Ion HTML version

“Ion” – Plato
rhapsodists are described by Euthydemus as ‘very
precise about the exact words of Homer, but very
idiotic themselves.’ (Compare Aristotle, Met.)
Ion the rhapsode has just come to Athens; he has
been exhibiting in Epidaurus at the festival of
Asclepius, and is intending to exhibit at the festival
of the Panathenaea. Socrates admires and envies
the rhapsode’s art; for he is always well dressed and
in good company—in the company of good poets
and of Homer, who is the prince of them. In the
course of conversation the admission is elicited from
Ion that his skill is restricted to Homer, and that he
knows nothing of inferior poets, such as Hesiod and
Archilochus;—he brightens up and is wide awake
when Homer is being recited, but is apt to go to
sleep at the recitations of any other poet. ‘And yet,
surely, he who knows the superior ought to know
the inferior also;—he who can judge of the good
speaker is able to judge of the bad. And poetry is a
whole; and he who judges of poetry by rules of art
ought to be able to judge of all poetry.’ This is con-
by Plato
Translated by Benjamin Jowett
THE ION IS THE SHORTEST, or nearly the shortest, of
all the writings which bear the name of Plato, and
is not authenticated by any early external testimony.
The grace and beauty of this little work supply the
only, and perhaps a sufficient, proof of its genuine-
ness. The plan is simple; the dramatic interest con-
sists entirely in the contrast between the irony of
Socrates and the transparent vanity and childlike
enthusiasm of the rhapsode Ion. The theme of the
Dialogue may possibly have been suggested by the
passage of Xenophon’s Memorabilia in which the