Plato to Dionysius, Tyrant of Syracuse, wishes well-doing.
Let this greeting not only commence my letter but serve at the same time as a token that it is from me. Once when you were feasting the Locrian youths and were seated at a distance from me, you got up and came over to me and in a friendly spirit made some remark which I thought excellent, as also did my neighbor at the table, who was one of the beautiful youths. And he then said — “No doubt, Dionysius, you find Plato of
great benefit as regards philosophy!” And you replied — “Yes, and in regard to much else; since from the very moment of my inviting him I derived benefit at once from the very fact that I had invited him.” This tone,
then, should be carefully preserved, in order that the mutual benefit we derive from one another may always go on increasing. So by way of helping towards this end I am now sending you some of the Pythagorean works and of the “Divisions,” and also, as we arranged at that time, a man of whom you and Archytas — if Archytas
has come to your court — may be able to make use. His name is Helicon, he is a native of Cyzicus, and he is a pupil of Eudoxus and exceedingly well versed in all his doctrine. Moreover, he has associated with one of the pupils of Isocrates and with Polyxenus, one of Bryson’s companions; and, what is rare in these cases, he is not without charm of address nor is he of a churlish disposition; rather he would seem to be gay and
good-tempered. This, however, I say with trepidation, since I am uttering an opinion about a man, and man
though not a worthless is an inconstant creature, save in very few instances and in few respects. For even in this man’s case my fears and suspicions were such that, when I met him, I observed him carefully myself and I made inquiry also from his fellow-citizens, and no one had anything bad to say of the man. But do you yourself also keep him under observation and be cautious. It were best, then, if you have any leisure at all,
to take lessons from him in addition to your other studies in philosophy; but if not, get someone else thoroughly taught so that you may learn from him when you have leisure, and thereby make progress and gain glory, — that so the benefit you gain from me may still continue. So much, then, for this subject.
As regards the things you wrote to me to send you, I have had the Apollo made and Leptines is
bringing it to you. It is by a young and good craftsman named Leochares. He had at his shop another piece which was, as I thought, very artistic; so I bought it with the intention of presenting it to your wife, because she tended me both in health and sickness in a manner which did credit both to you and to me. So will you give it to her, unless you prefer to do otherwise. I am also sending twelve jars of sweet wine for the children and two of honey. We arrived too late for the stoling of the figs, and the myrtle-berries that were stored have rotted; but in future we shall take better care of them. About the plants Leptines will tell you. The money to meet these expenses — I mean for the purchases mentioned and for certain State taxes — I obtained from Leptines, telling him what I thought it best became us to tell him, it being also true, — that the sum of about sixteen minas which we spent on the Leucadian ship belonged to us; this, then, was the sum I obtained, and on obtaining it I used it myself and sent off these purchases to you. Next, let me tell you what your position is in regard to money, both what you have at Athens and my own. I shall make use of your money, as I told you previously, just as I do that of all my other friends; I use as little as I possibly can, only just so much as I and the man I get it from agree to be necessary or right or fitting. Now this is how I am situated at present. I have in my charge four daughters of those nieces of mine who died at the time when you bade me to wear a crown, and I refused; and of these one is of marriageable age, one eight years old, one a little over three years, and the fourth not yet a year old. To these girls I and my friends must give portions — to all of them, that is, whom I live to see married; as to the rest, they must look to themselves. Nor should I give portions to any whose fathers may get to be richer than I; though at present I am the wealthiest of them, and it was I who, with the help of Dion and others, gave their mothers their portions. Now the eldest one is marrying Speusippus, she being his sister’s daughter. So for her I require no more than thirty minas, that being for us a reasonable dowry. Moreover, in case my own mother should die, no more than ten minas would be required for the building of her tomb. For such purposes, then, these are pretty well all my necessary requirements at the present time. And should any further expense, private or public, be incurred owing to my visit to your court, we must do as I said before: I must strive hard to keep the expense as low as possible, and if ever that is beyond my power, the charge must fall upon you. In the next place, as regards the spending of your own money at Athens, I have to tell you, first of all, that, contrary to what we supposed, you have not a single friend who will advance money in case I am required to spend something on furnishing a chorus or the like; and further, if you yourself have some urgent affair on hand in which prompt expenditure is to your advantage, whereas it is to your disadvantage to have the expenditure deferred until the arrival of a messenger from you, such a state of affairs is not only awkward but reflects also on your honor. And in fact I discovered this myself when I sent Erastus to
Andromedes the Aeginetan — from whom, as a friend of yours, you told me to borrow what I needed; as I wished to send you also some other valuable items which you had written for. He replied — naturally enough, as any man might — that when, on a previous occasion, he had advanced money on your father’s account he had had difficulty in recovering it, and that he would now loan a small amount but no more. That was how I came to borrow from Leptines; and for this Leptines is deserving of praise, not that he gave it, but that he did so readily, and plainly showed his friendship and its quality in all else that he did or said regarding you. For it is surely right that I should report such actions, as well as the opposite kind, to show what I believe to be each man’s attitude towards you. However, I will tell you candidly the position with regard to money matters; for it is right to do so, and, moreover, I shall be speaking from experience of your court. The agents who bring you the reports every time are unwilling to report anything which they think entails an expense, as being likely to bring them odium. Do you therefore accustom them and compel them to declare these matters as well as the rest; for it is right that you should know the whole state of affairs so far as you can and act as the judge, and not avoid this knowledge. For such a course will best serve to enhance your authority. For expenditure that is rightly laid out and rightly paid back is a good thing — as you yourself maintain and will maintain — not only for other purposes but also for the acquisition of money itself. Therefore, do not let those who profess to be devoted to you slander you before the world; for to have the reputation of being ill to deal with is neither good for your reputation nor honorable.
In the next place I shall speak about Dion. Other matters I cannot speak of as yet, until the letters from you arrive, as you said; with regard, however, to those matters which you forbade me to mention to him, I neither mentioned nor discussed them, but I did try to discover whether he would take their occurrence hardly or calmly, and it seemed to me that if they occurred it would cause him no small vexation. As to all else Dion’s attitude towards you seems to me to be reasonable both in word and deed.
To Cratinus the brother of Timotheus, and my own companion, let us present a hoplite’s corslet,
one of the soft kind for foot-soldiers; and to the daughters of Cebes three tunics of seven cubits, not made of the costly Amorgos stuff but of the Sicilian linen. The name of Cebes you probably know; for he is mentioned in writing in the Socratic discourses as conversing with Socrates, in company with Simmias, in the discourse concerning the Soul, he being an intimate and kindly friend of us all.
Concerning the sign which indicates which of my letters are seriously written and which not, I suppose that you remember it, but none the less bear it in mind and pay the utmost attention; for there are many bidding me to write, whom it is not easy to repulse openly. “God,” then, is at the head of the serious letter, but “gods” of the less serious. The ambassadors requested me to write to you, and naturally so; for they are everywhere lauding both you and me with the utmost zeal; and not least Philagrus, who was then suffering with his hand. Philaides also, on his arrival from the Great King, was talking about you; and if it had not required a very long letter I would have told you in writing what he said; but as it is, ask Leptines to tell you. If you are sending the corslet or any of the other things I have written about, in case you have anyone you prefer yourself, give it to him, but if not, give it to Terillus; he is one of those who are constantly making the voyage, and he is a friend of ours who is skilled in philosophy as well as in other things. He is also a son-in-law of Teison who was city-steward at the time when we sailed away. Keep well and study philosophy and exhort thereto all the other young men; and greet for me your comrades at the game of ball; and charge Aristocritus, as well as the rest, that if any message or letter from me should come to your palace, he must take care that you are informed of it as soon as possible; and bid him remind you not to neglect the contents of my letters. So too now, do not neglect to repay Leptines his money, but pay it back as promptly as possible, in order that the others also, seeing how you deal with him, may be the more ready to assist us.
Iatrocles, the man whom I released on that occasion, along with Myronides, is now sailing with the things that I am sending: I ask you, then, to give him some paid post, as he is well-disposed towards you, and employ him for whatever you wish. Preserve also this letter, either itself or a precis of it, and continue as you are.