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ἀνάγκη -- ποιεῖν. The saying is attributed by Wilamowitz (Phil. Unters. IV p. 285) to Sophocles himself, on what authority he does not say. Is he thinking of Athen. I 22 B μεθύων δὲ ἐποίει τὰς τραγῳδίας Αἰσχύλος, ὥς φησι Χαμαιλέων. Σοφοκλῆς γοῦν ὠνείδιζεν αὐτῷ ὅτι εἰ καὶ τὰ δέοντα ποιεῖ, ἀλλ᾽ οὐκ εἰδώς γε? In any case the reference ought not to be thus limited, nor ought we to suppose (with Dümmler and Stählin, ll. cc.) that Antisthenes alone is intended, for Plato seems to be alluding to a tolerably widespread view and one which was freely represented in Apologies of Poetry. Understood in its full significance, the theory of Poetry which Plato is here combating requires us to believe that a poet who can represent a general, a pilot etc., knows the art of generalship, pilotage etc. (cf. 599 C ff.), and we are told that Sophocles was actually made στρατηγός because of his Antigone (see the Argument ascribed to Aristophanes the grammarian). If we realise the part which Poetry, and especially the poetry of Homer, played in Greek education, and remember that Aristophanes makes Homer the teacher of τάξεις, ἀρετάς, ὁπλίσεις ἀνδρῶν, it is by no means extra vagant to suppose that such views were actually maintained in Plato's time, though Pericles for example had a different criterion of strategic ability when he told Sophocles that he ‘knew how to write poetry, but not how to command an army’ (Περικλέης ποιέειν με ἔφη, στρατηγέειν δ᾽ οὐκ ἐπίστασθαι Athen. XIII 604 D). Cf. Ion 540 B—542 B and Stählin Stellung d. Poesie etc. p. 23 note 3. ‘The public,’ remarks Stählin, ‘whose views Plato here combats, allowed the authority of the poets to extend even to the domain of the particular arts. It was Plato who broke through this magic circle which surrounded Poetry.’ Aristotle followed in the same path, refusing to allow that a mistake in respect of some particular art is necessarily a flaw in the poetry: see Poet. 25. 1460^{b} 20 ff., 33 ff. Plato himself, of course, holds that poets are destitute of scientific knowledge, and compose their poems οὐ σοφίᾳ, ἀλλὰ φύσει τινὶ καὶ ἐνθουσιάζοντες Ap. 22 C: cf. also Phaedr. 245 A, Ion 533 D ff., Laws 719 C and Men. 99 C. The true Poet, according to Plato, is a seer: knowledge he has none, but instead of it intuition, enthusiasm and inspiration: he is in short ἔνθεος, because ἐπίπνους ὢν καὶ κατεχόμενος ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ (Men. l.c.). This view of Poetry is of course earlier than Plato: we meet with something like it in a striking fragment of Democritus ap. Dio Chrys. LIII 274 (quoted by Stählin l.c. p. 12) Ὅμηρος φύσεως λαχὼν θεαζούσης ἐπέων κόσμον ἐτεκτήνατο παντοίων, and Pindar likes to represent himself as the inspired mouthpiece of the Muses and Apollo. We cannot attain to a correct conception of Plato's aesthetic unless we are careful to remember that, although he refused to allow that the poet has knowledge, he did not deny him genius and inspiration. See also on 598 A supra.

πότερον μιμηταῖς κτλ.: ‘whether these men whom they have met are imitators, by whom they have been deceived’ etc. μιμηταῖς is of course predicative, and that is why τούτοις has no article. We certainly ought not (with Richards) to change τούτοις into τοιούτοις. Cf. IV 436 D note

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  • Commentary references from this page (3):
    • Plato, Apology, 22c
    • Plato, Phaedrus, 245a
    • Plato, Meno, 99c
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