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CRATYLUS by Plato, Part 11


Her. Yes; but what do you say of the other name?

Soc. Athene?

Her. Yes.

Soc. That is a graver matter, and there, my friend, the modern interpreters of Homer may, I think, assist in explaining the view of the ancients. For most of these in their explanations of the poet, assert that he meant by Athene "mind" (nous) and "intelligence" (dianoia), and the maker of names appears to have had a singular notion about her; and indeed calls her by a still higher title, "divine intelligence" (Thou noesis), as though he would say: This is she who has the mind of God (Theonoa);- using a as a dialectical variety e, and taking away i and s. Perhaps, however, the name Theonoe may mean "she who knows divine things" (Theia noousa) better than others. Nor shall we be far wrong in supposing that the author of it wished to identify this Goddess with moral intelligence (en ethei noesin), and therefore gave her the name ethonoe; which, however, either he or his successors have altered into what they thought a nicer form, and called her Athene.

Her. But what do you say of Hephaestus?

Soc. Speak you of the princely lord of light (Phaeos istora)?

Her. Surely.

Soc. Ephaistos is Phaistos, and has added the e by attraction; that is obvious to anybody.

Her. That is very probable, until some more probable notion gets into your head.

Soc. To prevent that, you had better ask what is the derivation of Ares.

Her. What is Ares?

Soc. Ares may be called, if you will, from his manhood (arren) and manliness, or if you please, from his hard and unchangeable nature, which is the meaning of arratos: the latter is a derivation in every way appropriate to the God of war.

Her. Very true.

Soc. And now, by the Gods, let us have no more of the Gods, for I am afraid of them; ask about anything but them, and thou shalt see how the steeds of Euthyphro can prance.

Her. Only one more God! I should like to know about Hermes, of whom I am said not to be a true son. Let us make him out, and then I shall know whether there is any meaning in what Cratylus says.

Soc. I should imagine that the name Hermes has to do with speech, and signifies that he is the interpreter (ermeneus), or messenger, or thief, or liar, or bargainer; all that sort of thing has a great deal to do with language; as I was telling you the word eirein is expressive of the use of speech, and there is an often-recurring Homeric word emesato, which means "he contrived"- out of these two words, eirein and mesasthai, the legislator formed the name of the God who invented language and speech; and we may imagine him dictating to us the use of this name: "O my friends," says he to us, "seeing that he is the contriver of tales or speeches, you may rightly call him Eirhemes." And this has been improved by us, as we think, into Hermes. Iris also appears to have been called from the verb "to tell" (eirein), because she was a messenger.

Her. Then I am very sure that Cratylus was quite right in saying that I was no true son of Hermes (Ermogenes), for I am not a good hand at speeches.

Soc. There is also reason, my friend, in Pan being the double-formed son of Hermes.

Her. How do you make that out?

Soc. You are aware that speech signifies all things (pan), and is always turning them round and round, and has two forms, true and false?

Her. Certainly.

Soc. Is not the truth that is in him the smooth or sacred form which dwells above among the Gods, whereas falsehood dwells among men below, and is rough like the goat of tragedy; for tales and falsehoods have generally to do with the tragic or goatish life, and tragedy is the place of them?

Her. Very true.

Soc. Then surely Pan, who is the declarer of all things (pan) and the perpetual mover (aei polon) of all things, is rightly called aipolos (goat-herd), he being the two-formed son of Hermes, smooth in his upper part, and rough and goatlike in his lower regions. And, as the son of Hermes, he is speech or the brother of speech, and that brother should be like brother is no marvel. But, as I was saying, my dear Hermogenes, let us get away from the Gods.

Her. From these sort of Gods, by all means, Socrates. But why should we not discuss another kind of Gods- the sun, moon, stars, earth, aether, air, fire, water, the seasons, and the year?

Soc. You impose a great many tasks upon me. Still, if you wish, I will not refuse.

Her. You will oblige me.

Soc. How would you have me begin? Shall I take first of all him whom you mentioned first- the sun?

Her. Very good.

Soc. The origin of the sun will probably be clearer in the Doric form, for the Dorians call him alios, and this name is given to him because when he rises he gathers (alizoi) men together or because he is always rolling in his course (aei eilein ion) about the earth; or from aiolein, of which meaning is the same as poikillein (to variegate), because he variegates the productions of the earth.

Her. But what is selene (the moon)?

Soc. That name is rather unfortunate for Anaxagoras.

Her. How so?

Soc. The word seems to forestall his recent discovery, that the moon receives her light from the sun.

Her. Why do you say so?

Soc. The two words selas (brightness) and phos (light) have much the same meaning?

 

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