ALCIBIADES PRAISES SOCRATES
 ONE of the most famous disciples of Socrates was Plato. He
loved his master well, and wrote down many of his
conversations, so that his words may still be read.
In a book, named the Symposium, Plato tells us
that Socrates and his friends met at a banquet one day
and spoke to each other in praise of love.
When it came to Alcibiades" turn to speak, he was
eager to tell of the love he had for Socrates. He
began by begging the others not to laugh if he said
first of all that Socrates was like the images of the
god Silenus, which they had often seen in the shops of
Now Silenus was a satyr, a strange figure that was half
man, half goat. In his mouth were pipes and flutes
upon which he played, while his images were made to
open, and within each might be seen the figure of a
As the gay company thought of the uncouth figure of the
satyr, at which they had often stared in shop windows,
they could not but laugh at Alcibiades for comparing
his master to such an image.
But when the young nobleman went on to speak of the god
that was hidden in Socrates, just as the image of one
was concealed in the body of the satyr, it may be that
the laughter of the gay company was hushed. For in
truth the disciple could say no greater thing about the
master he loved than this, that within him he bore the
likeness of a god.
But Silenus was not the only satyr that reminded
Alcibiades of his master. Marsyas, a wonderful
flute-  player also made him think of Socrates. "For,"
Alcibiades, "Are you not a flute-player, Socrates?
That you are, and a far more wonderful performer that
Marsyas. He indeed with instruments used to charm the
souls of men by the power of his breath. But you
produce the same effect with your voice only, and do
not require the flute; that is the difference between
you and him."
Pericles, and other great Athenian orators, Alcibiades
had heard, he said, unmoved, while Socrates' words,
"even at second hand and however imperfectly repeated,
amaze and possess the souls of every man, woman and
child who comes within hearing of them."
Alcibiades then told his astonished listeners how his
master's eloquence held him as with chains of gold.
"This Marsyas," he says, "has often brought me to such
a pass that I have felt as if I could hardly endure the
life which I am leading. . . . and I am conscious that if I
did not shut my ears against him, and fly from the
voice of the siren, he would detain me until I grew
old, sitting at his feet. For he makes me confess that
I ought not to live as I do, neglecting the wants of my
own soul, and busying myself with the concerns of the
Athenians; therefore I hold my ears and tear myself
away from him."
So greatly did the words of Socrates disturb Alcibiades
that sometimes he even wished that his master were dead
and could trouble him no more, and "yet I know," he
adds quickly, "that I should be much more sorry than
glad if he were to die; so that I am at my wit's end."
But it was not only his master's eloquence that
Alcibiades praised before the gay company of revellers,
it was his deeds as well.
During the Peloponnesian War both Socrates and
Alcibiades were present at the siege of Potidæa.
"There we messed together," said Alcibiades, "and I had
the opportunity of observing his extraordinary power of
sustaining fatigue and going without food. In the
 of endurance he was superior not only to me, but to
everybody; there was no one to be compared to him, yet
at a festival he was the only person who had any real
power of enjoyment."
"Cold, too," Alcibiades said, "Socrates could bear
without flinching. The winter at Potidæa was severe,
the frost intense. The Athenian soldiers stayed
indoors when they could; when they were forced to be
out they put on as many extra clothes as they could
find, their feet they swathed in felt and fleeces."
But Socrates, "with his bare feet on the ice and in his
ordinary dress, marched better than the other soldiers
who had shoes, and they looked daggers at him, because
he seemed to despise them."
Yet another tale of his endurance Alcibiades told to
the listening company.
"One morning," he said, "Socrates was thinking about
something which he could not resolve; he would not give
it up, but continued thinking from early dawn until
noon—there he stood, fixed in thought; and at noon
attention was drawn to him, and the rumour ran through
the wondering crowd that Socrates had been standing and
thinking about something ever since the break of day.
At last, in the evening, after supper, some Ionians out
of curiosity (it was now summer) brought out their mats
and slept in the open air that they might watch him,
and see whether he would stand all night. There he
stood all night until the following morning, and with
the return of light he offered up a prayer to the sun
and went his way."
Not even yet had Alcibiades exhausted the praises of
his master, and the gay company listened spell-bound
and bewildered to the young noble. They had not
guessed how well he loved, how gravely he had studied
the words and ways of Socrates. Now it was of the
courage of his master that he wished to tell, for
Socrates had saved his life in battle.
 "This was," said Alcibiades, "the engagement in which I
received the prize of valour; for I was wounded and he
would not leave me, but he rescued me and my arms; and
he ought to have received the prize of valour which the
generals wanted to confer on me, partly on account of
my rank, and I told them so (this Socrates will not
impeach or deny), but he was more eager than the
general that I and not he should have the prize."
When the Athenians fled after the defeat of Delium, the
young nobleman was on horseback, and being himself
safe, he watched Socrates, who was among the
"There you might see him," said Alcibiades, "just as he
is in the streets of Athens, stalking like a pelican,
and rolling his eyes, calmly contemplating enemies as
well as friends, and making very intelligible to anybody
even from a distance that whoever attacked him would be
likely to meet with a stout resistance; and in this way
he and his companions escaped."
With one more tribute to his master, Alcibiades ended
his discourse on love:
"His absolute unlikeness to any human being that is or
ever has been is perfectly astonishing. His are the
only words which have a meaning in them, and also the
most divine, . . . extending to the whole duty of a good and
honourable man. This, friends, is my praise of
You will be glad to know that Socrates valued the love
of his disciple and returned it.
"I only love you," said the philosopher, "whereas other
men love what belongs to you; and your beauty, which is not
you, is fading away, just as your true self is
beginning to bloom. And I will never desert you, if
you are not spoiled and deformed by the Athenian
people: for the danger which I most fear is that you
will become a lover of the people, and will be spoiled
by them. Many a noble Athenian has been ruined in this