By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

´╗┐Title: Ion
Author: Plato, 427? BC-347? BC
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Ion" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.


By Plato

Translated by Benjamin Jowett


The Ion is the shortest, or nearly the shortest, of all the writings
which bear the name of Plato, and is not authenticated by any early
external testimony. The grace and beauty of this little work supply the
only, and perhaps a sufficient, proof of its genuineness. The plan is
simple; the dramatic interest consists entirely in the contrast
between the irony of Socrates and the transparent vanity and childlike
enthusiasm of the rhapsode Ion. The theme of the Dialogue may possibly
have been suggested by the passage of Xenophon's Memorabilia in which
the rhapsodists are described by Euthydemus as 'very precise about the
exact words of Homer, but very idiotic themselves.' (Compare Aristotle,

Ion the rhapsode has just come to Athens; he has been exhibiting in
Epidaurus at the festival of Asclepius, and is intending to exhibit
at the festival of the Panathenaea. Socrates admires and envies the
rhapsode's art; for he is always well dressed and in good company--in
the company of good poets and of Homer, who is the prince of them. In
the course of conversation the admission is elicited from Ion that his
skill is restricted to Homer, and that he knows nothing of inferior
poets, such as Hesiod and Archilochus;--he brightens up and is wide
awake when Homer is being recited, but is apt to go to sleep at the
recitations of any other poet. 'And yet, surely, he who knows the
superior ought to know the inferior also;--he who can judge of the good
speaker is able to judge of the bad. And poetry is a whole; and he
who judges of poetry by rules of art ought to be able to judge of
all poetry.' This is confirmed by the analogy of sculpture, painting,
flute-playing, and the other arts. The argument is at last brought home
to the mind of Ion, who asks how this contradiction is to be solved. The
solution given by Socrates is as follows:--

The rhapsode is not guided by rules of art, but is an inspired person
who derives a mysterious power from the poet; and the poet, in like
manner, is inspired by the God. The poets and their interpreters may be
compared to a chain of magnetic rings suspended from one another, and
from a magnet. The magnet is the Muse, and the ring which immediately
follows is the poet himself; from him are suspended other poets; there
is also a chain of rhapsodes and actors, who also hang from the Muses,
but are let down at the side; and the last ring of all is the spectator.
The poet is the inspired interpreter of the God, and this is the reason
why some poets, like Homer, are restricted to a single theme, or,
like Tynnichus, are famous for a single poem; and the rhapsode is
the inspired interpreter of the poet, and for a similar reason some
rhapsodes, like Ion, are the interpreters of single poets.

Ion is delighted at the notion of being inspired, and acknowledges that
he is beside himself when he is performing;--his eyes rain tears and his
hair stands on end. Socrates is of opinion that a man must be mad who
behaves in this way at a festival when he is surrounded by his friends
and there is nothing to trouble him. Ion is confident that Socrates
would never think him mad if he could only hear his embellishments
of Homer. Socrates asks whether he can speak well about everything
in Homer. 'Yes, indeed he can.' 'What about things of which he has no
knowledge?' Ion answers that he can interpret anything in Homer. But,
rejoins Socrates, when Homer speaks of the arts, as for example, of
chariot-driving, or of medicine, or of prophecy, or of navigation--will
he, or will the charioteer or physician or prophet or pilot be the
better judge? Ion is compelled to admit that every man will judge of
his own particular art better than the rhapsode. He still maintains,
however, that he understands the art of the general as well as any one.
'Then why in this city of Athens, in which men of merit are always being
sought after, is he not at once appointed a general?' Ion replies that
he is a foreigner, and the Athenians and Spartans will not appoint a
foreigner to be their general. 'No, that is not the real reason; there
are many examples to the contrary. But Ion has long been playing tricks
with the argument; like Proteus, he transforms himself into a variety of
shapes, and is at last about to run away in the disguise of a general.
Would he rather be regarded as inspired or dishonest?' Ion, who has no
suspicion of the irony of Socrates, eagerly embraces the alternative of

The Ion, like the other earlier Platonic Dialogues, is a mixture of jest
and earnest, in which no definite result is obtained, but some Socratic
or Platonic truths are allowed dimly to appear.

The elements of a true theory of poetry are contained in the notion
that the poet is inspired. Genius is often said to be unconscious, or
spontaneous, or a gift of nature: that 'genius is akin to madness' is a
popular aphorism of modern times. The greatest strength is observed to
have an element of limitation. Sense or passion are too much for
the 'dry light' of intelligence which mingles with them and becomes
discoloured by them. Imagination is often at war with reason and fact.
The concentration of the mind on a single object, or on a single aspect
of human nature, overpowers the orderly perception of the whole. Yet the
feelings too bring truths home to the minds of many who in the way of
reason would be incapable of understanding them. Reflections of this
kind may have been passing before Plato's mind when he describes the
poet as inspired, or when, as in the Apology, he speaks of poets as the
worst critics of their own writings--anybody taken at random from the
crowd is a better interpreter of them than they are of themselves. They
are sacred persons, 'winged and holy things' who have a touch of madness
in their composition (Phaedr.), and should be treated with every sort
of respect (Republic), but not allowed to live in a well-ordered state.
Like the Statesmen in the Meno, they have a divine instinct, but they
are narrow and confused; they do not attain to the clearness of ideas,
or to the knowledge of poetry or of any other art as a whole.

In the Protagoras the ancient poets are recognized by Protagoras himself
as the original sophists; and this family resemblance may be traced in
the Ion. The rhapsode belongs to the realm of imitation and of opinion:
he professes to have all knowledge, which is derived by him from Homer,
just as the sophist professes to have all wisdom, which is contained
in his art of rhetoric. Even more than the sophist he is incapable of
appreciating the commonest logical distinctions; he cannot explain the
nature of his own art; his great memory contrasts with his inability
to follow the steps of the argument. And in his highest moments of
inspiration he has an eye to his own gains.

The old quarrel between philosophy and poetry, which in the Republic
leads to their final separation, is already working in the mind of
Plato, and is embodied by him in the contrast between Socrates and Ion.
Yet here, as in the Republic, Socrates shows a sympathy with the poetic
nature. Also, the manner in which Ion is affected by his own recitations
affords a lively illustration of the power which, in the Republic,
Socrates attributes to dramatic performances over the mind of the
performer. His allusion to his embellishments of Homer, in which
he declares himself to have surpassed Metrodorus of Lampsacus and
Stesimbrotus of Thasos, seems to show that, like them, he belonged to
the allegorical school of interpreters. The circumstance that nothing
more is known of him may be adduced in confirmation of the argument that
this truly Platonic little work is not a forgery of later times.



SOCRATES: Welcome, Ion. Are you from your native city of Ephesus?

ION: No, Socrates; but from Epidaurus, where I attended the festival of

SOCRATES: And do the Epidaurians have contests of rhapsodes at the

ION: O yes; and of all sorts of musical performers.

SOCRATES: And were you one of the competitors--and did you succeed?

ION: I obtained the first prize of all, Socrates.

SOCRATES: Well done; and I hope that you will do the same for us at the

ION: And I will, please heaven.

SOCRATES: I often envy the profession of a rhapsode, Ion; for you have
always to wear fine clothes, and to look as beautiful as you can is a
part of your art. Then, again, you are obliged to be continually in the
company of many good poets; and especially of Homer, who is the best
and most divine of them; and to understand him, and not merely learn
his words by rote, is a thing greatly to be envied. And no man can be
a rhapsode who does not understand the meaning of the poet. For the
rhapsode ought to interpret the mind of the poet to his hearers, but
how can he interpret him well unless he knows what he means? All this is
greatly to be envied.

ION: Very true, Socrates; interpretation has certainly been the most
laborious part of my art; and I believe myself able to speak about
Homer better than any man; and that neither Metrodorus of Lampsacus, nor
Stesimbrotus of Thasos, nor Glaucon, nor any one else who ever was, had
as good ideas about Homer as I have, or as many.

SOCRATES: I am glad to hear you say so, Ion; I see that you will not
refuse to acquaint me with them.

ION: Certainly, Socrates; and you really ought to hear how exquisitely I
render Homer. I think that the Homeridae should give me a golden crown.

SOCRATES: I shall take an opportunity of hearing your embellishments
of him at some other time. But just now I should like to ask you a
question: Does your art extend to Hesiod and Archilochus, or to Homer

ION: To Homer only; he is in himself quite enough.

SOCRATES: Are there any things about which Homer and Hesiod agree?

ION: Yes; in my opinion there are a good many.

SOCRATES: And can you interpret better what Homer says, or what Hesiod
says, about these matters in which they agree?

ION: I can interpret them equally well, Socrates, where they agree.

SOCRATES: But what about matters in which they do not agree?--for
example, about divination, of which both Homer and Hesiod have something
to say,--

ION: Very true:

SOCRATES: Would you or a good prophet be a better interpreter of what
these two poets say about divination, not only when they agree, but when
they disagree?

ION: A prophet.

SOCRATES: And if you were a prophet, would you not be able to interpret
them when they disagree as well as when they agree?

ION: Clearly.

SOCRATES: But how did you come to have this skill about Homer only, and
not about Hesiod or the other poets? Does not Homer speak of the same
themes which all other poets handle? Is not war his great argument? and
does he not speak of human society and of intercourse of men, good and
bad, skilled and unskilled, and of the gods conversing with one another
and with mankind, and about what happens in heaven and in the world
below, and the generations of gods and heroes? Are not these the themes
of which Homer sings?

ION: Very true, Socrates.

SOCRATES: And do not the other poets sing of the same?

ION: Yes, Socrates; but not in the same way as Homer.

SOCRATES: What, in a worse way?

ION: Yes, in a far worse.

SOCRATES: And Homer in a better way?

ION: He is incomparably better.

SOCRATES: And yet surely, my dear friend Ion, in a discussion about
arithmetic, where many people are speaking, and one speaks better than
the rest, there is somebody who can judge which of them is the good

ION: Yes.

SOCRATES: And he who judges of the good will be the same as he who
judges of the bad speakers?

ION: The same.

SOCRATES: And he will be the arithmetician?

ION: Yes.

SOCRATES: Well, and in discussions about the wholesomeness of food, when
many persons are speaking, and one speaks better than the rest, will
he who recognizes the better speaker be a different person from him who
recognizes the worse, or the same?

ION: Clearly the same.

SOCRATES: And who is he, and what is his name?

ION: The physician.

SOCRATES: And speaking generally, in all discussions in which the
subject is the same and many men are speaking, will not he who knows the
good know the bad speaker also? For if he does not know the bad, neither
will he know the good when the same topic is being discussed.

ION: True.

SOCRATES: Is not the same person skilful in both?

ION: Yes.

SOCRATES: And you say that Homer and the other poets, such as Hesiod and
Archilochus, speak of the same things, although not in the same way; but
the one speaks well and the other not so well?

ION: Yes; and I am right in saying so.

SOCRATES: And if you knew the good speaker, you would also know the
inferior speakers to be inferior?

ION: That is true.

SOCRATES: Then, my dear friend, can I be mistaken in saying that Ion
is equally skilled in Homer and in other poets, since he himself
acknowledges that the same person will be a good judge of all those who
speak of the same things; and that almost all poets do speak of the same

ION: Why then, Socrates, do I lose attention and go to sleep and have
absolutely no ideas of the least value, when any one speaks of any
other poet; but when Homer is mentioned, I wake up at once and am all
attention and have plenty to say?

SOCRATES: The reason, my friend, is obvious. No one can fail to see that
you speak of Homer without any art or knowledge. If you were able to
speak of him by rules of art, you would have been able to speak of all
other poets; for poetry is a whole.

ION: Yes.

SOCRATES: And when any one acquires any other art as a whole, the same
may be said of them. Would you like me to explain my meaning, Ion?

ION: Yes, indeed, Socrates; I very much wish that you would: for I love
to hear you wise men talk.

SOCRATES: O that we were wise, Ion, and that you could truly call us so;
but you rhapsodes and actors, and the poets whose verses you sing, are
wise; whereas I am a common man, who only speak the truth. For consider
what a very commonplace and trivial thing is this which I have said--a
thing which any man might say: that when a man has acquired a knowledge
of a whole art, the enquiry into good and bad is one and the same. Let
us consider this matter; is not the art of painting a whole?

ION: Yes.

SOCRATES: And there are and have been many painters good and bad?

ION: Yes.

SOCRATES: And did you ever know any one who was skilful in pointing
out the excellences and defects of Polygnotus the son of Aglaophon, but
incapable of criticizing other painters; and when the work of any other
painter was produced, went to sleep and was at a loss, and had no ideas;
but when he had to give his opinion about Polygnotus, or whoever the
painter might be, and about him only, woke up and was attentive and had
plenty to say?

ION: No indeed, I have never known such a person.

SOCRATES: Or did you ever know of any one in sculpture, who was skilful
in expounding the merits of Daedalus the son of Metion, or of Epeius
the son of Panopeus, or of Theodorus the Samian, or of any individual
sculptor; but when the works of sculptors in general were produced, was
at a loss and went to sleep and had nothing to say?

ION: No indeed; no more than the other.

SOCRATES: And if I am not mistaken, you never met with any one among
flute-players or harp-players or singers to the harp or rhapsodes who
was able to discourse of Olympus or Thamyras or Orpheus, or Phemius the
rhapsode of Ithaca, but was at a loss when he came to speak of Ion of
Ephesus, and had no notion of his merits or defects?

ION: I cannot deny what you say, Socrates. Nevertheless I am conscious
in my own self, and the world agrees with me in thinking that I do speak
better and have more to say about Homer than any other man. But I do not
speak equally well about others--tell me the reason of this.

SOCRATES: I perceive, Ion; and I will proceed to explain to you what I
imagine to be the reason of this. The gift which you possess of speaking
excellently about Homer is not an art, but, as I was just saying, an
inspiration; there is a divinity moving you, like that contained in the
stone which Euripides calls a magnet, but which is commonly known as
the stone of Heraclea. This stone not only attracts iron rings, but also
imparts to them a similar power of attracting other rings; and sometimes
you may see a number of pieces of iron and rings suspended from one
another so as to form quite a long chain: and all of them derive their
power of suspension from the original stone. In like manner the Muse
first of all inspires men herself; and from these inspired persons a
chain of other persons is suspended, who take the inspiration. For all
good poets, epic as well as lyric, compose their beautiful poems not by
art, but because they are inspired and possessed. And as the Corybantian
revellers when they dance are not in their right mind, so the lyric
poets are not in their right mind when they are composing their
beautiful strains: but when falling under the power of music and metre
they are inspired and possessed; like Bacchic maidens who draw milk and
honey from the rivers when they are under the influence of Dionysus but
not when they are in their right mind. And the soul of the lyric poet
does the same, as they themselves say; for they tell us that they bring
songs from honeyed fountains, culling them out of the gardens and dells
of the Muses; they, like the bees, winging their way from flower to
flower. And this is true. For the poet is a light and winged and holy
thing, and there is no invention in him until he has been inspired and
is out of his senses, and the mind is no longer in him: when he has
not attained to this state, he is powerless and is unable to utter his
oracles. Many are the noble words in which poets speak concerning the
actions of men; but like yourself when speaking about Homer, they do
not speak of them by any rules of art: they are simply inspired to utter
that to which the Muse impels them, and that only; and when inspired,
one of them will make dithyrambs, another hymns of praise, another
choral strains, another epic or iambic verses--and he who is good at
one is not good at any other kind of verse: for not by art does the poet
sing, but by power divine. Had he learned by rules of art, he would have
known how to speak not of one theme only, but of all; and therefore God
takes away the minds of poets, and uses them as his ministers, as he
also uses diviners and holy prophets, in order that we who hear them
may know them to be speaking not of themselves who utter these priceless
words in a state of unconsciousness, but that God himself is the
speaker, and that through them he is conversing with us. And Tynnichus
the Chalcidian affords a striking instance of what I am saying: he wrote
nothing that any one would care to remember but the famous paean which
is in every one's mouth, one of the finest poems ever written, simply
an invention of the Muses, as he himself says. For in this way the
God would seem to indicate to us and not allow us to doubt that these
beautiful poems are not human, or the work of man, but divine and the
work of God; and that the poets are only the interpreters of the Gods by
whom they are severally possessed. Was not this the lesson which the God
intended to teach when by the mouth of the worst of poets he sang the
best of songs? Am I not right, Ion?

ION: Yes, indeed, Socrates, I feel that you are; for your words touch
my soul, and I am persuaded that good poets by a divine inspiration
interpret the things of the Gods to us.

SOCRATES: And you rhapsodists are the interpreters of the poets?

ION: There again you are right.

SOCRATES: Then you are the interpreters of interpreters?

ION: Precisely.

SOCRATES: I wish you would frankly tell me, Ion, what I am going to ask
of you: When you produce the greatest effect upon the audience in the
recitation of some striking passage, such as the apparition of Odysseus
leaping forth on the floor, recognized by the suitors and casting his
arrows at his feet, or the description of Achilles rushing at Hector,
or the sorrows of Andromache, Hecuba, or Priam,--are you in your right
mind? Are you not carried out of yourself, and does not your soul in
an ecstasy seem to be among the persons or places of which you are
speaking, whether they are in Ithaca or in Troy or whatever may be the
scene of the poem?

ION: That proof strikes home to me, Socrates. For I must frankly confess
that at the tale of pity my eyes are filled with tears, and when I speak
of horrors, my hair stands on end and my heart throbs.

SOCRATES: Well, Ion, and what are we to say of a man who at a sacrifice
or festival, when he is dressed in holiday attire, and has golden
crowns upon his head, of which nobody has robbed him, appears weeping
or panic-stricken in the presence of more than twenty thousand friendly
faces, when there is no one despoiling or wronging him;--is he in his
right mind or is he not?

ION: No indeed, Socrates, I must say that, strictly speaking, he is not
in his right mind.

SOCRATES: And are you aware that you produce similar effects on most of
the spectators?

ION: Only too well; for I look down upon them from the stage, and behold
the various emotions of pity, wonder, sternness, stamped upon their
countenances when I am speaking: and I am obliged to give my very best
attention to them; for if I make them cry I myself shall laugh, and if I
make them laugh I myself shall cry when the time of payment arrives.

SOCRATES: Do you know that the spectator is the last of the rings
which, as I am saying, receive the power of the original magnet from
one another? The rhapsode like yourself and the actor are intermediate
links, and the poet himself is the first of them. Through all these the
God sways the souls of men in any direction which he pleases, and makes
one man hang down from another. Thus there is a vast chain of dancers
and masters and under-masters of choruses, who are suspended, as if from
the stone, at the side of the rings which hang down from the Muse. And
every poet has some Muse from whom he is suspended, and by whom he is
said to be possessed, which is nearly the same thing; for he is taken
hold of. And from these first rings, which are the poets, depend others,
some deriving their inspiration from Orpheus, others from Musaeus; but
the greater number are possessed and held by Homer. Of whom, Ion, you
are one, and are possessed by Homer; and when any one repeats the words
of another poet you go to sleep, and know not what to say; but when any
one recites a strain of Homer you wake up in a moment, and your
soul leaps within you, and you have plenty to say; for not by art or
knowledge about Homer do you say what you say, but by divine inspiration
and by possession; just as the Corybantian revellers too have a quick
perception of that strain only which is appropriated to the God by whom
they are possessed, and have plenty of dances and words for that, but
take no heed of any other. And you, Ion, when the name of Homer is
mentioned have plenty to say, and have nothing to say of others. You
ask, 'Why is this?' The answer is that you praise Homer not by art but
by divine inspiration.

ION: That is good, Socrates; and yet I doubt whether you will ever have
eloquence enough to persuade me that I praise Homer only when I am mad
and possessed; and if you could hear me speak of him I am sure you would
never think this to be the case.

SOCRATES: I should like very much to hear you, but not until you have
answered a question which I have to ask. On what part of Homer do you
speak well?--not surely about every part.

ION: There is no part, Socrates, about which I do not speak well: of
that I can assure you.

SOCRATES: Surely not about things in Homer of which you have no

ION: And what is there in Homer of which I have no knowledge?

SOCRATES: Why, does not Homer speak in many passages about arts? For
example, about driving; if I can only remember the lines I will repeat

ION: I remember, and will repeat them.

SOCRATES: Tell me then, what Nestor says to Antilochus, his son,
where he bids him be careful of the turn at the horserace in honour of

ION: 'Bend gently,' he says, 'in the polished chariot to the left of
them, and urge the horse on the right hand with whip and voice; and
slacken the rein. And when you are at the goal, let the left horse draw
near, yet so that the nave of the well-wrought wheel may not even seem
to touch the extremity; and avoid catching the stone (Il.).'

SOCRATES: Enough. Now, Ion, will the charioteer or the physician be the
better judge of the propriety of these lines?

ION: The charioteer, clearly.

SOCRATES: And will the reason be that this is his art, or will there be
any other reason?

ION: No, that will be the reason.

SOCRATES: And every art is appointed by God to have knowledge of a
certain work; for that which we know by the art of the pilot we do not
know by the art of medicine?

ION: Certainly not.

SOCRATES: Nor do we know by the art of the carpenter that which we know
by the art of medicine?

ION: Certainly not.

SOCRATES: And this is true of all the arts;--that which we know with one
art we do not know with the other? But let me ask a prior question: You
admit that there are differences of arts?

ION: Yes.

SOCRATES: You would argue, as I should, that when one art is of one kind
of knowledge and another of another, they are different?

ION: Yes.

SOCRATES: Yes, surely; for if the subject of knowledge were the same,
there would be no meaning in saying that the arts were different,--if
they both gave the same knowledge. For example, I know that here are
five fingers, and you know the same. And if I were to ask whether I
and you became acquainted with this fact by the help of the same art of
arithmetic, you would acknowledge that we did?

ION: Yes.

SOCRATES: Tell me, then, what I was intending to ask you,--whether this
holds universally? Must the same art have the same subject of knowledge,
and different arts other subjects of knowledge?

ION: That is my opinion, Socrates.

SOCRATES: Then he who has no knowledge of a particular art will have no
right judgment of the sayings and doings of that art?

ION: Very true.

SOCRATES: Then which will be a better judge of the lines which you were
reciting from Homer, you or the charioteer?

ION: The charioteer.

SOCRATES: Why, yes, because you are a rhapsode and not a charioteer.

ION: Yes.

SOCRATES: And the art of the rhapsode is different from that of the

ION: Yes.

SOCRATES: And if a different knowledge, then a knowledge of different

ION: True.

SOCRATES: You know the passage in which Hecamede, the concubine of
Nestor, is described as giving to the wounded Machaon a posset, as he

'Made with Pramnian wine; and she grated cheese of goat's milk with a
grater of bronze, and at his side placed an onion which gives a relish
to drink (Il.).'

Now would you say that the art of the rhapsode or the art of medicine
was better able to judge of the propriety of these lines?

ION: The art of medicine.

SOCRATES: And when Homer says,

'And she descended into the deep like a leaden plummet, which, set in
the horn of ox that ranges in the fields, rushes along carrying death
among the ravenous fishes (Il.),'--

will the art of the fisherman or of the rhapsode be better able to judge
whether these lines are rightly expressed or not?

ION: Clearly, Socrates, the art of the fisherman.

SOCRATES: Come now, suppose that you were to say to me: 'Since you,
Socrates, are able to assign different passages in Homer to their
corresponding arts, I wish that you would tell me what are the passages
of which the excellence ought to be judged by the prophet and prophetic
art'; and you will see how readily and truly I shall answer you. For
there are many such passages, particularly in the Odyssee; as, for
example, the passage in which Theoclymenus the prophet of the house of
Melampus says to the suitors:--

'Wretched men! what is happening to you? Your heads and your faces
and your limbs underneath are shrouded in night; and the voice of
lamentation bursts forth, and your cheeks are wet with tears. And the
vestibule is full, and the court is full, of ghosts descending into the
darkness of Erebus, and the sun has perished out of heaven, and an evil
mist is spread abroad (Od.).'

And there are many such passages in the Iliad also; as for example in
the description of the battle near the rampart, where he says:--

'As they were eager to pass the ditch, there came to them an omen: a
soaring eagle, holding back the people on the left, bore a huge bloody
dragon in his talons, still living and panting; nor had he yet resigned
the strife, for he bent back and smote the bird which carried him on the
breast by the neck, and he in pain let him fall from him to the ground
into the midst of the multitude. And the eagle, with a cry, was borne
afar on the wings of the wind (Il.).'

These are the sort of things which I should say that the prophet ought
to consider and determine.

ION: And you are quite right, Socrates, in saying so.

SOCRATES: Yes, Ion, and you are right also. And as I have selected from
the Iliad and Odyssee for you passages which describe the office of the
prophet and the physician and the fisherman, do you, who know Homer so
much better than I do, Ion, select for me passages which relate to the
rhapsode and the rhapsode's art, and which the rhapsode ought to examine
and judge of better than other men.

ION: All passages, I should say, Socrates.

SOCRATES: Not all, Ion, surely. Have you already forgotten what you were
saying? A rhapsode ought to have a better memory.

ION: Why, what am I forgetting?

SOCRATES: Do you not remember that you declared the art of the rhapsode
to be different from the art of the charioteer?

ION: Yes, I remember.

SOCRATES: And you admitted that being different they would have
different subjects of knowledge?

ION: Yes.

SOCRATES: Then upon your own showing the rhapsode, and the art of the
rhapsode, will not know everything?

ION: I should exclude certain things, Socrates.

SOCRATES: You mean to say that you would exclude pretty much the
subjects of the other arts. As he does not know all of them, which of
them will he know?

ION: He will know what a man and what a woman ought to say, and what
a freeman and what a slave ought to say, and what a ruler and what a

SOCRATES: Do you mean that a rhapsode will know better than the pilot
what the ruler of a sea-tossed vessel ought to say?

ION: No; the pilot will know best.

SOCRATES: Or will the rhapsode know better than the physician what the
ruler of a sick man ought to say?

ION: He will not.

SOCRATES: But he will know what a slave ought to say?

ION: Yes.

SOCRATES: Suppose the slave to be a cowherd; the rhapsode will know
better than the cowherd what he ought to say in order to soothe the
infuriated cows?

ION: No, he will not.

SOCRATES: But he will know what a spinning-woman ought to say about the
working of wool?

ION: No.

SOCRATES: At any rate he will know what a general ought to say when
exhorting his soldiers?

ION: Yes, that is the sort of thing which the rhapsode will be sure to

SOCRATES: Well, but is the art of the rhapsode the art of the general?

ION: I am sure that I should know what a general ought to say.

SOCRATES: Why, yes, Ion, because you may possibly have a knowledge of
the art of the general as well as of the rhapsode; and you may also have
a knowledge of horsemanship as well as of the lyre: and then you would
know when horses were well or ill managed. But suppose I were to ask
you: By the help of which art, Ion, do you know whether horses are well
managed, by your skill as a horseman or as a performer on the lyre--what
would you answer?

ION: I should reply, by my skill as a horseman.

SOCRATES: And if you judged of performers on the lyre, you would
admit that you judged of them as a performer on the lyre, and not as a

ION: Yes.

SOCRATES: And in judging of the general's art, do you judge of it as a
general or a rhapsode?

ION: To me there appears to be no difference between them.

SOCRATES: What do you mean? Do you mean to say that the art of the
rhapsode and of the general is the same?

ION: Yes, one and the same.

SOCRATES: Then he who is a good rhapsode is also a good general?

ION: Certainly, Socrates.

SOCRATES: And he who is a good general is also a good rhapsode?

ION: No; I do not say that.

SOCRATES: But you do say that he who is a good rhapsode is also a good

ION: Certainly.

SOCRATES: And you are the best of Hellenic rhapsodes?

ION: Far the best, Socrates.

SOCRATES: And are you the best general, Ion?

ION: To be sure, Socrates; and Homer was my master.

SOCRATES: But then, Ion, what in the name of goodness can be the reason
why you, who are the best of generals as well as the best of rhapsodes
in all Hellas, go about as a rhapsode when you might be a general? Do
you think that the Hellenes want a rhapsode with his golden crown, and
do not want a general?

ION: Why, Socrates, the reason is, that my countrymen, the Ephesians,
are the servants and soldiers of Athens, and do not need a general; and
you and Sparta are not likely to have me, for you think that you have
enough generals of your own.

SOCRATES: My good Ion, did you never hear of Apollodorus of Cyzicus?

ION: Who may he be?

SOCRATES: One who, though a foreigner, has often been chosen their
general by the Athenians: and there is Phanosthenes of Andros, and
Heraclides of Clazomenae, whom they have also appointed to the command
of their armies and to other offices, although aliens, after they had
shown their merit. And will they not choose Ion the Ephesian to be
their general, and honour him, if he prove himself worthy? Were not
the Ephesians originally Athenians, and Ephesus is no mean city? But,
indeed, Ion, if you are correct in saying that by art and knowledge you
are able to praise Homer, you do not deal fairly with me, and after
all your professions of knowing many glorious things about Homer, and
promises that you would exhibit them, you are only a deceiver, and so
far from exhibiting the art of which you are a master, will not, even
after my repeated entreaties, explain to me the nature of it. You have
literally as many forms as Proteus; and now you go all manner of ways,
twisting and turning, and, like Proteus, become all manner of people
at once, and at last slip away from me in the disguise of a general, in
order that you may escape exhibiting your Homeric lore. And if you have
art, then, as I was saying, in falsifying your promise that you would
exhibit Homer, you are not dealing fairly with me. But if, as I believe,
you have no art, but speak all these beautiful words about Homer
unconsciously under his inspiring influence, then I acquit you of
dishonesty, and shall only say that you are inspired. Which do you
prefer to be thought, dishonest or inspired?

ION: There is a great difference, Socrates, between the two
alternatives; and inspiration is by far the nobler.

SOCRATES: Then, Ion, I shall assume the nobler alternative; and
attribute to you in your praises of Homer inspiration, and not art.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Ion" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.