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XX

[20arg] A passage taken from the Symposium of Plato, skilful. harmonious and fitting in its rhythm and structure, which for the sake of practice I have turned into the Latin tongue.


THE Symposium of Plato was being read before the philosopher Taurus. Those words of Pausanias in which, taking his turn among the banqueters, lie eulogizes love, I admired so much that I even resolved to commit them to memory. And tile words, if I remember rightly, are as follows 1 'Every action is of this nature: in and of itself, when done, it is neither good nor bad; for example, what we are now doing, drinking, or singing, or arguing. Not one of these things is in itself good, but it may become so by the way in which it is done. Well and rightly done, it becomes a good action; wrongly done, it becomes shameful. It is the same with love; for not all love is honourable or worthy of raise, but only that which leads us to love worthily." When these words had been read, thereupon Taurus said to me: “Ho! you young rhetorician”— for so he used to call me in the beginning, when I was first admitted to his class, supposing that I had come to Athens only to work up eloquence 2 — “do you see this syllogism, full of meaning, brilliant, well rounded and constructed in brief and smooth numbers with a kind of symmetrical turn? Can you quote us so aptand so melodiously formed a passage from the works of your rhetoricians? But yet [p. 271] I advise you to look upon this rhythm as an incidental feature; for one must penetrate to the inmost depths of Plato's mind and feel the weight and dignity of his subject matter, not be diverted to the charm of his diction or the grace of his expression.”

This admonition of Taurus as to Plato's style not only did not deter me, but even encouraged me to try to equal the elegance of the Greek in a Latin rendering; and just as there are small and insignificant animals which through wantonness imitate everything which they have seen or heard, just so I had the assurance, not indeed to rival those qualities which I admired in Plato's style, but to give a shadowy outline of them, such as the following, which I patterned on those very words of his: “Every act, in general,” he says, “is of this nature; it is in itself neither base nor honourable; as, for example, the things which we ourselves are now doing, drinking, singing, arguing. For none of these things is honourable in itself, but it becomes so by the manner in which it is done; if it is done rightly and honourably, it is then honourable; but if it is not rightly done, then it is shameful. It is the same with love; thus not every kind of love is honourable, not every kind is deserving of praise, but only that which leads us to love honourably.”

[p. 273]

1 Symlpos. p. SO, E.

2 This would seem to imply that Gellius went to Athens on completing his studies in Rome; see Introd. p. xv.

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