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

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.

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