Theramens continued: “Again, as to his statement that I have a propensity to be always changing sides (ha d’ au eipen hôs egô eimi hoios aei pote metaballesthai), consider these facts also (katanoêsate kai tauta): it was the people itself, as everybody knows, which voted for the government of the Four Hundred (tên men gar epi tôn tetrakosiôn politeian kai autos dêpou ho dêmos epsêphisato), being advised (didaskomenos) that the Lacedaemonians would trust any form of government sooner than a democracy (hôs hoi Lakedaimonioi pasê̢ politeia̢ mallon an ê dêmokratia̢ pisteuseian). But when the Lacedaemonians did not in the least relax their efforts in prosecuting the war (epei de ekeinoi men ouden aniesan), and Aristoteles, Melanthius, Aristarchus, and their fellow generals (hoi de amphi Aristotelên kai Melanthion kai Aristarchon stratêgountes) were found (phaneroi egenonto) to be building a fort on the peninsula (epi tô̢ chômati eruma teichizontes) [‘Commanding the harbour of Piraeus’, notes Brownson], into which they proposed (eis ho eboulonto) to admit the enemy (tous polemious dexamenoi) and so bring the state under the control of themselves and their oligarchical associates (huph’ hautois kai tois hetairois tên polin poiêsasthai) – if I perceived this plan and thwarted it (ei taut’ aisthomenos egô diekôlusa), is that being a traitor to one’s friends (tout’ esti prodotên einai tôn philôn;)?” (II. iii. 45-46, tr. Brownson)
This is an important information concerning Aristoteles, one of the Thirty, who as a young man played an important role in the historical meeting of Socrates, Zeno, and Parmenides, immortalized in Plato’s Parmenides. I discussed the previous important mentioning of this Aristoteles in Xenophon’s Hellenica in my post ‘1 An interlude with Xenophon’s Hellenica, incidentally focussed on Plato’s Parmenides’ of July 16. In that post I wrote:
‘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.’
In the meantime, consulting Debra Nails’ The People of Plato, I believe I have found a kind of attempt to explain the presence of Aristoteles in Plato’s Parmenides. For she lists him as ‘unnamed’ in Plato’s Seventh Letter 324b-d, and then, in an introductory paragraph on Aristoteles’ ‘Life and career’ she says: ‘He is probably one of the acquaintances Plato mentions in Letter 7.’ She presumably means to say that by putting Aristoteles in his Parmenides Plato paid tribute to their acquaintance. So let us see what Plato says in Letter 7, 324b-d, where he is supposed to point to Aristotle as one of his unnamed acquaintances that ‘at once invited me to share in their doings, as something to which I had a claim’ Letter 7, 324d 2-3):
‘In my youth I went through the same experience as many other men (Neos egô pote ôn pollois de 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 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 tote politeias loidoroumenês), a revolution took place (metabolê gignetai), and fifty-one men came to the front as rulers of the revolutionary government (kai tês metabolês heis kai pentêkonta tines andres proustêsan archontes), namely eleven in the city (hendeka men en astei) and ten in the Piraeus (deka d’ en Peiraiei) – each of these bodies being in charge of the market and municipal matters (peri te agoran hekateroi toutôn hosa t’ en tois astesi dioikein edei) – while thirty were appointed rulers with full powers over public affairs as a whole (triakonta de pantôn archontes katestêsan autokratores). Some of these (toutôn dê tines) were relatives (oikeioi te ontes) and acquaintances of mine (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, of course, so manage the State as to bring men out of a bad way of life into a good one (ô̢êthên gar autous ek tinos adikou biou epi dikaion tropon agontas dioikêsein tên polin). So I watched them very closely to see (hôste autois sphodra proseichon ton noun) what they would do (ti praxoien). And seeing (kai horôn), as I did (dêpou), that in quite a short time they made the former government seem something precious as gold (tous andras en chronô̢ oligô̢ chruson apodeixantas tên emprosthen politeian) – for among other things (ta te alla) [they tried to send a friend of mine, the aged Socrates (kai philon andra emoi presbuteron Sôkratê) …]’ (The words in square brackets already belong to 324e, translation J. Harward)
Debra Nails’ attempt at explanation brings the duty – on the part of Platonic scholars who view the dialogue as pure invention – to explain Plato’s putting into the Parmenides Aristoteles, ‘who was later one of the Thirty Tyrants’ (ton tôn triakonta genomenon), as he points out in Parmenides 127d2-3, acutely to the fore.
That Plato must have been thinking about the Thirty when he was writing the dialogue, is unquestionable; he was presumably wondering – and by emphasizing that Aristoteles ‘later became one of the Thirty Tyrants’ invited his readers to wonder – what had happened to that intelligent man, eager to learn and to discuss philosophy, a model of docility in his youth, as he advanced in age.
But how and for what purpose he invented a young Aristoteles discussing morality with Socrates and philosophy with Parmenides, Aristoteles who in reality in his old age became one of the Thirty, this proposition of Platonic scholars, implicit in their view of the dialogue as Plato’s fiction, requires explaining.
Theramens continued: “He dubs me ‘Buskin,’ (Apokalei de kothornon me) because, as he says, I try to fit both parties (hôs amphoterois peirômenon harmottein). But for the man who pleases neither party (hostis de mêdeterois areskei), – what in the name of the gods should we call him (touton ô pros tôn theôn ti pote kalesai chrê;)? For you in the days of the democracy (su gar dê en tê̢ dêmokratia̢) were regarded as the bitterest of all haters of the commons (pantôn misodêmotatos enomizou), and under the aristocracy (en de tê̢ aristokratia̢) you have shown yourself the bitterest of all haters of the better classes (pantôn misochrêstotatos gegenêsai). But I (egô d’), Critias (ô Kritia), am forever at war with the men (ekeinois men aei pote polemô) who do not think there could be a good democracy until the slaves (tois ou prosthen oiomenois kalên an dêmokratian einai prin kai hoi douloi) and those who would sell the state for lack of a shilling (kai hoi di’ aporian drachmês an apodomenoi tên polin) should share in the government (autês metechoien), and on the other hand I am forever an enemy to those (kai toisde g’ au aei enantios eimi) who do not think that a good oligarchy could be established (hoi ouk oiontai kalên an engenesthai oligarchian) until (prin) they should bring the state to the point of being ruled absolutely by a few (prin eis to hup’ oligôn turanneisthai tên polin katastêseian). But to direct the government in company with those who have the means to be of service, whether with horses or with shields (to mentoi sun tois dunamenois kai meth’ hippôn kai met aspidôn ôphelein diatattein tên politeian), – this plan I regarded as best in the former days (prosthen ariston hêgoumên einai) and I do not change my opinion now (kai nun ou metaballomai). And if you can mention any instance (ei d’ echeis eipein), Critias (ô Kritia), where I joined hands with demagogues (hopou egô sun tois dêmotikois) or despots (ê turannikois) and undertook to deprive men of standing of their citizenship (tous kalous te k’agathous aposterein tês politeias epecheirêsa), then speak (lege). For if I am found guilty of either of doing this thing now (ean gar elenchthô ê nun tauta prattôn) or of ever having done it in the past (ê proteron pote pepoiêkôs), I admit (homologô) that I should justly suffer the very utmost of all penalties and be put to death (ta pantôn eschatôtata pathôn an dikaiôs apothnê̢skein).” (II. iii. 47-49, tr. Brownson)
Xenophon narrates: ‘When with these words he ceased speaking (Hôs de eipôn tauta epausato) and the Senate had shown its good will by applause (kai hê boulê dêlê egeneto eumenôs epithorubêsasa), Critias, realizing (gnous ho Kritias) that if he should allow the Senate to pass judgment on the case (hoti ei epitrepsoi tê̢ boulê̢ diapsêphizesthai peri autou), Theramenes would escape (anapheuxoito), and thinking that this would be unendurable (kai touto ou biôton hêgêsamenos), went and held a brief consultation with the Thirty (proselthôn kai dialechtheis ti tois triakonta), and then went out (exêlthe) and ordered the men with the daggers to take their stand at the railing [‘Separating the Senate from the auditorium,’ notes Brownson] in plain sight of the Senate (kai epistênai ekeleuse tous ta encheiridia echontas phanerôs tê̢ boulê̢ epi tois druphaktois). Then he came in again (palin de eiselthôn) and said (eipen): “Senators, I deem (Egô, ô boulê, nomizô) it the duty of a leader (prostatou ergon einai) who is what he ought to be (hoiou dei), in case he sees that his friends are being deceived (hos an horôn tous philous exapatômenous), not to permit it (mê epitrepê̢). I, therefore, shall follow that course (kai egô oun touto poiêsô). Besides, these men who have taken their stand here say that if we propose to let a man go who is manifestly injuring the oligarchy, they will not suffer us to do so (kai gar hoide hoi ephestêkotes ou phasin hêmin epitrepsein, ei anêsomen andra ton phanerôs tên oligarchian lumainomenon). Now it is provided in the new laws (esti de en tois kainois nomois) that no one of those who are on the role of the Three Thousand may be put to death without your vote (tôn men en tois trischiliois ontôn mêdena apothnê̢skein aneu tês humeteras psêphou), the Thirty shall have power of life or death over those outside the roll (tôn d’ exô tou katalogou kurious einai tous triakonta thanatoun). I, therefore (egô oun),” he said (ephê), “strike off this man Theramenes from the roll (Thêramenên toutoni exaleiphô ek tou katalogou), with the approval of all the Thirty (sundokoun hapasin hêmin). That being done,” he added, “we now condemn him to death (kai touton, ephê, hêmeis thanatoumen).”
When Theramenes heard this (Akousas tauta ho Thêramenês), he sprang to the alter (anepêdêsen epi tên hestian) and said (kai eipen): “And I, sirs,” said he (Egô d’, ephê, ô andres), “beg (hiketeuô) only bare justice (ta pantôn ennomôtata), – that it be not within the power of Critias (mê epi Kritia̢ einai) to strike off (exaleiphein) either me (mête eme) or whomsoever of you he may wish (mête humôn hon an boulêtai), but rather that both in your case and in mine the judgment may be rendered strictly in accordance with that law which these men have made regarding those on the role (all’ honper nomon houtoi egrapsan peri tôn en tô̢ katalogô̢, kata touton kai humin kai emoi tên krisin einai). To be sure,” said he, “I know, I swear by the gods, only too well (kai touto men, ephê, ma tous theous ouk agnoô), that this altar will avail me nothing (hoti ouden moi arkesei hode ho bômos), but I wish to show (alla boulomai kai touto epideixai) that these Thirty (hoti houtoi) are not only most unjust toward men (ou monon eisi peri anthrôpous adikôtatoi), but also most impious toward the gods (alla kai peri theous asebestatoi). But I am surprised at you,” he said, “gentlemen of the aristocracy (humôn mentoi, ephê, ô andres kaloi te k’agathoi, thaumazô), that you are not going to defend your own rights (ei mê boêthêsete humin autois), especially when you know (kai tauta gignôskontes) that my name is not a whit easier to strike off (hoti ouden to emon onoma euexaleiphoteron) than the name of each of you (ê to humôn hekastou).” (II. iii. 50-53, tr. Brownson)
Brownson translates here the term kaloi te k’agathoi as ‘of the aristocracy’, at II. iii. 12 and 15 he translated it as ‘the aristocrats’, at II. iii. 19 as ‘good men and true’, at II. iii. 38 as ‘men of worth and standing’, and at II. iii. 49 as ‘men of standing’. Brownson thus wavers between viewing the term as denoting a class distinction, and as a moral term, expressing positive human qualities. But both these aspects of the term are at play in each of these uses.
The first use is that of Xenophon. He says that ‘as a first step (prôton men) the Thirty arrested and brought to trial for their lives those persons who, by common knowledge, had made a living in the time of the democracy by acting as informers and had been offensive to the aristocrats (hous pantes ê̢desan en tê̢ dêmokratiâ̢ apo sukophantias zôntas kai tois kalois k’agathois bareis ontas, sullambanontes hupêgon thanatou).’ (II. iii. 12)
In his Memorabilia Xenophon uses the term as characteristic of Socrates’ educational efforts. Thus at I. i. 16 he says that Socrates’ ‘own conversation was ever of human things (autos de peri tôn anthrôpinôn aei dielegeto skopôn) … of which the knowledge made a “gentleman”, in his estimation (ha tous men eidotas hêgeito kalous k’agathous einai), while ignorance should involve the reproach of “slavishness” (tous d’ agnoountas andrapodôdeis an dikaiôs keklêsthai). (Translation E. C. Marchant)
For the rest, the uses of the term are those of Theramenes; notably, Critias doesn’t use it even once. His first use, at II. iii. 15, closely corresponds to Xenophon’s use at Hellenica II. iii. 12, quoted above. ‘Theramenes opposed Critias (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).
Theramenes’ next use, at II. iii. 19, clearly shows that Theramenes did not use the term as term designating a class distinction. Opposing the selection of three thousand citizens by the Thirty ‘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).
Next, in his defence speech, Theramenes said: “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)
Theramenes’ next use, at the close of his speech, indicates that his political ideal closely corresponded to the educational ideal of Xenophon’s Socrates. Theramenes said: “To direct the government in company with those who have the means to be of service, whether with horses or with shields (to mentoi sun tois dunamenois kai meth’ hippôn kai met’ aspidôn ôphelein diatattein tên politeian), – this plan I regarded as best in the former days (prosthen ariston hêgoumên einai) and I do not change my opinion now (kai nun ou metaballomai). And if you can mention any instance (ei d’ echeis eipein), Critias (ô Kritia), where I joined hands with demagogues (hopou egô sun tois dêmotikois) or despots (ê turannikois) and undertook to deprive men of standing of their citizenship (tous kalous te k’agathous aposterein tês politeias epecheirêsa), then speak (lege).” (II. iii. 48-49)
Xenophon says in Memorabilia I. ii. 48: ‘Criton was a true associate of Socrates (Kritôn te Sôkratous ên homilêtês), as were Chaerephon (kai Chairephôn), Chaerecrates (kai Chairekratês), Hermogenes (kai Hermogenês), Simmias (kai Simmias), Cebes (kai Kebês), Phaedondas (kai Phaidôndas), and others (kai alloi) who consorted with him not that they might shine in the courts or the assembly (hoi ekeinô̢ sunêsan ouch hina dêmêgorikoi ê dikanikoi genointo), but that they might become gentlemen (all’ hina kaloi te k’agathoi genomenoi), and be able to do their duty by house and household, and relatives and friends, and city and citizens (kai oikô̢ kai oiketais kai oikeiois kai philois kai polei kai politais dunainto kalôs chrêsthai).’
Xenophon continues: ‘At this moment (ek de toutou) the herald of the Thirty ordered (ekeleuse men ho tôn triakonta kêrux) the Eleven (tous hendeka) to seize Theramenes (epi ton Thêramenên); they came in (ekeinoi de eiselthontes), attended by their servants (sun tois hupêretais) and with Satyrus, the most audacious and shameless of them, at their head (hêgoumenou autôn Saturou tou thrasutatou te kai anaidestatou), Critias said (eipe men ho Kritias): “We hand over to you (paradidomen humin),” said he (ephê), “this man Theramenes (Thêramenê toutoni), condemned (katakekrimenon) according to the law (kata ton nomon). Do you, the Eleven, take him and lead him to the proper place (humeis de labontes kai apagagontes hoi hendeka hou dei) and do that which follows (ta ek toutôn prattete).”
When Critias had spoken these words (Hôs de tauta eipen), Satyrus dragged Theramenes away from the alter (heilke men apo tou bômou ho Saturos), and his servants lent their aid (heilkon de hoi hupêretai). And Theramens, as was natural (ho de Thêramenês hôsper eikos), called upon gods (kai theous epekaleito) and men (kai anthrôpous) to witness what was going on (kathoran ta gignomena). But the senators kept quiet (hê de boulê hêsuchian eichen), seeing (horôsa) that the men at the rail were of the same sort as Satyrus (kai tous epi tois druphaktois homoious Saturô̢) and that the space in front of the senate-house (kai to emprosthen tou bouleutêriou) was filled with the guardsmen (plêres tôn phrourôn), and being well aware (kai ouk agnoountes) that the former had come armed with daggers (hoti encheiridia echontes parêsan). So they led the man away through the market-place (hoi d’ apêgagon ton andra dia tês agoras), while he proclaimed in a very loud voice the wrongs he was suffering (mala megalê̢ phônê̢ dêlounta hoia epasche). One saying of his that is reported was this (legetai de hen rêma kai touto autou): when Satyrus told him that if he did not keep quiet, he would suffer for it (hôs eipen ho Saturos hoti oimôxoito, ei mê siôpêseien), he asked (epêreto): “Then if I do keep quiet (An de siôpô), shall I not suffer (ouk ar’, ephê, oimôxomai;)?” And when, being compelled to die (kai epei ge apothnê̢skein anankazomenos), he had drunk the hemlock (to kôneion epie), they said that he threw out the last drops, like a man playing kottabos (to leipomenon ephasan apokottabisanta), and exclaimed (eipein auton): “Here’s to the health of my beloved Critias (Kritia̢ estô tô̢ kalô̢, literally ‘let this be for the beautiful Kritias’).” Now I am not unaware of this (kai touto men ouk agnoô), that these are not sayings worthy of record (hoti tauta apophthegamata ouk axiologa); still, I deem it admirable in the man (ekeino de krinô tou andros agaston), that when death was close at hand (to tou thanatou parestêkotos), neither self-possession (mête to phronimon) nor the spirit of playfulness (mête to paigniôdes) departed from his soul (apolipein ek tês psuchês).’ (II. iii. 54-56, tr. Brownson)