Marian Demos, Lyric Quotation in Plato: Chapter 3. Callicles’ Quotation of Pindar in the Gorgias

Chapter 3. Callicles’ Quotation of Pindar in the Gorgias

Perhaps the most discussed quotation from lyric poetry found in Plato is the reference by Callicles in the Gorgias to a Pindaric poem concerned with the labors of Herakles (fr. 169a Snell-Maehler). Although Callicles quotes only five lines from the poem, it is clear that these lines, like the reference to Simonides in the Protagoras, are familiar to Plato’s audience. As in the Protagoras, one of Socrates’ interlocutors quotes lyric poetry in order to defend or support his own views on a particular subject. It should be noted that it is not Socrates who introduces lyric poetry into the separate discussions with Protagoras and Gorgias; his interlocutors are responsible for the initial references to lyric poetry in these two dialogues. While Protagoras makes Simonides’ poem a controversial matter involving literary criticism on the part of Socrates, Callicles’ reference to Pindar seems to be adduced as support for his advocacy of “the survival of the fittest” as an axiomatic truth.
What is problematic about Callicles’ quotation of Pindar is not only the meaning of the lines as intended by Pindar and as interpreted by Callicles, but also the curious fact that the manuscript tradition of Plato provides a variant reading that has puzzled generations of scholars. An analysis of the quotation’s context in Callicles’ conversation with Socrates must be accompanied by a look at the contents of the Pindaric fragment mentioned (either by quotation, paraphrase, or a combination of both) in other ancient sources, as well as elsewhere in Plato, and partially preserved in P. Oxy. 2450, fr. 1. In addition, since it has been assumed that Polycrates’ fictitious Κατηγορία Σωκράτους (Accusation of Socrates), supposedly countered centuries later by Libanius’ Ἀπολογία Σωκράτους (Defense of Socrates), referred to the same Pindaric passage, it has been argued that the Gorgias and Polycrates’ lost work were somehow related. The nature of their relationship is another point of scholarly contention. [1] The aim of this study is to understand the Pindaric quotation in the context of the dialogue and to determine which of the two variant readings is preferable in light of Callicles’ stance in the Gorgias. Even though the genuine Pindaric text is attested in two other sources, [2] the reading found in the manuscripts of the Gorgias should not necessarily be emended. The possibility of Callicles’ misquotation of Pindar is worth considering.
Callicles’ discussion with Socrates in the Gorgias begins at 481b when he questions the latter’s sincerity during the earlier exchange with Polus. Callicles finds it unbelievable that Socrates could maintain that it is better to be the victim of injustice rather than its perpetrator (cf. Socrates at 469cl-2: εἰ δ’ ἀναγκαῖον εἴη ἀδικεῖν ἢ ἀδικεῖσθαι, ἑλοίμην ἂν μᾶλλον ἀδικεῖσθαι ἢ ἀδικεῖν) and that it is preferable for an evildoer to be punished rather than to escape punishment (474b: κάκιον … τὸ μὴ διδόναι δίκην τοῦ διδόναι). Socrates responds to Callicles by encouraging him to refute these tenets. If Callicles should refuse to counter Socrates’ views, then Callicles forever would be at odds with himself (482b4-6). [3] Socrates now must deal with this third interlocutor who, unlike Gorgias and Polus, presents a forceful challenge not only to Socrates’ views but also to conventional notions of justice.
Callicles blames Polus for acting like Gorgias. According to Callicles, Polus was driven to self-contradiction by Socrates, who cleverly alternates his line of questioning; Socrates switches from questioning on the basis of νόμος to that of φύσις and vice versa as part of his technique to force men into self-contradiction. At first, Callicles blames Polus for having felt ashamed of his own sentiments and therefore not saying what he really thought because he was afraid to disagree with Socrates’ contention that it is more shameful to commit injustice rather than be a victim of it. [4] His metaphorical language describing Socrates’ ‘gagging’ and ‘tying together Polus’ hands and feet’ (482el-2: ἀπεστομίσθη, συμποδισθείς) implies an attack on Socrates, not only on Polus. This attack becomes direct when Callicles charges Socrates with pretending to be concerned with ‘truth’ (ἀλήθεια) and deliberately tricking his interlocutors (482e2-5, 483a2-7). Next, Callicles introduces the familiar distinction between ‘nature’ (φύσις) and ‘convention, custom’ (νόμος) into his argumentation and claims that Socrates has thought up a clever trick involving these two concepts whenever he poses questions to someone (482e5-483a8). The antithesis between φύσις and νόμος appears frequently in the Greek literature of the fifth and fourth centuries. [5] Callicles is not saying anything revolutionary at this point; he is merely setting the stage for his subsequent interpretation of what is sanctioned by φύσις. The opposition between φύσις and νόμος is also reflected in the discrepancy between Polus’ true sentiments and his reluctance to proclaim them. [6] One infers that φύσις somehow corresponds to Polus’ view of reality while νόμος, designating ‘the general consensus’, impedes his stating this view.
Callicles’ little regard for conventional attitudes has already appeared in a preceding statement identifying ‘what is fine by convention, not by nature’ (482e4-5: ἂ φύσει μὲν οὒκ ἔστιν καλά, νόμῳ δέ) with ‘base and low arguments aimed at the public’ (482e3-4: φορτικὰ καὶ δημηγορικά). These words show that Callicles considers his views superior to those of the οἱ πολλοί. His choice of words characterizes him as someone who sets himself apart from society and its conventions and foreshadows the Weltanschauung he will espouse. He takes pains to distinguish himself from Socrates also, especially since the latter is ‘misbehaving’ (483a2-3: κακουργεῖς) by sometimes asking questions on the basis of νόμος, at other times on the basis of φύσις, and thereby ensnaring those responding to his questions in a trap of self-contradiction. Whenever someone talks on the basis of ‘convention’, Socrates questions him on the basis of ‘nature’ and vice versa. Callicles sees Socrates’ exchange with Polus as an example of the use of this sly technique that operates between two supposedly antithetical spheres. Beginning at 483a7, Callicles unfolds his understanding of the difference between φύσις and its opposite.
According to Callicles, ‘suffering wrong’ (483a8: τὸ ἀδικεῖσθαι) is worse and more shameful ‘by nature’ (φύσει), whereas, ‘by convention’ (νόμῳ), ‘doing wrong’ (τὸ ἀδικεῖν) is the greater evil. [7] ‘Suffering wrong’ is experienced only by slaves who are unable to help themselves and others in their care when they are wronged and abused. He thinks that weak men, the majority of the populace, laid down the ‘laws’ (νόμοι), since these laws are to their advantage (483b4-7). [8] In order to frighten stronger men and prevent them from ‘overreaching’ (πλέον ἔχειν), the weak men say that it is shameful and unjust to ‘overreach’ and that ‘doing wrong’ consists in seeking to have more than what others have: λέγουσιν ὡς αἰσχρὸν καὶ ἄδικον τὸ πλεονεκτεῖν, καὶ τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ ἀδικεῖν, τὸ πλέον τῶν ἄλλων ζητεῖν ἔχειν (483c3-5). The weaker segments of society, whom Callicles disdainfully calls φαυλότεροι (483c6), therefore are content to be on an equal footing with the stronger.
Callicles’ belief in the survival of the fittest is firmly rooted. He argues that ‘nature herself makes clear’ that ‘it is right for the superior to have more than the inferior and for the stronger to have more than the weaker’ (483c8-d2). [9] Not only is he stating what he considers to be a fact but he is also advocating this state of affairs that ‘nature herself’ sanctions. ‘Justice’ (483d5: τὸ δίκαιον), as exhibited by nature, ‘is judged’ (κέκριται) to be the same for animals and for mankind. Callicles’ conception of natural justice is expanded to include the assertion that it is right for the stronger to have sovereignty over the weaker (483d5); thus, “might is right.” [10] His appeal to ‘justice (according to nature)’ is important because Callicles is unabashedly expressing the view that “might is right” is a just principle. Callicles, unlike Gorgias and Polus, has the courage to proclaim his beliefs, even if they are contrary to popular opinion. [11] By disregarding conventional notions of morality, he has set himself up as the spokesman for φύσις. Nature’s definition of justice, not the definition supplied by νόμος (cf. 483c3-5 above), is valid for Callicles.
The bold reassertion of the credo that it is right for the stronger to have more than the weaker continues with Callicles’ mention of Xerxes and his father Darius as examples of strong men who justified their invading the territory of others by virtue of nature’s definition of justice (483e6-7: ἐπεὶ ποίῳ δικαίῳ χρώμενος Ξέρξης ἐπὶ τὴν Ἑλλάδα ἐστράτευσεν ἢ ὁ πατὴρ αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ Σκύθας;). The ‘justification’ or ‘right’ (τὸ δίκαιον) employed by these two enemies of Greece is exactly the principle of nature that Callicles is advocating. [12] As his subversive speech continues, his words, though highly rhetorical, have a serious undertone. The juxtaposition of νόμος and φύσις in the phrase κατὰ νόμον γε τὸν τῆς φύσεως (483e3) is striking and paradoxical. [13] Callicles unites νόμος and φύσις, which earlier were described as antithetical to one another (cf. 482e5-6), in a clever play upon words. [14] He justifies the aggression of men like Xerxes, saying that their actions are ‘in accordance with the nature of justice’ (483e2: κατὰ φύσιν τὴν τοῦ δικαίου). This is followed by the emphatic assertion that there is a νόμος of nature that accounts for these actions. [15] He is quick to point out that this νόμος is distinct from that established by man. In short, the actions of a Xerxes are justifiable in terms of nature’s νόμος but not necessarily justifiable by man’s. Callicles’ self-conscious language here is important because he is using the words φύσις, τὸ δίκαιον and νόμος interchangeably; νόμος and φύσις, in the context of his argument, have now become fused and assimilated into his conception of ‘justice’ (τὸ δίκαιον). If one argues that the notions of ‘law’ (or ‘convention’), ‘nature’, and ‘justice’ are related, as Callicles does, then the normative statement that it is right for the stronger to gain the advantage over the weaker can be viewed as a universal truth. Callicles strengthens his argument by appealing to “the law of nature” and thus makes the refutation of his views more difficult.
The Nietzschean overtones of Callicles’ speech are most evident in his description of the enslavement of the strong by the weak. [16] The best and strongest members of society are compared to ‘lions’ [17] (483e6: λέοντας): seized while still young, they are bewitched into slavery by the majority who say that ‘equality is a necessary state of affairs’ (484al : τὸ ἴσον χρὴ ἔχειν). [18] Consequently, this state of ‘equality’ is defined as τὸ καλὸν καὶ τὸ δίκαιον (484al-2) and is imposed by the weakest members of society as a means of restraining the strongest. Callicles, however, glorifies a different scenario where he envisions the existence of a man ‘with sufficient natural strength’ (φύσιν [19] ἱκανήν) who ‘shakes off’ (ἀποσεισάμενος) all of society’s fetters and ‘tramples on’ (καταπατήσας) all ‘learning, tricks, spells, and unnatural conventions’ (γράμματα καὶ μαγγανεύματα καὶ ἐπῳδὰς καὶ νόμους παρὰ φύσιν [20] ) (484a2-5). The description of the rise of the strong man uses imagery befitting an apotheosis; [21] the former slave now becomes society’s ‘master’ (δεσπότης) and ‘therein the justice of nature shines forth’ (484a6-bl: ἐνταῦθα ἐξέλαμψεν τὸ τῆς φύσεως δίκαιον).
Note the consistent use of the gnomic aorist, which gives added weight to Callicles’ description of the revolt of the Übermensch. He uses powerful words to characterize the violent reactions of the ‘strong man’ against his weaker oppressors. Also, the opposition between ‘the justice of nature’ and society’s conception of justice is reasserted. The most striking statement (484a6-bl) is the one that precedes his Pindaric quotation. According to Callicles, the subjugation of the weak by the strong is something to be exalted. His interpretation of ‘justice according to nature’ is not merely a statement of the workings of nature; it is an affirmation of the ‘natural’ state of affairs that sanctions the rule of the strongest over the weakest. In other words, I understand Callicles’ position as follows: “It is only natural for the strong to have more than those who are weak; this is the way things are and this is the way they should be.”
To support his point of view, Callicles quotes from a well-known poem of Pindar. Here is the Oxford text of the frequently discussed section of the Gorgias in which Callicles claims that Pindar expresses sentiments similar to his own:

δοκεῖ δέ μοι καὶ Πίνδαρος ἄπερ ἐγὼ λέγω ἐνδείκνυσθαι ἐν τῷ ᾂσματι ἐν ᾧ λέγει ὅτι—
νόμος ὁ πάντων βασιλεὐς
θνατῶν τε καὶ ἀθανάτων ·
οὗτος δὲ δή, φησίν, —
ἄγει δίκαιων τὸ βιαιότατον [22]
ὑπερτάτᾳ χειρί· τεκμαίρομαι
ἔργοισιν Ἡρακλέος, ἐπεί—ἀπριάτας—
λέγει οὕτω πως—τὸ γὰρ ᾆσμα οὐκ ἐπίσταμαι—λέγει δ’ ὅτι οὔτε πριάμενος οὔτε δόντος τοῦ Γηρυόνου ἠλάσατο τὰς βοῦς, ὡς τούτου ὄντος τοῦ δικαίου φύσει, καὶ βοῦς καὶ τἆλλα κτήματα εἶναι πάντα τοῦ βελτίονός τε καὶ κρείττονος τὰ τῶν χειρόνων τε καὶ ἡττόνων.
And it seems to me that Pindar expresses what I am saying in that ode in which he writes—
Nomos is the sovereign of all,
Of mortals and immortals alike,
and it is nomos, he says, that
Carries all, justifying the most violent deed
With victorious hand; this I prove
By the deeds of Herakles, for without paying the price—
it runs something like that—for I do not know the poem by heart—but it says that he drove off the oxen of Geryon which were neither given to him nor paid for, because this is natural justice, that the cattle and all other possessions of the inferior and weaker belong to the superior and stronger. [23]
It is clear that Callicles assumes that his audience knows the Pindaric poem from which he is quoting. There is no doubt that this was a famous poem, since Herodotus, Pindar’s contemporary, refers to it in the Histories. The context of Herodotus’ reference to Pindar’s gnome regarding νόμος as ‘king of all’ is the recounting of the contrast between the burial rites of the Greeks and the Indic Kallatiae (Histories 3.38). Herodotus is illustrating here his observation that every race prefers its own ‘customs’ (νόμοι) over those of others. Unlike the Greeks who burn the corpses of their fathers, the cannibalistic Kallatiae eat them. Both the Greeks and the Kallatiae expressed outrage at one another’s respective practices. Herodotus then concludes with the remark: οὕτω μὲν νυν ταῦτα νενόμισται, καὶ ὀρθῶς μοι δοκέει Πίνδαρος ποιῆσαι νόμον πάντων βασιλέα φήσας εἶναι (3.38).
Whether Herodotus’ application of Pindar’s gnome coincides with what the poet actually intended it to mean is not altogether certain. Martin Ostwald, for example, believes that Herodotus’ interpretation of the Pindaric quote is correct, since νόμος, in its original context and in the Herodotean passage, refers to “a traditional attitude which implies certain deep-seated convictions and beliefs.” [24] A different view is taken by Marcello Gigante who sees νόμος as meaning ‘tradition, norm, custom’ in Herodotus’ application of the Pindaric phrase but Pindar himself meant something very different by νόμος. Pindar’s meaning, Gigante argues, is not as “relativistic” as Herodotus’; νόμος, in its Pindaric context, should be understood as “la legge ehe viene da Zeus, la legge divina universale ehe regge la storia del mondo.” [25] Although I agree with Ostwald’s definition of νόμος as used by Herodotus, [26] Gigante’s contention that Herodotus’ quotation of Pindar is tailored to suit the historian’s own views, expressed within the context of this section of the Histories, is attractive. Socrates in the Protagoras, for example, can offer an interpretation of Simonides’ poem that will promote his own system of beliefs in the face of Protagoras’ sophistry. Like Protagoras, Herodotus quotes poetry out of context. He cites Pindar’s gnome in order to defend his generalization regarding the attitude of men to their particular customs and rites. More importantly, even though Pindar’s poem is fragmentary, one can ascertain from the other extant lines provided by P. Oxy. 2450 that the poet uses νόμος in a sense different from that of Herodotus.
Before one can comment upon Callicles’ use of the Pindar quotation, one must determine the actual wording of Pindar and what he meant by the gnomic statement that νόμος is ‘king of all’. Ever since Edgar Lobel first published the Oxyrhynchus papyrus in which the initial line seems to coincide with the last line of Callicles’ quotation of fragment 169a and with his reference to Herakles’ stealing of Geryon’s cattle (Gorgias 484b11), [27] various scholars have offered differing interpretations of the fragmentary Pindaric poem as well as varied textual readings. [28] Scholars even disagree regarding its overall metrical scheme. [29] Putting the controversial technical aspects of the fragment aside, one can nevertheless gain some insight into Pindar’s treatment of the labors of Herakles, especially with regard to the hero’s attacks on Geryon and Diomedes. The focus of my study of the Pindaric fragment is on the concept of νόμος, which, in my view, has its meaning altered by Callicles (or, more precisely, by Plato) in the context of his argument against Socrates. By Plato’s time, the meaning of νόμος had become destabilized.
It is generally assumed that νόμος ὁ πάντων βασιλεύς is the first line of Pindar’s poem. [30] Νόμος is ‘king’ of all things, both human and divine. Although some have compared this phrase to the Homeric formula describing Zeus, πατὴρ ἀνδρῶν τε θεῶν τε, [31] the personification of νόμος as ‘king’ does not necessarily imply that Pindar is referring to Zeus or to Zeus’ νόμος here. The personification of abstract concepts such as “time” or “love” is not uncommon in Greek poetry. [32] Pindar’s wording implies that Zeus himself, one of the immortals, is ruled by νόμος. It is interesting to note that the sophist Hippias in the Protagoras, presumably alluding to the same Pindaric poem cited by Callicles, describes νόμος as a ‘tyrant of mankind’ (337d2: τύραννος ὢν τῶν ἀνθρώπων). Hippias’ negative portrayal of νόμος takes place in the context of his brief reference to the νόμος-φύσις antithesis, a favorite topic of the sophists. Pindar’s use of the term, however, is free from any of its later connotations. Pindar regards νόμος as something powerful and inevitable; it holds sway over everything. The main verb of which νόμος is the subject, ἄγει (line 3), presents some difficulties. First, what is its translation? Pavese thinks that “the verb is used absolutely for leading by a divine agency” and “this use of ἄγω corresponds to that of the epic ἡγέομαι.” [33] However, merely to say that νόμος ‘leads’ causes the gnome’s meaning to be too vague. Pindar has supplied us with an implied object from the surrounding context. Both Dodds and Ostwald think that the object of the verb is τὸ βιαιότατον. I agree with Lloyd-Jones (who cites Nem. 11.42-3: καἰ θνατὸν οὕτως ἔθνος ἄγει μοῖρα) that the object of ἄγει can be supplied from the immediately preceding θνατῶν τε καὶ ἀθανάτων and that τὸ βιαιότατον is the object of the participle δικαιῶν. [34] As ‘king’, νόμος presumably rules over ‘all things, both human and divine’. Second, should one interpret θνατῶν τε καὶ ἀθανάτων in a narrow sense, referring to ‘mortals and immortals’ exclusively [35] and not to other entities? [36] This is an important question because its answer can lead to a better understanding of the meaning and prominence of νόμος in the fragment.
If it is assumed that δίκαιων τὸ βιαιότατον is the correct text of the third line of fr. 169a, [37] problems of translation again arise. Pavese, like Lloyd-Jones, regards the verb δίκαιων as factitive; however, the former translates it as ‘bringing to justice’ while the latter claims that the verb’s form implies the meaning ‘makes just’. [38] The meaning of this participle is uncertain because δικαιόω is not found elsewhere in lyric poetry. [39] It is important to take note of the verb’s rarity in lyric poetry because some have dismissed the variant reading βιαιῶν (βιαίων in mss. of the Gorgias) on the grounds that it is unattested. Although the Pindaric poem is fragmentary, one can say with little hesitation that δικαιῶν τὸ βιαιότατον suits the poem’s context better than βιαιῶν τὸ δικαιότατον. Herakles’ strength (βία) is a commonplace topic and it is therefore natural to assume that Pindar is referring to the modus operandi of Herakles, clearly a theme of the poem’s subsequent lines regarding Geryon and Diomedes, by means of the abstract superlative τὸ βιαιότατον. It would be difficult to argue from the poem’s extant contents that Pindar portrays Herakles’ brutal εργα as examples or proofs of ‘what is most just’ (τὸ δικαιότατον). [40] Since he mentions Herakles’ seizing Geryon’s cattle without having paid for them (Gorgias 484b9: ἀπριάτας; cf. P. Oxy. 2450, line 8) and the hero’s gruesome encounter with Diomedes’ man-eating mares (lines 9ff. of the papyrus), the poet seems to have focused upon the violence of these “labors of Herakles.” [41] It is impossible to determine the role of δίκη, if indeed it had any role at all, in Pindar’s poem. If δικαιῶν τὸ βιαιότατον is accepted as the true Pindaric text, then the poet absolves Herakles from any wrongdoing because νόμος, by making δίκαιος that which is most violent, ‘guides’ (ἄγει) the affairs of gods and men.
The dative phrase ὑπερτάτᾳ χειρί also presents problems, since Aelius Aristides in his Περὶ ῥητορικῆς, evidently citing the Pindar fragment as quoted in the Gorgias, assumes that the ‘highest hand’ belongs to Herakles and not to νόμος. [42] Aelius Aristides, writing in the second century C.E. against Plato’s views on oratory as expressed in the Gorgias, already demonstrates that this quote from Pindar had prompted possible misinterpretation throughout antiquity. Surely the ‘supreme hand’ (line 4) is that of νόμος (line 1); Aristides’ paraphrase therefore is misleading, unless he infers that the ‘hand’ of νόμος is Herakles’ by implication, since the hero’s violent deeds are sanctioned by νόμος. Perhaps he confuses the reference to Herakles in the poem cited in the Gorgias with another taken from a different poem of Pindar. This is a plausible explanation of Aristides’ error because he quotes from a certain dithyramb’ of Pindar immediately after discussing the other passage cited by Callicles. [43] While explaining why Pindar refers to the deeds of Herakles in the quotation from the Gorgias, Aristides hypothesizes that the poet has another one of his works in mind. He quotes these lines from a Pindaric dithyramb: “Σὲ δ’ ἐγὼ παρ’ ἁμὶν” φησίν, “αἰνέω μὲν Γηρυόνη, τὸ δὲ μὴ Διί φίλτερον σιγῷμι πάμπαν” (vol. 2, 70 Dindorf). [44] Pindar, whose poetry characteristically bestows praise (αἶνος) or blame (ψόγος), says in the lines cited by Aristides that he ‘praises’ (αἰνέω) Geryon in comparison to Herakles but he immediately interjects the phrase ‘May I be altogether silent regarding that which is not pleasing (φίλτερον) to Zeus’. [45]
Although I hesitate to claim that Pindar expresses the exact same sentiments toward Geryon in fr. 169a as he does in the dithyramb, I think that Aristides’ quote from the dithyramb is instructive to the extent that here Pindar admits that Geryon is worthy of praise but the poet feels that Zeus would be displeased if Geryon were praised. In other words, there seems to be a dichotomy between Pindar’s own sense of praiseworthy behavior and ‘what is pleasing to Zeus’. The encomiastic poet defers to Zeus’ authority over the matter even though he may think that Zeus’ son, Herakles, behaves in an unjust fashion when he steals Geryon’s cattle. [46] He quickly becomes silent for fear that Zeus may be offended by his opinion. [47] It is not unusual for Pindar to cut short his treatment of a subject that he thinks might be considered offensive. [48] ‘Silence’, says Pindar at one point, ‘is often the wisest counsel for a man’ (Nem. 5.18: καὶ τὶ σιγᾶν πολλάκις ἐστὶ σοφώτατον ἀνθρώπῳ νοῆσαι). However, just as Pindar implies in the dithyramb that Geryon is praiseworthy because he tries to resist Herakles’ taking of the cattle by force (according to schol. Aristid. vol. 3, 409 Dindorf), a partial reconstruction of lines 15-17 of fr. 169a seems to indicate that Diomedes, like Geryon, is tacitly praised for having put up a struggle in defense of his property. [49] Diomedes acted out of ἀρετή, not out of κόρος (line 15: οὖ κό]ρῳ ἀλλ’ ἀρετᾷ). In spite of the fragmentary state of the two Pindar poems, one can conclude with some certainty that Pindar treats the theme of the labors of Herakles in an ambivalent way. Herakles’ foes, Geryon and Diomedes, are presented as worthy opponents who defend themselves against the violence of Zeus’ son. Although Pindar thinks that it is right for these figures to try to resist Herakles’ violent actions, he also simultaneously considers the violence of Herakles as something that can be justified. The justification inherent in Pindar’s poems may be that Herakles’ opponents are by nature monstrous and, consequently, unjust even though their reaction to Herakles is laudable. In addition, Herakles is the son of Zeus and his actions may be justifiable for this reason alone.
Pindar resorts to the concept of νόμος in order to justify or ‘make just’ that which is ‘most violent’ in both the human and divine spheres. I have hesitated to provide a translation or a definition of νόμος as used by Pindar in fr. 169a because I think that it has no direct English equivalent. Some understand Pindar to be referring to divine law. According to Hugh Lloyd-Jones, for example, “law for him was identical with the will of Zeus.” [50] Marcello Gigante shares this opinion; however, he sees Orphic and Pythagorean overtones in Pindar’s conception of νόμος. [51] However, Pindar’s words explicitly state that νόμος is king of all, both mortal and immortal (fr. 169a, lines 1-2). Zeus himself, therefore, is subject to the power of νόμος. [52] Other scholars prefer to translate it as ‘custom’ or ‘usage’. Martin Ostwald, for example, understands Pindar to mean “the common acceptance of a traditional belief as a valid and binding conviction”; the power of νόμος is “absolute, unchallengeable, and legitimate.” [53] This definition is inadequate because it is applicable only in the human sphere. The gods do not “accept” or “believe in” the power of νόμος; they are part of the process by which νόμος ‘justifies that which is most violent’. Since this word can have the two different aforementioned meanings, it is possible that Pindar has a more general conception of what he means by νόμος than has been hitherto posited. Perhaps a fusion of the two prominent interpretations of the word would better capture the sense Pindar intends. Kevin Crotty’s insightful remarks about the word’s meaning may assist the search for a better translation:

While nomos is divine therefore, it ought not to be severed from connotations of men’s beliefs and values. Nomos, men’s esteem or hatred for the heroes, is based not only on human notions of commendable behavior but also on the gods’ love for or hostility towards the hero. Nomos refers to men’s beliefs and evaluations, but Pindar is showing how these beliefs and evaluations are grounded in the gods’ activity of exalting and humbling and may even contradict men’s own notions of what is praiseworthy. [54]

This interpretation of the significance of νόμος in Pindar fr. 169a takes into account the inherent paradoxical nature of the term. The paradox arises out of its applicability to both gods and men. I agree with Crotty’s view to the extent that I think that Pindar himself finds νόμος an ambiguous notion, since it refers to both ‘divine law’ and ‘social usage’. [55] If a common denominator in the two proposed meanings of νόμος is sought, then another interpretation is possible.

The noun νόμος is thought to be etymologically related to the verb νέμω (‘to allot’). Pindar could then be using νόμος in its basic sense as ‘allotment’ or ‘apportionment’. I would suggest a somewhat more intricate definition of νόμος as suggested by the contents of fr. 169a; νόμος as ‘king of all’ is ‘the way in which things are (apportioned)’ or, in perhaps more general terms, ‘the existing state of affairs’. This is an overarching principle that is greater than pods and men. [56] Resembling a king who directs his kingdom, νόμος ‘directs’ (ἄγει) everything in its domain, namely, the universe. ‘The way things are’ is not a derivative concept; in other words, one cannot provide a rationale for it. Like Herakles, νόμος acts ‘with arm supreme’ (ὑπερτάτᾳ χειρί). [57] If I understand Pindar’s intimations correctly, then the poet is claiming that one cannot understand why things happen the way they do, but he nevertheless believes that their final outcome is somehow just. Νόμος may then be viewed as the ultimate authority; it acts as if it were a just king. It empowers Herakles to bring ‘utmost violence’ (τὸ βιαιότατον) against Geryon and Diomedes, and although the hero’s actions may be considered blameworthy by men, νόμος has “the power to overthrow normal human notions of right and wrong.” [58] Herakles’ violent encounters (fr. 169a) are ‘justified’ insofar as they are part of ‘the existing state of affairs’ understood by gods and men.
Callicles uses his quotation of Pindar in the Gorgias to defend the ‘law of nature’ as he interprets it. As has been suggested earlier, the concept of νόμος is a fluid one; by the fifth and fourth centuries, it has particular connotations that may not have attended Pindar’s original meaning of the term in fr. 169a. [59] Callicles’ view that it is always ‘just, right’ (δίκαιον) for the stronger to have the advantage over the weaker is his definition of νόμος, not Pindar’s. [60] He cites the poet in order to support a position that seems far from what Pindar implies; Pindar tries to excuse Herakles’ violent behavior by appealing to νόμος in order to justify it, whereas Callicles clearly expresses the opinion that νόμος itself is the right of the stronger in all cases. It appears that Pindar’s view of the term, which is more akin to ‘the way things are’, is reinterpreted by Callicles to signify ‘the way things should be’. Callicles advocates ‘nature’s law’. Unlike Pindar, he actively supports the belief that it is right for the strong to be in a position of dominance. Therefore, one infers that Callicles does not think that behavior similar to Herakles’ treatment of Geryon and Diomedes would need justification for the sheer reason that such treatment is ‘right’ (δίκαιον) in all cases; Herakles’ forceful taking of Geryon’s cattle is in accordance with ‘the nature of justice’ (484cl-3: ὡς τούτου ὄντος τοῦ δικαίου φύσει, καὶ βοῦς καὶ τἆλλα κτήματα εἶναι πάντα τοῦ βελτίονός τε καὶ κρείττονος τὰ τῶν χειρόνων τε καὶ ἡττόνων). [61] Pindar, on the other hand, seems to think it is necessary to make allowance for Herakles’ use of violence.
The clearest display of Callicles’ championing the right of the stronger is found in his exuberant generic description of the man of ‘sufficient nature’ (484a2: φύσιν ἱκανήν). ‘Nature’ (φύσιν) is used here as a synonym of ‘strength’. Callicles’ choice of words is noteworthy because it suggests that he is carefully selecting terms that make his argument cohesive; in his view, nature endorses the superiority of some men. Throughout his speech, Callicles focuses upon ‘justice’ (τὀ δίκαιον) as defined by nature. [62] The man of ‘sufficient nature’ disregards unnatural laws and conventions; Callicles implies that these are man-made and imposed by weaker men upon the stronger. Therefore, they are not ‘natural’ because they curb the stronger man’s right to claim more than the weaker does. It is important to note Callicles’ emphasis on the stronger’s “rightful” claim, which can be described as τὸ δίκαιον, because Socrates’ interlocutor is claiming that nature’s favoring the stronger, a νόμος φύσεως, is to be defended on the grounds that ‘natural justice’ is preferable to justice as defined by men. Callicles’ sequence of thought implies that it is not only natural for the stronger to have more than the weaker; unlike ‘having an equal share’ (484al: τὸ ἴσον ἔχειν), which is society’s definition of τὸ καλὸν καὶ τὸ δίκαιον (484al-2), the νόμος φύσεως defended by Callicles is that which is ‘good and just’.
When Callicles cites Pindar, his purpose is to show that his view of natural justice is not novel. Like Socrates who interprets Simonides’ poem in the Protagoras, Callicles transforms the meaning of Pindar’s poem to suit the particular philosophical stance that he himself is espousing in the Gorgias specifically, the right of the stronger. Since he has shifted Pindar’s original meaning of the gnomic statement νόμος ὁ πάντων βασιλεύς …, so that νόμος in the fragment is now interpreted as signifying the ‘law of nature’ (as described in 483e and following), it is conceivable that Plato can have Callicles alter the original text of the quotation in order to defend his vehement standpoint. A purposeful misquotation of Pindar’s words on the part of Plato, attributed to Callicles, would not only characterize Socrates’ interlocutor as one of those men who dare to ‘trample upon’ society’s γράμματα (cf. 484a4) but it would also serve to reinforce Callicles’ own view that νόμος, interpreted as the right of the stronger to have more than the weaker, is itself καλὸς καὶ δίκαιος and that violent behavior on the part of the stronger in order to rule and have more than the weaker is ‘right’ according to ‘the law of nature’. In other words, if Callicles were to misquote Pindar, Plato would be painting a clearer picture of Callicles’ personality instead of merely having Callicles cite Pindar as an authoritative source in defense of Callicles’ views. If one believes that Plato is capable of purposeful misquotation for the sake of an insightful and ironical glimpse into his portrayal of Callicles’ character, then it is plausible that the variant reading βιαίων [63] τὸ δικαιότατον found within the manuscripts is not necessarily the result of a scribal error involving spoonerism. [64] Although most editors of the Gorgias emend the text so that it accords with Pindar’s δικαιῶν τὸ βιαιότατον, cited in schol. Nem. 9.35a and Ael. Arist. or. 45 (vol. 2, 68 Dindorf), [65] some scholars accept the reading found in the manuscripts as the original Platonic text. [66] In spite of the majority opinion, which argues against the possibility of Plato’s purposely having Callicles misquote Pindar, I think that both sides of the issue should be studied, especially in light of the quotation’s context within the dialogue. This necessitates a brief look at the complicated argumentation employed by the two opposing viewpoints.
The argument most often used against the reading provided by the manuscript tradition is that the verb βιαιόω is unattested; consequently, its meaning is unclear. Βιάζω (or the deponent βιάζομαι) is the attested verb related to the substantive βία. What would βιαιῶν, if its existence as a verb in Greek is allowed, mean in relation to its object, τὰ δικαιότατον? [67] Wilamowitz, who believes that the corrupt reading βιαιῶν stems from Plato’s accidental misquotation of Pindar caused by a lapse of memory (ein Gedächtnisfehler), thinks that its meaning would correspond to that of βιαζόμενος. [68] According to his account, the Pindaric phrase as misquoted here by Plato is understood by Libanius, who supposedly paraphrases the Pindaric lines as found in his text of Plato, to mean ‘violating justice’. [69]
Wilamowitz sees another instance of this same accidental misquotation of Pindar’s poem in the Laws (890a4-5: εἶναι τὸ δικαιότατον ὅτι τις ἂν νικᾷ βιαζόμενος). [70] It is uncertain that Plato has the Pindar quotation in mind here, and the reference in Laws 690b7-c3 to the natural ‘rule’ (690c3: ἀρχή) of the wise over the ignorant, in which Wilamowitz sees another accidental misquotation of the same Pindaric lines by Plato, is not necessarily an allusion to the gnome quoted by Callicles in the Gorgias, even if the Athenian speaker mentions Pindar by name in this passage, [71] An explicit Platonic reference to Pindar’s poem in Laws 715al-2 (καὶ ἔφαμέν που κατὰ φύσιν τὸν Πίνδαρον ἄγειν δικαιοῦντα τὸ βιαιότατον, ὡς φάναι) forces Wilamowitz to conjecture that the “correct” text of Pindar later found its way into the manuscript tradition, thus replacing Plato’s original misquotation here. [72]
The problems caused by the argumentation of Wilamowitz are numerous, however. First, he cannot adequately account for the “correct” allusion to Pindar’s poem in Laws 715a and for the Pindaric text as quoted by Aristides who, since he is defending rhetoric against Plato’s criticism in the Gorgias, presumably quotes from a manuscript of the dialogue that has the reading δικαιῶν τὸ βιαιότατον by the second century C.E., two centuries earlier than that of Libanius who supposedly is paraphrasing the Platonic misquotation βιαιῶν τὸ δικαιότατον in his Ἀπολογία Σωκράτους. If one follows Wilamowitz, then it is difficult to explain why Aristides offers the “genuine” Pindaric reading, which one assumes that he obtains from a manuscript of Plato, while Libanius, who one presumes is using a manuscript of Plato two centuries later, paraphrases the alternate reading or “misquotation.” The chronology of these two references to the Pindar quotation implies that textual corruption may have occurred between the time of Aristides and that of Libanius. An alternative hypothesis involves postulating the existence of competing manuscript traditions of Plato during antiquity, one containing the “genuine” Pindaric reading and the other the “misquotation.”
A second possible explanation involves the presence of an alternative reading (either a learned copyist’s correction [δικαιῶν τὸ βιαιότατον] of a Platonic misquotation or a possible corruption resulting from spoonerism [βιαιῶν τὸ δικαιότατον]) in the margin of a Plato manuscript, which later intruded into the text and ultimately replaced the genuine Platonic reading. What is certain, however, is that Libanius had access to the two readings because he creates an imaginary scenario in which Socrates is defending himself against Anytus who, according to Libanius, purposely altered Pindaric poetry in order to attack Socrates:

οὕτω καὶ περὶ Πινδάρου διαλέγεται δεδοικὼς αὐτοῦ τὴν διδαχὴν καὶ φοβούμενος μή τις τῶν νέων ἀκούσας ὡς ὑπερτάτη χειρὶ βιάζεται τὸ δίκαιον ἀμελήσας τῶν νόμων ἀσκῆ τὼ χεῖρε. καὶ τοῦτο οὕτως εἰκότως ὑφορᾶται Σωκράτης, ὡς ὁ σοφώτατος ’Άνυτος ἐτόλμησε μεταγράψαι τὸ τοὺ ποιητοῦ καθάπερ ἐν Σκύθαις διαλεγομένου καὶ οὐκ εἰσομένοις ἀνθρώποις, τί μὲν Ἀνύτου, τί δὲ Πινδάρου. ἀλλὰ τοῦτο μὲν καλῶς ἐποίησε κακουργῶν, ἐν γὰρ τῷ μεταθεῖναι τὸ τοῦ ποιητοῦ κατηγόρηκε τοῦ Πινδάρου καὶ τὸν Σωκράτην ἐπῄνεσεν.
(Apol. Soc. 87 Foerster)
Thus he [Anytus] also discusses Pindar in fear of the poet’s teaching, lest some youth, upon hearing that “justice is violated by a supreme hand,” would exercise his own hands in disregard of the law. Socrates naturally found this suspect, since the very clever Anytus dared to alter the poet’s words as if Pindar were talking among Scythians and not among those who would know which words belonged to Pindar and which to Anytus. But a good thing resulted from his misdeed, for in changing the poet’s verse he attacked Pindar and praised Socrates.

This difficult passage from Libanius’ Apology, which presents a fictitious account of the trial of Socrates, says that Anytus brought up the subject of Pindar (περὶ Πινδάρου διαλέγεται) in his accusation against Socrates. Libanius has Anytus fear Pindar’s teaching (διδαχήν), supposedly spread by Socrates, which would inspire young men to ‘violate justice’ and disregard established laws. However, Anytus fails in his indictment of Socrates because he ‘dared to alter Pindar’s words’ (ἐτόλμησε μεταγράψαι τὸ τοῦ ποιητοῦ). Socrates ‘sees beneath’ (ὑφορᾶται) Anytus’ ploy. By changing Pindar’s meaning, Anytus manages unwittingly to help Socrates’ cause and to speak against Pindar.

The problem presented by this passage is the paraphrase of Pindar’s ‘teaching’: ὑπερτᾶτη χειρὶ βιάζεται τὸ δίκαιον. Libanius does not indicate whence he derives this episode involving Anytus’ purposeful misquotation of Pindar employed as an indictment against Socrates. An immense amount of scholarly conjecture regarding Libanius’ sources has resulted in the assumption that material from the lost Κατηγορία Σωκράτους of Polycrates, itself a fictitious account of Socrates’ prosecution written sometime around the first quarter of the fourth century B.C.E., is used by Libanius. [73] However, Libanius never refers to Polycrates or his work even though he mentions the name of Xenophon whose Apology he definitely uses as a source. [74] Since Libanius has Anytus refer to the same Pindaric lines as does Callicles, scholars have extrapolated that there must be some type of relationship between the Gorgias and the lost work of Polycrates (assumed to be Libanius’ source). One must bear in mind, however, that Polycrates is not necessarily Libanius’ source for the reference to Anytus’ citation of Pindar, and the fact that Callicles and Anytus refer to the same well-known Pindar poem does not imply, as Wilamowitz maintains in his clever attempt to date the Gorgias, that the dialogue is Plato’s response to Polycrates’ work. [75] Like Taylor, I think that it is unlikely that Polycrates “could have used a misquotation put by Plato into the mouth of Callicles to damage the reputation of Socrates.” [76]
Since it is impossible to determine whether or not there was a relationship between the Gorgias and Polycrates’ lost pamphlet, it seems fruitless to argue (as does Wilamowitz) that Polycrates had corrected Plato’s unintentional misquotation and that Anytus later charged Polycrates with altering Plato’s text. [77] It is unnecessary to postulate such a complicated explanation for Libanius’ having access to the two different versions of Callicles’ quotation of Pindar. Libanius could have been using a manuscript of Plato that contained βιαιῶν τὸ δικαιότατον while simultaneously reading Aristides’ speech in defense of oratory that had the genuine “Pindaric” text. [78] Perhaps it was Libanius who, when confronted with the variant readings in Plato and Aristides, contrived the imaginary scene in which Anytus misquotes, just as another of Socrates’ opponents, namely, Callicles, appears to have done.
Although many scholars favor the alternative explanation for the variant readings—that textual corruption in the form of a “spoonerism” must have occurred between the time of Aristides and that of Libanius [79] —their argument disregards Callicles’ words at 484b 10 where he explicitly states that he does not know what Pindar’s poem exactly says: λέγει οὕτω πως—τὸ γὰρ ᾆσμα οὐκ ἐπίσταμαι. This comment would appear superfluous if Callicles had not misquoted a famous Pindaric passage. The suggestion that Plato intentionally has Callicles misquote should be considered in light of the added irony of Callicles’ misquotation. While βιαιῶν τὸ δικαιότατον could mean ‘violating that which is most just’, Callicles’ words would have more effect if he quotes Pindar as describing the power of νόμος by the phrase ‘enforcing (i.e., effecting by force) that which is most just’. [80] Interpreting βιαιῶν in the latter sense would be more appropriate with respect to the immediate context of Callicles’ quotation. Immediately before his reference to Pindar’s poem, Callicles takes pains to demonstrate that the νόμος of nature, which sanctions the advantage of the strong over the weak, establishes a state of affairs that is in itself right and just. In other words, τὸ δικαιότατον could refer to the ideal scene described in 483e-484a. Theognidea 255 reads κάλλιστον τὸ δικαιότατον and, by extension, it could be claimed that Callicles has described what is κάλλιστον in his eyes: the rebellion of the powerful against the constraints of society. If one allows for the possibility that Callicles misquotes Pindar, then his incorrect citing of the poet’s words about νόμος is used as a feeble support for his own viewpoint. In addition, it would seem quite comical if Plato not only presented Callicles’ perverse view but also had Callicles attribute such an opinion to Pindar.


[ back ] 1. See Dodds 1959.28-29 for specific references to discussions of this topic. Grote 1994.23 has recently argued that Plato had Polycrates in mind when he wrote the Gorgias and that in the dialogue, “Plato is making the counter charge that it was not Socrates, but his opponents, like Callicles, who abused and made immoral use of the Greek poets.”
[ back ] 2. Namely, the scholion on Pind. Nem. 9.35a and Ael. Aristid. or. 45 (vol. 2, 68 Dindorf with corresponding scholion in vol. 3, 408 Dindorf).
[ back ] 3. Socrates uses musical terminology here, likening a man to a lyre, to describe the state of being ‘discordant’ or ‘out of tune’ (482c2: ἀσύμφωνος) with oneself. His accusing Callicles of self-disagreement recalls Protagoras’ attack on Simonides. However, the tone of Socrates’ initial speech to Callicles is sarcastic. Note the mocking reference to Callicles’ love for Demos, son of Pyrilampes, and for the Athenian demos as compared to Socrates’ own loves, Alcibiades and philosophy (481d-e).
[ back ] 4. Callicles follows Socrates’ practice of using terms such as “worse” and “more shameful” interchangeably.
[ back ] 5. For a useful discussion of this topic, consult Guthrie 1969.55-134 (especially 101-107 and 131-134 treating Callicles’ views and his quotation of Pindar), Heinimann 1945.110-169, and Kerferd 1981.111-130.
[ back ] 6. Note the repetition of ἐναντία at 482e5 and e7, which implies that a parallel is to be drawn between the two sets of antitheses.
[ back ] 7. The views expressed here by Callicles are similar to those of Antiphon the Sophist regarding νόμος versus φύσις (Diels-Kranz 87 B 44).
[ back ] 8. Callicles here seems to be conflating the various meanings of νόμος. ‘Law’ and ‘convention’ are the same-thing in this context insofar as ‘laws’ are formal encodings of what is prescribed by ‘convention’.
[ back ] 9. Note that Callicles assumes that ‘the better’ are ‘the stronger’.
[ back ] 10. It should be emphasized that Callicles endorses this state of affairs according to nature. Callicles is not merely stating what he sees, namely, that animals and humans everywhere are subject to the power of φύσις. He thinks that “the way things are (according to nature)” is “the way things should be.”
[ back ] 11. Compare Callicles’ courage to express openly his beliefs to Protagoras’ claim that he alone admits to being a sophist and to have the ability to educate men (cf. Protagoras 317b3 and following).
[ back ] 12. The boldness of Callicles’ view is reinforced by his reference to the great enemies of Greece. He implies that Darius and Xerxes had a justification of their imperialism: φύσις.
[ back ] 13. Note the parallel phrases employed here: κατὰ φύσιν τὴν τοῦ δίκαιου / κατὰ νόμον γε τὸν τῆς φύσεως (483e2-3). Callicles’ wording implies that these phrases are somehow interchangeable, since they refer to a single (i.e., Callicles’) conception of nature.
[ back ] 14. The expression νόμος τῆς φύσεως first appears here, although an allusion to this concept can be found in Thuc. 5.105.2.
[ back ] 15. The exclamation ναὶ μὰ Δία and the particle γε in 482e2-3 emphasize Callicles’ insistence on the validity of his view regarding the contrast between the νόμος of nature and that laid down by man.
[ back ] 16. See Dodds 1959.387-391 for evidence that Nietzsche was influenced by the views attributed to Callicles by Plato.
[ back ] 17. The image of the lion here may have contributed to Nietzsche’s depiction of die blonde Bestie in Zur Genealogie der Moral 1.11.
[ back ] 18. Notes the sonorous quality of Callicles’ in 483e4-6. The onomatopoeic sound of Callicles’ own lines mimics the bewitching effect of those spells and incantations which he says are used by the weak to enslave the strong compare Meno 80a2-3 for collocation of the verbs γοητεύω (‘beguile’) and κατεπᾴδω (‘subdue with enchantment’).
[ back ] 19. Like νόμος, φύσις can have various meanings in Callicles’ speech.
[ back ] 20. I understand Callicles to imply that there are νόμοι which are ‘natural’ (κατὰ φύσιν).
[ back ] 21. True justice ‘shines forth’ (484bl: ἐξέλαμψεν) just as the former slave now ‘reveals himself (484a6: ἀνεφάνη) as master.
[ back ] 22. Although Burnet’s OCT offers this reading of the text (i.e., Aristides’ version), the best manuscripts (B, T, P, F) have βιαίων τὸ δικαιότατον.
[ back ] 23. Translation by W. D. Woodhead in Hamilton and Cairns (eds.) 1961.267; I have left nomos untranslated because of its wide range of meanings.
[ back ] 24. Ostwald 1965.124.
[ back ] 25. Gigante 1956.111. Gigante’s discussion of Herodotus’ reference to Pindar (pp. 109-112) emphasizes the “parzialità dell’ interprctazione erodotea” (109).
[ back ] 26. Cf. Ostwald 1965.124-125.
[ back ] 27. See Lobel 1961.141-154 for the editio princeps of the papyrus beginning from line 6 (ἐπεὶ Γηρυόνα βόας …).
[ back ] 28. A full bibliography of pre-1956 treatments can be found throughout Gigante’s ΝΟΜΟΣ ΒΑΣΙΛΕΥΣ (1956). Some of the most helpful detailed discussions of fr. 169a are Ostwald 1965.109-138; Theiler 1965.69-80; Gigante 1966.286-311; Pavese 1968.47-88; and Lloyd-Jones 1972.45-56 (= 1990.154-165). The most recent text of fr. 169a in the 1989 Teubner edition of Pindaric fragments by H. Maehler is the one upon which I base my study.
[ back ] 29. Like Lobel and Lloyd-Jones, I think that the poem is probably a dithyramb.
[ back ] 30. Lloyd-Jones 1972.48 cites the beginning of the sixth Nemean ode (ἓν άνδρών, ἓν θεῶν γένος) as another example of Pindar’s placing of a gnomic statement at the very start of a poem.
[ back ] 31. For example, Pavese 1968,55-57 and Lloyd-Jones 1972.48.
[ back ] 32. Pavese and Lloyd-Jones themselves provide examples of other personifications (e.g., Heraclitus’ personification of πόλεμος as ‘father and king of all’ in Diels-Kranz 22 B 53).
[ back ] 33. Pavese 1968.57. Dodds 1959.270 provides the tentative translation ‘conducts (?)’ for ἄγει; he later says that “488b3 suggests that Plato took ἄγει to mean ‘plunders’, as in the phrase ἄγειν καὶ φέρειν.’’ Ostwald translates it as ‘brings on’. All these translations seem inadequate.
[ back ] 34. Lloyd-Jones 1972.48.
[ back ] 35. Ibid.
[ back ] 36. Cf. fsth. 5.16 (θνατὰ θνατοῖσι πρέπει) for the adjective ‘mortal’ applied to things as well as human beings.
[ back ] 37. This is the reading found in the scholion on Pindar’s Nem. 9.35a (quoting fr. 169a from νόμος down to χειρί) and Ael. Aristid. or. 45 (vol. 2, 68 Dindorf) and the corresponding scholion (vol. 3, 408 Dindorf). It also appears in the margin of V (Parisinus 2110), a Byzantine manuscript.
[ back ] 38. See the lengthy discussion by Pavese 1968.57-60. Lloyd-Jones rejects Pavese’s interpretation, based on the fragmentary lines provided by the papyrus, that Herakles is bringing Diomedes’ violent deeds to justice. Diomedes’ motivation for resisting Herakles (line 15 of P. Oxy. 2450 refers to Diomedes’ source of action: ἀρετᾷ) seems to support Lloyd- Jones’ argument, which implies that Pindar does not blame Diomedes for protecting his property. Like Lloyd-Jones, Dodds 1959.270 translates δικαιῶν as ‘making just’.
[ back ] 39. See LSJ s. v. δικαιόω for an ambiguous translation (‘to set right’) of the verb in the context of fr. 169a alone.
[ back ] 40. Pindar cites some of Herakles’ deeds as evidence (line 4: τεκμαίρομαι) in support of his gnome regarding νόμος. Perhaps Pindar regards Herakles’ actions as not necessarily just in and by themselves but as part of the long-term process of justice (δίκη).
[ back ] 41. Note the phrase βίας ὁδόν (P. Oxy. 2450, line 19) as a possible reference to Herakles’ labors.
[ back ] 42. Ael. Arist. 45.53 (vol. 2, 70 Dindorf: εἰ γὰρ ἀξιώσει τὸ βιαιότατον νόμον εἶναι τὸν δικαιοῦντα καὶ τὴν ὑπερτάτην χεῖρα κρατεῖν Ἡρακλέους, ᾧ μετὰ τῆς χειρὸς τῶν δικαίων ἐμέλησεν, αὐτὴ [sc. ἡ ῥητορική] τοῖς ἑαυτῆς λὀγοις ἀπολεῖται).
[ back ] 43. The dithyramb to which Aristides refers was entitled the Cerberus (cf. Wilamowitz 1922.344).
[ back ] 44. For the text of the Pindaric fragment cited by Aristides, see fr. 81 (dith. 2) Snell-Maehler.
[ back ] 45. Schol. Aristid. vol. 3, 409 Dindorf (σὲ δέ, ὦ Γηρυόνη, ἐπαινῶ παρ’ αὐτὸν τὸν Ἡρακλέα …) makes it clear that the Pindaric text should be παρά μιν instead of παρ’ ἁμίν.
[ back ] 46. The scholiast explains that Pindar praises Geryon for defending his property when Herakles unjustly lakes it away by force.
[ back ] 47. Crotty in 1982.105 aptly describes the situation: “The encomiast’s role, then, is a circumscribed one. It is his duty to ‘praise the praiseworthy, blame the blameworthy’, and failure to do this is very wrong. The imperative is not absolute, however, because it depends ultimately on whether the gods are benevolent or hostile to the person, and the gods’ disposition is not subject to men’s notions of right and wrong. The power to exalt or humble—even without regard to a person’s ‘merits’—is a divine prerogative.”
[ back ] 48. Cf. Ol. 13.91 and Nem. 5.17-18.
[ back ] 49. See Lloyd-Jones 1972.51 for a discussion of these lines. Unlike Pavese 1968.67ff., he thinks that Diomedes resisted Herakles1 violence rather than vice versa. Pavese’s view that Herakles resisted Diomedes contradicts what is said in the marginal scholion as restored and supplemented by Lobe] in his 1961 publication of the papyrus fragment. Lobel’s interpretation of the marginal scholion on the papyrus fragment, which he supplements by Ael. Aristid. vol. 2, 70 Dindorf and its corresponding scholion, is οὐκ ἐπὶ ὕβρει, ἀλλ’ ἀρετῆς ἕνεκα. τὸ γὰρ [τὰ ἐαυτοῦ μὴ προ]ίεσθαι ἀνδρείου (ἐστίν) [ ] ἀλλ’ οὐχ ὑβριστ|οῦ. Ἡρα]κλῆς δ(έ) ἠδ[ί]κει [ἀφελό]μένος.
[ back ] 50. Lloyd-Jones 1972.56. Cf. Dodds 1959.270.
[ back ] 51. Cf. Gigante 1956.75. He is just one of many scholars who have postulated Orphic influences; see Ostwalf 1965.120ff. for a lengthy discussion of the scholarly literature and a complicated argument against the interpretation of νόμος as ‘divine law’.
[ back ] 52. Although Guthrie 1969.133 is right to point this out, his suggestion that νόμος be translated as ‘recognized custom (usage, tradition)’ does not clarify Pindar’s meaning of the term in fr. 169a. Surely Pindar would not think that the violent acts of Herakles are somehow ‘customary’; cf. Dodds 1959.270.
[ back ] 53. Ostwald 1965.125-126.
[ back ] 54. Crotty 1982.106.
[ back ] 55. Crotty 1982.104.
[ back ] 56. The ‘seventh’ type of rule described by the Athenian at Laws 690c5-8 comes to mind as an example of the kind of power which Pindar’s conception of νόμος possesses. The Athenian states that the rule which is ‘dear to the gods and fortuitous’ (θεοφιλῆ δέ γε καὶ εὐτυχῆ) is considered τὸ δικαιότατον by men. Men’s adherence to the outcome of the casting of lots is an example of this type of ἀρχή.
[ back ] 57. I employ Lloyd-Jones’ translation here (cf. p. 49).
[ back ] 58. Crotty 1982.105.
[ back ] 59. The νόμος-φύσις debate, in which νόμος is defined by human beings, is not relevant to Pindar’s use of the term.
[ back ] 60. Cf. 483dl-e4 and note Callicles’ phrase, κατἀ νόμον γε τὸν τῆς φύσεως, in particular.
[ back ] 61. Callicles’ diction here is noteworthy because he assumes that ‘the stronger man’ (ὁ κρείττων) is automatically ‘the better man’ (ὁ βελτίων) and he thus implies that nature’s definition of justice has a sound moral backing.
[ back ] 62. Cf. 483dl-e2 and 484al-bl.
[ back ] 63. The correct accentuation would be βιαιῶν.
[ back ] 64. Dodds 1959.272 argues that the manuscript reading is this type of textual corruption; cf. Ostwald 1965.132 n. 8, Pavese 1968.57 n. 22, and Crotty 1982.155 n. 1.
[ back ] 65. Cf. the OCT edition of Plato’s dialogues by Burnet (vol. 3) and Dodds’s edition of the Gorgias (p. 123).
[ back ] 66. E.g., É. Des Places 1949.171ff., J. Irigoin 1952.16-17, Taylor n. 2, Friedländer 1964(2).260-61, and Grote 1994.21-31. For a detailed discussion of the manuscript tradition for the Gorgias, see Dodds 1959.34-56.
[ back ] 67. The false accent found in the manuscripts (βιαίων) can be explained as a copyist’s error. Perhaps the error is somehow “learned,” since βιαίων is the genitive plural of the adjective βίαιος and is found in legal terminology (e.g., δίκη βιαίων) employed by orators such as Lysias and Demosthenes (cf. LSJ s. v. βίαιος).
[ back ] 68. Cf. Wilamowitz 1920(2).97.
[ back ] 69. Wilamowitz (pp. 98-99) regards βιάζεται τὸ δίκαιον in Libanius Apol. Socr. 87 as a paraphrase of βιαιῶν τὸ δικαιότατον. Lloyd-Jones 1972.48 also believes that Libanius adopts the text of the Pindaric lines from a manuscript of Plato.
[ back ] 70. Although Dodds 1959.271 argues “there is nothing to prove that Plato had the Pindar passage in mind here,” the claim of Wilamowitz that this passage in the Laws alludes to Pindar’s poem may have been prompted by the words immediately preceding the alleged reference; the Athenian speaker attributes the attitude expressed in the supposed paraphrase to poets as well as to other ἄνδρες σοφοί (cf. 890a4).
[ back ] 71. The Athenian’s reference to Pindar deals with the poet’s opinion regarding the rule of the wise. Consequently, he may be alluding to a nonextant poem of Pindar. The opinion expressed in Laws 690cl-3 seems to counter one which is attributed to Pindar; καίτοι τοῦτό γε, ὦ Πίνδαρε σοφώτατε, σχεδὸν οὐκ ἂν παρὰ φύσιν ἔγωγε φαίην γίγνεσθαι, κατὰ φύσιν δέ, τὴν τοῦ νόμου ἑκόντων ἀρχὴν ἀλλ’ οὐ βίαιον πεφυκυῖαν. In addition, the Athenian mentions the ‘rule of the stronger’ immediately before turning to the words of Pindar in 690b7-8 as support for his view.
[ back ] 72. Wilamowitz 1920(2).98.
[ back ] 73. For a detailed discussion of the scholarly literature on this topic, see Markowski 1910.20-66. Cf. Foerster 1909.1-4 and Dodds’s comments in 1959.28-29, 271-72.74.
[ back ] 74. I am grateful to Albert Henrichs for bringing this to my attention.
[ back ] 75. Wilamowitz 1920(2).99ff. Most scholars (e.g., Markowski, Foerster, Dodds, and Wilamowitz) accept Libanius’ use of Polycrates as a given, even though it can be argued that Libanius obtains much of the material for his fictitious work from the dialogues of Plato and Xenophon’s Apology. In addition, it is possible that Libanius himself creates the situation of Anytus’ purposeful misquotation of Pindar. I would like to think that Libanius, using a Plato manuscript with a variant reading of Pindar as quoted by Callicles and juxtaposing it with the Pindar text as found in Aelius Aristides, is responsible for attributing the act of purposeful misquotation to Anytus who, like Callicles, is an opponent of Socrates. Even if my conjecture is wrong, I do not think that one can be certain of the influence of Polycrates’ pamphlet on the contents of the Libanius passage.
[ back ] 76. Taylor 1960.104 (cf. Dodds 1959,271).
[ back ] 77. Cf. Wilamowitz 1920(2).99.
[ back ] 78. See Pack 1947.17-20 for Aristides’ influence on Libanius.
[ back ] 79. See n. 64 above.
[ back ] 80. Those who believe that Plato puts a misquotation in Callicles mouth translate, for the most part, βιαιῶν as ‘violating’; cf. Des Places 1949.173 and Irigoin 1952.17. Callicles would be undermining his own position if he were to say that νόμος ‘violates’ justice. Charles Segal has suggested to me that βιαιόω may be a factitive verb like δικαιόω; therefore, the phrase βιαιῶν τὸ δικαιότατον would mean ‘making τὸ δικαιότατον into βία’.