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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Plato Bilingual Anthology : WISDOM

from the 7th Epistle, * 341b-345a, translated by B. Jowett

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Page 2

Again, if they had appeared to me to admit adequately of writing and exposition, what task in life could I have performed nobler than this, to write what is of great service to mankind and to bring the nature of things into the light for all to see? But I do not think it a good thing for men that there should be a disquisition, as it is called, on this topic-except for some few, who are able with a little teaching to find it out for themselves. As for the rest, it would fill some of them quite illogically with a mistaken feeling of contempt, and others with lofty and vain-glorious expectations, as though they had learnt something high and mighty.

On this point I intend to speak a little more at length; for perhaps, when I have done so, things will be clearer with regard to my present subject. There is an argument which holds good against the man ventures to put anything whatever into writing on questions of this nature; it has often before been stated by me, and it seems suitable to the present occasion.

εἰ δέ μοι ἐφαίνετο γραπτέα θ΄ ἱκανῶς εἶναι πρὸς τοὺς πολλοὺς καὶ ῥητά͵ τί τούτου κάλλιον ἐπέπρακτ΄ ἂν ἡμῖν ἐν τῷ βίῳ ἢ τοῖς τε ἀνθρώποισι μέγα ὄφελος γράψαι καὶ τὴν φύσιν εἰς φῶς πᾶσιν προαγαγεῖν; ἀλλ΄ οὔτε ἀνθρώποις ἡγοῦμαι τὴν ἐπιχείρησιν περὶ αὐτῶν λεγομένην ἀγαθόν͵ εἰ μή τισιν ὀλίγοις ὁπόσοι δυνατοὶ ἀνευρεῖν αὐτοὶ διὰ σμικρᾶς ἐνδείξεως͵ τῶν τε δὴ ἄλλων τοὺς μὲν καταφρονήσεως οὐκ ὀρθῆς ἐμπλήσειεν ἂν οὐδαμῇ ἐμμελῶς͵ τοὺς δὲ ὑψηλῆς καὶ χαύνης ἐλπίδος͵ ὡς σέμν΄ ἄττα μεμαθηκότας.  


ἔτι δὲ μακρότερα περὶ αὐτῶν ἐν νῷ μοι γέγονεν εἰπεῖν· τάχα γὰρ ἂν περὶ ὧν λέγω σαφέστερον ἂν εἴη λεχθέντων αὐτῶν. ἔστι γάρ τις λόγος ἀληθής͵ ἐναντίος τῷ τολμήσαντι γράφειν τῶν τοιούτων καὶ ὁτιοῦν͵ πολλάκις μὲν ὑπ΄ ἐμοῦ καὶ πρόσθεν ῥηθείς͵ ἔοικεν δ΄ οὖν εἶναι καὶ νῦν λεκτέος.

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