Memorabilia, by Xenophon



Now, if the effect of such discourses was, as I imagine, to deter his hearers from the paths of quackery and false-seeming,110 so I am sure that language like the following was calculated to stimulate his followers to practise self-control and endurance: self-control in the matters of eating, drinking, sleeping, and the cravings of lust; endurance of cold and heat and toil and pain. He had noticed the undue licence which one of his acquaintances allowed himself in all such matters.111 Accordingly he thus addressed him:

Tell me, Aristippus (Socrates said), supposing you had two children entrusted to you to educate, one of them must be brought up with an aptitude for government, and the other without the faintest propensity to rule — how would you educate them? What do you say? Shall we begin our inquiry from the beginning, as it were, with the bare elements of food and nutriment?

Ar. Yes, food to begin with, by all means, being a first principle,112 without which there is no man living but would perish.

Soc. Well, then, we may expect, may we not, that a desire to grasp food at certain seasons will exhibit itself in both the children?

Ar. It is to be expected.

Soc. Which, then, of the two must be trained, of his own free will,113 to prosecute a pressing business rather than gratify the belly?

Ar. No doubt the one who is being trained to govern, if we would not have affairs of state neglected during114 his government.

Soc. And the same pupil must be furnished with a power of holding out against thirst also when the craving to quench it comes upon him?

Ar. Certainly he must.

Soc. And on which of the two shall we confer such self-control in regard to sleep as shall enable him to rest late and rise early, or keep vigil, if the need arise?

Ar. To the same one of the two must be given that endurance also.

Soc. Well, and a continence in regard to matters sexual so great that nothing of the sort shall prevent him from doing his duty? Which of them claims that?

Ar. The same one of the pair again.

Soc. Well, and on which of the two shall be bestowed, as a further gift, the voluntary resolution to face toils rather than turn and flee from them?

Ar. This, too, belongs of right to him who is being trained for government.

Soc. Well, and to which of them will it better accord to be taught all knowledge necessary towards the mastery of antagonists?

Ar. To our future ruler certainly, for without these parts of learning all his other capacities will be merely waste.

Soc. 115Will not a man so educated be less liable to be entrapped by rival powers, and so escape a common fate of living creatures, some of which (as we all know) are hooked through their own greediness, and often even in spite of a native shyness; but through appetite for food they are drawn towards the bait, and are caught; while others are similarly ensnared by drink?

Ar. Undoubtedly.

Soc. And others again are victims of amorous heat, as quails, for instance, or partridges, which, at the cry of the hen-bird, with lust and expectation of such joys grow wild, and lose their power of computing dangers: on they rush, and fall into the snare of the hunter?

Aristippus assented.

Soc. And would it not seem to be a base thing for a man to be affected like the silliest bird or beast? as when the adulterer invades the innermost sanctum116 of the house, though he is well aware of the risks which his crime involves,117 the formidable penalties of the law, the danger of being caught in the toils, and then suffering the direst contumely. Considering all the hideous penalties which hang over the adulterer’s head, considering also the many means at hand to release him from the thraldom of his passion, that a man should so drive headlong on to the quicksands of perdition118 — what are we to say of such frenzy? The wretch who can so behave must surely be tormented by an evil spirit?119

Ar. So it strikes me.

Soc. And does it not strike you as a sign of strange indifference that, whereas the greater number of the indispensable affairs of men, as for instance, those of war and agriculture, and more than half the rest, need to be conducted under the broad canopy of heaven,120 yet the majority of men are quite untrained to wrestle with cold and heat?

Aristippus again assented.

Soc. And do you not agree that he who is destined to rule must train himself to bear these things lightly?

Ar. Most certainly.

Soc. And whilst we rank those who are self-disciplined in all these matters among persons fit to rule, we are bound to place those incapable of such conduct in the category of persons without any pretension whatsoever to be rulers?

Ar. I assent.

Soc. Well, then, since you know the rank peculiar to either section of mankind, did it ever strike you to consider to which of the two you are best entitled to belong?

Yes I have (replied Aristippus). I do not dream for a moment of ranking myself in the class of those who wish to rule. In fact, considering how serious a business it is to cater for one’s own private needs, I look upon it as the mark of a fool not to be content with that, but to further saddle oneself with the duty of providing the rest of the community with whatever they may be pleased to want. That, at the cost of much personal enjoyment, a man should put himself at the head of a state, and then, if he fail to carry through every jot and tittle of that state’s desire, be held to criminal account, does seem to me the very extravagance of folly. Why, bless me! states claim to treat their rulers precisely as I treat my domestic slaves. I expect my attendants to furnish me with an abundance of necessaries, but not to lay a finger on one of them themselves. So these states regard it as the duty of a ruler to provide them with all the good things imaginable, but to keep his own hands off them all the while.121 So then, for my part, if anybody desires to have a heap of pother himself,122 and be a nuisance to the rest of the world, I will educate him in the manner suggested, and he shall take his place among those who are fit to rule; but for myself, I beg to be enrolled amongst those who wish to spend their days as easily and pleasantly as possible.

Soc. Shall we then at this point turn and inquire which of the two are likely to lead the pleasanter life, the rulers or the ruled?

Ar. By all means let us do so.

Soc. To begin then with the nations and races known to ourselves.123 In Asia the Persians are the rulers, while the Syrians, Phrygians, Lydians are ruled; and in Europe we find the Scythians ruling, and the Maeotians being ruled. In Africa124 the Carthaginians are rulers, the Libyans ruled. Which of these two sets respectively leads the happier life, in your opinion? Or, to come nearer home — you are yourself a Hellene — which among Hellenes enjoy the happier existence, think you, the dominant or the subject states?

Nay,125 I would have you to understand (exclaimed Aristippus) that I am just as far from placing myself in the ranks of slavery; there is, I take it, a middle path between the two which it is my ambition to tread, avoiding rule and slavery alike; it lies through freedom — the high road which leads to happiness.

Soc. True, if only your path could avoid human beings, as it avoids rule and slavery, there would be something in what you say. But being placed as you are amidst human beings, if you purpose neither to rule nor to be ruled, and do not mean to dance attendance, if you can help it, on those who rule, you must surely see that the stronger have an art to seat the weaker on the stool of repentance126 both in public and in private, and to treat them as slaves. I daresay you have not failed to note this common case: a set of people has sown and planted, whereupon in comes another set and cuts their corn and fells their fruit-trees, and in every way lays siege to them because, though weaker, they refuse to pay them proper court, till at length they are persuaded to accept slavery rather than war against their betters. And in private life also, you will bear me out, the brave and powerful are known to reduce the helpless and cowardly to bondage, and to make no small profit out of their victims.

Ar. Yes, but I must tell you I have a simple remedy against all such misadventures. I do not confine myself to any single civil community. I roam the wide world a foreigner.

Soc. Well, now, that is a masterly stroke, upon my word!127 Of course, ever since the decease of Sinis, and Sciron, and Procrustes,128 foreign travellers have had an easy time of it. But still, if I bethink me, even in these modern days the members of free communities do pass laws in their respective countries for self-protection against wrong-doing. Over and above their personal connections, they provide themselves with a host of friends; they gird their cities about with walls and battlements; they collect armaments to ward off evil-doers; and to make security doubly sure, they furnish themselves with allies from foreign states. In spite of all which defensive machinery these same free citizens do occasionally fall victims to injustice. But you, who are without any of these aids; you, who pass half your days on the high roads where iniquity is rife;129 you, who, into whatever city you enter, are less than the least of its free members, and moreover are just the sort of person whom any one bent on mischief would single out for attack — yet you, with your foreigner’s passport, are to be exempt from injury? So you flatter yourself. And why? Will the state authorities cause proclamation to be made on your behalf: “The person of this man Aristippus is secure; let his going out and his coming in be free from danger”? Is that the ground of your confidence? or do you rather rest secure in the consciousness that you would prove such a slave as no master would care to keep? For who would care to have in his house a fellow with so slight a disposition to work and so strong a propensity to extravagance? Suppose we stop and consider that very point: how do masters deal with that sort of domestic? If I am not mistaken, they chastise his wantonness by starvation; they balk his thieving tendencies by bars and bolts where there is anything to steal; they hinder him from running away by bonds and imprisonment; they drive the sluggishness out of him with the lash. Is it not so? Or how do you proceed when you discover the like tendency in one of your domestics?

Ar. I correct them with all the plagues, till I force them to serve me properly. But, Socrates, to return to your pupil educated in the royal art,130 which, if I mistake not, you hold to be happiness: how, may I ask, will he be better off than others who lie in evil case, in spite of themselves, simply because they suffer perforce, but in his case the hunger and the thirst, the cold shivers and the lying awake at nights, with all the changes he will ring on pain, are of his own choosing? For my part I cannot see what difference it makes, provided it is one and the same bare back which receives the stripes, whether the whipping be self-appointed or unasked for; nor indeed does it concern my body in general, provided it be my body, whether I am beleaguered by a whole armament of such evils131 of my own will or against my will — except only for the folly which attaches to self-appointed suffering.

Soc. What, Aristippus, does it not seem to you that, as regards such matters, there is all the difference between voluntary and involuntary suffering, in that he who starves of his own accord can eat when he chooses, and he who thirsts of his own free will can drink, and so for the rest; but he who suffers in these ways perforce cannot desist from the suffering when the humour takes him? Again, he who suffers hardship voluntarily, gaily confronts his troubles, being buoyed on hope132 — just as a hunter in pursuit of wild beasts, through hope of capturing his quarry, finds toil a pleasure — and these are but prizes of little worth in return for their labours; but what shall we say of their reward who toil to obtain to themselves good friends, or to subdue their enemies, or that through strength of body and soul they may administer their households well, befriend their friends, and benefit the land which gave them birth? Must we not suppose that these too will take their sorrows lightly, looking to these high ends? Must we not suppose that they too will gaily confront existence, who have to support them not only their conscious virtue, but the praise and admiration of the world?133 And once more, habits of indolence, along with the fleeting pleasures of the moment, are incapable, as gymnastic trainers say, of setting up134 a good habit of body, or of implanting in the soul any knowledge worthy of account; whereas by painstaking endeavour in the pursuit of high and noble deeds, as good men tell us, through endurance we shall in the end attain the goal. So Hesiod somewhere says:135

Wickedness may a man take wholesale with ease, smooth is the way and her dwelling-place is very nigh; but in front of virtue the immortal gods have placed toil and sweat, long is the path and steep that leads to her, and rugged at the first, but when the summit of the pass is reached, then for all its roughness the path grows easy.

And Ephicharmus136 bears his testimony when he says:

The gods sell us all good things in return for our labours.

And again in another passage he exclaims:

Set not thine heart on soft things, thou knave, lest thou light upon the hard.

And that wise man Prodicus137 delivers himself in a like strain concerning virtue in that composition of his about Heracles, which crowds have listened to.138 This, as far as I can recollect it, is the substance at least of what he says:

“When Heracles was emerging from boyhood into the bloom of youth, having reached that season in which the young man, now standing upon the verge of independence, shows plainly whether he will enter upon the path of virtue or of vice, he went forth into a quiet place, and sat debating with himself which of those two paths he should pursue; and as he there sat musing, there appeared to him two women of great stature which drew nigh to him. The one was fair to look upon, frank and free by gift of nature,139 her limbs adorned with purity and her eyes with bashfulness; sobriety set the rhythm of her gait, and she was clad in white apparel. The other was of a different type; the fleshy softness of her limbs betrayed her nurture, while the complexion of her skin was embellished that she might appear whiter and rosier than she really was, and her figure that she might seem taller than nature made her; she stared with wide-open eyes, and the raiment wherewith she was clad served but to reveal the ripeness of her bloom. With frequent glances she surveyed her person, or looked to see if others noticed her; while ever and anon she fixed her gaze upon the shadow of herself intently.

“Now when these two had drawn near to Heracles, she who was first named advanced at an even pace140 towards him, but the other, in her eagerness to outstrip her, ran forward to the youth, exclaiming, ‘I see you, Heracles, in doubt and difficulty what path of life to choose; make me your friend, and I will lead you to the pleasantest road and easiest. This I promise you: you shall taste all of life’s sweets and escape all bitters. In the first place, you shall not trouble your brain with war or business; other topics shall engage your mind;141 your only speculation, what meat or drink you shall find agreeable to your palate; what delight142 of ear or eye; what pleasure of smell or touch; what darling lover’s intercourse shall most enrapture you; how you shall pillow your limbs in softest slumber; how cull each individual pleasure without alloy of pain; and if ever the suspicion steal upon you that the stream of joys will one day dwindle, trust me I will not lead you where you shall replenish the store by toil of body and trouble of soul. No! others shall labour, but you shall reap the fruit of their labours; you shall withhold your hand from nought which shall bring you gain. For to all my followers I give authority and power to help themselves freely from every side.’

“Heracles hearing these words made answer: ‘What, O lady, is the name you bear?’ To which she: ‘Know that my friends call be Happiness, but they that hate me have their own nicknames143 for me, Vice and Naughtiness.’

“But just then the other of those fair women approached and spoke: ‘Heracles, I too am come to you, seeing that your parents are well known to me, and in your nurture I have gauged your nature; wherefore I entertain good hope that if you choose the path which leads to me, you shall greatly bestir yourself to be the doer of many a doughty deed of noble emprise; and that I too shall be held in even higher honour for your sake, lit with the lustre shed by valorous deeds.144 I will not cheat you with preludings of pleasure,145 but I will relate to you the things that are according to the ordinances of God in very truth. Know then that among things that are lovely and of good report, not one have the gods bestowed upon mortal men apart from toil and pains. Would you obtain the favour of the gods, then must you pay these same gods service; would you be loved by your friends, you must benefit these friends; do you desire to be honoured by the state, you must give the state your aid; do you claim admiration for your virtue from all Hellas, you must strive to do some good to Hellas; do you wish earth to yield her fruits to you abundantly, to earth must you pay your court; do you seek to amass riches from your flocks and herds, on them must you bestow your labour; or is it your ambition to be potent as a warrior, able to save your friends and to subdue your foes, then must you learn the arts of war from those who have the knowledge, and practise their application in the field when learned; or would you e’en be powerful of limb and body, then must you habituate limbs and body to obey the mind, and exercise yourself with toil and sweat.’

“At this point, (as Prodicus relates) Vice broke in exclaiming: ‘See you, Heracles, how hard and long the road is by which yonder woman would escort you to her festal joys.146 But I will guide you by a short and easy road to happiness.’

“Then spoke Virtue: ‘Nay, wretched one, what good thing hast thou? or what sweet thing art thou acquainted with — that wilt stir neither hand nor foot to gain it? Thou, that mayest not even await the desire of pleasure, but, or ever that desire springs up, art already satiated; eating before thou hungerest, and drinking before thou thirsteth; who to eke out an appetite must invent an army of cooks and confectioners; and to whet thy thirst must lay down costliest wines, and run up and down in search of ice in summer-time; to help thy slumbers soft coverlets suffice not, but couches and feather-beds must be prepared thee and rockers to rock thee to rest; since desire for sleep in thy case springs not from toil but from vacuity and nothing in the world to do. Even the natural appetite of love thou forcest prematurely by every means thou mayest devise, confounding the sexes in thy service. Thus thou educatest thy friends: with insult in the night season and drowse of slumber during the precious hours of the day. Immortal, thou art cast forth from the company of gods, and by good men art dishonoured: that sweetest sound of all, the voice of praise, has never thrilled thine ears; and the fairest of all fair visions is hidden from thine eyes that have never beheld one bounteous deed wrought by thine own hand. If thou openest thy lips in speech, who will believe thy word? If thou hast need of aught, none shall satisfy thee. What sane man will venture to join thy rablle rout? Ill indeed are thy revellers to look upon, young men impotent of body, and old men witless in mind: in the heyday of life they batten in sleek idleness, and wearily do they drag through an age of wrinkled wretchedness: and why? they blush with shame at the thought of deeds done in the past, and groan for weariness at what is left to do. During their youth they ran riot through their sweet things, and laid up for themselves large store of bitterness against the time of eld. But my companionship is with the gods; and with the good among men my conversation; no bounteous deed, divine or human, is wrought without my aid. Therefore am I honoured in Heaven pre-eminently, and upon earth among men whose right it is to honour me;147 as a beloved fellow-worker of all craftsmen; a faithful guardian of house and lands, whom the owners bless; a kindly helpmeet of servants;148 a brave assistant in the labours of peace; an unflinching ally in the deeds of war; a sharer in all friendships indispensable. To my friends is given an enjoyment of meats and drinks, which is sweet in itself and devoid of trouble, in that they can endure until desire ripens, and sleep more delicious visits them than those who toil not. Yet they are not pained to part with it; nor for the sake of slumber do they let slip the performance of their duties. Among my followers the youth delights in the praises of his elders, and the old man glories in the honour of the young; with joy they call to memory their deeds of old, and in today’s well-doing are well pleased. For my sake they are dear in the sight of God, beloved of their friends and honoured by the country of their birth. When the appointed goal is reached they lie not down in oblivion with dishonour, but bloom afresh — their praise resounded on the lips of men for ever.149 Toils like these, O son of noble parents, Heracles, it is yours to meet with, and having endured, to enter into the heritage assured you of transcendant happiness.’”

This, Aristippus, in rough sketch is the theme which Prodicus pursues150 in his “Education of Heracles by Virtue,” only he decked out his sentiments, I admit, in far more magnificant phrases than I have ventured on. Were it not well, Aristippus, to lay to heart these sayings, and to strive to bethink you somewhat of that which touches the future of our life?

110 This sentence in the Greek concludes Bk. I. There is something wrong or very awkward in the text here.

111 Cf. Grote, “Plato,” III. xxxviii. p. 530.

112 Aristippus plays upon the word arkhe.

113 proairesis.

114 Lit. “along of.”

115 [SS. 4, 5, L. Dind. ed Lips.]

116 eis as eirktas. The penetralia.

117 Or, “he knows the risks he runs of suffering those penalties with which the law threatens his crime should he fall into the snare, and being caught, be mutilated.”

118 Or, “leap headlong into the jaws of danger.”

119 kakodaimonontos.

120 Or, “in the open air.”

121 Or, “but he must have no finger in the pie himself.”

122 See Kuhner ad loc.

123 Or, “the outer world, the non-Hellenic races and nationalities of which we have any knowledge.”

124 Lit. “Libya.”

125 Or, “Pardon me interrupting you, Socrates; but I have not the slightest intention of placing myself.” See W. L. Newman, op. cit. i. 306.

126 See “Symp.” iii. 11; “Cyrop.” II. ii. 14; Plat. “Ion,” 535 E; L. Dindorf ad loc.

127 Or, “Well foiled!” “A masterly fall! my prince of wrestlers.”

128 For these mythical highway robbers, see Diod. iv. 59; and for Sciron in particular, Plut. “Theseus,” 10.

129 Or, “where so many suffer wrong.”

130 Cf. below, IV. ii. 11; Plat. “Statesm.” 259 B; “Euthyd.” 291 C; K. Joel, op. cit. p. 387 foll. “Aristippus anticipates Adeimantus” (“Rep.” 419), W. L. Newman, op. cit. i. 395.

131 Cf. “suffers the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.”

132 Cf. above, I. vi. 8.

133 Or, “in admiration of themselves, the praise and envy of the world at large.”

134 See Hippocrates, “V. Med.” 18.

135 Hesiod, “Works and Days,” 285. See Plat. “Prot.” 340 C; “Rep.” ii. 364 D; “Laws,” iv. 718 E.

136 Epicharmus of Cos, the chief comic poet among the Dorians, fl. 500 B.C. Cf. Plat. “Theaet.” 152 E, “the prince of comedy”; “Gorg.” 505 D.

137 Prodicus of Ceos. See Plat. “Men.” 24; “Cratyl.” 1; Philostr. “Vit. Soph.” i. 12.

138 Or, “which he is fond of reciting as a specimen of style.” The title of the epideixis was ‘Orai according to Suidas, Prodikos.

139 Reading eleutherion phusei, . . . or if eleutherion, phusei . . . translate “nature had adorned her limbs . . .”

140 Or, “without change in her demeanour.”

141 Reading diese, or dioisei, “you shall continue speculating solely.”

142 It will be recollected that Prodicus prided himself on orthotes onomaton. Possibly Xenophon is imitating (caricaturing?) his style. terphtheies, estheies, euphrantheies.

143 So the vulg. upokorizomenoi is interpreted. Cobet (“Pros. Xen.” p. 36) suggests upoknizomenoi = “quippe qui desiderio pungantur.”

144 Or, “bathed in the splendour of thy virtues.”

145 Or, “honeyed overtures of pleasure.”

146 Hesiod, “Theog.” 909; Milton, “L’Allegro,” 12.

147 Reading ois prosekei, or if proseko, translate “to whom I am attached.”

148 Cf. “Econ.” v. 8.

149 Or, “so true is it, a branch is left them; undying honour to their name!”

150 Reading diokei, al. diokei = “so Prodicus arranged the parts of his discourse.”


At another time, he had noticed the angry temper shown by Lamprocles, the elder of his sons, towards their mother, and thus addressed himself to the lad.

Soc. Pray, my son, did you ever hear of certain people being called ungrateful?

That I have (replied the young man).

Soc. And have you understood what it is they do to get that bad name?

Lamp. Yes, I have: when any one has been kindly treated, and has it in his power to requite the kindness but neglects to do so, men call him ungrateful.

Soc. And you admit that people reckon the ungrateful among wrongdoers?

Lamp. I do.

Soc. And has it ever struck you to inquire whether, as regards the right or wrong of it, ingratitude may not perhaps resemble some such conduct as the enslavement, say, of prisoners, which is accounted wrong towards friends but justifiable towards enemies?

Lamp. Yes, I have put that question to myself. In my opinion, no matter who confers the kindness, friend or foe, the recipient should endeavour to requite it, failing which he is a wrongdoer.

Soc. Then if that is how the matter stands, ingratitude would be an instance of pure unadulterate wrongdoing?

Lamprocles assented to the proposition.

Soc. It follows, then, that in proportion to the greatness of the benefit conferred, the greater his misdoing who fails to requite the kindness?

Lamprocles again assented.

Socrates continued: And where can we hope to find greater benefits than those which children derive from their parents — their father and mother who brought them out of nothingness into being, who granted them to look upon all these fair sights, and to partake of all those blessings which the gods bestow on man, things so priceless in our eyes that one and all we shudder at the thought of leaving them, and states have made death the penalty for the greatest crimes, because there is no greater evil through fear of which to stay iniquity.

You do not suppose that human beings produce children for the sake of carnal pleasure151 merely; were this the motive, street and bordell are full of means to quit them of that thrall; whereas nothing is plainer than the pains we take to seek out wives who shall bear us the finest children.152 With these we wed, and carry on the race. The man has a twofold duty to perform: partly in cherishing her who is to raise up children along with him, and partly towards the children yet unborn in providing them with things that he thinks will contribute to their well-being — and of these as large a store as possible. The woman, conceiving, bears her precious burthen with travail and pain, and at the risk of life itself — sharing with that within her womb the food on which she herself is fed. And when with much labour she has borne to the end and brought forth her offspring, she feeds it and watches over it with tender care — not in return for any good thing previously received, for indeed the babe itself is little conscious of its benefactor and cannot even signify its wants; only she, the mother, making conjecture of what is good for it, and what will please it, essays to satisfy it;153 and for many months she feeds it night and day, enduring the toil nor recking what return she shall receive for all her trouble. Nor does the care and kindness of parents end with nurture; but when the children seem of an age to learn, they teach them themselves whatever cunning they possess, as a guide to life, or where they feel that another is more competent, to him they send them to be taught at their expense. Thus they watch over their children, doing all in their power to enable them to grow up to be as good as possible.

So be it (the youth answered); but even if she have done all that, and twenty times as much, no soul on earth could endure my mother’s cross-grained temper.

Then Socrates: Which, think you, would be harder to bear — a wild beast’s savagery or a mother’s?

Lamp. To my mind, a mother’s — at least if she be such as mine.

Soc. Dear me! And has this mother ever done you any injury — such as people frequently receive from beasts, by bite or kick?

Lamp. If she has not done quite that, she uses words which any one would sooner sell his life than listen to.

Soc. And how many annoyances have you caused your mother, do you suppose, by fretfulness and peevishness in word and deed, night and day, since you were a little boy? How much sorrow and pain, when you were ill?

Lamp. Well, I never said or did anything to bring a blush to her cheeks.

Soc. No, come now! Do you suppose it is harder for you to listen to your mother’s speeches than for actor to listen to actor on the tragic stage,154 when the floodgates of abuse are opened?

Lamp. Yes; for the simple reason that they know it is all talk on their parts. The inquisitor may cross-question, but he will not inflict a fine; the threatener may hurl his menaces, but he will do no mischief — that is why they take it all so easily.

Soc. Then ought you to fly into a passion, who know well enough that, whatever your mother says, she is so far from meaning you mischief that she is actually wishing blessings to descend upon you beyond all others? Or do you believe that your mother is really ill disposed towards you?

Lamp. No, I do not think that.

Soc. Then this mother, who is kindly disposed to you, and takes such tender care of you when you are ill to make you well again, and to see that you want for nothing which may help you; and, more than all, who is perpetually pleading for blessings in your behalf and offering her vows to Heaven155 — can you say of her that she is cross-grained and harsh? For my part, I think, if you cannot away with such a mother, you cannot away with such blessings either.

But tell me (he proceeded), do you owe service to any living being, think you? or are you prepared to stand alone? Prepared not to please or try to please a single soul? to follow none? To obey neither general nor ruler of any sort? Is that your attitude, or do you admit that you owe allegience to somebody?

Lamp. Yes; certainly I owe allegiance.

Soc. May I take it that you are willing to please at any rate your neighbour, so that he may kindle a fire for you in your need, may prove himself a ready helpmate in good fortune, or if you chance on evil and are stumbling, may friendlily stand by your side to aid?

Lamp. I am willing.

Soc. Well, and what of that other chance companion — your fellow-traveller by land or sea? what of any others, you may light upon? is it indifferent to you whether these be friends or not, or do you admit that the goodwill of these is worth securing by some pains on your part?

Lamp. I do.

Soc. It stands thus then: you are prepared to pay attention to this, that, and the other stranger, but to your mother who loves you more than all else, you are bound to render no service, no allegiance? Do you not know that whilst the state does not concern itself with ordinary ingratitude or pass judicial sentence on it; whilst it overlooks the thanklessness of those who fail to make return for kindly treatment, it reserves its pains and penalties for the special case? If a man render not the service and allegiance due to his parents, on him the finger of the law is laid; his name is struck off the roll; he is forbidden to hold the archonship — which is as much as to say, “Sacrifices in behalf of the state offered by such a man would be no offerings, being tainted with impiety; nor could aught else be ‘well and justly’ performed of which he is the doer.” Heaven help us! If a man fail to adorn the sepulchre of his dead parents the state takes cognisance of the matter, and inquisition is made in the scrutiny of the magistrates.156 And as for you, my son, if you are in your sober senses, you will earnestly entreat your mother, lest the very gods take you to be an ungrateful being, and on their side also refuse to do you good; and you will beware of men also, lest they should perceive your neglect of your parents, and with one consent hold you in dishonour;157 and so you find yourself in a desert devoid of friends. For if once the notion be entertained that here is a man ungrateful to his parents, no one will believe that any kindness shown you would be other than thrown away.

151 Lit. “the joys of Aphrodite.”

152 “For the procreation of children.” See below, IV. iv. 22; “Pol. Lac.” i.

153 Lit. “to leave nought lacking.”

154 See Grote, “H. G.” viii. 457; Plut. “Solon,” xxix.

155 Or, “paying vows.”

156 Lit. “the docimasia.” See Gow, “Companion,” xiv.

157 “Visiti with atimia.”


At another time the differences between two brothers named Chaerephon and Chaerecrates, both well known to him, had drawn his attention; and on seeing the younger of the two he thus addresed him.

Soc. Tell me, Chaerecrates, you are not, I take it, one of those strange people who believe that goods are better and more precious than a brother;158 and that too although the former are but senseless chattels which need protection, the latter a sensitive and sensible being who can afford it; and what is more, he is himself alone, whilst as for them their name is legion. And here again is a marvellous thing: that a man should count his brother a loss, because the goods of his brother are not his; but he does not count his fellow-citizens loss, and yet their possessions are not his; only it seems in their case he has wits to see that to dwell securely with many and have enough is better than to own the whole wealth of a community and to live in dangerous isolation; but this same doctrine as applied to brothers they ignore. Again, if a man have the means, he will purchase domestic slaves, because he wants assistants in his work; he will acquire friends, because he needs their support; but this brother of his — who cares about brothers? It seems a friend may be discovered in an ordinary citizen, but not in a blood relation who is also a brother. And yet it is a great vantage-ground towards friendship to have sprung from the same loins and to have been suckled at the same breasts, since even among beasts a certain natural craving, and sympathy springs up between creatures reared together.159 Added to which, a man who has brothers commands more respect from the rest of the world than the man who has none, and who must fight his own battles.160

Chaer. I daresay, Socrates, where the differences are not profound, reason would a man should bear with his brother, and not avoid him for some mere trifle’s sake, for a brother of the right sort is, as you say, a blessing; but if he be the very antithesis of that, why should a man lay his hand to achieve the impossible?

Soc. Well now, tell me, is there nobody whom Chaerephon can please any more than he can please yourself; or do some people find him agreeable enough?

Chaer. Nay, there you hit it. That is just why I have a right to detest him. He can be pleasing enough to others, but to me, whenever he appears on the scene, he is not a blessing — no! but by every manner of means the reverse.

Soc. May it not happen that just as a horse is no gain to the inexpert rider who essays to handle him, so in like manner, if a man tries to deal with his brother after an ignorant fashion, this same brother will kick?

Chaer. But is it likely now? How should I be ignorant of the art of dealing with my brother if I know the art of repaying kind words and good deeds in kind? But a man who tries all he can to annoy me by word and deed, I can neither bless nor benefit, and, what is more, I will not try.

Soc. Well now, that is a marvellous statement, Chaerecrates. Your dog, the serviceable guardian of your flocks, who will fawn and lick the hand of your shepherd, when you come near him can only growl and show his teeth. Well; you take no notice of the dog’s ill-temper, you try to propitiate him by kindness; but your brother? If your brother were what he ought to be, he would be a great blessing to you — that you admit; and, as you further confess, you know the secret of kind acts and words, yet you will not set yourself to apply means to make him your best of friends.

Chaer. I am afraid, Socrates, that I have no wisdom or cunning to make Chaerephon bear himself towards me as he should.

Soc. Yet there is no need to apply any recondite or novel machinery. Only bait your hook in the way best known to yourself, and you will capture him; whereupon he will become your devoted friend.

Chaer. If you are aware that I know some love-charm, Socrates, of which I am the happy but unconscious possessor, pray make haste and enlighten me.

Soc. Answer me then. Suppose you wanted to get some acquaintance to invite you to dinner when he next keeps holy day,161 what steps would you take?

Chaer. No doubt I should set him a good example by inviting him myself on a like occasion.

Soc. And if you wanted to induce some friend to look after your affairs during your absence abroad, how would you achieve your purpose?

Chaer. No doubt I should present a precedent in undertaking to look after his in like circumstances.

Soc. And if you wished to get some foreign friend to take you under his roof while visiting his country, what would you do?

Chaer. No doubt I should begin by offering him the shelter of my own roof when he came to Athens, in order to enlist his zeal in furthering the objects of my visit; it is plain I should first show my readiness to do as much for him in a like case.

Soc. Why, it seems you are an adept after all in all the philtres known to man, only you chose to conceal your knowledge all the while; or is it that you shrink from taking the first step because of the scandal you will cause by kindly advances to your brother? And yet it is commonly held to redound to a man’s praise to have outstripped an enemy in mischief or a friend in kindness. Now if it seemed to me that Chaerephon were better fitted to lead the way towards this friendship,162 I should have tried to persuade him to take the first step in winning your affection, but now I am persuaded the first move belongs to you, and to you the final victory.

Chaer. A startling announcement, Socrates, from your lips, and most unlike you, to bid me the younger take precedence of my elder brother. Why, it is contrary to the universal custom of mankind, who look to the elder to take the lead in everything, whether as a speaker or an actor.

Soc. How so? Is it not the custom everywhere for the younger to step aside when he meets his elder in the street and to give him place? Is he not expected to get up and offer him his seat, to pay him the honour of a soft couch,163 to yield him precedence in argument?

My good fellow, do not stand shilly-shallying,164 but put out your hand caressingly, and you will see the worthy soul will respond at once with alacrity. Do you not note your brother’s character, proud and frank and sensitive to honour? He is not a mean and sorry rascal to be caught by a bribe — no better way indeed for such riff-raff. No! gentle natures need a finer treatment. You can best hope to work on them by affection.

Chaer. But suppose I do, and suppose that, for all my attempts, he shows no change for the better?

Soc. At the worst you will have shown yourself to be a good, honest, brotherly man, and he will appear as a sorry creature on whom kindness is wasted. But nothing of the sort is going to happen, as I conjecture. My belief is that as soon as he hears your challenge, he will embrace the contest; pricked on by emulous pride, he will insist upon getting the better of you in kindness of word and deed.

At present you two are in the condition of two hands formed by God to help each other, but which have let go their business and have turned to hindering one another all they can. You are a pair of feet fashioned on the Divine plan to work together, but which have neglected this in order to trammel each other’s gait. Now is it not insensate stupidity165 to use for injury what was meant for advantage? And yet in fashioning two brothers God intends them, methinks, to be of more benefit to one another than either two hands, or two feet, or two eyes, or any other of those pairs which belong to man from his birth.166 Consider how powerless these hands of ours if called upon to combine their action at two points more than a single fathom’s length apart;167 and these feet could not stretch asunder168 even a bare fathom; and these eyes, for all the wide-reaching range we claim for them, are incapable of seeing simultaneously the back and front of an object at even closer quarters. But a pair of brothers, linked in bonds of amity, can work each for the other’s good, though seas divide them.169

158 Cf. “Merchant of Venice,” II. viii. 17: “Justice! the law! my ducats, and my daughter!”

159 Or, “a yearning after their foster-brothers manifests itself in animals.” See “Cyrop.” VIII. vii. 14 foll. for a parallel to this discussion.

160 Lit. “and is less liable to hostility.”

161 “When he next does sacrifice”; see “Hiero,” viii. 3. Cf. Theophr. “Char.” xv. 2, and Prof. Jebb’s note ad loc.

162 Reading pros ten philian, or if phusin, transl. “natural disposition.”

163 Lit. “with a soft bed,” or, as we say, “the best bedroom.”

164 Or, “have no fears, essay a soothing treatment.”

165 “Boorishness verging upon monomania.”

166 “With which man is endowed at birth.”

167 “More than an ‘arms’-stretch’ asunder.”

168 Lit. “reach at one stretch two objects, even over that small distance.”

169 “Though leagues separate them.”


I have at another time heard him discourse on the kindred theme of friendship in language well calculated, as it seemed to me, to help a man to choose and also to use his friends aright.

He (Socrates) had often heard the remark made that of all possessions there is none equal to that of a good and sincere friend; but, in spite of this assertion, the mass of people, as far as he could see, concerned themselves about nothing so little as the acquisition of friends. Houses, and fields, and slaves, and cattle, and furniture of all sorts (he said) they were at pains to acquire, and they strove hard to keep what they had got; but to procure for themselves this greatest of all blessings, as they admitted a friend to be, or to keep the friends whom they already possessed, not one man in a hundred ever gave himself a thought. It was noticeable, in the case of a sickness befalling a man’s friend and one of his own household simultaneously, the promptness with which the master would fetch the doctor to his domestic, and take every precaution necessary for his recovery, with much expenditure of pains; but meanwhile little account would be taken of the friend in like condition, and if both should die, he will show signs of deep annoyance at the death of his domestic, which, as he reflects, is a positive loss to him; but as regards his friend his position is in no wise materially affected, and thus, though he would never dream of leaving his other possessions disregarded and ill cared for, friendship’s mute appeal is met with flat indifference.170

Or to take (said he) a crowning instance:171 with regard to ordinary possessions, however multifarious these may be, most people are at least acquainted with their number, but if you ask a man to enumerate his friends, who are not so very many after all perhaps, he cannot; or if, to oblige the inquirer, he essays to make a list, he will presently retract the names of some whom he had previously included.172 Such is the amount of thought which people bestow upon their friends.

And yet what thing else may a man call his own is comparable to this one best possession! what rather will not serve by contrast to enhance the value of an honest friend! Think of a horse or a yoke of oxen; they have their worth; but who shall gauge the worth of a worthy friend? Kindlier and more constant than the faithfullest of slaves — this is that possession best named all-serviceable.173 Consider what the post is that he assigns himself! to meet and supplement what is lacking to the welfare of his friends, to promote their private and their public interests, is his concern. Is there need of kindly action in any quarter? he will throw in the full weight of his support. Does some terror confound? he is at hand to help and defend by expenditure of money and of energy,174 by appeals to reason or resort to force. His the privilege alike to gladden the prosperous in the hour of success and to sustain their footing who have well-nigh slipped. All that the hands of a man may minister, all that the eyes of each are swift to see, the ears to hear, and the feet to compass, he with his helpful arts will not fall short of. Nay, not seldom that which a man has failed to accomplish for himself, has missed seeing or hearing or attaining, a friend acting in behalf of friend will achieve vicariously. And yet, albeit to try and tend a tree for the sake of its fruit is not uncommon, this copious mine of wealth — this friend — attracts only a lazy and listless attention on the part of more than half the world.

170 Or, “the cry of a friend for careful tending falls on deaf ears.”

171 Or, “Nor had he failed to observe another striking contrast.” Cf. Cic. “Lael.” 17; Diog. Laert. ii. 30.

172 i.e. “like a chess-player recalling a move.”

173 “A vessel fit for all work indeed is this friend.” Cf. Ar. “Ach.” 936, pagkhreston aggos estai, like the “leather bottel.”

174 Or, “by dint of his diplomacy.”


I remember listening to another argument of his, the effect of which would be to promote self-examination. The listener must needs be brought to ask himself, “Of what worth am I to my friends?” It happened thus. One of those who were with him was neglectful, as he noted, of a friend who was at the pinch of poverty (Antisthenes).175 Accordingly, in the presence of the negligent person and of several others, he proceeded to question the sufferer.

Soc. What say you, Antisthenes? — have friends their values like domestic slaves? One of these latter may be worth perhaps two minae,176 another only half a mina, a third five, and a fourth as much as ten; while they do say that Nicias,177 the son of Niceratus, paid a whole talent for a superintendent of his silver mines. And so I propound the question to myself as follows: “Have friends, like slaves, their market values?”

Not a doubt of it (replied Antisthenes). At any rate, I know that I would rather have such a one as my friend than be paid two minae, and there is such another whose worth I would not estimate at half a mina, and a third with whom I would not part for ten, and then again a fourth whose friendship would be cheap if it cost me all the wealth and pains in the world to purchase it.

Well then (continued Socrates), if that be so, would it not be well if every one were to examine himself: “What after all may I chance to be worth to my friends?” Should he not try to become as dear as possible, so that his friends will not care to give him up? How often do I hear the complaint: “My friend So-and-so has given me up”; or “Such an one, whom I looked upon as a friend, has sacrificed me for a mina.” And every time I hear these remarks, the question arises in my mind: If the vendor of a worthless slave is ready to part with him to a purchaser for what he will fetch — is there not at least a strong temptation to part with a base friend when you have a chance of making something on the exchange? Good slaves, as far as I can see, are not so knocked down to the hammer; no, nor good friends so lightly parted with.

175 Antisthenes, “cynicorum et stoicorum parens.” Cic. “de Or.” iii. 17; “ad Att.” xii. 38. See below, III. iii. 17; “Symp.” passim; Diog. Laert. II. v.; VI. i.

176 A mina = L4 circ.

177 For Nicias see Thuc. vii. 77 foll.; “Revenues,” iv. 14; Plut. “Nic.” IV. v.; Lys. “de bon. Aristoph.” 648.


Again, in reference to the test to be applied, if we would gauge the qualifications of a friend worth the winning, the following remarks of Socrates could not fail, I think, to prove instructive.178

Tell me (said Socrates, addressing Critobulus), supposing we stood in need of a good friend, how should we set about his discovery? We must, in the first place, I suppose, seek out one who is master of his appetites, not under the dominion, that is, of his belly, not addicted to the wine-cup or to lechery or sleep or idleness, since no one enslaved to such tyrants could hope to do his duty either by himself or by his friends, could he?

Certainly not (Critobulus answered).

Soc. Do you agree, then, that we must hold aloof from every one so dominated?

Cri. Most assuredly.

Well then (proceeded Socrates), what shall we say of the spendthrift who has lost his independence and is for ever begging of his neighbours; if he gets anything out of them he cannot repay, but if he fails to get anything, he hates you for not giving — do you not think that this man too would prove but a disagreeable friend?

Cri. Certainly.

Soc. Then we must keep away from him too?

Cri. That we must.

Soc. Well! and what of the man whose strength lies in monetary transactions?179 His one craving is to amass money; and for that reason he is an adept at driving a hard bargain180 — glad enough to take in, but loath to pay out.

Cri. In my opinion he will prove even a worse fellow than the last.

Soc. Well! and what of that other whose passion for money-making is so absorbing that he has no leisure for anything else, save how he may add to his gains?

Cri. Hold aloof from him, say I, since there is no good to be got out of him or his society.

Soc. Well! what of the quarrelsome and factious person181 whose main object is to saddle his friends with a host of enemies?

Cri. For God’s sake let us avoid him also.

Soc. But now we will imagine a man exempt indeed from all the above defects — a man who has no objection to receive kindnesses, but it never enters into his head to do a kindness in return.

Cri. There will be no good in him either. But, Socrates, what kind of man shall we endeavour to make our friend? what is he like?

Soc. I should say he must be just the converse of the above: he has control over the pleasures of the body, he is kindly disposed,182 upright in all his dealings,183 very zealous is he not to be outdone in kindness by his benefactors, if only his friends may derive some profit from his acquaintance.

Cri. But how are we to test these qualities, Socrates, before acquaintance?

Soc. How do we test the merits of a sculptor? — not by inferences drawn from the talk of the artist merely. No, we look to what he has already achieved. These former statues of his were nobly executed, and we trust he will do equally well with the rest.

Cri. You mean that if we find a man whose kindness to older friends is established, we may take it as proved that he will treat his newer friends as amiably?

Soc. Why, certainly, if I see a man who has shown skill in the handling of horses previously, I argue that he will handle others no less skilfully again.

Cri. Good! and when we have discovered a man whose friendship is worth having, how ought we to make him our friend?

Soc. First we ought to ascertain the will of Heaven whether it be advisable to make him our friend.

Cri. Well! and how are we to effect the capture of this friend of our choice, whom the gods approve? will you tell me that?

Not, in good sooth (replied Socrates), by running him down like a hare, nor by decoying him like a bird, or by force like a wild boar.184 To capture a friend against his will is a toilsome business, and to bind him in fetters like a slave by no means easy. Those who are so treated are apt to become foes instead of friends.185

Cri. But how convert them into friends?

Soc. There are certain incantations, we are told, which those who know them have only to utter, and they can make friends of whom they list; and there are certain philtres also which those who have the secret of them may administer to whom they like and win their love.

Cri. From what source shall we learn them?

Soc. You need not go farther than Homer to learn that which the Sirens sang to Odysseus,186 the first words of which run, I think, as follows:

Hither, come hither, thou famous man, Odysseus, great glory of the Achaeans!

Cri. And did the magic words of this spell serve for all men alike? Had the Sirens only to utter this one incantation, and was every listener constrained to stay?

Soc. No; this was the incantation reserved for souls athirst for fame, of virtue emulous.

Cri. Which is as much as to say, we must suit the incantation to the listener, so that when he hears the words he shall not think that the enchanter is laughing at him in his sleeve. I cannot certainly conceive a method better calculated to excite hatred and repulsion than to go to some one who knows that he is small and ugly and a weakling, and to breathe in his ears the flattering tale that he is beautiful and tall and stalwart. But do you know any other love-charms, Socrates?

Soc. I cannot say that I do; but I have heard that Pericles187 was skilled in not a few, which he poured into the ear of our city and won her love.

Cri. And how did Themistocles188 win our city’s love?

Soc. Ah, that was not by incantation at all. What he did was to encircle our city with an amulet of saving virtue.189

Cri. You would imply, Socrates, would you not, that if we want to win the love of any good man we need to be good ourselves in speech and action?

And did you imagine (replied Socrates) that it was possible for a bad man to make good friends?

Cri. Why, I could fancy I had seen some sorry speech-monger who was fast friends with a great and noble statesman; or again, some born commander and general who was boon companion with fellows quite incapable of generalship.190

Soc. But in reference to the point we were discussing, may I ask whether you know of any one who can attach a useful friend to himself without being of use in return?191 Can service ally in friendship with disservice?

Cri. In good sooth no. But now, granted it is impossible for a base man to be friends with the beautiful and noble,192 I am concerned at once to discover if one who is himself of a beautiful and noble character can, with a wave of the hand, as it were, attach himself in friendship to every other beautiful and noble nature.

Soc. What perplexes and confounds you, Critobulus, is the fact that so often men of noble conduct, with souls aloof from baseness, are not friends but rather at strife and discord with one another, and deal more harshly by one another than they would by the most good-for-nothing of mankind.

Cri. Yes, and this holds true not of private persons only, but states, the most eager to pursue a noble policy and to repudiate a base one, are frequently in hostile relation to one another. As I reason on these things my heart fails me, and the question, how friends are to be acquired, fills me with despondency. The bad, as I see, cannot be friends with one another. For how can such people, the ungrateful, or reckless, or covetous, or faithless, or incontinent, adhere together as friends? Without hesitation I set down the bad as born to be foes not friends, and as bearing the birthmark of internecine hate. But then again, as you suggest, no more can these same people harmonise in friendship with the good. For how should they who do evil be friends with those who hate all evil-doing? And if, last of all, they that cultivate virtue are torn by party strife in their struggle for the headship of the states, envying one another, hating one another, who are left to be friends? where shall goodwill and faithfulness be found among men?

Soc. The fact is there is some subtlety in the texture of these things.193 Seeds of love are implanted in man by nature. Men have need of one another, feel pity, help each other by united efforts, and in recognition of the fact show mutual gratitude. But there are seeds of war implanted also. The same objects being regarded as beautiful or agreeable by all alike, they do battle for their possession; a spirit of disunion194 enters, and the parties range themselves in adverse camps. Discord and anger sound a note of war: the passion of more-having, staunchless avarice, threatens hostility; and envy is a hateful fiend.195

But nevertheless, through all opposing barriers friendship steals her way and binds together the beautiful and good among mankind.196 Such is their virtue that they would rather possess scant means painlessly than wield an empire won by war. In spite of hunger and thirst they will share their meat and drink without a pang. Not bloom of lusty youth, nor love’s delights can warp their self-control; nor will they be tempted to cause pain where pain should be unknown. It is theirs not merely to eschew all greed of riches, not merely to make a just and lawful distribution of wealth, but to supply what is lacking to the needs of one another. Theirs it is to compose strife and discord not in painless oblivion simply, but to the general advantage. Theirs also to hinder such extravagance of anger as shall entail remorse hereafter. And as to envy they will make a clean sweep and clearance of it: the good things which a man possesses shall be also the property of his friends, and the goods which they possess are to be looked upon as his. Where then is the improbability that the beautiful and noble should be sharers in the honours197 of the state not only without injury, but even to their mutual advantage?

They indeed who covet and desire the honours and offices in a state for the sake of the liberty thereby given them to embezzle the public moneys, to deal violently by their fellow-creatures, and to batten in luxury themselves, may well be regarded as unjust and villainous persons incapable of harmony with one another. But if a man desire to obtain these selfsame honours in order that, being himself secure against wrong-doing, he may be able to assist his friends in what is right, and, raised to a high position,198 may essay to confer some blessing on the land of his fathers, what is there to hinder him from working in harmony with some other of a like spirit? Will he, with the “beautiful and noble” at his side, be less able to aid his friends? or will his power to benfit the community be shortened because the flower of that community are fellow-workers in that work? Why, even in the contests of the games it is obvious that if it were possible for the stoutest combatants to combine against the weakest, the chosen band would come off victors in every bout, and would carry off all the prizes. This indeed is against the rules of the actual arena; but in the field of politics, where the beautiful and good hold empery, and there is nought to hinder any from combining with whomsoever a man may choose to benefit the state, it will be a clear gain, will it not, for any one engaged in state affairs to make the best men his friends, whereby he will find partners and co-operators in his aims instead of rivals and antagonists? And this at least is obvious: in case of foreign war a man will need allies, but all the more if in the ranks opposed to him should stand the flower of the enemy.199 Moreover, those who are willing to fight your battles must be kindly dealt with, that goodwill may quicken to enthusiasm; and one good man200 is better worth your benefiting that a dozen knaves, since a little kindness goes a long way with the good, but with the base the more you give them the more they ask for.

So keep a good heart, Critobulus; only try to become good yourself, and when you have attained, set to your hand to capture the beautiful and good. Perhaps I may be able to give you some help in this quest, being myself an adept in Love’s lore.201 No matter who it is for whom my heart is aflame; in an instant my whole soul is eager to leap forth. With vehemence I speed to the mark. I, who love, demand to be loved again; this desire in me must be met by counter desire in him; this thirst for his society by thirst reciprocal for mine. And these will be your needs also, I foresee, whenever you are seized with longing to contract a friendship. Do not hide from me, therefore, whom you would choose as a friend, since, owing to the pains I take to please him who pleases me, I am not altogether unversed, I fancy, in the art of catching men.202

Critobulus replied: Why, these are the very lessons of instruction, Socrates, for which I have been long athirst, and the more particularly if this same love’s lore will enable me to capture those who are good of soul and those who are beautiful of person.

Soc. Nay, now I warn you, Critobulus, it is not within the province of my science to make the beautiful endure him who would lay hands upon them. And that is why men fled from Scylla, I am persuaded, because she laid hands upon them; but the Sirens were different — they laid hands on nobody, but sat afar off and chanted their spells in the ears of all; and therefore, it is said, all men endured to listen, and were charmed.

Cri. I promise I will not lay violent hands on any; therefore, if you have any good device for winning friends, instruct your pupil.

Soc. And if there is to be no laying on of the hands, there must be no application either of the lips; is it agreed?

Cri. No, nor application of the lips to any one — not beautiful.

Soc. See now! you cannot open your mouth without some luckless utterence. Beauty suffers no such liberty, however eagerly the ugly may invite it, making believe some quality of soul must rank them with the beautiful.

Cri. Be of good cheer then; let the compact stand thus: “Kisses for the beautiful, and for the good a rain of kisses.” So now teach us the art of catching friends.

Soc. Well then, when you wish to win some one’s affection, you will allow me to lodge information against you to the effect that you admire him and desire to be his friend?

Cri. Lodge the indictment, with all my heart. I never heard of any one who hated his admirers.

Soc. And if I add to the indictment the further charge that through your admiration you are kindly disposed towards him, you will not feel I am taking away your character?

Cri. Why, no; for myself I know a kindly feeling springs up in my heart towards any one whom I conceive to be kindly disposed to me.

Soc. All this I shall feel empowered to say about you to those whose friendship you seek, and I can promise further help; only there is a comprehensive “if” to be considered: if you will further authorise me to say that you are devoted to your friends; that nothing gives you so much joy as a good friend; that you pride yourself no less on the fine deeds of those you love than on your own; and on their good things equally with your own; that you never weary of plotting and planning to procure them a rich harvest of the same; and lastly, that you have discovered a man’s virtue is to excel his friends in kindness and his foes in hostility. If I am authorised thus to report of you, I think you will find me a serviceable fellow-hunter in the quest of friends, which is the conquest of the good.

Cri. Why this appeal to me? — as if you had not free permission to say exactly what you like about me.

Soc. No; that I deny, on the authority of Aspasia.203 I have it from her own lips. “Good matchmakers,” she said tome, “were clever hands at cementing alliances between people, provided the good qualities they vouched for were truthfully reported; but when it came to their telling lies, for her part she could not compliment them.204 Their poor deluded dupes ended by hating each other and the go-betweens as well.” Now I myself am so fully persuaded of the truth of this that I feel it is not in my power to say aught in your praise which I cannot say with truth.

Cri. Really, Socrates, you are a wonderfully good friend to me — in so far as I have any merit which will entitle me to win a friend, you will lend me a helping hand, it seems; otherwise you would rather not forge any petty fiction for my benefit.

Soc. But tell me, how shall I assist you best, think you? By praising you falsely or by persuading you to try to be a good man? Or if it is not plain to you thus, look at the matter by the light of some examples. I wish to introduce you to a shipowner, or to make him your friend: I begin by singing your praises to him falsely thus, “You will find him a good pilot”; he catches at the phrase, and entrusts his ship to you, who have no notion of guiding a vessel. What can you expect but to make shipwreck of the craft and yourself together? or suppose by similar false assertions I can persuade the state at large to entrust her destinies to you —“a man with a fine genius for command,” I say, “a practised lawyer,” “a politician born,” and so forth. The odds are, the state and you may come to grief through you. Or to take an instance from everyday life. By my falsehoods I persuade some private person to entrust his affairs to you as “a really careful and business-like person with a head for economy.” When put to the test would not your administration prove ruinous, and the figure you cut ridiculous? No, my dear friend, there is but one road, the shortest, safest, best, and it is simply this: In whatsoever you desire to be deemed good, endeavour to be good. For of all the virtues namable among men, consider, and you will find there is not one but may be increased by learning and practice. For my part then, Critobulus, these are the principles on which we ought to go a-hunting; but if you take a different view, I am all attention, please instruct me.

Then Critobulus: Nay, Socrates, I should be ashamed to gainsay what you have said; if I did, it would neither be a noble statement nor a true.205

178 Or, “Again, as to establishing a test of character, since a friend worth having must be of a particular type, I cannot but think that the following remarks would prove instructive.”

179 Or, “the money-lender? He has a passion for big money-bags.”

180 Or, “hard in all his dealings.”

181 “The partisan.”

182 Reading eunous, or if euorkos, transl. “a man of his word.”

183 Or, “easy to deal with.”

184 Reading kaproi, al. ekhthroi, “an enemy.”

185 Or, “Hate rather than friendship is the outcome of these methods.”

186 “Od.” xii. 184.

187 See above, I. ii. 40; “Symp.” viii. 39.

188 See below, III. vi. 2; IV. ii. 2.

189 See Herod. vii. 143, “the wooden wall”; Thuc. i. 93, “‘the walls’ of Athens.”

190 Or, “Why, yes, when I see some base orator fast friends with a great leader of the people; or, again, some fellow incapable of generalship a comrade to the greatest captains of his age.”

191 Add, “Can service ally in friendship with disservice? Must there not be a reciprocity of service to make friendship lasting?”

192 kalous kagathous.

193 i.e. a cunning intertwining of the threads of warp and woof.

194 Cf. Shelley, “The devil of disunion in their souls.”

195 The diction is poetical.

196 Or, as we say, “the elite of human kind.”

197 “And the offices.”

198 “As archon,” or “raised to rule.”

199 Lit. “the beautiful and good.”

200 Or, “the best, though few, are better worth your benefiting than the many base.”

201 “An authority in matters of love.” Cf. Plat. “Symp.” 177 D; Xen. “Symp.” viii. 2.

202 See below, III. xi. 7; cf. Plat. “Soph.” 222; N. T. Matt. iv. 19, alieis anthropon.

203 Aspasia, daughter of Axiochus, of Miletus. See “Econ.” iii. 14; Plat. “Menex.” 235 E; Aesch. Socrat. ap. Cic. “de Invent.” I. xxxi. 51. See Grote, “H. G.” vi. 132 foll.; Cobet, “Pros. Xen.”

204 Reading ouk ethelein epainein, or if ouk ophelein epainousas with Kuhner transl. “Good matchmakers, she told me, have to consult truth when reporting favourably of any one: then indeed they are terribly clever at bringing people together: whereas false flatterers do no good; their dupes,” etc.

205 kala . . . alethe.


He had two ways of dealing with the difficulties of his friends: where ignorance was the cause, he tried to meet the trouble by a dose of common sense; or where want and poverty were to blame, by lessoning them that they should assist one another according to their ability; and here I may mention certain incidents which occurred within my own knowledge. How, for instance, he chanced upon Aristarchus wearing the look of one who suffered from a fit of the “sullens,” and thus accosted him.

Soc. You seem to have some trouble on your mind, Aristarchus; if so, you should share it with your friends. Perhaps together we might lighten the weight of it a little.

Aristarchus answered: Yes, Socrates, I am in sore straits indeed. Ever since the party strife declared itself in the city,206 what with the rush of people to Piraeus, and the wholesale banishments, I have been fairly at the mercy of my poor deserted female relatives. Sisters, nieces, cousins, they have all come flocking to me for protection. I have fourteen free-born souls, I tell you, under my single roof, and how are we to live? We can get nothing out of the soil — that is in the hands of the enemy; nothing from my house property, for there is scarcely a living soul left in the city; my furniture? no one will buy it; money? there is none to be borrowed — you would have a better chance to find it by looking for it on the road than to borrow it from a banker. Yes, Socrates, to stand by and see one’s relatives die of hunger is hard indeed, and yet to feed so many at such a pinch impossible.

After he listened to the story, Socrates asked: How comes it that Ceramon,207 with so many mouths to feed, not only contrives to furnish himself and them with the necessaries of life, but to realise a handsome surplus, whilst you being in like plight208 are afraid you will one and all perish of starvation for want of the necessaries of life?

Ar. Why, bless your soul, do you not see he has only slaves and I have free-born souls to feed?

Soc. And which should you say were the better human beings, the free-born members of your household or Ceramon’s slaves?

Ar. The free souls under my roof without a doubt.

Soc. Is it not a shame, then, that he with his baser folk to back him should be in easy circumstances, while you and your far superior household are in difficulties?

Ar. To be sure it is, when he has only a set of handicraftsmen to feed, and I my liberally-educated household.

Soc. What is a handicraftsman? Does not the term apply to all who can make any sort of useful product or commodity?

Ar. Certainly.

Soc. Barley meal is a useful product, is it not?

Ar. Pre-eminently so.

Soc. And loaves of bread?

Ar. No less.

Soc. Well, and what do you say to cloaks for men and for women — tunics, mantles, vests?209

Ar. Yes, they are all highly useful commodities.

Soc. Then your household do not know how to make any of these?

Ar. On the contrary, I believe they can make them all.

Soc. Then you are not aware that by means of the manufacture of one of these alone — his barley meal store — Nausicydes210 not only maintains himself and his domestics, but many pigs and cattle besides, and realises such large profits that he frequently contributes to the state benevolences;211 while there is Cyrebus, again, who, out of a bread factory, more than maintains the whole of his establishment, and lives in the lap of luxury; and Demeas of Collytus gets a livelihood out of a cloak business, and Menon as a mantua-maker, and so, again, more than half the Megarians212 by the making of vests.

Ar. Bless me, yes! They have got a set of barbarian fellows, whom they purchase and keep, to manufacture by forced labour whatever takes their fancy. My kinswomen, I need not tell you, are free-born ladies.

Soc. Then, on the ground that they are free-born and your kinswomen, you think that they ought to do nothing but eat and sleep? Or is it your opinion that people who live in this way — I speak of free-born people in general — lead happier lives, and are more to be congratulated, than those who give their time and attention to such useful arts of life as they are skilled in? Is this what you see in the world, that for the purpose of learning what it is well to know, and of recollecting the lessons taught, or with a view to health and strength of body, or for the sake of acquiring and preserving all that gives life its charm, idleness and inattention are found to be helpful, whilst work and study are simply a dead loss? Pray, when those relatives of yours were taught what you tell me they know, did they learn it as barren information which they would never turn to practical account, or, on the contrary, as something with which they were to be seriously concerned some day, and from which they were to reap advantage? Do human beings in general attain to well-tempered manhood by a course of idling, or by carefully attending to what will be of use? Which will help a man the more to grow in justice and uprightness, to be up and doing, or to sit with folded hands revolving the ways and means of existence? As things now stand, if I am not mistaken, there is no love lost between you. You cannot help feeling that they are costly to you, and they must see that you find them a burthen? This is a perilous state of affairs, in which hatred and bitterness have every prospect of increasing, whilst the pre-existing bond of affection213 is likely to be snapped.

But now, if only you allow them free scope for their energies, when you come to see how useful they can be, you will grow quite fond of them, and they, when they perceive that they can please you, will cling to their benefactor warmly. Thus, with the memory of former kindnesses made sweeter, you will increase the grace which flows from kindnesses tenfold; you will in consequence be knit in closer bonds of love and domesticity. If, indeed, they were called upon to do any shameful work, let them choose death rather than that; but now they know, it would seem, the very arts and accomplishments which are regarded as the loveliest and the most suitable for women; and the things which we know, any of us, are just those which we can best perform, that is to say, with ease and expedition; it is a joy to do them, and the result is beautiful.214 Do not hesitate, then, to initiate your friends in what will bring advantage to them and you alike; probably they will gladly respond to your summons.

Well, upon my word (Aristarchus answered), I like so well what you say, Socrates, that though hitherto I have not been disposed to borrow, knowing that when I had spent what I got I should not be in a condition to repay, I think I can now bring myself to do so in order to raise a fund for these works.

Thereupon a capital was provided; wools were purchased; the good man’s relatives set to work, and even whilst they breakfasted they worked, and on and on till work was ended and they supped. Smiles took the place of frowns; they no longer looked askance with suspicion, but full into each other’s eyes with happiness. They loved their kinsman for his kindness to them. He became attached to them as helpmates; and the end of it all was, he came to Socrates and told him with delight how matters fared; “and now,” he added, “they tax me with being the only drone in the house, who sit and eat the bread of idleness.”

To which Socrates: Why do not you tell them the fable of the dog?215 Once on a time, so goes the story, when beasts could speak, the sheep said to her master, “What a marvel is this, master, that to us, your own sheep, who provide you with fleeces and lambs and cheese, you give nothing, save only what we may nibble off earth’s bosom; but with this dog of yours, who provides you with nothing of the sort, you share the very meat out of your mouth.” When the dog heard these words, he answered promptly, “Ay, in good sooth, for is it not I who keep you safe and sound, you sheep, so that you are not stolen by man nor harried by wolves; since, if I did not keep watch over you, you would not be able so much as to graze afield, fearing to be destroyed.” And so, says the tale, the sheep had to admit that the dog was rightly preferred to themselves in honour. And so do you tell your flock yonder that like the dog in the fable you are their guardian and overseer, and it is thanks to you that they are protected from evil and evildoers, so that they work their work and live their lives in blissful security.

206 i.e. circa 404-403 B.C. See “Hell.” II. iv.

207 An employer of labour, apparently, on a grand scale.

208 Lit. “with your large family to feed.” L. Dindorf would like to read su de oligous, “you with your small family.”

209 For these articles of dress see Becker’s “Charicles,” Exc. i. to Sc. xi. “Dress.”

210 Nausicydes. Cobet, “Pros. Xen.” cf. Aristoph. “Eccles.” 426.

211 Lit. “state liturgies,” or “to the burden of the public services.” For these see Gow, “Companion,” xviii. “Athenian Finance.”

212 Cf. Arist. “Acharnians,” 519, esukophantei Megareon ta khlaniskia. See Dr. Merry’s note ad loc.

213 Or, “the original stock of kindliness will be used up.”

214 Or, “with ease, rapidity, pleasure and effect.”

215 See Joseph Jacobs, “The Fables of Aesop,” vol. i. p. 26 foll., for “a complete list of the Fables given in Greek literature up to the fall of Greek independence.” Cf. Hesiod, “Works and Days,” 202 foll.; Archilochus, 89 (60), Bergk; Herod. i. 141; Aesch. “Myrmid.” fr. 123; Aristot. “Rhet.” II. xx.


At another time chancing upon an old friend whom he had not seen for a long while, he greeted him thus.

Soc. What quarter of the world do you hail from, Eutherus?

The other answered: From abroad, just before the close of the war; but at present from the city itself.216 You see, since we have been denuded of our possessions across the frontier,217 and my father left me nothing in Attica, I must needs bide at home, and provide myself with the necessaries of life by means of bodily toil, which seems preferable to begging from another, especially as I have no security on which to raise a loan.

Soc. And how long do you expect your body to be equal to providing the necessaries of life for hire?

Euth. Goodness knows, Socrates — not for long.

Soc. And when you find yourself an old man, expenses will not diminish, and yet no one will care to pay you for the labour of your hands.

Euth. That is true.

Soc. Would it not be better then to apply yourself at once to such work as will stand you in good stead when you are old — that is, address yourself to some large proprietor who needs an assistant in managing his estate?218 By superintending his works, helping to get in his crops, and guarding his property in general, you will be a benefit to the estate and be benefited in return.

I could not endure the yoke of slavery, Socrates! (he exclaimed).

Soc. And yet the heads of departments in a state are not regarded as adopting the badge of slavery because they manage the public property, but as having attained a higher degree of freedom rather.

Euth. In a word, Socrates, the idea of being held to account to another is not at all to my taste.

Soc. And yet, Eutherus, it would be hard to find a work which did not involve some liability to account; in fact it is difficult to do anything without some mistake or other, and no less difficult, if you should succeed in doing it immaculately, to escape all unfriendly criticism. I wonder now whether you find it easy to get through your present occupations entirely without reproach. No? Let me tell you what you should do. You should avoid censorious persons and attach yourself to the considerate and kind-hearted, and in all your affairs accept with a good grace what you can and decline what you feel you cannot do. Whatever it be, do it heart and soul, and make it your finest work.219 There lies the method at once to silence fault-finders and to minister help to your own difficulties. Life will flow smoothly, risks will be diminished, provision against old age secured.

216 Lit. “from here.” The conversation perhaps takes place in Piraeus 404 B.C.

217 Or, “colonial possession.” Cf. “Symp.” iv. 31.

218 Cf. “Cyrop.” VIII. iii. 48.

219 Or, “study to make it your finest work, the expression of a real enthusiasm.”


At another time, as I am aware, he had heard a remark made by Crito220 that life at Athens was no easy matter for a man who wished to mind his own affairs.

As, for instance, at this moment (Crito proceeded) there are a set of fellows threatening me with lawsuits, not because they have any misdemeanour to allege against me, but simply under the conviction that I will sooner pay a sum of money than be troubled further.

To which Socrates replied: Tell me, Crito, you keep dogs, do you not, to ward off wolves from your flocks?

Cr. Certainly; it pays to do so.

Soc. Then why do you not keep a watchman willing and competent to ward off this pack of people who seek to injure you?

I should not at all mind (he answered), if I were not afraid he might turn again and rend his keeper.

What! (rejoined Socrates), do you not see that to gratify a man like yourself is far pleasanter as a matter of self-interest than to quarrel with you? You may be sure there are plenty of people here who will take the greatest pride in making you their friend.

Accordingly, they sought out Archedemus,221 a practical man with a clever tongue in his head222 but poor; the fact being, he was not the sort to make gain by hook or by crook, but a lover of honesty and of too good a nature himself to make his living as a pettifogger.223 Crito would then take the opportunity of times of harvesting and put aside small presents for Achedemus of corn and oil, or wine, or wool, or any other of the farm produce forming the staple commodities of life, or he would invite him to a sacrificial feast, and otherwise pay him marked attention. Archedemus, feeling that he had in Crito’s house a harbour of refuge, could not make too much of his patron, and ere long he had hunted up a long list of iniquities which could be lodged against Crito’s pettifogging persecutors themselves, and not only their numerous crimes but their numerous enemies; and presently he prosecuted one of them in a public suit, where sentence would be given against him “what to suffer or what to pay.”224 The accused, conscious as he was of many rascally deeds, did all he could to be quit of Archedemus, but Archedemus was not to be got rid of. He held on until he had made the informer not only loose his hold of Crito but pay himself a sum of money; and now that Archedemus had achieved this and other similar victories, it is easy to guess what followed.225 It was just as when some shepherd has got a very good dog, all the other shepherds wish to lodge their flocks in his neighbourhood that they too may reap the benefit of him. So a number of Crito’s friends came begging him to allow Archedemus to be their guardian also, and Archedemus was overjoyed to do something to gratify Crito, and so it came about that not only Crito abode in peace, but his friends likewise. If any of those people with whom Archedemus was not on the best of terms were disposed to throw it in his teeth that he accepted his patron’s benefits and paid in flatteries, he had a ready retort: “Answer me this question — which is the more scandalous, to accept kindnesses from honest folk and to repay them, with the result that I make such people my friends but quarrel with knaves, or to make enemies of honourable gentlemen226 by attempts to do them wrong, with the off-chance indeed of winning the friendship of some scamps in return for my co-operation, but the certainty of losing in the tone of my acquaintances?”227

The net result of the whole proceedings was that Archedemus was now Crito’s right hand,228 and by the rest of Crito’s friends he was held in honour.

220 Crito. See above, I. ii. 48; Cobet, “P. X.”; cf. Plat. “Rep.” viii. 549 C.

221 Archedemus, possibly the demagogue, “Hell.” I. vii. 2. So Cobet, “P. X.,” but see Grote, “H. G.” viii. 245.

222 Lit. “very capable of speech and action”— the writer’s favourite formula for the well-trained Athenian who can speak fluently and reason clearly, and act energetically and opportunely.

223 Reading kai euphuesteros on [or e os] . . . apo sukophanton [or sukophantion], after Cobet, “P. X.” s.v. Archedemus. The MSS. give kai ephe raston einai —“nothing is easier,” he said, “than recovering from sycophants.”

224 For this formula cf. “Econ.” vi. 24. Cf. Plat. “Statesm.” 299 A.

225 ede tote. Cf. Plat. “Laws,” vi. 778 C.

226 Lit. the kaloi kagathoi, which like khrestous and ponerous has a political as well as an ethical meaning.

227 Lit. “must associate with these (the ponerois) instead of those (the kalois te kagathois).

228 He was No. 1 — eis.


Again I may cite, as known to myself,229 the following discussion; the arguments were addressed to Diodorus, one of his companions. The master said:

Tell me, Diodorus, if one of your slaves runs away, are you at pains to recover him?

More than that (Diodorus answered), I summon others to my aid and I have a reward cried for his recovery.

Soc. Well, if one of your domestics is sick, do you tend him and call in the doctors to save his life?

Diod. Decidedly I do.

Soc. And if an intimate acquaintance who is far more precious to you than any of your household slaves is about to perish of want, you would think it incumbent on you to take pains to save his life? Well! now you know without my telling you that Hermogenes230 is not made of wood or stone. If you helped him he would be ashamed not to pay you in kind. And yet — the opportunity of possessing a willing, kindly, and trusty assistant well fitted to do your bidding, and not merely that, but capable of originating useful ideas himself, with a certain forecast of mind and judgment — I say such a man is worth dozens of slaves. Good economists tell us that when a precious article may be got at a low price we ought to buy. And nowadays when times are so bad it is possible to get good friends exceedingly cheap.

Diodorus answered: You are quite right, Socrates; bid Hermogenes come to me.

Soc. Bid Hermogenes come to you! — not I indeed! since for aught I can understand you are no better entitled to summon him that to go to him yourself, nor is the advantage more on his side than your own.

Thus Diodorus went off in a trice to seek Hermogenes, and at no great outlay won to himself a friend — a friend whose one concern it now was to discover how, by word or deed, he might help and gladden Diodorus.

229 Or, “for which I can personally vouch.”

230 Hermogenes, presumably the son of Hipponicus. See I. ii. 48.

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