Monday, February 05, 2007

Onosander's list of Qualifications for a General

Below is a list of qualifications for a general that was written about the time of Jesus birth. You will note a similarity with Paul's list of qualifications for elders.

Onosander, De imperatoris officio*

1. I believe, then, that we must choose a general, not because of noble birth as priests are chosen, nor because of wealth as the superintendents of the gymnasia, but because he is temperate, self-restrained, vigilant, frugal, hardened to labour, alert, free from avarice, neither too young nor too old, indeed a father of children if possible, a ready speaker, and a man with good reputation.

2. The general must be temperate in order that he may not be so distracted by the pleasures of the body as to neglect the consideration of matters of the highest importance.

3. He must be self-restrained, since he is to be a man of so great authority; for the licentous impulses, when combined with the authority which confers the power of action, become uncontrollable in the gratification of the passions.

4. Vigilant, that he may spend wakeful nights over the most important projects; for at night, as a rule, with the mind at rest, the gneral perfects his plans.

5. Frugal, since expensive attendance upon th eluxurious tastes of commanders consumes time unprofitably and causes resources to waste away.

6. Hardened to labour, that he may not be the first but the last of the army to grow weary.

7. Alert, for the general must be quick, with swiftness of mind darting at every subject - quick, as Homer says, 'as a bird, or as thought.' For very frequently unexpected disorders arise which may compel him to decide on the spur of the moment what is expedient.

8. Free from avarice; for this quality of freedom from avarice will be valued most highly, since it is largely responsible for the incorruptible and large-minded management of affairs. For many who can face the shields and spears of a host with courage are blinded by gold; but gold is a strong weapon against the enemy and effective for victory.

9. Neither too young nor too old; since the young man does not inspire confidence, the old man is feeble, and neither is free from danger, the young man lest he err through reckless daring, the older lest he neglect something through physical weakness...

12. I should prefer our general to be a father, though I would not refuse a childless man, provided he be a good man. For if he happens to have young children, they are potent spells to keep his heart loyal, availing to bind him to the fatherland. . .

13. A ready speaker; for I believe that the greatest benefit can accrue from the work of a general only through this gift. For if a general is drawing up his men before battle, the encouragement of his words makes them despise the danger and covet the honour; . . . 16. No city at all will put an army in the field without generals nor choose a general who lacks the ability to make an effective speech.

17. The general should be a man of good reputation, because the majority of men, when placed under the command of unknown generals, fee uneasy. For no one voluntarily submits to a leader or an officer who is an inferior man to himself. 18. It is absolutely essential, then, that a general be such a man, of such excellent traits of character as I have enumerated, and besides this, that he have a good reputation.

*from the commentary by Martin Dibelius and Hans Conzelmann, The Pastoral Epistles, page 158-160, Fortress Press, 1972, ISBN-0-8006-6002-1.

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