aleator classicus

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Cebes, Tablet 2

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Cebes was a follower of Socrates and appears in Plato’s Phaedo. Whether he actually was the author of the philosophical dialogue which we know under his name is debatable. It is not very familiar nowadays, but was popular in earlier times and was read in schools in the late 19th and early 20th century, as is clear from the school editions of Jerram (1878) and Parsons (1904). There is an intriguing translation by K.S. Guthrie (1910).

This excerpt picks up the dialogue near the beginning, just after the narrator has explained how one day he and his companions found themselves outside a temple of Cronos looking up at a mysterious tablet, displaying words and pictures, affixed to the wall.

ἀπορούντων οὖν ἡμῶν περὶ τῆς μυθολογίας πρὸς ἀλλήλους πολὺν χρόνον, πρεσβύτης τις παρεστὼς, “οὐδὲν δεινὸν πάσχετε, ὦ ξένοι,” ἔφη, “ἀποροῦντες περὶ τῆς γραφῆς ταύτης· οὐδὲ γὰρ τῶν ἐπιχωρίων πολλοὶ οἴδασι τί ποτε αὕτε ἡ μυθολογία δύναται· οὐδὲ γάρ ἐστι πολιτικὸν ἀνάθημα· ἀλλὰ ξένος τις πάλαι ποτὲ ἀφίκετο δεῦρο, ἀνὴρ ἔμφρων καὶ δεινὸς περὶ σοφίαν, λὸγῳ τε καὶ ἔργῳ Πυθαγόρειόν τινα καὶ Παρμενίδειον ἐζηλωκὼς βίον, ὃς τό τε ἱερὸν τοῦτο καὶ τὴν γραφὴν ἀνέθηκε τῷ Κρόνῳ.” “πότερον οὖν”, ἔφην ἐγὼ, “καὶ αὐτὸν τὸν ἄνδρα γιγνώσκεις ἑωρακώς;” “καὶ ἐθαύμασά γε,” ἔφη, “αὐτὸν πολὺν χρόνον, νεώτερος ὤν. πολλὰ γὰρ καὶ σπουδαῖα διελέγετο· καὶ περὶ ταύτης δὲ τῆς μυθολογίας πολλάκις αὐτοῦ ἠκηκόειν διεξιόντος.”

For a long while we fruitlessly discussed among ourselves what the meaning of the story might be; then an old man stopped next to us and said, ‘You are not at all unusual, strangers, in being at a loss about this inscription. For not very many of the locals know what the story’s meaning is. This offering is not from our community, but rather once upon a time long ago a foreigner arrived here, an intelligent man and remarkable for his wisdom. In both word and deed he zealously led a Pythagorean or Parmenidean life. He it was who dedicated to Cronos both this temple and the inscription.’ ‘So,’ I said, ‘did you see this man and get to know him?’ ‘Yes, indeed,’ he said, ‘and I marvelled at him for a long time, being rather a youngster. For he talked about many serious matters, and I have often listened to him expounding the meaning of this story.’

Written by aleatorclassicus

July 7, 2010 at 12:00 PM

Posted in Cebes