I have often wondered by what arguments those who indicted1 Socrates could have persuaded the Athenians that his life was justly forfeit to the state. The indictment was to this effect: “Socrates is guilty of crime in refusing to recognise the gods acknowledged by the state, and importing strange divinities of his own; he is further guilty of corrupting the young.”
In the first place, what evidence did they produce that Socrates refused to recognise the gods acknowledged by the state? Was it that he did not sacrifice? or that he dispensed with divination? On the contrary, he was often to be seen engaged in sacrifice, at home or at the common altars of the state. Nor was his dependence on divination less manifest. Indeed that saying of his, “A divinity2 gives me a sign,” was on everybody’s lips. So much so that, if I am not mistaken, it lay at the root of the imputation that he imported novel divinities; though there was no greater novelty in his case than in that of other believers in oracular help, who commonly rely on omens of all sorts: the flight or cry of birds, the utterances of man, chance meetings,3 or a victim’s entrails. Even according to the popular conception, it is not the mere fowl, it is not the chance individual one meets, who knows what things are profitable for a man, but it is the gods who vouchsafe by such instruments to signify the same. This was also the tenet of Socrates. Only, whereas men ordinarily speak of being turned aside, or urged onwards by birds, or other creatures encountered on the path, Socrates suited his language to his conviction. “The divinity,” said he, “gives me a sign.” Further, he would constantly advise his associates to do this, or beware of doing that, upon the authority of this same divine voice; and, as a matter of fact, those who listened to his warnings prospered, whilst he who turned a deaf ear to them repented afterwards.4 Yet, it will be readily conceded, he would hardly desire to present himself to his everyday companions in the character of either knave or fool. Whereas he would have appeared to be both, supposing5 the God-given revelations had but revealed his own proneness to deception. It is plain he would not have ventured on forecast at all, but for his belief that the words he spoke would in fact be verified. Then on whom, or what, was the assurance rooted, if not upon God? And if he had faith in the gods, how could he fail to recognise them?
But his mode of dealing with his intimates has another aspect. As regards the ordinary necessities of life,6 his advice was, “Act as you believe7 these things may best be done.” But in the case of those darker problems, the issues of which are incalculable, he directed his friends to consult the oracle, whether the business should be undertaken or not. “No one,” he would say, “who wishes to manage a house or city with success: no one aspiring to guide the helm of state aright, can afford to dipense with aid from above. Doubtless, skill in carpentering, building, smithying, farming, of the art of governing men, together with the theory of these processes, and the sciences of arithmetic, economy, strategy, are affairs of study, and within the grasp of human intelligence. Yet there is a side even of these, and that not the least important, which the gods reserve to themselves, the bearing of which is hidden from mortal vision. Thus, let a man sow a field or plant a farm never so well, yet he cannot foretell who will gather in the fruits: another may build him a house of fairest proportion, yet he knows not who will inhabit it. Neither can a general foresee whether it will profit him to conduct a campaign, nor a politician be certain whether his leadership will turn to evil or good. Nor can the man who weds a fair wife, looking forward to joy, know whether through her he shall not reap sorrow. Neither can he who has built up a powerful connection in the state know whether he shall not by means of it be cast out of his city. To suppose that all these matters lay within the scope of human judgment, to the exclusion of the preternatural, was preternatural folly. Nor was it less extravagant to go and consult the will of Heaven on any questions which it is given to us to decide by dint of learning. As though a man should inquire, “Am I to choose an expert driver as my coachman, or one who has never handled the reins?” “Shall I appoint a mariner to be skipper of my vessel, or a landsman?” And so with respect to all we may know by numbering, weighing, and measuring. To seek advice from Heaven on such points was a sort of profanity. “Our duty is plain,” he would observe; “where we are permitted to work through our natural faculties, there let us by all means apply them. But in things which are hidden, let us seek to gain knowledge from above, by divination; for the gods,” he added, “grant signs to those to whom they will be gracious.”
Again, Socrates ever lived in the public eye; at early morning he was to be seen betaking himself to one of the promenades, or wrestling-grounds; at noon he would appear with the gathering crowds in the market-place; and as day declined, wherever the largest throng might be encountered, there was he to be found, talking for the most part, while any one who chose might stop and listen. Yet no one ever heard him say, or saw him do anything impious or irreverent. Indeed, in contrast to others he set his face against all discussion of such high matters as the nature of the Universe; how the “kosmos,” as the savants8 phrase it, came into being;9 or by what forces the celestial phenomena arise. To trouble one’s brain about such matters was, he argued, to play the fool. He would ask first: Did these investigators feel their knowledge of things human so complete that they betook themselves to these lofty speculations? Or did they maintain that they were playing their proper parts in thus neglecting the affairs of man to speculate on the concerns of God? He was astonished they did not see how far these problems lay beyond mortal ken; since even those who pride themselves most on their discussion of these points differ from each other, as madmen do. For just as some madmen, he said, have no apprehension of what is truly terrible, others fear where no fear is; some are ready to say and do anything in public without the slightest symptom of shame;10 others think they ought not so much as to set foot among their fellow-men; some honour neither temple, nor altar, nor aught else sacred to the name of God; others bow down to stocks and stones and worship the very beasts:— so is it with those thinkers whose minds are cumbered with cares11 concerning the Universal Nature. One sect12 has discovered that Being is one and indivisible. Another13 that it is infinite in number. If one14 proclaims that all things are in a continual flux, another15 replies that nothing can possibly be moved at any time. The theory of the universe as a process of birth and death is met by the counter theory, that nothing ever could be born or ever will die.
But the questioning of Socrates on the merits of these speculators sometimes took another form. The student of human learning expects, he said, to make something of his studies for the benefit of himself or others, as he likes. Do these explorers into the divine operations hope that when they have discovered by what forces the various phenomena occur, they will create winds and waters at will and fruitful seasons? Will they manipulate these and the like to suit their needs? or has no such notion perhaps ever entered their heads, and will they be content simply to know how such things come into existence? But if this was his mode of describing those who meddle with such matters as these, he himself never wearied of discussing human topics. What is piety? what is impiety? What is the beautiful? what the ugly? What the noble? what the base? What are meant by just and unjust? what by sobriety and madness? what by courage and cowardice? What is a state? what is a statesman? what is a ruler over men? what is a ruling character? and other like problems, the knowledge of which, as he put it, conferred a patent of nobility on the possessor,16 whereas those who lacked the knowledge might deservedly be stigmatised as slaves.
Now, in so far as the opinions of Socrates were unknown to the world at large, it is not surprising that the court should draw false conclusions respecting them; but that facts patent to all should have been ignored is indeed astonishing.
At one time Socrates was a member of the Council,17 he had taken the senatorial oath, and sworn “as a member of that house to act in conformity with the laws.” It was thus he chanced to be President of the Popular Assembly,18 when that body was seized with a desire to put the nine19 generals, Thrasyllus, Erasinides, and the rest, to death by a single inclusive vote. Whereupon, in spite of the bitter resentment of the people, and the menaces of several influential citizens, he refused to put the question, esteeming it of greater importance faithfully to abide by the oath which he had taken, than to gratify the people wrongfully, or to screen himself from the menaces of the mighty. The fact being, that with regard to the care bestowed by the gods upon men, his belief differed widely from that of the multitude. Whereas most people seem to imagine that the gods know in part, and are ignorant in part, Socrates believed firmly that the gods know all things — both the things that are said and the things that are done, and the things that are counselled in the silent chambers of the heart. Moreover, they are present everywhere, and bestow signs upon man concerning all the things of man.
I can, therefore, but repeat my former words. It is a marvel to me how the Athenians came to be persuaded that Socrates fell short of sober-mindedness as touching the gods. A man who never ventured one impious word or deed against the gods we worship, but whose whole language concerning them, and his every act, closely coincided, word for word, and deed for deed, with all we deem distinctive of devoutest piety.
1 oi grapsamenoi = Meletus (below, IV. iv. 4, viii. 4; “Apol.” 11, 19), Anytus (“Apol.” 29), and Lycon. See Plat. “Apol.” II. v. 18; Diog. Laert. II. v. (Socr.); M. Schanz, “Plat. Apol. mit deutschen Kemmentar, Einleitung,” S. 5 foll.
2 Or, “A divine something.” See “Encyc. Brit.” “Socrates.” Dr. H. Jackason; “The Daemon of Socrates,” F. W. H. Myers; K. Joel, “Der echte und der Xenophontische Sokrates,” i. p. 70 foll.; cf. Aristot. “M. M.” 1182 a 10.
3 See Aesch. “P. V.” 487, enodious te sombolous, “and pathway tokens,” L. Campbell; Arist. “Birds,” 721, sombolon ornin: “Frogs,” 196, to sometukhon exion; “Eccl.” 792; Hor. “Od.” iii. 27, 1-7.
4 See “Anab.” III. i. 4; “Symp.” iv. 48.
5 Or, “if his vaunted manifestations from heaven had but manifested the falsity of his judgment.”
6 Or, “in the sphere of the determined,” ta anagkaia = certa, quorum eventus est necessarius; “things positive, the law-ordained department of life,” as we might say. See Grote, “H. G.” i. ch. xvi. 500 and passim.
7 Reading os nomizoien, or if os enomizen, translate “As to things with certain results, he advised them to do them in the way in which he believed they would be done best”; i.e. he did not say, “follow your conscience,” but, “this course seems best to me under the circumstances.”
8 Lit. “the sophists.” See H. Sidgwick, “J. of Philol.” iv. 1872; v. 1874.
9 Reading ephu. Cf. Lucian, “Icaromenip.” xlvi. 4, in imitation of this passage apparently; or if ekhei, translate “is arranged.” See Grote, “H. G.” viii. 573.
10 See “Anab.” V. iv. 30.
11 See Arist. “Clouds,” 101, merimnophrontistai kaloi te kagathoi.
12 e.g. Xenophanes and Parmenides, see Grote, “Plato,” I. i. 16 foll.
13 e.g. Leucippus and Democritus, ib. 63 foll.
14 e.g. Heraclitus, ib. 27 foll.
15 e.g. Zeno, ib. ii. 96.
16 Or, “was distinctive of the ‘beautiful and good.’” For the phrase see below, ii. 2 et passim.
17 Or “Senate.” Lit. “the Boule.”
18 Lit. “Epistates of the Ecclesia.” See Grote, “H. G.” viii. 271; Plat. “Apol.” 32 B.
19 ennea would seem to be a slip of the pen for okto, eight. See “Hell.” I. v. 16; vi. 16; vi. 29; vii. 1 foll.
No less surprising to my mind is the belief that Socrates corrupted the young. This man, who, beyond what has been already stated, kept his appetites and passions under strict control, who was pre-eminently capable of enduring winter’s cold and summer’s heat and every kind of toil, who was so schooled to curtail his needs that with the scantiest of means he never lacked sufficiency — is it credible that such a man could have made others irreverent or lawless, or licentious, or effeminate in face of toil? Was he not rather the saving of many through the passion for virtue which he roused in them, and the hope he infused that through careful management of themselves they might grow to be truly beautiful and good — not indeed that he ever undertook to be a teacher of virtue, but being evidently virtuous himself he made those who associated with him hope that by imitating they might at last resemble him.
But let it not be inferred that he was negligent of his own body or approved of those who neglected theirs. If excess of eating, counteracted by excess of toil, was a dietary of which he disapproved,20 to gratify the natural claim of appetite in conjunction with moderate exercise was a system he favoured, as tending to a healthy condition of the body without trammelling the cultivation of the spirit. On the other hand, there was nothing dandified or pretentious about him; he indulged in no foppery of shawl or shoes, or other effeminacy of living.
Least of all did he tend to make his companions greedy of money. He would not, while restraining passion generally, make capital out of the one passion which attached others to himself; and by this abstinence, he believed, he was best consulting his own freedom; in so much that he stigmatised those who condescended to take wages for their society as vendors of their own persons, because they were compelled to discuss for the benefits of their paymasters. What surprised him was that any one possessing virtue should deign to ask money as its price instead of simply finding his rward in the acquisition of an honest friend, as if the new-fledged soul of honour could forget her debt of gratitude to her greatest benefactor.
For himself, without making any such profession, he was content to believe that those who accepted his views would play their parts as good and true friends to himself and one another their lives long. Once more then: how should a man of this character corrupt the young? unless the careful cultivation of virtue be corruption.
But, says the accuser,21 by all that’s sacred! did not Socrates cause his associates to despise the established laws when he dwelt on the folly of appointing state officers by ballot?22 a principle which, he said, no one would care to apply in selecting a pilot or a flute-player or in any similar case, where a mistake would be far less disastrous than in matters political. Words like these, according to the accuser, tended to incite the young to contemn the established constitution, rendering them violent and headstrong. But for myself I think that those who cultivate wisdom and believe themselves able to instruct their fellow-citizens as to their interests are least likely to become partisans of violence. They are too well aware that to violence attach enmities and dangers, whereas results as good may be obtained by persuasion safely and amicably. For the victim of violence hates with vindictiveness as one from whom something precious has been stolen, while the willing subject of persuasion is ready to kiss the hand which has done him a service. Hence compulsion is not the method of him who makes wisdom his study, but of him who wields power untempered by reflection. Once more: the man who ventures on violence needs the support of many to fight his battles, while he whose strength lies in persuasiveness triumphs single-handed, for he is conscious of a cunning to compel consent unaided. And what has such a one to do with the spilling of blood? since how ridiculous it were to do men to death rather than turn to account the trusty service of the living.
But, the accuser answers, the two men23 who wrought the greatest evils to the state at any time — to wit, Critias and Alcibiades — were both companions of Socrates — Critias the oligarch, and Alcibiades the democrat. Where would you find a more arrant thief, savage, and murderer24 than the one? where such a portent of insolence, incontinence, and high-handedness as the other? For my part, in so far as these two wrought evil to the state, I have no desire to appear as the apologist of either. I confine myself to explaining what this intimacy of theirs with Socrates really was.
Never were two more ambitious citizens seen at Athens. Ambition was in their blood. If they were to have their will, all power was to be in their hands; their fame was to eclipse all other. Of Socrates they knew — first that he lived an absolutely independent life on the scantiest means; next that he was self-disciplined to the last degree in respect of pleasures; lastly that he was so formidable in debate that there was no antagonist he could not twist round his little finger. Such being their views, and such the character of the pair, which is the more probable: that they sought the society of Socrates because they felt the fascination of his life, and were attracted by the bearing of the man? or because they thought, if only we are leagued with him we shall become adepts in statecraft and unrivalled in the arts of speech and action? For my part I believe that if the choice from Heaven had been given them to live such a life as they saw Socrates living to its close, or to die, they would both have chosen death.
Their acts are a conclusive witness to their characters. They no sooner felt themselves to be the masters of those they came in contact with than they sprang aside from Socrates and plunged into that whirl of politics but for which they might never have sought his society.
It may be objected: before giving his companions lessons in politics Socrates had better have taught them sobriety.25 Without disputing the principle, I would point out that a teacher cannot fail to discover to his pupils his method of carrying out his own precepts, and this along with argumentative encouragement. Now I know that Socrates disclosed himself to his companions as a beautiful and noble being, who would reason and debate with them concerning virtue and other human interests in the noblest manner. And of these two I know that as long as they were companions of Socrates even they were temperate, not assuredly from fear of being fined or beaten by Socrates, but because they were persuaded for the nonce of the excellence of such conduct.
Perhaps some self-styled philosophers26 may here answer: “Nay, the man truly just can never become unjust, the temperate man can never become intemperate, the man who has learnt any subject of knowledge can never be as though he had learnt it not.” That, however, is not my own conclusion. It is with the workings of the soul as with those of the body; want of exercise of the organ leads to inability of function, here bodily, there spiritual, so that we can neither do the things that we should nor abstain from the things we should not. And that is why fathers keep their sons, however temperate they may be, out of the reach of wicked men, considering that if the society of the good is a training in virtue so also is the society of the bad its dissolution.
To this the poet27 is a witness, who says:
“From the noble thou shalt be instructed in nobleness; but, and if thou minglest with the base thou wilt destroy what wisdom thou hast now”;
And he28 who says:
“But the good man has his hour of baseness as well as his hour of virtue”—
to whose testimony I would add my own. For I see that it is impossible to remember a long poem without practice and repetition; so is forgetfulness of the words of instruction engendered in the heart that has ceased to value them. With the words of warning fades the recollection of the very condition of mind in which the soul yearned after holiness; and once forgetting this, what wonder that the man should let slip also the memory of virtue itself! Again I see that a man who falls into habits of drunkenness or plunges headlong into licentious love, loses his old power of practising the right and abstaining from the wrong. Many a man who has found frugality easy whilst passion was cold, no sooner falls in love than he loses the faculty at once, and in his prodigal expenditure of riches he will no longer withhold his hand from gains which in former days were too base to invite his touch. Where then is the difficulty of supposing that a man may be temperate today, and tomorrow the reverse; or that he who once has had it in his power to act virtuously may not quite lose that power?29 To myself, at all events, it seems that all beautiful and noble things are the result of constant practice and training; and pre-eminently the virtue of temperance, seeing that in one and the same bodily frame pleasures are planted and spring up side by side with the soul and keep whispering in her ear, “Have done with self-restraint, make haste to gratify us and the body.”30
But to return to Critias and Alcibiades, I repeat that as long as they lived with Socrates they were able by his support to dominate their ignoble appetites;31 but being separated from him, Critias had to fly to Thessaly,32 where he consorted with fellows better versed in lawlessness than justice. And Alcibiades fared no better. His personal beauty on the one hand incited bevies of fine ladies33 to hunt him down as fair spoil, while on the other hand his influence in the state and among the allies exposed him to the corruption of many an adept in the arts of flattery; honoured by the democracy and stepping easily to the front rank he behaved like an athlete who in the games of the Palaestra is so assured of victory that he neglects his training; thus he presently forgot the duty which he owed himself.
Such were the misadventures of these two. Is the sequel extraordinary? Inflated with the pride of ancestry,34 exalted by their wealth, puffed up by power, sapped to the soul’s core by a host of human tempters, separate moreover for many a long day from Socrates — what wonder that they reached the full stature of arrogancy! And for the offences of these two Socrates is to be held responsible! The accuser will have it so. But for the fact that in early days, when they were both young and of an age when dereliction from good feeling and self-restraint might have been expected, this same Socrates kept them modest and well-behaved, not one word of praise is uttered by the accuser for all this. That is not the measure of justice elsewhere meted. Would a master of the harp or flute, would a teacher of any sort who has turned out proficient pupils, be held to account because one of them goes away to another teacher and turns out to be a failure? Or what father, if he have a son who in the society of a certain friend remains an honest lad, but falling into the company of some other becomes a good-for-nothing, will that father straightway accuse the earlier instructor? Will not he rather, in proportion as the boy deteriorates in the company of the latter, bestow more heartfelt praise upon the former? What father, himself sharing the society of his own children, is held to blame for their transgressions, if only his own goodness be established? Here would have been a fair test to apply to Socrates: Was he guilty of any base conduct himself? If so let him be set down as a knave, but if, on the contrary, he never faltered in sobriety from beginning to end, how in the name of justice is he to be held to account for a baseness which was not in him?
I go further: if, short of being guilty of any wrong himself, he saw the evil doings of others with approval, reason were he should be held blameworthy. Listen then: Socrates was well aware that Critias was attached to Euthydemus,35 aware too that he was endeavouring to deal by him after the manner of those wantons whose love is carnal of the body. From this endeavour he tried to deter him, pointing out how illiberal a thing it was, how ill befitting a man of honour to appear as a beggar before him whom he loved, in whose eyes he would fain be precious, ever petitioning for something base to give and base to get.
But when this reasoning fell on deaf ears and Critias refused to be turned aside, Socrates, as the story goes, took occasion of the presence of a whole company and of Euthydemus to remark that Critias appeared to be suffering from a swinish affection, or else why this desire to rub himself against Euthydemus like a herd of piglings scraping against stones.
The hatred of Critias to Socrates doubtless dates from this incident. He treasured it up against him, and afterwards, when he was one of the Thirty and associated with Charicles as their official lawgiver,36 he framed the law against teaching the art of words37 merely from a desire to vilify Socrates. He was at a loss to know how else to lay hold of him except by levelling against him the vulgar charge38 against philosophers, by which he hoped to prejudice him with the public. It was a charge quite unfounded as regards Socrates, if I may judge from anything I ever heard fall from his lips myself or have learnt about him from others. But the animus of Critias was clear. At the time when the Thirty were putting citizens, highly respectable citizens, to death wholesale, and when they were egging on one man after another to the commission of crime, Socrates let fall an observation: “It would be sufficiently extraordinary if the keeper of a herd of cattle39 who was continually thinning and impoverishing his cattle did not admit himself to be a sorry sort of herdsman, but that a ruler of the state who was continually thinning and impoverishing the citizens should neither be ashamed nor admit himself to be a sorry sort of ruler was more extraordinary still.” The remark being reported to the government, Socrates was summoned by Critias and Charicles, who proceeded to point out the law and forbade him to converse with the young. “Was it open to him,” Socrates inquired of the speaker, “in case he failed to understand their commands in any point, to ask for an explanation?”
“Certainly,” the two assented.
Then Socrates: I am prepared to obey the laws, but to avoid transgression of the law through ignorance I need instruction: is it on the supposition that the art of words tends to correctness of statement or to incorrectness that you bid us abstain from it? for if the former, it is clear we must abstain from speeking correctly, but if the latter, our endeavour should be to amend our speech.
To which Charicles, in a fit of temper, retorted: In consideration of your ignorance,40 Socrates, we will frame the prohibition in language better suited to your intelligence: we forbid you to hold any conversation whatsoever with the young.
Then Socrates: To avoid all ambiguity then, or the possibility of my doing anything else than what you are pleased to command, may I ask you to define up to what age a human being is to be considered young?
For just so long a time (Charicles answered) as he is debarred from sitting as a member of the Council,41 as not having attained to the maturity of wisdom; accordingly you will not hold converse with any one under the age of thirty.
Soc. In making a purchase even, I am not to ask, what is the price of this? if the vendor is under the age of thirty?
Cha. Tut, things of that sort: but you know, Socrates, that you have a way of asking questions, when all the while you know how the matter stands. Let us have no questions of that sort.
Soc. Nor answers either, I suppose, if the inquiry concerns what I know, as, for instance, where does Charicles live? or where is Critias to be found?
Oh yes, of course, things of that kind (replied Charicles), while Critias added: But at the same time you had better have done with your shoemakers, carpenters, and coppersmiths.42 These must be pretty well trodden out at heel by this time, considering the circulation you have given them.
Soc. And am I to hold away from their attendant topics also — the just, the holy, and the like?
Most assuredly (answered Charicles), and from cowherds in particular; or else see that you do not lessen the number of the herd yourself.
Thus the secret was out. The remark of Socrates about the cattle had come to their ears, and they could not forgive the author of it.
Perhaps enough has been said to explain the kind of intimacy which had subsisted between Critias and Socrates, and their relation to one another. But I will venture to maintain that where the teacher is not pleasing to the pupil there is no education. Now it cannot be said of Critias and Alcibiades that they associated with Socrates because they found him pleasing to them. And this is true of the whole period. From the first their eyes were fixed on the headship of the state as their final goal. During the time of their imtimacy with Socrates there were no disputants whom they were more eager to encounter than professed politicians.
Thus the story is told of Alcibiades — how before the age of twenty he engaged his own guardian, Pericles, at that time prime minister of the state, in a discussion concerning laws.
Alc. Please, Pericles, can you teach me what a law is?
Per. To be sure I can.
Alc. I should be so much obliged if you would do so. One so often hears the epithet “law-abiding” applied in a complimentary sense; yet, it strikes me, one hardly deserves the compliment, if one does not know what a law is.
Per. Fortunately there is a ready answer to your difficulty. You wish to know what a law is? Well, those are laws which the majority, being met together in conclave, approve and enact as to what it is right to do, and what it is right to abstain from doing.
Alc. Enact on the hypothesis that it is right to do what is good? or to do what is bad?
Per. What is good, to be sure, young sir, not what is bad.
Alc. Supposing it is not the majority, but, as in the case of an oligarchy, the minority, who meet and enact the rules of conduct, what are these?
Per. Whatever the ruling power of the state after deliberation enacts as our duty to do, goes by the name of laws.
Alc. Then if a tyrant, holding the chief power in the state, enacts rules of conduct for the citizens, are these enactments law?
Per. Yes, anything which a tyrant as head of the state enacts, also goes by the name of law.
Alc. But, Pericles, violence and lawlessness — how do we define them? Is it not when a stronger man forces a weaker to do what seems right to him — not by persuasion but by compulsion?
Per. I should say so.
Alc. It would seem to follow that if a tyrant, without persuading the citizens, drives them by enactment to do certain things — that is lawlessness?
Per. You are right; and I retract the statement that measures passed by a tyrant without persuasion of the citizens are law.
Alc. And what of measures passed by a minority, not by persuasion of the majority, but in the exercise of its power only? Are we, or are we not, to apply the term violence to these?
Per. I think that anything which any one forces another to do without persuasion, whether by enactment or not, is violence rather than law.
Alc. It would seem that everything which the majority, in the exercise of its power over the possessors of wealth, and without persuading them, chooses to enact, is of the nature of violence rather than of law?
To be sure (answered Pericles), adding: At your age we were clever hands at such quibbles ourselves. It was just such subtleties which we used to practise our wits upon; as you do now, if I mistake not.
To which Alcibiades replied: Ah, Pericles, I do wish we could have met in those days when you were at your cleverest in such matters.
Well, then, as soon as the desired superiority over the politicians of the day seemed to be attained, Critias and Alcibiades turned their backs on Socrates. They found his society unattractive, not to speak of the annoyance of being cross-questioned on their own shortcomings. Forthwith they devoted themselves to those affairs of state but for which they would never have come near him at all.
No; if one would seek to see true companions of Socrates, one must look to Crito,43 and Chaerephon, and Chaerecrates, to Hermogenes, to Simmias and Cebes, to Phaedondes and others, who clung to him not to excel in the rhetoric of the Assembly or the law-courts, but with the nobler ambition of attaining to such beauty and goodliness of soul as would enable them to discharge the various duties of life to house and family, to relatives and friends, to fellow-citizens, and to the state at large. Of these true followers not one in youth or old age was ever guilty, or thought guilty, of committing any evil deed.
“But for all that,” the accuser insists, “Socrates taught sons to pour contumely upon their fathers44 by persuading his young friends that he could make them wiser than their sires, or by pointing out that the law allowed a son to sue his father for aberration of mind, and to imprison him, which legal ordinance he put in evidence to prove that it might be well for the wiser to imprison the more ignorant.”
Now what Socrates held was, that if a man may with justice incarcerate another for no better cause than a form of folly or ignorance, this same person could not justly complain if he in his turn were kept in bonds by his superiors in knowledge; and to come to the bottom of such questions, to discover the difference between madness and ignorance was a problem which he was perpetually working at. His opinion came to this: If a madman may, as a matter of expediency to himself and his friends, be kept in prison, surely, as a matter of justice, the man who knows not what he ought to know should be content to sit at the feet of those who know, and be taught.
But it was the rest of their kith and kin, not fathers only (according to the accuser), whom Socrates dishonoured in the eyes of his circle of followers, when he said that “the sick man or the litigant does not derive assistance from his relatives,45 but from his doctor in the one case, and his legal adviser in the other.” “Listen further to his language about friends,” says the accuser: “‘What is the good of their being kindly disposed, unless they can be of some practical use to you? Mere goodness of disposition is nothing; those only are worthy of honour who combine with the knowledge of what is right the faculty of expounding it;’46 and so by bringing the young to look upon himself as a superlatively wise person gifted with an extraordinary capacity for making others wise also, he so worked on the dispositions of those who consorted with him that in their esteem the rest of the world counted for nothing by comparison with Socrates.”
Now I admit the language about fathers and the rest of a man’s relations. I can go further, and add some other sayings of his, that “when the soul (which is alone the indwelling centre of intelligence) is gone out of a man, be he our nearest and dearest friend, we carry the body forth and bury it out of sight.” “Even in life,” he used to say, “each of us is ready to part with any portion of his best possession — to wit, his own body — if it be useless and unprofitable. He will remove it himself, or suffer another to do so in his stead. Thus men cut off their own nails, hair, or corns; they allow surgeons to cut and cauterise them, not without pains and aches, and are so grateful to the doctor for his services that they further give him a fee. Or again, a man ejects the spittle from his mouth as far as possible.47 Why? Because it is of no use while it stays within the system, but is detrimental rather.”
Now by these instances his object was not to inculcate the duty of burying one’s father alive or of cutting oneself to bits, but to show that lack of intelligence means lack of worth;48 and so he called upon his hearers to be as sensible and useful as they could be, so that, be it father or brother or any one else whose esteem he would deserve, a man should not hug himself in careless self-interest, trusting to mere relationship, but strive to be useful to those whose esteem he coveted.
But (pursues the accuser) by carefully culling the most immoral passages of the famous poets, and using them as evidences, he taught his associates to be evildoers and tyrranical: the line of Hesiod49 for instance —
No work is a disgrace; slackness of work is the disgrace —
“interpreted,” says the accuser, “by Socrates as if the poet enjoined us to abstain from no work wicked or ignoble; do everything for the sake of gain.”
Now while Socrates would have entirely admitted the propositions that “it is a blessing and a benefit to a man to be a worker,” and that “a lazy do-nothing is a pestilent evil,” that “work is good and idleness a curse,” the question arises, whom did he mean by workers? In his vocabulary only those were good workmen50 who were engaged on good work; dicers and gamblers and others engaged on any other base and ruinous business he stigmatised as the “idle drones”; and from this point of view the quotation from Hesiod is unimpeachable —
No work is a disgrace; only idlesse is disgrace.
But there was a passage from Homer51 for ever on his lips, as the accuser tells us — the passage which says concerning Odysseus,
What prince, or man of name,
He found flight-giv’n, he would restrain with words of gentlest blame:
“Good sir, it fits you not to fly, or fare as one afraid,
You should not only stay yourself, but see the people stayed.”
Thus he the best sort us’d; the worst, whose spirits brake out in noise,52
He cudgell’d with his sceptre, chid, and said, “Stay, wretch, be still,
And hear thy betters; thou art base, and both in power and skill
Poor and unworthy, without name in counsel or in war.”
We must not all be kings.
The accuser informs us that Socrates interpreted these lines as though the poet approved the giving of blows to commoners and poor folk. Now no such remark was ever made by Socrates; which indeed would have been tantamount to maintaining that he ought to be beaten himself. What he did say was, that those who were useful neither in word nor deed, who were incapable of rendering assistance in time of need to the army or the state or the people itself, be they never so wealthy, ought to be restrained, and especially if to incapacity they added effrontery.
As to Socrates, he was the very opposite of all this — he was plainly a lover of the people, and indeed of all mankind. Though he had many ardent admirers among citizens and strangers alike, he never demanded any fee for his society from any one,53 but bestowed abundantly upon all alike of the riches of his sould — good things, indeed, of which fragments accepted gratis at his hands were taken and sold at high prices to the rest of the community by some,54 who were not, as he was, lovers of the people, since with those who had not money to give in return they refused to discourse. But of Socrates be it said that in the eyes of the whole world he reflected more honour on the state and a richer lustre than ever Lichas,55 whose fame is proverbial, shed on Lacedaemon. Lichas feasted and entertained the foreign residents in Lacedaemon at the Gymnopaediae most handsomely. Socrates gave a lifetime to the outpouring of his substance in the shape of the greatest benefits bestowed on all who cared to receive them. In other words, he made those who lived in his society better men, and sent them on their way rejoicing.
To no other conclusion, therefore, can I come but that, being so good a man, Socrates was worthier to have received honour from the state than death. And this I take to be the strictly legal view of the case, for what does the law require?56 “If a man be proved to be a thief, a filcher of clothes, a cut-purse, a housebreaker, a man-stealer, a robber of temples, the penalty is death.” Even so; and of all men Socrates stood most aloof from such crimes.
To the state he was never the cause of any evil — neither disaster in war, nor faction, nor treason, nor any other mischief whatsoever. And if his public life was free from all offence, so was his private. He never hurt a single soul either by deprivation of good or infliction of evil, nor did he ever lie under the imputation of any of those misdoings. WHere then is his liability to the indictment to be found? Who, so far from disbelieving in the gods, as set forth in the indictment, was conspicuous beyond all men for service to heaven; so far from corrupting the young — a charge alleged with insistence by the prosecutor — was notorious for the zeal with which he strove not only to stay his associates from evil desires, but to foster in them a passionate desire for that loveliest and queenliest of virtues without which states and families crumble to decay.57 Such being his conduct, was he not worthy of high honour from the state of Athens?
20 See [Plat.] “Erast.” 132 C.
21 o kategoros = Polycrates possibly. See M. Schantz, op. cit., “Einleitun,” S. 6: “Die Anklagerede des Polykrates”; Introduction, p. xxxii. foll.
22 i.e. staking the election of a magistrate on the colour of a bean. See Aristot. “Ath. Pol.” viii. 2, and Dr. Sandys ad loc.
23 See “Hell.” I. and II. passim.
24 Reading kleptistatos te kai biaiotatos kai phonikotatos, or if pleonektistatos te kai biaiotatis, translate “such a manner of greed and violence as the one, of insolence, etc., as the other?” See Grote, “H. G.” viii. 337.
25 sophrosune = “sound-mindedness,” “temperence.” See below, IV. iii. 1.
26 In reference to some such tenet as that of Antisthenes ap. Diog. Laert. VI. ix. 30, areskei d’ autois kai ten areten didakten einai, katha phesin ‘Antisthenes en to ‘Rraklei kai anapobleton uparkhein. Cf. Plat. “Protag.” 340 D, 344 D.
27 Theognis, 35, 36. See “Symp.” ii. 4; Plat. “Men.” 95 D.
28 The author is unknown. See Plat. “Protag.” l.c.
29 Cf. “Cyrop.” V. i. 9 foll.; VI. i. 41.
30 See my remarks, “Hellenica Essays,” p. 371 foll.
31 Cf. [Plat.] “Theag.” 130 A.
32 See “Hell.” II. iii. 36.
33 Cf. Plut. “Ages.,” “Alcib.”
34 Or, “became overweening in arrogance.” Cf. “Henry VIII. II. iv. 110”: “But your heart is crammed with arrogancy, spleen, and pride.”
35 See below, IV. ii. 1 (if the same person).
36 Lit. “Nomothetes.” See “Hell.” II. iii. 2; Dem. 706. For Charicles see Lys. “c. Eratosth.” S. 56; Aristot. “Pol.” v. 6. 6.
37 See Diog. Laert. II. v. (“Socr.”)
38 i.e. to ton etto logon kreitto poiein, “of making the worse appear the better cause.” Cf. Arist. “Clouds.”
39 See Dio Chrys. “Or.” 43.
40 See Aristot. “de Soph. El.” 183 b7.
41 The Boule or Senate. See W. L. Newman, “Pol. Aristot.” i. 326.
42 Cf. Plat. “Gorg.” 491 A; “Symp.” 221 E; Dio Chrys. “Or.” 55, 560 D, 564 A.
43 For these true followers, familiar to us in the pages of Plato, (“Crito,” “Apol.,” “Phaedo,” etc) see Cobet, “Pros. Xen.”
44 See “Apol.” 20; Arist. “Clouds,” 1407, where Pheidippides “drags his father Strepsiades through the mire.”
45 See Grote, “H. G.” v. 535.
46 Cf. Thuc. ii. 60. Pericles says, “Yet I with whom you are so angry venture to say of myself, that I am as capable as any one of devising and explaining a sound policy.”— Jowett.
47 See Aristot. “Eth. Eud.” vii. 1.
48 i.e. “witless and worthless are synonymous.”
49 “Works and Days,” 309 ‘Ergon d’ ouden oneidos. Cf. Plat. “Charm.” 163 C.
50 See below, III. ix. 9.
51 “Il.” ii. 188 foll., 199 foll. (so Chapman).
52 Lit. “But whatever man of the people he saw and found him shouting.”— W. Leaf.
53 See “Symp.” iv. 43; Plat. “Hipp. maj.” 300 D; “Apol.” 19 E.
54 See Diog. Laert. II. viii. 1.
55 See “Hell.” III. ii. 21; Thuc. v. 50; Plut. “Cim.” 284 C. For the Gymnopaediae, see Paus. III. xi. 9; Athen. xiv. p. 631.
56 See “Symp.” iv. 36; Plat. “Rep.” 575 B; “Gorg.” 508 E.
57 Or, “the noblest and proudest virtue by means of which states and families are prosperously directed.”
It may serve to illustrate the assertion that he benefited his associates partly by the display of his own virtue and partly by verbal discourse and argument, if I set down my various recollections58 on these heads. And first with regard to religion and the concerns of heaven. In conduct and language his behaviour conformed to the rule laid down by the Pythia59 in reply to the question, “How shall we act?” as touching a sacrifice or the worship of ancestors, or any similar point. Her answer is: “Act according to the law and custom of your state, and you will act piously.” After this pattern Socrates behaved himself, and so he exhorted others to behave, holding them to be but busybodies and vain fellows who acted on any different principle.
His formula or prayer was simple: “Give me that which is best for me,” for, said he, the gods know best what good things are — to pray for gold or silver or despotic power were no better than to make some particular throw at dice or stake in battle or any such thing the subject of prayer, of which the future consequences are manifestly uncertain.60
If with scant means he offered but small sacrifices he believed that he was in no wise inferior to those who make frequent and large sacrifices from an ampler store. It were ill surely for the very gods themselves, could they take delight in large sacrifices rather than in small, else oftentimes must the offerings of bad men be found acceptable rather than of good; nor from the point of view of men themselves would life be worth living if the offerings of a villain rather than of a righteous man found favour in the sight of Heaven. His belief was that the joy of the gods is greater in proportion to the holiness of the giver, and he was ever an admirer of that line of Hesiod which says,
According to thine ability do sacrifice to the immortal gods.61
“Yes,” he would say, “in our dealings with friends and strangers alike, and in reference to the demands of life in general, there is no better motto for a man than that: ‘let a man do according to his ability.’”
Or to take another point. If it appeared to him that a sign from heaven had been given him, nothing would have induced him to go against heavenly warning: he would as soon have been persuaded to accept the guidance of a blind man ignorant of the path to lead him on a journey in place of one who knew the road and could see; and so he denounced the folly of others who do things contrary to the warnings of God in order to avoid some disrepute among men. For himself he despised all human aids by comparison with counsel from above.
The habit and style of living to which he subjected his soul and body was one which under ordinary circumstances62 would enable any one adopting it to look existence cheerily in the face and to pass his days serenely: it would certainly entail no difficulties as regards expense. So frugal was it that a man must work little indeed who could not earn the quantum which contented Socrates. Of food he took just enough to make eating a pleasure — the appetite he brought to it was sauce sufficient; while as to drinks, seeing that he only drank when thirsty, any draught refreshed.63 If he accepted an invitation to dinner, he had no difficulty in avoiding the common snare of over-indulgence, and his advice to people who could not equally control their appetite was to avoid taking what would allure them to eat if not hungry or to drink if not thirsty.64 Such things are ruinous to the constitution, he said, bad for stomachs, brains, and soul alike; or as he used to put it, with a touch of sarcasm,65 “It must have been by feasting men on so many dainty dishes that Circe produced her pigs; only Odysseus through his continency and the ‘promptings66 of Hermes’ abstained from touching them immoderately, and by the same token did not turn into a swine.” So much for this topic, which he touched thus lightly and yet seriously.
But as to the concerns of Aphrodite, his advice was to hold strongly aloof from the fascination of fair forms: once lay finger on these and it is not easy to keep a sound head and a sober mind. To take a particular case. It was a mere kiss which, as he had heard, Critobulus67 had some time given to a fair youth, the son of Alcibiades.68 Accordingly Critobulus being present, Socrates propounded the question.
Soc. Tell me, Xenophon, have you not always believed Critobulus to be a man of sound sense, not wild and self-willed? Should you not have said that he was remarkable for his prudence rather than thoughtless or foolhardy?
Xen. Certainly that is what I should have said of him.
Soc. Then you are now to regard him as quite the reverse — a hot-blooded, reckless libertine: this is the sort of man to throw somersaults into knives,69 or to leap into the jaws of fire.
Xen. And what have you seen him doing, that you give him so bad a character?
Soc. Doing? Why, has not the fellow dared to steal a kiss from the son of Alcibiades, most fair of youths and in the golden prime?
Xen. Nay, then, if that is the foolhardy adventure, it is a danger which I could well encounter myself.
Soc. Pour soul! and what do you expect your fate to be after that kiss? Let me tell you. On the instant you will lose your freedom, the indenture of your bondage will be signed; it will be yours on compulsion to spend large sums on hurtful pleasures; you will have scarcely a moment’s leisure left for any noble study; you will be driven to concern yourself most zealously with things which no man, not even a madman, would choose to make an object of concern.
Xen. O Heracles! how fell a power to reside in a kiss!
Soc. Does it surprise you? Do you not know that the tarantula, which is no bigger than a threepenny bit,70 has only to touch the mouth and it will afflict its victim with pains and drive him out of his senses.
Xen. Yes, but then the creature injects something with its bite.
Soc. Ah, fool! and do you imagine that these lovely creatures infuse nothing with their kiss, simply because you do not see the poison? Do you not know that this wild beast which men call beauty in its bloom is all the more terrible than the tarantula in that the insect must first touch its victim, but this at a mere glance of thebeholder, without even contact, will inject something into him — yards away — which will make him man. And may be that is why the Loves are called “archers,” because these beauties wound so far off.71 But my advice to you, Xenophon, is, whenever you catch sight of one of these fair forms, to run helter-skelter for bare life without a glance behind; and to you, Critobulus, I would say, “Go abroad for a year: so long time will it take to heal you of this wound.”
Such (he said), in the affairs of Aphrodite, as in meats and drinks, should be the circumspection of all whose footing is insecure. At least they should confine themselves to such diet as the soul would dispense with, save for some necessity of the body; and which even so ought to set up no disturbance.72 But for himself, it was clear, he was prepared at all points and invulnerable. He found less difficulty in abstaining from beauty’s fairest and fullest bloom than many others from weeds and garbage. To sum up:73 with regard to eating and drinking and these other temptations of the sense, the equipment of his soul made him independent; he could boast honestly that in his moderate fashion74 his pleasures were no less than theirs who take such trouble to procure them, and his pains far fewer.
58 Hence the title of the work, ‘Apomenmoneumata, “Recollections, Memoirs, Memorabilia.” See Diog. Laert. “Xen.” II. vi. 48.
59 The Pythia at Delphi.
60 See (Plat.) “Alcib. II.” 142 foll.; Valerius Max. vii. 2; “Spectator,” No. 207.
61 Hesiod, “Works and Days,” 336. See “Anab.” III. ii. 9.
62 ei me ti daimonion eie, “save under some divinely-ordained calamity.” Cf. “Cyrop.” I. vi. 18; “Symp.” viii. 43.
63 See “Ages.” ix; Cic. “Tusc.” v. 34, 97; “de Fin.” ii. 28, 90.
64 Cf. Plut. “Mor.” 128 D; Clement, “Paedag.” 2. 173, 33; “Strom.” 2, 492, 24; Aelian, “N. A.” 8, 9.
65 “Half in gibe and half in jest,” in ref. to “Od.” x. 233 foll.: “So she let them in . . .”
66 upothemosune, “inspiration.” Cf. “Il.” xv. 412; “Od.” xvi. 233.
67 For Critobulus (the son of Crito) see “Econ.” i. 1 foll.; “Symp.” i. 3 foll.
68 See Isocr. “Or.” xvi. Cobet conj. ton tou ‘Axiokhou uion, i.e. Clinias.
69 Cf. “Symp.” ii. 10, iv. 16. See Schneider ad loc.
70 Lit. “a half-obol piece.” For the phalaggion see Aristot. “H. A.” ix. 39, 1.
71 L. Dindorf, etc. regard the sentence as a gloss. Cf. “Symp.” iv. 26 [isos de kai . . . entimoteron estin].
72 Cf. “Symp.” iv. 38.
73 L. Dindorf [brackets] this passage as spurious.
74 On the principle “enough is as good as a feast,” arkountos.
A belief is current, in accordance with views maintained concerning Socrates in speech and writing, and in either case conjecturally, that, however powerful he may have been in stimulating men to virtue as a theorist, he was incapable of acting as their guide himself.75 It would be well for those who adopt this view to weigh carefully not only what Socrates effected “by way of castigation” in cross-questioning whose who conceived themselves to be possessed of all knowledge, but also his everyday conversation with those who spent their time in close intercourse with himself. Having done this, let them decide whether he was incapable of making his companions better.
I will first state what I once heard fall from his lips in a discussion with Aristodemus,76 “the little,” as he was called, on the topic of divinity.77 Socrates had observed that Aristodemus neither sacrificed nor gave heed to divination, but on the contrary was disposed to ridicule those who did.
So tell me, Aristodemus (he begain), are there any human beings who have won your admiration for their wisdom?
Ar. There are.
Soc. Would you mention to us their names?
Ar. In the writings of epic poetry I have the greatest admiration for Homer. . . . And as a dithyrambic poet for Melanippides.78 I admire also Sophocles as a tragedian, Polycleitus as a sculptor, and Zeuxis as a painter.
Soc. Which would you consider the more worthy of admiration, a fashioner of senseless images devoid of motion or one who could fashion living creatures endowed with understanding and activity?
Ar. Decidedly the latter, provided his living creatures owed their birth to design and were not the offspring of some chance.
Soc. But now if you had two sorts of things, the one of which presents no clue as to what it is for, and the other is obviously for some useful purpose — which would you judge to be the result of chance, which of design?
Ar. Clearly that which is produced for some useful end is the work of design.
Soc. Does it not strike you then that he who made man from the beginning79 did for some useful end furnish him with his several senses — giving him eyes to behold the visible word, and ears to catch the intonations of sound? Or again, what good would there be in odours if nostrils had not been bestowed upon us? what perception of sweet things and pungent, and of all the pleasures of the palate, had not a tongue been fashioned in us as an interpreter of the same? And besides all this, do you not think this looks like a matter of foresight, this closing of the delicate orbs of sight with eyelids as with folding doors, which, when there is need to use them for any purpose, can be thrown wide open and firmly closed again in sleep? and, that even the winds of heaven may not visit them too roughly, this planting of the eyelashes as a protecting screen?80 this coping of the region above the eyes with cornice-work of eyebrow so that no drop of sweat fall from the head and injure them? again this readiness of the ear to catch all sounds and yet not to be surcharged? this capacity of the front teeth of all animals to cut and of the “grinders” to receive the food and reduce it to pulp? the position of the mouth again, close to the eyes and nostrils as a portal of ingress for all the creature’s supplies? and lastly, seeing that matter passing out81 of the body is unpleasant, this hindward direction of the passages, and their removal to a distance from the avenues of sense? I ask you, when you see all these things constructed with such show of foresight can you doubt whether they are products of chance or intelligence?
Soc. What shall we say of this passion implanted in man to beget offspring, this passion in the mother to rear her babe, and in the creature itself, once born, this deep desire of life and fear of death?
Ar. No doubt these do look like the contrivances of some one deliberately planning the existence of living creatures.
Soc. Well, and doubtless you feel to have a spark of wisdom yourself?
Ar. Put your questions, and I will answer.
Soc. And yet you imagine that elsewhere no spark of wisdom is to be found? And that, too, when you know that you have in your body a tiny fragment only of the mighty earth, a little drop of the great waters, and of the other elements, vast in their extent, you got, I presume, a particle of each towards the compacting of your bodily frame? Mind alone, it would seem, which is nowhere to be found,84 you had the lucky chance to snatch up and make off with, you cannot tell how. And these things around and about us, enormous in size, infinite in number, owe their orderly arrangement, as you suppose, to some vacuity of wit?
Ar. It may be, for my eyes fail to see the master agents of these, as one sees the fabricators of things produced on earth.
Soc. No more do you see your own soul, which is the master agent of your body; so that, as far as that goes, you may maintain, if you like, that you do nothing with intelligence,85 but everything by chance.
At this point Aristodemus: I assure you, Socrates, that I do not disdain the Divine power. On the contrary, my belief is that the Divinity is too grand to need any service which I could render.
Soc. But the grander that power is, which deigns to tend and wait upon you, the more you are called upon to honour it.
Ar. Be well assured, if I could believe the gods take thought for all men, I would not neglect them.
Soc. How can you suppose that they do not so take thought? Who, in the first place, gave to man alone of living creatures his erect posture, enabling him to see farther in front of him and to contemplate more freely the height above, and to be less subject to distress than other creatures [endowed like himself with eyes and ears and mouth].86 Consider next how they gave to the beast of the field87 feet as a means of progression only, but to man they gave in addition hands — those hands which have achieved so much to raise us in the scale of happiness above all animals. Did they not make the tongue also? which belongs indeed alike to man and beast, but in man they fashioned it so as to play on different parts of the mouth at different times, whereby we can produce articulate speech, and have a code of signals to express our every want to one another. Or consider the pleasures of the sexual appetite; limited in the rest of the animal kingdom to certain seasons, but in the case of man a series prolonged unbroken to old age. Nor did it content the Godhead merely to watch over the interests of man’s body. What is of far higher import, he implanted in man the noblest and most excellent type of soul. For what other creature, to begin with, has a soul to appreciate the existence of the gods who have arranged this grand and beauteous universe? What other tribe of animals save man can render service to the gods? How apt is the spirit of man to take precautions against hunger and thirst, cold and heat, to alleviate disease and foster strength! how suited to labour with a view to learning! how capable of garnering in the storehouse of his memory all that he has heard or seen or understood! Is it not most evident to you that by the side of other animals men live and move a race of gods — by nature excellent, in beauty of body and of soul supreme? For, mark you, had a creature of man’s wit been encased in the body of an ox,88 he would have been powerless to carry out his wishes, just as the possession of hands divorced from human wit is profitless. And then you come, you who have obtained these two most precious attributes, and give it as your opinion, that the gods take no thought or care for you. Why, what will you have them to do, that you may believe and be persuaded that you too are in their thoughts?
Ar. When they treat me as you tell us they treat you, and send me counsellors to warn me what I am to do and what abstain from doing,89 I will believe.
Soc. Send you counsellors! Come now, what when the people of Athens make inquiry by oracle, and the gods’ answer comes? Are you not an Athenian? Think you not that to you also the answer is given? What when they send portents to forewarn the states of Hellas? or to all mankind? Are you not a man? a Hellene? Are not these intended for you also? Can it be that you alone are excepted as a signal instance of Divine neglect? Again, do you suppose that the gods could have implanted in the heart of man the belief in their capacity to work him weal or woe had they not the power? Would not men have discovered the imposture in all this lapse of time? Do you not perceive that the wisest and most perdurable of human institutions — be they cities or tribes of men — are ever the most God-fearing; and in the individual man the riper his age and judgment, the deeper his religousness? Ay, my good sir (he broke forth), lay to heart and understand that even as your own mind within you can turn and dispose of your body as it lists, so ought we to think that the wisdom which abides within the universal frame does so dispose of all things as it finds agreeable to itself; for hardly may it be that your eye is able to range over many a league, but that the eye of God is powerless to embrace all things at a glance; or that to your soul it is given to dwell in thought on matters here or far away in Egypt or in Sicily, but that the wisdom and thought of God is not sufficient to include all things at one instant under His care. If only you would copy your own behaviour90 where human beings are concerned. It is by acts of service and of kindness that you discover which of your fellows are willing to requite you in kind. It is by taking another into your counsel that you arrive at the secret of his wisdom. If, on like principle, you will but make trial of the gods by acts of service, whether they will choose to give you counsel in matters obscure to mortal vision, you shall discover the nature and the greatness of Godhead to be such that they are able at once to see all things and to hear all things and to be present everywhere, nor does the least thing escape their watchful care.
To my mind the effect of words like these was to cause those about him to hold aloof from unholiness, baseness, and injustice, not only whilst they were seen of men, but even in the solitary place, since they must believe that no part of their conduct could escape the eye of Heaven.
75 Al. “If any one believes that Socrates, as represented in certain dialogues (e.g. of Plato, Antisthenes, etc.) of an imaginary character, was an adept (protrepsasthai) in the art of stimulating people to virtue negatively but scarcely the man to guide (proagein) his hearers on the true path himself.” Cf. (Plat.) “Clitophon,” 410 B; Cic. “de Or.” I. xlvii. 204; Plut. “Mor.” 798 B. See Grote, “Plato,” iii. 21; K. Joel, op. cit. p. 51 foll.; Cf. below, IV. iii. 2.
76 See Plat. “Symp.” 173 B: “He was a little fellow who never wore any shoes, Aristodemus, of the deme of Cydathenaeum.”— Jowett.
77 Or, “the divine element.”
78 Melanippides, 430 B.C. See Cobet, “Pros. Xen.” s.n.
79 Cf. Aristot. “de Part. Animal.” 1. For the “teleological” views see IV. iii. 2 foll.
80 “Like a sieve” or “colander.”
81 “That which goeth out of a man.”
83 Passage referred to by Epictetus ap. Stob. “Flor.” 121, 29.
84 Cf. Plat. “Phileb.” 30 B: “Soc. May our body be said to have a soul? Pro. Clearly. Soc. And whence comes that soul, my dear Protarchus, unless the body of the universe, which contains elements similar to our bodies but finer, has also a soul? Can there be any other source?”— Jowett. Cic. “de N. D.” ii. 6; iii. 11.
85 Or, “by your wit,” gnome.
86 See Kuhner for an attempt to cure the text.
87 erpetois, a “poetical” word. Cf. “Od.” iv. 418; Herod. i. 140.
88 See Aristot. “de Part. Animal.” iv. 10.
89 See IV. iii. 12.
90 Or, “reason as you are wont to do.”
I suppose it may be taken as admitted that self-control is a noble acquirement for a man.91 If so, let us turn and consider whether by language like the following he was likely to lead his listeners onwards92 to the attainment of this virtue. “Sirs,” he would say, “if a war came upon us and we wished to choose a man who would best help us to save ourselves and to subdue our enemy, I suppose we should scarcely select one whom we knew to be a slave to his belly, to wine, or lust, and prone to succumb to toil or sleep. Could we expect such an one to save us or to master our foes? Or if one of us were nearing the end of his days, and he wished to discover some one to whom he might entrust his sons for education, his maiden daughters for protection, and his property in general for preservation, would he deem a libertine worthy of such offices? Why, no one would dream of entrusting his flocks and herds, his storehouses and barns, or the superintendence of his works to the tender mercies of an intemperate slave. If a butler or an errand boy with such a character were offered to us we would not take him as a free gift. And if he would not accept an intemperate slave, what pains should the master himself take to avoid that imputation.93 For with the incontinent man it is not as with the self-seeker and the covetous. These may at any rate be held to enrich themselves in depriving others. But the intemperate man cannot claim in like fashion to be a blessing to himself if a curse to his neighbours; nay, the mischief which he may cause to others is nothing by comparison with that which redounds against himself, since it is the height of mischief to ruin — I do not say one’s own house and property — but one’s own body and one’s own soul. Or to take an example from social intercourse, no one cares for a guest who evidently takes more pleasure in the wine and the viands than in the friends beside him — who stints his comrades of the affection due to them to dote upon a mistress. Does it not come to this, that every honest man is bound to look upon self-restraint as the very corner-stone of virtue:94 which he should seek to lay down as the basis and foundation of his soul? Without self-restraint who can lay any good lesson to heart or practise it when learnt in any degree worth speaking of? Or, to put it conversely, what slave of pleasure will not suffer degeneracy of soul and body? By Hera,95 well may every free man pray to be saved from the service of such a slave; and well too may he who is in bondage to such pleasures supplicate Heaven to send him good masters, seeing that is the one hope of salvation left him.”
Well-tempered words: yet his self-restraint shone forth even more in his acts than in his language. Not only was he master over the pleasures which flow from the body, but of those also which are fed by riches, his belief being that he who receives money from this or that chance donor sets up over himself a master, and binds himself to an abominable slavery.
91 Lit. “a beautiful and brave possesion.”
93 Or, “how should the master himself beware lest he fall into that category.”
94 krepida. See Pind. “Pyth.” iv. 138; ib. vii. 3; ib. fr. 93.
95 See below, III. x. 9, xi. 5; IV. ii. 9, iv. 8; “Econ.” x. 1; “Cyrop.” I. iv. 12; Plat. “Phaedr.” 230 B. Cf. Shakesp. “by’r Lakin.”
In this context some discussions with Antiphon the sophist96 deserve record. Antiphon approaches Socrates in hope of drawing away his associates, and in their presence thus accosts him.
Antiphon. Why, Socrates, I always thought it was expected of students of philosophy to grow in happiness daily; but you seem to have reaped other fruits from your philosophy. At any rate, you exist, I do not say live, in a style such as no slave serving under a master would put up with. Your meat and your drink are of the cheapest sort, and as to clothes, you cling to one wretched cloak which serves you for summer and winter alike; and so you go the whole year round, without shoes to your feet or a shirt to your back. Then again, you are not for taking or making money, the mere seeking of which is a pleasure, even as the possession of it adds to the sweetness and independence of existence. I do not know whether you follow the common rule of teachers, who try to fashion their pupils in imitation of themselves,97 and propose to mould the characters of your companions; but if you do you ought to dub yourself professor of the art of wretchedness.98
Thus challenged, Socrates replied: One thing to me is certain, Antiphon; you have conceived so vivid an idea of my life of misery that for yourself you would choose death sooner than live as I do. Suppose now we turn and consider what it is you find so hard in my life. Is it that he who takes payment must as a matter of contract finish the work for which he is paid, whereas I, who do not take it, lie under no constraint to discourse except with whom I choose? Do you despise my dietary on the ground that the food which I eat is less wholesome and less stengthening than yours, or that the articles of my consumption are so scarce and so much costlier to procure than yours? Or have the fruits of your marketing a flavour denied to mine? Do you not know the sharper the appetite the less the need of sauces, the keener the thirst the less the desire for out-of-the-way drinks? And as to raiment, clothes, you know, are changed on account of cold or else of heat. People only wear boots and shoes in order not to gall their feet and be prevented walking. Now I ask you, have you ever noticed that I keep more within doors than others on account of the cold? Have you ever seen me battling with any one for shade on account of the heat? Do you not know that even a weakling by nature may, by dint of exercise and practice, come to outdo a giant who neglects his body? He will beat him in the particular point of training, and bear the strain more easily. But you apparently will not have it that I, who am for ever training myself to endure this, that, and the other thing which may befall the body, can brave all hardships more easily than yourself for instance, who perhaps are not so practised. And to escape slavery to the belly or to sleep or lechery, can you suggest more effective means than the possession of some powerful attraction, some counter-charm which shall gladden not only in the using, but by the hope enkindled of its lasting usefulness? And yet this you do know; joy is not to him who feels that he is doing well in nothing — it belongs to one who is persuaded that things are progressing with him, be it tillage or the working of a vessel,99 or any of the thousand and one things on which a man may chance to be employed. To him it is given to rejoice as he reflects, “I am doing well.” But is the pleasured derived from all these put together half as joyous as the consciousness of becoming better oneself, of acquiring better and better friends? That, for my part, is the belief I continue to cherish.
Again, if it be a question of helping one’s friends or country, which of the two will have the larger leisure to devote to these objects — he who leads the life which I lead today, or he who lives in the style which you deem so fortunate? Which of the two will adopt a soldier’s life more easily — the man who cannot get on without expensive living, or he to whom whatever comes to hand suffices? Which will be the readier to capitulate and cry “mercy” in a siege — the man of elaborate wants, or he who can get along happily with the readiest things to hand? You, Antiphon, would seem to suggest that happiness consists of luxury and extravagance; I hold a different creed. To have no wants at all is, to my mind, an attribute of Godhead;100 to have as few wants as possible the nearest approach to Godhead; and as that which is divine is mightiest, so that is next mightiest which comes closest to the divine.
Returning to the charge at another time, this same Antiphon engaged Socrates in conversation thus.
Ant. Socrates, for my part, I believe you to be a good and upright man; but for your wisdom I cannot say much. I fancy you would hardly dispute the verdict yourself, since, as I remark, you do not ask a money payment for your society; and yet if it were your cloak now, or your house, or any other of your possessions, you would set some value upon it, and never dream, I will not say of parting with it gratis, but of exchanging it for less than its worth. A plain proof, to my mind, that if you thought your society worth anything, you would ask for it not less than its equivalent in gold.101 Hence the conclusion to which I have come, as already stated: good and upright you may be, since you do not cheat people from pure selfishness; but wise you cannot be, since your knowledge is not worth a cent.
To this onslaught Socrates: Antiphon, it is a tenet which we cling to that beauty and wisdom have this in common, that there is a fair way and a foul way in which to dispose of them. The vendor of beauty purchases an evil name, but supposing the same person have discerned a soul of beauty in his lover and makes that man his friend, we regard his choice as sensible.102 So is it with wisdom; he who sells it for money to the first bidder we name a sophist,103 as though one should say a man who prostitutes his wisdom; but if the same man, discerning the noble nature of another, shall teach that other every good thing, and make him his friend, of such a one we say he does that which it is the duty of every good citizen of gentle soul to do. In accordance with this theory, I too, Antiphon, having my tastes, even as another finds pleasure in his horse and his hounds,104 and another in his fighting cocks, so I too take my pleasure in good friends; and if I have any good thing myself I teach it them, or I commend them to others by whom I think they will be helped forwards on the path of virtue. The treasures also of the wise of old, written and bequeathed in their books,105 I unfold and peruse in common with my friends. If our eye light upon any good thing we cull it eagerly, and regard it as great gain if we may but grow in friendship with one another.
As I listened to this talk I could not but reflect that he, the master, was a person to be envied, and that we, his hearers, were being led by him to beauty and nobility of soul.
Again on some occasion the same Antiphon asked Socrates how he expected to make politicians of others when, even if he had the knowledge, he did not engage in politics himself.
Socrates replied: I will put to you a question, Antiphon: Which were the more statesmanlike proceeding, to practise politics myself single-handed, or to devote myself to making as many others as possible fit to engage in that pursuit?
96 o teratoskopos, “jealous of Socrates,” according to Aristotle ap. Diog. Laert. II. v. 25. See Cobet, “Pros. Xen.”
97 Or, “try to turn out their pupils as copies of themselves.”
98 See Arist. “Clouds,” on o kakodaimon Sokrates kai Khairephon.
99 “The business of a shipowner or skipper.”
100 Cf. Aristot. “Eth. N.” x. viii. 1.
101 Or rather “money,” lit. “silver.”
102 Add “and a sign of modesty,” sophrona nomizomen.
103 sophistas. See Grote, “H. G.” viii. 482 foll.; “Hunting,” xi. foll.
104 Cf. Plat. “Lys.” 211 E.
105 Cf. “Symp.” iv. 27.
Let us here turn and consider whether by deterring his associates from quackery and false seeming he did not directly stimulate them to the pursuit of virtue.106 He used often to say there was no better road to renown than the one by which a man became good at that wherein he desired to be reputed good.107 The truth of the concept he enforced as follows: “Let us reflect on what a man would be driven to do who wanted to be thought a good flute player, without really being so. He would be forced to imitate the good flute player in the externals of his art, would he not? and first or all, seeing that these artists always have a splendid equipment,108 and travel about with a long train of attendants, he must have the same; in the next place, they can command the plaudits of a multitude, he therefore must pack a conclave of clackers. But one thing is clear: nothing must induce him to give a performance, or he will be exposed at once, and find himself a laughing-stock not only as a sorry sort of flute player, but as a wretched imposter. And now he has a host of expenses to meet; and not one advantage to be reaped; and worse than all his evil reputation. What is left him but to lead a life stale and unprofitable, the scorn and mockery of men? Let us try another case. Suppose a man wished to be thought a good general or a good pilot, though he were really nothing of the sort, let us picture to our minds how it will fare with him. Of two misfortunes one: either with a strong desire to be thought proficient in these matters, he will fail to get others to agree with him, which will be bad enough; or he will succeed, with worse result; since it stands to reason that anyone appointed to work a vessel or lead an army without the requisite knowledge will speedily ruin a number of people whom he least desires to hurt, and will make but a sorry exit from the stage himself.” Thus first by one instance and then another would he demonstrate the unprofitableness of trying to appear rich, or courageous, or strong, without really being the thing pretended. “You are sure sooner or later to have commands laid upon you beyond your power to execute, and failing just where you are credited with capacity, the world will give you no commiseration.” “I call that man a cheat, and a great cheat too,” he would say, “who gets money or goods out of some one by persuasion, and defrauds him; but of all imposters he surely is the biggest who can delude people into thinking that he is fit to lead the state, when all the while he is a worthless creature.”109
106 apotrepon proutrepen. See K. Joel, op. cit. p. 450 foll.
107 Cf. “Cyrop.” I. vi. 22.
108 Or, “furniture of the finest,” like Arion’s in Herod. i. 24. Schneid. cf. Demosth. 565. 6.
109 Here follows the sentence [emoi men oun edokei kai tou alazoneuesthai apotrepein tous sunontas toiade dialegomenos], which, for the sake of convenience, I have attached to the first sentence of Bk. II. ch. i. [edokei de moi . . . ponou.] I believe that the commentators are right in bracketing both one and the other as editorial interpolations.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:56