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.

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