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Hiero   By: (431 BC - 350? BC)

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By Xenophon

Translation by H. G. Dakyns

Xenophon the Athenian was born 431 B.C. He was a pupil of Socrates. He marched with the Spartans, and was exiled from Athens. Sparta gave him land and property in Scillus, where he lived for many years before having to move once more, to settle in Corinth. He died in 354 B.C.


This was typed from Dakyns' series, "The Works of Xenophon," a four volume set. The complete list of Xenophon's works (though there is doubt about some of these) is:

Work Number of books

The Anabasis 7 The Hellenica 7 The Cyropaedia 8 The Memorabilia 4 The Symposium 1 The Economist 1 On Horsemanship 1 The Sportsman 1 The Cavalry General 1 The Apology 1 On Revenues 1 The Hiero 1 The Agesilaus 1 The Polity of the Athenians and the Lacedaemonians 2

Text in brackets "{}" is my transliteration of Greek text into English using an Oxford English Dictionary alphabet table. The diacritical marks have been lost.


The Hiero is an imaginary dialogue, c. 474 B.C., between Simonides of Ceos, the poet; and Hieron, of Syracuse and Gela, the despot.


A Discourse on Despotic Rule


Once upon a time Simonides the poet paid a visit to Hiero the "tyrant," (1) and when both obtained the leisure requisite, Simonides began this conversation:

(1) Or, "came to the court of the despotic monarch Hiero." For the "dramatis personae" see Dr. Holden's Introduction to the "Hieron" of Xenophon.

Would you be pleased to give me information, Hiero, upon certain matters, as to which it is likely you have greater knowledge than myself? (2)

(2) Or, "would you oblige me by explaining certain matters, as to which your knowledge naturally transcends my own?"

And pray, what sort of things may those be (answered Hiero), of which I can have greater knowledge than yourself, who are so wise a man?

I know (replied the poet) that you were once a private person, (3) and are now a monarch. It is but likely, therefore, that having tested both conditions, (4) you should know better than myself, wherein the life of the despotic ruler differs from the life of any ordinary person, looking to the sum of joys and sorrows to which flesh is heir.

(3) Or, "a common citizen," "an ordinary mortal," "a private individual."

(4) Or, "having experienced both lots in life, both forms of existence."

Would it not be simpler (Hiero replied) if you, on your side, (5) who are still to day a private person, would refresh my memory by recalling the various circumstances of an ordinary mortal's life? With these before me, (6) I should be better able to describe the points of difference which exist between the one life and the other.

(5) Simonides is still in the chrysalis or grub condition of private citizenship; he has not broken the shell as yet of ordinary manhood.

(6) Lit. "in that case, I think I should best be able to point out the 'differentia' of either."

Thus it was that Simonides spoke first: Well then, as to private persons, for my part I observe, (7) or seem to have observed, that we are liable to various pains and pleasures, in the shape of sights, sounds, odours, meats, and drinks, which are conveyed through certain avenues of sense to wit, the eyes, ears, nostrils, mouth. And there are other pleasures, those named of Aphrodite, of which the channels are well known... Continue reading book >>

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