The Lie: Becoming Dreams Being-Dreams of Becoming

  Pappas, Nickolas. 2022. “The Lie: Becoming Dreams Being-Dreams of Becoming.” Classics@22: Poetic (Mis)quotations in Plato. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies.

Safety statistics for air travel and workplaces speak of the “near miss”: close call; a collision that might have occurred and only barely did not. Given our present topic – Plato’s dialogues taking poetry in – and our brief’s engaging breadth that covers both true and false quotation, or those appropriations of poetry both faithful to its words and those others not, I can’t resist trying to navigate between those extremes to propose an analogue to the near miss, namely near-misquotation. [1]
The guard dogs of communication sometimes object to the illogicality in the phrase “near miss.” Rightly speaking a near miss ought to be a miss that did not occur, which is to say a hit, whereas what’s being described is an occurrent miss. Wouldn’t it be better to say “near collision” or “near accident”?
And yet “near miss” registers, better than those alternatives do, one’s reluctance to call it a miss. Not a hit but not quite not a hit, you want to call the thing something impossibly both.
By the same logic, or similar relaxation of logic, a near-misquotation means neither that a quoted word or phrase turns up remaining exactly itself, nor that words went wrong in the quotational process. For one may cite the right passage and still mistake it. One repeats words faithfully yet says something different with them. Call this the vanishing point of misquotation.
Suppose that (never having heard the famous song) you read Ira Gershwin’s lyrics in which one lover tells the other “You say potato and I say potato” and so on about the rest of the couple’s shared vocabulary. Tomato, sarsaparilla, what have you; this pair being portrayed is always talking about the same things. What harmony (or is it incipient monotony?) in their conversation! Do they want to call things off because they know each other too well?
Out among regular language use it happens that a word’s referent changes so that you might quote a phrase exactly and still misplace the point of it. The expression “exception that proves the rule” is as confusing as it is (on one explanation) because “prove” had once meant “test” or “try.” The exception was an obstacle to the rule, not its validation. Similarly “blood” and “water,” in the proverb that compares the thickness of the two, meant the blood spilled by soldiers and the womb’s water shared by children of the same mother. The bond among those who battle together is stronger than any bond among siblings – more or less the contrary of what the phrase is recently used to say.

Noble lie

Near-misquotation as I am describing it captures one transformation I find at work in the Republic’s scandalizing tale about the people in its new city having gestated in the earth, though dreaming of childhood and education out in the open air; and then (as the same story continues) about the metals in the city’s people. [2] Gold, silver, bronze, and iron mark the differences among citizens, and determine who governs. Hesiodic language appears in this big lie but it performs tasks that Hesiod never imagined assigning it to.
Plato weaves the lie together from several sources. Socrates himself introduces it as “Phoenician,” a nod to the autochthony story about how Thebes was founded when the Phoenician traveler Cadmus came to Greece, and perhaps also because of stereotypes about Phoenician deceptiveness, or (the metals in question all being used in coins) Semitic people’s money-love. [3] Athens had its own autochthony myth, which the noble lie also resembles (for instance in what may be its allusion to Hephaestus). [4] Unlike Theban autochthony, the version that had occurred in Attica included some care for the body freshly emerged from earth, therefore also education. Athena nurtures the baby Erechtheus on one version. In Plato’s Menexenus the mothering earth brings gods to tutor the first Athenian after she gives birth. [5]
Traditional stories aside, poetry’s contribution to the noble lie comes from Hesiod. The lie proceeds beyond the commonality of the city’s people, all of them together born from their mother the local ground, to account for the differences among them. In this second part of the story, sometimes described as the “myth of metals,” Socrates separates the city’s population into classes using the metals with which Works and Days labels the steadily worsening ages of human beings. [6] Where Hesiod has the silver people succeeding the golden ones and bronzes following them, to be followed in turn by heroic and then iron ages, all human types emerge from earth together in the Republic’s lie, just as different from one another as in the Hesiodic history but without reference to time’s passing.
Hesiod does not chronicle the ages in order to argue for democratic equality within any one age. The five ages show how diminished the condition is that people of the present find themselves in, and by what stages life among the gods and direct experience of mythic events could have devolved into today’s toil and injustice. Incidentally the heroic age shoehorned between bronze and iron accounts for the legendary warriors associated with Troy, a time that already (to judge by the Odyssey) looked back on generations before as the truly heroic. [7] With the passage from mythic to mundane as his explanandum Hesiod de-emphasizes differences within any one age, but does so more from aristocratic monumentalization of the past than in order to equalize the present. The heroic age had both heroes and non-heroes in it, but the disparity within any one time is not Hesiod’s subject. Works and Days merely does not find the differences among its own time’s people matching the magnitude of differences between humanity’s ages.
It is no coincidence that the same four metals appear in Works and Days as in the noble lie, the lie only lacking the cluster of heroes that anyway feels like an interpolation in Hesiod. Socrates certainly does not treat the resemblance as coincidental when he returns, later in the Republic, to the matter of examining and evaluating the city’s people. The rulers taken from a genetically diminished stock, he warns, will not prove “very guardian-like” at dokimazein ta Hêsiodou te kai ta par’humin genê “assaying the genê of Hesiod’s, and of your own,” the gold and silver, bronze and iron. [8] The genê in question thus include both the people Hesiod had told of and the ones that “you” (Socrates addressing Glaucon and the others as co-founders) will have sorted out in the new city. A genos in Hesiod is a genos under the new constitution.


The appropriation of Hesiod’s genos amounts to near-misquotation on two counts. First of all Hesiod assumes and draws upon the word’s broad association with kinship or familial relatedness. Breed, tribe, clan, and the like: Groups with common ancestry are genê, and those in such groups are distinguished from those persons who lack the same ancestry.
Socrates remarks however that the kinship in genos does not apply to those who share gold or another metal. The point arises as he imagines instructing the new city’s people not to let citizens perform a civic function they are not naturally suited to. The good constitution’s collapse is darkly foretold in Book 3 as the result of a bronze or iron citizen’s accession to the position of ruler, and then Book 8 spells out the mishap in the eugenicist program that will lead to that fatal accession, and subsequently to the stages of the city’s decline. [9] If each class within the city shared kinship as the members of a genos do, that danger would not threaten. Indeed Socrates proposes announcing to the people that although children will largely be similar to their parents, it will happen that a citizen with one kind of metal produces a child with another; and that will occur precisely because suggeneis ontes pantes “you are all related,” the people all literally sun- + genos “from the same line of birth,” belonging to the same genos in the biological sense. [10]
This statement by Socrates deserves special attention. The necessary terminus that the good city faces follows from one of the essential principles on which the city is founded, namely the need for union among human beings. The lie dramatizes that principle as the people’s collective birth from earth, just as it allegorizes the other political axiom, the division of labor, with the story of metals. Malcolm Schofield has complained, with some reason, that the remainder of the Republic appeals to the city’s differentiation into metals and not to the sibling unity among its population. [11] But the kinship matters enough, if perversely, that it accounts for the city’s ultimate decline. Greek families do not have the occasional Persian baby. A man and woman on Ithaca (the genos in which Odysseus claims membership) did not remain alert for Myrmidon offspring. In family-relation senses of genos, members of one genos do not appear among other genê. So if the metals corresponded to kin groups they would breed true and the city might last forever. Instead and fatally genos has lost its association with kinship. The sorting is generic now not genetic, generic against the pressure of the genetic. [12]
Besides depriving the word of its kinship sense, the Republic’s lie also eliminates its Hesiodic use as a marker of time. A genos as an age or generation also appears in Homer, as when Helen says that Menelaus comes from a genos after that of Odysseus, or when Nestor is said to have governed three genê during his long life. Works and Days relies on that meaning, mapping out the distant past as it does into the genê that preceded this time of iron and the iron people in it. The genos chruseon, all golden people, defines the golden age. [13]
By contrast the Republic’s peoples coexist. The city requires their cooperation and therefore their contemporaneity. A division of labor among distinct eras is out of the question. Neither familial groups nor generations, these genê are Hesiod’s in name only. Or rather they have been misnamed Hesiodic.

A parallel in Plato’s Sophist

As near-misquotation the lie resembles a passage in the Sophist, where it is Homer whose words are assigned new work.
The Sophist turns away from Homeric mythologizing, and not only from the Homeric kind. The Eleatic Stranger (xenos) complains about a characteristic of myths even when told by responsible Eleatic philosophers. Those philosophers in an earlier day addressed their students as if speaking to children, explaining being itself in the lexicon of friendship and enmity. Mama and Papa Being have themselves a time, then settle down to make becoming little tokous “babies.” Enough! the Stranger more or less says. We should be able to speak of being without buying into narratives. [14]
The Eleatics have not depicted heroes who fear death or gods who quarrel, as the Republic complains of other poets doing. The flaw in Eleatic storytelling rather seems to be the essential element in narrative. Time passes. One begets another. The most harmonious and beneficent mythology still falls into these narrative ways.
The Eleatic Stranger and young Theaetetus spend the dialogue developing a taxonomy with which to analyze the sophist. They seek the species to which sophistry belongs and its differences from other species. When they finish the xenos says they have described the sophist as being tautês tês geneas te kai haimatos “of this genealogy and bloodline.” The words precisely repeat a phrase from Book 6 of the Iliad and the meeting in it between Diomedes and Glaucos. Those two are preparing to battle when Diomedes requests Glaucos’s history; Glaucos answers him harking back to his grandfather the hero Bellerophon, and concludes saying “This is my blood and ancestry.” Thanks to their back-stories they discover themselves to be xenoi “guest-friends.” The xenos from Elea as if having just likewise exchanged self-descriptions gives his taxonomy of “the sophist” the same label. [15]
A genealogy like the one that Glaucos produces traces ancestry. It goes back to earlier time and kinship relations to identify who someone is. But the philosopher from Elea does not claim to have unearthed the sophist’s parentage or other history. Philosophical division shows what the sophist is through non-temporal explication of being and what differs from being. By design a repudiation of the Eleatics’ muthoi “stories” about being, the division carried out in the Sophist and the taxonomic definition it leads to lack both the chronology found in narrative and the childbearing that insinuates itself into most etiological myths (at least in a mythology like Greece’s, whose divine causation far more often consists in parturition than in manufacture). The quoted Homeric genea now covers an account of identity that lacks just those characteristics that had formerly made such an account a genea. [16]
Not only parallel to the lie’s genos, the near-misquoted genea in the Sophist matters to this topic because it takes place with a show of self-awareness. The opening and closing Homeric tags in the Sophist speak to the figure of the xenos. Socrates welcomes this stranger from Elea with two quotes from the Odyssey about Odysseus as unknown visitor; [17] the man from Elea, as I have been saying, rounds off the conversation with words from the Iliad’s encounter between men who find themselves to be family friends. The first references cast a xenos as an unknown: a traveler, would-be guest, often even supplicant, in any case a stranger and potential enemy. To be a xenos as Diomedes and Glaucos are to each other however is to be known: one-time host or guest, possibly a friend, in any case stranger no more.
This dialogue, steered by an unnamed character known only as xenos, frames its analysis of the enigmatic sophist with importations of Homeric poetry that represent opposite extremes of the range that xenos had. Greek probably had no word as notably broad in its semantic range, to the point of auto-antonymity. Sophocles’ Philoctetes draws attention to this breadth of range, its characters using xenos neutrally to mean “stranger,” positively as a guest, and in a hostile sense suggesting enmity. [18] The Sophist’s original readers would have recognized and understood that to cite a Homeric phrase about a xenos is not to refer to a single being. With his talk of genealogy and bloodline the Sophist’s character xenos is showing the same effect at work.

Time and the lie

The noble lie’s anticipation of a long and ruinous transformation for the city makes it impossible to say simply that Plato represses Hesiod’s temporality. Time does march on in the Republic’s city, and as it did in Works and Days time will march downward and worseward. [19]
But seeing that degree of commonality between the two talks of genos brings out the decisive difference between them, that the city opposite to the philosophers’ city lies nearly out of sight in the future, while the golden era so opposite to Hesiod’s time belongs fantastically invisible in the distant past. The lie does not deny time; it denies past time. It imagines no genê that demarcate the past, but rather defines the genê that will continue to exist even into the city’s declining future.
Moving the effective passage of the years into the future, the lie particularly hides the past revolutionary act by which an inflamed city (the Athens these philosophers are speaking in, for instance [20] ) becomes sane and natural. Those living in Athens watching it made into a new city will no doubt experience the seizure of power as tyrannical; but to the new city’s people that prelude to their constitution evanesces like a dream on a sunny morning. [21] The strategic transformation of history when kings philosophize or philosophers govern as kings has no place in the noble lie.
The lie is sometimes taken as a story told to the new city’s first generation, sometimes as a tale to be retold in every generation, as in a coming-of-age ritual. Socrates imagines lying in the first person singular (“I don’t know what words I’ll use to speak”), as if he will be imparting this lesson himself, therefore presumably not to all generations ahead but only to those citizens he can meet, therefore probably the first. But then the Republic describes all the city’s people as gold, silver, and so on, through to the city’s demise. That feature of the lie would require the godly installation of metals in every age, and the lie to each age about the metalworker god. [22]
To my mind the telling datum that decides between these readings is Glaucon’s answer to the question from Socrates whether those who hear the story are apt to believe it. “Not they themselves,” Glaucon says, “but their sons and the others who come after them.” [23] What can this consolatory sentence be envisioning? It can’t be the case for every generation that they disbelieve the lie only to have their descendants accept it. Even taking Glaucon’s words less literally than that, for him to imagine a more credulous future implies that those future generations will not be hearing the story told about themselves. Every generation will know where babies normally come from, and they won’t grow more ignorant of that basic fact of life. But “Your great-great-grandparents sprang up from the earth” – that I might convince you of, anyway more probably than I could have persuaded your great-great-grandparents about themselves.
The lie as confined to the first generation reveals itself as a lie about where the city came from, and denial of the coup d’état that in fact brought about the new constitution (or seemed to do so). Those outside the city may contemplate the union of kings with philosophers capable of forcing the city into existence. Those inside, and increasingly so as the city lives on increasing its own existent history, will believe that the city started out just like that, out of the ground as vines and grasses do.

Poetry’s dream language

As often happens when the dialogues appeal to poetry, the absorption of the poem into the dialectical conversation speaks to the general relationship between poetry and philosophy. Socrates reads Simonides in the Protagoras as support for his own account of virtue, but derives that result from the poem by enlisting it in a dialectical process that favors true statements above all else. [24] He makes poetry play the dialectical game of maximizing true statements.
In the Republic Socrates recites a limpened version of the Iliad’s opening episode, the permissible version of Homer for their new city’s people: all prose, no personages’ speeches, nor any promise of more of the story to come. This Homeric anecdote displays what poetry will look like after its trimming by philosophical censors. [25]
Philosophy consumes poetry sometimes showing in the act of consumption how philosophy defines itself against poetry.
The noble lie adds an element that as far as I know does not occur in any other such passage, when it tells the city’s first generation they had dreamt their childhood and education. For a word like genos as it appears in Hesiod, and the same word in the Republic, do not merely differ despite their identity. They are identical yet different somehow as dreams to waking experience.
The Greeks did not accept all dreams equally. The Iliad and Odyssey both attribute false dreams to Zeus, however blasphemous the Republic considers the claim of such deception. [26] And yet some version of the distinction remains in Plato: predictive dreams from the gods on one side, meaningless ordinary dreaming on the other side as the extract of thoughts from waking life. [27]
In allowing two possibilities for dreams Plato follows a tendency among those ancient authors who were not altogether skeptical about divine action in dreams. The dreams containing daytime thoughts and cares point back to memory not forward as premonitory dreams would do. Before Plato the same distinction appears in Herodotus; centuries later Macrobius elaborates it; and even Artemidorus, in the only ancient book of dream interpretation surviving to modernity, denies a dream’s predictive value if the dreamer’s waking experiences can account for what one sees when asleep. [28]
Socrates’ lie has the first new citizens dreaming before they were born. Of the two types possible, which kind of dream does he intend to tell them they’d had? Surely not a rehash of waking experiences when ex hypothesi they will have had no such experience. The young people waking to the new constitution have (as the story goes) dreamt their lives to that point as god-sent premonitory dreams of their lives henceforth. The akritomuthos dream, in Penelope’s words – “babbling, speaking to no clear effect” – of being in a city and around one’s fellow citizens gives way to the reality of occupying just that city along with just those fellows.And maybe we can say more, specifically, about how the new rulers might have read their own dream, despite the paucity of evidence about ancient dream-interpretive method. It does seem that dream interpretations could turn on the words in dreams, as when Alexander’s dream of a saturos “satyr” is read sa Turos “Tyre [is] yours,” the prediction that he will conquer Tyre; or when a dream about a ram becomes a promising omen thanks to the punning resemblance between krios “ram” and kreiôn “master.” In Plato’s childhood a comic character’s dream could portray someone as korax “crow” to set up the insulting reference to him as kolax “lickspittle.” Socrates himself ponders how to take the dream-command that he make mousikê “music, poetry, art,” considering the word a symbolic name for philosophy the greatest music. [29]
The near-misquotation in these readings of dream words goes more than a little way toward the Republic’s re-use of the Hesiodic genos. Alexander’s soothsayer makes “satyr” assert something new even while remaining the same, as Socrates also does cross-examining his own dream about music. And the putative underground dreamers saw (while dreaming) a world of genê, past generations as in Works and Days reaching back into mythic prehistory. They wake, or so the story goes – they are assured of having woken – into a city whose population is sorted into genê, types or kinds of people. Their dream of history, being translated, says they will live grouped according to their capacities.

Becoming, being

If the city is just and worth creating insofar as it observes the characteristics of justice, waking into the new order means waking from becoming into being. You had said genos only half understanding what the word could mean. You are awake now, Socrates will tell you, and able to see how the city you had heard your dream babble about organizes its population. The babble of your thoughts before the city’s founding illustrates one respect in which the best thinking done in the realm of becoming amounts to dreaming: not ignorant but not knowledgeable either. According to the noble lie, being merely dreams, dreams poetically if you like, of becoming. The task for the city’s first people is to wake up from the dream of the city’s own coming to be and forget that event, in what is also the act of waking from and forgetting poetry.
Maybe someday the realized city’s population, having heard this old story, will believe that the first human beings in their city dreamt of becoming. For now it’s all still a dream: the city, its people, the myth by which it founds itself then hides the unseemly particulars of its founding. It is talk resembling what lazy minds come out with. [30] For now in the city as it exists, unjust and fluctuant, becoming imagines how being would dream of becoming.


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Burkert, Walter. 1992. The Orientalizing Revolution: Near Eastern Influence on Greek Culture in the Early Archaic Age, trans. Margaret E. Pinder and Walter Burkert. Cambridge, MA.
Carson, Anne. 1992. “How Not to Read a Poem: Unmixing Simonides from ‘Protagoras.’” Classical Philology 87.2:110–130.
Charalabopoulos, Nikos. 2013. “Dreams, Autochthony, and Metals. Why does Kallipolis Need a Foundation Myth?” In Dialogues on Plato’s Politeia (Republic): Selected Papers from the Ninth Symposium Platonicum, ed. Noburu Notomi and Luc Brisson, 319–324. Sankt Augustin.
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———. 2021. Plato’s Exceptional City, Love, and Philosopher. London.
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———. 2007. “The Noble Lie.” In The Cambridge Companion to Plato’s Republic, ed. G. R. F. Ferrari, 138–164. Cambridge.
———. 2009. “Fraternité, inégalité, la parole de Dieu: Plato’s Authoritarian Myth of Political Legitimation.” In Plato’s Myths, ed. C. Partenie, 101–115. Cambridge.
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———. 2006b [1966]. “Hesiod’s Myth of the Races: A Reassessment.” In Vernant 2006:53–87.
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[ back ] 1. Some material in this discussion overlaps with Chapter 4 of Pappas 2021. The theme of near-misquotation however is specific to this paper.
[ back ] 2. Plato Republic 3.414b–415c. Socrates calls the lie a gennaion pseudos and accordingly it is commonly called the “noble lie.” G. R. F. Ferrari proposes referring to it as a “grand lie” instead, as one speaks of grand larceny. See Ferrari and Griffith 2000, 107n.6.
[ back ] 3. On Phoenician autochthony also see Plato Laws 2.6643–4. For the stereotype of Phoenician deceptiveness, see Odysseus on “a Phoenician man who knew how to lie,” Homer Odyssey 14.288; Strabo will say pseusma phoinikikon “Phoenician lie” in connection with an old tale of an oracle, speaking as if that phrase were proverbial, Geography 3.5.5. On Phoenicians and money-love see Homer Odyssey 14.287–289; Eumaios attributes his enslavement to trinket-trading Phoenicians, 15.415–418. Socrates calls Phoenicians (along with Egyptians) money-lovers: Plato Republic 4.436a1–2; the Athenian Stranger implies as much, Laws 5.747b–c. On the image of the Phoenicians, but also on complexities in that image see Sommer 2009. On the modern stereotype’s reinforcing ancient Semitic stereotypes see Burkert 1992, 36–38. The lie Phoenician in this sense, Charalabopoulos 2013, 320.
[ back ] 4. The lie explains the presence of metals in the citizens as the work of “the god” who inserts the metals underground while the citizens sleep: 3.415a. Only Hephaestus of all the gods works with metal and underground. He does not participate in Theban autochthony stories, but the Athenian story evidently begins with his attempt to rape Athena: “Apollodorus” Library 3.14.6. Tellingly, even some references to Athenian autochthony in Plato, though of course omitting sordid gossip about divine rape attempts, still include Hephaestus: Critias 109c–d, Timaeus 23d–e.
[ back ] 5. Plato Menexenus 237e.
[ back ] 6. Myth of metals, Plato Republic 3.415a–b; declining ages of humanity, Hesiod Works and Days 107–179. On the specific characteristics of this part of the lie see Schofield 2009, 105–106; also Schofield 2007.
[ back ] 7. Hesiod Works and Days 161–165. Odysseus among the Phaeacians asserts his superiority with bow and arrow though declining to compare himself to “men of previous times,” past archers like Heracles: Homer Odyssey 8.223–224.
[ back ] 8. Plato Republic 8.546e–547a. The verb dokimazein “evaluate” applies to human beings but also straightforwardly to metals, coins, and wines: Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics 3.10 1118a28, History of Animals 1.6 491a21; Isocrates Panathenaicus 39. Socrates draws on this literal sense of assay as he reconnects the genê with the metals used for coinage. See Van Noorden 2010.
[ back ] 9. Plato Republic: warning of decline, 3.415c; eugenics failure, 8.546a–d.
[ back ] 10. Plato Republic 3.415a–b.
[ back ] 11. Plato Republic: principle of unity, 2.369b; division of labor, 2.370c–d. Schofield 2009, 105–106 on the justification of hierarchy rather than fraternity by means of the lie.
[ back ] 12. Homer Odyssey 15.267. Xenophon On Hunting 3.1 approaches the transformation of genos from a word for family-relation to logical term when it identifies two kinds of dogs used in hunting. But those are clearly breeds, one of them produced by crossing dog with fox. Herodotus calls the seven castes of Egypt genê and links them with occupations, but the implication is that birth determines genos-placement. Elsewhere in Plato consider explicitly logical references to genos at Statesman 262a–263a, Parmenides 129c.
[ back ] 13. Homer: Menelaus, Iliad 3.215; Nestor, Odyssey 3.245. Each genos an age or generation in Hesiod Works and Days 109, 121, 127, 140, 143. [ back ] Jean-Pierre Vernant’s ground-clearing study of the ages in Hesiod undermines the manifest temporal reading of those ages that I am assuming here. But Vernant himself, in follow-up discussions, denies that his first interpretation had been meant to negate the Hesiodic sequence as chronology. See Vernant 2006a [1960], then Vernant 2006b [1966].
[ back ] 14. Plato Sophist: “One says there are three beings [onta], some of them warring with one another, and then making friends and having weddings and babies and feeding the children,” 242d–e; one such speaker might say that “the many or one or two are or became or are becoming,” 243b; tokous “babies,” 242d2.
[ back ] 15. Plato Sophist 268d. Homer Iliad Book 6: Diomedes tells the stranger to tell his history, 119; Glaucos tells of Bellerophon, 156–205; declares his genealogy told, 211; Diomedes about his own grandfather and the xenos relationship, 6.215–226.
[ back ] 16. The process called division receives its main illustration and methodological justification in Plato’s Sophist and Statesman. Note that in one methodological aside at Statesman 262a–263a the xenos instructs the young man named Socrates to seek a genos when dividing larger groups, not just a meros “part.” Division calls on a sense of genos firmly separated from both time and genetic relatedness.
[ back ] 17. Plato Sophist: Socrates says, “The gods accompany whichever human beings share [metechousin] in shame and justice,” 216b1 (from Homer Odyssey 9.270–271); gods disguise themselves and “visit cities,” 216a5–b2 (from Homer Odyssey 17.486).
[ back ] 18. For uses of xenos see e.g. Xenophon Hellenica 4.1.34. Sophocles Philoctetes: xenos used neutrally, 135, 219; meaning “guest,” 303, 404; with enmity, 791. Belfiore 1993/1994.
[ back ] 19. Do the stages of decline in Republic Book 8 match the Hesiodic five ages more closely than that? Van Noorden 2010 argues against a detailed parallel between the two. Although I find her arguments convincing, the question does not affect my point that Works and Days looks back and the Republic ahead, which is an additional difference.
[ back ] 20. Plato Republic 2.372e. The city that Glaucon recognizes as acceptable for human habitation contains so many luxuries that Socrates calls it phlegmainousa “swollen, inflamed.”
[ back ] 21. These last sentences assert more than I can argue for here. I develop the points in chapter 3 of Pappas 2021. Here I note that where the Laws pictures the founding of a new city, Socrates in the Republic sometimes speaks of their oikizein “founding” but in fact consistently imagines the act of changing an existent city, as opposed to creating a new one on unsettled ground. In the sharp Greek differentiation between founder and tyrant he speaks on the tyrant’s side. Grant what the Republic insists, that the resulting establishment will stand at the opposite extreme from tyranny. Even so the spontaneity of the takeover and its interruption of the old order mark the establishment of this new order as – to all appearances – tyrannical.
[ back ] 22. Plato Republic: Socrates in first person singular, 3.414d1–2; all citizens with metal, 3.415b–c, 3.416e–417a, 8.547a. Among recent commentators, I find the assumption that all citizens will hear the lie in Lear 2006 and McCoy 2020. Schofield 2006, 287–288 appears to read the lie as a tale told to all generations about the first.
[ back ] 23. Plato Republic 3.415c–d. I am grateful to Callum MacRae for conversations on this subject.
[ back ] 24. Plato Protagoras 339a–348a. I spell out my reading of the passage in Pappas 1989. Carson 1992 understands the passage differently. Where I find Socrates mixing his labor with the poem of Simonides, hence successfully enlisting poetry to advance a philosophical doctrine, she identifies the poetry in Simonides as that which does not mix with philosophy.
[ back ] 25. Plato Republic 3.393e–394a. Socrates breaks off his de-mimeticized Iliad just before Apollo comes to the Achaeans’ camp with a contagion that does not kill Agamemnon – on other words, with a harm from the gods that injures innocent people, which Socrates has already called an unlawful thing for poets to assert: 2.380a–c. So this is as far as the Iliad can go. Without Agamemnon’s yielding after the contagion he would not have angered Achilles; Achilles would not have sulked; and nothing else spoken of in the Iliad would have happened. Philosophy binds the poem but also amputates it.
[ back ] 26. Homer: false dream from Zeus to Agamemnon, Iliad 2.1–34; Penelope’s distinction between the dreams passing through ivory gate and through polished horn, Odyssey 19.560–569. On the condemnation of such claims by Socrates see Plato Republic 2.383a–b.
[ back ] 27. Plato: dreams as confusion of appearance with truth, Republic 5.476c–d, Theaetetus 158b–c; predictive dreams from gods, Timaeus 71e; implied, Crito 44b; dreams based on waking thoughts, Republic 9.571c (and may be implied in the Theaetetus passage cited).
[ back ] 28. Ancient skeptics about dreams include Aristotle On Sleep-Divination 463a25–27. Distinction between premonitory dreams from gods and the effect of the waking mind, Herodotus Histories 7.16b.2; Macrobius Commentary on the Dream of Scipio 1.3; Artemidorus Oneirocritica 1.2. An example of waking experience that undercuts the dream’s predictive meaning appears in Oneirocritica 4.59: Walde 1999; on the general distinction in antiquity see Lewis 1976, 19–20.
[ back ] 29. Alexander and satyr, Plutarch Life of Alexander 2.4.5; ram and master, Artemidorus Oneirocritica 2.12 (Artemidorus is writing late, when the epsilon-iota diphthong in Greek would have been pronounced much like the iota, thus enhancing the pun); crow and lickspittle, Aristophanes Wasps 42–45; Socrates and music, Plato Phaedo 60e–61b.
[ back ] 30. Plato Republic 5.458a.