Soc. At any rate he will know what a general ought to say when exhorting his soldiers ?
Ion. Yes, that is the sort of thing which the rhapsode will be sure to know.
Soc. Well, but is the art of the rhapsode the art of the general ?
Ion. I am sure that I should know what a general ought to say.
Soc. Why, yes, Ion, because you may possibly have a knowledge of the art of the general as well as of the rhapsode ; and you may also have a knowledge of horsemanship as well as of the lyre : and then you would know when horses were well or ill managed. But suppose I were to ask you : By the help of which art, Ion, do you know whether horses are well managed, by your skill as a horseman or as a performer on the lyre — what would you answer ?
Ion. I should reply, by my skill as a horseman.
Soc. And if you judged of performers on the lyre, you would admit that you judged of them as a performer on the lyre, and not as a horseman ?
Ion. Yes.
Soc. And in judging of the general’s art, do you judge of it as a general or a rhapsode ?
Ion. To me there appears to be no difference between them.
Soc. What do you mean ? Do you mean to say that the art of the rhapsode and of the general is the same ?
Ion. Yes, one and the same.
Soc. Then he who is a good rhapsode is also a good general ?
Ion. Certainly, Socrates.
Soc. And he who is a good general is also a good rhapsode ?
Ion. No ; I do not say that.
Soc. But you do say that he who is a good rhapsode is also a good general.
Ion. Certainly.
Soc. And you are the best of Hellenic rhapsodes ?
Ion. Far the best, Socrates.
Soc. And are you the best general, Ion ?
Ion. To be sure, Socrates ; and Homer was my master.
Soc. But then, Ion, what in the name of goodness can be the reason why you, who are the best of generals as well as the best of rhapsodes in all Hellas, go about as a rhapsode when you might be a general ? Do you think that the Hellenes want a rhapsode with his golden crown, and do not want a general ?
Ion. Why, Socrates, the reason is, that my countrymen, the Ephesians, are the servants and soldiers of Athens, and do not need a general ; and you and Sparta are not likely to have me, for you think that you have enough generals of your own.
Soc. My good Ion, did you never hear of Apollodorus of Cyzicus ?
Ion. Who may he be ?
Soc. One who, though a foreigner, has often been chosen their general by the Athenians : and there is Phanosthenes of Andros, and Heraclides of Clazomenae, whom they have also appointed to the command of their armies and to other offices, although aliens, after they had shown their merit. And will they not choose Ion the Ephesian to be their general, and honour him, if he prove himself worthy ? Were not the Ephesians originally Athenians, and Ephesus is no mean city ? But, indeed, Ion, if you are correct in saying that by art and knowledge you are able to praise Homer, you do not deal fairly with me, and after all your professions of knowing many, glorious things about Homer, and promises that you would exhibit them, you are only a deceiver, and so far from exhibiting the art of which you are a master, will not, even after my repeated entreaties, explain to me the nature of it. You have literally as many forms as Proteus ; and now you go all manner of ways, twisting and turning, and, like Proteus, become all manner of people at once, and at last slip away from me in the disguise of a general, in order that you may escape exhibiting your Homeric lore. And if you have art, then, as I was saying, in falsifying your promise that you would exhibit Homer, you are not dealing fairly with me. But if, as I believe, you have no art, but speak all these beautiful words about Homer unconsciously under his inspiring influence, then I acquit you of dishonesty, and shall only say that you are inspired. Which do you prefer to be thought, dishonest or inspired ?
Ion. There is a great difference, Socrates, between the two alternatives ; and inspiration is by far the nobler.
Soc. Then, Ion, I shall assume the nobler alternative ; and attribute to you in your praises of Homer inspiration, and not art.
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