A Note on Plato’s Euthydemus 304b

  Grewal, Gwenda-lin. 2022b. “A Note on Plato’s Euthydemus 304b.” Classics@22: Poetic (Mis)quotations in Plato. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies. http://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HLNC.ESSAY:102302586.



At Euthydemus 304b, Socrates seems to twist the famous first line of Pindar’s Olympian 1. Pindar’s line reads as follows:

ἄριστον μὲν ὕδωρ, ὁ δὲ χρυσὸς αἰθόμενον πῦρ
Best, on the one hand, water, but gold as blazing fire

Here is Plato’s version:

τὸ δὲ ὕδωρ εὐωνότατον, ἄριστον ὄν, ὡς ἔφη Πίνδαρος.
But water <is> cheapest, being best, as Pindar said.

Even without the original or transposed context, Socrates has separated the words “water” and “best” in a way that “as Pindar said” cannot only refer to “being best”—for ἄριστον alone would be insufficient to recall Pindar’s verse. It is ὕδωρ and ἄριστον together that suggest the poem. [1] In addition, ὄν is not in the original line, so if this is meant to be a direct quotation, it already contains a modification. On the other hand, if the line’s sole purpose is to paraphrase, the implied sentiment seems odd. Unmodified Pindar sings that water is best, but does he somehow imply that water is cheapest? Or, does he imply that “though it is best, water <is> cheapest”?

“Cheapest” is the superlative Greek adjective, εὐ-ωνότατον, which means “a very good price paid.” ὦνος might also be translated as “wage” or “purchase.” If water can be purchased at a very good price or sold for an affordable wage, is it the contrast with gold in Pindar that suggests its economy? Socrates would then be proposing an addendum to qualify water and precede gold: water <is> best μὲν, says Pindar, but δὲ, water <is> cheapest, being best, adds Socrates on Pindar’s behalf.
On the other hand, the structure of Socrates’ line might instead be read as the playful replacement of μὲν with δὲ and ἄριστον with εὐωνότατον. Socrates, then, offers not a qualification but an emendation, and the immediate addition of ἄριστον retroactively justifies the Pindaric attribution. Is this an imitation rather than a misquotation? The line commits a slip, then tastefully covers its tracks, as if to only casually quote Pindar. Another such casual quotation appears at Euthydemus 291d. There, Socrates tweaks Aeschylus’ Seven Against Thebes, line 2. But, again, Aeschylus is neither clunkily paraphrased nor spiritedly misattributed. Rather, Socrates preserves the meter of the line, while subtly altering the content. [2] Casual quotations may be (mis)quotations but they are not misquotations. They are not exactly mistaken, only partially mistaken in a cheeky homage to what is missed. Yet if Socrates’ remark is not a precise Pindaric replica, what is the purpose of adding the direct allusion—“as Pindar said”?

As Pindar Said

The first three lines of Pindar’s ode laud water as best, and gold as akin to blazing fire, conspicuous at night and man-exalting, standing out in wealth. Later on in the poem, in lines 45–51, which recount what happened to Pelops, Pindar sings,

But when you were invisible, and
people did not, seeking you out far and wide, bring you to your mother,
immediately one of the jealous neighbors was secretly saying
that by fire of water (ὕδατος…πυρὶ) [3] at the boiling point
they cut you limb by limb with a sword,
and at the tables during the last course
they divided up your flesh and ate it.

It seems water is not incompatible with fire, or at least, it can come to be very hot under the influence of fire, and so become akin to fire. Where water boils Pelops’ flesh, in Clotho’s cauldron Pelops emerges, dazzling with a false shoulder that deceives as if it were the true original. Clotho reverses Pelops’ fate, his gleaming shoulder now furnished with ivory (26–7). But this very dismemberment was itself a rumor woven from jealousy that beguiles like a prosthetic limb. These words of caution swiftly follow:

Indeed many are the wonders, and I suppose in some way, too, the utterance
of mortals over and above the true logos
may deceive, stories embroidered with dappled falsehoods. (28–9)

Embroidered stories (muthoi) seem to point to poetry as one of the wonders. Poetry has the power to spin lies that look uncannily similar to truths, and to deceive listeners with a tapestry of image. The fluidity of fire may be like water; a cauldron may bubble with watery flames. But as water and fire are dwarfed in brightness by the warm sun which shines by day, and ultimately by the contests at Olympia, which are celebrated in this victory ode, Pindar’s glorifying poem, too, is that which is glorified in and by the poem. This ode associates itself with those who carry the victory, and Pindar crowns the victor with a victory song. In the last lines of the poem, he offers this wish for the victor and himself:

May it be for you to tread on high for this time,
and so long as I can with bringers of victory
to associate, being far-famed in wisdom by Greeks everywhere. (115–6)
So, the poem begins with a praise of water and ends with a praise of wisdom. In between, water appears in some way like fire, though it is less shiny than the sun and Olympic contests, and this seems only to shine through the liquid ballads of poetic verse. Pindar refashions the curse on the house of Atreus, just as the poets had spun it. According to Gregory Nagy, this testifies to an earlier blend of the two myths about Pelops, both of which were traditional: Pindar’s innovation is only the subordination of one myth to another. Pelops’ chariot race with Oenomaus, aided by Poseidon who had whisked him away, wins out over the myth of his dismemberment. This parallels the subordination of the oldest Olympic event, the foot race, to the chariot race. [4] Pelops emerges newly but also returns again as the emblem of the height of Olympic competition. So the Olympics had been founded with his death, but his death motivated the introduction of the very chariot race in which he was destined to compete. [5] Pelops is somehow both the victor of the contest and the poet behind it.

But what about water’s victory? Water is best, but “Best of What?,” asks the title of W. H. Race’s 1981 article on Olympian 1. Where is the missing genitive that would explain water’s preeminence? Fire seems more praiseworthy, if for different reasons. Ancient scholia suggest that “of elements (στοιχείων)” should be supplied with “best”; later translators infer the presence of “of all things (πάντων).” [6] Water and fire may therefore remind listeners of Thales and Heraclitus. [7] But Heraclitus contains both in saying that the cosmos itself “was, is, and will be an ever-living fire” (DK B30); yet “different waters run different for those who enter the same rivers” (DK B12). Water and fire are dissimilar substances that yield a similarly evanescent permanence. Pindar boils them together and cites Clotho as the composer. Their opposition, on the other hand, is apparent in Nemean 1.20–5:

I stand at the courtyard gates
of a man who loves guest-friends, singing beautiful things,
for me there a fitting
dinner he’s arranged, and people often coming from elsewhere
the house is not unfamiliar with:
It is his lot to bring good [friends] against his slanderers, as water against
smoke.
Fire’s flames might be watered down in the smoke of negative rumors, but good poetry remains as effective as even a drop of water is moist.

Scholars account for the other two elements—earth and air—by gold and ether, which are mentioned at lines 1 and 6, respectively. [8] And if other pre-Socratic contemporaries of Pindar are lurking in the background, [9] parallels to Parmenides’ Fragment 1 would be easy to see in chariots racing toward a victory. While Hieron of Syracuse, for whom this ode was composed, won in the single-horse race in 476 BC, Pindar looks forward to a new event, which Hieron would presumably also win, and so, which would give Pindar another occasion to sing:

I hope I’ll celebrate a still sweeter one
with a swift chariot, discovering a helpful way of words
arriving at sunny Cronion. For me, then, in fact
a Muse nourishes the strongest shaft with strength.
Some are great at some things, others at others. (109–13)
An ode to a present victory thus becomes a prelude to the next victory. [10] But Pindar himself has another horse in the race. He is not competing alone but with an immortal ally, a Muse, and this team seems to reflect the glory of chariots over singular racers. In Parmenides’ poem, Parmenides is speedily ferried toward the victory of being over what cannot ever be, non-being. The chariot is driven by the daughters of the sun, and it lands at the house of an unnamed goddess who illuminates Parmenides’ sight. The event is prefigured by the blazing (αἰθόμενος) in the axles of the wheel-sockets of the carriage and the veils that the daughters lift from their heads as if they were eyelids (1.4–10). Parmenides learns from the goddess that thinking cannot rid itself of coming into contact with being; to be and to think are somehow the same (DK 3). But mortals behave two-headedly, confusing what is with what is not (DK 6). It is hard not to notice that the poetic metaphor of the chariot seems to perpetrate the same confusion. Is it poetry that seduces human beings into believing in what cannot be?

In the Pindaric context, the “being” of the Olympic victors depends on the “thinking” of their celebrators, the poets. “The Muse loves to remember great contests” (Nemean 1.11–12). The athletes live on by being celebrated—gilded—rather than sinking into obscurity. [11] Yet the poets are themselves riders, and the victory ode another contest of skill. Who best sings the order of all things? Who lives on the most “far-famed” in wisdom? Water (the beginning of the poem) may be the way to get the crown of wisdom (the end of the poem), but one would have to be wise to know it. Perhaps wisdom is more akin to a charmed spring or way with words—molten poetry flowing into the poet from the Muses beyond. So in Olympian 6.82-6, Pindar sings:

I have some inkling of a clear-sounding whetstone on my tongue
which creeps toward me (I’m willing) with beautiful-flowing blasts:
my mother’s mother <was> a Stymphalian nymph, well-bloomed Metope,
who bore Thebe, driver of horses, whose lovely water
I drink, while weaving a tapestry of song for spearmen.

And in Nemean 7.61–3:

I am a guest-friend (ξεῖνός εἰμι): keeping away dark blame,
bringing true kleos to a beloved man, as streams of water,
I shall praise him: and this wage/reward (μισθὸς) is suitable to good [men].

In both passages, water’s flowing is an image for poetic inspiration. [12] The poet brings precious liquid from elsewhere, the reward or wage of kleos, which is also the song through which it is borne, which flows into the poet as running water. [13] But “warm water does not so softly wet / the limbs as the eulogy accompanied by a lyre” (Nemean 4.4–5). Water is best, but poetry better. The praiseworthy song bathes listeners in a temperate shower; it glides over the limbs smoothly, raining glory on both victor and poet. Water seems akin to the force of poetry in its most visceral sense, where performance and composition are one. The illusion that the poet has hold of the reins is the sign of poetic genius. [14]

As Socrates Said Pindar Said

In the Euthydemus, Socrates quotes Pindar after suggesting to Euthydemus and Dionysodorus that they charge a fee for their wisdom. It has become clear in the dialogue that their sophistic sport is not only easily acquired by a kind of linguistic osmosis (as happens to Ctesippus [15] ) but also tempting to imitate (as happens to Socrates [16] ). By the end of the narration, not only Socrates but everyone present has been corrupted. Laughing almost kills the audience, and Socrates is reduced to “slavery.” [17] The viral character of this sophistry leads Socrates to propose a wage as mitigation. Their arguments are the sort that many would esteem; but a few people would be too ignorant to understand them, while others would be too ashamed to make them. [18] Their teaching method is therefore one of accidental contagion; this is their “art.” Such cleverness is not suitable for conversation, but only for a quick and beautiful transmittal to others, whether they like it or not. Consequently, Socrates says they should “be wary of speaking opposite many, lest they, learning quickly from you all, do not know gratitude.” Either they should talk as a pair with each other, or if they have to talk to others, they should charge “silver,” and advise their students to do the same: “never to converse with anyone among human beings other than you all and themselves. For the rare, Euthydemus, <is> honored (τίμιον), while water <is> cheapest, being best, as Pindar said. But you all lead on…so that as a pair you will receive beside you me and this Cleinias here” (304a–b).
In the context, a concessive reading of “being best” at first seems the most intelligible: “For the rare, Euthydemus, is honored (τίμιον), but water <is> cheapest, though it is best, as Pindar said.” timion might mean honored in the sense of “valuable,” “costly” or “high-priced.” Water, while not cheap in one sense, looks cheap in another. So, “though it is best,” it needs a conventional rarefication to show the nobility of its exceptional abundance. [19] Wilamowitz thinks that Plato is joking—“Platon (Euthyd. 304b) erkennt den Nebenton richtig, wenn er scherzend hinzufügt εὐωνότατον ὄν”—and that the effect is to demote water to a secondary status in the face of gold. [20] On the other hand, if timion here signifies generic “esteem” or “value,” it could carry a meaning similar to ariston as “noble.” Water would not then be best in any concessive way; it would be best as cheapest, as the pinnacle of the ubiquitous, as at once high and common. So, Oceanus is γένεσις πάντεσσι, [21] the singular undercurrent of everything.

Socrates may also have in mind Olympian 3.42–5, where the ranking of water reappears—

εἰ δ’ ἀριστεύει μὲν ὕδωρ, κτεάνων δὲ χρυσὸς αἰδοιέστατος,
νῦν δὲ πρὸς ἐσχατιὰν Θήρων ἀρεταῖσιν ἱκάνων ἅπτεται
οἴκοθεν Ἡρακλέος σταλᾶν. τὸ πόρσω δ’ ἔστι σοφοῖς ἄβατον
κἀσόφοις. Οὔ νιν διώξω: κεινὸς εἴην.

And if water bests, but gold <is> most revered of possessions,
now Theron, reaching forward, touches the utmost boundary
of Heracles by virtues of his own. What’s beyond is untrodden for the wise
and unwise. I won’t chase it: then I’d be the latter.

Water and gold seem to work in tandem in these lines: water, akin to the flowing of virtue, serves to aid the retrieval of fire, a reverence associated with the extreme feats of Heracles. “Best” is no longer an adjective but a verb. That is, water is in the act of being best. As it engages in besting, it is not clear that it makes concessions, or even that it can compete with anything else. The question, “best of what?”, is irrelevant. Water has the preeminent place in Pindar’s poem, not because it is less flashy than either gold or the Olympic games, but because its value is more universal. [22] As an image for poetry, water’s special status at the helm of the ode is crowned by Pindar’s wisdom at the stern. Water is circular and eternal, though turbulent waters can upset its equilibrium, as Poseidon stole away Pelops on golden horses (χρυσέαισί τ’ ἀν’ ἵπποις).
In the Euthydemus, water turns to gold, and gold appears to have a value independent of its being minted or spent. Dionysodorus facetiously argues that if gold is “good to have,” it follows that one would want to “have” it in unlimited quantities. Gold’s unqualified goodness leads possessing gold to become being possessed by gold: “Then, shouldn’t one always have it everywhere and as much as possible have it in oneself? And one would be happiest if one could have three talents of gold in one’s belly, a talent in the skull, and a stater of gold in each eye?” (299d–e). To embody gold in abundance is a Midas-style death wish, since only the dead have coins on their eyes. By contrast, water’s Protean proliferation—its life-granting capacity—seems to be what makes it a good deal. [23] In what follows, Ctesippus attempts to imitate Euthydemean logic by appealing to the Scythian practice of using human skulls as drinking cups. He slightly revises Herodotus’ story, and says that the Scythians drink from “their own gilded skulls” (299e6–8, my emphasis; Hdt. 4.62–6). Are the skulls ones that they own or on their own heads? Imbibing the waters of the skull seems to turn drinking into a metaphor for thinking. [24] Gilded drinking is at once more valuable and more rigidified. Euthydemus and Dionysodorus, in liquidating (making ambiguous) the singularity of any thought, dehydrate the thinking of their interlocutors. Sucking dry the fountains of others is apparently their prize talent.
Earlier in the dialogue Socrates mentioned that Euthydemus and Dionysodorus had transcended other fighters by showcasing themselves to be not only awesome [25] with respect to body but also to be able to “make (poiein)” another able to fight, if he pays a fee (271d–272a). There, the casual mention of the “fee” or “wage (misthos)” seems shocking, since Euthydemus and Dionysodorus never mention that they charge money, and the wage is in the end Socrates’ proposal to Euthydemus (who seems to be their singular head)—doubly surprising, since Socrates claims in the Apology never to have charged anyone for anything (19e). [26] In Euthydemus and Dionysodorus’ case, the reason for the wage seems to be that, if their wisdom can be transferred to others with such speed and inevitability, then, without it, no one would need to go to them to learn what they profess. Already they are strangely passive teachers: their chorus of refutation commences only when they see a conversation about to go down in the Lyceum. [27] They are not fire starters but rain on everyone’s parade.
The “initiation fee” of silver over gold may be a reference to Aristophanes’ Clouds: “These ones teach how to conquer the things being said, both the just and the unjust, if anyone pays silver” (98–99). Elsewhere, too, silver is the common currency accepted by sophists, [28] but the overtures to the Clouds in the Euthydemus are thick—indeed, so thick that the dialogue seems to be Plato’s own reimagining of Aristophanes’ play. Euthydemus and Dionysodorus have replaced Socrates in the Thinkery. [29] But if Socrates wants to rarify them, why suggest silver over gold? Gold is perhaps reserved for the payment of outstanding sophists. In Plato’s Hippias Major, Socrates asks Hippias if the Spartans don’t break the law in not “giving you gold and turning their own sons over to you” (285b1–3). [30] Later on, when Hippias offers gilding as an answer to the question, what is to kalon (289e–291b), Socrates’ suggestion that the Spartans pay him in gold becomes ironic: in this way, the Spartans would beautify him. But Hippias’ skill is apparently increased in isolation. In response to his own inability to supply Socrates with a sufficient answer, Hippias insists that if he were to investigate the question alone, he would be able to figure it out with more than total precision (295a4–7). Ordinary water may be transformed into specialized wisdom, but only some of it is bottled at the source. In distinction from hapax Hippias, Euthydemus and Dionysodorus, despite their overtures to novelty, seem to be borrowing their wisdom. It may well be their hazing ritual or coterie of lovers—signs that they are relatable—that leads Socrates to tell them to make themselves scarce. Silver is more suitable to the quality of what they sell and the ease with which it might elsewhere be gotten. They are good, but not that good.
As to their source, the mention of giving thanks to wisdom-dispensers in the Euthydemus is reminiscent of a remark Socrates makes in the Hippias Minor: “But I have this single, wondrous good, which saves me. For I’m not ashamed to learn, but I find out, ask questions, and have a great deal of gratitude for the one who answers, and I’ve never yet deprived anyone of thanks” (372c3–5). The subtext of the line seems to be a critique of Hippias for having ripped off Homer, or at the very least for making himself appear to be an independent fount of learnedness. Wisdom is more of a rhapsody rather than a monologue, a riff on a line that comes from elsewhere. While Euthydemus and Dionysodorus do not claim to make any positive claims, their omnipotent refutation—in other words, their knowledge of other people’s ignorance—appears to owe thanks to a certain gadfly. Some lines are so distinctive they seem to contain an allusion to another author already within them. But Euthydemus and Dionysodorus borrow the Socratic way without the Socratic soul. They divide their powers in half, distributing argument and counter-argument over their separate heads. Recombined, they are a monster, not an ensouled being. Socrates’ reflection disappears into the shadows.
Perhaps Socrates is hoping to avoid unwanted comparisons—or perhaps he is tacitly advising them against doing what he did. Socrates can only teach some, not because others cannot afford it, but because his daimonion steers him away from certain associations. The currency of the daimonion is unique and non-transferrable; Socrates is governed by a force not regulated by the polis. Silver, on the other hand, will have an effect similar to quoting. Crediting a source gives the impression that the transmission of wisdom can be controlled and located. To quote is to charge the debt of one’s wisdom to another. At any rate, it is cheaper than to invent, [31] which is to say that, rather than copying Socrates and passing off “knowledge of ignorance” as their own, Euthydemus and Dionysodorus ought to at least put quotes around their “art.” If the pair does not want to be accused of plagiarism or blasphemy—believing in novel divinities (kaina daimonia [32] ) or corrupting the youth—they will need to look like respectable itinerants, paying their respects in known currencies and citations.
Aristophanes goes unmentioned, but there is no doubt he has been conjured. The reader has the feeling of familiarity—the feeling that this scene has been seen before. In the Euthydemus, one perhaps confronts a wiser Socrates, who, if he had to do it over again, might run a private Academy and write dialogues. [33] Quoting is cheapest—it transfers one thought to another. (Mis)quoting, however, reveals quotation to be a tribute to another’s wisdom as well as the sign of one’s own. As in Olympian 1, the praise of a victor brings praise to the praiser by association; so too the victor reflects the phantom hand behind the composition.

Wisdom is Cheapest?

Is water really, in contrast to gold or victory odes, available at a fairer price? Water at first looks more economical, since it never spends too much time in one location. But the wisdom that Euthydemus and Dionysodorus offer in their traveling thinkery seems so watery that it is virtually nonexistent. They leave their interlocutors with their mouths “stitched” up, and consequently, they stitch up their own, too. The verb surraptein, “to stitch together,” is their perversion of rhapsôidein, “to stitch verses.” Perhaps it is water’s very fluidity, a metaphor for the shiftiness of their argumentation, that is the trouble. As written speech stands to oral speech, money is a way of controlling flux, regardless of whether one is becoming richer or poorer. A coin standardizes various currencies, which makes it possible to trade. This conceptualization of goods is likewise the exchange rate at which wisdom purchases its insights. Pennies go for thoughts. On this basis, one can step into the same waters twice. Water produces the new again and again, but in its constant renewal it also produces more of the same.
Still, water is cheap in part because it resists standardization. As liquid money, its utter continuity (like Euthydemus and Dionysodorus’ drinkable wisdom) can only be regulated by rarefication. One rarifies it by making it available only to those who pay. This Euthydemean Evian water will make it look as if sophistry is both a controlled substance and available in a democratic way. If it is only a fee that prevents old men from learning, then Socrates and Crito are in luck. Socrates had proposed that they enroll in school with Euthydemus and Dionysodorus, using Crito’s children as bait (272d). The children were Socrates’ original financial buffer. A “fee”—whether of kids or coins [34] —makes it appear as if anyone can learn, even if they cannot. It also makes it look as if the fault lies with the one who paid. Maybe if the fathers whose sons Socrates was thought to have corrupted could simply ask for their money/children back, they wouldn’t have had to prosecute?
The daimonion, by contrast, assesses students on the basis of their natural capabilities in relation to Socrates’ ability to teach them—a direct insult if someone fails to gain admission into Socrates’ inner circle. [35] Daimonic rejection is the sign that elitism is incurable. In Socrates’ summary, it is Euthydemus and Dionysodorus’ anti-bourgeois attitude that was really their greatest discovery: indeed, they should patent it and sell it, as easy to get as water and at least as valuable as silver. The illusion that natural capacities can be rewarded (whether by water, gold or a victory song) is what professional education inverts by purporting to sell what money cannot buy. The sophists borrow from the poets and make intellectual property into a common coin—here, a shrewd tactic that if instituted would secure Euthydemus and Dionysodorus from Socrates’ fate. It is attribution to another that rescues you from having to answer for your own ideas—from yourself having to pay the price. Plato’s only criticism of Socrates seems to be that he could not write to save his life. Nor could he be written. [36]
Quotations, whether implied by writing or codified within it, are the more regulated marks of the soul that lies beyond. But as they protect, they also point fingers at an agent who can be held responsible. Where does wisdom come from? A “body of work,” like a “body of water,” gives the impression that water/wisdom can be defined. Written words attach a price to the soul, commuting it into a corpus that runs the risk of becoming synonymous with the living being. For Socrates’ pair of cheapskate imitators, Euthydemus and Dionysodorus, silver is the better scapegoat. Silver will sufficiently convey their interest in being taken seriously without letting their water flow too freely. As it is, the two of them look a bit too close to a caricature of Socratic philosophy for Socrates’ comfort. Professionalization will turn them into proper sophists. Go teach at a University, Plato said Socrates said Pindar said. Or was it the Muses? When Crito interrupts Socrates’ narration in disbelief that it could be true, Socrates wonders if he heard the arguments from one of the “greater ones” (291a). Maybe quotation is always hinting at some elusive charioteer. Here lies one whose name was writ in water. [37]

Works Cited

Eckerman, C. 2017. “Pindar’s Olympian 1, 1–7 and its Relation to Bacchylides 3, 85–87,” Wiener Studien, Vol. 130, pp. 7–32.
Gerber, D. 1982. Pindar’s Olympian One: A Commentary. University of Toronto Press.
Grewal, G. 2022. Thinking of Death in Plato’s Euthydemus: A Close Reading and New Translation. Oxford University Press.
Michell, H. 1947. “The Iron Money of Sparta,” Phoenix, Vol. 1, Supplement to Volume One (Spring), 44.
Muellner, L. 2020. “On Plato Not Misquoting Homer and what’s ‘New’ at Republic 424b–c,” in “Poetic (Mis)quotations in Plato,” Classics@, Center for Hellenic Studies.
Nagy, G. 1990. Pindar’s Homer: The Lyric Possession of an Epic Poet. Johns Hopkins University Press.
Race, W. H. 1981. “Pindar’s ‘Best of Water’: Best of What?,” Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 22/2, 119–124.
Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, U. von. 1922. Pindaros. Berlin.

Footnotes

[ back ] 1. O. 1 was often quoted, but it is not clear whether it was proverbial prior to Pindar (Gerber 1982: 9).
[ back ] 2. For an account of this quotation, see Grewal 2022: 157–8. See 200–3 for my earlier thoughts on the Pindar quotation in the Euthydemus, to which this essay should be considered an addendum.
[ back ] 3. My emphasis.
[ back ] 4. Nagy 1990: 249, 260.
[ back ] 5. See Nagy 1990: 262: “in the chicken-and-egg pattern of myth making, the death of Pelops could motivate the competition in which Pelops competes.”
[ back ] 6. See Race 1981: 119 n. 1, 120.
[ back ] 7. The comical anecdote about Thales’ discovery that everything is water—he was walking around looking at the heavens and accidentally fell into a well—is retold, e.g., in Plato’s Theaetetus at 174a.
[ back ] 8. See Race 1981: 120 n. 4.
[ back ] 9. While Hesiod seems to have been one of Empedocles’ primary influences, the appearance of ἐρίζεται at O. 1.95 suggests a possible Olympic backdrop for Empedocles’ thought. See n. 11 on the analogy of the Olympics to life.
[ back ] 10. So, Bacchylides appears to have Pindar’s poem in mind when he celebrates Hieron’s victory in 468 BC (3.85–92, cited in Gerber 1982: 6; on the relation of the two poems, see also Eckerman 2017). Cp. Horace Carmina 1.1.
[ back ] 11. Athletic contests in Greek antiquity were rites of passage in which contenders fought to “live (on)” or “die”: “Who is to ‘live’ and who is to ‘die’ is determined not by chance but by the given society’s sense of cosmic order” (Nagy 1990: 254).
[ back ] 12. Cp. also Isthmian 6.74–5: “I shall give him to drink the pure water of Dirce, which the deep-girded girls / of golden-robed Memory made gush forth from the well-walled gates of Cadmus.” For a list of other passages along with a detailed analysis of the idea that “an ode is a liquid,” see Eckerman 2017: 12–13.
[ back ] 13. On the meaning of kleos, see Muellner 2022 in this volume, §30.
[ back ] 14. In Plato’s Phaedrus, the self-motion of the soul is likened to a chariot pulled by two horses (246aff.).
[ back ] 15. Pl. Euthyd. 300d and 303e.
[ back ] 16. Pl. Euthyd. 301a5–6 and 301b.
[ back ] 17. Pl. Euthyd. 303b–c.
[ back ] 18. Crito reveals that he is among the latter set.
[ back ] 19. C. Raymond points out to me that this is what makes the concessive reading so plausible: it distinguishes water’s inherent worth from its market price.
[ back ] 20. Wilamowitz 1922: 491.
[ back ] 21. Iliad 14.246; quoted by Gerber in reference to Pindar (1982: 5, 7).
[ back ] 22. So, D. Gerber remarks that “Pindar could not possibly place the Olympic games on a higher level than water, a requirement for life, or even gold (compare fr. 222.1 Διὸς παῖς ὁ χρυσός)” (1982: 4).
[ back ] 23. Aristotle invokes Pindar in this way in the Rhetoric (1.7.14–16). This point is cited by Krischer, but Gerber comments that there is “no evidence that anyone before Aristotle would have reflected on abundance and scarcity” (see Gerber 1982: 5): a strange remark that could be countered by the same argument.
[ back ] 24. For the association of thinking with the head, see Hippocrates De Morbo Sacro 16–17.
[ back ] 25. “Awesome” is the word deinos. It can mean canny or uncanny. Euthydemus and Dionysodorus are deinos in both senses of the word. They are unparalleled (uncanny) and they can clone (are canny with regard to) their unparalleled character. The absurdity of the superlative is already manifest in the duality of the word.
[ back ] 26. Cp. Quintilian Institutio Oratoria 3.8.2. While Pindar does not call water cheap, Nemean 7.63 (quoted above) associates it with a misthos. In the context, the word could mean “reward” or “wage.”
[ back ] 27. Interestingly, this is also the opening scene of the dialogue: Socrates’ own negating power, the daimonion, stops him from leaving the Lyceum. He wants to get up, but the daimonic sign says “no.”
[ back ] 28. See also Protagoras 311b–c.
[ back ] 29. See Grewal 2022.
[ back ] 30. According to Plutarch, Lycurgus had forbidden the Spartans to use gold and silver, and instead instituted an iron currency (Lyc. 9). If true—and it is not clear that it is—Socrates would be suggesting that the Spartans pay Hippias in foreign coins. For the implausibility of Plutarch’s story, see Michell 1947.
[ back ] 31. N. Pappas points out to me that the verb autoschediazein, used elsewhere in Plato (e.g., Euthyphro 5a7), might describe an improvisation for which one “pays the price.” In the Euthyphro, the verb is clearly used disparagingly in the context of Meletus’ charge, but see also Phaedrus 236d, Cratylus 415d, and Menexenus 235c–d.
[ back ] 32. At the beginning of the dialogue, Crito refers to Euthydemus and Dionysodorus as some “new (kainoi) sophists.” With the mention of the fee, Socrates seems to reinterpret Euthydemus and Dionysodorus as neos—new, but not that new. For a discussion of the difference between these two adjectives in the context of Plato’s Republic, see Muellner 2022 in this volume, §25.
[ back ] 33. Elsewhere, I argue that Socrates is “wiser” here because Plato has playfully set this dialogue in Hades, and transfigured Euthydemus and Dionysodorus into Socrates’ shade. See the Introduction of Grewal 2022.
[ back ] 34. There is a word in Greek, tokos, that means both “offspring” and “bank interest.”
[ back ] 35. See, for example, the fate of Theages in Plato’s Theages: Socrates rejects him as a student on daimonic grounds, appealing to the sign as if he were quoting the rejection rather than himself delivering it.
[ back ] 36. See Pl. Epist. 314c.
[ back ] 37. The words of John Keats inscribed on his own tombstone.