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antisthenes_of_athens:xenophon_symposium_4

Antisthenes of Athens | Xenophon, Symposium 4

At this point, Socrates took up the conversation: It now devolves on us to prove in turn that what we each have undertaken to defend is really valuable.

Then Callias: Be pleased to listen to me first: My case is this, that while the rest of you go on debating what justice and uprightness are, I spend my time in making men more just and upright.

Soc. And how do you do that, good sir?

Call. By giving money, to be sure.

Antisthenes sprang to his feet at once, and with the manner of a cross-examiner demanded: Do human beings seem to you to harbour justice in their souls, or in their purses, Callias?

Call. In their souls.

Ant. And do you pretend to make their souls more righteous by putting money in their pockets?

Call. Undoubtedly.

Ant. Pray how?

Call. In this way. When they know that they are furnished with the means, that is to say, my money, to buy necessaries, they would rather not incur the risk of evil-doing, and why should they?

Ant. And pray, do they repay you these same moneys?

Call. I cannot say they do.

Ant. Well then, do they requite your gifts of gold with gratitude?

Call. No, not so much as a bare “Thank you.” In fact, some of them are even worse disposed towards me when they have got my money than before.

Now, here’s a marvel! (exclaimed Antisthenes, and as he spoke he eyed the witness with an air of triumph). You can render people just to all the world, but towards yourself you cannot?

Pray, where’s the wonder? (asked the other). Do you not see what scores of carpenters and house-builders there are who spend their time in building houses for half the world; but for themselves they simply cannot do it, and are forced to live in lodgings. And so admit that home-thrust, Master Sophist; and confess yourself confuted.

Upon my soul, he had best accept his fate (said Socrates). Why, after all, you are only like those prophets who proverbially foretell the future for mankind, but cannot foresee what is coming upon themselves.

And so the first discussion ended.

Thereupon Niceratus: Lend me your ears, and I will tell you in what respects you shall be better for consorting with myself. I presume, without my telling you, you know that Homer, being the wisest of mankind, has touched upon nearly every human topic in his poems. Whosoever among you, therefore, would fain be skilled in economy, or oratory, or strategy; whose ambition it is to be like Achilles, or Ajax, Nestor, or Odysseus — one and all pay court to me, for I have all this knowledge at my fingers’ ends.

Pray (interposed Antisthenes), do you also know the way to be a king? since Homer praises Agamemnon, you are well aware, as being

A goodly king and eke a spearman bold.

Nic. Full well I know it, and full well I know the duty of a skilful charioteer; how he who holds the ribbons must turn his chariot nigh the pillar’s edge

Himself inclined upon the polished chariot-board A little to the left of the twin pair: the right hand horse Touch with the prick, and shout a cheery shout, and give him rein.

I know another thing besides, and you may put it to the test this instant, if you like. Homer somewhere has said:

And at his side an onion, which to drink gives relish.

So if some one will but bring an onion, you shall reap the benefit of my sage lore in less than no time, and your wine will taste the sweeter.

Here Charmides exclaimed: Good sirs, let me explain. Niceratus is anxious to go home, redolent of onions, so that his fair lady may persuade herself, it never entered into anybody’s head to kiss her lord.

Bless me, that isn’t all (continued Socrates); if we do not take care, we shall win ourselves a comic reputation. A relish must it be, in very truth, that can sweeten cup as well as platter, this same onion; and if we are to take to munching onions for desert, see if somebody does not say of us, “They went to dine with Callias, and got more than their deserts, the epicures.”

No fear of that (rejoined Niceratus). Always take a bite of onion before speeding forth to battle, just as your patrons of the cock-pit give their birds a feed of garlic before they put them for the fight. But for ourselves our thoughts are less intent perhaps on dealing blows than blowing kisses.

After such sort the theme of their discourse reached its conclusion.

Then Critobulus spoke: It is now my turn, I think, to state to you the grounds on which I pride myself on beauty.

A chorus of voices rejoined: Say on.

Crit. To begin with, if I am not beautiful, as methinks I be, you will bring on your own heads the penalty of perjury; for, without waiting to have the oath administered, you are always taking the gods to witness that you find me beautiful. And I must needs believe you, for are you not all honourable men? If I then be so beautiful and affect you, even as I also am affected by him whose fair face here attracts me, I swear by all the company of heaven I would not choose the great king’s empire in exchange for what I am — the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals. And at this instant I feast my eyes on Cleinias gladlier than on all other sights which men deem fair. Joyfully will I welcome blindness to all else, if but these eyes may still behold him and him only. With sleep and night I am sore vexed, which rob me of his sight; but to daylight and the sun I owe eternal thanks, for they restore him to me, my heart’s joy, Cleinias.

Yes, and herein also have we, the beautiful, just claim to boast. The strong man may by dint of toil obtain good things; the brave, by danger boldly faced, and the wise by eloquence of speech; but to the beautiful alone it is given to achieve all ends in absolute quiescence. To take myself as an example. I know that riches are a sweet possession, yet sweeter far to me to give all that I have to Cleinias than to receive a fortune from another. Gladly would I become a slave — ay, forfeit freedom — if Cleinias would deign to be my lord. Toil in his service were easier for me than rest from labour: danger incurred in his behalf far sweeter than security of days. So that if you, Callias, may boast of making men more just and upright, to me belongs by juster right than yours to train mankind to every excellence. We are the true inspirers who infuse some subtle fire into amorous souls, we beauties, and thereby raise them to new heights of being; we render them more liberal in the pursuit of wealth; we give them a zest for toil that mocks at danger, and enables them where honour the fair vision leads, to follow. We fill their souls with deeper modesty, a self-constraint more staunch; about the things they care for most, there floats a halo of protecting awe. Fools and unwise are they who choose not beauteous men to be their generals. How merrily would I, at any rate, march through fire by the side of Cleinias; and so would all of you, I know full well, in company of him who now addresses you.

Cease, therefore, your perplexity, O Socrates, abandon fears and doubts, believe and know that this thing of which I make great boast, my beauty, has power to confer some benefit on humankind.

Once more, let no man dare dishonour beauty, merely because the flower of it soon fades, since even as a child has growth in beauty, so is it with the stripling, the grown man, the reverend senior. And this the proof of my contention. Whom do we choose to bear the sacred olive-shoot in honour of Athena?— whom else save beautiful old men? witnessing thereby that beauty walks hand in hand as a companion with every age of life, from infancy to eld.

Or again, if it be sweet to win from willing hearts the things we seek for, I am persuaded that, by the eloquence of silence, I could win a kiss from yonder girl or boy more speedily than ever you could, O sage! by help of half a hundred subtle arguments.

Eh, bless my ears, what’s that? (Socrates broke in upon this final flourish of the speaker). So beautiful you claim to rival me, you boaster?

Crit. Why, yes indeed, I hope so, or else I should be uglier than all the Silenuses in the Satyric drama.

Good! (Socrates rejoined); the moment the programme of discussion is concluded, please remember, we must obtain a verdict on the point of beauty. Judgment shall be given — not at the bar of Alexander, son of Priam — but of these who, as you flatter yourself, have such a hankering to kiss you.

Oh, Socrates (he answered, deprecatingly), will you not leave it to the arbitrament of Cleinias?

Then Socrates: Will you never tire of repeating that one name? It is Cleinias here, there, and everywhere with you.

Crit. And if his name died on my lips, think you my mind would less recall his memory? Know you not, I bear so clear an image of him in my soul, that had I the sculptor’s or the limner’s skill, I might portray his features as exactly from this image of the mind as from contemplation of his actual self.

But Socrates broke in: Pray, why then, if you bear about this lively image, why do you give me so much trouble, dragging me to this and that place, where you hope to see him?

Crit. For this good reason, Socrates, the sight of him inspires gladness, whilst his phantom brings not joy so much as it engenders longing.

At this point Hermogenes protested: I find it most unlike you, Socrates, to treat thus negligently one so passion-crazed as Critobulus.

Socrates replied: Do you suppose the sad condition of the patient dates from the moment only of our intimacy?

Herm. Since when, then?

Soc. Since when? Why, look at him: the down begins to mantle on his cheeks, and on the nape of Cleinias’ neck already mounts. The fact is, when they fared to the same school together, he caught the fever. This his father was aware of, and consigned him to me, hoping I might be able to do something for him. Ay, and his plight is not so sorry now. Once he would stand agape at him like one whose gaze is fixed upon the Gorgons, his eyes one stony stare, and like a stone himself turn heavily away. But nowadays I have seen the statue actually blink. And yet, may Heaven help me! my good sirs, I think, between ourselves, the culprit must have bestowed a kiss on Cleinias, than which love’s flame asks no fiercer fuel. So insatiable a thing it is and so suggestive of mad fantasy. [And for this reason held perhaps in higher honour, because of all external acts the close of lip with lip bears the same name as that of soul with soul in love.] Wherefore, say I, let every one who wishes to be master of himself and sound of soul abstain from kisses imprinted on fair lips.

Then Charmides: Oh! Socrates, why will you scare your friends with these hobgoblin terrors, bidding us all beware of handsome faces, whilst you yourself — yes, by Apollo, I will swear I saw you at the schoolmaster’s that time when both of you were poring over one book, in which you searched for something, you and Critobulus, head to head, shoulder to shoulder bare, as if incorporate?

As yes, alack the day! (he answered); and that is why, no doubt, my shoulder ached for more than five days afterwards, as if I had been bitten by some fell beast, and methought I felt a sort of scraping at the heart. Now therefore, in the presence of these witnesses, I warn you, Critobulus, never again to touch me till you wear as thick a crop of hair upon your chin as on your head.

So pell-mell they went at it, half jest half earnest, and so the medley ended. Callias here called on Charmides.

Call. Now, Charmides, it lies with you to tell us why you pride yourself on poverty.

Charmides responded: On all hands it is admitted, I believe, that confidence is better than alarm; better to be a freeman than a slave; better to be worshipped than pay court to others; better to be trusted than to be suspected by one’s country.

Well now, I will tell you how it fared with me in this same city when I was wealthy. First, I lived in daily terror lest some burglar should break into my house and steal my goods and do myself some injury. I cringed before informers. I was obliged to pay these people court, because I knew that I could injure them far less than they could injure me. Never-ending the claims upon my pocket which the state enforced upon me; and as to setting foot abroad, that was beyond the range of possibility. But now that I have lost my property across the frontier, and derive no income from my lands in Attica itself; now that my very household goods have been sold up, I stretch my legs at ease, I get a good night’s rest. The distrust of my fellow-citizens has vanished; instead of trembling at threats, it is now my turn to threaten; at last I feel myself a freeman, with liberty to go abroad or stay at home as suits my fancy. The tables now are turned. It is the rich who rise to give me their seats, who stand aside and make way for me as I meet them in the streets. To-day I am like a despot, yesterday I was literally a slave; formerly it was I who had to pay my tribute to the sovereign people, now it is I who am supported by the state by means of general taxation.

And there is another thing. So long as I was rich, they threw in my teeth as a reproach that I was friends with Socrates, but now that I am become a beggar no one troubles his head two straws about the matter. Once more, the while I rolled in plenty I had everything to lose, and, as a rule, I lost it; what the state did not exact, some mischance stole from me. But now that is over. I lose nothing, having nought to lose; but, on the contrary, I have everything to gain, and live in hope of some day getting something.

Call. And so, of course, your one prayer is that you may never more be rich, and if you are visited by a dream of luck your one thought is to offer sacrifice to Heaven to avert misfortune.

Char. No, that I do not. On the contrary, I run my head into each danger most adventurously. I endure, if haply I may see a chance of getting something from some quarter of the sky some day.

Come now (Socrates exclaimed), it lies with you, sir, you, Antisthenes, to explain to us, how it is that you, with means so scanty, make so loud a boast of wealth.

Because (he answered) I hold to the belief, sirs, that wealth and poverty do not lie in a man’s estate, but in men’s souls. Even in private life how many scores of people have I seen, who, although they roll in wealth, yet deem themselves so poor, there is nothing they will shrink from, neither toil nor danger, in order to add a little to their store. I have known two brothers, heirs to equal fortunes, one of whom has enough, more than enough, to cover his expenditure; the other is in absolute indigence. And so to monarchs, there are not a few, I perceive, so ravenous of wealth that they will outdo the veriest vagrants in atrocity. Want prompts a thousand crimes, you must admit. Why do men steal? why break burglariously into houses? why hale men and women captive and make slaves of them? Is it not from want? Nay, there are monarchs who at one fell swoop destroy whole houses, make wholesale massacre, and oftentimes reduce entire states to slavery, and all for the sake of wealth. These I must needs pity for the cruel malady which plagues them. Their condition, to my mind, resembles that poor creature’s who, in spite of all he has and all he eats, can never stay the wolf that gnaws his vitals.

But as to me, my riches are so plentiful I cannot lay my hands on them myself; yet for all that I have enough to eat till my hunger is stayed, to drink till my thirst is sated; to clothe myself withal; and out of doors not Callias there, with all his riches, is more safe than I from shivering; and when I find myself indoors, what warmer shirting do I need than my bare walls? what ampler greatcoat than the tiles above my head? these seem to suit me well enough; and as to bedclothes, I am not so ill supplied but it is a business to arouse me in the morning.

And as to sexual desire, my body’s need is satisfied by what comes first to hand. Indeed, there is no lack of warmth in the caress which greets me, just because it is unsought by others.

Well then, these several pleasures I enjoy so fully that I am much more apt to pray for less than more of them, so strongly do I feel that some of them are sweeter than what is good for one or profitable.

But of all the precious things in my possession, I reckon this the choicest, that were I robbed of my whole present stock, there is no work so mean, but it would amply serve me to furnish me with sustenance. Why, look you, whenever I desire to fare delicately, I have not to purchase precious viands in the market, which becomes expensive, but I open the storehouse of my soul, and dole them out. Indeed, as far as pleasure goes, I find it better to await desire before I suffer meat or drink to pass my lips, than to have recourse to any of your costly viands, as, for instance, now, when I have chanced on this fine Thasian wine, and sip it without thirst. But indeed, the man who makes frugality, not wealth of worldly goods, his aim, is on the face of it a much more upright person. And why?— the man who is content with what he has will least of all be prone to clutch at what is his neighbour’s.

And here’s a point worth noting. Wealth of my sort will make you liberal of soul. Look at Socrates; from him it was I got these riches. He did not supply me with it by weight or by measure, but just as much as I could carry, he with bounteous hand consigned to me. And I, too, grudge it to no man now. To all my friends without distinction I am ready to display my opulence: come one, come all; and whosoever likes to take a share is welcome to the wealth that lies within my soul. Yes, and moreover, that most luxurious of possessions, unbroken leisure, you can see, is mine, which leaves me free to contemplate things worthy of contemplation, and to drink in with my ears all charming sounds. And what I value most, freedom to spend whole days in pure scholastic intercourse with Socrates, to whom I am devoted. And he, on his side, is not the person to admire those whose tale of gold and silver happens to be the largest, but those who are well-pleasing to him he chooses for companions, and will consort with to the end.

With these words the speaker ended, and Callias exclaimed:

By Hera, I envy you your wealth, Antisthenes, firstly, because the state does not lay burthens on you and treat you like a slave; and secondly, people do not fall into a rage with you when you refuse to be their creditor.

You may stay your envy (interposed Niceratus), I shall presently present myself to borrow of him this same key of his to independence. Trained as I am to cast up figures by my master Homer —

Seven tripods, which ne’er felt the fire, and of gold ten talents And burnished braziers twenty, and horses twelve —

by weight and measure duly reckoned, I cannot stay my craving for enormous wealth. And that’s the reason certain people, I daresay, imagine I am inordinately fond of riches.

The remark drew forth a peal of laughter from the company, who thought the speaker hit the truth exactly.

Then some one: It lies with you, Hermogenes, to tell us who your friends are; and next, to demonstrate the greatness of their power and their care for you, if you would prove to us your right to pride yourself on them.

Herm. That the gods know all things, that the present and the future lie before their eyes, are tenets held by Hellenes and barbarians alike. This is obvious; or else, why do states and nations, one and all, inquire of the gods by divination what they ought to do and what they ought not? This also is apparent, that we believe them able to do us good and to do us harm; or why do all men pray to Heaven to avert the evil and bestow the good? Well then, my boast is that these gods, who know and can do all things, deign to be my friends; so that, by reason of their care for me, I can never escape from their sight, neither by night nor by day, whithersoever I essay to go, whatsoever I take in hand to do. But because they know beforehand the end and issue of each event, they give me signals, sending messengers, be it some voice, or vision of the night, with omens of the solitary bird, which tell me what I should and what I should not do. When I listen to their warnings all goes well with me, I have no reason to repent; but if, as ere now has been the case, I have been disobedient, chastisement has overtaken me.

Then Socrates: All this I well believe, but there is one thing I would gladly learn of you: What service do you pay the gods, so to secure their friendship?

Truly it is not a ruinous service, Socrates (he answered)— far from it. I give them thanks, which is not costly. I make return to them of all they give to me from time to time. I speak well of them, with all the strength I have. And whenever I take their sacred names to witness, I do not wittingly falsify my word.

Then God be praised (said Socrates), if being what you are, you have such friends; the gods themselves, it would appear, delight in nobleness of soul.

Thus, in solemn sort, the theme was handled, thus gravely ended.

But now it was the jester’s turn, and so they fell to asking him: What could he see to pride himself upon so vastly in the art of making people laugh?

Surely I have good reason (he replied). The whole world knows my business is to set them laughing, so when they are in luck’s way, they eagerly invite me to a share of it; but if ill betide them, helter-skelter off they go, and never once turn back, so fearful are they I may set them laughing will he nill he.

Nic. Heavens! you have good reason to be proud; with me it is just the opposite. When any of my friends are doing well, they take good care to turn their backs on me, but if ever it goes ill with them, they claim relationship by birth, and will not let their long-lost cousin out of sight.

Charm. Well, well! and you, sir (turning to the Syracusan), what do you pride yourself upon? No doubt, upon the boy?

The Syr. Not I, indeed; I am terribly afraid concerning him. It is plain enough to me that certain people are contriving for his ruin.

Good gracious! (Socrates exclaimed, when he heard that), what crime can they conceive your boy is guilty of that they should wish to make an end of him?

The Syr. I do not say they want to murder him, but wheedle him away with bribes to pass his nights with them.

Soc. And if that happened, you on your side, it appears, believe the boy will be corrupted?

The Syr. Beyond all shadow of a doubt, most villainously.

Soc. And you, of course, you never dream of such a thing. You don’t spend nights with him?

The Syr. Of course I do, all night and every night.

Soc. By Hera, what a mighty piece of luck for you — to be so happily compounded, of such flesh and blood. You alone can’t injure those who sleep beside you. You have every right, it seems, to boast of your own flesh, if nothing else.

The Syr. Nay, in sooth, it is not on that I pride myself.

Soc. Well, on what then?

The Syr. Why, on the silly fools who come and see my puppet show. I live on them.

Phil. Ah yes! and that explains how the other day I heard you praying to the gods to grant you, wheresoe’er you chance to be, great store of corn and wine, but dearth of wits.

Pass on (said Callias); now it is your turn, Socrates. What have you to say to justify your choice? How can you boast of so discredited an art?

He answered: Let us first decide what are the duties of the good go-between; and please to answer every question without hesitating; let us know the points to which we mutually assent. Are you agreed to that?

The Company, in chorus. Without a doubt (they answered, and the formula, once started, was every time repeated by the company, full chorus).

Soc. Are you agreed it is the business of a good go-between to make him (or her) on whom he plies his art agreeable to those with them?

Omnes. Without a doubt.

Soc. And, further, that towards agreeableness, one step at any rate consists in wearing a becoming fashion of the hair and dress? Are you agreed to that?

Omnes. Without a doubt.

Soc. And we know for certain, that with the same eyes a man may dart a look of love or else of hate on those he sees. Are you agreed?

Omnes. Without a doubt.

Soc. Well! and with the same tongue and lips and voice may speak with modesty or boastfulnes?

Omnes. Without a doubt.

Soc. And there are words that bear the stamp of hate, and words that tend to friendliness?

Omnes. Without a doubt.

Soc. The good go-between will therefore make his choice between them, and teach only what conduces to agreeableness?

Omnes. Without a doubt.

Soc. And is he the better go-between who can make his clients pleasing to one person only, or can make them pleasing to a number?

The company was here divided; the one half answered, “Yes, of course, the largest number,” whilst the others still maintained, “Without a doubt.”

And Socrates, remarking, “That proposition is agreed to also,” thus proceeded: And if further he were able to make them pleasing to the whole community, should we not have found in this accomplished person an arch-go-between?

Clearly so (they answered with one voice).

Soc. If then a man had power to make his clients altogether pleasing; that man, I say, might justly pride himself upon his art, and should by rights receive a large reward?

And when these propositions were agreed to also, he turned about and said: Just such a man, I take it, is before you in the person of Antisthenes!

Whereupon Antisthenes exclaimed: What! are you going to pass on the business? will you devolve this art of yours on me as your successor, Socrates?

I will, upon my word, I will (he answered): since I see that you have practised to some purpose, nay elaborated, an art which is the handmaid to this other.

And what may that be? asked Antisthenes.

Soc. The art of the procurer.

The other (in a tone of deep vexation): Pray, what thing of the sort are you aware I ever perpetrated?

Soc. I am aware that it was you who introduced our host here, Callias, to that wise man Prodicus; they were a match, you saw, the one enamoured of philosophy, and the other in need of money. It was you again, I am well enough aware, who introduced him once again to Hippias of Elis, from whom he learnt his “art of memory”; since which time he has become a very ardent lover, from inability to forget each lovely thing he sets his eyes on. And quite lately, if I am not mistaken, it was you who sounded in my ears such praise of our visitor from Heraclea, that first you made me thirst for his society, and then united us. For which indeed I am your debtor, since I find him a fine handsome fellow and true gentleman. And did you not, moreover, sing the praises of Aeschylus of Phlius in my ears and mine in his?— in fact, affected us so much by what you said, we fell in love and took to coursing wildly in pursuit of one another like two dogs upon a trail.

With such examples of your wonder-working skill before my eyes, I must suppose you are a first-rate matchmaker. For consider, a man with insight to discern two natures made to be of service to each other, and with power to make these same two people mutually enamoured! That is the sort of man, I take it, who should weld together states in friendship; cement alliances with gain to the contracting parties; and, in general, be found an acquisition to those several states; to friends and intimates, and partisans in war, a treasure worth possessing. But you, my friend, you got quite angry. One would suppose I had given you an evil name in calling you a first-rate matchmaker.

Yes (he answered meekly), but now I am calm. It is clear enough, if I possess these powers I shall find myself surcharged with spiritual riches.

In this fashion the cycle of the speeches was completed.

Source: The Works of Xenophon by H. G. Dakyns, Macmillan and Co., 1897.
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