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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Plato : HIPPIAS (major)

Persons of the dialogue: Socrates - Hippias
Translated by Benjamin Jowett - 37 Pages - Greek fonts
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37 Pages

Socrates: Hippias, beautiful and wise, what a long time it is since you have put in at the port of Athens !

Hippias: I am too busy, Socrates. For whenever Elis needs to have any business transacted with any of the states, she always comes to me first of her citizens and chooses me as envoy, thinking that I am the ablest judge and messenger of the words that are spoken by the several states. So I have often gone as envoy to other states, but most often and concerning the most numerous and important matters to Lacedaemon. For that reason, then, since you ask me, I do not often come to this neighborhood.

Soc.: That’s what it is, Hippias, to be a truly wise and perfect man ! For you are both in your private capacity able to earn much money from the young and to confer upon them still greater benefits than you receive, and in public affairs you are able to benefit your own state, Plato notes @ Elpenor ['state' is wrong; the original is τὴν σαυτοῦ πόλιν = your city (polis), your people; read more about the state problem] as a man must who is to be not despised but held in high repute among the many. And yet, Hippias, what in the world is the reason why those men of old whose names are called great in respect to wisdom — Pittacus, and Bias, and the Milesian Thales with his followers and also the later ones, down to Anaxagoras, are all, or most of them, found to refrain from affairs of state? Plato notes @ Elpenor ['affairs of state' is wrong; the original is πολιτικῶν πράξεων = whatever kind of personal activities intended to influence the common life of the polis].

Hip.: What else do you suppose, Socrates, than that they were not able to compass by their wisdom both public and private matters?

Soc.: Then for Heaven’s sake, just as the other arts have progressed, and the ancients are of no account in comparison with the artisans of today, shall we say that your art also has progressed and those of the ancients who were concerned with wisdom are of no account in comparison with you?

Hip.: Yes, you are quite right.

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