Page images

too largely, but that exhilaration may not be too rapid. Plato describes him as boasting that he can equally well take much or little, that he can surpass all in drinking, without ever being intoxicated himself,2 and represents him at the close of the banquet as leaving all his companions under the table, and pursuing his daily work, after a night spent over the bowl, as if nothing had happened. Moderation here' appears with him not to consist in total abstinence from pleasure, but in perfect mental freedom, neither requiring pleasure, nor being ever overtaken by its seductive influence. His abstemiousness in other points is also recorded with admiration.3 Numerous passages, however, in Xenophon's Memorabilia ' 4 prove that his morality was far below our strict standard of principles. The Grecian peculiarity of affection for boys marks, indeed, his relations to youth, but his character is above all suspicion of actual vice, and he treats with irony a supposed

1 Xen. Mem. 2, 26: v de ἡμῖν οἱ παῖδες μικραῖς κύλιξι πυκνὰ ἐπιψεκάζωσιν, οὕτως οὐ βιαζόμενοι ὑπὸ τοῦ οἴνου μεθύειν, ἀλλ ̓ ἀναπειθόμενοι πρὸς τὸ παιγνιωδέστερον ἀφιξόμεθα.

2 Symp. 176, C.; 220, A.; 213, E.

3 Xen. Mem. i. 2, 1; 3, 14. We have already seen that Aristoxenus and his followers cannot prove the contrary.

1 i. 3, 14; ii. 1, 5; 2, 4; iii. 11; iv. 5, 9. Conf. Conv. iv. 38.

The cotemporaries of Socrates seem to have found nothing to object to in Socratic

[ocr errors]

affection. Not only is there
no allusion to it in the judicial
charge, but not even in Aris-
tophanes, who would undoubt-
edly have magnified the smal-
lest suspicion into the gravest
charge. The other comic poets,
according to Athen., v. 219,
knew nothing of it. Nor does
Xenophon deem it necessary
to refute this calumny, and
therefore the well-known story
of Plato's banquet has for its
object far more the glorifica-
tion than the justification of
his teacher. On the other
hand, the relations of Socrates
to Alcibiades, in the verses




love-affair of his own.1 At the same time, what Greek in the presence of youthful beauty was proof against a certain element of æsthetic pleasure, which at least was the ground and origin, even though (as in his case) an innocent one, of deeper affection ?2 The odious excrescences of Greek morality called forth his severest censure; yet at the same time, according to Xenophon,3 and Æschines, and Plato,5 Socrates described his own relations to his younger friends by the name of Eros, or a passionate attachment grounded on æsthetic attractions. Not otherwise may Grecian peculiarities be noticed in his ethical or political views, nor is his theology free from the trammels of the popular belief. How deeply these lines had influenced his character may be seen not only in his simple obedience to the laws of his country throughout life, and his genuine respect for the state religion,' but far more also in the trials of


purporting to be written by
Aspasia, which Athenæus com-
municates on the authority of
Herodicus, have a very sus-
picious look, and Tertullian
Apol. c. 46 mistakenly applies
the words διαφθείρειν τοὺς νέους
to paederastia. In Juvenal
(Sat. ii. 10) Socratici cinædi
refer to the manners of his
own time.

1 Xen. Mem. iv. 1, 2; Symp. 4, 27; Plato, Symp. 213, C.; 216, D.; 222, B.; Charm. 155,


2 Xen. Mem. i. 2, 29; 3, 8; Sym. 8, 19, 32, with which Plato agrees.

3 Symp. 8, 2 and 24; Mem. iv. 1, 2.

In his Alcibiades he speaks of the love of Socrates for Alcibiades. See Aristid. Or. xlv. περὶ ῥητορικῆς, p. 30, 34.

Prot. beginning; Symp. 177, D.; 218, B.; 222, A.; not to mention other expressions for which Plato is answerable.

6 Plato, Apol. 28, E.

7 Xenophon, Mem. i. 1, 2, assures us not only that Socrates took part in the public sacrifices, but that he was frequently in the habit of sacrificing at home. In Plato he invokes Helios, Symp. 220, D.; and his last words, according to the Phædo, 118, A., were an earnest commission to Crito to offer a cock to Esculapius. Often is

his last days, when for fear of violating the laws, he scorned the ordinary practices of defence, and after his condemnation refused to escape from prison. The epitaph which Simonides inscribed on the tomb of Leonidas might very well be inscribed on that of Socrates: He died to obey the state.2



Deeply as Socrates is rooted in the national C. Procharacter of Greece, there is about him a some- traits in thing decidedly unlike a Greek, presenting a foreign his chaand even almost modern appearance. This it was which made him appear to his cotemporaries a thoroughly eccentric and singular person. This, for a Greek so unintelligible, something, which he described by one word as his singularity,3 consisted, according to Plato's account, in a want of agreement between his outward appearance and his

belief in oracles mentioned, which he always conscientiously obeyed (Mem. i. 3, 4; Plato, Apol. 21, B.) and the use of which he recommended to his friends (Xen. Mem. ii. 6, 8; iv. 7, 10; Anabas. iii. 1, 5). He was himself fully persuaded that he possessed an oracle in the truest sense, in the inward voice of his δαιμόνιον, and he also believed in dreams and similar prognostications. (Plato, Crito, 44, A.; Phædo, 60, D.; Apol. 33, C.)

1 This motive is represented by Xenophon (Mem. iv. 4, 4) and Plato (Apol. 34, D.; Phædo, 98, C.) as the decisive one, although the Crito makes it appear that a flight from Athens would have done no

good to himself, and much
harm to his friends and de-
pendants. The Apology speaks
as if entreating the judges
were unworthy of the speaker
and his country.

2 Xen. says: προείλετο μᾶλλον
τοῖς νόμοις ἐμμένων ἀποθανεῖν ἢ
παρανομῶν ζῇν.

3 Plato, Symp. 221, С.: Поλλὰ μὲν οὖν ἄν τις καὶ ἄλλα ἔχοι Σωκράτη ἐπαινέσαι καὶ θαυμάσια τὸ δὲ μηδενὶ ἀνθρώπων ὅμοιον εἶναι, μήτε τῶν παλαιῶν μήτε τῶν νῦν ὄντων, τοῦτο ἄξιον παντὸς θαύματος οἷος δὲ οὑτοσὶ γέγονε τὴν ἀτοπίων ἄνθρωπος καὶ αὐτὸς οἱ λόγοι αὐτοῦ οὐδ ̓ ἐγγὺς ἂν εὕροι τις ζητῶν, οὔτε τῶν νῦν οὔτε τῶν παλαιῶν.

4 Symp. 215, A.; 221, E.

[ocr errors]



inward and real nature. In this respect he contrasts most strikingly with the mutual interpenetration of both, which constitutes the usual classic ideal. On the one hand we behold in Socrates indifference to the outer world, originally foreign to the habits of his countrymen; on the other hand, a meditativeness unknown before. Owing to the former feature there is about him a something prosy and dry, and, if the expression may be allowed, philistine-like, sharply contrasting with the contained beauty and the artistic grace of life in Greece. Owing to the latter there is about him something akin to the revelation of a higher life, having its seat within, in the recesses of the soul, and not fully explained in its manifestations, and which even Socrates himself regarded as superhuman. In their account of these two peculiarities both Plato and Xenophon are agreed. Even from an outward point of view, the Silenus-like appearance of Socrates, which Plato's Alcibiades, and Xenophon's Socrates himself' describe with so much humour, must rather have concealed than exposed the presence of genius to the eye of a Greek. But more than this, a certain amount of intellectual stiffness, and an indifference to what is sensibly beautiful, is unmistakeable in his speech and behaviour. Take for instance the process of catechising given in the Memorabilia,' 3 by which a general of cavalry is brought to a knowledge of his

1 Symp. 215; conf. Thæet. 14, 3, E.

2 Symp. 4, 19; 2, 19; Epictetus (Diss. iv. 11, 19) gives So

crates a pleasing appearance, but this is of course quite untenable.

3 iii. 3.


duties, or the formality with which things,' long familiar to his hearers, are proved, or the way in which the idea of the beautiful is resolved into that of the useful.2 Or hear him, on grounds of expediency, advising conduct, which to us seems simply abominable, or in the Phædrus refusing to walk out because he can learn nothing from trees and the country, and taking exception in the Apology" to the works of poets and artists, because they are the results of natural genius and inspiration, and not of reflection. Or see him in Xenophon's Symposium,7 despite the universal custom of the ancients, dancing alone at home, in order to gain healthful exercise, and justifying his conduct by the strangest of reflections; unable even at table9 to forget considerations of utility. Taking these and similar traits into account, there appears in him a certain want of imagination, a one-sided prominence of the critical and intellectual faculties, in short a prosiness which clashes with the poetry of Grecian life, and the


1 Symp. iii. 10, 9; iii. 11.
2 iii. 8, 4.

M. Crasso, in foro, mihi crede,
saltaret; Plut. De vit. jud. 16,
533, also the expressions in
Xenophon : Ορχήσομαι νὴ Δία.

3 i. 3, 14.

4 230, D.

5 This point will be subse- Ἐνταῦθα δὴ ἐγέλασαν ἅπαντες. quently discussed.

6 22, C. 72, 17.

8 Compare Menexenus, 236, C.: ἀλλὰ μέντοι σοί γε δεῖ χαρίζεσθαι, ὥστε κἂν ὀλίγου εἴ με κελεύοις ἀποδύντα ὀρχήσασθαι, χαρισαίμην ἄν; and Cicero pro

And when Charmides found
Socrates dancing: τὸ μέν γε
πρῶτον ἐξεπλάγην καὶ ἔδεισα, μὴ
μaívolo, к. T. λ.
Of the same
character was his instruction
in music under Connus, if the
story were only true of his
having received lessons with
the schoolboys. Plato, Eu-
thyd. 272, C.

Mur. 6: Nemo fere saltat so-
brius, nisi forte insanit; De
Offic. iii. 19: Dares hanc vim


Xen. Symp. 3, 2.


« PreviousContinue »