Wednesday, September 28, 2016

1 Bertrand Russell on Plato’s Theory of Immortality and Socrates in the Phaedo

Chapter 12 of Russel’s History of Western Philosophy, entitled ‘Plato’s Theory of Immortality’ is devoted to Plato’s Phaedo. Russell opens it with the words: ‘The dialogue called after Phaedo … presents Plato’s ideal of a man who is both wise and good in the highest degree, and who is totally without fear of death.’ He closes it with the words: ‘The Platonic Socrates was a pattern to subsequent philosophers for many ages. What are we to think of him ethically? (I am concerned only with the man as Plato portrays him.) His merits are obvious. He is indifferent to worldly success, so devoid of fear that he remains calm and urbane and humorous to the last moment, caring more for what he believes to be truth than for anything else whatever. He has, however, some very grave defects. He is dishonest and sophistical in argument, and in his private thinking he uses intellect to prove conclusions that are to him agreeable, rather than in disinterested search for knowledge. There is something smug and unctuous about him, which reminds one of a bad type of cleric. His courage in the face of death would have been more remarkable if he had not believed that he was going to enjoy eternal bliss in the company of the gods. Unlike some of his predecessors, he was not scientific in his thinking, but was determined to prove the universe agreeable to his ethical standards. This is treachery to truth, and the worst of philosophic sins. As a man, we may believe him admitted to the communion of saints; but as a philosopher he needs a long residence in a scientific purgatory.’

After reading these lines, I reread the Phaedo; I could not find in it any dishonest and sophistical arguments. I then reread Russell’s chapter; I can’t find in it any attempt on his part to show any argument of Socrates as dishonest. Russell writes: ‘Cebes expresses doubts as to the survival of the soul after death, and urges Socrates to offer arguments. This he proceeds to do, but it must be said that the arguments are very poor (p. 137).’ ‘Very poor arguments’ does not mean ‘dishonest and sophistical’ arguments.

Russell’s Chapter 11 entitled ‘Socrates’ is derived mostly from Plato’s Apology, and it contains no aspersions of dishonesty or sophistic arguments: ‘The Apology gives a clear picture of a man of a certain type: a man very sure of himself, high-minded, indifferent to worldly success, believing that he is guided by a divine voice, and persuaded that clear thinking is the most important requisite for right living (p. 95).’ Russell’s Socrates of Plato’s Apology is a very different man from his Socrates of Plato’s Phaedo. It seems to me that Russell was influenced by John Burnet’s view of the dialogue.

John Burnet writes in the ‘Introduction’ to his edition of the dialogue: ‘Whatever Plato may or may not have done in other dialogues – and I say nothing here about that – I cannot bring myself to believe that he falsified the history of his master’s last hours on earth by using him as a mere mouthpiece for novel doctrines of his own. That would have been an offence against good taste and an outrage on all natural piety; for if Plato did this thing, he must have done it deliberately. There can be no question here of unconscious development; he must have known quite well whether Socrates held these doctrines or not. I confess that I should regard the Phaedo as little better than a heartless mystification if half the things commonly believed about it were true.’ (John Burnet, Plato’s Phaedo, Clarendon Press, Oxford, first printed 1911, twelfth impression 1977, p. XI – XII.)

Burnet viewed the dialogue as follows: ‘The Phaedo professes to be nothing less than a faithful picture of Socrates as Plato conceived him when he wrote it. It professes even more. We are certainly led to believe that it gives us a truthful record of the subjects on which Socrates discoursed on the last day of his life, and of his manner of treating them. No reader who made his first acquaintance with Socrates here could possibly suppose anything else. This, then, is what the Phaedo professes to be; and if only it is this, it is the likeness of a great philosopher in the supreme crisis of his life, drawn by a philosopher who was greater still, and was also one of the most consummate dramatic artists the world has known. It would not be easy to find the match of such a work.’ (p. X-XI)

Russell could not accept Burnet’s positive view of the Phaedo, but he appears to have been deeply influenced by his negative view of it, if seen on the basis of the currently accepted view about it. Let me quote what I wrote about it in the ‘Introduction to the Lost Plato’: ‘One thing is certain; if modern scholars are right in their claim that Plato conceived of the Forms only after Socrates’ death, then the whole picture of Socrates’ last hours has been profoundly distorted by Plato in the Phaedo. At the beginning of the last century John Burnet, perhaps the greatest British Platonic scholar of all time, vehemently protested against such a view of the dialogue … but his view of Plato and Socrates was rejected. A whole section of the Sixth International Congress of Philosophy, held in 1927 in New York, was devoted to the condemnation of his views. The section began with a brief introductory preamble: ‘’The first paper in Division D, Section i, was to have been read by John Burnet (Edinburgh), but sudden illness made Professor Burnet’s presence at the Congress impossible. In Professor Burnet’s absence, W. D. Ross (Oxford) spoke briefly, summarizing Professor Burnet’s views on the Socratic and Platonic elements in the doctrine of Plato’s dialogues.’’ What followed was a chorus of contempt in which the great Platonic scholars of those days joined forces under the chairmanship of G. S. Brett (Toronto) and P. E. More (Princeton): R. C. Lodge (Manitoba), Leon Robin (Sorbonne), Paul Shorey (Chicago), W. A. Heidel (Wesleyan). The printed Proceedings do not give W. D. Ross’ summary of Burnet’s views.’

I can testify to the validity of Burnet’s words: ‘We are certainly led to believe that it gives us a truthful record of the subjects on which Socrates discoursed on the last day of his life, and of his manner of treating them. No reader who made his first acquaintance with Socrates here could possibly suppose anything else.’ For that’s how I read the Phaedo in Czechoslovakia in the early 1970’s, and all my reading of Plato since then has strengthened that initial impression.

If I were to view the dialogue with Russell and other Platonic scholars as Plato’s presentation of his new doctrines, doctrines alien to the historical Socrates, I would have no difficulty in finding in the dialogue arguments which would be devious.

After an account of his early interest in ‘natural science’ (peri phuseȏs historian) that purported to ‘know the causes of everything (eidenai tas aitias hekastou), why a thing comes to being (dia ti gignetai hekaston), why it perishes (kai dia ti apollutai), why it exists (kai dia ti esti, 96a8-10),’ Socrates proceeded to outline the new line of enquiry, which he had adopted after his disappointment with natural science: ‘Well, here is what I mean (All’ hȏde legȏ); it is nothing new (ouden kainon, 100b1), but what I have constantly spoken of both in the talk we have been having and at other times too (all’ haper aei te allote kai en tȏi parelȇluthoti logȏi ouden pepaumai legȏn). I am going to attempt a formal account of the sort of cause that I have been concerned with (erchomai dȇ epicheirȏn soi epideixasthai tȇs aitias to eidos ho pepragmateumai), and I shall go back to my well-worn theme (kai eimi palin ep’ ekeina ta poluthrulȇta) and make it my starting-point (kai archomai ap’ ekeinȏn); that is, I shall assume the existence of a beautiful that is in and by itself (hupothemenos einai ti kalon auto kath’ hauto), and a good (kai agathon), and a great (kai mega), and so on with the rest of them (kai t’alla panta); and if you grant me them (ha ei moi didȏs te) and admit their existence (kai sunchȏreis einai tauta), I hope (elpizȏ) they will make it possible for me to discover and expound to you the cause of the soul’s immortality (soi ek toutȏn tȇn aitian epideixein kai aneurȇsein hȏs athanaton psychȇ).’ (100b1-9, tr. R. Hackforth)

If Plato propounded the theory of Forms for the first time in the Phaedo, this sentence would be a pure mystification, as Burnet points out. What would be the point of such mystification, I cannot conceive. Did Plato [of Platonic scholars] think that his new theory would be more readily accepted if it were presented as an old theory? A theory that allowed Socrates to face calmly his death? – I should like to hear any plausible explanation of Phaedo 100b1-9 from any Platonic scholar and put it on my blog as a Comment.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Homer, and Socrates in Xenophon, Aristophanes’ Clouds, Plato’s Greater Hippias and Phaedrus

In the first book of the Iliad Agamemnon, the supreme commander of the Greek forces, dishonoured Achilles, the greatest Greek hero. At Achilles bidding, his mother, the sea goddess Thetis persuaded Zeus to support the Trojans until the Greeks realized how much they needed Achilles. Zeus sent Agamemnon a destructive dream (oulon oneiron, Il. II. 6), ordering him to attack the Trojans with all haste (pansudiȇi, II. 12). Agamemnon called the general assembly of the army; in the hope that his proposal would result in a demand to continue the fighting, he suggested that they should give up the war and return to Greece. It was a perilous tactic, for it resulted in a rush for the ships. Urged by Athene, Odysseus took Agamemnon’s sceptre and urged everybody to return to the assembly and listen to what Agamemnon really had in mind.

Xenophon writes: ‘Socrates’ accuser said that Socrates often quoted the passage from Homer (to de Homȇrou ephȇ ho katȇgoros pollakis auton legein), showing how Odysseus (hoti Odusseus): “Whenever he found one that was a captain and a man of mark (Hontina men basilȇa kai exochon andra kicheiȇ), stood by his side, and restrained him with gentle words (ton d’ aganois epeessin erȇtusaske parastas): ‘Good sir (daimoni’), it is not seemly to affright thee like a coward (ou se eoike kakon hȏs deidissesthai), but do thou sit thyself (all’ autos te kathȇso) and make all thy folk to sit down (kai allous hidrue laous) … ‘But whenever man of the people he saw (hon d’ au dȇmou t’ andra idoi) and found him shouting (booȏnta t’ epheuroi), him he drove with his sceptre (ton skȇptrȏi elasasken) and chid him with loud words (homoklȇsaske te muthȏi): ‘Good sir (daimoni’), sit still (atremas hȇso) and hearken to the words of others (kai allȏn muthon akoue) that are thy betters (hoi eo belteroi eisi): but thou art no warrior and a weakling (su d’ aptolemos kai analkis), never reckoned whether in battle or in council (oute pot’ en polemȏi enarithmios out’ eni boulȇi).’“ (Il. II. 188-202)

This passage, it was said, he explained to mean (tauta dȇ auton exȇgeisthai) that the poet approved (hȏs ho poiȇtȇs epainoiȇ) of chastising common and poor folk (paiesthai tous dȇmotas kai penȇtas). But Socrates never said that (Sȏkratȇs d’ ou taut’ elege): indeed, on that view he would have thought himself worthy of chastisement (kai gar heauton houtȏ g’ an ȏieto dein paiesthai). But what he did say was that those who render no service either by word or deed (all’ ephȇ dein tous mȇte logȏi mȇt’ ergȏi ȏphelimous ontas), who cannot help army or city or the people itself in time of need (kai mȇte strateumati mȇte polei mȇte autȏi tȏi dȇmȏi, ei ti deoi, boȇthein hikanous), ought to be stopped, even if they have riches in abundance, above all if they are insolent as well as inefficient (allȏs t’ ean pros toutȏi kai thraseis ȏsi, panta tropon kȏluesthai, k’an panu plousioi tunchanȏsi ontes.’ (Xen. Mem. I.ii.58-59, tr. Marchant; the translation from the Iliad is Leaf’s, as Marchant points out.)

The words ‘above all if they are insolent as well as inefficient’ suggest that in his reference to the Iliad Socrates pointed in particular to Odysseus’ subsequent chastisement of Thersites. For when thanks to Odysseus’ resolute action the whole army sat quietly, only Thersites remonstrated, insulting Agamemnon for his insatiable greed, and urging the army: ‘let us sail home with ships’ (oikade per sun nȇusi neȏmetha, Il. II. 236). Odysseus was quick to chastise him severely.

Xenophon’s argument that Socrates never said that the poet approved of chastising common and poor folk, for ‘on that view he would have thought himself worthy of chastisement’, is important in so far as it clearly shows that socially Socrates belonged to the class of the ‘common and poor folk’.

John Burnet notes on Socrates’ reference to Daedalus in Plato’s Euthyphro 11b9 as ‘our ancestor’ (Tou hȇmeterou progonou … Daidalou): ‘Late writers make Sophroniscus, the father of Socrates, a statuary, and this passage has been taken as a confirmation of this statement … Plato and Xenophon constantly make Socrates talk of the dȇmiourgoi (‘artisans’), and they could hardly have avoided mentioning the fact if he had ever been one himself. In the Apology (22 c 9 sqq.) he approaches them in the interest of his quest as a hitherto unexplored class of society.’ As can be seen, Xenophon clearly considered Socrates as being one of the ‘common and poor folk’; to what other class would his father belong than that of the artisans?

Xenophon is undoubtedly right when he considers as wrong the accuser’s allegation that Socrates interpreted the Iliad passage as an approval ‘of chastising common and poor folk’. But his argument that it could not be so, for ‘on that view he would have thought himself worthy of chastisement’, is wrong. In the introductory part of the Phaedrus we encounter Socrates in a self-reflective mood: ‘I can’t as yet “know myself”, as the inscription at Delphi enjoins (ou dunamai pȏ kata to Delphikon gramma gnȏnai emauton); and so long as that ignorance remains it seems to me ridiculous to inquire into extraneous matters (geloion dȇ moi phainetai touto eti agnoounta ta allotria skopein). Consequently, I direct my enquiries rather to myself (skopȏ ou tauta all’ emauton), to discover whether I really am a more complex creature and more puffed up with pride than Typhon [‘Socrates connects the name of this hundred-headed monster with the verb tuphȏ, “to smoke”, and perhaps also with the noun tuphos, “vanity”, “humbug”,’ notes Hackforth] (eite ti thȇrion on tunchanȏ Tuphȏnos poluplokȏteron kai mallon epitethummenon), or a simpler, gentler being whom heaven has blessed with a quiet, un-Typhonic nature (eite hȇmerȏteron te kai haplousteron zȏion, theias tinos kai atuphou moiras phusei metechon).’ (Pl. Phdr.229e5-230a6, tr. R. Hackforth)

Socrates’ self-inspection was accompanied by a hard work on his self-improvement. Cicero writes in his Tusculan Disputations: ‘Zopyrus, who claimed to discern every man’s nature from his appearance, accused Socrates in company of a number of vices in Socrates (Cum multa in conventu vitia collegisset in eum Zopyrus, qui se naturam cuiusquisque ex forma perspicere profitebatur, derisus est a ceteris, qui illa in Socrate vitia non agnoscerent). Socrates himself came to his rescue by saying that he was naturally inclined to the vices named, but had cast them out of him by the help of reason’ (ab ipso autem Socrate sublevatus, cum illa sibi insita, sed ratione a se deiecta diceret, IV. 80, tr. J. E. King) This testimony can be attributed to Phaedo’s dialogue Zopyrus, as K. v. Fritz argues in his entry on Phaidon in Pauly-Wisowa, RE, vol. 38, 1938. (Cf. Diog. Laert. II. 105, Ch. 9 on ‘Phaedo’: ‘Of the dialogues which bear his name the Zopyrus and Simon are genuine’ (dialogous de sunegrapse gnȇsious men Zȏpuron, Simȏna). See further The Lost Plato on my web site, the last few paragraphs of Ch1 ‘In search of Socrates’.)

In the Phaedrus Plato’s Socrates maintains that he can’t describe the soul as it truly is, for ‘it would be a long tale to tell, and most assuredly a god alone could tell it’ (hoion men esti, pantȇi pantȏs theias einai kai makras diȇgȇseȏs), but that he can tell what it resembles (hoi de eoiken): ‘Let it be likened (eoiketȏ dȇ) to the union of powers (sumphutȏi dunamei) in a team of winged steeds (hupopterou zeugous te) and their winged charioteer (kai hȇniochou) (246a4-7) … With us men, in the first place, it is a pair of steeds that the charioteer controls (kai prȏton men hȇmȏn ho archȏn sunȏridos hȇniochei); moreover one of them is noble and good, and of good stock, while the other has the opposite character, and his stock is opposite (eita tȏn hippȏn ho men autȏi kalos te kai agathos kai ek tȏn tioutȏn, ho d’ ex enantiȏn te kai enantios). Hence the task of our charioteer is difficult and troublesome (chalepȇ dȇ kai duskolos ex anankȇs hȇ peri hȇmas hȇniochȇsis, 246b1-4, tr. R. Hackforth).’

The unruly horse is described as ‘crooked in shape (skolios), gross (polus), a random collection of parts (eikȇi sumpephorȇmenos), with a short powerful neck (kraterauchȇn, brachutrachȇlos), flat-nosed (simoprosȏpos), black-skinned (melanchrȏs), grey-eyed (glaukommatos), blood-shot (huphaimos), companion of excess and boastfulness (hubreȏs kai alazoneias hetairos), shaggy around ears (peri ȏta lasios), deaf (kȏphos), hardly yielding to whip and goad together (mastigi meta kentrȏn mogis hupeikȏn, 253e1-5, tr. C. J. Rowe).’

The picture of the unruly horse in the Phaedrus was undoubtedly inspired by Homer’s description of Thersites in the Iliad: ‘He was the ugliest man that came to Ilium (aischistos de anȇr hupo Ilion ȇlthen). Bandy-legged he was (pholkos eȇn), and lame in one foot (chȏlos d’ heteron poda); his shoulders were hunched (tȏ de hoi ȏmȏ kurtȏ), brought in upon his chest (epi stȇthos sunochȏkote); above (autar huperthen), his head was pointed (phoxos eȇn kephalȇn); and thin, woolly hair sprouted from it (psednȇ d’ epenȇnoche lachnȇ, Il. II. 216-219).’

Only by chastising Thersitȇs could Odysseus restore the discipline in the army: ‘He hit his back and his shoulders with the sceptre (skȇptrȏi de metaphrenon ȇde kai ȏmȏ plȇxen). Thersites bent himself (ho d’ idnȏthȇ), he shed big tears (thaleron de hoi ekpese dakru), a blood-swollen bruise started up on his back (smȏdix d’ haimatoessa metaphrenou exupanestȇ, 265-7).

Only by chastising the unruly horse could the philosopher-lover in the Phaedrus subdue his bad inclinations. The charioteer ‘jerks back the bit in the mouth of the wanton horse with an even stronger pull (eti mallon tou hubristou hippou ek tȏn odontȏn biai opisȏ spasas ton chalinon), bespatters his railing tongue and his jaws with blood (tȇn te kakȇgoron glȏttan kai tas gnathous kathȇimaxen), and forcing him down on legs and haunches (kai ta skelȇ te kai ta ischia pros tȇn gȇn ereisas) delivers him over to anguish (odunais edȏken). And so it happens time and again, until the evil steed casts off his wantonness (hotan de t’auton pollakis paschȏn ho ponȇros tȇs hubreȏs lȇxȇi, 254e1-6, tr. Hackforth).’

When Socrates often referred with approval to Odysseus’ chastisement of the unruly elements in the army, he advocated the chastisement of the Thersites in the soul of each of us.

Xenophon says that ‘Whenever Socrates himself argued out a question (hopote de autos ti tȏi logȏi diexioi), he advanced by steps that gained general assent (dia tȏn malista homologoumenȏn eporeueto), holding this to be the only sure method (nomizȏn tautȇn asphaleian einai logou). Accordingly (toigaroun), whenever he argued, he gained a greater measure of assent from his hearers than any man I have known (polu malista hȏn egȏ oida, hote legoi, tous akouontas homologountas pareiche). He said that Homer gave Odysseus (ephȇ de kai Homȇron tȏi Odussei anatheinai) the credit of being “a safe speaker” (to asphalȇ rȇtora einai, [Merchant points to Odyssey VIII. 171]) because he had a way of leading the discussion from one acknowledged truth to another (hȏs hikanon auton onta dia tȏn dokountȏn tois anthrȏpois agein tous logous).’ (Mem., tr. Marchant)

Socrates’ frequent praise of Odysseus because of his ability to chastise those who deserved it, and his giving him credit for his ability ‘of leading the discussion from one acknowledged truth to another’, characterised his approach to education, which Aristophanes caricatured in the Clouds. Exclaiming ‘Iou, iou’, Strepsiades rushes on stage, crying for help (1321); his son, a fledgling disciple of Socrates, has given him a sound beating, for they had an argument on poetry, and his son found him wrong. His son is going to persuade him that he was right in his doing so, in which he succeeds. Strepsiades: ‘He seems to be right in what he is saying (emoi men dokei dikaia legein, 1437)’. It is only when his son proclaims that he is equally entitled to beat his mother that Strepsiades decides to burn down Socrates’ Phrontistȇrion (House-of-thinking).

Xenophon in his Apology says that Hermogenes reported the following exchange between Socrates’ accuser Meletus and Socrates: ‘“But by Heaven (Alla nai ma Di’)!” said Meletus (ephȇ ho Melȇtos): “there is one set of men I know (ekeinous oida), – those whom you have persuaded to obey you (hous su pepeikas soi peithesthai) rather than their parents (mallon ȇ tois geinamenois).” “I admit it (Homologȏ),” he reports Socrates as replying (phanai ton Sȏkratȇ), “at least so far as education is concerned (peri ge paideias); for people know that I have taken interest in that (touto gar isasi emoi memeletȇkos).”’ (20)

Plato’s Greater Hippias sheds light on Socrates’ readiness to ‘reach for the stick’. In The Lost Plato I date the dialogue as Plato’s third; in the ‘Introduction’ I write: ‘The once promising rule of the aristocrats soon turned into tyranny, and Plato withdrew from the evil of those days (kai emauton epanȇgagon apo tȏn tote kakȏn, 325a5), as he says in the Seventh Letter. In chapter six I shall argue that during the days of his withdrawal from politics Plato wrote the Hippias Major, in which he gives perhaps the most profound portrait of Socrates steeped in his ignorance. We find in the dialogue Socrates’ mind split into two personalities: a man who had been recently engaged in a discussion on Beauty (in the Phaedrus, as I argue), and his critical self that sharply reprimands him for his views on Beauty expressed on that occasion, illegitimate as they were on his part because of his ignorance. When I say that Plato in the Hippias Major presents us with perhaps the most profound portrait of the ignorant Socrates, this does not mean that he, or Socrates for that matter, viewed that state as a desirable one. The very opposite is the case. In the Hippias Major Socrates’ critical self ends his criticism by asking Socrates whether his life is worth living in the state of ignorance in which he finds himself, and whether it would not be better for him to be dead.’

Socrates: ‘Hippias (ȏ Hippia) … quite lately, my noble friend, when I was condemning as ugly some things in certain compositions, and praising others as beautiful, somebody threw me into confusion (enanchos gar tis, ȏ ariste, eis aporian me katebalen en logois tisi ta men psegonta hȏs aischra, ta d’ epainounta hȏs kala) by interrogating me in a most offensive manner, rather to this effect (houtȏ pȏs eromenos kai mala hubristikȏs): “You, Socrates, pray how do you know (“Pothen de moi su”, ephȇ, “ȏ Sȏkrates, oistha) what things are beautiful (hopoia kala) and what are ugly (kai aischra)? Come now (epei phere), can you tell me (echois an eipein) what beauty is (ti esti to kalon)?” In my incompetence I was confounded (kai egȏ dia tȇn emȇn phaulotȇta ȇporuomȇn te), and could find no proper answer to give him (kai ouk eichon autȏi kata tropon apokrinasthai); so, leaving the company (apiȏn oun ek tȇs sunousias), I was filled with anger (emautȏi te ȏrgizomȇn) and reproaches against myself (kai ȏneidizon), and promised myself (kai ȇpeiloun) that the first time I met with one of you wise men (hopote prȏton humȏn tȏi tȏn sophȏn entuchoimi), I would listen to him and learn, and when I had mastered my lesson thoroughly (akousas kai mathȏn kai ekmelȇtȇsas), I would go back to my questioner (ienai palin epi ton erȏtȇsanta) and join battle with him again (anamachoumenos ton logon). So you see that you have come at a beautifully appropriate moment (nun oun, ho legȏ, eis kalon hȇkeis), and I ask you to teach me properly what is beauty by itself (kai me didaxon hikanȏs auto to kalon hoti esti), answering my questions with the utmost precision you can attain (kai peirȏ moi hoti malista akribȏs eipein apokrinomenos); I do not want to be made to look a fool a second time, by another cross-examination (mȇ exelenchtheis to deuteron authis gelȏta ophlȏ). Of course you know perfectly (oistha gar dȇpou saphȏs), and it is only a scrap of your vast learning (kai smikron pou tout’ an eiȇ mathȇma hȏn su tȏn pollȏn epistasai).’ – Hippias: ‘A scrap indeed (Smikron mentoi nȇ Di’), Socrates (ȏ Sȏkrates); and of no value (kai oudenos axion), I may add (hȏs epos eipein) (286c3-e6) … I might teach you to answer much more difficult ones (alla kai polu toutou chalepȏtera an apokrinasthai egȏ se didaxaimi) with such cogency that no human being would be able to confute you (hȏste mȇdena anthrȏpȏn dunasthai se exelenchein).’ – Socrates: ‘How magnificent (Pheu [on the margin of my Oxford text I remarked: ‘used by Plato only at Phaedrus 263d, 273c’] hȏs eu legeis)! Well now (all’ ag’), on your invitation (epeidȇ kai su keleueis) let me assume his role to the best of my ability (phere hoti malista ekeinos genomenos), and try to interrogate you (peirȏmmai se erȏtan). If you were to deliver to him the discourse to which you refer (ei gar dȇ autȏi ton logon touton epideixais hon phȇis) – the discourse about beautiful practices (ton peri tȏn kalȏn epitȇdeumatȏn) – he would hear you to the end (akousas); and when you stopped (epeidȇ pausaio legȏn), the very first question he would put would be about beauty (eroit’ an ou peri allou proteron ȇ peri tou kalou) (287b1-8) … “Then tell me (“Eipe dȇ), stranger (ȏ xene”,” he would say (phȇsei), “what is this thing, beauty (“ti esti touto to kalon”, 287d2-3)?” … Hippias: ‘I assure you, Socrates, if I must speak the truth (esti gar, ȏ Sȏkrates, ei dei to alȇthes legein), that a beautiful maiden is a beauty (parthenos kalȇ kalon, e3-4).’
Follows a chain of arguments, such as, Socrates: ‘Judging from his character, I feel pretty sure that he will then go on (Erei toinun meta tout’ ekeinos, schedon ti eu oida ek tou tropou tekmairomenos), “What about a beautiful pot, my dear sir (“Ȏ beltiste su, ti de chutra kalȇ)? Is not that a beauty (ou kalon”)?”’ – Hippias: ‘Who is this fellow (Ȏ Sȏkrates, tis d’ estin ho anthrȏpos)? What a boor (hȏs apaideutos tis), to dare to introduce such vulgar examples into a grave discussion (hos houtȏ phaula onomata onomazein tolmai en semnȏi pragmati)!’ – Socrates: ‘He is that sort of person, Hippias (Toioutos tis, ȏ Hippia); not at all refined, a common fellow (ou kompsos alla surphetos) caring for nothing but the truth (ouden allo phrontizȏn ȇ to alȇthes). Still, he must have his answer (all’ homȏs apokriteon tȏi andri)’ (288c9-d6)
Then Socrates’ imperturbable questioner asks: “But do you still think that absolute beauty (eti de soi dokei auto to kalon), by which all other things are ordered in loveliness (hȏi kai t’alla panta kosmeitai), and appear beautiful (kai kala phainetai) when its form is added (epeidan prosgenȇtai ekeino to eidos) – do you think that that is a maiden (tout’ einai parthenos), or a mare (ȇ hippos), or a lyre (ȇ lura)?” – Hippias: ‘But still (Alla mentoi), Socrates (ȏ Sȏkrates), if this is what he wants (ei touto ge zȇtei), it is the easiest thing in the world to tell him (pantȏn raiston apokrinasthai autȏi) what is that beauty (ti esti to kalon) which orders all other things in loveliness (hȏi kai ta alla panta kosmeitai) and makes them appeal beautiful when it is added to them (kai prosgenomenou autou kala phainetai). The fellow must be a perfect fool (euȇthestatos oun estin ho anthrȏpos), knowing nothing of things of beauty (kai ouden epaїei peri kalȏn ktȇmatȏn); if you reply to him (ean gar autȏi apokrinȇi) that this about which he is asking (hoti tout’ estin ho erȏtai), beauty (to kalon), is nothing else than gold (ouden allo ȇ chrusos), he will be at a loss (aporȇsei) and will not attempt (kai ouk epicheirȇsei) to refute you (se elenchein). For I suppose we all know (ismen gar pou pantes) that if anything has gold added to it (hoti hopou an touto prosgenȇtai), it will appear beautiful when so adorned even though it appeared ugly before (k’an proteron aischron phainȇtai, kalon phaneitai chrusȏi ge kosmȇthen).’ (289d2-e6) … – Socrates: Well, my friend, this answer of yours he will not only refuse to accept (Kai men dȇ tautȇn ge tȇn apokrisin, ȏ ariste, ou monon ouk apodexetai) but he will even scoff at me viciously (alla panu me kai tȏthasetai), saying (kai erei). “You blockhead (Ȏ tetuphȏmene su)! Do you reckon Pheidias a bad artist (Pheidian oiei kakon einai dȇmiourgon, 290a5)? … The point is that he did not give his Athena eyes of gold (Hoti tȇs Athȇnas tous ophthalmous ou chrusous epoiȇsen) or use gold for the rest of her face (oude to allo prosȏpon), or for her hands, or for her feet (oude tous podas oude tas cheiras), as he would have done if supreme beauty could be given to them only by the use of gold (eiper chrusoun ge dȇ on kalliton emelle phainesthai); he made them of ivory (all’ elephantinon, b2-5).’
Jowett’s “You blockhead” does not recall the Phaedrus with Socrates’ self-reflective ‘I direct my enquiries rather to myself (skopȏ ou tauta all’ emauton), to discover whether I really am a more complex creature and more puffed up with pride than Typhon (eite ti thȇrion on tunchanȏ Tuphȏnos poluplokȏteron kai mallon epitethummenon, 230a)’; the indignant reaction of Socrates’ questioner to Socrates’ offer of a very stupid definition does: Ȏ tetuphȏmene su.
Hippias: ‘You are looking, I think, for a reply ascribing to beauty such a nature (zȇtein gar moi dokeis toiouton ti to kalon apokrinasthai) that it will never appear ugly to anyone anywhere (ho mȇdepote aischron mȇdamou mȇdeni phaneitai)?’ – Soc. ‘Exactly (Panu men oun, ȏ Hippia), you catch my meaning admirably (kai kalȏs ge nun hupolambaneis).’ – Hip. ‘Now please attend (Akoue dȇ); if anyone can find any fault with what I say, I give you full leave to call me an imbecile (pros gar touto isthi, ean tis echȇi hoti anteipȇi, phanai eme mȇd’ hotioun epaїein).’ – Soc. ‘I am on tenterhooks (Lege dȇ hȏs tachista pros theȏn).’ – Hip. ‘Then I maintain (Legȏ toinun) that always (aei), everywhere, and for every man (kai panti kai pantachou) it is most beautiful (kalliston einai andri) to be rich (ploutounti), healthy (hugiainonti), honoured by the Greeks (timȏmenȏi hupo tȏn Hellȇnȏn), to reach old age (aphikomenȏi eis gȇras) and, after burying his parents nobly (tous hautou goneas teleutȇsantas kalȏs peristeilanti), himself to be borne to the tomb with solemn ceremony by his own children (hupo tȏn hautou ekgonȏn kalȏs kai megaloprepȏs taphȇnai).’ – Soc. ‘Bravo (Iou), bravo (iou), Hippias (ȏ Hippia); those are words wonderful, sublime, worthy of you (ȇ thaumasiȏs te kai megaleiȏs kai axiȏs sautou eirȇkas), and you have my grateful admiration for your kindness (kai nȇ tȇn Hȇran agamai sou hoti moi dokeis eunoїkȏs) in bringing all your ability to my assistance (kath’ hoson hoios t’ ei, boȇthein). Still (Alla gar), our shafts are not hitting our man (tou andros ou tunchanomen), and I warn you that now he will deride us more than ever (all’ hȇmȏn dȇ nun kai pleiston katagelasetai, eu isthi) (291d1-e7) … If he happens to have a stick with him (an tuchȇi baktȇrian echȏn), he will attempt to get at me with it very forcibly, unless I escape running away (an mȇ ekphugȏ pheugȏn auton, eu mala mou ephikesthai peirasetai, 292a6-7) … – Hip. ‘Then he will be punished for his wrongful assaults (Oukoun dȏsei dikȇn adikȏs ge se tuptȏn).’ – Soc. ‘I do not think so (Ou moi dokei), Hippias (ȏ Hippia) – emphatically not (ouk), if that were the answer I gave him (ei tauta ge apokrinaimȇn); I think his assault would be justified (alla dikaiȏs, emoige dokei).’ (292b4-6, all translations from the Greater Hippias are B. Jowett’s)
Socrates in the Phaedrus crowns his palinode on love by asserting: ‘If the victory be won by the higher elements of mind guiding them [i.e. the philosopher and his beloved] into the ordered rule of the philosophic life (ean men dȇ oun eis tetagmenȇn te diaitan kai philosophian nikȇsȇi ta beltiȏ tȇs dianoias agagonta), their days on earth will be blessed with happiness and concord (makarion men kai homonoȇtikon ton enthade bion diagousin); for the power of evil in the soul has been subjected, and the power of goodness liberated; they have won self-mastery and inward peace (enkrateis hautȏn kai kosmioi ontes, doulȏsamenoi men hȏi kakia psuchȇs enegigneto, eleutherȏsantes de hȏi aretȇ).’ (256a7-b3, tr. Hackforth) He ends the palinode by praying to Eros, the god of Love, that he turns Phaedrus’ beloved Lysias to philosophy as Lysias’ brother Polemarchus has been turned to it (epi philosophian de, hȏsper hadelphos autou Polemarchos tetraptai, trepson): ‘so that his lover here [i.e. Phaedrus] (hina kai ho erastȇs hode autou) may no longer waver as he does now between the two choices (mȇketi epamphoterizȇi kathaper nun), but may single-mindedly direct his life towards love accompanied by talk of a philosophical kind (all’ haplȏs pros Erȏta meta philosophȏn logȏn ton bion poiȇtai).’ (257b3-6, tr. Rowe)

The miserable end of Polemarchus in the hands of the Thirty in 404 B.C. cast a shadow on the view of philosophy in the Phaedrus, for the ancients generally believed that only a man who lived well and died well could be called blessed. Socrates was of a different view. In the Apology he declared that neither Meletus nor Anytus could injure him (eme men ouden an blapsaito oute Melȇtos oute Anutos): ‘for a bad man is not permitted to injure a better man than himself (ou gar oiomai themiton einai ameinoni andri hupo cheironos blaptesthai). I do not deny that Anytus may, perhaps, kill him (apokteineie ment’an isȏs), or drive him into exile (ȇ exelaseien), or deprive him of his civil rights (ȇ atimȏseien); and he may imagine (alla tauta houtos men isȏs oietai), and others may imagine (kai allos tis), that he is inflicting a great injury upon him (pou megala kaka): but there I do not agree (egȏ d’ ouk oiomai).’ (30c8-d4, tr. Jowett)

There can be little doubt that Plato’s Phaedrus was much discussed. The Greater Hippias indicates that Socrates was involved in such discussions, protesting his ignorance, attributing to the young Plato what the latter put into his mouth, if it was not his [not Socrates’], yet defending the dialogue against any aspersions on account of Polemarchus’ miserable end in the hands of the Thirty.

Hippias’ last definition of beauty in the Greater Hippias reads like a paraphrase of Solon’s definition of good life in Herodotus (I. 30); Socrates combatted it valiantly. Hippias: ‘I am quite sure (eu g’ oun oida), Socrates (ȏ Sȏkrates), that what I specified is beautiful to all, and will so appear to all (hoti pasi kalon tout’ esti, ho egȏ eipon kai doxei).’ – Socrates: ‘He [i.e. Socrates’ questioner, the son of Sophroniscus (ho Sȏphroniskou, 298b11), Socrates’ questioning self] will reply “And will be so in future? For beauty, I take it, is always beautiful (“Ê kai estai,” phȇsei, “aei gar pou to ge kalon kalon)? … And it was beautiful, too, in the past (“Oukoun kai ȇn,” phȇsei)? … So this stranger from Elis asserted that it would have been beautiful for Achilles to be buried after his parents (“Ê kai tȏi Achillei,” phȇsei, “ho xenos ho Êleios ephȇ kalon einai husterȏi tȏn progonȏn taphȇnai), and similarly for his grandfather Aeacus (kai tȏi pappȏi autou Aiakȏi), and for the other children of gods (kai tois allois hosoi ek theȏn gegonasi), and for the gods themselves (kai autois tois theois)?”’ (292e4-293a1)

Yet, in Plato’s Laws, the work of his ripe old age, the Athenian Stranger declared: ‘But to honour a man with hymns and panegyrics during his lifetime is to invite trouble (Tous ge mȇn eti zȏntas enkȏmiois te kai humnois timan ouk asphales): we must wait until he has come to the end of the course after running the race of life successfully (prin an hapanta tis ton bion diadramȏn telos epistȇsȇtai kalon).’ (802a1-3, tr. Trevor J. Saunders)

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Homer, and Socrates in Plato’s Cratylus, Apology, Crito, and Phaedo

Crito visited Socrates in prison, alarmed that the sacred ship on its return from Delos was to arrive ‘on the coming day’ (tȇs epiousȇs hȇmeras, Crito 44a5), which meant that Socrates would be put to death the next day. Socrates told him that it would not be the next day, but the day after that: ‘This I infer from a vision which I had last night (tekmairomai de ek tinos enupniou ho heȏraka oligon proteron tautȇs tȇs nuktos) … There appeared to me the likeness of a woman, fair and comely (Edokei tis moi gunȇ proselthousa kalȇ kai eueidȇs), clothed in bright raiment (leuka himatia echousa), who called to me and said (kalesai me kai eipein): “O Socrates (Ȏ Sȏkrates), ‘The third day hence to fertile Phthia shalt thou come’ (ȇmati ken tritatȏi Phthiȇn eribȏlon hikoio)” … There can be no doubt about the meaning, Crito, I think.’ (Crito 44a6-b4, tr. B. Jowett) The verse quoted by the woman in the dream recalls the words spoken by Achilles in Book IX of the Iliad. Insulted by Agamemnon, Achilles tells Odysseus that next morning he will see him and his ships leaving Troy: ‘The third day hence I shall reach the fertile Phthia’ (ȇmati ke tritatȏi Phthiȇn eribȏlon hikoimȇn, Il. IX, 363). Phthia in south Thesally was Achilleus’ home; Socrates viewed his forthcoming death as his coming home.

Socrates’ dream shows how deeply steeped he was in Homer, yet at the same time, how profoundly he differed from Homer in his view of the afterlife. In Book XI of the Odyssey, on his visit to the underworld Odysseus hailed the soul of Achilles: ‘Achilles, the most fortunate man that ever was or will be (seio d’ Achilleu, ou tis anȇr proparoithe makartatos out’ ar’ opissȏ)! For in the old days when you were on earth, we Argives honoured you as if you were a god (prin men gar se zȏon etiomen isa theoisin Argeioi); and now, down here, you are a mighty prince among the dead (nun aute mega krateeis nekuessin enthad’ eȏn). For you, Achilles, Death should have lost its sting (tȏi mȇ ti thanȏn akachizeu, Achilleu).’ The soul of Achilles replied: ‘My lord Odysseus, spare me your praise of death (mȇ dȇ moi thanaton parauda, phaidim’ Odusseu). Put me on earth again, and I would rather be a serf (bouloimȇn k’ eparouros eȏn thȇteuemen allȏi) in the house of some landless man (andri par’ aklȇrȏi), with little enough for himself to live on (hȏi mȇ biotos polus eiȇ), than king of all these dead men that have done with life (ȇ pasin nekuessi kataphthimenoisin anassein).’ (Od. XI, 482-491, tr. E. V. Rieu)

In Book X of the Odyssey Odysseus narrates that Circe told him that before he can sail home he must go ‘to the Halls of Hades and Persephone the Dread (eis Aїdao domous kai epainȇs Persephoneiȇs), to consult the soul of Teiresias (psuchȇi chrȇsomenos Thȇbaiou Teiresiao), the blind Theban prophet (mantȇos alaou), whose understanding even the death has not impaired (tou te phrenes empedoi eisi). For dead though he is (tȏi kai tethnȇȏti), Persephone has left to him, and him alone, a mind to reason with (noon pore Persephoneia oiȏi pepnusthai). The rest are mere shadows flitting to and fro (toi de skiai aїssousi)’. His reaction was as follows: ‘This news broke my heart (autar emoi kateklasthȇ philon ȇtor). I set down on the bed and wept (klaion d’ en lecheessi kathȇmenos) I had no further use for life, no wish to see the sunshine any more (oude nu moi kȇr ȇthel’ eti zȏein kai horan phaos ȇelioio).’ (Od. X, 491-8, tr. E. V. Rieu)

On entering the realm of the dead, Odysseus was filled with dread: ‘Panic drained the blood from my cheeks’ (eme de chlȏron deos hȇirei, XI, 43, tr. Rieu). He saw the soul of his mother, she did not seem to recognize him. Teiresias told him that he must let her drink the blood of the sacrificial victims: ‘Any ghost to whom you give access to the blood (hon tina men ken eais nekuȏn katatethnȇȏtȏn haimatos asson imen) will hold rational speech with you (ho de toi nȇmertes enipsei, 147-8, tr. Rieu).’ After having her drink of blood, his mother spoke to him: ‘As my mother spoke (Hȏs ephat’), there came to me out of the confusion in my heart the one desire (autar egȏ g’ ethelon phresi mermȇrixas), to embrace her spirit (mȇtros emȇs psuchȇn heleein), dead though she was (katatethnȇuȇs). Thrice, in my eagerness to clasp her to me, I started forward with my hands outstretched (tris men ephormȇthȇn, heleein te me thumos anȏgei). Thrice, like a shadow or a dream, she slipped through my arms (tris de moi ek cheirȏn skiȇi ikelon ȇ kai oneirȏi eptat’) and left me harrowed by an even sharper pain (emoi d’ achos oxu genesketo kȇrothi mallon). “Mother,” I cried in my despair (kai min phȏnesas epea pteroenta prosȇudȏn. “Mȇter emȇ), “why do you avoid me when I try to reach you (ti nu m’ ou mimneis heleein memaȏta), so that even in Hell (ophra kai ein Aїdao) we may throw our loving arms around each other’s neck (philas peri cheire balonte) and draw cold comfort from our tears (amphoterȏ krueroio tetarpȏmestha gooio)? Or is this a mere phantom that grim Persephone has sent me (ȇ ti moi eidȏlon tod’ agauȇ Persephoneia otrun’) to accentuate my grief (ophr’ eti mallon oduromenos stenachizȏ)?” – “My child, my child!” came the reply (Hȏs ephamȇn, hȇ d’ autik’ ameibeto potnia mȇtȇr: “ȏ moi, teknon emon). “What man on earth has more to bear than you (peri pantȏn kammore phȏtȏn)? This is no trick played on you by Persephone, Daughter of Zeus (ou ti se Persephoneia Dios thugatȇr apaphiskei). You are only witnessing here the law of our mortal nature (all’ hautȇ dikȇ esti brotȏn), when we come to die (hote tis ke thanȇisi). We no longer have sinews keeping the bones and flesh together (ou gar eti sarkas te kai ostea ines echousin), but once the life-force has departed from our white bones, all is consumed by the fierce heat of the blazing fire (alla ta men te puros krateron menos aithomenoio damnat’, epei ke prȏta lipȇi leuk’ ostea thumos), and the soul slips away like a dream and flutters on the air (psuchȇ d’ ȇüt’ oneiros apoptamenȇ pepotȇtai). But you must hasten back now to the light of day (alla phoȏsde tachista lilaieo). And bear in mind all you have learnt here (tauta de panta isth’), so that one day you can tell your wife (hina kai metopisthe teȇi eipȇistha gunaiki).” Such was the talk that we two had together (Nȏї men hȏs epeesin ameibometh’).’ (204-225, tre. Rieu)

Plato’s Cratylus, Apology, Crito, and Phaedo are all dramatically dated after Meletus had formally indicted Socrates. The views of afterlife, which Socrates expresses in these dialogues, profoundly differ from Homer’s views on this subject.

In the Cratylus Socrates begins his etymological analysis of Hades by considering the two very different names given to him, as he explains to Hermogenes: ‘Pluto gives wealth, which comes out of the earth beneath (to de Ploutȏnos, touto men kata tȇn tou ploutou dosin, hoti ek tȇs gȇs katȏthen anietai ho ploutos, epȏnomasthȇ). People in general appear to imagine that the term Hades is connected with the invisible (ho de ‘Haidȇs’, hoi polloi men moi dokousin hupolambanein to aїdes proseirȇsthai tȏi onomati toutȏi); and since they fear this name (kai phoboumenoi to onoma), they call the god Pluto instead (‘Ploutȏna’ kalousi auton).’ (Pl. Crat. 403a3-8, tr. B. Jowett)

The view adopted by ‘people in general’ (hoi polloi) concerning Hades is Homer’s view, for whom Hades is Aїdȇs (Invisible): ‘find your way to the Halls of Hades’ (hikesthai eis Aїdao domous, Hom. Od. X. 490-491). With the view derived from the name of Haidȇs Socrates challenged the Homeric view: ‘And the name, the Hades (Kai to ge onoma ho “Haidȇs”), is not derived from ‘invisible’, far from it (pollou dei apo tou aїdous epȏnomasthai), but much rather from ‘knowing’ all noble things’ (alla polu mallon apo tou panta ta kala eidenai [i.e. Haeidȇs > Haidȇs], 404b1-3).

Socrates in the Cratylus: ‘But my belief is that all is quite consistent, and that the office and the name of the god really correspond (ta d’ emoi dokei panta es t’auton ti sunteinein, kai hȇ archȇ tou theou kai to onoma).’ – Hermogenes: ‘Why, why is that (Pȏs dȇ)?’ – Socrates: ‘I will tell you (egȏ soi erȏ) my own opinion (ha ge moi phainetai); but first, I should like to ask you which chain does any animal feel to be the stronger? and which confines him more to the same spot, desire or necessity (eipe gar moi, desmos zȏiȏi hotȏioun hȏste menein hopououn, poteros ischuroteros estin, anankȇ ȇ epithumia)? – Hermogenes: ‘Desire, Socrates, is stronger far (Polu diapherei, ȏ Sȏkrates, hȇ epithumia).’ – Socrates: ‘And do you not think that many a one would escape from Hades (Oiei oun ton Haidȇn ouk an pollous ekpheugein), if he did not bind those who depart to him by the strongest of chains (ei mȇ tȏi ischurotatȏi desmȏi edei tous ekeise iontas) … And if by the strongest of chains, then by some desire (Epithumiai ara tini autous, hȏs eoike, dei, eiper tȏi megistȏi desmȏi dei) … And therefore by the greatest desire (Tȇi megistȇi ara epithumiai tȏn epithumiȏn dei autous), if the chain is to be the greatest (eiper mellei tȏi megistȏi desmȏi katechein) … And is there any desire stronger (Estin oun tis meizȏn epithumia) than the thought that you will be made better by associating with another (ȇ hotan tis tȏi sunȏn oiȇtai di’ ekeinon esesthai ameinȏn anȇr)?’ – Hermogenes: ‘Certainly not (Ma di’ oud’ hopȏstioun, ȏ Sȏkrates).’ – Socrates: ‘And is not that the reason, Hermogenes, why no one, who has been to him, is willing to come back to us (Dia tauta ara phȏmen, ȏ Hermogenes, oudena deuro ethelȇsai apelthein tȏn ekeithen)? Even the Sirens, like the rest of the world, have been laid under his spells (oude autas tas Seirȇnas, alla katakekȇlȇsthai ekeinas te kai tous allous pantas). Such a charm, as I imagine, is the God able to infuse into his words (houtȏ kalous tinas, hȏs eoiken, epistatai logous legein ho Haidȇs). And, according to this view, he is the perfect and accomplished sophist (kai estin, hȏs ek tou logou toutou, ho theos teleos sophistȇs te), and the great benefactor (kai megas euergetȇs) of the inhabitants of the other world (tȏn par autȏi); and even to us who are upon earth he sends from below exceeding blessings (hos ge kai tois enthade tosauta agatha aniȇsin). For he has much more than he wants down there (houtȏ polla autȏi ta perionta ekei estin); wherefore he is called Pluto (kai ton “Ploutȏna” apo toutou esche to onoma). Note also (kai to au), that he will have nothing to do with men while they are in the body (mȇ ethelein suneinai tois anthrȏpois echousi ta sȏmata), but only when the soul is liberated from the desires and evils of the body (alla tote sungignesthai, epeidan hȇ psuchȇ kathara ȇi pantȏn tȏn peri to sȏma kakȏn kai epithumiȏn). Do you not think that this marks him as a philosopher, who is well aware that in their liberated state he can bind them with the desire of virtue (ou philosophou dokei soi einai kai eu entethumȇmenou hoti houtȏ men an katechoi autous dȇsas tȇi peri aretȇn epithumiai), but while they are flustered and maddened by the body (echontas de tȇn tou sȏmatos ptoiȇsin kai manian), not even his father Cronos himself would suffice (oud’ an ho Kronos dunaito ho patȇr) to keep them with him (sunkatechein hautȏi) in his far-famed chains (en tois desmois dȇsas tois autou legomenois).’ (Pl.Crat. 403b7-404a6, tr. Jowett)

Found guilty, Socrates was to propose a punishment he would consider appropriate. He declared: ‘As I am convinced that I never wronged another (pepeismenos dȇ egȏ mȇdena adikein), I will assuredly not wrong myself (pollou deȏ emauton ge adikȇsein). I will not say of myself (kai kat’ emautou erein autos) that I deserve any evil (hȏs axios eimi tou kakou) or propose any penalty (kai timȇsesthai toioutou tinos emautȏi) … Why should I (ti deisas – ‘afraid of what’)? Because I am afraid of the penalty of death which Meletus proposes (ȇ mȇ pathȏ touto hou Melȇtos moi timatai)? When I do not know whether death is a good or an evil (ho phȇmi ouk eidenai out’ ei agathon out’ ei kakon estin), why should I propose a penalty which would certainly be an evil (anti toutou dȇ helȏmai hȏn eu oida ti kakȏn ontȏn toutou timȇsamenos).’ (Pl. Ap. 37b2-8, tr. B. Jowett)

Socrates does not know whether death is a good or an evil, but this does not stand in the way of his firm conviction that death is a good for him. Sentenced to death, Socrates had time to say a few words to those who found him not guilty: ‘There is great reason to hope that death is a good (pollȇ elpis estin agathon auto einai); for one of two things (duoin gar thateron estin to tethnanai) – either death is a state of nothingness and utter unconsciousness (ȇ gar hoion mȇden einai mȇde aisthȇsin mȇdemian mȇdenos echein ton tethneȏta), or, as men say (ȇ kata ta legomena), there is a change and migration of the soul from this world to another (metabolȇ tis tunchanei ousa kai metoikȇsis tȇi psuchȇi tou topou tou enthende eis allon topon). Now if you suppose that there is no consciousness (kai eite dȇ mȇdemia aisthȇsis estin), but a sleep like the sleep of him who is undisturbed even by dreams (all’ hoion hupnos epeidan tis katheudȏn mȇd’ onar mȇden horai), death will be an unspeakable gain (thaumasion kerdos an eiȇ ho thanatos) (40c4-d2) … But if death is the journey to another place (ei d’ au hoion apodȇmȇsai estin ho Thanatos enthende eis allon topon), and there, as men say, all the dead abide (kai alȇthȇ estin ta legomena, hȏs ara ekei eisi pantes hoi tethneȏtes), what good, O my friends and judges, can be greater than this (ti meizon agathon toutou eiȇ an, ȏ andres dikastai)? If indeed when the pilgrim arrives in the world below (ei gar tis aphikomenos eis Haidou), he is delivered from our earthly professors of justice (apallageis toutȏni tȏn phaskontȏn dikastȏn einai – ‘delivered from these so called judges’), and finds the true judges (heurȇsei tous hȏs alȇthȏs dikastas) who are said to give judgement there (hoiper kai legontai ekei dikazein), Minos (Minȏs te) and Rhadamantus (kai Radamanthus) and Aeacus (kai Aiakos) and Triptolemus (kai Triptolemos), and other sons of gods who were righteous in their own life (kai alloi hosoi tȏn hȇmitheȏn dikaioi egenonto en tȏi heautȏn biȏi), that pilgrimage will be worth making (ara phaulȇ an eiȇ hȇ apodȇmia;). What would not a man give if he might converse with Orpheus and Musaeus and Hesiod and Homer (ȇ au Orphei sungenesthai kai Mousaiȏi kai Hȇsiodȏi kai Homȇrȏi epi posȏi an tis dexait’ an humȏn)? Nay, if this be true, let me die again and again (egȏ men gar pollakis ethelȏ tethnanai ei taut’ estin alȇthȇ). I myself, too (epei emoige kai autȏi), shall find a wonderful interest (thaumastȇ an eiȇ hȇ diatribȇ autothi) in there meeting and conversing with Palamedes, and Ajax the son of Telamon, and any other ancient hero who has suffered death through an unjust judgement (hopote entuchoimi Palamȇdei kai Aianti tȏi Telamȏnos kai ei tis allos tȏn palaiȏn dia krisin adikon tethnȇken); and there will be no small pleasure, as I think, in comparing my own experience with theirs (antiparaballonti ta emautou pathȇ pros ta ekeinȏn – hȏs  egȏ oimai, ouk an aȇdes eiȇ). Above all (kai dȇ to megiston), I shall then be able to continue my search into the true and false knowledge, as in this world, so also in the next; and I shall find out who is wise, and who pretends to be wise, and is not (tous ekei exetazonta kai ereunȏnta hȏsper tous entautha diagen, tis autȏn sophos estin kai tis oietai men, estin d’ ou). What would not a man give, O judges (epi posȏi d’ an tis, ȏ andres dikastai, dexaito), to be able to examine the leader of the Trojan expedition (exetasai ton epi Troian agagonta tȇn pollȇn stratian); or Odysseus (ȇ Odussea) or Sisyphus (ȇ Sisuphon), or numberless others (ȇ allous murious an tis eipoi), men and women too (kai andras kai gunaikas)! What infinite delight would there be in conversing with them and asking them questions (hois ekei dialegesthai kai suneinai kai exetazein amȇchanon an eiȇ eudaimonias)! In another world they do not put a man to death for asking questions: assuredly not (pantȏs ou dȇpou toutou ge heneka hoi ekei apokteinuousi). For besides being happier than we are (ta te gar alla eudaimonesteroi eisin hoi ekei tȏn enthade), they will be immortal (kai ȇdȇ ton loipon chronon athanatoi eisin), if what is said is true (eiper ge ta legomena alȇthȇ).’ (40e4-41c7, tr. Jowett)

When Crito learnt that the sacred ship on its return from Delos was to arrive ‘on the coming day’, which meant that Socrates would be put to death the next day, he went to prison to persuade Socrates to make up his mind and escape from prison. His arguments were telling: ‘Nor can I think that you are at all justified, Socrates (Eti de, ȏ Sȏkrates, oude dikaion moi dokeis epicheirein pragma), in betraying your own life (sauton prodounai) when you might be saved (exon sȏthȇnai) … you are deserting your own children (kai tous huieis tous sautou emoige dokeis prodidonai); for you might bring them up and educate them (hous soi exon kai ekthrepsai kai ekpaideusai) … No man should bring children into the world who is unwilling to persevere to the end in their nurture and education (ȇ gar ou chrȇ poieisthai paidas ȇ sundiatalaipȏrein kai trephonta kai paideuonta). But you appear to be choosing the easier part (su de moi dokeis ta raithumotata haireisthai), not the better and manlier, which would have been more becoming in one who professes to care for virtue in all his life, like yourself (chrȇ de, haper an anȇr agathos kai andreios heloito, tauta haireisthai, phaskonta ge dȇ aretȇs dia pantos tou biou epimeleisthai).’ (Pl. Cr. 45c5-d8, tr. Jowett)

Socrates replies: ‘Dear Crito (Ȏ phile Kritȏn), your zeal is invaluable (hȇ prothumia sou pollou axia), if a right one (ei meta tinos orthotȇtos eiȇ); but if wrong (ei de mȇ), the greater the zeal (hosȏi meizȏn) the greater the danger (tosoutȏi chalepȏtera); and therefore we ought to consider (skopeisthai oun chrȇ hȇmas) whether I shall or shall not do as you say (eite tauta prakteon eite mȇ). For I am and always have been one of those natures (hȏs egȏ ou nun prȏton alla kai aei  toioutos) who must be guided by reason (hoios tȏn emȏn mȇdeni  allȏi peithesthai ȇ tȏi logȏi), whatever the reason may be which upon reflection appears to me to be the best (hos an moi logizomenȏi beltistos phainȇtai).’ (46b1-6, tr. Jowett)

In the end Socrates gives word to the Laws of Athens, who open their arguments with the words: ‘Tell us (Eipe moi), Socrates (ȏ Sȏkrates), what are you about (ti en nȏi echeis poiein)? are you not going by an act of yours to bring us to ruin – the laws (allo ti ȇ toutȏi tȏi ergȏi hȏi epicheireis dianoȇi tous te nomous hȇmas apolesai), and the whole state, as far as in you lies (kai sumpasan tȇn polin to son meros)? Do you imagine that a state can subsist and not be overthrown (ȇ dokei soi hoion te eti ekeinȇn tȇn polin einai kai mȇ anatetraphthai), in which the decisions of law have no power (en hȇi an hai genomenai dikai mȇden ischuȏsin), but are set aside and trampled upon by individuals (alla hupo idiȏtȏn akuroi te gignȏntai kai diaphtheirȏntai)? (50a8-b5) … Listen, then, Socrates, to us who have brought you up (All’, ȏ Sȏkrates, peithomenos hȇmin tois sois tropheusi). Think not of life and children first (mȇte paidas peri pleionos poiou mȇte to zȇn mȇte allo mȇden), and of justice afterwards, but of justice first (pro tou dikaiou), that you may so vindicate yourself before the princes of the world below (hina eis Haidou elthȏn echȇis panta tauta apologȇsasthai tois ekei archousin). For neither will you nor any that belong to you be happier or holier or juster in this life, or happier in another, if you do as Crito bids (oute gar enthade soi phainetai tauta prattonti ameinon einai oude dikaioteron oude hosiȏteron, oude allȏi tȏn sȏn oudeni, oute ekeise aphikomenȏi ameinon estai). Now you depart, if it must be so, in innocence, a sufferer and not a doer of evil (alla nun men ȇdikȇmenos apei, ean apiȇis); a victim, not of the laws but of men (ouch huph’ hȇmȏn tȏn nomȏn alla hup’ anthrȏpȏn). But if you leave the city, basely returning evil for evil and injury for injury (ean de exelthȇis houtȏs aischrȏs antadikȇsas te kai antikakourgȇsas), breaking the covenants and agreements which you have made with us (tas sautou homologias te kai sunthȇkas tas pros hȇmas parabas), and wrongdoing those whom you ought least of all to wrong (kai kaka ergasamenos toutous hous hȇkista edei), that is to say, yourself, your friends, your country, and us (sauton te kai philous kai patrida kai hȇmas), we shall be angry with you while you live (hȇmeis te soi chalepanoumen zȏnti), and our brethren, the laws in the world below, will give you no friendly welcome (kai ekei hoi hȇmeteroi adelphoi hoi en Haidou nomoi ouk eumenȏs se hupodexontai); for they will know (eidotes) that you have done your best to destroy us (hoti kai hȇmas epecheirȇsas apolesai to son meros). Listen, then, to us and not to Crito (alla mȇ se peisȇi Kritȏn poiein ha legei mallon ȇ hȇmeis).’

I have a problem with Jowett’s ‘the world below’ for Socrates’s Haidou (Ap. 41a1, Cr. 54b4 and c6), for Socrates’ view of the ‘realm of Hades’ was very different from Homer’s view, and there is every reason to believe that when he thought of himself as coming into the Hades’ realm, he didn’t think of himself as coming into the underworld.

The scene of the Phaedo is ‘the Pythagorean sunedrion [‘session’, ‘meeting’, literally ‘sitting together’] at Phlius’, as Burnet points out (Plato’s Phaedo, Oxford University Press, Twelfth impression 1977, ‘Notes’ p. 1). It opens with Echecrates (named as a Pythagorean philosopher in Diog. Laert. VIII. 46) addressing Phaedo: ‘Were you there with Socrates yourself, Phaedo (Autos, ȏ Phaidȏn, paregenou Sȏkratei), on the day (ekeinȇi tȇi hȇmerai) he drank the poison in the prison (hȇi to pharmakon epien en tȏi desmȏtȇriȏi), or did you hear of it from someone else (ȇ allou tou ȇkousas)?’ – Phaedo: ‘I was there myself (Autos), Echecrates (ȏ Echekrates).’ – Echecrates: ‘Then what was it (Ti oun dȇ estin) that he said before his death (hatta eipen ho anȇr pro tou thanatou)? And how did he meet his end (kai pȏs eteleuta)? (57a1-6) … Please do try, then, to give us as definite a report as you can of the whole thing (Tauta dȇ panta prothumȇthȇti hȏs saphestata hȇmin apangeilai), unless you happen to be otherwise engaged (ei mȇ tis soi ascholia tunchanei ousa).’ – Phaedo: ‘No, I am free (Alla scholazȏ ge), and I’ll try to describe it for you (kai peirasomai humin diȇgȇsasthai); indeed it’s always the greatest of pleasures for me to recall Socrates, whether speaking myself or listening to someone else (kai gar to memnȇsthai Sȏkratous kai auton legonta kai allou akouonta emoige aei pantȏn hȇdiston).’ – Echecrates: ‘Well (Alla mȇn), Phaedo (ȏ Phaidȏn), you certainly have an audience of the same mind (kai tous akousomenous ge toioutous heterous echeis): so try (alla peirȏ) to recount everything as minutely as you can (hȏs an dunȇi akribestata diexelthein panta).’ – Phaedo: ‘Very well then. I myself was curiously affected while I was there (Kai mȇn egȏge thaumasia epathon paragenomenos): it wasn’t pity that visited me, as might have been expected for someone present at the death of an intimate friend (oute gar hȏs thanatȏi paronta me andros epitȇdeiou eleos eisȇiei); because the man seemed to me happy (eudaimȏn gar moi hanȇr ephaineto), Echecrates (ȏ Echekrates), both in his manner (kai tou tropou) and his words (kai tȏn logȏn), so fearlessly (hȏs adeȏs) and nobly (kai gennaiȏs) was he meeting his end (eteleuta).’ (58d2-e4, tr. D. Gallop)

Socrates’ friends, Cebes and Simmias, were unhappy: ‘because you take so lightly (hoti houtȏ raidiȏs phereis) your leaving both us (kai hȇmas apoleipȏn) and the gods, who are good rulers by your own admission (kai archontas agathous, hȏs autos homologies, theous).’ – Socrates: ‘What you both say is fair (Dikaia legete); as I take you to mean that (oimai gar humas legein) I should defend myself against these charges as if in a court of law (hoti chrȇ me pros tauta apologȇsasthai hȏsper en dikastȇriȏi).’ – Simmias: ‘Yes, exactly (Panu men oun).’ – Socrates: ‘Very well then (Phere dȇ), let me try to defend myself more convincingly before you (peirathȏ pithanȏteron pros humas apologȇsasthai) than I did before the jury (ȇ pros tous dikastas). Because if I didn’t believe, Simmias and Cebes, that I shall enter the presence, first, of other gods both wise and good (egȏ gar, ȏ Simmia te kai Kebȇs, ei men mȇ ȏimȇn hȇxein prȏton men para theous allous sophous te kai agathous), and next of dead men better than those in this world (epeita kai par’ anthrȏpous teteleutȇkotas ameinous tȏn enthade), then I should be wrong not to be resentful at death (ȇdikoun an ouk aganaktȏn tȏi thanatȏi); but as it is (nun de), be assured (eu iste) that I expect to join the company of good men (hoti par’ andras elpizȏ aphixesthai agathous) – although that point I shouldn’t affirm with absolute conviction (kai touto men ouk an panu diischurisaimȇn); but that I shall enter the presence of gods who are very good masters (hoti mentoi para theous despotas panu agathous hȇxein), be assured (eu iste) that if there’s anything I should affirm on such matters (hoti eiper ti allo tȏn toioutȏn diischurisaimȇn an), it is that (kai touto). So that’s why I am not resentful (hȏste dia tauta ouch homoiȏs aganaktȏ), but rather am hopeful (all’ euelpis eimi) that there is something in store for those who’ve died (einai ti tois teteleutȇkosi) – in fact (kai), as we’ve long been told (hȏsper ge kai palai legetai), something far better for the good than for the wicked (polu ameinon tois agathois ȇ tois kakois).’ (63a8-c7, tr. D. Gallop)

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Two months with Homer’s Odyssey – afterthoughts

In the ‘Pursuit of Philosophy’ (published in the History of Political Thought, vol. V, No 3, Winter 1984, now available on my website) I wrote: ‘Homer’s Gods did not know contemplation for its own sake at all. Their thinking was of course superior to that of mortals, but in devising clever schemes, their thinking nowhere transcends a purely instrumental role. Consider, for contrast, Aristotle’s concept of pure self-reflective intellectual activity as the highest End, in order to appreciate the development which the Greeks made between the two. But note that it was Homer who marked the first gigantic step towards Aristotle. In Homer the Greeks could appreciate the experience of living for hours in the realm of the poetic word, thus transcending the actual reality of their daily concerns. At first glance it looks as if the gap between Homer’s Gods and Aristotle’s God consisted in the anthropomorphic shape of the former; Aristotle’s God transcends anthropomorphism reaching into the heights of abstract philosophic speculation. But in fact, Aristotle’s ‘thought thinking thought’ is equally anthropomorphic. Reflect on Aristotle’s ‘thought contemplating thought’ when you read his passages critical of Plato; how he must have relished contemplating his teacher’s thought.’ (p. 538)

I wrote these lines in 1983, but I expressed them orally in April 1980 in what was to be an introduction to a course of lectures/seminars on Aristotle. The ‘introduction’ took place in the Head-quarters of the Czechoslovak Police, where I and my students were taken after the police invaded my flat in Prague, thus interrupting the lecture on Aristotle’s Ethics that the Master of Balliol College from Oxford University was giving in my philosophy seminar. I put ‘introduction’ in quotation marks, for it was the last time I could talk to my students. For eight subsequent weeks our attempts to meet ended each time in 48 hour detentions in prison cells.

And so I can’t help it; whenever I take Homer into my hands, there always comes a point when my thoughts go back to that day. In the opening paragraph of the ‘Pursuit of Philosophy’ I wrote: ‘My discussion with Anthony Kenny on the right pursuit of philosophy took place in Prague in April 1980. At that time my philosophy seminar had been harassed by the Czech police but we still managed to meet. The arrival of the Master of Balliol was anticipated with great expectations. Some expected a catastrophe which would definitely finish my seminar. I could not imagine the police interfering once Kenny was granted the visas. That is why I hoped for a breakthrough. If the police refrained from harassing us in this case they would hardly interfere on future occasions. My aspirations would have been fulfilled. Prague would have had a place where once a week young people could come and openly discuss philosophy. That would have given us strength to be as free as the physical parameters of the situation allowed, free enough, I felt – even without the possibility to travel abroad, to publish and to speak in public – to confront the system with a problem of governing a society with free people in its midst. I hoped the regime could grow up to the task and so get positively transformed without falling apart in the process. Hoping for the continuation of my seminar I hoped for the optimal development in our country. Our philosophy seminar was a step on the road towards a society which would maintain the social and economic framework of socialism but would allow free development of individuals.’ (p. 527)

On the 25th of February I wrote to Dr Jakub Jirsa, the Director of the Institute for Philosophy and Religious Studies at the Faculty of Philosophy at Charles University:

‘Yesterday I put on my website two essays: ‘Plato’s defence of the Forms in the Parmenides’ and ‘’Plato and Dionysius’. Both can be found under the heading Texty v češtině (Texts in Czech). In both these essays I view Plato in a new way, and as such they need to be discussed. Therefore, I am addressing you with a request to allow me to present these two essays at your Institute. It would be great if you or another Platonic scholar opposed my views on Plato in discussions which I presume will follow my presentations. I hope you will respond positively to my request.’

Dr Jirsa replied: ‘Thank you for your offer. I have decided not to use it.’

I responded: ‘May I ask you to justify your decision?’

To this request I received no answer; I spent the rest of my days in Prague addressing Czech academics, beginning with the Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy and the Rector of Charles University, asking them to support me in my two requests addressed to Dr Jirsa, but to no avail. Before returning to England I wrote a short piece ‘K zamyšlení’ (‘For thought’, in English perhaps ‘Something to think about’) in which I wrote:

‘If you look at my website, you will find that I have devoted a number of years to Plato, Aristotle, and the whole cultural heritage of Ancient Greece. I can see that it is in a sense unfair to ask philosophers at the Institute for Philosophy and Religious Studies – who have so much else to think about: their careers, grants, writing and publishing, research stays at foreign universities – to discuss Plato and Aristotle with someone who devoted almost fifty years of intensive work to the subject. But is it fair to the students of Charles University to deprive them of the possibility to attend and take part in such an event?’ (See ‘3 My recent Prague venture’ posted on March 29.)

The first chapter of the ‘Pursuit of Philosophy’ is entitled ‘To Resume an Interrupted Discussion’. I sent an off-print of the article to Dr Kenny. I wrote to him that I didn’t think it right that the power of the Czechoslovak police to interrupt a philosophic discussion were to be respected even years after the interruption had taken place.

But apparently, to have a public discussion with me in those days was unthinkable – under the baton of Oxford philosophers, in Prague and Brno and Bratislava ‘secret’ philosophy seminars were taking place (‘secrecy’ jealously guarded by the Czech Secret Police, Oxford dons & Co?). After my departure from Prague to Oxford, on Thursday October 15, 1980 the Czechoslovak Communist Party cultural weekly Tvorba published a letter addressed by Professor Radovan Richta to Professor A. Diemer, President of the International Federation of Philosophic Societies. Richta wrote: ‘Tomin is a man who is worth nothing in philosophy … It is self-evident that Mr Tomin would not find the means to live for a single week if he were interesting merely for what he did in philosophy.’

I remember being taken to Paris by Alan Montefiore, a Balliol don who gave a lecture in my seminar in Prague in 1979; he wanted me to express my thanks to French philosophers. I was happy to comply, for I had a bad conscience concerning the French. Le Monde devoted a few lines to my visit; Jacques Derrida was incensed: ‘Who informed Le Monde? Do you want to destroy all our work in Prague?’

And so Dr Kenny made a compromise. He invited me to Balliol to read with me Aristotle’s Eudemian Ethics, just the two of us. We met weekly, it took a whole term. We read it together from alpha to omega. It was one of the most valuable experiences I had during my stay at Oxford.

Why did I have a bad conscience concerning the French? At the beginning of July 1975 I visited the French Library in Prague. Normally the only newspaper available to the public was the L’Humanité (a French Communist Party daily), but on this visit a door was open to the room in which I saw a pile of newspapers. I entered the room and for the first time in my life saw Le Monde. I opened one issue, and there I found an exchange of letters between Karel Kosík, perhaps the most important Marxist philosopher in Czechoslovakia of those days, and J.-P. Sartre. The headline said: A la suite de la confiscation par la police d’une partie de ses manuscrits Le philosoph tchéchoslovaque Karel Kosík écri à J.-P. Sartre <Mon existence a pris deux form: je suis mort et en mȇme temps je vis> (‘In consequence of the confiscation of some of his manuscripts by the police, the Czechoslovak philosopher Karel Kosík wrote to J.-P. Sartre <My existence acquired two forms: I am dead while at the same time I live>. The exchange of these letters had a profound impact on me. When I came home I wrote a letter to Rudé Právo, the Communist Party daily, in which I recounted the main points Kosík made: ‘He has been prevented from performing work that would correspond to his abilities. He has been excluded from participation in the activities of academic institutions. He cannot publish. One thousand pages of his manuscripts were confiscated by the police.’ I then asked whether all this was happening in accordance with the laws of the republic: ‘If it is not happening in accordance with our laws, what can I do as a Czechoslovak citizen to help promote the restoration of legality. If it is happening in accordance with our laws, which laws are these, and what can I do to facilitate such change of our laws that this treatment of a citizen of this country becomes precluded.’

It was as a result of this all that I visited Professor Machovec and some other proscribed philosophers, asking them to meet regularly and inform each other about our work. In consequence, the philosophy seminar in Pařížská Street was open. It was at the break of our early December meeting 1976 that Václav Havel, who occasionally visited the seminar, gave me to read a document Charter 77 and asked me, whether I was prepared to sign it. I liked it and signed it. In consequence, in early 1977 Milan Machovec was forced to close the seminar in Pařížská Street. And so I opened a philosophy seminar in my flat, in Keramická Street. Without the French Library and Kosík – Sartre letters in Le Monde there would have been no Oxford visits in the ‘secret seminars’ in Prague of 1980’s.

Secret seminars? Let me quote from Roger Scruton’s ‘A catacomb culture ‘ (TLS, February 16-22, 1990): ‘Following the example set by Kathleen Wilkes academics began to visit their Czechoslovak colleagues, many of whom they met in the seminar organized by Julius Tomin … The publicity-conscious Tomin then emigrated and … Four of the philosophers who had visited Tomin’s seminar – Kathleen Wilkes, Alan Montefiore, Bill-Newton Smith and myself … decided that, although our purpose was charitable … it should not be openly pursued, and that we should henceforth best help our Czechoslovak colleagues by working secretly … Visitors came from Holland, France, Britain, the United States and Germany … We therefore began to establish other, purely nominal organizations through which to pay official stipends, so that the names of our beneficiaries could not be linked either to us or to each other … In the mid-1980s, thanks to a generous grant from George Soros (who will surely be commemorated in future years, not only as a great Hungarian patriot, but also one of the saviours of Central Europe), we had expanded into Moravia … Last summer, however, the organizer of our work in Slovakia, Ján Čarnogurský, was arrested … But the blessed Agnes of Bohemia had just been canonized, and it was a time of miracles … Čarnogurský was released … By then another of our beneficiaries [Václav Havel] was President, and within weeks we were to see our friends occupying the highest offices in the land.’

As it appears, for all this to take place, my open seminar had to be destroyed, I had to be excluded from academic circles, had to be turned into a kind of Karel Kosík in the West – with no J.-P. Sartre around.

I still have not properly explained why I had a bad conscience concerning the French. The problem was that when I learnt French I learnt it merely passively. I would have loved to invite French philosophers to my seminar, but my French was not good enough for it. I did not want to be informed in advance of any foreign visit to my seminar, I had to be ‘prepared’ to translate any lecture a visitor to my seminar would be giving, without having it on paper – I did not want any prepared papers, I wanted each visitor to give us her/his best, without paper. I could do this in English and in German, that’s why I invited academics from Heidelberg and West Berlin, Oxford and Harvard universities to my seminar; I could not do it in French.

French textbooks helped me most during the 1970’s in my endeavour to learn Ancient Greek. In the French Library in Prague I had the complete Classics in the parallel French-Greek Budé edition, all there, just for myself. My French was good enough to elucidate for me the Greek text, but after performing that function, it fell off; it did not remain in my head as a foundation to which the Greek original would be attached.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Two months with Homer’s Odyssey

On July 13 I posted “4 ‘Being together’ in Plato’s Protagoras (with a glance at his Lesser Hippias and his Phaedo)”, which open with the words “Socrates describes what he and his friend saw when they entered Callias’ house: ‘When we came in we found Protagoras walking in the colonnade.’ When he says whom he saw next, he speaks in the singular: “And after him I recognized”, as Homer says, Hippias of Elis.”

It was at that point that I realized I had to read the passage in the Odyssey to which Socrates referred, if I were to understand the scene.

On July 23 I posted “1 Bertrand Russell on ‘The Theory of Ideas’ and Plato’s Republic” which open with the words ‘In the last few days I felt like Odysseus – roaming through centuries of thought. Plato’s Protagoras took me to Book XI of Homer’s Odyssey, and reading Homer aloud, just for myself, is always a treat. Odysseus’ encounter with the dead in that Book made me go back to see how Odysseus got there, and start at the beginning.’

On July 29 I posted ‘A few days with the 3rd Book of Homer’s Odyssey’ which open with the words ‘I left the Odyssey at the beginning of the 3rd Book when I turned to Russel’s History of Western Philosophy. After a day with Russell I turned back to the Odyssey.’ I found the 3rd book particularly enjoyable, and since I wanted to share my enjoyment with those who follow my blog, I had to translate passages I particularly liked, for I did not have any translation at hand. What prompted/challenged me to do so was Stanford’s note on Odyssey XI. 96: ‘Teiresias, being specially privileged, does not have to drink the blood before he can speak, but he desires to drink it as a strengthening tonic (cp. stories of vampires). The greatest classical scholar of recent years, Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff of Berlin, found a parable here for modern students of the Classics: the ancient authors cannot speak fully to us till they have drunk our heart’s blood – that is till they have entered into our feelings and emotions as well as our hearts.’

Doing classics in those days meant translating from Ancient Greek into German, from German into Ancient Greek. I have been firmly opposed to that practice; it is very laborious, and it leaves even its best practitioners unable to understand Greek directly in Greek; they must translate the Greek into the German/English/Czech, in order to understand it. But when one understands the Greek without translating it in one’s head, one can translate, if need be.

And so I did translate considerable amount of the 3rd book, and to my surprise I enjoyed every minute of it. But I did not feel like Homer drinking my blood, I felt like drinking Homer’s verses as a strengthening tonic.

The last book of the Odyssey opens with Hermes rousing up the souls of Penelope’s Suitors – killed by Odysseus and his son Telemachus – and marshalling them into the Hades. Here they found the souls of Achilles and Agamemnon. The latter was surrounded by the souls of those who died with him, slaughtered in Aegisthus’ house. The soul of Achilles spoke first: ‘Agamemnon, we used to think of you, among all our princes, as the life-long favourite of Zeus the Thunderer (Atreidȇ, peri men s’ ephamen Dii terpikeraunȏi andrȏn hȇrȏȏn philon emmenai ȇmata panta), because of the great and gallant army you commanded in Troyland when we Achaeans fought those hard campaigns (houneka polloisin te kai iphthimoisin anasses dȇmȏi eni Trȏȏn, hothi paschomen alge Achaioi). But you too were to be visited in your prime by the fell power whom no man born can evade (ȇ t’ ara kai soi prȏї parastȇsesthai emelle moir’ oloȇ, tȇn ou tis aleuetai hos ke genȇtai). How I wish you could have met your fate and died at Troy in the full enjoyment of your royal state (hȏs opheles timȇs aponȇmenos, hȇs per anasses, dȇmȏi eni Trȏȏn thanaton kai potmon epispein). For then the whole nation would have joined in building you a mound (tȏi ken toi tumbon men epoiȇsan Pananachaioi) and you would have left a great name for your son to inherit (ȇde ke kai sȏi paidi mega kleos ȇra opissȏ). But as things were, you were doomed to die a most appalling death (nun d’ ara s’ oiktistȏi thanatȏi heimarto halȏnai).’ (Odyssey XXIV, 24-34, tr. E. V. Rieu in Penguin Classics)

Reading a good translation is like having at hand a good commentary, or having a discussion with someone who spent years with Homer. I hope that those who have some Greek will enjoy the Greek original in brackets, for I believe that reading the text in English followed by the original, one meaningful phrase after another, and ending by reading the whole paragraph just in Greek, is the easiest and most pleasurable way of getting on the way of learning to understand Greek directly in Greek. Since the translation is not a laborious produce of your own mind, it will fall off and leave you in the end with just the Greek.

Agamemnon’s soul replied: ‘Illustrious Prince Achilles (olbie Pȇleos huie, theois epieikel’ Achilleu), yours was the happy death, in Troyland far away from Argos (hos thanes en Troiȇi hekas Argeos), with the flower of the Trojan and Achaean forces falling round you (amphi de s’ alloi kteinonto Trȏȏn kai Achaiȏn huies aristoi) in the battle for your corpse (marnamenoi peri seio). There in a whirl of dust you lay, great even in your fall (su d’ en strophalingi koniȇs keiso megas megalȏsti), thinking no longer of a charioteer’s delights (lelasmenos hipposunaȏn). And the whole day long we fought (hȇmeis de propan ȇmar emarnameth’). Indeed we never would have ceased (oude ke pampan pausametha ptolemou) had Zeus not stopped us with a storm (ei mȇ Zeus lailapi pausen). Then we carried you off from the battlefield to the ships (autar epei s’ epi nȇas eneikamen ek polemoio), cleaned your fair flesh with warm water and unguents, and lay you on a bed (katthemen en lecheessi, kathȇrantes chroa kalon hudati te liarȏi kai aleiphati). Your countrymen gathered around you (polla de s’ amphi); hot tears were shed (dakrua therma cheon Danaoi), and many locks of hair were cut (keiranto te chaitas). Your mother, when she heard the news, came up from the sea with the deathless Sea-Nymphs (mȇtȇr d’ ex halos ȇlthe sun athanatȇis haliȇisin angeliȇs aїousa), and a mysterious wailing rose from the waters (boȇ d’ epi ponton orȏrei thespesiȇ). The whole army was seized by the panic (hupo de tromos ellabe pantas Achaious) and would have fled on board the ships (kai nu k’ anaїxantes eban kolias epi nȇas), if one man, Nestor, had not used his knowledge of our ancient lore (ei mȇ anȇr kateruke palaia te polla te eidȏs, Nestȏr). And it was not the first time that his wisdom triumphed (hou kai prosthen aristȇ phaineto boulȇ). He came forward and checked them in his friendly way (ho sphin eüphroneȏn agorȇsato kai meteeipen). “Halt (ischest’), Argives (Argeioi)!” he shouted. “Achaeans, stand your ground (mȇ pheugete, kouroi Achaiȏn)! This is Achilles’ mother who has come out of the sea with her immortal Nymphs (mȇtȇr ex halos hȇde sun athanatȇis haliȇisin erchetai) to see her dead son’s face (hou paidos tethnȇotos antioȏsa).” He stopped the panic, and the troops plucked up their hearts (hȏs ephat’, hoi d’ eschonto phobou megathumoi Achaioi). They saw the Daughters of the Old Sea-god, dressed in the robes of immortality and shedding bitter tears, take up their stand around your corpse (amphi de s’ estȇsan kourai halioio gerontos oiktr’ olophuromenai, peri d’ ambrota heimata hessan). The Nine Muses too were there, chanting your dirge in sweet antiphony (Mousai d’ ennea pasai ameibomenai opi kalȇi thrȇneon), till not a dry eye was to be seen in all the Argive force (entha ken ou tin’ adakruton g’ enoȇsas Argeiȏn), so poignant was the Muse’s song (toion gar hupȏrore Mousa ligeia) (34-62) … Thus even death, Achilles, did not destroy your glory (hȏs su men oude thanȏn onom’ ȏlesas) and the whole world will honour you for ever (alla toi aiei pantas ep’ anthrȏpous kleos essetai esthlon). But what satisfaction is there now for me (autar emoi ti tod’ ȇdos) in having brought the war to a successful close (epei polemon tolupeusa)? For on my very journey home Zeus planned a miserable end for me (en nostȏi gar moi Zeus mȇsato lugron olethron), at the hands of Aegisthus (Aigisthou hupo chersi) and my unconscionable wife (kai oulomenȇs alochoio).’ (93-97)

At that point their talk was interrupted by the arrival of Hermes marshalling in the souls of the Suitors killed by Odysseus. The soul of Agamemnon recognized one of them, the son of Melaneus, who entertained him in his home in Ithaca: ‘Amphimedon, what catastrophe has brought you down into the bowels of the earth (Amphimedon, ti pathontes eremnȇn gaian edute) with this chosen band of men of your own age (pantes kekrimenoi kai homȇlikes, 105-6) … Or have you forgotten the time when (ȇ ou memnȇi hote) I came over to your house in Ithaca (keise katȇluthon humeteron dȏ) with King Menelaus to persuade Odysseus (otruneȏn Odusȇa sun antitheȏi Menelaȏi) to join forces with me in the naval expedition against Ilium (Ilion eis ham’ hepesthai eüsselmȏn epi nȇȏn)? It was a full month after that (mȇni d’ar oulȏi) before we had made the long sea passage (panta perȇsamen eurea ponton), so hard did we find it to win the man who is now styled the Sacker of Cities (spoudȇi parpepithontes Odyssȇa ptoliporthon).’

Homer thus opens the last book of the Odyssey by taking us into Hades, where the two main heroes of the Trojan war discuss their deaths. The soul of Achilles deplores Agamemnon’s abominable death, Agamemnon describes what happened when Achilles died, the battle between the Trojans and the Achaeans around his body, and then the glorious funeral. The arrival of the souls of the Suitors of Penelope provides Agamemnon with an opportunity to remember the days when he and his brother Menelaus came to Ithaca to persuade Odysseus to join their expedition against Troy. In Ithaka it all began, in Ithaka it all ends. The audience (the reader) is invited to embrace the whole Trojan war in one concentrated act of thought.

‘August and imperial Agamemnon (Atreidȇ kudiste, anax andrȏn Agamemnon),’ the soul of Amphimedon replied, ‘I well remember all that your majesty has referred to (memnȇmai tade panta, diotrephes, hȏs agoreueis), and will give you a full and honest account of the events (soi d’ egȏ eu mala panta kai atrekeȏs katalexȏ) that culminated in our tragic death (hȇmeterou thanatoio kakon telos, hoion etuchthȇ). In the prolonged absence of Odysseus we began to pay our addresses to his wife (mnȏmeth’ Odussȇos dȇn oichomenoio damarta).  These proved distasteful to her, but instead of refusing us outright, she schemed to bring about our downfall and our death (hȇ d’ out’ ȇrneito stugeron gamon out’ eteleuta, hȇmin phrazomenȇ thanaton kai kȇra melainan).’ (121-127)

And so we get the culminating story of the Odyssey re-narrated in Hades by the soul of one of Penelope’s Suitors, the victims of their own folly and criminal behaviour – Amphimedon omits informing Agamemnon of the Suitors’ designs against Telemachus, Odysseus’ son, whom they wanted to kill, and to distribute his property among themselves.

The soul of Amphimedon continues: ‘Here is a sample of the woman’s guile (alla dolon tond’ allon eni phresi mermȇrixe). On her loom at home she set up a great web and began weaving a large and delicate piece of work (stȇsamenȇ megan histon eni megaroisin huphaine, lepton kai perimetron). And she said to us (aphar d’ hȇmin meteeipe): “I should be grateful to you young lords who are courting me now that King Odysseus is dead (kouroi, emoi mnȇstȇres, epei thane dios Odusseus), if you could restrain your ardour for my hand (mimnet’ epeigomenoi ton emon gamon) till I have done this work (eis ho ke pharos ektelesȏ), so that the threads I have spun may not be utterly wasted (mȇ moi metamȏnia nȇmat’ olȇtai). It is a winding sheet for Lord Laerteus [the father of Odysseus] (Laertȇi hȇrȏї taphȇїon). When he succumbs to the dread hand of Death, which stretches all men out at last (eis hote ken min moir’ oloȇ kathelȇisi tanȇlegeos thanatoio), I must not risk the scandal there would be among my countrywomen here (mȇ tis moi kata dȇmon Achaiїadȏn nemesȇsȇi), if one who had amassed such wealth were put to rest without a shroud (ai ken ater speirou kȇtai polla kteatissas).” That is how she talked (hȏs ephat’), and we, like gentlemen, let her persuade us (hȇmin d’ aut’ epepeitheto thumos agȇnȏr), with the result that by day she wove at the great web (entha kai ȇmatiȇ men huphainesken megan histon), but every night had torches set beside it and undid the work (nuktas d’ alluesken, epei daidas paratheito). For three years she fooled us with this trick (hȏs trietes men elȇthe dolȏi kai epeithen Achaious). A fourth began (all’ hote tetraton ȇlthen etos), and the seasons were already slipping by (kai epȇluthon hȏrai, mȇnȏn phthinontȏn, peri d’ ȇmata poll’ etelesthȇ), when one of her women, who knew all about it, gave her mistress away (kai tote dȇ tis eeipe gunaikȏn, hȇ sapha ȇidȇ). We caught her unravelling her beautiful work (kai tȇn g’ alluousan epheuromen aglaon histon), and she was forced reluctantly to complete it (hȏs to men exetelesse kai ouk ethelous’, hup’ anankȇs). But no sooner had she woven the great web, laundered the robe and shown it to us gleaming like the sun or moon (euth’ hȇ pharos edeixen, huphȇnasa mega histon, plunas’, ȇeliȏi enalinkion ȇe selȇnȇi), than the powers of evil landed Odysseus out of the blue (kai tote dȇ r’ Odussȇa kakos pothen ȇgage daimȏn) in a distant corner of his estate where the swineherd had his cabin (agrou ep’ eschatiȇn, hothi dȏmata naie subȏtȇs). His son, Prince Telemachus, just back from sandy Pylos in his ship, made for the same spot too (enth’ ȇlthen philos huios Odussȇos theioio, ek Pulou ȇmathoentos iȏn sun nȇi melainȇi). They put their heads together, planned our assassination (tȏ de mnȇstȇrsin thanaton kakon artunante), and made their way to the city of Ithaca (hikonto proti astu perikluton), or rather, Telemachus served as vanguard and Odysseus followed later (ȇ toi Odusseus husteros, autar Tȇlemachos prosth’ hȇgemoneue). The swineherd brought him down disguised in rags (ton de subȏtȇs ȇge kaka chroї eimat’ echonta), and looking like a wretched old beggar (ptȏchȏi leugaleȏi enalinkion ȇde geronti) as he hobbled along with his staff (skȇptomenon). He was so disreputably dressed (ta de lugra peri chroї heimata hesto) that not a man in our party, not even the older members, could realize that this was Odysseus when he suddenly appeared among us (oude tis hȇmeiȏn dunato gnȏnai ton eonta exapinȇs prophanent’, oud hoi progenesteroi ȇsan). In fact we gave him the rough side of our tongues and threw things at his head (all’ epesin te kakoisin enissomen ȇde bolȇisin). For a while he had the self-control to put up patiently with this man-handling and abuse in his own palace (autar ho tȇos etolma eni megaroisin heoisi ballomenos kai enissomenos tetlȇoti thumȏi). But presently the spirit stirred within him (all’ hote dȇ min egeire Dios noos aigiochoio). With Telemachus’ help he removed the excellent weapons they possessed (sun men Tȇlemachȏi perikallea teuche’ aeiras) and stowed them in the arsenal behind locked doors (es thalamon katethȇke kai eklȇїse ochȇas). Then, for his own cunning purposes he prevailed on his wife (autar ho hȇn alochon polukerdeiȇisin anȏge) to challenge our skill with a bow and some grey iron axes (toxon mnȇstȇressi themen polion te sidȇron), toys that were to play a leading part in the slaughter of my unhappy company (hȇmin ainomoroisin aethlia kai phonou archȇn). Not one of us could string the mighty weapon (oude tis hȇmeiȏn dunato krateroio bioio neurȇn entanusai); indeed we were too weak by far (pollon d’ epideuees ȇmen). But when it came to handing the great bow to Odysseus (all’ hote cheiras hikanen Odussȇos mega toxon), we all protested loudly that he shouldn’t have it (enth’ hȇmeis men pantes homokleomenn epeessi toxon mȇ domenai), however much he argued (mȇd’ ei mala poll’ agoreuoi). Telemachus was the only one who encouraged him to take it (Tȇlemachos de min oios epotrunȏn ekeleusen). And so that great and reckless man got his hands on the bow (autar ho dexato cheiri polutlas dios Odusseus), which he strung without effort (rȇїdiȏs d’ etanusse bion), and shot through the iron marks (dia d’ hȇke sidȇrou). Then he leapt onto the threshold (stȇ d’ ar’ ep’ oudon iȏn) and with murder in his eyes poured out arrows (tacheas d’ ekcheuat’ oїstous deinon paptainȏn), and shot prince Antinous down (bale d’ Antinoon basilȇa); after which, aiming straight in every case, he let fly at the rest of us with his deadly shafts (autar epeit’ allois ephiei belea stonoenta, anta tituskomenos). We fell thick and fast (toi d’ anchistinoi epipton); and it was obvious that some god was on their side (gnȏton d’ ȇn ho ra tis sphi theȏn epitarrothos ȇen). For presently their fury gave them the confidence to charge through the hall (autika gar kata dȏmat’ epispomenoi meneї sphȏi) and they hacked us down right and left (kteinon epistrophadȇn). Skulls cracked, the hideous groans of dying men were heard (tȏn de stonos ornut’ aeikȇs kratȏn tuptomenȏn), and the whole floor ran with blood (dapedon d’ hapan haimati thuen). That, Agamemnon, is how we were destroyed (hȏs hȇmeis, Agamemnon, apȏlometh’). And our corpses still lie uncared for in Odysseus’ house (hȏn eti kai nun sȏmat’ akȇdea keitai eni megarois Odusȇos), since the news has not yet reached our several homes and brought our friends to wash the dark blood from our wounds, to lay our bodies out and mourn for us (ou gar pȏ isasi philoi kata dȏmat’ hekastou, hoi k’ aponipsantes melana broton ex ȏteilȏn katthemenoi goaoien), as is a dead man’s right (ho gar geras esti thanontȏn).’ (128-190)

‘Unconquerable Odysseus!’ the soul of Agamemnon cried. ‘Ah happy prince, blessed in Icarius’ daughter with a wife in whom all virtues meet, flawless Penelope, who has proved herself so good and wise (Ton d’ aute psuchȇ prosephȏneen Atreidao: ‘olbie Laertao paї,  polumȇchan’ Odusseu, ȇ ara sun megalȇi aretȇi ektȇsȏ akoitin, hȏs agathai phrenes ȇsan amumoni Pȇnelopeiȇi, kourȇi Ikariou), so faithful to her wedded love (hȏs eu memnȇt’ Odusȇos, Andros kouridiou)! Her glory will not fade with the years (tȏi hoi kleos ou pot’ oleitai hȇs aretȇs), but the deathless gods themselves will make a song for mortal ears, to grace Penelope the constant queen (teuxousi d’ epichthonioisi aoidȇn athanatoi chariessan echephroni Pȇnelopeiȇi). What a contrast with Clytaemnestra and the infamy she sank to when she killed her wedded lord (ouch hȏs Tundareou kourȇ kaka mȇsato erga, kouridion kteinasa posin)! Her name will be cursed wherever she is sung (stugerȇ de t’ aoidȇ esset’ ep’ anthrȏpous). She has branded all her sex, with every honest woman in it (chalepȇn de te phȇmin opassei thȇluterȇisi gunaixi, kai hȇ k’ euergos eȇisin).’ (191-202)

While this was happening in the underworld, Odysseus with his son Telemachus and his two trusty servants reached the farmland of Laertes, the father of Odysseus. Odysseus sent his company to the house to kill the best pig and prepare the meal; he himself went searching for his father in the fields: ‘I shall try an experiment with my father (autar egȏ patros peirȇsomai hȇmeteroio), to find out whether he will remember me and realize who it is when he sees me (ai ke m’ epignȏȇi kai phrassetai ophthalmoisi), or fail to know me after so long an absence (ȇe ken agnoiȇisi polun chronon amphis eonta, 216-218)’ … Laertes was still hoeing round his plant with his head down (ȇ toi ho men katechȏn kephalȇn phuton amphelachaine), as his famous son came up and accosted him (ton de paristamenos  prosephȏnee phaidimos huios). ‘Old man’, said Odysseus, (ȏ geron) ‘you have everything so tidy here that I can see there is little about gardening that you do not know (ouk adaȇmoniȇ s’ echei amphipoleuein orchaton, all’ eu toi komidȇ echei). There is nothing (oude ti pampan), not a green thing in the whole enclosure, not a fig, olive, vine, pear, or vegetable bed that does not show signs of your care (ou phuton, ou sukeȇ, ouk ampelos, ou men elaiȇ, oud’ onchnȇ, ou prasiȇ toi aneu komidȇs kata kȇpon). On the other hand I cannot help remarking (allo de toi ereȏ), I hope without offence (su de mȇ cholon entheo thumȏi), that you don’t look after yourself very well (auton s’ ouk agathȇ komidȇ echei); in fact, what with your squalor and your wretched clothes, old age has hit you very hard (all’ hama gȇras lugron echeis auchmeis te kakȏs kai aeikea hessai). (242-250)

It may seem preposterous to do all this work in the hope that someone may find it an easy way of improving their Greek. But in fact, I enjoy every minute of it, for it allows me to observe the differences between the translator’s view of the narrative and the original. Sometimes the difference is insubstantial; thus Rieu translates Odysseus’ allo de toi ereȏ, which means ‘but I shall tell you something else’, with a more urbane ‘On the other hand I cannot help remarking’. Sometimes the difference lies in the different ways the Greeks and the English interact with each other; thus Rieu translates Odysseus’ su de mȇ cholon entheo thumȏi, which means literally ‘but don’t put anger into your mind’, ‘I hope without offence’. But there are points where the translator misrepresents the original. Thus Rieu translates Odysseus’ auton s’ ouk agathȇ komidȇ echei, which means ‘you are not well cared for’, ‘you don’t look after yourself very well’. Odysseus next words show plainly that Rieu got this point wrong: ‘Yet it can’t be on account of any laziness that your master neglects you (ou men aergiȇs ge anax henek ou se komizei, 251).’

One more remark. I follow the English with the original in brackets as closely as possible, sometimes the text allows me to follow single words, short phrases, yet sometimes I must take recourse to the whole sentences. Thus in the sentence ‘There is nothing (oude ti pampan), not a green thing in the whole enclosure, not a fig, olive, vine, pear, or vegetable bed that does not show signs of your care (ou phuton, ou sukeȇ, ouk ampelos, ou men elaiȇ, oud’ onchnȇ, ou prasiȇ toi aneu komidȇs kata kȇpon)’, ‘There is nothing’ is followed by (oude ti pampan), which gives its meaning. But in the following I must take the whole rest of the sentence as it stands in English, because Rieu’s ‘in the whole enclosure’ is in the middle of it, whereas its counterpart kata kȇpon closes the sentence in the original. At this point it is particularly deplorable, for Rieu does not follow the sequence of plants as it stands in the original: ‘not a green thing (ou phuton), not a fig tree (ou sukeȇ), not a vine (ouk ampelos), not an olive tree (ou men elaiȇ), not a pear tree (oud’ onchnȇ), or vegetable bed (ou prasiȇ)’.

Odysseus asks Laertes whether he is really in Ithaca, as he was told by a man he met. He wants to know, for ‘Some time ago in my own country I befriended a stranger (andra pot’ exeinissa philȇi en patridi gaiȇi) who turned up in our place (hȇmeterond’ elthonta) and proved most attractive visitor I have ever entertained from abroad (kai ou pȏ tis brotos allos xeinȏn tȇledapȏn philiȏn emon hiketo dȏma). He said he was an Ithacan (eucheto d’ ex Ithakȇs genos emmenai), and that Arceisius’ son Laertes was his father (autar ephaske Laertȇn Arkeisiadȇn pater’ emmenai autȏi). I took him in, made him thoroughly welcome and gave him every hospitality (ton men egȏ pros dȏmat’ agȏn eü exeinissa, endukeȏs phileȏn) that my rich house could afford (pollȏn kata oikon eontȏn), including presents worthy of his rank (kai hoi dȏra poron xeinȇїa, hoia eȏikei)’ (266-273) … ‘Sir,’ said his father to Odysseus, with tears in his cheeks (Ton d’ ȇmeibet’ epeita patȇr kata dakruon eibȏn), ‘I can assure you that you’re in the place you asked for (xein’, ȇ toi men gaian hikaneis hȇn ereeineis); but it’s in the hands of rogues and criminals (hubristai d’ autȇn kai atasthaloi andres echousi). The gifts you lavished on your friend were given in vain (dȏra d’ etȏsia tauta charizeo, muri’ opazȏn), though, had you found him alive in Ithaca (ei gar min zȏon g’ ekicheis Ithakȇs eni dȇmȏi), he would never have let you go before he had made you an ample return in presents and hospitality (tȏi ken s’ eu dȏroisin ameipsamenos apepempse kai xeniȇi agathȇi), as is right (hȏs gar themis) when such an example has been set (hos tis huparxȇi). But pray tell me exactly how long ago it was that you befriended the unfortunate man (all’ age moi tode eipe kai atrekeȏs katalexon, poston dȇ etos estin, hote xeinissas ekeinon son xeinon dustȇnon), for that guest of yours was my unhappy son – if I ever had one (emon paid’, ei pot’ eȇn ge, dusmoron) – my son, who far from friends and home (hon pou tȇle philȏn kai patridos aiȇs) has been devoured by fishes in the sea (ȇe pou en pontȏi phagon ichthues) or fallen a prey, may be, to the wild beasts and birds on land (ȇ epi chersou thȇrsi kai oiȏnoisin helȏr genet’). Dead people have their dues, but not Odysseus. We had no chance, we two that brought him into this world, to wrap his body up and wail for him, nor had his richly dowered wife, constant Penelope, the chance to close her husband’s eyes and give him on his bier the seemly tribute of a dirge (oude he mȇtȇr klause peristeilasa patȇr th’, hoi min tekomestha, oud’ alochos poludȏros, echephrȏn Pȇnelopeia, kȏkus’ en lecheessin heon posin, hȏs epeȏikei, ophthalmous kathelousa, to gar geras esti thanontȏn) (280-296) … ‘I am quite willing,’ said the resourceful Odysseus, ‘to tell you all you wish to know (Ton d’ apameibomenos prosephȇ polumȇtis Odusseus: ‘Toigar egȏ toi panta mal atreekeȏs katalexȏ) (302-3) … As for Odysseus, it is four years and more (autar Odussȇї tode dȇ pempton etos estin) since he bade me farewell and left my country (ex hou keithen ebȇ kai emȇs apelȇluthe patrȇs) – to fall on evil days, it seems (dusmoros). And yet the omens when he left were good (ȇ te hoi esthloi esan ornithes ionti), birds on the right (dexioi), which pleased me as I said goodbye (hois chairȏn men egȏn apepempon ekeinon), and cheered him as he started out (chaire de keinos iȏn). We both had every hope (thumos d’ eti nȏїn eȏlpei) that we should meet again as host and guest and give each other splendid gifts (mixesthai xeniȇi ȇd’ aglaa dȏra didȏsein).’ (309-314)
Rieu’s ‘I … cheered him as he started out’ stands for chaire de keinos iȏn, which means ‘and he was glad to be going’ (313). If I had an opportunity to teach students, I would give them as homework chosen passages of translations of Homer (Plato etc.), ask them to do what I have been doing just now, and then in class discuss the given translation in its relation to the original.