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Te Origins of te
Scrtc Diaogue
Dkin Cly
1. Sl
Srates-ratic, Pythagoras-Pythagorean, Plato-Platonic, Ep
icurus-Epicurean: some philosophers have a way of bcoming adjec
tives, and their followers substantives. In their transformation first into
adjectives and then into substantives these philosophers are usually
transformed into a philoophy or a school; only rarely are they trans
formed into a way of life. But none (so far as I know), except Srates,
has lent his name to a genre of literature that is the mimesis of a philo
sophical life.
The first atestation of the adjective lwKp'i6S appars not in
the writings of the "Sratics" but in Aristotle, who refers to the lwK
pt A6t along with the mimes of Sophron and Xenarhus as a
recognizable yet nameless genre of Greek "petry" (Pot. 1447b11).
Aristotle's difficulty is that Greek failed to recognize the generic term
crucial to the philosopher and critic of poetry. If mimesis, and not
meter, is the critical concept that grounds a description of bth the p
etic and the prose forms that imitate humans in action, then some
prose works are the propr subject of a larger theory of mimesis, which
would include bth the JiO of Sophron and the genre Aristotle iden
tifies as that of the SOcrati/i li; and these would b included along
A in the c of the Pythagorean moe of life (J debd by Plato in R 10,
6o .
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Dkin Cly
with music, dance, and painting in a vastly extended theory of 1
'ltK as mimesis. Greek was inadequate to Aristotle's theory bcause it
did not recognize the mimes of Sophron and Xenarchus or the Sokri
J lgoi as "petic," that is, mimetic. Like Sophron, the authors of
Sokraikoi li were t601'oiL.
But what precisely does the adjective "Soratic" mean? Were these
logoi Soratic in that they resembled the kind of discourse Sorates gave
his name to-that is, the heuristic method of question by someone who
professes to be asking more than rhetorical questions, and answers by
someone who might or might not b able to produce a satisfactory re
sponse? This was indeed a feature of some of the Sokrtoi logoi, but
Aristotle's conception of petry as mimesis and the term mimoi suggest
a larger interpretation of the adjective: just as the mimes of Sophron
represented the diferent sexes and the variety of human types en
gaged in their characteristic pursuits, the authors of Sok logoi im
itated the character of Srates as he engaged in his characteristic
manner of converation and interrogation.
But Aristotle's association of the Sicilian mime with the imitations of
the conversations of Sorates seems to suggest even more, and at the
same time to create a problem for an assessment of the literary char
acter of the Sokraikoi lgoi. The fragments of the mimes of Sophron
(and the scant testimonia for the mimes of Xenarchus) leave absolutely
no doubt that his representations of men and women were of lower
class men and women, speaking in a Doric dialect of great interest to
later grammarians, and, in Greek terms, fundamentally comic charac
ters. They can b said to represent a low representation of low charac
ters, or, in the words of the "Tractatus Coislinianus," "the imitation of
an action that is laughable and without any grandeur."2 Presumably,
the mimesis of Socrates and his conversations by the writers of the
Sokrikoi li was on a higher level bth in the object of its imitation
and in its language. But in search of the origins of the Socratic dialogue
it is well to keep in mind Aristotle's significant pairing of the Sophronic
mime and the Soratic dialogue, for this is the bginning of the tradi
tion that assoiates Plato with the Sicilian mime of Sophron.
There were Soratics and Soratics. I am interested in Plato and the
assoiates of Srates who composed Sokra li, or the Attic mimes
2KIia t ll{lJIJ 1p y, Ka1 dou llyf9ou,, 3 a. in the edition of
R. Janko, Ark o Coy: Tor a RW t of P 2 (Berkeley and Los An
geles, 984), p. 23. Mimes are one category of dramatic or "practical" mimesis for the
"Tractatus," and diminutives such as IwKl (3.2 .a) are a surce of laughter. In P
ei 1449331-32, Aristotle speaks of cmedy as the representation of men of the meaner
sn but a repntation that does not encompass every kind of vi (4'0
o\l lEVI 1UKa). For an exploration of Aristotle's opinion of
low character of the comedian that matched the object of his imitation, G. F. Held,
"I1ou6aL5 and Teleology in the Potit;," TAPA 114 (1984): 159-76.
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T O of the Soc Dialg
of Sorates' life and conversations. There were other "Socratics" who
imitated him in another medium-that of their dress, manners, and
conversation. Well before Aristotle applied the adjective Soratic to the
Socratic dialogues a comic poet coined the verb "to Soratize" (owK
p'Eiv) for the followers of Sorates: they "aped the' manners of Sparta,
let their hair grow long, went hungry, refused to wash, 'Socratized,' and
carried walking sticks."
Such a Soratic was Chaerephon, and Apol
loorus of the Sium (cf. 173d) was his fellow; Menedemus of Er
etria and Epictetus and Lucian's Demonax of Athens number among
their distant descendants. All of these were faithful imitators of So
rates in that they left no record of their thought in the written word,
something that distinishes them from the other Soratics with whom
we are now engaged.
Most of the other Soratics, bth great and small, assoiated with
Socrates during his lifetime and left memorials of his life after his
death and, if we are to trust anecdotes, even when he was alive.5 How
faithful these Soratics were in their literary imitation of Socrates and
his conversations is an opn question, but not even the most avid bi
ographer of biography in antiquity can make them out as Boswells
to Sorates' Dr. Johnson. And we are entitled to ask if these Soratics
were genuine Socratics in even their non-Socratic writings. Were Xeno
phon's Anbi or Cedia and Antisthenes' Cyrus or Hee So
cratic writings? Sorates appears in none of these quasi-fhilosophical
writings (except by indirection in Xenophon's Ci ), but does his
abence disqualify these writings as Socratic? Aristotle would surely
have answered that it does, for the simple reason that Socrates did not
figure as an object of imitation in those writers whose thought he
might have inf luenced.
npLV JEV yp ohco tt tilv n6L I UoaJavu <avc clplL t6u,/
wvndv tppunwv E(KpaiOtct' to6,A.Au 128o-83 (on Athens b
fore Pisthetairos' foundation of Nephelokokygyia). There is als the wr (Kpuv,
which Koerte restored in a ppyus fragment from Euplis' ., but in Colin Austin's
new text it no longer yields thes letters; cf. Euplis fr. 99.1 14-17 PCG 5:351. For the lost
participle, Koene in "Fragment einer Handschrift der Demen," HtI 47 (1912):
29 1 and SSR 1.a. 1 1.5 ( 1: 5).
Some of the Soatics who imitated Srates in his manner and dress and, most im
portant, in his decision to leav no written record of his thought are presented b Klaus
Dring in Eum So: S zur Ss nhwirkung in d l-eP
lrilie d fiKu un i f Crttum, Hermes Einzelshriften 42
(Wiesbden, 1979). Epictetus was prhap the mot impressive of thes (Doring, pp. 43-
79). A a cnsequence of his decision not to convey his thought in writing, Ar cn
imitate Xenophon, one of the most imprtant of the literary Stics, in recrding his
lhe anecdote concerning Srt' reaction to Plato's L is part of the genre of an
ecdote in which the living character criticizes his memorialist; cf. D.L. 335 and A. S. R
ginos, Pli: T Anc Cnt Le an W o P/, Columbia Studies
in the Classicl Tition 3 (Liden 1976), ane 17, p. 55
"33-1.10-14 and 38-40, where he appars in the guis of an Armenian sophist.
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[ 26] Dn Cl
a. Plt, Te Minor Stc
How many Socratics were there, and how many of these wrote
Soi loir In the second, enlarged edition of Gabriele Giannan
toni's So et Soaom Riae there are now entries for some
seventy Soratics. It is not surprising that Plato and Xenophon are
missing from this collection. Two of the other "major" Soratics (c.
ol Kopucm6,a,o in D.L. 2.47), Antisthenes and Aeschines, are now
represented. (Aeschines was missing from the first edition, entitled
SoatM Reliquiae.) No one would have looked for the comic poets
of fifth-century Athens in a Soom Reliquiae, but in the enlarged
So et Soaticom Reliquiae they appear along with the dramatic di
alogues of Lucian in which Sorates and his companions return to the
stage, as do the minor fifth-century Socratics now represented in vol
ume 2. There are also the followers of Phaedo of Elis, Menedemus of
Eretria, and Aristippus of Cyrene, who do not have separate entries.
We encounter one of the first groupings of the companions of
Sorates in Plato,7 but bfore he achieved his lasting fame as the
most brilliant expnent of the Soratic dialogue, Plato figures as a
minor Soratic. At the moment of Sorates' death and for a genera
tion later, he was by no means the bst known of the Stic. But
Plato was a presence during Sorates' life. He was evidently present in
court when Sorates was tried for impiety; Sorates could pint to him
as one of the young Athenians he had not corrupted (Ap. 34a). Plato,
who was twenty-eight when Sorates stoo trial, is named with three
other young Athenians (fheootus, Theages, and Apllodorus) and
accorded no pride of place even by his own reckoning. He is conspic
uously absent from the group of faithful companions who gathered in
prison for a last time on the day of Sorates' execution: Phaedo of Elis,
Apolloorus, Crito and his son Critobulus, Hermogenes, Epigenes,
Aeschines, and Antisthenes. To this list Phaedo adds: "Also there were
Ctesippus of the deme of Paeania and Menexenus and other Athe
nians. Plato, I think, was sick" (Pl. Ph. 5gb). Counting Simmias, Oebs,
and Phaedonides fom Thebes, Eucleides and Terpsion from Megara,
and Aristippus and Cleombrotus, who were detained on Aegina, Plato
is simply one in a large group of Sratics, seventeen of whom are
named by Phaedo in his narrative as bing present on Sorates' last day.
But Phaedo's "Plato, I think, was sick" makes it clear that he could b
reasonably expcted among the co companions of Sorates.
7ln SSR 1.h.1-3 ( 1 :343-44), Giannantoni gives sme other groupings of the Stia,
but he does not include A/ 34. Still another grouping is given in SSR 1.h.5 (D.L.
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Th O of t So Dialogue
Years after Srates' death, when Xenophon composed his second
apology for Scrates in Meoali 1.1-2, Plato does not even figure in
Xenophon's list of Sorates' assoiates (<'a, Me. 1.2.48), which
includes Crito, Chaerephon, Chaerecrates, Hermogenes, Simmias,
Cebs, and Phaedonides but excludes Antisthenes and Aeschines as
well as Plato and Xenophon himself-the four major literary Stic.
Plato seems to reciprote for this glaring omission. Xenophon is never
named in his dialogues, and in the Phd it is not said that "Xeno
phon, I blieve, was with the army of Cyrus in Asia Minor." Plato, on
the other hand, is mentioned once in the writings of Xeoophon. In
Mli 2.6.1 he is named in passing as the brother of Glaucon,
a young man in whom Sorates had taken an interest. But Xeno
phon a makes it clear that Sorates was interested in Glaucon for the
s of Plato. The virtually total silence of Xenophon regarding Plato
and Plato's total silence regarding Xenophon are answered by the titles
of some of Xenophon 's Soratic dialogues that are clearly meant to
rival the homonymous dialogues of Plato, such as the Smand
the A 8
In the changing circles of the Soratics, the name of Plato does not
stand out conspicuously-even in his own moest presentation of him
self in dialogues where he never spaks. Plato was a Soratic and at the
moment of Sorates' death a minor Socratic: he was certainly younger
than one of the four Soratics who cme to stand out among the
Stic later in antiquity, Antisthenes. Aeschines' dt are not fied,
but an argument cn b made that he bgan to write Soratic dialogues
bfore Plato or at least that he elabrated a representation of Soratic
eros bfore Plato.9 And we shall see that Plato does not figure in the
tradition of the "first direr" of the dramatic rather than the nar
rative rpresentation of Sorates' conversations. Simon the shoemaker,
the mysterious Alexamenus ofTeos, and even Xenophon all had claims
&rhe long tradition of the rivalry btween Plato and Xenophon was inspired in part
b their virtually total silence on one another and in part by the titles of Xenophon 's
Satic writings that challenge comparison wit Plato. Heroicus in his vitupration of
Plato makes strong 4WtMS for such a rivalry (cf Ath. 1 1.5o5c), and Diogenes Laenius
devotes a paragraph to the topic in his life of Plato (D.L. !114; cf a.57). Ingemar During
h presnted Herus' hotile acount of the relations btween Plato and Xenophon
in He I Crn (Stokholm, 1941), pp. 24-26. In a appndix to SSR (i.h.
[ 1 :358-73]), Gin ntoni give a long catalogue of the psages in the Platonic dialogues
that have ben sptted (by Karl Joel espcially) as allusions to other Stics. Of thes,
Antisthene is clearly the mot ppular phantom, but Xenophon dos not figure even in
Giannantoni's ctalogue.
9And it has ben made pruasively by Barbra Ehlers in Eine viD
d soc hen Er: D Dlg A d S As , Zetemata 41 (Munich,
ag6), a the consequences are prsuasively exploited by Charles Kahn in Chapter 3 of
this volume.
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[ 28 ]
Dkin Cly
on the honor of inventing the typ of dialogue in which Srates' con
versations are directly and "mimetically" represented; and it is quite
apparent from Aeschines' Alie and Aristippus' mysterious H
trvu that Plato was not the first t write a "narrative" dialogue.
It is also clear from the mere titles of the works of his three gratest
rivals in the genre of the Soratic dialogue that Plato's literary ambi
tions were limited to the dialogue form and for the most part to the
Soratic dialogue or, to speak with needed caution, the dialogues in
which Sorates is the main speaker. From the fragments of Antisthenes
alone it is very difficult to see that Sorates played a great part in the
dialogues that were the most significant prtion of his vast literary pro
duction, and it would seem that Antisthenes' ethical moels were not
Sorates but Odysseus, Cyrus the Great, and Heracles. Despite the an
tique praise of his devotion to the "Soratic genre,"10 it i not absolutely
clear that Sorates played a role in al of Aeschines' seven dialogues.
Xenophon wrote in many other genres than the dialogue or the
Stic dialogue.
In a later age, Plato came to b considered as one of the four "major"
Soratics and the greatest of these, even W Srates had bcome Pla
tonic and was known as a philosopher mainly from the Platonic dia
logues. But if we exert an effort of imagination and retur to the
moment when Plato bgan to write, whenever that was, we realize that
the Soratic dialogue was already a recognized genre. Many of the
companions who gathered together in Sorates' prison on the day of
his execution were credited with dialogues, and some of these dia
logues were Soratic dialogues in that they were-or purprted to b
records of Sorates' conversation. But it is difficult to assess how many
of these Socratics wrote Sorlogoi in the strict sense given this term
in Aristotle's Poeics-that is, dramatic representations of Sorates in
conversation and in action. Of the eighteen Soratics named by Phaedo
of Elis in Plato's Phae, nine imitated Sorates in not writing Soratic
dialogues; nine imitated Socrates in writing Soratic dialogues.
In the time of Diogenes Laertius and in the mind of Diogenes Ler
tius the mark of bing a literary Scratic was to write dialogues. To re
view the nine literary Sratics we know first from Plato's Phaedo and
then from Diogenes in roughly Phaedo's order we can reconstruct a
late tradition of what it meant to b a literary Soratic. First, Phaedo
himself, Plato's memorialist for what was said and done during
Sorates' last day (cf. Phd. s8c), is given two "genuine" dialogues by Di
ogenes Laertius (2.105 = SSR 3.a.8), the Z and Sio. His Nic
was disputed, as were still others. Like the great majority of Plato's
Soratic dialogues, the dialogues of Phaedo are identified by the name
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Th Ogn of t Socat Dialogue [ 29]
of Sorates' interloutor rather than by the subject of their conversa
tion. Aulus Gellius knew of readers of his dialogues and might have
read some himself. He certainly knew that they involved Sorates ("ser
mones eius de Sorate admoum elegantes legunter," NA 2.18 = SSR
3.a.3). The only dialogue ever identified by a quotation is Phaedo's Zo
p. 11
It bgins with a dramatic address of Sorates: "Sorates, people
say that the youngest son of the king gave a lion cub as a gift to a friend"
(SSR 3.a. 1 1 ). It dearly reflects a theme common among the first gen
eration of the Soratics-a fascination with Persia and its empire.
Phaedo names ten Athenians ( E1XWPI) as present at Socrates'
death, and there were still others he does not name. Three of those
Phaedo names wrote Soratic dialogues: Crito, Aeschines, and Antis
thenes. Plato, who was ill, makes eleven and four. For Crito we have no
fragments, only titles. Diogenes Laertius spaks of a single volume con
taining seventeen dialogues. Only one has a personal name as a title.
This is Pa: o Th Sttn (D.L. 2.121 = SSR 6.b.42). There is
also the curious detail in the Suda concerning Crito, "The philoso
pher": lypmjE lwKpco\ l:uo)y, "He wrote a defense of Socra
tes" (SSR 6.b.43). Since there is no definite article, this must mean
that Crito was thought to have written an aplogy for Sorates. If this
is the case, we might have an explanation for the perplexing plural in
the opning of Xenophon 's Apolog: yEypa<am JEV otv . . . Kai aloL,
"Others have written [a defense] as well" ( 1 ). Plato's Cro is the only
dialogue that can qualify as Crito's apology for Socrates, since Crito was
the only Soratic present at this conversation in which Sorates justi
fied his decision to stay in prison. If this is the case and if the notice
that Crito wrote an "apology" for Socrates is based on the conjecture
that Plato derived his knowledge of Crito's conversation with Sorates
fom Crito, the plural "others" in Xenophon remains a mystery unless
it was intended to deflect attention fom Plato. In any case, the devoted
Crito can now teach us nothing about the origins of Socratic dialogue.
We will return t Aeschines, who, after Plato, Xenophon-and Aris
tophanes-is the only author of Soratic dialogues whose writings can
ofer us a glimpse of his talents. It is enough to commemorate now
some of his titles: Calli (the wealthy Athenian in whose house Plato's
Protagora is set), Aspasia (the companion and mistress of Pericles, who
inspired bth Plato's MCu and Antisthenes' Aa), and Alibia
des-another favorite of the literary Soratics. 12 Antisthenes is a more
SSR 3.a.9-11. Sneca quotes a stri king sntence from a dialogue of Phaedo's in
which Phaedo artfully compared the insnsible effect of the words and very presence of
the wis to the bite of an insct that is not felt and is recognized only when a welt appars
(Ep. 94.41 = SSR 3.a.12).
20ther than Aehines' Alia, we have an Ale from Anusthene (SSR
5.a.198202; c. 5.a.141 ) and an Ale from Eucliedes (SSR 3.a.1o) and Phaedo (SSR
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Dk Cl
difficult case. Despite the evidence of propr names as titles for his di
alogues (an As, an Ales, and a Mew), Sorates' name is
hardly mentioned in later accounts of his dialogues; but we do have his
Satho-<r Th Peek- dialogue whose title is an obscene pun on the
name Plato and the unique Soratic dialogue in which Plato might
have played a role.
From this pint in Phaedo's listing we lose titles but gain in the num
br of bok attributed to Sorates' companions. For Simmias of Thebs
we have twenty-three dialogues in a single roll, alon various topics and
none with a personal name as its title (D.L. 2 . $ 23). His fellow country
man, Cebs, gives us only three (D.L. 2.125). We then travel west to
Megara, where we encounter Eucliedes, who is given six dialogues b
Diogenes (2.10 = SSR 2.a.1o), three orfour of which seem at home
if only as titles-among the dialogues of the first generation of the
Soratic: an Achin, a Crw, an Ales, and an Eroic, but in our
fragments the only voice we hear is that of Eucliedes.
We then 1 the Saronic Gulf to Aegina, where we find Aristippus,
who was later reviled for bing there and not in Athens and in Sorates'
prison on the day of his death. Most of his writings are now no more
than titles indicating an interest in a great variety of philosophical top
ics addressd to a variety of perons, including Sats 13 He is cred
ited with some twenty-five dialogues, written in bth Attic and Doric.
His dialogues in Doric are surely ancient inventions, 14 but the dialect
does connect with the tradition linking Sophron with the Sori l
goi. Among his titles there are very few proper names: a He, an
Artz, and a Philoelw. One anecdote is revealing for his credit in
antiquity as a writer of Solratili loi; Dionysios the Elder was said to
have kept him under house arrest bcause he had bcome an expert in
Sratic conversations. 15
g.a.8). There are the two des of that title in the Platonic corpus, and if either one
or bth ar spurious. we have still mor Stic dialogue either by Plato and an anon
ymous hand or by anonymous hands. Alcbiades loms large in Plato's Sympim (212b
uga), where his awar of a crown to Srtes se m to represnt Plato's version of
Stes' ar of a trophy to Akibiades in Antisthenes' Als The treatment of
Alcibiades among the Stics has be explored by Heinrich Dittmar in Ai
v SJI: S zu Luld Si, Unrlu un Frg,
Philolhe Untersuchungen 21 (Serlin, 1912), pp. 65-177.
Listed in D.L. 2.84-85 = SSR 6.a.144.
'" single example of a writing with sme Dr forms is SSR 6.a.225 = Sratic
Epistle 16 Orelli ( = 16 in L. Kohler, D Brfe d St un d Sk Philo
s Supplementband 20.2 [Lipzi
, 1928)).
LI Kptuw,SSR 4.a.u2. The termtlitis is the correct one
for such a Sratic; it desribs Aplloorus at the bginning of Plato's sm( 172a,
c). It d not mean. of cours, that he wte thes cnversations down, any more than
did Aploorus.
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T On of t So /lgu
One of his fragments, from a Syriac source, represents a dialogue b
tween Sorates and an otherwise unknown interloutor by the name of
Herostrophus. 16 Frigid is prhaps too warm a word to describ the lit
erary style of the exchange btween Herostrophus and Sorates, but
we must judge Aristippus' style at two removes, as the bginning of this
dialogue has ben translated from Greek into Syriac, and from Syriac
into Italian. Even so, the form of this dialogue and its hypothesis are of
some interest. Herostrophus has apparently ben brought to Athens by
Socrates' reputation, as was Aristippus himslf (cf. D.L. 2.65: lcy
JEO o' 'At)valE . . . Ka'a KAEO lwKpc'OU). The dialogue is a dia
logue with only two participants and is narrative in form. We must
have its opning words: "Sorates says: 'Herostrophus, what is the o
casion that has brought you to me?' " The present tense is
od for a
narrative dialogue; I know of no other examples. Herostrophus replies
that it is Sorates' fame as a philosopher. It is very unlikely that the
Htohu is actually the work of Aristippus, but our Syriac dialogue
gives us still another bit of evidence for the fascination the Soratic di
alogue held for ancient writers and rhetoricians.17
We have scarcely any evidence for reprted conversation from the
other fragments of Aristippus. In some of the fragments of his O t
Selt of Or Ancets (llEpt naAata tpuc) a sentence of Xeno
phon is reprted directly, but we do not know in what context. 18 All that
c b concluded from our very meager evidence for Aristippus w an
author of Soti lgoi is that the form of his twenty-five dialogues was
so indistinct that it was lost in transmission and that his Het (for
which we have no evidence byond its Syriac translation) does not lay a
claim on the title as the first dramatic rendition of Stes' conversa
tions. Indeed, it is l ikely to b a prouction from much later in antiquity.
We return to Athens and Plato, "who was ill," Xenophon, who was
with the Greek mercenaries in the defeated army of Cyrus in Aia Mi-
16SSR 4.a.159 The fragment was first edited by P A. Lgarde, Anct Sy
(Leipzg, 1858), pp. 158-67. There is a German translation of this dialogue by V. Ryssel,
"Der peudokatishe Dialog ib die Sele," R 48 ( a8s): 75-5 In his commen
tary on the Greek original implied by the Syriac, Ryssl make it abundantly clear why
this faction must b pt-Aristoelian. His full version of the Syriac original a makes it
clear that there are thre more narrative intrusions af the introuction (all in the past
tens); c. pp. a86, 187, and '95 Giannantoni first published a partial Italian translation
in I Ci (Florence, 1958), pp. 265-6g.
17 A very recent entry in the ctalogue of psudepigraphic Sratic dialogues is Koln
ppyrus 205, edited by M. Gronewald in Kil P 5 (1g85): 33-3. Gronewald etes
the scrpt of this papyrus U the third century a.c., its language to the fourth. We have
here an apparently dramatic dialogue btween Stes and a single companion st i n
the prio btween Stes' cndemnation and execution. The cnverstion centers on
the fear of death. Gronewald sug that it might originate in one of the Cyrenaic
ibly Hegesias "Pisithanato" (p. 50 n.4).
'"D.L. 2.49 = SSR 4.a.154
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Dkn Clay
nor, and, finally, Simon, who, if he was not dead, was working at his last
in Athens. This Simon seems to have had a shop in the agora of ancient
Athens. The shop has ben excavated, and Simon has ben identified
as its pro
rietor, but we do not have a single word from any of his
dialogues. 19 He seems to have recorded Sorates' conversations in a
bok of dialogues that he-or others-called Cobbler' Tal (or prhaps
Conversation a t Cobbler' Shp). Plato's Sorates is notorious for his
interest in cobblers, but none of his dialogues and none of the Sokaikoi
wgoi (except Xenophon's MCabilia 4.2.1) have their setting at a cob
bler's shop.
Diogenes Laertius tells us virtually all we know of Simon and pre
serves the learned tradition that he was first to record Sorates' con
versations in the form of a dramatic dialogue (if this is the meaning of
the curious expression npito bLEAEX8 in 2.123). His thirty-three di
alogues were contained in a single roll, and they must have ben short.
Like the works of many other Soratics, and like the conversations re
corded in Xenophon 's Mbilia, his dialogues were more easily de
scribd b the subject of the conversation recorded. A the true
inventor of the Soratic dialogue in its purely mimetic and dramatic
form, he seems to have preferred the immediacy of the spoken word to
the editorial presentation of a conversation that has to b recalled ei
ther by another or by Sorates himself.
3 The "Invention" of the Srtc Dioge
There was, of course, a contest over the title of the inventor of the
Socratic dialogue as a literary genre. Diogenes Laertius recognizes the
claims of four contestants. Three of these are Socratics. The fourth is a
19be archaeologicl evidence has created quite a stir among archaeologists, but not
yet among students of ancient philophy. There are a numbr of fragments of evidnce
pinting to the activity of a fifth<entury cobbler by the name of Simon just outside the
Agora: the base of a black-gl cylix identified by a graffito a the property of Simon;
a numbr of hobnails and eyelets of bne for fastening bots disovered in a sh.op in a
triangular complex near the Tholo. But the connection btween this drinking cup, thes
hobnails, and the Simon assted with Srates is made at bst out of a gos mer web
of hope. This material is illustrated in M. Lang, Soa in 1M Agora (Excavations of the
Athenian Agora, Picture Bok no. 17 (Princeton, 1978), fig. 13: and]. M. Camp, TM
An Aa: Eo in 1M Htarl o CsA (London, 9>. pp. 145-47.
The finds are repned by H. A. Thompon, "Excavations in the Athenian Agora: 1953.
He 23 (1954): 51-54, and "Excavations in the Athenian Agora: 1954," He 24
(1955): 54 and TM AIn Aa2 (Athens, 1!62), p. 112. The cylix b is on display
in c 38 of the Agora Musum (pu9). Only recently has a student of ancient phi
losphy hailed this distant evidence; cf. R. S. Brumbaugh, "Simon and Ste," AP 11
(1991): 151-52. Ronald F. Hok, writing in 1976, could dispens with the archaeolo
evidence and concentrate on the Cynic appropriation of Simon in the Sratic letters:
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Th Oigins of te Socratc Dialgue
mystery. One claim is that of the cobbler Simon, as we have just seen:
"He was the first, it is related, to record Socrates' conversations in pure
dialogue form" (oho. <ao, nproto btdexi toi A.6youtou lwKpa
tucou (D.L. 2.123 = SSR 6.b.87). This tradition seems to recognize
tacitly the claim of some anonymous writer to b the first to write nar
ratives of Soratic conversations. The second claimant recognized by
Diogenes is Alexarenus of Teos: "They say that Zeno of Elea was first
to write dialogues. But Aristotle in the first bok of his On Poet says
that it was Alexamenus of Styra or Teos. My authority is Favorinus in
his Memabilia. But in my view Plato ought to b awarded the prize of
priority bth for discovery and for the bauty of the genre, since he
brought it to its perfection" (D.L. 3.48).20 Athenaeus is an indirect wit
ness to this same tradition, and he produces a quotation from Aristo
tle's dialogue On Poets to make a pint against Plato.2
His text is dif
ficult, but its sense is that Alexamenus of Teos was the first t write
Stic dialogues and that these were a form of mimesis in prose-like
the mimes of Sophron. We now have the claim confirmed and disputed
by a literary treatise from Oxyrhynchus, where we read that [Plato) im
itated Sophron the IJopac in the dramatic character of his dia
logues, and are warned against the malicious claim of Aristotle (in the
first bok of his "Poetics") that before Plato dramatic dialogues were
compsed by Alexamenus-ofTeos. The terms of this discussion of mi
mesis derive ultimately from Sorates' discussion of the style of petic
narrative in bok 3 of the Rlic (392d), and they will claim our at
tention later. The last claimant is Xenophon, whose Meorabilia Dio
genes took to b the first publication of the transcripts of Socrates'
conversations (2 .48).
4 Syrcusan Mimes and Sicilian Comedy
But the fundamental question posed by the genre of the Sokraikoi
loi is not who claims the honor of having first invented it, for we learn
nothing from the answer Alexamenus of T or Simon the cobbler.
We should ask rather what genre of Greek literature the Sok logoi
were modeled on. In the case of Plato's Socratic dialogues, the answer
"Simon the Shomaker as an Ideal Cynic,' GRBS 17 ( 1976): 41-54 Interestingly, the tra
dition of simple Simon the copyist of philoophical conversations held in his own shop is
reprouced in the cs of Homer the copyist of anecdotes in the shop of a leatherworker
in the Herootean life of Homer; cf. T. W. Allen, e., H Ora (Oford, 1912).
5: 1
71 14-16.
It sems to have ben the tendency of the biographers to make the innovator in a
genre it "inventor"; cf. J. A. Fairweather, "Ficion in the Biographie of Ancient Writ
e," Ant Soet 5 ( 1 974): 264-65.
Fr. 205 Ro.
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[ 34] Dk Cla
of the ancient critics who asked this question was clearly Sophron. Ar
istotle had made the connection between the Solr logoi and the
Syracusan mimes of Sophron and his son Xenarchus long bfore the
anecdotal tradition connecting Plato and Sophron had come to life,
bth in the Potic (1, 1447b) and in his early dialogue O Pots, where
we find a statement of one of the interlocutors (preserved for btter or
worse in Athenaeus) who draws the following inference: "Should we
not then deny that the so-called Mi of Sophron, which are not even
in meter, are conversations and that the imitations ftOEL<] of Alex
amenus of Teos, which are the first Soratic conversations that have
ben written down, are conversations?"22 The connection btween
Plato and So ph ron seems to have ben first drawn by Duris of Samos,
who studied with Theophrastus. In one of his derisory remarks abut
Plato he claims that the great philosopher had Sophron 's mimes con
stantly in his hands.25 The contrast between Plato the philosopher and
the low mimes of Sophron is obviously meant to humble Plato by bring
ing him ignominiously to earth. The anecdote is retold by a numbr of
authors, and it gains a numbr of vivid details as it grows. In one ver
sion, Plato kept the mimes of Sophron under his piUow even in the last
year of his life.24
But the accretion that attracts attention is the statement that Plato
used the mimes of Sophron as the literary moel for the dramatic char
acter prtrayal in his own dialogues-Kat T9o1OLCaL 1po< ai.25
These fables present in the emblematic form of ancient anecdotes a
judgment on the literary character of the Platonic dialogue. The Pla
tonic dialogues can b describd as imitations of human characters in
22ouKoU ou6E 4'puc toie Itvouc; p flOu< 1'1' uv tv A.6youc
Kat 1''4'f. T toie; 'A!< 'o Tiou 'toe; npc.ouc yplac tr lwKpa'uv
61; Ath. 1 1.505a = Aris. fr. 72 Ro. Michael Haslam dis the many diffi
cultie of this text (which are not at bttom textual) in "Plato, Sophron, and the Dramatic
Dialogue," BIC 19 (1972): 17-18. Since Aristotle's dialogue O P is itslf dramatic,
Otto Jahn 's emendation of oifKoiv in a question f o in a statement helps rer
the sns of the pssge; cf.J. D. Denniston, T GePrticl2 (Of, 1959), pp. 43o-
35 The pairing of mimuslo(Sphron) and mllg (Aiexamenus) reveals Ar
istotle's early engagement with the critical habit of restricting mimesis to petry. If there
can b conversations that are mimetic and mimes that are converstional, mimesis T~
not b rtr to petry; cf. Pot. 1, 1447b13: d ct( Yf oOE< t< f'Etpq t
nii. v. The restriction of petry to meter sems to b the position of the interloutor in
Aristotle's O P
2 Ath. 1 1.504b = FGrHit 1 1.a. 76.
24Where, prhaps, they kept company with the writing tablet containing a number of
versions of the bginning of the Ri; cf Quint. lnt. 1. 10.17. The full tradition is st
out by Hermann Reich in D Mi m: Ein lrtunihl ih Veh (Berlin,

), pp. 381-81, as in Reginos (abve, note 5), pp. 174-76.

2 D.L. 3.18, repeated in Tzetz. Chi. 10.8o and 11.8-10, in the edition of P A. M. L
one (Naples, 1 g8).
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Th O of th Socratic !igue
prose that are not narrative but are articulated in question and an
swer-or dialogue. Where, then, the ancient critic asked, did Plato dis
cover the moel for them? He found his answer in the mimes of
Sophron, which are dramatic imitations of a variety of human charac
ter types. This genealogy of the literary form of the Platonic dialogue
is rinforced by the historical connection of Plato with Syracuse and the
court of Dionysius I and 11.26 But this connection presents a curious
historical problem. Plato first visited Sicily and Syracuse in ca. 3go-
387. His return to Athens in 387 would b the date of his introuction
of the indigenous mimes of Sophron to an Athenian audience. 27 But if
this is the case, he would have gone without a model for any of the dra
matic dialogues he wrote during the twelve years after Sorates' death.
The anecdotes of Plato and Sophron make pretty reading and difficult
literary history. They have a hostile bginning in Duris of Samos, but as
literary criticism these anecdotes neglect much more than they ex
plain. If the Sicilian mimes of Sophron provide a model for Plato's dra
matic dialogues, they also make 387 a terminus pst quem for dramatic
di alogues such as the L. And this literary history neglects the fact
that Aeschines had already ben writing dramatic dialogues.
Anecdotal critici sm also disregards the fact that Sophron imitated
not contempraries but humble, and therefore, comic, types. His
mimes divide into two natural categories: male and female; and their
titles are perhaps as revealing of their character as the fragments col
lected under them. We have evidence for the following: S (or
Heaer), Mor-i n-law, W at th Istmin Gmes, Th Tuna Fishrs,
and Th F and th Fan These Sicilian mimes stand a world apart
fom the world captured and recalled in the SokratiJi lgoi, some of
which are named after the contempraries of Sorates who figure as
his interlocutors.
There are, indeed, propr names in Sophron, and more of women
than of men: Rongka (no. 3 p. 67), Mormolyka (no. 7, p. 77), Koikoa
(no. 23, p. 8g), and Physka (no. 31, p. 92); Kothonias, the drunkard
(no. 55 p. 101), and Boulias, the orator (no. 1 17, p. 125), are names for
men, as is Trellon (no. 137. p. 131). It has ben thought that Myrilla
(no. 134) was a nickname for the architect Demokopos, but this is cer-
2&rhe wordjOltranslates the Ul a or d of the ancient critic; cf. D.L. 337 and 48;
Ath. 1 1.505C (Heroicus); and p.s.-Dmet. El. 297.
27By thi s anec tradition, Plato brought up the bo k of Sophron when they h
fallen out of fashion in Sicly and was the frt tointrouce them toAthens; cf. D.L. 3.18;
Tzt. Ch. 11. 1-10 and 37-41. For the other bo k Plto shipp UAthen from Sicily
(Philoaus, a collecion of Pythagorean writings, and Tmaeus), cf. Reginos (abve, note
s>. pp. 16-74 and '79
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Dkin Cla
tainly not the case. 28 The names in Sophron are the mimes of types in
his commedia dell'arte.
Very little consecutive text survives from his mimes. Their dialect
interested later grammarians, and their gastronomy provided a philo
logical delicatessen for Athenaeus. S we are left with the word 1pt'v
(no. 101, p. 120), proverbs, and words for fish (such as as, no. 72,
p. 1 1 1). Of the fragments from bth the female and the male mimes,
only two show dialogue (no. 31 , p. 92 and no. 73, p. 1 1 2), and in these
the speaking parts are distributed as A and B. Only one of these (no.
31 ) involves question and answer.
The literary judgment conveyed by the anecdotes connecting the
Platonic dialogue and the Sicilian mimes of Sophron and Xenarchus
sheds no light on the literary character ofeither the Platonic dialogue
in particular or the Sokraioi li in general, but it does reveal what a
dificult task it was for ancient critics to discover the literary ancestor of
the Sokratikoi loi.
There was also the tradition taking the Platonic dialogue back to the
comedies of the Syracusan Epicharmus. It seems to derive fom Alki
mus ofSicily, and Diogenes Laertius prouces a number of passages of
Epicharmus that illustrate the dotrinal dependence of the Athenian
philosopher on the Sicilian comic poet.
Here the question of Literary
genre does not arise; Alkimus was interested only in Plato's plagiarism.
What we know of bth Epicharmus and the later forgeries that went
under his name makes him an implausible model for the Platonic dia
logue or for the Sokrikoi li. He is a comic poet, and like all comic
pets he is mimetic and dramatic in his style, but he is metrical and
Doric. He is also generic, and some of his comedies have mythologi
c plots. 30
There is, as one would expect, some question and answer, and for
this reason Epicharmus figures in Rudolf Hirzel's D Dl,31 but, as
in the case of Sophron, questions and answers must be divided anon
ymously between A and B. Plato clearly knew Epicharmus, and he re-
2f A. Olivieri. Frami della commedia g t dtl mimo nella Sicilia t nlMa
C2 Colanna di studi greci 5 (Naples, 1946), 2:130-31 .
2.L. 3.9-17 = FGHit 56.F.6 (and Fr. 23 8 1-6 DK). For Alkimus, we have the
study of K. Gaiser, "Die Platonrte des Allmo bi Diogenes Lertios (33-17)," in
Zl: Albm amm dovemm clugas aangeb aan Prof D. E. dt Strycl (Ant
werrp and Utrecht, 1973), pp. 61-79; and H. DOrrie, D Pltonismu in dtr AntiU
(Stuugan-Bad Cannstau, 1g87), 1:3o8-18. M. Gigante, "Epicarmo, Pseudo-Epicarmo e
Platone," PP 8 (1953): 161-75 has provided a valuable study of Plato's knowledge of
0 A does his "Odysseus, the Desener," in D. l Page, Seuct P, vol. 3 L
trary Pa
pri (Cambridge, Mass. and London, 1941), no. 37, pp. 194-95 = no. 50 Olivieri (1: 36-
39) and "Pyrrha and Prometheus," nos. 61-6g Olivieri ( 1: 42-45).
"in Eittrhihtr Vh (Leipzig, 1895), vol. 1 : 20-26.
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Th O of t Soat Dlo
fers to him by name (as in Theaetetu 152d-e and Ggias 505e); he also
clearly knew Sophron, and he refers to him by allusion (as in Rpublic
5. 451c and possibly in 10, 6). For our limited purposes his refer
ences to Epicharmus are of no great interest. Plato knew and appreci
ated the comic poet. But his allusions to Sophron are worth attention.
His first allusion to Sophron in the Repblic f indicative of Plato's con
ception of the character of his own dramatic dialogue. As Socrates
moves from the topic of the training of the male guardians to the
topic of the training of the female guardians he describs his project in
terms of the division of the Sophronic mime. 1axa b ow Ov 6<
EXOt, fl'ta avbfEiv bpa naVEAW bl0tEpav6v 'tO yvatKEiv au
nepVELV, "Perhaps this would b the bst course: to go through with
the female drama, once we have concluded the male" (5, 45 tc). His lan
guage not only recognizes the distinction between the male and female
mimes of Sophron; it reminds us that it is pssible to see the pro
and the very style of the Reblic itself as comic and dramatic. 52
5 Attc Mimes of Stes
The only genre of poetry known to me that offers us a dear moel
for the Sokraioi loi and the mimesis of the conversations of a con
temporary historical character like Socrates is Attic comedy. I will offer
a specimen from "a certain comic poet." Sorates is addressing a pupil,
and a part of the comic incongruity of this exchange must come from
the fact that Sorates' pupil is an older man, not one of the young and
wealthy Athenians with whom Socrates liked to assoiate:
So. Now I want to ask you a few short questions, to se if you have a goo
Ppil. In the name of Zeus, I have a good memory when it comes M one
thing: when someone owes me money. I never forget. But just the op
posite happens when I am in trouble and owe money. Then my mind's
a s1eve.
So. Tell me no: do you have any talents as a speaker?
Ppil. No talent there, but I'm brilliant as a thief.
So. But how will you manage lear anything?
Ppil. No pTblem, I'd do brilliantly.
(Ar. Nu. 482-88)
52 A Scrates recognizes as he anticipates one of the three waves of laughter that
threaten to swamp his propals, and as the plot of Aristophanes' Ec lUI (of 392)
makes manifest. Arlene W. Son house of an elent analysis of one of the facets o
t comedy of Srates' propsls in her "Comedy in Calliplis: Animal Imagery in the
R," APSR 72 (1978): 888-gt.
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D Clay
Here we have what must b our first example of the imitation of
Sokratikoi logoi. It comes from Aristophanes' Clo, which was pro
duced in the Greater Dionysia of 423, when Sorates was abut forty
five, but which we know from its second prouction and second
edition, for which we have no date. The character of Aristophanes' rep
resentation of Soratic questioning coheres with what we know of the
character of his conversations rendered by the Socratics who wrote
later. Sorates operates b question and answer rather than by long epi
deictic speches; he prefers paxuAoy(a and is concerned with the
quickness to learn and the memories of his would-be associates.
Question and answer is a mode of di scourse that continues through
out the C. Sorates is not always cst in the dominant role of ques
tioner. In Clo 373-41 1 it is Strepsiades who questions Socrates abut
the divinity of the douds, and in the rest of the dialogue there are two
later scenes that involve Sorates and hi s pupil Strepsiades in question
and answer.3 One of the striking features of our first exhibit of the
Soikoi lgoi on the comic stage (Nu. 482-88) is that this interroga
tion involves not only question and answer but a trial of character. In
posing his questions to Strepsiades, Sorates is more concerned with
coming to an understanding of Strepsides' character than he is with
finding answers to questions that
enuinely perplex him. Indeed, his
questions do not involve any issue larger than Strepsiades' memory and
verbal abilities. In asking these questions, he is following the instruc
tions of the clouds, who ask him to stir his intellectuals and test his
character: mci TO vow ai-oi Ja ri yvf
l10EL (477).
Kenneth Dover has aptly clled this Sorates' "tutorial" metho.35 The
term apopirastai does not seem to ocur in just this sense in the other
'Srt' preference for a dialogue in which he asks the questions and his interlo
utor i s maneuvered into a psition of answering them i s the "customary predure" o
Stes in Plato's Apg (ag), and it i illustrated in the A itself by Stes' in
terrogations of Callias, Apllo, and Meletus (2oa-; 21 b; c. 2b and 24c-27e), as well as
by the "converstion Sorates has with the membrs of thejury who h voted to acquit
him (!). Thi s manner i illustrated most vividly in Plato's Stic dialogues. I would
call attention to Sum 194d and Srates' interogatory of Agathon ( agg-2o 1 c) and
Diotima's v similar interrogatory of Stes (201d-2o8b). The choice of question
and answer over a long and uninterrupted epideictic display i soffered in Pguras 329b
and 337a-gg8a, Gorgias 448d and 449 and R 1, 337a. Quickness to lear and the
capacity to retain what is learned are the main requirement of the philoophicl nature;
cf. Cr. 15!; Me 88b; R. 6,486c-487a and 494b (as well as Leg. 4 7og); and Xen.
Me. 4.1.2.
,e cmin 635-9. where Sorates examines Strepsiades on crucial distinctions
such as that betweenthe genders ck and hen-a lessn Strepsi ades actually remembrs
and applies in hisSratic interrogation of Pasias at the end of the dialogue (1246-s1);
and in 723-g, where Sorates asks Strepiades for his thoughts after their indor ses
sion offstage in the 4iP.
'In his edition of Aristophanes' Cl(Oford, ag), p. 34
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Th Ogn oft Soat Dialogue
Sratics, although there are passages in Aeschines and Xenophon
that obviously show Sorates interrogating his interloutor's character
rather than his knowledge. In Plato, though, who would have known
the Cl only as a text (or possibly in its second prouction), the term
ocurs in exactly the sense of Cl 477 In the That, the young
Theaetetus responds to Sorates' questioning by saying that he feels
that Sorates is trying to test him; and in the ProtagQras, the young
Stes rsponds to the older Protagoras in much the same way.
In the Cl, Sorates does not appar alone. In hi s phntist are
to b found Chaerephon and their pupils. Sorates and Chaerephon
do not appar again in the comedies of Aristophanes, but they are sp
ken of in his later comedies. We have noticed already the characteriza
tion of Sorates' disciples in Bi 128o-84. s
Later in the Bi an
unwashed Sorates is to b espied in a marsh near the land of the Ski
apodes, where he calls souls up from Hades in the infernal company of
Chaerephon, "the bat" (1553-55 and 1564). There i s no mention of
Soratic dialogue here, but in the Fs, of nearly a decde later (405),
Soratic dialogue i recalled for perhaps the last time in Aristophanes:
xav ov fl<OJp 1491
1apJaitv Miv,
" fltyma 1ap16ta
's "p(ui s dxVs. 1495
" (' l1 OElVO"LV )1
6WtPv lrav iota.
1cpt alps.
Lfe M bliss when you are not sated next to Srtes,
running of at the mouth; when you have cast away Music and Culture;
when you have le bhind the grand spe hes and attire of te
Trgic Art. But it is the life of a lunatic to spnd your time
doing nothing but mothing high faluting words and picking at lint.
The chorus sing these lyrics immediately after Dionysus has declared
Aeschylus victor in the tragic conest in the soiety of dead pets. They
connect Sorates with Euripides in an assoiation that is bth long-
lf. T. 154e and 157c; and P 331b and 349 where it is the "young" Srates who
ri M that his mettle W bing tested. This test of chaIr, which is a prliminary to
a t o a student's cpacty for philosophy, is illustrated by Sates' questioning of
Aib in Ahines' Al fr
and g (Ditmar = SSR 6.a.48 and 50) and by
Ste' test of Euthydemus in Xenophon's Mei(4.2).
"Tis psg f the Bir n figures as a witnes for Stes in SSR a .a+
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Dk Cl
standing and significant. The picture of Sorates, seated on a bnch,
perhaps in a gymnasium,38 speaking to a single companion, is a famil
iar one. The ludicrous subjects of Sorates' conversation are vaguely
suggested: he has thrown over the great and weighty matters of Ae
schylean tragedy and of old Athenian culture in general and has
turned to idle and indolent conversation. The phrase by which Aris
tophanes conveys the nature of his conversation is skripoisi li
(1497). L and leare terms familiar from the CW and conge
nial as descriptions of Sorates' talk;39 the other term, obviously a
comic inversion ofsenoisin woisi ( 1496), is dificult to decipher, but it
might mean "chicken scratching" or, as W. B. Stanford would have it,
"verbal scratchifications."40
An illustration of the kind of twaddle Sorates engaged in-as his
conversations were represented by a comic poet-comes from an ear
lier scene from the F, when Euripides bgins to defend his claim on
Dionysus' consideration as a tragic poet (971-79). He had brought his
Athenian audience to expose their everyday life to shrewd and pne
trating questions. Aoyoc and (J E'c are his contributions to the
tragic art; bfore it had not ben philosophical. Aeschylus has no dif
ficulty in putting these contributions into comic terms:
Where oh where are my pitchers gone?
Where is the maid who hath btrayed
My heads of fish to the garbge trade?
Where are the pots of yesteryear?
Where the garlic of yesterday?
(Rn. 978-79)''
Still other comic poets were aware of the rich ptential Sorates pro
vided for a burlesque of intellectual life in Athens of the 420s These
pets produced their plays in the decade when the first writers of
Si logoi were old enough to attend the dramatic festivals of Ath
ens. Almost all of our fragments from the plays in which Sorates ei
ther appeared on stage or was spken of by actors on stage come from
1e Alsof Aeshines begins with Srates narrating toan audienc unknown
his conversation with Alcibiades: iaihda 1f E' tiw E Aunt, o ot dA
tatO < &amv, p.s.-Demet. Elc. 205 = fr. 1 Dittmar = SSR 6.a.43. Par
allel.s are to b found in Plato L,203a-b; E'I u 271a and 303b, imitated in
Ahu 36 and Er397c.
3f. Nu. 359; Rn. 8og and 105 (of Euripides' twaddle); and Pl. C. 176a and Th.
76 (for Srates' description of the impression his convtion might make on his
younger interloutors).
01n his edition of Aristophanes' Fs (London, 1958), p. 1 gS.
41Lines g81-91, rprnted in pn by the prfect translation of Richmond Latti
more, Aristqnes: T F (Ann Arbr, 1g62), p. 6g.
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Th Ogn oft Soatic Dialo
Diogenes Laertius, who evidently had in hand a work devoted to the
topic of Socrates K<l O.iJ,lEvo.
Sorates kii iou is, I would argue, significant for the his
tory of the Sikrati loi as they are to b placed in the context ofan
cient literary genres. The Attic comic poets of the 420s prouced low
and ludicrous imitations of Sorates made ridiculous; and, as Plato
knew, they did manage to capture the cruder and most apparent fea
tures of his complex physiognomy. There is an anecdote in Aelian that
Sorates stood up silently in the Theater of Dionysus during a prouc
tion of the Cl as if to proclaim: "I, this man standing before you in
the audience, am Socrates-not that buffoon on stage in the comedy of
Aristophanes" (SSR l .a.29). But in the play it seems that Aristophanes
did not need to fashion a portrait mask for Sorates; he already had
ready the mask of silene. Antisthenes, Aeschines, Xenophon, and Plato
were all Athenians, and bfore any of these-the greatest exponents of
the Siati lgoi in the fourth century-wrote their dialogues, they
had seen-or could read-the Attic forerunners of their own imitations
of Sorates in conversation and in action. It is significant that in the
later biographical tradition a cobbler claimed the honor of creating a
mime out of Soratic conversations and that the one influence claimed
for Plato in his Sikri logi was the low-life mime of Sophron. In his
apparance, as in his conversations, there was something fundamen
tally comic abut Sorates. But we tend to forget that there was not
only a Plato who was a comic poet and the contemprary of Sorates;
there is something comic abut the Platonic dialogues themselves. Plato,
who was credited with writing comedy and with sleeping in a very
crowded b with copies of Aristophanes' plays under his pillow, was
well aware of the comic potential of the outlandish object of his imita
tion. His style and the style ofother literary Soratics can b proprly
compared to the collouial grace of the Attic comic poets and their el
egant humor. Cicero appreciated this: he speaks of a playful genre of
rhetoric that ancient comedy and the Soratics shared "iocandi ge
nus . . . elegans, urbanum, ingeniosum, facetum, quo genere non mo
dum Plautus noster et Atticorum antiqua comoedia, sed etiam philo
sophorum Sraticorum libri referti sunt," "A moe of elouence . . .
[that is] elegant, urbane, fanciful, and witty, a mode that informs not
only our Roman Plautus and the Old Comedy of Attica, but which fills
the boks of the Soratic philosophers" (Of 1.29. 104 = SSR 1.h.21).
6. Histr ad Try
When assessing the writings of the literary Soratics and in attempt
ing to recognize the distinguishing characteristics of the genre which
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D Cla
they created and in which they wrote, the overwhelming temptation is
to disregard questions of literary moels or priority of disovery and to
concentrate on Socrates and the immediacy of his conversations and
confrontations with his contemporaries. In the dramatic dialogues of
Plato in particular, we find ourselves seated at a drama that develops
immedi ately and spntaneously bfore our eyes. The illusion this
drama creates was articulated in the symblic form of literary anec
dotes in antiquity: Simon the cobbler took notes on Sorates' conver
sations at his shop, not as a stenographer but soon after they had
ended (D.L. 2. 122 = SSR 6.b.87); Aeschines obtained copies of at least
some of Sorates' conversations from his widow, Xanthippe, and
passed these off as his own (D.L. 2.6o = SSR 6.a.22). Xenophon was
the first of the Soratic to take notes upn and publish Sorates' con
versations (D.L. 2.48). The literary judgment these tales convey is that
of conversation recorded either by a membr of their audience or by
one of their participants. This is precisely the impression we get from
the four frame dialogues of the Platonic corpus: the Pl, the Sym
pium, the Theaetetu, and the PaTi 42 The formulas that intro
duce the short dialogues reprted in Xenophon's Mbli seem to
reinforce this impression: 'OtWV (t ypa'W onooa a (L<L'0VEV00
Yet none of the literary Socratics were intent on simply preserving
Sorates' conversations for their own pleasure or on recalling them for
psterity. One can justly say that "the Soratics exprimented in biog
raphy, and the expriments were directed towards capturing the p
tentialities ofindividual lives."44 Of Aeschines, and Xenophon, it is fair
to say that they did not evince a concern for providing their Soratic
diaJogues with a historical setting. Aeschines prepared for much that
we will find in the Platonic dialogues. In his Als we find Sorates
421 attempt an analysis of the meaning and function of thes frame dialogues in "Pla
to's First Words," inBeginning in C Lure, ed. F. M. Dunn and T Cole, Yale Clas
sical Studies 29 (Cambridge, 1992), pp. 120-25.
45Xenophon's statements concerning his role in the conversations he reprts have
made him sema reliable and virtually stenographic witness, especially when he intro
ducea reprt by a phras such as "Kol :' au Kat :L cO byl i,
"once I heard him speaking on the topic of friends as well" (l4; cf. 2.5.1 and 43>
But be als systhat he "ks or a Sratic cnverstion, and his manner of expresing
himslf donot mean that he himslf presnt: 0\0JOE a\av 'ub buxta
(33 ; cf. 4.5.2). But on the single ocsion in the Mew when he records a con
verstion he h with Srates he spaks not in the first pn but of a Xenophon, as he
had spken of himslf in the An (34-10). He caims that he once heard the con
versation Sorates has with Critobulus on houshold management, but he was not in
Athens in the short prio btween the death of Cyrus the Younger in 401 and Sorates'
execution in 399; cf. Oc. 1 and 4.18-19 (where Cyrus is rr to as having died) and
Ap. I.
44A. Momigliano, T D/ o Crel Bw(Cambridge, Mass., 1971 ), p. 46.
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Th O of t St Dialogue
narrating his conversation with Alcibiades to an unnamed audience,
and he is careful to give the setting of this dialogue in place if not in
time: "We were sitting on the bnches of the Lyceum where the ofi
cl stage the contests" (fr. 2 Dittmar = SSR 6.a.43). Sorates, there
fore, as narrator of one of his conversations is not new with Plato, nor
is the setting of a dialogue in place or the dramatization of a dialogue
by the introduction of a gesture such as Alcibiades putting his head on
his knees and weeping out of frustration (fr. 10 Dittmar = SSR 6.a.51).
Our evidence does not allow us to determine whether the Soratics also
developed the purely dramatic dialogue bfore Plato, but the example
of Aeschines' Ales makes it certain that at least one of them did.
And the spculations abut the origins of the distinctively Soratic di
alogue in mimesis and not narrative (OLT'OL) and the inventions of
Simon and Alexamenus, as well as that of Xenophon, would lose their
motivation if there had not ben a prevailing sense in antiquity that the
narrative dialogue preceded the dramatic di alogue.
What then did Plato add to a literary form he found already well de
veloped? The setting of the Chri gives us one answer: he seems to
have invented the historical setting for some of his dialogues-which
allows him as an author and his reader w his audience the ironies of
the tragic dramatist. The Chrie opens with Sorates narrating one
of his conversations to an unknown companion:
The evening bfore we had arrived from the cmpaign at Ptidaea. And
with joy in my heart after m long an abence I retured to my familiar
haunts. I entered the wrstJing shol of Taureas, the one just oppsite
the precinct of the Queen, and there I came upn a considerable crowd.
Sme were strangers to me, but most of the pople there were my ac
quaintances. And when they saw me make my unexpcted appce
they all sprang up from where they were sated to greet me. And Chaere
phon, bing the impulsive prsn he is, leapt up from the crowd and
raced up to me and, taking me by the hand, he askd me: "Srates, how
did you esape from the bttle with your life?" (153a)
The setting of the Chies and its cast of characters reveal the dra
matist's concern for creating a context of which his actors cn have no
awareness and in which their unwitting words and actions possess a
larger significance. It is meaningful that Sorates has returned from
battle to discuss self-restraint, or po V, with two Athenians who
had remained in Athens and are to b found in a wrestling school; they
grow up to b two of the Thirty Tyrants of 404, and their vague threat
of force at the very end of the dialogue ( 176c) pints to the violent end
of their oligarchy in 403.
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Dkin Cla
AJcibiades was murdered by agents of the Thirty in 404. We do not
know when Antisthenes, Aeschines, Eucleides, Phaedo, and Plato
wrote their dialogues with his name as their tide. It is true that Athe
naeus claims (on the authority of Satyrus) that Antisthenes said that he
had firsthand experience of Alcibiades' character and apparance, 45
but this claim does not give us a date for his Ale. What can b
claimed, however, is that any Alswritten after 404 (or even 415)
would b a potentially different dialogue than one written bfore his
profanation of the mysteries or after his demonic career came to its
brutal end. The same claim can b made for the Solwlgoi in gen
eral. If he wrote bfore Srates' execution in 399, the aut.hor of a
Socratic dialogue could not exploit the dramatic irony of contemp
rary Attic tragedy; if afer, he could.
More than any of the literary Socratics who came before him or fol- .
lowed him, Plato exploited the ironies of the tragic pet in his drama
tizations of Sorates' conversations. Lk the tragic pet, he worked
with a myth well known to his contempraries in the fourth century
the myth of Sorates' life. To exploit the ptentialities of tragic irony,
Plato was careful to provide his Soratic dialogues with a setting in
time, as well as place. He was censured in antiquity for the anachro
nisms of these settings, 46 but these very criticisms pint to one of the
features of the Socratic dialogues of Plato that distinguishes them from
the work of the other Soratics. Plato i careful to give his dialogues a
setting in place and in time, when this serves his purpose.
His Albae $ (whoe authenticity is disputed) i clearly set in a time
when Pericles is still alive and Alcibiades is not yet twenty (cf. 18& and
135d). At this time, Alcibiades' fate was still in doubt, and Sorates can
utter a dark prophecy. In response to Alcibiades' youthful promise
"From this day on I will pursue justice" Sorates replies: "If I could
have my wish, you would end your life in this pursuit. But I have a
dreadful premonition-not bcause I do not have confidence in your
character, but bcause I fear the might of the city-that this might well
overwhelm bth me and you" (1 35e). Sorates might indeed have had
such a premonition, but it was Plato who could conclude the dialogue
with this prophecy pst eetm. To the Platonist who doubts the Pla
tonic authorship of Ale , there are other examples of this same
tragic irony in other Platonic dialogues. There is Sorates' description
45At. 12.534c = SSR 5.a.tg8.
4 Again, mot of these criticisms are retailed in Athenaeus; they are collected by Dur
ing (abve, note 8), pp. 2o24. Interestingly enough, they als apply to Xenophon and
the historical stting he provided for hisSm , in imitation of the historical setting
Plato provided for his Sm .
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ThO of t Socr aic Dialcgue
of Alcibi ades' career in Reblic 6, 494a-495c (which ironically includes
a description of Plato's creer as well), and there are the many in
stances when, in well-defined contexts, Srates predicts his own fate.
Sorates was overcome by the might of Athens in 399 From that
pint, the author of Soilwi logoi could discover a moel for his dia
logues in tragedy, for Sorates was no longer a contemporary figure,
pilloried on the comic stage, he was a tragic figure from the past, stalk
ing the stage of tragedy. The myth of his life and death were well
known. In Plato, a dark form of irony hovers over the bright irony of
Sorates himself. Plato is not the only Soratic who recognizes Sorates
as a prophet; in Xenophon's Apl in the fce of his on death,
Socrates predicts the fate of the son of Anytus, one of his accusers
(29-31). And Xenophon confirms the truth of this prophecy. But it is
only in the Scratic di alogues of Plato that Stes' words apply to
himself and possess a significnce that he himself could not have ben
aware of.
In Plato, the shadow of Srates' trial and execution is cast over the
varied scenes in which he acts and spaks. We glimpse intimations of
his mortality and the fate of the philosopher in the demoratic polis in
the Gga, the Meo, the Thatt, the Re, and even in a late
dialogue like the Stn di alogue in which Sorates stands as a
silent presence.47 Perhaps the most prfect and poignant example of
Plato's tragic irony is to b found in the sventh bok of the Relic,
when Sorates has nearly completed his parable of the cave and asks
Glaucon a question: What would happen to the prisoner who had, by
some divine providence, ben freed from the cave, should he b forced
to return to its darkness? "And if the prisoners could lay their hands on
the prson who tried to release them from their bnds and lead them
upward, would they not put him to death?" "They would, indeed"
(lcp y', l, 517a).
The Soratic dialogues of Plato allow us to realize that if the comic
pets of Athens of moels for the literary Scratics while Socrates
was alive,48 the tragic poets of Athens offered moels for the dramatic
representation of Sorates once he was dead. In dealing with history,
the literary Soratic who wrote after Socrates' death could exploit a
47Cf G. 484c-, 5o8c, and 517a; Mm94e; T 173d-3e; &p. 7 517a; PI. 29i-3o
(wher the visiUr f Velia ad res the young Srates in the silent prnce of the
oldr St, 29).
4&rhe evid for Silgorclle orally or writen down during Stes' life
tiMe i gathered and asb Lvio Rostti in "Li SkanOriori a 399 A,,,

L e lgoi 9 (19): 2 1-40; Dvid Sider the anecdotal evidence in

Did Plato
Wrt Dialogues br the Death of Sorates?" A 14 (1!): 15-18, and fors the
infce that he did.
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Dkin Cly
resource available to bth the tragedian and the historian; the actors in
the events they narrate or dramatize were unaware of the full impli
cations of their words and actions. This is particularly true of Thucy
dides and the Melian dialogue, which is often seen as a fifth-entury
prototype of the Sratic di alogue.49
More than any of the literary Sratics of the fourth century, Plato
took care to provide some of his Sratic dialogues with a significant
historical setting, and it can proprly b asked whether Plato wrote
Sratic dialogues of the kind we know from Antisthenes, Aeschines,
Aristippus, and Xenophon of the Ml a. 50 Plato also parts com
pany with the other literary Sratics in reflecting within his Stic
dialogues on the established literary genres in terms of which his dia
logues were to be understoo and against which they were t stand in
contrast. This is the meaning, I blieve, of the riddle psed by Srates
at the end of the Sympium: "Is it possible for one and the same poet
to compse bth tagedy and comedy?" Neither Agathon nor Aris
tophanes grasped the answer to this riddle at once, and it is an answer
Srates could not have graspd himself. Plato is the tragic and comic
pet of the Sympium, and the object of his imitation is Srates, who
moves btween the sublime and the ridiculous. 51 Plato also draws at
tention to the literary character of his Sratic di alogues when he has
Srates offer Adeimantus a lesson in literary criticsm in bok 3 of the
Repub l ic. Srates has discussed the subject matter of poetry (lo), and
he moves on to discuss its style (E't, Re. 3, 392c). There are three
possible styles of narrative (di ): simple, mimetic, and mixed.
Homer works in the mixed style and bth speaks as the narrator
(a \o o JL1'T. 393a) and imprsonates one of his characters. For the
ethical pur of education, the mimetic or dramatic style M pten
tially the most dangerous, for the student of petry risks bcoming like
the character whose role he takes (395c-3g6a). Adeimantus immedi
ately grasps the application of the purely mimetic style to tragedy; it is
Srates who reminds him that it also applies to comedy (394b). It M
paradoxical, in light of these distinctions, that Srates and Adeiman-
9A connection exprtly drawn b C. Macleo, "Form and Meaning in the Melian D
alogue," Hi 23 (194): 385-40, reprinted in C Es(Oxford, 1g83), pp. 52-
67. In considering the historical function of the speches in Thucydides, Macleo
reminds us: "The speche . . . invite the rrs cti cl srutiny, the result of which
may b not only a s of enlightenment, but of tragedy. For they mvthe r b
their fallibility no less than they illumine him b thei. pnetration" (p. s86).
d Charles H. Kahn in "Did Plato Write Sratic Dialogues?" CQ n.s 31 (1!1):
1 A
I argue in "The Tragic and Comic Poet of the Sum," Ar n.s. 2 (1975):
238-61, reprinted in Esi An GeP/io e. J. P Anton and A. Preus (A
bny, !s). 2: 172o2.
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Th Ogn oft St Dlogu
[ 47
tus should finally declare a preference for the "pure imitator," but this
preference depends on the object of the poet's imitation (tov 'O

14T'tlV (Cpa'OV. 397d).
Sorates' lesson in distinctions of style has a long history in Greek
literary criticism, and a practical result. The Platonic dialogues them
selves came tob describd as either narrative, dramatic (or "mimetic"),
or mixed. Proclus, when he classified the Rblic itself as a mixed di
alogue, did not register the fact that, properly describd, it is entirely
dramatic, since Plato's reader, if he reads aloud and dramaticaUy, takes
the pr of Sorates, its narrator.
These di stinctions are deployed in
the tradition of the "first inventor" of the Sok li, and the cat
egory of the dramatic or mimetic seems to represent the essential form
of this genre. We are reminded finally that Plato's Soki logoi are
Attic mimes and that Plato, lik hi s Sicili an master, Sophron, is an
is . The object of his imitation is not an easy thing to compre
hend, "especially for the motley crowd in a festival or gathered in the
aters." "This is the character that acts with delibration and calm and is
always very much like itself' ('o . . qp646 Kat TcXLOV
naAt1oLOV 6 ad au'to am, Rep. 10, 6o4e).
5'Cf. Prlus In Pli & Pam, ed. W. Kroll (Lipzig, ago a), pp. 4 5-16.25;
D.L. 3.5; and Haslam (abe, note 21 ).
5'1 thank the editor of this volume for the invitation to write this essay and for advice
as it was bing written, and Charles Kahn for bth the inspiration of his own unpub
lished work on my theme and his comments on two earier versions of what I presnt
here. He als h done much to tempr my youthful enthusiasm forthe disr of the
Soratic Simon in the Athenian agora.
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