I en gymnastiksal i Athen for knap 2500 år siden:

Yesterday evening I returned from the army at Potidaea, and having been a good while away, I thought that I should like to go and look at my old haunts. So I went into the palaestra of Taureas, which is over against the temple adjoining the porch of the King Archon, and there I found a number of persons, most of whom I knew, but not all. My visit was unexpected, and no sooner did they see me entering than they saluted me from afar on all sides; and Chaerephon, who is a kind of madman, started up and ran to me, seizing my hand, and saying, How did you escape, Socrates?—(I should explain that an engagement had taken place at Potidaea not long before we came away, of which the news had only just reached Athens.)

– You see, I replied, that here I am.

– There was a report, he said, that the engagement was very severe, and that many of our acquaintance had fallen.

– That, I replied, was not far from the truth.

– I suppose, he said, that you were present.

– I was.

– Then sit down, and tell us the whole story, which as yet we have only heard imperfectly.

I took the place which he assigned to me, by the side of Critias the son of Callaeschrus, and when I had saluted him and the rest of the company, I told them the news from the army, and answered their several enquiries.

He proceeds to make enquiries about the state of philosophy and about the youth; and is told of the beautiful Charmides,

Then, when there had been enough of this, I, in my turn, began to make enquiries about matters at home—about the present state of philosophy, and about the youth. I asked whether any of them were remarkable for wisdom or beauty, or both. Critias, glancing at the door, invited my attention to some youths who were coming in, and talking noisily to one another, followed by a crowd. Of the beauties, Socrates, he said, I fancy that you will soon be able to form a judgment. For those who are just entering are the advanced guard of the great beauty, as he is thought to be, of the day, and he is likely to be not far off himself.

– Who is he, I said; and who is his father?

– Charmides, he replied, is his name; he is my cousin, and the son of my uncle Glaucon: I rather think that you know him too, although he was not grown up at the time of your departure.

– Certainly, I know him, I said, for he was remarkable even then when he was still a child, and I should imagine that by this time he must be almost a young man.

– You will see, he said, in a moment what progress he has made and what he is like. He had scarcely said the word, when Charmides entered.

– Now you know, my friend, that I cannot measure anything, and of the beautiful, I am simply such a measure as a white line is of chalk; for almost all young persons appear to be beautiful in my eyes. But at that moment, when I saw him coming in, I confess that I was quite astonished at his beauty and stature; all the world seemed to be enamoured of him; amazement and confusion reigned when he entered; and a troop of lovers followed him. That grown–up men like ourselves should have been affected in this way was not surprising, but I observed that there was the same feeling among the boys; all of them, down to the very least child, turned and looked at him, as if he had been a statue.

Chaerephon called me and said: What do you think of him, Socrates? Has he not a beautiful face?

– Most beautiful, I said.

– But you would think nothing of his face, he replied, if you could see his naked form: he is absolutely perfect.

And to this they all agreed.

– By Heracles, I said, there never was such a paragon, if he has only one other slight addition.

– What is that? said Critias.

– If he has a noble soul…

(Char. 153a-154e. Overs: Jowett)

… og efter at have konstateret at skønheden (også) kommer indefra, beslutter Sokrates sig for at lege doktor med de unge drenge:

– Then, before we see his body, should we not ask him to show us his soul, naked and undisguised? he is just of an age at which he will like to talk.

– That he will, said Critias, and I can tell you that he is a philosopher already, and also a considerable poet, not in his own opinion only, but in that of others.

– That, my dear Critias, I replied, is a distinction which has long been in your family, and is inherited by you from Solon. But why do you not call him, and show him to us? for even if he were younger than he is, there could be no impropriety in his talking to us in the presence of you, who are his guardian and cousin.

– Very well, he said; then I will call him; and turning to the attendant, he said, Call Charmides, and tell him that I want him to come and see a physician about the illness of which he spoke to me the day before yesterday. Then again addressing me, he added: He has been complaining lately of having a headache when he rises in the morning: now why should you not make him believe that you know a cure for the headache?

– Why not, I said; but will he come?

– He will be sure to come, he replied.

(Char. 154e-b Overs: Jowett)

… og får sig et glimt af skønheden:

He [Charmides] came as he was bidden, and sat down between Critias and me. Great amusement was occasioned by every one pushing with might and main at his neighbour in order to make a place for him next to themselves, until at the two ends of the row one had to get up and the other was rolled over sideways. Now I, my friend, was beginning to feel awkward; my former bold belief in my powers of conversing with him had vanished. And when Critias told him that I was the person who had the cure, he looked at me in such an indescribable manner, and was just going to ask a question. And at that moment all the people in the palaestra crowded about us, and, O rare! I caught a sight of the inwards of his garment, and took the flame. Then I could no longer contain myself. I thought how well Cydias understood the nature of love, when, in speaking of a fair youth, he warns some one ‘not to bring the fawn in the sight of the lion to be devoured by him,’ for I felt that I had been overcome by a sort of wild–beast appetite.

(Char. 155c-e Overs: Jowett)

I Symposion er det den unge smukke Alkibiades som Sokrates har rettet sin interesse mod, men det er den unge mand, som bliver skuffet:

When the lamp was put out and the servants had gone away, I thought that I must be plain with him and have no more ambiguity. So I gave him a shake, and I said:

‘Socrates, are you asleep?’

‘No,’ he said.

‘Do you know what I am meditating?’

‘What are you meditating?’ he said.

‘I think,’ I replied, ‘that of all the lovers whom I have ever had you are the only one who is worthy of me, and you appear to be too modest to speak. Now I feel that I should be a fool to refuse you this or any other favour, and therefore I come to lay at your feet all that I have and all that my friends have, in the hope that you will assist me in the way of virtue, which I desire above all things, and in which I believe that you can help me better than any one else. And I should certainly have more reason to be ashamed of what wise men would say if I were to refuse a favour to such as you, than of what the world, who are mostly fools, would say of me if I granted it.’

To these words he replied in the ironical manner which is so characteristic of him:

‘Alcibiades, my friend, you have indeed an elevated aim if what you say is true, and if there really is in me any power by which you may become better; truly you must see in me some rare beauty of a kind infinitely higher than any which I see in you. And therefore, if you mean to share with me and to exchange beauty for beauty, you will have greatly the advantage of me; you will gain true beauty in return for appearance—like Diomede, gold in exchange for brass. But look again, sweet friend, and see whether you are not deceived in me. The mind begins to grow critical when the bodily eye fails, and it will be a long time before you get old.’

Hearing this, I said:

‘I have told you my purpose, which is quite serious, and do you consider what you think best for you and me.’

‘That is good,’ he said; ‘at some other time then we will consider and act as seems best about this and about other matters.’

Whereupon, I fancied that he was smitten, and that the words which I had uttered like arrows had wounded him, and so without waiting to hear more I got up, and throwing my coat about him crept under his threadbare cloak, as the time of year was winter, and there I lay during the whole night having this wonderful monster in my arms. This again, Socrates, will not be denied by you. And yet, notwithstanding all, he was so superior to my solicitations, so contemptuous and derisive and disdainful of my beauty—which really, as I fancied, had some attractions—hear, O judges; for judges you shall be of the haughty virtue of Socrates—nothing more happened, but in the morning when I awoke (let all the gods and goddesses be my witnesses) I arose as from the couch of a father or an elder brother.

What do you suppose must have been my feelings, after this rejection, at the thought of my own dishonour? And yet I could not help wondering at his natural temperance and self–restraint and manliness. I never imagined that I could have met with a man such as he is in wisdom and endurance. And therefore I could not be angry with him or renounce his company, any more than I could hope to win him. For I well knew that if Ajax could not be wounded by steel, much less he by money; and my only chance of captivating him by my personal attractions had failed. So I was at my wit’s end; no one was ever more hopelessly enslaved by another.

(Symposion 218c-219e Overs: Jowett)

På dansk

Kære Alkibiades! Du er vist ikke så tosset endda, hvis det virkelig er sandt, hvad du siger om mig, og der er en eller anden kraft i mig, som kan gøre dig bedre. Du må se en ufattelig skønhed i mig, fuldstændig forskellig fra dit eget smukke udseende. Hvis du har fået kig på den og prøver at slå en handel af og bytte skønhed for skønhed, så regner du med at få en del mere ud af det end jeg. Til gengæld for en tilsyneladende skønhed prøver du at skaffe dig den sande skønhed, ja du har faktisk i sinde ‘for en gylden’ at bytte dig til ‘en rustning af bronze’.[1]

Men kære ven, pas hellere på, at jeg ikke narrer dig ved ikke at være noget værd. Tankens klarsyn skærpes først, når øjnene så småt taber deres evne til at se. Og det er du stadig langt fra.[2]

Rasmus Sevelsted skriver følgende om ‘eros’ i forordet til andet bind af den nye Platon-oversættelse:

Eros er ikke et udelukkende positivt begreb; der findes ‘smuk’ og ‘forkastelig’ eros, og det var den almindelige opfattelse, at det er både vulgært og forkasteligt, hvis eros kun består af ren og skær tilfredsstillelse af et fysisk behov. Det er et udtryk for den enkeltes gode eller dårlige karakter, om et erotisk forhold er smuk eller forkasteligt; der er ikke nogen moralsk skelnen imellem eros mellem de to køn og eros mellem to af samme køn.[3]

[1] jvf Iliaden VI.235
[2] Platon: Samlede værker i ny oversættelse, bind II. København 2010. s. 378
[3] Platon; Samlede værker i ny oversættelse, bind II. København 2010. s. 307

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