CRATYLUS by Plato, Part 07
Her. I think so, Socrates.
Soc. Ought we not to begin with the consideration of the Gods, and show that they are" rightly named Gods?
Her. Yes, that will be well.
Soc. My notion would be something of this sort:- I suspect that the sun, moon, earth, stars, and heaven, which are still the Gods of many barbarians, were the only Gods known to the aboriginal Hellenes. Seeing that they were always moving and running, from their running nature they were called Gods or runners (Theous, Theontas); and when men became acquainted with the other Gods, they proceeded to apply the same name to them all. Do you think that likely?
Her. I think it very likely indeed.
Soc. What shall follow the Gods?
Her. Must not demons and heroes and men come next?
Soc. Demons! And what do you consider to be the meaning of this word? Tell me if my view is right.
Her. Let me hear.
Soc. You know how Hesiod uses the word?
Her. I do not.
Soc. Do you not remember that he speaks of a golden race of men who came first?
Her. Yes, I do.
Soc. He says of them-
But now that fate has closed over this race
They are holy demons upon the earth,
Beneficent, averters of ills, guardians of mortal men.
Her. What is the inference?
Soc. What is the inference! Why, I suppose that he means by the golden men, not men literally made of gold, but good and noble; and I am convinced of this, because he further says that we are the iron race.
Her. That is true.
Soc. And do you not suppose that good men of our own day would by him be said to be of golden race?
Her. Very likely.
Soc. And are not the good wise?
Her. Yes, they are wise.
Soc. And therefore I have the most entire conviction that he called them demons, because they were daemones (knowing or wise), and in our older Attic dialect the word itself occurs. Now he and other poets say truly, that when a good man dies he has honour and a mighty portion among the dead, and becomes a demon; which is a name given to him signifying wisdom. And I say too, that every wise man who happens to be a good man is more than human (daimonion) both in life and death, and is rightly called a demon.
Her. Then I rather think that I am of one mind with you; but what is the meaning of the word "hero"? (eros)
Soc. I think that there is no difficulty in explaining, for the name is not much altered, and signifies that they were born of love.
Her. What do you mean?
Soc. Do you not know that the heroes are demigods?
Her. What then?
Soc. All of them sprang either from the love of a God for a mortal woman, or of a mortal man for a Goddess; think of the word in the old Attic, and you will see better that the name heros is only a slight alteration of Eros, from whom the heroes sprang: either this is the meaning, or, if not this, then they must have been skilful as rhetoricians and dialecticians, and able to put the question (erotan), for eirein is equivalent to legein. And therefore, as I was saying, in the Attic dialect the heroes turn out to be rhetoricians and questioners. All this is easy enough; the noble breed of heroes are a tribe of sophists and rhetors. But can you tell me why men are called anthropoi?- that is more difficult.
Her. No, I cannot; and I would not try even if I could, because I think that you are the more likely to succeed.
Soc. That is to say, you trust to the inspiration of Euthyphro.
Her. Of course.
Soc. Your faith is not vain; for at this very moment a new and ingenious thought strikes me, and, if I am not careful, before tomorrow's dawn I shall be wiser than I ought to be. Now, attend to me; and first, remember that we of put in and pull out letters in words, and give names as we please and change the accents. Take, for example, the word Dii Philos; in order to convert this from a sentence into a noun, we omit one of the iotas and sound the middle syllable grave instead of acute; as, on the other hand, letters are sometimes inserted in words instead of being omitted, and the acute takes the place of the grave.
Her. That is true.
Soc. The name anthropos, which was once a sentence, and is now a noun, appears to be a case just of this sort, for one letter, which is the a, has been omitted, and the acute on the last syllable has been changed to a grave.
Her. What do you mean?
Soc. I mean to say that the word "man" implies that other animals never examine, or consider, or look up at what they see, but that man not only sees (opope) but considers and looks up at that which he sees, and hence he alone of all animals is rightly anthropos, meaning anathron a opopen.