EUTHYDEMUS by Plato, Part 15
Is not that which you would deem your own, he said, that which you have in your own power, and which you are able to use as you would desire, for example, an ox or a sheep would you not think that which you could sell and give and sacrifice to any god whom you pleased, to be your own, and that which you could not give or sell or sacrifice you would think not to be in your own power?
Yes, I said (for I was certain that something good would come out of the questions, which I was impatient to hear); yes, such things, and such things only are mine.
Yes, he said, and you would mean by animals living beings?
Yes, I said.
You agree then, that-those animals only are yours with which you have the power to do all these things which I was just naming?
Then, after a pause, in which he seemed to be lost in the contemplation of something great, he said: Tell me, Socrates, have you an ancestral Zeus? Here, anticipating the final move, like a person caught in a net, who gives a desperate twist that he may get away, I said: No, Dionysodorus, I have not.
What a miserable man you must be then, he said; you are not an Athenian at all if you have no ancestral gods or temples, or any other mark of gentility.
Nay, Dionysodorus, I said, do not be rough; good words, if you please; in the way of religion I have altars and temples, domestic and ancestral, and all that other Athenians have.
And have not other Athenians, he said, an ancestral Zeus?
That name, I said, is not to be found among the Ionians, whether colonists or citizens of Athens; an ancestral Apollo there is, who is the father of Ion, and a family Zeus, and a Zeus guardian of the phratry, and an Athene guardian of the phratry. But the name of ancestral Zeus is unknown to us.
No matter, said Dionysodorus, for you admit that you have Apollo, Zeus, and Athene.
Certainly, I said.
And they are your gods, he said.
Yes, I said, my lords and ancestors.
At any rate they are yours, he said, did you not admit that?
I did, I said; what is going to happen to me?
And are not these gods animals? for you admit that all things which have life are animals; and have not these gods life?
They have life, I said.
Then are they not animals?
They are animals, I said.
And you admitted that of animals those are yours which you could give away or sell or offer in sacrifice, as you pleased?
I did admit that, Euthydemus, and I have no way of escape.
Well then, said he, if you admit that Zeus and the other gods are yours, can you sell them or give them away or do what you will with them, as you would with other animals?
At this I was quite struck dumb, Crito, and lay prostrate. Ctesippus came to the rescue.
Bravo, Heracles, brave words, said he.
Bravo Heracles, or is Heracles a Bravo? said Dionysodorus.
Poseidon, said Ctesippus, what awful distinctions. I will have no more of them; the pair are invincible.
Then, my dear Crito, there was universal applause of the speakers and their words, and what with laughing and clapping of hands and rejoicings the two men were quite overpowered; for hitherto their partisans only had cheered at each successive hit, but now the whole company shouted with delight until the columns of the Lyceum returned the sound, seeming to sympathize in their joy. To such a pitch was I affected myself, that I made a speech, in which I acknowledged that I had never seen the like of their wisdom; I was their devoted servant, and fell to praising and admiring of them. What marvellous dexterity of wit, I said, enabled you to acquire this great perfection in such a short time? There is much, indeed, to admire in your words, Euthydemus and Dionysodorus, but there is nothing that I admire more than your magnanimous disregard of any opinion-whether of the many, or of the grave and reverend seigniors-you regard only those who are like yourselves. And I do verily believe that there are few who are like you, and who would approve of such arguments; the majority of mankind are so ignorant of their value, that they would be more ashamed of employing them in the refutation of others than of being refuted by them. I must further express my approval of your kind and public-spirited denial of all differences, whether of good and evil, white or black, or any other; the result of which is that, as you say, every mouth is sewn up, not excepting your own, which graciously follows the example of others; and thus all ground of offence is taken away. But what appears to me to be more than all is, that this art and invention of yours has been so admirably contrived by you, that in a very short time it can be imparted to any one. I observed that Ctesippus learned to imitate you in no time. Now this quickness of attainment is an excellent thing; but at the same time I would advise you not to have any more public entertainments; there is a danger that men may undervalue an art which they have so easy an opportunity of acquiring; the exhibition would be best of all, if the discussion were confined to your two selves; but if there must be an audience, let him only be present who is willing to pay a handsome fee;-you should be careful of this;-and if you are wise, you will also bid your disciples discourse with no man but you and themselves. For only what is rare is valuable; and "water," which, as Pindar says, is the "best of all things," is also the cheapest. And now I have only to request that you will receive Cleinias and me among your pupils.
Such was the discussion, Crito; and after a few more words had passed between us we went away. I hope that you will come to them with me, since they say that they are able to teach any one who will give them money; no age or want of capacity is an impediment. And I must repeat one thing which they said, for your especial benefit,-that the learning of their art did not at all interfere with the business of money-making.