PLUTARCH’S LIFE OF ALKIBIADES
Alkibiades (ca. 450-404 BC) was a leading Athenian general and statesman, and probably the most controversial and colourful one of his age. The Greek biographer and essayist Plutarch wrote a biography of him at the beginning of the second century AD, as one of his Parallel Lives. Here follow the only passages in it relating to pederasty.
The translation is by Bernadotte Perrin in the Loeb Classical Library volume LXXX (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1916). Latinised names have been replaced by romanisations of the Greek.
As regards the beauty of Alkibiades, it is perhaps unnecessary to say aught, except that it flowered out with each successive season of his bodily growth, and made him, alike in boyhood, youth and manhood, lovely and pleasant. The saying of Euripides, that “beauty’s autumn, too, is beautiful,” is not always true. But it was certainly the case with Alkibiades, as with few besides, because of his excellent natural parts.
Even the lisp that he had became his speech, they say, and made his talk persuasive and full of charm. Aristophanes notices this lisp of his in the verses wherein he ridicules Theoros:
(Sosias) “Then Alkibiades said to me with a lisp, said he, ‘Cwemahk Theokwus? What a cwaven’s head he has!’”
And Archippos, ridiculing the son of Alkibiades, says
"He walks with utter wantonness, trailing his long robe behind him, that he may be thought the very picture of his father, yes, He slants his neck awry, and overworks the lisp.”
 Περὶ μὲν οὖν τοῦ κάλλους Ἀλκιβιάδου οὐδὲν ἴσως δεῖ λέγειν, πλὴν ὅτι καὶ παῖδα καὶ μειράκιον καὶ ἄνδρα πάσῃ συνανθῆσαν τῇ ἡλικίᾳ καὶ ὥρᾳ τοῦ σώματος ἐράσμιον καὶ ἡδὺν παρέσχεν. οὐ γάρ, ὡς Εὐριπίδης ἔλεγε, πάντων τῶν καλῶν καὶ τὸ μετόπωρον καλόν ἐστιν, ἀλλὰ τοῦτο Ἀλκιβιάδῃ μετ᾿ ὀλίγων ἄλλων δι᾿ εὐφυΐαν καὶ 4ἀρετὴν σώματος ὑπῆρξε.
 τῇ δὲ φωνῇ καὶ τὴν τραυλότητα ἐμπρέψαι λέγουσι καὶ τῷ λάλῳ πιθανότητα παρασχεῖν χάριν ἐπιτελοῦσαν. μέμνηται δὲ καὶ Ἀριστοφάνης αὐτοῦ τῆς τραυλότητος ἐν οἷς ἐπισκώπτει Θέωρον· Εἶτ Ἀλκιβιάδης εἶπε πρός με τραυλίσας· “ὁλᾷς Θέωλον; τὴν κεφαλὴν κόλακος ἔχει.” ὀρθῶς γε τοῦτ᾿ Ἀλκιβιάδης ἐτραύλισεν. καὶ Ἄρχιππος τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ Ἀλκιβιάδου σκώπτων· “Βαδίζει,” φησί, “διακεχλιδώς, θοιμάτιον ἕλκων, ὅπως ἐμφερὴς μάλιστα τῷ πατρὶ δόξειεν εἶναι, Κλασαυχενεύεταί τε καὶ τραυλίζεται.”
Among the calumnies which Antiphon heaps upon him it is recorded that, when he was a boy, he ran away from home to Demokrates, one of his lovers, and that Ariphron was all for having him proclaimed by town crier as a castaway. But Perikles would not suffer it. “If he is dead,” said he, “we shall know it only a day the sooner for the proclamation; whereas, if he is alive, he will, in consequence of it, be as good as dead for the rest of his life.” Antiphon says also that with a blow of his stick he slew one of his attendants in the palaistra of Sibyrtios. But these things are perhaps unworthy of belief, coming as they do from one who admits that he hated Alkibiades, and abused him accordingly.
It was not long before many men of high birth clustered about him and paid him their attentions. Most of them were plainly smitten with his brilliant youthful beauty and fondly courted him. But it was the love which Sokrates had for him that bore strong testimony to the boy’s native excellence and good parts. These Sokrates saw radiantly manifest in his outward person, and, fearful of the influence upon him of wealth and rank and the throng of citizens, foreigners and allies who sought to preëmpt his affections by flattery and favour, he was fain to protect him, and not suffer such a fair flowering plant to cast its native fruit to perdition.
For there is no man whom Fortune so envelops and compasses about with the so-called good things of life that he cannot be reached by the bold and caustic reasonings of philosophy, and pierced to the heart. And so it was that Alkibiades, although he was pampered from the very first, and was prevented by the companions who sought only to please him from giving ear to one who would instruct and train him, nevertheless, through the goodness of his parts, at last saw all that was in Sokrates, and clave to him, putting away his rich and famous lovers.
And speedily, from choosing such an associate, and giving ear to the words of a lover who was in the chase for no unmanly pleasures, and begged no kisses and embraces, but sought to expose the weakness of his soul and rebuke his vain and foolish pride,
“He crouched, though warrior bird, like slave, with drooping wings.”
And he came to think that the work of Sokrates was really a kind of provision of the gods for the care and salvation of youth.
Thus, by despising himself, admiring his friend, loving that friend’s kindly solicitude and revering his excellence, he insensibly acquired an “image of love,” as Plato says, “to match love,” and all were amazed to see him eating, exercising, and tenting with Sokrates, while he was harsh and stubborn with the rest of his lovers. Some of these he actually treated with the greatest insolence, as, for example, Anytos, the son of Anthemion.
This man was a lover of his, who, entertaining some friends, asked Alkibiades also to the dinner. Alkibiades declined the invitation, but after having drunk deep at home with some friends, went in revel rout to the house of Anytos, took his stand at the door of the men’s chamber, and, observing the tables full of gold and silver beakers, ordered his slaves to take half of them and carry them home for him. He did not deign to go in, but played this prank and was off. The guests were naturally indignant, and declared that Alkibiades had treated Anytos with gross and overweening insolence. “Not so,” said Anytos, “but with moderation and kindness; he might have taken all there were: he has left us half.”
He treated the rest of his lovers also after this fashion. There was one man, however, a resident alien, as they say, and not possessed of much, who sold all that he had, and brought the hundred staters which he got for it to Alkibiades, begging him to accept them. Alkibiades burst out laughing with delight at this, and invited the man to dinner. After feasting him and showing him every kindness, he gave him back his gold, and charged him on the morrow to compete with the farmers of the public revenues and outbid them all.
The man protested, because the purchase demanded a capital of many talents; but Alkibiades threatened to have him scourged if he did not do it, because he cherished some private grudge against the ordinary contractors. In the morning, accordingly, the alien went into the market place and increased the usual bid for the public lands by a talent. The contractors clustered angrily about him and bade him name his surety, supposing that he could find none. The man was confounded and began to draw back, when Alkibiades, standing afar off, cried to the magistrates: “Put my name down; he is a friend of mine; I will be his surety.”
When the contractors heard this, they were at their wit’s end, for they were in the habit of paying what they owed on a first purchase with the profits of a second, and saw no way out of their difficulty. Accordingly, they besought the man to withdraw his bid, and offered him money so to do; but Alkibiades would not suffer him to take less than a talent. On their offering the man the talent, he bade him take it and withdraw. To this lover he was of service in such a way.
But the love of Sokrates, though it had many powerful rivals, somehow mastered Alkibiades. For he was of good natural parts, and the words of his teacher took hold of him and wrung his heart and brought tears to his eyes. But sometimes he would surrender himself to the flatterers who tempted him with many pleasures, and slip away from Sokrates, and suffer himself to be actually hunted down by him like a runaway slave. And yet he feared and reverenced Sokrates alone, and despised the rest of his lovers.
It was Kleanthes who said that any one beloved of him must be “downed,” as wrestlers say, by the ears alone, though offering to rival lovers many other “holds” which he himself would scorn to take,—meaning the various lusts of the body. And Alkibiades was certainly prone to be led away into pleasure. That “lawless self-indulgence” of his, of which Thukydides speaks, leads one to suspect this.
However, it was rather his love of distinction and love of fame to which his corrupters appealed, and thereby plunged him all too soon into ways of presumptuous scheming, persuading him that he had only to enter public life, and he would straightway cast into total eclipse the ordinary generals and public leaders, and not only that, he would even surpass Perikles in power and reputation among the Hellenes.
Accordingly, just as iron, which has been softened in the fire, is hardened again by cold water, and has its particles compacted together, so Alkibiades, whenever Sokrates found him filled with vanity and wantonness, was reduced to shape by the Master’s discourse, and rendered humble and cautious. He learned how great were his deficiencies and how incomplete his excellence.
[III.] Ἐν δὲ ταῖς Ἀντιφῶντος λοιδορίαις γέγραπται ὅτι παῖς ὤν, ἐκ τῆς οἰκίας ἀπέδρα πρὸς Δημοκράτη τινὰ τῶν ἐραστῶν· βουλομένου δ᾿ αὐτὸν ἀποκηρύττειν Ἀρίφρονος, Περικλῆς οὐκ εἴασεν, εἰπών· εἰ μὲν τέθνηκεν, ἡμέρᾳ μιᾷ διὰ τὸ κήρυγμα φανεῖσθαι πρότερον, εἰ δὲ σῶς ἐστιν, ἄσωστον αὐτῷ τὸν λοιπὸν βίον ἔσεσθαι· καὶ ὅτι τῶν ἀκολουθούντων τινὰ κτείνειεν ἐν τῇ Σιβυρτίου παλαίστρᾳ ξύλῳ πατάξας. ἀλλὰ τούτοις μὲν οὐκ ἄξιον ἴσως πιστεύειν, ἅ γε λοιδορεῖσθαί τις αὐτῷ δι᾿ ἔχθραν ὁμολογῶν εἶπεν.
[IV.1] Ἤδη δὲ πολλῶν καὶ γενναίων ἀθροιζομένων καὶ περιεπόντων, οἱ μὲν ἄλλοι καταφανεῖς ἦσαν τὴν λαμπρότητα τῆς ὥρας ἐκπεπληγμένοι καὶ θεραπεύοντες, ὁ δὲ Σωκράτους ἔρως μέγα μαρτύριον ἦν τῆς ἀρετῆς καὶ εὐφυΐας τοῦ παιδός, ἣν ἐμφαινομένην τῷ εἴδει καὶ διαλάμπουσαν ἐνορῶν, φοβούμενος δὲ τὸν πλοῦτον καὶ τὸ ἀξίωμα καὶ τὸν προκαταλαμβάνοντα κολακείαις καὶ χάρισιν ἀστῶν καὶ ξένων καὶ συμμάχων ὄχλον, οἷος ἦν ἀμύνειν καὶ μὴ περιορᾶν ὡς φυτὸν ἐν ἄνθει τὸν οἰκεῖον καρπὸν ἀποβάλλον καὶ διαφθεῖρον.
 οὐδένα γὰρ ἡ τύχη περιέσχεν ἔξωθεν καὶ περιέφραξε τοῖς λεγομένοις ἀγαθοῖς τοσοῦτον ὥστ᾿ ἄτρωτον ὑπὸ φιλοσοφίας γενέσθαι, καὶ λόγοις ἀπρόσιτον παρρησίαν καὶ δηγμὸν ἔχουσιν· ὡς Ἀλκιβιάδης εὐθὺς ἐξ ἀρχῆς θρυπτόμενος καὶ ἀποκλειόμενος ὑπὸ τῶν πρὸς χάριν ἐξομιλούντων εἰσακοῦσαι τοῦ νουθετοῦντος καὶ παιδεύοντος, ὅμως ὑπ᾿ εὐφυΐας ἐγνώρισε Σωκράτη καὶ προσήκατο, διασχὼν τοὺς πλουσίους καὶ ἐνδόξους ἐραστάς.
 ταχὺ δὲ ποιησάμενος συνήθη, καὶ λόγων ἀκούσας οὐχ ἡδονὴν ἄνανδρον ἐραστοῦ θηρεύοντος, οὐδὲ φιλημάτων καὶ ψαύσεως προσαιτοῦντος, ἀλλ᾿ ἐλέγχοντος τὸ σαθρὸν τῆς ψυχῆς αὐτοῦ καὶ πιεζοῦντος τὸν κενὸν καὶ ἀνόητον τῦφον, Ἔπτηξ᾿ ἀλέκτωρ δοῦλος ὣς κλίνας πτερόν. καὶ τὸ μὲν Σωκράτους ἡγήσατο πρᾶγμα τῷ ὄντι θεῶν ὑπηρεσίαν εἰς νέων ἐπιμέλειαν εἶναι καὶ σωτηρίαν·
 καταφρονῶν δ᾿ αὐτὸς ἑαυτοῦ, θαυμάζων δ᾿ ἐκεῖνον, ἀγαπῶν δὲ τὴν φιλοφροσύνην, αἰσχυνόμενος δὲ τὴν ἀρετήν, ἐλάνθανεν εἴδωλον ἔρωτος, ὥς φησιν ὁ Πλάτων, ἀντερωτα κτώμενος, ὥστε θαυμάζειν ἅπαντας ὁρῶντας αὐτὸν Σωκράτει μὲν συνδειπνοῦντα καὶ συμπαλαίοντα καὶ συσκηνοῦντα, τοῖς δ᾿ ἄλλοις ἐρασταῖς χαλεπὸν ὄντα καὶ δυσχείρωτον, ἐνίοις δὲ καὶ παντάπασι σοβαρῶς προσφερόμενον, ὥσπερ Ἀνύτῳ τῷ Ἀνθεμίωνος.
 Ἐτύγχανε μὲν γὰρ ἐρῶν τοῦ Ἀλκιβιάδου, ξένους δέ τινας ἑστιῶν ἐκάλει κἀκεῖνον ἐπὶ τὸ δεῖπνον. ὁ δὲ τὴν μὲν κλῆσιν ἀπείπατο, μεθυσθεὶς δ᾿ οἴκοι μετὰ τῶν ἑταίρων ἐκώμασε πρὸς τὸν Ἄνυτον, καὶ ταῖς θύραις ἐπιστὰς τοῦ ἀνδρῶνος καὶ θεασάμενος ἀργυρῶν ἐκπωμάτων καὶ χρυσῶν πλήρεις τὰς τραπέζας, ἐκέλευσε τοὺς παῖδας τὰ ἡμίση λαβόντας οἴκαδε κομίζειν πρὸς αὐτόν, εἰσελθεῖν δ᾿ οὐκ ἠξίωσεν, ἀλλὰ ταῦτα πράξας ἀπῆλθε. τῶν οὖν ξένων δυσχεραινόντων καὶ λεγόντων ὡς ὑβριστικῶς καὶ ὑπερηφάνως εἴη τῷ Ἀνύτῳ κεχρημένος ὁ Ἀλκιβιάδης, “Ἐπιεικῶς μὲν οὖν,” ὁ Ἄνυτος ἔφη, “καὶ φιλανθρώπως· ἃ γὰρ ἐξῆν αὐτῷ λαβεῖν ἅπαντα, τούτων ἡμῖν τὰ μέρη καταλέλοιπεν.”
[V.1] Οὕτω δὲ καὶ τοῖς ἄλλοις ἐρασταῖς ἐχρῆτο· πλὴν ἕνα μετοικικὸν ἄνθρωπον, ὥς φασιν, οὐ πολλὰ κεκτημένον, ἀποδόμενον δὲ πάντα καὶ τὸ συναχθὲν εἰς ἑκατὸν στατῆρας τῷ Ἀλκιβιάδῃ προσφέροντα καὶ δεόμενον λαβεῖν, γελάσας καὶ ἡσθεὶς ἐκάλεσεν ἐπὶ δεῖπνον. ἑστιάσας δὲ καὶ φιλοφρονηθεὶς τό τε χρυσίον ἀπέδωκεν αὐτῷ, καὶ προσέταξε τῇ ὑστεραίᾳ τοὺς ὠνουμένους τὰ τέλη τὰ δημόσια ταῖς τιμαῖς ὑπερβάλλειν ἀντωνούμενον.
παραιτουμένου δὲ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου διὰ τὸ πολλῶν ταλάντων εἶναι τὴν ὠνήν, ἠπείλησε μαστιγώσειν εἰ μὴ ταῦτα πράττοι· καὶ γὰρ ἐτύγχανεν ἐγκαλῶν τι τοῖς τελώναις ἴδιον. ἕωθεν οὖν προελθὼν ὁ μέτοικος εἰς ἀγορὰν ἐπέθηκε τῇ ὠνῇ τάλαντον. ἐπεὶ δ᾿ οἱ τελῶναι συστρεφόμενοι καὶ ἀγανακτοῦντες ἐκέλευον ὀνομάζειν ἐγγυητήν, ὡς οὐκ ἂν εὑρόντος, θορυβουμένου τοῦ ἀνθρώπου καὶ ἀναχωροῦντος, ἑστὼς ὁ Ἀλκιβιάδης ἄπωθεν πρὸς τοὺς ἄρχοντας, “Ἐμὲ γράψατ᾿,” ἔφη, “ἐμὸς φίλος ἐστίν,
 ἐγγυῶμαι.” ταῦτ᾿ ἀκούσαντες οἱ τελῶναι ἐξηπορήθησαν. εἰωθότες γὰρ ἀεὶ ταῖς δευτέραις ὠναῖς χρεωλυτεῖν τὰς πρώτας, οὐχ ἑώρων ἀπαλλαγὴν αὑτοῖς οὖσαν τοῦ πράγματος. ἐδέοντο δὴ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἀργύριον διδόντες· ὁ δ᾿ Ἀλκιβιάδης οὐκ εἴα λαβεῖν ἔλαττον ταλάντου. διδόντων δὲ τὸ τάλαντον ἐκέλευσεν ἀποστῆναι λαβόντα. κἀκεῖνον μὲν οὕτως ὠφέλησεν.
[VI.1] Ὁ δὲ Σωκράτους ἔρως πολλοὺς ἔχων καὶ μεγάλους ἀνταγωνιστὰς πῇ μὲν ἐκράτει τοῦ Ἀλκιβιάδου, δι᾿ εὐφυΐαν ἁπτομένων τῶν λόγων αὐτοῦ καὶ τὴν καρδίαν στρεφόντων καὶ δάκρυα ἐκχεόντων, ἔστι δ᾿ ὅτε καὶ τοῖς κόλαξι πολλὰς ἡδονὰς ὑποβάλλουσιν ἐνδιδοὺς ἑαυτόν, ἀπωλίσθαινε τοῦ Σωκράτους καὶ δραπετεύων ἀτεχνῶς ἐκυνηγεῖτο, πρὸς μόνον ἐκεῖνον ἔχων τὸ αἰδεῖσθαι καὶ τὸ φοβεῖσθαι, τῶν δ᾿ ἄλλων ὑπερορῶν.
 Ὁ μὲν οὖν Κλεάνθης ἔλεγε τὸν ἑρώμενον ὑφ᾿ ἑαυτοῦ μὲν ἐκ τῶν ὤτων κρατεῖσθαι, τοῖς δ᾿ ἀντερασταῖς πολλὰς λαβὰς παρέχειν ἀθίκτους ἑαυτῷ, τὴν γαστέρα λέγων καὶ τὰ αἰδοῖα καὶ τὸν λαιμόν· Ἀλκιβιάδης δ᾿ ἦν μὲν ἀμέλει καὶ πρὸς ἡδονὰς ἀγώγιμος· ἡ γὰρ ὑπὸ Θουκυδίδου λεγομένη παρανομία εἰς τὸ σῶμα τῆς διαίτης ὑποψίαν τοιαύτην δίδωσιν.
 οὐ μὴν ἀλλὰ μᾶλλον αὐτοῦ τῆς φιλοτιμίας ἐπιλαμβανόμενοι καὶ τῆς φιλοδοξίας οἱ διαφθείροντες ἐνέβαλλον οὐ καθ᾿ ὥραν εἰς μεγαλοπραγμοσύνην, ἀναπείθοντες ὡς, ὅταν πρῶτον ἄρξηται τὰ δημόσια πράττειν, οὐ μόνον ἀμαυρώσοντα τοὺς ἄλλους στρατηγοὺς καὶ δημαγωγοὺς εὐθύς, ἀλλὰ καὶ τὴν Περικλέους δύναμιν ἐν τοῖς Ἕλλησι καὶ δόξαν ὑπερβαλούμενον.
 ὥσπερ οὖν ὁ σίδηρος ἐν τῷ πυρὶ μαλασσόμενος αὖθις ὑπὸ τοῦ ψυχροῦ πυκνοῦται καὶ σύνεισι τοῖς μορίοις εἰς αὑτόν, οὕτως ἐκεῖνον ὁ Σωκράτης θρύψεως διάπλεων καὶ χαυνότητος ὁσάκις ἂν λάβοι, πιέζων τῷ λόγῳ καὶ συστέλλων ταπεινὸν ἐποίει καὶ ἄτολμον, ἡλίκων ἐνδεής ἐστι καὶ ἀτελὴς πρὸς ἀρετὴν μανθάνοντα.
|While still a stripling, he served as a soldier in the campaign of Potidaea, and had Sokrates for his tent-mate and comrade in action. A fierce battle took place, wherein both of them distinguished themselves; but when Alkibiades fell wounded, it was Socrates who stood over him and defended him, and with the most conspicuous bravery saved him, armour and all. The prize of valour fell to Sokrates, of course, on the justest calculation; but the generals, owing to the high position of Alkibiades, were manifestly anxious to give him the glory of it. Sokrates, therefore, wishing to increase his pupil’s honourable ambitions, led all the rest in bearing witness to his bravery, and in begging that the crown and the suit of armour be given to him.||
 Ἔτι δὲ μειράκιον ὢν ἐστρατεύσατο τὴν εἰς Ποτίδαιαν στρατείαν, καὶ Σωκράτη σύσκηνον εἶχε καὶ παραστάτην ἐν τοῖς ἀγῶσιν.
 ἰσχυρᾶς δὲ γενομένης μάχης ἠρίστευσαν μὲν ἀμφότεροι, τοῦ δ᾿ Ἀλκιβιάδου τραύματι περιπεσόντος ὁ Σωκράτης προέστη καὶ ἤμυνε καὶ μάλιστα δὴ προδήλως ἔσωσεν αὐτὸν μετὰ τῶν ὅπλων. ἐγίνετο μὲν οὖν τῷ δικαιοτάτῳ λόγῳ Σωκράτους τὸ ἀριστεῖον· ἐπεὶ δ᾿ οἱ στρατηγοὶ διὰ τὸ ἀξίωμα τῷ Ἀλκιβιάδῃ σπουδάζοντες ἐφαίνοντο περιθεῖναι τὴν δόξαν, ὁ Σωκράτης βουλόμενος αὔξεσθαι τὸ φιλότιμον ἐν τοῖς καλοῖς αὐτοῦ πρῶτος ἐμαρτύρει καὶ παρεκάλει στεφανοῦν ἐκεῖνον καὶ διδόναι τὴν πανοπλίαν.
 [Footnote by Perrin:] An abusive oration of Antiphon the Rhamnusian against Alkibiades, cited in Athenaios, p. 525 b, was probably a fabrication and falsely attributed to him. It is not extant.
 Perikles and Antiphon were brothers, and, as first cousins of Alkibiades’s mother, had become his guardians when his father died in his infancy. Perikles was also the dominant Athenian statesman of the time.
 [Footnote by Perrin:] Phaidros, p. 255.
 [Footnote by Perrin:] Cf. Plato, Symposium, p. 219 e.
 Anytos was significantly to be one of those who demanded the prosecution of Sokrates in 399 BC for “corrupting the youth”.
 Taxes in Athens were collected by private contractors who bid on the rights to collect them.
 [Footnote by Perrin:] vi. 15, 4.
 432 BC. See a discussion of the more precise date in Alcibiades by Walter M. Ellis (1989) pp. 24-27. By this stage, Alkibiades was about eighteen, and had been Sokrates’s beloved for at least three years, as appears from Plato’s Protagoras, set in about 435, and in which they are shown as well-established lovers.
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