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greatness of the cha
racter of Socrates.
THE CHARACTER OF SOCRATES.
ANCIENT writers speak of the character of Socrates in terms of the greatest respect. There are, however, some exceptions, quite apart from the prejudice occasioned by his condemnation, which no doubt survived some time after his death. Followers of Epicurus indulged their love of slander even at his expense,1 and one voice from the Peripatetic School has scandalous stories to tell respecting his life: as a boy he was disobedient and refractory; as a youth, profligate; as a man, coarse, importunate, given to sudden bursts of anger, and of fiery passions.2 But
1 Cicero de N. D. i. 34, says that his teacher, the Epicurean Zeno, called him an Attic buffoon. Epicurus, however, according to Diog. x. 8, appears to have spared him, although he depreciated every other philosopher.
2 The source from which these unfavourable reports, collected by Luzac, come is Aristoxenus, Lect. Att. 246 (from whom we have already heard similar things, p. 58, note; 61, 3; 64, 5). From this writer come the following statements; that mentioned in Porphyry: ὡς φύσει γεγόνοι τραχὺς εἰς ὀργήν,
καὶ ὁπότε κρατηθείη τῷ πάθει διὰ πάσης ἀσχημοσύνης ἐβάδιζεν Synesius (Enc. Galv. 81) will have this limited to his younger years; that of Cyril. c. Jul. vi. 185, C.; Theod. Cur. Gr. Aff. xii., 63, p. 174: öte dè pλexteín ὑπὸ τοῦ πάθους τούτου δεινὴν εἶναι τὴν ἀσχημοσύνην· οὐδενὸς γὰρ οὔτε ὀνόματος ἀποσχέσθαι OйтE πрάyμатos; and another of Cyril. 186, C. Theod. 1. c.) that Socrates was in other ways temperate, πрòs de Thy TŴY ἀφροδισίων χρῆσιν σφοδρότερον μὲν εἶναι, ἀδικίαν δὲ μὴ προσεῖναι, ἢ γὰρ ταῖς γαμεταῖς ἢ ταῖς κοιναῖς χρῆσθαι μόναις, and then after
the stories we have of this kind are so improbable, and the chief relater is so untrustworthy,' that we cannot even with certainty2 infer that Socrates only became what he was after a severe struggle3 with his
the history of his bigamy he concludes : εἶναι δέ φησιν αὐτὸν ἐν ταῖς ὁμιλίαις αἰνῶς τε φιλαπεχθήμονα καὶ λοίδορον καὶ ὑβρισTIKÓV. From the same source, as may be gathered from Plut. Mal. Her. c. 9, p. 856, comes the charge which Theod. 1. c. I. 29, p. 8 quotes from Porphyry, without naming Aristoxenus, εἶναι δὲ αὐτὸν πρὸς οὐδὲν μὲν ἀφυῆ, ἀπαίδευτον δὲ περὶ πάντα, so that he was hardly able to read, besides what follows (Ibid. xii. 66, p. 174; conf. iv. 2, p. 56): ἐλεγιτο δὲ περὶ αὐτοῦ ὡς ἄρα παῖς ὢν οὐκ εὖ βιώσειεν οὐδὲ εὐτάκτως· πρῶτον μὲν γάρ φασιν αὐτὸν τῷ πατρὶ διατελέσαι, ἀπειθοῦντα καὶ ὁπότε κελεύσειεν αὐτὸν λαβόντα τὰ ὄργανα τὰ περὶ τὴν τέχνην ἀπαντᾶν ὁπουδήποτε ὀλιγωρήσαντα τοῦ προστάγματος περιτρέχειν αὐτὸν ὁπουδήποτε δόξειεν ἦν δὲ καὶ τῶν ἐπιτιμωμένων καὶ τάδε Σωκράτει ὅτι εἰς τοὺς ὄχλους εἰσωθεῖτο καὶ τὰς διατριβὰς ἐποιεῖτο πρὸς ταῖς τραπέζαις καὶ πρὸς ταῖς Ἑρμαῖς. Herewith is connected the story of the physiognomist Zopyrus. (Cic. Tusc. vi. 37, 83; De Fat. iv. 10; Alex. Aph. De Fato, vi., Pers. Sat. IV. 24 Conf.; Max. Tyr. xxxi. 3), who declared Socrates to be stupid and profligate, and received from him the answer, that by nature he had been so, but had been changed by reason. This account can hardly be true. It looks as if it had been devised
to illustrate the power of reason over a defective natural disposition, as illustrated in Plato, Symp. 215, 221, B. If the story was current in the time of Aristoxenus, he may have used it for his picture; but it is also possible that his description produced the story, which in this case would have an apologetic meaning. The name of Zopyrus would lead us to think of the Syrian magician, who, according to Aristotle in Diog. ii. 45, had foretold the violent death of Socrates.
As may be already seen from the stories respecting the bigamy, the gross ignorance, the violent temper, and the sensual indulgences of Socrates.
2 As Hermann does, De Socr. Mag. 30.
3 Though this is in itself possible, we have no certain authority for such an assertion. The anecdote of Zopyrus is, as already remarked, very uncertain, and where is the warrant that Aristoxenus followed a really credible tradition? He refers, it is true, to his father Spintharus, an actual acquaintance of Socrates. But the question arises whether this statement is more trustworthy than the rest. The chronology is against it, and still more so is the substance of what Spintharus
natural disposition. Our best authorities only know him as the perfect man, to whom they look up with respect, and whom they regard as the exemplar of humanity and morality. No one,' says Xenophon, 'ever heard or saw anything wicked in Socrates; so pious was he that he never did anything without first consulting the Gods; so just that he never injured any one in the least; so master of himself that he never preferred pleasure to goodness; so sensible that he never erred in his choice between what was better and what was worse. In a word, he was of men the best and happiest.'1
He further represents Socrates as a pattern of hardiness, of self-denial, of self-mastery; as a man
says. It may also be asked
sions and inferences. His overdrawn imagination makes Socrates as a boy dissatisfied with his father's business, and as a man pass his life in the streets. In the same way he finds that Socrates must have been a man without culture, because of expressions such as that in the Apology, 17, B., or that in the Symp. 221, E.; 199, A.; violent in temper, in support of which he refers to Symp. 214, D.; and dissolute because of his supposed bigamy, and the words in Xen. Mem. i. 3, 14; ii. 2, 4, and p. 51, 2.
1 Mem. i. 1, 11; iv. 8, 11. R. Lange's objections to the genuineness of the concluding chapters of the Memorabilia (iv. 8) (De Xenoph. Apol. Berl. 1873) do not appear sufficiently strong to preclude their being cited as an authority.
of piety and love for his country, of unbending fidelity to his convictions, as a sensible and trustworthy adviser both for the bodies and souls of his friends; as an agreeable and affable companion, with a happy combination of cheerfulness and seriousness; above all, as an untiring educator of character, embracing every opportunity of bringing all with whom he came into contact to self-knowledge and virtue, and especially opposing the conceit and thoughtlessness of youth.
Plato says the same of him. He too calls his teacher the best, the most sensible, and the most just man of his age, and never tires of praising his simplicity, his moderation, his control over the wants and desires of the senses; imbued with the deepest religious feeling in all his doings, devoting his whole life to the service of the Gods, and dying a martyr's death because of his obedience to the divine voice; and like Xenophon, he describes this service as the exercise of a universal moral influence on others, and particularly on youth. In his picture, too, the more serious side in the character of Socrates is relieved by a real kindness, an Athenian polish, a sparkling cheerfulness and a pleasing humour. Of his social virtues and his political courage Plato speaks in the same terms as Xenophon, and adds thereto an admirable description of Socrates on military service.2 Every trait which he mentions adds to the clearness of that picture of moral greatness, so wonderful for
1 See the end of the Phædo.
2 See page 66, note 2.
character reflecting Greek pe
its very originality, for the absence of all that is studied and artificial about it, for its exclusion of self-glorification and affectation,
Owing to its being a native growth, the Socratic type of virtue bears, throughout, the peculiar impress of the Greek mind. Socrates is not the insipid ideal of virtue, which a superficial rationalism would make of him, but he is a thorough Greek and Athenian, taken, as it were, from the very marrow of his nation, possessed of flesh and blood, and not merely the universal moral standard for all time. His much-lauded moderation is free from the ascetic element, which it seems always to suggest in modern times. Socrates enjoys good company, although he avoids noisy carousals; and if he does not make the pleasures of the senses an object in life, no more does he avoid them, when they are offered to him, nay, not even when in excess. Thus the call for small cups in Xenophon's banquet is not made for fear of indulging
1 Most of the traits and anecdotes recorded by later writers are in harmony with this view of Socrates. Some of them are certainly fictions. Others may be taken from writings of pupils of Socrates, which have been since lost, or from other trustworthy sources. They may be found in the following places. Cic. Tusc. iii. 15, 31; Off. i. 26 and 90; Seneca, De Const. 18, 5; De Ira, i. 15, 3; iii. 11, 2 ; ii. 7, 1; Tranqu. An. 5, 2; 17, 4; Epist. 104, 27; Plin. H. Nat. vii. 18; Plut. Educ. Pu. 14, p. 10; De
Adulat. 32, p. 70; Coh. Ira, 4, p. 455; Tranqu. An. 10, p. 471; Garrulit. 20; Diog. ii. 21, 24, 27, 30; vi. 8; Gell. N. A. ii. 1 ; xix. 9, 9; Val. Max. viii. 8; Ælian, V. H. i. 16; ii. 11, 13, 36; iii. 28; ix. 7, 29; xii. 15; xiii. 27, 32; Athen. iv. 157 c.; Stob. Flor. 17, 17 and 22. Basil. De leg. Græc. libr. Op. II. 179, a. Themist. Orat. vii. 95, a. Simpl. in Epict. Enchir. c., 20, p. 218. A few others have been or will be referred to.
2 Plato, Symp. 220, A.; conf. 174, A.