Notes to Chapter 9: Plato’s Shortest Dialogue
1 The quoted observation is taken from Grote who pioneered the reclamation of Plato’s authorship of the Clitopho. George Grote, Plato, 2nd edition, vol. iii., ed. John Murray, London, 1867.
Cf J. Souilhé, introductory ‘Notice’ to his edition of the Clitopho in: Platon, Oeuvres Complètes, vol. xiii, 2nd part, p.169, l’Association Guillaume Budé, Les Belles Lettres, Paris 1962.
3 U.v. Wilamowitz-Moellendorf, Platon, vol. i. 2nd ed., Berlin 1920, Weidmannsche Buchhandlung, p. 490, n. 5: ‘Unter Platons Schriften hat sich ein kleiner Dialog eingedrängt, der als eine Antwort auf den Staat und den Phaidros wertvoll ist. Der Verfasser hat die Maske des Kleitophon vorgenommen, der im Staate den Thrasymachos begleitet ... Daher bleibt Kleitophon bei Thrasymachos und wird dem Sokrates nur ein bedingtes Lob erteilen, wenn er mit Lysias redet: dieser Zug weist auf den Phaidros.’ [‘A small dialogue found its way among Plato’s dialogues, which, albeit an intruder, is valuable as a response to the Republic and the Phaedrus. The author assumed the mask of Clitopho, who in the Republic accompanies Thrasymachus ... This is why Clitopho stays with Thrasymachus and bestows on Socrates only a qualified praise when talking to Lysias: this aspect of the dialogue refers to Phaedrus.’]
U.v. Wilamowitz-Moellendorf, loc. cit.: ‘Der Verfasser hat sich die Mühe nicht gemacht, den Staat durchzulesen, denn ihn interessierte nur die praktische Moral.’ [‘The author did not make an effort to read the whole of the Republic, he was interested only in practical morality.’]
Paul Friedländer puts it in a nutshell: ‘Kleitophon is a marginal figure in the first book of the Republic. At the very beginning (328B) Socrates meets him along with Lysias and others in the house of Polemarchos, and later (340A-B) he once joins in the discussion. In the dialogue named after him he is facing Socrates by himself. In a conversation with Lysias, Kleitophon - so Socrates has heard - took a position on the side of Thrasymachos and against Socrates. Thus, the little dialogue presupposes the first book of the Republic - and this applies to the very details of the discussion. Yet the Clitophon rules out the other books of the Republic on this ground: the reason for Kleitophon’s taking side against Socrates is that the latter is conversant only with “protreptic” and has nothing positive to teach.’ See P. Friedländer, Plato, vol. 2, tr. Hans Meyerhoff, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1964, p. 50-51.
6. G.M.A. Grube, ‘The Cleitophon of Plato’, Classical Philology, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, vol. xxvi, 1931, p. 303.
7. The little we know of Thrasymachus from other sources supports the picture that Plato gives us in the first book of the Republic. For Athenaeus reports that Thrasymachus in one of his proems (Thrasumachos d’ ho Chalkêdonios en tini tôn prooimiôn), presumably his main work Megalê technê, presents an anecdote about Timocreon, an athlete from Rhodes, who visited the court of the King of Persia. When entertained by the King, he stuffed himself full of food, and when the King asked what he would perform thanks to it, he replied that he would beat innumerable Persians. And the next day he defeated many opponents one by one, and then showed by his shadowboxing that he had plenty of blows left for anyone else. (Athen. 10. 116 a.) J. H. Quincey notes that ‘Thrasymachus surely used the anecdote to argue that the pleader must go into court well primed with arguments, and be ready to match his opponent blow for blow. If so, it cannot be an accident that when the Platonic Thrasymachus propounds his definition of right as to tou kreittonos sumpheron [the benefit of the stronger], Socrates [in Rep. 338c5-d2] playfully interprets tou kreittonos [of the stronger] of physical strength, and asks whether the definition is to be seen as a recommendation of a beef diet, à la Poulydamas the pancratiast.’ (J.H. Quincey, ‘Another Purpose for Plato, Republic i.’, Hermes 109, 1981, pp. 314-15.) By thus referring to Thrasymachus’ proem Plato indicates that he presents us with the views of the historical Thrasymachus, and by presenting us with Clitopho attempting to side with Thrasymachus he indicates that he does so in order to shed light on the Clitopho.
In conjecturing that Plato in the Republic refers to Thrasymachus’ Megalê technê I draw on Kranz’s note on the fragment from Athenaeus: ‘Vermutlich das prooimion zur Megalê technê, in dem sich Thr. mit dem rhodischen Athleten in bezug auf sein sthenos (Z. 15) und seine Monsterkünste (huperballontes logoi B7) mit dem vielgewandten Meisterringer vergleicht.’ [Presumably the prooimion to Megalê technê, in which Thrasymachus compares himself to the athlete from Rhodos in respect of his sthenos (line 15) and his overpowering skills (huperballontes logoi B7).] Diels-Kranz, Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, Weidmann 1969, Dublin/Zürich, vol. ii, p. 325, note on Thrasymachus fr. B4.
8. See W.R.M. Lamb in his introductory preface to his edition of Lysias’ Against Eratosthenes in Lysias, The Loeb Classical Library, Cambridge, Massachussets, Harvard University Press, 1976, p. 225.
9. Lysias does not condemn the ideal of kalokagathia as such, he condemns the Thirty and their followers and emulators for proclaiming their adherence to the ideal without practicing it. These words may be viewed as an indication that Lysias exempted Socrates from his censure, for Socrates of all men did practice what he preached, unless Socrates was one of those who came to court in support of Eratosthenes. This I consider to be very likely, for together with Theramenes Eratosthenes was the most moderate man among the Thirty, and it was imperative to abide by the initial resolve of the victorious democrats to create an atmosphere of mutual reconciliation, not that of revenge. The following extract from Lysias’ Against Eratosthenes will show that Lysias’ accusation of Eratosthenes was made in the spirit of animosity and revenge-seeking that Socrates was bound to oppose:
‘I propose to put him [that is Eratosthenes] up on the dais and question him, gentlemen of the jury. For my feeling is this: even to discuss this man with another for his profit (epi men têi toutou ôpheleiai) I consider to be an impiety, but even to address this man himself, when it is for his hurt (epi de têi toutou blabêi), I regard as a holy and pious action. So mount the dais, please, and answer the questions I put to you.
Did you arrest Polemarchus or not? – I was acting on the orders of the government, from fear. – Were you in the Council-chamber when the statements were being made about us? – I was. – Did you speak in support or in opposition of those who were urging the death sentence? – In opposition. – You were against taking our lives? – Against taking your lives. – In the belief that our fate was unjust, or just? – That it was unjust.
So then, most abandoned of mankind, you spoke in opposition to save us, but you helped in our arrest to put us to death!.’ (XII. 24-26, tr. W.R.M. Lamb)
In the Republic i, in the presence of Lysias (328b4), Polemarchus presents a view of justice that closely corresponds to Lysias’ views expressed in his Against Eratosthenes: ‘justice is the art of profiting friends and hurting enemies’ (hê [technê]philois te kai echthrois ôphelias te kai blabas apodidousa), and Socrates vehemently refutes his view, branding it as the view befitting tyrants ‘or a rich man who had a great opinion of his power’ (336a6-7). This characterization hits the mark, for Polemarchus and Lysias were the richest men in Athens.
I do not believe that in thus presenting us with Socrates radically opposing the principle that guided Lysias in his prosecution of Eratosthenes Plato misrepresented the views of the historical Socrates. This strongly suggests that Socrates was one of those who considered it their duty to oppose the execution of Eratosthenes. Let me add that Theramenes, the man of the Thirty with whom Eratosthenes was closely associated, is reputed to have been a disciple of Socrates (see Theodor Kock’s comment concerning Theramenes in: Ausgewaehlte Komedien des Aristophanes, vol. 3, Die Froesche, Weidmansche Buchhandlung, Berlin 1868, comment on Frogs 540-1). It is a historical fact that Theramenes openly opposed the Thirty after they put to death Leon the Salaminian, and paid for his opposition with his own death; it was on the occasion of being commanded to arrest Leon that Socrates disobeyed the Thirty. The association of Eratosthenes with Theramenes was so close that Lysias considered himself bound to devote a considerable part of his accusation of Eratosthenes to an attack against the defunct Theramenes. So let me quote a passage from Theramenes’ speech at the Senate quoted by Xenophon in his Hellenica:
‘Well then, up to the time when you became members of the Senate and magistrates were appointed and the notorious informers were brought to trial, all of us held the same views; but when these men of the Thirty (epei de ge houtoi) began to arrest men of worth and standing (andras kalous te kagathous), then I, on my side, began to hold views opposed to theirs. For when Leon the Salaminian was put to death, - a man of capacity, both actually and by repute, - although he was not guilty of a single act of wrong-doing, I knew that those who were like him would be fearful, and, being fearful, would be enemies of this government. I also knew, when Niceratus, the son of Nicias, was arrested, a man of wealth who, like his father, had never done anything to curry popular favour (ouden pôpote dêmotikon oute autou oute tou patros praxantos), that those who were like him would become hostile to us. And further, when Antiphon, who during the war supplied from his own means two fast-sailing triremes, was put to death by us, I knew that all those who had been zealous in the state’s cause would look upon us with suspicion. I objected, also, when they said that each of us must seize one of the resident aliens [Polemarchus and Lysias were resident aliens]; for it was entirely clear that if these men were put to death, the whole body of such aliens would become enemies of the government.’ (II.iii.38-40, tr. C.L. Brownson)
Whatever may be the case concerning Socrates’ presence among those who came to court in support of Eratosthenes, Lysias’ speech can be seen as contributing to an atmosphere in which the calumnies against Socrates could take the hold in the minds of the democrats. It is in this context that the report in Diogenes Laertius’ ‘Life of Socrates’ should be read, according to which Lysias, unbidden, wrote for Socrates a defence speech, which Socrates refused to accept. Lysias obviously was well aware of the seriousness of the situation into which the accusations of Socrates had brought Socrates, was aware of his contribution to that situation, and wanted to prevent the worst. Diogenes writes: ‘The philosopher then, after Lysias had written a defence for him, read it through and said: “A fine speech, Lysias; it is not however suitable to me” (kalos men ho logos, ô Lusia, ou mên harmottôn g’ emoi). Lysias said, “if it is a fine speech, how can it fail to suit you?” “Well,” he replied, “would not fine garment and fine shoes be just as unsuitable to me?” (ii. 40-41, tr. R.D. Hicks).
10. The historical accuracy of Clitopho’s observation that Socrates’ insistence on the proper care for the soul comes next, that is after Socrates’ criticism of the Athenians’ preoccupation with the acquisition of money, is corroborated by Socrates’ condensed rendition of his protreptic speech in the Apology: ‘Are you not ashamed of taking so much care about heaping up the greatest amount of property and honour and reputation, and so little care about wisdom and truth and the soul, that it becomes as good as possible, to which you give not thought? (29d9-e3) ... I do nothing but go about persuading you all, old and young alike, not to take a preferential care of your bodies or your money, but first and chiefly to care about the greatest improvement of your soul’ (30a7-b2).
11. This protreptic argument is closely linked to the Hippias Major in which Socrates’ better self berates him for his ignorance: ‘When you are in this condition, do you think that it is better for you to live rather than be dead?’ (oiei soi kreitton einai zên mallon ê tethnanai; 304e2-3). The Hippias Major testifies to it that Socrates applied this harsh argument in the first place to himself.
12. This line of thought is in tune with Socrates’ discussion of sôphrosunê in the Charmides as well as with his protreptic discussion in the Lysis about the value and the power of knowledge concerning the good management of a household and the proper, that is truly beneficial rule of the city. And it is equally in tune with what Xenophon tells us about Socrates in this respect. According to Xenophon Socrates’ view that knowledge is prerequisite for proper engagement in politics was inseparable from his view that it is a precondition for becoming truly free, and that as such it was part and parcel of Socrates’ protreptic discourse. See Xenophon Memorabilia IV.ii. and v.