Plato, Menexenus (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Pl. Menex.].
<<Pl. Menex. 234a Pl. Menex. 236a (Greek) >>Pl. Menex. 238b

235cof the orator ring in my ears that it is scarcely on the fourth or fifth day that I recover myself and remember that I really am here on earth, whereas till then I almost imagined myself to be living in the Islands of the Blessed,—so expert are our orators.

Menexenus

You are always deriding the orators, Socrates. And truly I think that this time the selected speaker will not be too well prepared; for the selection is being made without warning, so that the speaker will probably be driven to improvise his speech. 235d

Socrates

Why so, my good sir? Each one of these men has speeches ready made; and what is more, it is in no wise difficult to improvise such things. For if it were a question of eulogizing Athenians before an audience of Peloponnesians, or Peloponnesians before Athenians, there would indeed be need of a good orator to win credence and credit; but when a man makes his effort in the presence of the very men whom he is praising, it is no difficult matter to win credit as a fine speaker.

Menexenus

You think not, Socrates?

Socrates

Yes, by Zeus, I certainly do. 235e

Menexenus

And do you think that you yourself would be able to make the speech, if required and if the Council were to select you?

Socrates

That I should be able to make the speech would be nothing wonderful, Menexenus; for she who is my instructor is by no means weak in the art of rhetoric; on the contrary, she has turned out many fine orators, and amongst them one who surpassed all other Greeks, Pericles, the son of Xanthippus.

Menexenus

Who is she? But you mean Aspasia, [Note] no doubt.

Socrates

I do and; also Connus the son of Metrobius; 236afor these are my two instructors, the one in music, the other in rhetoric. So it is not surprising that a man who is trained like me should be clever at speaking. But even a man less well taught than I, who had learnt his music from Lamprus and his rhetoric from Antiphon the Rhamnusian, [Note]—even such a one, I say, could none the less win credit by praising Athenians before an Athenian audience.

Menexenus

What, then, would you have to say, if you were required to speak?

Socrates

Nothing, perhaps, myself of my own invention; 236bbut I was listening only yesterday to Aspasia going through a funeral speech for these very people. For she had heard the report you mention, that the Athenians are going to select the speaker; and thereupon she rehearsed to me the speech in the form it should take, extemporizing in part, while other parts of it she had previously prepared, as I imagine, at the time when she was composing the funeral oration which Pericles delivered; and from this she patched together sundry fragments.

Menexenus

Could you repeat from memory that speech of Aspasia?

Socrates

Yes, if I am not mistaken; for I learnt it, to be sure, from her as she went along, 236cand I nearly got a flogging whenever I forgot.

Menexenus

Why don't you repeat it then?

Socrates

But possibly my teacher will be vexed with me if I publish abroad her speech.

Menexenus

Never fear, Socrates; only tell it and you will gratify me exceedingly, whether it is Aspasia's that you wish to deliver or anyone else's; only say on.

Socrates

But you will probably laugh me to scorn if I, at my age, seem to you to be playing like a child.

Menexenus

Not at all, Socrates; but by all means say on.

Socrates

Nay, then, I must surely gratify; you for indeed I would almost gratify you 236dif you were to bid me strip and dance, now that we two are alone. Listen then. In her speech, I believe, she began by making mention of the dead men themselves in this wise:

In respect of deeds, these men have received at our hands what is due unto them, endowed wherewith they travel their predestined road; for they have been escorted forth in solemn procession publicly by the City and privately by their kinsfolk. But in respect of words, the honor that remains still due to these heroes the law enjoins us, and it is right, to pay in full. 236eFor it is by means of speech finely spoken that deeds nobly done gain for their doers from the hearers the meed of memory and renown. And the speech required is one which will adequately eulogize the dead and give kindly exhortation to the living, appealing to their children and their brethren to copy the virtues of these heroes, and to their fathers and mothers and any still surviving ancestors offering consolation. 237aWhere then could we discover a speech like that? Or how could we rightly commence our laudation of these valiant men, who in their lifetime delighted their friends by their virtue, and purchased the safety of the living by their deaths? We ought, in my judgement, to adopt the natural order in our praise, even as the men themselves were natural in their virtue. And virtuous they were because they were sprung from men of virtue. Firstly, then, let us eulogize their nobility of birth, and secondly their nurture and training: 237bthereafter we shall exhibit the character of their exploits, how nobly and worthily they wrought them. Now as regards nobility of birth, their first claim thereto is this—that the forefathers of these men were not of immigrant stock, nor were these their sons declared by their origin to be strangers in the land sprung from immigrants, but natives sprung from the soil living and dwelling in their own true fatherland; and nurtured also by no stepmother, like other folk, but by that mother-country



Plato, Menexenus (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Pl. Menex.].
<<Pl. Menex. 234a Pl. Menex. 236a (Greek) >>Pl. Menex. 238b

Powered by PhiloLogic