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But, my good friend, did not Homer himself also give Hector his name?

Why do you ask that?

Because that name seems to me similar to Astyanax, and both names seem to be Greek. For lord (ἄναξ) and holder (ἕκτωρ) mean nearly the same thing, indicating that they are names of a king; for surely a man is holder of that of which he is lord; for it is clear that he rules it and possesses it and holds it. [393b] Or does it seem to you that there is nothing in what I am saying, and am I wrong in imagining that I have found a clue to Homer's opinion about the correctness of names?

No, by Zeus, you are not wrong, in my opinion; I think perhaps you have found a clue.

It is right, I think, to call a lion's offspring a lion and a horse's offspring a horse. I am not speaking of prodigies, such as the birth of some other kind of creature from a horse, [393c] but of the natural offspring of each species after its kind. If a horse, contrary to nature, should bring forth a calf, the natural offspring of a cow, it should be called a calf, not a colt, nor if any offspring that is not human should be born from a human being, should that other offspring be called a human being; and the same applies to trees and all the rest. Do you not agree?


Good; but keep watch of me, and do not let me trick you; for by the same argument any offspring of a king should be called a king; [393d] and whether the same meaning is expressed in one set of syllables or another makes no difference; and if a letter is added or subtracted, that does not matter either, so long as the essence of the thing named remains in force and is made plain in the name.

What do you mean?

Something quite simple. For instance, when we speak of the letters of the alphabet, you know, we speak their names, not merely the letters themselves, except in the case of four, ε, υ, ο, ω.1 [393e] We make names for all the other vowels and consonants by adding other letters to them; and so long as we include the letter in question and make its force plain, we may properly call it by that name, and that will designate it for us. Take beta, for instance, The addition of e(η), t(τ), a(α) does no harm and does not prevent the whole name from making clear the nature of that letter which the lawgiver wished to designate; he knew so well how to give names to letters.

I think you are right.

Does not the same reasoning apply to a king?

1 In Plato's time the names epsilon, ypsilon, omicron, and omega were not yet in vogue. The names used were εἶ, , οὖ,and.

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