315 (English, original)

An original translation

When we went in, we found Protagoras walking around the portico. Walking beside him on one side were Callias the son of Hipponicus, Paralus (his half-brother on his mother’s side and the son of Pericles), and Charmides the son of Glaucon; on the other were Xanthippus the other son of Pericles, and Philippides the son of Philomelus, and also Antimoirus from Mende who has the best reputation among Protagoras’ students and is learning the trade and planning to become a sophist. Others followed behind, listening to the conversation. Many of these were clearly foreigners – Protagoras gathers them from every town he passes through, charming them with his voice like Orpheus so that they follow the voice in a trance. There were also some locals in this chorus. I really enjoyed watching them: they took such wonderful care not to get in front into Protagoras’ way, when he and his companions turned around. Each time, the hangers-on neatly split into two groups on either side, and they wheeled around in a circle and formed up again to the rear beautifully.

Then I beheld him, as Homer puts it – Hippias from Elis, sitting on a chair opposite the portico. On benches around him sat Eryximachus the son of Acumenus, Phaedrus from Myrrhinous, Andron the son of Androtion, and some foreigners, from Elis and elsewhere. They appeared to be asking Hippias about nature and heavenly bodies, and he, sitting in judgment on his throne, was dispensing thorough answers to all of their questions.

And then I saw Tantalus, so to speak – Prodicus from Ceos as it turned out was also in town. He was put up in a room Hipponicus used to use as a storeroom. Callias had emptied it out and converted it into a room for his lodgers since there were so many of them. Prodicus was still lying down, and it looked like he was bundled up under a pile of covers and bedspreads. Sitting around him on nearby couches were Pausanias from Cerameis, and, with him, a youngster I thought was pretty well-brought up – well, pretty, at any rate. I thought I heard that his name was Agathon, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he was Pausanias’ boy-toy. This young fellow was there, and so were both the Adeimantuses, Cepis’ son and Leucolophides’, and some others.


20 Responses to 315 (English, original)

  1. Nakul says:

    1. ‘Paralus, his half-brother on his mother’s side and the son of Pericles’ is a little confusing — perhaps put all the descriptions in parantheses? And ‘on the other *were* Xanthippus the other son of Pericles’ etc.

    2. ‘They appeared to be asking Hippias about nature and heavenly bodies, and sitting in judgment on his throne, he was dispensing answers to all of their questions’: brief ambiguity about subject of the ‘sitting in judgment’ clause. Suggestion to follow Jowett and say ‘… heavenly bodies, and he, sitting in judgment on his throne, was dispensing …’

    3. A possible alternative/addition to putting ‘I saw Tantalus’ in inverted commas would be ‘so to speak’.

    4. More economical alternative to ‘a room which Hipponicus used to use as a storeroom’: ‘He was put up in a room Hipponicus had [previously?] used as a storeroom’.

    5. I’d punctuate the sentence: ‘Sitting around him on nearby couches were Pausanias from Cerameis, and, with him, …’ And for the next bit I suggest: ‘a young *man* I *found* well-brought up and very beautiful.’

    (6. Do you hear in the Greek the slightly censorious connotation of boy-toy?)

    7. In ‘There were also some locals in this chorus, which I really enjoyed watching’ — what did he enjoy watching — the locals? the fact that they were there? or what the next sentence describes them as doing? Also, I found the description of their movements hard to picture…

    • Dhananjay says:

      A quick follow-up on your 5. I’ve been puzzling over the best way of rendering this sentence for a while, and I’ve come up with this:

      “and, with him, a young man who struck me as having a refined character and, at the very least, a very fine body” for
      καὶ μετὰ Παυσανίου νέον τι ἔτι μειράκιον, ὡς μὲν ἐγᾦμαι καλόν τε κἀγαθὸν τὴν φύσιν, τὴν δ’ οὖν ἰδέαν πάνυ καλός.

      I hadn’t spotted the concessive force of the ~oun~ in my first pass, but it seems quite important. What do you think?

  2. Dhananjay says:

    1. Good idea.
    2. “He, sitting..” also fits the mock-elevated tone nicely.
    3. That plus a footnote citing the line number of Homer would do better, agreed.
    4. ‘Previously’ is indeed the implication. I’ll drop the ‘which’, but I prefer ‘used to use’. My impression is that the narrative pluperfect in (Am.) English with ‘had’ is going out of usage.
    5. Lovely.
    6. I do hear it that way. One is reminded of the Gorgias (482a) where Socrates calls philosophy ~ta ema paidika~. That passage is heavily ironizing, and Callicles’ twin pursuits of Demos the son of Pyrilampus and the Athenian ~demos~ are, I think, both meant to be cast in a slightly malodorous light. ~Eromenos~ strikes me as more neutral.
    7. I’ll split the sentences to make the sense clearer. As I see it, Protagoras is walking with a line of notables, with some hangers-on (~epekooi~) following behind. When the line reaches the edge of the portico, Protagoras turns, and the line with him. The followers are now in front of Protagoras, impeding his progress. Very quickly, they split into two groups and flank the notables, forming up again to the rear. The metaphors are mixed – choral dance and military manoeuvre.

  3. A. J. P. Crown says:

    I don’t know Greek, so I can’t tell which of the two is more accurate, but I am an architect and I think Jowett’s “cloister”, even though it sounds vaguely gothic, is a more apt translation than “portico”. You wouldn’t normally “walk around” a portico unless you were trying to avoid bumping in to it.

    • Dhananjay says:

      The company are gathered in the peristyle of Callias’ house, an open courtyard surrounded by four colonnades (~stoai~). One of these, usually the one nearest the entryway, I think, is called the ~prostoion~, which I have translated portico, as is fairly standard (both porch and portico derive from the Latin equivalent ‘porticus’). That seems like a perfectly good thing to walk around. It was also a common place to eat or exercise.

      • A. J. P. Crown says:

        In that case, it really sounds like a cloister to me; but I don’t want to give you a hard time, you’re clearly doing a magnificent job. Congratulations!

  4. Nakul says:

    Re: καὶ μετὰ Παυσανίου νέον τι ἔτι μειράκιον, ὡς μὲν ἐγᾦμαι καλόν τε κἀγαθὸν τὴν φύσιν, τὴν δ’ οὖν ἰδέαν πάνυ καλός (your current rendering: ‘a young man who struck me as having a refined character and, at the very least, a very fine body’)

    Re: οὖν, now that you point it out, I suspect it’s continuous with the censorious description of him as paidika immediately after: but this hard to get across without rendering ‘kalon … kagathon’ in a way that will illuminate the downgrading (as I see it) to just ‘kalon’ in the next clause.

    One cheeky suggestion: ‘…a young man I thought was pretty well-brought up (well, pretty, at any rate). [Hence:] … I wouldn’t be surprised if he was Pausanias’ boy-toy’. Or, less literally, ‘a young man I thought both bold and beautiful — well, beautiful, certainly)’.

  5. Nakul says:

    Re Tantalus, perhaps do the same thing with the other Homer reference (where, btw, I prefer the deliberate archaism of ‘beheld’) : ‘Then I beheld him! — as Homer puts it — Hippias from Elis…’

    One general question: given that the Greeks produced these quotations from memory (rarely checked against the original), and that they were somewhat less strict than we are on the distinction between exact quotation and paraphrase, I wonder about the principle of putting these quotations in inverted commas. The Greek text wouldn’t have had any of course, and I fear we sometimes anachronistically read some of our (post)modern irony/self-consciousness about using quotations in our speech on the one hand, and paranoia about plagiarism on the other, into a culture where neither fear was strong (or so I suspect, though that wouldn’t explain Jowett). I’d favour the practice of leaving out inverted commas from any quotation shorter than a couple of lines.

    • Dhananjay says:

      While the practice of exact quotation and meticulous referencing wasn’t around, the metrical nature of poetry meant that it was easily memorized and that bits of hexameter tend to stand out from the prosaic context. So I’d say single quotes capture something of that in English. But in these two cases, at least, it isn’t necessary.

  6. Bill Walderman says:

    1. I like Nakul’s suggestion of “beheld.”

    2. “Young man” seems a bit too old for meirakion. Maybe “youngster” (if that’s not too American) or “young lad”?

    3. “Boy-toy” seems slightly over-the-top for a society where this sort of relationship wasn’t seen as objectionable as we do. Maybe just say “I wouldn’t be surprised if he had an intimate relationship with Pausanias”.

    4. “Cloister” strikes me as too redolent of a Gothic monastery.

    5. “he, sitting in judgment on his throne, was dispensing answers to all of their questions” How about “he, enthroned in an armchair, was delivering disquisitions in response to all of their questions.” To capture διεξῄει. He wasn’t just responding to their questions one by one–he was expatiating on them.

    • Dhananjay says:

      ad 2. Youngster stood there originally, but Nakul persuaded me to change it to ‘young man’. Every fickle, I’ll change it back with your backing!
      ad 3. I’m trying to convey the tone of these lines, as well as their literal sense, and I suspect, as I’ve said above, that there’s definitely some disapproval being voiced. ‘Boy-toy’ is a bit experimental, and imperfect, but I think it’s better than ‘beloved’ or even ‘boyfriend’ which seem more suitable for ~eromenos~. I’m afraid ‘intimate relationship’ is too clinical a term for ~paidika~.
      ad 4. Agreed. Portico is the standard term.
      ad 5. Yes, I was worried about missing the force of that verb. Perhaps ‘dispensing thorough answers’ to capture the ~dia~?

  7. Bill Walderman says:

    Alternative: “and, he, enthroned in an armchair, was responding to each of their questions by delivering disquisitions on the topics they were asking about.”

  8. Bill Walderman says:

    How about “pleasure boy”? Not a term in common currency, but no one will misunderstand it. It doesn’t sound as anachronistic as “boy-toy”, and doesn’t carry a suggestion of prostitution which I don’t think is in the original. At the same time, it doesn’t idealize the relationship (as you note. “paidika” is not the same as “eromenos”). It also conveys the unequal nature of the relationship, which “boyfriend” doesn’t. And it’s not too clinical.

    • Dhananjay says:

      I do get the sense of prostitution from ‘pleasure boy’. I don’t see the anachronism – to me, ‘boy-toy’ picks out the kind of unequal, May-December romance of the sort described by ‘paidika’. So, for instance, Webster’s New World College Dictionary describes the relevant sense of ‘boy-toy’ thus:

      2. an attractive young man chosen as a partner … in what is regarded as a superficial sexual or romantic relationship

      It’s a noteworthy point because Pausanias and Agathon end up being long-term partners (indeed, lifelong), as we see in the Symposium. Sometimes we have to be a bit adventurous to find a term in our own vernacular that captures a Greek idea, and I am inclined on principle toward terms in present usage instead of outmoded ones.

      Thanks very much to you and Nakul for your contributions on this point. They’ve clarified my thinking.

  9. Bill Walderman says:

    “dispensing thorough answers” doesn’t quite capture the irony, the pompous and condescending attitude of Hippias: it sounds too much like the narrator actually thinks Hippias has valid ideas to offer–I think there is a suggestion of “pontificating”, but that word of course has associations with the papacy that are undesirable in this context.

    • Dhananjay says:

      I had hoped that ‘sitting in judgment on his throne’ did the work of capturing the mocking tone and Hippias’ pomposity, so that by the time readers got to ‘dispensing thorough answers’, they’d know Socrates wouldn’t rate these very highly. I translate ~thronos~ neutrally as ‘chair’ above, so the purpose of using ‘throne’ was to show how ironic Socrates is being, just as he is to the chorus-leader Protagoras above and the bedridden Prodicus below. As virtually every commentator has noted, the whole passage is run through with the spirit of Aristophanic comedy.

  10. A. J. P. Crown says:

    As Stu has pointed out at Language Hat, the correct expression here is toy-boy not “boy-toy”. the latter is a play on the original by Madonna, who had it on a belt buckle, & others.

    • Dhananjay says:

      Nonsense. American Heritage and Webster New World dictionaries have entries for boy-toy that make no reference whatsoever to Madonna. So even if the term originates with her, it’s certainly moved on. ‘Toy boy’ strikes me as distinctly British, but I may well be wrong. I also think I’ve found a reference to ‘boy toy’ as far back as a 1956 novel.

    • Dhananjay says:

      One final point before I pipe down and get back to translating:

      The initial inspiration for ‘boy-toy’ (which I admit I didn’t spend much time thinking about before using it) was the very nice connection made between paidika in the sexual sense and its root adjective paidikos (cf. also paizo, paignion), which can simply mean playful. Paidika are literally (as Bill Walderman suggests) ‘playthings’, but ‘boy-toy’ seemed to preserve both that resonance and the necessary sexual sense that the neuter plural always has and that Jowett avoids in Victorian prudishness.

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