republic (books 6 - 10)
There is not.
Or is there any invention of his, applicable to the arts or to
human life, such as Thales the Milesian or Anacharsis the
Scythian, and other ingenious men have conceived, which is
attributed to him?
There is absolutely nothing of the kind.
But, if Homer never did any public service, was he privately
a guide or teacher of any? Had he in his lifetime friends who
loved to associate with him, and who handed down to posterity
a Homeric way of life, such as was established by Pythagoras,
who was so greatly beloved for his wisdom, and whose fol-
lowers are to this day quite celebrated for the order which was
named after him?
Nothing of the kind is recorded of him. For, surely, Soc-
rates, Creophylus, the companion of Homer, that child of
flesh, whose name always makes us laugh, might be more justly
ridiculed for his stupidity, if, as is said, Homer was greatly
neglected by him and others in his own day when he was alive?
Yes, I replied, that is the tradition. But can you imagine,
Glaucon, that if Homer had really been able to educate and im-
prove mankind--if he had possessed knowledge, and not been a
mere imitator--can you imagine, I say, that he would not have
had many followers, and been honored and loved by them?
Protagoras of Abdera and Prodicus of Ceos and a host of
others have only to whisper to their contemporaries: "You
will never be able to manage either your own house or your
own State until you appoint us to be your ministers of educa-
tion"--and this ingenious device of theirs has such an effect
in making men love them that their companions all but carry
them about on their shoulders. And is it conceivable that the
contemporaries of Homer, or again of Hesiod, would have al-
lowed either of them to go about as rhapsodists, if they had
really been able to make mankind virtuous? Would they not
have been as unwilling to part with them as with gold, and have
compelled them to stay at home with them? Or, if the master
would not stay, then the disciples would have followed him
about everywhere, until they had got education enough?
Yes, Socrates, that, I think, is quite true.
Then must we not infer that all these poetical individuals,
beginning with Homer, are only imitators; they copy images
of virtue and the like, but the truth they never reach? The
poet is like a painter who, as we have already observed, will
make a likeness of a cobbler though he understands nothing of
cobbling; and his picture is good enough for those who know
no more than he does, and judge only by colors and figures.
In like manner the poet with his words and phrases may
be said to lay on the colors of the several arts, himself under-
standing their nature only enough to imitate them; and other
people, who are as ignorant as he is, and judge only from his
words, imagine that if he speaks of cobbling, or of military tac-
tics, or of anything else, in metre and harmony and rhythm, he
speaks very well--such is the sweet influence which melody
and rhythm by nature have. And I think that you must have
observed again and again what a poor appearance the tales of