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380 BC 
by Plato 
translated by Benjamin Jowett 

PERSONS OF THE DIALOGUE: SOCRATES, who is the narrator of the 
Dialogue to his Companion; HIPPOCRATES; ALCIBIADES; CRINAS; 
Athenian. Scene: The House of Callias 

Com. Where do you come from, Socrates? And yet I need hardly ask the 
question, for I know that you have been in chase of the fair 
Alcibiades. I saw the day before yesterday; and he had got a beard 
like a man-and he is a man, as I may tell you in your ear. But I 
thought that he was still very charming. 

Soc. What of his beard? Are you not of Homer's opinion, who says 

Youth is most charming when the beard first appears? 

And that is now the charm of Alcibiades. 

Com. Well, and how do matters proceed? Have you been visiting him, 
and was he gracious to you? 

Soc. Yes, I thought that he was very gracious; and especially 
to-day, for I have just come from him, and he has been helping me in 
an argument. But shall I tell you a strange thing? I paid no attention 
to him, and several times I quite forgot that he was present. 

Com. What is the meaning of this? Has anything happened between 
you and him? For surely you cannot have discovered a fairer love 
than he is; certainly not in this city of Athens. 

Soc. Yes, much fairer. 

Com. What do you mean-a citizen or a foreigner? 

Soc. A foreigner. 

Com. Of what country? 

Soc. Of Abdera. 

Com. And is this stranger really in your opinion a fairer love 
than the son of Cleinias? 

Soc. And is not the wiser always the fairer, sweet friend? 

Com. But have you really met, Socrates, with some wise one? 

Soc. Say rather, with the wisest of all living men, if you are 
willing to accord that title to Protagoras. 

Com. What! Is Protagoras in Athens? 

Soc. Yes; he has been here two days. 

Com. And do you just come from an interview with him? 

Soc. Yes; and I have heard and said many things. 

Com. Then, if you have no engagement, suppose that you sit down tell 
me what passed, and my attendant here shall give up his place to you. 

Soc. To be sure; and I shall be grateful to you for listening. 

Com. Thank you, too, for telling us. 

Soc. That is thank you twice over. Listen then : - 

Last night, or rather very early this morning, Hippocrates, the 
son of Apollodorus and the brother of Phason, gave a tremendous 
thump with his staff at my door; some one opened to him, and he came 
rushing in and bawled out: Socrates, are you awake or asleep? 

I knew his voice, and said: Hippocrates, is that you? and do you 
bring any news? 

Good news, he said; nothing but good. 

Delightful, I said; but what is the news? and why have you come 
hither at this unearthly hour? 

He drew nearer to me and said: Protagoras is come. 

Yes, I replied; he came two days ago: have you only just heard of 
his arrival? 

Yes, by the gods, he said; but not until yesterday evening. 

At the same time he felt for the truckle-bed, and sat down at my 
feet, and then he said: Yesterday quite late in the evening, on my 

return from Oenoe whither I had gone in pursuit of my runaway slave 
Satyrus, as I meant to have told you, if some other matter had not 
come in the way; -on my return, when we had done supper and were 
about to retire to rest, my brother said to me: Protagoras is come. 
I was going to you at once, and then I thought that the night was 
far spent. But the moment sleep left me after my fatigue, I got up and 
came hither direct. 

I, who knew the very courageous madness of the man, said: What is 
the matter? Has Protagoras robbed you of anything? 

He replied, laughing: Yes, indeed he has, Socrates, of the wisdom 
which he keeps from me. 

But, surely, I said, if you give him money, and make friends with 
him, he will make you as wise as he is himself. 

Would to heaven, he replied, that this were the case! He might 
take all that I have, and all that my friends have, if he pleased. But 
that is why I have come to you now, in order that you may speak to him 
on my behalf; for I am young, and also I have never seen nor heard 
him; (when he visited Athens before I was but a child) and all men 
praise him, Socrates; he is reputed to be the most accomplished of 
speakers. There is no reason why we should not go to him at once, 
and then we shall find him at home. He lodges, as I hear, with Callias 
the son of Hipponicus: let us start. 

I replied: Not yet, my good friend; the hour is too early. But let 
us rise and take a turn in the court and wait about there until 
daybreak; when the day breaks, then we will go. For Protagoras is 
generally at home, and we shall be sure to find him; never fear. 

Upon this we got up and walked about in the court, and I thought 
that I would make trial of the strength of his resolution. So I 
examined him and put questions to him. Tell me, Hippocrates, I said, 
as you are going to Protagoras, and will be paying your money to 
him, what is he to whom you are going? and what will he make of you? 
If, for example, you had thought of going to Hippocrates of Cos, the 
Asclepiad, and were about to give him your money, and some one had 
said to you: You are paying money to your namesake Hippocrates, 
Hippocrates; tell me, what is he that you give him money? how would 
you have answered? 

I should say, he replied, that I gave money to him as a physician. 

And what will he make of you? 

A physician, he said. 

And if you were resolved to go to Polycleitus the Argive, or 
Pheidias the Athenian, and were intending to give them money, and some 
one had asked you: What are Polycleitus and Pheidias? and why do you 
give them this money?-how would you have answered? 

I should have answered, that they were statuaries . 

And what will they make of you? 

A statuary, of course. 

Well now, I said, you and I are going to Protagoras, and we are 
ready to pay him money on your behalf. If our own means are 
sufficient, and we can gain him with these, we shall be only too glad; 
but if not, then we are to spend the money of your friends as well. 
Now suppose, that while we are thus enthusiastically pursuing our 
object some one were to say to us: Tell me, Socrates, and you 
Hippocrates, what is Protagoras, and why are you going to pay him 
money, -how should we answer? I know that Pheidias is a sculptor, and 
that Homer is a poet; but what appellation is given to Protagoras? how 
is he designated? 

They call him a Sophist, Socrates, he replied. 

Then we are going to pay our money to him in the character of a 

Certainly . 

But suppose a person were to ask this further question: And how 
about yourself? What will Protagoras make of you, if you go to see 

He answered, with a blush upon his face (for the day was just 

beginning to dawn, so that I could see him) : Unless this differs in 
some way from the former instances, I suppose that he will make a 
Sophist of me. 

By the gods, I said, and are you not ashamed at having to appear 
before the Hellenes in the character of a Sophist? 

Indeed, Socrates, to confess the truth, I am. 

But you should not assume, Hippocrates, that the instruction of 
Protagoras is of this nature: may you not learn of him in the same way 
that you learned the arts of the grammarian, musician, or trainer, not 
with the view of making any of them a profession, but only as a part 
of education, and because a private gentleman and freeman ought to 
know them? 

Just so, he said; and that, in my opinion, is a far truer account of 
the teaching of Protagoras. 

I said: I wonder whether you know what you are doing? 

And what am I doing? 

You are going to commit your soul to the care of a man whom you call 
a Sophist. And yet I hardly think that you know what a Sophist is; and 
if not, then you do not even know to whom you are committing your soul 
and whether the thing to which you commit yourself be good or evil. 

I certainly think that I do know, he replied. 

Then tell me, what do you imagine that he is? 

I take him to be one who knows wise things, he replied, as his 
name implies . 

And might you not, I said, affirm this of the painter and of the 
carpenter also: Do not they, too, know wise things? But suppose a 
person were to ask us: In what are the painters wise? We should 
answer: In what relates to the making of likenesses, and similarly 
of other things. And if he were further to ask: What is the wisdom 
of the Sophist, and what is the manufacture over which he 
presides?-how should we answer him? 

How should we answer him, Socrates? What other answer could there be 
but that he presides over the art which makes men eloquent? 

Yes, I replied, that is very likely true, but not enough; for in the 
answer a further question is involved: Of what does the Sophist make a 
man talk eloquently? The player on the lyre may be supposed to make 
a man talk eloquently about that which he makes him understand, that 
is about playing the lyre. Is not that true? 


Then about what does the Sophist make him eloquent? Must not he make 
him eloquent in that which he understands? 

Yes, that may be assumed. 

And what is that which the Sophist knows and makes his disciple 

Indeed, he said, I cannot tell. 

Then I proceeded to say: Well, but are you aware of the danger which 
you are incurring? If you were going to commit your body to some 
one, who might do good or harm to it, would you not carefully consider 
and ask the opinion of your friends and kindred, and deliberate many 
days as to whether you should give him the care of your body? But when 
the soul is in question, which you hold to be of far more value than 
the body, and upon the good or evil of which depends the well-being of 
your all, -about this never consulted either with your father or with 
your brother or with any one of us who are your companions. But no 
sooner does this foreigner appear, than you instantly commit your soul 
to his keeping. In the evening, as you say, you hear of him, and in 
the morning you go to him, never deliberating or taking the opinion of 
any one as to whether you ought to intrust yourself to him or not; -you 
have quite made up your mind that you will at all hazards be a pupil 
of Protagoras, and are prepared to expend all the property of yourself 
and of your friends in carrying out at any price this determination, 
although, as you admit, you do not know him, and have never spoken 
with him: and you call him a Sophist, but are manifestly ignorant of 
what a Sophist is; and yet you are going to commit yourself to his 

keeping . 

When he heard me say this, he replied: No other inference, Socrates, 
can be drawn from your words . 

I proceeded: Is not a Sophist, Hippocrates, one who deals 
wholesale or retail in the food of the soul? To me that appears to 
be his nature. 

And what, Socrates, is the food of the soul? 

Surely, I said, knowledge is the food of the soul; and we must 
take care, my friend, that the Sophist does not deceive us when he 
praises what he sells, like the dealers wholesale or retail who sell 
the food of the body; for they praise indiscriminately all their 
goods, without knowing what are really beneficial or hurtful: 
neither do their customers know, with the exception of any trainer 
or physician who may happen to buy of them. In like manner those who 
carry about the wares of knowledge, and make the round of the 
cities, and sell or retail them to any customer who is in want of 
them, praise them all alike; though I should not wonder, my 
friend, if many of them were really ignorant of their effect upon 
the soul; and their customers equally ignorant, unless he who buys 
of them happens to be a physician of the soul. If, therefore, you have 
understanding of what is good and evil, you may safely buy knowledge 
of Protagoras or of any one; but if not, then, my friend, pause, and 
do not hazard your dearest interests at a game of chance. For there is 
far greater peril in buying knowledge than in buying meat and drink: 
the one you purchase of the wholesale or retail dealer, and carry them 
away in other vessels, and before you receive them into the body as 
food, you may deposit them at home and call in any experienced 
friend who knows what is good to be eaten or drunken, and what not, 
and how much, and when; and then the danger of purchasing them is 
not so great. But you cannot buy the wares of knowledge and carry them 
away in another vessel; when you have paid for them you must receive 
them into the soul and go your way, either greatly harmed or greatly 
benefited; and therefore we should deliberate and take counsel with 
our elders; for we are still young-too young to determine such a 
matter. And now let us go, as we were intending, and hear 
Protagoras; and when we have heard what he has to say, we may take 
counsel of others; for not only is Protagoras at the house of Callias, 
but there is Hippias of Elis, and, if I am not mistaken, Prodicus of 
Ceos, and several other wise men. 

To this we agreed, and proceeded on our way until we reached the 
vestibule of the house; and there we stopped in order to conclude a 
discussion which had arisen between us as we were going along; and 
we stood talking in the vestibule until we had finished and come to an 
understanding. And I think that the doorkeeper, who was a eunuch, 
and who was probably annoyed at the great inroad of the Sophists, must 
have heard us talking. At any rate, when we knocked at the door, and 
he opened and saw us, he grumbled: They are Sophists -he is not at 
home; and instantly gave the door a hearty bang with both his hands. 
Again we knocked, and he answered without opening: Did you not hear me 
say that he is not at home, fellows? But, my friend, I said, you 
need not be alarmed; for we are not Sophists, and we are not come to 
see Callias, but we want to see Protagoras; and I must request you 
to announce us. At last, after a good deal of difficulty, the man 
was persuaded to open the door. 

When we entered, we found Protagoras taking a walk in the 
cloister; and next to him, on one side, were walking Callias, the 
son of Hipponicus, and Paralus, the son of Pericles, who, by the 
mother's side, is his half-brother, and Charmides, the son of Glaucon. 
On the other side of him were Xanthippus, the other son of Pericles, 
Philippides, the son of Philomelus; also Antimoerus of Mende, who of 
all the disciples of Protagoras is the most famous, and intends to 
make sophistry his profession. A train of listeners followed him; 
the greater part of them appeared to be foreigners, whom Protagoras 
had brought with him out of the various cities visited by him in his 

journeys, he, like Orpheus, attracting them his voice, and they 
following. I should mention also that there were some Athenians in the 
company. Nothing delighted me more than the precision of their 
movements: they never got into his way at all; but when he and those 
who were with him turned back, then the band of listeners parted 
regularly on either side; he was always in front, and they wheeled 
round and took their places behind him in perfect order. 

After him, as Homer says, "I lifted up my eyes and saw" Hippias 
the Elean sitting in the opposite cloister on a chair of state, and 
around him were seated on benches Eryximachus, the son of Acumenus, 
and Phaedrus the Myrrhinusian, and Andron the son of Androtion, and 
there were strangers whom he had brought with him from his native city 
of Elis, and some others: they were putting to Hippias certain 
physical and astronomical questions, and he, ex cathedra, was 
determining their several questions to them, and discoursing of them. 

Also, "my eyes beheld Tantalus"; for Prodicus the Cean was at 
Athens: he had been lodged in a room which, in the days of Hipponicus, 
was a storehouse; but, as the house was full, Callias had cleared this 
out and made the room into a guest-chamber. Now Prodicus was still 
in bed, wrapped up in sheepskins and bed-clothes, of which there 
seemed to be a great heap; and there was sitting by him on the couches 
near, Pausanias of the deme of Cerameis, and with Pausanias was a 
youth quite young, who is certainly remarkable for his good looks, 
and, if I am not mistaken, is also of a fair and gentle nature. I 
thought that I heard him called Agathon, and my suspicion is that he 
is the beloved of Pausanias. There was this youth, and also there were 
the two Adeimantuses, one the son of Cepis, and the other of 
Leucolophides, and some others. I was very anxious to hear what 
Prodicus was saying, for he seems to me to be an all-wise and inspired 
man; but I was not able to get into the inner circle, and his fine 
deep voice made an echo in the room which rendered his words 
inaudible . 

No sooner had we entered than there followed us Alcibiades the 
beautiful, as you say, and I believe you; and also Critias the son 
of Callaeschrus . 

On entering we stopped a little, in order to look about us, and then 
walked up to Protagoras, and I said: Protagoras, my friend Hippocrates 
and I have come to see you. 

Do you wish, he said, to speak with me alone, or in the presence 
of the company? 

Whichever you please, I said; you shall determine when you have 
heard the purpose of our visit. 

And what is your purpose? he said. 

I must explain, I said, that my friend Hippocrates is a native 
Athenian; he is the son of Apollodorus, and of a great and 
prosperous house, and he is himself in natural ability quite a match 
for anybody of his own age. I believe that he aspires to political 
eminence; and this he thinks that conversation with you is most likely 
to procure for him. And now you can determine whether you would wish 
to speak to him of your teaching alone or in the presence of the 
company . 

Thank you, Socrates, for your consideration of me. For certainly a 
stranger finding his way into great cities, and persuading the 
flower of the youth in them to leave company of their kinsmen or any 
other acquaintances, old or young, and live with him, under the idea 
that they will be improved by his conversation, ought to be very 
cautious; great jealousies are aroused by his proceedings, and he is 
the subject of many enmities and conspiracies. Now the art of the 
Sophist is, as I believe, of great antiquity; but in ancient times 
those who practised it, fearing this odium, veiled and disguised 
themselves under various names, some under that of poets, as Homer, 
Hesiod, and Simonides, some, of hierophants and prophets, as Orpheus 
and Musaeus, and some, as I observe, even under the name of 
gymnastic-masters, like Iccus of Tarentum, or the more recently 

celebrated Herodicus, now of Selymbria and formerly of Megara, who 
is a first-rate Sophist. Your own Agathocles pretended to be a 
musician, but was really an eminent Sophist; also Pythocleides the 
Cean; and there were many others; and all of them, as I was saying, 
adopted these arts as veils or disguises because they were afraid of 
the odium which they would incur. But that is not my way, for I do not 
believe that they effected their purpose, which was to deceive the 
government, who were not blinded by them; and as to the people, they 
have no understanding, and only repeat what their rulers are pleased 
to tell them. Now to run away, and to be caught in running away, is 
the very height of folly, and also greatly increases the 
exasperation of mankind; for they regard him who runs away as a rogue, 
in addition to any other objections which they have to him; and 
therefore I take an entirely opposite course, and acknowledge myself 
to be a Sophist and instructor of mankind; such an open 
acknowledgement appears to me to be a better sort of caution than 
concealment. Nor do I neglect other precautions, and therefore I hope, 
as I may say, by the favour of heaven that no harm will come of the 
acknowledgment that I am a Sophist. And I have been now many years 
in the prof ession-f or all my years when added up are many: there is no 
one here present of whom I might not be the father. Wherefore I should 
much prefer conversing with you, if you want to speak with me, in 
the presence of the company. 

As I suspected that he would like to have a little display and 
glorification in the presence of Prodicus and Hippias, and would 
gladly show us to them in the light of his admirers, I said: But why 
should we not summon Prodicus and Hippias and their friends to hear 

Very good, he said. 

Suppose, said Callias, that we hold a council in which you may sit 
and discuss . -This was agreed upon, and great delight was felt at the 
prospect of hearing wise men talk; we ourselves took the chairs and 
benches, and arranged them by Hippias, where the other benches had 
been already placed. Meanwhile Callias and Alcibiades got Prodicus out 
of bed and brought in him and his companions. 

When we were all seated, Protagoras said: Now that the company are 
assembled, Socrates, tell me about the youngman of whom you were 
just now speaking. 

I replied: I will begin again at the same point, Protagoras, and 
tell you once more the purport of my visit: this is my friend 
Hippocrates, who is desirous of making your acquaintance; he would 
like to know what will happen to him if he associates with you. I have 
no more to say. 

Protagoras answered: Young man, if you associate with me, on the 
very first day you will return home a better man than you came, and 
better on the second day than on the first, and better every day 
than you were on the day before. 

When I heard this, I said: Protagoras, I do not at all wonder at 
hearing you say this; even at your age, and with all your wisdom, if 
any one were to teach you what you did not know before, you would 
become better no doubt: but please to answer in a different way-I will 
explain how by an example. Let me suppose that Hippocrates, instead of 
desiring your acquaintance, wished to become acquainted with the young 
man Zeuxippus of Heraclea, who has lately been in Athens, and he had 
come to him as he has come to you, and had heard him say, as he has 
heard you say, that every day he would grow and become better if he 
associated with him: and then suppose that he were to ask him, "In 
what shall I become better, and in what shall I grow?"-Zeuxippus would 
answer, "In painting." And suppose that he went to Orthagoras the 
Theban, and heard him say the same thing, and asked him, "In what 
shall I become better day by day?" he would reply, "In flute-playing." 
Now I want you to make the same sort of answer to this young man and 
to me, who am asking questions on his account. When you say that on 
the first day on which he associates with you he will return home a 

better man, and on every day will grow in like manner, -In what, 
Protagoras, will he be better? and about what? 

When Protagoras heard me say this, he replied: You ask questions 
fairly, and I like to answer a question which is fairly put. If 
Hippocrates comes to me he will not experience the sort of drudgery 
with which other Sophists are in the habit of insulting their 
pupils; who, when they have just escaped from the arts, are taken 
and driven back into them by these teachers, and made to learn 
calculation, and astronomy, and geometry, and music (he gave a look at 
Hippias as he said this) ; but if he comes to me, he will learn that 
which he comes to learn. And this is prudence in affairs private as 
well as public; he will learn to order his own house in the best 
manner, and he will be able to speak and act for the best in the 
affairs of the state. 

Do I understand you, I said; and is your meaning that you teach 
the art of politics, and that you promise to make men good citizens? 

That, Socrates, is exactly the profession which I make. 

Then, I said, you do indeed possess a noble art, if there is no 
mistake about this; for I will freely confess to you, Protagoras, that 
I have a doubt whether this art is capable of being taught, and yet 
I know not how to disbelieve your assertion. And I ought to tell you 
why I am of opinion that this art cannot be taught or communicated 
by man to man. I say that the Athenians are an understanding people, 
and indeed they are esteemed to be such by the other Hellenes. Now I 
observe that when we are met together in the assembly, and the 
matter in hand relates to building, the builders are summoned as 
advisers; when the question is one of shipbuilding, then the 
ship-wrights ; and the like of other arts which they think capable of 
being taught and learned. And if some person offers to give them 
advice who is not supposed by them to have any skill in the art, 
even though he be good-looking, and rich, and noble, they will not 
listen to him, but laugh and hoot at him, until either he is clamoured 
down and retires of himself; or if he persist, he is dragged away or 
put out by the constables at the command of the prytanes . This is 
their way of behaving about professors of the arts. But when the 
question is an affair of state, then everybody is free to have a 
say-carpenter, tinker, cobbler, sailor, passenger; rich and poor, high 
and low-any one who likes gets up, and no one reproaches him, as in 
the former case, with not having learned, and having no teacher, and 
yet giving advice; evidently because they are under the impression 
that this sort of knowledge cannot be taught. And not only is this 
true of the state, but of individuals; the best and wisest of our 
citizens are unable to impart their political wisdom to others: as for 
example, Pericles, the father of these young men, who gave them 
excellent instruction in all that could be learned from masters, in 
his own department of politics neither taught them, nor gave them 
teachers; but they were allowed to wander at their own free will in 
a sort of hope that they would light upon virtue of their own 
accord. Or take another example: there was Cleinias the younger 
brother of our friend Alcibiades, of whom this very same Pericles 
was the guardian; and he being in fact under the apprehension that 
Cleinias would be corrupted by Alcibiades, took him away, and placed 
him in the house of Ariphron to be educated; but before six months had 
elapsed, Ariphron sent him back, not knowing what to do with him. 
And I could mention numberless other instances of persons who were 
good themselves, and never yet made any one else good, whether 
friend or stranger. Now I, Protagoras, having these examples before 
me, am inclined to think that virtue cannot be taught. But then again, 
when I listen to your words, I waver; and am disposed to think that 
there must be something in what you say, because I know that you 
have great experience, and learning, and invention. And I wish that 
you would, if possible, show me a little more clearly that virtue 
can be taught. Will you be so good? 

That I will, Socrates, and gladly. But what would you like? Shall I, 

as an elder, speak to you as younger men in an apologue or myth, or 
shall I argue out the question? 

To this several of the company answered that he should choose for 
himself . 

Well, then, he said, I think that the myth will be more interesting. 

Once upon a time there were gods only, and no mortal creatures. 
But when the time came that these also should be created, the gods 
fashioned them out of earth and fire and various mixtures of both 
elements in the interior of the earth; and when they were about to 
bring them into the light of day, they ordered Prometheus and 
Epimetheus to equip them, and to distribute to them severally their 
proper qualities. Epimetheus said to Prometheus: "Let me distribute, 
and do you inspect." This was agreed, and Epimetheus made the 
distribution. There were some to whom he gave strength without 
swiftness, while he equipped the weaker with swiftness; some he armed, 
and others he left unarmed; and devised for the latter some other 
means of preservation, making some large, and having their size as a 
protection, and others small, whose nature was to fly in the air or 
burrow in the ground; this was to be their way of escape. Thus did 
he compensate them with the view of preventing any race from 
becoming extinct. And when he had provided against their destruction 
by one another, he contrived also a means of protecting them against 
the seasons of heaven; clothing them with close hair and thick skins 
sufficient to defend them against the winter cold and able to resist 
the summer heat, so that they might have a natural bed of their own 
when they wanted to rest; also he furnished them with hoofs and hair 
and hard and callous skins under their feet. Then he gave them 
varieties of food-herb of the soil to some, to others fruits of trees, 
and to others roots, and to some again he gave other animals as 
food. And some he made to have few young ones, while those who were 
their prey were very prolific; and in this manner the race was 
preserved. Thus did Epimetheus, who, not being very wise, forgot 
that he had distributed among the brute animals all the qualities 
which he had to give-and when he came to man, who was still 
unprovided, he was terribly perplexed. Now while he was in this 
perplexity, Prometheus came to inspect the distribution, and he 
found that the other animals were suitably furnished, but that man 
alone was naked and shoeless, and had neither bed nor arms of defence. 
The appointed hour was approaching when man in his turn was to go 
forth into the light of day; and Prometheus, not knowing how he 
could devise his salvation, stole the mechanical arts of Hephaestus 
and Athene, and fire with them (they could neither have been 
acquired nor used without fire), and gave them to man. Thus man had 
the wisdom necessary to the support of life, but political wisdom he 
had not; for that was in the keeping of Zeus, and the power of 
Prometheus did not extend to entering into the citadel of heaven, 
where Zeus dwelt, who moreover had terrible sentinels; but he did 
enter by stealth into the common workshop of Athene and Hephaestus, in 
which they used to practise their favourite arts, and carried off 
Hephaestus' art of working by fire, and also the art of Athene, and 
gave them to man. And in this way man was supplied with the means of 
life. But Prometheus is said to have been afterwards prosecuted for 
theft, owing to the blunder of Epimetheus. 

Now man, having a share of the divine attributes, was at first the 
only one of the animals who had any gods, because he alone was of 
their kindred; and he would raise altars and images of them. He was 
not long in inventing articulate speech and names; and he also 
constructed houses and clothes and shoes and beds, and drew sustenance 
from the earth. Thus provided, mankind at first lived dispersed, and 
there were no cities . But the consequence was that they were destroyed 
by the wild beasts, for they were utterly weak in comparison of 
them, and their art was only sufficient to provide them with the means 
of life, and did not enable them to carry on war against the 
animals: food they had, but not as yet the art of government, of which 

the art of war is a part. After a while the desire of 
self-preservation gathered them into cities; but when they were 
gathered together, having no art of government, they evil intreated 
one another, and were again in process of dispersion and 
destruction. Zeus feared that the entire race would be exterminated, 
and so he sent Hermes to them, bearing reverence and justice to be the 
ordering principles of cities and the bonds of friendship and 
conciliation. Hermes asked Zeus how he should impart justice and 
reverence among men: -Should he distribute them as the arts are 
distributed; that is to say, to a favoured few only, one skilled 
individual having enough of medicine or of any other art for many 
unskilled ones? "Shall this be the manner in which I am to 
distribute justice and reverence among men, or shall I give them to 
all?" "To all," said Zeus; "I should like them all to have a share; 
for cities cannot exist, if a few only share in the virtues, as in the 
arts. And further, make a law by my order, that he who has no part 
in reverence and justice shall be put to death, for he is a plague 
of the state . " 

And this is the reason, Socrates, why the Athenians and mankind in 
general, when the question relates to carpentering or any other 
mechanical art, allow but a few to share in their deliberations; and 
when any one else interferes, then, as you say, they object, if he 
be not of the favoured few; which, as I reply, is very natural. But 
when they meet to deliberate about political virtue, which proceeds 
only by way of justice and wisdom, they are patient enough of any 
man who speaks of them, as is also natural, because they think that 
every man ought to share in this sort of virtue, and that states could 
not exist if this were otherwise. I have explained to you, Socrates, 
the reason of this phenomenon. 

And that you may not suppose yourself to be deceived in thinking 
that all men regard every man as having a share of justice or 
honesty and of every other political virtue, let me give you a further 
proof, which is this. In other cases, as you are aware, if a man 
says that he is a good flute-player, or skilful in any other art in 
which he has no skill, people either laugh at him or are angry with 
him, and his relations think that he is mad and go and admonish him; 
but when honesty is in question, or some other political virtue, 
even if they know that he is dishonest, yet, if the man comes publicly 
forward and tells the truth about his dishonesty, then, what in the 
other case was held by them to be good sense, they now deem to be 
madness. They say that all men ought to profess honesty whether they 
are honest or not, and that a man is out of his mind who says anything 
else. Their notion is, that a man must have some degree of honesty; 
and that if he has none at all he ought not to be in the world. 

I have been showing that they are right in admitting every man as 
a counsellor about this sort of virtue, as they are of opinion that 
every man is a partaker of it. And I will now endeavour to show 
further that they do not conceive this virtue to be given by nature, 
or to grow spontaneously, but to be a thing which may be taught; and 
which comes to a man by taking pains. No one would instruct, no one 
would rebuke, or be angry with those whose calamities they suppose 
to be due to nature or chance; they do not try to punish or to prevent 
them from being what they are; they do but pity them. Who is so 
foolish as to chastise or instruct the ugly, or the diminutive, or the 
feeble? And for this reason. Because he knows that good and evil of 
this kind is the work of nature and of chance; whereas if a man is 
wanting in those good qualities which are attained by study and 
exercise and teaching, and has only the contrary evil qualities, other 
men are angry with him, and punish and reprove him-of these evil 
qualities one is impiety, another injustice, and they may be described 
generally as the very opposite of political virtue. In such cases 
any man will be angry with another, and reprimand him, -clearly because 
he thinks that by study and learning, the virtue in which the other is 
deficient may be acquired. If you will think, Socrates, of the 

nature of punishment, you will see at once that in the opinion of 
mankind virtue may be acquired; no one punishes the evil-doer under 
the notion, or for the reason, that he has done wrong, only the 
unreasonable fury of a beast acts in that manner. But he who desires 
to inflict rational punishment does not retaliate for a past wrong 
which cannot be undone; he has regard to the future, and is desirous 
that the man who is punished, and he who sees him punished, may be 
deterred from doing wrong again. He punishes for the sake of 
prevention, thereby clearly implying that virtue is capable of being 
taught. This is the notion of all who retaliate upon others either 
privately or publicly. And the Athenians, too, your own citizens, like 
other men, punish and take vengeance on all whom they regard as evil 
doers; and hence, we may infer them to be of the number of those who 
think that virtue may be acquired and taught. Thus far, Socrates, I 
have shown you clearly enough, if I am not mistaken, that your 
countrymen are right in admitting the tinker and the cobbler to advise 
about politics, and also that they deem virtue to be capable of 
being taught and acquired. 

There yet remains one difficulty which has been raised by you 
about the sons of good men. What is the reason why good men teach 
their sons the knowledge which is gained from teachers, and make 
them wise in that, but do nothing towards improving them in the 
virtues which distinguish themselves? And here, Socrates, I will leave 
the apologue and resume the argument. Please to consider: Is there 
or is there not some one quality of which all the citizens must be 
partakers, if there is to be a city at all? In the answer to this 
question is contained the only solution of your difficulty; there is 
no other. For if there be any such quality, and this quality or 
unity is not the art of the carpenter, or the smith, or the potter, 
but justice and temperance and holiness and, in a word, manly 
virtue-if this is the quality of which all men must be partakers, 
and which is the very condition of their learning or doing anything 
else, and if he who is wanting in this, whether he be a child only 
or a grown-up man or woman, must be taught and punished, until by 
punishment he becomes better, and he who rebels against instruction 
and punishment is either exiled or condemned to death under the idea 
that he is incurable-if what I am saying be true, good men have 
their sons taught other things and not this, do consider how 
extraordinary their conduct would appear to be. For we have shown that 
they think virtue capable of being taught and cultivated both in 
private and public; and, notwithstanding, they have their sons 
taught lesser matters, ignorance of which does not involve the 
punishment of death: but greater things, of which the ignorance may 
cause death and exile to those who have no training or knowledge of 
them-aye, and confiscation as well as death, and, in a word, may be 
the ruin of f amilies-those things, I say, they are supposed not to 
teach them-not to take the utmost care that they should learn. How 
improbable is this, Socrates! 

Education and admonition commence in the first years of childhood, 
and last to the very end of life. Mother and nurse and father and 
tutor are vying with one another about the improvement of the child as 
soon as ever he is able to understand what is being said to him: he 
cannot say or do anything without their setting forth to him that this 
is just and that is unjust; this is honourable, that is dishonourable; 
this is holy, that is unholy; do this and abstain from that. And if he 
obeys, well and good; if not, he is straightened by threats and blows, 
like a piece of bent or warped wood. At a later stage they send him to 
teachers, and enjoin them to see to his manners even more than to 
his reading and music; and the teachers do as they are desired. And 
when the boy has learned his letters and is beginning to understand 
what is written, as before he understood only what was spoken, they 
put into his hands the works of great poets, which he reads sitting on 
a bench at school; in these are contained many admonitions, and many 
tales, and praises, and encomia of ancient famous men, which he is 

required to learn by heart, in order that he may imitate or emulate 
them and desire to become like them. Then, again, the teachers of 
the lyre take similar care that their young disciple is temperate 
and gets into no mischief; and when they have taught him the use of 
the lyre, they introduce him to the poems of other excellent poets, 
who are the lyric poets; and these they set to music, and make their 
harmonies ana rhythms quite familiar to the children's souls, in order 
that they may learn to be more gentle, and harmonious, and rhythmical, 
and so more fitted for speech and action; for the life of man in every 
part has need of harmony and rhythm. Then they send them to the master 
of gymnastic, in order that their bodies may better minister to the 
virtuous mind, and that they may not be compelled through bodily 
weakness to play the coward in war or on any other occasion. This is 
what is done by those who have the means, and those who have the means 
are the rich; their children begin to go to school soonest and leave 
off latest. When they have done with masters, the state again 
compels them to learn the laws, and live after the pattern which 
they furnish, and not after their own fancies; and just as in learning 
to write, the writing-master first draws lines with a style for the 
use of the young beginner, and gives him the tablet and makes him 
follow the lines, so the city draws the laws, which were the invention 
of good lawgivers living in the olden time; these are given to the 
young man, in order to guide him in his conduct whether he is 
commanding or obeying; and he who transgresses them is to be 
corrected, or, in other words, called to account, which is a term used 
not only in your country, but also in many others, seeing that justice 
calls men to account. Now when there is all this care about virtue 
private and public, why, Socrates, do you still wonder and doubt 
whether virtue can be taught? Cease to wonder, for the opposite 
would be far more surprising. 

But why then do the sons of good fathers often turn out ill? There 
is nothing very wonderful in this; for, as I have been saying, the 
existence of a state implies that virtue is not any man's private 
possession. If so-and nothing can be truer-then I will further ask you 
to imagine, as an illustration, some other pursuit or branch of 
knowledge which may be assumed equally to be the condition of the 
existence of a state. Suppose that there could be no state unless we 
were all flute-players, as far as each had the capacity, and everybody 
was freely teaching everybody the art, both in private and public, and 
reproving the bad player as freely and openly as every man now teaches 
justice and the laws, not concealing them as he would conceal the 
other arts, but imparting them-for all of us have a mutual interest in 
the justice and virtue of one another, and this is the reason why 
every one is so ready to teach justice and the laws; -suppose, I say, 
that there were the same readiness and liberality among us in teaching 
one another flute-playing, do you imagine, Socrates, that the sons 
of good flute players would be more likely to be good than the sons of 
bad ones? I think not. Would not their sons grow up to be 
distinguished or undistinguished according to their own natural 
capacities as flute-players, and the son of a good player would 
often turn out to be a bad one, and the son of a bad player to be a 
good one, all flute-players would be good enough in comparison of 
those who were ignorant and unacquainted with the art of 
flute-playing? In like manner I would have you consider that he who 
appears to you to be the worst of those who have been brought up in 
laws and humanities, would appear to be a just man and a master of 
justice if he were to be compared with men who had no education, or 
courts of justice, or laws, or any restraints upon them which 
compelled them to practise virtue-with the savages, for example, 
whom the poet Pherecrates exhibited on the stage at the last year's 
Lenaean festival. If you were living among men such as the 
man-haters in his Chorus, you would be only too glad to meet with 
Eurybates and Phrynondas, and you would sorrowfully long to revisit 
the rascality of this part of the world, you, Socrates, are 

discontented, and why? Because all men are teachers of virtue, each 
one according to his ability; and you say, Where are the teachers? You 
might as well ask, Who teaches Greek? For of that too there will not 
be any teachers found. Or you might ask, Who is to teach the sons of 
our artisans this same art which they have learned of their fathers? 
He and his fellow-workmen have taught them to the best of their 
ability, -but who will carry them further in their arts? And you 
would certainly have a difficulty, Socrates, in finding a teacher of 
them; but there would be no difficulty in finding a teacher of those 
who are wholly ignorant. And this is true of virtue or of anything 
else; if a man is better able than we are to promote virtue ever so 
little, we must be content with the result. A teacher of this sort I 
believe myself to be, and above all other men to have the knowledge 
which makes a man noble and good; and I give my pupils their 
money's-worth, and even more, as they themselves confess. And 
therefore I have introduced the following mode of payment : -When a 
man has been my pupil, if he likes he pays my price, but there is no 
compulsion; and if he does not like, he has only to go into a temple 
and take an oath of the value of the instructions, and he pays no more 
than he declares to be their value. 

Such is my Apologue, Socrates, and such is the argument by which I 
endeavour to show that virtue may be taught, and that this is the 
opinion of the Athenians. And I have also attempted to show that you 
are not to wonder at good fathers having bad sons, or at good sons 
having bad fathers, of which the sons of Polycleitus afford an 
example, who are the companions of our friends here, Paralus and 
Xanthippus, but are nothing in comparison with their father; and 
this is true of the sons of many other artists. As yet I ought not 
to say the same of Paralus and Xanthippus themselves, for they are 
young and there is still hope of them. 

Protagoras ended, and in my ear 

So charming left his voice, that I the while 

Thought him still speaking; still stood fixed to hear. 

At length, when the truth dawned upon me, that he had really finished, 
not without difficulty I began to collect myself, and looking at 
Hippocrates, I said to him: son of Apollodorus, how deeply 
grateful I am to you for having brought me hither; I would not have 
missed the speech of Protagoras for a great deal. For I used to 
imagine that no human care could make men good; but I know better now. 
Yet I have still one very small difficulty which I am sure that 
Protagoras will easily explain, as he has already explained so much. 
If a man were to go and consult Pericles or any of our great 
speakers about these matters, he might perhaps hear as fine a 
discourse; but then when one has a question to ask of any of them, 
like books, they can neither answer nor ask; and if any one challenges 
the least particular of their speech, they go ringing on in a long 
harangue, like brazen pots, which when they are struck continue to 
sound unless some one puts his hand upon them; whereas our friend 
Protagoras can not only make a good speech, as he has already shown, 
but when he is asked a question he can answer briefly; and when he 
asks he will wait and hear the answer; and this is a very rare gift. 
Now I, Protagoras, want to ask of you a little question, which if 
you will only answer, I shall be quite satisfied. You were saying that 
virtue can be taught; -that I will take upon your authority, and 
there is no one to whom I am more ready to trust. But I marvel at 
one thing about which I should like to have my mind set at rest. You 
were speaking of Zeus sending justice and reverence to men; and 
several times while you were speaking, justice, and temperance, and 
holiness, and all these qualities, were described by you as if 
together they made up virtue. Now I want you to tell me truly 
whether virtue is one whole, of which justice and temperance and 
holiness are parts; or whether all these are only the names of one and 

the same thing: that is the doubt which still lingers in my mind. 

There is no difficulty, Socrates, in answering that the qualities of 
which you are speaking are the parts of virtue which is one. 

And are they parts, I said, in the same sense in which mouth, 
nose, and eyes, and ears, are the parts of a face; or are they like 
the parts of gold, which differ from the whole and from one another 
only in being larger or smaller? 

I should say that they differed, Socrates, in the first way; they 
are related to one another as the parts of a face are related to the 
whole face. 

And do men have some one part and some another part of virtue? Of if 
a man has one part, must he also have all the others? 

By no means, he said; for many a man is brave and not just, or 
just and not wise. 

You would not deny, then, that courage and wisdom are also parts 
of virtue? 

Most undoubtedly they are, he answered; and wisdom is the noblest of 
the parts . 

And they are all different from one another? I said. 


And has each of them a distinct function like the parts of the 
face; -the eye, for example, is not like the ear, and has not the 
same functions; and the other parts are none of them like one another, 
either in their functions, or in any other way? I want to know whether 
the comparison holds concerning the parts of virtue. Do they also 
differ from one another in themselves and in their functions? For that 
is clearly what the simile would imply. 

Yes, Socrates, you are right in supposing that they differ. 

Then, I said, no other part of virtue is like knowledge, or like 
justice, or like courage, or like temperance, or like holiness? 

No, he answered. 

Well then, I said, suppose that you and I enquire into their 
natures. And first, you would agree with me that justice is of the 
nature of a thing, would you not? That is my opinion: would it not 
be yours also? 

Mine also, he said. 

And suppose that some one were to ask us, saying, "0 Protagoras, and 
you, Socrates, what about this thing which you were calling justice, 
is it just or unjust?"-and I were to answer, just: would you vote with 
me or against me? 

With you, he said. 

Thereupon I should answer to him who asked me, that justice is of 
the nature of the just: would not you? 

Yes, he said. 

And suppose that he went on to say: "Well now, is there also such 
a thing as holiness? "we should answer, "Yes," if I am not mistaken? 

Yes, he said. 

Which you would also acknowledge to be a thing-should we not say so? 

He assented. 

"And is this a sort of thing which is of the nature of the holy, 
or of the nature of the unholy?" I should be angry at his putting such 
a question, and should say, "Peace, man; nothing can be holy if 
holiness is not holy." What would you say? Would you not answer in the 
same way? 

Certainly, he said. 

And then after this suppose that he came and asked us, "What were 
you saying just now? Perhaps I may not have heard you rightly, but you 
seemed to me to be saying that the parts of virtue were not the same 
as one another." I should reply, "You certainly heard that said, but 
not, as you imagine, by me; for I only asked the question; 
Protagoras gave the answer." And suppose that he turned to you and 
said, "Is this true, Protagoras? and do you maintain that one part 
of virtue is unlike another, and is this your position? "-how would you 
answer him? 

I could not help acknowledging the truth of what he said, Socrates. 

Well then, Protagoras, we will assume this; and now supposing that 
he proceeded to say further, "Then holiness is not of the nature of 
justice, nor justice of the nature of holiness, but of the nature of 
unholiness; and holiness is of the nature of the not just, and 
therefore of the unjust, and the unjust is the unholy": how shall we 
answer him? I should certainly answer him on my own behalf that 
justice is holy, and that holiness is just; and I would say in like 
manner on your behalf also, if you would allow me, that justice is 
either the same with holiness, or very nearly the same; and above 
all I would assert that justice is like holiness and holiness is 
like justice; and I wish that you would tell me whether I may be 
permitted to give this answer on your behalf, and whether you would 
agree with me. 

He replied, I cannot simply agree, Socrates, to the proposition that 
justice is holy and that holiness is just, for there appears to me 
to be a difference between them. But what matter? if you please I 
please; and let us assume, if you will I, that justice is holy, and 
that holiness is just. 

Pardon me, I replied; I do not want this "if you wish" or "if you 
will" sort of conclusion to be proven, but I want you and me to be 
proven: I mean to say that the conclusion will be best proven if there 
be no "if. " 

Well, he said, I admit that justice bears a resemblance to holiness, 
for there is always some point of view in which everything is like 
every other thing; white is in a certain way like black, and hard is 
like soft, and the most extreme opposites have some qualities in 
common; even the parts of the face which, as we were saying before, 
are distinct and have different functions, are still in a certain 
point of view similar, and one of them is like another of them. And 
you may prove that they are like one another on the same principle 
that all things are like one another; and yet things which are like in 
some particular ought not to be called alike, nor things which are 
unlike in some particular, however slight, unlike. 

And do you think, I said in a tone of surprise, that justice and 
holiness have but a small degree of likeness? 

Certainly not; any more than I agree with what I understand to be 
your view. 

Well, I said, as you appear to have a difficulty about this, let 
us take another of the examples which you mentioned instead. Do you 
admit the existence of folly? 

I do. 

And is not wisdom the. very opposite of folly? 

That is true, he said. 

And when men act rightly and advantageously they seem to you to be 

Yes, he said. 

And temperance makes them temperate? 

Certainly . 

And they who do not act rightly act foolishly, and in acting thus 
are not temperate? 

I agree, he said. 

Then to act foolishly is the opposite of acting temperately? 

He assented. 

And foolish actions are done by folly, and temperate actions by 

He agreed. 

And that is done strongly which is done by strength, and that 
which is weakly done, by weakness? 

He assented. 

And that which is done with swiftness is done swiftly, and that 
which is done with slowness, slowly? 

He assented again. 

And that which is done in the same manner, is done by the same; 

and that which is done in an opposite manner by the opposite? 

He agreed. 

Once more, I said, is there anything beautiful? 


To which the only opposite is the ugly? 

There is no other. 

And is there anything good? 

There is . 

To which the only opposite is the evil? 

There is no other. 

And there is the acute in sound? 


To which the only opposite is the grave? 

There is no other, he said, but that. 

Then every opposite has one opposite only and no more? 

He assented. 

Then now, I said, let us recapitulate our admissions. First of all 
we admitted that everything has one opposite and not more than one? 

We did so. 

And we admitted also that what was done in opposite ways was done by 


And that which was done foolishly, as we further admitted, was 
done in the opposite way to that which was done temperately? 


And that which was done temperately was done by temperance, and that 
which was done foolishly by folly? 

He agreed. 

And that which is done in opposite ways is done by opposites? 


And one thing is done by temperance, and quite another thing by 


And in opposite ways? 

Certainly . 

And therefore by opposites : -then folly is the opposite of 


And do you remember that folly has already been acknowledged by us 
to be the opposite of wisdom? 

He assented. 

And we said that everything has only one opposite? 


Then, Protagoras, which of the two assertions shall we renounce? One 
says that everything has but one opposite; the other that wisdom is 
distinct from temperance, and that both of them are parts of virtue; 
and that they are not only distinct, but dissimilar, both in 
themselves and in their functions, like the parts of a face. Which 
of these two assertions shall we renounce? For both of them together 
are certainly not in harmony; they do not accord or agree: for how can 
they be said to agree if everything is assumed to have only one 
opposite and not more than one, and yet folly, which is one, has 
clearly the two opposites wisdom and temperance? Is not that true, 
Protagoras? What else would you say? 

He assented, but with great reluctance. 

Then temperance and wisdom are the same, as before justice and 
holiness appeared to us to be nearly the same. And now, Protagoras, 
I said, we must finish the enquiry, and not faint. Do you think that 
an unjust man can be temperate in his injustice? 

I should be ashamed, Socrates, he said, to acknowledge this which 
nevertheless many may be found to assert. 

And shall I argue with them or with you? I replied. 

I would rather, he said, that you should argue with the many 
first, if you will. 

Whichever you please, if you will only answer me and say whether you 
are of their opinion or not. My object is to test the validity of 
the argument; and yet the result may be that I who ask and you who 
answer may both be put on our trial . 

Protagoras at first made a show of refusing, as he said that the 
argument was not encouraging; at length, he consented to answer. 

Now then, I said, begin at the beginning and answer me. You think 
that some men are temperate, and yet unjust? 

Yes, he said; let that be admitted. 

And temperance is good sense? 


And good sense is good counsel in doing injustice? 


If they succeed, I said, or if they do not succeed? 

If they succeed. 

And you would admit the existence of goods? 


And is the good that which is expedient for man? 

Yes, indeed, he said: and there are some things which may be 
inexpedient, and yet I call them good. 

I thought that Protagoras was getting ruffled and excited; he seemed 
to be setting himself in an attitude of war. Seeing this, I minded 
my business, and gently said:- 

When you say, Protagoras, that things inexpedient are good, do you 
mean inexpedient for man only, or inexpedient altogether? and do you 
call the latter good? 

Certainly not the last, he replied; for I know of many things-meats, 
drinks, medicines, and ten thousand other things, which are 
inexpedient for man, and some which are expedient; and some which 
are neither expedient nor inexpedient for man, but only for horses; 
and some for oxen only, and some for dogs; and some for no animals, 
but only for trees; and some for the roots of trees and not for 
their branches, as for example, manure, which is a good thing when 
laid about the roots of a tree, but utterly destructive if thrown upon 
the shoots and young branches; or I may instance olive oil, which is 
mischievous to all plants, and generally most injurious to the hair of 
every animal with the exception of man, but beneficial to human hair 
and to the human body generally; and even in this application (so 
various and changeable is the nature of the benefit) , that which is 
the greatest good to the outward parts of a man, is a very great 
evil to his inward parts: and for this reason physicians always forbid 
their patients the use of oil in their food, except in very small 
quantities, just enough to extinguish the disagreeable sensation of 
smell in meats and sauces. 

When he had given this answer, the company cheered him. And I 
said: Protagoras, I have a wretched memory, and when any one makes a 
long speech to me I never remember what he is talking about. As 
then, if I had been deaf, and you were going to converse with me, 
you would have had to raise your voice; so now, having such a bad 
memory, I will ask you to cut your answers shorter, if you would 
take me with you. 

What do you mean? he said: how am I to shorten my answers? shall I 
make them too short? 

Certainly not, I said. 

But short enough? 

Yes, I said. 

Shall I answer what appears to me to be short enough, or what 
appears to you to be short enough? 

I have heard, I said, that you can speak and teach others to speak 
about the same things at such length that words never seemed to 
fail, or with such brevity that no one could use fewer of them. Please 
therefore, if you talk with me, to adopt the latter or more 
compendious method. 

Socrates, he replied, many a battle of words have I fought, and if I 

had followed the method of disputation which my adversaries desired, 
as you want me to do, I should have been no better than another, and 
the name of Protagoras would have been nowhere. 

I saw that he was not satisfied with his previous answers, and 
that he would not play the part of answerer any more if he could help; 
and I considered that there was no call upon me to continue the 
conversation; so I said: Protagoras, I do not wish to force the 
conversation upon you if you had rather not, but when you are 
willing to argue with me in such a way that I can follow you, then I 
will argue with you. Now you, as is said of you by others and as you 
say of yourself, are able to have discussions in shorter forms of 
speech as well as in longer, for you are a master of wisdom; but I 
cannot manage these long speeches: I only wish that I could. You, on 
the other hand, who are capable of either, ought to speak shorter as I 
beg you, and then we might converse. But I see that you are 
disinclined, and as I have an engagement which will prevent my staying 
to hear you at greater length (for I have to be in another place), I 
will depart; although I should have liked to have heard you. 

Thus I spoke, and was rising from my seat, when Callias seized me by 
the right hand, and in his left hand caught hold of this old cloak 
of mine. He said: We cannot let you go, Socrates, for if you leave 
us there will be an end of our discussions: I must therefore beg you 
to remain, as there is nothing in the world that I should like 
better than to hear you and Protagoras discourse. Do not deny the 
company this pleasure. 

Now I had got up, and was in the act of departure. Son of 
Hipponicus, I replied, I have always admired, and do now heartily 
applaud and love your philosophical spirit, and I would gladly 
comply with your request, if I could. But the truth is that I 
cannot. And what you ask is as great an impossibility to me, as if you 
bade me run a race with Crison of Himera, when in his prime, or with 
some one of the long or day course runners. To such a request I should 
reply that I would fain ask the same of my own legs; but they refuse 
to comply. And therefore if you want to see Crison and me in the 
same stadium, you must bid him slacken his speed to mine, for I cannot 
run quickly, and he can run slowly. And in like manner if you want 
to hear me and Protagoras discoursing, you must ask him to shorten his 
answers, and keep to the point, as he did at first; if not, how can 
there be any discussion? For discussion is one thing, and making an 
oration is quite another, in my humble opinion. 

But you see, Socrates, said Callias, that Protagoras may fairly 
claim to speak in his own way, just as you claim to speak in yours. 

Here Alcibiades interposed, and said: That, Callias, is not a true 
statement of the case. For our friend Socrates admits that he cannot 
make a speech-in this he yields the palm to Protagoras: but I should 
be greatly surprised if he yielded to any living man in the power of 
holding and apprehending an argument. Now if Protagoras will make a 
similar admission, and confess that he is inferior to Socrates in 
argumentative skill, that is enough for Socrates; but if he claims a 
superiority in argument as well, let him ask and answer-not, when a 
question is asked, slipping away from the point, and instead of 
answering, making a speech at such length that most of his hearers 
forget the question at issue (not that Socrates is likely to 
forget-I will be bound for that, although he may pretend in fun that 
he has a bad memory) . And Socrates appears to me to be more in the 
right than Protagoras; that is my view, and every man ought to say 
what he thinks . 

When Alcibiades had done speaking, some one-Critias, I 
believe-went on to say: Prodicus and Hippias, Callias appears to 
me to be a partisan of Protagoras: and this led Alcibiades, who 
loves opposition, to take the other side. But we should not be 
partisans either of Socrates or of Protagoras; let us rather unite 
in entreating both of them not to break up the discussion. 

Prodicus added: That, Critias, seems to me to be well said, for 

those who are present at such discussions ought to be impartial 
hearers of both the speakers; remembering, however, that 
impartiality is not the same as equality, for both sides should be 
impartially heard, and yet an equal meed should not be assigned to 
both of them; but to the wiser a higher meed should be given, and a 
lower to the less wise. And I as well as Critias would beg you, 
Protagoras and Socrates, to grant our request, which is, that you will 
argue with one another and not wrangle; for friends argue with friends 
out of goodwill, but only adversaries and enemies wrangle. And then 
our meeting will be delightful; for in this way you, who are the 
speakers, will be most likely to win esteem, and not praise only, 
among us who are your audience; for esteem is a sincere conviction 
of the hearers' souls, but praise is often an insincere expression 
of men uttering falsehoods contrary to their conviction. And thus we 
who are the hearers will be gratified and not pleased; for 
gratification is of the mind when receiving wisdom and knowledge, 
but pleasure is of the body when eating or experiencing some other 
bodily delight. Thus spoke Prodicus, and many of the company applauded 
his words . 

Hippias the sage spoke next. He said: All of you who are here 
present I reckon to be kinsmen and friends and fellow-citizens, by 
nature and not by law; for by nature like is akin to like, whereas law 
is the tyrant of mankind, and often compels us to do many things which 
are against nature. How great would be the disgrace then, if we, who 
know the nature of things, and are the wisest of the Hellenes, and 
as such are met together in this city, which is the metropolis of 
wisdom, and in the greatest and most glorious house of this city, 
should have nothing to show worthy of this height of dignity, but 
should only quarrel with one another like the meanest of mankind I 
pray and advise you, Protagoras, and you, Socrates, to agree upon a 
compromise. Let us be your peacemakers. And do not you, Socrates, 
aim at this precise and extreme brevity in discourse, if Protagoras 
objects, but loosen and let go the reins of speech, that your words 
may be grander and more becoming to you. Neither do you, Protagoras, 
go forth on the gale with every sail set out of sight of land into 
an ocean of words, but let there be a mean observed by both of you. Do 
as I say. And let me also persuade you to choose an arbiter or 
overseer or president; he will keep watch over your words and will 
prescribe their proper length. 

This proposal was received by the company with universal approval; 
Callias said that he would not let me off, and they begged me to 
choose an arbiter. But I said that to choose an umpire of discourse 
would be unseemly; for if the person chosen was inferior, then the 
inferior or worse ought not to preside over the better; or if he was 
equal, neither would that be well; for he who is our equal will do 
as we do, and what will be the use of choosing him? And if you say, 
"Let us have a better then, "-to that I answer that you cannot have any 
one who is wiser than Protagoras. And if you choose another who is not 
really better, and whom you only say is better, to put another over 
him as though he were an inferior person would be an unworthy 
reflection on him; not that, as far as I am concerned, any 
reflection is of much consequence to me. Let me tell you then what I 
will do in order that the conversation and discussion may go on as you 
desire. If Protagoras is not disposed to answer, let him ask and I 
will answer; and I will endeavour to show at the same time how, as I 
maintain, he ought to answer: and when I have answered as many 
questions as he likes to ask, let him in like manner answer me; and if 
he seems to be not very ready at answering the precise question 
asked of him, you and I will unite in entreating him, as you entreated 
me, not to spoil the discussion. And this will require no special 
arbiter-all of you shall be arbiters. 

This was generally approved, and Protagoras, though very much 
against his will, was obliged to agree that he would ask questions; 
and when he had put a sufficient number of them, that he would 

answer in his turn those which he was asked in short replies. He began 
to put his questions as follows :- 

I am of opinion, Socrates, he said, that skill in poetry is the 
principal part of education; and this I conceive to be the power of 
knowing what compositions of the poets are correct, and what are 
not, and how they are to be distinguished, and of explaining when 
asked the reason of the difference. And I propose to transfer the 
question which you and I have been discussing to the domain of poetry; 
we will speak as before of virtue, but in reference to a passage of 
a poet. Now Simonides says to Scopas the son of Creon the Thessalian: 

Hardly on the one hand can a man become truly good, built 
four-square in hands and feet and mind, a work without a flaw. 

Do you know the poem? or shall I repeat the whole? 

There is no need, I said; for I am perfectly well acquainted with 
the ode-I have made a careful study of it. 

Very well, he said. And do you think that the ode is a good 
composition, and true? 

Yes, I said, both good and true. 

But if there is a contradiction, can the composition be good or 

No, not in that case, I replied. 

And is there not a contradiction? he asked. Reflect. 

Well, my friend, I have reflected. 

And does not the poet proceed to say, "I do not agree with the 
word of Pittacus, albeit the utterance of a wise man: Hardly can a man 
be good"? Now you will observe that this is said by the same poet. 

I know it . 

And do you think, he said, that the two sayings are consistent? 

Yes, I said, I think so (at the same time I could not help fearing 
that there might be something in what he said) . And you think 

Why, he said, how can he be consistent in both? First of all, 
premising as his own thought, "Hardly can a man become truly good"; 
and then a little further on in the poem, forgetting, and blaming 
Pittacus and refusing to agree with him, when he says, "Hardly can .. 
man be good," which is the very same thing. And yet when he blames hi 
who says the same with himself, he blames himself; so that he must 
be wrong either in his first or his second assertion. 

Many of the audience cheered and applauded this. And I felt at first 
giddy and faint, as if I had received a blow from the hand of an 
expert boxer, when I heard his words and the sound of the cheering; 
and to confess the truth, I wanted to get time to think what the 
meaning of the poet really was. So I turned to Prodicus and called 
him. Prodicus, I said, Simonides is a countryman of yours, and you 
ought to come to his aid. I must appeal to you, like the river 
Scamander in Homer, who, when beleaguered by Achilles, summons the 
Simois to aid him, saying: 

Brother dear, let us both together stay the force of the hero. 

And I summon you, for I am afraid that Protagoras will make an end 
of Simonides. Now is the time to rehabilitate Simonides, by the 
application of your philosophy of synonyms, which enables you to 
distinguish "will" and "wish," and make other charming distinctions 
like those which you drew just now. And I should like to know 
whether you would agree with me; for I am of opinion that there is 
no contradiction in the words of Simonides. And first of all I wish 
that you would say whether, in your opinion, Prodicus, "being" is 
the same as "becoming." 

Not the same, certainly, replied Prodicus. 

Did not Simonides first set forth, as his own view, that "Hardly can 
a man become truly good"? 


Quite right, said Prodicus. 

And then he blames Pittacus, not, as Protagoras imagines, for 
repeating that which he says himself, but for saying something 
different from himself. Pittacus does not say as Simonides says, 
that hardly can a man become good, but hardly can a man be good: and 
our friend Prodicus would maintain that being, Protagoras, is not 
the same as becoming; and if they are not the same, then Simonides 
is not inconsistent with himself. I dare say that Prodicus and many 
others would say, as Hesiod says, 

On the one hand, hardly can a man become good, 

For the gods have made virtue the reward of toil, 

But on the other hand, when you have climbed the height, 

Then, to retain virtue, however difficult the acquisition, is easy. 

Prodicus heard and approved; but Protagoras said: Your correction, 
Socrates, involves a greater error than is contained in the sentence 
which you are correcting. 

Alas! I said, Protagoras; then I am a sorry physician, and do but 
aggravate a disorder which I am seeking to cure. 

Such is the fact, he said. 

How so? I asked. 

The poet, he replied, could never have made such a mistake as to say 
that virtue, which in the opinion of all men is the hardest of all 
things, can be easily retained. 

Well, I said, and how fortunate are we in having Prodicus among 
us, at the right moment; for he has a wisdom, Protagoras, which, as 
I imagine, is more than human and of very ancient date, and may be 
as old as Simonides or even older. Learned as you are in many 
things, you appear to know nothing of this; but I know, for I am a 
disciple of his. And now, if I am not mistaken, you do not 
understand the word "hard" (chalepon) in the sense which Simonides 
intended; and I must correct you, as Prodicus corrects me when I use 
the word "awful" (deinon) as a term of praise. If I say that 
Protagoras or any one else is an "awfully" wise man, he asks me if I 
am not ashamed of calling that which is good "awful"; and then he 
explains to me that the term "awful" is always taken in a bad sense, 
and that no one speaks of being "awfully" healthy or wealthy, or 
"awful" peace, but of "awful" disease, "awful" war, "awful" poverty, 
meaning by the term "awful," evil. And I think that Simonides and 
his countrymen the Ceans, when they spoke of "hard" meant "evil," or 
something which you do not understand. Let us ask Prodicus, for he 
ought to be able to answer questions about the dialect of Simonides. 
What did he mean, Prodicus, by the term "hard?" 

Evil, said Prodicus. 

And therefore, I said, Prodicus, he blames Pittacus for saying, 
"Hard is the good," just as if that were equivalent to saying, Evil is 
the good. 

Yes, he said, that was certainly his meaning; and he is twitting 
Pittacus with ignorance of the use of terms, which in a Lesbian, who 
has been accustomed to speak a barbarous language, is natural. 

Do you hear, Protagoras, I asked, what our friend Prodicus is 
saying? And have you an answer for him? 

You are entirely mistaken, Prodicus, said Protagoras; and I know 
very well that Simonides in using the word "hard" meant what all of us 
mean, not evil, but that which is not easy-that which takes a great 
deal of trouble: of this I am positive. 

I said: I also incline to believe, Protagoras, that this was the 
meaning of Simonides, of which our friend Prodicus was very well 
aware, but he thought that he would make fun, and try if you could 
maintain your thesis; for that Simonides could never have meant the 
other is clearly proved by the context, in which he says that God only 
has this gift. Now he cannot surely mean to say that to be good is 
evil, when he afterwards proceeds to say that God only has this 

gift, and that this is the attribute of him and of no other. For if 
this be his meaning, Prodicus would impute to Simonides a character of 
recklessness which is very unlike his countrymen. And I should like to 
tell you, I said, what I imagine to be the real meaning of Simonides 
in this poem, if you will test what, in your way of speaking, would be 
called my skill in poetry; or if you would rather, I will be the 
listener . 

To this proposal Protagoras replied: As you please; -and Hippias, 
Prodicus, and the others told me by all means to do as I proposed. 

Then now, I said, I will endeavour to explain to you my opinion 
about this poem of Simonides. There is a very ancient philosophy which 
is more cultivated in Crete and Lacedaemon than in any other part of 
Hellas, and there are more philosophers in those countries than 
anywhere else in the world. This, however, is a secret which the 
Lacedaemonians deny; and they pretend to be ignorant, just because 
they do not wish to have it thought that they rule the world by 
wisdom, like the Sophists of whom Protagoras was speaking, and not 
by valour of arms; considering that if the reason of their superiority 
were disclosed, all men would be practising their wisdom. And this 
secret of theirs has never been discovered by the imitators of 
Lacedaemonian fashions in other cities, who go about with their ears 
bruised in imitation of them, and have the caestus bound on their 
arms, and are always in training, and wear short cloaks; for they 
imagine that these are the practices which have enabled the 
Lacedaemonians to conquer the other Hellenes. Now when the 
Lacedaemonians want to unbend and hold free conversation with their 
wise men, and are no longer satisfied with mere secret intercourse, 
they drive out all these laconizers, and any other foreigners who 
may happen to be in their country, and they hold a philosophical 
seance unknown to strangers; and they themselves forbid their young 
men to go out into other cities-in this they are like the Cretans-in 
order that they may not unlearn the lessons which they have taught 
them. And in Lacedaemon and Crete not only men but also women have a 
pride in their high cultivation. And hereby you may know that I am 
right in attributing to the Lacedaemonians this excellence in 
philosophy and speculation: If a man converses with the most 
ordinary Lacedaemonian, he will find him seldom good for much in 
general conversation, but at any point in the discourse he will be 
darting out some notable saying, terse and full of meaning, with 
unerring aim; and the person with whom he is talking seems to be 
like a child in his hands. And many of our own age and of former 
ages have noted that the true Lacedaemonian type of character has 
the love of philosophy even stronger than the love of gymnastics; they 
are conscious that only a perfectly educated man is capable of 
uttering such expressions. Such were Thales of Miletus, and Pittacus 
of Mitylene, and Bias of Priene, and our own Solon, and Cleobulus 
the Lindian, and Myson the Chenian; and seventh in the catalogue of 
wise men was the Lacedaemonian Chilo. All these were lovers and 
emulators and disciples of the culture of the Lacedaemonians, and 
any one may perceive that their wisdom was of this character; 
consisting of short memorable sentences, which they severally uttered. 
And they met together and dedicated in the temple of Apollo at Delphi, 
as the first-fruits of their wisdom, the far-famed inscriptions, which 
are in all men's mouths-"Know thyself," and "Nothing too much." 

Why do I say all this? I am explaining that this Lacedaemonian 
brevity was the style of primitive philosophy. Now there was a 
saying of Pittacus which was privately circulated and received the 
approbation of the wise, "Hard is it to be good." And Simonides, who 
was ambitious of the fame of wisdom, was aware that if he could 
overthrow this saying, then, as if he had won a victory over some 
famous athlete, he would carry off the palm among his 
contemporaries. And if I am not mistaken, he composed the entire 
poem with the secret intention of damaging Pittacus and his saying. 

Let us all unite in examining his words, and see whether I am 

speaking the truth. Simonides must have been a lunatic, if, in the 
very first words of the poem, wanting to say only that to become 
good is hard, he inserted (men) "on the one hand" ["on the one hand to 
become good is hard"]; there would be no reason for the introduction 
of (men) , unless you suppose him to speak with a hostile reference 
to the words of Pittacus . Pittacus is saying "Hard is it to be 
good," and he, in refutation of this thesis, rejoins that the truly 
hard thing, Pittacus, is to become good, not joining "truly" with 
"good," but with "hard." Not, that the hard thing is to be truly good, 
as though there were some truly good men, and there were others who 
were good but not truly good (this would be a very simple observation, 
and quite unworthy of Simonides); but you must suppose him to make a 
trajection of the word "truly," construing the saying of Pittacus thus 
(and let us imagine Pittacus to be speaking and Simonides answering 
him) : "0 my friends," says Pittacus, "hard is it to be good," and 
Simonides answers, "In that, Pittacus, you are mistaken; the 
difficulty is not to be good, but on the one hand, to become good, 
four-square in hands and feet and mind, without a flaw-that is hard 
truly." This way of reading the passage accounts for the insertion 
of (men) "on the one hand, " and for the position at the end of the 
clause of the word "truly, " and all that follows shows this to be 
the meaning. A great deal might be said in praise of the details of 
the poem, which is a charming piece of workmanship, and very finished, 
but such minutiae would be tedious. I should like, however, to point 
out the general intention of the poem, which is certainly designed 
in every part to be a refutation of the saying of Pittacus. For he 
speaks in what follows a little further on as if he meant to argue 
that although there is a difficulty in becoming good, yet this is 
possible for a time, and only for a time. But having become good, to 
remain in a good state and be good, as you, Pittacus, affirm, is not 
possible, and is not granted to man; God only has this blessing; 
"but man cannot help being bad when the force of circumstances 
overpowers him." Now whom does the force of circumstance overpower 
in the command of a vessel?-not the private individual, for he is 
always overpowered; and as one who is already prostrate cannot be 
overthrown, and only he who is standing upright but not he who is 
prostrate can be laid prostrate, so the force of circumstances can 
only overpower him who, at some time or other, has resources, and 
not him who is at all times helpless. The descent of a great storm may 
make the pilot helpless, or the severity of the season the 
husbandman or the physician; for the good may become bad, as another 
poet witnesses: 

The good are sometimes good and sometimes bad. 

But the bad does not become bad; he is always bad. So that when the 
force of circumstances overpowers the man of resources and skill and 
virtue, then he cannot help being bad. And you, Pittacus, are 
saying, "Hard is it to be good." Now there is a difficulty in becoming 
good; and yet this is possible: but to be good is an impossibility- 

For he who does well is the good man, and he who does ill is the 

But what sort of doing is good in letters? and what sort of doing 
makes a man good in letters? Clearly the knowing of them. And what 
sort of well-doing makes a man a good physician? Clearly the knowledge 
of the art of healing the sick. "But he who does ill is the bad." 
Now who becomes a bad physician? Clearly he who is in the first 
place a physician, and in the second place a good physician; for he 
may become a bad one also: but none of us unskilled individuals can by 
any amount of doing ill become physicians, any more than we can become 
carpenters or anything of that sort; and he who by doing ill cannot 
become a physician at all, clearly cannot become a bad physician. In 

like manner the good may become deteriorated by time, or toil, or 
disease, or other accident (the only real doing ill is to be 
deprived of knowledge) , but the bad man will never become bad, for 
he is always bad; and if he were to become bad, he must previously 
have been good. Thus the words of the poem tend to show that on the 
one hand a man cannot be continuously good, but that he may become 
good and may also become bad; and again that 

They are the best for the longest time whom the gods love. 

All this relates to Pittacus, as is further proved by the sequel. 
For he adds : 

Therefore I will not throw away my span of life to no purpose in 
searching after the impossible, hoping in vain to find a perfectly 
faultless man among those who partake of the fruit of the 
broad-bosomed earth: if I find him, I will send you word. 

(this is the vehement way in which he pursues his attack upon Pittacus 
throughout the whole poem) : 

But him who does no evil, voluntarily I praise and love; -not even 
the gods war against necessity. 

All this has a similar drift, for Simonides was not so ignorant as 
to say that he praised those who did no evil voluntarily, as though 
there were some who did evil voluntarily. For no wise man, as I 
believe, will allow that any human being errs voluntarily, or 
voluntarily does evil and dishonourable actions; but they are very 
well aware that all who do evil and dishonourable things do them 
against their will. And Simonides never says that he praises him who 
does no evil voluntarily; the word "voluntarily" applies to himself. 
For he was under the impression that a good man might often compel 
himself to love and praise another, and to be the friend and 
approver of another; and that there might be an involuntary love, such 
as a man might feel to an unnatural father or mother, or country, or 
the like. Now bad men, when their parents or country have any defects, 
look on them with malignant joy, and find fault with them and expose 
and denounce them to others, under the idea that the rest of mankind 
will be less likely to take themselves to task and accuse them of 
neglect; and they blame their defects far more than they deserve, in 
order that the odium which is necessarily incurred by them may be 
increased: but the good man dissembles his feelings, and constrains 
himself to praise them; and if they have wronged him and he is 
angry, he pacifies his anger and is reconciled, and compels himself to 
love and praise his own flesh and blood. And Simonides, as is 
probable, considered that he himself had often had to praise and 
magnify a tyrant or the like, much against his will, and he also 
wishes to imply to Pittacus that he does not censure him because he is 
censorious . 

For I am satisfied [he says] when a man is neither bad nor very 
stupid; and when he knows justice (which is the health of states), and 
is of sound mind, I will find no fault with him, for I am not given to 
finding fault, and there are innumerable fools 

(implying that if he delighted in censure he might have abundant 
opportunity of finding fault) . 

All things are good with which evil is unmingled. 

In these latter words he does not mean to say that all things are good 
which have no evil in them, as you might say "All things are white 
which have no black in them," for that would be ridiculous; but he 

means to say that he accepts and finds no fault with the moderate or 
intermediate state. He says: 

I do not hope to find a perfectly blameless man among those who 
partake of the fruits of the broad-bosomed earth (if I find him, I 
will send you word) ; in this sense I praise no man. But he who is 
moderately good, and does no evil, is good enough for me, who love and 
approve every one . 

(and here observe that he uses a Lesbian word, epainemi [approve], 
because he is addressing Pittacus, 

Who love and approve every one voluntarily, who does no evil: 

and that the stop should be put after "voluntarily"); "but there are 
some whom I involuntarily praise and love. And you, Pittacus, I 
would never have blamed, if you had spoken what was moderately good 
and true; but I do blame you because, putting on the appearance of 
truth, you are speaking falsely about the highest matters. And this, I 
said, Prodicus and Protagoras, I take to be the meaning of Simonides 
in this poem. 

Hippias said: I think, Socrates, that you have given a very good 
explanation of the poem; but I have also an excellent interpretation 
of my own which I will propound to you, if you will allow me. 

Nay, Hippias, said Alcibiades; not now, but at some other time. At 
present we must abide by the compact which was made between Socrates 
and Protagoras, to the effect that as long as Protagoras is willing to 
ask, Socrates should answer; or that if he would rather answer, then 
that Socrates should ask. 

I said: I wish Protagoras either to ask or answer as he is inclined; 
but I would rather have done with poems and odes, if he does not 
object, and come back to the question about which I was asking you 
at first, Protagoras, and by your help make an end of that. The talk 
about the poets seems to me like a commonplace entertainment to 
which a vulgar company have recourse; who, because they are not able 
to converse or amuse one another, while they are drinking, with the 
sound of their own voices and conversation, by reason of their 
stupidity, raise the price of flute-girls in the market, hiring for 
a great sum the voice of a flute instead of their own breath, to be 
the medium of intercourse among them: but where the company are real 
gentlemen and men of education, you will see no flute-girls, nor 
dancing-girls, nor harp-girls; and they have no nonsense or games, but 
are contented with one another's conversation, of which their own 
voices are the medium, and which they carry on by turns and in an 
orderly manner, even though they are very liberal in their 
potations. And a company like this of ours, and men such as we profess 
to be, do not require the help of another's voice, or of the poets 
whom you cannot interrogate about meaning of what they are saying; 
people who cite them declaring, some that the poet has meaning, and 
others that he has another, and the point which is in dispute can 
never be decided. This sort of entertainment they decline, and 
prefer to talk with one another, and put one another to the proof in 
conversation. And these are the models which I desire that you and I 
should imitate. Leaving the poets, and keeping to ourselves, let us 
try the mettle of one another and make proof of the truth in 
conversation. If you have a mind to ask, I am ready to answer; or if 
you would rather, do you answer, and give me the opportunity of 
resuming and completing our unfinished argument. 

I made these and some similar observations; but Protagoras would not 
distinctly say which he would do. Thereupon Alcibiades turned to 
Callias, and said:-Do you think, Callias, that Protagoras is fair in 
refusing to say whether he will or will not answer? for I certainly 
think that he is unfair; he ought either to proceed with the argument, 
or distinctly refuse to proceed, that we may know his intention; and 

then Socrates will be able to discourse with some one else, and the 
rest of the company will be free to talk with one another. 

I think that Protagoras was really made ashamed by these words of 
Alcibiades and when the prayers of Callias and the company were 
superadded, he was at last induced to argue, and said that I might ask 
and he would answer. 

So I said: Do not imagine, Protagoras, that I have any other 
interest in asking questions of you but that of clearing up my own 
difficulties. For I think that Homer was very right in saying that 

When two go together, one sees before the other, 

for all men who have a companion are readier in deed, word, or 
thought; but if a man 

Sees a thing when he is alone, 

he goes about straightway seeking until he finds some one to whom he 
may show his discoveries, and who may confirm him in them. And I would 
rather hold discourse with you than with any one, because I think that 
no man has a better understanding of most things which a good man 
may be expected to understand, and in particular of virtue. For who is 
there, but you?-who not only claim to be a good man and a gentleman, 
for many are this, and yet have not the power of making others good 
whereas you are not only good yourself, but also the cause of goodness 
in others. Moreover such confidence have you in yourself, that 
although other Sophists conceal their profession, you proclaim in 
the face of Hellas that you are a Sophist or teacher of virtue and 
education, and are the first who demanded pay in return. How then 
can I do otherwise than invite you to the examination of these 
subjects, and ask questions and consult with you? I must, indeed. 
And I should like once more to have my memory refreshed by you about 
the questions which I was asking you at first, and also to have your 
help in considering them. If I am not mistaken the question was 
this: Are wisdom and temperance and courage and justice and holiness 
five names of the same thing? or has each of the names a separate 
underlying essence and corresponding thing having a peculiar function, 
no one of them being like any other of them? And you replied that 
the five names were not the names of the same thing, but that each 
of them had a separate object, and that all these objects were parts 
of virtue, not in the same way that the parts of gold are like each 
other and the whole of which they are parts, but as the parts of the 
face are unlike the whole of which they are parts and one another, and 
have each of them a distinct function. I should like to know whether 
this is still your opinion; or if not, I will ask you to define your 
meaning, and I shall not take you to task if you now make a 
different statement. For I dare say that you may have said what you 
did only in order to make trial of me. 

I answer, Socrates, he said, that all these qualities are parts of 
virtue, and that four out of the five are to some extent similar, 
and that the fifth of them, which is courage, is very different from 
the other four, as I prove in this way: You may observe that many 
men are utterly unrighteous, unholy, intemperate, ignorant, who are 
nevertheless remarkable for their courage. 

Stop, I said; I should like to think about that. When you speak of 
brave men, do you mean the confident, or another sort of nature? 

Yes, he said; I mean the impetuous, ready to go at that which others 
are afraid to approach. 

In the next place, you would affirm virtue to be a good thing, of 
which good thing you assert yourself to be a teacher. 

Yes, he said; I should say the best of all things, if I am in my 
right mind. 

And is it partly good and partly bad, I said, or wholly good? 

Wholly good, and in the highest degree. 

Tell me then; who are they who have confidence when diving into a 

I should say, the divers . 

And the reason of this is that they have knowledge? 

Yes, that is the reason. 

And who have confidence when fighting on horseback-the skilled 
horseman or the unskilled? 

The skilled. 

And who when fighting with light shields-the peltasts or the 

The peltasts. And that is true of all other things, he said, if that 
is your point: those who have knowledge are more confident than 
those who have no knowledge, and they are more confident after they 
have learned than before. 

And have you not seen persons utterly ignorant, I said, of these 
things, and yet confident about them? 

Yes, he said, I have seen such persons far too confident. 

And are not these confident persons also courageous? 

In that case, he replied, courage would be a base thing, for the men 
of whom we are speaking are surely madmen. 

Then who are the courageous? Are they not the confident? 

Yes, he said; to that statement I adhere. 

And those, I said, who are thus confident without knowledge are 
really not courageous, but mad; and in that case the wisest are also 
the most confident, and being the most confident are also the bravest, 
and upon that view again wisdom will be courage. 

Nay, Socrates, he replied, you are mistaken in your remembrance of 
what was said by me. When you asked me, I certainly did say that the 
courageous are the confident; but I was never asked whether the 
confident are the courageous; if you had asked me, I should have 
answered "Not all of them" : and what I did answer you have not 
proved to be false, although you proceeded to show that those who have 
knowledge are more courageous than they were before they had 
knowledge, and more courageous than others who have no knowledge, 
and were then led on to think that courage is the same as wisdom. 
But in this way of arguing you might come to imagine that strength 
is wisdom. You might begin by asking whether the strong are able, 
and I should say "Yes"; and then whether those who know how to wrestle 
are not more able to wrestle than those who do not know how to 
wrestle, and more able after than before they had learned, and I 
should assent. And when I had admitted this, you might use my 
admissions in such a way as to prove that upon my view wisdom is 
strength; whereas in that case I should not have admitted, any more 
than in the other, that the able are strong, although I have 
admitted that the strong are able. For there is a difference between 
ability and strength; the former is given by knowledge as well as by 
madness or rage, but strength comes from nature and a healthy state of 
the body. And in like manner I say of confidence and courage, that 
they are not the same; and I argue that the courageous are 
confident, but not all the confident courageous. For confidence may be 
given to men by art, and also, like ability, by madness and rage; 
but courage comes to them from nature and the healthy state of the 
soul . 

I said: You would admit, Protagoras, that some men live well and 
others ill? 

He assented. 

And do you think that a man lives well who lives in pain and grief? 

He does not. 

But if he lives pleasantly to the end of his life, will he not in 
that case have lived well? 

He will. 

Then to live pleasantly is a good, and to live unpleasantly an evil? 

Yes, he said, if the pleasure be good and honourable. 

And do you, Protagoras, like the rest of the world, call some 

pleasant things evil and some painful things good?-for I am rather 
disposed to say that things are good in as far as they are pleasant, 
if they have no consequences of another sort, and in as far as they 
are painful they are bad. 

I do not know, Socrates, he said, whether I can venture to assert in 
that unqualified manner that the pleasant is the good and the 
painful the evil. Having regard not only to my present answer, but 
also to the whole of my life, I shall be safer, if I am not 
mistaken, in saying that there are some pleasant things which are 
not good, and that there are some painful things which are good, and 
some which are not good, and that there are some which are neither 
good nor evil . 

And you would call pleasant, I said, the things which participate in 
pleasure or create pleasure? 

Certainly, he said. 

Then my meaning is, that in as far as they are pleasant they are 
good; and my question would imply that pleasure is a good in itself. 

According to your favourite mode of speech, Socrates, "Let us 
reflect about this," he said; and if the reflection is to the point, 
and the result proves that pleasure and good are really the same, then 
we will agree; but if not, then we will argue. 

And would you wish to begin the enquiry? 

I said; or shall I begin? 

You ought to take the lead, he said; for you are the author of the 
discussion . 

May I employ an illustration? I said. Suppose some one who is 
enquiring into the health or some other bodily quality of 
another: -he looks at his face and at the tips of his fingers, and then 
he says, Uncover your chest and back to me that I may have a better 
view: -that is the sort of thing which I desire in this speculation. 
Having seen what your opinion is about good and pleasure, I am 
minded to say to you: Uncover your mind to me, Protagoras, and 
reveal your opinion about knowledge, that I may know whether you agree 
with the rest of the world. Now the rest of the world are of opinion 
that knowledge is a principle not of strength, or of rule, or of 
command: their notion is that a man may have knowledge, and yet that 
the knowledge which is in him may be overmastered by anger, or 
pleasure, or pain, or love, or perhaps by fear, -just as if knowledge 
were a slave, and might be dragged about anyhow. Now is that your 
view? or do you think that knowledge is a noble and commanding 
thing, which cannot be overcome, and will not allow a man, if he 
only knows the difference of good and evil, to do anything which is 
contrary to knowledge, but that wisdom will have strength to help him? 

I agree with you, Socrates, said Protagoras; and not only so, but I, 
above all other men, am bound to say that wisdom and knowledge are the 
highest of human things. 

Good, I said, and true. But are you aware that the majority of the 
world are of another mind; and that men are commonly supposed to 
know the things which are best, and not to do them when they might? 
And most persons whom I have asked the reason of this have said that 
when men act contrary to knowledge they are overcome by pain, or 
pleasure, or some of those affections which I was just now mentioning. 

Yes, Socrates, he replied; and that is not the only point about 
which mankind are in error. 

Suppose, then, that you and I endeavour to instruct and inform 
them what is the nature of this affection which they call "being 
overcome by pleasure, " and which they affirm to be the reason why they 
do not always do what is best. When we say to them: Friends, you are 
mistaken, and are saying what is not true, they would probably 
reply: Socrates and Protagoras, if this affection of the soul is not 
to be called "being overcome by pleasure, " pray, what is it, and by 
what name would you describe it? 

But why, Socrates, should we trouble ourselves about the opinion 
of the many, who just say anything that happens to occur to them? 

I believe, I said, that they may be of use in helping us to discover 
how courage is related to the other parts of virtue. If you are 
disposed to abide by our agreement, that I should show the way in 
which, as I think, our recent difficulty is most likely to be 
cleared up, do you follow; but if not, never mind. 

You are quite right, he said; and I would have you proceed as you 
have begun . 

Well then, I said, let me suppose that they repeat their question, 
What account do you give of that which, in our way of speaking, is 
termed being overcome by pleasure? I should answer thus: Listen, and 
Protagoras and I will endeavour to show you. When men are overcome 
by eating and drinking and other sensual desires which are pleasant, 
and they, knowing them to be evil, nevertheless indulge in them, would 
you not say that they were overcome by pleasure? They will not deny 
this. And suppose that you and I were to go on and ask them again: "In 
what way do you say that they are evil-in that they are pleasant and 
give pleasure at the moment, or because they cause disease and poverty 
and other like evils in the future? Would they still be evil, if 
they had no attendant evil consequences, simply because they give 
the consciousness of pleasure of whatever nature?"-Would they not 
answer that they are not evil on account of the pleasure which is 
immediately given by them, but on account of the after 
consequences-diseases and the like? 

I believe, said Protagoras, that the world in general would answer 
as you do. 

And in causing diseases do they not cause pain? and in causing 
poverty do they not cause pain; -they would agree to that also, if I am 
not mistaken? 

Protagoras assented. 

Then I should say to them, in my name and yours : Do you think them 
evil for any other reason, except because they end in pain and rob 
us of other pleasures : -there again they would agree? 

We both of us thought that they would. 

And then I should take the question from the opposite point of view, 
and say: "Friends, when you speak of goods being painful, do you not 
mean remedial goods, such as gymnastic exercises, and military 
service, and the physician's use of burning, cutting, drugging, and 
starving? Are these the things which are good but painful? "-they would 
assent to me? 

He agreed. 

"And do you call them good because they occasion the greatest 
immediate suffering and pain; or because, afterwards, they bring 
health and improvement of the bodily condition and the salvation of 
states and power over others and wealth?"-they would agree to the 
latter alternative, if I am not mistaken? 

He assented. 

"Are these things good for any other reason except that they end 
in pleasure, and get rid of and avert pain? Are you looking to any 
other standard but pleasure and pain when you call them good?"-they 
would acknowledge that they were not? 

I think so, said Protagoras. 

"And do you not pursue after pleasure as a good, and avoid pain as 
an evil?" 

He assented. 

"Then you think that pain is an evil and pleasure is a good: and 
even pleasure you deem an evil, when it robs you of greater 
pleasures than it gives, or causes pains greater than the pleasure. 
If, however, you call pleasure an evil in relation to some other end 
or standard, you will be able to show us that standard. But you have 
none to show . " 

I do not think that they have, said Protagoras. 

"And have you not a similar way of speaking about pain? You call 
pain a good when it takes away greater pains than those which it 
has, or gives pleasures greater than the pains: then if you have 

some standard other than pleasure and pain to which you refer when you 
call actual pain a good, you can show what that is. But you cannot." 

True, said Protagoras. 

Suppose again, I said, that the world says to me: "Why do you 
spend many words and speak in many ways on this subject?" Excuse me, 
friends, I should reply; but in the first place there is a 
difficulty in explaining the meaning of the expression "overcome by 
pleasure"; and the whole argument turns upon this. And even now, if 
you see any possible way in which evil can be explained as other 
than pain, or good as other than pleasure, you may still retract. 
Are you satisfied, then, at having a life of pleasure which is without 
pain? If you are, and if you are unable to show any good or evil which 
does not end in pleasure and pain, hear the consequences : -If what 
you say is true, then the argument is absurd which affirms that a 
man often does evil knowingly, when he might abstain, because he is 
seduced and overpowered by pleasure; or again, when you say that a man 
knowingly refuses to do what is good because he is overcome at the 
moment by pleasure. And that this is ridiculous will be evident if 
only we give up the use of various names, such as pleasant and 
painful, and good and evil. As there are two things, let us call 
them by two names-first, good and evil, and then pleasant and painful. 
Assuming this, let us go on to say that a man does evil knowing that 
he does evil. But some one will ask, Why? Because he is overcome, is 
the first answer. And by what is he overcome? the enquirer will 
proceed to ask. And we shall not be able to reply "By pleasure," for 
the name of pleasure has been exchanged for that of good. In our 
answer, then, we shall only say that he is overcome. "By what?" he 
will reiterate. By the good, we shall have to reply; indeed we 
shall. Nay, but our questioner will rejoin with a laugh, if he be 
one of the swaggering sort, "That is too ridiculous, that a man should 
do what he knows to be evil when he ought not, because he is 
overcome by good. Is that, he will ask, because the good was worthy or 
not worthy of conquering the evil?" And in answer to that we shall 
clearly reply, Because it was not worthy; for if it had been worthy, 
then he who, as we say, was overcome by pleasure, would not have 
been wrong. "But how," he will reply, "can the good be unworthy of the 
evil, or the evil of the good?" Is not the real explanation that 
they are out of proportion to one another, either as greater and 
smaller, or more and fewer? This we cannot deny. And when you speak of 
being overcome-"what do you mean," he will say, "but that you choose 
the greater evil in exchange for the lesser good?" Admitted. And now 
substitute the names of pleasure and pain for good and evil, and 
say, not as before, that a man does what is evil knowingly, but that 
he does what is painful knowingly, and because he is overcome by 
pleasure, which is unworthy to overcome. What measure is there of 
the relations of pleasure to pain other than excess and defect, 
which means that they become greater and smaller, and more and 
fewer, and differ in degree? For if any one says: "Yes, Socrates, 
but immediate pleasure differs widely from future pleasure and 
pain"-To that I should reply: And do they differ in anything but in 
pleasure and pain? There can be no other measure of them. And do 
you, like a skilful weigher, put into the balance the pleasures and 
the pains, and their nearness and distance, and weigh them, and then 
say which outweighs the other. If you weigh pleasures against 
pleasures, you of course take the more and greater; or if you weigh 
pains against pains, you take the fewer and the less; or if 
pleasures against pains, then you choose that course of action in 
which the painful is exceeded by the pleasant, whether the distant 
by the near or the near by the distant; and you avoid that course of 
action in which the pleasant is exceeded by the painful. Would you not 
admit, my friends, that this is true? I am confident that they 
cannot deny this. 

He agreed with me. 

Well then, I shall say, if you agree so far, be so good as to answer 

me a question: Do not the same magnitudes appear larger to your 
sight when near, and smaller when at a distance? They will acknowledge 
that. And the same holds of thickness and number; also sounds, which 
are in themselves equal, are greater when near, and lesser when at a 
distance. They will grant that also. Now suppose happiness to 
consist in doing or choosing the greater, and in not doing or in 
avoiding the less, what would be the saving principle of human life? 
Would not the art of measuring be the saving principle; or would the 
power of appearance? Is not the latter that deceiving art which 
makes us wander up and down and take the things at one time of which 
we repent at another, both in our actions and in our choice of 
things great and small? But the art of measurement would do away 
with the effect of appearances, and, showing the truth, would fain 
teach the soul at last to find rest in the truth, and would thus 
save our life. Would not mankind generally acknowledge that the art 
which accomplishes this result is the art of measurement? 

Yes, he said, the art of measurement. 

Suppose, again, the salvation of human life to depend on the 
choice of odd and even, and on the knowledge of when a man ought to 
choose the greater or less, either in reference to themselves or to 
each other, and whether near or at a distance; what would be the 
saving principle of our lives? Would not knowledge?-a knowledge of 
measuring, when the question is one of excess and defect, and a 
knowledge of number, when the question is of odd and even? The world 
will assent, will they not? 

Protagoras himself thought that they would. 

Well then, my friends, I say to them; seeing that the salvation of 
human life has been found to consist in the right choice of 
pleasures and pains, -in the choice of the more and the fewer, and 
the greater and the less, and the nearer and remoter, must not this 
measuring be a consideration of their excess and defect and equality 
in relation to each other? 

This is undeniably true. 

And this, as possessing measure, must undeniably also be an art 
and science? 

They will agree, he said. 

The nature of that art or science will be a matter of future 
consideration; but the existence of such a science furnishes a 
demonstrative answer to the question which you asked of me and 
Protagoras. At the time when you asked the question, if you 
remember, both of us were agreeing that there was nothing mightier 
than knowledge, and that knowledge, in whatever existing, must have 
the advantage over pleasure and all other things; and then you said 
that pleasure often got the advantage even over a man who has 
knowledge; and we refused to allow this, and you rejoined: 
Protagoras and Socrates, what is the meaning of being overcome by 
pleasure if not this?-tell us what you call such a state: -if we had 
immediately and at the time answered "Ignorance," you would have 
laughed at us. But now, in laughing at us, you will be laughing at 
yourselves: for you also admitted that men err in their choice of 
pleasures and pains; that is, in their choice of good and evil, from 
defect of knowledge; and you admitted further, that they err, not only 
from defect of knowledge in general, but of that particular 
knowledge which is called measuring. And you are also aware that the 
erring act which is done without knowledge is done in ignorance. This, 
therefore, is the meaning of being overcome by pleasure; -ignorance, 
and that the greatest. And our friends Protagoras and Prodicus and 
Hippias declare that they are the physicians of ignorance; but you, 
who are under the mistaken impression that ignorance is not the cause, 
and that the art of which I am speaking cannot be taught, neither go 
yourselves, nor send your children, to the Sophists, who are the 
teachers of these things-you take care of your money and give them 
none; and the result is, that you are the worse off both in public and 
private life: -Let us suppose this to be our answer to the world in 

general: And now I should like to ask you, Hippias, and you, Prodicus, 
as well as Protagoras (for the argument is to be yours as well as 
ours), whether you think that I am speaking the truth or not? 

They all thought that what I said was entirely true. 

Then you agree, I said, that the pleasant is the good, and the 
painful evil. And here I would beg my friend Prodicus not to introduce 
his distinction of names, whether he is disposed to say pleasurable, 
delightful, joyful. However, by whatever name he prefers to call them, 
I will ask you, most excellent Prodicus, to answer in my sense of 
the words . 

Prodicus laughed and assented, as did the others. 

Then, my friends, what do you say to this? Are not all actions 
honourable and useful, of which the tendency is to make life 
painless and pleasant? The honourable work is also useful and good? 

This was admitted. 

Then, I said, if the pleasant is the good, nobody does anything 
under the idea or conviction that some other thing would be better and 
is also attainable, when he might do the better. And this 
inferiority of a man to himself is merely ignorance, as the 
superiority of a man to himself is wisdom. 

They all assented. 

And is not ignorance the having a false opinion and being deceived 
about important matters? 

To this also they unanimously assented. 

Then, I said, no man voluntarily pursues evil, or that which he 
thinks to be evil. To prefer evil to good is not in human nature; 
and when a man is compelled to choose one of two evils, no one will 
choose the greater when he may have the less. 

All of us agreed to every word of this. 

Well, I said, there is a certain thing called fear or terror; and 
here, Prodicus, I should particularly like to know whether you would 
agree with me in defining this fear or terror as expectation of evil. 

Protagoras and Hippias agreed, but Prodicus said that this was 
fear and not terror. 

Never mind, Prodicus, I said; but let me ask whether, if our 
former assertions are true, a man will pursue that which he fears when 
he is not compelled? Would not this be in flat contradiction to the 
admission which has been already made, that he thinks the things which 
he fears to be evil; and no one will pursue or voluntarily accept that 
which he thinks to be evil? 

That also was universally admitted. 

Then, I said, these, Hippias and Prodicus, are our premisses; and 
I would beg Protagoras to explain to us how he can be right in what he 
said at first. I do not mean in what he said quite at first, for his 
first statement, as you may remember, was that whereas there were five 
parts of virtue none of them was like any other of them; each of 
them had a separate function. To this, however, I am not referring, 
but to the assertion which he afterwards made that of the five virtues 
four were nearly akin to each other, but that the fifth, which was 
courage, differed greatly from the others. And of this he gave me 
the following proof. He said: You will find, Socrates, that some of 
the most impious, and unrighteous, and intemperate, and ignorant of 
men are among the most courageous; which proves that courage is very 
different from the other parts of virtue. I was surprised at his 
saying this at the time, and I am still more surprised now that I have 
discussed the matter with you. So I asked him whether by the brave 
he meant the confident. Yes, he replied, and the impetuous or goers. 
(You may remember, Protagoras, that this was your answer.) 

He assented. 

Well then, I said, tell us against what are the courageous ready 
to go-against the same dangers as the cowards? 

No, he answered. 

Then against something different? 

Yes, he said. 

Then do cowards go where there is safety, and the courageous where 
there is danger? 

Yes, Socrates, so men say. 

Very true, I said. But I want to know against what do you say that 
the courageous are ready to go-against dangers, believing them to be 
dangers, or not against dangers? 

No, said he; the former case has been proved by you in the 
previous argument to be impossible. 

That, again, I replied, is quite true. And if this has been 
rightly proven, then no one goes to meet what he thinks to be dangers, 
since the want of self-control, which makes men rush into dangers, has 
been shown to be ignorance. 

He assented. 

And yet the courageous man and the coward alike go to meet that 
about which they are confident; so that, in this point of view, the 
cowardly and the courageous go to meet the same things . 

And yet, Socrates, said Protagoras, that to which the coward goes is 
the opposite of that to which the courageous goes; the one, for 
example, is ready to go to battle, and the other is not ready. 

And is going to battle honourable or disgraceful? I said. 

Honourable, he replied. 

And if honourable, then already admitted by us to be good; for all 
honourable actions we have admitted to be good. 

That is true; and to that opinion I shall always adhere. 

True, I said. But which of the two are they who, as you say, are 
unwilling to go to war, which is a good and honourable thing? 

The cowards, he replied. 

And what is good and honourable, I said, is also pleasant? 

It has certainly been acknowledged to be so, he replied. 

And do the cowards knowingly refuse to go to the nobler, and 
pleasanter, and better? 

The admission of that, he replied, would belie our former 
admissions . 

But does not the courageous man also go to meet the better, and 
pleasanter, and nobler? 

That must be admitted. 

And the courageous man has no base fear or base confidence? 

True, he replied. 

And if not base, then honourable? 

He admitted this. 

And if honourable, then good? 


But the fear and confidence of the coward or foolhardy or madman, on 
the contrary, are base? 

He assented. 

And these base fears and confidences originate in ignorance and 

True, he said. 

Then as to the motive from which the cowards act, do you call it 
cowardice or courage? 

I should say cowardice, he replied. 

And have they not been shown to be cowards through their ignorance 
of dangers? 

Assuredly, he said. 

And because of that ignorance they are cowards? 

He assented. 

And the reason why they are cowards is admitted by you to be 

He again assented. 

Then the ignorance of what is and is not dangerous is cowardice? 

He nodded assent. 

But surely courage, I said, is opposed to cowardice? 


Then the wisdom which knows what are and are not dangers is 

opposed to the ignorance of them? 

To that again he nodded assent. 

And the ignorance of them is cowardice? 

To that he very reluctantly nodded assent. 

And the knowledge of that which is and is not dangerous is 
courage, and is opposed to the ignorance of these things? 

At this point he would no longer nod assent, but was silent. 

And why, I said, do you neither assent nor dissent, Protagoras? 

Finish the argument by yourself, he said. 

I only want to ask one more question, I said. I want to know whether 
you still think that there are men who are most ignorant and yet 
most courageous? 

You seem to have a great ambition to make me answer, Socrates, and 
therefore I will gratify you, and say, that this appears to me to be 
impossible consistently with the argument. 

My only object, I said, in continuing the discussion, has been the 
desire to ascertain the nature and relations of virtue; for if this 
were clear, I am very sure that the other controversy which has been 
carried on at great length by both of us-you affirming and I denying 
that virtue can be taught-would also become clear. The result of our 
discussion appears to me to be singular. For if the argument had a 
human voice, that voice would be heard laughing at us and saying: 
"Protagoras and Socrates, you are strange beings; there are you, 
Socrates, who were saying that virtue cannot be taught, 
contradicting yourself now by your attempt to prove that all things 
are knowledge, including justice, and temperance, and courage, -which 
tends to show that virtue can certainly be taught; for if virtue 
were other than knowledge, as Protagoras attempted to prove, then 
clearly virtue cannot be taught; but if virtue is entirely 
knowledge, as you are seeking to show, then I cannot but suppose 
that virtue is capable of being taught. Protagoras, on the other hand, 
who started by saying that it might be taught, is now eager to prove 
it to be anything rather than knowledge; and if this is true, it 
must be quite incapable of being taught." Now I, Protagoras, 
perceiving this terrible confusion of our ideas, have a great desire 
that they should be cleared up. And I should like to carry on the 
discussion until we ascertain what virtue is, whether capable of being 
taught or not, lest haply Epimetheus should trip us up and deceive 
us in the argument, as he forgot us in the story; I prefer your 
Prometheus to your Epimetheus, for of him I make use, whenever I am 
busy about these questions, in Promethean care of my own life. And 
if you have no objection, as I said at first, I should like to have 
your help in the enquiry. 

Protagoras replied: Socrates, I am not of a base nature, and I am 
the last man in the world to be envious . I cannot but applaud your 
energy and your conduct of an argument. As I have often said, I admire 
you above all men whom I know, and far above all men of your age; 
and I believe that you will become very eminent in philosophy. Let 
us come back to the subject at some future time; at present we had 
better turn to something else. 

By all means, I said, if that is your wish; for I too ought long 
since to have kept the engagement of which I spoke before, and only 
tarried because I could not refuse the request of the noble Callias. 
So the conversation ended, and we went our way.