Aelius Aristides, Oration 2. A Reply to Plato

LCL 533: 338-339

Go To Section
Go To Section


ἐπὶ τῆς μουσικῆς μὴ ταὐτὸν φέρεσθαι τῆς τε ἀξίας ὄνομα καὶ τῆς τάξεως, ἢ κληροῦν γε ἂν ἤρκει μόνον, ἀλλ’ ὅστις ἂν κάλλιστ’ ἀγωνίσηται, τοῦτον στεφανοῦν καὶ πρῶτον ἀναγορεύειν, κἂν ὕστατος εἰσελθὼν τύχῃ, τοὺς δὲ τῶν ἀστειοτέρων ἀγωνισμάτων ἀξιοῦντας ἀγωνιστὰς ἢ κριτὰς εἶναι οὕτω σφόδρα τὸν χρόνον σεμνύνειν ὥστε μὴ μόνον τοῖς ὅλοις χείρους τοὺς ὑστέρους ἡγεῖσθαι, ἀλλὰ μηδ’ ἂν τυχεῖν εὑρόντας βέλτιον τῶν εἰρημένων μηδέν. 3ὁρῶ δὲ ὅτι κἀν τοῖς γυμνικοῖς ἀγῶσιν οὐχ ὅστις πρῶτος τὴν ἀπογραφὴν ἐποιήσατο, οὗτος ἀπέρχεται νικῶν, ἀλλ’ ὅστις οὗ τὴν ἀπογραφὴν πεποίηται, τοῦτο ἐπὶ τῆς πείρας ἄριστα δείκνυσιν. 4καὶ τοῦθ’ οὕτως ἰσχύει διὰ τέλους ὥστε καὶ ἐν αὐτοῖς τοῖς ἄθλοις, προσθήσω δ’ ὅτι καὶ τοῖς αὐτοῦ τοῦ τάχους, οὐ τοῖς ἐπὶ τῆς ἀρχῆς ἐξενεγκοῦσιν ἀποδίδοται τὸ σύμβολον, ἀλλὰ τοῖς παρελθοῦσιν.

5καίτοι πῶς οὐκ ἀλογία πολλὴ τοὺς μὲν ἃ τῆς τοῦ σώματος τύχης ἔχεται μελετῶντας ἢ τιμῶντας οὕτω σφόδρα καὶ νῦν καὶ πρότερον τὸ τοῦ λόγου καλὸν καὶ δίκαιον τετιμηκέναι, τοὺς δ’ ἐπὶ τῶν λόγων ἀνέχοντας καὶ χωρὶς τῆς ἐν τούτοις διατριβῆς οὐδ’ ἂν ζῆν δεξαμένους οὕτως ἀργῶς, μᾶλλον δ’ ἀδίκως ἔχειν, ὥσθ’ ἑνὶ πιστῷ χρῆσθαι περὶ ἁπάντων, ἄν τις φθάσῃ γενόμενος, καὶ τὰ ὀνόματα ἀντὶ τῆς ἀληθείας θαυμάζειν αἱρεῖσθαι, ὥσπερ νομίσαι δέον, οὐχ εὑρεῖν τὸ βέλτιον· καὶ τοὺς μὲν νόμους αὐτούς, ἂν συμφέρῃ, κινεῖν, τοὺς δὲ περὶ τῶν ἀεὶ μενόντων τῇ φύσει λόγους ἐπὶ



rest of the artistic fraternity it is the convention that the contestant crowned and proclaimed victor should be the one who proves to be the best, even if he happens to have come on last, rather than their being ranked in the order in which they compete (in which case it would have been enough just to draw lots). Is it not then strange for those who claim the role of competitors or judges in more sophisticated kinds of contest to have such an intense respect for timing that they regard those who come later as wholly inferior, and think them incapable of ever hitting on anything better than what has already been said? 3I note that in gymnastic competitions too, the eventual winner is not the first person to enter his name, but the one who, when it comes to the point, shows up best in the event for which he has entered. 4So thoroughly does this principle apply that in the awarding of prizes too, even let me add those awarded precisely for speed, the trophies are presented not to those who went into the lead at the start, but to those who overtook them.

5Is it not hugely irrational that practitioners and admirers of activities that depend on accidents of physical condition should have shown and continue to show such intense respect as this for the beauty and justice of reason, while those who owe their distinction to their skill with words, and who would not want to go on living if deprived of this activity, should be so lazy, or rather so unfair, as to count priority in time as a unique and universal touchstone, and should choose to admire mere names in place of the truth, as if what were needed was to follow tradition rather than to discover a better answer? Is it not irrational to be prepared to change the very laws of the land, if it seems beneficial to do so, but at the same time to refuse

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.aelius_aristides-oration_2_reply_to_plato.2017