Freitag, 15. März 2019

Damascius on the Subject of Plato's First Alcibiades

From Olympiodorus on Plato's First Alcibiades (transl. Griffin 2014), Lecture 1.4-5:

"But Damascius conveys [the subject or skopos of this dialogue] more exactly and more truly when he says that it is not about knowing oneself unqualifiedly, but about knowing oneself as a civic person (politikôs). And he establishes this from the definition of the human being in this dialogue as a rational soul (psukhê logikê) that uses the body as an instrument. Only the civic person uses the body as an instrument, since he is sometimes in need of spirited emotion (thumos), for example [in fighting] on behalf of his country, but also of an appetite (epithumia) for doing his citizens good. But neither the purificatory person (kathartikos) nor the contemplative person (theôrêtikos) need the body. For a purificatory person is the soul freeing itself from the body, though the ‘chains’ nevertheless remain and are not released as [they were] from the Ambracian youth; instead, they are released through sympathy. For it is possible for beings even here [sc. in the perceptible world] to exist above [sc. in the intelligible world] in a contemplative manner, because of a certain kind of sympathy, and also for beings above to exist here, when the soul sheds its wings, descends here and becomes aflutter about [this world], because of its love of the body. And the contemplative person is a soul that has been released from the body, while again here [in this world] we become intellectually aware (noein) of a release on account of the independence [of the soul from the body]. For the soul of the contemplative person, by being active (energousa) in accordance with that which is most divine within it, is in this way freed from its shell-like, pneumatic vehicle. And on this subject the Poet says
Adroit Odysseus then stripped off his rags . . .
In other words, the contemplative person who has separated himself from such ‘rags’ is truly ‘adroit’ (polumêtis). So, then, the target of the dialogue concerns knowing oneself as a civic person, if indeed the body is an impediment to the purificatory and contemplative person, and the pure person (kathartikos) is distinguished by moderation of the passions (metriopatheia), and the contemplative one (theôrêtikos) by freedom from them (apatheia). That is Damascius’ position."

Porphyry of Tyre #5: Daemons and Barbarian Wisdom

The greater part of what we have of On the Philosophy to be derived from Oracles is what Eusebius quotes from it in his Preparation of the Gospel (also known as the Praeparatio Evangelica), a comprehensive polemic against paganism, which he tries to refute by showing how it came to be. Fragments of several other important works are also preserved in the Preparation, alongside Eusebius‘ partisan commentary, and I recommend browsing E.H. Gifford’s translation, which shows its age (it was published in 1903), but still opens a window into a range of interesting texts that are rarely discussed.

This post, and the next two, will be largely made up of a collection of all the fragments scattered across the Praeparatio, stripped of Eusebius‘ extraneous comments. (Where Eusebius’ words needed to be included, they are in italics.) The translation is largely Gifford’s, and changes are clearly marked. The order of the fragments will not follow the numbering in Smith’s edition (which attempts to reproduce that in Porphyry’s original work). Instead, I will arrange them according to thematic headings, beginning with topics that were already touched on the previous posts:
  • (1) non-Greek wisdom and (2) daemons for this post (#5);
  • (3) summoning the gods, (4) Divination, (5) Christianity for the next (#6).
  • The last (#7) post will be on topics unique to the Eusebian fragments: (6) the god’s descriptions of themselves, (7) worship, (8) other rituals.
At the end of each section, there will be a short review of the import of the fragments. Finally, in the conclusion (in #7), I give a brief summary about Porphyry’s pre-Plotinian views of ritual practice.

(1a) Barbarian Wisdom

323F Smith (Praep. 9.10)
It is his Apollo who speaks as follows in an oracle which he is uttering; and while still explaining the subject of sacrifices, he adds words which are well worthy of attention, as being full of all [theosophy]:
“Steep is the road and rough that leads to heaven,  Entered at first through portals bound with brass.  Within are found innumerable paths,  Which for the endless good of all mankind  They first revealed, who Nile's sweet waters drink.  From them the heavenward paths Phoenicia learned,  Assyria, Lydia, and the Hebrew race;” 
and so forth; on which the author further remarks:
323F [Praep. 9.10]
For the road to the gods is bound with brass, and both steep and rough; the barbarians discovered many paths thereof, but the Greeks went astray, and those who already held it even perverted it. The discovery was ascribed by the god to Egyptians, Phoenicians, Chaldeans (for these are the Assyrians), Lydians, and Hebrews. 
In addition to this Apollo also says in another oracle:
“Only Chaldees and Hebrews wisdom found
In the pure worship (sebazomenoi agnôs) of a self-born God (autogenethlon anakta… theon, ‘self-born king… god’).”
And being asked again, for what reason men speak of many heavens, he gave the following response:
“One circle girds the world on every side,
In seven zones rising to the starlit paths:
These, in their sevenfold orbits as they roll,
Chaldees and far-famed Hebrews ‘heavens’ surnamed.”
(1b) Review of the fragments on Barbarian Wisdom

These fragments show us the context of Porphyry’s appreciation of “Hebrew wisdom”, which Augustine thought must logically lead to a rejection of paganism. If Porphyry had really thought that the wisdom of the Phoenicians was greater than that of the Greeks, one wonders why he – a Phoenician himself – did not occupy himself with learning the Phoenician language. This would still have been quite possible at this time, as it continued to be spoken in North Africa, even if it was extinct in his native Tyre. At the very least, he might have spent more time with the spoken language of the Phoenicians, that is, with Aramaic/Syriac. But there are some indications that Porphyry could not even read Aramaic: e.g., he cites the Phoenician Sanchuniathon and the Syrian Bardesanes in pre-existing Greek translations, rather than from their original Aramaic. The search for barbarian authorities, then, is a real reception of non-Greek ideas, but in a fundamentally Greek context.

One note on the mention of “Chaldaeans”: as Porphyry notes, these are the Assyrians (or rather, the Chaldaeans or Babylonians were a people closely related to the Assyrians), not the authors of the Chaldaean Oracles. The source for a plural ‘heavens’ is probably the Hebrew Bible in the case of the Jews, and Greek translations of Babylonian astrological manuals in the case of the Chaldaeans. Since ‘heaven’ is also a synonym for ‘cosmos’ in Greek, I would suggest that “cosmoses” in the hymn to the Father cited in part #3 is an inventive use of this Hebraism.

(2a) Daemons

326F (Praep. 4.22) – Rituals of propitiation and purification concern daemons
And who the power presiding over [the daemons] happens to be, shall be made clear by the same author again, who says that the rulers of the wicked daemons are Sarapis and Hecate; but the sacred scripture says Beelzebul. Hear then how he writes on this point in his book Of the Philosophy to be derived from Oracles:
But it is not without reason that we suspect the wicked (ponêrous) daemons to be subject to Sarapis, nor from being persuaded only by the symbols, but because all the sacrifices for propitiating (ta meiligmata) or averting their influence (ta toutôn apotropaia) are offered to Pluto, as we showed in the first book. But this god is the same as Pluto (ho autos tôi Ploutôni), and for this reason especially rules over the daemons, and grants tokens for driving them away.
It was he then who made known to his suppliants how they gain access to men in the likeness of animals of all kinds; whence among the Egyptians also, and the Phoenicians, and generally among those who are wise in divine things, thongs are violently cracked in the temples, and animals are dashed against the ground before worshipping the gods, the priests thus driving away these daemons by giving them the breath or blood of animals, and by the beating of the air, in order that on their departure the presence of the god may be granted.
Every house also is full of them, and on this account, when they are going to call down (katakalôsin) the gods, they purify the house first (prokathairousin), and cast these daemons out (ekballousi). Our bodies also are full of them, for they especially delight in certain kinds of food. So when we are eating they approach and sit close to our body; and this is the reason of the purifications (haigneiai), not chiefly on account of the gods, but in order that these evil daemons may depart. But most of all they delight in blood and in impure meats, and enjoy these by entering into those who use them.
For universally the vehemence of the desire towards anything, and the impulse of the lust of the spirit, is intensified from no other cause than their presence: and they also force men to fall into inarticulate noises and flatulence by sharing the same enjoyment with them.
For where there is a drawing in of much breath, either because the stomach has been inflated by indulgence, or because eagerness from the intensity of pleasure breathes much out and draws in much of the outer air, let this be a clear proof to you of the presence of such spirits (pneumatôn) there. So far human nature ventures to investigate the snares that are set about it: for when the deity (ho theos) enters in, the breathing (pneuma) is much increased.
327F (Praep. 4.23) – Sarapis and Hecate rule over daemons of three elements
Are not these perhaps they over whom Sarapis rules, and whose symbol is the three-headed dog, that is the wicked daemon in the three elements, water, earth, air: these are restrained by the god, who has them under his hand. But Hecate also rules them, as holding the threefold elements (to tristoichon) together.
328F (Praep. 4.23) – Hecate announces herself
After quoting yet one oracle, composed by Hecate herself, I will bring my account of her to an end.
“Lo! here the virgin, who in changing forms
Runs forth o'er highest heaven, with bovine face,
Three-headed, ruthless, arm'd with shafts of gold,
Chaste Phoebe, Ilithyia, light of men;
Of nature's elements the triple sign,
In ether manifest in forms of fire,
Upon the air in shining car I sit,
While earth in leash holds my black brood of whelps.”
After these verses the author plainly states who the whelps are; namely, that they are the wicked daemons, of whom we have just ceased speaking. So much then for these statements.
329F (Praep. 4.19) – Ransom to the daemon before a god can appear
So when the prophet was eager to see the deity (to theion) with his own eyes, and was urgent, Apollo said that such a thing was impossible before giving ransom to the wicked (ponêrôi) daemon. And these are his words:
“To the [holy inhabitant (oikêtori semnô)]* of thy fatherland
Bring thou, for ransom meet, libations (khoas) first,
Then fragrant incense (pyrên), and dark blood of grapes,
With rich milk from the mothers of thy flock.”
(*this destroys the meter, but Gifford’s translation is too free.)
Again, he spake more plainly on the same subject:
“Bring wine and milk, and water crystal-clear,
Holm boughs and acorns, and in order lay
The entrails, and the rich libations pour (spende).”
But when asked what prayer should be used he began, but, did not finish, speaking thus: 
“O daemon, crowned king (diadêma lelonkhôs) of erring souls
Beneath dark (êeriôn, 'misty') caves, and on the earth above----”
307F (Praep. 5.5) – Pan, a daemon of Dionysus, was stopped by Artemis
In other cases also ere now some were shown to be servants (theraphontes) of certain gods, as Pan of Dionysos: and this has been made clear by Apollo of Branchidae in the following verses. For nine persons were found dead; and when the inhabitants of the country district inquired the cause, the god made answer: 
“Lo! where the golden-horned Pan
In sturdy Dionysos' train (Diônusou therapôn)
Leaps o'er the mountains' wooded slopes!
His right hand holds a shepherd's staff,
His left a smooth shrill-breathing pipe,
That charms the gentle wood-nymph's (Nymphêsi, ‘nymphs’) soul (thumon).
But at the sound of that strange song
Each startled woodsman dropp'd his axe,
And all in frozen terror gaz'd
Upon the Daemon's frantic course.
Death's icy hand had seiz'd them all,
Had not the huntress Artemis (Artemis Agroterê)
In anger stay'd his furious might.
To her address thy prayer for aid.”
(2b) Review of the fragments on Daemons

In these fragments, we see Porphyry’s understanding of daemons further fleshed out. First of all, we hear of a named daemon (Pan), who is depicted as a violent being whose rage can be stopped by the gods, as well as by prayer to the gods. Porphyry wants us to be anxious about these spirits – who we now understand are called spirits (pneumata) because they are aerial –, because they are everywhere, and obstruct the presence of the gods. Large parts of ritual really serve to distract or pacify the daemons so that the gods can be worshipped or can even visibly appear to the prophet, i.e. the priest/diviner.

On the other hand, it is not as if Porphyry were telling his contemporaries that they need to start performing all kinds of rituals to shield themselves from daemons: unknowingly, they were already doing so when they thought they were propitiating and averting the wrath of the celestial gods. This, he seems to have thought, cannot be for the sake of the gods themselves, if they are the causes of good things alone, as Plato had taught.

For more on Artemis the Hunter, see my posts on Hunting Lore, especially those on Xenophon and on Arrian.

As for why Hecate has triple forms on earth, in the air, and in the fiery ether, while her daemons are of the earth, water, and air: this is not so inconsistent as it seems at first, since the beings of the realm of fire/ether (above the moon) were generally held to be incorruptible (hence could not be wicked daemons), and Hecate is rarely (never?) connected to the water.

Porphyry of Tyre #4: Augustine and Philoponus vs. Pagan Oracles

Of the three main sources for Porphyry's On the Philosophy to be derived from Oracles (see Porphyry of Tyre parts #2 and #3), I will discuss Philoponus (6 fragments) and Augustine (8 fragments) in this post, and Eusebius (40 fragments) in the next.

Philoponus, On the Creation of the World (around 550 CE)
Porphyry, who has treated every kind of beggar-priestcraft (agyrtian), says in the second book of the treatise about the philosophy (derived) from oracles (logiôn) that the gods show in the oracles (khrêsmois) that everything they predict for people, they (are able to) say because they know the order (of the stars) at birth, since they are the greatest genethialogists (astrologers giving horoscopes based on the moment of birth). (330aF Smith, my transl.)
This establishes the context for Philoponus' discussion of Porphyry, which takes place within a longer passage about (or rather against) astrology. Human astrologers, says Philoponus, may have some justification in claiming that their failures are due to not knowing the exact moment of birth. But since the gods - really demons, as far as Philoponus is concerned - must have better knowledge of both the times of birth and of the positions of the stars, how can even their oracles be wrong, as Porphyry himself admits? This is the pagan philosopher's explanation:
Everything that descends (kation) to the earth falls under the power of the ruling (kratountôn) gods, that is, (becomes subject) to the movement of the stars, so that even the descending gods are under the Fates; and they all descend and give oracles (khrêsmôidousin) down below, where both their oracles (khrêstêria) and their cult statues are set up. And these (gods) are the (children) of Kronos and Rhea and all those (descended) from them. (337F)
What Porphyry is saying here is that the gods who visit their temples are the "younger gods" of the Timaeus, who are junior to the stars and planets. Nevertheless, as long as they are in the celestial regions, they are free; only when they go down to the earth does their freedom and knowledge become limited. And since practical theosophy - what Philoponus calls beggar-priestcraft, i.e. superstitious trickery, or magic - is difficult to manage (khalepên eis enkheirêsin), even the oracles of the gods are therefore sometimes more a matter of faith than of indubitable knowledge. (340aF)

What is more, those who call them (kalountôn) can force (biazomenoi) the gods to give divination (manteia) (341aF). Thus Hecate's impatient question:
Why do you always need me and call me from shining ether,
(Me), the goddess Hecate, with god-compelling necessities (theiodamois anankois)? (342F)
When the callers are unaware of the limits that fate imposes on the gods, they sometimes compel them to speak when they cannot give a certain answer, and thereby produce unreliable oracles. Porphyry takes the evidence for this from oracles, in keeping with the book's title. In one case, when Apollon was under compulsion (biazomenos), he spoke:
Undo the compulsion (lye biên) and the force (kartos) of (your) words; I will (only) speak lies.
Another (unnamed) god, in a similar situation:
Today it is not fitting to proclaim the holy path of the stars,
For the seat of divination is shackled in the stars at this moment. (341aF)
And Hecate, being called (klêtheisa) at an inopportune time:
I do not speak; I will close the doors of (my) long throat,
For the Night's Titaness (= moon), the horned goddess, approaches
By unprofitable kentrois (cardinal points of the ecliptic) and in aspect with evil Ares (= Mars).
After this, being asked whether the gods are also subject to fate, she replied:
May I be freed of the shackles of Nature, that I may obey you (pl.).
Oh heart! What have you (sg.) asked, struck by weakness?
Do you (sg.) not desire to learn what is not permitted (themis) you (sg.) to ask thus?
Do you (pl.) leave off this desire; end the compulsion (pausasthe biês), since you (pl.) are little after all. (342F)
This account of oracular knowledge is not Porphyry's invention, but it is quite novel, and he could no doubt have made a different selection oracles if he had wanted to support a different theory. While I don't know that anyone else explicitly adopts it, it elegantly brings together quite a number of different ideas. Most interestingly, perhaps, it gives a large role to the gods, who in Middle Platonism often seem to disappear between the demiurge and stars on the one hand and the daemons on the other. It explains the fallibility of the gods' pronouncements without making the gods themselves fallible, and attributes the failures of divination to human ignorance.

Would Porphyry's pagan contemporaries have appreciated all this, or would they have seen him - like Philoponus did - as dabbling in disreputable magic? The idea that humans can overpower the divine through ritual had already been attacked in the Hippocratic treatise On the Sacred Disease, half a millenium earlier. But this shows that the idea had long been present in Greek culture - why else critique it? -, and did not only come into currency in "superstitious" late antiquity. It did, however, win a new respectability in this period, since the increasingly prestigious Egyptian priests had long been used to speaking (as if) from positions of power over the deities they addressed. It seems, then, that Porphyry's theosophy embraces practices that could be called magic, but only insofar as they fit into a general pattern that is equally meant to apply to the rituals of public temples. The distinction that seems to count for him is between real knowledge and ignorance, which is the same as that between efficacy and useless results.

Augustine, On the City of God (early 5th cent.)

This does not mean that there is no moral dimension to proper and improper ritual in Porphyry, as this quote in Augustine's great anti-pagan polemic shows:
“There are,” he says,” in a certain place very small earthly spirits (spiritus terreni), subject to the power of evil demons (malorum daemonum). The wise men of the Hebrews, among whom was this Jesus, as you have heard from the oracles of Apollo cited above, turned religious persons from these very wicked demons and minor spirits (minoribus spiritibus), and taught them rather to worship the celestial gods, and especially to adore God the Father. This,” he said, “the gods enjoin; and we have already shown how they admonish the soul to turn to God, and command it to worship Him. But the ignorant and the ungodly, who are not destined to receive favors from the gods, nor to know the immortal Jupiter, not listening to the gods and [the divine men/diviners], have turned away from all gods, and have not only refused to hate, but have venerated the prohibited demons. [Pretending] to worship God, they refuse to do those things by which alone God is worshipped. For God, indeed, being the Father of all, is in need of nothing; but for us it is good to adore Him by means of justice, chastity, and other virtues, and thus to make life itself a prayer to Him, by inquiring into and imitating His nature. For inquiry,” says he, “purifies and imitation deifies us, by moving us nearer to Him.” (346F, from Aug. civ. XIX 23)
This translation, by a Reverend Marcus Dods, is generally accurate, but it gives us Augustine's reading of Porphyry, as it were, and not Porphyry's own meaning. Capital-G God - in distinction to the gods - is treated the god of the Christians, given capitalized pronouns, even called "God the Father" as if Porphyry were speaking about the trinitarian person of the Father in distinction to the Son. In several cases, we could equally well interpret deus as a generic singular and translate "the gods"; not because Porphyry does not conceptually distinguish between the deus pater and the many other gods, but because those who really "worship deum" are the same people either way you take it. The Father, whom we met in an oracle in part #3, is in the first place Jupiter (Zeus in Porphry's original Greek) and the demiurge of pagan philosophy, and only secondarily the same as the god of the Jews. The "wise men of the Hebrews", including Jesus, must therefore have supported worship of the celestial gods: if they were pious toward the greatest god, then from a pagan perspective it is absurd that they should have rejected the other gods. Worship of deus (the Father) and deus (god-kind, if you will) simply goes together.

In the rejection of evil daemons and minor spirits - whom we have also come across in part #3 -, is taking up a Jewish/Christian idea in a more integral fashion. Neither previous nor later pagan philosophers adopted such a stark contrast between illicit daemon worship and proper veneration of the gods, albeit the existence of evil daemons (alongside good ones) was generally assumed; in Middle Platonism, the role of daemons as intermediaries between humans and gods is much more prominent. But Porphyry turns the Christian idea to anti-Christian use, as Augustine complains:
He is right in so far as he proclaims God the Father, and the conduct by which we should worship Him. Of such precepts the prophetic books of the Hebrews are full, when they praise or blame the life of the saints. But in speaking of the Christians he is in error, and caluminates them as much as is desired by the demons whom he takes for gods (…) But who but a diabolical spirit has told or suggested to this man so manifest and vain a lie, as that the Christians reverenced rather than hated the demons, whose worship the Hebrews prohibited? But that God, whom the Hebrew sages worshipped, forbids sacrifice to be offered even to the holy angels of heaven and divine powers, whom we, in this our pilgrimage, venerate and love as our most blessed fellow-citizens. (still from XIX 23)
It is almost comical how terribly indignant Augustine is that anyone would accuse Christians of worshipping demons - while in the same breath he also makes that claim about the pagans.

Another part of Christianity that Porphyry turns against the Christians is Jesus himself:
What we are going to say will certainly take some by surprise. For the gods have declared that Christ was very pious, and has become immortal, and that they cherish his memory: that the Christians, however, are polluted, contaminated, and involved in error. And many other such things [] do the gods say against the Christians. [...] 
But to some who asked Hecate whether Christ were a [g]od, she replied: 
"You know the condition of the disembodied immortal soul, and that if it has been severed from wisdom it always errs. The soul you refer to is that of a man foremost in piety: they worship it because they mistake the truth." 
Of this very pious man, then, Hecate said that the soul, like the souls of other good men, was after death dowered with immortality, and that the Christians through ignorance worship it. And to those who ask why he was condemned to die, the oracle of the goddess replied: 
"The body, indeed, is always exposed to torments, but the souls of the pious abide in heaven. And the soul you inquire about has been the fatal cause of error to other souls which were not fated to receive the gifts of the gods, and to have the knowledge of immortal [Jupiter]. Such souls are therefore hated by the gods; for they who were fated not to receive the gifts of the gods, and not to know [g]od, were fated to be involved in error by means of him you speak of. He himself, however, was good, and heaven has been opened to him as to other good men. You are not, then, to speak evil of him, but to pity the folly of men: and through him men’s danger is imminent." (345aF, from Aug. civ. XIX 23)
All this fits quite well into a Platonic cosmology - albeit the idea of a pious person being "endowed" with immortality is more Stoic than Platonic if understood literally, since Platonically speaking, souls are always immortal -, and thus "domesticates" the idea of Jesus' special status without making any concessions to Christian ideas that go against paganism. But Augustine rightly notes that it conflicts with another oracle that Porphyry also cites:
To one who inquired what god he should propitiate in order to recall his wife from Christianity, Apollo replied in the following verses: 
“You will probably find it easier to write lasting characters on the water, or lightly fly like a bird through the air, than to restore right feeling in your impious wife once she has polluted herself. Let her remain as she pleases in her foolish deception (inanibus fallaciis), and sing false laments to her dead [g]od, who was condemned by right-minded judges, and perished ignominiously by a violent death.” 
In these verses Apollo exposed the incurable corruption of the Christians, saying that the Jews, rather than the Christians, recognized [g]od. (343F, from Aug. civ. XIX 22)
Yet the oracles are perhaps not as contradictory as Augustine makes them out to be. After all, Apollo's oracle does not call Jesus himself immoral or impious, only a "dead god", i.e., not a god at all (since gods do not die). The judges' right-mindedness does imply that the crucifixion was deserved, but Porphyry's opinion seems to have been that Jesus died the way he did in order to mislead the impious into worshipping him (346F), so that neither the judges nor Jesus would be at fault.

Augustine uses 343F to argue that Porphyry should accept the Hebrew Bible's teachings, if "the Jews, rather than the Christians, recognized God"; but the Latin version he quotes does not mean that the Christians were wrong and the Jews correct, but that the Jews recognized the god - i.e. Zeus - more than the Christians. But the criterion for this comparatively greater correctness is Platonic, so that there is no reason for Porphyry to follow Jewish teachings where they go against Platonism (as e.g. in the question of the eternity of the world, 344aF).

Augustine also makes much the same argument on the basis of another fragment, which he refers to several times, because he likes the thought that the pagan gods are afraid of the god "whom the Hebrews honor": 
Apollo, [] when asked whether word, i.e., reason (verbum sive ratio = gr. logos), or law is the better thing, replied in the following verses, [...] from which I (=Augustine) select the following as sufficient: 
“God, the Generator, and the King prior to all things, before whom heaven and earth, and the sea, and the hidden places of [the underword] (infernorum abdita) tremble, and the deities themselves are afraid, for their law is the Father whom the holy Hebrews honor [very much].” (344F, from Aug. civ. XIX 23)
Once more, for Porphyry, the Father and the other gods belong to one and the same order; for Augustine, the gods' fear proves their merely demonic status, and that Porphyry should follow the Hebrews in all things.

Porphyry of Tyre #3: Vaguely Christian-Sounding Oracles

Our sources for On the Philosophy to be derived from Oracles

The reason so much from Porphyry's Philosophy from Oracles is extant is twofold: firstly, pagan Neoplatonists seem to have held onto it as an important text, and secondly, Christian authors who were familiar with Neoplatonism - and thus with this book - found it useful to show how not only an eminent pagan philosopher, but even the pagan gods themselves proved the truth of Christianity. The arguments range from the extremely superficial, as in Firmicus Maternus, "On the error of pagan worship" (de errore profanarum religionum):
... the substance of demons, who are generated through the procreation of the devil, are nourished from the blood (of animal sacrifice). Porphyry - the defender of sacrifices, the foe of god, the enemy of truth, the teacher of criminal arts - has shown this to us with manifest proofs. (306F Smith, my transl.)
With the reference to "criminal arts" (sceleratarum artium), Firmicus Maternus in the 4th century identifies the subject of On the Philosophy with magic, like John Philoponus also would in the 6th century (see part #2). "On the Error" was published during the rule of Constantius II, a time when legislation against magic and forms of private divination that had existed for centuries was expanded to include more and more elements of pagan ritual. But back to the text, and to the single line Maternus quotes from Porphyry:
"Serapis, summoned (vocatus) and joined (conlatus) within the body of a human responded in this way..." 
Now may the people of perdition (perditi homines) tell me: who is mightier, the one who summons and commands and imprisons, or the one who is called and obeys and, when he has come into the body of the receiving human, is imprisoned by the power of the one who commands? We thank you, Porphyry, for your books; you have shown us the substance of your gods. (306F cont'd)
From this most superficial argument, as I said, the reception ranges through sporadic mentions in Augustine's On the City of God and an engagement specifically with Porphyry's presentation of astrology by John Philoponus in his On the Creation of the World, to - most importantly - the very many and often lengthy excerpts cited by Eusebius in his Preparation of the Gospel.

Finally, there is an anti-pagan polemical work of a special kind, an inverted twin of On the Philosophy, which even seems to borrow the word Theosophia from Porphyry as its title. I will begin with the fragments of Porphyry to be found in this collection of - real and forged -oracles which are supposed to support Christianity.

From the anonymous Theosophia (late 5th century CE)

Pier Franco Beatrice, editor of the Theosophia, describes the relationship between the two books in the following terms: "In his work Pophyry had collected various oracles of Greek gods such as Apollo, Hecate and Sarapis, in order to offer a philosophical reinterpretation of them in light of the doctrines that had developed in the Neoplatonic school, thanks to the teachings of his master Plotinus. This programme is clearly stated in the prologue to the Philosophy from Oracles quoted by Eusebius of Caesarea." Meanwhile, "in the Theosophy their oracles are quoted with the [...] intention of upholding the truth of the Christian doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation." Accordingly, "it cannot but be a relationship of challenge or rivalry." (p. xxvii)

We will see over the course of this post whether "reinterpretation" is an entirely fair word, and in future posts, whether Neoplatonism actually figures in the extant fragments, but for the moment, let us look at the quotations our anonymous authors attributes to Porphyry, and how they serve his Christian argument.

One of them is very brief, and reads - seen with a Christian lense - as follows:
Turn your mind to God the king, and do not consort with the lesser spirits (pneumasi mikroteroisin) upon the earth; this I have said to you. (Theosophia 1.27 = 325aF Smith, my translation)
The interpretation that the Theosophia wants us to adopt is obvious: don't worship angels or demons, but only God. And indeed the very term "spirit" for superhuman beings - rather than for the stuff they or their souls are made of - is unusual and seems to be explainable from Hebrew usage. But not everything influenced by Judaism is influenced by all of Judaism at once. Even if the oracle is intended as a hard prohibition (it could also be meant in an aspirational sense: it would be better if you paid more attention to the King), most of the pagan gods, from the perspective of a polytheist like Porphyry, are anything but "smaller spirits": worship of the major gods would be taken for granted or thought to go hand in hand with a focus on the demiurge, rather than being opposed to it.

The other - there are only two oracles attributed to Porphyry by name, although more could potentially be from On the Philosophy - is far more extensive, and much more interesting; it is a hymn revealed by Apollo (Theosophia 24-26 = 325F). Rather than making a time-consuming original effort at this difficult text, here is a translation I am largely adapting from the German found in Günther Zuntz' Griechische Philosophische Hymnen, written by his editors Cancik and Käppel.

The first section (ll. 1-7) is this:
Immortals' Ineffable (arrhête) Father, Eternal One, mysta*,
You, o master (despota), who are born on the etherial ridges of the circling cosmoses,
Where the might of your power (alkês) is made fast for you,
Who watches everything and hears with beautiful ears.
Hear your children, whom you begot in the right seasons!
For above the cosmos and the starry heaven (ouranon)
Lies your golden, great, eternal power (alkê).
*Literally, "initiate", but attested as a divine epithet elsewhere, perhaps best understad as "of the mysteries".

I am perhaps misled by my current preoccupation with the language of divine powers, but alkê here seems to be a poetic synonym of dynamis (as in Porphyry's On Images; and like potestas in Servius). This would explain the indefinite relationship-or-identity between the god and his own power (see next verse). One thing that is clear, at any rate, is that "cosmoses" must stand for the single cosmos with its many celesetial spheres, not multiple universes.

Lines 8-11:
You are elevated above it (= the power), stirring yourself in the light,
Nourishing the intellect (noun) through eternal channels (okhetoisi) that it remain in balance,
Which (=the intellect) gives birth to this universe (pan) by crafting incorruptible matter;
Its (=matter's) coming-into-being (genesis) is decreed because you bound it with shapes.
The purpose of the distinction between the god and his power and himself and the intellect seems primarily to be his absolute exaltation, albeit Zuntz notes that the language of channels has Chaldaean parallels and is thus unlikely to be an ad hoc invention. (Nevertheless hardly derived from the Chaldaean Oracles; Zuntz speaks of "Platonic models (Vorbilder, lit. 'fore-images') and Chaldaean after-images", p. 81.) At any rate the conjunction of terms here is imposing rather than philosophically precise.

The next section is glossed by the author of the Theosophia - hardly by Porphyry himself, although Smith prints it as a direct quote - in the following way: "This oracle shows three orders of angels: of those who are always with God; those which, removed from him, are sent on deliveries of messages (angelias) and certain services, and of those which always carry his throne." Zuntz takes this interpretation on board: "the entire conception is not Greek or 'Hellenistic' or 'Chaldaean'; this angelic court is Jewish; one is immediately reminded of Isaiah 6 and Revelation 4."

But if one looks at the oracle itself, it is much less obvious that we are dealing with a court of angels. Lines 12-19:
From there (= the Father) flow offspring, firstly of holy Kings (hagiôn anaktôn)
(Who are) around you, o most regal and sole All-ruler (pantokrator) of mortals
And blessed immortals, Father! The others, although born
Far from you, still each spend their time bearing messages
For/To/By the ancient-born intellect (noôi) and your power (karteï).
In addition to these you also made a third kind of Kings (anaktôn)
Which are daily at the singing of hymns for you,
Readily doing what is desired, and singing esôde [unintelligible].
The avoidance of the word "gods" seems to have made Zuntz think that the oracle concerns daemons or angels, and Christian author of the Theosophia will have identified the holy kings with the Christian angels. But the word for king used here, anax, is almost entirely reserved for gods, and strikes me as manifestly inappropriate for the subservient angels of Christianity, even if - which is entirely plausible - the word "gods" is purposely avoided due to Jewish influence. The kings who spend their time in praise may indeed be best explained from that quarter. There is no difficulty in this, as the so-called "magical koine", the shared language of miniaturized rituals in the Roman period, had incorporated much recognizably Jewish material. Against Zuntz's feeling that there is something discordant about this (p. 84f), this confluence is nothing out of the ordinary.

But as for the gods "around" the Father: they are not at all likely to be attendants in the angelic sense, but rather celestial gods, perhaps the stars and the planets - in that case, the three "orders" would be of 1. gods, 2. angels (equivalent to daemons in Platonism), and 3. choirs praising the Father (after the Jewish model). Overall, then, the eccentricity of the oracle and its proximity to Jewish or Christian ideas are a matter of details and elaboration, not of substance. We are still within the range of the cosmological koine of the Greco-Roman world.

And the final three lines show that the Platonizing hierarchy, with an intellect above the world and a Father above the intellect, is not so definitely hierarchical or Platonizing as it appeared. Instead, it is rather seen as convertible into a Stoic sense of cosmic deity. Theosophia 1.26 (still the same fragment in Smith):
You are the father and the resplendent form of the mother,
And the delicate blossom of the children, existing as form in the forms,
Soul and spirit (pneuma) and harmony and number.
This is a synthesis of many different ideas - firstly, that the god is the entire world, father, mother, and offspring (Stoic "pantheism"); secondly, that he inheres in the world as form (in a Platonic sense?); thirdly, that he is the world soul, according to the various definitions of soul - spirit = a mix of air and fire (Stoic), harmony (Pythagorean), or number (Old Academy).

Although these ideas seem to be in tension, they all serve to elevate and praise the god, and in this they cohere wonderfully. Moreover, as I mentioned in part #1 already, the difference between Platonic and Stoic views was not so keenly felt by non-philosophers. It is only our own concern with the "purity" of worldviews that leads us to see the common ground between them as incoherent eclecticism.

In summary, although a Christian reading is obvious enough, this oracle is neither Christian nor Stoic nor Platonic orthodoxy; nor is it, with Zuntz, "a hymn to the highest god as the philosophers saw him, but as person, as 'father'". The epithet of father, rather, is taken over directly from Zeus (and/or the Jewish god), not the result of an addition of personal feeling to an abstract philosophical notion. We cannot guess how exactly Porphyry proceeded in his interpretation, but the indefiniteness and ambiguity is close enough to the situation with Zeus in On Images, I think, that we can call the oracle neither neatly concordant with Porphyry's own philosophy - whether Middle Platonic or Neoplatonic - nor so different that it required a complete "reinterpretation". Rather, this is a strikingly effective and impressive hymn of praise, which, when taken as a text with a philosophical meaning, was always going to require some interpretative originality, some coherence-making, rather than only the recognition of pre-existing coherence - which does not inhere in the text. (Of course, this is the situation with most human language.)

Olympiodorus #3: On Gorgias, Lectures 1-42

(Transl. Jackson, Lycos & Tarrant 1998)

Music with proper sentiments

From Lecture 6.11: “each person should stick to his own steps in the process, the doctor to medical tasks, the engineer to engineering matters, the musician to his own tasks—so that he should not only have concern for sentiments, since music is directed towards men, not towards irrational animals—though even irrational creatures delight in a tune: shepherds for instance use one tune to drive the sheep to grazing, and another to summon them and bring them into one place. So one should not practise music in this narrow sense, but the sentiments should be urbane and not the mythical things they say about the gods, nor the sorts of things they say about weeping heroes. For not even in the case of men should you recite songs about their eating meat and drinking wine, since these songs suit those who live like grazing-beasts. In every case let each man take care of his own proper task and not lay hands on someone else’s. Otherwise confusion is bound to occur.”

Believability of evidence
From the Gorgias: “occasionally a man may actually be crushed by the number and reputation of the false witnesses brought against him. And so now you will find almost everybody, Athenians and foreigners, in agreement with you on the points you state, if you like to bring forward witnesses against the truth of what I say: if you like, there is Nicias, son of Niceratus, with his brothers, whose tripods are standing in a row in the Dionysium” (transl. Lamb)
From Lecture 19.7: “these were so famous that they stood in the temple. He wants to show that however famous they are, we should not believe them without due examination.”

Wrongdoing and blame

From Lecture 24.3: "We must understand that some men go wrong, while others do not. And some of those who go wrong cease [their wrongdoing], while others do not. And some of those who cease [their wrongdoing] put the blame on themselves and criticize themselves, while others lay the blame elsewhere. Those who do not go wrong at all are godlike. Those who go wrong and do not cease [their wrongdoing] are diametrically opposed to them and are the most wretched. All of those who cease [their wrongdoing] and on ceasing put the blame on themselves go wrong to a lesser degree. Those who lay the blame elsewhere go wrong to a greater degree, postulating divine causes for their wrongdoing, as Homer (Il. 19.87) says:
'But Zeus, and Fate, and the holy-wandering Erinys.'
So we should put the blame on ourselves, and turn back towards the better path."

Are some incorrigible?

From Lecture 24.5: "'incurable'? What? Is he punished eternally, and is never freed [of the evil]? No, punishment is not eternal, presuming that God wants to turn us towards the good, whereas whatever pays the penalty eternally is eternally in a state contrary to nature. [This is] especially [so] if we are being turned around so that we may lead a sensible life in the future; so punishment will be pointless if we are punished eternally. We shall learn in the myth how eternal punishment beneath the earth is spoken of: that there are cycles which he calls 'aeons', and that one must submit [to punishment] for the duration of these so as to be healed."

Divinely-constituted life and happiness

From Lecture 23.6: “suppose there is someone who from beginning to end lives a well constituted life, and someone else who to begin with in his youth conducts himself in an unseemly way, but later is converted and practises a divinely constituted life - are the two of them equally happy or not? We say that their well-being is the same, save that the one who lived well from the beginning has it to a greater degree, whereas the other does not have it in the same way.”

The divinely-inspired lover

From Lecture 25.3: “Note that Socrates, as he says in the Alcibiades and more perfectly in the Phaedrus, was a lover inspired by God. And [a lover] inspired by God differs from a vulgar [lover] in that the divinely inspired lover aims at the soul and does everything to turn the beloved towards the good, whereas the vulgar one, if truth be told, hates and does not love.”

Spells and incantations

From Lecture 26.2: "So he says 'Injustice is base according to those who established the conventions, to prevent the stronger from overpowering the weaker. For this reason the weaker cast spells and incantations upon the stronger and tell them they must not commit injustice, to keep them from committing injustice."

Law and nature come from the gods

From Lecture 26.3: “‘Yet nature knows this [injustice] is fine. So too among irrational animals we see that the stronger are better off than the weaker-the stronger eat up those weaker than them and thus stay alive'. […] So it is up to Socrates to show that good law [nomos] coincides with nature. Note that both come from God, and intelligence and nature are founded upon each other and the greater of the two is intelligence. Intelligence is nomos; because that's why it is named nomos, short for 'what dispenses to each his due'. And so we must not mock well-established laws, for we must not use violence against the weaker.”

Philosophy and divine pleasures

From Lecture 26.15: “'And in human pleasures' (484d5): he speaks both truly and falsely. He speaks truly of the pleasures that he follows, for of such pleasures philosophy is in truth without experience, but of divine pleasures, the ones that lead to virtue, it has the most experience of all.”

Thales’ accident

From Lecture 26.16: “'They prove themselves ridiculous' (484e1): for indeed they will be laughed at by the foolish. So too Thales while walking about and with his mind on the heavens and astronomy fell into a well. And a Thracian woman said to him 'This man does not know the things on earth and seeks to know the things of heaven'. We must not attend to such people, even if they box our ears, but direct ourselves up towards the divine.”

Who is untroubled?

From Lecture 27.1: “Observe that it is either those who are superior to us, divine beings for instance, or those who are in all respects totally ignorant, who do not have difficulties.”

The ideal state

From Lecture 32.5: “For how could they have been statesmen who lived under a democracy, a disorderly constitutional system which has rulers who are chosen by lot and at random instead of upright men, and not under an aristocracy, in which Plato urges rulers to be educated in literature and gymnastics and mathematics, so that they lack personal interests but secure sustenance from the subjects of their aristocratic rule, and so that the rulers call the ruled 'sustainers' and the ruled call the rulers 'preservers'. Since they are the best and preserve the city, they resemble God, and it would not be unjust, although they are godlike, for them to descend to the affairs of the city. For the city was what makes them thus, and they must repay the cost of their upbringing to the city. That is the reason [the orators] were called servants.”

Are material things relevant?

From Lecture 38.2-3: “Aristides, that controversialist and specialist in lengthy quibbles, misleads himself in these matters with false inference (though he can't mislead Socrates), and says 'Apparently wealth is extremely bad as it preserves us from death and provides what we need, and so is health too. And, in addition to this, are we to be ungrateful to the gods, because it's them who have indulged us with life and keep us safe?'

We say, then, that Aristides does not know the nature of things. There are different grades of good, for there is good in wealth, there is good in the body, and there is good in the soul. It is fine to use all [three] for a good [purpose], but we must attend in particular to the good of the soul, and less to the good to do with the body, and still less to the good to do with possessions. So we acknowledge a debt of gratitude to those who give us wealth and to doctors who heal us and to teachers who teach us and benefit the soul - but not the same debt to all of them, but most to those who make the soul healthy, and less to the doctors, and still less to financiers. For indeed Plato himself praises wealth that is orderly and says 'There is a wealth that is blind, but also one that is dear-sighted, if it comes along with wisdom'. Observe that he says 'along with' and 'comes', so that it should not follow wisdom at a distance but close at hand. And [Aristides] said that we [Platonists] are not grateful to the gods for granting us being: note how absurdly he speaks. For God granted us being together with well being, since God did not want us to live basely. For instance he gave us being together with the common notions, so we might aim at the good, and for this reason, namely well being, he gave us rational souls, that we might have the power to turn toward the better. Hence we should choose well-being rather than [simply] being."

Responsibility and blame

From Lecture 39.1: "For as I have said (24.3), we should blame ourselves and nothing else (or better still neither oneself nor anything else). For destiny is nothing other than the revolution of the heavens, since by such and such a motion of the heavenly bodies things in our world are led along. So do not think that it is impossible to die except at the call of destiny. For it is possible, just as long as our moral purpose forces it through, for even destiny is dependent on providence. And to put it simply, some of the things that come about are in our power, and some are not. We should therefore desire what is in our power, e.g. temperance and the other virtues. For if we desire what is not in our power, e.g. wealth, kingship, and the like, we are wasting our time, and are like those who in their dreams think they are flying. And furthermore we should avoid things in our power, e.g. intemperance, folly, and injustice, for we cannot avert things that are not in our power. For instance a man is wasting his time if he seeks to protect his friend from death or punishment, since these things are not in our power."

The common notions shared by all humans

From Lecture 39.6: "God has sowed in us the seeds of the common notions, so that we should not be utterly lost."

Inappropriate uses of mythology

From Lecture 40.3: "Furthermore he criticizes bad pleasure, with an attack on the Cretans. For they said 'We should be slaves to pleasure, for the gods frequently resort to it. And if Zeus', they say, 'took pleasure in Ganymede, then we also ought to imitate him'. [Plato] replies '[To justify] your disgraceful acts you have treated the myth as a factual account'. For this is a myth, since there could not be sexual union for a God, [least of all] unlawful union. But through this [myth] it is signified that a certain Ganymede raised himself towards the divine, and so, it is said, he also dined with them and was their wine-bearer, meaning that he came to have an immaterial and divine constitution, free from any unpleasantness."

State and deity

From Lecture 42.2: “there should not be democracy but rather aristocracy. Note that not only man, but also the city, is a universe in miniature. So if the city is a universe in miniature, men should resemble the universe. For a city, as Demosthenes also says (18.88), is not institutions but people. He says ‘When I speak of the city, I mean you’. So we should imitate the entire universe, and in that entire universe there is a single ruler. Who is this? It is God, seeing that
No good thing is the rule of many Lords; one Lord may there be.
Hence it should not be a multitude of ordinary people who rule, but one prudent and true statesman. If somebody says ‘But this is monarchy, nor aristocracy, and that is not the same thing’, reply as the philosopher Ammonius did, ‘[…] the ruler needs to be one either in number or in life. […]’ Democracy is ineffective in all cases, and a man who belongs to a democratically governed state needs a God who would deliver him from the greatest evils, as Socrates was protected by God and remained godlike and more hardened to it.”

Olympiodorus #2: On First Alcibiades

Olympiodorus on First Alcibiades (transl. Griffin 2014 & 2016)
(Where I have changed the text from Griffin, I have used [[double square brackets.]])

I had some troubles with the notes I took on this book, but don't have the patience to go through it again from the start, so I would appreciate pointers to relevant passages on the gods, on myth, or on ritual that I missed.

From the Life of Plato: "the power that the sacred images (agalmata) [of the gods] have among the Greeks, animals have among the Egyptians, by representing each of the gods to whom they are dedicated."

From the Life of Plato: "Since [Plato] wished to encounter the Magi as well, but was unable to reach them because of the war being joined in Persia at that juncture, he arrived in Phoenicia, and upon encountering the local Magi, acquired the skill of the Magi. And this is why in the Timaeus he is plainly experienced in the skill of sacrifice, discussing the [prognostic] signs of the liver and [other] entrails and other matters like this."
(In other words, Olympiodorus takes the magi to be the originators of sacrificial and divinatory methods generally, rather than merely of disreputable "magic".)
The Role of the Dialogue

From Lecture 2: "one should consider that this dialogue is similar to the fore-gates [of temples], and just as those [fore-gates] lead on to the [[adyton]], so one should liken the Alcibiades to the fore-gates, and the Parmenides to the [[adyton]]."
(The adyton is the innermost part of a temple, often accessible only to the priests.)
Socrates' Methods

From Lecture 2: "The [section] of midwifery [124A–135D] is the one in which Socrates, through a line of questioning appropriate to [Alcibiades’] nature, makes Alcibiades prove that the human being is the soul, so that he himself is his own teacher: here, then, is the [Platonic] doctrine (dogma) that the answerer is the speaker. For this is the sort of person that Socrates is, acting as midwife to souls for the birth of ideas (logoi): which is also why they say that he is the son of Phainarete, who was a midwife (maia) – like Hermes [the son of Maia]."
(Logios is a common epithet of Hermes, so he is suitably associated with the birth of logoi.)
Divinely-inspired Lover and Crude Lover

From Lecture 3: "The first difference is that the crude lover wonders at his beloved (ta paidika), whereas the divinely inspired lover is the object of [his beloved’s] wonder. And [Socrates] illustrates this in the words, ‘Son of Clinias, I think that you are wondering . . .’ – that is, ‘at me’."

From Lecture 3: And the third difference is that the divinely inspired lover is present (sunesti) with his beloved in a godlike way (theoeidôs), that is, without physical presence: for just as the radiance of the divine (to theion) is present in every place, yet its essence (ousia) is in no place (since it is not confined in place), the divinely inspired lover is present in a way that imitates this same mode [of presence]. But the crude lover is present with his beloved [only] when he wants to engage in acts (energein) at the level of bodily sensation, at the lowest level [of sensation] at that, namely, touch. He has made this clear in his statement, ‘Since the others mobbed you, but I didn’t say a word over so many years’ [103A], showing that he is absent insofar as he is silent, but present insofar as he follows and loves [Alcibiades].
(Sunesti, "is present with", can also mean "has sex with".)
Wonder and Philosophy

From Lecture 3: "Are wondering . . . The phrase is suitable to the target (skopos) [of the dialogue], as wonder is ‘the beginning of philosophy’. For once we wonder ‘that it is’, we move on to ‘why it is (dioti)’: and this is [what it is to do] philosophy, to express the causes (aitiai) of things – assuming that philosophy is the knowledge of beings (onta) insofar as they exist. And [this is so] in another way too – for Iris [‘Rainbow’] is philosophy since she speaks about beings, and the poets tell the tale that she is the daughter of Wonder. And Iris herself causes wonder when she appears in the air; [namely] wonder at how a mathematical shape, the circle, emerges in such material [as air]."
(The idea that wonder is the beginning of philosophy, and the phrase "beings insofar as they exist" are both from Aristotle. Iris is introduced here because she is the daughter of Thaumas, and the Greek word for "wonder" is thauma.)
Love, Divine and Human

From Lecture 4: "Socrates is making two points here, one of which is human, the other divine. Naturally it is human to be in love, since this is common to all human beings: but it is divine to love without being [physically] present (aparousiastôs erân). He presents the cause of the second [kind of love] first, when he says that it is a god or a daimon."

Real and Apparent Goods

From Lecture 4: "And it is plain to everyone to see, that you do not lie: Here he secretly refutes Alcibiades, and does not praise him (which is what he appears to do). For just as the good in the god cannot be articulated in words, likewise the good in us participates in something beyond articulation. And if now he says, concerning [the good that is] present to Alcibiades, that it is ‘clear to everyone to see’, it is plain that this is a base thing and not truly ‘good’, so that even in these [words] there is a refutation."

From Lecture 5: And the pleasure-lover longs for divine ease, about which it has been said, ‘the gods who live at ease’ – that is the kind of idea that this person has in mind, but since he is unable to attain it, he fights over shadows (skiamakhein), the reflections and expressions of this [higher idea]. And the money-lover longs for fulfilment and self-sufficiency, because self-sufficiency and fulfilment are divine – and so he desires this; but since he is unable to attain [the real thing], he grasps after it by loving money. And again, the reputation-lover longs for the god who is sufficient and freely giving, even if he is unable to attain this.

Socrates Imagines a God Asking Alcibiades:
"Suppose that at this moment some God came to you and said: Alcibiades, will you live as you are, or die in an instant if you are forbidden to make any further acquisition?—I verily believe that you would choose death." (transl. Benjamin Jowett)
From Lecture 5: "Well, then, he made a god pose the questions for three reasons: [1] first, in order that the young man might not deny his own words, since we have all learned to trust that the divine is aware of even our chance movements, if indeed it is true that
All things are full of god, and he hears all things, right through rocks and
through the earth and within a man himself, who has concealed his thought (noêma) in his breast.
[2] The second explanation would be that Socrates staged this scene because of his fondness for tragedy. Certainly [Socrates] is keen on this kind of thing: hence, just as the [tragedians] often produce a ‘god from the machine’ (mêkhanê) to resolve disasters (as in the Alcestis of Euripides, the playwright put Apollo in the house of Admetus), so Socrates similarly introduced a god in this case.

[3] According to a third explanation, it is because Socrates, who is a lover, wants to bring himself into union with his beloved, both as a consequence of his compassion [for him], and because the divine is a unity (henas) beyond being; meanwhile, he wants to fulfil his beloved according to his judgement (krisis), and the divine also acts for fulfilment (teleiôtikos). And he made himself answer for Alcibiades, since the interval (meson) between god and Alcibiades was wide, and it would have been empty."

From Lecture 5: "we should notice that, although he is just one actor ‘on stage’ ( en heni prosôpôi ), he preserves the form of dialogue here, himself introducing the questions as if they came from a god, and the answers as if they came from Alcibiades."

How Humans Imagine the Gods

From Lecture 5: "imagination is always available to our soul, as our soul is constantly fashioning impressions (tupous) of what it does not know, and bestowing shapes, sizes, and bodies on the non-bodily, and confining [even] the god in terms of place (topôi)."

The Self

From Lecture 5: That selfsame (autos) god . . . It was fitting for him to locate ‘self ’ (autos) on the level of the god, since the god is the unit (henas), and unitary in form (henoeides). But he spoke in the plural about the realities (pragmata) that Alcibiades is questing after, because the [entities] that follow and extend from the divine and the monad are many, and every person quests for these. That he spoke in the plural about these is clear also from his introducing [the phrase], ‘to add something to the realities (pragmata) that are there’.

Does Socrates Boast?

From Lecture 6: Now first of all, we raise the puzzle (aporoumen), why is Socrates boastful here? – he who is everywhere ironic, and about whom it is said, ‘this is your habitual irony, Socrates’; who is always claiming that he knows nothing, and teaches nothing, which is also why the god at Delphi said about him that Socrates is wisest of all men’ – since it was not only by striking the air, by vocal expression, that [Socrates] used to say this sort of thing, but [he also expressed himself] through his manner of living, and in his divine inspiration. We ought to investigate, then, how it could be that such a person thinks [of himself] like this in the present case, announcing that he alone is able to deliver power to the youth.

Well, we reply, first, that the philosopher boasts at the right moment (kairos): for before this, it was crucial that he not boast, since Alcibiades scorned him just as he scorned his other lovers. So Socrates understood the right moment for boasting. In fact, he has oft en done this: for example, in the Theaetetus, after establishing himself as a judge between ‘genuine’ and ‘wind-egg’ theories (logoi), he says, ‘For no god ever has ill-will toward a human being, nor do I do this out of any ill will, but it is never lawful (themis) for me either to agree to falsehood or to suppress truth.’ (Notice how he ranked himself with the god here, by saying, ‘For no god ever has ill-will . . . ’) And again in the Apology he boasts when he says, ‘It is not permissible (themis) for a better person to be ruled by a worse one’; and again in the same dialogue when he says that ‘Anytus and Meletus have the power to kill me, but not to do me any harm at all’ (in the first part of this sentence, he uses the word ‘me’ in the more ordinary way, referring to the composite (sunamphoteron) [of soul and body]; but in the second part, he uses it in its strict sense (kuriôs), referring to the soul alone).

So that is one solution [to the puzzle], that he knows how to be boastful at the right moment. A second solution is that he is not [really] being boastful (megalorrhêmonei) when he prefers himself to base people with a herd mentality (agelaioi). For it is nothing to boast about (mega) when the philosopher achieves what worthless people lacked the power to achieve. And here is a third [solution]: for someone who pays precise attention (akribôs ennoêsêi) to the words used here, it does not seem as if Socrates is boastful at all. For he says, ‘with the god’s support, of course’ [105E], and ‘It is impossible to put any of these plans (dianoêmata) of yours into eff ect without me’ [105D]. (The word ‘without’ is a material (hulikos) preposition, and suitable to matter (hulê), since ‘without’ matter there is nothing here [sc. in the perceptible world] to think about). 348

From Lecture 6: For this is also what Athena did in the case of Pandarus: when he wanted to break his oath, she conceded [this] to him, which is also why he received corrective punishment (kolazomenos) through his tongue, since this became the instrument of his oath-breaking.
(In the Iliad, Athena convinces Pandarus to shoot at Menelaus, breaking a truce that had been agreed upon between Greeks and Trojans. Then, with Athena's help, the Greek Diomedes kills him with a spear that pierces his tongue. This had been generally understood as a fitting punishment for Pandarus' breaking his word - or rather that of the Trojans in general. As Olympiodorus describes it, Athena arranges the entire affair to punish Pandarus' willingness to break the treaty.)
Which God is 'Friendship'?

From Lecture 9: "The phrase ‘my friend’ (ô phile) isn’t included here by accident, but because (as we have often remarked) Socratic exhortations and refutations are like medicines drenched in honey. But he expects to aggravate the youth on account of his ignorance about justice, and drive him to distraction, and so he conciliates him fi rst by calling him ‘friend’, and again a little later by swearing ‘the [god of] Friendship, mine and yours’ [109D].

Now at this point, they [sc. the commentators] investigate which god he calls ‘Friendship’. Some of them say it’s Love (Erôs), but this is incorrect. For ‘friends are dear to their friends’, but in this case Socrates is in love with the youth, while the youth does not love Socrates in return: that occurs only at the end of the dialogue, where Alcibiades’ reciprocal love (anterôs) is given over. Whom, then, does he call [the god of] ‘Friendship’? Well, we say that it is Zeus, since he befits both [Socrates and Alcibiades], on account of his function as a ruler (arkhikos). First, Zeus befits Socrates because Socrates is a philosopher – for philosophy is the leader of all the other skills. Also, as the Stoics have it, the person who understands how to rule is the ruler, even if he does not exercise that power, and philosophers are such people: that is also why Socrates says in the Phaedrus , ‘and I am with Zeus’. Second, Zeus befits Alcibiades because he loves rule and leadership in battle. So the words ‘. . . mine and yours’ are not trivial. Rather, it is fitting for these [words] to have been said in the sequel; for here Socrates says, ‘have you failed to notice that you do not know justice’ (and ‘failure to notice’ is kin to ignorance, for both mean the absence of understanding), ‘or did I fail to notice that you learned’, instead of ‘how were you likely to escape my notice, when I follow you around like [the] conscience that is present for each of our actions?’"

Why Are Few Souls Excellent?

From Lecture 10: "When you give the credit to ‘ordinary people’, you’re falling back on teachers who lack competence: The saying of the Seven Sages hints at the same point: The more, the worse. Now we investigate how, if the natural occurs more frequently than the unnatural (for all human beings are, by nature, five-fingered, and this occurs more frequently, but [some] are unnaturally six-fingered, and this is rarer) – how, then, if the natural occurs more often than the unnatural, can ‘more’ be described as ‘bad’? Well, we reply as follows: just as it’s no surprise to us when most people dwelling in a plague-spot fall ill, but we’re surprised when a few remain healthy, so too in this case we ought to suppose that souls, after they descend here, fall sick rather than remaining healthy because they are dwelling in an alien country (anoikeios), and this is why most of them are in bad shape (kakoi). For our father, and our true country, lie above alone."

Affirmative and Negative Oaths

From Lecture 10: Socrates… Since the word ‘not’ (ma) is negative, while the word ‘yes’ (nai) is affirmative, he [normally] ought to have said ‘not by Zeus’ (ma Dia); but he cancelled the positive force of the ‘yes’ in ‘yes by Zeus’ nonetheless by adding ‘far from it’, which stands in for ‘by no means’ (oudamôs), which itself is clearly negative.

Soul, Intellect, and God in Human Life

From Lecture 11: "Alcibiades fell short of three primary hypostases, Intellect (nous), God (theos), and Soul (psukhê). [1] [He fell short] of Soul, first, since he lacks knowledge (ouk oiden), and understanding (gignôskein) is a distinctive feature of Soul. [2] He fell short of Intellect since while he lacks knowledge, he supposes he has it; for it is a distinctive feature of Intellect to revert [upon oneself] (epistrephein). (That's because Intellect is analogous to a sphere, as it makes each point both origin and limit). [3] [And he fell short] of God because he is producing harmful results (kakopoios): for he is on the verge of giving advice about what he doesn't know, so that he may bring those who take his advice to harm; but God is characterised by goodness."

From Lecture 12: "But in what sense does Plato mean all this, namely, that everything just is advantageous, and everything advantageous just, and that they are mutually convertible? [[...]] Well, if we adopt Proclus' rule, then loftier [beings] do not end or begin at the same ponit as hollower [beings]: rather, their progression extends further, like three archers of unequal power, and the stronger archers fire a great distance. And the advantageous corresponds to the Good (agathon), but the noble (kalon) to the Intellect (because beauty is the foam and flower of Form (eidos), and Form corresponds to Intellect as it reverts to its source; and that’s because what is partless reverts upon itself, since partition arises on account of matter (hulê), because all the formulae (logoi) exist in a partless way in the seed – such that when a part is cast away, the remainder still fulfils its needed task), and justice begins from Soul (for justice is in the [non-rational soul] too, [for example] among the storks)."

On Divination

From Lecture 12: the person inclined to [[divination]] (mantikos), like the naturally talented person, hazards well-aimed guesses about the future. [[...]] And [Socrates] didn’t say ‘you’re a [[diviner]] (mantis)’, since the [[diviner]] is knowledgeable, while the [[person inclined to divination]] is unfulfilled [in the mastery of their talent]: just as the doctor (iatros) and the medically inclined person (iatrikos) are not the same. And Alcibiades didn’t make this statement with knowledge, but he offered his prediction based on opinion (doxa).

Nobility and Advantage

From Lecture 13: "(as [Alcibiades] claims) a noble act can be a bad one: for instance, when going to war on behalf of one's country, and dying for a friend (philos) - this action is noble because it's praiseworthy (for it's done for a friend), but it's not good, inasmuch as it brings no benefit to the body. And the converse holds of the shameful and the good, as in the case of refusing to give one's life for a friend.

Now the [[(Delphic)]] Oracle made both of these points very clear. On the topic of refusing to give one's life for a friend, on the one hand, [she] said this:
You did not defend your friend, though you were at his side as he was dying:
You arrive impure: depart from my all-beautiful shrine.
On the other hand, when it came to a man who thrust out his arm to help his friend, but his spear struck [his friend by accident], she said this:
You reached out to save your companion: the blood does not pollute you,
but you are purer of slaughter than you were before."
Lecture 13: "Next, since he is conversing not in the Socratic manner, but as a teacher, and thus he is overstepping the instruction of the god, according to which ‘the god made me a midwife [of ideas], but prevents me from begetting’ [Tht. 150C] (for now he is teaching these lessons, rather than acting as a midwife, since [for midwifery] we would need to hear these statements from Alcibiades, not asserted by Socrates), and since he was a midwife’s son, he reverses the arrangement, and makes Alcibiades the respondent by asking these same questions of Alcibiades.

[...] He changes the structure of the argument to midwifery, to avoid overstepping the injunction of the god"

Again on Falling Short of The Hypostases

From Lecture 14: "And the person who is in this condition [of double ignorance] has fallen short of Soul (psukhê) and Intellect (nous) and God (theos). First, due to his double lack of knowledge, he has fallen short of Soul, since understanding (gnôsis) is congenial to the soul; and due to his being in a ‘most shameful’ condition, he has fallen short of Intellect, since he is unable to revert to himself, which is distinctive of mind, and also because the noble or beautiful (kalon) is congenial to Intellect, and thus in becoming ‘most shameful’ he has fallen short of it; and he has fallen short of God in ‘producing the most harm’ and ‘deserving reproach’, since simplicity is congenial to God, and wellness (to eu) also derives from simplicity. (For [the adverb] ‘well’ is a designation of simplicity, which is why we call simple ways [of acting] ‘well-intentioned’ (euêtheis))."

From Lecture 14: "it is by being most deserving of reproach that [Alcibiades] falls short of God, and thereby (hôs) of being blessed; for the word ‘blessed’ was used of a person untouched by the doom of death, which is also why ‘reproachable’ is opposed to ‘blessed’ in the line [from Euripides, Orestes 4]: That blessed man – and I do not reproach his fortunes

From Lecture 14: "I swear by the gods: [[...]] And the timing of his oath is not without significance; in fact, it shows that he is [now] in a speechless state. (Consider, why did he not swear earlier?) That is also why, when Socrates criticises him, he calls him ‘friend’; another reason is that [Alcibiades] climbed up one rung [on the ladder of knowledge]: for he stepped from double ignorance into the intermediate condition between simple and double [ignorance]."

From Lecture 14: "That is, it fell short of the good because it was deserving of reproach. For reproachability is contrary to blessedness, and blessedness is appropriate to the gods, for whom the doom of death does not exist."

The "Olympian" Statesman

From Lecture 14: "And he has deployed quite a few examples that are appropriate to this purpose, by saying ‘if someone asked you if you had the ability to ascend to heaven…’ [117B]; and there’s a sense in which this was appropriate to Alcibiades, on account of Pericles, who used to be called ‘Olympian’. Thus the line went about him, He hurled the lightning, he thundered, he cast Greece into turmoil…"

Matter and the First Cause are Beyond Language

From Lecture 15: "Granted, the first cause is also beyond language, but that is as beyond form: matter, on the other hand, is beyond language because it is inferior to all form."

Confiscations of Pagans' Property

From Lecture 15: "You can also see from this that Plato was the first [philosophical teacher] to make a point of refusing fees, since he was Zeno’s contemporary, and Zeno did take fees. But why does philosophy alone not demand fees, although other skills do? Perhaps it is because no other skilled craftsmen claim to make their pupils good people, but only to make them skilled – as doctors produce doctors, and the carpenter produces carpenters. But the philosopher claims to make people good, and in so doing, he hopes not to be treated unfairly by them. Perhaps Plato made a point of refusing fees thanks to his own wealth; that is also why to this day the school’s endowment (diadokhika) is preserved, despite the many confiscations that are taking place."

Methods of Purification

From Lecture 16: "You also have here the Platonic doctrine, that whereas Aristotle wants Intellect to be the first principle, Plato wants the Good [to be the first principle], since intellect lacks the capacity to give a share of itself to a lie, but the good gives a share of itself even to a lie, for there is such a thing as a good lie: likewise here, [we have] the notion of taking something untrue as true for the sake of the good. But lying is not intellectual (noeros), as the good is. Since there are five methods of purification, these five have been transmitted by Plato in the present dialogue. For it is possible to be purified [as follows]:

[1] By escaping into sacred precincts, or to teachers, or by studying books that one encounters; and he has conveyed this method by saying, ‘But, my blessed friend, trust in me and in the Delphic inscription, “Know Thyself”’ [124A].

[2] Second, by forceful correction (epiplêxis), which he conveyed when he used the method of rebuking [Alcibiades], criticising his cognitive [part] for double ignorance, and his vital part and explaining with tragic flair the consequences of double ignorance, how [harmful] they are.

[3] Third is the Pythagorean [method], which is also perilous, since it causes one to take a taste of the passions ‘with the tip of the finger’ – which the doctors employ as well, making use of what is ‘a little worse’: and he has conveyed this [method] here by saying that ‘You have something in you fitted for ruling the city, your natural leading portion (hêgemonikon), if you find yourself willing to adorn this with education’; for he exalted his reputation-loving nature this way.

[4] Fourth is the Aristotelian [method], which heals one harm by another (kakôi to kakon iômenos), bringing the battle of the opposites into a harmony; and he has conveyed this here by at one point using an accusation to castigate Alcibiades, and at another time rousing him up to the height with encouragement, causing him to produce the definition of civic knowledge.

[5] Fifth is the most efficacious [method], the Socratic, which uses a procedure of transformation (metabasis) from similarity; and he uses this here, when he says ‘You long for power? Learnwhat is true power, which cannot be taken away by a tyrant. You long for pleasure? Learn what is true leisure, which is observed even among the gods’."

The Great King of the Persians

From Lecture 17: That’s because it was their custom for the eldest to rule; naturally, then, the Persians and all Asia sacrifice to him and pour libations as soon [as he is born], honouring him as a god (since before Alexander, all Asia was ruled by the Persians). But when Alcibiades was born, not even his neighbours were aware of it.

From Lecture 17: "Alternatively, we might say that perhaps Darius was an Achaemenid, if not as a grandson, still by an indirect line; that is, even if he was not, as the poet says,
[Their own] son, and grandson of Zeus who gathers the clouds;
– but still a daughter’s son, or related in some other way, since there would perhaps have been no argument over the kingship, if he were not descended from Zeus."

Perseus and Heracles

From Lecture 17: "The line of Heracles and Achaemenes [go right back to Perseus, son of Zeus]: For Perseus was born of Zeus and Danaë; and Achaemenes from Perseus and Andromeda, and Alcaeus and Electryon were born from other women; and from Alcaeus and Amphitryon, Electryon and Alcmene; and from Amphitryon and Alcmene, Heracles. Hence Heracles is sprung from Zeus on either side, for he clearly possessed much of Zeus' character and vitality from both his father's side and his mother's side; at any rate, the story goes that in a single night he made love to fifty women, and every one of them had a child by him.

Now the philosopher Proclus here raises the puzzle why, when [Socrates] could prove that the Lacedaemonians also trace their lineage to Zeus by way of Heracles, he does not do this, but he presents them as deriving from Perseus [instead]. And he resolves [the puzzle] himself, saying that [Plato] probably honoured [Perseus] before [Heracles] because he was winged: for both men were born to purify [the world] of evils, and especially Heracles; hence Pisander describes him as 'an utterly just destroyer', since he performed a great many slaughters for purification. But Perseus was also such a person, and he also had [the advantage of] being winged, as the comedy showed, and the Gorgon and the sickle."
(Olympiodorus does not show how this genealogy can be interpreted; there is no reason to think that he does not believe in Heracles' reality, yet Zeus being his father seems like a problematic idea from a Neoplatonic view.)
The Worship of the Persians

From Lecture 17: "from the very start, the newborn [king] grants a full display to all his subjects. That's why all of them immediately conduct a sacrifice [[at his birth]], then honour the king's birthday each and every year, because the Persians honour what is heavenly, and most of all in the heavens the Sun; and this is also why they celebrate the king's birthday every year, because the Sun is the symbol of the year. For [the year] is called 'annual' (eniautos) because it generates the Sun in itself (en heautôi poiôn).

From Lecture 17: "And [[Socrates]] says that the man who teaches wisdom [[(to the Persian king)]] 'teaches him the Magi's art', but to prevent anyone that by 'the Magi's art' (mageia) he means spells (manganeia) and sorcery (goêteia), he adds 'which is the cultivation (therapeia) of the gods'. For the Persians honoured (as we have said) what is in the heavens, whom [Socrates] calls 'gods' (theoi) because [heaven] 'always runs' (aei thein). For he does not mean the 'sorcery' that Demosthenes ascribes to Aeschines' mother: for this man was a mendicant priest of [[the goddess Meter]] (mêtr-agurtês).
(Agurtia is much the same as manganeia and goêteia, whether in relation to Meter or otherwise.)
A Presocratic "Theologian" Still Read in the 6th Century

From Lecture 18: "Pherecydes, the teacher of Pythagoras, whose book on theology is preserved"

Know Thyself

From Lecture 18: And he calls [Alcibiades] ‘blessed’ (makarion) because he is about to link him to the gods; and in this context, [the word] ‘blessedness’ (makariotês) is used for the negation of ‘fatedness’ (kêr), since [the prefix] ma– indicates negation. And he positions himself before the god because he is the proximate cause of Alcibiades’ salvation. By using the phrase ‘Know Thyself’ (gnôthi seauton), he reveals the content of [the god’s] command (prostattomenon), since he used the [words of the] instruction to reveal what [the god] commanded: [1] he used the word ‘know’ (gnôthi) [to show] that we are not a body (sôma) (for [a body] does not have knowledge), nor a combination [of body and soul] (for this does not have knowledge either, insofar as it is a combination, since it certainly doesn’t have knowledge as a body), but [instead] we are a soul (psukhê), and not a vegetative soul (for that has no knowledge); and [2] he used the word ‘thyself’ (seauton) since [we are] also not non-rational (alogos) (for the non-rational [soul] does not revert upon itself), but [rather] rational, and not always completely rational, but sometimes even ignorant. That’s also the reason why he added the [imperative] command ‘know’ (gnôthi): for no one commands the agent to act, but now [sc. in Alcibiades’ condition of ignorance], he commands him to know himself."

From Lecture 19: "why is Socrates ignorant of himself? [...] 'self-knowledge' is said in many ways (pollakhôs): it is possible to know oneself with respect to one's external [possessions]; and of course it is possible to know oneself with respect to one's body; and it is possible to know oneself as a civic or social persion (politikôs), when one knows oneself in the tripartition of one's soul; and it is possible to know oneself as a purificatory person (kathartikôs), when one knows oneself in the act of liberation from the affections (pathê); and it is possible to know oneself as a contemplative person (theôrêtikôs), when a person contemplates himself as liberated (heauton... theasêtai); it is possible to know oneself theologically (theologikôs), when a person knows himself according to his paradigmatic Form (idea); and it is possible to know oneself as an inspired person (enthousiastikôs), when a person knows himself as a unity (kata to hen) and, thus bonded to his proper god (oikeios theos), acts with inspiration (enthousiâi). Now Socrates did not know himself as an inspired person"
(Olympiodorus is here using the degrees of virtues as originated by Plotinus and Porphyry - political/civic, purificatory, theoretical [~Soul], paradigmatic [~Intellect]. For Olympiodorus, the 'theological' - which we might translate as 'metaphysical' - corresponds to the level of the Intellect. Corresponding to the level of the One, there is divine inspiration; that he uses this word, rather than hieratic ('priestly'), which had been commonly used for the highest grade of virtues since Iamblichus, might reflect a less exalted view of ritual. Compared to Proclus, who is more concerned with the efficacy of ritual practice, Olympiodorus consistently speaks about symbolic meanings.)
The Gap Between Medicine and Divine Intervention

From Lecture 20: "What, then? Is it possible for blindness to become absent thanks to human ingenuity? For that belongs to divine radiance. [The explanation is] that it’s possible to use the name ‘blindness’ for the condition that is caused by cataracts."

Friendship at All Levels of Being, from Henosis to Kinship

From Lecture 20: "But Alcibiades ought to have considered that [the word] ‘friendship’ (philia) is said in many ways. For there is friendship in respect to the One (hen), which is also called ‘union’ (henôsis), and this arises in [episodes of] inspiration (enthousiasmois) [that derive] from the One and [unite us] with what is better (pros to kreitton). And there is friendship in respect to mind (nous), which is called ‘agreement’ (homonoia). And there is [friendship] in respect to thought (dianoia), which is called ‘thinking alike’ (homophrosunê); that’s also [the meaning of] the phrase ‘in my sharp-witted thoughts’ (en phresi peukalimêisi). And [there is] friendship in respect to opinion, which is called ‘[ holding] the same opinion’ (homodoxia). And there is [friendship] in respect to habits of character (êthesin), which [is called] ‘shared feeling’ (homoiopatheia); that’s also the [meaning of the phrase] ‘comrade delights comrade’, by shared feeling, for children delight each other and so do youths and the elderly, by enjoying [ having] the same feelings and experiences (pathê). And there is another [form of] friendship, which belongs to descent (kata ta genê), which is called ‘kinship’."

More on 'Know Thyself'. Philosophy as Universal Knowledge

From Lecture 23: A philosopher "discovers that [the soul] is a representation in every shape (pammorphon agalma) of all beings, and through one thing he knows all beings, and does not toil over the knowledge (gnôsis) of the rest: such a person knows the principle of the just, which is in [the soul]: and since (as [[Plato]] makes clear in the Gorgias) someone who knows just things is [himself] just, someone who knows the soul will thereby be just. And it was appropriate (kalôs) that before the temple of Apollo at Delphi all that was inscribed was ‘Know Thyself’, since the one who knows himself knows all beings, and the knowledge of all beings belongs to the [[diviner]]."

From Lecture 23: "That is, ‘Was it some lightweight person, the one of the seven sages who inscribed this on the shrine of the prophetic god?’ But it was Chilon of Lacedaemon. Often I think, Socrates, that it was for anybody: Self-knowledge seemed to Alcibiades sometimes to be easy, other times to be extremely difficult, because of the tragic [verse] that says
To know yourself in words is nothing great; but in deed, only Zeus of all the gods knows [how to do it].
So [it struck Alcibiades] as a minor thing in name, but challenging in action."

Each God Is Complete, and All Are in Each

From Lecture 27: "but [all of the excellences] are present in courage in a courageous way (andreiôs), and in another [excellence] in a self-controlled way, just as all the gods are present in Zeus in a Zeusian way, but in another [god] in a Heraean way, for no god is incomplete. And as Anaxagoras used to say, ‘all are in all, but [in each] one abounds’: we’ll say the same about the divine beings. For every excellence is practical wisdom, since it has an understanding of practical actions (prakta); and every [excellence] is courage, since it engages in a struggle (agônizesthai); and every [excellence] is self-control, since it leads [us] to what is better; and every [excellence is justice], since it measures out which actions are right and proper. And among the civic excellences, each one has its own distinctive subject-matter (hupokeimenon idion), but all those [excellences] beyond these [civic ones] are one and the same in their definition (logos)."

On the Story of Odysseus and Circe

From Lecture 27: "what Hermes is for Odysseus, Socrates becomes for Alcibiades: when [Alcibiades] is about to approach the people (corresponding to Circe), he gives him the antidote (pharmakon alexêtêrion) called ‘moly’; and he provides it lest [Alcibiades] be transformed into a wild beast by the people. And the medicine is this: not to observe (theasasthai) the entire people all together at once (holon homou), but to carefully examine (skopêsai) the [constituent parts] from which the people develop."

From Lecture 27: "And [Socrates] calls the medicine not ‘moly’, but ‘stripping off’: for he strips the multiplicity (plêthos) from [Alcibiades], like multiple tunics. Similarly, Homer’s Odysseus did not observe everything at once, but ‘looked at each one with his eyes’. Also, [the character] Circe - since we have mentioned her - references the overseer (ephoros) of sensory life; that is also why she is the daughter of Helios [the Sun], who is the leader of sensory things (aisthêta)."

From the Self to the Self Itself, from the Civic to the Inspired

From Lecture 27: Up to this point, the discussion has been about the 'self', and [Socrates] has taught about who the civic person is. From this point forward, he is also speaking about the 'self itself', that is, the purificatory and contemplative [person], and he says, 'Just as if the Pythian [god] told the pupil [of the eye] "See thyself"' (and the command is appropriate to the one commanded, since as the Sun is the source of light, so too vision, since it is sun-like, is analogous to the Sun), 'and that [organ] obeyed the commander, as an appropriate leader, and yet, thanks to its externally moved nature (heterokinêton) was unable to revert upon itself, it would surely look away to another [pupil] or to a mirror, form which it could observe itself; and likewise you, since you have utterly blinded what is self-moving in you and acted as something externally moved and lacking the capacity to revert upon yourself, now look into my soul, and know your own [soul] through it. And when you look away to my [soul], you will find therein 'divine images (theia agalmata)', Intellect (nous) and God (theos); and in virtue of Intellect you will act in a purificatory manner, whereas in virtue of God you will act in a contemplative manner. For God is in [the soul] by relation (kata skhesin), and we have the common conepts (koinai ennoiai) by the illumination of Intellect, and we have inspirations by the [illumination] of God'. For as a lover, [Socrates] did not want the young man to be led upward by him, but together with him. That is also why he wanted [Alcibiades] to be led upward by his own soul, and not to have his own power of self-movement (autokinêton) twisted."

The Good Person and the God

From Lecture 28: "the good person is loved by god (for the good and god are one and the same); the person loved by god knows the divine in himself; such a person knows himself, because he knows the highest [part] of his soul, and its flower; therefore, the statesman knows himself’."

From Lecture 28: "the good person is a ruler, because he links himself to god, who rules all; and the bad person is naturally a slave, because he links himself to matter, which is worst, and is ruled by all things."

The Divine and the Cosmos

From Lecture 28: "Timaeus conceptually distinguished the divine from the cosmos [Tim. 42E], so that he might gaze down upon the cosmos, which is the sort of thing that needs to be kept distinct from god; and Socrates separated power from philosophy, so that he might gaze down upon [power] as it is, the sort of thing that needs to be separated from the good person (spoudaios)."