In the first book of the Iliad Agamemnon, the supreme commander of the Greek forces, dishonoured Achilles, the greatest Greek hero. At Achilles bidding, his mother, the sea goddess Thetis persuaded Zeus to support the Trojans until the Greeks realized how much they needed Achilles. Zeus sent Agamemnon a destructive dream (oulon oneiron, Il. II. 6), ordering him to attack the Trojans with all haste (pansudiȇi, II. 12). Agamemnon called the general assembly of the army; in the hope that his proposal would result in a demand to continue the fighting, he suggested that they should give up the war and return to Greece. It was a perilous tactic, for it resulted in a rush for the ships. Urged by Athene, Odysseus took Agamemnon’s sceptre and urged everybody to return to the assembly and listen to what Agamemnon really had in mind.
Xenophon writes: ‘Socrates’ accuser said that Socrates often quoted the passage from Homer (to de Homȇrou ephȇ ho katȇgoros pollakis auton legein), showing how Odysseus (hoti Odusseus): “Whenever he found one that was a captain and a man of mark (Hontina men basilȇa kai exochon andra kicheiȇ), stood by his side, and restrained him with gentle words (ton d’ aganois epeessin erȇtusaske parastas): ‘Good sir (daimoni’), it is not seemly to affright thee like a coward (ou se eoike kakon hȏs deidissesthai), but do thou sit thyself (all’ autos te kathȇso) and make all thy folk to sit down (kai allous hidrue laous) … ‘But whenever man of the people he saw (hon d’ au dȇmou t’ andra idoi) and found him shouting (booȏnta t’ epheuroi), him he drove with his sceptre (ton skȇptrȏi elasasken) and chid him with loud words (homoklȇsaske te muthȏi): ‘Good sir (daimoni’), sit still (atremas hȇso) and hearken to the words of others (kai allȏn muthon akoue) that are thy betters (hoi eo belteroi eisi): but thou art no warrior and a weakling (su d’ aptolemos kai analkis), never reckoned whether in battle or in council (oute pot’ en polemȏi enarithmios out’ eni boulȇi).’“ (Il. II. 188-202)
This passage, it was said, he explained to mean (tauta dȇ auton exȇgeisthai) that the poet approved (hȏs ho poiȇtȇs epainoiȇ) of chastising common and poor folk (paiesthai tous dȇmotas kai penȇtas). But Socrates never said that (Sȏkratȇs d’ ou taut’ elege): indeed, on that view he would have thought himself worthy of chastisement (kai gar heauton houtȏ g’ an ȏieto dein paiesthai). But what he did say was that those who render no service either by word or deed (all’ ephȇ dein tous mȇte logȏi mȇt’ ergȏi ȏphelimous ontas), who cannot help army or city or the people itself in time of need (kai mȇte strateumati mȇte polei mȇte autȏi tȏi dȇmȏi, ei ti deoi, boȇthein hikanous), ought to be stopped, even if they have riches in abundance, above all if they are insolent as well as inefficient (allȏs t’ ean pros toutȏi kai thraseis ȏsi, panta tropon kȏluesthai, k’an panu plousioi tunchanȏsi ontes.’ (Xen. Mem. I.ii.58-59, tr. Marchant; the translation from the Iliad is Leaf’s, as Marchant points out.)
The words ‘above all if they are insolent as well as inefficient’ suggest that in his reference to the Iliad Socrates pointed in particular to Odysseus’ subsequent chastisement of Thersites. For when thanks to Odysseus’ resolute action the whole army sat quietly, only Thersites remonstrated, insulting Agamemnon for his insatiable greed, and urging the army: ‘let us sail home with ships’ (oikade per sun nȇusi neȏmetha, Il. II. 236). Odysseus was quick to chastise him severely.
Xenophon’s argument that Socrates never said that the poet approved of chastising common and poor folk, for ‘on that view he would have thought himself worthy of chastisement’, is important in so far as it clearly shows that socially Socrates belonged to the class of the ‘common and poor folk’.
John Burnet notes on Socrates’ reference to Daedalus in Plato’s Euthyphro 11b9 as ‘our ancestor’ (Tou hȇmeterou progonou … Daidalou): ‘Late writers make Sophroniscus, the father of Socrates, a statuary, and this passage has been taken as a confirmation of this statement … Plato and Xenophon constantly make Socrates talk of the dȇmiourgoi (‘artisans’), and they could hardly have avoided mentioning the fact if he had ever been one himself. In the Apology (22 c 9 sqq.) he approaches them in the interest of his quest as a hitherto unexplored class of society.’ As can be seen, Xenophon clearly considered Socrates as being one of the ‘common and poor folk’; to what other class would his father belong than that of the artisans?
Xenophon is undoubtedly right when he considers as wrong the accuser’s allegation that Socrates interpreted the Iliad passage as an approval ‘of chastising common and poor folk’. But his argument that it could not be so, for ‘on that view he would have thought himself worthy of chastisement’, is wrong. In the introductory part of the Phaedrus we encounter Socrates in a self-reflective mood: ‘I can’t as yet “know myself”, as the inscription at Delphi enjoins (ou dunamai pȏ kata to Delphikon gramma gnȏnai emauton); and so long as that ignorance remains it seems to me ridiculous to inquire into extraneous matters (geloion dȇ moi phainetai touto eti agnoounta ta allotria skopein). Consequently, I direct my enquiries rather to myself (skopȏ ou tauta all’ emauton), to discover whether I really am a more complex creature and more puffed up with pride than Typhon [‘Socrates connects the name of this hundred-headed monster with the verb tuphȏ, “to smoke”, and perhaps also with the noun tuphos, “vanity”, “humbug”,’ notes Hackforth] (eite ti thȇrion on tunchanȏ Tuphȏnos poluplokȏteron kai mallon epitethummenon), or a simpler, gentler being whom heaven has blessed with a quiet, un-Typhonic nature (eite hȇmerȏteron te kai haplousteron zȏion, theias tinos kai atuphou moiras phusei metechon).’ (Pl. Phdr.229e5-230a6, tr. R. Hackforth)
Socrates’ self-inspection was accompanied by a hard work on his self-improvement. Cicero writes in his Tusculan Disputations: ‘Zopyrus, who claimed to discern every man’s nature from his appearance, accused Socrates in company of a number of vices in Socrates (Cum multa in conventu vitia collegisset in eum Zopyrus, qui se naturam cuiusquisque ex forma perspicere profitebatur, derisus est a ceteris, qui illa in Socrate vitia non agnoscerent). Socrates himself came to his rescue by saying that he was naturally inclined to the vices named, but had cast them out of him by the help of reason’ (ab ipso autem Socrate sublevatus, cum illa sibi insita, sed ratione a se deiecta diceret, IV. 80, tr. J. E. King) This testimony can be attributed to Phaedo’s dialogue Zopyrus, as K. v. Fritz argues in his entry on Phaidon in Pauly-Wisowa, RE, vol. 38, 1938. (Cf. Diog. Laert. II. 105, Ch. 9 on ‘Phaedo’: ‘Of the dialogues which bear his name the Zopyrus and Simon are genuine’ (dialogous de sunegrapse gnȇsious men Zȏpuron, Simȏna). See further The Lost Plato on my web site, the last few paragraphs of Ch1 ‘In search of Socrates’.)
In the Phaedrus Plato’s Socrates maintains that he can’t describe the soul as it truly is, for ‘it would be a long tale to tell, and most assuredly a god alone could tell it’ (hoion men esti, pantȇi pantȏs theias einai kai makras diȇgȇseȏs), but that he can tell what it resembles (hoi de eoiken): ‘Let it be likened (eoiketȏ dȇ) to the union of powers (sumphutȏi dunamei) in a team of winged steeds (hupopterou zeugous te) and their winged charioteer (kai hȇniochou) (246a4-7) … With us men, in the first place, it is a pair of steeds that the charioteer controls (kai prȏton men hȇmȏn ho archȏn sunȏridos hȇniochei); moreover one of them is noble and good, and of good stock, while the other has the opposite character, and his stock is opposite (eita tȏn hippȏn ho men autȏi kalos te kai agathos kai ek tȏn tioutȏn, ho d’ ex enantiȏn te kai enantios). Hence the task of our charioteer is difficult and troublesome (chalepȇ dȇ kai duskolos ex anankȇs hȇ peri hȇmas hȇniochȇsis, 246b1-4, tr. R. Hackforth).’
The unruly horse is described as ‘crooked in shape (skolios), gross (polus), a random collection of parts (eikȇi sumpephorȇmenos), with a short powerful neck (kraterauchȇn, brachutrachȇlos), flat-nosed (simoprosȏpos), black-skinned (melanchrȏs), grey-eyed (glaukommatos), blood-shot (huphaimos), companion of excess and boastfulness (hubreȏs kai alazoneias hetairos), shaggy around ears (peri ȏta lasios), deaf (kȏphos), hardly yielding to whip and goad together (mastigi meta kentrȏn mogis hupeikȏn, 253e1-5, tr. C. J. Rowe).’
The picture of the unruly horse in the Phaedrus was undoubtedly inspired by Homer’s description of Thersites in the Iliad: ‘He was the ugliest man that came to Ilium (aischistos de anȇr hupo Ilion ȇlthen). Bandy-legged he was (pholkos eȇn), and lame in one foot (chȏlos d’ heteron poda); his shoulders were hunched (tȏ de hoi ȏmȏ kurtȏ), brought in upon his chest (epi stȇthos sunochȏkote); above (autar huperthen), his head was pointed (phoxos eȇn kephalȇn); and thin, woolly hair sprouted from it (psednȇ d’ epenȇnoche lachnȇ, Il. II. 216-219).’
Only by chastising Thersitȇs could Odysseus restore the discipline in the army: ‘He hit his back and his shoulders with the sceptre (skȇptrȏi de metaphrenon ȇde kai ȏmȏ plȇxen). Thersites bent himself (ho d’ idnȏthȇ), he shed big tears (thaleron de hoi ekpese dakru), a blood-swollen bruise started up on his back (smȏdix d’ haimatoessa metaphrenou exupanestȇ, 265-7).
Only by chastising the unruly horse could the philosopher-lover in the Phaedrus subdue his bad inclinations. The charioteer ‘jerks back the bit in the mouth of the wanton horse with an even stronger pull (eti mallon tou hubristou hippou ek tȏn odontȏn biai opisȏ spasas ton chalinon), bespatters his railing tongue and his jaws with blood (tȇn te kakȇgoron glȏttan kai tas gnathous kathȇimaxen), and forcing him down on legs and haunches (kai ta skelȇ te kai ta ischia pros tȇn gȇn ereisas) delivers him over to anguish (odunais edȏken). And so it happens time and again, until the evil steed casts off his wantonness (hotan de t’auton pollakis paschȏn ho ponȇros tȇs hubreȏs lȇxȇi, 254e1-6, tr. Hackforth).’
When Socrates often referred with approval to Odysseus’ chastisement of the unruly elements in the army, he advocated the chastisement of the Thersites in the soul of each of us.
Xenophon says that ‘Whenever Socrates himself argued out a question (hopote de autos ti tȏi logȏi diexioi), he advanced by steps that gained general assent (dia tȏn malista homologoumenȏn eporeueto), holding this to be the only sure method (nomizȏn tautȇn asphaleian einai logou). Accordingly (toigaroun), whenever he argued, he gained a greater measure of assent from his hearers than any man I have known (polu malista hȏn egȏ oida, hote legoi, tous akouontas homologountas pareiche). He said that Homer gave Odysseus (ephȇ de kai Homȇron tȏi Odussei anatheinai) the credit of being “a safe speaker” (to asphalȇ rȇtora einai, [Merchant points to Odyssey VIII. 171]) because he had a way of leading the discussion from one acknowledged truth to another (hȏs hikanon auton onta dia tȏn dokountȏn tois anthrȏpois agein tous logous).’ (Mem. IV.vi.15, tr. Marchant)
Socrates’ frequent praise of Odysseus because of his ability to chastise those who deserved it, and his giving him credit for his ability ‘of leading the discussion from one acknowledged truth to another’, characterised his approach to education, which Aristophanes caricatured in the Clouds. Exclaiming ‘Iou, iou’, Strepsiades rushes on stage, crying for help (1321); his son, a fledgling disciple of Socrates, has given him a sound beating, for they had an argument on poetry, and his son found him wrong. His son is going to persuade him that he was right in his doing so, in which he succeeds. Strepsiades: ‘He seems to be right in what he is saying (emoi men dokei dikaia legein, 1437)’. It is only when his son proclaims that he is equally entitled to beat his mother that Strepsiades decides to burn down Socrates’ Phrontistȇrion (House-of-thinking).
Xenophon in his Apology says that Hermogenes reported the following exchange between Socrates’ accuser Meletus and Socrates: ‘“But by Heaven (Alla nai ma Di’)!” said Meletus (ephȇ ho Melȇtos): “there is one set of men I know (ekeinous oida), – those whom you have persuaded to obey you (hous su pepeikas soi peithesthai) rather than their parents (mallon ȇ tois geinamenois).” “I admit it (Homologȏ),” he reports Socrates as replying (phanai ton Sȏkratȇ), “at least so far as education is concerned (peri ge paideias); for people know that I have taken interest in that (touto gar isasi emoi memeletȇkos).”’ (20)
Plato’s Greater Hippias sheds light on Socrates’ readiness to ‘reach for the stick’. In The Lost Plato I date the dialogue as Plato’s third; in the ‘Introduction’ I write: ‘The once promising rule of the aristocrats soon turned into tyranny, and Plato withdrew from the evil of those days (kai emauton epanȇgagon apo tȏn tote kakȏn, 325a5), as he says in the Seventh Letter. In chapter six I shall argue that during the days of his withdrawal from politics Plato wrote the Hippias Major, in which he gives perhaps the most profound portrait of Socrates steeped in his ignorance. We find in the dialogue Socrates’ mind split into two personalities: a man who had been recently engaged in a discussion on Beauty (in the Phaedrus, as I argue), and his critical self that sharply reprimands him for his views on Beauty expressed on that occasion, illegitimate as they were on his part because of his ignorance. When I say that Plato in the Hippias Major presents us with perhaps the most profound portrait of the ignorant Socrates, this does not mean that he, or Socrates for that matter, viewed that state as a desirable one. The very opposite is the case. In the Hippias Major Socrates’ critical self ends his criticism by asking Socrates whether his life is worth living in the state of ignorance in which he finds himself, and whether it would not be better for him to be dead.’
Socrates: ‘Hippias (ȏ Hippia) … quite lately, my noble friend, when I was condemning as ugly some things in certain compositions, and praising others as beautiful, somebody threw me into confusion (enanchos gar tis, ȏ ariste, eis aporian me katebalen en logois tisi ta men psegonta hȏs aischra, ta d’ epainounta hȏs kala) by interrogating me in a most offensive manner, rather to this effect (houtȏ pȏs eromenos kai mala hubristikȏs): “You, Socrates, pray how do you know (“Pothen de moi su”, ephȇ, “ȏ Sȏkrates, oistha) what things are beautiful (hopoia kala) and what are ugly (kai aischra)? Come now (epei phere), can you tell me (echois an eipein) what beauty is (ti esti to kalon)?” In my incompetence I was confounded (kai egȏ dia tȇn emȇn phaulotȇta ȇporuomȇn te), and could find no proper answer to give him (kai ouk eichon autȏi kata tropon apokrinasthai); so, leaving the company (apiȏn oun ek tȇs sunousias), I was filled with anger (emautȏi te ȏrgizomȇn) and reproaches against myself (kai ȏneidizon), and promised myself (kai ȇpeiloun) that the first time I met with one of you wise men (hopote prȏton humȏn tȏi tȏn sophȏn entuchoimi), I would listen to him and learn, and when I had mastered my lesson thoroughly (akousas kai mathȏn kai ekmelȇtȇsas), I would go back to my questioner (ienai palin epi ton erȏtȇsanta) and join battle with him again (anamachoumenos ton logon). So you see that you have come at a beautifully appropriate moment (nun oun, ho legȏ, eis kalon hȇkeis), and I ask you to teach me properly what is beauty by itself (kai me didaxon hikanȏs auto to kalon hoti esti), answering my questions with the utmost precision you can attain (kai peirȏ moi hoti malista akribȏs eipein apokrinomenos); I do not want to be made to look a fool a second time, by another cross-examination (mȇ exelenchtheis to deuteron authis gelȏta ophlȏ). Of course you know perfectly (oistha gar dȇpou saphȏs), and it is only a scrap of your vast learning (kai smikron pou tout’ an eiȇ mathȇma hȏn su tȏn pollȏn epistasai).’ – Hippias: ‘A scrap indeed (Smikron mentoi nȇ Di’), Socrates (ȏ Sȏkrates); and of no value (kai oudenos axion), I may add (hȏs epos eipein) (286c3-e6) … I might teach you to answer much more difficult ones (alla kai polu toutou chalepȏtera an apokrinasthai egȏ se didaxaimi) with such cogency that no human being would be able to confute you (hȏste mȇdena anthrȏpȏn dunasthai se exelenchein).’ – Socrates: ‘How magnificent (Pheu [on the margin of my Oxford text I remarked: ‘used by Plato only at Phaedrus 263d, 273c’] hȏs eu legeis)! Well now (all’ ag’), on your invitation (epeidȇ kai su keleueis) let me assume his role to the best of my ability (phere hoti malista ekeinos genomenos), and try to interrogate you (peirȏmmai se erȏtan). If you were to deliver to him the discourse to which you refer (ei gar dȇ autȏi ton logon touton epideixais hon phȇis) – the discourse about beautiful practices (ton peri tȏn kalȏn epitȇdeumatȏn) – he would hear you to the end (akousas); and when you stopped (epeidȇ pausaio legȏn), the very first question he would put would be about beauty (eroit’ an ou peri allou proteron ȇ peri tou kalou) (287b1-8) … “Then tell me (“Eipe dȇ), stranger (ȏ xene”,” he would say (phȇsei), “what is this thing, beauty (“ti esti touto to kalon”, 287d2-3)?” … Hippias: ‘I assure you, Socrates, if I must speak the truth (esti gar, ȏ Sȏkrates, ei dei to alȇthes legein), that a beautiful maiden is a beauty (parthenos kalȇ kalon, e3-4).’
Follows a chain of arguments, such as, Socrates: ‘Judging from his character, I feel pretty sure that he will then go on (Erei toinun meta tout’ ekeinos, schedon ti eu oida ek tou tropou tekmairomenos), “What about a beautiful pot, my dear sir (“Ȏ beltiste su, ti de chutra kalȇ)? Is not that a beauty (ou kalon”)?”’ – Hippias: ‘Who is this fellow (Ȏ Sȏkrates, tis d’ estin ho anthrȏpos)? What a boor (hȏs apaideutos tis), to dare to introduce such vulgar examples into a grave discussion (hos houtȏ phaula onomata onomazein tolmai en semnȏi pragmati)!’ – Socrates: ‘He is that sort of person, Hippias (Toioutos tis, ȏ Hippia); not at all refined, a common fellow (ou kompsos alla surphetos) caring for nothing but the truth (ouden allo phrontizȏn ȇ to alȇthes). Still, he must have his answer (all’ homȏs apokriteon tȏi andri)’ (288c9-d6)
Then Socrates’ imperturbable questioner asks: “But do you still think that absolute beauty (eti de soi dokei auto to kalon), by which all other things are ordered in loveliness (hȏi kai t’alla panta kosmeitai), and appear beautiful (kai kala phainetai) when its form is added (epeidan prosgenȇtai ekeino to eidos) – do you think that that is a maiden (tout’ einai parthenos), or a mare (ȇ hippos), or a lyre (ȇ lura)?” – Hippias: ‘But still (Alla mentoi), Socrates (ȏ Sȏkrates), if this is what he wants (ei touto ge zȇtei), it is the easiest thing in the world to tell him (pantȏn raiston apokrinasthai autȏi) what is that beauty (ti esti to kalon) which orders all other things in loveliness (hȏi kai ta alla panta kosmeitai) and makes them appeal beautiful when it is added to them (kai prosgenomenou autou kala phainetai). The fellow must be a perfect fool (euȇthestatos oun estin ho anthrȏpos), knowing nothing of things of beauty (kai ouden epaїei peri kalȏn ktȇmatȏn); if you reply to him (ean gar autȏi apokrinȇi) that this about which he is asking (hoti tout’ estin ho erȏtai), beauty (to kalon), is nothing else than gold (ouden allo ȇ chrusos), he will be at a loss (aporȇsei) and will not attempt (kai ouk epicheirȇsei) to refute you (se elenchein). For I suppose we all know (ismen gar pou pantes) that if anything has gold added to it (hoti hopou an touto prosgenȇtai), it will appear beautiful when so adorned even though it appeared ugly before (k’an proteron aischron phainȇtai, kalon phaneitai chrusȏi ge kosmȇthen).’ (289d2-e6) … – Socrates: Well, my friend, this answer of yours he will not only refuse to accept (Kai men dȇ tautȇn ge tȇn apokrisin, ȏ ariste, ou monon ouk apodexetai) but he will even scoff at me viciously (alla panu me kai tȏthasetai), saying (kai erei). “You blockhead (Ȏ tetuphȏmene su)! Do you reckon Pheidias a bad artist (Pheidian oiei kakon einai dȇmiourgon, 290a5)? … The point is that he did not give his Athena eyes of gold (Hoti tȇs Athȇnas tous ophthalmous ou chrusous epoiȇsen) or use gold for the rest of her face (oude to allo prosȏpon), or for her hands, or for her feet (oude tous podas oude tas cheiras), as he would have done if supreme beauty could be given to them only by the use of gold (eiper chrusoun ge dȇ on kalliton emelle phainesthai); he made them of ivory (all’ elephantinon, b2-5).’
Jowett’s “You blockhead” does not recall the Phaedrus with Socrates’ self-reflective ‘I direct my enquiries rather to myself (skopȏ ou tauta all’ emauton), to discover whether I really am a more complex creature and more puffed up with pride than Typhon (eite ti thȇrion on tunchanȏ Tuphȏnos poluplokȏteron kai mallon epitethummenon, 230a)’; the indignant reaction of Socrates’ questioner to Socrates’ offer of a very stupid definition does: Ȏ tetuphȏmene su.
Hippias: ‘You are looking, I think, for a reply ascribing to beauty such a nature (zȇtein gar moi dokeis toiouton ti to kalon apokrinasthai) that it will never appear ugly to anyone anywhere (ho mȇdepote aischron mȇdamou mȇdeni phaneitai)?’ – Soc. ‘Exactly (Panu men oun, ȏ Hippia), you catch my meaning admirably (kai kalȏs ge nun hupolambaneis).’ – Hip. ‘Now please attend (Akoue dȇ); if anyone can find any fault with what I say, I give you full leave to call me an imbecile (pros gar touto isthi, ean tis echȇi hoti anteipȇi, phanai eme mȇd’ hotioun epaїein).’ – Soc. ‘I am on tenterhooks (Lege dȇ hȏs tachista pros theȏn).’ – Hip. ‘Then I maintain (Legȏ toinun) that always (aei), everywhere, and for every man (kai panti kai pantachou) it is most beautiful (kalliston einai andri) to be rich (ploutounti), healthy (hugiainonti), honoured by the Greeks (timȏmenȏi hupo tȏn Hellȇnȏn), to reach old age (aphikomenȏi eis gȇras) and, after burying his parents nobly (tous hautou goneas teleutȇsantas kalȏs peristeilanti), himself to be borne to the tomb with solemn ceremony by his own children (hupo tȏn hautou ekgonȏn kalȏs kai megaloprepȏs taphȇnai).’ – Soc. ‘Bravo (Iou), bravo (iou), Hippias (ȏ Hippia); those are words wonderful, sublime, worthy of you (ȇ thaumasiȏs te kai megaleiȏs kai axiȏs sautou eirȇkas), and you have my grateful admiration for your kindness (kai nȇ tȇn Hȇran agamai sou hoti moi dokeis eunoїkȏs) in bringing all your ability to my assistance (kath’ hoson hoios t’ ei, boȇthein). Still (Alla gar), our shafts are not hitting our man (tou andros ou tunchanomen), and I warn you that now he will deride us more than ever (all’ hȇmȏn dȇ nun kai pleiston katagelasetai, eu isthi) (291d1-e7) … If he happens to have a stick with him (an tuchȇi baktȇrian echȏn), he will attempt to get at me with it very forcibly, unless I escape running away (an mȇ ekphugȏ pheugȏn auton, eu mala mou ephikesthai peirasetai, 292a6-7) … – Hip. ‘Then he will be punished for his wrongful assaults (Oukoun dȏsei dikȇn adikȏs ge se tuptȏn).’ – Soc. ‘I do not think so (Ou moi dokei), Hippias (ȏ Hippia) – emphatically not (ouk), if that were the answer I gave him (ei tauta ge apokrinaimȇn); I think his assault would be justified (alla dikaiȏs, emoige dokei).’ (292b4-6, all translations from the Greater Hippias are B. Jowett’s)
Socrates in the Phaedrus crowns his palinode on love by asserting: ‘If the victory be won by the higher elements of mind guiding them [i.e. the philosopher and his beloved] into the ordered rule of the philosophic life (ean men dȇ oun eis tetagmenȇn te diaitan kai philosophian nikȇsȇi ta beltiȏ tȇs dianoias agagonta), their days on earth will be blessed with happiness and concord (makarion men kai homonoȇtikon ton enthade bion diagousin); for the power of evil in the soul has been subjected, and the power of goodness liberated; they have won self-mastery and inward peace (enkrateis hautȏn kai kosmioi ontes, doulȏsamenoi men hȏi kakia psuchȇs enegigneto, eleutherȏsantes de hȏi aretȇ).’ (256a7-b3, tr. Hackforth) He ends the palinode by praying to Eros, the god of Love, that he turns Phaedrus’ beloved Lysias to philosophy as Lysias’ brother Polemarchus has been turned to it (epi philosophian de, hȏsper hadelphos autou Polemarchos tetraptai, trepson): ‘so that his lover here [i.e. Phaedrus] (hina kai ho erastȇs hode autou) may no longer waver as he does now between the two choices (mȇketi epamphoterizȇi kathaper nun), but may single-mindedly direct his life towards love accompanied by talk of a philosophical kind (all’ haplȏs pros Erȏta meta philosophȏn logȏn ton bion poiȇtai).’ (257b3-6, tr. Rowe)
The miserable end of Polemarchus in the hands of the Thirty in 404 B.C. cast a shadow on the view of philosophy in the Phaedrus, for the ancients generally believed that only a man who lived well and died well could be called blessed. Socrates was of a different view. In the Apology he declared that neither Meletus nor Anytus could injure him (eme men ouden an blapsaito oute Melȇtos oute Anutos): ‘for a bad man is not permitted to injure a better man than himself (ou gar oiomai themiton einai ameinoni andri hupo cheironos blaptesthai). I do not deny that Anytus may, perhaps, kill him (apokteineie ment’an isȏs), or drive him into exile (ȇ exelaseien), or deprive him of his civil rights (ȇ atimȏseien); and he may imagine (alla tauta houtos men isȏs oietai), and others may imagine (kai allos tis), that he is inflicting a great injury upon him (pou megala kaka): but there I do not agree (egȏ d’ ouk oiomai).’ (30c8-d4, tr. Jowett)
There can be little doubt that Plato’s Phaedrus was much discussed. The Greater Hippias indicates that Socrates was involved in such discussions, protesting his ignorance, attributing to the young Plato what the latter put into his mouth, if it was not his [not Socrates’], yet defending the dialogue against any aspersions on account of Polemarchus’ miserable end in the hands of the Thirty.
Hippias’ last definition of beauty in the Greater Hippias reads like a paraphrase of Solon’s definition of good life in Herodotus (I. 30); Socrates combatted it valiantly. Hippias: ‘I am quite sure (eu g’ oun oida), Socrates (ȏ Sȏkrates), that what I specified is beautiful to all, and will so appear to all (hoti pasi kalon tout’ esti, ho egȏ eipon kai doxei).’ – Socrates: ‘He [i.e. Socrates’ questioner, the son of Sophroniscus (ho Sȏphroniskou, 298b11), Socrates’ questioning self] will reply “And will be so in future? For beauty, I take it, is always beautiful (“Ê kai estai,” phȇsei, “aei gar pou to ge kalon kalon)? … And it was beautiful, too, in the past (“Oukoun kai ȇn,” phȇsei)? … So this stranger from Elis asserted that it would have been beautiful for Achilles to be buried after his parents (“Ê kai tȏi Achillei,” phȇsei, “ho xenos ho Êleios ephȇ kalon einai husterȏi tȏn progonȏn taphȇnai), and similarly for his grandfather Aeacus (kai tȏi pappȏi autou Aiakȏi), and for the other children of gods (kai tois allois hosoi ek theȏn gegonasi), and for the gods themselves (kai autois tois theois)?”’ (292e4-293a1)
Yet, in Plato’s Laws, the work of his ripe old age, the Athenian Stranger declared: ‘But to honour a man with hymns and panegyrics during his lifetime is to invite trouble (Tous ge mȇn eti zȏntas enkȏmiois te kai humnois timan ouk asphales): we must wait until he has come to the end of the course after running the race of life successfully (prin an hapanta tis ton bion diadramȏn telos epistȇsȇtai kalon).’ (802a1-3, tr. Trevor J. Saunders)