Persons of the
Socrates. Welcome, Ion. Are you
from your native city of Ephesus?
Ion. No, Socrates; but from
Epidaurus, where I attended the festival of Asclepius.
Soc. And do the Epidaurians have
contests of rhapsodes at the festival?
Ion. O yes; and of all sorts of
Soc. And were you one of the
competitors- and did you succeed?
Ion. I obtained the first prize
of all, Socrates.
Soc. Well done; and I hope that
you will do the same for us at the Panathenaea.
Ion. And I will, please heaven.
Soc. I often envy the profession
of a rhapsode, Ion; for you have always to wear fine clothes, and
to look as beautiful as you can is a part of your art. Then, again,
you are obliged to be continually in the company of many good
poets; and especially of Homer, who is the best and most divine of
them; and to understand him, and not merely learn his words by
rote, is a thing greatly to be envied. And no man can be a rhapsode
who does not understand the meaning of the poet. For the rhapsode
ought to interpret the mind of the poet to his hearers, but how can
he interpret him well unless he knows what he means? All this is
greatly to be envied.
Ion. Very true, Socrates;
interpretation has certainly been the most laborious part of my
art; and I believe myself able to speak about Homer better than any
man; and that neither Metrodorus of Lampsacus, nor Stesimbrotus of
Thasos, nor Glaucon, nor any one else who ever was, had as good
ideas about Homer as I have, or as many.
Soc. I am glad to hear you say
so, Ion; I see that you will not refuse to acquaint me with them.
Ion. Certainly, Socrates; and you
really ought to hear how exquisitely I render Homer. I think that
the Homeridae should give me a golden crown.
Soc. I shall take an opportunity
of hearing your embellishments of him at some other time. But just
now I should like to ask you a question: Does your art extend to
Hesiod and Archilochus, or to Homer only?
Ion. To Homer only; he is in
himself quite enough.
Soc. Are there any things about
which Homer and Hesiod agree?
Ion. Yes; in my opinion there are
a good many.
Soc. And can you interpret better
what Homer says, or what Hesiod says, about these matters in which
Ion. I can interpret them equally
well, Socrates, where they agree.
Soc. But what about matters in
which they do not agree?- for example, about divination, of which
both Homer and Hesiod have something to say-
Ion. Very true:
Soc. Would you or a good prophet
be a better interpreter of what these two poets say about
divination, not only when they agree, but when they disagree?
Ion. A prophet.
Soc. And if you were a prophet,
would you be able to interpret them when they disagree as well as
when they agree?