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3. [2] It will make no difference whether we examine the quality itself or the person that displays the quality. 3. [3]

Now a person is thought to be great-souled if he claims much and deserves much; he who claims much without deserving it is foolish, but no one of moral excellence is foolish or senseless. The great-souled man is then as we have described. 3. [4] He who deserves little and claims little is modest or temperate, but not great-souled, 3. [5] since to be great-souled involves greatness just as handsomeness involves size: small people may be neat and well-made, but not handsome. 3. [6] He that claims much but does not deserve much is vain; though not everybody who claims more than he deserves is vain.1 3. [7] He that claims less than he deserves is small-souled, whether his deserts be great or only moderate, or even though he deserves little, if he claims still less. The most small-souled of all would seem to be the man who claims less than he deserves when his deserts are great; for what would he have done had he not deserved so much?3. [8]

Though therefore in regard to the greatness of his claim the great-souled man is an extreme,2 by reason of its rightness he stands at the mean point, for he claims what he deserves; while the vain and the small-souled err by excess and defect respectively.3. [9]

If then the great-souled man claims and is worthy of great things and most of all the greatest things, Greatness of Soul must be concerned with some one object especially. 3. [10] ‘Worthy’ is a term of relation: it denotes having a claim to goods external to oneself. Now the greatest external good we should assume to be the thing which we offer as a tribute to the gods, and which is most coveted by men of high station, and is the prize awarded for the noblest deeds; and such a thing is honor, for honor is clearly the greatest of external goods. Therefore the great-souled man is he who has the right disposition in relation to honors and disgraces. 3. [11] And even without argument it is evident that honor is the object with which the great-souled are concerned, since it is honor above all else which great men claim and deserve.3. [12]

The small-souled man3 falls short both as judged by his own deserts and in comparison with the claim of the great-souled man; 3. [13] the vain man on the other hand exceeds as judged by his own standard, but does not however exceed the great-souled man.4 3. [14]

And inasmuch as the great-souled man deserves most, he must be the best of men; for the better a man is the more he deserves, and he that is best deserves most. Therefore the truly great-souled man must be a good man. Indeed greatness in each of the virtues would seem to go with greatness of soul. 3. [15] For instance, one cannot imagine the great-souled man running at full speed when retreating in battle,5 nor acting dishonestly; since what motive for base conduct has a man to whom nothing is great?6 Considering all the virtues in turn, we shall feel it quite ridiculous to picture the great-souled man as other than a good man. Moreover, if he were bad, he would not be worthy of honor, since honor is the prize of virtue, and the tribute that we pay to the good.

1 The term χαῦνος does not apply to a man who deserves much but claims even more, nor to one who claims little but deserves even less.

2 Cf. 2.6.17.

3 3.12,13 should properly follow 3.8.

4 That is, the small-souled man claims less than he deserves and less than the great-souled man deserves and claims; the vain man claims more than he deserves, but not more than the great-souled man deserves and claims.

5 Literally, ‘fleeing swinging his arms at his side,’ i.e. deficient in the virtue of Courage. If this be the meaning, the phrase recalls by contrast the leisurely retirement of Socrates from the stricken field of Delium (Plato, Plat. Sym. 221a). But the words have been taken with what follows, as illustrating the lack of Justice or Honesty, and the whole translated either ‘outstripping an opponent in a race by flinging the arms backward [which was considered unsportsmanlike], nor fouling,’ or else ‘being prosecuted on a charge of blackmailing, nor cheating in business.’ Emendation would give a buried verse-quotation, ‘To swing his arms in flight, nor in pursuit.’

6 i.e., nothing is of much value in his eyes (cf. 3.30,34), so that gain, which is a motive to dishonesty with others, is no temptation to him.

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  • Commentary references to this page (1):
    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Commentary on Sophocles: Oedipus at Colonus, 1336
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