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…”

Sorry to Scrooge This Up, But Aristotle Did Not Say This Thing about Snowflakes

The following quote has recently been attributed to Aristotle. As anyone who has read even a little bit by Aristotle can attest, this is about as far away from an Aristotelian sentiment as you can get.

Oh, Town and Country magazine, you fell for it. I get it. The quotation sounds kind of cool. It is inspiring in that insipid, soul-numbing way motivational posters start out as ‘neat’ and end up as part of a fevered nightmare.

As recently as 2012, this quotation was attributed anonymous (and this appears frequently). So, this one must have jumped attribution quite recently. Please, contact your local office of common sense and decency and let them know we cannot stand for this.

Here’s a real Aristotle quotation about snow:

Aristotle, Prior Analytics, 12b

“To be hot is the nature of fire and snow’s nature is white”

τῷ πυρὶ τὸ θερμῷ εἶναι καὶ τῇ χιόνι τὸ λευκῇ.

 

And here is a Pinterest version for you:

Snow istotle

And because I was bored….

Snowy Mountain

For Term Paper Season, Some Random Thoughts on Quotation

Plutarch, Table-Talk 9, (736e)

“Then he included an argument about the apt quotation of poetry, that the one which was most potent was not only charming but also useful.”

ἔπειτα περὶ στίχων εὐκαιρίας ἐνέβαλεν λόγον, ὡς μὴ μόνον χάριν ἀλλὰ καὶ χρείαν ἔστιν ὅτε μεγάλην ἐχούσης. #Plutarch

Athenaeus, 3.107a

“since the whole excerpt is useful for many reasons, but you don’t control it in your memory right now, I will go through the whole thing.”

πᾶσα δ᾿ ἡ ἐκλογὴ χρησίμη οὖσα εἰς πολλά, ἐπεὶ τὰ | νῦν διὰ μνήμης οὐ κρατεῖς, αὐτὸς ἐγὼ διεξελεύσομαι.

Libanius, Letters 3, to Entrechius

“You and I and each man of good intention will quote many passages from tragedy now that this kind of a person has left us.”

ἀλλ᾿ ἐκ τραγῳδίας μὲν πολλὰ μὲν ἐγώ, πολλὰ δὲ σύ, πολλὰ δὲ τῶν εὖ φρονούντων ἕκαστος φθεγξόμεθα τοιαύτης οἰχομένης κεφαλῆς·

Seneca, De Tranquillitate Animi  8

“Quoting the good words of a bad author will never shame me.”

Numquam me in voce bona mali pudebit auctoris

Image result for medieval manuscript man yelling
Ah, the wheel of fortune. British Library Harley MS 4431, f. 129.

How Education is Similar to Pottery

Stobaeus 2.31 88

“Diogenes used to say that educating children was similar to potters’ sculpting because they take clay that is tender and shape it and decorate it how they wish.  But once it has been fired, it can’t be shaped any longer.  This is the way it is for those who were not educated when they were children: once they are grown, they have been hardened to change.”

Διογένης ἔλεγε τὴν τῶν παίδων ἀγωγὴν ἐοικέναι τοῖς τῶν κεραμέων πλάσμασιν· ὡς γὰρ ἐκεῖνοι ἁπαλὸν μὲν τὸν πηλὸν ὄντα ὅπως θέλουσι σχηματίζουσι καὶ ῥυθμίζουσιν, ὀπτηθέντα δὲ οὐκέτι δύνανται πλάσσειν, οὕτω καὶ τοὺς ἐν νεότητι μὴ διὰ πόνων παιδαγωγηθέντας, τελείους γενομένους ἀμεταπλάστους γίνεσθαι.

clay

Also attributed to Diogenes (2.31.92)

“Education is similar to a golden crown: for it has both honor and value.”

῾Η παιδεία ὁμοία ἐστὶ χρυσῷ στεφάνῳ· καὶ γὰρ τιμὴν ἔχει καὶ πολυτέλειαν.

 

3.13.44

“Diogenes used to say that “the other dogs bit their enemies, but I bite my friends, to save them.”

῾Ο Διογένης ἔλεγεν, ὅτι οἱ μὲν ἄλλοι κύνες τοὺς ἐχθροὺς δάκνουσιν, ἐγὼ δὲ τοὺς φίλους, ἵνα σώσω.

 

Attributed to Pythagoras (2.23.96)

“A lack of education is the mother of all suffering”

᾿Απαιδευσία πάντων τῶν παθῶν μήτηρ

 

4.32a 19

“Diogenes used to say that poverty was self-taught virtue.”

Διογένης τὴν πενίαν ἔλεγεν αὐτοδίδακτον εἶναι ἀρετήν.

The Ever-Quotable Seneca the Younger

People quote Seneca a lot. Why? He’s  pithy and quotable. And he wrote a lot. He’s our favorite fabulously wealthy, tyrant-aiding poet-philosopher.  Here’s a sampling of some of his words.  Search the blog for (too) many more.

On asking nicely

De Beneficiis

“He who asks timidly, teaches others to refuse”.

qui timide rogat, docet negare

On Procrastination

De Beneficiis, 2.5.4

“If someone says he’ll do something ‘later’, that usually means he doesn’t want to do it”.

tarde velle nolentis est

On Frenemies,

EM 14.7

“It is hard work having everyone as a friend; it is enough not to have enemies”.

omnes amicos habere operosum est, satis est inimicos non habere.

On Forgiveness

De Ira, 1.29

“Why should I fear any of my mistakes, when I can say: ‘See that you no longer act in this way. Now I forgive you.’”

quare enim quicquam ex erroribus meis timeam, cum possim dicere: “vide ne istud amplius facias, nunc tibi ignosco.”

On Masks

De Clementia, 1.1.6

“No one can wear a mask for very long; affectation soon returns to true nature”

nemo enim potest personam diu ferre, ficta cito in naturam suam recidunt

On Poverty

EM 2.6

“It is not the one who has little, but the one who desires more, who is truly poor.”

non qui parum habet, sed qui plus cupit, pauper est.

On the Brevity of Life

“We don’t have too little time, but we do waste most of it. Life is long enough for the completion of the greatest affairs—it is apportioned to us generously, if it is wholly well managed.”

non exiguum temporis habemus, sed multum perdidimus. satis longa uita et in maximarum rerum consummationem: large data est, si tota bene conlocaretur.

On Our March to Death

Consolatio at Marciam, 21.6

“From the time that we catch our first glimpse of light, we have entered upon the road to death.”

Ex illo quo primum lucem uidit iter mortis ingressus est….

On Monty Python’s Holy Grail

De Providentia, 2.6

“But even if he falls [his legs fail him], he fights on his knees”   sed etiam si cecidit de genu pugnat.

Seneca the Younger

Yes, he also wrote tragedies.

Apologies to Cicero: Vetera Verba in his Favor

 

Yesterday, we might have been a bit unfair to our friend M. Tully Cicero

 

At least one person objected to the question:

 

To be fair, one respondent had some antipathy for the consul-extraordinaire:

 

To make some amends, here are some of our Cicero quotes:

Marcus Tullius Cicero

 

Epist. ad Fam. 6.6.6

“I would prefer the most unfair peace to the justest war”

iniquissimam pacem iustissimo bello anteferrem

 

Philippics 12.5

 

“All men make mistakes; but it is fools who persist in them”

cuiusvis hominis est errare; nullius nisi insipientis perseverare in errore

 

On Old Age, 24

 

“No one is so old that he thinks he could not live another year”

nemo enim est tam senex qui se annum non putet posse vivere

 

In Verrem, 1.1.4

 

“There is nothing so sacred that it cannot be sullied, nor anything so protected that it cannot be overcome by money”.

nihil esse tam sanctum quod non violari, nihil tam munitum quod non expugnari pecunia possit.

 

Tusculan Disputations, 2.47

 

“Reason is the mistress and queen of all things”

 

domina omnium et regina ratio

 

 

De Oratore, 3.7

 

“O, how misleading is the hope of men”

 

O fallacem hominum spem

 

So, who’d you rather share a drink with, Cicero or Seneca?