Additional Summer School 2023 Readings, Updated 06/17

Summer School 2023 Readings

In addition to the assigned readings, the following passages and fragments will be referred to.  More will be added in the coming days,

From Homer Iliad II

Agamemnon’s report of his lying dream has caused the Achaeans to begin hasty preparations to abandon the war 

But himself  [Odysseus] he went straight to Agamemnon, son of Atreus, and received at his hand the staff of his fathers, imperishable ever, and therewith went his way along the ships of the brazen-coated Achaeans. Whomsoever he met that was a chieftain or man of note, to his side would he come and with gentle words seek to restrain him, saying: [190] 

“Good Sir, it beseems not to seek to affright thee as if thou were a coward, but do thou thyself sit thee down, and make the rest of thy people to sit. For thou knowest not yet clearly what is the mind of the son of Atreus; now he does but make trial, whereas soon he will smite the sons of the Achaeans. Did we not all hear what he spake in the council? [195] Beware lest waxing wroth he work mischief to the sons of the Achaeans. Proud is the heart of kings, fostered of heaven; for their honour is from Zeus, and Zeus, god of counsel, loveth them.” 

But whatsoever man of the people he saw, and found brawling, him would he smite with his staff; and chide with words, saying, [200] “Fellow, sit thou still, and hearken to the words of others that are better men than thou; whereas thou art unwarlike and a weakling, neither to be counted in war nor in counsel. In no wise shall we Achaeans all be kings here. No good thing is a multitude of lords; let there be one lord, [205] one king, to whom the son of crooked-counselling Cronos hath vouchsafed the sceptre and judgments, that he may take counsel for his people.” Thus masterfully did he range through the host, and they hasted back to the place of gathering from their ships and huts with noise, as when a wave of the loud-resounding sea [210] thundereth on the long beach, and the deep roareth. 

Now the others sate them down and were stayed in their places, only there still kept chattering on Thersites of measureless speech, whose mind was full of great store of disorderly words, wherewith to utter revilings against the kings, idly, and in no orderly wise, [215] but whatsoever he deemed would raise a laugh among the Argives. Evil-favoured was he beyond all men that came to Ilios: he was bandy-legged and lame in the one foot, and his two shoulders were rounded, stooping together over his chest, and above them his head was warped, and a scant stubble grew thereon. [220] Hateful was he to Achilles above all, and to Odysseus, for it was they twain that he was wont to revile; but now again with shrill cries he uttered abuse against goodly Agamemnon. With him were the Achaeans exceeding wroth, and had indignation in their hearts. Howbeit with loud shoutings he spake and chid Agamemnon: [225] 

“Son of Atreus, with what art thou now again discontent, or what lack is thine? Filled are thy huts with bronze, and women full many are in thy huts, chosen spoils that we Achaeans give thee first of all, whensoe'er we take a citadel. Or dost thou still want gold also, [230] which some man of the horse-taming Trojans shall bring thee out of Ilios as a ransom for his son, whom I haply have bound and led away or some other of the Achaeans? Or is it some young girl for thee to know in love, whom thou wilt keep apart for thyself? Nay, it beseemeth not one that is their captain to bring to ill the sons of the Achaeans. [235] Soft fools! base things of shame, ye women of Achaea, men no more, homeward let us go with our ships, and leave this fellow here in the land of Troy to digest his prizes, that so he may learn whether in us too there is aught of aid for him or no—for him that hath now done dishonour to Achilles, a man better far than he; [240] for he hath taken away, and keepeth his prize by his own arrogant act. Of a surety there is naught of wrath in the heart of Achilles; nay, he heedeth not at all; else, son of Atreus, wouldest thou now work insolence for the last time.” 

So spake Thersites, railing at Agamemnon, shepherd of the host. But quickly to his side came goodly Odysseus, [245] and with an angry glance from beneath his brows, chid him with harsh words, saying:“Thersites of reckless speech, clear-voiced talker though thou art, refrain thee, and be not minded to strive singly against kings. For I deem that there is no viler mortal than thou amongst all those that with the sons of Atreus came beneath Ilios. [250] Wherefore 'twere well thou shouldst not take the name of kings in thy mouth as thou protest, to cast reproaches upon them, and to watch for home-going. In no wise do we know clearly as yet how these things are to be, whether it be for good or ill that we sons of the Achaeans shall return. Therefore dost thou now continually utter revilings against Atreus' son, Agamemnon, shepherd of the host, [255] for that the Danaan warriors give him gifts full many; whereas thou pratest on with railings. But I will speak out to thee, and this word shall verily be brought to pass: if I find thee again playing the fool, even as now thou dost, then may the head of Odysseus abide no more upon his shoulders, [260] nor may I any more be called the father of Telemachus, if I take thee not, and strip off thy raiment, thy cloak, and thy tunic that cover thy nakedness, and for thyself send thee wailing to the swift ships, beaten forth from the place of gathering with shameful blows.” [265] 

So spake Odysseus, and with his staff smote his back and shoulders; and Thersites cowered down, and a big tear fell from him, and a bloody weal rose up on his back beneath the staff of gold. Then he sate him down, and fear came upon him, and stung by pain with helpless looks he wiped away the tear. [270] But the Achaeans, sore vexed at heart though they were, broke into a merry laugh at him, and thus would one speak with a glance at his neighbour: 

“Out upon it! verily hath Odysseus ere now wrought good deeds without number as leader in good counsel and setting battle in army, but now is this deed far the best that he hath wrought among the Argives, [275] seeing he hath made this scurrilous babbler to cease from his prating. Never again, I ween, will his proud spirit henceforth set him on to rail at kings with words of reviling.” 

So spake the multitude; but up rose Odysseus, sacker of cities, the sceptre in his hand, and by his side flashing-eyed Athene, [280] in the likeness of a herald, bade the host keep silence, that the sons of the Achaeans, both the nearest and the farthest, might hear his words, and lay to heart his counsel. He with good intent addressed their gathering and spake among them:

“Son of Atreus, now verily are the Achaeans minded to make thee, O king, [285] the most despised among all mortal men, nor will they fulfill the promise that they made to thee, while faring hitherward from Argos, the pasture-land of horses, that not until thou hadst sacked well-walled Ilios shouldest thou get thee home. For like little children or widow women [290] do they wail each to the other in longing to return home. Verily there is toil enough to make a man return disheartened. For he that abideth but one single month far from his wife in his benched ship hath vexation of heart, even he whom winter blasts and surging seas keep afar; [295] but for us is the ninth year at its turn, while we abide here; wherefore I count it not shame that the Achaeans have vexation of heart beside their beaked ships; yet even so it is a shameful thing to tarry long, and return empty. Endure, my friends, and abide for a time, that we may know [300] whether the prophecies of Calchas be true, or no. For this in truth do we know well in our hearts, and ye are all witnesses thereto, even as many as the fates of death have not borne away. It was but as yesterday or the day before, when the ships of the Achaeans were gathering in Aulis,2 laden with woes for Priam and the Trojans; [305] and we round about a spring were offering to the immortals upon the holy altars hecatombs that bring fulfillment, beneath a fair plane-tree from whence flowed the bright water; then appeared a great portent: a serpent, blood-red on the back, terrible, whom the Olympian himself had sent forth to the light, [310] glided from beneath the altar and darted to the plane-tree. Now upon this were the younglings of a sparrow, tender little ones, on the topmost bough, cowering beneath the leaves, eight in all, and the mother that bare them was the ninth, Then the serpent devoured them as they twittered piteously, [315] and the mother fluttered around them, wailing for her dear little ones; howbeit he coiled himself and caught her by the wing as she screamed about him. But when he had devoured the sparrow's little ones and the mother with them, the god, who had brought him to the light, made him to be unseen; for the son of crooked-counselling Cronos turned him to stone; [320] and we stood there and marveled at what was wrought. So, when the dread portent brake in upon the hecatombs of the gods, then straightway did Calchas prophesy, and address our gathering, saying: 

'Why are ye thus silent, ye long-haired Achaeans? To us hath Zeus the counsellor shewed this great sign, [325] late in coming, late in fulfillment, the fame whereof shall never perish. Even as this serpent devoured the sparrow's little ones and the mother with them—the eight, and the mother that bare them was the ninth—so shall we war there for so many years, but in the tenth shall we take the broad-wayed city.' 

On this wise spake Calchas, [330] and now all this is verily being brought to pass. Nay, come, abide ye all, ye well-greaved Achaeans, even where ye are, until we take the great city of Priam.” So spake he, and the Argives shouted aloud, and all round about them the ships echoed wondrously beneath the shouting of the Achaeans, [335] as they praised the words of godlike Odysseus. 

And there spake among them the horseman, Nestor of Gerenia: “Now look you; in very truth are ye holding assembly after the manner of silly boys that care no whit for deeds of war. What then is to be the end of our compacts and our oaths? [340] Nay, into the fire let us cast all counsels and plans of warriors, the drink-offerings of unmixed wine, and the hand-clasps wherein we put our trust. For vainly do we wrangle with words, nor can we find any device at all, for all our long-tarrying here. Son of Atreus, do thou as of old keep unbending purpose, [345] and be leader of the Argives throughout stubborn fights; and for these, let them perish, the one or two of the Achaeans, that take secret counsel apart—yet no accomplishment shall come therefrom—to depart first to Argos or ever we have learned whether the promise of Zeus that beareth the aegis be a lie or no. [350] For I declare that Cronos' son, supreme in might, gave promise with his nod on that day when the Argives went on board their swift-faring ships, bearing unto the Trojans death and fate; for he lightened on our right and shewed forth signs of good. Wherefore let no man make haste to depart homewards until each have lain with the wife of some Trojan, [355] and have got him requital for his strivings and groanings for Helen's sake.  Howbeit, if any man is exceeding fain to depart homewards, let him lay his hand upon his black, well-benched ship, that before the face of all he may meet death and fate. But do thou, O King, thyself take good counsel, and hearken to another; the word whatsoever I speak, shalt thou not lightly cast aside. Separate thy men by tribes, by clans, Agamemnon, that clan may bear aid to clan and tribe to tribe. If thou do thus, and the Achaeans obey thee, [365] thou wilt know then who among thy captains is a coward, and who among thy men, and who too is brave; for they will fight each clan for itself.4 So shalt thou know whether it is even by the will of heaven that thou shalt not take the city, or by the cowardice of thy folk and their witlessness in war.” 

Hesiod From Works and Days

Muses of Pieria who give glory through song, come hither, tell of Zeus your father and chant his praise. Through him mortal men are famed or unfamed, sung or unsung alike, as great Zeus wills. [5] For easily he makes strong, and easily he brings the strong man low; easily he humbles the proud and raises the obscure, and easily he straightens the crooked and blasts the proud,—Zeus who thunders aloft and has his dwelling most high. Attend thou with eye and ear, and make judgements straight with righteousness. [10] And, Perses, I would tell of true things.

So, after all, there was not one kind of Strife alone, but all over the earth there are two. As for the one, a man would praise her when he came to understand her; but the other is blameworthy: and they are wholly different in nature. For one fosters evil war and battle, being cruel: [15] her no man loves; but perforce, through the will of the deathless gods, men pay harsh Strife her honor due. But the other is the elder daughter of dark Night, and the son of Cronos who sits above and dwells in the aether, set her in the roots of the earth: and she is far kinder to men. [20] She stirs up even the shiftless to toil; for a man grows eager to work when he considers his neighbor, a rich man who hastens to plough and plant and put his house in good order; and neighbor vies with his neighbor as he hurries after wealth. This Strife is wholesome for men. [25] And potter is angry with potter, and craftsman with craftsman, and beggar is jealous of beggar, and minstrel of minstrel. Perses, lay up these things in your heart, and do not let that Strife who delights in mischief hold your heart back from work, while you peep and peer and listen to the wrangles of the court-house. [30] Little concern has he with quarrels and courts who has not a year's victuals laid up betimes, even that which the earth bears, Demeter's grain. When you have got plenty of that, you can raise disputes and strive to get another's goods. But you shall have no second chance [35] to deal so again: nay, let us settle our dispute here with true judgement which is of Zeus and is perfect. For we had already divided our inheritance, but you seized the greater share and carried it off, greatly swelling the glory of our bribe-swallowing lords who love to judge such a cause as this. [40] Fools! They know not how much more the half is than the whole, nor what great advantage there is in mallow and asphodel.

For the gods keep hidden from men the means of life. Else you would easily do work enough in a day to supply you for a full year even without working; [45] soon would you put away your rudder over the smoke, and the fields worked by ox and sturdy mule would run to waste. But Zeus in the anger of his heart hid it, because Prometheus the crafty deceived him; therefore he planned sorrow and mischief against men. [50] He hid fire; but that the noble son of Iapetus stole again for men from Zeus the counsellor in a hollow fennel-stalk, so that Zeus who delights in thunder did not see it. But afterwards Zeus who gathers the clouds said to him in anger: “Son of Iapetus, surpassing all in cunning, [55] you are glad that you have outwitted me and stolen fire—a great plague to you yourself and to men that shall be. But I will give men as the price for fire an evil thing in which they may all be glad of heart while they embrace their own destruction.”

So said the father of men and gods, and laughed aloud. [60] And he bade famous Hephaestus make haste and mix earth with water and to put in it the voice and strength of human kind, and fashion a sweet, lovely maiden-shape, like to the immortal goddesses in face; and Athena to teach her needlework and the weaving of the varied web; [65] and golden Aphrodite to shed grace upon her head and cruel longing and cares that weary the limbs. And he charged Hermes the guide, the Slayer of Argus, to put in her a shameless mind and a deceitful nature. So he ordered. And they obeyed the lord Zeus the son of Cronos. [70] Forthwith the famous Lame God moulded clay in the likeness of a modest maid, as the son of Cronos purposed. And the goddess brighteyed Athena girded and clothed her, and the divine Graces and queenly Persuasion put necklaces of gold upon her, [75] and the rich-haired Hours crowned her head with spring flowers. And Pallas Athena bedecked her form with all manner of finery. Also the Guide, the Slayer of Argus, contrived within her lies and crafty words and a deceitful nature at the will of loud thundering Zeus, [80] and the Herald of the gods put speech in her. And he called this woman Pandora,1 because all they who dwelt on Olympus gave each a gift, a plague to men who eat bread.

But when he had finished the sheer, hopeless snare, the Father sent glorious Argus-Slayer, [85] the swift messenger of the gods, to take it to Epimetheus as a gift. And Epimetheus did not think on what Prometheus had said to him, bidding him never take a gift of Olympian Zeus, but to send it back for fear it might prove to be something harmful to men. But he took the gift, and afterwards, when the evil thing was already his, he understood. [90] For ere this the tribes of men lived on earth remote and free from ills and hard toil and heavy sicknesses which bring the Fates upon men; for in misery men grow old quickly. But the woman took off the great lid of the jar1 with her hands [95] and scattered, all these and her thought caused sorrow and mischief to men. Only Hope remained there in an unbreakable home within under the rim of the great jar, and did not fly out at the door; for ere that, the lid of the jar stopped her, by the will of Aegis-holding Zeus who gathers the clouds. [100] But the rest, countless plagues, wander amongst men; for earth is full of evils, and the sea is full. Of themselves diseases come upon men continually by day and by night, bringing mischief to mortals silently; for wise Zeus took away speech from them. [105] So is there no way to escape the will of Zeus. Or if you will, I will sum you up another tale well and skilfully—and do you lay it up in your heart,—how the gods and mortal men sprang from one source.

First of all [110] the deathless gods who dwell on Olympus made a golden race of mortal men who lived in the time of Cronos when he was reigning in heaven. And they lived like gods [115] without sorrow of heart, remote and free from toil and grief: miserable age rested not on them; but with legs and arms never failing they made merry with feasting beyond the reach of all evils. When they died, it was as though they were overcome with sleep, and they had all good things; for the fruitful earth unforced bare them fruit abundantly and without stint. They dwelt in ease and peace upon their lands with many good things, [120] rich in flocks and loved by the blessed gods. But after the earth had covered this generation—they are called pure spirits dwelling on the earth, and are kindly, delivering from harm, and guardians of mortal men; [125] for they roam everywhere over the earth, clothed in mist and keep watch on judgements and cruel deeds, givers of wealth; for this royal right also they received;—then they who dwell on Olympus made a second generation which was of silver and less noble by far. It was like the golden race neither in body nor in spirit. [130] A child was brought up at his good mother's side a hundred years, an utter simpleton, playing childishly in his own home. But when they were full grown and were come to the full measure of their prime, they lived only a little time and that in sorrow because of their foolishness, for they could not keep from sinning and [135] from wronging one another, nor would they serve the immortals, nor sacrifice on the holy altars of the blessed ones as it is right for men to do wherever they dwell. Then Zeus the son of Cronos was angry and put them away, because they would not give honor to the blessed gods who live on Olympus.

But when earth had covered this generation also—they are called blessed spirits of the underworld by men, and, though they are of second order, yet honor attends them also—Zeus the Father made a third generation of mortal men, a brazen race, sprung from ash-trees1 ; and it was in no way equal to the silver age, [145] but was terrible and strong. They loved the lamentable works of Ares and deeds of violence; they ate no bread, but were hard of heart like adamant, fearful men. Great was their strength and unconquerable the arms which grew from their shoulders on their strong limbs. [150] Their armor was of bronze, and their houses of bronze, and of bronze were their implements: there was no black iron. These were destroyed by their own hands and passed to the dank house of chill Hades, and left no name: terrible though they were, [155] black Death seized them, and they left the bright light of the sun. But when earth had covered this generation also, Zeus the son of Cronos made yet another, the fourth, upon the fruitful earth, which was nobler and more righteous, a god-like race of hero-men who are called [160] demi-gods, the race before our own, throughout the boundless earth. Grim war and dread battle destroyed a part of them, some in the land of Cadmus at seven-gated Thebes when they fought for the flocks of Oedipus, and some, when it had brought them in ships over the great sea gulf [165] to Troy for rich-haired Helen's sake: there death's end enshrouded a part of them. But to the others father Zeus the son of Cronos gave a living and an abode apart from men, and made them dwell at the ends of earth. [170] And they live untouched by sorrow in the islands of the blessed along the shore of deep-swirling Ocean, happy heroes for whom [173] the grain-giving earth bears honey-sweet fruit flourishing thrice a year, [169] far from the deathless gods, and Cronos rules over them; [169a] for the father of men and gods released him from his bonds. [169b] And these last equally have honor and glory. [169c] And again far-seeing Zeus made yet another generation, the fifth, of men [169d] who are upon the bounteous earth.

Thereafter, would that I were not among the men of the fifth generation, [175] but either had died before or been born afterwards. For now truly is a race of iron, and men never rest from labor and sorrow by day, and from perishing by night; and the gods shall lay sore trouble upon them. But, notwithstanding, even these shall have some good mingled with their evils. [180] And Zeus will destroy this race of mortal men also when they come to have grey hair on the temples at their birth.1 The father will not agree with his children, nor the children with their father, nor guest with his host, nor comrade with comrade; nor will brother be dear to brother as aforetime. [185] Men will dishonor their parents as they grow quickly old, and will carp at them, chiding them with bitter words, hard-hearted they, not knowing the fear of the gods. They will not repay their aged parents the cost of their nurture, for might shall be their right: and one man will sack another's city. [190] There will be no favor for the man who keeps his oath or for the just or for the good; but rather men will praise the evil-doer and his violent dealing. Strength will be right, and reverence will cease to be; and the wicked will hurt the worthy man, speaking false words against him, and will swear an oath upon them. [195] Envy, foul-mouthed, delighting in evil, with scowling face, will go along with wretched men one and all. [200] And then Aidos and Nemesis,2 with their sweet forms wrapped in white robes, will go from the wide-pathed earth and forsake mankind to join the company of the deathless gods: and bitter sorrows will be left for mortal men, and there will be no help against evil.

More to come…






Plato, Gorgias: Speech of Callicles

Convention and nature are generally at variance with one another: and hence, if a person is too modest to say what he thinks, he is compelled to contradict himself; and you, in your ingenuity perceiving the advantage to be thereby gained, slyly ask of him who is arguing conventionally a question which is to be determined by the rule of nature; and if he is talking of the rule of nature, you slip away to custom: as, for instance, you did in this very discussion about doing and suffering injustice. When Polus was speaking of the conventionally dishonourable, you assailed him from the point of view of nature; for by the rule of nature, to suffer injustice is the greater disgrace because the greater evil; but conventionally, to do evil is the more disgraceful. For the suffering of injustice is not the part of a man, but of a slave, who indeed had better die than live; since when he is wronged and trampled upon, he is unable to help himself, or any other about whom he cares. The reason, as I conceive, is that the makers of laws are the majority who are weak; and they make laws and distribute praises and censures with a view to themselves and to their own interests; and they terrify the stronger sort of men, and those who are able to get the better of them, in order that they may not get the better of them; and they say, that dishonesty is shameful and unjust; meaning, by the word injustice, the desire of a man to have more than his neighbours; for knowing their own inferiority, I suspect that they are too glad of equality. And therefore the endeavour to have more than the many, is conventionally said to be shameful and unjust, and is called injustice (compare Republic), whereas nature herself intimates that it is just for the better to have more than the worse, the more powerful than the weaker; and in many ways she shows, among men as well as among animals, and indeed among whole cities and races, that justice consists in the superior ruling over and having more than the inferior. For on what principle of justice did Xerxes invade Hellas, or his father the Scythians? (not to speak of numberless other examples). Nay, but these are the men who act according to nature; yes, by Heaven, and according to the law of nature: not, perhaps, according to that artificial law, which we invent and impose upon our fellows, of whom we take the best and strongest from their youth upwards, and tame them like young lions,—charming them with the sound of the voice, and saying to them, that with equality they must be content, and that the equal is the honourable and the just. But if there were a man who had sufficient force, he would shake off and break through, and escape from all this; he would trample under foot all our formulas and spells and charms, and all our laws which are against nature: the slave would rise in rebellion and be lord over us, and the light of natural justice would shine forth. And this I take to be the sentiment of Pindar, when he says in his poem, that

“Law is the king of all, of mortals as well as of immortals;”

this, as he says,

“Makes might to be right, doing violence with highest hand; as I infer from the deeds of Heracles, for without buying them—” (Fragm. Incert. 151 (Bockh).) —I do not remember the exact words, but the meaning is, that without buying them, and without their being given to him, he carried off the oxen of Geryon, according to the law of natural right, and that the oxen and other possessions of the weaker and inferior properly belong to the stronger and superior. And this is true, as you may ascertain, if you will leave philosophy and go on to higher things: for philosophy, Socrates, if pursued in moderation and at the proper age, is an elegant accomplishment, but too much philosophy is the ruin of human life. Even if a man has good parts, still, if he carries philosophy into later life, he is necessarily ignorant of all those things which a gentleman and a person of honour ought to know; he is inexperienced in the laws of the State, and in the language which ought to be used in the dealings of man with man, whether private or public, and utterly ignorant of the pleasures and desires of mankind and of human character in general. And people of this sort, when they betake themselves to politics or business, are as ridiculous as I imagine the politicians to be, when they make their appearance in the arena of philosophy. For, as Euripides says,

“Every man shines in that and pursues that, and devotes the greatest portion of the day to that in which he most excels,” (Antiope, fragm. 20 (Dindorf).)

but anything in which he is inferior, he avoids and depreciates, and praises the opposite from partiality to himself, and because he thinks that he will thus praise himself. The true principle is to unite them. Philosophy, as a part of education, is an excellent thing, and there is no disgrace to a man while he is young in pursuing such a study; but when he is more advanced in years, the thing becomes ridiculous, and I feel towards philosophers as I do towards those who lisp and imitate children. For I love to see a little child, who is not of an age to speak plainly, lisping at his play; there is an appearance of grace and freedom in his utterance, which is natural to his childish years. But when I hear some small creature carefully articulating its words, I am offended; the sound is disagreeable, and has to my ears the twang of slavery. So when I hear a man lisping, or see him playing like a child, his behaviour appears to me ridiculous and unmanly and worthy of stripes. And I have the same feeling about students of philosophy; when I see a youth thus engaged,—the study appears to me to be in character, and becoming a man of liberal education, and him who neglects philosophy I regard as an inferior man, who will never aspire to anything great or noble. But if I see him continuing the study in later life, and not leaving off, I should like to beat him, Socrates; for, as I was saying, such a one, even though he have good natural parts, becomes effeminate. He flies from the busy centre and the market-place, in which, as the poet says, men become distinguished; he creeps into a corner for the rest of his life, and talks in a whisper with three or four admiring youths, but never speaks out like a freeman in a satisfactory manner. Now I, Socrates, am very well inclined towards you, and my feeling may be compared with that of Zethus towards Amphion, in the play of Euripides, whom I was mentioning just now: for I am disposed to say to you much what Zethus said to his brother, that you, Socrates, are careless about the things of which you ought to be careful; and that you

“Who have a soul so noble, are remarkable for a puerile exterior; Neither in a court of justice could you state a case, or give any reason or proof, Or offer valiant counsel on another’s behalf.”

And you must not be offended, my dear Socrates, for I am speaking out of good-will towards you, if I ask whether you are not ashamed of being thus defenceless; which I affirm to be the condition not of you only but of all those who will carry the study of philosophy too far. For suppose that some one were to take you, or any one of your sort, off to prison, declaring that you had done wrong when you had done no wrong, you must allow that you would not know what to do:—there you would stand giddy and gaping, and not having a word to say; and when you went up before the Court, even if the accuser were a poor creature and not good for much, you would die if he were disposed to claim the penalty of death. And yet, Socrates, what is the value of

“An art which converts a man of sense into a fool,”

who is helpless, and has no power to save either himself or others, when he is in the greatest danger and is going to be despoiled by his enemies of all his goods, and has to live, simply deprived of his rights of citizenship?—he being a man who, if I may use the expression, may be boxed on the ears with impunity. Then, my good friend, take my advice, and refute no more:

“Learn the philosophy of business, and acquire the reputation of wisdom. But leave to others these niceties,”

whether they are to be described as follies or absurdities:

“For they will only Give you poverty for the inmate of your dwelling.”

Cease, then, emulating these paltry splitters of words, and emulate only the man of substance and honour, who is well to do.

Plato, Republic I  Thrasymachus’ Argument

Glaucon and the rest of the company joined in my request, and Thrasymachus, as any one might see, was in reality eager to speak; for he thought that he had an excellent answer, and would distinguish himself. But at first he affected to insist on my answering; at length he consented to begin. Behold, he said, the wisdom of Socrates; he refuses to teach himself, and goes about learning of others, to whom he never even says Thank you.

That I learn of others, I replied, is quite true; but that I am ungrateful I wholly deny. Money I have none, and therefore I pay in praise, which is all I have; and how ready I am to praise any one who appears to me to speak well you will very soon find out when you answer; for I expect that you will answer well.

Listen, then, he said; I proclaim that justice is nothing else than the interest of the stronger. And now why do you not praise me? But of course you won’t.

Let me first understand you, I replied. Justice, as you say, is the interest of the stronger. What, Thrasymachus, is the meaning of this? You cannot mean to say that because Polydamas, the pancratiast, is stronger than we are, and finds the eating of beef conducive to his bodily strength, that to eat beef is therefore equally for our good who are weaker than he is, and right and just for us?

That’s abominable of you, Socrates; you take the words in the sense which is most damaging to the argument.

Not at all, my good sir, I said; I am trying to understand them; and I wish that you would be a little clearer.

Well, he said, have you never heard that forms of government differ; there are tyrannies, and there are democracies, and there are aristocracies?

Yes, I know.

And the government is the ruling power in each state?


And the different forms of government make laws democratical, aristocratical, tyrannical, with a view to their several interests; and these laws, which are made by them for their own interests, are the justice which they deliver to their subjects, and him who transgresses them they punish as a breaker of the law, and unjust. And that is what I mean when I say that in all states there is the same principle of justice, which is the interest of the government; and as the government must be supposed to have power, the only reasonable conclusion is, that everywhere there is one principle of justice, which is the interest of the stronger.

Now I understand you, I said; and whether you are right or not I will try to discover. But let me remark, that in defining justice you have yourself used the word ‘interest’ which you forbade me to use. It is true, however, that in your definition the words ‘of the stronger’ are added.

A small addition, you must allow, he said.

Great or small, never mind about that: we must first enquire whether what you are saying is the truth. Now we are both agreed that justice is interest of some sort, but you go on to say ‘of the stronger’; about this addition I am not so sure, and must therefore consider further.


I will; and first tell me, Do you admit that it is just for subjects to obey their rulers?

I do.

But are the rulers of states absolutely infallible, or are they sometimes liable to err?

To be sure, he replied, they are liable to err.

Then in making their laws they may sometimes make them rightly, and sometimes not?


When they make them rightly, they make them agreeably to their interest; when they are mistaken, contrary to their interest; you admit that?


And the laws which they make must be obeyed by their subjects,—and that is what you call justice?


Then justice, according to your argument, is not only obedience to the interest of the stronger but the reverse?

What is that you are saying? he asked.

I am only repeating what you are saying, I believe. But let us consider: Have we not admitted that the rulers may be mistaken about their own interest in what they command, and also that to obey them is justice? Has not that been admitted?


Then you must also have acknowledged justice not to be for the interest of the stronger, when the rulers unintentionally command things to be done which are to their own injury. For if, as you say, justice is the obedience which the subject renders to their commands, in that case, O wisest of men, is there any escape from the conclusion that the weaker are commanded to do, not what is for the interest, but what is for the injury of the stronger?

Nothing can be clearer, Socrates, said Polemarchus.

Yes, said Cleitophon, interposing, if you are allowed to be his witness.

But there is no need of any witness, said Polemarchus, for Thrasymachus himself acknowledges that rulers may sometimes command what is not for their own interest, and that for subjects to obey them is justice.

Yes, Polemarchus,—Thrasymachus said that for subjects to do what was commanded by their rulers is just.

But, said Cleitophon, he meant by the interest of the stronger what the stronger thought to be his interest,—this was what the weaker had to do; and this was affirmed by him to be justice.

Those were not his words, rejoined Polemarchus.

Never mind, I replied, if he now says that they are, let us accept his statement. Tell me, Thrasymachus, I said, did you mean by justice what the stronger thought to be his interest, whether really so or not?

Certainly not, he said. Do you suppose that I call him who is mistaken the stronger at the time when he is mistaken?

Yes, I said, my impression was that you did so, when you admitted that the ruler was not infallible but might be sometimes mistaken.

You argue like an informer, Socrates. Do you mean, for example, that he who is mistaken about the sick is a physician in that he is mistaken? or that he who errs in arithmetic or grammar is an arithmetician or grammarian at the time when he is making the mistake, in respect of the mistake? True, we say that the physician or arithmetician or grammarian has made a mistake, but this is only a way of speaking; for the fact is that neither the grammarian nor any other person of skill ever makes a mistake in so far as he is what his name implies; they none of them err unless their skill fails them, and then they cease to be skilled artists. No artist or sage or ruler errs at the time when he is what his name implies; though he is commonly said to err, and I adopted the common mode of speaking. But to be perfectly accurate, since you are such a lover of accuracy, we should say that the ruler, in so far as he is a ruler, is unerring, and, being unerring, always commands that which is for his own interest; and the subject is required to execute his commands; and therefore, as I said at first and now repeat, justice is the interest of the stronger.

Plato, Seventh Letter

Plato to Dion's associates and friends wishes well-doing.

You wrote to me that I ought to consider that your policy was the same as that which Dion had; and moreover you charged me to support it, so far as I can, [324a] both by deed and word. Now if you really hold the same views and aims as he, I consent to support them, but if not, I will ponder the matter many times over. And what was his policy and his aim I will tell you, and that, as I may say, not from mere conjecture but from certain knowledge. For when I originally arrived at Syracuse, being about forty years old, Dion was of the age which Hipparinus has now reached,1 and the views which he had then come to hold [324b] he continued to hold unchanged; for he believed that the Syracusans ought to be free and dwell under the best laws. Consequently, it is no matter of surprise if some Deity has made Hipparinus also come to share his views about government and be of the same mind. Now the manner in which these views originated is a story well worth hearing for young and old alike, and I shall endeavor to narrate it to you from the beginning; for at the present moment it is opportune.

In the days of my youth my experience was the same as that of many others. I thought that as soon as I should become my own master [324c] I would immediately enter into public life. But it so happened, I found, that the following changes occurred in the political situation.

In the government then existing, reviled as it was by many, a revolution took place; and the revolution was headed by fifty-one leaders, of whom eleven were in the City and ten in the Piraeus—each of these sections dealing with the market and with all municipal matters requiring management—and Thirty were established [324d] as irresponsible rulers of all. Now of these some were actually connections and acquaintances of mine2; and indeed they invited me at once to join their administration, thinking it would be congenial. The feelings I then experienced, owing to my youth, were in no way surprising: for I imagined that they would administer the State by leading it out of an unjust way of life into a just way, and consequently I gave my mind to them very diligently, to see what they would do. And indeed I saw how these men within a short time caused men to look back on the former government as a golden age; and above all how they treated my [324e] aged friend Socrates, whom I would hardly scruple to call the most just of men then living, when they tried to send him, along with others, after one of the citizens, to fetch him by force [325a] that he might be put to death—their object being that Socrates, whether he wished or no, might be made to share in their political actions; he, however, refused to obey and risked the uttermost penalties rather than be a partaker in their unholy deeds.3 So when I beheld all these actions and others of a similar grave kind,4 I was indignant, and I withdrew myself from the evil practices then going on. But in no long time the power of the Thirty was overthrown together with the whole of the government which then existed. Then once again I was really, though less urgently, impelled with a desire to take part in public and [325b] political affairs. Many deplorable events, however, were still happening in those times, troublous as they were, and it was not surprising that in some instances, during these revolutions, men were avenging themselves on their foes too fiercely; yet, notwithstanding, the exiles who then returned5 exercised no little moderation. But, as ill-luck would have it, certain men of authority6

summoned our comrade Socrates before the law-courts, laying a charge against him which was most unholy, and which Socrates of all men least deserved; [325c] for it was on the charge of impiety that those men summoned him and the rest condemned and slew him—the very man who on the former occasion, when they themselves had the misfortune to be in exile, had refused to take part in the unholy arrest of one of the friends of the men then exiled.

When, therefore, I considered all this, and the type of men who were administering the affairs of State, with their laws too and their customs, the more I considered them and the more I advanced in years myself, the more difficult appeared to me [325d] the task of managing affairs of State rightly. For it was impossible to take action without friends and trusty companions; and these it was not easy to find ready to hand, since our State was no longer managed according to the principles and institutions of our forefathers; while to acquire other new friends with any facility was a thing impossible. Moreover, both the written laws and the customs were being corrupted, and that with surprising rapidity. Consequently, although at first [325e] I was filled with an ardent desire to engage in public affairs, when I considered all this and saw how things were shifting about anyhow in all directions, I finally became dizzy; and although I continued to consider by what means some betterment could be brought about not only in these matters but also in the government as a whole, [326a] yet as regards political action I kept constantly waiting for an opportune moment; until, finally, looking at all the States which now exist, I perceived that one and all they are badly governed; for the state of their laws is such as to be almost incurable without some marvellous overhauling and good-luck to boot. So in my praise of the right philosophy I was compelled to declare7 that by it one is enabled to discern all forms of justice both political and individual. Wherefore the classes of mankind (I said) will have no cessation from evils until either the class of those [326b] who are right and true philosophers attains political supremacy, or else the class of those who hold power in the States becomes, by some dispensation of Heaven, really philosophic.8

This was the view I held when I came to Italy and Sicily, at the time of my first arrival. And when I came I was in no wise pleased at all with “the blissful life,” as it is there termed, replete as it is with Italian and Syracusan banquetings9; for thus one's existence is spent in gorging food twice a day and never sleeping alone at night, [326c] and all the practices which accompany this mode of living. For not a single man of all who live beneath the heavens could ever become wise if these were his practices from his youth, since none will be found to possess a nature so admirably compounded; nor would he ever be likely to become temperate; and the same may truly be said of all other forms of virtue. And no State would remain stable under laws of any kind, if its citizens, while supposing that they ought to spend everywhere to excess, [326d] yet believed that they ought to cease from all exertion except feastings and drinkings and the vigorous pursuit of their amours. Of necessity these States never cease changing into tyrannies, oligarchies, and democracies,10 and the men who hold power in them cannot endure so much as the mention of the name of a just government with equal laws. Holding these views, then, as well as those previously formed, I travelled through to Syracuse—possibly as luck would have it, [326e] though it seems likely that one of the Superior Powers was contriving at that time to lay the foundation of the events which have now taken place in regard to Dion and in regard to Syracuse; and of still more events, as is to be feared, unless you now hearken to the counsel I offer you now, for the second time.11

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics

Aristot. Nic. Eth. 1134b

The function of a ruler is to be the guardian of justice, and if of justice, then of equality. [6] A just ruler seems to make nothing out of his office; for he does not allot to himself a larger share of things generally good, unless it be proportionate to his merits; so that he labors for others, which accounts for the saying mentioned above,1 that ‘Justice is the good of others.’ [7] Consequently some recompense has to be given him, in the shape of honor and dignity. It is those whom such rewards do not satisfy who make themselves tyrants. 

Justice between master and slave and between father and child is not the same as absolute and political justice, but only analogous to them. For there is no such thing as injustice in the absolute sense towards what is one's own; and a chattel, or a child till it reaches a certain age and becomes independent, is, as it were, a part of oneself, and no one chooses to harm himself; [9] hence there can be no injustice towards them, and therefore nothing just or unjust in the political sense. For these, as we saw, are embodied in law, and exist between persons whose relations are naturally regulated by law, that is, persons who share equally in ruling and being ruled. Hence Justice exists in a fuller degree between husband and wife than between father and children, or master and slaves; in fact, justice between husband and wife is Domestic Justice in the real sense, though this too is different from Political Justice.

Political Justice is of two kinds, one natural, the other conventional. A rule of justice is natural that has the same validity everywhere, and does not depend on our accepting it or not. A rule is conventional that in the first instance may be settled in one way or the other indifferently, though having once been settled it is not indifferent: for example, that the ransom for a prisoner shall be a mina, that a sacrifice shall consist of a goat and not of two sheep; and any regulations enacted for particular cases, for instance the sacrifice in honor of Brasidas,3 and ordinances in the nature of special decrees. 

 Some people think that all rules of justice are merely conventional, because whereas a law of nature is immutable and has the same validity everywhere, as fire burns both here and in Persia, rules of justice are seen to vary. [3] That rules of justice vary is not absolutely true, but only with qualifications. Among the gods indeed it is perhaps not true at all; but in our world,4 although there is such a thing as Natural Justice, all rules of justice are variable. But nevertheless there is such a thing as Natural Justice as well as justice not ordained by nature; [4] and it is easy5 to see which rules of justice, though not absolute, are natural, and which are not natural but legal and conventional, both sorts alike being variable. The same distinction will hold good in all other matters; for instance, the right hand is naturally stronger than the left, yet it is possible for any man to make himself ambidextrous. 


Avatar photo

Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

4 Responses

  1. Vince Cornell says:

    Not surprisingly, I don’t have much Martin Luther in my personal library. I’ve been having difficulty finding “On Temporal Power” – I figured surely he was old enough to be in the public domain. However, outside of either cheap ebook collections that don’t specifically list that title as a part of the collection or large (not cheap) volumes that include analysis of Luther’s writings, I haven’t run across just a plain copy of Temporal Power. Has anyone else had better luck?

  2. Joshua Smith says:

    I used this link from University of Oregon and assumed it was the same work.

  3. Vince Cornell says:

    Many thanks!

  4. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Yes, that is the correct work. It would probably annoy my Lutheran friends to hear me say it, but I find Luther often a useful reactionary, both Medieval and humanistic, and while he is grossly intemperate and unfair in his attacks on the Scholastics, it is important to recall that Catholic philosophy was becoming very academic, nit-picking, detached from the major sources of Church teaching. As a reformer from within, Luther could have been invaluable, as Pope Benedict thought. This short work includes unnecessary swipes at unnamed Scholastics and makes far too broad a case, but on the whole he is right about the necessity of secular authority and quite right to criticize Catholic intellectuals who were undermining the authority of kings and emperors in order to promote the papacy.