Friday, February 10, 2017


Not Socrates, but Isocrates

[An update to The Desire to Learn, because I just noticed something wrong about the quotation there.]

Humanist Educational Treatises. Edited and Translated by Craig W. Kallendorf (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2002 = I Tatti Renaissance Library, 5), pp. 262-263 (= Battista Guarino, De Ordine Docendi et Studendi 3), with notes on p. 343:
Antequam tamen ad studendi docendique praecepta veniamus, haudquaquam a proposito nostro alienum esse videbirur, si adolescentes ipsos admonuerimus, primum ut quam eis praeceptor extriinsecus tradere non potest discendi cupiditatem, ipsi per se sponte illam arripiant, et ad hydropis similitudinem se conforment, cui, ut inquit Ovidius, quo plus sunt potae, plus sitiuntur aquae. Sic et ipsi quo plura in dies didicerint, eo plura percipere et haurire tamquam diuturnam sitim extinguere cupientes incitentur. Teneantque illud assidue ante mentis oculos quod Socrates graecus praecipit: si eris discendi studiosus, multa disces. Facile autem ad eam aviditatem se ipsos exhortabuntur si, ut idem inquit Socrates, turpe esse cogitaverint mercatores tot tantaque maria navigare ut divitias amplificent, iuniores vero terrestri itinere ad praeceptores tendere ut meliorem mentis habitum constituant; si animo etiam versaverint nullam esse possessionem doctrina honestiorem aut stabiliorem: nam pulchritudinem et robur, etiam si nullo morbo diminuantur, certe senectus ipsa conficit: pecuniae vero saepius inertiae causam quam adipiscendae virtutis materiam praestant.

Nevertheless before we come to the precepts of study and teaching, it is highly relevant to our undertaking to advise young people themselves, first, to acquire spontaneously a real desire to learn—something a teacher can't give them from the outside—and act like a case of dropsy, for whom, as Ovid says, the more water it drinks, the more it thirsts for.4 And so the more knowledge they acquire each day, the more knowledge they are stimulated to seize and drink in, as though longing to quench a chronic thirst. Let them always keep in mind the teaching of the Greek Socrates: if you are eager to learn, you will learn much. They will find ready encouragement to acquire that eagerness, as the same Socrates says, if they see how shameful it is that merchants sail far across the seas to increase their wealth, while young people go by land seeking teachers to improve their minds;5 if they also keep in mind that no possession is more honorable or stable than learning, for beauty and strength, even when not diminished by any disease, are surely laid low in the end by old age, and money more often provides an excuse for sloth than a means for attaining virtue.

4. quo plus sunt potae, plus sitiuntur aquae: Ovid Fast. 1.216.

5. teneantque illud ... constituant: ps. Plutarch De educ. 7; Cicero Tusc. 5.4.10-11. Sea travel was considered much more dangerous than land travel in premodern times.
The references to Socrates, in both Latin and English, are mistaken. Guarino was referring not to Socrates, but to Isocrates. See Isocrates, To Demonicus 18-19 (tr. George Norlin):
If you love knowledge, you will be a master of knowledge. What you have come to know, preserve by exercise; what you have not learned, seek to add to your knowledge; for it is as reprehensible to hear a profitable saying and not grasp it as to be offered a good gift by one’s friends and not accept it. Spend your leisure time in cultivating an ear attentive to discourse, for in this way you will find that you learn with ease what others have found out with difficulty. Believe that many precepts are better than much wealth; for wealth quickly fails us, but precepts abide through all time; for wisdom alone of all possessions is imperishable. Do not hesitate to travel a long road to those who profess to offer some useful instruction; for it were a shame, when merchants cross vast seas in order to increase their store of wealth, that the young should not endure even journeys by land to improve their understanding.

ἐὰν ᾖς φιλομαθής, ἔσει πολυμαθής. ἃ μὲν ἐπίστασαι, ταῦτα διαφύλαττε ταῖς μελέταις, ἃ δὲ μὴ μεμάθηκας, προσλάμβανε ταῖς ἐπιστήμαις· ὁμοίως γὰρ αἰσχρὸν ἀκούσαντα χρήσιμον λόγον μὴ μαθεῖν καὶ διδόμενόν τι ἀγαθὸν παρὰ τῶν φίλων μὴ λαβεῖν. κατανάλισκε τὴν ἐν τῷ βίῳ σχολὴν εἰς τὴν τῶν λόγων φιληκοΐαν· οὕτω γὰρ τὰ τοῖς ἄλλοις χαλεπῶς εὑρημένα συμβήσεταί σοι ῥᾳδίως μανθάνειν. ἡγοῦ τῶν ἀκουσμάτων πολλὰ πολλῶν εἶναι χρημάτων κρείττω· τὰ μὲν γὰρ ταχέως ἀπολείπει, τὰ δὲ πάντα τὸν χρόνον παραμένει· σοφία γὰρ μόνον τῶν κτημάτων ἀθάνατον. μὴ κατόκνει μακρὰν ὁδὸν πορεύεσθαι πρὸς τοὺς διδάσκειν τι χρήσιμον ἐπαγγελλομένους· αἰσχρὸν γὰρ τοὺς μὲν ἐμπόρους τηλικαῦτα πελάγη διαπερᾶν ἕνεκα τοῦ πλείω ποιῆσαι τὴν ὑπάρχουσαν οὐσίαν, τοὺς δὲ νεωτέρους μηδὲ τὰς κατὰ γῆν πορείας ὑπομένειν ἐπὶ τῷ βελτίω καταστῆσαι τὴν αὑτῶν διάνοιαν.
I now see that Luigi Piacente, ed., Battista Guarini, La didattica del greco e del latino: De ordine docendi ac studendi e altri scritti (Bari: Edipuglia, 2002), p. 28, correctly prints Isocrates and correctly identifies the quotations.


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