John Henry Wright.

Masterpieces of Greek literature; Homer: Tyrtaeus: Archilochus: Callistratus: Alcaeus: Sappho: Anacreon: Pindar: Aeschylus: Sophocles: Euripides Aristophanes: Herodotus: Thucydides: Xenophon: Plato: Theocritus: Lucian, with biographical sketches and notes; online

. (page 26 of 29)
Online LibraryJohn Henry WrightMasterpieces of Greek literature; Homer: Tyrtaeus: Archilochus: Callistratus: Alcaeus: Sappho: Anacreon: Pindar: Aeschylus: Sophocles: Euripides Aristophanes: Herodotus: Thucydides: Xenophon: Plato: Theocritus: Lucian, with biographical sketches and notes; → online text (page 26 of 29)
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should die in peace. Be quiet then, and have pa-
tience." When we heard his words we were ashamed,
and refrained our tears ; and he walked about until,
as he said, his legs began to fail, and then he lay on
his back, according to the directions, and the man
who gave him the poison now and then looked at his
feet and legs ; and after a while he pressed his foot
hard and asked him if he could feel ; and he said,
" No ; " and then his leg, and so upwards and upwards,
and showed us that he was growing cold and stiff. And
he felt them himself, and said : " When the poison
reaches the heart, that will be the end." He was be-
ginning to grow cold about the groin, when he uncov-
ered his face, for he had covered himself up, and said
— they were his last words — he said : " Crito, I owe
a cock to Asclepius ; ^ will you remember to pay the
debt?" " The debt shall be paid," said Crito ; " is
there anything else ? " There was no answer to this
question ; but in a minute or two a movement was
heard, and the attendants uncovered him ; his eyes
were set, and Crito closed his eyes and mouth.

Such was the end, Echecrates, of our friend ; con-
cerning whom I may truly say, that of all the men of
his time whom I have known, he was the wisest and
justest and best.

1 A cock was sacrificed to Asclepius (Aesculapius) on recovery from
illness ; thus Socrates means, " I have been released from the ills and
sufferings of life."




From the Republic, Book VI. 488^92.

Socrates. Adeimantus.

Socrates. Imagine, then, a fleet or a ship in which
there is a captain ^ who is taller and stronger than any
of the crew, but he is a little deaf and has a similar
infirmity in sight, and his knowledge of navigation is
not much better. The sailors are quarrelling with one
another about the steering — every one is of opin-
ion that he has a right to steer, though he has never
learned the art of navigation and cannot tell who
taught him or when he learned, and will further assert
that it cannot be taught, and they are ready to cut in
pieces any one who says the contrary. They throng
about the captain, begging and praying him to com-
mit the helm to them ; and if at any time they do not
prevail, but others are preferred to them, they kill the
others or throw them overboard, and having first
chained up the noble captain's senses with drink or
some narcotic drug, they mutiny and take possession
of the ship and make free with the stores ; thus, eat-
ing and drinking, they proceed on their voyage in
such manner as might be expected of them. Him
who is their partisan and cleverly aids them in their
plot for getting the ship out of the captain's hands

^ A more accurate translation would be skip-owner, who of course
has the right to appoint the commander of his ship. He corresponds
to the common people of Athens, who have the rig-hfc to appoint the
ruler. The sailors are the politicians. The steering is the command
of the ship. The philosopher is able to command, but is not skilled
in persuading the people to allow him to rule ; so he is called a star-
gazer and visionary by the politicians.


into their own, whether by force or persuasion, they
compliment with the name of sailor, pilot, able sea-
man, and abuse the other sort of man, whom they call
a good-for-nothing ; but that the true pilot must pay
attention to the year and seasons and sky and stars
and winds, and whatever else belongs to his art, if he
intends to be really qualified for the command of a
ship, and that he must and will be the steerer, whether
other people like or not — the possibility of this
union of authority with the steerer's art has never
seriously entered into their thoughts or been made
part of their calling. Now in vessels which are in
a state of mutiny and by sailors who are mutineers,
how will the true pilot be regarded ? Will he not
be called by them a prater, a star-gazer, a good-for-
nothing ?

Of course, said Adeimantus.

Then you will hardly need, I said, to hear the in-
terpretation of the figure, which describes the true
philosopher in his relation to the State ; for you un-
derstand already.


Then suppose you now take this parable to the gen-
tleman who is surprised at finding that philosophers
have no honor in their cities ; explain it to him, and
try to convince him that their having honor would be
far more extraordinary.

I will.

Say to him, that, in deeming the best votaries of
philosophy to be useless to the rest of the world, he is
right ; but also tell him to attribute their uselessness
to the fault of those who will not use them, and not
to themselves. The pilot should not humbly beg the
sailors to be commanded by him, — that is not the or-


der of nature ; neither are " the wise to go to the doors
of the rich " — the ingenious author of this saying
told a lie — but the truth is, that, when a man is ill,
whether he be rich or poor, to the physician he must
go, and he who wants to be governed, to him who is
able to govern. The ruler who is good for anything
ought not to beg his subjects to be ruled by him ;
although the present governors of mankind are of a
different stamp ; they may be justly compared to the
mutinous sailors, and the true helmsman to those who
are called by them good-for-nothings and star-gazers.

Precisely so, he said.

For these reasons, and among men like these, phi-
losophy, the noblest pursuit of all, is not likely to be
much esteemed by those of the opposite faction ; not
that the greatest and most lasting injury is done to
her by her opponents, but by her own professing fol-
lowers, the same of whom you suppose the accuser to
say that the greater number of them are arrant
rogues, and the best are useless ; in which opinion I


And the reason why the good are useless has now
been explained ?


Then shall we proceed to show that the corruption
of the majority is also unavoidable, and that this is
not to be laid to the charge of philosophy any more
than the other ?

By all means.

And let us ask and answer in turn, first going back
to the description of the gentle and noble nature.
Truth, as you will remember, was his leader, whom he
followed always and in all things; failing in this, he


was an impostor, and had no part or lot in true phi-

Yes, that was said.

Well, and is not this one quality, to mention no
others, greatly at variance with present notions of

Certainly, he said.

And have we not a right to say in his defence, that
the true lover of knowledge is always striving after
being — that is his nature ; he will not rest in the
multiplicity of individuals, which is an appearance
only, but will go on — the keen edge will not be
blunted, nor the force of his desire abate until he have
attained the knowledge of the true nature of every es-
sence by a sympathetic and kindred power in the soul,
and by that power drawing near and mingling and
becoming incorporate with every being, having begot-
ten mind and truth, he will have knowledge and will
live and grow truly, and then, and not till then, will
he cease from his travail.

Nothing, he said, can be more just than such a de-
scription of him.

And will the love of a lie be any part of a philoso-
pher's nature ? Will he not utterly hate a lie ?

He will.

And when truth is the captain, we cannot suspect
any evil of the band which he leads ?


Justice and health of mind will be of the company,
and temperance will follow after ?

True, he replied.

Neither is there any reason why I should again set
in array the philosopher's virtues, as you will doubt-
less remember that courage, magnificence, apprehen-


sion, memory, were his natural gifts. And you ob-
jected that, although no one could deny what I then
said, still, if you leave words and look at facts, the
persons who are thus described are some of them
manifestly useless, and the greater number utterly de-
praved ; we were then led to inquire into the grounds
of these accusations, and have now arrived at the
point of asking why are the majority bad, which ques-
tion of necessity brought us back to the examination
and definition of the true philosopher.


And we have next to consider the corruptions of
the philosophic nature, why so many are spoiled and
so few escape spoiling, — I am speaking of those
who were said to be useless but not wicked, — and
when we have done with them, we will speak of the
imitators of philosophy, what manner of men are they
who aspire after a profession which is above them
and of which they are unworthy, and then, by their
manifold inconsistencies, bring upon philosophy, and
upon all philosophers, that universal reprobation of
which we speak.

What are these corruptions? he said.

I will see if I can explain them to you. Every one
will admit that a nature having in perfection all the
qualities which we required in a philosopher, is a rare
plant which is seldom seen among men.

Rare indeed.

And what numberless and powerful causes tend to
destroy these rare natures !

What causes ?

In the first place, there are their own virtues, their
courage, temperance, and the rest of them, every one
of which praiseworthy qualities (and this is a most

406 PLA TO

singular circumstance) destroys and distracts from
philosophy the soul which is the possessor of them.

That is very singular, he said.

Then there are all the ordinary goods of life —
l^eauty, wealth, strength, rank, and great connections
in the State — you understand the sort of things —
these also have a corrupting and distracting effect.

I understand ; but I should like to know more pre-
cisely what you mean about them.

Grasp the truth as a whole, I said, and in the right
way ; you will then have no difficulty in apprehending
the preceding remarks, and they will no longer appear
strange to you.

And how am I to do so ? he asked.

Why, I said, we know that all plants or seeds,
whether vegetable or animal, when they fail to meet
with proper nutriment or climate or soil, in proportion
to their vigor, are all the more sensitive to the want
of a suitable environment, for evil is a greater enemy
to what is good than to what is not.

Very true.

There is reason in supposing that the finest natures,
when under alien conditions, receive more injury than
the inferior, because the contrast is greater.


And may we not say, Adeimantus, that the most
gifted minds, when they are ill-educated, become pre-
eminently bad ? Do not great crimes and the spirit
of pure evil spring out of a fulness of nature ruined
by education rather than from any inferiority, whereas
weak natures are scarcely capable of any very great
good or very great evil ?

There I think that you are right.

And our philosopher follows the same analogy —


he is like a plant which, having proper nurture, must
necessarily grow and mature into all virtue, but, if
sown and planted in an alien soil, becomes the most
noxious of all weeds, unless he be preserved by some
divine power. Do you really think, as people so often
say, that our youth are corrupted by Sophists, or that
private teachers of the art corrupt them in any degree
worth speaking of ? Are not the public who say
these things the greatest of all Sophists? And do
they not educate to perfection young and old, men
and women alike, and fashion them after their own
hearts ?

When is this accomplished ? he said.

When they meet together, and the world sits down
at an assembly, or in a court of law, or in a theatre,
or a camp, or in any other popular resort, and there
is a great uproar, and they praise some things which
are being said or done, and blame other things, equally
exaggerating both, shouting and clapping their hands,
and the echo of the rocks ^ and the place in which
they are assembled redoubles the sound of the praise
or blame — at such a time will not a young man's
heart, as they say, leap within him ? Will any pri-
vate training enable him to stand firm against the
overwhelming flood of popular opinion ? or, will he be
carried away by the stream ? Will he not have the
notions of good and evil which the public in general
have — he will do as they do, and as they are, such
will he be ?

Yes, Socrates, necessity will compel him.

And yet, I said, there is a still greater necessity,
which has not been mentioned.

^ The great theatre at Athens was at the foot of the Acropolis, on
the southeastern slope.


What is that?

The gentle force of attainder or confiscation or
death, which, as you are aware, these new Sophists
and educators, who are the public, apply when their
words are powerless.

Indeed they do ; and in right good earnest.

Now what opinion of any other Sophist, or of any
private person, can be expected to overcome in such
an unequal contest ?


From the Republic, Book VII. 514-519.

Socrates. Glaucon.

Socrates. And now, I said, let me show in a figure
how far our nature is enlightened or unenlightened :
Behold human beings living in an underground den,
which has a mouth open towards the light and reach-
ing all along the den ; here they have been from their
childhood, and have their legs and necks chained so
that they cannot move, and can only see before them,
being prevented by the chains from turning round
their heads. Above and behind them a fire is blazins^
at a distance, and between the fire and the prisoners
there is a raised way ; and you will see, if you look,
a low wall built along the way, like the screen which
marionette players have in front of them, over which
they show the puppets.

I see.

And do you see, I said, men passing along the wall,
carrying all sorts of vessels, and statues ^ and figures
of animals made of wood and stone and various ma-

1 Thus the prisoners see only shadows cast by images of real
things, — not even shadows cast by real things themselves.


terials, which appear over the wall? Some of them
are talking, others silent.

You have shown me a strange image, and they are
strange prisoners.

Like ourselves, I replied ; and they see only their
own shadows, or the shadows of one another, which
the fire throws on the opposite wall of the cave ?

True, he said ; how could they see anything but the
shadows if they were never allowed to move their
heads ?

And of the objects which are being carried in like
manner they would only see the shadows ?

Yes, he said.

And if they were able to converse with one an-
other, would they not suppose that they were naming
what was actually before them ?

Very true.

And suppose further that the prison had an echo
which came from the other side, would they not be
sure to fancy when one of the passers-by spoke that
the voice which they heard came from the passing

No question, he replied.

To them, I said, the truth would be literally no-
thing but the shadows of the images.

That is certain.

And now look again, and see what will naturally
follow if the prisoners are released and disabused of
their error. At first, when any one of them is liber-
ated and compelled suddenly to stand up and turn his
neck round and walk and look towards the light, he
will suffer sharp pains ; the glare will distress him,
and he will be unable to see the realities of which in
his former state he had seen the shadows ; and then


conceive some one saying to him that what he saw be-
fore was an illusion, but that now, when he is approach-
ing nearer to being and his eye is turned towards more
real existence, he has a clearer vision, — what will be
his reply? And you may further imagine that his
instructor is pointing to the objects as they pass and
requiring him to name them, — will he not be per-
plexed? Will he not fancy that the shadows which
he formerly saw are truer than the objects which are
now shown to him ?

Far truer.

And if he is compelled to look straight at the light,
•will he not have a pain in his eyes which will make
him turn away to take refuge in the objects of vision
which he can see, and which he will conceive to be in
reality clearer than the things which are now being
shown to him ?

True, he said.

And suppose once more, that he is reluctantly
dragged up a steep and rugged ascent, and held fast
until he is forced into the presence of the sun himself,
is he not likely to be pained and irritated ? When
he approaches the light his eyes will be dazzled, and
he will not be able to see anything at all of what are
now called realities.

Not all in a moment, he said.

He will require to grow accustomed to the sight of
the upper world. And first he will see the shadows
best, next the reflections of men and other objects in
the water, and then the objects themselves ; then he
will gaze upon the light of the moon and the stars
and the spangled heaven ; and he will see the sky
and the stars by night better than the sun or the light
of the sun by day ?



Last of all he will be able to see the sun, and not
mere reflections of him in the water, but he will see
him in his own proper place, and not in another ; and
he will contemplate him as he is.


He will then proceed to argue that this is he who
gives the season and the years, and is the guardian of
all that is in the visible world, and in a certain way
the cause of all things which he and his fellows have
been accustomed to behold ?

Clearly, he said, he would first see the sun and
then reason about him.

And when he remembered his old habitation, and
the wisdom of the den and his fellow-prisoners, do
you not suppose that he would felicitate himself on
the change, and pity them ?

Certainly, he would.

And if they were in the habit of conferring honors
among themselves on those who were quickest to ob-
serve the passing shadows and to remark which of
them went before, and which followed after, and
which were together ; and who were therefore best
able to draw conclusions as to the future, do you think
that he would care for such honors and glories, or
envy the possessors of them ? Would he not say with
Homer, " Better to be the poor servant of a poor
master," and to endure anything, rather than think
as they do and live after their manner.

Yes, he said, I think that he would rather suffer
anything than entertain these false notions and live
in this miserable manner.

Imagine once more, I said, such an one coming
suddenly out of the sun to be replaced in his old situ-


ation ; would he not be certain to have his eyes full
of darkness ?

To be sure, he said.

And if there were a contest, and he had to compete

in measuring the shadows with the prisoners who had

never moved out of the den, while his sight was still

weak, and before his eyes had become steady (and

the time which would be needed to acquire this new

habit of sight might be very considerable), would he

4 not be ridiculous? Men would say of him that up

gj^ //'r he went and down he came without his eyes ; and

/■ ^'^j. that it was better not even to think of ascending ;

ji/ } ^ j' and if any one tried to loose another and lead him up

j I to the light, let them only catch the offender and they

'^ would put him to death.

No question, he said.

This entire allegory, I said, you may now append,
dear Glaucon, to the previous argument ; the prison-
house is the world of sight, the light of the fire is the
sun, and you will not misapprehend me if you inter-
pret the journey upwards to be the ascent of the soul
into the intellectual world according to my poor belief,
which, at your desire, I have expressed — whether
rightly or wrongly God knows. But, whether true or
false, my opinion is that in the world of knowledge
the idea of good appears last of all, and is seen only
with an effort ; and, when seen, is also inferred to
be the universal author of all things beautiful and
right — parent of light and of the lord of light in
this visible world, and the immediate source of rea-
son and truth in the intellectual ; and that this is
the power upon which he who would act rationally
either in public or private life must have his eye


I agree, he said, as far as I am able to understand

Moreover, I said, you must not wonder tbat those
who attain to this beatific vision are unwilling to de-
scend to human affairs ; for their souls are ever has-
tening into the upper world where they desire to
dwell; which desire of theirs is very natural, if our
allegory may be trusted.

Yes, very natural.

And is there anything surprising in one who passCwS
from divine contemplations to the evil state of man,
misbehaving himself in a ridiculous rtianner ; if, while
his eyes are blinking and before he has become accus-
tomed to the surrounding darkness, he is compelled to
fight in courts of law, or in other places, about the
images or shadows of images of justice, and is endeav-
oring to meet the conceptions of those who have never
yet seen absolute justice?

Anything but surprising, he replied.

Any one who has common sense will remember
that the bewilderments of the eyes are of two kinds,
and arise from two causes, either from coming out of
the light or from going into the light, which is true
of the mincTs eye, quite as much as of the bodily eye ;
and he who remembers this when he sees any one
whose vision is perplexed and weak, will not be too
ready to laugh ; he will first ask whether that soul of
man has come out of the brighter life, and is unable
to see because unaccustomed to the dark, or having
turned from darkness to the day is dazzled by excess
of light. And he will count the one happy in his
condition and state of being, and he will pity the
other ; or, if he have a mind to laugh at the soul
which comes from below into the light, there will be


more reason in this than in the laugh which greets
him who returns from above out of the light into the

That, he said, is a very just distinction.

But then, if I am right, certain professors of edu-
cation must be wrong when they say that they can put
a knowledge into the soul which was not there before,
like sight into blind eyes.

They undoubtedly say this, he replied.

Whereas, our argument shows that the power and
capacity of learning exists in the soul already; and
that just as the eye was unable to turn from dark-
ness to light without the whole body, so too the in-
strument of knowledge can only by the movement of
the whole soul be turned from the world of becom-
ing into that of being, and learn by degrees to en-
dure the sight of being, and of the brightest and best
of being, or in other words, of the good.

Very true.

And must there not be some art which will effect
conversion in the easiest and quickest manner ; not
implanting the faculty of sight, for that exists already,
but has been turned in the wrong direction, and is
looking away from the truth ?

Yes, he said, such an art may be presumed.

And whereas the other so-called virtues of the soul
seem to be akin to bodily qualities, for even when
they are not originally innate they can be implanted
later by habit and exercise, the virtue of wisdom
more than anything else contains a divine element
which always remains, and by this conversion is ren-
dered useful and profitable ; or on the other hand,
hurtful and useless. Did you never observe the nar-
row intelligence flashing from the keen eye of a clever


rogue — how eager lie is, how clearly his paltry soul
sees the way to his end ; he is the reverse of blind,
but his keen eyesight is forced into the service of
evil, and he is mischievous in proportion to his clev-
erness ?

Very true, he said.

But what if there had been a circumcision of such
natures in the days of their youth ; and they had
been severed from those sensual pleasures, such as
eating and drinking, which, like leaden weights, were
attached to them at their birth,^ and which drag them
down and turn the vision of their souls upon the
things that are below — if, I say, they had been re-
leased from these impediments and turned in the
opposite direction, the very same faculty in them
would have seen the truth as keenly as they see what
their eyes are turned to now.

Very likely.

Yes, I said ; and there is another thing which is

Online LibraryJohn Henry WrightMasterpieces of Greek literature; Homer: Tyrtaeus: Archilochus: Callistratus: Alcaeus: Sappho: Anacreon: Pindar: Aeschylus: Sophocles: Euripides Aristophanes: Herodotus: Thucydides: Xenophon: Plato: Theocritus: Lucian, with biographical sketches and notes; → online text (page 26 of 29)