In Praise of the Gadfly — Socrates, Plato And An Absurd Figure

800px-Giambettino_Cignaroli_-_The_Death_of_Socrates_-_WGA04876
The Death of Socrates, Giambettino Cignaroli, around 1750

Thanks to Scott Horton and his peerless “No Comment” blog, for this quote from Plato, which struck home with me today:

Socrates: For if you put me to death, you will not easily find another, who, to use a rather absurd figure, attaches himself to the city as a gadfly to a horse, which, though large and well bred, is sluggish on account of his size and needs to be aroused by stinging. I think God fastened me upon the city in some such capacity, and I go about arousing, and urging and reproaching each one of you, constantly alighting upon you everywhere the whole day long. Such another is not likely to come to you, gentlemen; but if you take my advice, you will spare me. But you, perhaps, might be angry, like people awakened from a nap, and might slap me, as Anytus advises, and easily kill me; then you would pass the rest of your lives in slumber, unless God, in his care for you, should send someone else to sting you.

–Plato, Apology, 30e-31a (H.N. Fowler transl.)

And this lovely painting there too:

 Read Scott’s reflective post on this quote and painting here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *