Against Plato for Homer: The Doctrine of Ideas Is Ridiculous

Heraclitus, Homeric Problems 78

“It is therefore appropriate that Homer’s message is the life of heroes and Plato’s dialogues are the loves of young men. Everything in Homer overflows with noble virtue; Odysseus is prudent; Ajax is brave; Penelope is chaste; Nestor is just in all things; and Telemachus is reverent towards his father while Achilles is most loyal in his friendships. What of these things remain in Plato, the philosopher? Unless we were to claim that there was some useful honor in the sacred chirpings of his ‘ideas’, mocked even by his student Aristotle! For this reason, I imagine he suffered worthy punishment for his words about Homer, that man “who has an unhindered tongue, the most shameful sickness” [Eur. Or. 10] just like Tantalos or Kapaneus, who suffered endless misfortunes because of their grievous tongue.

Plato often wore himself out going to the doors of tyrants and he submitted a free body to a slave’s fortune, even being sold. No one is ignorant about Pollis the Spartan* or how Plato was saved by a Libyan’s deed when his price had been set at twenty minae, cheap for a slave. These events were the punishment he owed for his slandering of Homer and for his ungoverned and unguarded tongue. Even though I could say more still against Plato, I’ll let it be because I respect the name of Socratic wisdom.”

*Dionysius the Tyrant of Syracuse gave Plato to Pollis as a slave


         Τοιγαροῦν εἰκότως ὁ μὲν ῾Ομήρου λόγος ἡρώων ἐστὶ βίος, οἱ δὲ Πλάτωνος διάλογοι μειρακίων ἔρωτες.  Καὶ πάντα τὰ παρ’ ῾Ομήρῳ γεννικῆς ἀρετῆς γέμει· φρόνιμος ᾿Οδυσσεύς, ἀνδρεῖος Αἴας, σώφρων Πηνελόπη, δίκαιος ἐν ἅπασι Νέστωρ, εὐσεβὴς εἰς πατέρα Τηλέμαχος, ἐν φιλίαις πιστότατος ᾿Αχιλλεύς·  ὧν <τί> παρὰ Πλάτωνι  τῷ φιλοσόφῳ; πλὴν εἰ μὴ νὴ Δία τιμὴν <καὶ> ὠφέλ<ειαν φ>ήσομεν εἶναι τὰ σεμνὰ τῶν ἰδεῶν τερετίσματα καὶ παρ’ ᾿Αριστοτέλει τῷ μαθητῇ γελώμενα.  Διὰ τοῦτ’ ἀξίας οἶμαι τῶν καθ’ ῾Ομήρου λόγων δίκας ὑπέσχεν,

          “ἀκόλαστον ἔχων γλῶσσαν, αἰσχίστην νόσον,

ὡς Τάνταλος, ὡς Καπανεύς, ὡς οἱ διὰ γλωσσαλγίαν μυρίαις κεχρημένοι συμφοραῖς.     Πολλάκις ἐπὶ τὰς τυραννικὰς ἐφθείρετο θύρας, ἐν ἐλευθέρῳ δὲ σώματι δουλικὴν τύχην ἠνέσχετο καὶ μέχρι πράσεως·  οὐδὲ εἷς γὰρ ἀγνοεῖ τὸν Σπαρτιάτην Πόλλιν, [ᾧ] οὐδ’ ὡς Λιβυκοῦ χάριν ἐλέου σέσωσται, καὶ μνῶν εἴκοσι καθάπερ ἀνδράποδον εὐτελὲς ἐτιμήθη.  τῶν εἰς ῞Ομηρον ἀσεβημάτων ὀφειλομένην τιμωρίαν τῆς ἀχαλίνου καὶ ἀπυλώτου γλώττης.  Πρὸς μὲν οὖν Πλάτωνα καὶ πλείω λέγειν δυνάμενος ἐῶ, τοὔνομα τῆς Σωκρατικῆς σοφίας αἰδούμενος.

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