Famous Eulogies: Alcibades eulogizes Socrates


BUT now there came a clamour of revellers, and the voice of Alcibiades without, calling for Agathon; and then he came in, very drunk. "Drunk I am," said he, "but I'll drink with you. If you won't, we'll crown Agathon and depart." Being bidden to come in, he dropped down by Agathon, and then discovered that Socrates was on his other side. "Heracles!" he cried, "wherever I go, Socrates is lying in wait for me."

"Protect me, Agathon," said Socrates, "I dare not speak to or look at anyone else when he is near, he is so jealous. I entreat you to reconcile us."

"I won't be reconciled," said Alcibiades. "But I'll crown him too. He is always victor, not once in a way like Agathon yesterday." And this he did.

"Our business," said Eryximachus, "is to speak in praise of Love; it is your turn." "Socrates won't let me praise anyone but Socrates. I won't praise anyone else. Shall I attack him? May I speak the truth about him? I cannot be methodical in this condition; I must say the things as they come into my head.

"In the first place, he is just like a statue, the statue of the satyr Marsyas. Only, Socrates charms us by words instead of by musical pipings like him. Pericles and the rest cannot move me so; he even makes me ashamed of myself, till life ceases to be worth living, and I could wish to be quit of him altogether, only that would be worse. In spite of his professions, he cares no more for beauty than for any other external possessions, but when you get inside this Silenus, the divine images displayed are perfectly beautiful, and divine and wonderful.

"We messed together in camp before Potidaea. He was far the hardiest of us all; scanty fair, plenty, intolerable cold never disturbed him. In the rout of Delium he was a sight to behold. I was mounted; he was trudging off the field with Laches on foot; but he was so majestically calm that anyone could see he would make a desperate resistance if attacked; so no one ventured. The fact is, Socrates is like no one else that ever was--excepting the Silene and Satyrs; rude, not to say absurd, outside, but inside full of every conceivable excellence."

THERE was great laughter over the frankness of Alcibiades. However just then a fresh batch of revellers broke in. Eryximachus and Phaedrus went off to bed. Aristodemus fell asleep, and woke to find Socrates, Aristophanes and Agathon still talking and drinking, while Socrates was compelling the two dramatists to admit, against their convictions, that tragedy and comedy are a single art proper to one person. They went to sleep at last, and then Socrates went away.

Return to Outline of Great Books Volume I