But the love of Socrates, though it had many powerful rivals, somehow mastered Alcibiades. For he was of good natural parts, and the words of his teacher took hold of him and wrung his heart and brought tears to his eyes. But sometimes he would surrender himself to the flatterers who tempted him with many pleasures, and slip away from Socrates, and suffer himself to be actually hunted down by him like a runaway slave. And yet he feared and reverenced Socrates alone, and despised the rest of his lovers.
It was Cleanthes who said that any one beloved of him must be
‘downed,’ as wrestlers say, by the ears alone, though offering to rival lovers many other
‘holds’ which he himself would scorn to take,—meaning the various lusts of the body. And Alcibiades was certainly prone to be led away into pleasure. That
‘lawless self-indulgence’ of his, of which Thucydides speaks,1
leads one to suspect this.
However, it was rather his love of distinction and love of fame to which his corrupters appealed, and thereby plunged him all too soon into ways of pre-sumptuous scheming, persuading him that he had only to enter public life, and he would straightway cast into total eclipse the ordinary generals and public leaders, and not only that, he would even surpass Pericles in power and reputation among the Hellenes.
Accordingly, just as iron, which has been softened in the fire, is hardened again by cold water, and has its particles compacted together, so Alcibiades, whenever Socrates found him filled with vanity and wantonness, was reduced to shape by the Master's discourse, and rendered humble and cautious. He learned how great were his deficiencies and how incomplete his excellence.