Concordia discors: Eros and Dialogue in Classical Athenian Literature.

  Scholtz, Andrew. 2007. Concordia discors: Eros and Dialogue in Classical Athenian Literature. Hellenic Studies Series 24. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies.

Chapter 5. Satyr, Lover, Teacher, Pimp: Socrates and His Many Masks

What was the most amazing thing about Socrates? If we trust Alcibiades, it was that no one living or dead could compare to him. Any number of remarkable individuals shared with Socrates a trait or two, yet none could match that singular “strangeness” (atopia) of his (Plato Symposium 221c–d). What, then, made Socrates so different? Evidently no single thing, but one idiosyncrasy clearly ranked high on the list. We are told that Socrates was an erastês, a “lover”: of Alcibiades, of philosophy, and so on. Hence for the authors of Socratic literature [1] a theme: erôs as expression or summation of Socrates’ extraordinary nature. Take, for instance, Plato’s First Alcibiades. There, Socrates, indifferent to his beloved’s outward beauty, loves what no one else does: Alcibiades’ soul. That view of Socratic erôs as philia—“affection” or “friendship”—at its best and most intense finds wide resonance in Socratic literature. This erôs aims high: on the improvement of others, on wisdom, on immortality. In Plato’s Symposium, it is, to quote, Charles Kahn, “resolutely rationalistic.” [2]

In what follows, we shall do just that as we examine Socrates and his several masks: how they offer us a model of the dialogical self as a boundary phenomenon, a negotiation between self and other. To see how that works, it will help to illustrate the logic underlying the self-other distinction with a thought experiment testing Socrates’ supposed simplicity and purity. From that will emerge how the very notion of a simple Socrates generates its own heteros logos, its own alternative account.

The Socrates Question

Yet to keep self and other distinct, and the self pure, turns out to be less simple than might at first appear. For Derrida, to posit such distinctions necessarily casts otherness, all that lies outside the genuine article (in the present instance, the authentic self), in the role of contagion, an enemy-at-the-gates to be held at bay—a view Derrida deconstructs as utopian myth, a solipsistic nowhere. [9] But how does Socrates feel about it? It is curious that Plato’s Socrates, though seemingly more sanguine than Derrida about prospects for inner purity, at least acknowledges the main hurdle to achieving such a goal: the problem posed by borders themselves. Thus in the dialogue’s closing lines, Socrates prays that the gods will, among other things, grant him a fair interior (kalôi), an exterior to match, and the good sense to place a premium on wisdom, not gold. He prays, in other words, to be a philosopher through and through, though in so praying, seems to treat his interior as closer to his authentic self than his exterior; it is “me” (moi) as opposed to “what I have outside.” [10] Yet in laying claim to that outside, does not Socrates acknowledge some element of himself extending beyond his inner essence, which is to say, some element of his outside mixing with himself? What, then, if Socrates’ outer self really did fail to match the inner Socrates—if, say, Socrates were to present the appearance of a sophist or rhetorician while remaining true to philosophy internally? That is no idle question. In the Phaedrus, Socrates plays the sophist with consummate skill and considerable ambivalence. How deep, then, do we need to go for the pretense to end? Where does the outer edge of Socrates’ authentic, inner self lie?

But how detached from this skin is the inner Socrates? Curiously, as Alcibiades elaborates upon his sage-versus-silen contrast, we find that the grotesque exterior begins to infiltrate the exquisite interior. Thus Alcibiades, labeling Socrates a hubristês (215b; cf. 175e, 219c, 221e), that is, a perpetrator of outrage, describes how the music of Socrates’ logos, like the music of the satyr Marsyas, leaves those who listen dumbstruck and powerless. Yet Socrates’ hubristically bewitching logos cannot originate from his outer, supposedly libidinous self. Because it compels Alcibiades to feel so ashamed of his shallow ambitions that he turns his attention to the really important things (read “soul”), Socrates’ logos, however violent and satyr-like, must issue from, and express, his inner essence: his soul (215b–216c). But when we penetrate the corporeal exterior to explore the inner being, we still find features of Socrates’ hubristic and satyr-like skin (saturou…hubristou doran, 221e): those hackneyed analogies, which on closer inspection, reveal a unique kind of sense, but which, even when we go deep, are still there (221d–222a).

That paradox rises above the level of parlor trick if we think of it in relation to dialogue: different logoi ostensibly focused on a common object of thought. Thus Stilpo’s paradox forces us to ask whether we, as speakers asserting different things about Socrates, can really share between us one and the same vision. Put that way, the answer still seems to be “no”: no two of us envisions precisely the same Socrates. But what else are we talking about if not Socrates? And what else drives our dialogue if not the belief, the hope, that there is a graspable reality out there, an authentic Socrates transcending our individual constructions of him? But can dialogue ever bring us to that longed-for common ground if truly it is to remain dialogue, speech that enacts difference?

Socratic Maenadism in Aeschines Socraticus

Aeschines of Sphettus, called “Socraticus” (“of the Socratic circle”) to distinguish him from Aeschines the orator, may not be a household name today, but in antiquity he ranked in the forefront of Socratic authors. None of his works survives entire, but one yielding extensive fragments is the Alcibiades, in which Socrates strives to dissuade the title character from entering public life without first getting the knowledge he needs, not just in politics and military strategy, but in moral wisdom (aretê)—an education Socrates seems determined to offer the young man. [33] Judging from the remains, Socrates has his work cut out for him. Arrogant and irreverent (cf. 45–46 SSR), yet keen to make his mark in the assembly (cf. 42 SSR), Alcibiades will not gladly sit still for instruction. But matters are complicated by certain deficiencies on Socrates’ part. Claiming not to possess any technical expertise from which a youth in Alcibiades’ condition could benefit (53.4–5 SSR), Socrates reflects on the one thing he can count on, his erôs:

In consequence of the desire (erôs) which I happened to feel for Alcibiades, I had undergone an experience no different from a bacchant’s. For indeed, whenever they are possessed by the god (epeidan entheoi genôntai), they are able to draw milk and honey from sources that others cannot even draw water from. As for myself, though I knew nothing beneficial to teach anyone, still, I thought that by being with Alcibiades, I could, because of my erôs (dia to eran), improve him.

Aeschines Socraticus 53.22–27 SSR

Erôs, then, as catalyst of miracles, but how? And what can it mean that Socrates, in becoming the teacher he wants to, must take on the persona of a bacchant (bakkhê), whose very name could in ancient sources serve as a byword for a dangerous loss of self-control? Past scholarship, superimposing Socrates’ ostensibly sober self on his bacchic mask, has denied that Socrates here associates himself with mania, the divine rage regularly associated with bacchants and maenads. [
34] But unless we lay the mask on the outside, how can we pay the image its due? Framing Socrates’ pedagogy within his maenadic persona, I shall argue that Socrates’ mask draws him out of his normal self and locates him closer to his dialogical other. But possession by erôs, Socrates’ “Dionysus” and the inspiration for his intuitive teaching, carries with it evaluative two-sidedness. Thus as Socratic apologetic, Aeschines’ Alcibiades makes the case for Socrates’ good intentions and heroic efforts on behalf of his beloved pupil. Yet Socrates’ maenadism problematizes the risks Socrates takes and the impression his pedagogy will likely make.

What of the psychological-subjective dimension to this “outsidedness”? Simply put, when the god is in us/with us (when we are entheoi, when we are in ekstasis), that fundamentally involves the relocation of our “state” (stasis), our being, to our outside (ek). [51] So too, in a sense, do masks. Prominent in Dionysian cult and art, masks are not simply things to hide behind. Fixing the image of a different self to our outsides, they draw us outside ourselves; they free us to exist outside the normal ambit of our lives. But when, as in scenes depicted on “Lenaea” vases (masks and god’s attire set up as cult images), the disguise is not worn, but in and of itself embodies the god, [52] then the circuit of imitation brings us back again and again to the surface. For god as mask collapses image and original, surface and depth, into a single image-reality, “the concrete embodiment of the power of Dionysus,” who seizes possession of us by looking us straight in the eye—through his mask. [53] Similar can be said of bacchants and maenads. Though they went unmasked, their altered state showed itself like a mask at the surface. [54] But maenads can themselves mask. Thus in poetry, tragedy especially, a maenadic “mask of words” (“So-and-so rages like a bacchant”) will at times superimpose a transformative Dionysianism upon a character. [55] Just so in Aeschines’ Alcibiades, Socrates’ mask of words invests him with a bacchic persona, and his teaching, with a special kind of power.

That power can be clarified with reference to Deleuze’s “simulacrum,” a concept developed partly in response to Plato’s notion of the phantasm, the copy of a copy with no firm connection to an original at the end of the chain of imitation. Only in Deleuze, a “Dionysian machinery” assigns positive value to these simulacra. Like masks, they generate meaning on their own and draw power from the difference between themselves and the “realities” over which they are fitted. [56] And that, at least at a very basic level, seems to describe what is happening in our dialogue’s final sentences, where Socrates, to illustrate his case, pictures himself a wonder-working bacchant possessed by erôs. In several respects, this “mask” fits him poorly. He, a man, assumes a feminine persona; he, a proponent and teacher of epistêmê, rational knowledge, disavows any such of his own; he, in the throws of bacchic erôs, seeks to rein in the wayward ambitions of his young friend. Yet this mask, the source of his power, is the very thing that he has undergone (53.23–24 SSR). A “bacchant” now, he “plays his other”: [57] he has stepped outside his normal self and has embodied himself on the outside, closer to his dialogical other, but closer, too, to his anti-self, what he is not. As such, it responds not to his intention to make Alcibiades better but to his desire, his erôs, to do so, something over which Socrates as autonomous subject has absolutely no control. Like blood drawn to the body’s surface by the cold, Socrates’ erôs expresses the interpenetration of inside and outside, of action and passion.

I have said that Socrates’ bacchant’s mask responds not to intention but to desire. But we cannot simply ignore intention. Rather, we should view it, at least in the present instance, as indistinguishable from expression, and Socrates’ teaching, as rhetoric merging the two. For Socrates is, for the moment at least, all show. But so are his examples, interventions meant both to open up and to narrow the world of possibilities facing his pupil [58] —exercises, one might say, in masking, and as such, ambivalent, like Socrates’ bacchant’s mask. We see this especially in Socrates’ eulogy of Themistocles (50 SSR), a speech designed to leverage Alcibiades’ envy and ambition to maximum effect with minimal damage (cf. 49, 51 SSR). Thus Socrates, while praising Themistocles for winning favor with both Greeks and their bitter enemy, the Persian king (“such was the superiority of his intellect”), delicately sidesteps the whole issue of Themistocles’ role in letting the Persians escape back to Asia. According to Herodotus, Themistocles, falsely taking credit for the idea (cornered in Europe, the retreating Persians might have put up a stout resistance and prevailed), did so in order to ingratiate himself with the Persian king, should Themistocles ever find himself in need of refuge abroad. [59] And need one he would, though Socrates, in discussing Themistocles’ exile, judiciously airbrushes the general’s “Medizing,” all the aid and comfort he ended up providing to the Persian enemy, out of the scene. [60] For Socrates stresses instead Themistocles’ great good fortune even in exile (50.32–35 SSR). Yet Themistocles’ disfranchisement and expulsion cannot but betoken what Athens finally thought of its native son, or illustrate the depths to which Themistocles’ fortunes sank as a result of his imperfect wisdom. [61]

As to the effect Socrates’ words have over their intended target, overcome, Alcibiades collapses in Socrates’ lap and weeps (46.9–15; 51.6–7, 17–18; 52 SSR). But does that signify a breakthrough on Alcibiades’ part? Possibly, though it may only signify how mortified Alcibiades is by how far short of his role model he has fallen—so much so that, in having failed in the care of himself, he has so far risen no higher than the vulgar herd, as Socrates seems to imply (50.41–43 SSR; cf. 51.1–13 SSR = Aristeides 3.576–577). True, Alcibiades now desires aretê (virtutem: 52 SSR = Cicero Tusculan Disputations 3.32.77–78), but the surviving fragments provide no clear indication whether that will be that higher sort of moral wisdom (aretê) Socrates cares about, or the kind of “manly excellence” (aretê) Alcibiades envies in Themistocles. At all events, Themistocles, in offering Alcibiades this simulacrum of greatness achieved through a mix of wisdom and cunning, of achievement both enviable and surpassable, offers the young man a seductive glimpse into his future. It is the persona Alcibiades will himself someday assume.

Socrates seems at this point to be getting unnecessarily exercised: no one yet is talking about an impiety trial. But that bit of foreshadowing (Socrates will be tried, convicted, and executed for impiety in 399 BCE) conveys Socrates’ own misgivings that, to those outside his circle, even perhaps to an ambivalent Alcibiades, his pedagogy must come across as impious rationalism. Note the element of masking, its power both to reveal and to conceal. To Socrates’ critics, this “mask,” his sophist’s persona, projects a dangerous sort of “madness,” the kind of madness that Strepsiades, fed up with Socrates’ teaching, seeks to incinerate in Aristophanes’ Clouds (1476–1509). Still, as Socrates sees it, his critics have got it all wrong. Failing to apprehend what this mask “really” projects, they miss his deeply felt religiosity, not to mention the irrational source of his teaching: his erôs to improve others. But even there, Socrates’ zeal to help destabilizes. Daunted by Alcibiades’ nearly incorrigible arrogance, Socrates tries to get through to the youth by means of a role-model whose triumphs and failures prefigure those of Socrates’ pupil.

Has, then, Socrates’ knowledge deficit got the better of him? Xenophon, that unflagging advocate for his one-time teacher, concedes in passing that the philosopher would have done well to teach prudence (sôphronein) first, then politics, to his “companions” (Memorabilia 1.2.17)—a curious admission, since it hints that Socrates, even if he did nothing actively to inflame Critias’ or Alcibiades’ wayward ambitions, could at least have done more to curb them. In Aeschines, Socrates definitely makes the effort, but like a bacchant, he draws on dry wells. For the trick to work, it would take a miracle.

Philosophy versus Demerasty in Plato’s Gorgias

Let us begin at the dialogue’s turning point, where Callicles feels he can no longer sit on the sidelines as Socrates, summing up positions he has charted out in conversation with Gorgias and Polus, combines two arguments: (1) that rhetoric, a spurious kind of persuasion analogous to the confectioner’s art, serves no useful purpose in a well-run state; and (2) that it is better to suffer than to do harm. Argument (1) Socrates qualifies tongue-in-cheek with (2): rhetoric serves a valid purpose only when used to procure just and salutary punishment for ourselves or our friends, or to “harm” enemies by saving them from same (480a–481b). Which is to say, rhetoric is justified only when used altruistically, which is never.

Aware that he is losing his audience, Socrates tries to reconnect:

It has occurred to me that you and I, even as we speak, are in the throes of one and the same passion. For the two us feel erôs, each for a different pair of beloveds: you for the Athenian dêmos and for Demos son of Pyrilampes; I for Alcibiades, son of Cleinias, and for Philosophy.

Plato Gorgias 481d

Why bring up eros? Comments Dodds, “Socrates is trying to find common ground to make Callicles understand his passion for truth.” [
71] In proposing that it is better to suffer than to do harm, Socrates challenges conventional wisdom, and in so doing, signals his disconnection from society, present company included. Yet in so doing, Socrates merely echoes his beloved philosophy; with that, surely a lover like Callicles can sympathize. For, as Socrates has just finished explaining, there can be no communication without shared consciousness:

Callicles, what if there were no single emotion human beings shared—not exactly the same for each person, but basically the same? What if each of us instead felt something unique to each and foreign to the others? To explain to someone else what it was that one felt would not, in that case, be easy.

Plato Gorgias 481c–d

Again, quoting Dodds, “Communication is possible only on the basis of some community of experience…” [
72] Here, Socrates addresses an important aspect of the sociality of language: shared consciousness (Socrates speaks of shared emotion, but that can be generalized to shared experience, values, etc.) as basis for shared speech. We see, then, Socrates at work trying to forge with Callicles that first link in Vološinov’s ideological chain. If love is more than a word to each, then “I love” or “you love” becomes more than information. It becomes, potentially, at least, a moment of identification, of social bonding.

Let me illustrate with Plato’s First Alcibiades, [75] where Socrates makes much of the exceptional character of his erôs for the title character. Yet it is the sense, not the essence, of his erôs that is exceptional. On one level, erôs is no more than a word. But when Socrates says, “I love” (erô, philô), something very special happens. Thus Socrates, doggedly following Alcibiades around, as Alcibiades puts it, “harassing me” (enokhleis me, 104d), exhibits overtly erotic behavior. Nothing special there: so have plenty of others. [76] Yet Socrates’ erôs, love not of body but of soul, sets Socrates apart from rivals (131c–e). In pedagogical terms, that translates as mentoring; for a budding statesman like Alcibiades, Socrates’ attentions model how to lead. But so does the wrong-way erôs of demagogic dêmos-lovers (dêmerastai) whose ranks, Socrates fears, Alcibiades may join (132a). Socialized into the city’s values and eager to please, the demagogue receives upon himself the imprint of the dêmos’ moral stupidity, which he then imprints right back on the dêmos. [77] Compare that to Socrates’ right-way approach: along the vertical axis, a properly top-down pederasty, pedagogy, and politics channeling goodness on high to those below (105d–106a, 106c–d, 118c–d, 132b, 134b–c, 135b); along the horizontal, a spiritually uplifting dialogue, erastês to erastês, producing mutual benefit (132d–133c, 135d–e). Thus to alter the sense, the directionality, of erôs is to reappraise its objects: on the one hand, “real” beauty and knowledge, on the other hand, simulacra of same, an erôs that, for Socrates, at least, will feel as if it is headed the wrong way.

Socrates does not, of course, come out and accuse Callicles of being a kolax-bugger outright, but Socrates’ arguments are not hard to follow, and Callicles reacts accordingly (521b, 494e). As for his being cast as dêmos-lover (481d, 513c), he cannot have found it much to his liking. Callicles despises “the many,” in other words, the dêmos, for their natural weaknesses, and regards it as scandalous that the system permits sons of the elite to be brainwashed into the slave mentality holding them and their fathers back (483b–484c). In point of ideology, Socrates and Callicles are closer than one might think; for both, popular sovereignty leaves much to be desired, only Callicles refuses to face his complicity in a system he detests, whereas Socrates has nothing to be ashamed of. Hence Socrates’ use of the demerast characterization: fraught with all sorts of negative connotations, it is meant to shame Callicles into reconsidering his position.

If there is no right-way demerasty, then what takes it place? For Socrates, that will be erôs for philosophy (481d–482a). Only from philosophy could Socrates have gained the political expertise (tekhnê, 521d; cf. 500b–d) that he opposes to rhetoric, its simulacrum (eidôlon, 463d); only through knowledge of justice, implicitly, a gift of philosophy, can one become an orator “the right way” (orthôs, 508c). At no point does Socrates actually state that he intends to convert Callicles to philosophy. Still, Socrates and Callicles seem to recognize that their debate will necessarily oppose the competing claims of philosophy and practical rhetoric (484c–486d, 487e–488a, 500c). But Callicles also offers Socrates an opportunity not to be missed: to win over so worthy an opponent “will demonstrate these convictions,” those held by Socrates, “to be true” (486e). Framed as it is by Socrates’ passionate devotion to his mistress, this desire for a meeting of minds, though it may not itself qualify as erôs in the strictest sense, carries the stamp of the erotic.

This tendentious side to Socrates’ discourse comes to the fore not least when Socrates, having professed his love for philosophy, then proceeds to “frontload” it into his arguments with a view to biasing discussion in his favor. What do I mean by “frontloading”? When subject matter exerting its own field of force (“Let us consider beauty / God / truth”) is put up for debate, as philosophy is in Plato’s Gorgias, then it can take an act of will to approach it dispassionately. At that point, the grounding of discussion can begin to resemble the effort to impose a shared consciousness: discussants will either be drawn to the premise like a magnet or will just as automatically resist. To all appearances, dialogue proceeds as it should, yet all on its own, the discursive focus imposes a “center-seeking” (centripetal) dynamic, or else so polarizes dialogue as to end it.

In the Gorgias, frontloading happens during Socrates’ opening speech to Callicles, specifically, when he challenges his interlocutor to refute not his word but that of his beloved philosophy (482a–b), which becomes thereby both a focus of discussion and a party to debate. In so doing, Socrates risks alienating Callicles, for whom, as Socrates well knows, philosophy holds little appeal (487c–d). Still, Socrates goes ahead anyway to illustrate how this lady-love of his offers him a privileged subjectivity within society, a subjectivity wedded to and derived from a higher and unvarying source of authority. Out of sync with the rest of humanity, Socrates will, at least, be in sync with himself, all thanks to his beloved philosophy (cf. 482b–c). That shifts the burden of argument upon Callicles. If Socrates fails to convince Callicles, Socrates will be none the worse for wear. If, however, Callicles fails to convince Socrates, Callicles, ever the slave to his fickle beloveds, must find himself at variance with himself. Philosophy, by contrast, never changes her tune because she does not have to. The logic is compelling, if circular. To all intents and purposes, philosophy’s constancy marks both the starting point and goal of Socrates’ reasoning. Does Callicles notice? I should say he does. Quoting Euripides, Callicles supposes that Socrates behaves no differently from the common run of humanity: he validates his personal strengths and preferences by presenting them as if naturally superior to the alternative (484e–485a).

To be fair, Callicles defends egocentricism and Realpolitik no less tendentiously. Charging Socrates with a kind of ivory-tower naïveté, he warns his “friend” to get with the program or suffer the consequences (482c–486d). Conceding philosophy’s charms, he belittles them. For Callicles characterizes philosophy as a childish pursuit, a toy to be discarded by grown-ups (484c–486a). Thus for Callicles to be won over to philosophy would, at least from his perspective, amount to surrendering his manhood—not his masculinity per se, but all that entitles him, a free and fully grown man of quality (a kalos k’agathos, 484d), to pursue his ambitions. Yet each of our two discussants impugns the other’s manhood: Callicles when he faults Socrates for refusing to grow up and learn the techniques of judicial self-defense, Socrates when he implies that Callicles stoops to kolakeia, even kinaidia, in courting his beloveds as he does.

Socratic Pandering in Xenophon’s Symposium

“But the way I see it, we should remember men of quality not just for their serious accomplishments, but also for the things they have done in a more playful mood.” So begins Xenophon’s Symposium, a dialogue dramatizing a drinking party notable for the wit and wisdom evinced by the kaloi k’agathoi, the “men of quality,” in attendance. But Xenophon tests limits when he has Socrates masquerade as that most immoderate, inconstant, and self-compromised of characters: a pimp. For how can this mask, one that, if taken at “face” value, expresses everything disreputable, confirm Socrates as a kalos k’agathos? As we shall see, Xenophon’s Symposium shows Socrates “playing his other,” his anti-self, as a way of negotiating relationships with dialogical others. Because a mask, pimping distances the man behind it from skills that notoriously drew to him the likes of Critias and Alcibiades, Socrates’ two most infamous pupils. Yet this mask also reveals the networker—the “pimp”—in Socrates, and therefore his ability to reach out and compromise with a paradoxical kind of grace.

Bragging Rights

What do these guests and their host take pride in? Antisthenes, a poor man, boasts of his “wealth,” meaning his poverty, because it easily supports his frugal life-style (3.8, 4.34–45). Charmides, likewise impecunious, wears poverty as a badge of honor: it frees him from care (3.9, 4.30). We can think of that in terms of mask and sense. Thus Antisthenes and Charmides don the mask of the eudaimôn, the man fortunate in his material situation, not to conceal their poverty but to reveal their sense of it, the ways in which each has reconciled himself to his situation.

But in so doing, they obviously decline to play Callias’ game straight. That is, they avoid the kind of unambiguous self-aggrandizement that, for instance, Gorgias models in Plato’s like-named dialogue (449a). But so do most of Xenophon’s other players. Thus Hermogenes, showing off his piety, at first boasts only of his “friends” (philoi, 3.14), later revealed to be the gods. Yet he represents those “friendships” as a kind of cheap flattery: powerful protectors, the gods dispense favor cheaply in return for praise (4.49). Similar can be said of low characters whose “boasts” speak frankly of their disreputable professions (3.11, 4.50, 4.55). Even Autolycus, whose victory would seem to provide obvious bragging rights, will take credit only for having a good father (3.12–13).


Taking stock, we have so far been exploring Socrates’ pimping on two levels: as a serio-comic way to think about Socrates’ skill at negotiating the complexities of social networking; as Xenophon’s spin on his erstwhile mentor’s unique sort of pedagogy, a way, in other words, for Xenophon to negotiate the fit between the principled if versatile philosopher he champions, and the sophist attacked in polemics that preoccupy the first book of the Memorabilia. In either case, Socrates’ pimp’s mask says something important about its wearer, namely, that Socrates, for all his uncompromising idealism, recognized the importance of surface as interface between inner and outer being. We see that, among other places, in the philosopher’s conversation with Pistias the armorer. There, Socrates establishes that the well-proportioned breastplate follows no absolute rule, but adapts itself to the shape and needs of the one inside; it is all a matter of fit (Xenophon Memorabilia 3.10.9–15). Similar can be said of painting and sculpture, where outer form manifests inner character and feeling (êthos and pathos, 3.10.1–8). Those principles can be extended outward toward the observer, and so they are in Socrates’ pimping lecture (3.11.7–14), where the impression—visual, verbal, and so on—one leaves on others, though it originates from within oneself, from one’s soul, is articulated at, and emanates from, the surface. As for whether it does so to the betterment of all concerned, that depends on how well it negotiates the fit between inner and outer being; there can be no one-size-fits-all good. [106] Socrates, then, in lecturing the hetaira, offers more than an antidote to the hetaira’s charms. He offers a lesson in how to project a self well-adapted to mediating the self-other divide.

Still, like a pair of bookends, evocations of Socratic pandering frame that speech: on the one hand, where Antisthenes, professing love for Socrates, mischievously suggests his beloved pimps himself (mastrope sautou) by playing hard to get (8.4–5), on the other, where Callias divines from Socrates’ love speech that this supposed pimp intends to pimp for him (8.42). Why would Callias think that? Having offered various reflections on Ouranian love, Socrates shifts from the general to the particular when he takes up the question of how so excellent and worthy a youth as Autolycus ought to be courted. How else but for the erastês to prove himself a worthy partner to his beloved’s endeavors (8.37–38)? Taking his cue from the fame Autolycus will win in the public eye, Callias must likewise make a name for himself—something, we gather, that Callias has yet to do. But Callias, unlike Autolycus, will pursue fame not in war or sport but in politics. Callias needs, then, to gain the necessary knowledge:

If, then, you would prove yourself agreeable (areskein) to the lad, you should consider the types of knowledge that equipped Themistocles for the freeing of Greece, or what it was that Pericles had learned that made him the perfect statesman in the eyes of his countrymen (kratistos edokei). But you should also consider how Solon’s philosophy established for his city such excellent (kratistous) laws, or how Spartan training confers on Spartans the aspect of great commanders (kratistoi dokousin hêgemones einai).

Xenophon Symposium 8.39

The word kratistos ‘excellent,’ ‘best’, used three times in the preceding passage, has already been used by Socrates to describe the suitor who will “best” guide Autolycus on the path to glory (8.38). But Socrates speaks here in terms not just of being, but of seeming to be, best (kratistos). Thus it was in seeming (edokei) to be the best counselor of the dêmos that Pericles’ political expertise proved of value to him. So, too, Spartans profit from their rigorous training by seeming (dokousin) to be great commanders. Does that mean that Callias, in cultivating the appearance of excellence, can afford to neglect its substance? Not exactly. Elsewhere in Xenophon (Memorabilia 2.6.39; Cyropaedia 1.6.22), the reality of virtue offers the best route to the appearance of it, and nothing in Socrates’ Symposium speech contradicts that. [

Still, unless Callias can leverage appearances, he will fail in his bid for glory and for Autolycus, too. Socrates’ focus accordingly shifts as he touts what campaign managers today would refer to as Callias’ “positives.” Callias comes from noble stock and holds a prestigious priesthood; he has one of the most attractive bodies in town, though a body ready to endure hardship. This is not Socrates speaking through his wine, this comes from the heart. Both he and the city have never ceased to be lovers, sunerastai, of such men—men of a noble nature, men ambitious to excel in virtue. Men, in other words, like Callias (8.40–41).

Autolycus’ gaze is by now riveted on Callias, and Callias’ on Autolycus, though the older man does manage a response to Socrates’ effusions: “So I suppose, then, you’ll pimp me to the city? That way as a politician I’ll never cease being agreeable to it” (8.42). Or, for that matter, to Autolycus. “Agreeable” here translates the adjective arestos, cognate with the verb areskein, used by Socrates to describe both the agreeableness of prostitutes decked out by their mastropoi, and the agreeableness Socrates seeks to instill in his host to make him a more attractive erastês to Autolycus.

And so when Socrates has finished with his lecture on love, Lycon, Autolycus’ father and Socrates’ future prosecutor, will pay the sage that highest of tributes: he will pronounce him a kalos k’agathos, a “man of quality.” But note how Lycon expresses that not in terms of core essence but of outward appearance: “By Hera, Socrates, you certainly do appear to me a person of quality!” (kalos ge k’agathos dokeis moi anthrôpos, 9.1). One senses in those words genuine appreciation, but also recognition of the role of surfaces, of seeming, and with that, maybe a hint of doubt.


[ back ] 1. Plato, Xenophon, Antisthenes, Aeschines Socraticus, et al.—third-century prose-authors writing about Socrates, his circle, and related topics. See SSR.

[ back ] 2. Kahn 1992:592, which see passim. Newell 2000 contrasts the Platonic Socrates’ transcendental erôs with thumos, a lower-order possessiveness. Cf. Ober 1998:198 on a “philosophy-loving (ergo strictly rational…)” Socrates in Plato’s Gorgias. Contrast Vlastos 1987:90–93: Socratic erôs (limited tolerance of sensual pleasure, non-transcendental) versus Platonic (a non-physical divine rage). Socratic erôs as desire to improve others (Bessermachen): Döring 1984; Ehlers 1966. Socrates’ critique of non-philosophic erôs in Plato’s Lysis: Nightingale 1993:114–116.

[ back ] 3. E.g. Plato Symposium 210b–c, 216d, 222a–b; Xenophon Memorabilia 4.1.2.

[ back ] 4. Plato Symposium 188d, 196c; Laws 711d; Xenophon Symposium 1.10.

[ back ] 5. Vlastos 1987:88 cites Plato Protagoras 309a; Gorgias 481d; Charmides 155c–e; Meno 76c; Xenophon Symposium 8.2. See also Dover 1989:154–155. Heteroerotic interests: Aristoxenus fr. 54a.15–16, 54b.12; Xenophon Memorabilia 3.11.3.

[ back ] 6. Plato Symposium 216d–e, on which Vlastos 1987:90.

[ back ] 7. Polycephelous, serpentine, fiery, cacophonous Typhoeus/Typhon: Tsifakis 2003:94–95; Gantz 1993:48–51.

[ back ] 8. Socrates will portray sophists and rhetoricians as highly versatile with “comparisons and disguises” with which to spin truth, facts, etc.: Plato Phaedrus 261c–e. Cf. Republic 382e, god as “a thing simple and true” (haploun kai alêthes).

[ back ] 9. Derrida 1981:100–104.

[ back ] 10. Plato Phaedrus 279b–c. Cf. Socrates as lover of Alcibiades himself (his soul), not “what is yours” (physical beauty): Plato First Alcibiades 131e.

[ back ] 11. Cf. the “first” or “primary distinction” and Spencer-Brown’s logic of distinctions: Neuman 2003:89–98.

[ back ] 12. Gestalt here in the sense of perceptions from which the mind produces progressively more organized formations: Neuman 2003:100; Brandist 2002b:533–536; Brandist 2002a:21–22; Holquist 1990:14–39; Vološinov 1986:29–30.

[ back ] 13. Mirroring: Neuman 2004.

[ back ] 14. Bakhtin 1990:30. Cf. Holquist 1990:18 on Bakhtin on dialogical consciousness (“In dialogism, the very capacity to have consciousness is based on otherness”); Neuman 2003:143–156.

[ back ] 15. Bakhtin 1990:51; more generally 4–59; Neuman 2004:61–62.

[ back ] 16. Cf. Neuman 2003:102–104.

[ back ] 17. Vlastos 1987:86.

[ back ] 18. Plato Symposium 215b; Xenophon Symposium 4.19, 5.7.

[ back ] 19. Padgett 2003:27. Satyrs and silens (anthropoid often with equine features, sex- and drink-addicted) mediate culture and nature, the human and the Dionysian: Isler Kerényi 2004; Padgett 2003; Lissarrague 1993.

[ back ] 20. Alcibiades’ speech as praise oratory (encomium): North 1994; Nightingale 1993:123–127.

[ back ] 21. Plato Symposium 216c–217a, 221e; cf. 175e; Plato Republic 337a, for which Vlastos 1987:81; Gooch 1985.

[ back ] 22. Cf. Neuman 2003:105–106 on Deleuze 1990:9.

[ back ] 23. Antisthenes fr. 99 SSR; Xenophon Symposium 8.4; Plato Phaedrus 257b; Symposium 173b; Protagoras 317d; Edmonds 2000; Kahn 1992:587–588; Halperin 1986.

[ back ] 24. Reversal in Alcibiades’ erôs for Socrates: Wohl 2002:161–169; Edmonds 2000:272–277.

[ back ] 25. Edmonds 2000:275. Gagarin 1977 attributes Socrates’ failure as teacher of Alcibiades to Socrates’ hubris, his antisociality generally and refusal to consummate his erôs for Alcibiades. For Socrates’ hubris here, also North 1994:94–98.

[ back ] 26. Deleuze 1990:10.

[ back ] 27. That appears to be a corollary of the dictum that no subject can validly carry a predicate other than itself, e.g. horses are horses and running is running, but horses are not running (Stilpo 29 SSR).

[ back ] 28. Cf. Stoic use of paradox as linguistic thought-experiment: Chrysippus in Diogenes Laertius 7.187; Brunschwig and Lloyd 2000:357–358, 382–383 on Megarians and Stoics; Deleuze 1990:8–9.

[ back ] 29. Carson 1986:30. Cf. Diotima in Plato Symposium 202a, 203e on erôs as metaxu, “a median between contraries” (Gagarin 1977:27).

[ back ] 30. Carson 1986:30.

[ back ] 31. Vlastos 1987:90; cf. Plato Symposium cf. 216c–d.

[ back ] 32. Socrates’ atopia (‘nowhere-ness,’ ‘strangeness’): Plato Symposium 175a, 215a; 221d. Eide 1996 understands Socratic atopia in the scientific-mathematical sense of “‘illogical’, ‘inconsistent’, ‘contradictory’” (60); cf. Kofman 1998:18–21.

[ back ] 33. Aeschines Socraticus and his Alcibiades: SSR vol. 3 pp. 605–610 (VI A 41–54), vol. 4 pp. 585–591; Giannantoni 1997; Kahn 1994; Joyal 1993; Ehlers 1966; Taylor 1934:10–19; Dittmar 1912.

[ back ] 34. “Maenad” (mainas) and “bacchant” (bakkhê): female worshippers of Dionysus, god of wine and madness. “Maenadism”: the mental state and demeanor of maenads-bacchants. Non-manic Socrates in Aeschines Socraticus: Kahn 1994:104; Vlastos 1987:91n42; Ehlers 1966:22; contrast Taylor 1934:14–15.

[ back ] 35. Taylor 1934:9.

[ back ] 36. Plato Apology 19d–e; Menexenus 236a; Symposium 175d–e, 177d–e (erôs his sole expertise), 216d; Laches 186c; Xenophon Memorabilia 1.2.3, 1.2.7–8. Socrates acknowledges-boasts of his reputation for teaching: Xenophon Apology 21.

[ back ] 37. Kahn 1994:92–94, 101–102; Döring 1984; Gaiser 1969; Ehlers 1966:10–25, 85–95; Gaiser 1959:92–95.

[ back ] 38. Untaught in virtue, Socrates does not teach it: Plato Laches 186b–c. Diotima Socrates’ teacher in erôs: Plato Symposium 201d–212c. Aspasia in rhetoric, matchmaking: Plato Menexenus 235e–236a; Xenophon Memorabilia 2.6.36; Oeconomicus 3.14. See Morrison 1994:198–203.

[ back ] 39. Bessermachen: Ehlers 1966, aspects of whose views are picked up by Giannantoni 1997:362–363; Kahn 1994; Joyal 1993; Döring 1984:17–25.

[ back ] 40. Aeschines Socraticus 46, 49, 50.3–5, 50.32–41 SSR. According to Döring 1984:20–21n11, the specific charge against Themistocles will have been that of aiding the Persian foe.

[ back ] 41. Kahn 1994:103–106; Kahn 1992:590; Ehlers 1966:22 and n30 with bibliography.

[ back ] 42. Plato Ion 534a, for which Murray 1996:112–125. For poetic madness, cf. Plato Phaedrus 245a.

[ back ] 43. Plato’s ambivalence about mania-inspiration: Murray 1996:10–12.

[ back ] 44. Plato Ion 534b; see Murray 1996:118.

[ back ] 45. Henrichs 1994:37.

[ back ] 46. Aeschines Socraticus 53.4–7, 10–15, 22–27 SSR. Cf. theia moira in Plato Ion.

[ back ] 47. Clinical mania-possession: Aretaeus De causis et signis acutorum morborum book 2 1.6.11 (entheos . . . maniê); Henrichs 1994:34–35.

[ back ] 48. Cf. Taylor 1934:14–15.

[ back ] 49. Henrichs 1994:36 (my translation); see generally 35–38.

[ back ] 50. Cf. Demosthenes 18.259–260, for which Wankel 1976:1132–1134.

[ back ] 51. Murray 1996:118; Henrichs 1994:37.

[ back ] 52. Cf. Dionysus mask-faces: Tarquinia, Museo Nazionale, RC 1804; François Vase, Florence, Museo Archeologico 4209. See Isler Kerényi 2001:89; Csapo 1997:255–258; Seaford 1996:39, 186; Henrichs 1993:36–39.

[ back ] 53. Csapo 1997:257–258.

[ back ] 54. Insensitivity to cutting, piercing, cold, fire; the visual impression left by their demeanor, visage, clothing, accoutrements: Seaford 1996:32–38, 186, 222; Bremmer 1984:268–273.

[ back ] 55. E.g. Iliad 22.460; Euripides Hippolytus 550–551. See Schlesier 1993:94–97 et passim.

[ back ] 56. Reversing Plato’s deprivileging of copies, images of images, etc.: Deleuze 1990:253–279.

[ back ] 57. For the phrase and the concept, Zeitlin 1996.

[ back ] 58. Cf. Rushton 2002 on Deleuze on faces.

[ back ] 59. Herodotus 8.103–109. For spin in Socrates’ speech, cf. Aristeides 3.576–577 (= Aeschines Socraticus 51.1–13 SSR) on praise, censure modulated with a view to damage control vis-à-vis Alcibiades. Themistocles has a mixed reception in the historiographical tradition, e.g. Herodotus 8.108–112; Thucydides 1.135–138; Plutarch Themistocles.

[ back ] 60. Unmentioned in the text, but noted by Kahn 1994:93 n19; Döring 1984:20–21n11.

[ back ] 61. Aeschines Socraticus 50.38–41 SSR, cf. 48; Ehlers 1966:15.

[ back ] 62. Schlesier 1993:99, 108–112 on Phaedra in Euripides Hippolytus.

[ back ] 63. Aeschines Socraticus 50.43–50 SSR. Tyche ‘Fortune’ figures as personification starting with Hesiod (Theogony 360), as cult figure perhaps as early as mid sixth century BCE (Smyrna); Tyche and Agathe Tyche (“Good Fortune”) in Athenian cult from at least 392/1 BCE: Hamdorf 1964:37–39, 97–100.

[ back ] 64. Speakers in the dialogue: Dodds 1959:6–17.

[ back ] 65. See e.g. Newell 2000:9–41; Nichols 1998:1–24; Gentzler 1995; Dodds 1959:1–17. See the review of scholarship in Zappen 2004:120–124. Related is Ober 1998:190–213 on the inadequacy of philosophy to make a difference under rhetorocratic democracy.

[ back ] 66. Early Plato, including Gorgias, as carnivalized dialogue: Zappen 2004:12–15, 45–66, 117–140; Bakhtin 1984a:109–112, 132–133; Bakhtin 1981:24–26.

[ back ] 67. See p. 57 above.

[ back ] 68. Vasiliou 2002:227–229.

[ back ] 69. Cf. eirôneia ‘prevarication’ as irksome: Plato Republic 337a; Aristotle Nichomachean Ethics 1108a21–23; Theophrastus Characters 1.1–2. See Vasiliou 2002; Michelini 1998b:51–52; Vlastos 1987:80–83.

[ back ] 70. Atopia ‘strangeness,’ ‘absurdity,’ ‘inconsistency’ and irony in Plato’s Gorgias: Turner 1993.

[ back ] 71. Dodds 1959:261; cf. Ober 1998:197–198.

[ back ] 72. Dodds 1959:261; cf. Rocco 1995–1996:369.

[ back ] 73. Chrysippus in Diogenes Laertius 7.187, on which Deleuze 1990:8.

[ back ] 74. Sense: Deleuze 1990. The sense of “I love you”: Neuman 2004:63; pp. 50–51 above.

[ back ] 75. Questions of authenticity will not concern us here. Pro-authenticity: Denyer 2001:14–26.

[ back ] 76. Plato First Alcibiades 103a. Erotic harassing-following: Aeschines 1.139; Dover 1989:48, 54–57.

[ back ] 77. Plato First Alcibiades 110d–112d, 120a–b. Cf. demagogues dazed and brainwashed by the crowd’s uproar: Plato Republic 492b–c, on which Denyer 2001:139, 226

[ back ] 78. E.g., Plato Gorgias 487a; see Monoson 1994:161–165.

[ back ] 79. Sophistic and rhetoric as branches of kolakeia (along with cookery, cosmetics, poetic entertainment): Plato Gorgias 463a–467a; cf. 501c–503a, 513d, 521b.

[ back ] 80. Cf. Ober 1998:197–206.

[ back ] 81. Plato Gorgias 453c, 454c, 457c–458b, 472b–c; Nichols 1998:136; Gentzler 1995:25–27.

[ back ] 82. E.g. the chance to clarify one’s position: Plato Gorgias 489d–e. See Gentzler 1995:33–34.

[ back ] 83. Ambivalently at Plato Gorgias 513c; see Ober 1989:190–213.

[ back ] 84. Gentzler 1995:42 et passim.

[ back ] 85. See p. 85 above.

[ back ] 86. Cf. Dodds 1959:16–17.

[ back ] 87. Dodds 1959:3–4.

[ back ] 88. Date of composition, dramatic date, occasion: Huß 1999:71–73.

[ back ] 89. Niceratus seems to be the only player whose boast, expertise in Homer, plays it straight. For that, he is gently teased: Xenophon Symposium 3.5–6, 4.6–9.

[ back ] 90. See Michelini 1998b:53–56.

[ back ] 91. Cf. stereotyping of the brothel keeper (foreign born, sexually passive) in Herodas’ second mime; the kollopsi mastropois in Diphilus 42.22 PCG (kollops = sexually passive, Henderson 1991:212–213). Sexual passivity as highly prejudicial public “fact”: Winkler 1990:45–70.

[ back ] 92. See Chantraine s.v. μαίομαι, whence μαστροπός.

[ back ] 93. A mastropos who “wheedled” a speaker (teleôs m’ hupêlthen, ): Epicrates 8 PCG. Mastropoi “entangling” men in the “nets” of the women they represent: Theophilus fr. 11 PCG; cf. Lucian Toxaris 13. Predatory hetairai: p. 60n62 above.

[ back ] 94. Military service: Plato Symposium 219e–221c; Laches 181a–b. Cf. his council service: Plato Apology 32b–c.

[ back ] 95. Socratic “matchmaking”: Xenophon Memorabilia 1.6.14, 2.2–10, 3.11; Plato Laches 180c–d; Aeschines Socraticus Aspasia (59–72 SSR), for which Ehlers 1966:35–43.

[ back ] 96. Xenophon Memorabilia 2.7–10, on which Scholtz 1996:82–83; Osborne 1990:96–98; Millett 1989:33.

[ back ] 97. Xenophon Memorabilia 3.11.15. Cf. pederastic courtship as “hunting”: Barringer 2001:85–89; Dover 1989:87.

[ back ] 98. Fee schedules for Hetärentum in comparison to porneia: Davidson 1997:194–200.

[ back ] 99. Johnson 2005:199.

[ back ] 100. See Blank 1985.

[ back ] 101. Cf. Medea, Nino, and Theoris (scholia Demosthenes 19.495; 25.41). See Dillon 2002:104, 169–178, 324n203, 343nn221, 224.

[ back ] 102. Subjects’ “desire” (epithumia) to “gratify” (kharizesthai) Cyrus: Xenophon Cyropaedia 1.1.5 (note also rule by fear). Rulers should “cast a spell” (katagoêteuein): 8.1.40. Erôs and rulership in Cyropaedia: Rubin 1989.

[ back ] 103. Magic, technologies of persuasion, sophistic: Aeschylus Eumenides 81–82; Eupolis Demes fr. 102 PCG; Gorgias Helen; Plato Euthydemus 288b; Romilly 1975:3–43; Segal 1962.

[ back ] 104. Xenophon contra Socrates as professional teacher of practical rhetoric et sim.: Memorabilia 1.2, 1.5.4, 1.5.6–1.6.15; Blank 1985; Classen 1984. Cf. anti-sophistic broadside: On Hunting with Dogs 13.

[ back ] 105. Protagoras testimonia 1, 3, 21, fr. 6 D-K. Cf. Pericles’ “we used to go in for that kind of cleverness” (esophizometha): Xenophon Memorabilia 1.2.46. See Gentzler 1995:18–23; O’Connor 1994:156–158.

[ back ] 106. Cf. Xenophon Memorabilia 3.1.6, 3.8, Symposium 5.3–6.

[ back ] 107. Training of prostitutes: Demosthenes 59.18; Hamel 2003:25–26, 168n32.

[ back ] 108. Cf. Euripides fr. 388 Nauck; Plato Symposium 180c–185c; First Alcibiades 131c–e; Xenophon Spartan Constitution 2.13; see Huß 1999:32–34, 355–437, 451–455.

[ back ] 109. Cf. Xenophon Symposium 8.43. Civic virtue in Xenophon: Seager 2001.

[ back ] 110. See p. 139n102 above. No unalloyed eulogy to Cyrus (Johnson 2005; Rubin 1989), the Cyropaedia still expresses amazement at the quasi-erotic obedience commanded by the king.

[ back ] 111. Cf. Vološinov 1986:19: “Social psychology in fact is not located anywhere within (in the “souls” of communicating subjects) but entirely and completely without—in the word, the gesture, the act.”

[ back ] 112. Callias’ drinking party brings Charmides, loyal adherent of oligarchy in 404/3, together with Niceratus and Autolycus, both victims of that oligarchy. Lycon, Autolycus’ father, will join the prosecution of Socrates in 399. See further Huß 1999:38–49.

[ back ] 113. See pp. 16–17 above.