The Project Gutenberg eBook, The Memorable Thoughts of Socrates. Transcribed from the 1889 Cassell and Company edition by David Price, email email@example.com
The Memorable Thoughts of Socrates, by Xenophon
Translated by Edward Bysshe
CHAPTER I. OF THE QUALIFICATIONS OF A GENERAL.
Let us now see how Socrates was serviceable to those who were desirous to qualify themselves for employments of trust and honour, by advising them to apply themselves diligently to the study of their duty, that they might acquire a perfect knowledge of it.
Having heard that there was arrived at Athens one Dionysodorus, who undertook to teach the art of war, he made the following discourse to one of his friends, who pretended to one of the highest posts in the army:—
“It were a scandalous thing,” said Socrates to him, “for a man who aims to be chief over others, to neglect to learn how to command, when so fair an opportunity offers; nay, I think he would rather deserve to be punished, than the man who should undertake to make a statue without having learnt the sculptor’s trade; for as in war the whole fortune of the Republic is trusted to the general, it is to be presumed that his good conduct will procure success, and that his faults will be followed with great losses. And, therefore, a man who should neglect to make himself capable of such an employment, and yet pretend to it, ought to be severely punished.” By these reasons he persuaded this young man to get himself instructed.
After the youth had imagined that he had acquired some knowledge of the art, he returned to pay Socrates a visit, who, jesting him, addressed the company that were present in this manner:—“Do not you think, p. 99gentlemen, that as Homer, when speaking of Agamemnon, gives him the surname of venerable, we ought also to bestow the same epithet on this young man, who justly deserveth to be called by that name, since, like him, he has learned how to command? For, as a man who can play on the lute is a player on that instrument, though he never toucheth it; and as he who is knowing in the art of physic is a physician, though he never practise; so this young man, having learned to command is become a general, though not a man of us should ever give our voice to make him so. On the contrary, it is in vain for him who knows not how to command, to get himself chosen; he will not be one jot a better general for it, no more than he who knows nothing of physic is a better physician, because he has the reputation of being one.” Then turning towards the young man, he went on—“But because it may happen that one of us may have the honour of commanding a regiment or a company in the troops that are to compose your army, to the end we may not be entirely ignorant of the military art, pray tell us by what he began to instruct you.” “By what he ended,” answered the young man; “for he showed me only the order that ought to be observed in an army, either in marching, encamping, or fighting.” “But what is that,” said Socrates, “in comparison of the many other duties incumbent on a general? He must, besides, take care for the preparations of war; he must furnish the soldiers with necessary ammunition and provisions; he must be inventive, laborious, diligent, patient, quick of apprehension; he must be mild and rigorous together; he must be open and close; he must know to preserve his own, and take what is another’s; he must be prodigal and a ravager; he must be liberal and p. 100covetous; he must be wary, and yet enterprising. I confess that he ought to know likewise how to draw up his troops in order of battle; and, indeed, order and discipline are the most important things in an army, and without them it is impossible to have any other service of the troops than of a confused heap of stones, bricks, timber, and tiles; but when everything is in its due place, as in a building, when the foundations and the covering are made of materials that will not grow rotten, and which no wet can damage, such as are stones and tiles, and when the bricks and timber are employed in their due places in the body of the edifice, they altogether make a house, which we value among our most considerable enjoyments.” Here the young man, interrupting him, said:—
“This comparison puts me in mind of another thing that generals ought to observe; which is, to place their best soldiers in the first and last ranks, and the others in the middle; that those in the first rank may draw them on, and those in the last push them forward.” “He has taught you too,” said Socrates, “how to know the good and the bad soldiers asunder, otherwise this rule can be of no use to you; for if you were to reckon money upon a table, and were ordered to lay the best at the two ends, and the worst in the middle, how could you do this, if you had not been shown how to distinguish between the good and the bad?” “Indeed,” replied the young man, “he did not teach me what you mention; and, I suppose, we must learn of ourselves to discern the good soldiers from the bad.” “If you please,” continued Socrates, “let us consider how a general ought to govern himself in this matter. If it were to take any money, ought he not to make the most covetous march in the front? If it were an p. 101action of great peril, ought he not to send the most ambitious, because they are the men who, out of a desire of glory, rush into the midst of dangers? And as for them, you would not be much troubled to know them, for they are forward enough in discovering themselves. But tell me, when this master showed you the different ways of ordering an army, did he teach you when to make use of one way, and when of another?” “Not at all,” answered he. “And yet,” replied Socrates, “the same order is not always to be observed, nor the same commands given, but to be changed according to the different occasions.” “He taught me nothing of that,” said the young man. “Go to him, then,” added Socrates, “and ask him concerning it; for if he know anything of the matter, and have ever so little honour, he will be ashamed to have taken your money and send you away so ill-instructed.”
CHAPTER II. THE CHARACTER OF A GOOD PRINCE.
Another time he asked a general, whom the Athenians had lately chosen, why Homer calls Agamemnon the pastor of the people? “Is it not,” said he, “because as a shepherd ought to take care of his flocks, that they be well and want for nothing; so a general ought to take care to keep his soldiers always in a good condition, to see they be supplied with provisions, and to bring to a happy issue the design that made them take arms, which is to overcome their enemies, and to live more happily afterwards? And why does the same poet praise Agamemnon likewise for being—
For is it not true, that to gain a prince the character of being generous and a warrior too, it is not sufficient to be brave in his own person, and to fight with intrepidity; but he must likewise animate the whole army, and be the cause that every soldier behave himself like him? and to gain the reputation of a good and gracious prince, it is not enough to have secured his private affairs, he must also take care that plenty and happiness be seen in all places of his dominions. For kings are not chosen to take care of themselves only, but to render happy the people who choose them. All people engage in war only to secure their own quiet, and choose commanders that they may have guides to conduct them to the end which they propose to themselves. A general, therefore, ought to prepare the way of good fortune to those who raise him to that dignity; this is the most glorious success he can desire, as nothing can be more ignominious to him than to do the contrary.”
We see by this discourse that Socrates, designing to give the idea of a good prince, required scarce anything of him but to render his subjects happy.
CHAPTER III. ON THE BUSINESS OF A GENERAL OF HORSE.
Socrates at another time, as I well remember, had the following conference with a general of the cavalry:—
“What was your reason,” said Socrates, “to desire this office? I cannot think it was that you might p. 103march first at the head of the troops, for the horse-archers are to march before you. Nor can I believe it was to make yourself be known, for no men are more generally known than madmen. Perhaps it was because you thought you could mend what was amiss in the cavalry, and make the troops better than they are, to the end that if the Republic should have occasion to use them, you might be able to do your country some eminent service.” “That is my design,” answered the other. “It were well you could do this,” said Socrates, “but does not your office oblige you to have an eye on the horses and troopers?” “Most certainly.” “What course will you then take,” continued Socrates, “to get good horses?” “It is not my business to look to that,” replied the general; “every trooper must take care for himself.” “And what,” said Socrates, “if they bring you horses whose feet and legs are good for nothing, or that are so weak and lean that they cannot keep up with the others, or so restive and vicious that it would be impossible to make them keep their ranks, what good could you expect from such cavalry? What service would you be able to do the State?” “You are much in the right, Socrates, and I promise you I will take care what horses are in my troops.” “And will you not have an eye likewise on the troopers?” “Yes,” answered he. “In my opinion then,” answered Socrates, “the first thing you ought to do is to make them learn to get a horseback.” “No doubt of it,” replied the general, “for by that means they would the more easily escape, if they should happen to be thrown off their horses.” Socrates went on: “You ought also to make them exercise, sometimes here, sometimes there, and particularly in places like those where the enemy generally is, that they may be p. 104good horsemen in all sorts of countries; for when you are to fight you will not send to bid the enemy come to you in the plain, where you used to exercise your horse. You must train them up, likewise, to lance the spear; and if you would make them very brave fellows, you must inspire them with a principle of honour, and inflame them with rage against the enemy.” “Fear not,” said he, “that I will spare my labour.” “But have you,” resumed Socrates, “thought on the means to make yourself obeyed? for without that all your brave troopers will avail you nothing.” “It is true,” said he, “but how shall I gain that point of them?” “Know you not,” said Socrates, “that in all things men readily obey those whom they believe most capable? Thus in our sickness we most willingly submit to the prescriptions of the best physicians; at sea, to the most I skilful pilot; and in affairs of agriculture, to him who has most experience in it.” “All this I grant you.” “It is then to be presumed, that in the conduct of the cavalry he who makes it appear that he understands it best will be the person whom the others will be best pleased to obey.” “But if I let them see that I am most worthy to command, will that be sufficient to make them obey me?” “Yes, certainly,” said Socrates, “if you can persuade them besides that their honour and safety depend on that obedience.” “And how shall I be able to make them sensible of this?” “With less trouble,” answered Socrates, “than it would be to prove that it is better to be virtuous than vicious.” “Then a general,” added the other, “ought to study the art of speaking well?” “Do you imagine,” said Socrates, “that he will be able to execute his office without speaking a word? It is by speech that we know what the laws command us to learn for the p. 105conduct of our lives. No excellent knowledge can be attained without the use of speech; the best method to instruct is by discourse, and they who are thoroughly versed in the sciences speak with the applause of all the world. But have you observed,” continued he, “that in all sorts of occasions the Athenians distinguish themselves above all the Greeks, and that no Republic can show such youths as that of Athens? For example: when we send from hence a choir of musicians to the Temple of Apollo in the Isle of Delos, it is certain that none comparable to them are sent from other cities; not that the Athenians have better voices than the others, nor that their bodies are more robust and better made, but the reason is because they are more fond of honour, and this desire of honour is what excites men to excellent actions. Do not you think, therefore, that if good care were taken of our cavalry, it would excel that of other nations, in the beauty of arms and horses, in order of good discipline, and in bravery in fight; provided the Athenians were persuaded that this would be a means to acquire them glory and renown?” “I am of your opinion.” “Go, then, and take care of your troops,” said Socrates, “make them serviceable to you, that you may be so to the Republic.” “Your advice is good,” said he, “and I will immediately follow it.”
p. 106CHAPTER IV. A DISCOURSE OF SOCRATES WITH NICOMACHIDES, IN WHICH HE SHOWETH THAT A MAN SKILFUL IN HIS OWN PROPER BUSINESS, AND WHO MANAGES HIS AFFAIRS WITH PRUDENCE AND SAGACITY, MAY MAKE, WHEN OCCASION OFFERS, A GOOD GENERAL.
Another time, Socrates meeting Nicomachides, who was coining from the assembly where they had chosen the magistrates, asked him, “of whom they had made choice to command the army?” Nicomachides answered: “Alas! the Athenians would not chose me; me! who have spent all my life in arms, and have gone through all the degrees of a soldier; who have been first a private sentinel, then a captain, next a colonel of horse, and who am covered all over with wounds that I have received in battles” (at these words he bared his breast, and showed the large scars which were remaining in several places of his body); “but they have chosen Antisthenes, who has never served in the infantry, who even in the cavalry never did anything remarkable, and whose only talent consists in knowing how to get money.” “So much the better,” said Socrates, “for then the army will be well paid.” “A merchant,” replied Nicomachides, “knows how to get money as well as he; and does it follow from thence that he is fit to be a general?” “You take no notice,” replied Socrates, “that Antisthenes is fond of honour, and desirous to excel all others in whatever he undertakes, which is a very necessary qualification in a general. Have you not observed, that whenever he gave a comedy to the people, he always gained the p. 107prize?” “There is a wide difference,” answered Nicomachides, “between commanding an army and giving orders concerning a comedy.” “But,” said Socrates, “though Antisthenes understands not music, nor the laws of the stage, yet he found out those who were skilful in both, and by their means succeeded extremely well.” “And when he is at the head of the army,” continued Nicomachides, “I suppose you will have him to find out too some to give orders, and some to fight for him?” “Why not?” replied Socrates, “for if in the affairs of war he take the same care to provide himself with persons skilful in that art, and fit to advise him, as he did in the affair of the plays, I see not what should hinder him from gaining the victory in the former as well as in the latter. And it is very likely that he will be better pleased to expend his treasure to obtain an entire victory over the enemy, which will redound to the honour and interest of the whole Republic, than to be at a great expense for shows, to overcome his citizens in magnificence, and to gain a victory, which can be honourable to none but himself and those of his tribe.” “We must then infer,” said Nicomachides, “that a man who knows well how to give a comedy knows well how to command an army?” “Let us rather conclude,” answered Socrates, “that every man who has judgment enough to know the things that are necessary for his designs, and can procure them, can never fail of success, whether he concern himself with the stage, or govern a State, or command an army, or manage a family.”
“Indeed,” resumed Nicomachides, “I could never have thought you would have told me, too, that a good economist would make a good general.” “Come, then,” said Socrates, “let us examine wherein consists the p. 108duty of the one and of the other, and see what relation there is between those two conditions. Must not both of them keep those that are under them in submission and obedience?” “I grant it.” “Must not both of them take care to employ every one in the business he is fit for? Must he not punish those who do amiss and reward those that do well? Must they not make themselves be esteemed by those they command? Ought they not alike to strengthen themselves with friends to assist them upon occasion? Ought they not to know how to preserve what belongs to them, and to be diligent and indefatigable in the performance of their duty?” “I own,” answered Nicomachides, “that all you have said concerns them equally; but if they were to fight it would not be the same as to both of them.” “Why?” said Socrates. “Have not both of them enemies?” “They have.” “And would it not be the advantage of both to get the better of them?” “I allow it,” said Nicomachides; “but what will economy be good for when they are to come to blows?” “It is then it will be most necessary,” replied Socrates. “For when the good economist sees that the greatest profit he can get is to overcome, and that the greatest loss he can suffer is to be beaten, he will prepare himself with all the advantages that can procure him the victory, and will carefully avoid whatever might be the cause of his defeat. Thus, when he sees his army well provided with all things, and in a condition that seems to promise a good success, he will give his enemies battle; but when he wants anything he will avoid coming to an engagement with them. Thus you see how economy may be of use to him; and therefore, Nicomachides, despise not those who apply themselves to it; for between the conduct of a p. 109family and that of a State the sole difference is that of a greater or lesser number; for as to all besides there is much conformity between them. The sum of what I have advanced is this, that without men there could not be any policy or any economy, that they are often executed by the same persons, and that they who are called to the government of the Republic are the very same whom great men employ for their private affairs. Lastly, that they who make use of proper persons for their several businesses are successful in their economy and in politics; and that, on the contrary, they who fail in this point commit great faults both in one and the other.”
CHAPTER V. A CONVERSATION BETWEEN SOCRATES AND PERICLES CONCERNING THE THEN PRESENT STATE OF THE REPUBLIC OF ATHENS, IN WHICH SOCRATES LAYS DOWN A METHOD BY WHICH THE ATHENIANS MAY RECOVER THEIR ANCIENT LUSTRE AND REPUTATION.
Socrates one day being in company with Pericles, the son of the great Pericles, introduced the following discourse:—
“I hope that when you command the army the Republic will be more successful and gain more glory in their wars than formerly.” “I should be glad of it,” answered Pericles, “but I see little likelihood of it.” “We may bring this matter to the test,” said Socrates. “Is it not true that the Bœotians are not more numerous than the Athenians?” “I know it.” “Nor p. 110are they either braver or stronger?” “True, they are not.” “Do you believe that they agree better among themselves?” “Quite the contrary,” said Pericles; “for there is a great misunderstanding between most of the Bœotians and the Thebans, because of the great hardships the latter put upon the former, and we have nothing of this among us.” “But the Bœotians,” replied Socrates, “are wonderfully ambitions and obliging; and these are the qualities that naturally push men on to expose themselves for the sake of glory and of their country.” “The Athenians,” answered Pericles, “come not short of them in either of those qualities.” “It is true,” replied Socrates, “that there is no nation whose ancestors have done braver actions, and in greater number, than those of the Athenians. And these domestic examples excite us to courage, and create in us a true love of virtue and bravery.” “Notwithstanding all this,” continued Pericles, “you see that after the defeat of Tolmides at Lebadia, where we lost a thousand men, and after another misfortune that happened to Hippocrates before Delium, the greatness of the Athenians is sunk so low, and the courage of the Bœotians so increased, that they, who even in their own country durst not look the Athenians in the face without the assistance of the Lacedemonians and of the other States of the Peloponnesus, now threaten Attica with their single forces. And that the Athenians, who before ravaged Bœotia when it was not defended by foreign troops, begin to fear, in their turn, that the Bœotians will put Attica to fire and sword.” “In my opinion,” answered Socrates, “a governor ought to be well pleased to find a republic in such a condition, for fear makes a people more careful, more obedient, and more submissive. p. 111Whereas a too great security is attended with carelessness, luxury, and disobedience. This is plainly seen in men who are at sea. When they fear not anything, there is nothing in the ship but confusion and disorder; but when they apprehend that they shall be attacked by pirates, or that a tempest is hanging over their head, they not only do whatever they are commanded, but even observe a profound silence, waiting the order of their captain, and are as decent and orderly in their behaviour and motions as those who dance at a public entertainment.”
“We shall yield, then,” replied Pericles, “that the Athenians are obedient. But how shall we do to create in them an emulation to imitate the virtue of their ancestors to equal their reputation and to restore the happiness of their age in this present one?” “If we would have them,” answered Socrates, “make themselves masters of an estate, which is in the possession of others, we need only tell them that it is descended to them from their forefathers, and they will immediately be for having it again. If we would encourage them to take the first rank among the virtuous, we must persuade them that it is their due from all antiquity, and that if they will take care to preserve to themselves this advantage they will infallibly likewise surpass others in power. We must frequently represent to them that the most ancient of their predecessors were highly esteemed on account of their great virtue.” “You would be understood,” said Pericles, “to speak of the contention of two of the divinities concerning the patronage of the city of Athens, of which the citizens, in the days of Cecrops, were chosen arbitrators on account of their virtue.” “You are in the right,” said Socrates; “but I would have them be put p. 112in mind likewise of the birth and nourishment of Erictheus, and of the war that was in his time against the neighbouring nations; as also of that which was made in favour of the descendants of Hercules against the people of Peloponnesus, and, in short, of all the other wars that were in the days of Theseus, in which our ancestors were always reputed the most valiant men of their age. If you think fit, they may likewise be told what the descendants of these ancients and our predecessors of the last age have done. They may be represented to them as resisting sometimes with their own forces only the nations whom all Asia obeyed, whose dominions extended into Europe as far as Macedonia, and who had inherited a potent empire from their fathers, together with formidable forces, and who were already renowned for many great exploits. Sometimes you must relate to them the victories they gained by sea and land in conjunction with the Lacedemonians, who are likewise reputed a very brave people. They should be told also that great commotions being arisen among the Greeks, and the most part of them having changed their places of abode, the Athenians always continued in their country, that they have been chosen by several people to arbitrate their differences, and that the oppressed have always fled to them for protection.” “When I reflect on all this,” said Pericles, “I am surprised to see the Republic so much fallen off from what it was.” “In my opinion,” replied Socrates, “she has behaved herself like those persons who, for having too great advantage over their rivals, begin to neglect themselves, and grow in the end pusillanimous, for after the Athenians saw themselves raised above the other Greeks they indulged themselves in indolence, and became at length degenerate.”
p. 113“What course must they take now,” said Pericles, “to regain the lustre of their ancient virtue?” “They need only call to mind,” replied Socrates, “what were the exercises and the discipline of their ancestors, and if, like them, they apply themselves to those practices, they will no doubt arrive at their perfection; or if they will not govern themselves by that example, let them imitate the nations that are now uppermost; let them observe the same conduct, follow the same customs, and be assured they will equal, if not surpass them, if they labour to do so.” “You seem to be of opinion, my dear Socrates, that virtue is much estranged from our Republic? And, indeed, when will the Athenians respect old age as they of Sparta do, since they begin, even by their own fathers, to deride men advanced in years? When, too, will they use themselves to the manly exercises of that Republic, since they not only neglect the good disposition and activity of body, but laugh at those who endeavour to acquire them? When will they be obedient to the magistrates, they who make it a glory to despise them? When will they be in perfect unity, they who, instead of assisting, daily prejudice one another, and who envy one another more than they do all the rest of mankind? They are every day quarrelling in the public and private assemblies; they are every day suing one another, and had rather find their own advantage in the ruin of their neighbours than get an honest gain by reciprocally assisting one another. The magistrates mind not the Government of the Republic any farther than their own interests are concerned, and, therefore, they use their utmost endeavours to be in office and authority; and for this reason in the administration of the State there is so much ignorance and malice, and such animosities, and p. 114so many different parties among private persons. And I much fear that this mischief will get such a head that at length there will be no remedy against it, and that the Republic will sink under the weight of its misfortunes.”
“Fear it not,” said Socrates, “and do not believe that the Athenians labour under an incurable disease. Do you not observe how skilful and obedient they are at sea, that in the combats for prizes they exactly obey the orders of those that preside there, and in the comedies how readily they comply with what they are bid to do?” “I see it well,” answered Pericles, “and cannot but wonder that they are so ready to obey in these and the like occasions, and that the military men, who ought to be the chosen part of the citizens, are so mutinous and refractory.” “And what say you,” pursued Socrates, “to the Senate of the Areopagus; are they not all of them persons of great worth? Do you know any judges who discharge their office with more integrity, and who more exactly observe the laws, who more faithfully render justice to private men, and who more worthily acquit themselves of all manner of affairs?” “I blame them not,” said Pericles. “Despair not, then, of the Athenians,” added Socrates, “as of an untractable people.” “But it is in war,” replied Pericles, “that much discipline is required, and much modesty and obedience, and these things the Athenians wholly want in that occasion.” “Perhaps, too,” continued Socrates, “they who command them know little of their own duty. Do you not take notice that no man undertakes to govern a company of musicians, or of comedians, or of dancers, or of wrestlers, unless he be capable of it; and that all who take such employments upon them can give an account where they have p. 115learnt the exercises of which they are become masters? Our misfortunes in war, then, I very much apprehend, must be owing in a great measure to the bad education of our generals.
“I know very well that you are not of this number, and that you have improved to your advantage the time you have spent in learning the art of war and other laudable exercises. I imagine, likewise, that in the memoirs of your father, the great Pericles, you have found many rare stratagems, and that by your diligence you have also collected up and down a great number of others. Nor do I doubt but that you frequently meditate on these matters, that nothing may be wanting in you that may be of use to a general. Insomuch, that if you find yourself in doubt of anything, you immediately have recourse to those that know it, and spare neither presents nor civilities to incline them to assist you and to teach you the things of which you are ignorant.” “Alas! Socrates,” said Pericles, “you flatter me, and flatter me for many things that, I am afraid, I am deficient in; but by that you instruct me in my duty.”
Upon this Socrates, interrupting him—“I will,” said he, “give you an advice. Have you not observed that in the high mountains, which are the frontiers of Attica, and divide it from Bœotia, the roads through which you must of necessity pass to go from one country to the other are very rough and narrow?” “Yes, I have.” “Tell me, besides, have you never heard say that the Mysians and the Pisidians, who are in possession of advantageous places where they dwell in the dominions of the King of Persia, arm themselves lightly, and make continual inroads upon the neighbouring provinces, and by that means are very troublesome p. 116to that king’s subjects, and preserve their own liberty?” “I have heard so.” “It is probable, too,” continued Socrates, “that if the Athenians would possess themselves of the mountains that are between Bœotia and Attica, and if they took care to send thither some young men with arms proper for inroaders, our enemies would be much prejudiced by them, and all those mountains would be as a great rampart to cover our country from their insults.” “I believe what you say,” answered Pericles, “and take all the advices you have given me to be very good.” “If you think them so,” replied Socrates, “endeavour, my friend, to put them in practice; for if any of them succeed you will receive the honour, and the Republic the profit; and even though they should not meet with success the Republic would have no inconvenience to apprehend, nor you the least dishonour.”
CHAPTER VI. SOCRATES DISSUADES GLAUCON, A VERY FORWARD YOUTH, FROM TAKING UPON HIM THE GOVERNMENT OF THE REPUBLIC, FOR WHICH HE WAS UNFIT.
A young man whose name was Glaucon, the son of Ariston, had so fixed it in his head to govern the Republic, that before he was twenty years of age he frequently presented himself before the people to discourse of affairs of state; nor was it in the power of his relations or friends to dissuade him from that design, though all the world laughed at him for it, and though sometimes he was dragged from the p. 117tribunal by force. Socrates had a kindness for him, upon account of Plato and Charmidas, and he only it was who made him change his resolution. He met him, and accosted him in so winning a manner, that he first obliged him to hearken to his discourse. He began with him thus:—
“You have a mind, then, to govern the Republic, my friend?” “I have so,” answered Glaucon. “You cannot,” replied Socrates, “have a more noble design; for if you can accomplish it you will be absolute. You will be able to serve your friends, you will raise your family, you will extend the bounds of your country, you will be known not only in Athens but through all Greece, and perhaps your renown will fly even to the barbarous nations, as did that of Themistocles. In short, wherever you come you will be respected and admired.”
These words soothed up Glaucon, and won him to give ear to Socrates, who went on in this manner:—“But it is certain, my dear friend, that if you desire to be honoured, you must be useful to the State.” “Certainly,” said Glaucon. “I conjure you, then, to tell me,” replied Socrates, “what is the first service that you desire to render the State?” Glaucon was considering what to answer, when Socrates continued:—“If you intended to make the fortune of one of your friends, you would endeavour to make him rich, and thus perhaps you will make it your business to enrich the Republic.” “I would,” answered Glaucon. “Would not the way to enrich the Republic,” replied Socrates, “be to increase its revenue?” “It is very likely it would,” said Glaucon. “Tell me, then, in what consists the revenue of the State, and to how much it may amount? I presume you have particularly studied p. 118this matter, to the end that if anything should be lost on one hand, you might know where to make it good on another, and that if a fund should fail on a sudden, you might immediately be able to settle another in its place.” “I protest,” answered Glaucon, “I have never thought of this.” “Tell me at least the expenses of the Republic, for no doubt you intend to retrench the superfluous.” “I never thought of this neither,” said Glaucon. “You had best, then, put off to another time your design of enriching the Republic, which you can never be able to do while you are ignorant both of its expense and revenue.”
“There is another way to enrich a State,” said Glaucon, “of which you take no notice, and that is by the ruin of its enemies.” “You are in the right,” answered Socrates; “but to this end it is necessary to be stronger than they, otherwise we should run the hazard of losing what we have. He, therefore, who talks of undertaking a war, ought to know the strength on both sides, to the end that if his party be the stronger, he may boldly advise for war, and that if it be the weaker, he may dissuade the people from engaging themselves in so dangerous an enterprise.” “All this is true.” “Tell me, then,” continued Socrates, “how strong our forces are by sea and land, and how strong are our enemies?” “Indeed,” said Glaucon, “I cannot tell you that on a sudden.” “If you have a list of them in writing, pray show it me, I should be glad to hear it read.” “I never took a list of them.” “I see, then,” said Socrates, “that we shall not engage in war so soon; for it is like that the greatness of the undertaking will hinder you from maturely weighing all the consequences of it in the beginning of your government. But,” continued he, p. 119“you have thought of the defence of the country, you know what garrisons are necessary, and what are not; you know what number of troops is sufficient in one garrison, and not sufficient in another; you will cause the necessary garrisons to be reinforced, and will disband those that are useless?” “I should be of opinion,” said Glaucon, “to leave none of them on foot, because they ruin a country, on pretence of defending it.” “But,” Socrates objected, “if all the garrisons were taken away, there would be nothing to hinder the first comer from carrying off what he pleased. But how come you to know that the garrisons behave themselves so ill? Have you been upon the place, have you seen them?” “Not at all; but I suspect it to be so.” “When, therefore, we are certain of it,” said Socrates, “and can speak upon better grounds than simple conjectures, we will propose this advice to the Senate.” “It will be very proper to do so,” said Glaucon.
“It comes into my mind too,” continued Socrates, “that you have never been at the mines of silver, to examine why they bring not in so much now as they did formerly.” “You say true, I have never been there.” “Indeed, they say the place is very unhealthy, and that may excuse you.” “You rally me now,” said Glaucon. Socrates added, “But I believe you have at least observed how much corn our lands produce, how long it will serve to supply our city, and how much more we shall want for the whole year, to the end you may not be surprised with a scarcity of bread, but may give timely orders for the necessary provisions.” “There is a deal to do,” said Glaucon, “if we must take care of all these things.” “There is so,” replied Socrates; “and it is even impossible to manage our own families well unless we p. 120know all that is wanting, and take care to provide it. As you see, therefore, that our city is composed of above ten thousand families, and it being a difficult task to watch over them all at once, why did you not first try to retrieve your uncle’s affairs, which are running to decay, that after having given a proof of your care, faithfulness, and capacity in that smaller trust, you might have taken upon you a greater? But now, when you find yourself incapable of aiding a private man, how can you think of behaving yourself so as to be useful to a whole people? Ought a man who has not strength enough to carry a hundred pound weight undertake to carry a burden that is much heavier?” “I would have done good service to my uncle,” said Glaucon, “if he would have taken my advice.” “How!” replied Socrates; “have you hitherto been unable to govern your uncle, who is but one person, and do you imagine, when you have failed in that, to govern the whole Athenians, whose minds are so fickle and inconstant? Take heed, my dear Glaucon, take heed, lest a too great desire of glory should render you despised. Consider how dangerous it is to speak and employ ourselves about things we do not understand. What a figure do those forward and rash people make in the world who do so: and you yourself may judge whether they acquire more esteem than blame, whether they are more admired than contemned. Think, on the contrary, with how much honour a man is regarded who understands perfectly what he says and what he does, and then you will confess that renown and applause have always been the recompense of true merit, and shame the reward of ignorance and temerity. If, therefore, you would be honoured, endeavour to be a man of true merit, p. 121for if you enter upon the government of the Republic with a mind more sagacious than usual, I shall not wonder if you succeed in all your designs.”
CHAPTER VII. SOCRATES PERSUADETH CHARMIDAS, A PERSON OF MERIT AND GREAT CAPACITY, BUT VERY MODEST AND DIFFIDENT OF HIMSELF, TO UNDERTAKE THE GOVERNMENT OF THE REPUBLIC.
As Socrates, who was ever watchful for the interests of his country, and consulted the good of every one with whom he conversed, took care, on the one hand, to dissuade persons who had no capacity for it, however bent they were upon the thing, from entering upon any offices of trust, so he was ever mindful, on the other, to persuade those that were bashful and diffident to take upon themselves the government of the Republic, provided he knew they had proper talents and abilities for it. In confirmation whereof we shall here relate a conversation of his with Charmidas, the son of Glaucon. Socrates, who knew him to be a man of sense and merit, and more capable to govern the Republic than any that were then in that post, but withal a person very diffident of himself—one that dreaded the people, and was mightily averse from engaging himself in public business—addressed himself to him in this manner:—
“Tell me, Charmidas, if you knew any man who could gain the prizes in the public games, and by that means render himself illustrious, and acquire glory to his country, what would you say of him if he refused p. 122to offer himself to the combat?” “I would say,” answered Charmidas, “that he was a mean-spirited, effeminate fellow.” “And if a man were capable of governing a Republic, of increasing its power by his advices, and of raising himself by this means to a high degree of honour, would you not brand him likewise with meanness of soul if he would not present himself to be employed?” “Perhaps I might,” said Charmidas; “but why do you ask me this question?” “Because you are capable,” replied Socrates, “of managing the affairs of the Republic, and yet you avoid doing so, though in the quality of a citizen you are obliged to take care of the commonwealth.” “And wherein have you observed this capacity in me?” “When I have seen you in conversation with the Ministers of State,” answered Socrates; “for if they impart any affairs to you, I see you give them good advice, and when they commit any errors you make them judicious remonstrances.” “But there is a very great difference, my dear Socrates,” replied Charmidas, “between discoursing in private and contending in a public manner before the people.” “And yet,” replied Socrates, “a skilful arithmetician can calculate as well in presence of several persons as when alone; and they who can play well upon the lute in their closets play likewise well in company.” “But you know,” said Charmidas, “that fear and shame, which are so natural to man, affect us more in public assemblies than in private companies.” “Is it possible,” said Socrates, “that you can converse so unconcernedly with men of parts and authority, and that you should not have assurance enough to speak to fools? Are you afraid to present yourself before dyers, shoemakers, masons, smiths, labourers, and brokers? for of such are composed p. 123the popular assemblies. This is the same thing as to be the most expert in a fencing-school, and to fear the thrust of an unskilful person who never handled a foil. Thus you, though you speak boldly in the presence of the chief men of the Republic, among whom there might perhaps be found some who would despise you, dare not, nevertheless, speak in the presence of an illiterate multitude, who know nothing of the affairs of state, and who are not capable of despising you, and you fear to be laughed at by them.” “Do they not usually,” said Charmidas, “laugh at those who speak best?” “So likewise,” said Socrates, “do the men of quality with whom you converse every day; and I am surprised that you have eloquence and persuasive sense sufficient to bring these to reason, and that you think not yourself capable even to approach the others. Learn to know yourself better, Charmidas, and take care not to fall into a fault that is almost general; for all men inquire curiously enough into the affairs of others, but they never enter into their own bosoms to examine themselves as they ought.
“Be no longer, then, thus negligent in this matter, consider yourself with more attention, and let not slip the occasions of serving the Republic, and of rendering it, if possible, more flourishing than it is. This will be a blessing, whose influence will descend not only on the other citizens, but on your best friends and yourself.”
One day Aristippus proposed a captious question to Socrates, meaning to surprise him; and this by way of revenge, for his having before put him to a stand: but Socrates answered him warily, and as a person who has no other design in his conversations than the improvement of his hearers.
The question which Aristippus asked him was whether he knew in the world any good thing, and if Socrates had answered him that meat, or drink, or riches, or health, or strength, or courage are good things, he would forthwith have shown him that it may happen that they are very bad. He therefore gave him such an answer as he ought; and because he knew very well that when we feel any indisposition we earnestly desire to find a remedy for it, he said to him: “Do you ask me, for example, whether I know anything that is good for a fever?” “No,” said Aristippus. “Or for sore eyes?” said Socrates. “Neither.” “Do you mean anything that is good against hunger?” “Not in the least,” answered Aristippus. “I promise you,” said Socrates, “that if you ask me for a good thing that is good for nothing, I know no such thing, nor have anything to do with it.”
Aristippus pressed him yet further, and asked him whether he knew any beautiful thing. “I know a great many,” said Socrates. “Are they all like one another?” continued Aristippus. “Not in the least,” answered Socrates, “for they are very different from one another.” “And how is it possible that two p. 125beautiful things should be contrary one to the other?” “This,” said Socrates, “is seen every day in men: a beautiful make and disposition of body for running is very different from a beautiful make and disposition for wrestling: the excellence and beauty of a buckler is to cover well him that wears it. On the contrary, the excellence and beauty of a dart is to be light and piercing.” “You answer me,” said Aristippus, “as you answered me before, when I asked you whether you knew any good thing.” “And do you think,” replied Socrates, “that the good and the beautiful are different? Know you not that the things that are beautiful are good likewise in the same sense? It would be false to say of virtue that in certain occasions it is beautiful, and in others good. When we speak of men of honour we join the two qualities, and call them excellent and good. In our bodies beauty and goodness relate always to the same end. In a word, all things that are of any use in the world are esteemed beautiful and good, with regard to the subject for which they are proper.” “At this rate you might find beauty in a basket to carry dung,” said Aristippus. “Yes, if it be well made for that use,” answered Socrates; “and, on the contrary, I would say that a buckler of gold was ugly if it was ill-made.” “Would you say,” pursued Aristippus, “that the same thing may be beautiful and ugly at once?” “I would say that it might be good and bad. Often what is good for hunger is bad for a fever; and what is good for a fever is very bad for hunger; often what is beautiful to be done in running is ugly to be done in wrestling; and what is beautiful to do in wrestling is ugly in running. For all things are reputed beautiful and good when they are compared with those which they p. 126suit or become, as they are esteemed ugly and bad when compared with those they do not become.”
Thus we see that when Socrates said that beautiful houses were the most convenient, he taught plainly enough in what manner we ought to build them, and he reasoned thus: “Ought not he who builds a house to study chiefly how to make it most pleasant and most convenient?” This proposition being granted, he pursued: “Is it not a pleasure to have a house that is cool in summer and warm in winter? And does not this happen in buildings that front towards the south? For the beams of the sun enter into the apartments in winter, and only pass over the covering in summer. For this reason the houses that front towards the south ought to be very high, that they may receive the sun in winter; and, on the contrary, those that front towards the north ought to be very low, that they may be less exposed to the cold winds of that quarter.” In short, he used to say, that he had a very beautiful and very agreeable house, who could live there with ease during all the seasons of the year, and keep there in safety all that he has; but that for painting and other ornaments, there was more trouble in them than pleasure.
He said further that retired places, and such as could be seen from afar, were very proper to erect altars and build temples in; for though we are at a distance from them, yet it is a satisfaction to pray in sight of the holy places, and as they are apart from the haunts of men, innocent souls find more devotion in approaching them.
Another time being asked whether courage can be learnt as an art or was a gift of Nature, he answered: “In my opinion, as we see many bodies that are naturally more vigorous than others, and that better endure fatigue, so there are some souls that are naturally more brave, and look dangers in the face with greater resolution. For I see some men, who live under the same laws, who are brought up in the same customs, and who are not all equally valiant. Nevertheless, I believe that education and exercise add much to natural courage. Whence comes it to pass that the Scythians and the Thracians durst not face the Lacedemonians with pikes and targets; and, on the contrary, that the Lacedemonians would not fight against the Thracians with shields and darts, nor against the Scythians with bows? I see it to be the same in all other things, and that when some men are better inclined by nature for certain things than other men are, they very much advance and perfect themselves in those things by study and diligence. This shows that they who are most favoured by Nature, as well as those to whom she has been less indulgent, ought to apply themselves assiduously to the things by which they would gain themselves a reputation.”
He allowed no difference between knowledge and temperance; and he held that he who knows what is good and embraces it, who knows what is bad and avoids it, is learned and temperate; and when he was asked whether he believed that they who know very p. 128well what ought to be done, but do quite otherwise, were learned and temperate? “On the contrary,” answered he, “they are very ignorant and very stupid, for, in my opinion, every man who, in the great number of possible things that offer themselves to him, can discern what is most advantageous for him to do, never fails to do it; but all who govern not themselves well and as they ought, are neither learned nor men of good morals.”
He said likewise that justice and every other virtue is only a science, because all the actions of justice and of the other virtues are good and honourable; and that all who know the beauty of these actions think nothing more charming; as, on the contrary, they who are ignorant of them cannot perform any one virtuous action, or, if they attempt to do it, are sure to perform it in a wrong manner. So that the persons only who possess this science can do just and good actions; but all just and good actions are done by the means of virtue, therefore justice and virtue is only a science.
He said, moreover, that folly is contrary to knowledge, and yet he did not allow ignorance to be a folly; but that not to know oneself, or to imagine one knows what he does not know, is a weakness next to folly. And he observed that among the vulgar a man is not accused of folly for being mistaken in things that are unknown to most of the world, but for mistaking in things which no man mistakes that knows anything at all; as if any man should think himself so tall as to be obliged to stoop when he came in at the gates of the city; or if he thought himself so strong as to undertake to carry away whole houses on his back, or to do any other thing visibly impossible, the people would say that he had lost his wits, which they do not say of p. 129those who commit only some slight extravagances; and as they give the name of love to a violent affection only, so they give the name of folly only to an extraordinary disorder of the mind.
Reflecting on the nature of envy, he said that it is a certain grief of mind, which proceeds, not from the misfortune of friends or good fortune of enemies, but (which is very surprising) only from the prosperity of friends. “For,” said he, “those may be truly said to be envious who cannot endure to see their friends happy.” But, some wondering whether it were possible for a man to be grieved at the good fortune of his friend, he justified the truth of what he had advanced, by telling them plainly that there are some men so variously affected towards their friends, that, while they are in calamity and distress, they will compassionate and succour them, but when they are well and in prosperity will fret at and envy them. “But this,” he said, “is a fault from which wise and good men are free, and never to be found but in weak and wicked minds.”
As to idleness, he said that he had observed that most men were always in action, for they who play at dice, or who serve to make others laugh, are doing something, but in effect they are idle, because they might employ themselves more usefully. To which he added, that no man finds leisure to quit a good employment for an ill one, and that if he did he would deserve the greater blame, in that he wanted not something to do before.
He said likewise that the sceptre makes not the king, and that princes and governors are not they whom chance or the choice of the people has raised to those dignities, nor those who have established themselves p. 130in them by fraud or force, but they who know how to command; for if it were allowed that it is the duty of a prince to command, as it is the duty of a subject to obey, he showed in consequence of it that in a ship, where there are several persons, the honour of commanding it is given to him who is most capable of it, and that all obey him, without excepting even the owner of the vessel; that likewise in husbandry, he to whom the land belongs obeys his own servants, if they understand agriculture better than himself; that thus the sick obey the physicians, and they who learn exercises, their masters; nay, that even women are masters of the men in working with the needle, because they understand it better than they; in short, that in all things which require care and industry men govern themselves when they think they are capable of doing so; otherwise, they leave themselves to the conduct of such as they judge to have more capacity, and take care to have them near at hand for that purpose. And if any man made him this objection, that a tyrant is at liberty not to believe the best advices, he answered, “Why do you say he is at liberty not to do so, seeing he will bear the smart of it? for every man who shuts his ears to good counsel commits a fault, and this fault is always attended with some damage.” And if it were said that a tyrant is permitted to put to death the men of the best parts and understanding in his State, he replied again, “Do you think he is not punished in losing his chief supports, or that he will be quit for a slight punishment? Is to govern in this manner the way to preserve himself? or rather, is it not the certain means to hasten his own ruin?”
Being asked what was the best study for man to apply himself to, he answered, “To do well;” and p. 131being asked farther whether good fortune was the effect of study, “On the contrary,” said he, “I think good fortune and study to be two opposite things; for what I call good fortune is, when a man meets with what is necessary for him, without the trouble of seeking it; but when he meets with any good success after a tedious search and labour, it is an effect of study. This is what I call to do well; and I think that all who take delight in this study are for the most part successful, and gain the esteem of men, and the affection of the Deity. Such are they as have rendered themselves excellent in economy, in physic, and in politics; but he who knows not any one thing perfectly is neither useful to men, nor beloved by the gods.”
CHAPTER X. SOCRATES, IN CONVERSATION WITH SEVERAL ARTIFICERS, A PAINTER, A STATUARY, AND AN ARMOURER, SHOWETH HIS SKILL AND GOOD TASTE IN THE FINER ARTS.
As Socrates studied to be useful in all his conversations, so he never happened to be in company even with tradesmen but he always said something that might be of service to them. Going once into the shop of the painter Parrhasius, he entertained himself with him in the following manner:—
“Is not painting,” said he, “a representation of all we see? For with a few colours you represent on a canvas mountains and caverns, light and obscurity; you cause to be observed the difference between soft things and hard, between things smooth and rough; p. 132you give youth and old age to bodies; and when you would represent a perfect beauty, it being impossible to find a body but what has some defect, your way is to regard several, and taking what is beautiful from each of them, you make one that is accomplished in all its parts.” “We do so,” said Parrhasius. “Can you represent likewise,” said Socrates, “what is most charming and most lovely in the person, I mean the inclination?” “How think you,” answered Parrhasius, “we can paint what cannot be expressed by any proportion, nor with any colour, and that has nothing in common with any of those things you mentioned, and which the pencil can imitate; in a word, a thing that cannot be seen?” “Do not the very looks of men,” replied Socrates, “confess either hatred or friendship?” “In my opinion they do,” said Parrhasius. “You can then make hatred and friendship appear in the eyes?” “I own we can.” “Do you think likewise,” continued Socrates, “that they who concern themselves either in the adversity or prosperity of friends, keep the same look with those who are wholly unconcerned for either?” “By no means,” said he, “for during the prosperity of our friends, our looks are gay and full of joy, but in their adversity we look cloudy and dejected.” “This, then, may be painted likewise?” “It may.” “Besides,” said Socrates, “magnificence, generosity, meanness of mind, cowardice, modesty, prudence, insolence, rusticity, all appear in the looks of a man, whether sitting or standing.” “You say true.” “And cannot the pencil imitate all this likewise?” “It may.” “And in which do you take most pleasure,” said Socrates, “in regarding the picture of a man whose external appearance discovereth a good natural disposition, and bespeaks p. 133an honest man, or of one who wears in his face the marks of a vicious inclination?” “There is no comparison between them,” said Parrhasius.
Another time, talking with Clito the sculptor, he said to him, “I wonder not that you make so great a difference between the statue of a man who is running a race and that of one who stands his ground to wait for his antagonist with whom he is to wrestle, or to box, or to play a prize at all sorts of defence; but what ravishes the beholders is, that your statues seem to be alive. I would fain know by what art you imprint upon them this wonderful vivacity?” Clito, surprised at this question, stood considering what to answer, when Socrates went on:—“Perhaps you take great care to make them resemble the living persons, and this is the reason that they seem to live likewise.” “It is so,” said Clito. “You must then,” replied Socrates, “observe very exactly in the different postures of the body what are the natural dispositions of all the parts, for when some of them stoop down, the others raise themselves up; when some are contracted, the others stretch themselves out; when some are stiff with straining, others relax themselves; and when you imitate all this, you make your statues approach very near the life.” “You say true,” said Clito. “Is it not true likewise,” replied Socrates, “that it is a great satisfaction to beholders to see all the passions of a man who is in action well expressed? Thus, in the statue of a gladiator who is fighting, you must imitate the sternness of look with which he threatens his enemy; on the contrary, you must give him, when victor, a look of gaiety and content.” “There is no doubt of what you say.” “We may then conclude,” said Socrates, “that it is the part of an excellent statuary to express the various p. 134affections and passions of the soul, by representing such-and-such motions and postures of the body as are commonly exerted in real life whenever the mind is so-and-so affected.”
Another time, Socrates being in the shop of Pistias the armourer, who showed him some corselets that were very well made: “I admire,” said Socrates to him, “the invention of these arms that cover the body in the places where it has most need of being defended, and nevertheless are no hindrance to the motions of the hands and arms; but tell me why you sell the suits of armour you make dearer than the other workmen of the city, since they are not stronger nor of better-tempered or more valuable metal?” “I sell them dearer than others,” answered Pistias, “because they are better made than theirs.” “In what does this make consist?” said Socrates, “in the weight, or in the largeness of the arms? And yet you make them not all of the same weight nor of the same size, but to fit every man.” “They must be fit,” said Pistias, “otherwise they would be of no use.” “But do you not know,” replied Socrates, “that some bodies are well-shaped and others not?” “I know it well.” “How, then,” continued Socrates, “can you make a well-shaped suit of armour for an ill-shaped body?” “It will be sufficient if they are fit for him,” answered Pistias; “for what is fit is well made.” “You are of opinion, then,” added Socrates, “that one cannot judge whether a thing be well made, considering it merely in itself, but in regard to the person who is to use it; as if you said that a buckler is well made for him whom it fits, and in like manner of a suit of clothes and any other thing whatsoever. But I think there is another convenience in having a suit of armour p. 135well made.” “What do you take that to be?” said Pistias. “I think,” answered Socrates, “a suit of armour that is well made does not load the bearer so much as one ill made, even though it weigh as much. For ill-made arms, by pressing too much upon the shoulders, or hanging cumbrous on some other part, become almost insupportable, and greatly incommode the person that weareth them. But those arms which, as they ought, distribute an equal weight to all the parts of the body, that join upon the neck, the shoulders, the breast, the back, and the hips, may be said to be glued to the body, and to weigh nothing at all.” “For this,” said Pistias, “I value the arms I make. It is true that some choose rather to part with their money for arms that are gilt and finely carved, but if with all this they fit not easy upon them, I think they buy a rich inconveniency.” Socrates went on:—“But since the body is not always in the same posture, but sometimes bends, and sometimes raises itself straight, how can arms that are very fit be convenient and easy?” “They never can,” said Pistias. “Your opinion therefore is,” said Socrates, “that the best arms are not those that are most fit, and fit closest to the body, but those that do not incommode the person that wears them.” “You, too, are of the same opinion,” replied Pistias, “and you understand the matter aright.”
p. 136CHAPTER XI. DISCOURSE OF SOCRATES WITH THEODOTA, AN ATHENIAN LADY, OF NO GOOD CHARACTER; WHEREIN HE ENDEAVOURETH, IN THE MOST ARTFUL AND ENGAGING MANNER, TO WIN HER OVER FROM THE CRIMINAL PLEASURES TO WHICH SHE WAS ADDICTED UNTO THE SUBLIMER AND MORE INNOCENT DELIGHTS OF PHILOSOPHY AND VIRTUE.
There was at Athens a very beautiful lady called Theodota, who had the character of a loose dame. Some person was speaking of her in presence of Socrates, and saying that she was the most beautiful woman in the whole world; that all the painters went to see her, to draw her picture, and that they were very well received at her house. “I think,” said Socrates, “we ought to go see her too, for we shall be better able to judge of her beauty after we have seen her ourselves than upon the bare relation of others.” The person who began the discourse encouraged the matter, and that very moment they all went to Theodota’s house. They found her with a painter who was drawing her picture; and having considered her at leisure when the painter had done, Socrates began thus:—“Do you think that we are more obliged to Theodota for having afforded us the sight of her beauty than she is to us for coming to see her? If all the advantage be on her side, it must be owned that she is obliged to us; if it be on ours, it must be confessed that we are so to her.” Some of the company saying there was reason to think so, Socrates continued in these words:—“Has she not already had the advantage of p. 137receiving the praises we have given her? But it will be yet a much greater to her when we make known her merit in all the companies we come into; but as for ourselves, what do we carry from hence except a desire to enjoy the things we have seen? We go hence with souls full of love and uneasiness; and from this time forward we must obey Theodota in all she pleases to enjoin us.” “If it be so,” said Theodota, “I must return you many thanks for your coming hither.” Meanwhile Socrates took notice that she was magnificently apparelled, and that her mother appeared likewise like a woman of condition. He saw a great number of women attendants elegantly dressed, and that the whole house was richly furnished. He took occasion from hence to inform himself of her circumstances in the world, and to ask her whether she had an estate in land or houses in the city, or slaves, whose labour supplied the expenses of her family. “I have nothing,” answered she, “of all this; my friends are my revenue. I subsist by their liberality.”
Upon which Socrates remarked that “friendship was one of the greatest blessings in life, for that a good friend could stand one in stead of all possessions whatever.” And he advised Theodota to try all her art to procure to herself some lovers and friends that might render her happy. The lady asking Socrates whether there were any artifices to be used for that purpose, he answered, “there were,” and proceeded to mention several:—“Some for attracting the regard of the men, some for insinuating into their hearts; others for securing their affections and managing their passions.” Whereupon Theodota, whose soul then lay open to any impression, mistaking the virtuous design of Socrates in the whole of this discourse for an intention p. 138of another sort, cried out in raptures, “Ah! Socrates, why will not you help me to friends?” “I will,” replied Socrates, “if you can persuade me to do so.” “And what means must I use to persuade you?” “You must invent the means,” said Socrates, “if you want me to serve you.” “Then come to see me often,” added Theodota. Socrates laughed at the simplicity of the woman, and in raillery said to her, “I have not leisure enough to come and see you; I have both public and private affairs which take up too much of my time. Besides, I have mistresses who will not suffer me to be from them neither day nor night, and who against myself make use of the very charms and sorceries that I have taught them.” “And have you any knowledge in those things, too?” said she. “Why do Apollodorus and Antisthenes,” answered Socrates, “never leave me? why do Cebes and Simmias forsake Thebes for my company? This they would not do if I were not master of some charm.” “Lend it me,” said Theodota, “that I may employ it against you, and charm you to come to me.” “No,” said Socrates, “but I will charm you, and make you come to me.” “I will,” said Theodota, “if you will promise to make me welcome.” “I promise you I will,” answered Socrates, “provided there be nobody with me whom I love better than you.”
Among others who frequented Socrates, there was a young man whose name was Epigenes, and who was very awkward in his person and behaviour, and had contracted an ill habit of body, having never learnt nor used any exercise. Socrates reproached him for it, and told him that it was unworthy of any man to be so negligent of himself. Epigenes slightly answered that he was under no obligation to do better. “You are no less obliged to it,” replied Socrates, “than they who train themselves up for the Olympic Games. For do you believe that to fight for one’s life against the enemies of the Republic, which we are all obliged to do when the Athenians please to command us, is a less important occasion than to contend with antagonists for a prize? How many men are there who, for want of strength, perish in fights; or have recourse to dishonourable means to seek their safety? Some are taken prisoners, and remain in slavery all the rest of their days, or are forced to pay so great a ransom, as makes them live poor and miserable ever afterwards: others are ill thought of, and their weakness is imputed to cowardice. And do you value so little all these misfortunes, which constantly attend an ill habit of body, and do they seem to you so slight? In my opinion, there are no fatigues in the exercises but what are more easy and more agreeable. But perhaps you despise the advantages of a good disposition of body: nevertheless, they are considerable; for men in that condition enjoy a perfect health, they are robust and p. 140active, they come off from combats with honour, they escape from dangers, they succour their friends, they render great services to their country. For these reasons they are well received wherever they come, they are in good reputation with all men, they attain to the highest offices, they live the more honourably and the more at ease, and they leave their posterity the most noble examples. If, therefore, you do not practise the military exercises in public, you ought not to neglect the doing so in private, but to apply yourself to them with all possible diligence.
“To have the body active and healthy can be hurtful to you in no occasions: and since we cannot do anything without the body, it is certain that a good constitution will be of great advantage to us in all our undertakings. Even in study, where there seems to be least need of it, we know many persons who could never make any great progress for want of health. Forgetfulness, melancholy, loss of appetite, and folly, are the diseases that generally proceed from the indisposition of the body; and these diseases sometimes seize the mind with so great violence, that they wipe out even the least remembrance of what we knew before. But in health we have nothing like this to fear, and consequently there is no toil which a judicious man would not willingly undergo to avoid all these misfortunes. And, indeed, it is shameful for a man to grow old before he has tried his own strength, and seen to what degree of dexterity and perfection he can attain, which he can never know if he give himself over for useless; because dexterity and strength come not of themselves, but by practice and exercise.”
A certain man being vexed that he had saluted one who did not return his civility, Socrates said to him, “It is ridiculous in you to be unconcerned when you meet a sick man in the way, and to be vexed for having met a rude fellow.”
2. Another was saying that he had lost his appetite and could eat nothing. Socrates, having heard it, told him he could teach him a remedy for that. The man asking what it was, “Fast,” said he, “for some time, and I will warrant you will be in better health, spend less money, and eat with more satisfaction afterwards.”
3. Another complained that the water which came into the cistern was warm, and nevertheless he was forced to drink it. “You ought to be glad of it,” said Socrates, “for it is a bath ready for you, whenever you have a mind to bathe yourself.” “It is too cold to bathe in,” replied the other. “Do your servants,” said Socrates, “find any inconvenience in drinking it, or in bathing in it?” “No, but I wonder how they can suffer it.” “Is it,” continued Socrates, “warmer to drink than that of the temple of Æsculapius?” “It is not near so warm.” “You see, then,” said Socrates, “that you are harder to please than your own servants, or even than the sick themselves.”
4. A master having beaten his servant most cruelly, Socrates asked him why he was so angry with him. The master answered, “Because he is a drunkard, a lazy fellow who loves money, and is always idle.” “Suppose he be so,” said Socrates: “but be your own p. 142judge, and tell me, which of you two deserves rather to be punished for those faults?”
5. Another made a difficulty of undertaking a journey to Olympia. “What is the reason,” said Socrates to him, “that you are so much afraid of walking, you, who walk up and down about your house almost all day long? You ought to look upon this journey to be only a walk, and to think that you will walk away the morning till dinner-time, and the afternoon till supper, and thus you will insensibly find yourself at your journey’s end. For it is certain that in five or six days’ time you go more ground in walking up and down than you need to do in going from Athens to Olympia. I will tell you one thing more: it is much better to set out a day too soon than a day too late; for it is troublesome to be forced to go long journeys; and on the contrary, it is a great ease to have the advantage of a day beforehand. You were better therefore to hasten your departure than be obliged to make haste upon the road.”
6. Another telling him that he had been a great journey, and was extremely weary, Socrates asked whether he had carried anything. The other answered that he had carried nothing but his cloak. “Were you alone?” said Socrates. “No; I had a slave with me.” “Was not he loaded?” continued Socrates. “Yes, for he carried all my things.” “And how did he find himself upon the road?” “Much better than I.” “And if you had been to carry what he did, what would have become of you?” “Alas!” said he, “I should never have been able to have done it.” “Is it not a shame,” added Socrates, “in a man like you, who have gone through all the exercises, not to be able to undergo as much fatigue as his slave?”
p. 143CHAPTER XIV. SOCRATES PROPOSETH SOME REGULATIONS FOR THE BETTER MANAGEMENT OF THEIR PUBLIC FEASTS.
Socrates having observed that in public suppers every one brought his own dish of meat, and that sometimes some brought more and others less, was wont, when this happened, to bid a servant set the least dish in the middle of the table, and to give some of it to all the company. No man could, in civility, refuse it, nor exempt himself from doing the like with his own dish, insomuch that every man had a taste of the whole, and all fared alike. This in some measure banished luxury and expensiveness from these feasts. For they who would have laid out a great deal of money in delicacies cared no longer to do so, because they would have been as much for others as for themselves.
Being one day in these assemblies, and seeing a young man who ate his meat without bread, he took occasion to rally him for it upon a question that was started touching the imposing of names. “Can we give any reasons,” said he, “why a man is called flesh-eater—that is to say, a devourer of flesh?—for every man eats flesh when he has it; and I do not believe it to be upon that account that a man is called so.” “Nor I neither,” said one of the company. “But,” continued Socrates, “if a man takes delight to eat his meat without bread, do you not take him to be, indeed, a flesh-eater?” “I should think it difficult to find another who better would deserve that name.” Upon which somebody else taking the word said, “What think you of him who, with a little bread only, eats a great deal of flesh?” “I should,” replied Socrates, p. 144“judge him, too, to be a flesh-eater; and whereas others ask of the gods in their prayers to give them an abundance of fruits, such men in their petitions it is likely would pray only for abundance of flesh.”
The young man whom Socrates had in mind, suspecting that he spoke upon his account, took some bread, but continued still to eat a great deal of flesh with it. Socrates perceived him, and showing him with his finger to those that sat next to him, said to them, “Take notice of jour neighbour, and see whether it be the meat that makes him eat his bread, or the bread that makes him eat his meat.”
In a like occasion, seeing a man sop the same morsel of meat in several sauces, he said, “Is it possible to make a sauce that will cost more, and be not so good, as one that is made by taking out of several different sauces at once? For there being more ingredients than usual, no doubt it costs more; but then because we mix things together, which the cooks never used to mingle, because they agree not well with one another, we certainly spoil the whole; and is it not a jest to be curious in having good cooks, and at the same time to be so fantastical as to alter the relish of the dishes they have dressed? Besides, when we have once got a habit of eating thus of several dishes at once, we are not so well satisfied when we have no longer that variety. Whereas a man who contents himself to eat but of one dish at a time finds no great inconvenience in having but one dish of meat for his dinner.”
He made likewise this remark: that to express what the other Greeks called “to eat a meal,” the Athenians said “to make good cheer;” and that the word “good” shows us that we ought to eat such things only as will neither disorder the body nor the mind, which are p. 145easily had, and purchased without great expense. From whence he inferred that they alone who live temperately and soberly can truly be said to make good cheer—that is to say, to eat well.