« PreviousContinue »
zen or foreigner, rich or in the deepest poverty, he would impart, without fee or reward, whatever he might have of useful knowledge and salutary counsel ;* accounting himself to have an ample reward, if he should make those who came to binn for instruction wiser and better, and truer friends to himself and to all good men.
THE FORTITUDE AND CONSTANCY OF SOCRATES.
7. The strong-mindedness of Socrates shown in his contempt
of effeminate pleasures. No one who has studied the principles and course of the life of Socrates, can have failed to perceive everywhere in his character the brightness of that steadfast mind and constancy, which, in all the changes of mortal life, proclaims the great man.
of this strong and constant inind we have proof in the vehement disdain of effeminacy, which everywhere and in all circumstances appears in him.f The spirit of effeminate indulgence had, in bis day, breathed over Athens as from a pestilential comet; the manliness of all in body and mind had been broken and destroyed; the empire of depraved desire was uncontrolled. Socrates, who had learned to employ the supremacy of the mind, and the ministerial service of the body, was aloof from the contagion ; but foreseeing the peril which sprung from it, he sought to meet the evil insidiously stealing among the people, and stifle as it were the envenomed plant in its earliest growth. How can a man, who has the consciousness of his humanity, and is swayed by a love of ingenuous freedom, submit bis neck to the yoke of lusts? Will he, who has, to keep his freedom, spurned the allurements of gain, throw away that freedom for the service of enticing pleasures ? What else does voluptuousness (mollities) propose to itself, but to furnish those conveniences and delights, which indulge the body and wear away the vigor of the soul? The freedom then of that man is an empty name, over whoin passion and lust have obtained dominion. With so anxious care did Socrates, under a persuasion of their essential baseness and dishonor, avoid every vice by which the energy of the body may be impaired, that he may be set forth a fit exemplar, not to his own age only, but to the whole human race. As touching frugality in respect of dress and personal convenience, and temperance in food and drink, which he declared to be the basis of all other virtues, * no one more highly regarded it, or more faithfully practised it than Socrates. “So frugal was he,” says Xenophon, “ that I know not if there be any one who might not by easy labor provide for himself that portion, which he thought necessary for bim. For whether he remained at home, or accepted an invitation to sup with a friend, he made it bis uniform practice, which likewise he commended to others, never to eat unless he was hungry, or drink unless thirsty.t This too he affirmed to be the most excellent remedy for a qualınishness and loathing of food, to limit the amount of our food by the demands of the natural appetite. I Not less in other matters in which an effeminate habit inclines most men to yield, did Socrates study and exemplify a strict temperance, $ as we may infer from the reasons which induced him to cultivate frugality and other virtues. For he deemed it an evidence of a weak inind, to allow onesself to be overcome by lust, or sleep, or impatience of labor, and other such things. But temperance follows that method which, while it supplies the necessary means of sustaining lise, and things needful for the body, leaves the mind master of itself, and refuses that superfluity which may minister to depraved desires. Hence Socrates used to say,|| that “ those who are given to excess are in a most wretched slavery, are forced away from the pursuit of wisdom, often are reduced to the necessity of embracing an evil for a good, and can never know the true pleasure which may be derived from food and drink, from love and sleep, from the knowledge of good and evil, and from the pursuit of things that are necessary to an upright and honorable life; that they are alien from all vir
* Mem. Socr. I. 2, 60. 1. 6, 9. and 14. I. 2, 8. and 61. | Mem. Socr. I. 2, 1-3. cf. Sympos. Xenoph. A. ed. Leuncla v
* Agniñs xonrida, Mein. Socr. I. 5, 4.
+ Mem. Socr. I. 3, 5. 6. cf. Diog. II. 25. Xen. Cyrop. I. 3. 10. where he introduces Cyrus discoursing of his father: διψών παύεται. | Mem. Socr. III. 13, 2.
Mem. Socr. II. cc. and Diog. II. 25. cf. Gell. N. A. II. 1. Ælian, Var. Hist. XIII. 27.
I Mem. Socr. IV. 5, 2–12.
tue, and live after the manner of the brute beasts. On the contrary, the temperate, as they follow after a real good and abstain from evil
, day by day become better and happier, and are better fitted for all noble and honorable action." The truth and salutariness of this teaching, himself the most continent of all men, evermore proclaimed in his own example.*
58. Socrates, while he thought the body ought not to be pam
pered, thought also it is not to be despised, but made a higher account of the mind.
But some may say, what remarkable thing is it to abstain from the pleasures of love, of wine, and the like multitude of depraved desires ? Does not every prudent man, and every one even who has a regard to his own health, shun everything which may harm him, and pursue that only which may profit his body and keep it in a sound state ? We cannot deny, that so high praise is not merited by a temperance which springs from a peculiar love and inordinate care for the body, and the object of which is to provide merely, in indolent ease and luxurious security, the conditions of personal convenience and advantage. But so far from rightfully imputing such a temperance, (rather a voluptuous epicurism,) to Socrates, we find him austere and morose even in the culture of the body, and to some he might seem almost neglectful of it. We have the express testimony of Xenophon,t as well as evidence from other sources, that he did not himself disregard a sound physical culture, nor approved such disregard in others. In his conversation with the youthful Epigenes, I he earnestly recommends an honorable care of the body, such care, to wit, as should render it a suitable dwelling, or a strong instrument for the soul, and fit for every duty to it. We infer the same when we read that Socrates loved and practised the art of dancing, and advised his friends to learn it, to make the limbs supple and firm. And we are pleased to read bis adroit and witty replies to the Sophist Antipho, who unfairly censured the frugal fare and cheap raiment of Socrates.|| Still higher was the estimate which, he * Mem. Socr. I. 2, 1.
f I. 2, 4.
| III. 12. Diog. Laert. II. 32. Xen. in Syınpos. p. 693. Lucian, de Saltatione, cap. 25.
# Mem. Socr. I. 6 5—7. “ Do you think my food vile,” says he, indulgence in impure pleasures. To me, therefore, meditating on the character of Socrates, nothing has seemed more lamentable than that many have falsely accused that man, who died a martyr to virtue, of intercourse with the vilest women, and even to have been addicted to the foul crime of pæderasty. As touching the former part of this charge, I notice that they who accuse Socrates of this crime, commonly adduce as evidence of it, the conversation he had with the courtesan Theodota, recorded in the Memorabilia of Xenophon.t 1 confess my ignorance how the charge could have been derived from that conversation. Nay, I am firmly persuaded that any one who shall come to the perusal of it, with no preconceptions of its purport, and give it a careful study, must perceive, from the whole plan and structure of the dialogue, that Socrates by no means intended seriously to instruct that woman in the arts of a barlot, but that his whole discourse was " because you suppose me to eat food less healthful than yours, and imparting less strength ? Or because what I eat is more difficult to be procured than what you eat ? Or that your food is more to your taste than mine is to me? Are you not aware that as one eats with a better appetite, he less needs nice condiments, and when he drivks with a stronger thirst, he feels less need of a draught that is difficult to be procured ? Now when men change their garments they do it on account of the heat or cold, and they wear sandals, that they may not be prevented from travelling, hy things that might hurt their feet. And did you ever know me to stay at home on account of the cold, or quarrel with any one for a shady place on account of the heat, or not go where I wished on account of sore feet ? Do you not know that men of most infirm frame, have enabled themselves by exercise to excel those the inost robust even, who have not exercised themselves in the same things ? And can you not suppose that I, by continual experience and practice, can bear anything more easily than you, who have had no practice?”. • Mern. Socr. I. 6, 8. 9. III. 9, 1 seq.
affirmed, a man ought to have of the culture of the mind, for the pleasures of the body indeed fill the sense with a present and exquisite delight, but a sedulous and ingenuous culture of the soul brings with it not only sublimer and nobler delights, and a more honorable enjoyment, but assures us of an eternal and imperishable satisfaction.*
$9. An answer to those who have charged Socrates with an manifestly ironical ; especially will this appear from the close of the conversation, when disregarding all her requests and entreaties that he would visit her at her house, he promised to receive her at his own, if he is not engaged with more valued friends. If any are disposed to infer this charge from the fact that Socrates in company with his associates went to the house of a courtesan, let them remember that he lived in a city and an age, in which it was the custom for the young men, when a beautiful stranger arrived, to go and see her. We ought, then, rather to commend the watchful and provident care of Socrates, who would not suffer his youthful friends, alone and unguarded to approach one whose beauty and skill in deluding the unwary had become notorious, and preferred to accompany to the place of danger, those who could not be persuaded to stay away from it-a place too where he might fill her with shame by his judicious reproof, and dissuade her companions from pernicious crimes, and lead by wise instructions all who might be there, to a purer and better way.
| III. 11.
The crime of pæderasty, which with less reason even is charged upon Socrates, any one who has found him guiltless of the other, will readily concede to be unsustained and false. But those who believe him guilty, call in Xenophon as a witness, and claim him as an express assertor of it. What indeed ? That Xenophon who has declared in the most precise termis that of all men Socrates was most continent in the pleasures of love ?* Who affirms that he more easily abstained from the most beautiful than others from the most deformed ?+ Who on every occasion introduces Socrates's most severely censuring those who were in the habit of that crime, and with the most earnest solicitude exhorting bis intimates to shun with the utmost care, not only the act of crime, but everything that might excite or furnish materials for lust ?I These most weighty charges are forsooth derived from another book of Xenophon, which is entitled Convivium ; in which book, among many other things uttered wittily and in jest, yet not without grave and serious purpose, Charmides is introduced affirming sportively, that he had seen Socrates, at the house of a certain schoolmaster, while he was turning over the same volume with young Critobulus, and reading something in it, applying bis head to the head, and his naked shoulder to the naked shoulder of Critobu
Mem. Socr. I. 2, 1.
+ I. 3, 14.
11. 2, 29. I. 3, 8 seq.