Book III
XII
 

Seeing one of those who were with him, a young man, but feeble of body, named Epigenes,[1] he addressed him.

Socrates. You have not the athletic appearance of a youth in training,[2] Epigenes.

And he: That may well be, seeing I am an amateur and not in training.

Socrates. As little of an amateur, I take it, as any one who ever entered the lists of Olympia, unless you are prepared to make light of that contest for life and death against the public foe which the Athenians will institute when the day comes.[3] And yet they are not a few who, owing to a bad habit of body, either perish outright in the perils of war, or are ignobly saved. Many are they who for the self-same cause are taken prisoners, and being taken must, if it so betide, endure the pains of slavery for the rest of their days; or, after falling into dolorous straits,[4] when they have paid to the uttermost farthing of all, or may be more than the worth of all, that they possess, must drag on a miserable existence in want of the barest necessaries until death release them. Many also are they who gain an evil repute through infirmity of body, being thought to play the coward. Can it be that you despise these penalties affixed to an evil habit? Do you think you could lightly endure them? Far lighter, I imagine, nay, pleasant even by comparison, are the toils which he will undergo who duly cultivates a healthy bodily condition. Or do you maintain that the evil habit is healthier, and in general more useful than the good? Do you pour contempt upon those blessings which flow from the healthy state? And yet the very opposite of that which befalls the ill attends the sound condition. Does not the very soundness imply at once health and strength?[5] Many a man with no other talisman than this has passed safely through the ordeal of war; stepping, not without dignity,[6] through all its horrors unscathed. Many with no other support than this have come to the rescue of friends, or stood forth as benefactors of their fatherland; whereby they were thought worthy of gratitude, and obtained a great renown and received as a recompense the highest honours of the State; to whom is also reserved a happier and brighter passage through what is left to them of life, and at their death they leave to their children the legacy of a fairer starting-point in the race of life.

Because our city does not practise military training in public,[7] that is no reason for neglecting it in private, but rather a reason for making it a foremost care. For be you assured that there is no contest of any sort, nor any transaction, in which you will be the worse off for being well prepared in body; and in fact there is nothing which men do for which the body is not a help. In every demand, therefore, which can be laid upon the body it is much better that it should be in the best condition; since, even where you might imagine the claims upon the body to be slightest--in the act of reasoning--who does not know the terrible stumbles which are made through being out of health? It suffices to say that forgetfulness, and despondency, and moroseness, and madness take occasion often of ill-health to visit the intellectual faculties so severely as to expel all knowledge[8] from the brain. But he who is in good bodily plight has large security. He runs no risk of incurring any such catastrophe through ill-health at any rate; he has the expectation rather that a good habit must procure consequences the opposite to those of an evil habit;[9] and surely to this end there is nothing a man in his senses would not undergo. . . . It is a base thing for a man to wax old in careless self-neglect before he has lifted up his eyes and seen what manner of man he was made to be, in the full perfection of bodily strength and beauty. But these glories are withheld from him who is guilty of self-neglect, for they are not wont to blaze forth unbidden.[10]

[1] Epigenes, possibly the son of Antiphon. See Plat. "Apol." 33 E; "Phaed." 59 B.

[2] {idiotikos}, lit. of the person untrained in gymnastics. See A. R. Cluer ad loc. Cf. Plat. "Laws," 839 E; I. ii. 4; III. v. 15; "Symp." ii. 17.

[3] Or, "should chance betide." Is the author thinking of a life-and- death struggle with Thebes?

[4] e.g. the prisoners in the Latomiae. Thuc. vii. 87.

[5] It is almost a proverb--"Sound of body and limb is hale and strong." "Qui valet praevalebit."

[6] e.g. Socrates himself, according to Alcibiades, ap. Plat. "Symp." 221 B; and for the word {euskhemonos} see Arist. "Wasps," 1210, "like a gentleman"; L. and S.; "Cyr." I. iii. 8; Aristot. "Eth. N." i. 10, 13, "gracefully."

[7] Cf. "Pol. Ath." i. 13; and above, III. v. 15.

[8] Or, "whole branches of knowledge" ({tas epistemas}).

[9] Or, "he may well hope to be insured by his good habit against the evils attendant on its opposite."

[10] Or, "to present themselves spontaneously."