Reference > Fiction > Nonfiction > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library
  PREVIOUSNEXT  

CONTENTS · GENERAL INDEX · QUICK INDEX · SONGS & LYRICS · BIOGRAPHIES
READER’S DIGEST · STUDENT’S COURSE · PORTRAITS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Socrates and the Sophists
By Plato (429–347 B.C.)
 
        
From the ‘Protagoras’: Translation of Benjamin Jowett
  
  [Socrates and his young friend Hippocrates visit the Sophists’ school.]

I PROCEEDED: Is not a Sophist, Hippocrates, one who deals wholesale or retail in the food of the soul? To me that appears to be the sort of man.  1
  And what, Socrates, is the food of the soul?  2
  Surely, I said, knowledge is the food of the soul; and we must take care, my friend, that the Sophist does not deceive us when he praises what he sells, like the dealers wholesale or retail who sell the food of the body: for they praise indiscriminately all their goods, without knowing what are really beneficial or hurtful; neither do their customers know, with the exception of any trainer or physician who may happen to buy of them. In like manner those who carry about the wares of knowledge, and make the round of the cities, and sell or retail them to any customer who is in want of them, praise them all alike: and I should not wonder, O my friend, if many of them were really ignorant of their effect upon the soul; and their customers equally ignorant, unless he who buys of them happens to be a physician of the soul. If therefore you have understanding of what is good and evil, you may safely buy knowledge of Protagoras, or of any one; but if not, then, O my friend, pause, and do not hazard your dearest interests at a game of chance. For there is far greater peril in buying knowledge than in buying meat and drink: the one you purchase of the wholesale or retail dealer, and carry them away in other vessels, and before you receive them into the body as food you may deposit them at home, and call in any experienced friend who knows what is good to be eaten or drunken, and what not, and how much and when; and hence the danger of purchasing them is not so great. But when you buy the wares of knowledge you cannot carry them away in another vessel; they have been sold to you, and you must take them into the soul and go your way, either greatly harmed or greatly benefited by the lesson: and therefore we should think about this and take counsel with our elders; for we are still young—too young to determine such a matter. And now let us go, as we were intending, and hear Protagoras: and when we have heard what he has to say, we may take counsel of others; for not only is Protagoras at the house of Callias, but there is Hippias of Elis, and if I am not mistaken, Prodicus of Ceos, and several other wise men.  3
  To this we agreed, and proceeded on our way until we reached the vestibule of the house; and there we stopped in order to finish a dispute which had arisen as we were going along; and we stood talking in the vestibule until we had finished and come to an understanding. And I think that the doorkeeper, who was a eunuch, and who was probably annoyed at the great inroad of the Sophists, must have heard us talking. At any rate, when we knocked at the door, and he opened and saw us, he grumbled, They are Sophists—he is not at home; and instantly gave the door a hearty bang with both his hands. Again we knocked, and he answered without opening, Did you not hear me say that he is not at home, fellows? But, my friend, I said, we are not Sophists, and we are not come to see Callias: fear not, for we want to see Protagoras; and I must request you to announce us. At last, after a good deal of difficulty, the man was persuaded to open the door.  4
  When we entered, we found Protagoras taking a walk in the portico; and next to him on one side were walking Callias the son of Hipponicus, and Paralus the son of Pericles, who by the mother’s side is his half-brother, and Charmides the son of Glaucon. On the other side of him were Xanthippus the other son of Pericles, Philippides the son of Philomelus; also Antimœrus of Mende, who of all the disciples of Protagoras is the most famous, and intends to make sophistry his profession. A train of listeners followed him, of whom the greater part appeared to be foreigners, who accompanied Protagoras out of the various cities through which he journeyed. Now he, like Orpheus, attracted them by his voice, and they followed the attraction. I should mention also that there were some Athenians in the company. Nothing delighted me more than the precision of their movements: they never got into his way at all; but when he and those who were with him turned back, then the band of listeners divided into two parts on either side; he was always in front, and they wheeled round and took their places behind him in perfect order.  5
  After him, as Homer says, “I lifted up my eyes and saw” Hippias the Elean, sitting in the opposite portico on a chair of state, and around him were seated on benches Eryximachus the son of Acumenus, and Phædrus the Myrrhinusian, and Andron the son of Androtion, and there were strangers whom he had brought with him from his native city of Elis, and some others: they appeared to be asking Hippias certain physical and astronomical questions, and he, ex cathedrâ, was determining their several questions to them, and discoursing of them.  6
  Also, “my eyes beheld Tantalus”; for Prodicus the Cean was at Athens: he had been put into a room which in the days of Hipponicus was a storehouse; but as the house was full, Callias had cleared this out and made the room into a guest-chamber. Now Prodicus was still in bed, wrapped up in sheepskins and bedclothes, of which there seemed to be a great heap; and there were sitting by him on the couches near, Pausanias of the deme of Cerameis, and with Pausanias was a youth quite young, who is certainly remarkable for his good looks, and if I am not mistaken, is also of a fair and gentle nature. I think that I heard him called Agathon, and my suspicion is that he is the beloved of Pausanias. There was this youth, and also there were the two Adeimantuses,—one the son of Cepis, and the other of Leucolophides,—and some others. I was very anxious to hear what Prodicus was saying, for he seemed to me to be an extraordinarily wise and divine man; but I was not able to get into the inner circle, and his fine deep voice made an echo in the room which rendered his words inaudible.  7
  No sooner had we entered than there followed us Alcibiades the beautiful—as you say, and I believe you; and also Critias the son of Callæschrus.  8
  On entering, we stopped a little in order to look about us, and then walked up to Protagoras, and I said: Protagoras, my friend Hippocrates and I have come to see you.  9
  Do you wish, he said, to speak with me alone, or in the presence of others?  10
  That is as you please, I said: you shall determine when you have heard the object of our visit.  11
  And what is that? he said.  12
  I must explain, I said, that my friend Hippocrates is a native Athenian; he is the son of Apollodorus, and of a great and prosperous house, and he is himself in natural ability quite a match for those of his own age. I believe that he aspires to political eminence; and this he thinks that conversation with you is most likely to procure for him: now it is for you to decide whether you would wish to speak to him of these matters alone or in company.  13
  Thank you, Socrates, for your consideration of me. For certainly a stranger finding his way into great cities, and persuading the flower of the youth in them to leave the company of their other kinsmen or acquaintance, and live with him, under the idea that they will be improved by his conversation, ought to be very cautious: great jealousies are occasioned by his proceedings, and he is the subject of many enmities and conspiracies. I maintain the art of the Sophist to be of ancient date; but that in ancient times the professors of the art, fearing this odium, veiled and disguised themselves under various names; some under that of poets, as Homer, Hesiod, and Simonides; some as hierophants and prophets, as Orpheus and Musæus; and some, as I observe, even under the name of gymnastic-masters, like Iccus of Tarentum, or the more recently celebrated Herodicus, now of Selymbria and formerly of Megara, who is a first-rate Sophist. Your own Agathocles pretended to be a musician, but was really an eminent Sophist; also Pythocleides the Cean; and there were many others: and all of them, as I was saying, adopted these arts as veils or disguises because they were afraid of the envy of the multitude. But that is not my way: for I do not believe that they effected their purpose, which was to deceive the government, who were not blinded by them; and as to the people, they have no understanding, and only repeat what their rulers are pleased to tell them. Now to run away, and to be caught in running away, is the very height of folly; and also greatly increases the exasperation of mankind, for they regard him who runs away as a rogue, in addition to any other objection which they have to him: and therefore I take an entirely opposite course, and acknowledge myself to be a Sophist and instructor of mankind; such an open acknowledgment appears to me to be a better sort of caution than concealment. Nor do I neglect other precautions; and therefore I hope, as I may say, by the favor of heaven, that no harm will come of the acknowledgment that I am a Sophist. And I have been now many years in the profession;—for all my years when added up are many, and there is no one here present of whom I might not be the father. Wherefore I should much prefer conversing with you, if you do not object, in the presence of the company.  14
  As I suspected that he would like to have a little display and glory in the presence of Prodicus and Hippias, and would gladly show us to them in the light of his admirers, I said: But why should we not summon Prodicus and Hippias and their friends to hear us?  15
  Very good, he said.  16
  Suppose, said Callias, that we hold a council in which you may sit and discuss. This was determined, and great delight was felt at the prospect of hearing wise men talk; we ourselves all took the chairs and benches, and arranged them by Hippias, where the other benches had been already placed. Meanwhile Callias and Alcibiades got up Prodicus, and brought in him and his companions.  17
  When we were all seated, Protagoras said: Now that the company are assembled, Socrates, tell me about the young man of whom you were just now speaking.  18
 
 
CONTENTS · GENERAL INDEX · SONGS & LYRICS · BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY
READER’S DIGEST · STUDENT’S COURSE · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
  PREVIOUSNEXT  
 

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2015 Bartleby.com · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors · World Lit.