Not too Hard or Too Soft: Plato Likes His Citizens Just Right

In a recent blog post, Neville Morley takes on a quotation attributed to Plato (and sometimes Thucydides) which makes an assertion about the preeminence of the scholar-athlete. When Neville put out a query about the line on Twitter, it drew my attention, because, well, sourcing quotes is a great way not to start editing an article. (Also, I seem to like doing it.)

Here’s the quotation:

As far as I can tell, this seems to use the language of Jowett’s translation of Plato’s Republic in a rather liberal summary:

Plato, Republic 410b-d (Book 3)

[Socrates] “Isn’t it the case then, Glaukos,” I said, “that those who set out education in both music and athletic training did not do it for the reason some believe they did, so that they might care for the body with one and the soul with the other?”

“But, what do you mean?” [Glaukos Said]

I said, “They run the risk of providing both for the soul in particular.”

“How is this the case?”

I said, “Have you not noticed how those who cling particularly to athletic training throughout life but have little to do with music develop a certain personality? Or, vice versa, how those who do the opposite turn out?”

“Um, what do you mean?” he said.

‘Well, the first kind of person ends up especially wild and mean-spirited while the other is equally effeminate and extremely mild,” I said.

“Ah, I see,” he said, “I have noticed that those who have submitted to constant athletic training end up wilder than is necessary and those devoted to music become accordingly more effeminate than would be good for them.”

“Truly,” I said, “this wildness emerges from the fiery spirit of our nature and, when it is cultivated properly, becomes bravery but if it is developed more than is necessary, it turns into meanness and harshness, as one might guess.”

     ῏Αρ’ οὖν, ἦν δ’ ἐγώ, ὦ Γλαύκων, καὶ οἱ καθιστάντες μουσικῇ καὶ γυμναστικῇ παιδεύειν οὐχ οὗ ἕνεκά τινες οἴονται καθιστᾶσιν, ἵνα τῇ μὲν τὸ σῶμα θεραπεύοιντο, τῇ δὲ τὴν ψυχήν;

     ᾿Αλλὰ τί μήν; ἔφη.

     Κινδυνεύουσιν, ἦν δ’ ἐγώ, ἀμφότερα τῆς ψυχῆς ἕνεκα τὸ μέγιστον καθιστάναι.

     Πῶς δή;

     Οὐκ ἐννοεῖς, εἶπον, ὡς διατίθενται αὐτὴν τὴν διάνοιαν οἳ ἂν γυμναστικῇ μὲν διὰ βίου ὁμιλήσωσιν, μουσικῆς δὲ μὴ ἅψωνται; ἢ αὖ ὅσοι ἂν τοὐναντίον διατεθῶσιν;

     Τίνος δέ, ἦ δ’ ὅς, πέρι λέγεις;

     ᾿Αγριότητός τε καὶ σκληρότητος, καὶ αὖ μαλακίας τε καὶ ἡμερότητος, ἦν δ’ ἐγώ—

     ῎Εγωγε, ἔφη· ὅτι οἱ μὲν γυμναστικῇ ἀκράτῳ χρησάμενοι ἀγριώτεροι τοῦ δέοντος ἀποβαίνουσιν, οἱ δὲ μουσικῇ μαλακώτεροι αὖ γίγνονται ἢ ὡς κάλλιον αὐτοῖς.

     Καὶ μήν, ἦν δ’ ἐγώ, τό γε ἄγριον τὸ θυμοειδὲς ἂν τῆς φύσεως παρέχοιτο, καὶ ὀρθῶς μὲν τραφὲν ἀνδρεῖον ἂν εἴη, μᾶλλον δ’ ἐπιταθὲν τοῦ δέοντος σκληρόν τε καὶ χαλεπὸν γίγνοιτ’ ἄν, ὡς τὸ εἰκός.

The bigger problem is that I think the summative quote misses out on the spirit and nuance of the original. (Mirabile Dictu! Internet discourse oversimplifies as it appropriates the past!)

A few notes on the translation. Greek mousikê can mean the poetic arts along with singing, dancing, and playing instruments. Given the content of poetry in the Archaic age, one could even dare to see early elements of philosophy here. So, in the modern sense, I would probably call this “Arts and Humanities”. Indeed, at 411d, Socrates suggests that one who is not trained in mousikê “has no love of learning in his soul, since he has not tasted of any learning or inquiry, nor had a share of logic or any other type of mousikê, he becomes feeble, mute, and blind.” (οὐκ εἴ τι καὶ ἐνῆν αὐτοῦ φιλομαθὲς ἐν τῇ ψυχῇ, ἅτε οὔτε μαθήματος γευόμενον οὐδενὸς οὔτε ζητήματος, οὔτε λόγου μετίσχον οὔτε τῆς ἄλλης μουσικῆς, ἀσθενές τε καὶ κωφὸν καὶ τυφλὸν γίγνεται)

The adjective agrios, which I translate as “wild” is given by others as savage. It contrasts, I think, with being civilized. Malakias means “softness” but, as with modern Greek, it conveys effeminacy. I went with the heteronormative, misogynistic language even if it does not map completely onto Plato’s meaning.

Neville Morley, in a follow up exchange, said that he thinks the idea of the spurious quotation is based on the content of this part of the Republic all the way up to 412. At 410e, the speakers agree that the guardians of the state should possess qualities from both extremes. A man who has no training in mousikê  will use only force and not reason to resolve disputes (he becomes a “hater of reason” μισόλογος).

The way this guy is standing, I expect to start hearing “when you’re a Jet…”

Roman Dalmatia: Where Generals Go to Play

In honor of the World Cup Semi-final Match today between the former Roman Provinces of Britannia and Dalmatia, we wrote a slightly farcical post for the SCS blog. Here are some passages that did not make it into the post.

Vatinius to Cicero, Letters 5.10c c. November 45 CE

Caesar is hurting my feelings right now. He has not yet introduced anything about my Supplications and my Dalmatian victories, as if I had not actually accomplished deeds worthy of the best Triumph! Must this not be expected until I complete the whole campaign? Dalmatia has twenty ancient towns and in addition there are more tan sixty admitted at a later time. If no Supplications are allotted to  me unless the fighting is over, then I am in a very different state that the rest of the generals.

Caesar adhuc mi iniuriam facit. de meis supplicationibus et rebus gestis Dalmaticis adhuc non refert, quasi vero non iustissimi triumphi in Dalmatia res gesserim. nam si hoc exspectandum est, dum totum bellum conficiam, viginti oppida sunt Dalmatiae antiqua, quae ipsi sibi adsciverunt amplius sexaginta. haec nisi omnia expugno si mihi supplicationes non decernuntur, longe alia condicione ego sum ac ceteri imperatores.

Suetonius, Divus Augustus 22

“[Augustus] closed the temple of Janus Quirinius which since the founding of the city had been close only twice, and he did it three times in a shorter period of time once he made peace on the sea and land. He he entered the city in an Ovation twice after the war at Phillippi and again after the Sicilian War. He also held Triumphs for his conquests in Dalmatia, Actium, and Alexandria on three days in a row!”

XXII. Ianum Quirinum semel atque iterum a condita urbe ante memoriam suam clausum in multo breviore temporis spatio terra marique pace parta ter clusit. Bis ovans ingressus est urbem, post Philippense et rursus post Siculum bellum. Curulis triumphos tris egit, Delmaticum, Actiacum, Alexandrinum continuo triduo omnes.

Velleius Paterculus, History of Rome 2.78

“During this Period, [Tiberius] Caesar, in order that the great foe of discipline—leisure—not ruin his army, was trying to keep his army hard through facing danger and experience of war by leading frequent expeditions into Illyricum and Dalmatia.”

Caesar per haec tempora, ne res disciplinae inimicissima, otium, corrumperet militem, crebris in Illyrico Delmatiaque expeditionibus patientia periculorum bellique experientia durabat exercitum

 

Related image
Crkvine

 

Some words:

ποδαλγής: “foot-pain”

ποδαρκής: “swift-footed”

ποδοκάκη: “foot plague”

ποδόκοιλον: “hollow of the foot”

ποδοκρουστία: “stomping of feet”

ποδοστράβη: “a snare to catch feet”

ποδοσφαλέω: “to stumble”

ποδόψηστρον: “foot-wiper”

ποδώκης: “swift-footed”