Memorabilia, by Xenophon



Aspirants to honour and distinction231 derived similar help from Socrates, who in each case stimulated in them a persevering assiduity towards their several aims, as the following narratives tend to show. He had heard on one occasion of the arrival in Athens of Dionysodorus,232 who professed to teach the whole duty of a general.233 Accordingly he remarked to one of those who were with him — a young man whose anxiety to obtain the office of Strategos234 was no secret to him:

Soc. It would be monstrous on the part of any one who sought to become a general235 to throw away the slightest opportunity of learning the duties of the office. Such a person, I should say, would deserve to be fined and punished by the state far more than the charlatan who without having learnt the art of a sculptor undertakes a contract to carve a statue. Considering that the whole fortunes of the state are entrusted to the general during a war, with all its incidental peril, it is only reasonable to anticipate that great blessings or great misfortunes will result in proportion to the success or bungling of that officer. I appeal to you, young sir, do you not agree that a candidate who, while taking pains to be elected neglects to learn the duties of the office, would richly deserve to be fined?

With arguments like these he persuaded the young man to go and take lessons. After he had gone through the course he came back, and Socrates proceeded playfully to banter him.

Soc. Behold our young friend, sirs, as Homer says of Agamemnon, of mein majestical,236 so he; does he not seem to move more majestically, like one who has studied to be a general? Of course, just as a man who has learned to play the harp is a harper, even if he never touch the instrument, or as one who has studied medicine is a physician, though he does not practise, so our friend here from this time forward is now and ever shall be a general, even though he does not receive a vote at the elections. But the dunce who has not the science is neither general nor doctor, no, not even if the whole world appointed him. But (he proceeded, turning to the youth), in case any of us should ever find ourselves captain or colonel237 under you, to give us some smattering of the science of war, what did the professor take as the starting-point of his instruction in generalship? Please inform us.

Then the young man: He began where he ended; he taught me tactics238 — tactics and nothing else.

Yet surely (replied Socrates) that is only an infinitisemal part of generalship. A general239 must be ready in furnishing the material of war: in providing the commissariat for his troops; quick in devices, he must be full of practical resource; nothing must escape his eye or tax his endurance; he must be shrewd, and ready of wit, a combination at once of clemency and fierceness, of simplicity and of insidious craft; he must play the part of watchman, of robber; now prodigal as a spendthrift, and again close-fisted as a miser, the bounty of his munificence must be equalled by the narrowness of his greed; impregnable in defence, a very dare-devil in attack — these and many other qualities must he possess who is to make a good general and minister of war; they must come to him by gift of nature or through science. No doubt it is a grand thing also to be a tactician, since there is all the difference in the world between an army properly handled in the field and the same in disorder; just as stones and bricks, woodwork and tiles, tumbled together in a heap are of no use at all, but arrange them in a certain order — at bottom and atop materials which will not crumble or rot, such as stones and earthen tiles, and in the middle between the two put bricks and woodwork, with an eye to architectural principle,240 and finally you get a valuable possession — to wit, a dwelling-place.

The simile is very apt, Socrates241 (replied the youth), for in battle, too, the rule is to draw up the best men in front and rear, with those of inferior quality between, where they may be led on by the former and pushed on by the hinder.

Soc. Very good, no doubt, if the professor taught you to distinguish good and bad; but if not, where is the use of your learning? It would scarcely help you, would it, to be told to arrange coins in piles, the best coins at top and bottom and the worst in the middle, unless you were first taught to distinguish real from counterfeit.

The Youth. Well no, upon my word, he did not teach us that, so that the task of distinguishing between good and bad must devolve on ourselves.

Soc. Well, shall we see, then, how we may best avoid making blunders between them?

I am ready (replied the youth).

Soc. Well then! Let us suppose we are marauders, and the task imposed upon us is to carry off some bullion; it will be a right disposition of our forces if we place in the vanguard those who are the greediest of gain?242

The Youth. I should think so.

Soc. Then what if there is danger to be faced? Shall the vanguard consist of men who are greediest of honour?

The Youth. It is these, at any rate, who will face danger for the sake of praise and glory.243 Fortunately such people are not hid away in a corner; they shine forth conspicuous everywhere, and are easy to be discovered.

Soc. But tell me, did he teach you how to draw up troops in general, or specifically where and how to apply each particular kind of tactical arrangement?

The Youth. Nothing of the sort.

Soc. And yet there are and must be innumerable circumstances in which the same ordering of march or battle will be out of place.

The Youth. I assure you he did not draw any of these fine distinctions.

He did not, did not he? (he answered). Bless me! Go back to him again, then, and ply him with questions; if he really has the science, and is not lost to all sense of shame, he will blush to have taken your money and then to have sent you away empty.

231 ton kalon = everything which the kalos te kagathos should aim at, but especially the honourable offices of state such as the Archonship, Strategia, Hipparchia, etc. See Plat. “Laches.”

232 Dionysodorus of Chios, presumably. See Plat. “Euthyd.” 271 C foll.

233 A professor of the science and art of strategy.

234 Lit. “that honour,” sc. the Strategia.

235 i.e. “head of the war department, and commander-inchief,” etc.

236 “Il.” iii. 169, 170.

237 Or, “brigadier or captain,” lit. taxiarch or lochagos.

238 Cf. “Cyrop.” I. vi. 12 foll.; VIII. v. 15.

239 A strategos. For the duties and spheres of action of this officer, see Gow, op. cit. xiv. 58.

240 “As in the building of a house.” See Vitrivius, ii. 3; Plin. xxv. 14.

241 Cf. “Il.” iv. 297 foll.; “Cyrop.” VI. iii. 25; Polyb. x. 22.

242 “Whose fingers itch for gold.”

243 Cf. Shakesp. “seeking the bubble reputation even in the cannon’s mouth.”


At another time he fell in with a man who had been chosen general and minister of war, and thus accosted him.

Soc. Why did Homer, think you, designate Agamemnon “shepherd of the peoples”?244 Was it possibly to show that, even as a shepherd must care for his sheep and see that they are safe and have all things needful, and that the objects of their rearing be secured, so also must a general take care that his soldiers are safe and have their supplies, and attain the objects of their soldiering? Which last is that they may get the mastery of their enemies, and so add to their own good fortune and happiness; or tell me, what made him praise Agamemnon, saying —

He is both a good king and a warrior bold?245

Did he mean, perhaps, to imply that he would be a ‘warrior bold,’ not merely in standing alone and bravely battling against the foe, but as inspiring the whole of his host with like prowess; and by a ‘good king,’ not merely one who should stand forth gallantly to protect his own life, but who should be the source of happiness to all over whom he reigns? Since a man is not chosen king in order to take heed to himself, albeit nobly, but that those who chose him may attain to happiness through him. And why do men go soldiering except to ameliorate existence?246 and to this end they choose their generals that they may find in them guides to the goal in question. He, then, who undertakes that office is bound to procure for those who choose him the thing they seek for. And indeed it were not easy to find any nobler ambition than this, or aught ignobler than its opposite.

After such sort he handled the question, what is the virtue of a good leader? and by shredding off all superficial qualities, laid bare as the kernel of the matter that it is the function of every leader to make those happy whom he may be called upon to lead.247

244 “Il.” ii. 243. “The People’s Paster,” Chapman.

245 “Il.” iii. 179; cf. “Symp.” iv. 6. A favourite line of Alexander the Great’s, it is said.

246 Of, “that life may reach some flower of happiness.”

247 Cf. Plat. “Rep.” 342.


The following conversation with a youth who had just been elected hipparch248 (or commandant of cavalry), I can also vouch for.249

Soc. Can you tell us what set you wishing to be a general of cavalry, young sir? What was your object? I suppose it was not simply to ride at the head of the “knights,” an honour not denied to the mounted archers,250 who ride even in front of the generals themselves?

Hipp. You are right.

Soc. No more was it for the sake merely of public notoriety, since a madman might boast of that fatal distinction.251

Hipp. You are right again.

Soc. Is this possibly the explanation? you think to improve the cavalry — your aim would be to hand it over to the state in better condition than you find it; and, if the cavalry chanced to be called out, you at their head would be the cause of some good thing to Athens?

Hipp. Most certainly.

Soc. Well, and a noble ambition too, upon my word — if you can achieve your object. The command to which you are appointed concerns horses and riders, does it not?

Hipp. It does, no doubt.

Soc. Come then, will you explain to us first how you propose to improve the horses.

Hipp. Ah, that will scarcely form part of my business, I fancy. Each trooper is personally responsible for the condition of his horse.

Soc. But suppose, when they present themselves and their horses,252 you find that some have brought beasts with bad feet or legs or otherwise infirm, and others such ill-fed jades that they cannot keep up on the march; others, again, brutes so ill broken and unmanageable that they will not keep their place in the ranks, and others such desperate plungers that they cannot be got to any place in the ranks at all. What becomes of your cavalry force then? How will you charge at the head of such a troop, and win glory for the state?

Hipp. You are right. I will try to look after the horses to my utmost.

Soc. Well, and will you not lay your hand to improve the men themselves?

Hipp. I will.

Soc. The first thing will be to make them expert in mounting their chargers?

Hipp. That certainly, for if any of them were dismounted he would then have a better chance of saving himself.

Soc. Well, but when it comes to the hazard of engagement, what will you do then? Give orders to draw the enemy down to the sandy ground253 where you are accustomed to manouvre, or endeavour beforehand to put your men through their practice on ground resembling a real battlefield?

Hipp. That would be better, no doubt.

Soc. Well, shall you regard it as a part of your duty to see that as many of your men as possible can take aim and shoot on horseback?254

Hipp. It will be better, certainly.

Soc. And have you thought how to whet the courage of your troopers? to kindle in them rage to meet the enemy? — which things are but stimulants to make stout hearts stouter?

Hipp. If I have not done so hitherto, I will try to make up for lost time now.

Soc. And have you troubled your head at all to consider how you are to secure the obedience of your men? for without that not one particle of good will you get, for all your horses and troopers so brave and so stout.

Hipp. That is a true saying; but how, Socrates, should a man best bring them to this virtue?255

Soc. I presume you know that in any business whatever, people are more apt to follow the lead of those whom they look upon as adepts; thus in case of sickness they are readiest to obey him whom they regard as the cleverest physician; and so on a voyage the most skilful pilot; in matters agricultural the best farmer, and so forth.

Hipp. Yes, certainly.

Soc. Then in this matter of cavalry also we may reasonably suppose that he who is looked upon as knowing his business best will command the readiest obedience.

Hipp. If, then, I can prove to my troopers that I am better than all of them, will that suffice to win their obedience?

Soc. Yes, if along with that you can teach them that obedience to you brings greater glory and surer safety to themselves.

Hipp. How am I to teach them that?

Soc. Upon my word! How are you to teach them that? Far more easily, I take it, than if you had to teach them that bad things are better than good, and more advantageous to boot.

Hipp. I suppose you mean that, besides his other qualifications a commandant of cavalry must have command of speech and argument?256

Soc. Were you under the impression that the commandant was not to open his mouth? Did it never occur to you that all the noblest things which custom257 compels us to learn, and to which indeed we owe our knowledge of life, have all been learned by means of speech258 and reason; and if there be any other noble learning which a man may learn, it is this same reason whereby he learns it; and the best teachers are those who have the freest command of thought and language, and those that have the best knowledge of the most serious things are the most brilliant masters of disputation. Again, have you not observed that whenever this city of ours fits out one of her choruses — such as that, for instance, which is sent to Delos259 — there is nothing elsewhere from any quarter of the world which can compete with it; nor will you find in any other state collected so fair a flower of manhood as in Athens?260

Hipp. You say truly.

Soc. But for all that, it is not in sweetness of voice that the Athenians differ from the rest of the world so much, nor in stature of body or strength of limb, but in ambition and that love of honour261 which most of all gives a keen edge to the spirit in the pursuit of things lovely and of high esteem.

Hipp. That, too, is a true saying.

Soc. Do you not think, then, that if a man devoted himself to our cavalry also, here in Athens, we should far outstrip the rest of the world, whether in the furnishing of arms and horses, or in orderliness of battle-array, or in eager hazardous encounter with the foe, if only we could persuade ourselves that by so doing we should obtain honour and distinction?

Hipp. It is reasonable to think so.

Soc. Have no hesitation, therefore, but try to guide your men into this path,262 whence you yourself, and through you your fellow-citizens, will reap advantage.

Yes, in good sooth, I will try (he answered).

248 Cf. “Hipparch.”

249 Lit. “I know he once held.”

250 Lit. “Hippotoxotai.” See Boeckh, “P. E. A.” II. xxi. p. 264 (Eng. tr.)

251 Or, “as we all know, ‘Tom Fool’ can boast,” etc.

252 For this phrase, see Schneider and Kuhner ad loc.

253 e.g. the hippodrome at Phaleron.

254 Cf. “Hipparch,” i. 21.

255 protrepsasthai. See above, I. ii. 64; below, IV. v. 1.

256 Or, “practise the art of oratory”; “express himself clearly and rationally.” See Grote, “H. G.” VIII. lxvii. p. 463 note; “Hipparch,” i. 24; viii. 22.

257 Cf Arist. “Rhet.” ii. 12, oi neoi pepaideuntai upo tou nomou monon.

258 dia logou.

259 See Thuc. iii. 104; and below, IV. viii. 2.

260 See references ap. Schneider and Kuhner; “Symp.” iv. 17.

261 See below, v. 3; Dem. “de Cor.” 28 foll.

262 Or, “to conduct which will not certainly fail of profit to yourself or through you to . . .”


At another time, seeing Nicomachides on his way back from the elections (of magistrates),263 he asked him: Who are elected generals, Nicomachides?

And he: Is it not just like them, these citizens of Athens — just like them, I say — to go and elect, not me, who ever since my name first apepared on the muster-roll have literally worn myself out with military service — now as a captain, now as a colonel — and have received all these wounds from the enemy, look you! (at the same time, and suiting the action to the word, he bared his arms and proceeded to show the scars of ancient wounds)— they elect not me (he went on), but, if you please, Antisthenes! who never served as a hoplite264 in his life nor in the cavalry ever made a brilliant stroke, that I ever heard tell of; no! in fact, he has got no science at all, I take it, except to amass stores of wealth.

But still (returned Socrates), surely that is one point in his favour — he ought to be able to provide the troops with supplies.

Nic. Well, for the matter of that, merchants are good hands at collecting stores; but it does not follow that a merchant or trader will be able to command an army.

But (rejoined Socrates) Antisthenes is a man of great pertinacity, who insists on winning, and that is a very necessary quality in a general.265 Do not you see how each time he has been choragos266 he has been successful with one chorus after another?

Nic. Bless me! yes; but there is a wide difference between standing at the head of a band of singers and dancers and a troop of soldiers.

Soc. Still, without any practical skill in singing or in the training of a chorus, Antisthenes somehow had the art to select the greatest proficients in both.

Nic. Yes, and by the same reasoning we are to infer that on a campaign he will find proficients, some to marshal the troops for him and others to fight his battles?

Soc. Just so. If in matters military he only exhibits the same skill in selecting the best hands as he has shown in matters of the chorus, it is highly probable he will here also bear away the palm of victory; and we may presume that if he expended so much to win a choric victory with a single tribe,267 he will be ready to expend more to secure a victory in war with the whole state to back him.

Nic. Do you really mean, Socrates, that it is the function of the same man to provide efficient choruses and to act as commander-inchief?

Soc. I mean this, that, given a man knows what he needs to provide, and has the skill to do so, no matter what the deparment of things may be — house or city or army — you will find him a good chief and director268 of the same.

Then Nicomachides: Upon my word, Socrates, I should never have expected to hear you say that a good housekeeper269 and steward of an estate would make a good general.

Soc. Come then, suppose we examine their respective duties, and so determine270 whether they are the same or different.

Nic. Let us do so.

Soc. Well then, is it not a common duty of both to procure the ready obedience of those under them to their orders?

Nic. Certainly.

Soc. And also to assign to those best qualified to perform them their distinctive tasks?

That, too, belongs to both alike (he answered).

Soc. Again, to chastise the bad and reward the good belongs to both alike, methinks?

Nic. Decidedly.

Soc. And to win the kindly feeling of their subordinates must surely be the noble ambition of both?

That too (he answered).

Soc. And do you consider it to the interest of both alike to win the adherence of supporters and allies?271

Nic. Without a doubt.

Soc. And does it not closely concern them both to be good guardians of their respective charges?

Nic. Very much so.

Soc. Then it equally concerns them both to be painstaking and prodigal of toil in all their doings?

Nic. Yes, all these duties belong to both alike, but the parallel ends when you come to actual fighting.

Soc. Yet they are both sure to meet with enemies?

Nic. There is no doubt about that.

Soc. Then is it not to the interest of both to get the upper hand of these?

Nic. Certainly; but you omit to tell us what service organisation and the art of management will render when it comes to actual fighting.

Soc. Why, it is just then, I presume, it will be of most service, for the good economist knows that nothing is so advantageous or so lucrative as victory in battle, or to put it negatively, nothing so disastrous and expensive as defeat. He will enthusiastically seek out and provide everything conducive to victory, he will painstakingly discover and guard against all that tends to defeat, and when satisifed that all is ready and ripe for victory he will deliver battle energetically, and what is equally important, until the hour of final preparation has arrived,272 he will be cautious to deliver battle. Do not despise men of economic genius, Nicomachides; the difference between the devotion requisite to private affairs and to affairs of state is merely one of quantity. For the rest the parallel holds strictly, and in this respect pre-eminently, that both are concerned with human instruments: which human beings, moreover, are of one type and temperament, whether we speak of devotion to public affairs or of the administration of private property. To fare well in either case is given to those who know the secret of dealing with humanity, whereas the absence of that knowledge will as certainly imply in either case a fatal note of discord.273

263 Cf. “Pol. Ath.” i. 3; Aristot. “Ath. Pol.” 44. 4; and Dr. Sandys’ note ad loc. p. 165 of his edition.

264 Cf. Lys. xiv. 10.

265 See Grote, “Plato,” i. 465 foll.

266 Choir-master, or Director of the Chorus. It was his duty to provide and preside over a chorus to sing, dance, or play at any of the public festivals, defraying the cost as a state service of leitourgia. See “Pol. Ath.” iii. 4; “Hiero,” ix. 4; Aristot. “Pol. Ath.” 28. 3.

267 See Dem. “against Lept.” 496. 26. Each tribe nominated such of its members as were qualified to undertake the burden.

268 Or, “representative.”

269 Or, “economist”; cf. “Cyrop.” I. vi. 12.

270 Lit. “get to know.”

271 In reference to the necessity of building up a family connection or political alliances cf. Arist. “Pol.” iii. 9, 13.

272 Lit. “as long as he is unprepared.”

273 L. Dindorf, “Index Graec.” Ox. ed.; cf. Hor. “Ep.” II. ii. 144, “sed verae numerosque modosque ediscere vitae,” “the harmony of life,” Conington.


A conversation held with Pericles the son of the great statesman may here be introduced.274 Socrates began:

I am looking forward, I must tell you, Pericles, to a great improvement in our military affairs when you are minister of war.275 The prestige of Athens, I hope, will rise; we shall gain the mastery over our enemies.

Pericles replied: I devoutly wish your words might be fulfilled, but how this happy result is to be obtained, I am at a loss to discover.

Shall we (Socrates continued), shall we balance the arguments for and against, and consider to what extent the possibility does exist?

Pray let us do so (he answered).

Soc. Well then, you know that in point of numbers the Athenians are not inferior to the Boeotians?

Per. Yes, I am aware of that.

Soc. And do you think the Boeotians could furnish a better pick of fine healthy men than the Athenians?

Per. I think we should very well hold our own in that respect.

Soc. And which of the two would you take to be the more united people — the friendlier among themselves?

Per. The Athenians, I should say, for so many sections of the Boeotians, resenting the selfish policy276 of Thebes, are ill disposed to that power, but at Athens I see nothing of the sort.

Soc. But perhaps you will say that there is no people more jealous of honour or haughtier in spirit.277 And these feelings are no weak spurs to quicken even a dull spirit to hazard all for glory’s sake and fatherland.

Per. Nor is there much fault to find with Athenians in these respects.

Soc. And if we turn to consider the fair deeds of ancestry,278 to no people besides ourselves belongs so rich a heritage of stimulating memories, whereby so many of us are stirred to pursue virtue with devotion and to show ourselves in our turn also men of valour like our sires.

Per. All that you say, Socrates, is most true, but do you observe that ever since the disaster of the thousand under Tolmides at Lebadeia, coupled with that under Hippocrates at Delium,279 the prestige of Athens by comparison with the Boeotians has been lowered, whilst the spirit of Thebes as against Athens had been correspondingly exalted, so that those Boeotians who in old days did not venture to give battle to the Athenians even in their own territory unless they had the Lacedaemonians and the rest of the Peloponnesians to help them, do nowadays threaten to make an incursion into Attica single-handed; and the Athenians, who formerly, if they had to deal with the Boeotians280 only, made havoc of their territory, are now afraid the Boeotians may some day harry Attica.

To which Socrates: Yes, I perceive that this is so, but it seems to me that the state was never more tractably disposed, never so ripe for a really good leader, as today. For if boldness be the parent of carelessness, laxity, and insubordination, it is the part of fear to make people more disposed to application, obedience, and good order. A proof of which you may discover in the behaviour of people on ship-board. It is in seasons of calm weather when there is nothing to fear that disorder may be said to reign, but as soon as there is apprehension of a storm, or an enemy in sight, the scene changes; not only is each word of command obeyed, but there is a hush of silent expectation; the mariners wait to catch the next signal like an orchestra with eyes upon the leader.

Per. But indeed, given that now is the opportunity to take obedience at the flood, it is high time also to explain by what means we are to rekindle in the hearts of our countrymen281 the old fires — the passionate longing for antique valour, for the glory and the wellbeing of the days of old.

Well (proceeded Socrates), supposing we wished them to lay claim to certain material wealth now held by others, we could not better stimulate them to lay hands on the objects coveted than by showing them that these were ancestral possessions282 to which they had a natural right. But since our object is that they should set their hearts on virtuous pre-eminence, we must prove to them that such headship combined with virtue is an old time-honoured heritage which pertains to them beyond all others, and that if they strive earnestly after it they will soon out-top the world.

Por. How are we to inculcate this lesson?

Soc. I think by reminding them of a fact already registered in their minds,283 that the oldest of our ancestors whose names are known to us were also the bravest of heroes.

Per. I suppose you refer to that judgment of the gods which, for their virtue’s sake, Cecrops and his followers were called on to decide?284

Soc. Yes, I refer to that and to the birth and rearing of Erectheus,285 and also to the war286 which in his days was waged to stay the tide of invasion from the whole adjoining continent; and that other war in the days of the Heraclidae287 against the men of Peloponnese; and that series of battles fought in the days of Theseus288 — in all which the virtuous pre-eminence of our ancestry above the men of their own times was made manifest. Or, if you please, we may come down to things of a later date, which their descendants and the heroes of days not so long anterior to our own wrought in the struggle with the lords of Asia,289 nay of Europe also, as far as Macedonia: a people possessing a power and means of attack far exceeding any who had gone before — who, moreover, had accomplished the doughtiest deeds. These things the men of Athens wrought partly single-handed,290 and partly as sharers with the Peloponnesians in laurels won by land and sea. Heroes were these men also, far outshining, as tradition tells us, the peoples of their time.

Per. Yes, so runs the story of their heroism.

Soc. Therefore it is that, amidst the many changes of inhabitants, and the migrations which have, wave after wave, swept over Hellas, these maintained themselves in their own land, unmoved; so that it was a common thing for others to turn to them as to a court of appeal on points of right, or to flee to Athens as a harbour of refuge from the hand of the oppressor.291

Then Pericles: And the wonder to me, Socrates, is how our city ever came to decline.

Soc. I think we are victims of our own success. Like some athlete,292 whose facile preponderance in the arena has betrayed him into laxity until he eventually succumbs to punier antagonists, so we Athenians, in the plenitude of our superiority, have neglected ourselves and are become degenerate.

Per. What then ought we to do now to recover our former virtue?

Soc. There need be no mystery about that, I think. We can rediscover the institutions of our forefathers — applying them to the regulation of our lives with something of their precision, and not improbably with like success; or we can imitate those who stand at the front of affairs today,293 adapting to ourselves their rule of life, in which case, if we live up to the standard of our models, we may hope at least to rival their excellence, or, by a more conscientious adherence to what they aim at, rise superior.

You would seem to suggest (he answered) that the spirit of beautiful and brave manhood has taken wings and left our city;294 as, for instance, when will Athenians, like the Lacedaemonians, reverence old age — the Athenian, who takes his own father as a starting-point for the contempt he pours upon grey hairs? When will he pay as strict an attention to the body, who is not content with neglecting a good habit,295 but laughs to scorn those who are careful in this matter? When shall we Athenians so obey our magistrates — we who take a pride, as it were, in despising authority? When, once more, shall we be united as a people — we who, instead of combining to promote common interests, delight in blackening each other’s characters,296 envying one another more than we envy all the world besides; and — which is our worst failing — who, in private and public intercourse alike, are torn by dissension and are caught in a maze of litigation, and prefer to make capital out of our neighbour’s difficulties rather than to render natural assistance? To make our conduct consistent, indeed, we treat our national interests no better than if they were the concerns of some foreign state; we make them bones of contention to wrangle over, and rejoice in nothing so much as in possessing means and ability to indulge these tastes. From this hotbed is engendered in the state a spirit of blind folly297 and cowardice, and in the hearts of the citizens spreads a tangle of hatred and mutual hostility which, as I often shudder to think, will some day cause some disaster to befall the state greater than it can bear.298

Do not (replied Socrates), do not, I pray you, permit yourself to believe that Athenians are smitten with so incurable a depravity. Do you not observe their discipline in all naval matters? Look at their prompt and orderly obedience to the superintendents at the gymnastic contests,299 their quite unrivalled subservience to their teachers in the training of our choruses.

Yes (he answered), there’s the wonder of it; to think that all those good people should so obey their leaders, but that our hoplites and our cavalry, who may be supposed to rank before the rest of the citizens in excellence of manhood,300 should be so entirely unamenable to discipline.

Then Socrates: Well, but the council which sits on Areopagos is composed of citizens of approved301 character, is it not?

Certainly (he answered).

Soc. Then can you name any similar body, judicial or executive, trying cases or transacting other business with greater honour, stricter legality, higher dignity, or more impartial justice?

No, I have no fault to find on that score (he answered).

Soc. Then we ought not to despair as though all sense of orderliness and good discipline had died out of our countrymen.

Still (he answered), if it is not to harp upon one string, I maintain that in military service, where, if anywhere, sobreity and temperance, orderliness and good discipline are needed, none of these essentials receives any attention.

May it not perhaps be (asked Socrates) that in this department they are officered by those who have the least knowledge?302 Do you not notice, to take the case of harp-players, choric performers, dancers, and the like, that no one would ever dream of leading if he lacked the requisite knowledge? and the same holds of wrestlers or pancratiasts.

Moreover, while in these cases any one in command can tell you where he got the elementary knowledge of what he presides over, most generals are amateurs and improvisers.303 I do not at all suppose that you are one of that sort. I believe you could give as clear an account of your schooling in strategy as you could in the matter of wrestling. No doubt you have got at first hand many of your father’s “rules for generalship,” which you carefully preserve, besides having collected many others from every quarter whence it was possible to pick up any knowledge which would be of use to a future general. Again, I feel sure you are deeply concerned to escape even unconscious ignorance of anything which will be serviceable to you in so high an office; and if you detect in yourself any ignorance, you turn to those who have knowledge in these matters (sparing neither gifts nor gratitude) to supplement your ignorance by their knowledge and to secure their help.

To which Pericles: I am not so blind, Socrates, as to imagine you say these words under the idea that I am truly so careful in these matters; but rather your object is to teach me that the would-be general must make such things his care. I admit in any case all you say.

Socrates proceeded: Has it ever caught your observation, Pericles, that a high mountain barrier stretches like a bulwark in front of our country down towards Boeotia — cleft, moreover, by narrow and precipitous passes, the only avenues into the heart of Attica, which lies engirdled by a ring of natural fortresses?304

Per. Certainly I have.

Soc. Well, and have you ever heard tell of the Mysians and Pisidians living within the territory of the great king,305 who, inside their mountain fortresses, lightly armed, are able to rush down and inflict much injury on the king’s territory by their raids, while preserving their own freedom?

Per. Yes, the circumstance is not new to me.

And do you not think (added Socrates) that a corps of young able-bodied Athenians, accoutred with lighter arms,306 and holding our natural mountain rampart in possession, would prove at once a thorn in the enemy’s side offensively, whilst defensively they would form a splendid bulwark to protect the country?

To which Pericles: I think, Socrates, these would be all useful measures, decidedly.

If, then (replied Socrates), these suggestions meet your approbation, try, O best of men, to realise them — if you can carry out a portion of them, it will be an honour to yourself and a blessing to the state; while, if you fail in any point, there will be no damage done to the city nor discredit to yourself.

274 Or, “On one occasion Pericles was the person addressed in conversation.” For Pericles see “Hell.” I. v. 16; vii. 15; Plut. “Pericl.” 37 (Clough, i. 368).

275 “Strategos.”

276 “The self-aggrandisement.”

277 Reading megalophronestatoi, after Cobet. See “Hipparch,” vii. 3; or if as vulg. philophronestatoi, transl. “more affable.”

278 See Wesley’s anthem, Eccles. xliv. 1, “Let us now praise famous men and our fathers that begat us.”

279 Lebadeia, 447 B.C.; Delium, 424 B.C. For Tolmides and Hippocrates see Thuc. i. 113; iv. 100 foll.; Grote, “H. G.” v. 471; vi. 533.

280 Reading ote B. monoi, al. ou monoi, “when the Boeotians were not unaided.”

281 Reading anerasthenai, Schneider’s emendation of the vulg. aneristhenai.

282 Cf. Solon in the matter of Salamis, Plut. “Sol.” 8; Bergk. “Poet. Lyr. Gr. Solon,” SALAMIS, i. 2, 3.

283 Or, “to which their ears are already opened.”

284 See Apollodorus, iii. 14.

285 Cf. “Il.” ii. 547, ‘Erekhtheos megaletoros k.t.l.

286 Cf. Isoc. “Paneg.” 19, who handles all the topics.

287 Commonly spoken of as “the Return.” See Grote, “H. G.” II. ch. xviii.

288 Against the Amazons and Thracians; cf. Herod. ix. 27; Plut. “Thes.” 27.

289 The “Persian” wars; cf. Thucyd. I. i.

290 He omits the Plataeans.

291 Cf. (Plat.) “Menex.”; Isocr. “Paneg.”

292 Reading athletai tines, or if alloi tines, translate “any one else.”

293 Sc. the Lacedaemonians. See W. L. Newman, op. cit. i. 396.

294 Or, “is far enough away from Athens.”

295 See below, III. xii. 5; “Pol. Ath.” i. 13; “Rev.” iv. 52.

296 Or, “to deal despitefully with one another.

297 Reading ateria. See L. Dindorf ad loc., Ox. ed. lxii. Al. apeiria, a want of skill, or ataxia, disorderliness. Cf. “Pol. Ath.” i. 5.

298 Possibly the author is thinking of the events of 406, 405 B.C. (see “Hell.” I. vii. and II.), and history may repeat itself.

299 Epistatoi, i.e. stewards and training-masters.

300 kalokagathia.

301 Technically, they must have passed the dokimasia. And for the “Aeropagos” see Grote, “H. G.” v. 498; Aristot. “Pol.” ii. 12; “Ath. Pol.” 4. 4, where see Dr. Sandys’ note, p. 18.

302 episteme. See below, III. ix. 10.

303 Cf. “Pol. Lac.” xiii. 5.

304 The mountains are Cithaeron and Parnes N., and Cerata N.W.

305 For this illustration see “Anab.” III. ii. 23; cf. “Econ.” iv. 18, where Socrates (XS) refers to Cyrus’s expedition and death.

306 Cf. the reforms of Iphicrates.


Glaucon,307 the son of Ariston, had conceived such an ardour to gain the headship of the state that nothing could hinder him but he must deliver a course of public speeches,308 though he had not yet reached the age of twenty. His friends and relatives tried in vain to stop him making himself ridiculous and being dragged down from the bema.309 Socrates, who took a kindly interest in the youth for the sake of Charmides310 the son of Glaucon, and of Plato, alone succeeded in restraining him. It happened thus. He fell in with him, and first of all, to get him to listen, detained him by some such remarks as the following:311

Ah, Glaucon (he exclaimed), so you have determined to become prime minister?312

Glauc. Yes, Socrates, I have.

Soc. And what a noble aim! if aught human ever deserved to be called noble; since if you succeed in your design, it follows, as the night the day, you will be able not only to gratify your every wish, but you will be in a position to benefit your friends, you will raise up your father’s house, you will exalt your fatherland, you will become a name thrice famous in the city first, and next in Hellas, and lastly even among barbarians perhaps, like Themistocles; but be it here or be it there, wherever you be, you will be the observed of all beholders.313

The heart of Glaucon swelled with pride as he drank in the words, and gladly he stayed to listen.

Presently Socrates proceeded: Then this is clear, Glaucon, is it not? that you must needs benefit the city, since you desire to reap her honours?

Glauc. Undoubtedly.

Then, by all that is sacred (Socrates continued), do not keep us in the dark, but tell us in what way do you propose first to benefit the state? what is your starting-point?314 When Glaucon remained with sealed lips, as if he were now for the first time debating what this starting-point should be, Socrates continued: I presume, if you wished to improve a friend’s estate, you would endeavour to do so by adding to its wealth, would you not? So here, maybe, you will try to add to the wealth of the state?

Most decidedly (he answered).

Soc. And we may take it the state will grow wealthier in proportion as her revenues increase?

Glauc. That seems probable, at any rate.

Soc. Then would you kindly tell us from what sources the revenues of the state are at present derived, and what is their present magnitude? No doubt you have gone carefully into the question, so that if any of these are failing you may make up the deficit, or if neglected for any reason, make some new provision.315

Glauc. Nay, to speak the truth, these are matters I have not thoroughly gone into.

Never mind (he said) if you have omitted the point; but you might oblige us by running through the items or heads of expenditure. Obviously you propose to remove all those which are superfluous?

Glauc. Well, no. Upon my word I have not had time to look into that side of the matter either as yet.

Soc. Then we will postpone for the present the problem of making the state wealthier; obviously without knowing the outgoings and the incomings it would be impossible to deal with the matter seriously.

But, Socrates (Glaucon remarked), it is possible to enrich the state out of the pockets of her enemies!

Yes, to be sure, considerably (answered Socrates), in the event of getting the better of them; but in the event of being worsted, it is also possible to lose what we have got.

A true observation (he replied).

And therefore (proceeded Socrates), before he makes up his mind with what enemy to go to war, a statesman should know the relative powers of his own city and the adversary’s, so that, in case the superiority be on his own side, he may throw the weight of his advice into the scale of undertaking war; but if the opposite he may plead in favour of exercising caution.

You are right (he answered).

Soc. Then would you for our benefit enumerate the land and naval forces first of Athens and then of our opponents?

Glauc. Pardon me. I could not tell you them off-hand at a moment’s notice.

Or (added Socrates), if you have got the figures on paper, you might produce them. I cannot tell how anxious I am to hear your statement.

Glauc. No, I assure you, I have not got them even on paper yet.

Soc. Well then, we will defer tending advice on the topic of peace or war, in a maiden speech at any rate.316 I can understand that, owing to the magnitude of the questions, in these early days of your ministry you have not yet fully examined them. But come, I am sure that you have studied the defences of the country, at all events, and you know exactly how many forts and outposts are serviceable317 and how many are not; you can tell us which garrisons are strong enough and which defective; and you are prepared to throw in the weight of your advice in favour of increasing the serviceable outposts and sweeping away those that are superfluous?

Glauc. Yes, sweep them all away, that’s my advice; for any good that is likely to come of them! Defences indeed! so maintained that the property of the rural districts is simply pilfered.

But suppose you sweep away the outposts (he asked), may not something worse, think you, be the consequence? will not sheer plundering be free to any ruffian who likes? . . . But may I ask is this judgment the result of personal inspection? have you gone yourself and examined the defences? or how do you know that they are all maintained as you say?

Glauc. I conjecture that it is so.

Soc. Well then, until we have got beyond the region of conjecture shall we defer giving advice on the matter? (It will be time enough when we know the facts.)

Possibly it would be better to wait till then (replied Glaucon).

Soc. Then there are the mines,318 but, of course, I am aware that you have not visited them in person, so as to be able to say why they are less productive than formerly.

Well, no; I have never been there myself (he answered).

Soc. No, Heaven help us! an unhealthy district by all accounts; so that, when the moment for advice on that topic arrives, you will have an excuse ready to hand.

I see you are making fun of me (Glaucon answered).

Soc. Well, but here is a point, I am sure, which you have not neglected. No, you will have thoroughly gone into it, and you can tell us. For how long a time could the corn supplies from the country districts support the city? how much is requisite for a single year, so that the city may not run short of this prime necessary, before you are well aware; but on the contrary you with your full knowledge will be in a position to give advice on so vital a question, to the aid or may be the salvation of your country?

It is a colossal business this (Glaucon answered), if I am to be obliged to give attention to all these details.

Soc. On the other hand, a man could not even manage his own house or his estate well, without, in the first place, knowing what he requires, and, in the second place, taking pains, item by item, to supply his wants. But since this city consists of more than ten thousand houses, and it is not easy to pay minute attention to so many all at once, how is it you did not practise yourself by trying to augment the resources of one at any rate of these — I mean your own uncle’s? The service would not be thrown away. Then if your strength suffices in the single case you might take in hand a larger number; but if you fail to relieve one, how could you possibly hope to succeed with many? How absurd for a man, if he cannot carry half a hundredweight, to attempt to carry a whole!319

Glauc. Nay, for my part, I am willing enough to assist my uncle’s house, if my uncle would only be persuaded to listen to my advice.

Soc. Then, when you cannot persuade your uncle, do you imagine you will be able to make the whole Athenian people, uncle and all, obey you? Be careful, Glaucon (he added), lest in your thirst for glory and high repute you come to the opposite. Do you not see how dangerous it is for a man to speak or act beyond the range320 of his knowledge? To take the cases known to you of people whose conversation or conduct clearly transcends these limits: should you say they gain more praise or more blame on that account? Are they admired the rather or despised? Or, again, consider those who do know what they say and what they do; and you will find, I venture to say, that in every sort of undertaking those who enjoy repute and admiration belong to the class of those endowed with the highest knowledge; whilst conversely the people of sinister reputation, the mean and the contemptible, emanate from some depth of ignorance and dulness. If therefore what you thirst for is repute and admiration as a statesman, try to make sure of one accomplishment: in other words, the knowledge as far as in you lies of what you wish to do.321 If, indeed, with this to distinguish you from the rest of the world you venture to concern yourself with state affairs, it would not surprise me but that you might reach the goal of your ambition easily.

307 Glaucon, Plato’s brother. Grote, “Plato,” i. 508.

308 “Harangue the People.”

309 See Plat. “Protag.” 319 C: “And if some person offers to give them advice who is not supposed by them to have any skill in the art [sc. of politics], even though he be good-looking, and rich, and noble, they will not listen to him, but laugh at him, and hoot him, until he is either clamoured down and retires of himself; or if he persists, he is dragged away or put out by the constables at the command of the prytanes” (Jowett). Cf. Aristoph. “Knights,” 665, kath eilkon auton oi prutaneis kai toxotai.

310 For Charmides (maternal uncle of Plato and Glaucon, cousin of Critias) see ch. vii. below; Plato the philosopher, Glaucon’s brother, see Cobet, “Pros. Xen.” p. 28.

311 Or, “and in the first instance addressing him in such terms he could not choose but hear, detained him.” See above, II. vi. 11. Socrates applies his own theory.

312 prostateuein.

313 “The centre of attraction — the cynosure of neighbouring eyes.”

314 Or, “tell us what your starting-point will be in the path of benefaction.”

315 Or, “or if others have dropped out or been negligently overlooked, you may replace them.”

316 See “Econ.” xi. 1.

317 Or, “advantageously situated.” See the author’s own tract on “Revenues.”

318 Again the author’s tract on “Revenues” is a comment on the matter.

319 Lit. “a single talent’s weight . . . to carry two.”

320 Or, “to talk of things which he does not know, or to meddle with them.”

321 Or, “try as far as possible to achieve one thing, and that is to know the business which you propose to carry out.”


Now Charmides,322 the son of Glaucon, was, as Socrates observed, a man of mark and influence: a much more powerful person in fact than the mass of those devoted to politics at that date, but at the same time he was a man who shrank from approaching the people or busying himself with the concerns of the state. Accordingly Socrates addressed him thus:

Tell me, Charmides, supposing some one competent to win a victory in the arena and to receive a crown,323 whereby he will gain honour himself and make the land of his fathers more glorious in Hellas,324 were to refuse to enter the lists — what kind of person should you set him down to be?

Clearly an effeminate and cowardly fellow (he answered).

Soc. And what if another man, who had it in him, by devotion to affairs of state, to exalt his city and win honour himself thereby, were to shrink and hesitate and hang back — would he too not reasonably be regarded as a coward?

Possibly (he answered); but why do you address these questions to me?

Because (replied Socrates) I think that you, who have this power, do hesitate to devote yourself to matters which, as being a citizen, if for no other reason, you are bound to take part in.325

Charm. And wherein have you detected in me this power, that you pass so severe a sentence upon me?

Soc. I have detected it plainly enough in those gatherings326 in which you meet the politicians of the day, when, as I observe, each time they consult you on any point you have always good advice to offer, and when they make a blunder you lay your finger on the weak point immediately.

Charm. To discuss and reason in private is one thing, Socrates, to battle in the throng of the assembly is another.

Soc. And yet a man who can count, counts every bit as well in a crowd as when seated alone by himself; and it is the best performer on the harp in private who carries off the palm of victory in public.

Charm. But do you not see that modesty and timidity are feelings implanted in man’s nature? and these are much more powerfully present to us in a crowd than within the cirlce of our intimates.

Soc. Yes, but what I am bent on teaching you is that while you feel no such bashfulness and timidity before the wisest and strongest of men, you are ashamed of opening your lips in the midst of weaklings and dullards.327 Is it the fullers among them of whom you stand in awe, or the cobblers, or the carpenters, or the coppersmiths, or the merchants, or the farmers, or the hucksters of the market-place exchanging their wares, and bethinking them how they are to buy this thing cheap, and to sell the other dear — is it before these you are ashamed, for these are the individual atoms out of which the Public Assembly is composed?328 And what is the difference, pray, between your behaviour and that of a man who, being the superior of trained athletes, quails before a set of amateurs? Is it not the case that you who can argue so readily with the foremost statesmen in the city, some of whom affect to look down upon you — you, with your vast superiority over practised popular debaters — are no sooner confronted with a set of folk who never in their lives gave politics a thought, and into whose heads certainly it never entered to look down upon you — than you are afraid to open your lips in mortal terror of being laughed at?

Well, but you would admit (he answered) that sound argument does frequently bring down the ridicule of the Popular Assembly.

Soc. Which is equally true of the others.329 And that is just what rouses my astonishment, that you who can cope so easily with these lordly people (when guilty of ridicule) should persuade yourself that you cannot stand up against a set of commoners.330 My good fellow, do not be ignorant of yourself!331 do not fall into that commonest of errors — theirs who rush off to investigate the concerns of the rest of the world, and have no time to turn and examine themselves. Yet that is a duty which you must not in cowardly sort draw back from: rather must you brace ourself to give good heed to your own self; and as to public affairs, if by any manner of means they may be improved through you, do not neglect them. Success in the sphere of politics means that not only the mass of your fellow-citizens, but your personal friends and you yourself last but not least, will profit by your action.

322 See last chapter for his relationship to Glaucon (the younger) and Plato; for a conception of his character, Plato’s dialogue “Charmides”; “Theag.” 128 E; “Hell.” II. iv. 19; “Symp.” iv. 31; Grote, “Plato,” i. 480.

323 In some conquest (e.g. of the Olympic games) where the prize is a mere wreath.

324 Cf. Pindar passim.

325 Or add, “and cannot escape from.”

326 See above, I. v. 4; here possibly of political club conversation.

327 Cf. Cic. “Tusc.” v. 36, 104; Plat. “Gorg.” 452 E, 454 B.

328 Cf. Plat. “Protag.” 319 C. See W. L. Newman, op. cit. i. 103.

329 oi eteroi, i.e. “the foremost statesmen” mentioned before. Al. “the opposite party,” the “Tories,” if one may so say, of the political clubs.

330 Lit. “those . . . these.”

331 Ernesti aptly cf. Cic. “ad Quint.” iii. 6. See below, III. ix. 6; IV. ii. 24.


Once when Aristippus332 set himself to subject Socrates to a cross-examination, such as he had himself undergone at the hands of Socrates on a former occasion,333 Socrates, being minded to benefit those who were with him, gave his answers less in the style of a debater guarding against perversions of his argument, than of a man persuaded of the supreme importance of right conduct.334

Aristippus asked him “if he knew of anything good,”335 intending in case he assented and named any particular good thing, like food or drink, or wealth, or health, or strength, or courage, to point out that the thing named was sometimes bad. But he, knowing that if a thing troubles us, we immediately want that which will put an end to our trouble, answered precisely as it was best to do.336

Soc. Do I understand you to ask me whether I know anything good for fever?

No (he replied), that is not my question.

Soc. Then for inflammation of the eyes?

Aristip. No, nor yet that.

Soc. Well then, for hunger?

Aristip. No, nor yet for hunger.

Well, but (answered Socrates) if you ask me whether I know of any good thing which is good for nothing, I neither know of it nor want to know.

And when Aristippus, returning to the charge, asked him “if he knew of any thing beautiful,”

He answered: Yes, many things.

Aristip. Are they all like each other?

Soc. On the contrary, they are often as unlike as possible.

How then (he asked) can that be beautiful which is unlike the beautiful?

Soc. Bless me! for the simple reason that it is possible for a man who is a beautiful runner to be quite unlike another man who is a beautiful boxer,337 or for a shield, which is a beautiful weapon for the purpose of defence, to be absolutely unlike a javelin, which is a beautiful weapon of swift and sure discharge.

Aristip. Your answers are no better now than338 when I asked you whether you knew any good thing. They are both of a pattern.

Soc. And so they should be. Do you imagine that one thing is good and another beautiful? Do not you know that relatively to the same standard all things are at once beautiful and good?339 In the first place, virtue is not a good thing relatively to one standard and a beautiful thing relatively to another standard; and in the next place, human beings, on the same principle340 and relatively to the same standard, are called “beautiful and good”; and so the bodily frames of men relatively to the same standards are seen to be “beautiful and good,” and in general all things capable of being used by man are regarded as at once beautiful and good relatively to the same standard — the standing being in each case what the thing happens to be useful for.341

Aristip. Then I presume even a basket for carrying dung342 is a beautiful thing?

Soc. To be sure, and a spear of gold an ugly thing, if for their respective uses — the former is well and the latter ill adapted.

Aristip. Do you mean to assert that the same things may be beautiful and ugly?

Soc. Yes, to be sure; and by the same showing things may be good and bad: as, for instance, what is good for hunger may be bad for fever, and what is good for fever bad for hunger; or again, what is beautiful for wrestling is often ugly for running; and in general everything is good and beautiful when well adapted for the end in view, bad and ugly when ill adapted for the same.

Similarly when he spoke about houses,343 and argued that “the same house must be at once beautiful and useful”— I could not help feeling that he was giving a good lesson on the problem: “how a house ought to be built.” He investigated the matter thus:

Soc. “Do you admit that any one purposing to build a perfect house344 will plan to make it at once as pleasant and as useful to live in as possible?” and that point being admitted,345 the next question would be:

“It is pleasant to have one’s house cool in summer and warm in winter, is it not?” and this proposition also having obtained assent, “Now, supposing a house to have a southern aspect, sunshine during winter will steal in under the verandah,346 but in summer, when the sun traverses a path right over our heads, the roof will afford an agreeable shade, will it not? If, then, such an arrangement is desirable, the southern side of a house should be built higher to catch the rays of the winter sun, and the northern side lower to prevent the cold winds finding ingress; in a word, it is reasonable to suppose that the pleasantest and most beautiful dwelling place will be one in which the owner can at all seasons of the year find the pleasantest retreat, and stow away his goods with the greatest security.”

Paintings347 and ornamental mouldings are apt (he said) to deprive one of more joy348 than they confer.

The fittest place for a temple or an altar (he maintained) was some site visible from afar, and untrodden by foot of man:349 since it was a glad thing for the worshipper to lift up his eyes afar off and offer up his orison; glad also to wend his way peaceful to prayer unsullied.350

332 For Aristippus see above, p. 38; for the connection, boulomenos tous sunontas ophelein, between this and the preceeding chapter, see above, Conspectus, p. xxvi.

333 Possibly in reference to the conversation above. In reference to the present dialogue see Grote, “Plato,” I. xi. p. 380 foll.

334 For prattein ta deonta cf. below, III. ix. 4, 11; Plat. “Charm.” 164 B; but see J. J. Hartman, “An. Xen.” p. 141.

335 See Grote, “Plato,” ii. 585, on Philebus.

336 Or, “made the happiest answer.”

337 See Grote, “H. G.” x. 164, in reference to Epaminondas and his gymnastic training; below, III. x. 6.

338 Or, “You answer precisely as you did when . . .”

339 Or, “good and beautiful are convertible terms: whatever is good is beautiful, or whatever is beautiful is good.”

340 Or, “in the same breath.” Cf. Plat. “Hipp. maj.” 295 D; “Gorg.” 474 D.

341 Or, “and this standard is the serviceableness of the thing in question.”

342 Cf. Plat. “Hipp. maj.” 288 D, 290 D; and Grote’s note, loc. cit. p. 381: “in regard to the question wherein consists to kalon?”

343 See K. Joel, op. cit. p. 488; “Classical Review,” vii. 262.

344 Or, “the ideal house”; lit. “a house as it should be.”

345 See below, IV. vi. 15.

346 Or, “porticoes” or “collonades.”

347 See “Econ.” ix. 2; Plat. “Hipp. maj.” 298 A; “Rep.” 529; Becker, “Charicles,” 268 (Engl. trans.)

348 euphrosunas, archaic or “poetical” = “joyance.” See “Hiero,” vi. 1.

349 e.g. the summit of Lycabettos, or the height on which stands the temple of Phygaleia. Cf. Eur. “Phoen.” 1372, Pallados khrusaspidos blepsas pros oikon euxato of Eteocles.

350 See Vitruvius, i. 7, iv. 5, ap. Schneid. ad loc.; W. L. Newman, op. cit. i. 338.


Being again asked by some one: could courage be taught,351 or did it come by nature? he answered: I imagine that just as one body is by nature stronger than another body to encounter toils, so one soul by nature grows more robust than another soul in face of dangers. Certainly I do note that people brought up under the same condition of laws and customs differ greatly in respect of daring. Still my belief is that by learning and practice the natural aptitude may always be strengthened towards courage. It is clear, for instance, that Scythians or Thracians would not venture to take shield and spear and contend with Lacedaemonians; and it is equally evident that Lacedaemonians would demur to entering the lists of battle against Thracians if limited to their light shields and javelins, or against Scythians without some weapon more familiar than their bows and arrows.352 And as far as I can see, this principle holds generally: the natural differences of one man from another may be compensated by artificial progress, the result of care and attention. All which proves clearly that whether nature has endowed us with keener or blunter sensibilities, the duty of all alike is to learn and practise those things in which we would fain achieve distinction.

Between wisdom and sobriety of soul (which is temperance) he drew no distinction.353 Was a man able on the one hand to recognise things beautiful and good sufficiently to live in them? Had he, on the other hand, knowledge of the “base and foul” so as to beware of them? If so, Socrates judged him to be wise at once and sound of soul (or temperate).354

And being further questioned whether “he considered those who have the knowledge of right action, but do not apply it, to be wise and self-controlled?”—“Not a whit more,” he answered, “than I consider them to be unwise and intemperate.355 Every one, I conceive, deliberately chooses what, within the limits open to him, he considers most conducive to his interest, and acts accordingly. I must hold therefore that those who act against rule and crookedly356 are neither wise nor self-controlled.

He said that justice, moreover, and all other virtue is wisdom. That is to say, things just, and all things else that are done with virtue, are “beautiful and good”; and neither will those who know these things deliberately choose aught else in their stead, nor will he who lacks the special knowledge of them be able to do them, but even if he makes the attempt he will miss the mark and fail. So the wise alone can perform the things which are “beautiful and good”; they that are unwise cannot, but even if they try they fail. Therefore, since all things just, and generally all things “beautiful and good,” are wrought with virtue, it is clear that justice and all other virtue is wisdom.

On the other hand, madness (he maintained) was the opposite to wisdom; not that he regarded simple ignorance as madness,357 but he put it thus: for a man to be ignorant of himself, to imagine and suppose that he knows what he knows not, was (he argued), if not madness itself, yet something very like it. The mass of men no doubt hold a different language: if a man is all abroad on some matter of which the mass of mankind are ignorant, they do not pronounce him “mad”;358 but a like aberration of mind, if only it be about matters within the scope of ordinary knowledge, they call madness. For instance, any one who imagined himself too tall to pass under a gateway of the Long Wall without stooping, or so strong as to try to lift a house, or to attempt any other obvious impossibility, is a madman according to them; but in the popular sense he is not mad, if his obliquity is confined to small matters. In fact, just as strong desire goes by the name of passion in popular parlance, so mental obliquity on a grand scale is entitled madness.

In answer to the question: what is envy? he discovered it to be a certain kind of pain; not certainly the sorrow felt at the misfortunes of a friend or the good fortune of an enemy — that is not envy; but, as he said, “envy is felt by those alone who are annoyed at the successes of their friends.” And when some one or other expressed astonishment that any one friendlily disposed to another should be pained at his well-doing, he reminded him of a common tendency in people: when any one is faring ill their sympathies are touched, they rush to the aid of the unfortunate; but when fortune smiles on others, they are somwhow pained. “I do not say,” he added, “this could happen to a thoughtful person; but it is no uncommon condition of a silly mind.”359

In answer to the question: what is leisure? I discover (he said) that most men do something:360 for instance, the dice player,361 the gambler, the buffoon, do something, but these have leisure; they can, if they like, turn and do something better; but nobody has leisure to turn from the better to the worse, and if he does so turn, when he has no leisure, he does but ill in that.

(To pass to another definition.) They are not kings or rulers (he said) who hold the sceptre merely, or are chosen by fellows out of the street,362 or are appointed by lot, or have stepped into office by violence or by fraud; but those who have the special knowledge363 how to rule. Thus having won the admission that it is the function of a ruler to enjoin what ought to be done, and of those who are ruled to obey, he proceeded to point out by instances that in a ship the ruler or captain is the man of special knowledge, to whom, as an expert, the shipowner himself and all the others on board obey. So likewise, in the matter of husbandry, the proprietor of an estate; in that of sickness, the patient; in that of physical training of the body, the youthful athlete going through a course; and, in general, every one directly concerned in any matter needing attention and care will either attend to this matter personally, if he thinks he has the special knowledge; or, if he mistrusts his own science, will be eager to obey any expert on the spot, or will even send and fetch one from a distance. The guidance of this expert he will follow, and do what he has to do at his dictation.

And thus, in the art of spinning wool, he liked to point out that women are the rulers of men — and why? because they have the knowledge of the art, and men have not.

And if any one raised the objection that a tyrant has it in his power not to obey good and correct advice, he would retort: “Pray, how has he the option not to obey, considering the penalty hanging over him who disobeys the words of wisdom? for whatever the matter be in which he disobeys the word of good advice, he will fall into error, I presume, and falling into error, be punished.” And to the suggestion that the tyrant could, if he liked, cut off the head of the man of wisdom, his answer was: “Do you think that he who destroys his best ally will go scot free, or suffer a mere slight and passing loss? Is he more likely to secure his salvation that way, think you, or to compass his own swift destruction?”364

When some one asked him: “What he regarded as the best pursuit or business365 for a man?” he answered: “Successful conduct”;366 and to a second question: “Did he then regard good fortune as an end to be pursued?”—“On the contrary,” he answered, “for myself, I consider fortune and conduct to be diametrically opposed. For instance, to succeed in some desirable course of action without seeking to do so, I hold to be good fortune; but to do a thing well by dint of learning and practice, that according to my creed is successful conduct,367 and those who make this the serious business of their life seem to me to do well.”

They are at once the best and the dearest in the sight of God368 (he went on to say) who for instance in husbandry do well the things of farming, or in the art of healing all that belongs to healing, or in statecraft the affairs of state; whereas a man who does nothing well — nor well in anything — is (he added) neither good for anything nor dear to God.

351 Or, “When some one retorted upon him with the question: ‘Can courage be taught?’” and for this problem see IV. vi. 10, 11; “Symp.” ii. 12; Plat. “Lach.”; “Protag.” 349; “Phaedr.” 269 D; K. Joel, op. cit. p. 325 foll.; Grote, “Plato,” i. 468 foll., ii. 60; Jowett, “Plato,” i. 77, 119; Newman, op. cit. i. 343.

352 Or, “against Thracians with light shields and javelins, or against Scythians with bows and arrows”; and for the national arms of these peoples respectively see Arist. “Lysistr.” 563; “Anab.” III. iv. 15; VI. VII. passim.

353 But cf. IV. vi. 7; K. Joel, op. cit. p. 363.

354 Reading alla to . . . kai to, or more lit. “he discovered the wise man and sound of soul in his power not only to recognise things ‘beautiful and good,’ but to live and move and have his being in them; as also in his gift of avoiding consciously things base.” Or if alla ton . . . kai ton . . . transl. “The man who not only could recognise the beautiful and good, but lived, etc., in that world, and who morever consciously avoided things base, in the judgment of Socrates was wise and sound of soul.” Cf. Plat. “Charm.”

355 For the phrase “not a whit the more” see below, III. xii. 1; “Econ.” xii. 18. Al. “I should by no means choose to consider them wise and self-controlled rather than foolish and intemperate.”

356 “Who cannot draw a straight line, ethically speaking.”

357 See K. Joel, op. cit. p. 346; Grote, “Plato,” i. 400.

358 Or, “they resent the term ‘mad’ being applied to people who are all abroad,” etc. See Comte, “Pos. Pol.” i. 575; ii. 373 (Engl. trans.)

359 Or, “a man in his senses . . . a simpleton”; for the sentiment L. Dind. cf. Isocr. “ad Demonic.” 7 D.

360 See above, I. ii. 57; and in ref. to these definitions, K. Joel, op. cit. p. 347 foll.

361 For “dice-playing” see Becker, “Charicl.” 354 (Engl. trans.); for “buffoonery,” ib. 98; “Symp.”

362 Tom, Dick, and Harry (as we say).

363 The episteme. See above, III. v. 21; Newman, op. cit. i. 256.

364 Or, “Is that to choose the path of safety, think you? Is it not rather to sign his own death-warrent?” L. Dind. cf. Hesiod, “Works and Days,” 293. See Newman, op. cit. i. 393-397.

365 Or, “the noblest study.”

366 eupraxia, eu prattein — to do well, in the sense both of well or right doing, and of welfare, and is accordingly opposed to eutukhia, mere good luck or success. Cf. Plat. “Euthyd.” 281 B.

367 Lit. “well-doing”; and for the Socratic view see Newman, op. cit. i. 305, 401.

368 Or, “most divinely favoured.” Cf. Plat. “Euthyphro,” 7 A.


But indeed,369 if chance brought him into conversation with any one possessed of an art, and using it for daily purposes of business, he never failed to be useful to this kind of person. For instance, stepping one time into the studio of Parrhasius370 the painter, and getting into conversation with him —

I suppose, Parrhasius (said he), painting may be defined as “a representation of visible objects,” may it not?371 That is to say, by means of colours and palette you painters represent and reproduce as closely as possible the ups and downs, lights and shadows, hard and soft, rough and smooth surfaces, the freshness of youth and the wrinkles of age, do you not?

You are right (he answered), that is so.

Soc. Further, in portraying ideal types of beauty, seeing it is not easy to light upon any one human being who is absolutely devoid of blemish, you cull from many models the most beautiful traits of each, and so make your figures appear completely beautiful?372

Parrh. Yes, that is how we do.373

Well, but stop (Socrates continued); do you also pretend to represent in similar perfection the characteristic moods of the soul, its captivating charm and sweetness, with its deep wells of love, its intensity of yearning, its burning point of passion? or is all this quite incapable of being depicted?

Nay (he answered), how should a mood be other than inimitable, Socrates, when it possesses neither linear proportion374 nor colour, nor any of those qualities which you named just now; when, in a word, it is not even visible?

Soc. Well, but the kindly look of love, the angry glance of hate at any one, do find expression in the human subject, do they not?375

Parrh. No doubt they do.

Soc. Then this look, this glance, at any rate may be imitated in the eyes, may it not?

Undoubtedly (he answered).

Soc. And do anxiety and relief of mind occasioned by the good or evil fortune of those we love both wear the same expression?

By no means (he answered); at the thought of good we are radiant, at that of evil a cloud hangs on the brow.

Soc. Then here again are looks with it is possible to represent?

Parrh. Decidedly.

Soc. Furthermore, as through some chink or crevice, there pierces through the countenance of a man, through the very posture of his body as he stands or moves, a glimpse of his nobility and freedom, or again of something in him low and grovelling — the calm of self-restraint, and wisdom, or the swagger of insolence and vulgarity?

You are right (he answered).

Soc. Then these too may be imitated?

No doubt (he said).

Soc. And which is the pleasanter type of face to look at, do you think — one on which is imprinted the characteristics of a beautiful, good, and lovable disposition, or one which bears the impress of what is ugly, and bad, and hateful?376

Parrh. Doubtless, Socrates, there is a vast distinction between the two.

At another time he entered the workshop of the sculptor Cleiton,377 and in course of conversation with him said:

You have a gallery of handsome people here,378 Cleiton, runners, and wrestlers, and boxers, and pancratiasts — that I see and know; but how do you give the magic touch of life to your creations, which most of all allures the soul of the beholder through his sense of vision?

As Cleiton stood perplexed, and did not answer at once, Socrates added: Is it by closely imitating the forms of living beings that you succeed in giving that touch of life to your statues?

No doubt (he answered).

Soc. It is, is it not, by faithfully copying the various muscular contractions of the body in obedience to the play of gesture and poise, the wrinklings of flesh and the sprawl of limbs, the tensions and the relaxations, that you succeed in making your statues like real beings — make them “breathe” as people say?

Cleit. Without a doubt.

Soc. And does not the faithful imitation of the various affections of the body when engaged in any action impart a particular pleasure to the beholder?

Cleit. I should say so.

Soc. Then the threatenings in the eyes of warriors engaged in battle should be carefully copied, or again you should imitate the aspect of a conqueror radiant with success?

Cleit. Above all things.

Soc. It would seem then that the sculptor is called upon to incorporate in his ideal form the workings and energies also of the soul?

Paying a visit to Pistias,379 the corselet maker, when that artist showed him some exquisite samples of his work, Socrates exclaimed:

By Hera! a pretty invention this, Pistias, by which you contrive that the corselet should cover the parts of the person which need protection, and at the same time leave free play to the arms and hands. . . . but tell me, Pistias (he added), why do you ask a higher price for these corselets of yours if they are not stouter or made of costlier material than the others?

Because, Socrates (he answered), mine are of much finer proportion.

Soc. Proportion! Then how do you make this quality apparent to the customer so as to justify the higher price — by measure or weight? For I presume you cannot make them all exactly equal and of one pattern — if you make them fit, as of course you do?

Fit indeed! that I most distinctly do (he answered), take my word for it: no use in a corselet without that.

But then are not the wearer’s bodies themselves (asked Socrates) some well proportioned and others ill?

Decidedly so (he answered).

Soc. Then how do you manage to make the corselet well proportioned if it is to fit an ill-proportioned body?380

Pist. To the same degree exactly as I make it fit. What fits is well proportioned.

Soc. It seems you use the term “well-proportioned” not in an absolute sense, but in reference to the wearer, just as you might describe a shield as well proportioned to the individual it suits; and so of a military cloak, and so of the rest of things, in your terminology? But maybe there is another considerable advantage in this “fitting”?

Pist. Pray instruct me, Socrates, if you have got an idea.

Soc. A corselet which fits is less galling by its weight than one which does not fit, for the latter must either drag from the shoulders with a dead weight or press upon some other part of the body, and so it becomes troublesome and uncomfortable; but that which fits, having its weight distributed partly along the collar-bone and shoulder-blade, partly over the shoulders and chest, and partly the back and belly, feels like another natural integument rather than an extra load to carry.381

Pist. You have named the very quality which gives my work its exceptional value, as I consider; still there are customers, I am bound to say, who look for something else in a corselet — they must have them ornamental or inlaid with gold.

For all that (replied Socrates), if they end by purchasing an ill-fitting article, they only become the proprietors of a curiously — wrought and gilded nuisance, as it seems to me. But (he added), as the body is never in one fixed position, but is at one time curved, at another raised erect how can an exactly-modelled corselet fit?

Pist. It cannot fit at all.

You mean (Socrates continued) that it is not the exactly-modelled corselet which fits, but that which does not gall the wearer in the using?

Pist. There, Socrates, you have hit the very point. I see you understand the matter most precisely.382

369 alla men kai . . . “But indeed the sphere of his helpfulness was not circumscribed; if,” etc.

370 For Parrhasius of Ephesus, the son of Evenor and rival of Zeuxis, see Woltmann and Woermann, “Hist. of Painting,” p. 47 foll.; Cobet, “Pros. Xen.” p. 50 (cf. in particular Quint. XII. x. 627). At the date of conversation (real or ideal) he may be supposed to have been a young man.

371 Reading with Schneider, L. Dind., etc., after Stobaeus, e graphike estin eikasia, or if the vulg. graphike estin e eikasia, trans. “Painting is the term applied to a particular representation,” etc.

372 Cf. Cic. “de Invent.” ii. 1 ad in. of Zeuxis; Max. Tur. “Dissert.” 23, 3, ap. Schneider ad loc.

373 Or, “that is the secret of our creations,” or “our art of composition.”

374 Lit. “symmetry.” Cf. Plin. xxxv. 10, “primus symmetriam picturae dedit,” etc.

375 Or, “the glance of love, the scowl of hate, which one directs towards another, are recognised expressions of human feeling.” Cf. the description of Parrhasius’s own portrait of Demos, ap. Plin. loc. cit.

376 For this theory cp. Ruskin, “Mod. P.” ii. 94 foll. and indeed passim.

377 An unknown artist. Coraes conj. Kleona. Cf. Plin. xxxiv. 19; Paus. v. 17, vi. 3. He excelled in portrait statues. See Jowett, “Plato,” iv.; “Laws,” p. 123.

378 Reading after L. Dind. kaloi ous, or if vulg. alloious, translate “You have a variety of types, Cleiton, not all of one mould, but runners,” etc.; al. “I see quite well how you give the diversity of form to your runners,” etc.

379 Cf. Athen. iv. 20, where the same artist is referred to apparently as Piston, and for the type of person see the “Portrait of a Tailor” by Moroni in the National Gallery — see “Handbook,” Edw. T. Cook, p. 152.

380 Or, “how do you make a well-proportioned corselet fit an ill-proportioned body? how well proportioned?”

381 Schneider ad loc. cf Eur. “Electr.” 192, prosthemata aglaias, and for the weight cf. Aristoph. “Peace,” 1224.

382 Or, “There, Socrates, you have hit the very phrase. I could not state the matter more explicitly myself.”


There was once in the city a fair woman named Theodote.383 She was not only fair, but ready to consort with any suitor who might win her favour. Now it chanced that some one of the company mentioned her, saying that her beauty beggared description. “So fair is she,” he added, “that painters flock to draw her portrait, to whom, within the limits of decorum, she displays the marvels of her beauty.” “Then there is nothing for it but to go and see her,” answered Socrates, “since to comprehend by hearsay what is beyond description is clearly impossible.” Then he who had introduced the matter replied: “Be quick then to follow me”; and on this wise they set off to seek Theodote. They found her “posing” to a certain painter; and they took their stand as spectators. Presently the painter had ceased his work; whereupon Socrates:

“Do you think, sirs, that we ought to thank Theodote for displaying her beauty to us, or she us for coming to gaze at her? . . . It would seem, would it not, that if the exhibition of her charms is the more profitable to her, the debt is on her side; but if the spectacle of her beauty confers the greater benefit on us, then we are her debtors.”

Some one answered that “was an equitable statement of the case.”

Well then (he continued), as far as she is concerned, the praise we bestow on her is an immediate gain; and presently, when we have spread her fame abroad, she will be further benefited; but for ourselves the immediate effect on us is a strong desire to touch what we have seen; by and by, too, we shall go away with a sting inside us, and when we are fairly gone we shall be consumed with longing. Consequently it seems that we should do her service and she accept our court.

Whereupon Theodote: Oh dear! if that is how the matter stands, it is I who am your debtor for the spectacle.384

At this point, seeing that the lady herself was expensively attired, and that she had with her her mother also, whose dress and style of attendance385 were out of the common, not to speak of the waiting-women — many and fair to look upon, who presented anything but a forlorn appearance; while in every respect the whole house itself was sumptuously furnished — Socrates put a question:

Pray tell me, Theodote, have you an estate in the country?

Theod. Not I indeed.

Soc. Then perhaps you possess a house and large revenues along with it?

Theod. No, nor yet a house.

Soc. You are not an employer of labour on a large scale?386

Theod. No, nor yet an employer of labour.

Soc. From what source, then, do you get your means of subsistence?387

Theod. My friends are my life and fortune, when they care to be kind to me.

Soc. By heaven, Theodote, a very fine property indeed, and far better worth possessing than a multitude of sheep or goats or cattle. A flock of friends! . . . But (he added) do you leave it to fortune whether a friend lights like a fly on your hand at random, or do you use any artifice388 yourself to attract him?

Theod. And how might I hit upon any artifice to attract him?

Soc. Bless me! far more naturally than any spider. You know how they capture the creatures on which they live;389 by weaving webs of gossamer, is it not? and woe betide the fly that tumbles into their toils! They eat him up.

Theod. So then you would consel me to weave myself some sort of net?

Soc. Why, surely you do not suppose you are going to ensnare that noblest of all game — a lover, to wit — in so artless a fashion? Do you not see (to speak of a much less noble sort of game) what a number of devices are needed to bag a hare?390 The creatures range for their food at night; therefore the hunter must provide himself with night dogs. At peep of dawn they are off as fast as they can run. He must therefore have another pack of dogs to scent out and discover which way they betake them from their grazing ground to their forms;391 and as they are so fleet of foot that they run and are out of sight in no time, he must once again be provided with other fleet-footed dogs to follow their tracks and overtake them;392 and as some of them will give even these the slip, he must, last of all, set up nets on the paths at the points of escape, so that they may fall into the meshes and be caught.

Theod. And by what like contrivance would you have me catch my lovers?

Soc. Well now! what if in place of a dog you can get a man who will hunt up your wealthy lover of beauty and discover his lair, and having found him, will plot and plan to throw him into your meshes?

Theod. Nay, what sort of meshes have I?

Soc. One you have, and a close-folding net it is,393 I trow; to wit, your own person; and inside it sits a soul that teaches you394 with what looks to please and with what words to cheer; how, too, with smiles you are to welcome true devotion, but to exclude all wantons from your presence.395 It tells you, you are to visit your beloved in sickness with solicitude, and when he has wrought some noble deed you are greatly to rejoice with him; and to one who passionately cares for you, you are to make surrender of yourself with heart and soul. The secret of true love I am sure you know: not to love softly merely, but devotedly.396 And of this too I am sure: you can convince your lovers of your fondness for them not by lip phrases, but by acts of love.

Theod. No, upon my word, I have none of these devices.

Soc. And yet it makes all the difference whether you approach a human being in the natural and true way, since it is not by force certainly that you can either catch or keep a friend. Kindness and pleasure are the only means to capture this fearful wild-fowl man and keep him constant.

Theod. You are right.

Soc. In the first place you must make such demands only of your well-wisher as he can grant without repentance; and in the next place you must make requital, dispensing your favours with a like economy. Thus you will best make friends whose love shall last the longest and their generosity know no stint.397 And for your favours you will best win your friends if you suit your largess to their penury; for, mark you, the sweetest viands presented to a man before he wants them are apt to prove insipid, or, to one already sated, even nauseous; but create hunger, and even coarser stuff seems honey-sweet.

Theod. How then shall I create this hunger in the heart of my friends?

Soc. In the first place you must not offer or make suggestion of your dainties to jaded appetites until satiety has ceased and starvation cries for alms. Even then shall you make but a faint suggestion to their want, with modest converse — like one who would fain bestow a kindness . . . and lo! the vision fades and she is gone — until the very pinch of hunger; for the same gifts have then a value unknown before the moment of supreme desire.

Then Theodote: Oh why, Socrates, why are you not by my side (like the huntsman’s assistant) to help me catch my friends and lovers?

Soc. That will I be in good sooth if only you can woo and win me.

Theod. How shall I woo and win you?

Soc. Seek and you will find means, if you truly need me.

Theod. Come then in hither and visit me often.

And Socrates, poking sly fun at his own lack of business occupation, answered: Nay, Theodote, leisure is not a commodity in which I largely deal. I have a hundred affairs of my own too, private or public, to occupy me; and then there are my lady-loves, my dear friends, who will not suffer me day or night to leave them, for ever studying to learn love-charms and incantations at my lips.

Theod. Why, are you really versed in those things, Socrates?

Soc. Of course, or else how is it, do you suppose, that Apollodorus398 here and Antisthenes never leave me; or why have Cebes and Simmias come all the way from Thebes to stay with me? Be assured these things cannot happen without diverse love-charms and incantations and magic wheels.

Theod. I wish you would lend me your magic-wheel,399 then, and I will set it spinning first of all for you.

Soc. Ah! but I do not wish to be drawn to you. I wish you to come to me.

Theod. Then I will come. Only, will you be “at home” to me?

Soc. Yes, I will welcome you, unless some one still dearer holds me engaged, and I must needs be “not at home.”

383 For Theodote see Athen. v. 200 F, xiii. 574 F; Liban. i. 582. Some say that it was Theodote who stood by Alcibiades to the last, though there are apparently other better claimants to the honour. Plut. “Alc.” (Clough, ii. p. 50).

384 In reference to the remark of Socrates above; or, “have to thank you for coming to look at me.”

385 Or, “her mother there with her in a dress and general get-up (therapeia) which was out of the common.” See Becker, “Charicles,” p. 247 (Eng. tr.)

386 Lit. “You have not (in your employ) a body of handicraftsmen of any sort?”

387 Or, Anglice, “derive your income.”

388 Or, “means and appliances,” “machinery.”

389 Lit. “the creatures on which they live.”

390 See the author’s own treatise on “Hunting,” vi. 6 foll.

391 Lit. “from pasture to bed.”

392 Or, “close at their heels and run them down.” See “Hunting”; cf. “Cyrop.” I. vi. 40.

393 Or, “right well woven.”

394 Lit. “by which you understand.”

395 Or, “with what smiles to lie in wait for (cf. ‘Cyrop.’ II. iv. 20; Herod. vi. 104) the devoted admirer, and how to banish from your presence the voluptary.”

396 Or, “that it should be simply soft, but full of tender goodwill.”

397 Or, “This is the right road to friendship — permanent and open-handed friendship.”

398 For Apollodorus see “Apol.” 28; Plat. “Symp.” 172 A; “Phaed.” 59 A, 117 D. For Antisthenes see above. For Cebes and Simmias see above, I. ii. 48; Plat. “Crit.” 45 B; “Phaed.” passim.

399 Cf. Theocr. ii. 17; Schneider ad loc.


Seeing one of those who were with him, a young man, but feeble of body, named Epigenes,400 he addressed him.

Soc. You have not the athletic appearance of a youth in training,401 Epigenes.

And he: That may well be, seeing I am an amateur and not in training.

Soc. As little of an amateur, I take it, as any one who ever entered the lists of Olympia, unless you are prepared to make light of that contest for life and death against the public foe which the Athenians will institute when the day comes.402 And yet they are not a few who, owing to a bad habit of body, either perish outright in the perils of war, or are ignobly saved. Many are they who for the self-same cause are taken prisoners, and being taken must, if it so betide, endure the pains of slavery for the rest of their days; or, after falling into dolorous straits,403 when they have paid to the uttermost farthing of all, or may be more than the worth of all, that they possess, must drag on a miserable existence in want of the barest necessaries until death release them. Many also are they who gain an evil repute through infirmity of body, being thought to play the coward. Can it be that you despise these penalties affixed to an evil habit? Do you think you could lightly endure them? Far lighter, I imagine, nay, pleasant even by comparison, are the toils which he will undergo who duly cultivates a healthy bodily condition. Or do you maintain that the evil habit is healthier, and in general more useful than the good? Do you pour contempt upon those blessings which flow from the healthy state? And yet the very opposite of that which befalls the ill attends the sound condition. Does not the very soundness imply at once health and strength?404 Many a man with no other talisman than this has passed safely through the ordeal of war; stepping, not without dignity,405 through all its horrors unscathed. Many with no other support than this have come to the rescue of friends, or stood forth as benefactors of their fatherland; whereby they were thought worthy of gratitude, and obtained a great renown and received as a recompense the highest honours of the State; to whom is also reserved a happier and brighter passage through what is left to them of life, and at their death they leave to their children the legacy of a fairer starting-point in the race of life.

Because our city does not practise military training in public,406 that is no reason for neglecting it in private, but rather a reason for making it a foremost care. For be you assured that there is no contest of any sort, nor any transaction, in which you will be the worse off for being well prepared in body; and in fact there is nothing which men do for which the body is not a help. In every demand, therefore, which can be laid upon the body it is much better that it should be in the best condition; since, even where you might imagine the claims upon the body to be slightest — in the act of reasoning — who does not know the terrible stumbles which are made through being out of health? It suffices to say that forgetfulness, and despondency, and moroseness, and madness take occasion often of ill-health to visit the intellectual faculties so severely as to expel all knowledge407 from the brain. But he who is in good bodily plight has large security. He runs no risk of incurring any such catastrophe through ill-health at any rate; he has the expectation rather that a good habit must procure consequences the opposite to those of an evil habit;408 and surely to this end there is nothing a man in his senses would not undergo. . . . It is a base thing for a man to wax old in careless self-neglect before he has lifted up his eyes and seen what manner of man he was made to be, in the full perfection of bodily strength and beauty. But these glories are withheld from him who is guilty of self-neglect, for they are not wont to blaze forth unbidden.409

400 Epigenes, possibly the son of Antiphon. See Plat. “Apol.” 33 E; “Phaed.” 59 B.

401 idiotikos, lit. of the person untrained in gymnastics. See A. R. Cluer ad loc. Cf. Plat. “Laws,” 839 E; I. ii. 4; III. v. 15; “Symp.” ii. 17.

402 Or, “should chance betide.” Is the author thinking of a life-and-death struggle with Thebes?

403 e.g. the prisoners in the Latomiae. Thuc. vii. 87.

404 It is almost a proverb —“Sound of body and limb is hale and strong.” “Qui valet praevalebit.”

405 e.g. Socrates himself, according to Alcibiades, ap. Plat. “Symp.” 221 B; and for the word euskhemonos see Arist. “Wasps,” 1210, “like a gentleman”; L. and S.; “Cyr.” I. iii. 8; Aristot. “Eth. N.” i. 10, 13, “gracefully.”

406 Cf. “Pol. Ath.” i. 13; and above, III. v. 15.

407 Or, “whole branches of knowledge” (tas epistemas).

408 Or, “he may well hope to be insured by his good habit against the evils attendant on its opposite.”

409 Or, “to present themselves spontaneously.”


Once when some one was in a fury of indignation because he had bidden a passer-by good-day and the salutation was not returned, Socrates said: “It is enough to make one laugh! If you met a man in a wretched condition of body, you would not fall into a rage; but because you stumble upon a poor soul somewhat boorishly disposed, you feel annoyed.”

To the remark of another who complained that he did not take his foot with pleasure, he said: “Acumenus410 has a good prescription for that.” And when the other asked: “And what may that be?” “To stop eating,” he said. “On the score of pleasure, economy, and health, total abstinence has much in its favour.”411

And when some one else lamented that “the drinking-water in his house was hot,” he replied: “Then when you want a warm bath you will not have to wait.”

The Other. But for bathing purposes it is cold.

Soc. Do you find that your domestics seem to mind drinking it or washing in it?

The Other. Quite the reverse; it is a constant marvel to me how contentedly they use it for either purpose.

Soc. Which is hotter to the taste — the water in your house or the hot spring in the temple of Asclepius?412

The Other. The water in the temple of Asclepius.

Soc. And which is colder for bathing — yours or the cold spring in the cave of Amphiaraus?413

The Other. The water in the cave of Amphiaraus.

Soc. Then please to observe: if you do not take care, they will set you down as harder to please than a domestic servant or an invalid.414

A man had administered a severe whipping to the slave in attendance on him, and when Socrates asked: “Why he was so wroth with his own serving-man?” excused himself on the ground that “the fellow was a lazy, gourmandising, good-for-nothing dolt — fonder of money than of work.” To which Socrates: “Did it ever strike you to consider which of the two in that case the more deserves a whipping — the master or the man?”

When some one was apprehending the journey to Olympia, “Why are you afraid of the long distance?” he asked. “Here at home you spend nearly all your day in taking walks.415 Well, on your road to Olympia you will take a walk and breakfast, and then you will take another walk and dine, and go to bed. Do you not see, if you take and tack together five or six days’ length of walks, and stretch them out in one long line, it will soon reach from Athens to Olympia? I would recommend you, however, to set off a day too soon rather than a day too late. To be forced to lengthen the day’s journey beyond a reasonable amount may well be a nuisance; but to take one day’s journey beyond what is necessary is pure relaxation. Make haste to start, I say, and not while on the road.”416

When some one else remarked “he was utterly prostrated after a long journey,” Socrates asked him: “Had he had any baggage to carry?”

“Not I,” replied the complainer; “only my cloak.”

Soc. Were you travelling alone, or was your man-servant with you?

He. Yes, I had my man.

Soc. Empty-handed, or had he something to carry?

He. Of course; carrying my rugs and other baggage.

Soc. And how did he come off on the journey?

He. Better than I did myself, I take it.

Soc. Well, but now suppose you had had to carry his baggage, what would your condition have been like?

He. Sorry enough, I can tell you; or rather, I could not have carried it at all.

Soc. What a confession! Fancy being capable of so much less toil than a poor slave boy! Does that sound like the perfection of athletic training?

410 A well-known physician. See Plat. “Phaedr.” 227 A, 269 A; “Symp.” 176 B. A similar story is told of Dr. Abernethy, I think.

411 Lit. “he would live a happier, thriftier, and healthier life, if he stopped eating.”

412 In the Hieron at Epidauros probably. See Baedeker, “Greece,” p. 240 foll.

413 Possibly at Oropos. Cf. Paus. i. 34. 3.

414 i.e. “the least and the most fastidious of men.”

415 peripateis, “promenading up and down.”

416 “Festina lente”— that is your motto.


On the occasion of a common dinner-party417 where some of the company would present themselves with a small, and others with a large supply of viands, Socrates would bid the servants418 throw the small supplies into the general stock, or else to help each of the party to a share all round. Thus the grand victuallers were ashamed in the one case not to share in the common stock, and in the other not to throw in their supplies also.419 Accordingly in went the grand supplies into the common stock. And now, being no better off than the small contributors, they soon ceased to cater for expensive delicacies.

At a supper-party one member of the company, as Socrates chanced to note, had put aside the plain fare and was devoting himself to certain dainties.420 A discussion was going on about names and definitions, and the proper applications of terms to things.421 Whereupon Socrates, appealing to the company: “Can we explain why we call a man a ‘dainty fellow’? What is the particular action to which the term applies?422 — since every one adds some dainty to his food when he can get it.423 But we have not quite hit the definition yet, I think. Are we to be called dainty eaters because we like our bread buttered?”424

No! hardly! (some member of the company replied).

Soc. Well, but now suppose a man confine himself to eating venison or other dainty without any plain food at all, not as a matter of training,425 but for the pleasure of it: has such a man earned the title? “The rest of the world would have a poor chance against him,”426 some one answered. “Or,” interposed another, “what if the dainty dishes he devours are out of all proportion to the rest of his meal — what of him?”427

Soc. He has established a very fair title at any rate to the appellation, and when the rest of the world pray to heaven for a fine harvest: “May our corn and oil increase!” he may reasonably ejaculate, “May my fleshpots multiply!”

At this last sally the young man, feeling that the conversation set somewhat in his direction, did not desist indeed from his savoury viands, but helped himself generously to a piece of bread. Socrates was all-observant, and added: Keep an eye on our friend yonder, you others next him, and see fair play between the sop and the sauce.428

Another time, seeing one of the company using but one sop of bread429 to test several savoury dishes, he remarked: Could there be a more extravagant style of cookery, or more murderous to the dainty dishes themselves, than this wholesale method of taking so many dishes together? — why, bless me, twenty different sorts of seasoning at one swoop!430 First of all he mixes up actually more ingredients than the cook himself prescribes, which is extravagant; and secondly, he has the audacity to commingle what the chef holds incongruous, whereby if the cooks are right in their method he is wrong in his, and consequently the destroyer of their art. Now is it not ridiculous first to procure the greatest virtuosi to cook for us, and then without any claim to their skill to take and alter their procedure? But there is a worse thing in store for the bold man who habituates himself to eat a dozen dishes at once: when there are but few dishes served, out of pure habit he will feel himself half starved, whilst his neighbour, accustomed to send his sop down by help of a single relish, will feast merrily, be the dishes never so few.

He had a saying that euokheisthai, to “make good cheer,”431 was in Attic parlance a synonym for “eating,” and the affix eu (the attributive “good”) connoted the eating of such things as would not trouble soul or body, and were not far to seek or hard to find. So that to “make good cheer” in his vocabulary applied to a modest and well-ordered style of living.432

417 For the type of entertainment see Becker, “Charicles,” p. 315 (Eng. tr.)

418 “The boy.”

419 Or, “were ashamed not to follow suit by sharing in the common stock and contributing their own portion.”

420 For the distinction between sitos and opson see Plat. “Rep.” 372 C.

421 Or, “The conversation had fallen upon names: what is the precise thing denoted under such and such a term? Define the meaning of so and so.”

422 opsophagos = opson (or relish) eater, and so a “gourmand” or “epicure”; but how to define a gourmand?

423 Lit. “takes some opson (relish) to his sitos (food).”

424 Lit. “simply for that” (sc. the taking of some sort of opson. For epi touto cf. Plat. “Soph.” 218 C; “Parmen.” 147 D.

425 Lit. “opson (relish) by itself, not for the sake of training,” etc. The English reader wil bear in mind that a raw beefsteak or other meat prescribed by the gymnastic trainer in preference to farinaceous food (sitos) would be opson.

426 Or, more lit. “Hardly any one could deserve the appellation better.”

427 Lit. “and what of the man who eats much opson on the top of a little (sitos)?” epesthion = follows up one course by another, like the man in a fragment of Euripides, “Incert.” 98: kreasi boeiois khlora suk’ epesthien, who “followed up his beefsteak with a garnish of green figs.”

428 Lit. “see whether he will make a relish of the staple or a staple of the relish” (“butter his bread or bread his butter”).

429 psomos, a sop or morsel of bread (cf. psomion, N. T., in mod. Greek = “bread”).

430 Huckleberry Finn (p. 2 of that young person’s “Adventures”) propounds the rationale of the system: “In a barrel of odds and ends it is different; things get mixed up, and the juice kind of swaps around, and the things go better.”

431 euokheisthai, cf. “Cyrop.” IV. v. 7; “Pol. Ath.” ii. 9; Kuhner cf. Eustah. “ad Il.” ii. p. 212, 37, ‘Akhaioi ten trophen okhen legousin oxutonos. Athen. viii. 363 B. See “Hipparch,” viii. 4, of horses. Cf. Arist. “H. A.” viii. 6.

432 See “Symp.” vi. 7; and for similar far-fetched etymologies, Plat. “Crat.” passim.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:02