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ALCIBIADES' ACCOUNT OF SOCRATES.
(From Plato's “Symposium": translated by Percy Bysshe Shelley.)
[ALCIBIADES was a celebrated Athenian politician and general ; born about B.C. 450. He was brought up in the house of Pericles, and lived on terms of intimacy with Socrates. A man of great personal charm and extraordinary ability, he soon became a popular leader ; but being involved in a suspicion of sacri. lege, fled to Sparta and then to Persia. Recalled by the Athenian populace, and intrusted with the command of their fleet, he won several important battles for them, but was superseded for a defeat of his general at Notium B.C. 407. After the fall of Athens he took refuge with the Persian satrap Pharnabazus, in Phrygia, where he was treacherously murdered B.C. 404.]
I WILL begin the praise of Socrates by comparing him to a certain statue. Perhaps he will think that this statue is introduced for the sake of ridicule, but I assure you it is necessary for the illustration of truth. I assert, then, that Socrates is exactly like those Silenuses that sit in the sculptors' shops, and which are holding carved flutes or pipes, but which when divided in two are found to contain the images of the gods. I assert that Socrates is like the satyr Marsyas. That your form and appearance are like these satyrs, I think that even you will not venture to deny; and how like you are to them in all other things, now hear. Are you not scornful and petulant ? If you deny this, I will bring witnesses. Are you not a piper, and far more wonderful a one than he ? For Marsyas, and whoever now pipes the music that he taught (for it was Marsyas who taught Olympus his music), enchants men through the power of the mouth. For if any musician, be he skillful or not, awakens this music, it alone enables him to retain the minds of men, and from the divinity of its nature makes evident those who are in want of the gods and initiation : you differ only from Marsyas in this circumstance, that you effect without instruments, by mere words, all that he can do. For when we hear Pericles, or any other accomplished orator, deliver a discourse, no one, as it were, cares anything about it. But when any one hears you, or even your words related by another, though ever so rude and unskillful a speaker, be that person a woman, mạn, or child, we are struck and retained, as it were, by the discourse clinging to our mind.
If I was not afraid that I am a great deal too drunk, I would confirm to you by an oath the strange effects which I assure you I have suffered from his words, and suffer still; for when I hear him speak my heart leaps up far more than the hearts of those who celebrate the Corybantic mysteries ; my tears are poured out as he talks, a thing I have often seen happen to many others besides myself. I have heard Pericles and other excellent orators, and have been pleased with their discourses, but I suffered nothing of this kind; nor was my soul ever on those occasions disturbed and filled with selfreproach, as if it were slavishly laid prostrate. But this Marsyas here has often affected me in the way I describe, until the life which I lived seemed hardly worth living. Do not deny it, Socrates; for I know well that if even now I chose to listen to you, I could not resist, but should again suffer the same effects. For, my friends, he forces me to confess that while I myself am still in need of many things, I neglect my own necessities and attend to those of the Athenians. I stop my ears, therefore, as from the Sirens, and flee away as fast as possible, that I may not sit down beside him, and grow old in listening to his talk. For this man has reduced me to feel the sentiment of shame, which I imagine no one would readily believe was in me. For I feel in his presence my incapacity of refuting what he says or of refusing to do that which he directs : but when I depart from him the glory which the multitude confers overwhelms me. I escape therefore and hide myself from him, and when I see him I am overwhelmed with humiliation, because I have neglected to do what I have confessed to him ought to be done : and often and often have I wished that he were no longer to be seen among men.
But if that were to happen I well know that I should suffer far greater pain; so that where I can turn, or what I can do with this man I know not. All this have I and many others suffered from the pipings of this satyr.
And observe how like he is to what I said, and what a wonderful power he possesses. Know that there is not one of you who is aware of the real nature of Socrates; but since I have begun, I will make him plain to you. You observe how passionately Socrates affects the intimacy of those who are beautiful, and how ignorant he professes himself to be, appearances in themselves excessively Silenic. This, my friends, is the external form with which, like one of the sculptured Sileni, he has clothed himself; for if you open him you will find within admirable temperance and wisdom. For he cares not
for mere beauty, but despises more than any one can imagine all external possessions, whether it be beauty, or wealth, or glory, or any other thing for which the multitude felicitates the possessor. He esteems these things, and us who honor them, as nothing, and lives among men, making all the objects of their admiration the playthings of his irony. But I know not if any one of you have ever seen the divine images which are within, when he has been opened, and is serious. I have seen them, and they are so supremely beautiful, so golden, so divine, and wonderful, that everything that Socrates commands surely ought to be obeyed, even like the voice of a god.
At one time we were fellow-soldiers, and had our mess together in the camp before Potidæa. Socrates there overcame not only me, but every one beside, in endurance of evils: when, as often happens in a campaign, we were reduced to few provisions, there were none who could sustain hunger like Socrates ; and when we had plenty, he alone seemed to enjoy our military fare. He never drank much willingly, but when he was compelled, he conquered all even in that to which he was least accustomed : and, what is most astonishing, no person ever saw Socrates drunk either then or at any other time. In the depth of winter (and the winters there are excessively rigid) he sustained calmly incredible hardships : and amongst other things, whilst the frost was intolerably severe, and no one went out of their tents, or if they went out, wrapped themselves up carefully, and put fleeces under their feet, and bound their legs with hairy skins, Socrates went out only with the same cloak on that he usually wore, and walked barefoot upon the ice : more easily, indeed, than those who had sandaled themselves 80 delicately: so that the soldiers thought that he did it to mock their want of fortitude. It would indeed be worth while to commemorate all that this brave man did and endured in that expedition. In one instance he was seen early in the morning, standing in one place, wrapt in meditation; and as he seemed unable to unravel the subject of his thoughts, he still continued to stand as inquiring and discussing within himself, and when noon came, the soldiers observed him, and said to one another — "Socrates has been standing there thinking, ever since the morning.” At last some Ionians came to the spot, and having supped, as it was summer, they lay down to