Sunday, July 30, 2017

5b An interlude with Xenophon’s Hellenica – the speech of Theramenes, with reference to Plato’s Seventh Letter and Charmides

Theramens continued: “I objected likewise when they took away from the people their arms (anteipon de kai hote ta hopla tou plêthous parê̢rounto), because I thought that we ought not to make the state weak (ou nomizôn chrênai asthenê tên polin poiein); for I saw that, in preserving us, the purpose of the Lacedaemonians had not been (oude gar tous Lakedaimonious heôrôn toutou heneka boulomenous perisôsai hêmas) that we might become few in number (hopôs oligoi genomenoi) and unable to do them any service (mêden dunaimeth’ autous ôphelein); for if this had been what they desired, it was within their power (exên gar autois, ei toutou g’ edeonto), by keeping up the pressure of famine a little while longer, to leave not a single man alive (kai mêdena lipein oligon eti chronon tô̢ limô̢ piesantas). Again, the hiring of guardsmen did not please me (oude ge tous phrourous misthousthai sunêreske moi), for we might have enlisted in our service an equal number of our own citizens (exon autôn tôn politôn tosoutous proslambanein), until (heôs) we, the rulers, should easily have made ourselves masters of our subjects (ra̢diôs emellomen hoi archontes tôn archomenôn kratêsein). And further, when I saw that many in the city were becoming hostile to this government (epei ge mên pollous heôrôn en tê̢ polei tê̢ archê̢ tê̢de dusmeneis) and that many were becoming exiles (pollous de phugadas gignomenous), it did not seem to me best to banish either Thrasybulus or Anytus or Alcibiades (ouk au edokei moi oute Thrasuboulon oute Anuton oute Alkibiadên phugadeuein); for I knew (e̢dein gar) that by such measures (hoti houtô ge) the opposition (to antipalon) would be made strong (ischuron esoito), if once the commons should acquire capable leaders (ei tô̢ men plêthei hêgemones hikanoi prosgenêsointo) and if those who wished to be leaders (tois d’ hêgeisthai boulomenois) should find a multitude of supporters (summachoi polloi phanêsointo).

“Now would the man who offers openly this sort of admonition be fairly regarded as a well-wisher, or as a traitor (Ho tauta men nouthetôn en tô̢ phanerô̢ potera eumenês an dikaiôs ê prodotês nomizoito;)? It is not, Critias, the men who prevent one’s making enemies in abundance (ouch hoi echthrous, ô Kritia, kôluontes pollous poieisthai) nor the men who teach one how to gain allies in the greatest number, – it is not these, I say, who make one’s enemies strong (oud’ hoi summachous pleistous didaskontes ktasthai, houtoi tous polemious ischurous poiousin); but it is much rather those who unjustly rob others of property (alla polu mallon hoi adikôs te chrêmata aphairoumenoi) and put to death people who are guilty of no wrong (kai tous ouden adikountas apokteinontes), who, I say, make their opponents numerous (houtoi eisin hoi kai pollous tous enantious poiountes) and betray (kai prodidontes) not only their friends (ou monon tous philous) but also themselves (alla kai heautous), and all to satisfy their covetousness (di’ aischrokerdeian).” (II. iii. 41-43, tr. Brownson)

When the Thirty assumed power, Plato was undoubtedly convinced that if they were to ‘administer the city so as to lead it out of an unjust way of life into a just way’ (ek tinos adikou biou epi dikaion tropon agontas dioikêsein tên polin, Ep. 7, 324d4-5), they needed Critias as a political leader, and Socrates a moral guide; this is what the Charmides was all about. In the initial stages of the reign of the Thirty Theramenes too was undoubtedly convinced of the leadership qualities of Critias, viewing him as a true aristocrat (aristos ‘best’, krateô ‘rule’, ‘hold power’). But as Theramenes acutely observed, Critias and the rest of the Thirty by their unbridled ‘desire of having more’ (pleonektein), by their covetousness (di’ aischrokerdeian), betrayed not only their friends, but betrayed themselves.

Theramens continued: “And if it is not evident in any other way that what I say is true (ei de mê allôs gnôston hoti alêthê legô), look at the matter in this way (hôde episkepsasthe): do you suppose (poteron oiesthe) that Thrasybulus (Thrasuboulon) and Anytus (kai Anuton) and the other exiles (kai tous allous phugadas) would prefer to have us follow here the policy which I am urging by word (ha egô legô mallon an enthade boulesthai gignesthai), or the policy which these men are carrying in deed (ê ha houtoi prattousin;)? For my part, I fancy (egô men gar oimai) that now they believe every spot is full of allies (nun men autous nomizein summachôn panta mesta einai), while if the best element in the state (ei de to kratiston tês poleôs) were friendly to us (prosphilôs hêmin eiche), they would count it difficult (chalepon an hêgeisthai einai) even to set foot anywhere in the land! (kai to epibainein poi tês chôras)” (II. iii. 41-44, tr. Brownson)

In the Seventh letter, speaking about the restoration of democracy, Plato says that ‘the exiles who had returned at that time exercised no little moderation (pollê̢ echrêsanto hoi tote katelthontes epieikeia̢), but by some ill fortune then again (kata de tina tuchên au), some of those in power brought my friend Socrates to trial before a court of law (ton hetairon hêmôn Sôkratê touton dunasteuontes tines eisagousin eis dikastêrion, Ep. 7, 325b4-6).’

Bury notes: ‘Meletus and Anytus, the accusers of Socrates; see the Apology.’ But only Anytus fits Plato’s ‘some of those in power’. Plato speaks in plural, meaning one person, as Greeks often did, and as he himself does in the same sentence when he speaks of ‘my friend Socrates’ in plural: ‘our friend Socrates’ (hetairon hêmôn Sôkratê). The ‘then again’ in Plato’s ‘but by some ill fortune then again’ (kata de tina tuchên au) refers to the attempt of the Thirty to implicate Socrates in their crimes by sending him with four others to Salamis to arrest Leon the Salaminian and bring him to Athens for execution; ‘Socrates did not obey (ho d’ ouk epeitheto), risking all consequences (pan de parekinduneusen pathein) rather than be made to share in their unholy deeds’ (prin anosiôn autois ergôn genesthai koinônos, Ep. 7, 324e-325a).

No wonder Plato saw some tuchê (‘fate’, ‘chance’, ‘some agent or cause beyond human control’ L&S) at work in these events. By some tuchê Theramenes in his speech refers to the incident concerning Leon the Salaminian as the point at which he began openly to disagree with Critias and the rest of the Thirty, and ‘then again’ he speaks of his efforts to strengthen the aristocratic regime, so that Anytus and the other exiles could not return to Athens.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

5a An interlude with Xenophon’s Hellenica – the speech of Theramenes, with a reference to Plato's Laws

Theramens continued: “And further, when Antiphon, who during the war supplied from his own means two fast-sailing triremes, was put to death by us (alla mên kai Antiphôntos huph’ hêmôn apollumenou, hos en tô̢ polemô̢ duo triêreis eu pleousas pareicheto), I knew (êpistamên) that all those who had been zealous in the state’s cause (hoti kai hoi prothumoi tê̢ polei gegenêmenoi pantes) would look upon us with suspicion (hupoptôs hêmin hexoien). I objected, also, when (anteipon de kai hote) they said that each of us must seize one of the resident aliens (hote tôn metoikôn hena hekaston labein ephasan chrênai); for it was entirely clear (eudêlon gar ên) that if these men were put to death (hoti toutôn apolomenôn), the whole body of such aliens would become enemies of the government (kai hoi metoikoi hapantes polemioi tê̢ politeia̢ esointo).” (II.iii.40)

The argument Theramenes uses against Critias and the rest of the Thirty concerning their action against the resident aliens in his defence speech is very different from the one he used when the Thirty approached him concerning it.

On the former occasion he is quoted as saying: “But it is not honourable, as it seems to me (All’ ou dokei moi kalon einai), for people who style themselves the best citizens (phaskontas beltistous einai) to commit acts of greater injustice than the informers used to do (adikôtera tôn sukophantôn poiein). For they (ekeinoi men gar) allowed those from whom they got money, to live (par’ hôn chrêmata lambanoien zên eiôn); but shall we, in order to get money, put to death men who are guilty of no wrong-doing (hêmeis apoktenoumen mêden adikountas, hina chrêmata lambanômen;)? Are not such acts altogether more unjust than theirs were (pôs ou tauta tô̢ panti ekeinôn adikôtera;)?” (II.iii. 22)

In his defence speech he argued on the grounds of the impact such action would have on ‘the whole body of resident aliens’. Presumably, the resident aliens played an important part in the economy of Athens, and the action the Thirty had undertaken against the thirty richest resident aliens already proved to have detrimental impact on the other aliens, less rich, but industrious. That’s why he could say in his defence: ‘it was entirely clear (eudêlon gar ên) that if these men were put to death, the whole body of such aliens would become enemies of the government.’

This appears to suggest that the execution of the thirty richest resident aliens and confiscation of their property was seen by the majority of Athenian citizens with satisfaction and approval. It is in this light, I believe, that the law concerning the resident aliens in Plato’s Laws ought to be understood: ‘If an alien acquires property in excess (ean tô̢ xenôn ousia pleiôn gignêtai) of the limit allowed the third property-class (tou tritou megethei timêmatos), then within thirty days of this event he must pack up and be off (hê̢ an hêmera̢ touto gignêtai, triakonta hêmerôn apo tautês tês hêmeras labôn apitô ta heautou), without any right to ask the authorities to extend his stay (kai mêdemia tês monês paraitêsis eti toutô̢ par’ archontôn gignesthô). And if someone disobeys (ean de tis apeithôn) these regulations (toutois) and is taken to court (eisachtheis eis dikastêrion) and convicted (ophlê̢), he must be punished by death (thanatô̢ te zêmiousthô) and his property confiscated by the state (kai ta chrêmata autou genesthô dêmosia).’ (915b5-c4, tr. Trevor J. Saunders)

Thursday, July 27, 2017

5 An interlude with Xenophon’s Hellenica – the speech of Theramenes, with references to Plato’s Apology. Seventh Letter, Laches, and Republic

Xenophon continues: ‘And Theramenes rose and said (Thêramenês de anastas elegen): “I will mention first (Alla prôton men mnêsthêsomai), gentlemen (ô andres), the last thing Critias said against me (ho teleutaion kat’ emou eipe). He says that I (phêsi gar me) brought about the death of the generals by my accusation (tous stratêgous apokteinai katêgorounta). But it was not I, as you know, who began the matter by accusing them (egô de ouk êrchon dêpou kat’ ekeinôn logou); on the contrary, it was they who accused me, by stating that although that duty was assigned me by them (all’ ekeinoi ephasan prostachthen moi huph’ heautôn), I failed to pick up the unfortunates in the battle of Lesbos (ouk anelesthai tous dustuchountas en tê̢ peri Lesbon naumachia̢). I said in my defence (egô de apologoumenos) that on account of the storm (hôs dia ton cheimôna) it was not possible even to sail (oude plein), much less to pick up the men (mê hoti anaireisthai tous andras dunaton ên), and it was decided by the state that my plea was a reasonable one (edoxa tê̢ polei eikota legein), while the generals were clearly accusing themselves (ekeinoi d’ heautôn katêgorein ephainonto). For though they said it was possible to save the men (phaskontes gar hoion te einai sôsai tous andras), they nevertheless sailed away and left them to perish (proemenoi autous apolesthai apopleontes ô̢chonto). I do not wonder, however (ou mentoi thaumazô ge), that Critias has misunderstood the matter (to Kritian paranenoêkenai); for when these events took place (hote gar tauta ên), it chanced that he was not here (ou parôn etunchanen); he was establishing democracy in Thessaly along with Prometheus (all’ en Thettalia̢ meta Promêtheôs dêmokratian kateskeuaze), and arming the serfs (kai tous penestas hôplizen) against their masters (epi tous despotas). God forbid that any of the things which he was doing there should come to pass here (hôn men oun houtos ekei epratte mêden enthade genoito).

“I quite agree with him, however, on this point (Tade ge mentoi homologô egô toutô̢), that if anyone is desirous of deposing you from your office (ei tis humas men tês archês bouletai pausai) and is making strong those who are plotting against you (tous d’ epibouleuontas humin ischurous poiei), it is just (dikaion einai) for him to incur the severest punishment (tês megistês auton timôrias tunchanein). But I think you can best judge who it is that is doing this (hostis mentoi ho tauta prattôn estin oiomai an humas kallista krinein), if you will consider the course which each of us two has taken and is now taking (ta te pepragmena kai ha nun prattei hekastos hêmôn ei katanoêsete). Well then (oukoun), up to the time (mechri men tou) when you became members of the Senate (humas katastêsai eis tên bouleian) and magistrates were appointed (kai archas apodeichthênai) and the notorious informers were brought to trial (kai tous homologoumenôs sukophantas hupagesthai), all of us held the same views (pantes t’auta egignôskomen); but when these Thirty (epei de ge houtoi) began (êrxanto) to arrest men of worth and standing (andras kalous te k’agathous sullambanein), then I, on my side, began to hold views opposed to theirs (ek toutou k’agô êrxamên t’anantia toutois gignôskein).” (II. iii. 35-38)

Brownson translates here the term kalous te k’agathous as ‘men of worth and standing’, which is a felicitous translation, for it encompasses both the notion of a man’s worth, which Socrates endeavoured to give to the term, and the notion of social standing, which the aristocrats as a social class appropriated for themselves. Let me note that at II. iii. 12 and 15 Brownson translated the term as ‘the aristocrats’, and at II. iii. 19 as ‘good men and true’.

Theramens continued: “For when Leon the Salaminian was put to death, – a man of capacity, both actually and by repute, – although he was not guilty of single act of wrong-doing, I knew that those who were like him would be fearful (ê̢dein gar hoti apothnê̢skontos men Leontos tou Salaminiou, andros kai ontos kai dokountos hikanou einai, adikountos d’ oude hen, hoi homoioi toutô̢ phobêsointo), and, being fearful (phoboumenoi de), would be enemies of this government (enantioi tê̢de tê̢ politeia̢ esointo).” (II. iii. 39)

It is worth noting that Theramenes points to the death of Leon the Salaminian as the decisive moment at which he began to oppose the activities of Critias and the rest of the Thirty. And it is worth remembering that it was at this point that Socrates disobeyed the Thirty: ‘The Thirty summoned me and four others (hoi triakonta metapempsamenoi me pempton) to the Round Chamber (eis tên tholon) and bade us (prosetaxan) to go and fetch Leon of Salamis from Salamis (agagein ek Salaminos Leonta ton Salaminion), so that he would be put to death (hina apothanoi) … when we came out of the Round Chamber (all’ epeidê ek tês tholou exêlthomen) the other four went to Salamis (hoi men tettares ô̢chonto eis Salamina) and fetched Leon (kai êgagon Leonta), and I went home (egô de ô̢chomên apiôn oikade).’ (Plato, Apology, 32c4-d7) And as Plato says in the Seventh Letter, it was the attempt of the Thirty to implicate Socrates in their actions – ‘when they tried to send him, along with others, after one of the citizens (Sôkratê … epi tina tôn politôn meth’ heterôn epempon), to fetch him by force (bia̢ axonta) so that he might be put to death (hopôs apothanoi, 324e2-3)’ – at which he severed his connections with the Thirty: ‘I was indignant (eduscherana te), and I withdrew myself (kai emauton epanêgagon) from the evil practices then going on’ (apo tôn tote kakôn, 325a4-5).

Theramens continued: “I also knew, when Niceratus, the son of Nicias, was arrested – a man of wealth who, like his father, had never done anything to curry popular favour – that those who were like him would become hostile to us.”

Niceratus is mentioned by his father Nicias in Plato’s Laches. In this little dialogue Plato takes his readers into the world that was lost in the course of the Peloponnesian wars and in the time of the Thirty became just a dream that the Thirty were eradicating from people’s minds with every new killing of another kalos k’agathos, the world that Plato hoped could be resuscitated after the defeat of the Thirty and the restoration of democracy (see his Seventh Letter 325a-b)’

To make sense of Nicias’ reference to his son in the Laches, I must digress. In the dialogue two Athenian aristocrats, Lysimachus and Melesias asked Nicias and Laches, two foremost generals, to advise them about the best education for their sons (180a). Laches wondered why they didn’t call upon Socrates, who should be consulted in such matters in the first place (180b-c). Nicias concurred with Laches in this (180c-d); they therefore turned to Socrates (180d-e), and a discussion on education unfolded in which they all took part. Laches said to Nicias at the end of the discussion: ‘As far as the education of their boys goes, my advice to Lysimachus here and Melesias is to dispense with you and me (egô Lusimachô̢ tô̢de sumbouleuô se men kai eme peri tês paideias tôn neaniskôn chairein ean), but not let our friend Socrates slip away, as I said from the beginning (Sôkratê de toutoni, hoper ex archês elegon, mê aphienai). If my sons were old enough (ei de kai emoi en hêlikia̢ êsan hoi paides), that’s exactly what I would do (t’auta an taut’ epoioun).’ Nicias replied: ‘On that even I agree with you (tauta men k’agô sunchôrô): if Socrates is willing (ean ethelê̢ Sôkratês) to take charge of the boys (tôn neaniskôn epimeleisthai), they shouldn’t look any further (mêdena allon zêtein) – I’d be only too pleased to entrust Niceratus to him (epei k’an egô ton Nikêraton toutô̢ hêdista epitrepoimi), if he should be willing (ei etheloi houtos). But, you see, every time I mention anything about it, he recommends other people (alla gar allous moi hekastote sunistêsin, hotan ti autô̢ peri toutou mnêsthô) and isn’t willing to do it himself (autos de ouk ethelei).’ (200c2-d3, tr. Iaion Lane)

Clearly, Socrates did not see in Niceratus the potential for benefitting from his art of philosophic midwifery. In the Theaetetus he explains: ‘Those who associate with me (hoi emoi sungignomenoi), at first (to men prôton) some of them seem (phainontai enioi men) quite incapable of learning (kai panu amatheis); but, as our association advances, all those to whom God grants it (pantes de proïousês tês sunousias, hoisper an ho theos pareikê̢) make progress to an extraordinary extent (thaumaston hoson epididontes) – so it seems not only to them but to everyone else as well (hôs hautois te kai tois allois dokousi, 150d2-6) … But there are some people (eniois de), Theaetetus (ô Theaitête), who somehow don’t seem to me to be pregnant (hoi an moi mê doxôsi pôs enkumones einai). Once I know that they have no need of me (gnous hoti ouden emou deontai), with the best will I arrange matches for them (panu eumenôs promnômai), and (kai), with God’s help (sun theô̢ eipein), I guess quite adequately (panu hikanôs topazô) whose intercourse they’d benefit from (hois an sungenomenoi onainto). I’ve given away several of them to Prodicus (hôs pollous men dê exedôka Prodikô̢), and several to other wise and gifted men (pollous de allois sophois te kai thespesiois andrasi, 151b2-6).’

Niceratus figures in the introductory section of the Republic. Socrates and Glaucon, Plato’s brother, were about to return from Piraeus to the city of Athens, when Polemarchus, the son of Cephalus caught sight of them and called them to stop: ‘and in a few minutes (Kai oligô̢ husteron) Polemarchus appeared (ho te Polemarchos hêke), and with him Adeimantus (kai Adeimantos), Glaucon’s brother (ho tou Glaukônos adelphos), Niceratus the son of Nicias (kai Nikêratos ho tou Nikiou), and several others (kai alloi tines, 327c1-3, tr. Jowett).’ They all then went to the house of Polemarchus where the discussion took place, which forms the Republic.

Monday, July 24, 2017

4a An interlude with Xenophon’s Hellenica – Critias’ speech, with a reference to Plato’s Apology and Charmides

Critias continued: “Now to let you know (Hina de eidête) that this man’s present doings are nothing new (hoti ou kaina tauta houtos poiei), but that he is, rather, a traitor by nature (alla phusei prodotês estin), I will recall to you his past deeds (anamnêsô humas ta toutô̢ pepragmena). This man in the beginning (houtos gar ex archês men), although he had received honours at the hands of the democracy, was extremely eager, like his father Hagnon, to change the democracy into the oligarchy of the four Hundred (timômenos hupo tou dêmou kata ton patera Hagnôna, propetestatos egeneto tên dêmokratian metastêsai eis tous tetrakosious), and he was a leader in that government (kai eprôteuen en ekeinois).” (II. iii. 30)

Brownson wrongly translates Critias’ last sentence. According to his translation Theramenes ‘was extremely eager, like his father Hagnon, to change the democracy into the oligarchy of the four Hundred’, but according to Critias,  ‘although he had received honours at the hands of the democracy (timômenos hupo tou dêmou) like his father Hagnon (kata ton patera Hagnôna), he became extremely eager (propetestatos egeneto) to change the democracy into the oligarchy of the four Hundred (tên dêmokratian metastêsai eis tous tetrakosious)’.

“When (Epei), however (de), he perceived (ê̢stheto) that some opposition to the oligarchy (antipalon ti tê̢ oligarchia̢) was gathering (sunistamenon), he took the lead again – as champion of the democrats against the oligarchs (prôtos au hêgemôn tô̢ dêmô̢ ep’ ekeinous egeneto)! That is the reason (hothen), you know (dêpou), why he is nicknamed ‘Buskin’ (kai kothornos epikaleitai): for as the buskin seems to fit both feet (kai gar ho kothornos harmottein men tois posin amphoterois dokei), so he faces both ways (apoblepei de ap’ amphoterôn). But, Theramenes, the man who deserves to live ought (dei de, ô Thêramenês, andra ton axion zên) not to be clever at leading his comrades into dangerous undertakings (ou proagein men deinon einai eis pragmeta tous sunontas) and then, if any hindrance offers itself (an de ti antikoptê̢), to turn around on the instant (euthus metaballesthai), but he ought, as one on shipboard, to hold to his task until they come into a fair breeze (all’ hôsper en nêI diaponeisthai, heôs an eis ouron katastôsin). Otherwise (ei de mê), how in the world would sailors reach the port for which they are bound (pôs an aphikointo pote entha dei), if they should sail in the opposite direction the moment any hindrance offered itself (ei epeidan ti antikopsê̢ euthus eis enantia pleoien;)? It is true, of course, that all sorts of changes in government are attended by loss of life (kai eisi men dêpou pasai metabolai politeiôn thanatêphoroi), but you (su de), thanks to your changing sides so easily (dia to eumetabolos einai), share the responsibility (pleistois men metaitios ei), not merely for the slaughter of a large number of oligarchs by the commons (ex oligarchias hupo tou dêmou apolôlenai), but also for the slaughter of a large number of democrats by the aristocracy (pleistois d’ ek dêmokratias hupo tôn beltionôn ‘by the better ones’).” (II. iii. 30-32)

Antony Andrews wrote in his entry on Theramenes in The Oxford Classical Dictionary: ‘His frequent changes of side were censured both by democrats like Lysias and by oligarchs like Critias, but for Aristotle and for others in the fourth century he was a moderate seeking a genuine political mean. If he was sincere, he must nevertheless bear much of the blame for the internal troubles which lamed Athens in the last phase of the war.’

“And this Theramenes, you remember (houtos de toi), was the man who (estin hos), although detailed (kai tachtheis) by the generals to pick up the Athenians whose ships were disabled (anelesthai hupo tôn stratêgôn tous kataduntas Athênaiôn) in the battle of Lesbos (en tê̢ peri Lesbon naumachia̢), failed to do so (autos ouk anelomenos), and nevertheless was the very one who accused the generals (homôs tôn stratêgôn katêgorôn)  and brought about their death (apekteinen autous) in order that he might save his own life (hina autos perisôtheiê)!” (II. iii. 32)

A few years later, Socrates referred to this incident in the Defence speech at his trial: ‘The only office of state which I ever held, O men of Athens (egô gar, ô andres Athênaioi, allên men archên oudemian pôpote êrxa en tê̢ polei), was that of a senator (ebouleusa de): the tribe of Antiochis, which is my tribe, had the presidency (kai etuchen hêmôn hê phulê Antiochis prutaneuousa) at the trial of the generals who had not taken up the bodies of the slain after the battle of Arginusae; and you proposed to try them in a body (hote humeis tous deka stratêgous tous ouk anelomenous tous ek tês naumachias ebouleusasthe hathroous krinein), contrary to law (paranomôs), as you all thought afterwards (hôs en tô̢ husterô̢ chronô̢ pasin humin edoxe); but at the time I was the only one of the Prytanes (tot’ egô monos tôn prutaneôn) who was opposed to the illegality (ênantiôthên humin mêden poiein para tous nomous), and I gave my vote against you (kai enantia epsêphisamên); and when the orators threatened to impeach and arrest me (kai hetoimôn ontôn endeiknunai me kai apagein tôn rêtorôn), and you called (kai humôn keleuontôn ‘and you were all urging them on’, H. Tredennick) and shouted (kai boôntôn), I made up my mind that I would run the risk, having law and justice with me (meta tou nomou kai dikaiou ô̢mên mallon me dein diakinduneuein), rather than take part in your injustice (ê meth’ humôn genesthai mê dikaia bouleuomenôn) because I feared imprisonment (phobêthenta desmon) and death (ê thanaton).’ (Plato, Apology, 32a9-c3, tr. Jowett)

Critias went on: “Now when a man clearly shows (Hostis ge mên phaneros esti) that he is always looking out for his own advantage (tou men pleonektein aei epimelomenos) and taking no thought for honour or his friends (tou de kalou kai tôn philôn mêden entrepomenos), how in the world can it be right to spare him (pôs toutou chrê pote pheisasthai)? Ought we not surely, knowing of his previous changes, to take care that he shall not be able to do the same to us also (pôs de ou phulaxasthai, eidotas autou tas metabolas, hôs mê kai hêmas t’auto dunasthê̢ poiêsai;)? We therefore arraign him (hêmeis oun touton hupagomen) on the charge of plotting against (kai hôs epibouleuonta) and betraying (kai hôs prodidonta) both ourselves (hêmas te) and you (kai humas). And in proof that what we are thus doing is proper (hôs d’ eikota poioumen), consider this fact also (kai tad’ ennoêsate). The constitution of the Lacedaemonians is, we know, deemed the best of all constitutions (kallistê men gar dêpou dokei politeia einai hê Lakedaimoniôn). Now in Lacedaemon if one of the ephors should undertake (ei de ekei epicheirêseie tis tôn ephorôn) to find fault with the government and to oppose what has been done instead of yielding to the majority (anti tou tois pleiosi peithesthai psegein te tên archên kai enantiousthai tois pepragmenois), do you not suppose that he would be regarded, not only by the ephors themselves but also by all the rest of the state (ouk an oiesthe auton kai hup’ autôn tôn ephorôn kai hopo tês allês hapasês poleôs), as having merited the severest punishment (tês megistês timôrias axiôthênai;)? Even so you (kai humeis oun), if you are wise (ean sôphronête), will not spare this Theramenes, but rather yourselves (ou toutou all’ humôn autôn pheisesthe); for to leave him alive (hôs houtos sôtheis men) would cause many of those who hold opposite views to yours to cherish his thoughts (pollous an mega phronein poiêseie tôn enantia gignôskontôn humin ‘would greatly encourage the thoughts of those who hold opposite views to yours’), while to destroy him (apolomenos de) would cut off the hopes of them all, both within and without the city (pantôn kai tôn en tê̢ polei kai tôn exô hupotemoi an tas elpidas).” ‘When Critias had so spoken, he sat down (Ho men taut’ eipôn ekathezeto).’ (II.iii.33-34, tr. Brownson)

Critias ended his speech with an appeal to sôphrosunê, here in its verb form, sôphronein, translated by Brownson as ‘being wise’, quite in line with its use in Plato’s Charmides. Do we have here Critias’ real concept of sôphrosunê: doing everything that is needed to assure once self-preservation? It neatly contrasts with Socrates’ view of true wisdom, true sôphrosunê; Socrates ended the story about his involvement in the trial of the generals by stating that he preferred risking imprisonment and death, rather than participating in injustice. But to be fair to Critias, he was convinced that what he was doing was in accordance with justice, and he died in defence of what he was doing; he and Charmides died in 403 in the battle at Munychia, in which the Thirty were defeated by the exiled democrats.

Critias’ speech is worth comparing with Plato’s Charmides. In the dialogue, Critias’ first definition of sôphrosunê is ‘doing one’s own job’ (to ta hautou prattein, 161b); his second definition is ‘knowing oneself’ (to gignôskein auton heauton, 165b). The two definitions are in fact closely related; one must know oneself in order to know what ta hautou (‘one’s own things’) – that is one’s true concerns, preoccupations, one’s own job – are. Critias viewed himself and the Thirty as the best men (tous beltistous, Xen. Hell. II.iii.19), as such he considered it as their right and duty to ‘strive for more’ (pleonektein) than the lesser mortals could aspire to or were entitled to, and, as he told Theramenes when he still saw him as a friend and partner, ‘to put out of the way those who were best able to thwart them’ (ekpodôn poieisthai tous hikanôtatous diakôluein, II.iii.16). Critias’ insistence on ‘doing one’s job’ comes to the fore when he compares the task of the Thirty to that of one on a ship: ‘to hold to his task until they come into a fair breeze’ (hôsper en nêi diaponeisthai, heôs an eis ouron katastôsin, II.iii.31)

Saturday, July 22, 2017

4 An interlude with Xenophon’s Hellenica – Critias’ speech

Xenophon continues: ‘Then the Thirty, thinking that Theramenes was an obstacle to their doing whatever they pleased (hoi d’ empodôn nomizontes auton einai tô̢ poiein ho ti boulointo), plotted against him (epibouleuousin autô̢), and kept accusing him to individual senators, one to one man and another to another (kai idia̢ pros tous bouleutas allos pros allon dieballon), of injuring the government (hôs lumainomenon tên politeian). And after passing the word to some young men (kai parangeilantes neaniskois), who seemed to them most audacious (hoi edokoun autois thrasutatoi einai), to be in attendance with daggers hidden under their arms (xiphidia hupo malês echontas paragenesthai), they convened the Senate (sunelexan tên boulên).’ (II. iii. 23)

Note that Critias did not trust his own rhetorical powers when it came to a contest with Theramenes. His awareness of this weakness may have been one of the reasons for his drafting a law against the teaching of rhetoric (en tois nomois egrapse logôn technên mê didaskein, Xen. Mem. I. ii. 31).

For Theramenes, as for Plato in the Phaedrus, the power of persuasive speaking was the key to political power; conscious of his weakness, Critias relied on underhand dealing – the Thirty under his guidance ‘kept accusing Theramens to individual senators, one to one man and another to another’ – and on brutal force – daggers hidden under the arms of audacious young men.

‘Then when Theramenes arrived (epei de ho Thêramenês parên), Critias arose (anastas ho Kritias) and spoke as follows (elexen hôde): “Gentlemen of the Senate (Ô andres bouleutai), if anyone among you thinks (ei men tis humôn nomizei) that more people than is fitting are being put to death (pleious tou kairou apothnê̢skein), let him reflect (ennoêsatô) that where governments are changed (hoti hopou politeiai methistantai) these things always take place (pantachou tauta gignetai); and it is inevitable that those who are changing the government here to an oligarchy should have most numerous enemies (pleistous de anankê enthade polemious einai tois eis oligarchian methistasi), both because the state is the most populous of the Greek states (dia te to poluanthrôpotatên tôn Hellênidôn tên polin einai) and because the commons have been bred up in a condition of freedom for the longest time (kai dia to pleiston chronon en eleutheria̢ ton dêmon tethraphthai). Now we (hêmeis de), believing (gnontes men) that for men like ourselves (tois hoiois hêmin te) and you (kai humin) democracy is a grievous form of government (chalepên politeian einai dêmokratian), and convinced (gnontes de) that the commons would never become friendly to the Lacedaemonians, our preservers (hoti Lakedaimoniois tois perisôsasin hêmas ho men dêmos oupot’ an philos genoito), while the aristocrats (hoi de beltistoi) would continue ever faithful to them (aei an pistoi diateloien), for these reasons (dia tauta) are establishing, with the approval of the Lacedaemonians, the present form of government (sun tê̢ Lakedaimoniôn gnômê̢ tênde tên politeian kathistamen). And if we find anyone opposed to the oligarchy (kai ean tina aisthanômetha enantion tê̢ oligarchia̢), so far as we have the power (hoson dunametha) we put him out of the way (ek podôn poioumetha); but in particular (polu de malista) we consider (dokei hêmin) it to be right that (dikaion einai), if any one of our own number (ei tis hêmôn autôn) is harming (lumainetai) this order of things (tautê̢ tê̢ katastasei), he should be punished (dikên auton didonai).” (II.iii.24-26)

Brownson translates Critias’ hoi beltistoi as ‘the aristocrats’, correctly, but I think that even in this context, when Critias says ‘the best’, he means the best. And when he speaks of what the Thirty consider to be ‘right’, or ‘just’, again, he means it. He is convinced that what he and the Thirty are doing is right. There are good reasons to believe that even when the Thirty decided that ‘each of their number should seize one of the aliens residing in the city (kai tôn metoikôn hena hekaston labein), and that they should put these men to death (kai autous men apokteinai) and confiscate their property (ta de chrêmata autôn aposêmênasthai, II.iii.21)’ Critias viewed it as a just action on their part.

What leads me to this conjecture is a law proposed by Plato in the Laws, the work of his old age. Having divided the citizens of his second-best State into four classes according to the amount of their property, the Athenian Stranger stipulates that ‘if an alien acquires property in excess (ean tô̢ xenôn ousia pleiôn gignêtai) of the limit allowed the third property-class (tou tritou megethei timêmatos), then within thirty days of this event he must pack up and be off (hê̢ an hêmera̢ touto gignêtai, triakonta hêmerôn apo tautês tês hêmeras labôn apitô ta heautou), without any right to ask the authorities to extend his stay (kai mêdemia tês monês paraitêsis eti toutô̢ par’ archontôn gignesthô). And if someone disobeys (ean de tis apeithôn) these regulations (toutois) and is taken to court (eisachtheis eis dikastêrion) and convicted (ophlê̢), he must be punished by death (thanatô̢ te zêmiousthô) and his property confiscated by the state (kai ta chrêmata autou genesthô dêmosia).’ (915b5-c4, tr. Trevor J. Saunders)

E. B. England notes appositely that Plato ‘apparently disapproved of the generous treatment accorded to metoikoi [‘resident aliens’] by the Athenians. In this his relatives Critias and Charmides would have agreed with him.’ (The Laws of Plato, vol. II, Manchester at the University Press, 1921, p. 515)

What happened between Plato’s publishing of the Phaedrus and the action of the Thirty against the aliens in Athens? I shall discuss this question in one of the posts I intend to devote to ‘The Phaedrus in the light of its dating’.

Critias continues: “Now in fact we find (nun oun aisthanometha) this man Theramenes (Thêramenên toutoni) trying, by what means he can (hois dunatai), to destroy both ourselves (apollynta hêmas te) and you (kai humas). As proof that this is true (hôs de tauta alêthê) you will discover if you consider the matter (an katanoête, heurêsete), that no one finds more fault with the present proceedings than Theramenes here (oute psegonta oudena mallon Thêramenous toutoui ta paronta), or offers more opposition (oute enantioumenon) when we wish to put some demagogue out of the way (hotan tina ekpodôn boulômetha poiêsasthai tôn dêmagogôn). Now if he had held these views from the beginning (ei men toinun ex archês tauta egignôske), he was, to be sure, an enemy (polemios men ên), but nevertheless he would not justly be deemed a scoundrel (ou mentoi ponêros g’ an dikaiôs enomizeto). (II. iii. 27)

“In fact, however (Nun de), he was the very man who took the initiative in the policy of establishing a cordial understanding with the Lacedaemonians (autos men arxas tês pros Lakedaimonious pisteôs kai philias); he was the very man who began the overthrow of the democracy (autos de tês tou dêmou kataluseôs), and who urged you most to inflict punishment upon those who were first brought before you for trial (malista de exormêsas humas tois prôtois hupagomenois eis humas dikên epitithenai); but now (nun), when (epei) you (kai humeis) and we (kai hêmeis) have manifestly become hateful to the democrats (phanerôs echthroi tô̢ dêmô̢ gegenêmetha), he no longer approves of what is going on (ouket’ autô̢ ta gignomena areskei), just so that he may get on the safe side again (hopôs autos men au en tô̢ asphalei katastê̢), and that we may be punished for what has been done (hêmeis de dikên dômen tôn pepragmenôn). (II. iii. 28)

“Therefore he ought to be punished, not merely as an enemy, but also as a traitor both to you and to ourselves (Hôste ou monon hôs echthrô̢ autô̢ prosêkei alla kai hôs prodotê̢ humôn te kai hêmôn didonai tên dikên). And treason is a far more dreadful thing than war (kaitoi tosoutô̢ men deinoteron prodosia polemou), inasmuch it is harder (hosô̢ chalepôteron) to take precaution against the hidden than against the open danger (phulaxasthai to aphanes tou phanerou), and a far more hateful thing, inasmuch as men make peace with enemies and become their trustful friends again (tosoutô̢ d’ echthion, hosô̢ polemiois men anthrôpoi kai spendontai kai authis pistoi gignontai), but if they catch a man playing a traitor (hon d’ an prodidonta lambanôsi), they never in any case make peace with that man or trust him thereafter (toutô̢ oupote espeisato pôpote oudeis out’ episteuse tou loipou).” (II. iii. 29, translation from Xenophon’s Hellenica Carleton. L. Brownson)

I’ll say good bye to Critias for today; I’ll return to his speech in my next post.

Friday, July 21, 2017

3 An interlude with Xenophon’s Hellenica, focussed on Plato’s Phaedrus, with reference to his Seventh Letter

Xenophon went on to say: ‘As for the Thirty, they held a review (hoi d’ exetasin poiêsantes), the Three Thousand (tôn men trischiliôn) assembling in the market-place (en tê̢ agora̢) and those who were not on “the role” (tôn d’ exô tou katalogou) in various places here and there (allôn allachou); then (epeita) they gave the order to pile arms (keleusantes thesthai ta hopla), and while the men were off duty and away (en hô̢ ekeinoi apelêluthesan), they sent their Lacedaemonian guardsmen (pempsantes tous phrourous) and such citizens as were in sympathy with them (kai tôn politôn tous homognômonas autois), seized the arms of all except the Three Thousand (ta hopla pantôn plên tôn trischiliôn pareilonto), carried them up to the Acropolis (kai anakomisantes tauta eis tên akropolin), and deposited them in the temple (sunethêkan en tô̢ naô̢). And now, when this had been accomplished (toutôn de genomenôn), thinking that they were at length free to do whatever they pleased (hôs exon êdê poiein autois ho ti boulointo), they put many people to death out of personal enmity (pollous men echthras heneka apekteinon), and many also for the sake of securing their property (pollous de chrêmatôn).

One measure that they resolved upon (edoxe d’ autois), in order to get money to pay their guardsmen (hopôs echoien kai tois phrourois chrêmata didonai), was that each of their number should seize one of the aliens residing in the city (kai tôn metoikôn hena hekaston labein), and that they should put these men to death (kai autous men apokteinai) and confiscate their property (ta de chrêmata autôn aposêmênasthai). So they bade (ekeleuon de) Theramens also (kai ton Thêramenên) to seize anyone he pleased (labein hontina bouloito); and he replied (ho d’ apekrinato): “But it is not honourable, as it seems to me,” he said (All’ ou dokei moi, ephê, kalon einai), “for people who style themselves the best citizens (phaskontas beltistous einai) to commit acts of greater injustice than the informers used to do (adikôtera tôn sukophantôn poiein). For they (ekeinoi men gar) allowed those from whom they got money, to live (par’ hôn chrêmata lambanoien zên eiôn); but shall we, in order to get money, put to death men who are guilty of no wrong-doing (hêmeis apoktenoumen mêden adikountas, hina chrêmata lambanômen;)? Are not such acts altogether more unjust than theirs were (pôs ou tauta tô̢ panti ekeinôn adikôtera;)?”’ (II.iii.20-22, tr. Brownson)

As far as our understanding of Plato and his work is concerned, the seizing of the aliens, confiscating their property, and putting them to death by the Thirty is primarily important for the dating of the Phaedrus. Socrates ends the Palinode with a prayer to Eros: ‘Thus then (Hautê soi), dear God of Love (ô phile Erôs), I have offered the fairest recantation and fullest atonement that my powers could compass (eis hêmeteran dunamin hoti kallistê kai aristê dedotai te kai ekteteistai palinô̢dia) … And if anything that Phaedrus and I said earlier sounded discordant to thy ear (en tô̢ prosthen d’ ei ti logô̢ soi apêches eipomen Phaidros te kai egô), set it down to Lysias, the only begetter of that discourse (Lusian ton tou logou patera aitiômenos); and staying him from discourses after this fashion (paue tôn toioutôn logôn) turn him towards the love of wisdom, even as his brother Polemarchus has been turned (epi philosophian de, hôsper h’adelphos autou Polemarchos tetraptai, trepson). Then will his loving disciple here present (hina kai ho erastês hode autou) no longer halt between two opinions (mêketi epamphoterizê̢), as now he does (kathaper nun), but live for Love in singleness of purpose with the aid of philosophical discourse (all’ haplôs pros Erôta meta philosophôn logôn ton bion poiêtai).’ (257a3-b6, tr. R. Hackforth)

How could Plato have written this prayer to Eros after the death of Polemarchus, the richest resident alien in Athens, in the hands of the Thirty, thus linking the dialogue indelibly with the most tragic events in the life of his country?

Apart from the shadow this incident cast over the Phaedrus, those events played no small role in Plato’s life as a citizen of Athens. In his old age, in the Seventh Letter he wrote: ‘In my youth (Neos egô pote ôn) I went through the same experience as many other men (pollois dê t’auton epathon). I fancied (ô̢êthên) that if, early in life, I became my own master (ei thatton emautou genoimên kurios), I should at once embark on a political career (epi ta koina tês poleôs euthus ienai). And I found myself confronted with the following occurrences in the public affairs of my own city (kai moi tuchai tines tôn tês poleôs pragmatôn toiaide parepeson). The existing constitution being generally condemned (hupo pollôn gar tês poleôs tote loidoroumenês), a revolution took place (metabolê gignetai) … thirty were appointed rulers with full powers over public affairs as a whole (triakonta de pantôn archontes katestêsan autokratores). Some of these (toutôn de tines) were relatives and acquaintances of mine (oikeioi te ontes kai gnôrimoi etunchanon emoi), and they at once invited me to share in their doings, as something to which I had a claim (kai dê kai parekaloun euthus hôs epi prosêkonta pragmata me). The effect on me was not surprising in the case of a young man (kai egô thaumaston ouden epathon hupo neotêtos). I considered that they would (ô̢êthên gar autous), of course, so manage the state as to bring men out of a bad way of life into a good one (ek tinos adikou biou epi dikaion tropon agontas dioikêsein dê tên polin) … And seeing (kai horôn), as I did (dêpou), that in quite a short time they made the former government seem by comparison something precious as gold (tous andras en chronô̢ oligô̢ chruson apodeixantas tên emprosthen poiteian) – for among other things (ta te alla) they tried to send a friend of mine, the aged Socrates, whom I should scarcely scruple to describe as the most upright man of that day, with some other persons (kai philon andra emoi presbuteron Sôkratê, hon egô schedon ouk an aischunoimên eipôn dikaiotaton einai tôn tote, epi tina tôn politôn meth’ heterôn epempon) to carry off one of the citizens by force to execution (bia̢ axonta hôs apothanoumenon), in order that (hina dê), whether he wished it, or not, he might share the guilt of their conduct (metechoi tôn pragmatôn autois, eite bouloito ê mê); but he would not obey them (ho d’ ouk epeitheto), risking all consequences (pan de parekinduneusen pathein) in preference to becoming a partner in their iniquitous deeds (prin anosiôn autois ergôn genesthai koinônos) – seeing all these things (ha dê panta kathorôn) and others of the same kind on a considerable scale (kai ei tin’ alla toiauta ou smikra), I disapproved of their proceedings (eduscherana te), and withdrew from any connection with the abuses of the time (kai emauton epanêgagon apo tôn tote kakôn).’ (324b8-325a5, tr. J. Harward)

May I hope that at least some Platonic scholars will take time to re-read Plato’s Phaedrus hand in hand with Xenophon’s account of the years 405-403 B. C. in his Hellenica? If they do, may I hope that a university will be found somewhere in the English-speaking world, where I shall be allowed to present, and with interested students and academics discuss, my views on Plato? If that happens – preferably at Oxford or/and Cambridge University because of the long involvement of those two universities with Czech philosophers, which began with the visits of Oxford dons in my philosophy seminar in Prague in 1979, including the visit of the Master of Balliol, Dr Anthony Kenny – perhaps I shall be allowed to present my views on Plato even at Charles University in Prague.


It is only because of the neglect of Xenophon by Platonic scholars that the late dating of the Phaedrus can prevail.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

2 An interlude with Xenophon’s Hellenica, with references to Xenophon’s Memorabilia, Plato’s Gorgias and Phaedrus, and Aristophanes’ Birds and Clouds

Bertrand Russell wrote in the Chapter on Socrates in his History of Western Philosophy: ‘Let us begin with Xenophon, a military man, not very liberally endowed with brains, and on the whole conventional in his outlook.’ (Routledge Classics, 2004, p. 89)
Pace Russell, Xenophon’s account of Athens in 405-403 B. C. is essential not only for our understanding of Socrates, but for our understanding of Plato as well.

Xenophon went on to say: ‘Now in the beginning (Tô̢ men oun prôtô̢ chronô̢) Critias and Theramenes were agreed in their policy and friendly (ho Kritias tô̢ Thêramenei homognômôn te kai philos ên); but when Critias showed himself eager to put many to death (epei de autos men propetês ên epi to pollous apokteinein), because, for one thing (hate kai), he had been banished by the democracy (phugôn hupo tou dêmou), Theramenes opposed him (ho de Thêramenês antekopte), saying (legôn) that it was not reasonable (hoti ouk eikos eiê) to put a man to death (thanatoun) because he was honoured by the commons (ei tis etimato hupo tou dêmou), provided he was doing no harm to the aristocrats (tous de kalous k’agathous mêden kakon eirgazeto). “For,” said he, “you and I (Epei kai egô, ephê, kai su) also have said and done many things for the sake of winning the favour of the city (polla dê tou areskein heneka tê̢ polei kai eipomen kai epraxamen).”’ (Hellenica II.iii.15, tr. Brownson)

Theramenes is showing here a degree of self-reflection and self-criticism. Did he take to heart the Delphic ‘Know thyself’? In Aristophanes’ Birds, before the ‘Cuckoo-land’ was built in the Clouds, ‘all men in Athens socratized’ (hapantes anthrôpoi esôkratoun, 1281-2). In his opposition to Critias Theramenes appears to be one of them. Did he take heed of what Socrates said about the Thirty?

Xenophon narrates in his Memorabilia: ‘When the Thirty (epei gar hoi triakonta) were putting to death many citizens of the highest respectability (pollous tôn politôn kai ou tous cheiristous apekteinon) and were encouraging many in crime (pollous te protreponto adikein), Socrates had remarked (eipe pou ho Sôkratês): “It seems strange enough to me (hoti thaumaston hoi dokoiê einai) that a herdsman who lets his cattle decrease and go to the bad (ei tis genomenos boôn agelês nomeus, kai tas bous elattous te kai cheirous poiôn) should not admit (mê homologoiê) that he is a poor cowherd (kakos boukolos einai); but stranger still (eti de thaumastoteron) that a statesman (ei tis prostatês genomenos poleôs) when he causes the citizens to decrease and go to the bad (kai poiôn tous politas elattous te kai cheirous), should feel no shame (mê aischunetai) and think himself a poor statesman (mêd’ oietai kakos einai prostatês tês poleôs).”’ (I.ii.32, tr. E. C. Marchant)

Xenophon continues: ‘Then Critias (ho de), for he still treated Theramenes as a friend (eti gar oikeiôs echrêto tô̢ Thêramenei), replied (antelegen) that it was impossible (hoti ouk enchôroiê) for people who wanted to gain power (tois pleonektein boulomenois) not to put out of the way (mê ouk ek podôn poieisthai) those who were best able to thwart them (tous hikanôtatous diakôluein). “But if (Ei de),” he said, “merely because we are thirty (hoti triakonta esmen) and not one (kai ouch heis), you imagine that it is any the less necessary for us to keep a close watch over this government, just as one would if it were an absolute monarchy (hêtton ti oiei hôsper turannidos tautês tês archês chrênai epimeleisthai), you are foolish (euêthês ei).” (II.iii.16, tr. Brownson)

Brownson’s ‘for people who wanted to gain power’ for Critias’ tois pleonektein boulomenois impoverishes the meaning of what Critias is saying. The term pleonektein ‘having more’, ‘desiring more’, ‘acquiring more’ is discussed in Plato’s Gorgias. Callicles in the dialogue characterizes it in the way that corresponds to Critias’ understanding of it: ‘In my view (oimai) those who lay down the rules (hoi tithemenoi tous nomous) are the weak men (hoi astheneis anthrôpoi eisin), the many (kai hoi polloi). And so they lay down the rules and assign their praise and blame with the eye on themselves and their own advantage (pros hautous oun kai to hautois sumpheron tous te nomous tithentai kai tous epainous epainousin kai tous psogous psegousin). They terrorize (ekphobountes) the stronger men (tous errômenesterous tôn anthrôpôn) capable (kai dunatous ontas) of having more (pleon echein); and to prevent these men from having more than themselves (hina mê autôn pleon echôsin) they say (legousin) that taking more is shameful and unjust (hôs aischron kai adikon to pleonektein), and that doing injustice is this (kai touto estin to adikein), seeking to have more than other people (to pleon tôn allôn zêtein echein); they are satisfied (agapôsi gar), I take it (oimai), if they themselves have an equal share (autoi an to ison echôsin) when they’re inferior (phauloteroi ontes). That’s why (dia tauta dê) by rule (nomô̢ men) this is said to be unjust and shameful (touto adikon kai aischron legetai), to seek to have more (to pleon zêtein echein) than the many (tôn pollôn), and they call that doing injustice (kai adikon auto kalousin). But I think nature itself shows this (hê de ge oimai phusis autê apophainei auto), that it is just (hoti dikaion estin) for the better man (ton ameinô) to have more than the worse (tou cheironos pleon echein), and the more powerful (kai ton dunatôteron) than the less powerful (tou adunatôterou).’ (483b4-d2, tr. T. Irwin)

Callicles’ disdain for the laws, which is intimately linked to his encomium on pleonektein, is worth comparing with Xenophon’s account of the appointment of the Thirty as legislators: ‘Now at Athens the Thirty had been chosen (Hoi de triakonta hê̢rethêsan men) … for the purpose (eph’ hô̢te) of framing a constitution (sungrapsai nomous) under which (kath’ houstinas) to conduct the government (politeusointo), they continually delayed framing and publishing this constitution (toutous men aei emellon sungraphein te kai apodeiknunai), but they appointed a Senate and the other magistrates (boulên te kai tas allas archas katestêsan) as they saw fit (hôs edokei autois). (Hellenica II.iii.11)

Irwin’s ‘rules’ for Callicles’ nomous [‘laws’] and Brownson’s ‘constitution’ for Xenophon’s nomous [‘laws’] obfuscates the correspondence between the two.

Xenophon continues: ‘But when (epei de), on account of the great numbers continually – and unjustly – put to death (apothnê̢skontôn pollôn kai adikôs), it was evident that many (polloi dêloi êsan) were banding together (sunistamenoi te) and wondering (kai thaumazontes) what the state was coming to (ti esoito hê politeia), Theramenes spoke again (palin elegen ho Thêramenês), saying that unless they admitted an adequate number of citizens into partnership with them in the management of affairs (hoti ei mê tis koinônous hikanous lêpsoito tôn pragmatôn), it would be impossible for the oligarchy to endure (adunaton esoito tên oligarchian diamenein). Accordingly Critias (ek toutou men ho Kritias) and the rest of the Thirty (kai hoi alloi triakonta), who were by this time alarmed and feared above all that citizens would flock to the support of Theramenes (êdê phoboumenoi kai ouch hêkista ton Thêramenên, mê surriêsan pros auton hoi politai), enrolled a body of three thousand (katalegousi trischilious), who were to share (tous methexontas), as they said (dê), in the government (tôn pragmatôn). Theramenes, however (ho d’ au Thêramenês), objected to this move also, saying that (kai pros tauta elegen), in the first place, it seemed to him absurd that, when they wanted to make the best of the citizens their associates, they should limit themselves to three thousand (hoti atopon dokoiê heautô̢ ge einai to prôton men boulomenous tous beltistous tôn politôn koinônous poiêsasthai trischilious), as though this number (hôsper ton arithmon touton) must somehow be good men and true (echonta tina anankên kalous kai agathous einai) and there could neither be excellent men outside this body nor rascals within it (kai out’ exô toutôn spoudaious out’ entos toutôn ponêrous hoion te eiê genesthai). “Besides (Epeita d’),” he said (ephê), “we are undertaking, in my opinion, two absolutely inconsistent things (horô egôge duo hêmas ta enantiôtata prattontas), – to rig up our government on the basis of force and at the same time to make it weaker than its subjects (biaian te tên archên kai hêttona tôn archomenôn kataskeuazomenous).” This was what Theramenes said (Ho men taut’ elegen).’ (II.iii.17-19, tr. Brownson)

At paragraph 15 Brownson translates Theramenes’ kalous k’agathous as ‘aristocrats’, at paragraph 19 as ‘good men and true’. The term literally means ‘beautiful and good’, and the shift Brownson perceived between Theramenes’ use of it in par. 15 and 19 is the tension of meaning within the term that corresponded to the tension that existed between the term appropriated by the rich and powerful families boasting of long ancestry lineage, and the term appropriated by Socrates and his followers to denote intellectual and moral excellence.

In Aristophanes’ Clouds a rustic Strepsiades wants to send his son Pheidippides to ‘the Thinkery of wise souls (psuchôn sophôn phrontistêrion, 94) to learn the art of persuasive speaking. His son, who inherited from his mother strong aristocratic tastes and leanings, asks ‘Who are they (eisin de tines;)?’ Strepsiades answers: ‘I don’t know their name, exactly (ouk oid’ akribôs t’ounoma), they are wise men preoccupied with thinking (merimnosophistai), beautiful and good (kaloi te k’agathoi).’ The moment Strepsiades describes them as kaloi te k’agathoi, Pheidippides knows: ‘Faugh (aiboi), they are wretches (ponêroi g’), I know (oida). You mean those braggarts, pale, bare-footed (tous alazonas tous ôchriôntas tous anupodêtous legeis), of whom is the miserable Socrates and Chaerephon (hôn ho kakodaimôn Sôkrates kai Chairephôn) (100-104).

I translated Aristophanes’ alazonas as ‘braggarts’. Dover in his ‘Commentary’ on the Clouds notes ad loc. that Aristotle in his Nicomachean Ethics ‘defines alazôn as a man who claims a respect which he does not deserve’. At 1127a20-22 Aristotle says: ‘The boastful man, then, is thought (dokei dê ho men alazôn) to be apt to claim the things that bring glory (prospoiêtikos tôn endoxôn einai), when he has not got them (kai mê huparchontôn), or to claim more of them (kai meizonôn) than he has (ê huparchei).’ (Translation W. D. Ross)

The insistence on the moral and intellectual excellence of the kaloi te k’agathoi was as characteristic of Socrates as his being bare-footed. When Socrates in the Phaedrus suggests to Phaedrus that they walk along the river Ilissus, the latter says: ‘It’s convenient (Eis kairon), isn’t it (hôs eoiken), that I chance to be bare-footed (anupodêtos ôn etuchon); you of course are always so (su men gar dê aei, 229a3-4).’ In the Phaedran Palinode Socrates depicts the soul’s likeness: ‘Let it be likened (eoiketô dê) to the union of powers (sumphutô̢ dunamei) in a team of winged steeds (hupopterou zeugous te) and their winged charioteer (kai hêniochou) … With us men, in the first place (kai prôton men hêmôn), it is a pair of steeds that the charioteer controls (ho archôn sunôridos hêniochei); moreover (eita) one of them is noble and good (tôn hippôn ho men autô̢ kalos te kai agathos), and of good stock (kai ek toioutôn), while the other has the opposite character, and his stock is opposite (ho d’ ex enantiôn kai enantios).’ (246a6-b3, tr. Hackforth)

Sunday, July 16, 2017

1 An interlude with Xenophon’s Hellenica, incidentally focussed on Plato’s Parmenides

I am dating the Charmides in 404 B. C., in the early days of the reign of the Thirty, and in the preceding post I quoted Xenophon’s description of the actions of the Thirty in those days (Hellenica II.iii.11-12). I have found it inconceivable that Plato could have written the dialogue after the Thirty ordered Socrates and four others to bring Leon the Salaminian from Salamis, and Socrates disobeyed their order; in support of this terminus ante quem I referred to Plato’s Apology and to his Seventh Letter. Let me now return to Xenophon’s Hellenica to get a clearer picture of the situation in Athens that led to that incident.

Xenophon went on to say:
‘When, however, the Thirty began to consider how they might become free to do just as they pleased with the state (epei de êrxanto bouleuesthai hopôs an exeiê autois tê̢ polei chrêsthai hopôs boulointo), their first act was to send Aeschines and Aristoteles to Lacedaemon (ek toutou prôton men pempsantes eis Lakedaimona Aischinên te kai Aristotelên) and persuade Lysander (epeisan Lusandron) to help them to secure the sending of a Lacedaemonian garrison (phrourous sphisi sumpraxai elthein), to remain until, as they said, they could put “the scoundrels” out of the way (heôs dê tous ponêrous ek podôn poiêsamenoi) and establish their government (katastêsainto tên politeian); and they promised to maintain this garrison at their own charges (threpsein de autoi hupischnounto).’ (II.iii.13, tr. Brownson)

The Aristoteles here named figures in Plato’s Parmenides. Let me quote the relevant passages from the dialogue: ‘According to Antiphon (ephê de dê ho Antiphôn), Pythodorus said (legein ton Puthodôron) that Zeno and Parmenides once came to Athens for the Great Panathenaea (hoti aphikointo pote eis Panathênaia ta megala Zênôn te kai Parmenidês) (127a8-b1) … they stayed at Pythodorus’ house (kataluein te autous ephê para tô̢ Puthodôrô̢) in Cerameicus, outside the city walls (ektos teichous en Kerameikô̢), and Socrates came there (hoi dê kai aphikesthai ton te Sôkratê) with a number of others (kai allous tinas met’ autou pollous), eager to hear (epithumountas akousai) a reading of Zeno’s treatise (tôn tou Zênônos grammatôn) (127b6-c3) … Zeno himself read to them (anagignôskein oun autois ton Zênôna auton), but Parmenides, as it happened, was out (ton de Parmenidên tuchein exô onta). Pythodorus said he came in (autos te epeiselthein ephê ho Puthodôros exôthen) with Parmenides (kai ton Parmenidên met’ autou) and Aristoteles (kai Aristotelê), who was later one of the Thirty Tyrants (ton tôn triakonta genomenon) (127c5-d3).’

At 135c8-d2 Parmenides says to Socrates: ‘You undertake to mark off something beautiful and just and good and each one of the characters [‘forms’] too soon, before being properly trained (Prô̢ gar, prin gumnasthênai, ô Sôkrates, horizesthai epicheireis kalon te ti kai dikaion kai agathon kai hen hekaston tôn eidôn). I realized that yesterday (ennoêsa gar kai prô̢ên), when I heard you (sou akouôn) discussing here with Aristoteles (dialegomenou enthade Aristotelei tô̢de). Believe me, your impulse toward argument is noble and indeed divine. But train yourself more thoroughly while you are still young.’

In response to this criticism, Socrates asked Parmenides what sort of training he had in mind (135d7). Not satisfied with Parmenides’ explanation, he asked him to exemplify it (136c7-8). When Parmenides excused himself – ‘You impose a difficult task (Polu ergon prostatteis) for a man of my age (hôs têlikô̢de, 136d1) – Socrates asked Zeno to do so (136d1-3). Zeno replied: ‘Don’t you see how great a task you propose (ouch hora̢s hoson ergon prostatteis; 136d6)? … So Parmenides, I join in Socrates’ request (egô men oun, ô Parmenidê, Sôkratei sundeomai), so that I too may learn from you (hina kai autos diakousô) after all this time (dia chronou). After Zeno said this (tauta dê eipontos tou Zênônos), Antiphon said (ephê ho Antiphôn) that Pythodorus said (phanai ton Puthodôron) that he and Aristoteles and the others begged Parmenides (auton te deisthai tou Parmenidou kai ton Aristotelê kai tous allous) to exhibit what he meant (endeixasthai ho legoi), and not refuse (kai mê allôs poiein).’ (136e3-8)

Parmenides in the end agreed: ‘Then who will answer me? he asked (Tis oun, eipein, moi apokrineitai;). Perhaps the youngest (ê ho neôtatos;)? For he would give least trouble (hêkista gar an polupragmonoi), and be most likely to say what he thinks (kai ha oietai malista an apokrinoito). At the same time, his answering would give me a chance to rest (kai hama emoi anapaula an eiê hê ekeinou apokrisis). – I am ready, Parmenides, said Aristoteles (hetoimos soi, ô Parmenidê, phanai, touto, ton Aristotelê). ‘You mean me (eme gar legeis): I am the youngest (ton neôtaton legôn). Ask your questions (alla erôtâ), and I will answer them (hôs apokrinoumenou).’ (137b6-c3, tr. R. E. Allen)

Let me give a few questions and answers with which the training began, and which are characteristic of the training in its entirety.

Parmenides: ‘If unity is (ei hen estin), is unity many (allo ti ouk an eiê polla to hen;)?’ – Aristoteles: ‘No (Pôs gar an;).’ – Parmenides: ‘So it must have no parts, nor be itself a whole (Oute ara meros autou oute holon auto dei einai).’ – Aristoteles: ‘Why (Ti dê)?’ – Parmenides: ‘Part (To meros), I take it (pou), is part of a whole (holou meros estin).’ – Aristoteles: ‘Yes (Nai).’ – Parmenides: ‘What about whole (Ti de to holon;)? Is not a whole that from which no part is absent (ouchi hou an meros mêden apê̢ holon an eiê;)?’ – Aristoteles: ‘Of course (Panu ge).’ – Parmenides: ‘So if a unity were a whole and had parts, on both grounds it would be composed of parts (Amphoterôs ara to hen ek merôn an eiê, holon te on kai merê echon).‘ – Aristoteles: ‘Necessarily (Anankê).’ – Parmenides: ‘So on both grounds (Amphoterôs an ara) unity would be many but not one (houtôs to hen polla eiê all’ ouch hen).’ – Aristoteles: ‘True (Alêthê).’ – Parmenides: ‘But it must be, not many, but just one (Dei de ge mê polla all’ hen auto einai).’ – Aristoteles: ‘Yes (Dei).’ – Parmenides: ‘So if unity is to be one, it will neither be a whole nor have parts (Out' ara holon estai oute merê hexei, ei hen estai to hen).’ – Aristoteles: ‘No (Ou gar).’ – Parmenides: ‘Then if unity has no part (Oukoun ei mêden echei meros), it would have neither beginning, middle, nor end (out’ an archên oute teleutên oute meson echoi); for such things would forthwith be parts of it (merê gar an êdê autou ta toiauta eiê).’ – Aristoteles: ‘Correct (Orthôs).’ – Twenty-nine Stephanus pages later, at 166c5, the dialogue ends with Aristoteles’ ‘Most true’ (Alêthestata). (The translation is R. E. Allen’s)

Xenophon continues: ‘Lysander consented (ho de peistheis), and helped them to secure the dispatch of the troops and of Callibius as the governor (tous te phrourous kai Kallibion harmostên sunepraxen autois pemphthênai). But when they had got the garrison (hoi d’ epei tên phrouran elabon), they paid court to Callibius in every way (ton men Kallibion etherapeuon pasê̢ therapeia̢), in order that he might approve of everything (hôs panta epainoiê) they did (ha prattoien), and as he detailed guardsmen to go with them (tôn de phrourôn toutou sumpempontos autois), they arrested the people whom they wished to reach (hous eboulonto sunelambanon), – not now “the scoundrels” (ouketi tous ponêrous te) and persons of little account (kai oligou axious), but from this time forth the men who, they thought, were least likely to submit to being ignored (all’ êdê hous enomizon hêkista men parôthoumenous anechesthai), and who, if they undertook to offer any opposition (antiprattein de ti epicheirountas), would obtain supporters in the greatest numbers (pleistous an tous sunelthontas lambanein).’ (II.iii.14, tr. Brownson)

I discuss the dating of the Parmenides and the historicity of the Parmenides-Zeno-Socrates encounter on my website in ‘Plato’s defence of the Forms in the Parmenides’. In the paper, I defended Plato’s insistence on its historicity by interpreting the dialogue in its light. What do I mean by Plato’s insistence on the historicity of the Parmenides-Zeno-Socrates encounter? In the introductory scene Cephalus, the narrator, says that he met Adeimantus and Glaucon in the Agora of Athens, and that he said to the former: ‘These gentlemen here are fellow citizens of mine, much interested in philosophy. They’ve heard that your Antiphon used to associate with a certain Pythodorus, a companion of Zeno’s, and that he can relate from memory the arguments that once were discussed by Socrates, Zeno and Parmenides, having often heard them from Pythodorus.’ – ‘True (alȇthȇ),’ said Adeimantus, ‘for when he was a youngster (meirakion gar ȏn), he used to rehearse them diligently (autous eu mala diemeletȇsen)’ (126b-c). Adeimantus and Glaucon were Plato’s brothers, Antiphon was their half-brother.

The references to Aristoteles in Plato’s Parmenides provide an additional argument for its historicity. For if the dialogue were a pure invention of Plato, as the modern interpreters insist it must be, then one would have to presuppose that Plato put ‘Aristoteles (kai Aristotelê), who was later one of the Thirty Tyrants (ton tôn triakonta genomenon, (127d2-3)’ into the dialogue for a reason, which the reader should be able to detect. Strangely enough, I haven’t come across any interpreter who would consider it.

Thus R. Allen writes in the ‘Comment’ to his translation of the dialogue: ‘The Parmenides is fiction, meant to be read as such (p. 73) … Cornford’s argument by itself is decisive: “To suppose that anything remotely resembling the conversation in this dialogue could have occurred … would make nonsense of the whole history of philosophy in the fifth and fourth centuries” (p.74)’.

Discussing the ‘Characters’, Allen says about Aristoteles: ‘He is younger than Socrates (137c) but old enough to answer questions. He may be the Aristoteles son of Timocrates mentioned by Thucydides (III 105) as an Athenian general in 426, who in turn may have been a treasurer of the Delian League in 421’20 (Corpus Inscriptionum Atticorum I 260). We learn more of him from Xenophon’s Hellenica. He returned from exile to Athens in 405 (II 2. 18), when, if the Parmenides is accurate, he must have been in his sixties; he joined the Thirty (II. 3.2 [Allen mistakenly III 3.2]), was sent by them as envoy to Sparta, and later acted as a general, fortifying the peninsula commanding the Piraeus (II 3.46 [Allen mistakenly III 3.46]) during their last desperate days. All this may be proof that some Greek graybeards were singularly venturesome (it may be observed that Nicias was fifty-five when sent to Sicily, and regarded as extremely old to be a general). But it may also suggest that Plato, in making Aristoteles a youth in 450 B.C., was engaging in conscious anachronism, a device he uses for other purposes in other dialogues.’ (Plato’s Parmenides, translated with Comment by R. E. Allen, Yale University Press, 1997, p. 73)

As can be seen, the only reason for Plato’s mentioning of Aristoteles in the dialogue, that Allen can think of, is ‘the conscious anachronism’ concerning the age of Aristoteles, which, if Allen’s tentative suggestion could be substantiated, would support the view of the dialogue as Plato’s fiction. Allen says: ‘The Parmenides is a fiction, meant to be read as such (p. 73).’ But since Plato in the introductory scene adduced his brother Adeimantus as a witness to the historicity of the Parmenides-Zeno-Socrates encounter, I can’t help finding it strange that he would want to alert the reader to its being a fiction by a ‘conscious anachronism’. Why Aristoteles in his sixties could not have supervised the fortification of the peninsula commanding the Piraeus, the harbour of Athens?

Isn’t it time to ask Plato’s interpreters, who view the dialogue as Plato’s fiction, to give us a plausible reason for his putting Aristoteles in the dialogue as he did? For if Plato wrote the Parmenides as a fiction, he must have had a reason for his having Aristoteles in it.

On my view, Aristoteles figures in the dialogue as he does because he happened to be there on the occasion, happened to have a discussion with Socrates on moral concepts that Parmenides overheard, and happened to act as Parmenides’ answerer in the discussion with which the dialogue culminated.

I put in bold Allen’s ‘He [Aristoteles] returned from exile to Athens in 405 (II 2. 18)’ The reference is wrong. Narrating the events of the year 405 B.C., Xenophon says in Hellenica II 2. 18: ‘Lysander meanwhile sent Aristoteles, an Athenian exile, in company with some Lacedaemonians, to report to the ephors (Lusandros de tois ephorois epempsen angelounta met’ allôn Lakedaimoniôn Aristotelên, phugada Athênaion onta …’ It was only later, after the capitulation of Athens, that Aristoteles could return: ‘After this (meta de tauta) Lysander sailed (Lusandros te kateplei) into Piraeus (eis ton Peiraia), the exiles returned (kai hoi phugades katê̢san) …’ (Hellenica II 2. 23, tr. Brownson)