Plutarch's account of the dinner of the seven wise men is a literary tour de force. Both Plato and Xenophon had composed similar accounts of such gatherings in their own time, and Plutarch himself has recorded in detail in his Symposiacs (or TableTalks) much of the conversation which was heard at such gatherings in his day. This is comparatively an easy task, but in the account of the dinner of the seven wise men Plutarch, who lived several centuries after Plato and Xenophon, deliberately set himself to compose an account of a meeting of people who lived a couple of centuries before Plato and Xenophon—at the dawn, almost, of authentic Greek history. There was a tradition, recorded by Plato in the Protagoras (p. 343 a) and by other writers, that the seven wise men had met at Delphi in connexion with the dedication of the two famous inscriptions on the temple of Apollo there, and there was an added tradition that they had later been entertained by Periander at Corinth. Besides this, many sayings of the wise men were traditionally current. With this material at hand, Plutarch composed his imaginative account of the dinner, adding other characters such as Neiloxenus and Aesop, and giving it a more intimate touch by introducing the feminine element in the persons of Melissa and [p. 347] Eumetis ; and at the end, for good measure, he added an elaboration of the familiar story of Arion's rescue by dolphins, already well known from the account of Herodotus (i. 24) and of other writers ; and this is capped by a few more dolphins.

The title (Συμπόσιον τῶν ἑπτὰ σοφῶν) stands as No. 110 in the catalogue of Lamprias, and the essay is occasionally quoted or referred to by later Greek writers.

Plutarch names, as the seven wise men, Thales, Bias, Pittacus, Solon, Chilon, Cleobulus, and Anacharsis. Plato (Protagoras, 343 a) puts Myson in place of Anacharsis, and in other lists Periander is found in his stead. Pherecydes, Epimenides, and Peisistratus are the other candidates for a place in the list.

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