Chapter 2. Simonides’ Ode to Scopas in the Protagoras
χερσίν τε καὶ ποσὶ καὶ νόῳ τετράγωνον, ἄνευ ψόγου
A good man truly, hands and feet and mind
Foursquare, wrought without blame. 
Socrates claims that he knows this poem very well and that it is composed correctly (339b8). Protagoras asks Socrates whether a poem is well-constructed if the poet contradicts himself; Socrates says that it doubtless is not. The sophist proceeds to quote more of Simonides’ poem:
καίτοι σοφοῦ παρὰ φωτὸς εἰρημένον · χαλεπὸν φάτ’
of Pittacus, though wise indeed he was
Who spoke it. To be noble, said the sage,
Protagoras then asks Socrates if all the lines he quoted belong to one and the same poet and if the latter words are in accordance with the former. According to Socrates, the two quotations agree with one another; however, in an aside, he expresses his apprehension regarding Protagoras’ seemingly purposeful line of questioning (339c8-9: καὶ ἅμα μέντοι ἐφοβούμην μὴ τὶ λέγοι—‘and yet I feared that he may have a point’).
These are bold words. Protagoras has the audacity not only to liken himself to such figures but also to claim that he surpasses them because he alone does not deny being a sophist; like these ἄνδρες παλαιοί, he educates men (317b4-5: ὁμολογῶ τε σοφιστὴς εἶναι καὶ παιδεύειν ἀνθρώπους—‘I admit that I am a sophist and educator’).
τεκμήριόν ἐστιν εὐθὺς τὸ μετὰ τοῦτο ῥῆμα· λέγει γὰρ ὅτι—
θεὸς ἄν μόνος τοῦτ’ ἔχοι γέρας,
οὐ δήπου τοῦτό γε λέγων, κακὸν ἐσθλὸν ἔμμεναι, εἶτα τὸν
θεόν φησιν μόνον τοῦτο ἂν ἔχειν καὶ τῷ θεῷ τοῦτο γέρας
Simonides did not equate ‘hard’ with ‘bad.’ He goes on,
A god alone can have this privilege,
and presumably he does not first say ‘it is bad to be
noble’ and then add that only a god could achieve it, and
allot it as a privilege entirely divine.
According to Socrates, the line quoted immediately follows the lines of Simonides’ poem mentioned by Protagoras. The γέρας in the poem of Simonides refers to the condition of being ἐσθλός (here used in place of ἀγαθός). Socrates’ citing of Simonides’ words about a god alone having the privilege of ‘being noble’ shows that he, like Protagoras, knows the poem well. His knowledge of the poem’s contents becomes clearer as the dialogue progresses and it should be noted that it is Socrates (not Protagoras) who quotes other lines from Simonides’ ᾆσμα (‘song’ or ‘poem’). If Socrates later quotes lines in order to uphold his interpretation of the poet’s overall intent (341e7-8: ἅ μoι δοκεῖ διανοεῖσθαι Σιμωνίδης ἐν τούτῳ τῷ ἄσματι— ‘what I think is Simonides’ intention in this song’), then it is reasonable to assume that he will select only those lines in accordance with his view of the poem. More importantly, his purpose in discussing this poem in particular is to show Protagoras that he is περὶ ἐπῶν δεινός (338e7-339a1) and that he can confront Protagoras on his own terms, since, like the sophist, he is “educated” in matters relating to poetry. Protagoras claims that knowledge of poetry is the greatest part of a man’s education (338e7). As a result, Socrates now is forced to display his own δεινότης (‘cleverness’) concerning the Simonidean poem about ἀρετή. It is striking that Socrates must give an account of virtue by being δεινός, a quality ascribed usually to sophists. If Socrates must adopt the sophistry of a Protagoras in order to take up the latter’s challenge, then the seemingly awkward argumentation of Socrates is intended to be understood as a feeble attempt on the philosopher’s part to resemble a sophist. I venture to suggest that Plato intended Socrates’ arguments not to be persuasive; Socrates must not play by the rules of Protagoras’ game.
ὃν [ἂν] ἀμήχανος συμφορὰ καθέλῃ.
Helpless disaster casts down.
This is followed by Socrates’ insistence that these lines refer to the man who is at times εὐμήχανος (‘resourceful’), not to the man who is always ἀμήχανος (‘helpless’). He uses a quint- essentially Socratic technique here: the comparison of those with the knowledge of some craft (e.g., sailors, farmers, doctors, etc.) to those who profess to have ἀρετή. The meaning of ἀμήχανος συμφορά here is obvious in the context of these lines. ‘Helpless disaster’  refers to circumstances beyond a man’s control that render him κακός.  Socrates, in a clever play on words, contends that the εὐμήχανος man would be the only one susceptible to ἀμήχανος συμφορά (344d1-2).  The argumentation provided here seems pointless; however, it can be considered a feeble attempt at defending the upshot of this part of his presentation. His purpose is to defend Simonides’ statement that ‘it is difficult to become ἀγαθός᾽ and to infer that the poet would adduce that ‘it is impossible to be good’. If misfortune especially attacks the resourceful man, as Socrates alleges, then it can be argued (albeit dubiously) that only a good man can become κακός while the κακός man is κακός always. 
κακὸς δ’ εἰ κακῶς.
But in ill faring, evil.
The subsequent discussion of these lines allows Socrates to interject one of his favorite philosophical tenets, the notion that ‘doing badly’ (κακὴ πρᾶξις) consists only of ‘being deprived of knowledge’ (ἐπιστήμης στερηθῆναι).  This transition at 345b5 to Socrates’ familiar claim regarding the relationship between virtue and knowledge is abrupt; however, one should not discard it on the grounds of seeming irrelevance. On the contrary, it offers a glimpse of Socrates’ insistence on the truth of his own beliefs regarding the nature of virtue.
διζήμενος κενεὰν ἐς ἄπρακτον ἐλπίδα μοῖραν αἰῶνος
πανάμωμον ἄνθρωπον, εὐρυεδοῦς ὅσοι καρπὸν αἰνύμεθα
ἐπὶ θ’ ὑμῖν εὑρὼν ἀπαγγελέω·
In hopeless search my little share of life,
Seeking a thing impossible to be,
A man all blameless, among those who reap
The fruit of the broad earth. But should I find him
I’ll send you word.
Although Socrates quotes these lines as additional support for his argument that Simonides is attacking Pittacus, he does not discuss their meaning immediately; he postpones his interpretation until later (at 346d). Simonides’ words are similar to what one finds in praise/blame poetry. The adjective πανάμωμος (‘utterly blameless’), a hapax legomenon, probably is synonymous with the earlier description of the ‘foursquare’ man as one who is ‘fashioned without blame’ (ἄνευ ψόγου τετυγμένος).  A Semonides fragment contains the adjective ἄμωμος modified by the adverb πάμπαν, and, as M. Dickie has noted, the sense in which Semonides uses it is the same as Simonides’ πανάμωμος.  Both poets state that a totally blameless human being does not exist. Simonides’ tone seems cynical in the last line, since it is probable that he will not be able to find such a man. 
ἑκὼν ὅστις ἕρδῃ
μηδὲν αἰσχρόν · ἀνάγκῃ δ’ οὐδὲ θεοὶ μάχονται.
I praise and love. The gods themselves strive not
Another abrupt transition occurs; this time, however, it is shifted toward another of Socrates’ own philosophical views. As before (cf. 345b5), he ascribes one of his philosophical tenets to Simonides. His belief that “no one errs willingly” finds a place in the subsequent interpretation of these lines. According to Socrates, Simonides was not so uneducated (ἀπαίδευτος) as to believe ‘that there were some who performed evil deeds willingly’ (345d6-9). He cleverly reintroduces the ‘wise men’ at this point and attributes his (Socrates’) belief to them: [οἱ σοφοὶ ἄνδρες] εὖ ἴσασιν ὅτι πάντες οἱ τὰ αἰσχρὰ καὶ τὰ κακὰ ποιοῦντες ἄκοντες ποιοῦσιν—‘they know well that all who do shameful and bad things do them unwillingly’ (345e2-4). In light of this belief supposedly shared by Simonides and the other wise men,  Socrates asserts that the adjective ἑκών refers to Simonides himself and not to the relative clause ὅστις ἕρδῃ μηδὲν αἰσχρόν. Although the natural word order would preclude Socrates’ interpretation, his claim is repeated later at 346e1-4 where Socrates says that Simonides uses ἐπαίνημι, the ‘Mytilenaean’ form of ἐπαινῶ, because the phrase beginning ‘I love and praise all willingly’ is addressed to Pittacus, who is a native of Mytilene. 
διὰ ταῦτά σε ψέγω, ὅτι εἰμι φιλόψογος, ἐπεὶ—
ἔμοιγ’ ἐξαρκεῖ ὃς ἄν μὴ κακὸς ᾖ
μηδ’ ἄγαν ἀπάλαμνος, εἰδώς τ’ ὀνησίπολιν
δίκαν ὑγιὴς ἀνήρ·
οὔ μιν ἐγὼ μωμήσομαι—
οὔ γάρ εἰμι φιλόμωμος—
τῶν γὰρ ἡλιθίων ἀπείρων γενέθλα,
ὥστ’ εἴ τις χαίρει ψέγων, ἐμπλησθείη ἂν ἐκείνους
πάντα τοι καλά, τοῖσί τ’ αἰσχρὰ μὴ μέμεικται.
My reason for blaming you, Pittacus, is not that I am a
to me that man suffices
Who is not bad nor overweak, but sound
In heart and knowing righteousness, the weal
Of nations. I shall find no fault with him—
I am not, he says, a censorious man—
For beyond number is the tribe of fools.
So,he implies, if anyone takes pleasure in faultfinding,
he may have his fill in censuring them.
All is fair that is unmixed with foul.
These lines, according to the Socratic interpretation, are directed at Pittacus (cf. 347a1-3). One should not rule out the possibility that they actually refer to Scopas, the addressee of the poem (as mentioned by Protagoras in 339a7). The meaning of the adjective ἀπάλαμνος here is a matter of scholarly debate, since it can mean ‘helpless, good for naught’ or ‘reckless, lawless’.  Although some understand the word in the latter sense,  the consensus maintains that it does not have a “moral” overtone.  The word recalls the sense of the adjective ἀμήχανος used earlier by Simonides to describe συμφορά (344c5). Moreover, it would be appropriate for it to mean ‘ineffectual’, since it is contrasted with the adjective ὑγιής (‘sound’ in body and mind)  that characterizes a ‘man who knows justice which benefits the polis’. Simonides’ words are reminiscent of the poetry of Solon and Theognis; both are concerned with the preservation of dike in the city-state. Unfortunately, one cannot be sure of Simonides’ train of thought because Socrates may be quoting lines that, out of context, can fit into his own interpretation as offered in 346d1-347a5.
Socrates paints a vivid picture of the sympotic environment of the ‘common’ men. Since they are not educated enough to entertain each other by means of intelligent conversation, they resort to hiring ‘flute-girls’ (347d1: αὐλητρίδας).  Instead of using their own words and voices, these uneducated men rely on the sound of flutes, an outside source of entertainment, while they share each other’s company. He continues to contrast the two sympotic settings by emphasizing the point that educated participants have no need of these ‘childish things’ (347d6: παιδιῶν presumably refers to the music and dance performed by hired entertainers). They speak and listen to one another in turn while simultaneously drinking a great deal of wine.  Surely this type of setting is ideal for Socratic discourse; any music would be an unwelcome distraction.
Although Socrates condemns poets (his contemporaries) in the Apology for not being able to explain the meaning of their own works and claims that others can discuss the poems better than the poets themselves,  he does not find fault with the poets in the above passage from the Protagoras. In this instance, he blames ‘the majority’ (οἱ πολλοί) who, in contrast to educated men, refer to poets during their conversation and present different interpretations of a poet’s intent (347e4-7). Clearly Socrates is alluding here to Protagoras’ introduction of the Simonides poem into the current conversation. In other words, Protagoras has not behaved in a manner befitting an ‘educated gentleman’ (a καλὸς κἀγαθός), since he, like the vulgar majority, discusses the poets even though he is incapable of proving one way or another what the poets actually meant.
ἀθάνατοι· μακρὸς δὲ καὶ ὄρθιος οἶμος ἐς αὐτὴν
καὶ τρηχὺς τὸ πρῶτον· ἐπὴν δ’ εὶς ἄκρον ἵκηται,
ῥηιδίη δὴ ἔπειτα πέλει, χαλεπή περ ἐοῦσα
The immortal gods have placed sweat on the path to virtue;
the path is long and steep,
and rough at first. When one reaches the top,
the road, which before had been difficult, becomes easy
to the Simonides fragment (PMG 579):
τὰν Ἀρετὰν ναίειν δυσαμβάτοισ’ ἐπὶ πέτραις,
†νῦν δέ μιν θοαν† χῶραν ἁγνὸν ἁμφέπειν·
οὐδὲ πάντων βλεφάροισι θνατῶν
ἔσοπτος, ὧι μὴ δακέθυμος ἱδρὼς
ἵκηι τ᾽ ἐς ἄκρον ἀνδρείας.
There is a story
that Virtue dwells on rocks which are hard to climb,
[…] looks after the holy ground,
She is not visible to the eyes of all mortal men,
but only to him whose heart-eating sweat comes from within,
the one who attains the peak of manliness.