Health, wealth and good looks

οἴομαι γάρ σε ἀκηκοέναι ἐν τοῖς συμποσίοις ᾀδόντων ἀνθρώπων τοῦτο τὸ σκολιόν, ἐν ᾧ καταριθμοῦνται ᾁδοντες ὅτι “ὑγιαίνειν μὲν ἄριστόν” ἐστιν, τὸ δὲ “δεύτερον καλὸν γενέσθαι, τρίτον δέ”, ὥς φησιν ὁ ποιητὴς τοῦ σκολιοῦ, “τὸ πλουτεῖν ἀδόλως”.

Plat. Gorg. 451d

I think you have heard people at dinner parties singing this drinking song in which they list in order the best things in life. “To be healthy is best, the second is to be good looking, and the third, as the composer of the song says, is to be wealthy honestly.”

So Socrates cites the traditional list of the good things in life. You can acquire wealth dishonestly but as Paris points out in the Iliad when Hector starts to insult him because of his looks, good looks are the gift of the gods.

μή μοι δῶρ᾽ ἐρατὰ πρόφερε χρυσέης Ἀφροδίτης:
οὔ τοι ἀπόβλητ᾽ ἐστὶ θεῶν ἐρικυδέα δῶρα
ὅσσά κεν αὐτοὶ δῶσιν, ἑκὼν δ᾽ οὐκ ἄν τις ἕλοιτο:

Iliad 3 65

Don’t bring into your argument the lovely gifts of golden Aphrodite. The glorious gifts of the gods are not to be despised when they give them. You can’t choose to have them.

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2 Responses to Health, wealth and good looks

  1. palaiophron says:

    Plato (or Socrates) seems to have omitted the fourth fine thing in life:

    ὑγιαίνειν μὲν ἄριστον ἀνδρὶ θνητῶι,
    δεύτερον δὲ καλὸν φυὰν γενέσθαι,
    τὸ τρίτον δὲ πλουτεῖν ἀδόλως,
    καὶ τὸ τέταρτον ἡβᾶν μετὰ τῶν φίλων.
    Carmina Convivalia 444 (8 B., 7 D.)

    You would fully expect that Socrates, with his characteristic affection for and frequent consort with youths, would have been tempted to alter the order of the poem!


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