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Plato's Prayer to Pan (Phaedrus 279 B8-C3)

Author(s): T. G. Rosenmeyer
Source: Hermes, 90. Bd., H. 1 (1962), pp. 34-44
Published by: Franz Steiner Verlag
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>>Dear Pan, and ye other gods who dwell in this place, grant that I may
become beautiful (%aAod) within, and that such outward things as I have may
be in agreement with (qg()Ata) the things within. May I count him rich who is
wise; as for gold, may I have so much of it as no one but the reasonable man
(O aCoxdcwv) should be able to bear and carry'.< The prayer is justly famous.
It is somewhat surprising, therefore, that modern discussions of the Phaedrus
devote practically no attention to it. There are some few general remarks
about the appropriateness of the invocation, especially to the person and the
purposes of Socrates2. But that is all. Nor are the ancient critics more illu-
minating. Hermeias (i. e., probably, Syrianus) attempts to explain some of the
terms of the prayer, but his comments on this head are no more helpful than
most of his notes. Here are some excerpts3: >Pan is the god who acts as
custodian of the whole (to rav). 'Grant that I may become beautiful'. Why,
was he not beautiful? We suggest that he prays to remain beautiful within.
'And that such outward things as I have. ..' He wishes all externals, both
bodies and things, to be arranged in harmony with the soul, in order that the
soul does not turn sluggish under their weight, or is corrupted by their defi-
ciencies. 'Rich.' The rich man is he whose possessions make him self-sufficient;
the wise man is he who is satisfied with what he has; hence (the wise man) is
rich. 'As for gold, may I have so much of it. . .' Excessive wealth produces
hubris and stifles intellectual effort#.
Hermeias, it appears, experienced no difficulty in explaining the details
of the prayer to his own satisfaction, in terms which can hardly be called
remarkable or profound. The scarcity of other references seems to point in the
same direction. That is a pity; for I should like to suggest that the prayer is
not as innocuous as it looks. If neither ancients nor moderns seem much
interested in it, the reason is perhaps that an appeal to the gods is better
In my translation I have tried to stay as close to the text as I could. There are many
attractive renderings of the passage, but each of those I have seen strays from the text
in one way or another, in sufficient measure to throw obstacles in the path of our
2 HACKFORTH'S observation is a good specimen: *The closing prayer has no special
connexion with the context of the dialogue, but is eminently characteristic of the real
Socrates in its depreciation of external and bodily goods as compared with the goods of
the spirit.# R. HACKFORTH, Plato's Phaedrus (Cambridge I952) I68-9. Cf. also H. LEISE-
GANG in his RE article, vol. XX, 2, 1950, coll. 2478-9; he suggests that the prayer once
more draws together the motifs of Socrates' second speech. Only Paul FRIEDLANDER, Platon
vol. 2 (Berlin 1930) 502-3 appears ready to explore some of the implications of the
P. COUVREUR, ed., Hermiae Alexandrini in Platonis Phaedrum Scholia (Paris I90I)
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Plato's Prayer to Pan (Phaedrus 279 B8-C3) 35
spoken, or listened to, than subjected to irreverent analysis. But I
confess that I am puzzled by many things. Why the address to Pan?
Why the insistence on a proper relation between the things inside and
the things outside? What is the force of the word I have translated as
'in agreement with'? What is meant by the bearing and carrying of
the wealth which is the property of the wise or the charge of the reasonable
man? As for the things outside, surely Socrates cannot here be referring to
physical looks? A personal hope based on the archaic equation of intrinsic
worth and physical beauty is out of place or at least unrealistic when Socrates
is the speaker2.
But let me begin with the first question: why Pan? We do not have Proclus'
commentary on Cratylus 408B-D where, it is just possible, a disquisition on
Pan might have given us some important clues. Hermeias' explanation is
clearly unsatisfactory, though the Stoic tradition of Pan symbolizing and
administering rd rndv is prominent enough among the neo-Platonists3. The
only other interpretation of the name which gained currency among
the theologians is the one featured in the Orphic Hymn to Apollo (Hymn
34, 24-27) where Apollo Paian is identified with Pan. Then there is the
rather more whimsical speculation, cited in the scholia to Theocritus
(4-5 DUEBNER), according
to which Pan is
all the suitors.
But none of this can be expected to throw light on the role of Pan in the
prayer of the Phaedrus.
Since in antiquity Pan was, apparently, rather less talked about than some
of the other divinities, let us take a jump forward and look at what FICINO
has to say about him. Usually FIcINO explains Pan along the conventional
'Both p(A tog and xaio'g serve to connect the prayer with the tradition of Alcaeus and
Theognis and the tyrannicides, with the spirit of the symposium and the
other passages of the Phaedrus which point in the same direction, see 234E 2, 243E
257D 9, 264 A 8 etc. etc. Plato exploits the terminology of aristocratic companionship and
conservative ideals. One example will indicate the sovereign liberty with which Plato
transforms the old nexuses. In the prayer,
9$a)OEv be' O'ca Excw) at first glance seems to refer
to the type of external possessions celebrated as one of life's goods in the famous skolion
iysalvv&v ui
a'ietocov, Athenaeus I5, 694. That is, it seems to refer to wealth. The case
appears to be clinched as we continue reading: rAovvtrov be
Hot4ut . .. However, as
the argument of the paper will suggest, Ta 9wo)ev and nAofrog are, within the context of
the prayer, radical opposites. In the end social exclusiveness is replaced by intellectual
2 L. ROBIN, in his Bud6 edition of the Phaedrus p. 96 note i, refers to Symp. 2I5 AB,
2I6Cff., 2igEf. where a distinction is made between Socrates' satyr looks and his inner
beauty. Hellenistic sculptors managed to subject Socrates to a beauty treatment; cf. the
head in the Terme Museum, reproduced by K. SCHEFOLD, Die Bildnisse der antiken Dichter,
Redner und Denker (Basel
I?943) 83. But would Socrates have approved?
Cf. 0. KERN, Die Religion der Griechen vol. III (Berlin 1938) I27ff. The Stoic doctrine
actually derives, like so much else, from Plato; cf. below, p. 37 note 3 and text.
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Stoic lines, as the god of to ndvl. But at one point we read the following2:
Socratem afflaverunt: Dionysius (sic) praestitit mentis excussum, Musae poesim,
Pan facundiam, Nymphae varietatem.
That is, among the gods who inspired Socrates, Dionysus furnished the
spiritual excitement, the Muses furnished the poetry, the Nymphs the variety,
and Pan-eloquence. If I am not mistaken, FICINo does not duplicate this
remarkable statement elsewhere. In his chapter entitled: Quomodo dii quatuor
modis multiplicentur3 he does not even mention Pan, which is only to be
expected since the gods discussed are the supercoelestes.
Where did FICINO find Pan associated with eloquence? One passage that
comes to mind is the story about Plato as a baby4. When Plato was born his
parents took him to Mount Hymettus, wishing to sacrifice on his behalf to the
local divinities, Pan, the Nymphs, and Apollo Nomios. And as he was lying
there bees filled his mouth with honey, to bring to pass the saying (Iliad A, 249):
From his lips the streams of words ran sweeter than honey. This is what
Olympiodorus tells us. In the precinct of Pan, Plato was equipped with elo-
quence. Between this tale about Plato, and FICINO's remark about Socrates,
what are the connecting links? Apparently none. On the coins that show Pan,
as Professor Frank BROMMER kindly informs me, the legend facundia or a
related motto never appears. Perhaps one of the emblem books of the Renais-
sance could give us some further information, but my inquiries on this score
have been abortive. ALCIATI regards Pan as an emblem of lust combined with
wisdom (under the heading: Natura; Vis Naturae). If for lust we substitute
'Qcog, the combination of 8'"COw and
brings us pretty close to nst&oa, which,
I should think, is a relevant Greek term. But there is no outright avowal of
the connection between Pan and eloquence.
Nor is the concept of Pan as the god of terror panicus helpful. Works in
the pastoral tradition feature a Pan who uses his gift of terror to achieve
persuasion, erotic or otherwise. But in spite of the spark of illumination heralded
in Plato's Seventh Epistle (344B) we should not, I dare say, look for a Platonic
rapprochement between eloquence proper and the non-rational, even in the
Marsili FICINI Operum Tomus Secundus (Basel I576) 1386 (ch. 53 of notes on the
translation): Quid vero sit Pan, caeterique hoc in loco dii, breviter audi. Certum est et hunc
et illos esse locales sub luna deos, sed Pan nominatur, velut omne, quoniam in ordine localium
gradum tenet amplissimum. .. Sicubi vero summum Deum Pan Platonica ratione, hic, sed
alia sum locutus.
2 Ibid. 1384 (ch. 39 of notes on the translation). The statement is modelled on
Phaedrus 265B 2-5.
Ibid. 1370-2.
Olympiodorus, In Alcibiadem I, 2, 24ff. WESTERINK; Prolegomena 2
197, 35ff.
HERMANN, which is based on Olympiodorus, omits the name of Pan, presumably because
his role in the tale was not understood.
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Plato's Prayer to Pan (Phaedrus 279 B8-C3) 37
Phaedrus. On the whole, then, it is better to believe that FICINO'S comment
is not part of a continuous tradition, but based on the Phaedrus itself, in
combination with the Cratylus. In the Phaedrus (263D 5-6) Socrates ack-
nowledges Pan as the inspirer of his speech: the Nymphs, daughters of Achelous
and Pan, son of Hermes have turned out to be
... itOg Adyovs,
more skilled in the use of words, than Lysias the son of Cephalus. Pan, along
with the Nymphs, is the real Aoyonolos of the dialogue. He is, in terms of the
Phaedo, the
who leads the speakers'. And this fits in with what we find
in the Cratylus (408D 2): Pan is either
or Ao'yov
if he is the
son of Hermes. Earlier (408AB) the name Hermes is connected with
The whole argument is characteristically opaque: Hermes invented speech,
or is concerned with speech; Pan is the son of Hermes; hence Pan is speech
or the brother of speech 2.
But beneath the veneer of mythological mockery there are some substantial
avowals. Pan, we learn, is two-fold-smooth and rough-as Ao'yog is two-fold,
true and false (408 C 3). Even the Stoics are anticipated (C 2): )You know
that the
signifies rt orriv and continually vaults and winds around it 3.
The capacity of the
to grasp the heterogeneities of experience is con-
fidently -overconfidently? -asserted. Now no one will doubt that the Phaedrus
also is very much concerned with the whole complex of questions relating to
dialogue versus oratory, the written versus the spoken speech, the
More precisely, Pan is the Aoyoroio'o of the section of the dialogue beginning with
Socrates' second oration. Prior to this the Muses (237A 7) and the Nymphs (238D i;
24I E
the promoters of discourse which is inspired (and hence neither controlled nor
demonstrable) rather than philosophical, are in command (cf. also 235 C 6ff.). But contrast
Plato's frequent identification of the
and the Movactxo, most emphatic perhaps
at 248D 3. Note also the distinction of the Muses into several types, one of which (i.e.,
Calliope and Urania) pretty much coincides with the authority prompting philosophical
discourse (259C 6-D 7). But these subtle compromises and conflations are less significant
than the crude fact that when Pan makes his first appearance in the dialogue, 263 D 2-6,
he is openly connected with
odelEeaOat, i. e., with discursive logic and definition. Equally
strikingly, when the divinities of the place are introduced early in the dialogue, 230B 7,
Pan is not among them. Plato proceeds as if the natural movement of the discussion toward
clarification and classification gradually uncovered the presence of Pan. This is not generally
recognized by those who fix the locale of the Phaedrus by identifying a sanctuary of Pan
or by citing the discovery of a relief of Pan; cf. G. RODENWALDT, Pan am Ilissos, Athen.
Mitteilungen 37, I9I2, I4I-I50. Even if there was a sanctuary of Achelous, the Nymphs,
(Hermes) and Pan as is suggested by the Berlin 'launderers' relief' (cf. J. E. HARRISON,
Mythology and Monuments of Ancient Athens, London I890, 227), the fact remains that
Pan enters the stage only as we approach the second half of the dialogue. The launderers'
relief, containing IG II. 3, 1327, dates from the middle of the fourth century, or a little
later. Could the worthy launderers have read Plato's Phaedrus?
2 Cf. also L. ROBIN, Bud6 edition of Phaedrus, Notice p. LVI.
Cf. also Prolegomena I5
209, 3ff. HERMANN: Plato uses dialogue because of its
which mirrors the
of the cosmos.
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versatility of
its flexibility in response to other speech stimuli, its variable
capacity for self-correction, the uneasy terms of its compact with truth; in
short, everything that in the Cratylus is meant by the xvxklv and nowi1V
of the
If, then, Pan, is the addressee of the final invocation, is there a
chance that the prayer might have something to do with these major concerns
of the dialogue as a whole?
But let us return to the analysis of the specific difficulties of the prayer,
and direct our attention to the notion of ;rAoftog. About the identification
of wealth with aoq4ta there should be no difficulty'. Possible objections to the
equation are demolished in the Eryxias
A 5ff.) and elsewhere. We may
take it for granted, then, that the wise is rich, that in the natural order of
things he has a treasure, and that the prayer is designed only to transform a
plausible hope into conviction2. But what is meant by the phrase ,uTws f
ayetv, >>may I have so much of it as no one but the reasonable man
should be able to bear and carry?<( The phrase has the ring of a riddle. AST'S
Lexicon is not helpful; if I understand his entry he seems to suggest that in
this passage the meaning of the two verbs is )>to carry along<: Let me have only
so much gold as a
awCFe?Cev can carry with him. That is not very enlightening3.
In another context, Laws IO,884, 885 A (where a'yetv precedes
proposes that the meaning is #snatch away<, i. e., *appropriate<. Perhaps it
was Plato's intention that the riddle should upon first reading be construed
as a paradox: may I have so much gold as only a modest and ungreedy man
could steal. But it is important to remember that the wealth about which
Plato is talking is not a material substance which can be transported bodily
or snatched.
Another passage in the Laws (8I7A 5-7) is more relevant4. The Athenian
pictures the tragic poets as arriving in the city and asking the citizens: ))Shall
we come to your city... at T')v noh2cnv
ewoitv Te xat
or what is your
pleasure? # Here the two verbs are obviously not used in the sense of >snatch
' The identification cancels the distinction made by Phaedrus, 228A
3-4. Actually
Phaedrus turns out to have been doubly wrong, in as much as the oration whose recollec-
tion he prizes has no share in wisdom.
2 The phrase nAov'atov 66
r6v aoqo'v is related to what follows as a premise
is related to its conclusion. In the present case both premise and conclusion are put in the
form of a wish or hope. But in spite of the optative mood the premise approximates closely
to an axiom, a %otvov
Emendation misses the point; HILDEBRANDT'S otov for 6'aov serves only to introduce
a qualitative element which clashes with the quantitative implications of the verbs:
K. HILDEBRANDT, tr. and introd., Platons Phaidros (Kiel 1953) 222.
The relevance of the passage is denied by W. H. THOMPSON, ed., The Phaedrus of
Plato (London i868) 148 note ad loc. THOMPSON'S comments on the prayer, and his refe-
rence to Plutarch, De frat. amore 486E where aiyetv at'
is used in the sense of
#administer(t, do not seem to me helpful.
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Plato's Prayer to Pan (Phaedrus 279 B8-C3) 39
away# or even simply #carry<(. The notion intended is that of doing bu-
siness, of give and take, of setting up and taking down, of some kind of com-
pound or commutative activity. The verbs
and a&yetv are not
nyms, nor do they reinforce each other, but signify an operational tension'.
They are thus particularly appropriate to the concept of a wealth which
functions properly only if it is constantly negotiated and exchanged and
circulated, the concept of a store of knowledge generated and communicated
by friendly traffic and barter. But if that is so, and the prayer is directed at
the negotiability of knowledge, then the specific problems with which the
Phaedrus concerns itself begin to assert themselves also in the address to Pan.
But first we must explore some further difficulties. We may take it for granted
in this context, coincides with ao(po'g. But why does Plato say
#beautiful# rather than ))wise<( in the first place? What is the advantage of
appealing to Pan on the plane of beauty rather than intelligence? And further-
more, if the ev6otkv refers to the soul, or only to the soul, why does Plato not
come right out and say Tvv
particularly since in the rest of the dia-
logue, whenever the discussion touches upon the life of the soul, he shows
no trace of bashfulness? I should think it is obvious that Plato, of all philo-
sophers, says >)soul'# when he means #soul#.
The contrast between E`cowev and gv6o6ev is paralleled on two other occa-
sions in the dialogue 2. (I) 245 E: #Every body which has its motion from
outside is soulless; but that which has its motion from within itself is animated((.
In the world of concrete experience, gv6otev is ranged on the side of that which
is more valuable, and
on the side of that which is less valuable. But
it is also important to recognize that the things which have their source of
constitute between them the necessary order of the physical
universe. Without them the souls could not be effective. (2) 275 A, the story
of Thamus and Theuth: the invention of the alphabet and the use of it )>will
occasion forgetfulness in the souls of those who have learnt its use, for they
will neglect the resources of their memory, and fall back on a trust in the
external mechanism of writing, instead of trying to remember on their own
strength, from within themselves.(( In the world of thought, as in the world of
material motion, 5C(Osev points to the inferior, gv6okev to the superior. But
' E. B. ENGLAND, ed., The Laws of Plato (London 1921) cites Laws 8I7A and Phaedrus
279C as evidence for Plato's use of a familiar phrase in an unordinary sense. It should be
added that when the combined meaning of the two verbs is Ato carry off booty4, aiyEtv
normally but not always precedes
Q'e8tv. Cf. Thesaurus Linguae Graecae vol. I coll. 56I ff.;
also vol. VIII col. 7I7. -Plato's insight that there is a traffic which consolidates the gold
controverts the teaching of Heraclitus, as typified by B
go D.-K., that gold and goods
are constantly interchanged. Cf. also Epistle 2, 314A 5-7.
2 I omit minor parallels, such as 247 B 7, wo
where the distinction made
between outside and inside the
has little to contribute to our problem.
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precisely as in the previous context, the external, i. e., here, the use of the
alphabet, cannot be eliminated. The Egyptian savant may contemplate a
primitive paradise in which no letters are needed. But Plato knows better; he
knows that communication in a large and complex society is impossible without
literacy 1. Thamus, and Socrates, may get along without written accounts;
but the fraction of humanity which benefits from their abstinence is pitifully
More generally speaking the distinction between g'VoOsv and
of course that between )>at home# and )>abroad<(2. The walls of the house are
the most natural limit between `v6otev and 9aon)ev. The limit becomes espe-
cially important where a distinction is made between the insiders and the
outsiders (the in-group and the out-group, to use the modern jargon). The
Pythagoreans used to say that not everything should be communicated to all
(Diog. Laert. 8, I5, citing Aristoxenus). So they handed down an oral tradi-
tion which was kept hidden from all outsiders. What happened to the terms
esoteric and exoteric in connection with the Aristotelian writings is one of the
disputed chapters of modern scholarship 3. The traditional explanation which
goes back to Plutarch and Aulus Gellius, and which is supposed to derive from
Andronicus, fixes on the Pythagorean distinction between oral and written
composition. Plutarch (Vita Alex. 7) records how Alexander hears about his
teacher having published material concerning the deeper matters, and com-
plains in a letter to Aristotle that now things in which he was instructed would
be available to all. The contrast is between that which is listened to and that
which is published. And again, the house of learning constitutes the limit.
Ultimately, of course, both the so-called esoteric and the so-called exoteric
material was written down, and the terms came to be identified with two
different groups of writings. But to begin with the distinction is between oral
communication and writing, or perhaps between two types of oral communi-
cation: the easy and leisurely association of like-minded souls within the house,
in the relationship between teacher and students, sustaining conversation and
argument; and the polished fixing or mirroring of this activity in works of art to
But note that Thamus' advocacy of illiteracy is aimed chiefly against education
through handbooks (275 C 5) rather than against the recording of a living discussion.
2 One stray example: Euripides, Electra 73-5, Electra speaking to her farmer husband:
aTc 4tev eQya Tav 6o'jotg 6' Ot J xe&(
#You have enough to do outside the house; I'll make things easier for you within.*
Cf. the latest analysis by W. WIELAND, in Hermes 86, 1958, 323ff.: the exoteric wri-
tings are those of Aristotle's works, perhaps inspired by a controversy with Isocrates, in
which he employs rhetorical types of argument. Contrast F. DIRLMEIER, in his Aristoteles,
Nikom. Ethik (Darmstadt 1956) 274-5, who maintains that by I4WTretxoI
stotle means works produced outside of the Peripatos.
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Plato's Prayer to Pan (Phaedrus 279 B8-C3) 4I
be read to outsiders. It is, in other words, a Platonic or Academic distinction.
For contrary to the Pythagorean taboo, and contrary also to the preferences
of some of his later successors, Plato could never have brooked the idea of not
communicating the philosopher's advances to outsiders. Note his condem-
nation of precisely this sort of secretiveness in the Sophists, Theaet. I52C1.
The ancient commentators recognized this. Cf. Olympiodorus, Vita Plat. ch. 6
HERMANN: Plato gave up the Socratic type of association; but he also gave
up the sejvodg
of the Pythagoreans, the policy of keeping his doors
locked and the policy of av&dog Ea, and showed himself more sociable toward
To us, and equally to his contemporaries and followers, Plato is nothing if
not a great writer. The view that the recommendations of the Phaedrus are
against writing is no longer widely held3. The organistic rules given in the se-
cond half of the dialogue cannot possibly apply to oral discourse4. The structure
of the written and recited work can be parallel to the thought structure which
emerges from oral discourse, or which is implicit in it. At Phaedrus 276A-E a
distinction is made between speech which is written in the soul, and writing
which is its external e't'6c)Aov5. Writing, a written thing, is not as intrinsically
valuable as the thought, particularly the dialectical thought, which underlies
it 6. But writing is not for that reason to be condemned out of hand. If it is a
worthy and responsible mirror of the structure of true thought and philosophy,
it is to be recommended, and in fact indispensible.
On this score Plato differs from Isocrates and Alcidamas. Isocrates also
prefers the spoken to the written (or. 5, 25-27; also Letter to Dionysius 2-3),
but his criterion is not that of truth but that of effectiveness, =Et0. For
Plato, theoretically, the written can be as true as the spoken 7, but it can make
For this interpretation of the Theaetetus passage, see K. F. HERMANN, Gesammelte
Abhandlungen und Beitrage (G6ttingen I849) 290 note 23. Epistle 7, 340-344 does not
provide evidence to the contrary. Epistle 2, 3I2D and 3I4C expose the Pythagoreanizing
2 Contrary to Socrates who preferred to stay within the walls of his theater of action.
By inducing Socrates for once to leave his closed circle and to venture out into a larger
arena, Plato serves notice that the Socrates of the Phaedrus is a new Socrates, Platonized.
See Socrates' specific profession, 258D I-5: oVX
avxo ye To
yovs . . . 2AA' 'X,IVO ... To
xaA6g A2y8LV T8 xac
q'etv 'AA'
T8 xat mam6og.
It is significant that many of Aristotle's remarks in the Poetics are based on material
in the Phaedrus. Cf. GUDEMAN'S Index, also F. PFISTER, )>Der Begriff des Sch6nen und das
Ebenmass#, Wiirzb. Jahrb. I, I946, 34I-58.
6 This distinction follows on the heels of the distinction between QCt)#ev and gv6ot8.
in connexion with the issue of literacy, 275 A.
6 This is an old notion of Plato's; cf. Protagoras 329 A 2ff.: books cannot answer back
or ask questions, and orators are like them.
For Plato's emphasis on
note that in the great myth of the vision of the soul,
comes to be representative of the realm of ideas as a whole, 248 B 6.
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that claim only to the extent that it is based on the spoken. In any case Iso-
crates' oral communication is represented largely by speeches; conversation
plays no meaningful part in it'.
After this excursion into the well-worn topic of exoteric and esoteric, let me
sum up my argument, with due allowance for the uses of g$enOeV and 'V5oioev
in the dialogue and for the natural meaning of those terms in Greek. I suggest
that Plato is, in the invocation to Pan, dealing with the issue of communica-
tion. There is a body of knowledge, or at the least a technique of acquiring
information, which is restricted to the soul of the wise man, and/or to the house
in which the wise man teaches, namely the Academy. Within its proper habitat,
Plato prays for constant development and perfection. But there is no reason
why this knowledge or this technique ought not to be exported beyond the
confines of the individual soul, or of the teacher's house. This must be done
through writing as well as public speaking. But care must be taken that the
writing and the mass communication remain in tune with and faithful to the
knowledge and the convictions which are the original fruit of the philosophic
discussion in the Academy2. Conversely, a knowledge which cannot be com-
municated broadly is not worth having, as we learn also in the Cave episode
of the Republic.
The prayer to Pan deals with the problem of publication in general rather
than with the specific issue of Plato's use of the figure of Socrates. It is generally
supposed that in the later dialogues Plato has some difficulty with the conver-
sational form 3, and it may be thought that the prayer is an attempt on Plato's
part to vindicate his retention of that form. I prefer to think, however, that
the prayer has nothing to do with any such formal crisis; that, in fact, we do
not have sufficient evidence to conclude that the crisis ever occurred to Plato;
but that the Phaedrus mirrors the varied mode of discussion conducted in the
Academy (or, for that matter, in any gathering of intellectuals) at any time
during Plato's career. The prayer applies to all the various phases of the dialo-
gue form. And that means that any attempt to date the Phaedrus on the basis
of the introduction of speeches is bound to fail.
Phaedrus' qualms about logography, 257C 6 (cf. also 278C 7), may well be represen-
tative of Isocrates' views about writing. Cf. also E. MIKKOLA, Isokrates, Helsinki I954,
I87ff-, I9Iff.
No such summary or approximate reproduction as Phaedrus proposes to give of the
speech of Lysias, 228D
will do. As for my blithe assumption that the compositional
and dictional pattern, and the themes discussed, reflect what went on in the Academy, I
hasten to admit that H. CHERNISS'S scepticism concerning the program of the Academy
cannot be controverted: The Riddle of the Academy (Berkeley 1945) ch. 3. By the same
token, however, if there is any possibility of throwing light on the workings of the Academy,
the illumination will have to come from the dialogues, and especially from the Phaedrus.
See W. JAEGER, Aristotle (Oxford I948) 26. Cf. however the suggestions of P. MERLAN,
JHS 8, 1947, 409-IO.
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Plato's Prayer to Pan (Phaedrus 279 B8-C3) 43
But is it not fanciful to detect in the term
'V60oev a reference,
at least in part, to the Academy? To this one answer must be that it has always
been recognized that the relation between Socrates and Phaedrus differs from
the relations of other men with Socrates 1. Phaedrus clearly is a committed
disciple rather than a friend or partner. But what is more, he is a disciple who
has gotten something also from the competition, and who now comes home for
a reorientation session. The spirit, and the forms also, are institutional rather
than personal. The trees and the brook are symbols of the grove of Academus
as the agora or the palaestra or even a private home could never be. And we
should not forget the slip of the pen-or is it a slip? -where Plato has Socrates
refer to himself and his associates as *followers of Zeus< (250B 7). This is the
sort of hint which tells us how far the historical Socrates is from Plato's mind,
and how the experience of the Academy colors the language as well as the issues
of the work2.
In any case, no matter whether the 'kCoAev - gvtoOev relation refers to an
individual soul or to a group of souls3, the prayer has nothing to do with the
historical Socrates or the values for which he stood. It is Plato's own, appealing
for help in his special task of disseminating in written form a philosophy
which is to be worthy of the intellectual climate of his group, a climate which
is of course a function of his own philosophic intentions. The prayer is thus a
fitting pendant to that other invocation in the Phaedrus, the address to Eros
(257 AB), in which Eros is asked to be of help in the personal association which
generates philosophy. Just as Eros presides over the more intimate oral AO6yog,
so Pan presides over the larger Ao'yog, the external communication of ideas born
within the charmed circle of enlightened souls. Read in this fashion, the prayer
1 That the prayer to Pan has some connection with the function of the Academy was
seen by E. BICKEL, WPlatonisches Gebetsleben*, Arch. f. Gesch. d. Philos. I4, I908, 535-54.
BICKEL also cites earlier attempts to interpret the prayer. He himself undertakes to see
in the prayer a reaction against what he calls the *Gebetsphilosophie der griechischen
Aufklarung4. For the rest, his interpretation is the conventional one.
cit. (above, p. 38 note 3) 54 suggests that at 250 B 7 Plato is thinking
of himself and Dion. HACKFORTH
cit. (above, p. 34 note 2) 93 note says: >Plato alludes
to himself rather than to Socrates*. But the plurals at 25o B-C appear to point to a group
experience rather than an individual commitment. It is true that the tradition (reliably?)
connects the Academy with the worship of the Muses rather than of Zeus. But there is
no clash between an official, ceremonial cult of the Muses on the one hand, and a spiri-
tual allegiance to Zeus, such as is expected of the philosophic nature at 252 B.
The intricate reciprocity operating between the individual soul and the group in the
increasing realization of knowledge and happiness, is most clearly portrayed in the key
passage 276E 4-277 A 4. Though ostensibly the passage describes a process involving only
two characters, the dialectician and the receptive soul upon which he operates, the opera-
tion is seen as one which is automatically transferable to any other qualified set of two
characters. What is more, there is an implication that the fruitful and responsible career
of the Ao'yot implanted in a receptive soul will be of help also to the planter himself:
276E 7 ... A oyovg o' 'avTotg Tr6 re qv9evT'ravT flo?poetv ixavoi...
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44 T. G. ROSENMEYER, Plato's Prayer to Pan (Phaedrus 279 B8-C3)
to Pan furnishes a needed corrective to certain mistaken inferences which
could be and have been drawn from Plato's discussion of written
(277E-278A and elsewhere). Plato's proper conviction, as also confessed in
the last message to Lysias (278 BC), is that writing can be consonant with oral
truth; that the outward things may be in agreement with the beautiful treasure
within; and that even a modest treasure deserves to be spread and negotiated
among all reasonable men, provided only that it does not come under the con-
trol of those, like Dionysius, who lack the requisite
In actual fact, the genuine treasure must always be beyond our grasp. Plato's
cardinal and lasting conviction that no man is roCpo'o (278D 3-6) compels us
to regard the equation of wisdom and riches as tantamount to the confession
that only the god is rich. But though the philosopher is not rich, he has some
modest means to show for his efforts. It is this limited quantity of gold which
Plato wants to be distributed in an appropriate fashion. The use of the adjective
one might expect
or at least q
that the prayer, like the dialogue of which it is the conclusion, emphasizes the
aesthetic aspect of the
and that means, among other things, its commu-
nicability and persuasiveness2. If they had no beauty, the products of the
philosophic mind would remain hoards, buried in the house of leaming, instead
of being converted into the living currency of significant thought 3.
University of Washington T. G. ROSENMEYER
Cf. 275sE I -3 where this provision is formulated as a fear that writings may fall into
unqualified hands. Cf. also 276D 4 where the
are referred to as na'vres oi Tav?oTv
,ETlO'VTeg. They
are the ones who know what to do with a written
who treat
it as a means of communication rather than as a treasure in its own right.
Cf. 258D
TOV xaAcog Ts xa'
yeapev; The question introduces
the second part of the dialogue. Cf. also 259E I-6, where xaAog Ao'yog is said to be the
function of 6tdavota ei6via to'
For the erotic overtones of the language, cf. above,
P. 35 note i. In the Phaedrus ,dLaAog as an object of erotic and hetaeric desire is trans-
muted into an object of cosmic vision which is then, 252 E I f., transformed into educa-
tional energy. See also 255 C 6. As in the Republic and elsewhere, Plato teaches that friend-
ship and companionship as such cannot supply educational values; the philosopher's
vision must be interposed. Erotic xa'AAog and philosophical cadAAog, generating and in
turn availing themselves of rhetorical and literary xa'AAog, transform the receptive soul.
A beautiful thing stimulates the recollection of beauty; hence, if the
is beautiful,
we draw closer to the realm, or at least one realm, of ideal knowledge. The rightful
is thus something entirely different from the rhetorical 6o0'a with which it is contrasted
259E 4-260A 3. It is the task of the aco$pewv to distinguish the two.-For the function
of beauty in communicating philosophic truth, cf. also the neo-Kantian remarks of G.A.LEvi,
II bello nel Fedro platonico, Humanitas 7 (Brescia I952) 479-85. I owe this reference
to Professor H. CHERNISS' Plato Bibliography in Lustrum 4, 1959, 135.
I am greatly indebted to Professors W. S. HECKSCHER, F. BROMMER, P. 0. KRISTEL-
LER, A. D. NOCK, and L. G. WESTERINK who graciously answered my letters of inquiry
concerning the use of Pan as a symbol of eloquence in the post-classical periods.
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