Isocrates, De bigis 32

Isocrates wrote in 397 BC an oration for Alkibiades’ son, who wanted to defend himself against a claim for compensation. His deceased father was accused of not being the owner of the team of horses with which he had won the Olympic games in 416 BC.

About the same time he saw that the festival at Olympia was esteemed highly by all men and that the Greeks gave there a demonstration of their wealth, power and culture, that the athletes were admired and that the cities of the victors shared in the glory. Moreover he thought that performances here in Athens happen on behalf of the family towards the fellow citizens, but performances at these games on behalf of the city towards the whole of Greece. With this disposition, he was not interested in the athletic events, although he was inferior to no one in physical strength, for he knew that some athletes were of low descent or lived in unimportant cities. He did take to breeding horses, an activity for the happy few, something that would never be in the possibilities of an ordinary man. He not only outrivaled all his opponents, but all the victors ever before him, for he sent so many chariots that even the greatest cities could not participate with so many, and they were of such formidable quality that he finished first, second and third. Moreover, he was so generous and munificent at the offerings and the other expenses of the festival that everything what the others spent with public money, seemed less than the expenses from his private pocket. In this way he ended his visit to the games: he made the successes of his predecessors look small against his, those who won in his time no longer received admiration and for those who wished to breed horses in the future, he left no possibily to exceed him.


© KU Leuven, 2012