Book III
XI
 

There was once in the city a fair woman named Theodote.[1] She was not only fair, but ready to consort with any suitor who might win her favour. Now it chanced that some one of the company mentioned her, saying that her beauty beggared description. "So fair is she," he added, "that painters flock to draw her portrait, to whom, within the limits of decorum, she displays the marvels of her beauty." "Then there is nothing for it but to go and see her," answered Socrates, "since to comprehend by hearsay what is beyond description is clearly impossible." Then he who had introduced the matter replied: "Be quick then to follow me"; and on this wise they set off to seek Theodote. They found her "posing" to a certain painter; and they took their stand as spectators. Presently the painter had ceased his work; whereupon Socrates:

"Do you think, sirs, that we ought to thank Theodote for displaying her beauty to us, or she us for coming to gaze at her? . . . It would seem, would it not, that if the exhibition of her charms is the more profitable to her, the debt is on her side; but if the spectacle of her beauty confers the greater benefit on us, then we are her debtors."

Some one answered that "was an equitable statement of the case."

Well then (he continued), as far as she is concerned, the praise we bestow on her is an immediate gain; and presently, when we have spread her fame abroad, she will be further benefited; but for ourselves the immediate effect on us is a strong desire to touch what we have seen; by and by, too, we shall go away with a sting inside us, and when we are fairly gone we shall be consumed with longing. Consequently it seems that we should do her service and she accept our court.

Whereupon Theodote: Oh dear! if that is how the matter stands, it is I who am your debtor for the spectacle.[2]

At this point, seeing that the lady herself was expensively attired, and that she had with her her mother also, whose dress and style of attendance[3] were out of the common, not to speak of the waiting- women--many and fair to look upon, who presented anything but a forlorn appearance; while in every respect the whole house itself was sumptuously furnished--Socrates put a question:

Pray tell me, Theodote, have you an estate in the country?

Theodote. Not I indeed.

Socrates. Then perhaps you possess a house and large revenues along with it?

Theodote. No, nor yet a house.

Socrates. You are not an employer of labour on a large scale?[4]

Theodote. No, nor yet an employer of labour.

Socrates. From what source, then, do you get your means of subsistence?[5]

Theodote. My friends are my life and fortune, when they care to be kind to me.

Socrates. By heaven, Theodote, a very fine property indeed, and far better worth possessing than a multitude of sheep or goats or cattle. A flock of friends! . . . But (he added) do you leave it to fortune whether a friend lights like a fly on your hand at random, or do you use any artifice[6] yourself to attract him?

Theodote. And how might I hit upon any artifice to attract him?

Socrates. Bless me! far more naturally than any spider. You know how they capture the creatures on which they live;[7] by weaving webs of gossamer, is it not? and woe betide the fly that tumbles into their toils! They eat him up.

Theodote. So then you would consel me to weave myself some sort of net?

Socrates. Why, surely you do not suppose you are going to ensnare that noblest of all game--a lover, to wit--in so artless a fashion? Do you not see (to speak of a much less noble sort of game) what a number of devices are needed to bag a hare?[8] The creatures range for their food at night; therefore the hunter must provide himself with night dogs. At peep of dawn they are off as fast as they can run. He must therefore have another pack of dogs to scent out and discover which way they betake them from their grazing ground to their forms;[9] and as they are so fleet of foot that they run and are out of sight in no time, he must once again be provided with other fleet-footed dogs to follow their tracks and overtake them;[10] and as some of them will give even these the slip, he must, last of all, set up nets on the paths at the points of escape, so that they may fall into the meshes and be caught.

Theodote. And by what like contrivance would you have me catch my lovers?

Socrates. Well now! what if in place of a dog you can get a man who will hunt up your wealthy lover of beauty and discover his lair, and having found him, will plot and plan to throw him into your meshes?

Theodote. Nay, what sort of meshes have I?

Socrates. One you have, and a close-folding net it is,[11] I trow; to wit, your own person; and inside it sits a soul that teaches you[12] with what looks to please and with what words to cheer; how, too, with smiles you are to welcome true devotion, but to exclude all wantons from your presence.[13] It tells you, you are to visit your beloved in sickness with solicitude, and when he has wrought some noble deed you are greatly to rejoice with him; and to one who passionately cares for you, you are to make surrender of yourself with heart and soul. The secret of true love I am sure you know: not to love softly merely, but devotedly.[14] And of this too I am sure: you can convince your lovers of your fondness for them not by lip phrases, but by acts of love.

Theodote. No, upon my word, I have none of these devices.

Socrates. And yet it makes all the difference whether you approach a human being in the natural and true way, since it is not by force certainly that you can either catch or keep a friend. Kindness and pleasure are the only means to capture this fearful wild-fowl man and keep him constant.

Theodote. You are right.

Socrates. In the first place you must make such demands only of your well- wisher as he can grant without repentance; and in the next place you must make requital, dispensing your favours with a like economy. Thus you will best make friends whose love shall last the longest and their generosity know no stint.[15] And for your favours you will best win your friends if you suit your largess to their penury; for, mark you, the sweetest viands presented to a man before he wants them are apt to prove insipid, or, to one already sated, even nauseous; but create hunger, and even coarser stuff seems honey-sweet.

Theodote. How then shall I create this hunger in the heart of my friends?

Socrates. In the first place you must not offer or make suggestion of your dainties to jaded appetites until satiety has ceased and starvation cries for alms. Even then shall you make but a faint suggestion to their want, with modest converse--like one who would fain bestow a kindness . . . and lo! the vision fades and she is gone--until the very pinch of hunger; for the same gifts have then a value unknown before the moment of supreme desire.

Then Theodote: Oh why, Socrates, why are you not by my side (like the huntsman's assistant) to help me catch my friends and lovers?

Socrates. That will I be in good sooth if only you can woo and win me.

Theodote. How shall I woo and win you?

Socrates. Seek and you will find means, if you truly need me.

Theodote. Come then in hither and visit me often.

And Socrates, poking sly fun at his own lack of business occupation, answered: Nay, Theodote, leisure is not a commodity in which I largely deal. I have a hundred affairs of my own too, private or public, to occupy me; and then there are my lady-loves, my dear friends, who will not suffer me day or night to leave them, for ever studying to learn love-charms and incantations at my lips.

Theodote. Why, are you really versed in those things, Socrates?

Socrates. Of course, or else how is it, do you suppose, that Apollodorus[16] here and Antisthenes never leave me; or why have Cebes and Simmias come all the way from Thebes to stay with me? Be assured these things cannot happen without diverse love-charms and incantations and magic wheels.

Theodote. I wish you would lend me your magic-wheel,[17] then, and I will set it spinning first of all for you.

Socrates. Ah! but I do not wish to be drawn to you. I wish you to come to me.

Theodote. Then I will come. Only, will you be "at home" to me?

Socrates. Yes, I will welcome you, unless some one still dearer holds me engaged, and I must needs be "not at home."

[1] For Theodote see Athen. v. 200 F, xiii. 574 F; Liban. i. 582. Some say that it was Theodote who stood by Alcibiades to the last, though there are apparently other better claimants to the honour. Plut. "Alc." (Clough, ii. p. 50).

[2] In reference to the remark of Socrates above; or, "have to thank you for coming to look at me."

[3] Or, "her mother there with her in a dress and general get-up ({therapeia}) which was out of the common." See Becker, "Charicles," p. 247 (Eng. tr.)

[4] Lit. "You have not (in your employ) a body of handicraftsmen of any sort?"

[5] Or, Anglice, "derive your income."

[6] Or, "means and appliances," "machinery."

[7] Lit. "the creatures on which they live."

[8] See the author's own treatise on "Hunting," vi. 6 foll.

[9] Lit. "from pasture to bed."

[10] Or, "close at their heels and run them down." See "Hunting"; cf. "Cyrop." I. vi. 40.

[11] Or, "right well woven."

[12] Lit. "by which you understand."

[13] Or, "with what smiles to lie in wait for (cf. 'Cyrop.' II. iv. 20; Herod. vi. 104) the devoted admirer, and how to banish from your presence the voluptary."

[14] Or, "that it should be simply soft, but full of tender goodwill."

[15] Or, "This is the right road to friendship--permanent and open- handed friendship."

[16] For Apollodorus see "Apol." 28; Plat. "Symp." 172 A; "Phaed." 59 A, 117 D. For Antisthenes see above. For Cebes and Simmias see above, I. ii. 48; Plat. "Crit." 45 B; "Phaed." passim.

[17] Cf. Theocr. ii. 17; Schneider ad loc.