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Three Millennia of Greek Literature
Physis : World Creation  

Plato's TIMAEUS : Diseases and therapy of the soul

Timaeus 86b - 90d  * Greek Fonts


Page 3

There is a corresponding enquiry concerning the mode of treatment by which the mind and the body are to be preserved, about which it is meet and right that I should say a word in turn; for it is more our duty to speak of the good than of the evil. Everything that is good is fair, and the animal fair is not without proportion, and the animal which is to be fair must have due proportion. Now we perceive lesser symmetries or proportions and reason about them, but of the highest and greatest we take no heed; for there is no proportion or disproportion more productive of health and disease, and virtue and vice, than that between soul and body. This however we do not perceive, nor do we reflect that when a weak or small frame is the vehicle of a great and mighty soul, or conversely, when a little soul is encased in a large body, then the whole animal is not fair, for it lacks the most important of all symmetries; but the due proportion of mind and body is the fairest and loveliest of all sights to him who has the seeing eye. Just as a body which has a leg too long, or which is unsymmetrical in some other respect, is an unpleasant sight, and also, when doing its share of work, is much distressed and makes convulsive efforts, and often stumbles through awkwardness, and is the cause of infinite evil to its own self-in like manner we should conceive of the double nature which we call the living being; and when in this compound there is an impassioned soul more powerful than the body, that soul, I say, convulses and fills with disorders the whole inner nature of man; and when eager in the pursuit of some sort of learning or study, causes wasting; or again, when teaching or disputing in private or in public, and strifes and controversies arise, inflames and dissolves the composite frame of man and introduces rheums; and the nature of this phenomenon is not understood by most professors of medicine, who ascribe it to the opposite of the real cause. And once more, when body large and too strong for the soul is united to a small and weak intelligence, then inasmuch as there are two desires natural to man,-one of food for the sake of the body, and one of wisdom for the sake of the diviner part of us-then, I say, the motions of the stronger, getting the better and increasing their own power, but making the soul dull, and stupid, and forgetful, engender ignorance, which is the greatest of diseases. There is one protection against both kinds of disproportion:-that we should not move the body without the soul or the soul without the body, and thus they will be on their guard against each other, and be healthy and well balanced.

[87c] Τὸ δὲ τούτων ἀντίστροφον αὖ͵ τὸ περὶ τὰς τῶν σωμάτων καὶ διανοήσεων θεραπείας αἷς αἰτίαις σῴζεται͵ πάλιν εἰκὸς καὶ πρέπον ἀνταποδοῦναι· δικαιότερον γὰρ τῶν ἀγαθῶν πέρι μᾶλλον ἢ τῶν κακῶν ἴσχειν λόγον. πᾶν δὴ τὸ ἀγαθὸν καλόν͵ τὸ δὲ καλὸν οὐκ ἄμετρον· καὶ ζῷον οὖν τὸ τοιοῦτον ἐσόμενον σύμμετρον θετέον. συμμετριῶν δὲ τὰ μὲν σμικρὰ διαισθανόμενοι συλλογιζόμεθα͵ τὰ δὲ κυριώτατα καὶ μέγιστα ἀλογίστως ἔχομεν. [87d] πρὸς γὰρ ὑγιείας καὶ νόσους ἀρετάς τε καὶ κακίας οὐδεμία συμμετρία καὶ ἀμετρία μείζων ἢ ψυχῆς αὐτῆς πρὸς σῶμα αὐτό· ὧν οὐδὲν σκοποῦμεν οὐδ΄ ἐννοοῦμεν͵ ὅτι ψυχὴν ἰσχυρὰν καὶ πάντῃ μεγάλην ἀσθενέστερον καὶ ἔλαττον εἶδος ὅταν ὀχῇ͵ καὶ ὅταν αὖ τοὐναντίον συμπαγῆτον τούτω͵ οὐ καλὸν ὅλον τὸ ζῷον - ἀσύμμετρον γὰρ ταῖς μεγίσταις συμμετρίαις - τὸ δὲ ἐναντίως ἔχον πάντων θεαμάτων τῷ δυναμένῳ καθορᾶν κάλλιστον καὶ ἐρασμιώτατον. [87e] οἷον οὖν ὑπερσκελὲς ἢ καί τινα ἑτέραν ὑπέρεξιν ἄμετρον ἑαυτῷ τι σῶμα ὂν ἅμα μὲν αἰσχρόν͵ ἅμα δ΄ ἐν τῇ κοινωνίᾳ τῶν πόνων πολλοὺς μὲν κόπους͵ πολλὰ δὲ σπάσματα καὶ διὰ τὴν παραφορότητα πτώματα παρέχον μυρίων κακῶν αἴτιον ἑαυτῷ͵ ταὐτὸν δὴ διανοητέον καὶ περὶ τοῦ συναμφοτέρου͵ ζῷον ὃ καλοῦμεν͵ [88a] ὡς ὅταν τε ἐν αὐτῷ ψυχὴ κρείττων οὖσα σώματος περιθύμως ἴσχῃ͵ διασείουσα πᾶν αὐτὸ ἔνδοθεν νόσων ἐμπίμπλησι͵ καὶ ὅταν εἴς τινας μαθήσεις καὶ ζητήσεις συντόνως ἴῃ͵ κατατήκει͵ διδαχάς τ΄ αὖ καὶ μάχας ἐν λόγοις ποιουμένη δημοσίᾳ καὶ ἰδίᾳ δι΄ ἐρίδων καὶ φιλονικίας γιγνομένων διάπυρον αὐτὸ ποιοῦσα σαλεύει͵ καὶ ῥεύματα ἐπάγουσα͵ τῶν λεγομένων ἰατρῶν ἀπατῶσα τοὺς πλείστους͵ τἀναίτια αἰτιᾶσθαι ποιεῖ· σῶμά τε ὅταν αὖ μέγα καὶ ὑπέρψυχον σμικρᾷ συμφυὲς ἀσθενεῖ τε διανοίᾳ γένηται͵ [88b] διττῶν ἐπιθυμιῶν οὐσῶν φύσει κατ΄ ἀνθρώπους͵ διὰ σῶμα μὲν τροφῆς͵ διὰ δὲ τὸ θειότατον τῶν ἐν ἡμῖν φρονήσεως͵ αἱ τοῦ κρείττονος κινήσεις κρατοῦσαι καὶ τὸ μὲν σφέτερον αὔξουσαι͵ τὸ δὲ τῆς ψυχῆς κωφὸν καὶ δυσμαθὲς ἀμνῆμόν τε ποιοῦσαι͵ τὴν μεγίστην νόσον ἀμαθίαν ἐναπεργάζονται. μία δὴ σωτηρία πρὸς ἄμφω͵ μήτε τὴν ψυχὴν ἄνευ σώματος κινεῖν μήτε σῶμα ἄνευ ψυχῆς͵ ἵνα ἀμυνομένω γίγνησθον ἰσορρόπω καὶ ὑγιῆ.

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