Part 2 out of 2
we tell of the petty causes of lovers' jealousies, and of their exceeding
animosities, and of the injuries which they do to their beloved, have
imagined that our ideas of love were taken from some haunt of sailors to
which good manners were unknown--he would certainly never have admitted the
justice of our censure?
PHAEDRUS: I dare say not, Socrates.
SOCRATES: Therefore, because I blush at the thought of this person, and
also because I am afraid of Love himself, I desire to wash the brine out of
my ears with water from the spring; and I would counsel Lysias not to
delay, but to write another discourse, which shall prove that 'ceteris
paribus' the lover ought to be accepted rather than the non-lover.
PHAEDRUS: Be assured that he shall. You shall speak the praises of the
lover, and Lysias shall be compelled by me to write another discourse on
the same theme.
SOCRATES: You will be true to your nature in that, and therefore I believe
PHAEDRUS: Speak, and fear not.
SOCRATES: But where is the fair youth whom I was addressing before, and
who ought to listen now; lest, if he hear me not, he should accept a non-
lover before he knows what he is doing?
PHAEDRUS: He is close at hand, and always at your service.
SOCRATES: Know then, fair youth, that the former discourse was the word of
Phaedrus, the son of Vain Man, who dwells in the city of Myrrhina
(Myrrhinusius). And this which I am about to utter is the recantation of
Stesichorus the son of Godly Man (Euphemus), who comes from the town of
Desire (Himera), and is to the following effect: 'I told a lie when I
said' that the beloved ought to accept the non-lover when he might have the
lover, because the one is sane, and the other mad. It might be so if
madness were simply an evil; but there is also a madness which is a divine
gift, and the source of the chiefest blessings granted to men. For
prophecy is a madness, and the prophetess at Delphi and the priestesses at
Dodona when out of their senses have conferred great benefits on Hellas,
both in public and private life, but when in their senses few or none. And
I might also tell you how the Sibyl and other inspired persons have given
to many an one many an intimation of the future which has saved them from
falling. But it would be tedious to speak of what every one knows.
There will be more reason in appealing to the ancient inventors of names
(compare Cratylus), who would never have connected prophecy (mantike) which
foretells the future and is the noblest of arts, with madness (manike), or
called them both by the same name, if they had deemed madness to be a
disgrace or dishonour;--they must have thought that there was an inspired
madness which was a noble thing; for the two words, mantike and manike, are
really the same, and the letter tau is only a modern and tasteless
insertion. And this is confirmed by the name which was given by them to
the rational investigation of futurity, whether made by the help of birds
or of other signs--this, for as much as it is an art which supplies from
the reasoning faculty mind (nous) and information (istoria) to human
thought (oiesis) they originally termed oionoistike, but the word has been
lately altered and made sonorous by the modern introduction of the letter
Omega (oionoistike and oionistike), and in proportion as prophecy (mantike)
is more perfect and august than augury, both in name and fact, in the same
proportion, as the ancients testify, is madness superior to a sane mind
(sophrosune) for the one is only of human, but the other of divine origin.
Again, where plagues and mightiest woes have bred in certain families,
owing to some ancient blood-guiltiness, there madness has entered with holy
prayers and rites, and by inspired utterances found a way of deliverance
for those who are in need; and he who has part in this gift, and is truly
possessed and duly out of his mind, is by the use of purifications and
mysteries made whole and exempt from evil, future as well as present, and
has a release from the calamity which was afflicting him. The third kind
is the madness of those who are possessed by the Muses; which taking hold
of a delicate and virgin soul, and there inspiring frenzy, awakens lyrical
and all other numbers; with these adorning the myriad actions of ancient
heroes for the instruction of posterity. But he who, having no touch of
the Muses' madness in his soul, comes to the door and thinks that he will
get into the temple by the help of art--he, I say, and his poetry are not
admitted; the sane man disappears and is nowhere when he enters into
rivalry with the madman.
I might tell of many other noble deeds which have sprung from inspired
madness. And therefore, let no one frighten or flutter us by saying that
the temperate friend is to be chosen rather than the inspired, but let him
further show that love is not sent by the gods for any good to lover or
beloved; if he can do so we will allow him to carry off the palm. And we,
on our part, will prove in answer to him that the madness of love is the
greatest of heaven's blessings, and the proof shall be one which the wise
will receive, and the witling disbelieve. But first of all, let us view
the affections and actions of the soul divine and human, and try to
ascertain the truth about them. The beginning of our proof is as follows:-
(Translated by Cic. Tus. Quaest.) The soul through all her being is
immortal, for that which is ever in motion is immortal; but that which
moves another and is moved by another, in ceasing to move ceases also to
live. Only the self-moving, never leaving self, never ceases to move, and
is the fountain and beginning of motion to all that moves besides. Now,
the beginning is unbegotten, for that which is begotten has a beginning;
but the beginning is begotten of nothing, for if it were begotten of
something, then the begotten would not come from a beginning. But if
unbegotten, it must also be indestructible; for if beginning were
destroyed, there could be no beginning out of anything, nor anything out of
a beginning; and all things must have a beginning. And therefore the self-
moving is the beginning of motion; and this can neither be destroyed nor
begotten, else the whole heavens and all creation would collapse and stand
still, and never again have motion or birth. But if the self-moving is
proved to be immortal, he who affirms that self-motion is the very idea and
essence of the soul will not be put to confusion. For the body which is
moved from without is soulless; but that which is moved from within has a
soul, for such is the nature of the soul. But if this be true, must not
the soul be the self-moving, and therefore of necessity unbegotten and
immortal? Enough of the soul's immortality.
Of the nature of the soul, though her true form be ever a theme of large
and more than mortal discourse, let me speak briefly, and in a figure. And
let the figure be composite--a pair of winged horses and a charioteer. Now
the winged horses and the charioteers of the gods are all of them noble and
of noble descent, but those of other races are mixed; the human charioteer
drives his in a pair; and one of them is noble and of noble breed, and the
other is ignoble and of ignoble breed; and the driving of them of necessity
gives a great deal of trouble to him. I will endeavour to explain to you
in what way the mortal differs from the immortal creature. The soul in her
totality has the care of inanimate being everywhere, and traverses the
whole heaven in divers forms appearing--when perfect and fully winged she
soars upward, and orders the whole world; whereas the imperfect soul,
losing her wings and drooping in her flight at last settles on the solid
ground--there, finding a home, she receives an earthly frame which appears
to be self-moved, but is really moved by her power; and this composition of
soul and body is called a living and mortal creature. For immortal no such
union can be reasonably believed to be; although fancy, not having seen nor
surely known the nature of God, may imagine an immortal creature having
both a body and also a soul which are united throughout all time. Let
that, however, be as God wills, and be spoken of acceptably to him. And
now let us ask the reason why the soul loses her wings!
The wing is the corporeal element which is most akin to the divine, and
which by nature tends to soar aloft and carry that which gravitates
downwards into the upper region, which is the habitation of the gods. The
divine is beauty, wisdom, goodness, and the like; and by these the wing of
the soul is nourished, and grows apace; but when fed upon evil and foulness
and the opposite of good, wastes and falls away. Zeus, the mighty lord,
holding the reins of a winged chariot, leads the way in heaven, ordering
all and taking care of all; and there follows him the array of gods and
demi-gods, marshalled in eleven bands; Hestia alone abides at home in the
house of heaven; of the rest they who are reckoned among the princely
twelve march in their appointed order. They see many blessed sights in the
inner heaven, and there are many ways to and fro, along which the blessed
gods are passing, every one doing his own work; he may follow who will and
can, for jealousy has no place in the celestial choir. But when they go to
banquet and festival, then they move up the steep to the top of the vault
of heaven. The chariots of the gods in even poise, obeying the rein, glide
rapidly; but the others labour, for the vicious steed goes heavily,
weighing down the charioteer to the earth when his steed has not been
thoroughly trained:--and this is the hour of agony and extremest conflict
for the soul. For the immortals, when they are at the end of their course,
go forth and stand upon the outside of heaven, and the revolution of the
spheres carries them round, and they behold the things beyond. But of the
heaven which is above the heavens, what earthly poet ever did or ever will
sing worthily? It is such as I will describe; for I must dare to speak the
truth, when truth is my theme. There abides the very being with which true
knowledge is concerned; the colourless, formless, intangible essence,
visible only to mind, the pilot of the soul. The divine intelligence,
being nurtured upon mind and pure knowledge, and the intelligence of every
soul which is capable of receiving the food proper to it, rejoices at
beholding reality, and once more gazing upon truth, is replenished and made
glad, until the revolution of the worlds brings her round again to the same
place. In the revolution she beholds justice, and temperance, and
knowledge absolute, not in the form of generation or of relation, which men
call existence, but knowledge absolute in existence absolute; and beholding
the other true existences in like manner, and feasting upon them, she
passes down into the interior of the heavens and returns home; and there
the charioteer putting up his horses at the stall, gives them ambrosia to
eat and nectar to drink.
Such is the life of the gods; but of other souls, that which follows God
best and is likest to him lifts the head of the charioteer into the outer
world, and is carried round in the revolution, troubled indeed by the
steeds, and with difficulty beholding true being; while another only rises
and falls, and sees, and again fails to see by reason of the unruliness of
the steeds. The rest of the souls are also longing after the upper world
and they all follow, but not being strong enough they are carried round
below the surface, plunging, treading on one another, each striving to be
first; and there is confusion and perspiration and the extremity of effort;
and many of them are lamed or have their wings broken through the ill-
driving of the charioteers; and all of them after a fruitless toil, not
having attained to the mysteries of true being, go away, and feed upon
opinion. The reason why the souls exhibit this exceeding eagerness to
behold the plain of truth is that pasturage is found there, which is suited
to the highest part of the soul; and the wing on which the soul soars is
nourished with this. And there is a law of Destiny, that the soul which
attains any vision of truth in company with a god is preserved from harm
until the next period, and if attaining always is always unharmed. But
when she is unable to follow, and fails to behold the truth, and through
some ill-hap sinks beneath the double load of forgetfulness and vice, and
her wings fall from her and she drops to the ground, then the law ordains
that this soul shall at her first birth pass, not into any other animal,
but only into man; and the soul which has seen most of truth shall come to
the birth as a philosopher, or artist, or some musical and loving nature;
that which has seen truth in the second degree shall be some righteous king
or warrior chief; the soul which is of the third class shall be a
politician, or economist, or trader; the fourth shall be a lover of
gymnastic toils, or a physician; the fifth shall lead the life of a prophet
or hierophant; to the sixth the character of poet or some other imitative
artist will be assigned; to the seventh the life of an artisan or
husbandman; to the eighth that of a sophist or demagogue; to the ninth that
of a tyrant--all these are states of probation, in which he who does
righteously improves, and he who does unrighteously, deteriorates his lot.
Ten thousand years must elapse before the soul of each one can return to
the place from whence she came, for she cannot grow her wings in less; only
the soul of a philosopher, guileless and true, or the soul of a lover, who
is not devoid of philosophy, may acquire wings in the third of the
recurring periods of a thousand years; he is distinguished from the
ordinary good man who gains wings in three thousand years:--and they who
choose this life three times in succession have wings given them, and go
away at the end of three thousand years. But the others (The philosopher
alone is not subject to judgment (krisis), for he has never lost the vision
of truth.) receive judgment when they have completed their first life, and
after the judgment they go, some of them to the houses of correction which
are under the earth, and are punished; others to some place in heaven
whither they are lightly borne by justice, and there they live in a manner
worthy of the life which they led here when in the form of men. And at the
end of the first thousand years the good souls and also the evil souls both
come to draw lots and choose their second life, and they may take any which
they please. The soul of a man may pass into the life of a beast, or from
the beast return again into the man. But the soul which has never seen the
truth will not pass into the human form. For a man must have intelligence
of universals, and be able to proceed from the many particulars of sense to
one conception of reason;--this is the recollection of those things which
our soul once saw while following God--when regardless of that which we now
call being she raised her head up towards the true being. And therefore
the mind of the philosopher alone has wings; and this is just, for he is
always, according to the measure of his abilities, clinging in recollection
to those things in which God abides, and in beholding which He is what He
is. And he who employs aright these memories is ever being initiated into
perfect mysteries and alone becomes truly perfect. But, as he forgets
earthly interests and is rapt in the divine, the vulgar deem him mad, and
rebuke him; they do not see that he is inspired.
Thus far I have been speaking of the fourth and last kind of madness, which
is imputed to him who, when he sees the beauty of earth, is transported
with the recollection of the true beauty; he would like to fly away, but he
cannot; he is like a bird fluttering and looking upward and careless of the
world below; and he is therefore thought to be mad. And I have shown this
of all inspirations to be the noblest and highest and the offspring of the
highest to him who has or shares in it, and that he who loves the beautiful
is called a lover because he partakes of it. For, as has been already
said, every soul of man has in the way of nature beheld true being; this
was the condition of her passing into the form of man. But all souls do
not easily recall the things of the other world; they may have seen them
for a short time only, or they may have been unfortunate in their earthly
lot, and, having had their hearts turned to unrighteousness through some
corrupting influence, they may have lost the memory of the holy things
which once they saw. Few only retain an adequate remembrance of them; and
they, when they behold here any image of that other world, are rapt in
amazement; but they are ignorant of what this rapture means, because they
do not clearly perceive. For there is no light of justice or temperance or
any of the higher ideas which are precious to souls in the earthly copies
of them: they are seen through a glass dimly; and there are few who, going
to the images, behold in them the realities, and these only with
difficulty. There was a time when with the rest of the happy band they saw
beauty shining in brightness,--we philosophers following in the train of
Zeus, others in company with other gods; and then we beheld the beatific
vision and were initiated into a mystery which may be truly called most
blessed, celebrated by us in our state of innocence, before we had any
experience of evils to come, when we were admitted to the sight of
apparitions innocent and simple and calm and happy, which we beheld shining
in pure light, pure ourselves and not yet enshrined in that living tomb
which we carry about, now that we are imprisoned in the body, like an
oyster in his shell. Let me linger over the memory of scenes which have
But of beauty, I repeat again that we saw her there shining in company with
the celestial forms; and coming to earth we find her here too, shining in
clearness through the clearest aperture of sense. For sight is the most
piercing of our bodily senses; though not by that is wisdom seen; her
loveliness would have been transporting if there had been a visible image
of her, and the other ideas, if they had visible counterparts, would be
equally lovely. But this is the privilege of beauty, that being the
loveliest she is also the most palpable to sight. Now he who is not newly
initiated or who has become corrupted, does not easily rise out of this
world to the sight of true beauty in the other; he looks only at her
earthly namesake, and instead of being awed at the sight of her, he is
given over to pleasure, and like a brutish beast he rushes on to enjoy and
beget; he consorts with wantonness, and is not afraid or ashamed of
pursuing pleasure in violation of nature. But he whose initiation is
recent, and who has been the spectator of many glories in the other world,
is amazed when he sees any one having a godlike face or form, which is the
expression of divine beauty; and at first a shudder runs through him, and
again the old awe steals over him; then looking upon the face of his
beloved as of a god he reverences him, and if he were not afraid of being
thought a downright madman, he would sacrifice to his beloved as to the
image of a god; then while he gazes on him there is a sort of reaction, and
the shudder passes into an unusual heat and perspiration; for, as he
receives the effluence of beauty through the eyes, the wing moistens and he
warms. And as he warms, the parts out of which the wing grew, and which
had been hitherto closed and rigid, and had prevented the wing from
shooting forth, are melted, and as nourishment streams upon him, the lower
end of the wing begins to swell and grow from the root upwards; and the
growth extends under the whole soul--for once the whole was winged. During
this process the whole soul is all in a state of ebullition and
effervescence,--which may be compared to the irritation and uneasiness in
the gums at the time of cutting teeth,--bubbles up, and has a feeling of
uneasiness and tickling; but when in like manner the soul is beginning to
grow wings, the beauty of the beloved meets her eye and she receives the
sensible warm motion of particles which flow towards her, therefore called
emotion (imeros), and is refreshed and warmed by them, and then she ceases
from her pain with joy. But when she is parted from her beloved and her
moisture fails, then the orifices of the passage out of which the wing
shoots dry up and close, and intercept the germ of the wing; which, being
shut up with the emotion, throbbing as with the pulsations of an artery,
pricks the aperture which is nearest, until at length the entire soul is
pierced and maddened and pained, and at the recollection of beauty is again
delighted. And from both of them together the soul is oppressed at the
strangeness of her condition, and is in a great strait and excitement, and
in her madness can neither sleep by night nor abide in her place by day.
And wherever she thinks that she will behold the beautiful one, thither in
her desire she runs. And when she has seen him, and bathed herself in the
waters of beauty, her constraint is loosened, and she is refreshed, and has
no more pangs and pains; and this is the sweetest of all pleasures at the
time, and is the reason why the soul of the lover will never forsake his
beautiful one, whom he esteems above all; he has forgotten mother and
brethren and companions, and he thinks nothing of the neglect and loss of
his property; the rules and proprieties of life, on which he formerly
prided himself, he now despises, and is ready to sleep like a servant,
wherever he is allowed, as near as he can to his desired one, who is the
object of his worship, and the physician who can alone assuage the
greatness of his pain. And this state, my dear imaginary youth to whom I
am talking, is by men called love, and among the gods has a name at which
you, in your simplicity, may be inclined to mock; there are two lines in
the apocryphal writings of Homer in which the name occurs. One of them is
rather outrageous, and not altogether metrical. They are as follows:
'Mortals call him fluttering love,
But the immortals call him winged one,
Because the growing of wings (Or, reading pterothoiton, 'the movement of
wings.') is a necessity to him.'
You may believe this, but not unless you like. At any rate the loves of
lovers and their causes are such as I have described.
Now the lover who is taken to be the attendant of Zeus is better able to
bear the winged god, and can endure a heavier burden; but the attendants
and companions of Ares, when under the influence of love, if they fancy
that they have been at all wronged, are ready to kill and put an end to
themselves and their beloved. And he who follows in the train of any other
god, while he is unspoiled and the impression lasts, honours and imitates
him, as far as he is able; and after the manner of his God he behaves in
his intercourse with his beloved and with the rest of the world during the
first period of his earthly existence. Every one chooses his love from the
ranks of beauty according to his character, and this he makes his god, and
fashions and adorns as a sort of image which he is to fall down and
worship. The followers of Zeus desire that their beloved should have a
soul like him; and therefore they seek out some one of a philosophical and
imperial nature, and when they have found him and loved him, they do all
they can to confirm such a nature in him, and if they have no experience of
such a disposition hitherto, they learn of any one who can teach them, and
themselves follow in the same way. And they have the less difficulty in
finding the nature of their own god in themselves, because they have been
compelled to gaze intensely on him; their recollection clings to him, and
they become possessed of him, and receive from him their character and
disposition, so far as man can participate in God. The qualities of their
god they attribute to the beloved, wherefore they love him all the more,
and if, like the Bacchic Nymphs, they draw inspiration from Zeus, they pour
out their own fountain upon him, wanting to make him as like as possible to
their own god. But those who are the followers of Here seek a royal love,
and when they have found him they do just the same with him; and in like
manner the followers of Apollo, and of every other god walking in the ways
of their god, seek a love who is to be made like him whom they serve, and
when they have found him, they themselves imitate their god, and persuade
their love to do the same, and educate him into the manner and nature of
the god as far as they each can; for no feelings of envy or jealousy are
entertained by them towards their beloved, but they do their utmost to
create in him the greatest likeness of themselves and of the god whom they
honour. Thus fair and blissful to the beloved is the desire of the
inspired lover, and the initiation of which I speak into the mysteries of
true love, if he be captured by the lover and their purpose is effected.
Now the beloved is taken captive in the following manner:--
As I said at the beginning of this tale, I divided each soul into three--
two horses and a charioteer; and one of the horses was good and the other
bad: the division may remain, but I have not yet explained in what the
goodness or badness of either consists, and to that I will now proceed.
The right-hand horse is upright and cleanly made; he has a lofty neck and
an aquiline nose; his colour is white, and his eyes dark; he is a lover of
honour and modesty and temperance, and the follower of true glory; he needs
no touch of the whip, but is guided by word and admonition only. The other
is a crooked lumbering animal, put together anyhow; he has a short thick
neck; he is flat-faced and of a dark colour, with grey eyes and blood-red
complexion (Or with grey and blood-shot eyes.); the mate of insolence and
pride, shag-eared and deaf, hardly yielding to whip and spur. Now when the
charioteer beholds the vision of love, and has his whole soul warmed
through sense, and is full of the prickings and ticklings of desire, the
obedient steed, then as always under the government of shame, refrains from
leaping on the beloved; but the other, heedless of the pricks and of the
blows of the whip, plunges and runs away, giving all manner of trouble to
his companion and the charioteer, whom he forces to approach the beloved
and to remember the joys of love. They at first indignantly oppose him and
will not be urged on to do terrible and unlawful deeds; but at last, when
he persists in plaguing them, they yield and agree to do as he bids them.
And now they are at the spot and behold the flashing beauty of the beloved;
which when the charioteer sees, his memory is carried to the true beauty,
whom he beholds in company with Modesty like an image placed upon a holy
pedestal. He sees her, but he is afraid and falls backwards in adoration,
and by his fall is compelled to pull back the reins with such violence as
to bring both the steeds on their haunches, the one willing and
unresisting, the unruly one very unwilling; and when they have gone back a
little, the one is overcome with shame and wonder, and his whole soul is
bathed in perspiration; the other, when the pain is over which the bridle
and the fall had given him, having with difficulty taken breath, is full of
wrath and reproaches, which he heaps upon the charioteer and his fellow-
steed, for want of courage and manhood, declaring that they have been false
to their agreement and guilty of desertion. Again they refuse, and again
he urges them on, and will scarce yield to their prayer that he would wait
until another time. When the appointed hour comes, they make as if they
had forgotten, and he reminds them, fighting and neighing and dragging them
on, until at length he on the same thoughts intent, forces them to draw
near again. And when they are near he stoops his head and puts up his
tail, and takes the bit in his teeth and pulls shamelessly. Then the
charioteer is worse off than ever; he falls back like a racer at the
barrier, and with a still more violent wrench drags the bit out of the
teeth of the wild steed and covers his abusive tongue and jaws with blood,
and forces his legs and haunches to the ground and punishes him sorely.
And when this has happened several times and the villain has ceased from
his wanton way, he is tamed and humbled, and follows the will of the
charioteer, and when he sees the beautiful one he is ready to die of fear.
And from that time forward the soul of the lover follows the beloved in
modesty and holy fear.
And so the beloved who, like a god, has received every true and loyal
service from his lover, not in pretence but in reality, being also himself
of a nature friendly to his admirer, if in former days he has blushed to
own his passion and turned away his lover, because his youthful companions
or others slanderously told him that he would be disgraced, now as years
advance, at the appointed age and time, is led to receive him into
communion. For fate which has ordained that there shall be no friendship
among the evil has also ordained that there shall ever be friendship among
the good. And the beloved when he has received him into communion and
intimacy, is quite amazed at the good-will of the lover; he recognises that
the inspired friend is worth all other friends or kinsmen; they have
nothing of friendship in them worthy to be compared with his. And when
this feeling continues and he is nearer to him and embraces him, in
gymnastic exercises and at other times of meeting, then the fountain of
that stream, which Zeus when he was in love with Ganymede named Desire,
overflows upon the lover, and some enters into his soul, and some when he
is filled flows out again; and as a breeze or an echo rebounds from the
smooth rocks and returns whence it came, so does the stream of beauty,
passing through the eyes which are the windows of the soul, come back to
the beautiful one; there arriving and quickening the passages of the wings,
watering them and inclining them to grow, and filling the soul of the
beloved also with love. And thus he loves, but he knows not what; he does
not understand and cannot explain his own state; he appears to have caught
the infection of blindness from another; the lover is his mirror in whom he
is beholding himself, but he is not aware of this. When he is with the
lover, both cease from their pain, but when he is away then he longs as he
is longed for, and has love's image, love for love (Anteros) lodging in his
breast, which he calls and believes to be not love but friendship only, and
his desire is as the desire of the other, but weaker; he wants to see him,
touch him, kiss him, embrace him, and probably not long afterwards his
desire is accomplished. When they meet, the wanton steed of the lover has
a word to say to the charioteer; he would like to have a little pleasure in
return for many pains, but the wanton steed of the beloved says not a word,
for he is bursting with passion which he understands not;--he throws his
arms round the lover and embraces him as his dearest friend; and, when they
are side by side, he is not in a state in which he can refuse the lover
anything, if he ask him; although his fellow-steed and the charioteer
oppose him with the arguments of shame and reason. After this their
happiness depends upon their self-control; if the better elements of the
mind which lead to order and philosophy prevail, then they pass their life
here in happiness and harmony--masters of themselves and orderly--enslaving
the vicious and emancipating the virtuous elements of the soul; and when
the end comes, they are light and winged for flight, having conquered in
one of the three heavenly or truly Olympian victories; nor can human
discipline or divine inspiration confer any greater blessing on man than
this. If, on the other hand, they leave philosophy and lead the lower life
of ambition, then probably, after wine or in some other careless hour, the
two wanton animals take the two souls when off their guard and bring them
together, and they accomplish that desire of their hearts which to the many
is bliss; and this having once enjoyed they continue to enjoy, yet rarely
because they have not the approval of the whole soul. They too are dear,
but not so dear to one another as the others, either at the time of their
love or afterwards. They consider that they have given and taken from each
other the most sacred pledges, and they may not break them and fall into
enmity. At last they pass out of the body, unwinged, but eager to soar,
and thus obtain no mean reward of love and madness. For those who have
once begun the heavenward pilgrimage may not go down again to darkness and
the journey beneath the earth, but they live in light always; happy
companions in their pilgrimage, and when the time comes at which they
receive their wings they have the same plumage because of their love.
Thus great are the heavenly blessings which the friendship of a lover will
confer upon you, my youth. Whereas the attachment of the non-lover, which
is alloyed with a worldly prudence and has worldly and niggardly ways of
doling out benefits, will breed in your soul those vulgar qualities which
the populace applaud, will send you bowling round the earth during a period
of nine thousand years, and leave you a fool in the world below.
And thus, dear Eros, I have made and paid my recantation, as well and as
fairly as I could; more especially in the matter of the poetical figures
which I was compelled to use, because Phaedrus would have them. And now
forgive the past and accept the present, and be gracious and merciful to
me, and do not in thine anger deprive me of sight, or take from me the art
of love which thou hast given me, but grant that I may be yet more esteemed
in the eyes of the fair. And if Phaedrus or I myself said anything rude in
our first speeches, blame Lysias, who is the father of the brat, and let us
have no more of his progeny; bid him study philosophy, like his brother
Polemarchus; and then his lover Phaedrus will no longer halt between two
opinions, but will dedicate himself wholly to love and to philosophical
PHAEDRUS: I join in the prayer, Socrates, and say with you, if this be for
my good, may your words come to pass. But why did you make your second
oration so much finer than the first? I wonder why. And I begin to be
afraid that I shall lose conceit of Lysias, and that he will appear tame in
comparison, even if he be willing to put another as fine and as long as
yours into the field, which I doubt. For quite lately one of your
politicians was abusing him on this very account; and called him a 'speech
writer' again and again. So that a feeling of pride may probably induce
him to give up writing speeches.
SOCRATES: What a very amusing notion! But I think, my young man, that you
are much mistaken in your friend if you imagine that he is frightened at a
little noise; and, possibly, you think that his assailant was in earnest?
PHAEDRUS: I thought, Socrates, that he was. And you are aware that the
greatest and most influential statesmen are ashamed of writing speeches and
leaving them in a written form, lest they should be called Sophists by
SOCRATES: You seem to be unconscious, Phaedrus, that the 'sweet elbow' (A
proverb, like 'the grapes are sour,' applied to pleasures which cannot be
had, meaning sweet things which, like the elbow, are out of the reach of
the mouth. The promised pleasure turns out to be a long and tedious
affair.) of the proverb is really the long arm of the Nile. And you appear
to be equally unaware of the fact that this sweet elbow of theirs is also a
long arm. For there is nothing of which our great politicians are so fond
as of writing speeches and bequeathing them to posterity. And they add
their admirers' names at the top of the writing, out of gratitude to them.
PHAEDRUS: What do you mean? I do not understand.
SOCRATES: Why, do you not know that when a politician writes, he begins
with the names of his approvers?
PHAEDRUS: How so?
SOCRATES: Why, he begins in this manner: 'Be it enacted by the senate,
the people, or both, on the motion of a certain person,' who is our author;
and so putting on a serious face, he proceeds to display his own wisdom to
his admirers in what is often a long and tedious composition. Now what is
that sort of thing but a regular piece of authorship?
SOCRATES: And if the law is finally approved, then the author leaves the
theatre in high delight; but if the law is rejected and he is done out of
his speech-making, and not thought good enough to write, then he and his
party are in mourning.
PHAEDRUS: Very true.
SOCRATES: So far are they from despising, or rather so highly do they
value the practice of writing.
PHAEDRUS: No doubt.
SOCRATES: And when the king or orator has the power, as Lycurgus or Solon
or Darius had, of attaining an immortality or authorship in a state, is he
not thought by posterity, when they see his compositions, and does he not
think himself, while he is yet alive, to be a god?
PHAEDRUS: Very true.
SOCRATES: Then do you think that any one of this class, however ill-
disposed, would reproach Lysias with being an author?
PHAEDRUS: Not upon your view; for according to you he would be casting a
slur upon his own favourite pursuit.
SOCRATES: Any one may see that there is no disgrace in the mere fact of
PHAEDRUS: Certainly not.
SOCRATES: The disgrace begins when a man writes not well, but badly.
SOCRATES: And what is well and what is badly--need we ask Lysias, or any
other poet or orator, who ever wrote or will write either a political or
any other work, in metre or out of metre, poet or prose writer, to teach us
PHAEDRUS: Need we? For what should a man live if not for the pleasures of
discourse? Surely not for the sake of bodily pleasures, which almost
always have previous pain as a condition of them, and therefore are rightly
SOCRATES: There is time enough. And I believe that the grasshoppers
chirruping after their manner in the heat of the sun over our heads are
talking to one another and looking down at us. What would they say if they
saw that we, like the many, are not conversing, but slumbering at mid-day,
lulled by their voices, too indolent to think? Would they not have a right
to laugh at us? They might imagine that we were slaves, who, coming to
rest at a place of resort of theirs, like sheep lie asleep at noon around
the well. But if they see us discoursing, and like Odysseus sailing past
them, deaf to their siren voices, they may perhaps, out of respect, give us
of the gifts which they receive from the gods that they may impart them to
PHAEDRUS: What gifts do you mean? I never heard of any.
SOCRATES: A lover of music like yourself ought surely to have heard the
story of the grasshoppers, who are said to have been human beings in an age
before the Muses. And when the Muses came and song appeared they were
ravished with delight; and singing always, never thought of eating and
drinking, until at last in their forgetfulness they died. And now they
live again in the grasshoppers; and this is the return which the Muses make
to them--they neither hunger, nor thirst, but from the hour of their birth
are always singing, and never eating or drinking; and when they die they go
and inform the Muses in heaven who honours them on earth. They win the
love of Terpsichore for the dancers by their report of them; of Erato for
the lovers, and of the other Muses for those who do them honour, according
to the several ways of honouring them;--of Calliope the eldest Muse and of
Urania who is next to her, for the philosophers, of whose music the
grasshoppers make report to them; for these are the Muses who are chiefly
concerned with heaven and thought, divine as well as human, and they have
the sweetest utterance. For many reasons, then, we ought always to talk
and not to sleep at mid-day.
PHAEDRUS: Let us talk.
SOCRATES: Shall we discuss the rules of writing and speech as we were
PHAEDRUS: Very good.
SOCRATES: In good speaking should not the mind of the speaker know the
truth of the matter about which he is going to speak?
PHAEDRUS: And yet, Socrates, I have heard that he who would be an orator
has nothing to do with true justice, but only with that which is likely to
be approved by the many who sit in judgment; nor with the truly good or
honourable, but only with opinion about them, and that from opinion comes
persuasion, and not from the truth.
SOCRATES: The words of the wise are not to be set aside; for there is
probably something in them; and therefore the meaning of this saying is not
hastily to be dismissed.
PHAEDRUS: Very true.
SOCRATES: Let us put the matter thus:--Suppose that I persuaded you to buy
a horse and go to the wars. Neither of us knew what a horse was like, but
I knew that you believed a horse to be of tame animals the one which has
the longest ears.
PHAEDRUS: That would be ridiculous.
SOCRATES: There is something more ridiculous coming:--Suppose, further,
that in sober earnest I, having persuaded you of this, went and composed a
speech in honour of an ass, whom I entitled a horse beginning: 'A noble
animal and a most useful possession, especially in war, and you may get on
his back and fight, and he will carry baggage or anything.'
PHAEDRUS: How ridiculous!
SOCRATES: Ridiculous! Yes; but is not even a ridiculous friend better
than a cunning enemy?
SOCRATES: And when the orator instead of putting an ass in the place of a
horse, puts good for evil, being himself as ignorant of their true nature
as the city on which he imposes is ignorant; and having studied the notions
of the multitude, falsely persuades them not about 'the shadow of an ass,'
which he confounds with a horse, but about good which he confounds with
evil,--what will be the harvest which rhetoric will be likely to gather
after the sowing of that seed?
PHAEDRUS: The reverse of good.
SOCRATES: But perhaps rhetoric has been getting too roughly handled by us,
and she might answer: What amazing nonsense you are talking! As if I
forced any man to learn to speak in ignorance of the truth! Whatever my
advice may be worth, I should have told him to arrive at the truth first,
and then come to me. At the same time I boldly assert that mere knowledge
of the truth will not give you the art of persuasion.
PHAEDRUS: There is reason in the lady's defence of herself.
SOCRATES: Quite true; if only the other arguments which remain to be
brought up bear her witness that she is an art at all. But I seem to hear
them arraying themselves on the opposite side, declaring that she speaks
falsely, and that rhetoric is a mere routine and trick, not an art. Lo! a
Spartan appears, and says that there never is nor ever will be a real art
of speaking which is divorced from the truth.
PHAEDRUS: And what are these arguments, Socrates? Bring them out that we
may examine them.
SOCRATES: Come out, fair children, and convince Phaedrus, who is the
father of similar beauties, that he will never be able to speak about
anything as he ought to speak unless he have a knowledge of philosophy.
And let Phaedrus answer you.
PHAEDRUS: Put the question.
SOCRATES: Is not rhetoric, taken generally, a universal art of enchanting
the mind by arguments; which is practised not only in courts and public
assemblies, but in private houses also, having to do with all matters,
great as well as small, good and bad alike, and is in all equally right,
and equally to be esteemed--that is what you have heard?
PHAEDRUS: Nay, not exactly that; I should say rather that I have heard the
art confined to speaking and writing in lawsuits, and to speaking in public
assemblies--not extended farther.
SOCRATES: Then I suppose that you have only heard of the rhetoric of
Nestor and Odysseus, which they composed in their leisure hours when at
Troy, and never of the rhetoric of Palamedes?
PHAEDRUS: No more than of Nestor and Odysseus, unless Gorgias is your
Nestor, and Thrasymachus or Theodorus your Odysseus.
SOCRATES: Perhaps that is my meaning. But let us leave them. And do you
tell me, instead, what are plaintiff and defendant doing in a law court--
are they not contending?
PHAEDRUS: Exactly so.
SOCRATES: About the just and unjust--that is the matter in dispute?
SOCRATES: And a professor of the art will make the same thing appear to
the same persons to be at one time just, at another time, if he is so
inclined, to be unjust?
SOCRATES: And when he speaks in the assembly, he will make the same things
seem good to the city at one time, and at another time the reverse of good?
PHAEDRUS: That is true.
SOCRATES: Have we not heard of the Eleatic Palamedes (Zeno), who has an
art of speaking by which he makes the same things appear to his hearers
like and unlike, one and many, at rest and in motion?
PHAEDRUS: Very true.
SOCRATES: The art of disputation, then, is not confined to the courts and
the assembly, but is one and the same in every use of language; this is the
art, if there be such an art, which is able to find a likeness of
everything to which a likeness can be found, and draws into the light of
day the likenesses and disguises which are used by others?
PHAEDRUS: How do you mean?
SOCRATES: Let me put the matter thus: When will there be more chance of
deception--when the difference is large or small?
PHAEDRUS: When the difference is small.
SOCRATES: And you will be less likely to be discovered in passing by
degrees into the other extreme than when you go all at once?
PHAEDRUS: Of course.
SOCRATES: He, then, who would deceive others, and not be deceived, must
exactly know the real likenesses and differences of things?
PHAEDRUS: He must.
SOCRATES: And if he is ignorant of the true nature of any subject, how can
he detect the greater or less degree of likeness in other things to that of
which by the hypothesis he is ignorant?
PHAEDRUS: He cannot.
SOCRATES: And when men are deceived and their notions are at variance with
realities, it is clear that the error slips in through resemblances?
PHAEDRUS: Yes, that is the way.
SOCRATES: Then he who would be a master of the art must understand the
real nature of everything; or he will never know either how to make the
gradual departure from truth into the opposite of truth which is effected
by the help of resemblances, or how to avoid it?
PHAEDRUS: He will not.
SOCRATES: He then, who being ignorant of the truth aims at appearances,
will only attain an art of rhetoric which is ridiculous and is not an art
PHAEDRUS: That may be expected.
SOCRATES: Shall I propose that we look for examples of art and want of
art, according to our notion of them, in the speech of Lysias which you
have in your hand, and in my own speech?
PHAEDRUS: Nothing could be better; and indeed I think that our previous
argument has been too abstract and wanting in illustrations.
SOCRATES: Yes; and the two speeches happen to afford a very good example
of the way in which the speaker who knows the truth may, without any
serious purpose, steal away the hearts of his hearers. This piece of good-
fortune I attribute to the local deities; and, perhaps, the prophets of the
Muses who are singing over our heads may have imparted their inspiration to
me. For I do not imagine that I have any rhetorical art of my own.
PHAEDRUS: Granted; if you will only please to get on.
SOCRATES: Suppose that you read me the first words of Lysias' speech.
PHAEDRUS: 'You know how matters stand with me, and how, as I conceive,
they might be arranged for our common interest; and I maintain that I ought
not to fail in my suit, because I am not your lover. For lovers repent--'
SOCRATES: Enough:--Now, shall I point out the rhetorical error of those
SOCRATES: Every one is aware that about some things we are agreed, whereas
about other things we differ.
PHAEDRUS: I think that I understand you; but will you explain yourself?
SOCRATES: When any one speaks of iron and silver, is not the same thing
present in the minds of all?
SOCRATES: But when any one speaks of justice and goodness we part company
and are at odds with one another and with ourselves?
SOCRATES: Then in some things we agree, but not in others?
PHAEDRUS: That is true.
SOCRATES: In which are we more likely to be deceived, and in which has
rhetoric the greater power?
PHAEDRUS: Clearly, in the uncertain class.
SOCRATES: Then the rhetorician ought to make a regular division, and
acquire a distinct notion of both classes, as well of that in which the
many err, as of that in which they do not err?
PHAEDRUS: He who made such a distinction would have an excellent
SOCRATES: Yes; and in the next place he must have a keen eye for the
observation of particulars in speaking, and not make a mistake about the
class to which they are to be referred.
SOCRATES: Now to which class does love belong--to the debatable or to the
PHAEDRUS: To the debatable, clearly; for if not, do you think that love
would have allowed you to say as you did, that he is an evil both to the
lover and the beloved, and also the greatest possible good?
SOCRATES: Capital. But will you tell me whether I defined love at the
beginning of my speech? for, having been in an ecstasy, I cannot well
PHAEDRUS: Yes, indeed; that you did, and no mistake.
SOCRATES: Then I perceive that the Nymphs of Achelous and Pan the son of
Hermes, who inspired me, were far better rhetoricians than Lysias the son
of Cephalus. Alas! how inferior to them he is! But perhaps I am mistaken;
and Lysias at the commencement of his lover's speech did insist on our
supposing love to be something or other which he fancied him to be, and
according to this model he fashioned and framed the remainder of his
discourse. Suppose we read his beginning over again:
PHAEDRUS: If you please; but you will not find what you want.
SOCRATES: Read, that I may have his exact words.
PHAEDRUS: 'You know how matters stand with me, and how, as I conceive,
they might be arranged for our common interest; and I maintain I ought not
to fail in my suit because I am not your lover, for lovers repent of the
kindnesses which they have shown, when their love is over.'
SOCRATES: Here he appears to have done just the reverse of what he ought;
for he has begun at the end, and is swimming on his back through the flood
to the place of starting. His address to the fair youth begins where the
lover would have ended. Am I not right, sweet Phaedrus?
PHAEDRUS: Yes, indeed, Socrates; he does begin at the end.
SOCRATES: Then as to the other topics--are they not thrown down anyhow?
Is there any principle in them? Why should the next topic follow next in
order, or any other topic? I cannot help fancying in my ignorance that he
wrote off boldly just what came into his head, but I dare say that you
would recognize a rhetorical necessity in the succession of the several
parts of the composition?
PHAEDRUS: You have too good an opinion of me if you think that I have any
such insight into his principles of composition.
SOCRATES: At any rate, you will allow that every discourse ought to be a
living creature, having a body of its own and a head and feet; there should
be a middle, beginning, and end, adapted to one another and to the whole?
SOCRATES: Can this be said of the discourse of Lysias? See whether you
can find any more connexion in his words than in the epitaph which is said
by some to have been inscribed on the grave of Midas the Phrygian.
PHAEDRUS: What is there remarkable in the epitaph?
SOCRATES: It is as follows:--
'I am a maiden of bronze and lie on the tomb of Midas;
So long as water flows and tall trees grow,
So long here on this spot by his sad tomb abiding,
I shall declare to passers-by that Midas sleeps below.'
Now in this rhyme whether a line comes first or comes last, as you will
perceive, makes no difference.
PHAEDRUS: You are making fun of that oration of ours.
SOCRATES: Well, I will say no more about your friend's speech lest I
should give offence to you; although I think that it might furnish many
other examples of what a man ought rather to avoid. But I will proceed to
the other speech, which, as I think, is also suggestive to students of
PHAEDRUS: In what way?
SOCRATES: The two speeches, as you may remember, were unlike; the one
argued that the lover and the other that the non-lover ought to be
PHAEDRUS: And right manfully.
SOCRATES: You should rather say 'madly;' and madness was the argument of
them, for, as I said, 'love is a madness.'
SOCRATES: And of madness there were two kinds; one produced by human
infirmity, the other was a divine release of the soul from the yoke of
custom and convention.
SOCRATES: The divine madness was subdivided into four kinds, prophetic,
initiatory, poetic, erotic, having four gods presiding over them; the first
was the inspiration of Apollo, the second that of Dionysus, the third that
of the Muses, the fourth that of Aphrodite and Eros. In the description of
the last kind of madness, which was also said to be the best, we spoke of
the affection of love in a figure, into which we introduced a tolerably
credible and possibly true though partly erring myth, which was also a hymn
in honour of Love, who is your lord and also mine, Phaedrus, and the
guardian of fair children, and to him we sung the hymn in measured and
PHAEDRUS: I know that I had great pleasure in listening to you.
SOCRATES: Let us take this instance and note how the transition was made
from blame to praise.
PHAEDRUS: What do you mean?
SOCRATES: I mean to say that the composition was mostly playful. Yet in
these chance fancies of the hour were involved two principles of which we
should be too glad to have a clearer description if art could give us one.
PHAEDRUS: What are they?
SOCRATES: First, the comprehension of scattered particulars in one idea;
as in our definition of love, which whether true or false certainly gave
clearness and consistency to the discourse, the speaker should define his
several notions and so make his meaning clear.
PHAEDRUS: What is the other principle, Socrates?
SOCRATES: The second principle is that of division into species according
to the natural formation, where the joint is, not breaking any part as a
bad carver might. Just as our two discourses, alike assumed, first of all,
a single form of unreason; and then, as the body which from being one
becomes double and may be divided into a left side and right side, each
having parts right and left of the same name--after this manner the speaker
proceeded to divide the parts of the left side and did not desist until he
found in them an evil or left-handed love which he justly reviled; and the
other discourse leading us to the madness which lay on the right side,
found another love, also having the same name, but divine, which the
speaker held up before us and applauded and affirmed to be the author of
the greatest benefits.
PHAEDRUS: Most true.
SOCRATES: I am myself a great lover of these processes of division and
generalization; they help me to speak and to think. And if I find any man
who is able to see 'a One and Many' in nature, him I follow, and 'walk in
his footsteps as if he were a god.' And those who have this art, I have
hitherto been in the habit of calling dialecticians; but God knows whether
the name is right or not. And I should like to know what name you would
give to your or to Lysias' disciples, and whether this may not be that
famous art of rhetoric which Thrasymachus and others teach and practise?
Skilful speakers they are, and impart their skill to any who is willing to
make kings of them and to bring gifts to them.
PHAEDRUS: Yes, they are royal men; but their art is not the same with the
art of those whom you call, and rightly, in my opinion, dialecticians:--
Still we are in the dark about rhetoric.
SOCRATES: What do you mean? The remains of it, if there be anything
remaining which can be brought under rules of art, must be a fine thing;
and, at any rate, is not to be despised by you and me. But how much is
PHAEDRUS: There is a great deal surely to be found in books of rhetoric?
SOCRATES: Yes; thank you for reminding me:--There is the exordium, showing
how the speech should begin, if I remember rightly; that is what you mean--
the niceties of the art?
SOCRATES: Then follows the statement of facts, and upon that witnesses;
thirdly, proofs; fourthly, probabilities are to come; the great Byzantian
word-maker also speaks, if I am not mistaken, of confirmation and further
PHAEDRUS: You mean the excellent Theodorus.
SOCRATES: Yes; and he tells how refutation or further refutation is to be
managed, whether in accusation or defence. I ought also to mention the
illustrious Parian, Evenus, who first invented insinuations and indirect
praises; and also indirect censures, which according to some he put into
verse to help the memory. But shall I 'to dumb forgetfulness consign'
Tisias and Gorgias, who are not ignorant that probability is superior to
truth, and who by force of argument make the little appear great and the
great little, disguise the new in old fashions and the old in new fashions,
and have discovered forms for everything, either short or going on to
infinity. I remember Prodicus laughing when I told him of this; he said
that he had himself discovered the true rule of art, which was to be
neither long nor short, but of a convenient length.
PHAEDRUS: Well done, Prodicus!
SOCRATES: Then there is Hippias the Elean stranger, who probably agrees
SOCRATES: And there is also Polus, who has treasuries of diplasiology, and
gnomology, and eikonology, and who teaches in them the names of which
Licymnius made him a present; they were to give a polish.
PHAEDRUS: Had not Protagoras something of the same sort?
SOCRATES: Yes, rules of correct diction and many other fine precepts; for
the 'sorrows of a poor old man,' or any other pathetic case, no one is
better than the Chalcedonian giant; he can put a whole company of people
into a passion and out of one again by his mighty magic, and is first-rate
at inventing or disposing of any sort of calumny on any grounds or none.
All of them agree in asserting that a speech should end in a
recapitulation, though they do not all agree to use the same word.
PHAEDRUS: You mean that there should be a summing up of the arguments in
order to remind the hearers of them.
SOCRATES: I have now said all that I have to say of the art of rhetoric:
have you anything to add?
PHAEDRUS: Not much; nothing very important.
SOCRATES: Leave the unimportant and let us bring the really important
question into the light of day, which is: What power has this art of
rhetoric, and when?
PHAEDRUS: A very great power in public meetings.
SOCRATES: It has. But I should like to know whether you have the same
feeling as I have about the rhetoricians? To me there seem to be a great
many holes in their web.
PHAEDRUS: Give an example.
SOCRATES: I will. Suppose a person to come to your friend Eryximachus, or
to his father Acumenus, and to say to him: 'I know how to apply drugs
which shall have either a heating or a cooling effect, and I can give a
vomit and also a purge, and all that sort of thing; and knowing all this,
as I do, I claim to be a physician and to make physicians by imparting this
knowledge to others,'--what do you suppose that they would say?
PHAEDRUS: They would be sure to ask him whether he knew 'to whom' he would
give his medicines, and 'when,' and 'how much.'
SOCRATES: And suppose that he were to reply: 'No; I know nothing of all
that; I expect the patient who consults me to be able to do these things
PHAEDRUS: They would say in reply that he is a madman or a pedant who
fancies that he is a physician because he has read something in a book, or
has stumbled on a prescription or two, although he has no real
understanding of the art of medicine.
SOCRATES: And suppose a person were to come to Sophocles or Euripides and
say that he knows how to make a very long speech about a small matter, and
a short speech about a great matter, and also a sorrowful speech, or a
terrible, or threatening speech, or any other kind of speech, and in
teaching this fancies that he is teaching the art of tragedy--?
PHAEDRUS: They too would surely laugh at him if he fancies that tragedy is
anything but the arranging of these elements in a manner which will be
suitable to one another and to the whole.
SOCRATES: But I do not suppose that they would be rude or abusive to him:
Would they not treat him as a musician a man who thinks that he is a
harmonist because he knows how to pitch the highest and lowest note;
happening to meet such an one he would not say to him savagely, 'Fool, you
are mad!' But like a musician, in a gentle and harmonious tone of voice,
he would answer: 'My good friend, he who would be a harmonist must
certainly know this, and yet he may understand nothing of harmony if he has
not got beyond your stage of knowledge, for you only know the preliminaries
of harmony and not harmony itself.'
PHAEDRUS: Very true.
SOCRATES: And will not Sophocles say to the display of the would-be
tragedian, that this is not tragedy but the preliminaries of tragedy? and
will not Acumenus say the same of medicine to the would-be physician?
PHAEDRUS: Quite true.
SOCRATES: And if Adrastus the mellifluous or Pericles heard of these
wonderful arts, brachylogies and eikonologies and all the hard names which
we have been endeavouring to draw into the light of day, what would they
say? Instead of losing temper and applying uncomplimentary epithets, as
you and I have been doing, to the authors of such an imaginary art, their
superior wisdom would rather censure us, as well as them. 'Have a little
patience, Phaedrus and Socrates, they would say; you should not be in such
a passion with those who from some want of dialectical skill are unable to
define the nature of rhetoric, and consequently suppose that they have
found the art in the preliminary conditions of it, and when these have been
taught by them to others, fancy that the whole art of rhetoric has been
taught by them; but as to using the several instruments of the art
effectively, or making the composition a whole,--an application of it such
as this is they regard as an easy thing which their disciples may make for
PHAEDRUS: I quite admit, Socrates, that the art of rhetoric which these
men teach and of which they write is such as you describe--there I agree
with you. But I still want to know where and how the true art of rhetoric
and persuasion is to be acquired.
SOCRATES: The perfection which is required of the finished orator is, or
rather must be, like the perfection of anything else; partly given by
nature, but may also be assisted by art. If you have the natural power and
add to it knowledge and practice, you will be a distinguished speaker; if
you fall short in either of these, you will be to that extent defective.
But the art, as far as there is an art, of rhetoric does not lie in the
direction of Lysias or Thrasymachus.
PHAEDRUS: In what direction then?
SOCRATES: I conceive Pericles to have been the most accomplished of
PHAEDRUS: What of that?
SOCRATES: All the great arts require discussion and high speculation about
the truths of nature; hence come loftiness of thought and completeness of
execution. And this, as I conceive, was the quality which, in addition to
his natural gifts, Pericles acquired from his intercourse with Anaxagoras
whom he happened to know. He was thus imbued with the higher philosophy,
and attained the knowledge of Mind and the negative of Mind, which were
favourite themes of Anaxagoras, and applied what suited his purpose to the
art of speaking.
SOCRATES: Rhetoric is like medicine.
PHAEDRUS: How so?
SOCRATES: Why, because medicine has to define the nature of the body and
rhetoric of the soul--if we would proceed, not empirically but
scientifically, in the one case to impart health and strength by giving
medicine and food, in the other to implant the conviction or virtue which
you desire, by the right application of words and training.
PHAEDRUS: There, Socrates, I suspect that you are right.
SOCRATES: And do you think that you can know the nature of the soul
intelligently without knowing the nature of the whole?
PHAEDRUS: Hippocrates the Asclepiad says that the nature even of the body
can only be understood as a whole. (Compare Charmides.)
SOCRATES: Yes, friend, and he was right:--still, we ought not to be
content with the name of Hippocrates, but to examine and see whether his
argument agrees with his conception of nature.
PHAEDRUS: I agree.
SOCRATES: Then consider what truth as well as Hippocrates says about this
or about any other nature. Ought we not to consider first whether that
which we wish to learn and to teach is a simple or multiform thing, and if
simple, then to enquire what power it has of acting or being acted upon in
relation to other things, and if multiform, then to number the forms; and
see first in the case of one of them, and then in the case of all of them,
what is that power of acting or being acted upon which makes each and all
of them to be what they are?
PHAEDRUS: You may very likely be right, Socrates.
SOCRATES: The method which proceeds without analysis is like the groping
of a blind man. Yet, surely, he who is an artist ought not to admit of a
comparison with the blind, or deaf. The rhetorician, who teaches his pupil
to speak scientifically, will particularly set forth the nature of that
being to which he addresses his speeches; and this, I conceive, to be the
SOCRATES: His whole effort is directed to the soul; for in that he seeks
to produce conviction.
SOCRATES: Then clearly, Thrasymachus or any one else who teaches rhetoric
in earnest will give an exact description of the nature of the soul; which
will enable us to see whether she be single and same, or, like the body,
multiform. That is what we should call showing the nature of the soul.
SOCRATES: He will explain, secondly, the mode in which she acts or is
SOCRATES: Thirdly, having classified men and speeches, and their kinds and
affections, and adapted them to one another, he will tell the reasons of
his arrangement, and show why one soul is persuaded by a particular form of
argument, and another not.
PHAEDRUS: You have hit upon a very good way.
SOCRATES: Yes, that is the true and only way in which any subject can be
set forth or treated by rules of art, whether in speaking or writing. But
the writers of the present day, at whose feet you have sat, craftily
conceal the nature of the soul which they know quite well. Nor, until they
adopt our method of reading and writing, can we admit that they write by
rules of art?
PHAEDRUS: What is our method?
SOCRATES: I cannot give you the exact details; but I should like to tell
you generally, as far as is in my power, how a man ought to proceed
according to rules of art.
PHAEDRUS: Let me hear.
SOCRATES: Oratory is the art of enchanting the soul, and therefore he who
would be an orator has to learn the differences of human souls--they are so
many and of such a nature, and from them come the differences between man
and man. Having proceeded thus far in his analysis, he will next divide
speeches into their different classes:--'Such and such persons,' he will
say, are affected by this or that kind of speech in this or that way,' and
he will tell you why. The pupil must have a good theoretical notion of
them first, and then he must have experience of them in actual life, and be
able to follow them with all his senses about him, or he will never get
beyond the precepts of his masters. But when he understands what persons
are persuaded by what arguments, and sees the person about whom he was
speaking in the abstract actually before him, and knows that it is he, and
can say to himself, 'This is the man or this is the character who ought to
have a certain argument applied to him in order to convince him of a
certain opinion;'--he who knows all this, and knows also when he should
speak and when he should refrain, and when he should use pithy sayings,
pathetic appeals, sensational effects, and all the other modes of speech
which he has learned;--when, I say, he knows the times and seasons of all
these things, then, and not till then, he is a perfect master of his art;
but if he fail in any of these points, whether in speaking or teaching or
writing them, and yet declares that he speaks by rules of art, he who says
'I don't believe you' has the better of him. Well, the teacher will say,
is this, Phaedrus and Socrates, your account of the so-called art of
rhetoric, or am I to look for another?
PHAEDRUS: He must take this, Socrates, for there is no possibility of
another, and yet the creation of such an art is not easy.
SOCRATES: Very true; and therefore let us consider this matter in every
light, and see whether we cannot find a shorter and easier road; there is
no use in taking a long rough roundabout way if there be a shorter and
easier one. And I wish that you would try and remember whether you have
heard from Lysias or any one else anything which might be of service to us.
PHAEDRUS: If trying would avail, then I might; but at the moment I can
think of nothing.
SOCRATES: Suppose I tell you something which somebody who knows told me.
SOCRATES: May not 'the wolf,' as the proverb says, 'claim a hearing'?
PHAEDRUS: Do you say what can be said for him.
SOCRATES: He will argue that there is no use in putting a solemn face on
these matters, or in going round and round, until you arrive at first
principles; for, as I said at first, when the question is of justice and
good, or is a question in which men are concerned who are just and good,
either by nature or habit, he who would be a skilful rhetorician has no
need of truth--for that in courts of law men literally care nothing about
truth, but only about conviction: and this is based on probability, to
which he who would be a skilful orator should therefore give his whole
attention. And they say also that there are cases in which the actual
facts, if they are improbable, ought to be withheld, and only the
probabilities should be told either in accusation or defence, and that
always in speaking, the orator should keep probability in view, and say
good-bye to the truth. And the observance of this principle throughout a
speech furnishes the whole art.
PHAEDRUS: That is what the professors of rhetoric do actually say,
Socrates. I have not forgotten that we have quite briefly touched upon
this matter already; with them the point is all-important.
SOCRATES: I dare say that you are familiar with Tisias. Does he not
define probability to be that which the many think?
PHAEDRUS: Certainly, he does.
SOCRATES: I believe that he has a clever and ingenious case of this sort:
--He supposes a feeble and valiant man to have assaulted a strong and
cowardly one, and to have robbed him of his coat or of something or other;
he is brought into court, and then Tisias says that both parties should
tell lies: the coward should say that he was assaulted by more men than
one; the other should prove that they were alone, and should argue thus:
'How could a weak man like me have assaulted a strong man like him?' The
complainant will not like to confess his own cowardice, and will therefore
invent some other lie which his adversary will thus gain an opportunity of
refuting. And there are other devices of the same kind which have a place
in the system. Am I not right, Phaedrus?
SOCRATES: Bless me, what a wonderfully mysterious art is this which Tisias
or some other gentleman, in whatever name or country he rejoices, has
discovered. Shall we say a word to him or not?
PHAEDRUS: What shall we say to him?
SOCRATES: Let us tell him that, before he appeared, you and I were saying
that the probability of which he speaks was engendered in the minds of the
many by the likeness of the truth, and we had just been affirming that he
who knew the truth would always know best how to discover the resemblances
of the truth. If he has anything else to say about the art of speaking we
should like to hear him; but if not, we are satisfied with our own view,
that unless a man estimates the various characters of his hearers and is
able to divide all things into classes and to comprehend them under single
ideas, he will never be a skilful rhetorician even within the limits of
human power. And this skill he will not attain without a great deal of
trouble, which a good man ought to undergo, not for the sake of speaking
and acting before men, but in order that he may be able to say what is
acceptable to God and always to act acceptably to Him as far as in him
lies; for there is a saying of wiser men than ourselves, that a man of
sense should not try to please his fellow-servants (at least this should
not be his first object) but his good and noble masters; and therefore if
the way is long and circuitous, marvel not at this, for, where the end is
great, there we may take the longer road, but not for lesser ends such as
yours. Truly, the argument may say, Tisias, that if you do not mind going
so far, rhetoric has a fair beginning here.
PHAEDRUS: I think, Socrates, that this is admirable, if only practicable.
SOCRATES: But even to fail in an honourable object is honourable.
SOCRATES: Enough appears to have been said by us of a true and false art
SOCRATES: But there is something yet to be said of propriety and
impropriety of writing.
SOCRATES: Do you know how you can speak or act about rhetoric in a manner
which will be acceptable to God?
PHAEDRUS: No, indeed. Do you?
SOCRATES: I have heard a tradition of the ancients, whether true or not
they only know; although if we had found the truth ourselves, do you think
that we should care much about the opinions of men?
PHAEDRUS: Your question needs no answer; but I wish that you would tell me
what you say that you have heard.
SOCRATES: At the Egyptian city of Naucratis, there was a famous old god,
whose name was Theuth; the bird which is called the Ibis is sacred to him,
and he was the inventor of many arts, such as arithmetic and calculation
and geometry and astronomy and draughts and dice, but his great discovery
was the use of letters. Now in those days the god Thamus was the king of
the whole country of Egypt; and he dwelt in that great city of Upper Egypt
which the Hellenes call Egyptian Thebes, and the god himself is called by
them Ammon. To him came Theuth and showed his inventions, desiring that
the other Egyptians might be allowed to have the benefit of them; he
enumerated them, and Thamus enquired about their several uses, and praised
some of them and censured others, as he approved or disapproved of them.
It would take a long time to repeat all that Thamus said to Theuth in
praise or blame of the various arts. But when they came to letters, This,
said Theuth, will make the Egyptians wiser and give them better memories;
it is a specific both for the memory and for the wit. Thamus replied: O
most ingenious Theuth, the parent or inventor of an art is not always the
best judge of the utility or inutility of his own inventions to the users
of them. And in this instance, you who are the father of letters, from a
paternal love of your own children have been led to attribute to them a
quality which they cannot have; for this discovery of yours will create
forgetfulness in the learners' souls, because they will not use their
memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not
remember of themselves. The specific which you have discovered is an aid
not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth,
but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and
will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will
generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of
wisdom without the reality.
PHAEDRUS: Yes, Socrates, you can easily invent tales of Egypt, or of any
SOCRATES: There was a tradition in the temple of Dodona that oaks first
gave prophetic utterances. The men of old, unlike in their simplicity to
young philosophy, deemed that if they heard the truth even from 'oak or
rock,' it was enough for them; whereas you seem to consider not whether a
thing is or is not true, but who the speaker is and from what country the
PHAEDRUS: I acknowledge the justice of your rebuke; and I think that the
Theban is right in his view about letters.
SOCRATES: He would be a very simple person, and quite a stranger to the
oracles of Thamus or Ammon, who should leave in writing or receive in
writing any art under the idea that the written word would be intelligible
or certain; or who deemed that writing was at all better than knowledge and
recollection of the same matters?
PHAEDRUS: That is most true.
SOCRATES: I cannot help feeling, Phaedrus, that writing is unfortunately
like painting; for the creations of the painter have the attitude of life,
and yet if you ask them a question they preserve a solemn silence. And the
same may be said of speeches. You would imagine that they had
intelligence, but if you want to know anything and put a question to one of
them, the speaker always gives one unvarying answer. And when they have
been once written down they are tumbled about anywhere among those who may
or may not understand them, and know not to whom they should reply, to whom
not: and, if they are maltreated or abused, they have no parent to protect
them; and they cannot protect or defend themselves.
PHAEDRUS: That again is most true.
SOCRATES: Is there not another kind of word or speech far better than
this, and having far greater power--a son of the same family, but lawfully
PHAEDRUS: Whom do you mean, and what is his origin?
SOCRATES: I mean an intelligent word graven in the soul of the learner,
which can defend itself, and knows when to speak and when to be silent.
PHAEDRUS: You mean the living word of knowledge which has a soul, and of
which the written word is properly no more than an image?
SOCRATES: Yes, of course that is what I mean. And now may I be allowed to
ask you a question: Would a husbandman, who is a man of sense, take the
seeds, which he values and which he wishes to bear fruit, and in sober
seriousness plant them during the heat of summer, in some garden of Adonis,
that he may rejoice when he sees them in eight days appearing in beauty? at
least he would do so, if at all, only for the sake of amusement and
pastime. But when he is in earnest he sows in fitting soil, and practises
husbandry, and is satisfied if in eight months the seeds which he has sown
arrive at perfection?
PHAEDRUS: Yes, Socrates, that will be his way when he is in earnest; he
will do the other, as you say, only in play.
SOCRATES: And can we suppose that he who knows the just and good and
honourable has less understanding, than the husbandman, about his own
PHAEDRUS: Certainly not.
SOCRATES: Then he will not seriously incline to 'write' his thoughts 'in
water' with pen and ink, sowing words which can neither speak for
themselves nor teach the truth adequately to others?
PHAEDRUS: No, that is not likely.
SOCRATES: No, that is not likely--in the garden of letters he will sow and
plant, but only for the sake of recreation and amusement; he will write
them down as memorials to be treasured against the forgetfulness of old
age, by himself, or by any other old man who is treading the same path. He
will rejoice in beholding their tender growth; and while others are
refreshing their souls with banqueting and the like, this will be the
pastime in which his days are spent.
PHAEDRUS: A pastime, Socrates, as noble as the other is ignoble, the
pastime of a man who can be amused by serious talk, and can discourse
merrily about justice and the like.
SOCRATES: True, Phaedrus. But nobler far is the serious pursuit of the
dialectician, who, finding a congenial soul, by the help of science sows
and plants therein words which are able to help themselves and him who
planted them, and are not unfruitful, but have in them a seed which others
brought up in different soils render immortal, making the possessors of it
happy to the utmost extent of human happiness.
PHAEDRUS: Far nobler, certainly.
SOCRATES: And now, Phaedrus, having agreed upon the premises we may decide
about the conclusion.
PHAEDRUS: About what conclusion?
SOCRATES: About Lysias, whom we censured, and his art of writing, and his
discourses, and the rhetorical skill or want of skill which was shown in
them--these are the questions which we sought to determine, and they
brought us to this point. And I think that we are now pretty well informed
about the nature of art and its opposite.
PHAEDRUS: Yes, I think with you; but I wish that you would repeat what was
SOCRATES: Until a man knows the truth of the several particulars of which
he is writing or speaking, and is able to define them as they are, and
having defined them again to divide them until they can be no longer
divided, and until in like manner he is able to discern the nature of the
soul, and discover the different modes of discourse which are adapted to
different natures, and to arrange and dispose them in such a way that the
simple form of speech may be addressed to the simpler nature, and the
complex and composite to the more complex nature--until he has accomplished
all this, he will be unable to handle arguments according to rules of art,
as far as their nature allows them to be subjected to art, either for the
purpose of teaching or persuading;--such is the view which is implied in
the whole preceding argument.
PHAEDRUS: Yes, that was our view, certainly.
SOCRATES: Secondly, as to the censure which was passed on the speaking or
writing of discourses, and how they might be rightly or wrongly censured--
did not our previous argument show--?
PHAEDRUS: Show what?
SOCRATES: That whether Lysias or any other writer that ever was or will
be, whether private man or statesman, proposes laws and so becomes the
author of a political treatise, fancying that there is any great certainty
and clearness in his performance, the fact of his so writing is only a
disgrace to him, whatever men may say. For not to know the nature of
justice and injustice, and good and evil, and not to be able to distinguish
the dream from the reality, cannot in truth be otherwise than disgraceful
to him, even though he have the applause of the whole world.
SOCRATES: But he who thinks that in the written word there is necessarily
much which is not serious, and that neither poetry nor prose, spoken or
written, is of any great value, if, like the compositions of the rhapsodes,
they are only recited in order to be believed, and not with any view to
criticism or instruction; and who thinks that even the best of writings are
but a reminiscence of what we know, and that only in principles of justice
and goodness and nobility taught and communicated orally for the sake of
instruction and graven in the soul, which is the true way of writing, is
there clearness and perfection and seriousness, and that such principles
are a man's own and his legitimate offspring;--being, in the first place,
the word which he finds in his own bosom; secondly, the brethren and
descendants and relations of his idea which have been duly implanted by him
in the souls of others;--and who cares for them and no others--this is the
right sort of man; and you and I, Phaedrus, would pray that we may become
PHAEDRUS: That is most assuredly my desire and prayer.
SOCRATES: And now the play is played out; and of rhetoric enough. Go and
tell Lysias that to the fountain and school of the Nymphs we went down, and
were bidden by them to convey a message to him and to other composers of
speeches--to Homer and other writers of poems, whether set to music or not;
and to Solon and others who have composed writings in the form of political
discourses which they would term laws--to all of them we are to say that if
their compositions are based on knowledge of the truth, and they can defend
or prove them, when they are put to the test, by spoken arguments, which
leave their writings poor in comparison of them, then they are to be
called, not only poets, orators, legislators, but are worthy of a higher
name, befitting the serious pursuit of their life.
PHAEDRUS: What name would you assign to them?
SOCRATES: Wise, I may not call them; for that is a great name which
belongs to God alone,--lovers of wisdom or philosophers is their modest and
PHAEDRUS: Very suitable.
SOCRATES: And he who cannot rise above his own compilations and
compositions, which he has been long patching and piecing, adding some and
taking away some, may be justly called poet or speech-maker or law-maker.
SOCRATES: Now go and tell this to your companion.
PHAEDRUS: But there is also a friend of yours who ought not to be
SOCRATES: Who is he?
PHAEDRUS: Isocrates the fair:--What message will you send to him, and how
shall we describe him?
SOCRATES: Isocrates is still young, Phaedrus; but I am willing to hazard a
prophecy concerning him.
PHAEDRUS: What would you prophesy?
SOCRATES: I think that he has a genius which soars above the orations of
Lysias, and that his character is cast in a finer mould. My impression of
him is that he will marvellously improve as he grows older, and that all
former rhetoricians will be as children in comparison of him. And I
believe that he will not be satisfied with rhetoric, but that there is in
him a divine inspiration which will lead him to things higher still. For
he has an element of philosophy in his nature. This is the message of the
gods dwelling in this place, and which I will myself deliver to Isocrates,
who is my delight; and do you give the other to Lysias, who is yours.
PHAEDRUS: I will; and now as the heat is abated let us depart.
SOCRATES: Should we not offer up a prayer first of all to the local
PHAEDRUS: By all means.
SOCRATES: Beloved Pan, and all ye other gods who haunt this place, give me
beauty in the inward soul; and may the outward and inward man be at one.
May I reckon the wise to be the wealthy, and may I have such a quantity of
gold as a temperate man and he only can bear and carry.--Anything more?
The prayer, I think, is enough for me.
PHAEDRUS: Ask the same for me, for friends should have all things in
SOCRATES: Let us go.