οἰκηίῃ αὐτὸς ταῦτα συμβάλλομαι, ἀλλ’ οἷόν κοτε ἡμέας ὀλίγου ἐδέησε καταλαβεῖν πάθος, ὅτε πατὴρ ὁ σός ζεύξας Βόσπορον τὸν Θρηίκιον, γεφυρώσας δὲ ποταμὸν Ἴστρον διέβη ἐπὶ Σκύθας. τότε παντοῖοι ἐγένοντο Σκύθαι δεόμενοι Ἰώνων λῦσαι τὸν πόρον, τοῖσι ἐπετέτραπτο ἡ φυλακὴ τῶν γεφυρέων τοῦ Ἴστρου. καὶ τότε γε Ἱστιαῖος ὁ Μιλήτου τύραννος εἰ ἐπέσπετο τῶν ἄλλων τυράννων τῇ γνώμῃ μηδὲ ἠντιώθη, διέργαστο ἂν τὰ Περσέων πρήγματα. καίτοι καὶ λόγῳ ἀκοῦσαι δεινόν, ἐπ’ ἀνδρί γε ἑνὶ πάντα τὰ βασιλέος πρήγματα γεγενῆσθαι. σὺ ὦν μὴ βούλευ ἐς κίνδυνον μηδένα τοιοῦτον ἀπικέσθαι μηδεμιῆς ἀνάγκης ἐούσης, ἀλλὰ ἐμοὶ πείθευ· νῦν μὲν τὸν σύλλογον τόνδε διάλυσον· αὖτις δέ, ὅταν τοι δοκῇ, προσκεψάμενος ἐπὶ σεωυτοῦ προαγόρευε τά τοι δοκέει εἶναι ἄριστα. τὸ γὰρ εὖ βουλεύεσθαι κέρδος μέγιστον εὑρίσκω ἐόν· εἰ γὰρ καὶ ἐναντιωθῆναί τι θέλει, βεβούλευται μὲν οὐδὲν ἧσσον εὖ, ἕσσωται δὲ ὑπὸ τῆς τύχης τὸ βούλευμα· ὁ δὲ βουλευσάμενος αἰσχρῶς, εἴ οἱ ἡ τύχη ἐπίσποιτο, εὕρημα εὕρηκε, ἧσσον δὲ οὐδέν οἱ κακῶς βεβούλευται. ὁρᾷς τὰ ὑπερέχοντα ζῷα ὡς κεραυνοῖ ὁ θεὸς οὐδὲ ἐᾷ φαντάζεσθαι, τὰ δὲ σμικρὰ οὐδέν μιν κνίζει· ὁρᾷς δὲ ὡς ἐς οἰκήματα τὰ μέγιστα αἰεὶ καὶ δένδρεα τὰ τοιαῦτα ἀποσκήπτει τὰ βέλεα. φιλέει γὰρ ὁ θεὸς τὰ ὑπερέχοντα πάντα κολούειν. οὕτω δὲ καὶ στρατὸς πολλὸς ὑπὸ ὀλίγου διαφθείρεται κατὰ τοιόνδε· ἐπεάν σφι ὁ θεὸς φθονήσας φόβον ἐμβάλῃ ἢ βροντήν, δι’ ὧν ἐφθάρησαν ἀναξίως ἑωυτῶν. οὐ γὰρ ἐᾷ φρονέειν μέγα ὁ θεὸς ἄλλον ἢ ἑωυτόν. ἐπειχθῆναι μέν νυν πᾶν πρῆγμα τίκτει σφάλματα, ἐκ τῶν ζημίαι μεγάλαι φιλέουσι γίνεσθαι· ἐν δὲ τῷ ἐπισχεῖν ἔνεστι ἀγαθά, εἰ μὴ παραυτίκα δοκέοντα εἶναι, ἀλλ’ ἀνὰ χρόνον ἐξεύροι τις ἄν.
(Herodotus, Hist. 7.10γ-ε)

I don’t have any special expertise that leads me to this conclusion; it’s just that disaster very nearly overwhelmed us once before under similar circumstances, when your father built a pontoon bridge across the Thracian Bosporus, bridged the River Ister, crossed it, and invaded Scythia. On that occasion the Scythians did everything they could to persuade the Ionians, whose job it was to guard the bridges across the Ister, to dismantle the causeway. And if Histiaeus the tyrant of Miletus had gone along with all his fellow tyrants, rather than opposing their view, that would have been the end of Persia. However terrifying it is even to hear it said, the whole of the king’s affairs depended on a single man. You should not choose to run that kind of risk when you don’t really have to. No, listen to me instead. Dissolve this meeting now, think things over by yourself and then later, whenever you like, give us whatever orders you see fit. In my experience, nothing is more advantageous than good planning. I mean, even if a set-back happens, that doesnt alter the fact that the plan was sound; it’s just that the plan was defeated by chance. However, if someone who hasn’t laid his plans properly is attended by fortune, he may have had a stroke of luck, but that doesn’t alter the fact that his plan was unsound. You can see how the god blasts living things that are prominent and prevents their display of superiority, while small creatures don’t irritate him at all; you can see that it is always the largest buildings and the tallest trees on which he hurls his thunderbolts. It is the god’s way to curtail anything excessive. And so even a massive army may be destroyed by a small force if it attracts the god’s resentment and he sends panic or thunder, until they are shamefully destroyed. This happens because the god does not allow anyone but himself to feel pride. The offspring of haste in any venture is error, and error in turn tends to lead to serious harm. Benefits come from waiting; even if they aren’t apparent at first, one will discover them in time. (tr. Robin Waterfield)

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