And Plato in his Banquet speaks in the same manner on this subject. “For,” says he, “that we may destroy the proverb by altering it: Good men may go of their own accord to feasts given by good men. For Homer appears not only to have destroyed that proverb, but also to have ridiculed it; for having represented Agamemnon as valiant in warlike matters, and Menelaus as an effeminate warrior, when Agamemnon celebrates a sacrifice, he represents Menelaus as coming uninvited,—that is, the worse man coming to the feast of the better man.” And Bacchylides, speaking of Hercules, and telling how he came to the house of Ceyx, says—
Then on the brazen threshold firm he stood,[p. 292] And as to proverbs, one says—
(They were a feast preparing,) and thus spake
Brave and just men do uninvited come
To well-appointed feasts by brave and just men made
Good men do of their own accordand another says—
To good men's entertainments come:
Brave men do of their own accordIt was without reason, therefore, that Plato thought that Menelaus was a coward; for Homer speaks of him as Mars-loving, and as fighting single-handed with the greatest gallantry in defence of Patroclus, and eager to fight in single combat with Hector as the champion of the whole army, although he certainly was inferior to Hector in personal strength. And he is the only man in the whole expedition of whom he has said—
To cowards' entertainments come.
And on he went, firm in his fearless zeal.1But if an enemy, disparaging him, called him an effeminate warrior, and on this account Plato thinks that he really was an effeminate warrior, why should he not also class Agamemnon himself among the men void of prowess, since this line is spoken against him?—
O monster, mix'd of insolence and fear,For it does not follow because something is said in Homer, that Homer himself says it. For how could Menelaus have been effeminate who, single-handed, kept Hector away from Patroclus, and who slew Euphorbus, and stripped him of his arms though in the very middle of the Trojan host? And it was foolish of him not completely to consider the entire line which he was finding fault with, in which Menelaus is called “Raising the battle cry,” βοὴν ἀγαθὸς, for that is an epithet which Homer is in the habit of giving only to the most valiant; for the ancients called war itself βοή.
Thou dog in forehead, but in heart a deer!
When wert thou known in ambush'd fights to dare,
Or nobly face the horrid front of war?
'Tis ours the chance of fighting fields to try,
Thine to look on and bid the valiant die.2