Socrates. Welcome, Ion. Are you from your native city of Ephesus?
Ion. No, Socrates; but from Epidaurus, where I attended the festival
Soc. And do the Epidaurians have contests of rhapsodes at the
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
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
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?
Ion. Yes; in my opinion there are a good many.
Soc. And can you interpret better what Homer says, or what Hesiod
says, about these matters in which they agree?
Ion. I can interpret them equally well, Socrates, where they agree.
Soc. But what about matters in which they do not agree?- for example,
about divination, of which both Homer and Hesiod have something to
Ion. Very true:
Soc. Would you or a good prophet be a better interpreter of what these
two poets say about divination, not only when they agree, but when
Ion. A prophet.
Soc. And if you were a prophet, would you be able to interpret them
when they disagree as well as when they agree?
Soc. But how did you come to have this skill about Homer only, and not
about Hesiod or the other poets? Does not Homer speak of the same
themes which all other poets handle? Is not war his great argument?
and does he not speak of human society and of intercourse of men, good
and bad, skilled and unskilled, and of the gods conversing with one
another and with mankind, and about what happens in heaven and in the
world below, and the generations of gods and heroes? Are not these the
themes of which Homer sings?
Ion. Very true, Socrates.
Soc. And do not the other poets sing of the same?
Ion. Yes, Socrates; but not in the same way as Homer.
Soc. What, in a worse way?
Ion. Yes, in a far worse.