Socrates 3.5 – Alcibiades I

"Socrates," by Mitch Francis
Alcibiades But I am not sure I should be able, Socrates, to set it forth to you.

Socrates Well, my good sir, imagine I am the people in Assembly; even there, you know, you will have to persuade each man singly, will you not?

Alcibiades Yes.

Socrates And the same man may well persuade one person singly, 114c and many together, about things that he knows, just as the schoolmaster, I suppose, persuades either one or many about letters?

Alcibiades Yes.

Socrates And again, will not the same man persuade either one or many about number?

Alcibiades Yes.

Socrates And this will be the man who knows — the arithmetician?

Alcibiades Quite so.

“He who can persuade many can persuade one. Alcibiades should therefore be able to persuade Socrates.” (Jowett’s note)

Socrates And you too can persuade a single man about things of which you can persuade many?

Alcibiades Presumably.

Socrates And these are clearly things that you know.

Alcibiades Yes.

Socrates And the only difference between the orator 114d speaking before the people and one who speaks in a conversation like ours is that the former persuades men in a number together of the same things, and the latter persuades them one at a time?

Alcibiades It looks like it.

Socrates Come now, since we see that the same man may persuade either many or one, try your unpracticed hand on me, and endeavor to show that the just is sometimes not expedient.

Alcibiades You are insolent, Socrates!

Socrates This time, at any rate, I am going to have the insolence to persuade you of the opposite of that which you decline to prove to me.

Alcibiades Speak, then.

Socrates Just answer my questions. 114e

Alcibiades No, you yourself must be the speaker.

Socrates What? Do you not wish above all things to be persuaded?

Alcibiades By all means, to be sure.

Socrates And you would best be persuaded if you should say “the case is so”?

Alcibiades I agree.

Socrates Then answer; and if you do not hear your own self say that the just is expedient, put no trust in the words of anyone again.

Alcibiades I will not: but I may as well answer; for I do not think I shall come to any harm. 115a

“A man may do what is expedient and not just, but he cannot do what is honourable and not just and good.” (Jowett’s note)

Socrates You are quite a prophet! Now tell me, do you consider some just things to be expedient, and others not?

Alcibiades Yes.

Socrates And again, some noble, and some not?

Alcibiades What do you mean by that question?

Socrates I would ask whether anyone ever seemed to you to be doing what was base and yet just.

Alcibiades Never.

Socrates Well, are all just things noble?

Alcibiades Yes.

Socrates And what of noble things, in their turn? Are they all good, or some only, while others are not?

Alcibiades In my opinion, Socrates, some noble things are evil.

Socrates And some base things are good?

Alcibiades Yes. 115b

Socrates Do you mean as in one of the many cases where men have gone to rescue a comrade or kinsman in battle, and have been either wounded or killed, while those who did not go to the rescue, as duty bade, have got off safe and sound?

Alcibiades Precisely.

Socrates And such a rescue you call noble, in respect of the endeavor to save those whom it was one’s duty to save; and this is courage, is it not?

Alcibiades Yes.

“But good may contain an element of evil. Good and evil are to be judged of by their consequences.” (Jowett’s note)

Socrates But you call it evil, in respect of the deaths and wounds?

Alcibiades Yes. 115c

Socrates And is not the courage one thing, and the death another?

Alcibiades Certainly.

Socrates Then it is not in the same respect that rescuing one’s friends is noble and evil?

Alcibiades Apparently not.

Socrates Then see if, inasmuch as it is noble, it is also good; for in the present case you were admitting that the rescue was noble in respect of its courage: now consider this very thing, courage, and say whether it is good or bad. Consider it in this way: which would you choose to have, good things or evil?

Alcibiades Good. 115d

Socrates And most of all, the greatest goods, and of such things you would least allow yourself to be deprived?

Alcibiades To be sure.

Socrates Then what do you say of courage? At what price would you allow yourself to be deprived of it?

Alcibiades I would give up life itself if I had to be a coward.

Socrates Then you regard cowardice as the uttermost evil.

Alcibiades I do.

Socrates On a par with death, it seems.

Alcibiades Yes.

Socrates And life and courage are the extreme opposites of death and cowardice?

Alcibiades Yes. 115e

Socrates And you would most desire to have the former, and least the latter?

Alcibiades Yes.

Socrates Is that because you think the former best, and the latter worst?

Alcibiades To be sure.

Socrates So you reckon courage among the best things, and death among the worst.

Alcibiades I do.

Socrates Then the rescue of one’s friends in battle, inasmuch as it is noble in respect of the working of good by courage, you have termed noble?

Alcibiades Apparently.

“But good may contain an element of evil. Good and evil are to be judged of by their consequences.” (Jowett’s note)

Socrates But evil, in respect of the working of evil by death?

Alcibiades Yes.

Socrates So we may fairly describe each of these workings as follows: as you call either of them evil because of the evil it produces, 116a so you must call it good because of the good it produces.

Alcibiades I believe that is so.

Socrates And again, are they noble inasmuch as they are good, and base inasmuch as they are evil?

Alcibiades Yes.

Socrates Then in saying that the rescue of one’s friends in battle is noble and yet evil, you mean just the same as if you called the rescue good, but evil.

Alcibiades I believe what you say is true, Socrates.

Socrates So nothing noble, in so far as it is noble, is evil, and nothing base, in so far as it is base, is good. 116b

Alcibiades Apparently.

“The honourable is identified with the good, and the good is the expedient…” (Jowett’s note)

Socrates Now then, consider it again in this way: whoever does nobly, does well too, does he not?

Alcibiades Yes.

Socrates And are not those who do well happy?

Alcibiades Of course.

Socrates And they are happy because of the acquisition of good things?

Alcibiades Certainly.

Socrates And they acquire these by doing well and nobly?

Alcibiades Yes.

Socrates So doing well is good?

Alcibiades Of course.

Socrates And welfare is noble?

Alcibiades Yes. 116c


  1. All things just are noble.
  2. All things noble are good.
  3. All things good are expedient.
  4. All things just are expedient.

Socrates Hence we have seen again that noble and good are the same thing.

Alcibiades Apparently.

Socrates Then whatever we find to be noble we shall find also to be good, by this argument at least.

Alcibiades We must.

Socrates Well then, are good things expedient or not?

Alcibiades Expedient.

Alcibiades claims that the Greeks generally regard questions about the just course of action as obvious, and instead deliberate about which is more expedient (convenient, practical). Socrates overturns the distinction, showing by Alcibiades’ own premisses that the just is also the expedient, rather than its contrary. We rejoin them at Socrates’ summary.

Socrates And do you remember what our admissions were about just things?

Alcibiades I think we said that those who do just things must do noble things.

Socrates And that those who do noble things must do good things?

Alcibiades Yes. 116d

Socrates And that good things are expedient?

Alcibiades Yes.

“…and therefore the just which is the honourable is also the expedient. All this has been proved by Alcibiades himself.” (Jowett’s note)

Socrates Hence just things, Alcibiades, are expedient.

Alcibiades So it seems.

Socrates Well now, are not you the speaker of all this, and I the questioner?

Alcibiades I seem to be, apparently.

Note 10: Peparethus is a small island off the coast of Thessaly.

Socrates So if anyone stands up to advise either the Athenians or the Peparethians,10 imagining that he understands what is just and unjust, and says that just things are sometimes evil, could you do other than laugh him to scorn, since you actually say yourself that 116e just and expedient are the same?


“Yet he still finds himself in a perplexity…” (Jowett’s note)

Alcibiades But by Heaven, Socrates, I do not even know what I am saying, I feel altogether in such a strange state! For from moment to moment I change my view under your questioning.

Socrates And are you unaware, my friend, what this feeling is?

Alcibiades I am, quite.

Socrates Well, do you suppose that if someone should ask you whether you have two eyes or three, two hands or four, or anything else of that sort, you would answer differently from moment to moment, or always the same thing? 117a

Alcibiades I begin to have misgivings about myself, but still I think I should make the same answer.

Socrates And the reason would be, because you know?

Alcibiades I think so.

Socrates Then if you involuntarily give contradictory answers, clearly it must be about things of which you are ignorant.

Alcibiades Very likely.

“…and this is because he thinks that he knows, but if he knew that he were ignorant he would be in no perplexity.” (Jowett’s note)

Socrates And you say you are bewildered in answering about just and unjust, noble and base, evil and good, expedient and inexpedient? Now, is it not obvious that your bewilderment is caused by your ignorance of these things? 117b

Alcibiades I agree.

Socrates Then is it the case that when a man does not know a thing he must needs be bewildered in spirit regarding that thing?

Alcibiades Yes, of course.

Socrates Well now, do you know in what way you can ascend to heaven?

Alcibiades On my word, not I.

Socrates Is that too a kind of question about which your judgement is bewildered?

Alcibiades No, indeed.

Socrates Do you know the reason, or shall I state it?

Alcibiades State it.

Socrates It is, my friend, that while not knowing the matter you do not suppose that you know it. 117c

Alcibiades Here again, how do you mean?

Socrates Do your share, in seeing for yourself. Are you bewildered about the kind of thing that you do not know and are aware of not knowing? For instance, you know, I suppose, that you do not know about the preparation of a tasty dish?

Alcibiades Quite so.

Socrates Then do you think for yourself how you are to prepare it, and get bewildered, or do you entrust it to the person who knows?

Alcibiades I do the latter.

Matters are best handled by those who know better; the ignorant suppose it’s they themselves!
Note 11: The “tiller” was the handle of an oar at the side of the stern, and was moved towards or away from the center of the ship.

Socrates And what if you should be on a ship at sea? Would you think 117d whether the tiller should be moved inwards or outwards,11 and in your ignorance bewilder yourself, or would you entrust it to the helmsman, and be quiet?

Alcibiades I would leave it to him.

Socrates So you are not bewildered about what you do not know, so long as you know that you do not know?

Alcibiades It seems I am not,

“The people who make mistakes are neither those who know, nor those who do not know, but those who think that they know and do not know.” (Jowett’s note)

Socrates Then do you note that mistakes in action also are due to this ignorance of thinking one knows when one does not?

Alcibiades Here again, how do you mean?

Socrates We set about acting, I suppose, when we think we know what we are doing? 117e

Alcibiades Yes.

Socrates But when people think they do not know, I suppose they hand it over to others?

Alcibiades To be sure.

Socrates And so that kind of ignorant person makes no mistakes in life, because they entrust such matters to others?

Alcibiades Yes.

Socrates Who then are those who make mistakes? For, I take it, they cannot be those who know.

Alcibiades No, indeed.

The deepest, most harmful ignorance.

Socrates But since it is neither those who know, nor those of the ignorant 118a who know that they do not know, the only people left, I think, are those who do not know, but think that they do?

Alcibiades Yes, only those.

Socrates Then this ignorance is a cause of evils, and is the discreditable sort of stupidity?

Alcibiades Yes.

Socrates And when it is about the greatest matters, it is most injurious and base?

Alcibiades By far.

Socrates Well then, can you mention any greater things than the just, the noble, the good, and the expedient?

Alcibiades No, indeed.

Socrates And it is about these, you say, that you are bewildered?

Alcibiades Yes.

Alcibiades is “busted.”

Socrates But if you are bewildered, is it not clear from what has gone before 118b that you are not only ignorant of the greatest things, but while not knowing them you think that you do?

Alcibiades I am afraid so.

“And you, like other statesmen, rush into politics without being trained. Pericles, alone of them all, associated with the philosophers.” (Jowett’s note)

Socrates Alack then, Alcibiades, for the plight you are in! I shrink indeed from giving it a name, but still, as we are alone, let me speak out. You are wedded to stupidity, my fine friend, of the vilest kind; you are impeached of this by your own words, out of your own mouth; and this, it seems, is why you dash into politics before you have been educated. And you are not alone in this plight, but you share it with most of those who manage our city’s affairs, 118c except just a few, and perhaps your guardian, Pericles.

Note 12: A musician of Ceos (who was perhaps also a Pythagorean philosopher) who taught in Athens.
Note 13: An Ionian philosopher who lived in Athens c. 480-430 B.C.
Note 14: An Athenian musician and sophist.

Alcibiades Yes, you know, Socrates, they say he did not get his wisdom independently, but consorted with many wise men, such as Pythocleides12 and Anaxagoras13; and now, old as he is, he still confers with Damon14 for that very purpose.

Socrates Well, but did you ever find a man who was wise in anything and yet unable to make another man wise in the same things as himself? For instance, the man who taught you letters was wise himself, and also made you wise, and anyone else he wished to, did he not?

Alcibiades Yes. 118d

Socrates And you too, who learnt from him, will be able to make another man wise?

Alcibiades Yes.

Socrates And the same holds of the harper and the trainer?

Alcibiades Certainly.

Socrates For, I presume, it is a fine proof of one’s knowing anything that one knows, when one is able to point to another man whom one has made to know it.

Alcibiades I agree.

Socrates Well then, can you tell me whom Pericles made wise? One of his sons, to begin with? 118e

Alcibiades But what if the two sons of Pericles were simpletons, Socrates?

Socrates Well, Cleinias, your brother.

“And even he could not teach his own sons, or your brother Cleinias, nor did any one ever grow wiser in his society.” (Jowett’s note)

Alcibiades But why should you mention Cleinias, a madman?

Socrates Well, if Cleinias is mad and the two sons of Pericles were simpletons, what reason are we to assign, in your case, for his allowing you to be in your present condition?

Alcibiades I believe I am myself to blame for not attending to him. 119a

Note 15: A friend of Zeno: cf. Plat. Parm. 126.
Note 16: An Athenian general.
Note 17: Of Elea, in S. Italy; a disciple of Parmenides who criticized the Pythagorean teaching.
Note 18: About 600-800 pounds, or the total expenses of two or three years at an English University.

Socrates But tell me of any other Athenian or foreigner, slave or freeman, who is accounted to have become wiser through converse with Pericles; as I can tell you that Pythodorus15 son of Isolochus, and Callias,16 son of Calliades, became through that of Zeno17; each of them has paid Zeno a hundred minae,18 and has become both wise and distinguished.

Alcibiades Well, upon my word, I cannot.

To “Take Trouble” (“Take Pains,” To Care), Or Not To Take Trouble

Socrates Very good: then what is your intention regarding yourself? Will you remain as you are, or take some trouble? 119b

“But if other statesmen are uneducated, what need has Alcibiades of education?” (Jowett’s note)

Alcibiades We must put our heads together, Socrates. And indeed, as soon as you speak, I take the point and agree. For the men who manage the city’s affairs, apart from a few, do strike me as uneducated.

Socrates Then what does that mean?

Alcibiades That if they were educated, I suppose anyone who undertook to contend against them would have to get some knowledge and practice first, as he would for a match with athletes: but now, seeing that these men have gone in for politics as amateurs, what need is there for me to practise and have the trouble of learning? 119c For I am sure that my natural powers alone will give me an easy victory over them.

“The lover is pained at hearing from the lips of Alcibiades so unworthy a sentiment. He should have a higher ambition than this.” (Jowett’s note)

Socrates Ho, ho, my good sir, what a thing to say! How unworthy of your looks and your other advantages!

Alcibiades What is your meaning now, Socrates? What is the connection?

Socrates I am grieved for you, and for my love.

Alcibiades Why, pray?

Socrates That you should expect your contest to be with the men we have here.

Alcibiades Well, but with whom is it to be?

Socrates Is that a worthy question to be asked by a man who considers himself high-spirited? 119d

Alcibiades How do you mean? Is not my contest with these men?


Well, suppose you were intending to steer a warship into action, would you be content to be the best hand among the crew at steering or, while regarding this skill as a necessary qualification, would you keep your eye on your actual opponents in the fight, and not, as now, on your fellow-fighters? These, I conceive, you ought so far to surpass
that they would not feel fit to be your opponents, but only 119e to be your despised fellow-fighters against the enemy, if you mean really to make your mark with some noble action that will be worthy both of yourself and of the city.

Alcibiades Why, I do mean to.

Socrates So you think it quite fitting for you to be satisfied if you are better than the soldiers, but neglect to keep your eye on the enemy’s leaders with a view to showing yourself better than they are, or to plan and practise against them! 120a

Alcibiades Of whom are you speaking now, Socrates?

“His rivals should be the Spartan and Persian kings, not any chance persons.” (Jowett’s note)

Do you not know that our city makes war occasionally on the Spartans and on the Great King?

Alcibiades That is true


Socrates And if you are minded to be the head of our state, you would be right in thinking that your contest is with the kings of Sparta and of Persia?

Alcibiades That sounds like the truth.

Note 19: Meidias is mentioned by Aristophanes (Aristoph. Birds 1297) for his skill in the game of filliping quails which were specially trained not to flinch.
Slaves in Athens were largely natives of western Asia. and had thick, close hair, very different from the wavy locks of the Greeks.

Socrates No, my good friend; you ought rather to keep your eye on Meidias 120b the quail-filliper19 and others of his sort — who undertake to manage the city’s affairs, while they still have the slavish hair20 (as the women would say) showing in their minds through their lack of culture, and have not yet got rid of it; who, moreover, have come with their outlandish speech to flatter the state, not to rule it — to these, I tell you, should your eyes be turned; and then you can disregard yourself, and need neither learn what is to be learnt for the great contest in which you are to be engaged, nor practise 120c what requires practice, and so ensure that you are perfectly prepared before entering upon a political career.

Alcibiades Why, Socrates, I believe you are right;

though I think neither the Spartan generals nor the Persian king are at all different from other people.

Socrates But, my excellent friend, consider what this notion of yours means.

Alcibiades In regard to what?

Socrates First of all, do you think you would take more pains over yourself 120d if you feared them and thought them terrible, or if you did not?

Alcibiades Clearly, if I thought them terrible.

Socrates And do you think you will come to any harm by taking pains over yourself?

Alcibiades By no means; rather that I shall get much benefit.

Note 21: i.e. about the Spartan generals and the Persian king, Plat. Alc. 1 120c.

Socrates And on this single count that notion21 of yours is so much to the bad.

Alcibiades True.

Socrates Then, in the second place, observe the probability that it is false.

Alcibiades How so?

Socrates Is it probable that noble races should produce 120e better natures, or not?

Alcibiades Clearly, noble races would.

Socrates And will not the well-born, provided they are well brought up, probably be perfected in virtue?

Alcibiades That must be so.

“We too have our pride of birth, but how inferior are we to those who are descended from Zeus through a line of kings!” (Jowett’s note)

Socrates Then let us consider, by comparing our lot with theirs, whether the Spartan and Persian kings appear to be of inferior birth. Do we not know that the former are descendants of Hercules and the latter of Achaemenes, and that the line of Hercules and the line of Achaemenes go back to Perseus, son of Zeus? 121a

Alcibiades Yes, and mine, Socrates, to Eurysaces, and that of Eurysaces to Zeus!

Note 22: Socrates’ father, Sophroniscus, was a sculptor, and Daedalus was the legendary inventor of sculpture.
Note 23: i.e., the kings of Sparta and Persia.
Note 24: The saying, which became proverbial, is thought to have occurred in one of the (now lost) plays of Plato, the Athenian comic poet, who lived c. 460-389 B.C. (Plato Comicus, not Plato Philosophicus).
Note 25: Zoroaster was the reputed founder of the Persian religion, of which the ministers were the Magi or hereditary priests.
Note 26: The mother of Alcibiades.
Note 27: In Attica, about fifteen miles east of Athens.

“The wealth and dignity of the Spartan kings is great, but it is as nothing compared with that of the Persians.” (Jowett’s note)

“The birth of the Persian princes is a world-famous event, and the utmost pains is taken with their education, which is entrusted to great and noble persons.” (Jowett’s note)

“When Alcibiades was born nobody knew or cared, and his education was handed over to a worn-out slave of his guardian’s.” (Jowett’s note)

“The country called the ‘queen’s girdle,’ the ‘queen’s veil,’ and the like.” (Jowett’s note)

“The queen of Persia or of Sparta, if they heard that a youth of twenty, without resources and without education, was going to attack their son or husband, would deem him mad.” (Jowett’s note)

Yes, and mine, noble Alcibiades, to Daedalus,22 and Daedalus to Hephaestus, son of Zeus! But take the lines of those people,23 going back from them: you have a succession of kings reaching to Zeus — on the one hand, kings of Argos and Sparta; on the other, of Persia, which they have always ruled, and frequently Asia also, as at present; whereas we are private persons ourselves, and so were our fathers. And then, 121b suppose that you had to make what show you could of your ancestors, and of Salamis as the native land of Eurysaces, or of Aegina as the home of the yet earlier Aeacus, to impress Artaxerxes, son of Xerxes, how
you must expect to be laughed at! Why, I am afraid we are quite outdone by those persons in pride of birth and upbringing altogether.

Or have you not observed how great are the advantages of the Spartan kings, and how their wives are kept under statutory ward of the ephors, in order that every possible precaution may be taken against the king being born 121c of any but the Heracleidae? And the Persian king so far surpasses us that no one has a suspicion that he could have been born of anybody but the king before him; and hence the king’s wife has nothing to guard her except fear. When the eldest son, the heir to the throne, is born, first of all the king’s subjects who are in his palace have a feast, and then for ever after on that date the whole of Asia celebrates the king’s birthday with sacrifice and feasting: but when we are born, as the comic poet24 says, 121d “even the neighbors barely notice it,” Alcibiades. After that comes the nurture of the child, not at the hands of a woman-nurse of little worth, but of the most highly approved eunuchs in the king’s service, who are charged with the whole tendance of the new-born child, and especially with the business of making him as handsome as possible by moulding his limbs into a correct shape; and while doing this they are in high honor. 121e When the boys are seven years old they are given horses and have riding lessons, and they begin to follow the chase. And when the boy reaches fourteen years he is taken over by the royal tutors, as they call them there: these are four men chosen as the most highly esteemed among the Persians of mature age, namely, the wisest one, the justest one, the most temperate one, 122a and the bravest one. The first of these teaches him the magian lore of Zoroaster,25 son of Horomazes; and that is the worship of the gods: he teaches him also what pertains to a king. The justest teaches him to be truthful all his life long; the most temperate, not to be mastered by even a single pleasure, in order that he may be accustomed to be a free man and a veritable king, who is the master first of all that is in him, not the slave; while the bravest trains him to be fearless and undaunted, telling him that to be daunted is to be enslaved. But you, 122b Alcibiades, had a tutor set over you by Pericles from amongst his servants,who was old as to be the most useless of them, Zopyrus the Thracian. I might describe to you at length the nurture and education of your competitors, were it not too much of a task; and besides, what I have said suffices to show the rest that follows thereon. But about your birth, Alcibiades, or nurture or education, or about those of any other Athenian, one may say that nobody cares, unless it be some lover whom you chance to have. And again,

if you chose to glance at the wealth, the luxury, 122c the robes with sweeping trains, the anointings with myrrh, the attendant troops of menials, and all the other refinements of the Persians, you would be ashamed at your own case, on perceiving its inferiority to theirs. Should you choose, again, to look at the temperance and orderliness, the facility and placidity, the magnanimity and discipline, the courage and endurance, and the toil-loving, success-loving, honor-loving spirit of the Spartans, you would count yourself but a child 122d in all these things.
If again you regard wealth, and think yourself something in that way, I must not keep silence on this point either, if you are to realize where you stand. For in this respect you have only to look at the wealth of the Spartans, and you will perceive that our riches here are far inferior to theirs. Think of all the land that they have both in their own and in the Messenian country: not one of our estates could compete with theirs in extent and excellence, nor again in ownership of slaves, and especially of those of the helot class, nor yet of horses, 122e nor of all the flocks and herds that graze in Messene. However, I pass over all these things: but there is more gold and silver privately held in Lacedaemon than in the whole of Greece; for during many generations treasure has been passing in to them from every part of Greece, and often from the barbarians also, but not passing out to anyone; and just as in the fable of Aesop, 123a where the fox remarked to the lion on the direction of the footmarks, the traces of the money going into Lacedaemon are clear enough, but nowhere are any to be seen of it coming out; so that one can be pretty sure that those people are the richest of the Greeks in gold and silver, and that among themselves the richest is the king; for the largest and most numerous receipts of the kind are those of the kings, 123b and besides there is the levy of the royal tribute in no slight amount, which the Spartans pay to their kings. Now, the Spartan fortunes, though great compared with the wealth of other Greeks, are nought beside that of the Persians and their king. For I myself was once told by a trustworthy person, who had been up to their court, that he traversed a very large tract of excellent land, nearly a day’s journey, which the inhabitants called the girdle of the king’s wife, and another which was similarly called her veil; 123c and many other fine and fertile regions reserved for the adornment of the consort; and each of these regions was named after some part of her apparel.
So I imagine, if someone should say to the king’s mother Amestris, who was wife of Xerxes, “The son of Deinomache26 intends to challenge your son; the mother’s dresses are worth perhaps fifty minae at the outside, while the son has under three hundred acres at Erchiae,27” she would wonder to what on earth this 123d Alcibiades could be trusting,
that he proposed to contend against Artaxerxes; and I expect she would remark — “The only possible things that the man can be trusting to for his enterprise are industry and wisdom; for these are the only things of any account among the Greeks.” Whereas if she were informed that this Alcibiades who is actually making such an attempt is, in the first place, as yet barely twenty years old, and secondly, altogether uneducated; and further, that when his lover tells him that he must first learn, and take pains over himself, and practise, 123e before he enters on a contest with the king, he refuses, and says he will do very well as he is;
I expect she would ask in surprise, “On what, then, can the youngster rely?” And if we told her, “On beauty, stature, birth, wealth, and mental gifts,” she would conclude we were mad, Alcibiades, when she compared the advantages of her own people in all these respects.
And I imagine that even Lampido, daughter of Leotychides 124a and wife of Archidamus and mother of Agis, who have all been kings, would wonder in the same way, when she compared her people’s resources, at your intention of having a contest with her son despite your bad upbringing. And yet, does it not strike you as disgraceful that our enemies’ wives should have a better idea of the qualities that we need for an attempt against them than we have ourselves?