Menexenus HTML version

by Plato
Translated by Benjamin Jowett
ronisms, which are not supposed to strike the mind of the
reader. The effect produced by these grandiloquent ora-
tions on Socrates, who does not recover after having heard
one of them for three days and more, is truly Platonic.
Such discourses, if we may form a judgment from the
three which are extant (for the so-called Funeral Oration of
Demosthenes is a bad and spurious imitation of Thucydides
and Lysias), conformed to a regular type. They began with
Gods and ancestors, and the legendary history of Athens,
to which succeeded an almost equally fictitious account of
later times. The Persian war usually formed the centre of
the narrative; in the age of Isocrates and Demosthenes the
Athenians were still living on the glories of Marathon and
Salamis. The Menexenus veils in panegyric the weak places
of Athenian history. The war of Athens and Boeotia is a
war of liberation; the Athenians gave back the Spartans taken
at Sphacteria out of kindness?indeed, the only fault of the
city was too great kindness to their enemies, who were more
honoured than the friends of others (compare Thucyd.,
which seems to contain the germ of the idea); we demo-
crats are the aristocracy of virtue, and the like. These are
THE MENEXENUS HAS more the character of a rhetorical
exercise than any other of the Platonic works. The writer
seems to have wished to emulate Thucydides, and the far
slighter work of Lysias. In his rivalry with the latter, to whom
in the Phaedrus Plato shows a strong antipathy, he is en-
tirely successful, but he is not equal to Thucydides. The
Menexenus, though not without real Hellenic interest, falls
very far short of the rugged grandeur and political insight of
the great historian. The fiction of the speech having been
invented by Aspasia is well sustained, and is in the manner
of Plato, notwithstanding the anachronism which puts into
her mouth an allusion to the peace of Antalcidas, an event
occurring forty years after the date of the supposed ora-
tion. But Plato, like Shakespeare, is careless of such anach-