Zamolxis or of Abaris the Hyperborean, and I may as well let you have
the cure of the head at once; but if you have not yet acquired this
quality, I must use the charm before I give you the medicine. Please,
therefore, to inform me whether you admit the truth of what Critias
has been saying;-have you or have you not this quality of temperance?
Charmides blushed, and the blush heightened his beauty, for modesty is
becoming in youth; he then said very ingenuously, that he really could
not at once answer, either yes, or no, to the question which I had
asked: For, said he, if I affirm that I am not temperate, that would
be a strange thing for me to say of myself, and also I should give the
lie to Critias, and many others who think as he tells you, that I am
temperate: but, on the other hand, if I say that I am, I shall have to
praise myself, which would be ill manners; and therefore I do not know
how to answer you.
I said to him: That is a natural reply, Charmides, and I think that
you and I ought together to enquire whether you have this quality
about which I am asking or not; and then you will not be compelled to
say what you do not like; neither shall I be a rash practitioner of
medicine: therefore, if you please, I will share the enquiry with you,
but I will not press you if you would rather not.
There is nothing which I should like better, he said; and as far as I
am concerned you may proceed in the way which you think best.
I think, I said, that I had better begin by asking you a question; for
if temperance abides in you, you must have an opinion about her; she
must give some intimation of her nature and qualities, which may
enable you to form a notion of her. Is not that true?
Yes, he said, that I think is true.
You know your native language, I said, and therefore you must be able
to tell what you feel about this.
Certainly, he said.
In order, then, that I may form a conjecture whether you have
temperance abiding in you or not, tell me, I said, what, in your
opinion, is Temperance?
At first he hesitated, and was very unwilling to answer: then he said
that he thought temperance was doing things orderly and quietly, such
things for example as walking in the streets, and talking, or anything
else of that nature. In a word, he said, I should answer that, in my
opinion, temperance is quietness.
Are you right, Charmides? I said. No doubt some would affirm that the
quiet are the temperate; but let us see whether these words have any
meaning; and first tell me whether you would not acknowledge
temperance to be of the class of the noble and good?
But which is best when you are at the writing-master's, to write the
same letters quickly or quietly?
And to read quickly or slowly?
And in playing the lyre, or wrestling, quickness or sharpness are far
better than quietness and slowness?
And the same holds in boxing and in the pancratium?
And in leaping and running and in bodily exercises generally,
quickness and agility are good; slowness, and inactivity, and
quietness, are bad?
That is evident.
Then, I said, in all bodily actions, not quietness, but the greatest
agility and quickness, is noblest and best?
And is temperance a good?
Then, in reference to the body, not quietness, but quickness will be
the higher degree of temperance, if temperance is a good?