Kephalos, The Wisest Athenian

Much has been made of Socrates’ wisdom in knowing that he was not wise, but I suggest that his conversation partner, the aged Kephalos, may have been one too many for that wily corruptor of the youth. Notice how artfully he escapes what grows into a dialogue which may well have consumed the rest of his natural life:

“Your account is correct,” said Kephalos.

[Socrates speaking.] “This then is not the proper definition of justice, to speak the truth and give back what one has taken.”

“On the contrary, it is the proper definition, if Simonides is to be believed,” said Polemarchos, taking up the argument.

“Fair enough,” said Kephalos, “I’ll leave the whole argument to you two; I must take care of the sacrifices.”

“Am I, then, the inheritor of your affairs?” asked Polemarchos.

“Yes yes yes, certainly,” said Kephalos laughing, and directly he went out to the sacrifices.

ὀρθῶς, ἔφη, λέγεις.

οὐκ ἄρα οὗτος ὅρος ἐστὶν δικαιοσύνης, ἀληθῆ τε λέγειν καὶ ἃ ἂν λάβῃ τις ἀποδιδόναι.

πάνυ μὲν οὖν, ἔφη, ὦ Σώκρατες, ὑπολαβὼν ὁ Πολέμαρχος, εἴπερ γέ τι χρὴ Σιμωνίδῃ πείθεσθαι.

καὶ μέντοι, ἔφη ὁ Κέφαλος, καὶ παραδίδωμι ὑμῖν τὸν λόγον: δεῖ γάρ με ἤδη τῶν ἱερῶν ἐπιμεληθῆναι.

οὐκοῦν, ἔφη, ἐγώ, ὁ Πολέμαρχος, τῶν γε σῶν κληρονόμος;

πάνυ γε, ἦ δ᾽ ὃς γελάσας, καὶ ἅμα ᾔει πρὸς τὰ ἱερά.

-Plato, Republic 1.331.d

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