Schur, David. 2015. Plato's Wayward Path: Literary Form and the Republic. Hellenic Studies Series 66. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.ebook:CHS_SchurD.Platos_Wayward_Path.2015.
4. From Beginning to End and Back Again
The Topos of the Path and the Topic of Method
The Beginning of the Story
The Beginning of the Text
As other scholars have noted, the descent denoted by the dialogue’s first word (katebēn ‘I went down’) inaugurates a rich thematic network of descents (and ascents) that run through the entire work, and this first mention of a journey is certainly crucial to the present study.  To mention some of the most striking parallels, Socrates’ physical catabasis to the port of Athens is echoed in the scenario of the cave and in the tale of Er, which are central and concluding parts of the book respectively.  Insofar as Socrates starts by heading homeward, his Odyssean journey returns to a new beginning at the end of the text, and the book’s central pattern of progress as a turning to philosophy (518c–d) is modalized by a circular pattern that becomes recursive in the final pattern of cyclical reincarnation with which the book concludes. 
Narrativity and Fictionality
Toward an Ending of the Text
These two sentences display a small-scale convergence of larger concerns that now await the reader: the text’s completion, Socrates’ effort to complete the conversation, and the soul’s completion of a life. Although the verb teleutaō ‘to come to an end’ and the adverb teleōs ‘completely’ are both etymologically related to the noun telos ‘end’, the words as they occur here have no direct connection with each other. One can nevertheless observe a literary kind of interaction at work between them, which puts the discussion of death in a self-reflective perspective. Used intransitively, as here, the verb teleutaō connotes death; strictly speaking, what the just people come to the end of—life—is left unexpressed. The euphemism conveys less finality than would a verb such as thnēskō ‘to die’, for instance. And just so does this version of life’s end leave the way open for the afterlife. If we were expecting a teleological view of death as the ultimate fulfillment of life, Socrates’ eschatology will deny that death is a stopping point, thereby upending traditional notions of teleology.
A New Beginning
Socrates’ call is not so much a conclusion to the Republic as a transition from the tale of death to a new way of life. The text began midway through Socrates’ homeward journey and it ends at yet another starting point. The main point of my analysis is that, while this sentence conveys a satisfying sense of closure by virtue of being a rousing (and rhetorically persuasive) exhortation, it also leads hopefully forward into an uncertain future. Although to my knowledge none has done so, it would not be inappropriate for a modern editor of the Greek text to end this breathless sentence with an ellipsis (and I have modified Bloom’s translation with a final ellipsis to reflect this view). The sentence is neither a static confirmation of concluded arguments nor a narrative description of the conversation’s end—the speaker here is Socrates the character, not Socrates the narrator. The speech’s verve comes from a conditional, future-oriented, and dynamic emphasis on ongoing travel. Socrates is speculating about a journey of speculation, and rather than holding on to a fixed opinion, he hopes “we will always hold to the upward road,” in an ongoing journey grounded in possibilities.