Ion, Plato
0:37 h Ideas Lvl 10.42
In Plato's Ion Socrates discusses with the titular character, a professional rhapsode who also lectures on Homer, the question of whether the rhapsode, a performer of poetry, gives his performance on account of his skill and knowledge or by virtue of divine possession. It is one of the shortest of Plato's dialogues. Ion has just come from a festival of Asclepius at the city of Epidaurus, after having won first prize in the competition. Socrates engages him in discussion and Ion explains how his knowledge and skill is limited to Homer, whom he claims to understand better than anyone alive. Socrates finds this puzzling as to him it seems that Homer treats many of the same subjects as other poets like Hesiod, subjects such as war or divination, and that if someone is knowledgeable in any one of those he should be able to understand what both of these poets say. Furthermore, this man is probably not the poet, like Ion, but a specialist like a doctor, who knows better about nutrition.





Socrates: Welcome, Ion. Are you from your native city of Ephesus?

Ion: No, Socrates; but from Epidaurus, where I attended the festival of Asclepius.

Soc.: And do the Epidaurians have contests of rhapsodes at the festival?

Ion: O yes; and of all sorts of musical performers.

Soc.: And were you one of the competitors — and did you succeed?

Ion: I obtained the first prize of all, Socrates.

Soc.: Well done; and I hope that you will do the same for us at the Panathenaea.

Ion: And I will, please heaven.

Soc.: I often envy the profession of a rhapsode, Ion; for you have always to wear fine clothes, and to look as beautiful as you can is a part of your art. Then, again, you are obliged to be continually in the company of many good poets; and especially of Homer, who is the best and most divine of them; and to understand him, and not merely learn his words by rote, is a thing greatly to be envied. And no man can be a rhapsode who does not understand the meaning of the poet. For the rhapsode ought to interpret the mind of the poet to his hearers, but how can he interpret him well unless he knows what he means? All this is greatly to be envied.

Ion: Very true, Socrates; interpretation has certainly been the most laborious part of my art; and I believe myself able to speak about Homer better than any man; and that neither Metrodorus of Lampsacus, nor Stesimbrotus of Thasos, nor Glaucon, nor any one else who ever was, had as good ideas about Homer as I have, or as many.

Soc.: I am glad to hear you say so, Ion; I see that you will not refuse to acquaint me with them.

Ion: Certainly, Socrates; and you really ought to hear how exquisitely I render Homer. I think that the Homeridae should give me a golden crown.

Soc.: I shall take an opportunity of hearing your embellishments of him at some other time. But just now I should like to ask you a question: Does your art extend to Hesiod and Archilochus, or to Homer only?

Ion: To Homer only; he is in himself quite enough.

Soc.: Are there any things about which Homer and Hesiod agree?

WholeReader. Empty coverWholeReader. Book is closedWholeReader. FilterWholeReader. Compilation cover