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Forum Antiquum Lecture Spring 2023: 'The proper time for marriage: Plato vs. Xenophon on law and persuasion'

Thursday 11 May 2023
Forum Antiquum Lectures Series Spring 2023
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden

In Plato’s Laws 721b-c the Guest from Athens presents the law for procreation, or proper time for marriage, to illustrate his major legal innovation, namely the preambles to the laws. He draws a contrast between (a) a ‘double form’ of law, i.e. a law that is introduced by a preamble, an argument that persuades the citizens –or rather the ‘free’ citizens– to obey the law, explaining the advantages of marriage and procreation at a certain age; and (b) the ‘single form’, which consists merely in what the law proper prescribes, followed by the threat of punishment. I propose to compare Plato’s treatment of the law for procreation in the Laws to Xenophon’s Memorabilia 4.4., where Socrates invokes the law against incest (which is curiously connected to the question of proper age for procreation) as an example of a law that entails its punishment. I propose to argue that both authors take sides and provide answers to the question of the ‘advisability of undetected crime’ –which had been raised by some of the so-called sophists but also by Aristophanes’ persona of Socrates. But whereas Xenophon’s answer turns on the notion of divine punishment (transgressors cannot escape the greatest punishment which consists in begetting children badly) Plato introduces a new conception of law, but also of the role of the free citizen as an agent who can be persuaded by reason. I would also like to suggest that the above contrast between the two Socratics reflects a deeper contrast between Spartan and Athenian values, represented respectively by Xenophon’s Socrates in Memorabilia 4.4. and Plato’s ‘Guest from Athens’ in the Laws.

Chloe Balla is an Associate Professor of Ancient Philosophy at the University of Crete. She is the author of Platonic Persuasion: From rhetoric  to statescraft (in Modern Greek; Athens: Polis, 1997). She has written articles on Plato, the Sophists, and the early medical writers and  edited a number of volumes, including:  Philosophy and Rhetoric in Classical Athens [in Greek; Irakleio: University of Crete Press, 2008]; Deaths of philosophers in antiquity [in Greek; special issue of Υπόμνημα στη φιλοσοφία, n. 9, 2011, co-edited, with P. Kotzia and G. Zografidis]; Plato’s Academy: Its Workings and Its History (Cambridge University Press, co-edited with P. Kalligas, E. Baziotopoulou, V. Karasmanis). She is currently writing a monograph on Plato’s Phaedo and, on behalf of the International Society for Socratic Studies, she is co-editing, with Francesca Pentassuglio, the Proceedings of Socratica V.

Registration for the lecture is not necessary, but if you would like to join us for dinner please let us know as soon as possible by sending an e-mail to h.b.de.boer@hum.leidenuniv.nl.

Feel free to join us for drinks after the lecture in De Keyzer, Kaiserstraat 2-4, Leiden.

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