The Master’s Fantasy

This perverse epigram in the form of a sepulchral inscription is preserved without attribution in the Greek Anthology.

7.179 (Greek Anthology)

Even now, from beneath the earth, master,
I’m steadfast in my devotion to you,
Just like in the old days.
I haven’t forgotten how you got me
Back on my feet, three times, when I was sick.
Now you’ve laid me under this sheltering
Cover, which declares: Manes, a Persian.
You did right by me, master, and for that
You’ll have slaves who are indebted to you
And who are all the more eager to serve.

σοὶ καὶ νῦν ὑπὸ γῆν, ναί, δέσποτα, πιστὸς ὑπάρχω,
ὡς πάρος, εὐνοίης οὐκ ἐπιληθόμενος,
ὥς με τότ᾽ ἐκ νούσου τρὶς ἐπ᾽ ἀσφαλὲς ἤγαγες ἴχνος,
καὶ νῦν ἀρκούσᾐ τῇδ᾽ ὑπέθου καλύβῃ,
Μάνην ἀγγείλας, Πέρσην γένος. εὖ δέ με ῥέξας
ἕξεις ἐν χρείῃ δμῶας ἑτοιμοτέρους.

A Thought:

Plato on the Docile Slave. For Plato the problem of slavery isn’t ethical, but practical: how to make a human being “readily accept the condition of servitude” (ῥᾷον δουλεύσειν) and become “as docile as possible” (εὐμενεστάτους)? (Laws 777d and 776d, respectively). To accomplish this, he counsels “the best strategy is to treat them properly” (εἰς δύναμιν ὅτι μάλιστα, τρέφειν δ᾽ αὐτοὺς ὀρθῶς), by which he means masters should not physically injure their slaves (Laws 777d). Plato’s assumption is that “kind” treatment would induce obedience.

Aristotle on Asian Slaves. For Aristotle, non-Greeks comprise “a community of slaves, male and female alike” (ἡ κοινωνία αὐτῶν δούλης καὶ δούλου) and Greeks are their rightful masters (Politics I.1252b7-8). But Asians come in for particularly harsh judgement: “Concerning the people of Asia, although they are intelligent and capable, they lack spirit, and as a consequence they are always ruled over and enslaved (τὰ δὲ περὶ τὴν Ἀσίαν διανοητικὰ μὲν καὶ τεχνικὰ τὴν ψυχήν, ἄθυμα δέ, διόπερ ἀρχόμενα καὶ δουλεύοντα διατελεῖ [Politics VII. 1327b27-28]).

The Idealized Slave: There’s congruence between Plato’s exhortation to good treatment (his admonition against injury) and the epigram’s account of the master nursing the sick slave. Also, the epigram’s slave isn’t just docile, but ideally so. We can say that if there were two routes out of slavery, manumission and death, the master denied the slave the former, but this fictional slave denied himself the latter. Even death is not the end of his happy servitude. It’s no wonder that the grave marker identifies him as Persian–his race (γένος), according to Aristotle, marked him out for servitude. The epigram is a fantasy about servitude, and it’s as distasteful as Plato’s and Aristotle’s views.

Athenian red-figure jug attributed to the Pan Painter, 500-450 BC. A youth, probably a slave, carries a couch and table for a symposium. Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

Larry Benn has a B.A. in English Literature from Harvard College, an M.Phil in English Literature from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Making amends for a working life misspent in finance, he’s now a hobbyist in ancient languages and blogs at featsofgreek.blogspot.com.

Debate-Me Guys and the Nature of Bigness

Plato, Phaedo 101 and 102

“But you wouldn’t mix things up like those debate-me guys who talk about a principle and its results at the same time if you really want to discover something real. These guys probably have not one single understanding or concern for the truth.

They’re just good enough to please themselves with their ‘wisdom’, even though they’re mixing everything up.”

ἅμα δὲ οὐκ ἂν φύροιο ὥσπερ οἱ ἀντιλογικοὶ περί τε τῆς ἀρχῆς διαλεγόμενος καὶ τῶν ἐξ ἐκείνης ὡρμημένων, εἴπερ βούλοιό τι τῶν ὄντων εὑρεῖν; ἐκείνοις μὲν γὰρ ἴσως οὐδὲ εἷς περὶ τούτου λόγος οὐδὲ φροντίς· ἱκανοὶ γὰρ ὑπὸ σοφίας ὁμοῦ πάντα κυκῶντες ὅμως δύνασθαι αὐτοὶ αὑτοῖς ἀρέσκειν· σὺ δ’, εἴπερ εἶ τῶν φιλοσόφων, οἶμαι ἂν ὡς ἐγὼ λέγω ποιοῖς.

“Bigness seems to me not only never willing to be big and small at the same time, but the bigness in us is never eager to accept smallness nor to be surpassed, but it does two things: it flees or shrinks whenever the opposite—smallness—is present or, once it has approached, it perishes.”

ἐμοὶ γὰρ φαίνεται οὐ μόνον αὐτὸ τὸ μέγεθος οὐδέποτ’ ἐθέλειν ἅμα μέγα καὶ σμικρὸν εἶναι, ἀλλὰ καὶ τὸ ἐν ἡμῖν μέγεθος οὐδέποτε προσδέχεσθαι τὸ σμικρὸν οὐδ’ ἐθέλειν ὑπερέχεσθαι, ἀλλὰ δυοῖν τὸ ἕτερον, ἢ φεύγειν καὶ ὑπεκχωρεῖν ὅταν αὐτῷ προσίῃ τὸ ἐναντίον, τὸ σμικρόν, ἢ προσελθόντος ἐκείνου ἀπολωλέναι· ὑπομένον δὲ καὶ δεξάμενον τὴν σμικρότητα.

Bigness

We Need An Art of Forgetting

Cicero De Finibus 2 104-5

“What kind of sense, then, is there to the idea that a wise person should not let go of good memories but forget bad ones? First, is what we remember under our control? Themistocles, it is said, when Simonides promised to teach him the art of memory, responded, “I’d prefer learning to forget. For I remember things I wish I didn’t and I can’t forget the things I want to.” [Epicurus] was a man of great insight, but the fact us that a philosopher who prohibits remembering asks too much of us.”

Iam illud quale tandem est, bona praeterita non effluere sapienti, mala meminisse non oportere? Primum in nostrane est potestate quid meminerimus? Themistocles quidem, cum ei Simonides an quis alius artem memoriae polliceretur, ‘Oblivionis,’ inquit, ‘mallem; nam memini etiam quae nolo, oblivisci non possum quae volo.’ Magno hic ingenio; sed res se tamen sic habet ut nimis imperiosi philosophi sit vetare meminisse.

Tell Me Aristotle, Why Do We Have Butts?

Thanks to Dr. Rebecca Raphael for sharing this passage on the teleology of the human ass with me. This is mostly for distraction, but it also functions as a timely reminder of some of the absurd conclusions that can arise from teleological thinking.

Aristotle, Parts of Animals 689b

“A human being is has no tail, but does have buttocks although the quadruped does not. A human being also has legs which are fleshy in the thighs and calves, while all the rest of the animals have fleshless legs—and not only those animals which have live births, but as many of the other animals who have legs—and they are covered with sinew, are bony, and full of spines.

There is one explanation, you might say, for these differences and that is that humans are the only animal to stand upright. So, nature removed some of the fleshy parts from above and transferred the weight below in order to make the upper portions of human beings easier to bear. This is why nature made human butts fleshy along with their thighs and their calves. With the same act, it made the nature of the buttocks useful for taking a break.

For it is not a problem for the rest of the quadrupeds and they do not get tired from doing that continually.  This is because they have four supports holding them up, it works the same as if they are lying down.But human beings do not easily remain standing upright: our bodies need rest and need to sit down.

This is why a human being has a fleshy butt and thighs and the same reason why we don’t have tails. All the nutrition which heads that way is spent on butts and thighs. The need and use of a tail, moreover, is negated by having butts and thighs. In quadrupeds and the rest of the animals, the situation is the opposite: because they are like dwarfs, all their weight is centered in their upper parts and it is separated from the lower section. For this reason, they have no butt and have hard legs.

ὁ δ᾿ ἄνθρωπος ἄκερκον μέν ἐστιν, ἰσχία δ᾿ ἔχει, τῶν δὲ τετραπόδων οὐδέν. ἔτι δὲ καὶ τὰ σκέλη ὁ μὲν ἄνθρωπος σαρκώδη καὶ μηροὺς καὶ κνήμας, τὰ δ᾿ ἄλλα πάντ᾿ ἄσαρκα ἔχει, οὐ μόνον τὰ ζῳοτόκα ἀλλ᾿ ὅλως ὅσα σκέλη ἔχει τῶν ζῴων· νευρώδη γὰρ ἔχει καὶ ὀστώδη καὶ ἀκανθώδη. τούτων δ᾿ αἰτία μία τίς ἐστιν ὡς εἰπεῖν ἁπάντων, διότι μόνον ἐστὶν ὀρθὸν τῶν ζῴων ἄνθρωπος. ἵν᾿ οὖν φέρῃ ῥᾳδίως τἄνω κοῦφα ὄντα, ἀφελοῦσα τὸ σωματῶδες ἀπὸ τῶν ἄνω πρὸς τὰ κάτω τὸ βάρος ἡ φύσις προσέθηκεν· διόπερ τὰ ἰσχία σαρκώδη ἐποίησε καὶ μηροὺς καὶ γαστροκνημίας. ἅμα δὲ τήν τε τῶν ἰσχίων φύσιν καὶ πρὸς τὰς ἀναπαύσεις ἀπέδωκε χρήσιμον· τοῖς μὲν γὰρ τετράποσιν ἄκοπον τὸ ἑστάναι, καὶ οὐ κάμνουσι τοῦτο ποιοῦντα συνεχῶς (ὥσπερ γὰρ κατακείμενα διατελεῖ ὑποκειμένων τεττάρων ἐρεισμάτων), τοῖς δ᾿ ἀνθρώποις οὐ ῥᾴδιον ὀρθῶς ἑστῶσι διαμένειν, ἀλλὰ δεῖται τὸ σῶμα ἀναπαύσεως καὶ καθέδρας. ὁ μὲν οὖν ἄνθρωπος ἰσχία τ᾿ ἔχει καὶ τὰ σκέλη σαρκώδη διὰ τὴν εἰρημένην αἰτίαν, καὶ διὰ ταῦτα ἄκερκον (ἥ τε γὰρ ἐκεῖσε τροφὴ πορευομένη εἰς ταῦτα ἀναλίσκεται, καὶ διὰ τὸ ἔχειν ἰσχία ἀφῄρηται ἡ τῆς οὐρᾶς ἀναγκαία χρῆσις), τὰ δὲ τετράποδα καὶ τἆλλα ζῷα ἐξ ἐναντίας· νανώδεσι γὰρ οὖσι πρὸς τὸ ἄνω τὸ βάρος καὶ τὸ σωματῶδες ἐπίκειται πᾶν, ἀφῃρημένον ἀπὸ τῶν κάτωθεν· διόπερ ἀνίσχια καὶ σκληρὰ τὰ σκέλη ἔχουσιν.

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Motya Charioteer

 

Living Together and Sharing Perception

Aristotle, Nicomachaean Ethics, 9, 1170

“It follows, then, that the most happy person will need to have friends, if he indeed chooses to gaze upon good and appropriate actions. This is what the activities of a good friend are. People also believe that a happy person’s life should be enjoyable. Life is hard for a solitary person. It is not easy to work constantly on your own. It is easier to do with with others and in partnership with them. Activity which is shared—already necessarily pleasant on its own—will be continuous, which is best for a happy person.

[…]

But since the perception of the fact that one is good is desirable and this perception is pleasing on its own, we need to share our friend’s perception that they exist. We achieve this by living together and sharing our words and thoughts. This is exactly what someone might call “living together” for human beings: it does not mean just grazing together like cattle.”

ὁ μακάριος δὴ φίλων τοιούτων δεήσεται, εἴπερ θεωρεῖν προαιρεῖται πράξεις ἐπιεικεῖς καὶ οἰκείας· τοιαῦται δ᾿ αἱ τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ φίλου ὄντος.—οἴονταί τε δεῖν ἡδέως ζῆν τὸν εὐδαίμονα. μονώτῃ μὲν οὖν χαλεπὸς ὁ βίος· οὐ γὰρ ῥᾴδιον καθ᾿ αὑτὸν ἐνεργεῖν συνεχῶς, μεθ᾿ ἑτέρων δὲ καὶ πρὸς ἄλλους ῥᾷον. ἔσται οὖν ἡ ἐνέργεια συνεχεστέρα, ἡδεῖα οὖσα καθ᾿ αὑτήν, ὃ δεῖ περὶ τὸν μακάριον εἶναι.

[…]

τὸ δ᾿ εἶναι ἦν αἱρετὸν διὰ τὸ αἰσθάνεσθαι αὑτοῦ ἀγαθοῦ ὄντος, ἡ δὲ τοιαύτη αἴσθησις ἡδεῖα καθ᾿ ἑαυτήν· συναισθάνεσθαι ἄρα δεῖ καὶ τοῦ φίλου ὅτι ἔστιν, τοῦτο δὲ γίνοιτ᾿ ἂν ἐν τῷ συζῆν καὶ κοινωνεῖν λόγων καὶ διανοίας· οὕτω γὰρ ἂν δόξειε τὸ συζῆν ἐπὶ τῶν ἀνθρώπων λέγεσθαι, καὶ οὐχ ὥσπερ ἐπὶ τῶν βοσκημάτων τὸ ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ νέμεσθαι.

 

1170

“Friendship with many is difficult. It is hard to share the joy and pain of people personally; we may have to grieve and celebrate at the same time.”
οῦτο δ᾿ ἐργῶδες ἐν πολλοῖς ὑπάρχειν. χαλεπὸν δὲ γίνεται καὶ τὸ συγχαίρειν καὶ τὸ συναλγεῖν οἰκείως πολλοῖς

Changing Your Mind is the Point of Research

Quintilian, Inst. Orat. 3.6.

“I admit that I now have a bit of a different opinion from what I believed before. Perhaps it would be safest for my reputation to change nothing which I not only believed but also approved for many years. But I cannot endure knowing that I misrepresent myself, especially in this work which I compose as some help for our good students. For even Hippocrates, famous still for his skill in medicine, seems to have conducted himself very honorably when he admitted his own errors so his followers would not make a mistake. Marcus Tullius did not hesitate to condemn some of his own books in subsequent publications, the Catulus and Lucullus, for example.

Prolonged effort in research would certainly be useless if we were not allowed to improve upon previous opinions. Nevertheless, nothing of what I taught then was useless. These things I offer now, in fact, return us to basic principles. Thus it will cause no one grief to have learned from me. I am trying only to collect and lay out the same ideas in a slightly more sensible fashion. I want it made known to all, moreover, that I am showing this to others no later than I have convinced myself.”

Ipse me paulum in alia quam prius habuerim opinione nunc esse confiteor. Et fortasse tutissimum erat famae modo studenti nihil ex eo mutare quod multis annis non sensissem modo verum etiam adprobassem. Sed non sustineo esse conscius mihi dissimulati, in eo praesertim opere quod ad bonorum iuvenum aliquam utilitatem componimus, in ulla parte iudicii mei. Nam et Hippocrates clarus arte medicinae videtur honestissime fecisse quod quosdam errores suos, ne posteri errarent, confessus est, et M. Tullius non dubitavit aliquos iam editos libros aliis postea scriptis ipse damnare, sicut Catulum atque Lucullum et… Etenim supervacuus foret in studiis longior labor si nihil liceret melius invenire praeteritis. Neque tamen quicquam ex iis quae tum praecepi supervacuum fuit; ad easdem enim particulas haec quoque quae nunc praecipiam revertentur. Ita neminem didicisse paeniteat: colligere tantum eadem ac disponere paulo significantius conor. Omnibus autem satis factum volo non me hoc serius demonstrare aliis quam mihi ipse persuaserim.

Mind Change real

The Body that Is Our Home

Plotinus, Ennead 2.9

“This would be similar to two people who lived in the same house and one of them despises the structure and the person who built it but still stays there any way. The other does not hate it but claims that the builder made it most skillfully, even though he longs for the time when he can leave because he will no longer need a house.

The first person thinks he is wiser and more prepared to leave because he knows how to claim that the walls are made of lifeless stone and wood and lack much in comparison to the true home. He does not understand, however, that he is only special because he cannot endure what he must—unless he admits that he is upset even though he secretly delights in the beauty of the stone.

As long as we have a body, we must remain in the homes which have been made for us by that good sister of a soul who has the power to build without effort.”

Τοῦτο δὲ ὅμοιον ἂν εἴη, ὥσπερ ἂν εἰ δύο οἶκον 5καλὸν τὸν αὐτὸν οἰκούντων, τοῦ μὲν ψέγοντος τὴν κατασκευὴν καὶ τὸν ποιήσαντα καὶ μένοντος οὐχ ἧττον ἐν αὐτῷ, τοῦ δὲ μὴ ψέγοντος, ἀλλὰ τὸν ποιήσαντα τεχνικώτατα πεποιηκέναι λέγοντος, τὸν δὲ χρόνον ἀναμένοντος ἕως ἂν ἥκῃ, ἐν ᾧ ἀπαλλάξεται, οὗ μηκέτι οἴκου δεήσοιτο, ὁ δὲ 10σοφώτερος οἴοιτο εἶναι καὶ ἑτοιμότερος ἐξελθεῖν, ὅτι οἶδε λέγειν ἐκ λίθων ἀψύχων τοὺς τοίχους καὶ ξύλων συνεστάναι καὶ πολλοῦ δεῖν τῆς ἀληθινῆς οἰκήσεως, ἀγνοῶν ὅτι τῷ μὴ φέρειν τὰ ἀναγκαῖα διαφέρει, εἴπερ καὶ μὴ ποιεῖται δυσχεραίνειν ἀγαπῶν ἡσυχῇ τὸ κάλλος τῶν λίθων. Δεῖ δὲ 15μένειν μὲν ἐν οἴκοις σῶμα ἔχοντας κατασκευασθεῖσιν ὑπὸ ψυχῆς ἀδελφῆς ἀγαθῆς πολλὴν δύναμιν εἰς τὸ δημιουργεῖν ἀπόνως ἐχούσης.

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Landauer Twelve Brother’s House manuscript

Pliny Plans a Staycation

Pliny, Letters 3.1 to Calvisius Rufus

“I am incapable of recalling a time I spent as pleasantly as I just did when I went to see Spurinna—and, in fact, I cannot imagine anyone I would rather imitate more in my old age, should I be allowed to grow old. For no way of living is better designed than his. A well-planned life pleases me as much as the circuit of the stars. This is especially true when it comes to the old—for while a limited amount of chaos and excitement is not inappropriate for the young, a completely calm and ordered life is better for the elderly. Their public service is over and any aims for advancement is perverse at this point.

Spurinna insistently follows this rule and even in small things—minor if they did not happen daily—he follows a plan as if an orbiting body. He lies abed a bit every morning but then asks for his shoes in the second hour and takes a three-mile walk to exercise his mind no less than his body. If his friends are present, they have the most earnest conversations. If they are not there, he has a book read—something he also does at times when his friends are there if it will not annoy them too much. Then, once he sits down, the book is read again or, even better, the conversation continues. Then he climbs into his carriage and takes his wife—a model of her gender—or some friend—recently, me!—along with him.

How fine it is, how sweet a secret! How much of the past one finds there—what deeds and what heroes you hear of! What principles you absorb! He bows to his own modesty, however, and does not seem to give orders. After he has been driven seven miles or so, he walks another mile, and then returns to sit again or he goes back to his writing. For then he writes the most learned lyric lines in both Latin and Greek—they are amazingly sweet and impressive as well for their charm, humor, and grace which the taste of the one who writes them only increases.”

Nescio an ullum iucundius tempus exegerim, quam quo nuper apud Spurinnam fui, adeo quidem ut neminem magis in senectute, si modo senescere datum est, aemulari velim; nihil est enim illo vitae genere distinctius. Me autem ut certus siderum cursus ita vita hominum disposita delectat. Senum praesertim: nam iuvenes confusa adhuc quaedam et quasi turbata non indecent, senibus placida omnia et ordinata conveniunt, quibus industria sera turpis ambitio est.

Hanc regulam Spurinna constantissime servat; quin etiam parva haec—parva si non cotidie fiant—ordine quodam et velut orbe circumagit. Mane lectulo continetur, hora secunda calceos poscit, ambulat milia passuum tria nec minus animum quam corpus exercet. Si adsunt amici, honestissimi sermones explicantur; si non, liber legitur, interdum etiam praesentibus amicis, si tamen illi non gravantur. Deinde considit, et liber rursus aut sermo libro potior; mox vehiculum ascendit, adsumit uxorem singularis exempli vel aliquem amicorum, ut me  proxime. Quam pulchrum illud, quam dulce secretum! quantum ibi antiquitatis! quae facta, quos viros audias! quibus praeceptis imbuare! quamvis ille hoc temperamentum modestiae suae indixerit, ne  praecipere videatur. Peractis septem milibus passuum iterum ambulat mille, iterum residit vel se cubiculo ac stilo reddit. Scribit enim et quidem utraque lingua lyrica doctissima; mira illis dulcedo. mira suavitas, mira hilaritas, cuius gratiam cumulat sanctitas scribentis.

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Just Think Your Way Out of Sickness!

For more on plagues and leadership, see this post.

Aelian, Varia Historia 13.27

“Remember that Socrates’ body was thought to be orderly and in control of wisdom for this reason too. When the Athenians were suffering a pandemic and some were dying and others were near death, Socrates was the only one who was not sick. What mind do we think shared space with such a body?”

Ὅτι τὸ Σωκράτους σῶμα πεπίστευτο κόσμιον καὶ σωφροσύνης ἐγκρατὲς γεγονέναι καὶ ταύτῃ. ἐνόσουν Ἀθηναῖοι πανδημεί, καὶ οἱ μὲν ἀπέθνῃσκον, οἱ δὲ ἐπιθανατίως εἶχον, Σωκράτης δὲ μόνος οὐκ ἐνόσησε τὴν ἀρχήν. ὁ τοίνυν τοιούτῳ συνὼν σώματι τίνα ἡγούμεθα ἐσχηκέναι ψυχήν;

Apollonius of Tyana, 8.28

“Do these practices merely make a refinement of the senses or establish power over the greatest and most amazing forces? You need to see what I mean from different things, not the least of which were done during that epidemic in Ephesus.

When the disease was in the shape of an old beggar, I saw it and once I saw it I tackled it. I did not stop the disease but instead I destroyed it. The one I prayed to is clear as day in the temple which I built in thanks. It was for Herakles the Defender, the one I chose as a helper—because he is wise and brave, he once cleansed Elis of a plague and wiped away the waves of filth which the earth released when Augeas was tyrant.”

“Ἆρ᾿ οὖν τὸ οὕτως διαιτᾶσθαι λεπτότητα μόνον ἐργάζεται τῶν αἰσθήσεων ἢ ἰσχὺν ἐπὶ τὰ μέγιστά τε καὶ θαυμασιώτατα; θεωρεῖν δ᾿ ἔξεστιν ὃ λέγω καὶ ἀπ᾿ ἄλλων μέν, οὐχ ἥκιστα δὲ κἀκ τῶν ἐν Ἐφέσῳ περὶ τὴν νόσον ἐκείνην πραχθέντων· τὸ γὰρ τοῦ λοιμοῦ εἶδος, πτωχῷ δὲ γέροντι εἴκαστο, καὶ εἶδον καὶ ἰδὼν εἷλον, οὐ παύσας νόσον, ἀλλ᾿ ἐξελών, ὅτῳ δ᾿ εὐξάμενος, δηλοῖ τὸ ἱερόν, ὃ ἐν Ἐφέσῳ ὑπὲρ τούτου ἱδρυσάμην, Ἡρακλέους μὲν γὰρ Ἀποτροπαίου ἐστί, ξυνεργὸν δ᾿ αὐτὸν εἱλόμην, ἐπειδὴ σοφός τε καὶ ἀνδρεῖος ὢν ἐκάθηρέ ποτε λοιμοῦ τὴν Ἦλιν, τὰς ἀναθυμιάσεις ἀποκλύσας, ἃς παρεῖχεν ἡ γῆ κατ᾿ Αὐγέαν τυραννεύοντα.

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Statue of a philosopher, probably Apollonius of Tyana. Late 2nd – 3rd century AD.

The Body as A Cloak for the Soul

Plato, Phaedo 89b-e

“Why, therefore, the reasoning would go, do you still not believe it when you see that the weaker part still exists after the person has died? Doesn’t it seem to you necessary that the part which lasts long should be preserved still in this time? Think about this when you consider what I am saying. Like Simmias, I guess, I need some kind of an analogy.

It seems to me as if someone is saying similar things when he makes the comparison of an old weaver who has died. He claims that the man is not dead, but is still somewhere safe somehow because he can provide as proof a cloak which the man wove himself and was wearing and is still safe and has not perished. And if someone were skeptical at this, he would ask whether a human being lives longer than a cloak which was used and worn and the when he answered that human beings last longer than cloaks in general, he would think he had proved that the person remains sound since the shorter-lived thing had not withered.

This, Simmias, I do not think is true. Think about what I am saying. Everyone would imagine that it is stupid when someone says this. For this weaver, although he has worn out and then woven many of these kinds of cloaks, died and disappeared long after they did when there were many of them. But he did not before the last one. Even in this the person is no weaker or less complex than the cloak.

I think that the soul responds to the same analogy and anyone who said the same things about it would seem sensible to me. The soul is longer-lived, and the body is weaker and has less time. But if you were to say that each soul wears out many bodies, or something else if it has many years—since the body wears out and could be ruined while the person still lives, but the soul could always reweave what gets worn out—whenever the soul perishes, it would the be necessary for it to have taken on its final garment and to perish before only this one. Once the soul dies then, the body would display the nature of its weakness and disappear by rotting quickly.”

 τί οὖν, ἂν φαίη ὁ λόγος, ἔτι ἀπιστεῖς, ἐπειδὴ ὁρᾷς ἀποθανόντος τοῦ ἀνθρώπου τό γε ἀσθενέστερον ἔτι ὄν; τὸ δὲ πολυχρονιώτερον οὐ δοκεῖ σοι ἀναγκαῖον εἶναι ἔτι σῴζεσθαι ἐν τούτῳ τῷ χρόνῳ; πρὸς δὴ τοῦτο τόδε ἐπίσκεψαι, εἴ τι λέγω· εἰκόνος γάρ τινος, ὡς ἔοικεν, κἀγὼ ὥσπερ Σιμμίας δέομαι. ἐμοὶ γὰρ δοκεῖ ὁμοίως λέγεσθαι | ταῦτα ὥσπερ ἄν τις περὶ ἀνθρώπου ὑφάντου πρεσβύτου ἀποθανόντος λέγοι τοῦτον τὸν λόγον, ὅτι οὐκ ἀπόλωλεν ὁ ἄνθρωπος ἀλλ’ ἔστι που σῶς, τεκμήριον δὲ παρέχοιτο θοιμάτιον ὃ ἠμπείχετο αὐτὸς ὑφηνάμενος ὅτι ἐστὶ σῶν καὶ οὐκ ἀπόλωλεν, καὶ εἴ τις ἀπιστοίη αὐτῷ, ἀνερωτῴη πότερον πολυχρονιώτερόν ἐστι τὸ γένος ἀνθρώπου ἢ ἱματίου ἐν χρείᾳ τε ὄντος καὶ φορουμένου, ἀποκριναμένου δή ὅτι πολὺ τὸ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, οἴοιτο ἀποδεδεῖχθαι ὅτι παντὸς ἄρα μᾶλλον ὅ γε ἄνθρωπος σῶς ἐστιν, | ἐπειδὴ τό γε ὀλιγοχρονιώτερον οὐκ ἀπόλωλεν. τὸ δ’ οἶμαι, ὦ Σιμμία, οὐχ οὕτως ἔχει· σκόπει γὰρ καὶ σὺ ἃ λέγω. πᾶς ἂν ὑπολάβοι ὅτι εὔηθες λέγει ὁ τοῦτο λέγων· ὁ γὰρ ὑφάντης οὗτος πολλὰ κατατρίψας τοιαῦτα ἱμάτια καὶ ὑφηνάμενος ἐκείνων μὲν ὕστερος ἀπόλωλεν πολλῶν ὄντων, τοῦ δὲ τελευταίου οἶμαι πρότερος, καὶ οὐδέν τι μᾶλλον τούτου ἕνεκα ἄνθρωπός ἐστιν ἱματίου φαυλότερον οὐδ’ ἀσθενέστερον. τὴν αὐτὴν δὲ ταύτην οἶμαι εἰκόνα δέξαιτ’ ἂν ψυχὴ πρὸς σῶμα, καί τις λέγων αὐτὰ ταῦτα περὶ αὐτῶν μέτρι’ ἄν μοι φαίνοιτο λέγειν, | ὡς ἡ μὲν ψυχὴ πολυχρόνιόν ἐστι, τὸ δὲ σῶμα ἀσθενέστερον καὶ ὀλιγοχρονιώτερον· ἀλλὰ γὰρ ἂν φαίη ἑκάστην τῶν ψυχῶν πολλὰ σώματα κατατρίβειν, ἄλλως τε κἂν πολλὰ ἔτη βιῷ—εἰ γὰρ ῥέοι τὸ σῶμα καὶ ἀπολλύοιτο ἔτι ζῶντος τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, ἀλλ’ ἡ ψυχὴ ἀεὶ τὸ κατατριβόμενον ἀνυφαίνοι—ἀναγκαῖον μεντἂν εἴη, ὁπότε ἀπολλύοιτο ἡ ψυχή, τὸ τελευταῖον ὕφασμα τυχεῖν αὐτὴν ἔχουσαν καὶ τούτου μόνου προτέραν ἀπόλλυσθαι, ἀπολομένης δὲ τῆς ψυχῆς τότ’ ἤδη τὴν φύσιν τῆς ἀσθενείας ἐπιδεικνύοι | τὸ σῶμα καὶ ταχὺ σαπὲν διοίχοιτο.

Hieronymous Bosch, “Christ in Limbo”