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Alcibiades II

by Platonic Imitator

Translated by Benjamin Jowett

March, 1999 [Etext #1677]

The Project Gutenberg Etext of Alcibiades II by Platonic Imitator
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by Platonic Imitator (see Appendix II)

Translated by Benjamin Jowett


The two dialogues which are translated in the second appendix are not
mentioned by Aristotle, or by any early authority, and have no claim to be
ascribed to Plato. They are examples of Platonic dialogues to be assigned
probably to the second or third generation after Plato, when his writings
were well known at Athens and Alexandria. They exhibit considerable
originality, and are remarkable for containing several thoughts of the sort
which we suppose to be modern rather than ancient, and which therefore have
a peculiar interest for us. The Second Alcibiades shows that the
difficulties about prayer which have perplexed Christian theologians were
not unknown among the followers of Plato. The Eryxias was doubted by the
ancients themselves: yet it may claim the distinction of being, among all
Greek or Roman writings, the one which anticipates in the most striking
manner the modern science of political economy and gives an abstract form
to some of its principal doctrines.

For the translation of these two dialogues I am indebted to my friend and
secretary, Mr. Knight.

That the Dialogue which goes by the name of the Second Alcibiades is a
genuine writing of Plato will not be maintained by any modern critic, and
was hardly believed by the ancients themselves. The dialectic is poor and
weak. There is no power over language, or beauty of style; and there is a
certain abruptness and agroikia in the conversation, which is very un-
Platonic. The best passage is probably that about the poets:--the remark
that the poet, who is of a reserved disposition, is uncommonly difficult to
understand, and the ridiculous interpretation of Homer, are entirely in the
spirit of Plato (compare Protag; Ion; Apol.). The characters are ill-
drawn. Socrates assumes the 'superior person' and preaches too much, while
Alcibiades is stupid and heavy-in-hand. There are traces of Stoic
influence in the general tone and phraseology of the Dialogue (compare opos
melesei tis...kaka: oti pas aphron mainetai): and the writer seems to
have been acquainted with the 'Laws' of Plato (compare Laws). An incident
from the Symposium is rather clumsily introduced, and two somewhat
hackneyed quotations (Symp., Gorg.) recur. The reference to the death of
Archelaus as having occurred 'quite lately' is only a fiction, probably
suggested by the Gorgias, where the story of Archelaus is told, and a
similar phrase occurs;--ta gar echthes kai proen gegonota tauta, k.t.l.
There are several passages which are either corrupt or extremely ill-
expressed. But there is a modern interest in the subject of the dialogue;
and it is a good example of a short spurious work, which may be attributed
to the second or third century before Christ.



Platonic Imitator (see Appendix II above)

Translated by Benjamin Jowett

PERSONS OF THE DIALOGUE: Socrates and Alcibiades.

SOCRATES: Are you going, Alcibiades, to offer prayer to Zeus?

ALCIBIADES: Yes, Socrates, I am.

SOCRATES: you seem to be troubled and to cast your eyes on the ground, as
though you were thinking about something.

ALCIBIADES: Of what do you suppose that I am thinking?

SOCRATES: Of the greatest of all things, as I believe. Tell me, do you
not suppose that the Gods sometimes partly grant and partly reject the
requests which we make in public and private, and favour some persons and
not others?

ALCIBIADES: Certainly.

SOCRATES: Do you not imagine, then, that a man ought to be very careful,
lest perchance without knowing it he implore great evils for himself,
deeming that he is asking for good, especially if the Gods are in the mood
to grant whatever he may request? There is the story of Oedipus, for
instance, who prayed that his children might divide their inheritance
between them by the sword: he did not, as he might have done, beg that his
present evils might be averted, but called down new ones. And was not his
prayer accomplished, and did not many and terrible evils thence arise, upon
which I need not dilate?

ALCIBIADES: Yes, Socrates, but you are speaking of a madman: surely you
do not think that any one in his senses would venture to make such a

SOCRATES: Madness, then, you consider to be the opposite of discretion?

ALCIBIADES: Of course.

SOCRATES: And some men seem to you to be discreet, and others the


SOCRATES: Well, then, let us discuss who these are. We acknowledge that
some are discreet, some foolish, and that some are mad?


SOCRATES: And again, there are some who are in health?

ALCIBIADES: There are.

SOCRATES: While others are ailing?


SOCRATES: And they are not the same?

ALCIBIADES: Certainly not.

SOCRATES: Nor are there any who are in neither state?


SOCRATES: A man must either be sick or be well?

ALCIBIADES: That is my opinion.

SOCRATES: Very good: and do you think the same about discretion and want
of discretion?

ALCIBIADES: How do you mean?

SOCRATES: Do you believe that a man must be either in or out of his
senses; or is there some third or intermediate condition, in which he is
neither one nor the other?

ALCIBIADES: Decidedly not.

SOCRATES: He must be either sane or insane?

ALCIBIADES: So I suppose.

SOCRATES: Did you not acknowledge that madness was the opposite of


SOCRATES: And that there is no third or middle term between discretion and


SOCRATES: And there cannot be two opposites to one thing?

ALCIBIADES: There cannot.

SOCRATES: Then madness and want of sense are the same?

ALCIBIADES: That appears to be the case.

SOCRATES: We shall be in the right, therefore, Alcibiades, if we say that
all who are senseless are mad. For example, if among persons of your own
age or older than yourself there are some who are senseless,--as there
certainly are,--they are mad. For tell me, by heaven, do you not think
that in the city the wise are few, while the foolish, whom you call mad,
are many?


SOCRATES: But how could we live in safety with so many crazy people?
Should we not long since have paid the penalty at their hands, and have
been struck and beaten and endured every other form of ill-usage which
madmen are wont to inflict? Consider, my dear friend: may it not be quite

ALCIBIADES: Why, Socrates, how is that possible? I must have been

SOCRATES: So it seems to me. But perhaps we may consider the matter


SOCRATES: I will tell you. We think that some are sick; do we not?


SOCRATES: And must every sick person either have the gout, or be in a
fever, or suffer from ophthalmia? Or do you believe that a man may labour
under some other disease, even although he has none of these complaints?
Surely, they are not the only maladies which exist?

ALCIBIADES: Certainly not.

SOCRATES: And is every kind of ophthalmia a disease?


SOCRATES: And every disease ophthalmia?

ALCIBIADES: Surely not. But I scarcely understand what I mean myself.

SOCRATES: Perhaps, if you give me your best attention, 'two of us' looking
together, we may find what we seek.

ALCIBIADES: I am attending, Socrates, to the best of my power.

SOCRATES: We are agreed, then, that every form of ophthalmia is a disease,
but not every disease ophthalmia?


SOCRATES: And so far we seem to be right. For every one who suffers from
a fever is sick; but the sick, I conceive, do not all have fever or gout or
ophthalmia, although each of these is a disease, which, according to those
whom we call physicians, may require a different treatment. They are not
all alike, nor do they produce the same result, but each has its own
effect, and yet they are all diseases. May we not take an illustration
from the artizans?

ALCIBIADES: Certainly.

SOCRATES: There are cobblers and carpenters and sculptors and others of
all sorts and kinds, whom we need not stop to enumerate. All have their
distinct employments and all are workmen, although they are not all of them
cobblers or carpenters or sculptors.

ALCIBIADES: No, indeed.

SOCRATES: And in like manner men differ in regard to want of sense. Those
who are most out of their wits we call 'madmen,' while we term those who
are less far gone 'stupid' or 'idiotic,' or, if we prefer gentler language,
describe them as 'romantic' or 'simple-minded,' or, again, as 'innocent' or
'inexperienced' or 'foolish.' You may even find other names, if you seek
for them; but by all of them lack of sense is intended. They only differ
as one art appeared to us to differ from another or one disease from
another. Or what is your opinion?

ALCIBIADES: I agree with you.

SOCRATES: Then let us return to the point at which we digressed. We said
at first that we should have to consider who were the wise and who the
foolish. For we acknowledged that there are these two classes? Did we

ALCIBIADES: To be sure.

SOCRATES: And you regard those as sensible who know what ought to be done
or said?


SOCRATES: The senseless are those who do not know this?


SOCRATES: The latter will say or do what they ought not without their own


SOCRATES: Oedipus, as I was saying, Alcibiades, was a person of this sort.
And even now-a-days you will find many who (have offered inauspicious
prayers), although, unlike him, they were not in anger nor thought that
they were asking evil. He neither sought, nor supposed that he sought for
good, but others have had quite the contrary notion. I believe that if the
God whom you are about to consult should appear to you, and, in
anticipation of your request, enquired whether you would be contented to
become tyrant of Athens, and if this seemed in your eyes a small and mean
thing, should add to it the dominion of all Hellas; and seeing that even
then you would not be satisfied unless you were ruler of the whole of
Europe, should promise, not only that, but, if you so desired, should
proclaim to all mankind in one and the same day that Alcibiades, son of
Cleinias, was tyrant:--in such a case, I imagine, you would depart full of
joy, as one who had obtained the greatest of goods.

ALCIBIADES: And not only I, Socrates, but any one else who should meet
with such luck.

SOCRATES: Yet you would not accept the dominion and lordship of all the
Hellenes and all the barbarians in exchange for your life?

ALCIBIADES: Certainly not: for then what use could I make of them?

SOCRATES: And would you accept them if you were likely to use them to a
bad and mischievous end?

ALCIBIADES: I would not.

SOCRATES: You see that it is not safe for a man either rashly to accept
whatever is offered him, or himself to request a thing, if he is likely to
suffer thereby or immediately to lose his life. And yet we could tell of
many who, having long desired and diligently laboured to obtain a tyranny,
thinking that thus they would procure an advantage, have nevertheless
fallen victims to designing enemies. You must have heard of what happened
only the other day, how Archelaus of Macedonia was slain by his beloved
(compare Aristotle, Pol.), whose love for the tyranny was not less than
that of Archelaus for him. The tyrannicide expected by his crime to become
tyrant and afterwards to have a happy life; but when he had held the
tyranny three or four days, he was in his turn conspired against and slain.
Or look at certain of our own citizens,--and of their actions we have been
not hearers, but eyewitnesses,--who have desired to obtain military
command: of those who have gained their object, some are even to this day
exiles from the city, while others have lost their lives. And even they
who seem to have fared best, have not only gone through many perils and
terrors during their office, but after their return home they have been
beset by informers worse than they once were by their foes, insomuch that
several of them have wished that they had remained in a private station
rather than have had the glories of command. If, indeed, such perils and
terrors were of profit to the commonwealth, there would be reason in
undergoing them; but the very contrary is the case. Again, you will find
persons who have prayed for offspring, and when their prayers were heard,
have fallen into the greatest pains and sufferings. For some have begotten
children who were utterly bad, and have therefore passed all their days in
misery, while the parents of good children have undergone the misfortune of
losing them, and have been so little happier than the others that they
would have preferred never to have had children rather than to have had
them and lost them. And yet, although these and the like examples are
manifest and known of all, it is rare to find any one who has refused what
has been offered him, or, if he were likely to gain aught by prayer, has
refrained from making his petition. The mass of mankind would not decline
to accept a tyranny, or the command of an army, or any of the numerous
things which cause more harm than good: but rather, if they had them not,
would have prayed to obtain them. And often in a short space of time they
change their tone, and wish their old prayers unsaid. Wherefore also I
suspect that men are entirely wrong when they blame the gods as the authors
of the ills which befall them (compare Republic): 'their own presumption,'
or folly (whichever is the right word)--

'Has brought these unmeasured woes upon them.' (Homer. Odyss.)

He must have been a wise poet, Alcibiades, who, seeing as I believe, his
friends foolishly praying for and doing things which would not really
profit them, offered up a common prayer in behalf of them all:--

'King Zeus, grant us good whether prayed for or unsought by us;
But that which we ask amiss, do thou avert.' (The author of these lines,
which are probably of Pythagorean origin, is unknown. They are found also
in the Anthology (Anth. Pal.).)

In my opinion, I say, the poet spoke both well and prudently; but if you
have anything to say in answer to him, speak out.

ALCIBIADES: It is difficult, Socrates, to oppose what has been well said.
And I perceive how many are the ills of which ignorance is the cause,
since, as would appear, through ignorance we not only do, but what is
worse, pray for the greatest evils. No man would imagine that he would do
so; he would rather suppose that he was quite capable of praying for what
was best: to call down evils seems more like a curse than a prayer.

SOCRATES: But perhaps, my good friend, some one who is wiser than either
you or I will say that we have no right to blame ignorance thus rashly,
unless we can add what ignorance we mean and of what, and also to whom and
how it is respectively a good or an evil?

ALCIBIADES: How do you mean? Can ignorance possibly be better than
knowledge for any person in any conceivable case?

SOCRATES: So I believe:--you do not think so?

ALCIBIADES: Certainly not.

SOCRATES: And yet surely I may not suppose that you would ever wish to act
towards your mother as they say that Orestes and Alcmeon and others have
done towards their parent.

ALCIBIADES: Good words, Socrates, prithee.

SOCRATES: You ought not to bid him use auspicious words, who says that you
would not be willing to commit so horrible a deed, but rather him who
affirms the contrary, if the act appear to you unfit even to be mentioned.
Or do you think that Orestes, had he been in his senses and knew what was
best for him to do, would ever have dared to venture on such a crime?

ALCIBIADES: Certainly not.

SOCRATES: Nor would any one else, I fancy?


SOCRATES: That ignorance is bad then, it would appear, which is of the
best and does not know what is best?

ALCIBIADES: So I think, at least.

SOCRATES: And both to the person who is ignorant and everybody else?


SOCRATES: Let us take another case. Suppose that you were suddenly to get
into your head that it would be a good thing to kill Pericles, your kinsman
and guardian, and were to seize a sword and, going to the doors of his
house, were to enquire if he were at home, meaning to slay only him and no
one else:--the servants reply, 'Yes': (Mind, I do not mean that you would
really do such a thing; but there is nothing, you think, to prevent a man
who is ignorant of the best, having occasionally the whim that what is
worst is best?


SOCRATES:--If, then, you went indoors, and seeing him, did not know him,
but thought that he was some one else, would you venture to slay him?

ALCIBIADES: Most decidedly not (it seems to me). (These words are omitted
in several MSS.)

SOCRATES: For you designed to kill, not the first who offered, but
Pericles himself?

ALCIBIADES: Certainly.

SOCRATES: And if you made many attempts, and each time failed to recognize
Pericles, you would never attack him?


SOCRATES: Well, but if Orestes in like manner had not known his mother, do
you think that he would ever have laid hands upon her?


SOCRATES: He did not intend to slay the first woman he came across, nor
any one else's mother, but only his own?


SOCRATES: Ignorance, then, is better for those who are in such a frame of
mind, and have such ideas?

ALCIBIADES: Obviously.

SOCRATES: You acknowledge that for some persons in certain cases the
ignorance of some things is a good and not an evil, as you formerly


SOCRATES: And there is still another case which will also perhaps appear
strange to you, if you will consider it? (The reading is here uncertain.)

ALCIBIADES: What is that, Socrates?

SOCRATES: It may be, in short, that the possession of all the sciences, if
unaccompanied by the knowledge of the best, will more often than not injure
the possessor. Consider the matter thus:--Must we not, when we intend
either to do or say anything, suppose that we know or ought to know that
which we propose so confidently to do or say?

ALCIBIADES: Yes, in my opinion.

SOCRATES: We may take the orators for an example, who from time to time
advise us about war and peace, or the building of walls and the
construction of harbours, whether they understand the business in hand, or
only think that they do. Whatever the city, in a word, does to another
city, or in the management of her own affairs, all happens by the counsel
of the orators.


SOCRATES: But now see what follows, if I can (make it clear to you).
(Some words appear to have dropped out here.) You would distinguish the
wise from the foolish?


SOCRATES: The many are foolish, the few wise?

ALCIBIADES: Certainly.

SOCRATES: And you use both the terms, 'wise' and 'foolish,' in reference
to something?


SOCRATES: Would you call a person wise who can give advice, but does not
know whether or when it is better to carry out the advice?

ALCIBIADES: Decidedly not.

SOCRATES: Nor again, I suppose, a person who knows the art of war, but
does not know whether it is better to go to war or for how long?


SOCRATES: Nor, once more, a person who knows how to kill another or to
take away his property or to drive him from his native land, but not when
it is better to do so or for whom it is better?

ALCIBIADES: Certainly not.

SOCRATES: But he who understands anything of the kind and has at the same
time the knowledge of the best course of action:--and the best and the
useful are surely the same?--


SOCRATES:--Such an one, I say, we should call wise and a useful adviser
both of himself and of the city. What do you think?


SOCRATES: And if any one knows how to ride or to shoot with the bow or to
box or to wrestle, or to engage in any other sort of contest or to do
anything whatever which is in the nature of an art,--what do you call him
who knows what is best according to that art? Do you not speak of one who
knows what is best in riding as a good rider?


SOCRATES: And in a similar way you speak of a good boxer or a good flute-
player or a good performer in any other art?


SOCRATES: But is it necessary that the man who is clever in any of these
arts should be wise also in general? Or is there a difference between the
clever artist and the wise man?

ALCIBIADES: All the difference in the world.

SOCRATES: And what sort of a state do you think that would be which was
composed of good archers and flute-players and athletes and masters in
other arts, and besides them of those others about whom we spoke, who knew
how to go to war and how to kill, as well as of orators puffed up with
political pride, but in which not one of them all had this knowledge of the
best, and there was no one who could tell when it was better to apply any
of these arts or in regard to whom?

ALCIBIADES: I should call such a state bad, Socrates.

SOCRATES: You certainly would when you saw each of them rivalling the
other and esteeming that of the greatest importance in the state,

'Wherein he himself most excelled.' (Euripides, Antiope.)

--I mean that which was best in any art, while he was entirely ignorant of
what was best for himself and for the state, because, as I think, he trusts
to opinion which is devoid of intelligence. In such a case should we not
be right if we said that the state would be full of anarchy and

ALCIBIADES: Decidedly.

SOCRATES: But ought we not then, think you, either to fancy that we know
or really to know, what we confidently propose to do or say?


SOCRATES: And if a person does that which he knows or supposes that he
knows, and the result is beneficial, he will act advantageously both for
himself and for the state?


SOCRATES: And if he do the contrary, both he and the state will suffer?


SOCRATES: Well, and are you of the same mind, as before?


SOCRATES: But were you not saying that you would call the many unwise and
the few wise?


SOCRATES: And have we not come back to our old assertion that the many
fail to obtain the best because they trust to opinion which is devoid of

ALCIBIADES: That is the case.

SOCRATES: It is good, then, for the many, if they particularly desire to
do that which they know or suppose that they know, neither to know nor to
suppose that they know, in cases where if they carry out their ideas in
action they will be losers rather than gainers?

ALCIBIADES: What you say is very true.

SOCRATES: Do you not see that I was really speaking the truth when I
affirmed that the possession of any other kind of knowledge was more likely
to injure than to benefit the possessor, unless he had also the knowledge
of the best?

ALCIBIADES: I do now, if I did not before, Socrates.

SOCRATES: The state or the soul, therefore, which wishes to have a right
existence must hold firmly to this knowledge, just as the sick man clings
to the physician, or the passenger depends for safety on the pilot. And if
the soul does not set sail until she have obtained this she will be all the
safer in the voyage through life. But when she rushes in pursuit of wealth
or bodily strength or anything else, not having the knowledge of the best,
so much the more is she likely to meet with misfortune. And he who has the
love of learning (Or, reading polumatheian, 'abundant learning.'), and is
skilful in many arts, and does not possess the knowledge of the best, but
is under some other guidance, will make, as he deserves, a sorry voyage:--
he will, I believe, hurry through the brief space of human life, pilotless
in mid-ocean, and the words will apply to him in which the poet blamed his

'...Full many a thing he knew;
But knew them all badly.' (A fragment from the pseudo-Homeric poem,

ALCIBIADES: How in the world, Socrates, do the words of the poet apply to
him? They seem to me to have no bearing on the point whatever.

SOCRATES: Quite the contrary, my sweet friend: only the poet is talking
in riddles after the fashion of his tribe. For all poetry has by nature an
enigmatical character, and it is by no means everybody who can interpret
it. And if, moreover, the spirit of poetry happen to seize on a man who is
of a begrudging temper and does not care to manifest his wisdom but keeps
it to himself as far as he can, it does indeed require an almost superhuman
wisdom to discover what the poet would be at. You surely do not suppose
that Homer, the wisest and most divine of poets, was unaware of the
impossibility of knowing a thing badly: for it was no less a person than
he who said of Margites that 'he knew many things, but knew them all
badly.' The solution of the riddle is this, I imagine:--By 'badly' Homer
meant 'bad' and 'knew' stands for 'to know.' Put the words together;--the
metre will suffer, but the poet's meaning is clear;--'Margites knew all
these things, but it was bad for him to know them.' And, obviously, if it
was bad for him to know so many things, he must have been a good-for-
nothing, unless the argument has played us false.

ALCIBIADES: But I do not think that it has, Socrates: at least, if the
argument is fallacious, it would be difficult for me to find another which
I could trust.

SOCRATES: And you are right in thinking so.

ALCIBIADES: Well, that is my opinion.

SOCRATES: But tell me, by Heaven:--you must see now the nature and
greatness of the difficulty in which you, like others, have your part. For
you change about in all directions, and never come to rest anywhere: what
you once most strongly inclined to suppose, you put aside again and quite
alter your mind. If the God to whose shrine you are going should appear at
this moment, and ask before you made your prayer, 'Whether you would desire
to have one of the things which we mentioned at first, or whether he should
leave you to make your own request:'--what in either case, think you, would
be the best way to take advantage of the opportunity?

ALCIBIADES: Indeed, Socrates, I could not answer you without
consideration. It seems to me to be a wild thing (The Homeric word margos
is said to be here employed in allusion to the quotation from the
'Margites' which Socrates has just made; but it is not used in the sense
which it has in Homer.) to make such a request; a man must be very careful
lest he pray for evil under the idea that he is asking for good, when
shortly after he may have to recall his prayer, and, as you were saying,
demand the opposite of what he at first requested.

SOCRATES: And was not the poet whose words I originally quoted wiser than
we are, when he bade us (pray God) to defend us from evil even though we
asked for it?

ALCIBIADES: I believe that you are right.

SOCRATES: The Lacedaemonians, too, whether from admiration of the poet or
because they have discovered the idea for themselves, are wont to offer the
prayer alike in public and private, that the Gods will give unto them the
beautiful as well as the good:--no one is likely to hear them make any
further petition. And yet up to the present time they have not been less
fortunate than other men; or if they have sometimes met with misfortune,
the fault has not been due to their prayer. For surely, as I conceive, the
Gods have power either to grant our requests, or to send us the contrary of
what we ask.

And now I will relate to you a story which I have heard from certain of our
elders. It chanced that when the Athenians and Lacedaemonians were at war,
our city lost every battle by land and sea and never gained a victory. The
Athenians being annoyed and perplexed how to find a remedy for their
troubles, decided to send and enquire at the shrine of Ammon. Their envoys
were also to ask, 'Why the Gods always granted the victory to the
Lacedaemonians?' 'We,' (they were to say,) 'offer them more and finer
sacrifices than any other Hellenic state, and adorn their temples with
gifts, as nobody else does; moreover, we make the most solemn and costly
processions to them every year, and spend more money in their service than
all the rest of the Hellenes put together. But the Lacedaemonians take no
thought of such matters, and pay so little respect to the Gods that they
have a habit of sacrificing blemished animals to them, and in various ways
are less zealous than we are, although their wealth is quite equal to
ours.' When they had thus spoken, and had made their request to know what
remedy they could find against the evils which troubled them, the prophet
made no direct answer,--clearly because he was not allowed by the God to do
so;--but he summoned them to him and said: 'Thus saith Ammon to the
Athenians: "The silent worship of the Lacedaemonians pleaseth me better
than all the offerings of the other Hellenes."' Such were the words of the
God, and nothing more. He seems to have meant by 'silent worship' the
prayer of the Lacedaemonians, which is indeed widely different from the
usual requests of the Hellenes. For they either bring to the altar bulls
with gilded horns or make offerings to the Gods, and beg at random for what
they need, good or bad. When, therefore, the Gods hear them using words of
ill omen they reject these costly processions and sacrifices of theirs.
And we ought, I think, to be very careful and consider well what we should
say and what leave unsaid. Homer, too, will furnish us with similar
stories. For he tells us how the Trojans in making their encampment,

'Offered up whole hecatombs to the immortals,'

and how the 'sweet savour' was borne 'to the heavens by the winds;

'But the blessed Gods were averse and received it not.
For exceedingly did they hate the holy Ilium,
Both Priam and the people of the spear-skilled king.'

So that it was in vain for them to sacrifice and offer gifts, seeing that
they were hateful to the Gods, who are not, like vile usurers, to be gained
over by bribes. And it is foolish for us to boast that we are superior to
the Lacedaemonians by reason of our much worship. The idea is
inconceivable that the Gods have regard, not to the justice and purity of
our souls, but to costly processions and sacrifices, which men may
celebrate year after year, although they have committed innumerable crimes
against the Gods or against their fellow-men or the state. For the Gods,
as Ammon and his prophet declare, are no receivers of gifts, and they scorn
such unworthy service. Wherefore also it would seem that wisdom and
justice are especially honoured both by the Gods and by men of sense; and
they are the wisest and most just who know how to speak and act towards
Gods and men. But I should like to hear what your opinion is about these

ALCIBIADES: I agree, Socrates, with you and with the God, whom, indeed, it
would be unbecoming for me to oppose.

SOCRATES: Do you not remember saying that you were in great perplexity,
lest perchance you should ask for evil, supposing that you were asking for


SOCRATES: You see, then, that there is a risk in your approaching the God
in prayer, lest haply he should refuse your sacrifice when he hears the
blasphemy which you utter, and make you partake of other evils as well.
The wisest plan, therefore, seems to me that you should keep silence; for
your 'highmindedness'--to use the mildest term which men apply to folly--
will most likely prevent you from using the prayer of the Lacedaemonians.
You had better wait until we find out how we should behave towards the Gods
and towards men.

ALCIBIADES: And how long must I wait, Socrates, and who will be my
teacher? I should be very glad to see the man.

SOCRATES: It is he who takes an especial interest in you. But first of
all, I think, the darkness must be taken away in which your soul is now
enveloped, just as Athene in Homer removes the mist from the eyes of
Diomede that

'He may distinguish between God and mortal man.'

Afterwards the means may be given to you whereby you may distinguish
between good and evil. At present, I fear, this is beyond your power.

ALCIBIADES: Only let my instructor take away the impediment, whether it
pleases him to call it mist or anything else! I care not who he is; but I
am resolved to disobey none of his commands, if I am likely to be the
better for them.

SOCRATES: And surely he has a wondrous care for you.

ALCIBIADES: It seems to be altogether advisable to put off the sacrifice
until he is found.

SOCRATES: You are right: that will be safer than running such a
tremendous risk.

ALCIBIADES: But how shall we manage, Socrates?--At any rate I will set
this crown of mine upon your head, as you have given me such excellent
advice, and to the Gods we will offer crowns and perform the other
customary rites when I see that day approaching: nor will it be long
hence, if they so will.

SOCRATES: I accept your gift, and shall be ready and willing to receive
whatever else you may proffer. Euripides makes Creon say in the play, when
he beholds Teiresias with his crown and hears that he has gained it by his
skill as the first-fruits of the spoil:--

'An auspicious omen I deem thy victor's wreath:
For well thou knowest that wave and storm oppress us.'

And so I count your gift to be a token of good-fortune; for I am in no less
stress than Creon, and would fain carry off the victory over your lovers.

End of this Project Gutenberg Etext of Alcibiades II by Platonic Imitator

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