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of the Gorgias prior to that of the Theaetetus cannot be immediately and at once established. On the contrary, it is only as an inference mediately drawn from a variety of particulars, and these are nothing more than manifold references to what has preceded and to what follows, the character of a general prelude, if I may be allowed so to express myself, and that analogy, according to which every new layer in the philosophy of Plato commences originally with the ethical—these are the only grounds which can justify the precedence of the Gorgias, against several particular objections which might possibly be alleged against assigning it such a position. Whoever takes up those traces and references, and is acquainted with the manner in which it is Plato's custom to mark such notices, will undoubtedly discover of himself more of the same kind copiously interwoven with the details of this dialogue. For other persons we may be allowed to draw attention to some of them only. For instance, with what in reference to the Phaedrus and Protagoras appeared to us before in an apologetic light, still more matter connects itself in this dialogue which we can only understand as a review of particular declarations of opinion against such Platonic writings as had hitherto appeared. However, what might be said upon this point must always remain within the limits of supposition, and the best method therefore will be, only to give slight indications in the particular places and passages where such matter occurs. And, besides this, there is much that stands in such close connection with the Apology of Socrates, that it might be said that all the essential matter in that piece is here repeated, only so given as to be exalted above the immediate personal relation. And it looks almost as if the Apology of Socrates, changed as it thus is into a defence of the Socratic modes of thought and action, has rather changed than lost its personal relation, and become a defence of Plato. Least of all can this repetition lead us to agree so far with another writer as to believe that the Gorgias must have been written soon after the death of Socrates, because assuredly Plato would not have reproached the Athenians a second time with so detailed a history of that act of which they had long since repented. For when we recollect that this also applies naturally to the Phaedo, we have these repetitions compressed within so short a period as to excite a feeling of satiety relative to the subject of which they treat; a process quite in contradiction with that richness and abundance which characterizes the Platonic composition, and which, in the present case, would have no conceivable object; nor is there any sign whatever of ridicule suffered or anger felt, for no trace appears anywhere of either, that might have driven Plato to such reproaches of his fellow citizens. On the contrary, the purpose I have indicated, of justifying himself by a retrospective view of what had lately happened, for his continual political inactivity, and at the same time of showing how fearlessly he intended to continue his philosophical course—this is a purpose which he may well be conceived to have entertained at a somewhat later period. Though indeed, as Plato, after having lived some time at Megara with the other Socraticians, does not appear to have returned to Athens, for any long time at least, what I have suggested can hardly have been the case at an earlier period than after his return from his first travels. Soon afterwards, however, he might have had A. A
abundant occasion for expression of sentiments of this kind. /For in the Apology Socrates represents his own disfavour as having commenced with the calumnies of Aristophanes, and similar false reports respecting the tendency of his exertions; and thus Plato also experienced something of the same kind soon enough. Let but the reader recollect how in the Ecclesiazusae of Aristophanes, the representation of which is usually put as early as the ninety-seventh Olympiad, the political views and new doctrines of Plato were exposed, and he will have no difficulty in conceiving how easily Plato may have apprehended a similar result. Hence, then, in order at the same time to justify to his friends and relations implicated in the concerns of public life—those friends who perhaps had hoped that his travels would have recalled him from abstract thought and brought him nearer to the world—thoroughly, I say, to justify to them his persevering withdrawal from the government of a state, in his own opinion, corrupt, as well as his own disadvantageous judgment upon the forms of it, and to show the necessity of being allowed to philosophize freely upon the art of politics; hence come those very strong expressions, outbidding anything in the Protagoras, against the most celebrated Athenian statesman of all time, with a shght reservation in favour of the living, as if they were less guilty; hence the way in which he puts into the mouth of Callicles the imputation of Laconism against himself, in order to show that what is so called arises at once quite naturally and spontaneously from the most simple and every-day experience. Nay, even what he says cursorily upon the subject of poetry, may, in its more accurate application, be
connected with the same circumstances. Much of the natural hatred and spite of bad persons in the possession of power towards wiser men seems brought out exactly in the form in which it is, in order to touch, with a slight justification and correction, upon what had occurred to Plato during his first stay in Sicily with the elder Dionysius. And this again leads almost to the supposition, that the example also of Archelaus, if we are not to imagine that that monarch had not already at so early a period Socraticians about his person, and proceeded with them in a similar way, was chosen with the same referential purpose, in order to show most strongly how impossible it was, that Plato, as had perhaps begun even at that time to be the opinion of some, should have sought the friendship of an unjust and oppressive despot. These however are the only traces, slight ones certainly, of the time at which the dialogue was composed; and we could indeed place but little reliance upon them, did they not coincide so admirably with the position which must be assigned to it, between and after others, the period of which may be more decisively fixed. According to this it would be right to consider it as the first or second work after Plato's return from his first journey, as soon, that is, as his school had become so firmly established, and so widely extended as to induce Aristophanes to give a comic representation of it. For unless all accounts of this journey are false, Plato can scarcely have formed, previous to it, a particular school of his own. There is one objection however to this date, which might certainly be brought by an ingenious person, and which I will not suppress. We know of a philosophical work of Gorgias, and the question may very fairly be started, how Plato could have made Gorgias the principal person in a dialogue without uttering a syllable about this work, or noticing it by a single allusion. Put the dialogue into the period at which the process against Socrates was still going on, and we then have a very easy justification, in the supposition that at that time Plato had not yet become acquainted with it; but this supposition will not hold after his return from his travels, as he must unquestionably have made acquaintance with this work in Sicily. In this case, there are but two hypotheses from which to choose: either Plato, contrary to his usual custom in this particular, has kept so accurately to the time in which he places the dialogue, that he does not mention this work because at that period it was not yet known at Athens, and this may certainly be conceived, if as Olympiodorus says, it was written in the eighty-fourth Olympiad; or Plato did not consider this work deserving of particular notice, not so much by reason of its sophistical tendency, as, much more probably, its utterly rhetorical style; and thus he only comprehends it generally under the description of the corrupting art of counterfeit, and makes Gorgias say, probably not without a meaning, that he does not pretend to be anything but an orator.