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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Plato Bilingual Anthology : WISDOM

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

Greek Fonts / Plato Complete works / Plato Concept

DID NOT, however, give a complete exposition, nor did Dionysios ask for one. For he professed to know many, and those the most important, points, and to have a sufficient hold of them through instruction given by others. I hear also that he has since written about what he heard from me, composing what professes to be his own handbook, very different, so he says, from the doctrines which he heard from me; but of its contents I know nothing; I know indeed that others have written on the same subjects; but who they are, is more than they know themselves. Thus much at least, I can say about all writers, past or future, who say they know the things to which I devote myself, whether by hearing the teaching of me or of others, or by their own discoveries-that according to my view it is not possible for them to have any real skill in the matter. There neither is nor ever will be a treatise of mine on the subject. For it does not admit of exposition like other branches of knowledge; but after much converse about the matter itself and a life lived together, suddenly a light, as it were, is kindled in one soul by a flame that leaps to it from another, and thereafter sustains itself. Yet this much I know-that if the things were written or put into words, it would be done best by me, and that, if they were written badly, I should be the person most pained.


πάντα μὲν οὖν οὔτ΄ ἐγὼ διεξῆλθον οὔτε Διονύσιος ἐδεῖτο· πολλὰ γὰρ αὐτὸς καὶ τὰ μέγιστα εἰδέναι τε καὶ ἱκανῶς ἔχειν προσεποιεῖτο διὰ τὰς ὑπὸ τῶν ἄλλων παρακοάς. ὕστερον δὲ καὶ ἀκούω γεγραφέναι αὐτὸν περὶ ὧν τότε ἤκουσε͵ συνθέντα ὡς αὑτοῦ τέχνην͵ οὐδὲν τῶν αὐτῶν ὧν ἀκούοι· οἶδα δὲ οὐδὲν τούτων. ἄλλους μέν τινας οἶδα γεγραφότας περὶ τῶν αὐτῶν τούτων͵ οἵτινες δέ͵ οὐδ΄ αὐτοὶ αὑτούς. τοσόνδε γε μὴν περὶ πάντων ἔχω φράζειν τῶν γε γραφότων καὶ γραψόντων͵ ὅσοι φασὶν εἰδέναι περὶ ὧν ἐγὼ σπουδάζω͵ εἴτ΄ ἐμοῦ ἀκηκοότες εἴτ΄ ἄλλων εἴθ΄ ὡς εὑρόντες αὐτοί· τούτους οὐκ ἔστιν κατά γε τὴν ἐμὴν δόξαν περὶ τοῦ πράγματος ἐπαΐειν οὐδέν. οὔκουν ἐμόν γε περὶ αὐτῶν ἔστιν σύγγραμμα οὐδὲ μήποτε γένηται· ῥητὸν γὰρ οὐδαμῶς ἐστιν ὡς ἄλλα μαθήματα͵ ἀλλ΄ ἐκ πολλῆς συνουσίας γιγνομένης περὶ τὸ πρᾶγμα αὐτὸ καὶ τοῦ συζῆν ἐξαίφνης͵ οἷον ἀπὸ πυρὸς πηδήσαντος ἐξαφθὲν φῶς͵ ἐν τῇ ψυχῇ γενόμενον αὐτὸ ἑαυτὸ ἤδη τρέφει. καίτοι τοσόνδε γε οἶδα͵ ὅτι γραφέντα ἢ λεχθέντα ὑπ΄ ἐμοῦ βέλτιστ΄ ἂν λεχθείη· καὶ μὴν ὅτι γε γραμμένα κακῶς οὐχ ἥκιστ΄ ἂν ἐμὲ λυποῖ.

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