(Beiträge zur Altertumskunde 341) Gabriele Cornelli - Plato’s Styles and Characters Between Literature and Philosophy-Walter de Gruyter (2016)
parts of the Republic (602b8–10; 605c11; 607a2–3) and then further developed
by Aristotle in the Poetics (in particular 1459b2–7)²⁵. But only here, in the incipit
of Book X of the Republic, and in a passage a little bit further on that depends on
this scene (598d7–8), does Plato attribute the title ἡγεμών to Homer. In the Iliad
the term designates in a canonical manner the Greek heroes that have assembled
For this “prospective usage” of αἰδώς in Homer, see Cairns (1993, pp. 48–146, esp. 145: “ex-
plicitly… aidos in Homer is always concerned with the present (as respect for another) or the
future (referring to future disapproval, or inhibiting future performance of action expressed
by a verb in the infinitive”).
See Goldhill (1991, pp. 170 –174), who draws attention to “the link between Homer and the
tragic poets in that both were performed at civic festivals” in Athens, and Murray (1996,
pp. 188–189: “this is not just a reference to the fact that tragic plots tend to be taken from
epic, but rather that Plato sees Homer as the originator of the dramatic method”).
Amicus Homerus: Allusive Art in Resp. X (595a – c)
at Troy, heroes that are at the head of their respective troops of diverse prove-
nance. It is no coincidence that the term appears in the lines that open and con-
clude the catalogue of Greek troops and their commanders, in the Catalogue of
Ships in Book II: “these, then, were the leaders and the princes among the Dan-
aäns” oὗτοι ἄρ’ ἡγεμόνες Δαναῶν καὶ κοίρανοι ἦσαν (487 = 760; trad. R. Latti-
more)²⁶. ἡγεμών is therefore a title to be attributed to Menelaus, who is at the
head of the Spartan troops (581–590), just as it should be attributed to Nestor,
who is at the head of the troops from Pilo (591–602). In Plato’s lexical choice,
therefore, may be seen a further sign of the allusion to the scene in Book X of
the Iliad: Homer is the tragedians’ ἡγεμών, because Plato now uses for him Me-
nelaus’ model, when he is rebuked with affection and respect by Socrates, wear-
ing Nestor’s mask, the wise and elderly ἡγεμών guiding his pupil Menelaus.
Should our hypothesis prove to be right, it becomes necessary to ask oneself
what literary strategy Plato is following in the incipit to Book X of the Republic,
what intention lies behind the allusion to the scene from the Iliad. What emerges
from the scene by Homer is that Plato re-elaborates the dynamic underpinning
the relationship between master and pupil. Nestor is the wisest hero among
the Greeks, significantly the guide that Agamemnon is now seeking, during
the night recounted in Book X of the Iliad, because of the grave difficulties facing
the Greek army. In the scene that opens Book X, Menelaus as a pupil is ready to
act on Agamemnon’s directions, while for Nestor he is a pupil in need of being
corrected: his defects must be honed so that he may rise to the challenge of gov-
erning the army with a firm hand. In the scene from Book X between Nestor and
Agamemnon, modern criticism has in fact discovered a moment in which the
characterization of Menelaus is offered with remarkable clarity: not infrequently
Menelaus shows that he is aware of his inferiority on the battle field and of living
in his brother’s shadow; the same brother who now, before Nestor, is protective
of him²⁷. A profile of Menelaus emerges that will be confirmed by Apollo in Book
XVII, who in the dialogue with Hector describes him as a “feeble warrior”, μαλ-
θακὸς αἰχμητής (588)²⁸. Faced with Menelaus’ defects, however, both Nestor and
Agamemnon are not harsh; rather do they show understanding and a wish to in-
See Brügger, Stoevesandt & Visser (2010
, p. 143).
For the opening scene with Agamemnon and Menelaus see Sammons (2009, p. 34): “Aga-
memnon here shows an awareness that, apart from his own exercise of authority, Menelaus’s
contribution to the war effort depends on the willingness of the Acheans to help defend his
Sammons (2009, pp. 27–41), follows the whole process through which Homer takes the read-
er in the Doloneia since the initial meeting between the brothers, showing Agamemnon’s effort
at each stage in protecting his brother’s conduct, reputation and survival (1–240).
struct²⁹. Nestor is ready to rebuke, but in the sense of φιλία and αἰδώς; despite
being grateful to Nestor for his solicitude, Agamemnon points out his brother’s
positive attributes, since on this occasion he has not been found lacking with re-
gard to the task set him; Nestor shows his optimism in relation to the position of
commander that the situation has thrust on Menelaus. These elements, if trans-
posed to the scene in the Republic, are useful both for understanding the rela-
tionship between Socrates and Homer, and for gaining further confirmation of
the image of Plato as poeta doctus, which those critics who are more sensitive
to the literary component of the dialogues have observed, with results that
have increasingly acquired consensus³⁰.
In the allusion to the scene from the Iliad, Socrates’ superiority over Homer
emerges, Socrates who wears Nestor’s mask, the wisest of Greek heroes. For
Homer instead, there is the mask of Menelaus, a hero whose defects have
more than once had to be corrected by Nestor, as Agamemnon recalls. This
state of apprenticeship develops, however, under the auspices of φιλία, the re-
spect due to a ἡγεμών. In this way Socrates takes on, with respect to Homer
and the poets, the role of master correcting his pupils’ faults, in the sense of
the ἀλήθεια that never comes second to τιμή, even if deserved, which must be
kept for the great men. A further piece may be added to the mosaic of signs
that studies have noted in Book X of the Republic, signs that lead to a different
reading of the radical ban on μιμητική poetry from Socrates’ ideal πόλις, as Fabio
Massimo Giuliano has shown in his monograph on Platone e la poesia³¹, and
more recently Stephen Halliwell, in his contribution to the miscellany Plato
and the Poets³². In a circular structure, the same tone that emerges from the ini-
tial scene of Book X of the Republic, re-emerges at the end of the section contain-
ing the criticism of μιμητική poetry, following the definitive ban on Homer. The
ban on ἡδυσμένη Μοῦσα now takes on the form of a defence of Socrates, whom
the logos forced into expelling poetry (607b2–4). In order to escape the accusa-
tion of austerity and uncouthness, Socrates recalls an ancient dispute between
philosophy and poetry (607b2-c4)³³. In a balanced approach, Socrates concedes
the opportunity to defend itself even to the basest kind of poetry, which will be
welcomed with relief provided it is capable of demonstrating that its presence in
Sammons (2009, p. 35 n. 35) points out that νεικέσω and νεμεσήσεαι in Book 10 “denote a
mild, even playful, style of criticism among friends”, while elsewhere in the Iliad they “imply
forceful rebuke (cf. 4. 413, 2.. 224, 7. 95)”.
Capra (2014) provides an up-to-date overview.
Giuliano (2005, pp. 118–132).
On the historical content of Socrates’ remark see Most (2011).
Amicus Homerus: Allusive Art in Resp. X (595a – c)
the city is necessary (607c4-d3). Therefore, a defence connected also to poetry,
with the objective of showing that poetry, even though it aims at giving pleasure,
is useful for the city. This defence would be welcomed with relief by Socrates
himself (607d4-e2). Plato builds up a judiciary metaphor in which, despite the
context of the ban on poetry, Socrates too, who was initially a judge, is now
charged with austerity and uncouthness. Socrates and poetry are therefore on
the same level: both stand accused and then defend each other. It clearly emerg-
es how Plato has the tendency to reduce the conflict between poetry and philos-
ophy; it is no coincidence, following the judicial metaphor, that Socrates offers,
on account of its relationship to poetry, the image of young love from which one
has separated sorrowfully. Like those who have loved, but separated – even
through force – from a love that is considered damaging, so too does Socrates,
in whom the feeling of eros towards poetry was created because of the education
he received in Athens, welcome with relief the absolution of poetry from his ac-
cusations. And even were poetry not capable of defending itself, Socrates would
in any case continue to listen to it, while singing to himself like an enchantment
the logos of the Republic, in order to avoid falling back into that youthful love
(607e4–608a5). The converging defences of Socrates and poetry, along with
the erotic language, are signs of Plato’s tendency to identify a point of conver-
gence between philosophy and poetry: a new agreement that overcomes the an-
The reference to the scene from Book X of the Iliad fits harmoniously into
this frame: like Nestor, Socrates is the wise hero who corrects and instructs
Homer, his pupil. The new figure of the philosopher that Socrates’ mask repre-
sents ejects Homer from the role that tradition had assigned him: that of παιδεία.
Therefore, from Homer, master of the Greeks, to Homer, pupil of Socrates. Char-
acterized by benevolence towards Homer, this passage marks the passing of the
baton to Socrates, just as Nestor who, even when rebuking, shows respect and
affection for Menelaus. The allusive art demonstrated by Plato through the writ-
ing of Socratic dialogues re-enforces the new consonance between poetry and
philosophy, which find in the dialogues the common ground for a fertile ex-
change. After Socrates’ examination, the masks of the dialogue give new life
to Homer’s heroes: this literary genre then recovers the communicative capacity
of poetry with renewed functional vigour, at the service of the interlocking ques-
tions and answers that reproduce a shared search for ἀλήθεια, to which the high-
est τιμή must always be accorded.
For the Timaeus-Critias as the outcome of this new agreement, cf. Regali (2012, pp. 142–147).
Arend, W 1933, Die typischen Scenen bei Homer, Weidmannsche Buchhandlung, Berlin.
Benardete, S 1963, ’Some Misquotations of Homer in Plato’, Phronesis 8 (2), pp. 173–178.
Brügger, C, Stoevesandt, M & Visser, E 2010
, Zweiter Gesang (B). Band II. Faszikel 2:
Kommentar, in Bierl, A & Latacz, J (edd.). Homers Ilias. (Basler Kommentar / BK), De
Gruyter, Berlin-New York.
Cairns, D L 1993, Aidōs. The Psichology and Ethics of Honour and Shame in Ancient Greek
Literature, Clarendon Press, Oxford.
Capra, A 2001, Agon logon. Il Protagora di Platone tra eristica e commedia, Edizioni
Universitarie di Lettere Economia Diritto, Milano.
Capra, A 2014, Plato’s Four Muses. The Phaedrus and the Poetics of Philosophy, Center of
Hellenic Studies, Washington.
Clay, D 2000, Platonic Questions. Dialogues with the Silent Philosopher, The Pennsylvania
State University Press, University Park.
Clay, D 2010, ‘The Art of Platonic Quotation’, in S Giombini & F Marcacci (eds.), Il quinto
secolo. Studi di filosofia antica in onore di Livio Rossetti, Aguaplano, Passignano sul
Trasimeno, pp. 329–338.
Corradi, M 2014, ‘Platone al termine del Protagora: la profezia di una paideia possibile’, in
M. Vallozza (ed.), Etica e politica: tre lezioni su Platone. Atti del Convivium Viterbiense
2013, Università degli Studi della Tuscia, Viterbo, pp. 33–52.
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Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
El Murr, D 2011, ‘The Telos of our Muthos. A Note on Plato, Plt., 277b6–7’, Mnemosyne 64
(2), pp. 271–280.
Erler, M 2007, Platon, in H Flashar (ed.), Grundriss der Geschichte der Philosophie. Die
Philosophie der Antike, II 2, Schwabe, Basel.
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Academia Verlag, Sankt Augustin.
Goldhill, S 1991, The Poet’s Voice. Essays on Poetics and Greek Literature, Cambridge
University Press, Cambridge
de Jong, I J F 2001, A Narratological Commentary on the Odyssey, Cambrige University Press,
Halliwell, S 2000, ’The Subjection of Muthos to Logos: Plato’s Citations of the Poets’,
Classical Quarterly 50 (1), pp. 94–112.
Halliwell, S 2011, ‘Antidotes and Incantations: Is There a Cure for Poetry in Plato’s Republic?’,
in P Destrée, F-G Herrmann (eds.), Plato and the Poets, Brill, Leiden-Boston 2011,
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Clarendon Press, Oxford.
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University Press, Cambridge.
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the Republic, Diss. Fordham, New York.
Amicus Homerus: Allusive Art in Resp. X (595a – c)
Lohse, G 1964, ’Untersuchungen über Homerzitate bei Platon’, Helikon 4, pp. 3–28.
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sulle Trilogiae di Aristofane di Bisanzio (D.L. 3, 56–66)’, Hyperboreus 16–17,
Montiglio, S 2011, From Villain to Hero. Odysseus in Ancient Thought, The University of
Michigan Press, Ann Arbor.
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Herrmann, Plato and the Poets, Brill, Leiden-Boston 2011, pp. 1–20.
Murray, P 1996, Plato on Poetry. Ion. Republic 376e-398b, Republic 595–608b, Cambridge
University Press, Cambridge.
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the Republic, De Gruyter, Berlin-Boston.
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Quarterly 62, pp. 130–144
Performance and Elenchos in Plato’s Ion
1. Goethe and Ion
Goethe considered Ion a pamphlet full of sarcasm². The prestige of Goethe made
his outraged reaction the paradigm for the reception of Ion. From Goethe on, Ion
was considered either apocryphal, or an inexcusable mistake of Plato. However,
Goethe identified, with insight, the presence of humor and irony in the dialogue,
the “controversial thread” even though “hardly visible” in it. The recognition of
an implicit motivation in the dialogue is one of the landmarks of Goethe’s read-
ing. He also provided general orientations for a contextualized presentation of
Ion. One would understand not only what Plato was against but also what he
was for. The understanding of this double aspect, according to Goethe, would
be the proper way to introduce the dialogue. Assuming, again with Goethe,
that we must determine what Plato says in Ion “seriously, joking or half-joking”,
I propose in this paper to follow the directions of Goethe – although only to re-
ject his view that what Plato does in Ion is just an exercise in Aristophanic mal-
2. Images of poetry and the Rhapsode
The clarification requested by Goethe is no simple task. To separate the serious
from the ironic, the criticism from the farce, is harder than it may have seemed to
Goethe and to the tradition after him. An intricate subtext and a complex dis-
course interplay cause Ion, as Halliwell (2002, p. 41) says, to be the inverse of
a doctrinal³ dialogue. The motivation that moves the dialogue aims higher
than what is established by it, and its subtext is “an attack on culturally wide-
spread but unexamined, or insufficient substantiated, claims for the authority
and wisdom of poets,” (Halliwell, 2002, p. 41). The oblique character of this strat-
This paper was also presented at Philosophy Department Colloquium Series at Northern
Arizona University. For helpful comments, I thank to George Rudebusch and Julie Ann Piering.
See Goethe, “Platão como partícipe da revelação cristã” in Muniz, 2011, pp.108–112.
Halliwell (2002, p. 41): “In my view, briefly stated, is that Ion is the very reverse of a doctri-
naire dialogue. It is a subtle Platonic exercise in the use of schematic dialectic to hint at much
more that it ever states.” […] “[I]ts subtext is an attack on culturally widespread but unexa-
mined, or insufficient substantiated, claims for the authority and wisdom of poets.”
egy – employed by Plato to make the authority of rhapsodes and poets illegiti-
mate – prevents direct access to the content of the dialogue and causes the afore-
mentioned mistakes in reading. Ion, rightly understood, seems to be a milestone
in the history of hermeneutics, being itself, by the complexity of its discursive
game, an incitement to its own interpretation.
Another contextual fact contributes to mistakes in its interpretations. The po-
etry as treated in Ion is very different from how we understand it, or how it was
understood by Goethe and the Romantics⁴. In oral-oriented ancient Greek cul-
ture, poetry was – though not exclusively – the main way of preserving the in-
herited tradition, and remained exercising this capital function even when writ-
ing, tied to the new emerging forms of knowledge, came to play an important
role in composition and cultural transmission. In this context, the rhapsode car-
ries an authority that covers almost all fields of knowledge. It’s an encyclopedic
authority, against which Plato fought a war even though not without ambiguity.
If we consider these aspects, we cannot accept that the target of the Ion is just –
as some commentators assume – to ridicule or demean a mediocre and silly
rhapsode. The target of the Ion must be sought in the contrast established by
the dialogue between two modes of communication: poetry and philosophy. I
argue therefore that Plato, by attacking the communication mode of poetic per-
formance, is deeply driven by its replacement by the Socratic elenchos as the
ideal mean of communication for instruction and a guide to human life⁵.
If the pros and cons that operate in the invisible dynamics of the dialogue
are correctly identified (as Goethe suggested), it still remains for us (i) to know
how the criticism of the poetic performance works, (ii) to identify which are
the argumentative and dramatic means orchestrated by Plato to achieve this
goal, and (iii) to show how such procedures are severally integrated into the
overall strategy of the dialogue. I believe that the recognition of this strategy
eliminates the sense of farce and fallacy that often come with superficial read-
ings of the Ion. That feeling would be just the negative effect of the elaborate con-
See Stern-Gillet (2004, p. 169): “Some historians of aesthetics […] have sought to identify in it
[Íon] the seeds of the post-Kantian notion of ’art’ as non-technical making, and to trace to it the
Romantic conception of the poet as a creative genius. Others have argued that, in the Ion, Plato
has Socrates assume the existence of a techne of poetry. In this article, these claims are chal-
lenged on exegetical and philosophical grounds.”
I stand close to Yuni’s position (2003): “Plato′s dialogue Ion, which depicts a Homeric rhap-
sode in the middle to late fifth century, considers the manner in which poetic texts are received.
Plato′s irony is conspicuous; his purpose is clearly not historical. Rather he puts two modes of
poetic reception in sharp contrast in order to illustrate their essential characteristics.” (pp. 190 –
struction of the dialogue.⁶ The positive reading that makes some of these aspects
clearer for us reveals its ultimate goal. First, one of the distinctions we must rec-
ognize is the three images of poetry and oral poetic performance that appear su-
perimposed on the dialogue.
The first image, the most plausible one (considering the evidence we have on
the behavior of rhapsodes in ancient Greece) is built by the rhapsode himself. It
highlights the empathetic nature of the performance, the emotional reaction of
the audience, and the active participation of the rhapsode in the process of a per-
formance. In 535b, for example, Ion recognizes that, especially when he sings
some striking passages of the Iliad or the Odyssey, he is transported to the scenes
narrated and becomes touched, with tears in his eyes, his hair bristling, his heart
racing, etc. Socrates then asks if Ion realizes that the same thing is happening
with the audience. Ion says he not only realizes it, but he needs to pay close at-
tention to the spectators, and jokes: “If I do not make them cry, I will be the one
to cry for having lost money.” This image of the rhapsode as the one that controls
the performance will be insistently ignored by Socrates throughout the dialogue.
Ion is forced to identify himself with completely different images of his role, im-
ages produced by Plato out of elements taken from the tradition and the herme-
neutic context of his time – even though he does so in order to highlight the
traits that collaborate to disqualify the rhapsodes and the poets.
3. The Rhapsode as Hermeneutist of the Hidden
At the beginning of the dialogue, Ion arrives victorious from Epidaurus and runs
into Socrates by chance. Immediately, the philosopher confesses to be envious of
the rhapsodes. They would be worthy of envy because they are always beautiful-
ly dressed and familiar with the poets, especially Homer. The obvious irony in
the envy assumed by Socrates encourages the reader to step on the shaky ground
on which the plot of the Ion is built.
Flattered by the “confession” of Socrates, Ion now listens to the reasons
given by Socrates to justify his envy: the rhapsodes “know by heart” (ekmantha-
nein) not only the verses (ta epe), but also “the thought” (dianoian) of the poet.
This should be, he says, the fundamental condition for the proper performance
of rhapsodes: “It is impossible for one to practice beautifully his craft if he does
not ‘understand’ (suniemi) the meaning of the ’lines’ of the poet (ta legomena)”
See also Kahn (1993, p. 378), Bloom (1987, p. 393): “Ion was caught in a sophistic argument”.
Performance and Elenchos in Plato’s Ion
(430c). With a terminology grounded in verbs of cognition (ekmanthanein, sunie-
mi), Socrates presents a very different picture from the one more historically
plausible in which Ion spontaneously recognizes himself. In this other image,
he is called hermeneus, a translator of the thought of the poet to the audience.
The ambiguity of the term hermeneus is the key to the dialogue. It designates,
in this context, the holder of a semantic knowledge which enables one to trans-
late from one language to another. Language is thus the hermeneutic paradigm
that, by analogy, clarifies the nature of the skill of the rhapsode: the object of this
technique is the meaning of the words or the intention (dianoia) of the poet.
Thus the translation is the practical result of the activity of the rhapsode.
Surprisingly, Ion accepts this description of his craft. He states that he de-
pends on this kind of knowledge, and adds, at 530c, that it was what gave he
“more work (ergon) in my technique.” But why would the rhapsode accept the
role of a commentator on Homer? Were it not for the vanity of the rhapsode
and the Platonic irony, this identification would be difficult to understand. (Ac-
tually, as we shall see, one of the tricks of the dialogue is to vary the image of the
rhapsode with his own consent.) In classical Greece, as far as we know, the ac-
tivity of the rhapsode is reduced to performance, and there is no room for com-
ment or interpretive explanation. This identification accepted by Ion sounds a lit-
tle off. As the oral tradition that supports the practice of the rhapsode does not
make a clear distinction between composition and exhibition – every exhibition
is a composition – it would not make sense to treat the oral poetic performance
as a critical interpretive activity. Further in his speech, Ion – perhaps over-
whelmed at being characterized as one that knows the thoughts of the poet –
claims he has things to say about Homer that are more beautiful than what Met-
rodorus of Lampsacus, Stesimbrotos of Taso, among others, say. With this refer-
ence to the technical interpretation of Homer, especially the allegorical, Plato
gives us a clear indication of the kind of thing he brings into play.
The word “allegory” – which literally means “to say something else” – ap-
pears after the classical period and has an interesting prehistory. At the end of
the 6th century BC, some Homer admirers wanted to defend him from accusa-
tions of impiety and invented a reading procedure later called “allegory.” Por-
phyry mentions this technique when he says that “unreasonable stories that
Homer tells about the gods can be defended by appealing to his mode of expres-
sion, his lexis, thus ensuring that everything has been said in allegorical form.”⁷
See Ford (2002, p.70). Ford, nevertheless, associates Theagenes with rapsodes that, according
to him, “also commented on the songs they performed” (p. 70). Ford uses the Ion as proof: “The
rhapsode portrayed in Plato′s Ion can recite passages from Homer on cue, but also can ’embel-
Also, according to Porphyry, that kind of defense of Homer would be very old
and go back to Theagenes of Regium⁸. Theagenes and other staunch Homer sup-
porters would be among those who tried to defend the author of the Odyssey
from the attacks of rationalist detractors such as Xenophanes. As we can see,
the famous quarrel between philosophy and poetry has deep roots.
Plutarch, at the beginning of our era, instructed us more precisely about the
tactics of these hermeneutic advocates of poetry. According to him, allegory had
originally another name. It was called hyponoia (hidden meaning), a term found
in the fifth century in Thucydides, in Xenophon, and, what interests us, in Plato⁹.
As he mentions allegory, Ion willingly inserts himself in the group of herme-
neuts of hyponoia. Prompted by Socrates to identify his practice with the practice
of a hermeneus – translator of the poets dianoia – the rhapsode accepts the role
of mediator in a triadic mode of communication (poet – rhapsode – audience),
assuming to have a kind of knowledge that underlies the paradigm of decipher-
ing meaning. In order to show it clearly, Socrates asks him for an epideixis – a
performance. When Ion says he is willing to do it, Socrates claims he does not
have the time to watch it. As this refusal of epideixis is repeated by Socrates
throughout the dialogue, readers should give the same emphasis Plato gives
it. The poetic performance is excluded at the beginning by the mere dismissal
of its presentation, but in the end, it is excluded by a redefinition of its meaning
that will result in the disqualification of its (performative) style and the neutral-
ization of its supposedly cognitive (poetic) content.
4. Performance and Elenchos
The translation of the term epideixis as performance reinforces the dialogue’s
ambiguous game. A deixis is a way of showing, of exposing; with the preposition
epi-, the emphasis lies in its relationship with an audience – it means to show
something before an audience. An epideixis is, therefore, a public display, a per-
lish’ (kosmein) the poet by discoursing on his ’many fine thoughts’ (polla kai kalla dianoiai, Ion
530d).” Ford took the Platonic text as an historical document that represents with accuracy the
rhapsodes′ activity. But, as Guthrie observes, the Ion is the only source for this conjecture. See
Guthrie (1975, p. 201): “Outside the Ion there is no evidence that these commentators were
ever called rhapsodes, and the most reasonable conclusion is that Ion (who is otherwise un-
known, and for all we know invented by Plato for his own purposes) is exceptional among
rhapsodes in combining recitation with exposition.”
Thucydides (II. 41.4), Xenophon (Symp. iii, 6), Plato (Rep. ii, 378d).
Performance and Elenchos in Plato’s Ion
formance. In this basic sense epideixis had, originally, a variety of forms. All had
the same basic function, to “display or proof of an excellence or ability.” At the
end of the 5th and the beginning of the 4th century, the epideixis was still far
from the kind of discourse set out by Aristotle as epideitic.¹⁰
On two other occasions, Socrates refuses to watch Ion’s performance (530d
and 536d). Moreover, when the rhapsode is asked to remember a passage from
Homer, the philosopher interrupts his speech with a stern “enough!” (askei),
and from then on, he himself quotes passages from Homer, relieving the rhap-
sode of his function. At the end of the dialogue in 541a, this tactic becomes
even more evident when, not without some level of cruelty, Socrates complains
that the rhapsode had not done the performance he asked for: “You have been
unfair to me, Ion, promised me a performance, but did not do it.” The ambiguous
game of the deixis enables Socrates to tell Ion he didn’t “show” what he had
promised. In fact, Ion failed to make a “demonstration” of his discursive skills
but only in the specific presentation mode of elenchos; he did not actually get
a chance to even give it a try in a performance, as he was stopped by Socrates
throughout the dialogue.
The contrast between epideixis and elenchos is a constant in the structure of
the dialogue. The refusal of epideixis is always accompanied by a question, what
allows the passage from the performance to the elenchos. Elenchos is distinct
from epideixis as another public way of displaying something. Even though
the dialectic is always restricted to two interlocutors, its public dimension is es-
sential. And as the dialectical examination always takes place from what has
been said and from the necessary consequences of what has been stated, the
most appropriate Greek term to designate it is apodeixis, demonstration.
The denial of epideixis and the requirement of apodeixis are therefore com-
plementary. It is that kind of statement that Socrates unceasingly demands from
Ion instead of the performance. Consider a typical situation: Ion accepts the role
of translator of Homer’s dianoia – this implies that he must answer the question
about the nature of this knowledge. The kind of question that allows the passage
Thomas, R. in Yunis (2003, pp. 173–4): “What form, or forms, does the display performance
actually take? And what is the relation of oral performance to written text? We should not as-
sume that the epideixis of the late fifth and early fourth centuries corresponded simply to Aris-
totle’s epideictic genre of speeches (genos epideiktikon). Aristotle’s definition belonged to a
later, more text oriented period, when genres had crystallized and oral delivery had slightly dif-
ferent connotations. In the Rhetoric (3.12), he distinguished the ’agonistic style’, which is for oral
delivery, from the ’written style’; the agonistic style encompassed speeches for the assembly and
for the courts, whereas the written style was epideictic: ’The epideictic style is most like writing
for its objective is to be read’ (Rhetoric 3.12.5).”
from the epideixis to the dialectical process of refutation is, in this case, the fol-
lowing: “Are you skilled only in Homer, or also in Hesiod or Archilochus?” Ion
responds immediately: “I only speak well about Homer.” That’s the clue for the
first refutation of Ion (531a–532c). “Does not Homer speak about the same things
that other poets do?” Ion defends himself: “Homer actually does, but in a much
better way.” Socrates continues: “One who knows how to recognize what is well
done, should not also acknowledge the badly done?” The conclusion is inevita-
ble: if Ion is skilled in Homer’s poetry, he must also be skilled in the poetry of
other poets. Thus, Ion does not know what to say, he just “speaks beautifully
and fluently about Homer, but in relation to others he stands in aporia not know-
ing what to say, with no interest.” Socrates is then urged by Ion to explain this
phenomenon. How can there be a knowledge which is irreducible in its special-
ty? The question points to a more appropriate response to the kind of experience
provided by poetic performance.
5. The Rhapsode as Transmission Hermeneutist
At this moment, the dialogue symptomatically becomes a solemn monologue¹¹
(533d-534e). After stating he was unwise (532d: “You are the wise ones, the
rhapsodes, actors, and all who sing poems”), Socrates exposes the wise doctrine
of enthusiasm in an almost “enthusiastic” way. According to the doctrine, Ion is
not practicing a tekhne when he sings Homer; he is doing it by the means of theia
dynamis (divine power). This divine power is compared to a stone, a magnet that
attracts an iron ring and transmits (entithesi) to it its own power of attraction,
causing the ring to attract other rings and, in turn, transfer to them its strength,
forming something like an integrated transmission circuit.
Thus a new image of the rhapsode and poet is created. Now the rhapsode is
entheos, i.e., “he has a god within” and one link in the transmission chain ema-
nated by divine power and therefore cannot be in possession of reason and can-
not have dianoia. Divine intervention is understood here in an extreme manner:
God expels the rhapsode mind out in order to possess the singer entirely.¹² This
Stern-Gillet (2004 p.177): “[…] unlike most of the early dialogues, the Ion is not fully aporetic.
Socrates is portrayed as being in a unusually loquacious mood, besides cross-examining his in-
terlocutor and exposing his slow wit, he offers an alternative account of the genesis of poetry.
This account, which is sandwiched between the two parts of the elenchus, is the pivot of the
Plato invents enthusiasm in this radical way. See Tigerstedt (1970), and Jacyntho Brandão in
Performance and Elenchos in Plato’s Ion
new view on enthusiasm requires a new meaning for poetic communication and
a new meaning for hermeneus – no longer “translator,” but “transmitter.” Thus,
Plato invents the hermeneutics of magnetic transmission of meaning. Ion ac-
cepts gladly this new image. Called hermeneus, transmitter of divine messages,
he claims to be touched by Socrates’ words and grants. Flattered, he says: it is
a divine privilege that good poets are the transmitters of messages from the
gods to mortals. This allows Socrates to conclude “the rhapsodes have now
turned into transmitters of the transmitters.” Such successive transformation
of the identity of the rhapsode is associated, as we shall see, to the proteic nature
of poetry: mutability and incessant differentiation. Here are the three distinct im-
1. The performer rhapsode – aware of his resources and the effects he produce,
2. The hermeneus rhapsode – translator, commentator of Homer’s dianoia or
3. The enthusiastic-rhapsode – possessed by gods and therefore transmitter-
hermeneus, a ventriloquist’s dummy of divinity.
The overlap of these images creates several problems for the interpretation of the
dialogue. Some commentators¹³ perceive this difficulty. Plato would have built
many images of Ions, which could be either singer or commentator on Homer; either
enthusiastic, or non-enthusiastic. The fact is that the only image the rhapsode spon-
taneously identified himself with was the figure of the skilled performer, an image
he helped to build. He did not easily accept the image of a translator-commentator
of Homer, nor of a transmitter in a trance. When he offers for the second time his
performance to Socrates, Ion seems to finally say what he really thinks, “Had you
heard me talking about Homer, you wouldn’t believe I am possessed” (536d). But
Socrates insists on his refusal of the performance: “Of course I want to hear it,”
he says, “but not before you answer a question.” (536e). Again, it is a minor question
that makes the passage from epideixis to elenchos.
Yunis (2003, p. 191) “[…] he puts two modes of poetic reception in sharp contrast in order to
illustrate their essential characteristics. When Ion performs Homer, he functions as the poet’s
surrogate, and his recitation of the text moves the audience to tears, terror, and amazement
(Ion 535e). The audience’s emotional reaction, which is pleasurable for them and wins the rhap-
sode admiration, enables them to experience vicariously the travails of Achilles, Odysseus, and
the other characters. As if to signal the uncanny power of this performance, Plato ascribes it to
divine inspiration (Ion 536b). This reaction to performed poetry was also described by the so-
phist Gorgias (Helen 9): “Those who hear it [poetry, poiesis] are overcome with fearful shudder-
ing, tearful pity, and mournful yearning, and through the words [of the poetry] the soul experi-
ences a feeling of its own over the good fortunes and ill-farings of other people and their affairs’
(trans. McKirahan, adapted)”.
6. Performance and hyponoia
Nowadays we know more about the bustling scene of poetry interpretation in the
5th century – when Ion mentions Metrodorus and Estesimbrotos he is referring
to this scene¹⁴. Recent discoveries (Derveni Papyrus, 7.3–7) attest to the use of
various techniques of interpretation such as analogy, etymology and allegory¹⁵,
as mentioned before. Such hermeneutic trends were built on the belief that it is
impossible to understand the meaning of the poem at the time it is performed.
This is said explicitly in the fragment of Derveni¹⁶. Techniques of poetry interpre-
tation, such as hyponoia, among others, are generally critical responses to the
public reception of poetry in the form of epideixis, oral performance, the original
mode of presentation of poetry¹⁷. Fluidity and transparency, as conditions for po-
etic performance, imply the inseparability between the word and its meaning.
These techniques tried to block just the emotional experience of fluidity and
transparency through a minimal operation: to distinguish the word from its
meaning. Once this principle is operating, a semantic depth is opened, several
layers of the poet’s dianoia are released, and what the poet “really” meant be-
comes a controversial subject. The authority of the poet’s intention is both to le-
gitimate certain interpretations and to refuse many others.
Prior to this, poetic performance did not allow any distance between the
word and the meaning. When the gap between word and meaning was herme-
neutically opened, there was no way to close it. Plato inherits and adopts this
Yunis (2003, pp. 193–4): “The evidence for these figures [Metrodorus and Estesimbrotos] and
their work is meager, but it is clear that in the late fifth century they were prominent among
those who began to interpret poetry in a way that had no regard for the experience of performed
poetry. Metrodorus equated the Homeric gods and heroes with heavenly bodies and substances
in an allegorical manner (DK 61.3–4). Stesimbrotus, a writer on contemporary fifth-century his-
torical figures, also wrote about problems raised by the wording of Homer’s text (FGrH 107 F
Laks A. and Most G. W (1997). Cf. Yunis (2003, pp. 195–6): “The best surviving extended ex-
ample of poetic interpretation before Plato is the text preserved, imperfectly, on the Derveni
papyrus. […] The author interprets not Homer but a cosmogonic poem ascribed to Orpheus, dis-
tinguishes between the poem’s words and its meaning”.
Yunis (2003), pp. 196: “At one point, the Derveni author parenthetically explains the fact that
the poem’s true meaning has not been grasped by people who have heard the poem (20.2–3): ’It
is not possible to hear and at the same time to learn the meaning of the words’ (’para ou gar oion
te akousai homou kai mathein ta legomena’, trans. Laks and Most).”
See item 3.
Performance and Elenchos in Plato’s Ion
general principle, but adapts it to his own interests.¹⁸ Early in Ion, Socrates in-
troduces the gap between word and meaning. His first tactical move is to force
Ion into accepting the difference between the verses that he may know by
heart and the dianoia of the poet. In epideixis, there is no way the spectators
can distinguish what is said from the meaning of what is said. In this sense,
for Plato, rhetoric¹⁹ produces the same negative effect: the rhetorician shapes
his compositions so that the audience is unable to consider what he says in a
different way. Emotionally involved, the audience does not need to “understand”
the meaning of the poetic word. Even though not everything is transparent in a
poem, when there are opaque situations or expressions, they are ignored so that
the poetic experience can keep its rhythm and fluency. The meaning of the per-
formance is therefore built upon a stream of transparency, and any distance or
obstacle blocks and nullifies the effect of meaning. All opacity that cannot be
ignored interrupts the flow of emotional intensity – and is, potentially, aporetic
and dialectic. The reception of the poetic performance is necessarily passive and
uncritical. Under the doctrine of enthusiasm, the transmission of meaning must
be effective through magnetic or viral ways, without any intellectual operation,
with no inference and no deduction to stop its flow.
As we have seen, epideixis frontally opposes apodeixis. As a form of public
display, apodeixis later became a model for philosophical proof. In the context
we are dealing with, it had other distinguishing features. Used in preference to
epideixis, the term apodeixis designates a means of display by evidence thus op-
erating through inferences and deductions. It’s by a promise to deliver an apo-
deixis that Herodotus introduces his work. In the Hippocratic treatises on the na-
ture of man (ch 2.5.j), we read “I will show … provide evidence … to uncover the
necessary causes” (ego men gar apodeixo tekmeria parekho kai anankas apophai-
neo). The translation of apodeixo here should be understood as “I will show in a
decisive manner,” which means to present evidence, proof and clear indications.
Yunis (2003), p. 190. “Historically, Thucydides and Plato reflect most clearly the explicit con-
cern with hermeneutics – the systematic pursuit of understanding discourse – that arose around
400 bce in reaction to the changes then occurring in the way discourse was being composed and
reaching its audience. The increased use of written texts, in addition to and alongside traditional
modes of poetic and rhetorical performance, caused writers to consider how texts were and
could be interpreted.4 Thucydides and Plato recognized that interpreting a written text was,
in certain respects, different from interpreting orally delivered discourse. For written texts that
have subtle didactic aims and require the reader to exercise critical thinking, as is the case
with the texts of Thucydides and Plato, the reader’s interpretive problem becomes acute. Insofar
as such texts were new, so too were the corresponding problems of interpretation.”
See Muniz (2011), chap. 3.2: A Retórica e a Potência da Aparência.
Elenchos, as a form of apodeixis, produces in its own way a gap between
word and meaning²⁰. Its characteristic feature is the question: what does this
word mean? What does that person mean by that? (ti legei).²¹ Transparency
and opacity are opposite but complementary aspects of dialectic and elenchos
engines. As there is always a meaning implied in everything that can be said
and there is no speech that provides ultimate evidence, there is always opacity,
obstacle, aporia. In Apology 21b, before the oracle of Delphi sent by God, Socra-
tes asks “what did God mean by that?” Derived from oracular hermeneutics,
elenchos is a model of critical reception. it seeks to analyze carefully the meaning
of words, their implications, and what we can infer from them. For this reason, it
is offered as a rational alternative for epideixis as the ideal form of ethical in-
That said, we can see that in the poet/translator/audience triadic hermeneu-
tic model the burden falls on the cognitive and intermediate functions of the
translator. A qualitative difference articulates these three elements so that the
operations of passage from one to another does take place without resistance,
obstacles, opacities. Such aporetic limits need to be overcome, whether by the
task of deciphering the thought of the poet, or in the form of communication
of meaning to the audience. According to the apodeitic model, the poet sees,
the poet conceives, the rhapsode translates and the audience receives.
In the Muse/poet/rhapsode/audience quaternary model, the differences be-
tween the links of the chain are no longer qualitative. The difference in the links
is quantitative or one of degrees. From the Muse – the source – to the audience
there is the same flow transparency of meaning. And even if you assume the pos-
sibility of a decrease in intensity in the passage from one link to the other, this
reduction is quantitative. There is no intellectual operation of understanding of
meaning that can qualify a reception as better or worse. The meaning simply
passes – in the mode of affection and contagion – from one link to another in
the chain with absolute fluency²³.
Rep, II, 378d5–8. See Lear (2006, p. 27): “hyponoia […] is quite literally the under-thought.
Indeed, it is an ‘under-thought’ in another sense: it enters de psyche beneath radar of critical
Gorg., 489d; Rep., 331e; Apol., 21b; Symp., 200d; Lach., 195d.
Yunis (2003), pp. 209–210. “When the poetic interpreters seek the meaning of a poem, they
consider what the author of the poem intends; this is necessarily the absent author whom Plato
finds so troublesome. In Thucydides’ case, the author conspicuously calls attention to himself as
author and to the ‘clear view’ of events that he promises the reader and makes available through
critical reading. Plato, on the other hand, hides himself as author; he refrains from overtly sig-
naling his presence or didactic purpose to the reader.
Euporeia, as can be seen at 533c, 536d.
Performance and Elenchos in Plato’s Ion
7. Elenchos and Paradox
We can identify in Ion two forms of communication between gods and men: in-
tensive magnetic communication, in which poets and rhapsodes are the trans-
mitters, and another, dialectical communication, more connected to the philo-
sophical practice, built from intellectual operations. Through the intensive²⁴
communication, the gods send “many beautiful things,” but in the same action
they prevent access to its primary discursive meanings; through the second, the
demonstration, they make men aware of the true authors of poetry²⁵: the gods. In
this sense, they are opposing processes, although complementary: the demon-
stration proves that the intensive cannot be demonstrated. “The main evidence
for this,” says Socrates, “is the case of Tynnichus of Chalcis,” which never pro-
duced a poem worthy of being remembered, although he composed the most
beautiful poem in honor of Apollo. The most beautiful poems are taken as evi-
dence of their divine origin. This is what Socrates says: “For a God, as I believe,
demonstrates us (endeixesthai), leaving no doubt that these beautiful poems are
neither human, nor the works of men, but divine and works of the gods.” Poets
would be nothing but transmitters of the gods, since they are wholly owned by
them. Paradoxically, the most beautiful poem, produced by enthusiasm, is ac-
tually a demonstration that neutralizes it: “To provide demonstration (endeikny-
menos) of that [poets are not the authors of the poems] God purposefully puts in
the mouth of the most mediocre poet the most beautiful poem.” (534d)
French nietzscheanism, athough antiplatonic, reproduced, maybe unconsciously, Platonic
distinctions. In Pourparlers (1990, p. 17), for example, Deleuze afirms “il ya deux manières de
lire un livre”, une manière classique et une manière intensive: “Ou bien on le considère
comme une boîte qui renvoie à un dedans, et alors on va chercher ses signifiés […] Ou bien l’au-
tre manière : on considère un livre comme une petite machine a-signifiante ; […] Cette autre lec-
ture, c’est une lecture en intensité : quelque chose passe ou ne passe pas. […] C’est du type
branchement électrique. […] Cette autre manière de lire s’oppose à la précédente, parce qu’elle
rapporte immédiatement un livre au Dehors.”
In the Apology, Socrates says elenchos emerged from a Delphic oracle. Thus it is the oracle
that lies at the origin of elenchos. And for irony is closely linked to the form of oracular speech,
elenchos and irony are inseparable. When Socrates received the prophetic sentence from Chaer-
ephon, he did not question the veracity of the oracle (“the gods are not allowed to lie”), but he
found that the truth was not given in full. A hidden part of its meaning was to be discovered. Put
another way, the oracle had to be put to the test. “What is the God saying by what he says? What
is he pointing out?”- he wondered. Such issues are the engines of elenchos. The ironic aspect of
elenchos is characterized by showing that the meaning is not always immediately revealed by
what is manifested, and – exactly for that – it should be put to the test.
The answer to the question raised by Socrates (“Why does God take the rea-
son out of these men and use them as his employees as he does with the proph-
ets and diviners?”) is crucial as it brings together and overlaps the two means of
communication: the magnetically transmitted poetry is an endeixis from a deity,
who thus gives a clear indication that there are poets who say valuable things,
but it is the very divinity that speaks to us through them. From this point of
view, the poem from Tynnichus of Chalcis is double-sided. On the one hand,
it is an intervention of the Muse, able to mobilize an intensive communication
circuit, but on the other hand, it is another type of sign – which does not reveal
its hidden meaning without intellectual operations. In other words, the demon-
stration provided by Tynnichus′s poem produces, on the surface, the magnetic
effect, but in the depth, reveals the intent of the gods. Thus, the paradox exposed
by the poem of Tynnichus of Chalcis – how can the best poem be produced by
the worst poet? – is what motivates the research on poetry. Socrates equates this
paradox with the oracle given by Apollo. What do the gods mean when they
make Tynnichus sing the best poem? The best poem hides an endeixis in its epi-
deixis: it shows that poets are not the authors and do not know what they are
saying. If this interpretation is correct, we can finally explain the origin of Soc-
rates’ intriguing monologue: the doctrine of enthusiasm is the result of elenchos,
an investigation into the enigma represented by the poem of Tynnichus.
In Euthyphro, 11b–c, Socrates says that Daedalus, the architect of the labyrinth,
is his ancestor and he (Socrates) is part of a lineage of moving statues makers.
This explains the fact that both “the statues of words” built by him as the
ones built by his interlocutors always escape. The truth, in the context of Euthy-
phro, is so multiform, concealing and inaccessible as it is the marine deity, Pro-
teus. In Meno, 97d–e, the doxai are compared again to the moving statues of Dae-
dalus. This time, it is the doxai which must be chained so they do not escape and
This idea is repeated at the end of Ion, 541e. “As Proteus, you evade from all
sides and take the most varied forms” (hosper ho Proteus pantodapos gigne stre-
phomenos ano te kai kato) – says Socrates to Ion. In Socratic dialogues, this ex-
treme situation of impasse is described in the language of plane, of wandering.
In Ion, it is the rhapsode and poetry that take many forms and escape as Proteus,
without ever taking up a fixed form. Interestingly, the enchainment is used here,
unlike the discursive enchainment suggested in Meno, as a metaphor for the im-
mobilization of those who take part in a poetic performance. The chain links that
Performance and Elenchos in Plato’s Ion
form the magnetic circuit through which flows the stream of the Muse are now
connected, but by the effect of elenchos, lack the necessary autonomy to talk
about the meaning of poetry. The authority of poets and rhapsodes is reduced
to mere means of transmission and thereby the meaning of the poetry is neutral-
ized. Chained together, participants lose the “proteic” ability of poetry which al-
lows them to escape assuming many forms. Immobilized, poets and rhapsodes
no longer have the right to speak on behalf of the “many beautiful things”
that are in poetry. The admirable things are restricted to the sphere of human ex-
perience, and because of this, they must be submitted to elenchos.
Deleuze, G. Pourparlers. Paris: Éd. de Minuit, 1990.
Dodds, E.R. The Greeks and the Irrational. Berkeley: University of Califórnia Press, 1951.
Ferrari, GRF Plato and Poetry. In: Kennedy, George A., ed. The Cambridge History of Literary
Criticism: I – Classical Criticism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989,
Ford, A. The Origins of Criticism. Literary Culture and Poetic Theory in Classical
Greece.Princeton: PUP, 2002,
Fränkel, H. Early Greek Poetry and Poetry: A History of Greek Epic, Lyric and Prose to the
Middle of the Fifth Century. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1975.
Havelock, E. A. Preface to Plato. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1963.
Halliwell, S. The Aesthetics of Mimesis. Ancient texts and modern problems. New Jersey:
Princeton University, Press, 2002.
Laks A. and Most G. W. Studies on the Derveni Papyrus. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997.
Lear, J. Allegory and Myth in Plato′s Republic p. 27. In Santas, G. (org.) Blackwell Guide to
Plato′s Republic. Oxford: Blackwell , 2006.
Murray, Penelope. Poetic Inspiration in Early Greece. Journal of Hellenic Studies 101 (1981),
Muniz, Fernando. A Potência da Aparência: um estudo sobre o prazer ea sensação nos
Diálogos de Platão. SP: Annablume, 2011.
—. (org.). A Arte do Entusiasmo. RJ: 7Letras, 2011.
Nagy, G. Early Greek Views of Poets and Poetry. In: KENNEDY, G., ed. Cambridge History of
Literary Críticism I. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989, pp. 1–77.
—. Pindar’s Homer: The Lyric Possession of an Epic Past. Baltimore; London: The Johns
Hopkins University Press, 1990.
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—. Rhetoric, Romance, and Technology: Studies in the Interaction of Expression and Culture.
Ithaca; London: Cornell University Press, 1971.
Pfeiffer, R. History of Classical Scholarship. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968.
Stern-Gillet, S. On (mis) interpreting Plato′s Ion, Phonesis, vol. 49, n.2, 2004.
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Performance and Elenchos in Plato’s Ion
Plato and the Catalogue Form in Ion
Socrates states in Ion that the master of τέχνη, in arithmetic or medicine for in-
stance, may be a judge of both a negative and positive speech¹. This certainly af-
fects ποιητική (531d4–532b7). But, for the recitation or the interpretation, the
text of Homer inspires Ion, while that of Hesiod and Archilocus makes him
dull (532b8–c4). Socrates indicates why: Ion reacts to the text Homer and not
to that of Hesiod and Archilocus because he is does not own τέχνη. In a well-de-
fined field, τέχνη offers a model both for a positive and negative speech, it is a
ὅλον that encompasses every type of opposition². This is the result of research,
σκέψις (532c5–d3). Ion believes it to be on the basis of knowledge, but Socrates
emphasises it as an ἰδιώτης. Research, σκέψις, advances alongside common
sense, τἀληθῆ λέγω (532d4–e4)³. This gives rise to a systematic development
in terms of painting, sculpture and music, in particular the τέχνη of the flute,
the τέχνη of the cithara, the τέχνη of song accompanied by the cithara and
the τέχνη of rhapsodists (532e4–533c3).
A systematic development that has nourished more than a few doubts
among scholars. Certainly, it is not rigorous, confusing as it does the judge
with the author⁴. In a well-defined field, the judge of both a positive and negative
speech is the author. The τέχνη by which the judge has the function of judge is
but the indispensable τέχνη for painting, sculpture and music. But prior to the
Republic, this is the concept of τέχνη. The necessity of establishing the boundary
that separats τέχνη from τέχνη leads to a concrete flattening of the individual
figures that Plato refers to. With regard to painting, sculpture and music, the au-
thor is indeed the judge or the judge is indeed the author.
In Gorgias, Plato immediately points out the central issue (449c9–450c2).
Does rhetoric own a well-defined field, περὶ τί τῶν ὄντων τυγχάνει οὖσα? It
makes little sense, however, to distinguish the judge: in Laches, the judge advan-
ces thanks to τέχνη, rather than following the majority’s opinion (184d5–185b8).
Unmasking the false, ἐξετάσαι, for medicine, politics and music, is a difficult
task. In Charmides the judge of both a positive and negative speech is the author
See Heitsch (1992, pp. 88–101).
For the translation of ὅλον, Rijksbaron (2007, pp. 152–153).
Giannantoni (2005, pp. 89–140) points out the essential role of τἀληθῆ λέγω for the portrait
of Socrates in the Apology.
See Janaway (1992, pp. 1–23): according to Capuccino (2005, pp. 171–206), the author possess-
es only a τέχνη, while the judge has ἐπιστήμη.
that possesses τέχνη, for the ἰατρός, the ἰατρός is the judge (169c3–171c10): the
attempt to identify τέχνη for excellence in σωφροσύνη does not ensure a result,
because it is sterile by means of σωφροσύνη to isolate the δίκαιον⁵. From this
derives a concept of τέχνη lacking in nuance, tied to the concrete problem.
And in Ion the concrete problem indicates τέχνη as ὅλον, that is, knowledge
that encompasses every type of opposition: for the author or the judge⁶. A refusal
of Hesiod and Archilocus is not plausible. Plato suggests a well-defined field
both for the text of Homer and for that of Hesiod and Archilocus, a ὅλον for
which the τέχνη, the ποιητική, for the author or the judge is unique⁷.
A systematic development: painting, sculpture and music, τέχνη after τέχνη,
with the τέχνη of the rhapsodists that Ion, who manages to re-experience the text
of Homer and not that of Hesiod or Archilocus, does not own. Book II of the Re-
public offers a very similar passage (372c3–373d3): Plato suggests painting for
τέχνη and, with the scheme in Ion, music, in particular the τέχνη of rhapsodists⁸.
But a problem arises. The mode of articulation here lies in the framework of
μίμησις. For painting, sculpture and music, a link with the μίμησις in Ion is miss-
The analytical solution is not convincing: Plato discovers the function of
μίμησις in Republic, after the investigation in Ion. Certainly, by the end of Ion
he arrives at πρέπον, that is, the appropriate speech for the slave and for the
master, for the βουκόλος and for the κυβερνήτης, while passing over μίμησις
(539d5–540d3)¹⁰. But the debate on μίμησις is already widespread before Repub-
lic and Ion, in the intellectual climate dominated by dramatic production. In The-
smophoriazusae Aristophanes’ comic vein blossoms through μίμησις towards the
effeminate Agathon (146–170), from μίμησις descends Damon’s prompt support
for music, with the canon of excellence, ἦθος (16 Lasserre)¹¹.
Criticism has mostly perceived an argumentative device. A link with μίμησις
in Ion is missing because the function of μίμησις is not reconcilable with the fric-
tion between ἐνθουσιασμός and τέχνη¹². Ion indicates the magnetic force of
Homer, which comes down to us link by link from a god, and whose final victim
On the ἰατρός in Plato, Vegetti (1995, pp. 3–48).
See Cambiano (1966, pp. 284–305).
In Timaeus, Socrates takes the role of the judge, thanks to the knowledge displayed in Repub-
lic: Regali (2012, pp. 43–56).
On μίμησις and τέχνη in Book II of the Republic, Cerri (1996
, pp. 35–66).
See Diller (1971, pp. 201–219).
, pp. 32–46) advances here with his biographical approach.
On μίμησις before Plato and its echoes in Book III of the Republic, Tulli (2013, pp. 314–318).
See Flashar (1958, pp. 36-54) and Halliwell (2002, pp. 37–71).
is the dreamy listener (533c4–535a5). But integrating the function of μίμησις into
the function of ἐνθουσιασμός is not plausible. Plato underlines the condition of
τέχνη for μίμησις in Book X of the Republic (600c3–602b11). Above and beyond
Ion, Plato separates the τέχνη of creation, the τέχνη of usage and the τέχνη of
μίμησις, leading to an ever-increasing discrepancy with the ideal¹³. Certainly,
for the recitation or the interpretation of Homer the contribution of μίμησις is in-
dispensable. The text of Homer for Book III of the Republic has its foundations in
μίμησις, in particular in the μίμησις of the figures of the myth, Chryses or Aga-
memnon (392c7–393b3). The investigation of μίμησις which, on account of the
fleeting material order of things, arises with the text of Homer, is similar in
Book X of the Republic, following the pages on κλίνη, the triple bed (598d8–
600c2)¹⁴. And Ion? He goes on, struck by ἐνθουσιασμός and lacking in τέχνη.
But the result achieved in the recitation or the interpretation of Homer is posi-
tive. As far as μίμησις is concerned, a manageable field is lacking¹⁵.
An argumentative device always occurs in relation to the overall literary
setup. What argument may be put forward on the μίμησις compared to the
ἦθος that Ion has? Criticism indicates in the corpus the importance of the indi-
vidual figures that Socrates attracts in his research. Gorgias, Charmides, Protago-
ras or Timaeus: the plot that Plato offers depends on the individual figures¹⁶. The
conflict between ἐνθουσιασμός and τέχνη, between blind, ineluctable adherence
to the text of Homer and knowledge, fertile both for the text of Homer and that of
Hesiod and Archilocus, is the code that animates Ion, which makes his ἦθος so
Painting, sculpture and music: the style gains pace, which, steady for paint-
ing, upbeat for sculpture, suffocates articulation for music: a vortex for the τέχνη
of the flute, the τέχνη of the cithara and the τέχνη of rhapsodists. Studies here
see a link with Democritus. The style has quickened in pace because Plato offers
a resumé of an already widespread text, the Mikros Diakosmos¹⁷. Plutarch recalls
for Democritus, with De Sollertia, a passage on song that does not omit the func-
tion of μίμησις: the τέχνη of song for the μίμησις of swan and nightingale
(974a–d). With the support of Lucretius (V 1379–1435), the passage is mostly ac-
credited to Mikros Diakosmos (68B154 DK)¹⁸. And a link with Democritus emerges
in Ion, with unclear nuances, for ἐνθουσιασμός (68B18 DK). From this arises the
On the Sophist (218b6–221c5), Balansard (2001, pp. 118–139).
On the role of the κλίνη, Palumbo (2008, pp. 488–543).
See Pöhlmann (1976, pp. 191–208).
On the characterization of Socrates and the individual figures, Blondell (2002, pp. 1–112).
See Schweitzer (1932, pp. 20 –31).
See Reinhardt (1960, pp. 114–132).
Plato and the Catalogue Form in Ion
model: Plato proceeds with Mikros Diakosmos and stays silent in Ion on μίμησις,
in Book II of the Republic on ἐνθουσιασμός, with a fertile selection. But the basis
is weak. Plato in Ion certainly does not observe the result of ἐνθουσιασμός for
painting, sculpture and music. It makes no sense to meditate in Book II of the
Republic on the μίμησις that Plutarch claims for Democritus, on the μίμησις of
swan and nightingale.
However, there is one problem: the author that Socrates indicates for paint-
ing, sculpture and music. For painting, Polygnotus, following the apprenticeship
with his father, invited to Athens by Cimon, active in Delphi and, at the time of
Ion, enjoying great fame for the psychological examination, the ἦθος, of the in-
dividual figures¹⁹. But, for sculpture, the systematic use of antedating emerges:
before Theodorus of Samos, the εὑρητής for iron and bronze, Daedalus, celebrat-
ed in the Iliad for Knossos and Ariadne, for the χορός of dance (XVIII 590 –606),
and Epeius, praised in the Odyssey for the Trojan horse, deceitful wood (VIII
492–495, XI 523–532). Not Fidia, not Polykleitus, in Protagoras not forgotten
(311a8–312b6)²⁰. And finally, for music, the selection surprises: Olympus is the
paradigm for the τέχνη of the flute, Socrates recalls Thamyris for the τέχνη of
the cithara, in the Iliad mutilated for ὕβρις (II 591–602), Orpheus is the paradigm
for the τέχνη of song, Socrates recalls Phemius for the τέχνη of rhapsodists, a
symposium in the Odyssey between Telemachus and Penelope, with violence
or sorrow (I 153–162, I 325–359). Why not Damon or Timotheos? A panorama
mostly anchored to the text of Homer and to the time that the text of Homer sug-
gests. By all means, Polygnotus. But for sculpture and music, the focus is on the
origin, without the least consideration for the time, which does actually involve
Socrates, for the classical production. The systematic use of antedating has an
indisputable result: it collocates Ion among the figures of a glorious past, Dae-
dalus and Thamyris or Epeius and Orpheus. It is not difficult to notice the shad-
ows of the cultural climate that Ion offers²¹. Socrates underlines this. For paint-
ing, sculpture and music, the panorama, elaborated in the 4
established in the 5
, is dominated by archaic production, because Ion here pos-
sesses a paradigm for the recitation or the interpretation: the text of Homer.
The link with archaic production emerges immediately through form. Plato
proceeds by means of parallel structures, with the repetition of more than one
segment. It is a catalogue: the concept of τέχνη possesses a phonic strength
and it is not difficult to notice, for painting, sculpture and music, a concrete
For the references of Plato, Keuls (1978, pp. 88–109).
See Tobin (1975, pp. 307–321).
According to Murray (1996, pp. 104–112), “more than a little irony” shines here.
entry²². For painting, Plato recalls the result that he indicates for ποιητική. The
sequence is very similar: ποιητικὴ γὰρ πού ἐστὶν τὸ ὅλον (532c6–7) before γρα-
φικὴ γάρ τίς ἐστι τέχνη τὸ ὅλον (532e4–5). Has Ion met a good and capable
judge of painting, sculpture and music? Soon the flurry of questions on painting
becomes more pressing, for painting ἤδη οὖν τινα εἶδες ὅστις (532e7), for sculp-
ture with ἤδη τιν’ εἶδες ὅστις (533a7), for music, and in particular for the τέχνη of
rhapsodists, οὐδεπώποτ’ εἶδες ἄνδρα ὅστις (533b7)²³. Ion states that the text of
Hesiod and Archilocus induces torpor: οὔτε προσέχω τὸν νοῦν ἀδυνατῶ τε καὶ
ὁτιοῦν συμβαλέσθαι λόγου ἄξιον, ἀλλ’ ἀτεχνῶς νυστάζω (532b9–c1). The se-
quence is a paradigm for the judge that Ion certainly has not met. Plato recalls
it for painting, νυστάζει τε καὶ ἀπορεῖ καὶ οὐκ ἔχει ὅτι συμβάληται (533a2–3), for
sculpture with ἀπορεῖ τε καὶ νυστάζει, οὐκ ἔχων ὅτι εἴπῃ (533b4), for music, in