Charmides by Plato. - HTML preview

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Why not, I said; but will he come?

Then, before we see his body, should we not ask him to He will be sure to come, he replied.

show us his soul, naked and undisguised? he is just of an He came as he was bidden, and sat down between Critias age at which he will like to talk.

and me. Great amusement was occasioned by every one That he will, said Critias, and I can tell you that he is a pushing with might and main at his neighbour in order to philosopher already, and also a considerable poet, not in make a place for him next to themselves, until at the two his own opinion only, but in that of others.

ends of the row one had to get up and the other was rolled That, my dear Critias, I replied, is a distinction which over sideways. Now I, my friend, was beginning to feel has long been in your family, and is inherited by you from awkward; my former bold belief in my powers of convers-Solon. But why do you not call him, and show him to us?

ing with him had vanished. And when Critias told him for even if he were younger than he is, there could be no that I was the person who had the cure, he looked at me in impropriety in his talking to us in the presence of you, who such an indescribable manner, and was just going to ask a are his guardian and cousin.

question. And at that moment all the people in the palaestra Very well, he said; then I will call him; and turning to the crowded about us, and, O rare! I caught a sight of the in-attendant, he said, Call Charmides, and tell him that I want wards of his garment, and took the flame. Then I could no him to come and see a physician about the illness of which longer contain myself. I thought how well Cydias under-he spoke to me the day before yesterday. Then again ad-stood the nature of love, when, in speaking of a fair youth, 5

“Charmides” – Plato

he warns some one ‘not to bring the fawn in the sight of I am glad to find that you remember me, I said; for I the lion to be devoured by him,’ for I felt that I had been shall now be more at home with you and shall be better overcome by a sort of wild-beast appetite. But I controlled able to explain the nature of the charm, about which I felt myself, and when he asked me if I knew the cure of the a difficulty before. For the charm will do more, Charmides, headache, I answered, but with an effort, that I did know.

than only cure the headache. I dare say that you have heard And what is it? he said.

eminent physicians say to a patient who comes to them I replied that it was a kind of leaf, which required to be with bad eyes, that they cannot cure his eyes by themselves, accompanied by a charm, and if a person would repeat the but that if his eyes are to be cured, his head must be treated; charm at the same time that he used the cure, he would be and then again they say that to think of curing the head made whole; but that without the charm the leaf would be alone, and not the rest of the body also, is the height of of no avail.

folly. And arguing in this way they apply their methods to Then I will write out the charm from your dictation, he the whole body, and try to treat and heal the whole and the said.

part together. Did you ever observe that this is what they With my consent? I said, or without my consent?


With your consent, Socrates, he said, laughing.

Yes, he said.

Very good, I said; and are you quite sure that you know And they are right, and you would agree with them?

my name?

Yes, he said, certainly I should.

I ought to know you, he replied, for there is a great deal His approving answers reassured me, and I began by de-said about you among my companions; and I remember grees to regain confidence, and the vital heat returned. Such, when I was a child seeing you in company with my cousin Charmides, I said, is the nature of the charm, which I Critias.

learned when serving with the army from one of the physi-6

“Charmides” – Plato

cians of the Thracian king Zamolxis, who are said to be so the head, but to the whole body. And he who taught me skilful that they can even give immortality. This Thracian the cure and the charm at the same time added a special told me that in these notions of theirs, which I was just direction: ‘Let no one,’ he said, ‘persuade you to cure the now mentioning, the Greek physicians are quite right as head, until he has first given you his soul to be cured by the far as they go; but Zamolxis, he added, our king, who is charm. For this,’ he said, ‘is the great error of our day in the also a god, says further, ‘that as you ought not to attempt treatment of the human body, that physicians separate the to cure the eyes without the head, or the head without the soul from the body.’ And he added with emphasis, at the body, so neither ought you to attempt to cure the body same time making me swear to his words, ‘Let no one, without the soul; and this,’ he said, ‘is the reason why the however rich, or noble, or fair, persuade you to give him cure of many diseases is unknown to the physicians of the cure, without the charm.’ Now I have sworn, and I Hellas, because they are ignorant of the whole, which ought must keep my oath, and therefore if you will allow me to to be studied also; for the part can never be well unless the apply the Thracian charm first to your soul, as the stranger whole is well.’ For all good and evil, whether in the body directed, I will afterwards proceed to apply the cure to your or in human nature, originates, as he declared, in the soul, head. But if not, I do not know what I am to do with you, and overflows from thence, as if from the head into the my dear Charmides.

eyes. And therefore if the head and body are to be well, you Critias, when he heard this, said: The headache will be must begin by curing the soul; that is the first thing. And an unexpected gain to my young relation, if the pain in his the cure, my dear youth, has to be effected by the use of head compels him to improve his mind: and I can tell you, certain charms, and these charms are fair words; and by Socrates, that Charmides is not only pre-eminent in beauty them temperance is implanted in the soul, and where tem-among his equals, but also in that quality which is given by perance is, there health is speedily imparted, not only to the charm; and this, as you say, is temperance?


“Charmides” – Plato

Yes, I said.

dishonour to any of them. If to beauty you add temper-Then let me tell you that he is the most temperate of ance, and if in other respects you are what Critias declares human beings, and for his age inferior to none in any qual-you to be, then, dear Charmides, blessed art thou, in being ity.

the son of thy mother. And here lies the point; for if, as he Yes, I said, Charmides; and indeed I think that you ought declares, you have this gift of temperance already, and are to excel others in all good qualities; for if I am not mis-temperate enough, in that case you have no need of any taken there is no one present who could easily point out charms, whether of Zamolxis or of Abaris the Hyperborean, two Athenian houses, whose union would be likely to pro-and I may as well let you have the cure of the head at once; duce a better or nobler scion than the two from which you but if you have not yet acquired this quality, I must use the are sprung. There is your father’s house, which is descended charm before I give you the medicine. Please, therefore, to from Critias the son of Dropidas, whose family has been inform me whether you admit the truth of what Critias has commemorated in the panegyrical verses of Anacreon, So-been saying;—have you or have you not this quality of tem-lon, and many other poets, as famous for beauty and vir-perance?

tue and all other high fortune: and your mother’s house is Charmides blushed, and the blush heightened his beauty, equally distinguished; for your maternal uncle, Pyrilampes, for modesty is becoming in youth; he then said very in-is reputed never to have found his equal, in Persia at the genuously, that he really could not at once answer, either court of the great king, or on the continent of Asia, in all yes, or no, to the question which I had asked: For, said he, the places to which he went as ambassador, for stature and if I affirm that I am not temperate, that would be a strange beauty; that whole family is not a whit inferior to the other.

thing for me to say of myself, and also I should give the lie Having such ancestors you ought to be first in all things, to Critias, and many others who think as he tells you, that and, sweet son of Glaucon, your outward form is no I am temperate: but, on the other hand, if I say that I am, 8

“Charmides” – Plato

I shall have to praise myself, which would be ill manners; In order, then, that I may form a conjecture whether you and therefore I do not know how to answer you.

have temperance abiding in you or not, tell me, I said, I said to him: That is a natural reply, Charmides, and I what, in your opinion, is Temperance?

think that you and I ought together to enquire whether At first he hesitated, and was very unwilling to answer: you have this quality about which I am asking or not; and then he said that he thought temperance was doing things then you will not be compelled to say what you do not orderly and quietly, such things for example as walking in like; neither shall I be a rash practitioner of medicine: there-the streets, and talking, or anything else of that nature. In fore, if you please, I will share the enquiry with you, but I a word, he said, I should answer that, in my opinion, tem-will not press you if you would rather not.