(Beiträge zur Altertumskunde 341) Gabriele Cornelli - Plato’s Styles and Characters Between Literature and Philosophy-Walter de Gruyter (2016)
participants of a dialogue, forming an inter-individual context in which the fron-
tiers between the speaker and the listener are constantly surpassed.¹⁴ The partic-
ipants in the dialogue thus act based on the dramaturgy that organizes the ac-
tions of the dialogue. The Socratic interrogation is thus identified by the way
it arranges the interaction of the discursive agents. Hence, what matters more
than the theme of the inquiry or the premise is the exercise of the formula, or
the ratification of the model that determines the actions. Being figures, the char-
acters of the Platonic dialogues expose not what they think about themselves or
the universe but also expose themselves as references of appropriation and
transformation of social performances.
The Socratic interrogation in the Ion points to the refutation of postures and
promises that did not fit those supported and practiced by the conduit of such
conversation without exchanges. Thereby, the elenchus is used as a filter, an em-
phasis of what should be done by refusing the values and actions of the non-re-
quested, or the observational, target. It is not a matter of converting the interloc-
utor by changing his way of thinking but of demonstrating superiority in a
distinguishable and organized manner by dealing with the other. Negotiation
and inter-influence strategies are excluded from the experience of the interlocu-
tors, to promote the reassurance of the same hierarchical nexus. What is exclud-
ed, then, is the interaction between the interlocutors in praesentia for a commu-
nal interaction of a second order. In the case of Ion, Socrates does not exchange
or share anything with the rhapsode as he does with the members of the Platonic
group. The incommensurability of the orders and plans of Ion and Socrates re-
inforces another receptive link by which the work is directed and from which
we understand the dramaturgy of the dialogue. While manipulating the time
Sacks 1974, Sacks 1995, Goffman 1981, Goffman 1986.
of such interaction without interaction and extending the incommensurability
between interlocutors, the dialogue reinvigorates the shapes of the organization-
al strategy used and the expectation horizon for which it is directed.
Secondly, this recourse in the Socratic questionnaire is recurrent, being used
more than once in the sequence of the dialogue. In Ion, this is shown strongly:
after the initial contact moment between the rhapsode and Socrates, we see that,
* the first interrogation (531a–532b), in which the starting point is the question of
Socrates about whether Ion is too good (i.e., a specialist, skillful, and extraordi-
nary) in his interpretation of Homer compared with the repertory of other writers,
such as Hesiod and Archilochus;
* the second (532e–533c) discusses other arts, to ratify the hypothesis that Ion
does not understand what he does, according to the modes of knowledge pro-
duction in the Platonic community;
* the third (535b–535b) is connected to the “long” exposure of the magnetic theo-
ry of performance, of amplifying it; and
* the fourth (536e–541d) is centered in the references of Homer to specific non-
artistic activities, interlaced by parts of the performed epic.
Such interaction reasserts the formulaic character of the procedure and empha-
sizes its identification with the Platonic community. At the same time, such in-
tegration between scheme and applicability approximates the Socratic question-
naire to a recourse widely used in the comedy of production, reception, and non-
comic work processes, namely, improvisation. In the succession of encounter
moments between the rhapsode and Socrates, the procedure is updated for
each occasion. Thus, as a type of recourse to manipulate the interactions, the
questionnaire takes the place of the reactions of the interlocutor or of the possi-
ble fluctuations between the members of the immediate dialogue. The reduction
of the differences, of the disruptions in the interaction, is promoted by the use of
contact forms that are imposed on the will of the interlocutor and reception.
Parry-Lord,¹⁵ by way of approximation between the Homeric epic and the
narrative singers of the Balkans, brought a pioneering comprehension of the re-
lations among performance, improvisation, and textuality to classic studies. The
formula character of the Homeric epic is expressed in the set of distinguishable
orientation forms of contact between the performer and the audience. In the ab-
sence of a fixed text but under the circumstances of each contact, the forms
would allow the confrontation of this reception dynamic. Collins
V. Mota 2010.
Comic Dramaturgy in Plato: Observations from the Ion
rizes such forms of improvisation or composition-in-performance as the follow-
ing: material flexibility, building its length in light of the responses of the audi-
ence; repertoire amplification by means of adding new material; and competitive
alignment between performers.
Thus, the use of formulas or schemes in performative activities ensures, for
the performer and the audience, modes of participation in face-to-face interac-
tion. The Socratic questionnaire enters the set of these recourses while present-
ing protocols to its performance which, when updated in asymmetric interac-
tions, evidence its recognition.
Consequently, the activity of Socrates approximates that of the rhapsode:
both work with situations of contact and interaction. The comic recognition of
the procedure is a Platonic novelty. While making use of improvisational profile
schemes with the purpose of parodying and degrading performative acts, Plato
reasserts the superiority of his community and of the production and transmis-
sion of the knowledge processes he endorses. Hence, the Socratic questioning is
a parody of a face-to-face contact situation, which is disfigured and redefined for
the expectation horizons of the Platonic community.
After all, the questions do not serve the purpose of infusing knowledge or of
transforming the interlocutor. The aporetic nature of many Platonic dialogues
does not point to failure of persuasion before aporia; it unlinks the speakers
and identifies to whom the dialogue is directed.
At this moment, we enter the second performative aspect of the Platonic dia-
logues, namely, its block structure. As has been discussed previously herein, the
Ion is organized in the permutation between two sets of verbal activities: the
schematic game of questions and answers and the blocks of Socratic assertions.
That is, it is not based on the theme of a discursive unit that has the cohesion of
the dialogue. There are discontinuities and juxtapositions of relatively independ-
ent moments that prevent a reading that summarizes the text into a full and un-
equivocal argumentative process.
Such cumulative paratactic logic projects another dimension of the comic
and non-comic improvisational practice, namely, the variational rhapsodic com-
position, which does not work with conceptual hierarchies but with the rele-
vance of each segment or block. The most important is an expanded effective
presence, an always-renewed actuality, a focus of constant interest in what is
current, as a way to make the performative game efficient. What is left behind
is no longer important: what really matters is the image of the final process, de-
veloped by the interactivity of the procedures.
In the case of the Ion, the alternation between interrogations and full
speeches is to confirm the expectations of the audience in the dialogue. This al-
ternation is among the procedures of Socrates common to his group; also, Ion
proved his ineptitude to assimilate such recourses, in the absence of another
means of recourse other than ending the dialogue. This alternation, as it occurs
in the dialogues and in the isolated speech blocks, manifests the lack of perti-
nence between the values and the cognitive horizons of the interlocutors placed
The technique of rhapsodic composition, or composition by blocks, high-
lights the focus on the discrete unit of events in succession without the selection
and evaluation arising from a higher perspective, namely, from a narrator. In the
work of the comic performer, such manipulation of contact formulas and blocks
of events or situations determines its interactive activity with the audience.
As one can observe from reading the Ion attentively, many of its compositional
aspects are better understood from the perspectives of Performance and
Humor Research. It is worth mentioning that when we make use of references
to comedy in other references that are apparently not studied or included in can-
ons of comedy, we reach a hermeneutic degree of amplification of our perspec-
tive about the construction of serious and comic events. In other words, beyond
the dichotomy, we start to see the comic as the non-serious or the serious as the
non-comic. Such dichotomization assumes a type of essentialism, or an ahistor-
ical, generic, and stable identification of ways to organize the events and its ef-
The possibility of substantiating an approach that explains Plato’s comedy
procedures directs us to a better understanding of the ways his group, in the ri-
valry with others, proposed an image of oneself parodically; these ways were ex-
ercised in the procedures that governed the dispute, presentation, and develop-
ment of abilities during its meetings.
Bremer, J. Plato’s Ion: Philosophy as Performance. North Richland Hillls: Bibal Press, 2005.
Charalabopoulos, N. Platonic Drama and its Ancient Reception. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 2012.
Collins, D. Homer and Rhapsodic Competition in Performance. Oral Tradition. 16(2001):
Goffman, E. Forms of Talk. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1981.
Goffman, E. Frame Analysis. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1986.
Goldblatt, D. Art and Ventriloquism. London: Routledge, 2006.
Comic Dramaturgy in Plato: Observations from the Ion
Jones, J. A Complete Analysis of Plato’s Philosophy of Humor. Link: http: //www.jon
Latar, R. The Basic Humor Process: A Cognitive-Shift Theory and the Case against Incongruity.
Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 1998.
Morreal, J. (Ed.) The Philosophy of Laughter and Humor. New York: State University of New
York Press, 1986, pp. 188–207.
Morreal, J. Humor as Cognitive Play. Journal of Literary Theory. 3.2(2009): 241–260.
Morreal, J. Comic Relief. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009 (MORREAL 2009a).
Mota, M. A performance como argumento: a cena inicial de Íon, de Platão. Revista VIS. 5
Mota, M. A dramaturgia musical de Ésquilo. Brasília: Editora UnB, 2008.
Mota, M. Performance e Inteligibilidade: Traduzindo Íon, de Platão. Revista Archai 2(2009):
Mota, M. Nos passos de Homero: Performance como argumento na Antiguidade. Revista VIS
(UnB), 9(2010): 21–59. Link: http: //www.ida.unb.br/revistavis/revista%20vis%20v9%
Mota, M. Pythagoras Homericus: Performance as Hermeneutic Horizon to Interpret
Pythagorean Tradition. In: Anais On Pythagoreanism. Brasília, Archai, 2011, pp
Nightgale, A. Genres in Dialogue: Plato and the Construct of Philosophy. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2005.
Padilha, P. Convívio e triangulação Clownesca na potencialização do evento teatral:
Substratos de uma montagem. Cena em movimento. 2(2011): 1–8. Link: http: //seer.
Perks, L.G. The Ancients Roots of Humor Theory. Humor. 25(2012): 119–132.
Puchner, M. The Drama of Ideas. Platonic Provocations in Theater and Philosophy. Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 2010.
Raskin, V (Ed.). The Primer of Humor Research. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 2009.
Sacks, H. , Schegloff, E., and Jefferson, G. A Simpliest Systematics of the Organisation of
Turn-taking for Conversation. Language. 50(1974): 696–735.
Sacks, H. Lectures on Conversation. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 1995.
Shelley, C. Psychology of Humor. Humor. 16(2001): 351–367.
Scott, G.A. (Ed.) Does Socrates Have a Method? Rethinking the Elenchus in Plato’s Dialogues
and Beyond. Univesity Park: The Pennsylvania State University, 2002.
Soffredini, C. De um trabalhador sobre seu teatro. Revista Teatro. 1(1980).1–4.
Sofredini, R. and Pace, E. Carlos Alberto Soffredini: Serragem nas veias. Imprensa do Estado
de São Paulo, 2010. Link: http: //www.aplauso.imprensaoficial.com.br.
Sommerstein, A.H. How to Avoid Being a Komodoumenos. Classical Quarterly. 46(1996):
Sommerstein, A.H. Talking about Laughter And Other Studies in Greek Comedy. Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 2009.
Worman, N. Abusive Mouths in Classical Athens. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
Amicus Homerus: Allusive Art in Plato’s
Incipit to Book X of the Republic (595a–c)
Platonic scholarship has been characterized by an evaluation of the presence of
Homer in the dialogues from as early as the work carried out by the Alexandrian
philologists¹. Apart from the controversial information advanced by Diogenes
Laërtius regarding the ordering of the corpus in trilogies and the critical signs
that led to conjecture as to the existence of an Alexandrian ekdosis², from the
scarce remains that the sources contain an echo emerges, even if faint, of Aris-
tarchus’ interest in Homeric diction in Plato. As Francesca Schironi³ has high-
lighted, it may be possible to recoup some traces of Aristarchus’ work on the
text of the dialogues from the Byzantine lexica: his work in this sense may be
attributed precisely to Plato’s pronounced tendency to reproduce some of the
features of Homer’s language. There is clear evidence of this in a scholion to
the Iliad (in Il. IX 540, II p. 515 Erbse), which contains information about a
work by Ammonius of Alexandria, a pupil of Aristarchus, entitled Περὶ τῶν
ὑπὸ Πλάτωνος μετενηνεγμένων ἐξ Ὁμήρου, which Francesca Schironi translates
as: “On the borrowings of Plato from Homer”. In the eyes of the Alexandrians,
therefore, Plato establishes a privileged link with Homer, a link that the gram-
marians can perceive particularly in the language and diction that Plato derives
But it is no coincidence that the biographical tradition regarding Plato, the
tradition that arose in the Peripatetic ambience, produced more than one anec-
dote based precisely on the relationship between Plato and Homer⁴. A long chain
of sources going back to Dicaearchus, a first-generation Peripatetic, then down to
Apuleius and Aelianus, and on to Olympiodorus and the Anonymous of the Pro-
legomena, attributes intense poetic activity to the young Plato, ranging from the
dithyramb to the lyric and tragedy, as well as the epos (An. 14 Swift Riginos). This
information is traditionally connected to a scene of great impact: that of Plato
who, having listened to Socrates, burns his poetic output in public in front of Di-
onysus’ theatre. Diogenes Laërtius recalls a verse, a hexameter that Plato is al-
See Hunter (2012, p. 38: “No literary observation about Plato ia as common in antiquity as the
philosopher’s debt to Homer”.
See Lucarini (2010 –2011), with bibliography.
For the biographical tradition, see Swift Riginos (1976, pp. 17–21, 45–47, 197).
leged to have uttered as he watched his poems burn on the bonfire: Ἥφαιστε,
πρόμολ’ ὧδε· Πλάτων νύ τι σεῖο χατίζει (Diog. Laert. III 5: “Hephaistos, come
this way, here is Plato, who has need of you”). A verse that is modelled on Hom-
er’s Iliad: in Book XVIII, after Hector has killed Patroclus and taken Achilleus’
arms from him, Thetis, following the encounter with her son, reaches Hephais-
tos’ abode, who will have to make new arms for Achilleus; there she is met by
Charis, Hephaistos’ wife, who lets Thetis sit on the throne. From this throne, The-
tis calls Hephaistos to her aid: Ἥφαιστε πρόμολ’ ὧδε· Θέτις νύ τι σεῖο χατίζει
(392: “Hephaistos, come this way, here is Thetis, who has need of you now”
trad. R. Lattimore). According to Diogenes Laërtius, or his source, Plato therefore
turns from his activity as a poet by uttering a line by Homer, in which he substi-
tutes the name of Thetis with his own. The ancient biography builds up an an-
ecdote in which the last line of verse uttered by Plato is a hexameter, a line of
verse by Homer that Plato re-elaborates by re-writing it with refined allusive ar-
tistry. Plato turns from the arms of the epos, abandons the hexameter, only to
take up – like Achilleus – the new arms of dialogue, the literary genre that
arose from the meeting with Socrates. Leaving aside the veracity of the episode,
an image emerges of how Plato was seen in ancient criticism, an image that is
confirmed in the dialogues of the corpus: Plato as poeta doctus, enjoying a priv-
ileged relationship with Homer⁵. This image is condensed by the anonymous
writer of the On the Sublime, in the portrait he puts forward of Plato as
Ὁμηρικώτατος, “most Homeric of authors”, who draws infinite drafts from the
Homeric wellspring (13,3)⁶.
Modern criticism has continued the investigation of the ancients, starting
with the work by Jules Labarbe who, in the aftermath of World War Two, ana-
lyzed Homeric quotations present in the dialogues⁷. This analysis, while valua-
ble, states as a matter of policy that its exclusive aim is that of tackling problems
concerning “critique verbale”, that is, the links between the form of Homer’s text
cited by Plato and the Homeric text conserved in manuscript form. More recently,
the field of critical investigation has expanded, moving beyond the history of
Plato’s and Homer’s texts, to evaluate with increasing interest the literary strat-
egy that Plato employs by means of the Homeric quotations⁸. In recent years the
tendency has come to the fore to observe not only direct quotations, but also al-
lusions to Homer’s text independently of any direct quotation. On the basis of
See the status quaestionis described by Erler (2007, pp. 29–30, 64–82).
See Hunter (2012, p. 44).
After the seminal works of Benardete (1963) and Lohse (1964), see now Halliwell (2000), El
Murr (2011), Yamagata (2012) and Regali (2013).
research by Fabio Massimo Giuliano⁹, Diskin Clay¹⁰, Patrick Gerald Lake¹¹ and
Zacharoula Petraki¹², a complex picture emerges in which Plato’s capacity to
take on board both Homer’s words and scenes in an innovative way is increas-
ingly evident, moulding them to the dramatic requirements of his own philo-
It is our intention now to focus again on a renowned passage wherein, de-
spite the absence of direct quotation, Plato establishes overt contact with the fig-
ure of Homer. In the opening of Book X of the Republic, Socrates once again sug-
gests to Glaucon that they have a discussion on ποίησις, along the lines of Book
III. Now, maintains Socrates, the rejection of the μιμητική part of poetry will be-
come even more evident, once the parts of the ψυχή have been divided and sep-
arated (595a1-b1). Certain of the loyalty of his interlocutors in the Republic, who
will not denounce him to the tragic poets or the other μιμητικοί poets, Socrates
accuses poetry of giving rise to a damaging insult (λώβη) to the rational faculty
(διάνοια) of those members of the public lacking the necessary medicine for an
antidote: that is, to know (τὸ εἰδέναι) the essence of poetry. In reply to Glaucon’s
question, who requires further details regarding λώβη, Socrates makes a cele-
brated confession about the nature of his feelings towards Homer (595b8-c6):
Πῇ δή, ἔφη, διανοούμενος λέγεις;
Ῥητέον, ἦν δ’ ἐγώ· καίτοι φιλία γέ τίς με καὶ αἰδὼς ἐκ παιδὸς ἔχουσα περὶ Ὁμήρου ἀποκω-
λύει λέγειν. ἔοικε μὲν γὰρ τῶν καλῶν ἁπάντων τούτων τῶν τραγικῶν πρῶτος διδάσκαλός
τε καὶ ἡγεμὼν γενέσθαι. ἀλλ’ οὐ γὰρ πρό γε τῆς ἀληθείας τιμητέος ἀνήρ, ἀλλ’, ὃ λέγω,
“What do you have in mind when you say that?”
“I’d better explain “ I said, “though the affection and respect I have had for Homer since I
was a child makes me very reluctant to say it. He seems to me to have been the original
teacher and guide of all these wonderful tragedians of ours. All the same, no man should
be honoured more than the truth. So as I say, I had better explain myself” (trad. T. Griffith,
The feelings that Socrates admits to in Homer’s regard represent an obstacle to
arriving at a definition of λώβη. Since his childhood, ἐκ παιδὸς, Socrates has
been filled with affection and a sense of veneration towards Homer, φιλία and
αἰδώς. Socrates explains these feelings as arising from the pre-eminent role
that Homer plays as the first master and leader (ἡγεμών) of all the wonderful
Amicus Homerus: Allusive Art in Resp. X (595a – c)
tragic poets. Despite the ties of affection that bind him to Homer, Socrates must
arrive at a condemnation, since man should not be honoured more than the
truth. Leonardo Tarán¹³ dedicated a celebrated article to just this passage, inves-
tigating the success enjoyed by the sequence οὐ γὰρ πρό γε τῆς ἀληθείας τιμη-
τέος ἀνήρ, a sequence which from Aristotle, down through Neo-Platonist chan-
nels, has reached also Roger Bacon and Thomas Aquinas, and on to Cervantes’
Don Quixote and Sterne’s Tristram Shandy: Amicus Plato sed magis amica veritas,
with the alternative versions that Tarán traces with painstaking accuracy. The
nexus φιλία καὶ αἰδώς, with which Plato describes Socrates’ state of mind
prior to the severe criticism of poetry that is developed in Book X, still remains
to be explained. In recent studies attention has not been dedicated to the nexus
offered by Socrates, except for a brief note by Ramona Naddaff who, in her book
Exiling the Poets, points out that the nexus φιλία καὶ αἰδώς recalls a Homeric for-
mula: “Socrates’ own ironic reflection on his childish, cultivated philia and aidos
for Homeric verse is couched in a phrasing itself echoing a Homeric formula”¹⁴.
It is indeed surprising that, even after a cursory glance at the lexicon, neither
the connection between the nouns φιλία and αἰδώς, nor the connection between
the adjectives deriving from them, recur with any frequency in the literary tradi-
tion. In Plato’s dialogues, the passage in Book X of the Republic that we are look-
ing at is isolated: it is the only place in the corpus where φιλία and αἰδώς appear
as a pair. But even in the literary output that precedes Plato, significantly Homer
is the only one to offer a possible model for the nexus φιλία καὶ αἰδώς. In the
Iliad and the Odyssey in fact, the adjectives φίλος and αἰδοῖoς are said to a
guest who is received in the welcoming-scenes, in particular to the world of
But, as will be seen, it is plausible that, rather than this formulaic use, Plato
in the Republic accurately recalls an individual scene from the Iliad, thus weav-
ing an allusive plot of some importance for the characterization of Socrates, in
light of his relationship with Homer. Let us now observe the areas, which are
not numerous, where the nexus appears in Homer.
In Book XVIII of the Iliad, in the scene that we have already briefly descri-
bed, as it contains the line that, according to the anecdote conserved by Dio-
genes Laërtius, Plato is alleged to have recited in front of his burning poetry, The-
tis is welcomed to Hephaistos’ home by Charis (385–386):
Naddaff (2002, p. 38 n.3).
For the hospitality scenes in Homer, see Reece (1993, pp. 5–46).
τίπτε Θέτι τανύπεπλε ἱκάνεις ἡμέτερον δῶ
αἰδοίη τε φίλη τε; πάρος γε μὲν οὔ τι θαμίζεις.
“Why is it, Thetis of the light robes, you have come to our house now? We honor you and
love you; but you have not come much before this” (trad. R. Lattimore)
The same lines are then repeated in the following scene, uttered by Hephaistos to
Thetis herself (424–425). The sequence αἰδοίη τε φίλη τε urbanely intends to
manifest affection and respect for the goddess, whose requests Hephaistos is
ready to grant¹⁶. Again in the Iliad, in Book XXIV, Zeus asks Thetis to allay Achil-
leus’ ire: the gods, Zeus maintains, now think that after nine days they should
recover Hector’s body from Achilleus through deception by sending Hermes
for it. But Zeus has called Thetis because he does not want to deny Achilleus
his honour, in this way safeguarding the affection and respect of Thetis towards
him (110 –111)¹⁷:
αὐτὰρ ἐγὼ τόδε κῦδος ᾿Aχιλλῆϊ προτιάπτω
αἰδῶ καὶ φιλότητα τεὴν μετόπισθε φυλάσσων.
“But I still put upon Achilleus the honor that he has, guarding your reverence and your love
for me” (Trad. R. Lattimore)
The nexus also appears in the Odyssey, in a similar welcoming-scene among the
gods. The very lines that in the Iliad are uttered by Charis and Hephaistos, who
welcome Thetis to their home, are in Book V said by Calypso as she welcomes
τίπτε μοι, Ἑρμεία χρυσόρραπι, εἰλήλουθας,
αἰδοῖός τε φίλος τε; πάρος γε μὲν οὔ τι θαμίζεις.
“How is it, Hermes of the golden staff, you have come to me? I honor you and love you; but
you have not come much before this” (Trad. R. Lattimore)
The nexus therefore constitutes the lynchpin of a typical scene: the welcome that
the gods afford other gods who reach them¹⁹. Another item of some import for
the scene Plato constructs in the Republic also emerges: Socrates confesses to
See Edwards (1991, p. 192: “the formular wording conveys readiness to attend to the visitor’s
wishes, affection, and the courteous implication that the visitor does not come often enough”).
See Richardson (1993, p. 288: “’with the intention of preserving your respect and friendship
in future’: this could mean either Zeus’s respect for her or viceversa, but more probably the for-
On the anomalies of Calypso’s speech, see De Jong (2001, pp. 129–130).
See Arend (1933, pp. 36–37, 48–50).
Amicus Homerus: Allusive Art in Resp. X (595a – c)
a feeling towards Homer that evokes the respect given to a god. On the one hand,
φιλία reveals a confidential type of relationship, the type of confidentiality that
the gods have towards each other, in particular when they foresee that some re-
quest will be made of them by another god, as happens to Charis and Hephaistos
with Thetis, or Calypso with Hermes, or when, as with Zeus with Thetis, they
themselves make a direct request to another god.
Similar sequences are present, again in the Odyssey, even in relation to the
world of men. In Book VIII, during the assembly of the Phaeacians, Athena in-
fuses Odysseus with divine grace so that Laertes’ son may be φίλος, δεινός
and αἰδοῖος in the eyes of all the Phaeacians (18–22)²⁰. In Book XI, in the dia-
logue with Alcinous that breaks up the story of Nekya, after Alcinous promises
him gifts and grants safe passage for his return, Odysseus notes that the gifts
will make him αἰδοιότερος καὶ φίλτερος, that is, they will gain him more respect
and acceptance in the eyes of all the men who witness his return to Ithaca (358–
However, as previously stated, it is plausible that Plato is not alluding in an
indistinct way only to the formulaic nexus αἰδοῖός τε φίλος τε, but rather to an
individual scene in the Iliad in Book X, on which he models the scene that he
constructs in the Republic in order to illustrate the relationship between Socrates
In Book X, during the night, fearful on account of the extraordinary feats
that Hector has accomplished that very day, Agamemnon decides to consult Nes-
tor, first among heroes, in order to work out a strategy with him that will save the
Greeks (1–20). Agamemnon’s brother, Menelaus, who has fallen prey to the same
fears and cannot sleep, pays him a visit. Agamemnon carefully illustrates what
his intentions are and what tasks Menelaus will be expected to carry out: he will
have to summon Ajax and Idomeneus, while Agamemnon will go to Nestor (21–
72). This Agamemnon does and confesses to him his anxiety: he fears for the fate
of the Greeks, he cannot sleep, and he asks Nestor to accompany him to the
guards to make sure that they are not sleeping, as he is concerned about a
night incursion on the part of the Trojans (73–101). Nestor responds wisely, com-
forting him with Zeus’ plan: the wise god will not let all Hector’s plans be
brought to pass, as he might fear at that moment. Instead, it will be Hector
who suffers great anguish, even greater than that being suffered by Agamemnon,
For the conferring of χάρις that causes the Phaeacians’ admiration see Garvie (1994, pp.240 –
Heubeck & Hoekstra (1989, pp. 98–99) point out the courteous exaggeration of Odysseus
who reassures Alcinous “that with the assurance of the πομπή and gifts to come he would gladly
remain a year”.
if only Achilleus will purge his heart of such bitter χόλος – the ire that now con-
sumes it. Nestor pledges that he will assist Agamemnon in rallying the Greek
leaders during the night. But Nestor, thinking here of Menelaus, points out
that someone is needed to summon Ajax and Idomeneus, since their ships are
far removed from those of the other leaders (103–113). At this point occur the
lines that Plato recalls in the Republic (114–116):
ἀλλὰ φίλον περ ἐόντα καὶ αἰδοῖον Μενέλαον
νεικέσω, εἴ πέρ μοι νεμεσήσεαι, οὐδ’ ἐπικεύσω
ὡς εὕδει, σοὶ δ’ οἴῳ ἐπέτρεψεν πονέεσθαι
“But, beloved as he is and respected, I will still blame
Menelaos, even though you be angry, and I will not hide it,
for the way he sleeps and has given to you alone all the hard work”
(Trad. R. Lattimore)
Menelaus, says Nestor, should have been awake and praying for all the leaders,
given the dire straits that they now find themselves in (116–118). However, as the
reader of the Iliad knows, Menelaus is indeed already awake and carrying out the
task that Nestor refers to, following the order given to him by his brother in the
previous scene. In fact, Agamemnon reassures Nestor on this count: despite the
fact that Agamemnon has on several occasions pressed Nestor to reprimand Me-
nelaus for his indolence and the manner in which he must often be spurred to
action by Agamemnon, on this occasion he is above reproach. He is already
awake, already on his way to summon those very leaders selected by Nestor
(119 –127). Nestor is pleased, because Menelaus’ role as commander will benefit:
now no-one will raise his voice against him, no-one among the Greeks will dis-
obey when Menelaus gives his orders (128–130).
In this scene in the Iliad, not only do we come across Plato’s nexus φιλία καὶ
αἰδώς in Nestor’s words, for whom Menelaos is φίλος καὶ αἰδοῖος, as happens in
the welcoming-scenes that we mentioned previously, but we also note a dramatic
situation that is entirely similar: blame must be aportioned even when the per-
son blaming has feelings of affection and respect towards the person being
blamed. Like Nestor with Menelaus, in the Republic Socrates first demonstrates
respect towards Homer, before criticizing him. We therefore find ourselves facing
one of the not uncommon moments in which Plato characterizes Socrates by re-
utilizing the profile of the heroes of the epos, by means of a re-visitation of some
of the features of Homer’s characters. Studies have shown several points of con-
tact between Socrates and the heroic protagonists of Homer’s poems: Achilleus,
Amicus Homerus: Allusive Art in Resp. X (595a – c)
in particular in the Apology²² (28b3-d4), and Odysseus, in the evident reference
to Nekya in the incipit of the Protagoras (315b9–316b2)²³. In the Republic, with
the allusion to the scene in Book X of the Iliad, Plato must therefore intend to
characterize Socrates as Nestor and in particular to illustrate the relationship be-
tween Socrates and Homer in light of the bond that Homer describes in Book X
that exists between Nestor and Menelaus. But before analyzing the reasons that
may have induced Plato to create in the incipit of Book X such a close bond with
Homer, let us turn back to the points of contact between the two passages, be-
tween the scene with Nestor and Menelaus in the Iliad and the scene with Soc-
rates and Homer in the Republic.
We have already mentioned the force with which the passage in Book X
stands out among passages by Homer where the nexus between φιλία and
αἰδώς appears, a force based on a similarity that is not limited to the verbal
level, but rather involves the two scenes: the analogy between the two scenes
of blame tempered by respect and affection that the character-mentor (Socra-
tes-Nestor) feels towards the character-pupil (Menelaus-Homer). To return to
the linguistic level, however, it is possible to identify further elements corrobo-
rating this. In the passages by Homer we have taken into consideration, both in
the Iliad and the Odyssey, the formulaic nexus usually entails an inverted order
compared to the nexus that Plato uses: Homer modulates the formula αἰδοῖός τε
φίλος τε, depending on the syntactic context, in a varied manner, always, how-
ever, maintaining as unvaried the order between the two concepts: first the ven-
eration and respect, the αἰδώς, then the affection and familiarity, the φιλία. This
order is also reproduced in the only passage, in Book XXIV of the Iliad, where
Homer varies the formulaic nexus by using the corresponding abstract nouns
rather than the adjectives, αἰδώς and φιλότης (110 –111). But the word order of
the nexus that Plato attributes to Socrates is the opposite of that favoured by
Homer: first φιλία, affection, then respect, αἰδώς. The only place where Homer’s
word order coincides with Plato’s is in Book X of the Iliad, the scene with Nes-
tor’s rebuke to Menelaus: for Nestor, Menelaus is φίλος καὶ αἰδοῖος, not αἰδοῖος
καὶ φίλος, just as Socrates feels φιλία καὶ αἰδώς for Homer. This is not a trifling
distinction: in it may be seen a sign of the fact that the allusion to Homer is not
generic, it does not vaguely recall the Homeric formula running through the typ-
See Montiglio (2011, pp. 42–43: “just as Achilles scorned death to avenge Patroclus, Socrates
is ready to die – though for the sake of justice”). Clay (2000, pp. 56–59) states that Plato discov-
ers “a new conception of heroism and a new paradigm for imitation in Socrates”.
See Rutherford (1992), Capra (2001, 67–71) and Segvic (2006, pp. 255–257). For the link be-
tween Plato’s Nekyia e and Protagoras’s prophecy (361e) resembling Teiresias’s words to Odys-
seus (XI. 90 –137), see Corradi (2014).
ical welcoming-scenes among the gods; rather does it focus exclusively on the
scene between Nestor and Agamemnon in Book X.
Furthermore, from the fact that φιλία precedes αἰδώς, there perhaps emerges
a nuance in meaning, in significance, which is useful in order to understand the
relationship between Nestor and Menelaus as a parallel with that between Soc-
rates and Homer: between Nestor and Menelaus, φιλία is certainly more prepon-
derant than respect, αἰδώς, namely, the fear deriving from veneration that dom-
inates instead the frequently tense relationship among the gods who are taken
up with safeguarding their own τιμή without undermining that of the other
gods²⁴. The rebuke that Nestor directs at Menelaus is mitigated by the affection
of the wise hero instructing the younger one. Nestor’s approach can clearly be
seen in the subsequent exchange with Agamemnon, who has more than once
asked Nestor for help in order to spur his younger brother to action on account
of his tendency to idleness. It is no coincidence that, once he is reassured by
Agamemnon that Menelaus is indeed awake, has already bestirred himself and
is aware of the pressing need to rally the leaders during the night, Nestor is
pleased and foresees that the Greeks will unhesitatingly acknowledge Menelaus
as their commander.We will see shortly how this atmosphere is useful in order to
understand Socrates’ – if not Plato’s – relationship with Homer.
However, once again in regard to the signals offered by the language Plato
uses, let us also turn our attention, in light of the allusion in the scene with Nes-
tor, to the definition that Socrates offers of Homer: “first master and guide of all
these great tragedians”, τῶν καλῶν ἁπάντων τούτων τῶν τραγικῶν πρῶτος
διδάσκαλός τε καὶ ἡγεμών. For Homer, the term διδάσκαλος is easily comprehen-
sible in relation to the tragedians, since they draw freely on the legacy of tales
from the Homeric Cycle for their output; this concept is confirmed in several