S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.
[One of the most distinguished of the Spartan kings, ascended the throne 398 B.C.; commanded an expedition to Persia, but was called home about 394; saved Sparta when threatened by Epaminondas, 362; died about 361.]
I have heard the nightingale herself.
When told of a man who imitated the nightingale to perfection.—PLUTARCH: Life.Being asked which was the better virtue, valor or justice, he replied, “Unsupported by justice, valor is good for nothing; and if all men were just, there would be no need of valor.”—Ibid.When the physician Menecrates, who, from his cure of desperate cases, was called Jupiter, addressed him a letter, “Menecrates Jupiter to King Agesilaus, health,” the Spartan returned a laconic answer: “King Agesilaus to Menecrates, his senses.”—Ibid.Upon his arrival in Egypt, where he had taken a command under Tachos, his small stature and mean attire made the Egyptians declare the fable to be true that “the mountain had brought forth a mouse;” to which the king replied, “They will find me a lion by and by.”—ATHENÆUS, quoted by PLUTARCH: Life.Observing that a certain malefactor bore torture with remarkable firmness, he said, “What a great rogue he must be, whose courage and constancy are bestowed on crime alone!”When asked what boys should learn, he replied, “That which they will use when men.”—PLUTARCH: Laconic Apothegms.
From this course of life, we reap liberty.
To one who wondered at the poor attire and fare of the Spartans. When asked why they wore their hair long, he replied, “Because of all personal ornaments it costs the least.” Having kept at a distance the enemies of Sparta, he could say, “No Spartan woman has ever seen the smoke of the enemy’s camp.”He showed the citizens in arms to one who asked why Sparta had no walls, with the words, “These are the walls of Sparta.” He used to say that “cities should be walled with the courage of the inhabitants.”—PLUTARCH: Life. When asked where the boundaries of Sparta were, he replied, “On the points of our spears.”Being shown a well-walled city, and asked if it were not a fine thing; “For women,” he answered, “not men, to live in.” Thus Agis II., observing the high and strong walls of Corinth, asked, “What women live there?”—Laconic Apothegms.When asked what good the laws of Lycurgus had brought to Sparta, he replied, “Contempt of pleasure;” and in answer to the question how he acquired his great reputation for bravery, “By contemning death.” Agis II. made the same answer when asked how a man could be always free.
Youth, thy words need an army.
To a Megarian talking boastfully of his city. Also told of Lysander.—PLUTARCH: Life. When a well-contrived but difficult plan to free Greece was proposed to Agis II., he replied, “Friend, thy words need an army and a treasure.”—Laconic Apothegms. Shakespeare says, “The phrase would be more german to the matter, if we could carry a cannon by our sides.”—Hamlet, V. 2.Accepting an inferior seat at a public dancing, Agesilaus said, “It is not the places which grace men, but men the places.” He thought with Rob Roy, “Where Macgregor sits, there is the head of the table.”To one commending the skill of a certain orator in magnifying petty matters, the king replied, “I do not think that shoemaker a good workman who makes a great shoe for a little foot.”On his death-bed, charging his friends that no fiction or counterfeit (so he called statues) should be made of him, Agesilaus said, “If I have done any honorable exploit, that is my monument; but if I have done none, all your statues will signify nothing.”Epaminondas declared on his death-bed that his victories of “Leuctra and Mantinea are daughters enough to keep my name alive.”Alexander I., of Russia, declined a monument to commemorate his military exploits, with the words, “May a monument be erected to me in your hearts, as it is to you in mine;” an echo of the sentiment of the Czar Peter III. (1728–1762), refusing a golden statue, “If by good government I could raise a memorial in my people’s hearts, that would be the statue for me.”“They offer me a statue,” said Bonaparte, when First Consul, “but I must look at the pedestal: they may make it a prison.”