Socrates' Aspasian Oration: The Play of Philosophy and Politics in Plato's Menexenus

Stephen G. Salkever
1993 American Political Science Review  
Plato'sMenexenusis overlooked, perhaps because of the difficulty of gauging its irony. In it, Socrates recites a funeral oration he says he learned from Aspasia, describing events that occurred after the deaths of both Socrates and Pericles' mistress. But the dialogue's ironic complexity is one reason it is a central part of Plato's political philosophy. In both style and substance,Menexenusrejects the heroic account of Athenian democracy proposed by Thucydides' Pericles, separating Athenian
more » ... izenship from the quest for immortal glory; its picture of the relationship of philosopher to polis illustrates Plato's conception of the truepolitikosin theStatesman. In both dialogues, philosophic response to politics is neither direct rule nor apolitical withdrawal.Menexenuspresents a Socrates who influences politics indirectly, by recasting Athenian history and thus transforming the terms in which its political alternatives are conceived.
doi:10.2307/2938961 fatcat:ygqqp66qjrdajmua6dqwedahlm