300 Guardians – with King Leonidas and Plato

“Then it will be our duty to select, if we can, natures which are fitted for the task of guarding the city?

It will.

And the selection will be no easy matter, I said; but we must be brave and do our best.

We must.

Is not the noble youth very like a well-bred dog in respect of guarding and watching? 

“What do you mean?

I mean that both of them ought to be quick to see, and swift to overtake the enemy when they see him; and strong too if, when they have caught him, they have to fight with him.

All these qualities, he replied, will certainly be required by them.

Well, and your guardian must be brave if he is to fight well?

Certainly.”

Excerpt From
The Republic
Plato

Source: BBC History Magazine

The battle of Thermopylae must have appeared to onlookers at the time to have cost King Leonidas and his 300 Guardians of Sparta their lives; but in reality they gained immortality for themselves and great reputation for Sparta. The term “spartan” is used now to denote austerity or courage. Several movies and plays have been acted in their honor. Sports teams name themselves after Sparta. All because of the courage of 300 men who fought courageously against the army of King Xerxes estimated by some historians to have run into millions of soldiers. They fought to give time for reinforcements to arrive. One would say they saw this future glory, thus fought with fury and defiance; it is recorded that they were in such frenzied mood and were all trying to outdo themselves in putting themselves in harms way. For this act, Sparta was preserved, and some say that’s why today we have the works of Plato, and if for that alone, I personally thank them too. Such courage! Such wisdom!! Such vision!!!

From the story of the 300 Spartans, it is clear that the selection of guardians is of utmost importance and if done right, comes with immeasurable benefits. Amongst the most recognizable and efficient organizations in certain climes, are those with just about 300 staff. Just like the 300 Spartans, the leaders of such set ups recognize the power of collaboration. Most importantly they realize the power of putting their houses in order before seeking collaboration with partners. Such organizations, just like the Spartans who helped preserve Plato’s environment, have helped in protecting and improving the lives of millions.

Then Sun Tzu sent a messenger to the King saying: “Your soldiers, Sire, are now properly drilled and disciplined, and ready for your majesty’s inspection. They can be put to any use that their sovereign may desire; bid them go through fire and water, and they will not disobey.

Excerpt From
The Art of War
Sun Tzu

The leader of the 300 Spartans must have had the qualities displayed by Sun Tzu, who confidently made the statement above about his army. Only a master in the Art of War can achieve such a feat with only 300 Guardians. Following the drilling of his army, and numerous conquests with them, Sun Tzu was promoted to the rank of a General, and given due honors; just like the Greeks still honor the Spartans today. For our present day societies to make real progress, such leaders must be identified, promoted and honored accordingly.

We may ask ourselves why anyone would choose to be like King Leonidas, or a disciplinarian like Sun Tzu who in the course of drilling his monarchs army to perfection, fell out with the monarch for being a strict disciplinarian and refusing to grant special pardon to the monarchs favorite concubine whom he had to execute in the course of military training (extreme by Sun Tzu I must say, but what does a civilian like myself know about military matters?). Sun Tzu could have opted to gain the king’s favor but that would have compromised quality, and he didn’t want that. That’s what leadership is about. Hear Socrates on why those with exceptional qualities must not avoid leadership roles, despite all these difficulties:

…“Then now, Thrasymachus, there is no longer any doubt that neither arts nor governments provide for their own interests; but, as we were before saying, they rule and provide for the interests of their subjects who are the weaker and not the stronger—to their good they attend and not to the good of the superior. And this is the reason, my dear Thrasymachus, why, as I was just now saying, no one is willing to govern; because no one likes to take in hand the reformation of evils which are not his concern without remuneration. For, in the execution of his work, and in giving his orders to another, the true artist does not regard his own interest, but always that of his subjects; and therefore in order that rulers may be willing to rule, they must be paid in one of three modes of payment, money, or honour, or a penalty for refusing.

…“And this, as I imagine, is the reason why the forwardness to take office, instead of waiting to be compelled, has been deemed dishonourable. Now the worst part of the punishment is that he who refuses to rule is liable to be ruled by one who is worse than himself. And the fear of this, as I conceive, induces the good to take office, not because they would, but because they cannot help it — not under the idea that they are going to have any benefit or enjoyment themselves, but as a necessity, and because they are not able to commit the task of ruling to any one who is better than themselves, or indeed as good. For there is reason to think that if a city were composed entirely of good men, then to avoid office would be as much an object of contention as to obtain office is at present; then we should have plain proof that the true ruler is not meant by nature to regard his own interest, but that of his subjects; and every one who knew this would choose rather to receive a benefit from another than to have the trouble of conferring one. So far am I from agreeing with Thrasymachus that justice is the interest of the stronger.

Excerpts From: Plato. “The Republic.”

The excerpt above from Plato’s Republic calls for deep reflections by leaders and guardians.

You may also find the related article in the link below worth your while:

The Consolation – with Socrates, Marcus Aurelius and The Psalmist

Finally, the Nigerian Philosopher has this to say: “… there comes a time in the life of a patriot when abdication would amount to betrayal if not outright treachery.” Olusegun Obasanjo – My Watch

What would you do? Step up and be a guardian or abdicate?

Ande Elisha

The Amateur Philosopher

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