“The Things I Would do For Socrates…”

Another Letter from Libanius

Ep. 80: To Maximus

“The things I would do for Socrates, if I had lived at his time when those beasts were upon him—those three sycophants—I think it is right that I do thse very things for one who is a follower of Socrates now.

And I would have done those things and these which I am doing now not because I was afraid that they would suffer anything terrible because of those charges—for it is not terrible for a philosopher to be freed from his body, but instead the greatest good—but because I know that a man dedicated to philosophy is the greatest advantage to humanity no less than if the goods were to return to spend time with men in counseling and helping us—the kinds of things we have heard poets speak of.

For these reasons, I hate Anytos* and his kind. I was beseeching the gods for you—this is my kind of alliance—I was not seeking a favor with this, but instead returning one.”

  1. Ἃ ἐποίουν ἂν περὶ Σωκράτην, εἰ κατὰ Σωκράτην ἐγεγόνειν, ὅτε αὐτῷ τὰ θηρία ἐπέκειτο, συκοφάνται τρεῖς, ταῦτ᾿ ᾤμην δεῖν καὶ νῦν ποιεῖν περὶ τὸν τὰ Σωκράτους ἐζηλωκότα.
  2. ἔπραττον δ᾿ ἂν ταῦτά τε κἀκεῖνα ἂν ἐποίουν οὐχ ὑπὲρ τῶν ἐν ταῖς αἰτίαις δεδοικὼς μὴ δεινόν τι πάθωσιν—οὐδὲν γὰρ δεινὸν φιλοσόφοις ἐκλυθῆναι σώματος, μέγιστον μὲν οὖν ἀγαθόν—ἀλλ᾿ εἰδὼς ὅτι πάμμεγα κέρδος ἀνθρώποις ἀνὴρ φιλοσοφῶν καὶ οὐ πολὺ τοῦτ᾿ ἔλαττον τοῦ τοὺς θεοὺς ἀναμεμίχθαι τοῖς ἀνθρώποις καὶ συμβουλεύειν καὶ συμπράττειν, οἷα τῶν ποιητῶν λεγόντων ἀκούομεν.
  3. διὰ δὴ ταῦτα μισῶ μὲν τοὺς περὶ Ἄνυτον· ὑπὲρ δὲ σοῦ τοὺς θεοὺς ἐκάλουν, τουτὶ γὰρ ἡ παρ᾿ ἐμοῦ συμμαχία, καὶ οὐκ ἦρχόν γε χάριτος ἐκείναις ταῖς φροντίσιν, ἀλλ᾿ ἠμειβόμην.


*Anytos is one of Socrates’ recorded accusers in his trial of 399 BCE

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One thought on ““The Things I Would do For Socrates…”

  1. Between my Augustine and your Libanius, we’ll have a real war in 4th/5th century reception of pagan literature! Obviously, I think that Libanius is the hero, but for some reason I’m reading that old codger Augustine.

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