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Headword: Ἐγκράτεια
Adler number: epsilon,123
Translated headword: continence, control, self-control
Vetting Status: high
[Meaning] an insuperable attitude regarding rational matters or a disposition unconquerable by pleasures.[1]
"It is possible[2] to show that sometimes the serious man is not sound-minded, by changing[3] the sound-minded man into the man of self-control, since if the parts of the soul of the man of self-control are not in harmony, while those of the serious man are, then the serious man would not be [sc. the same as] a man of self-control. And so neither would the sound-minded man [be the same], if sound-mindedness is like self-control. But on the other hand one can show that the serious man is a man of self-control, by changing self-control into sound-mindedness, at least if the serious man has harmony of the powers of his soul,[4] and the harmony[5] of the powers of the soul is [the same as] sound-mindedness. So too Demosthenes, when he wanted to make it so that no one need be grateful to Philip for what he gave, changed 'he gave' into 'he gave back'.[6] And Thucydides, since he wanted to rouse the Athenians against the Mytileneans, changed their 'secession' into an 'insurrection'.[7] And customary usage[8] is full of this sort of thing whenever we change names into more emphatic versions: "cutting" [is changed] into "chopping down", "eating" into "gobbling down", "smiling" into "laughing"; they also change the rogue into the man of practical wisdom, the audacious fellow into the brave, the humble into the lazy and listless, the generous into the profligate, and the frugal into the stingy. So too Callicles in the Gorgias according to Plato changes sound-minded men into fools."[9] "And, if we want to show that the sound-minded man is not a man of self-control, we will change the man of self-control into the man of selfish control (for the name signifies this) and [say that] what is being controlled is controlled, though it resists and fights back. And, since the subject and object of the control is within the soul, then there is no agreement. The sound-minded man, however, has the parts of his soul in agreement with each other. The same reason applies in the case of the uncontrolled and the unpunished."
Greek Original:
Ἐγκράτεια: διάθεσις ἀνυπέρβατος τῶν κατ' ὀρθὸν λόγον ἢ ἕξις ἀήττητος ἡδονῶν. ὅτι ἔστι δεικνύναι μεταλαβόντας, ὡς ποτὲ μὲν ὁ σπουδαῖος οὐ σώφρων, μεταλαβόντα τὸν σώφρονα εἰς τὸν ἐγκρατῆ: εἰ γὰρ τοῦ μὲν ἐγκρατοῦς οὐ συμφωνεῖ τὰ μέρη τῆς ψυχῆς πρὸς ἄλληλα, τοῦ δὲ σπουδαίου συμφωνεῖ, οὐκ ἂν εἴη ὁ σπουδαῖος ἐγκρατής: ὥστε οὐδὲ σώφρων, εἰ ταὐτὸν ἡ σωφροσύνη τῇ ἐγκρατείᾳ. πάλιν δ' αὖ δύναταί τις δεικνύναι τὸν σπουδαῖον ἐγκρατῆ μεταλαβὼν τὴν ἐγκράτειαν εἰς τὴν σωφροσύνην, εἴ γε ὁ μὲν σπουδαῖος ἐν ὁμολογίᾳ τῶν τῆς ψυχῆς δυνάμεων [πρὸς] ἀλλήλας εἴη, ἡ δὲ τῶν τῆς ψυχῆς δυνάμεων πρὸς ἄλληλα σωφροσύνη. οὕτω καὶ ὁ Δημοσθένης κατασκευάσαι βουληθείς, ὅτι μὴ δεῖ χάριν ἔχειν Φιλίππῳ ὑπὲρ ὧν ἔδωκε, μετέλαβε τὸ ἔδωκεν εἰς τὸ ἀπέδωκε: καὶ ὁ Θουκυδίδης βουληθεὶς παροξῦναι τοὺς Ἀθηναίους πρὸς τοὺς Μιτυληναίους, τὴν ἀπόστασιν αὐτῶν εἰς τὴν ἐπανάστασιν μετέλαβε. καὶ ἡ συνήθεια δὲ πλήρης τῆς τοιαύτης χρήσεως, μεταλαμβάνοντες ἀεὶ τὰ ὀνόματα πρὸς τὰ ἐμφαντικώτατα, τὸ τέμνειν εἰς τὸ κατατέμνειν, τὸ ἐσθίειν εἰς τὸ κατεσθίειν, τὸ μειδιᾶν εἰς τὸ γελᾶν: μεταλαμβάνουσι δὲ καὶ τὸν πανοῦργον εἰς τὸν φρόνιμον, τὸν δὲ τολμηρὸν εἰς τὸν ἀνδρεῖον, τὸν πρᾶον εἰς τὸν ἀργὸν καὶ ἀκίνητον, τὸν ἐλευθέριον εἰς τὸν ἄσωτον, τὸν οἰκονομικὸν εἰς τὸν ἀνελεύθερον. οὕτω καὶ Καλλικλῆς ἐν τῷ Γοργίᾳ παρὰ τῷ Πλάτωνι τοὺς σώφρονας ἠλιθίους μεταλαμβάνει. δεῖξαι δὲ θέλοντες ὅτι ὁ σώφρων οὐκ ἔστιν ἐγκρατής, μεταληψόμεθα τὸν ἐγκρατῆ εἰς τὸν αὐτοκρατοῦντα [τοῦτο γὰρ σημαίνει τὸ ὄνομα], καὶ δείξαντες ὅτι ἔνθα τὸ κρατοῦν, ἐνταῦθα καὶ κρατούμενόν τι ἔσται, τὸ δὲ κρατούμενον ἀντισπῶν καὶ μαχόμενον κρατεῖται, ἔνθα δὲ τὸ μὲν κρατοῦν τὸ δὲ κρατούμενόν ἐστι τῆς ψυχῆς, οὐκ ἔστιν ἐνταῦθα ὁμολογία, ὁ δὲ σώφρων ὁμολογοῦντα ἔχει τὰ τῆς ψυχῆς μέρη πρὸς ἄλληλα. ὁ αὐτὸς λόγος καὶ ἐπὶ τοῦ ἀκρατοῦς καὶ ἀκολάστου.
cf. epsilon 804 (end), omicroniota 71, pi 212, pi 2220, tau 742. For this headword see also epsilon 124, epsilon 125; and cf. more broadly epsilon 122 and epsilon 126.
[1] A Stoic definition, from Diogenes Laertius 7.93 (Life of Zeno).
[2] Starting here the entry has been adapted from the Commentary on Aristotle's Topica by Alexander of Aphrodisias (2nd-3rd cent. AD), sections 157.18-158.7 and 176.20-27 (in Wallies). For more on Alexander of Aphrodisias and pertinent bibliography, see web address 1, a reference from the Stanford Encylopedia of Philosophy.
[3] This one word translates the words μεταλαβόντας and μεταλαβόντα in the Suda. The Suda has apparently retained the original μεταλαβόντας of Alexander of Aphrodisias, while introducing a singular version.
[4] The original Greek of the Suda (and Alexander of Aphrodisias) has πρὸς ἀλλήλας here and again before σωφροσύνη in the next clause; but to say "harmony towards each other" or "harmony among one another" would be redundant in English.
[5] This translates ὁμολογία which is in the text of Alexander of Aphrodisias here. The Suda accidentally omits this word.
[6] What passage(s) in Demosthenes this remark relates to is uncertain; the possibilities include 8.65 (= 10.67) and 23.121.
[7] In terms of nouns, the transmitted text of Thucydides 3.1-50 consistently calls this revolt an apostasis, translated here as 'secession'. (For 'insurrection', epanastasis, applied to other revolts see 2.27.2 and 4.56.2 (Helots) and 8.21.1 (Samos).) However, the lexicographer -- and Alexander of Aphrodisias before him -- must have in mind 3.39.2. There Cleon (kappa 1731), speaking for a second time in favour of punishing the Mytileneans severely, makes this very distinction by means of verbs: ἐπεβούλευσάν τε καὶ ἐπανέστησαν μᾶλλον ἢ ἀπέστησαν (ἀπόστασις μέν γε τῶν βίαιόν τι πασχόντων ἐστίν ). A scholiast to the passage, using nouns, then underlines the distinction by explaining that (sc. from the hegemon's standpoint) an epanastasis is a revolt where the rebels have no justified claim of maltreatment. See further A. Andrewes in Gomme/Andrewes/Dover, A Historical Commentary on Thucydides 5 (1981) 45; S. Hornblower, A Commentary on Thucydides 1 (1991) 428.
[8] See generally LSJ s.v. συνήθεια II.2 (web address 2).
[9] Plato, Gorgias 491E (web address 3).
Wallies, M., ed. Commentaria in Aristotelem Graeca: On the Topics, vol. 2.2, Berlin: Reimer, 1891
Associated internet addresses:
Web address 1,
Web address 2,
Web address 3
Keywords: biography; definition; ethics; historiography; history; philosophy; politics; rhetoric
Translated by: Abram Ring on 7 February 2006@17:33:47.
Vetted by:
David Whitehead (augmented notes and keywords; cosmetics) on 8 February 2006@03:41:28.
Abram Ring (italicized modern titles, added web reference, standardized bibliography) on 27 March 2006@09:53:26.
David Whitehead (tweaks and cosmetics) on 25 July 2012@09:29:49.
David Whitehead (more x-refs) on 27 January 2014@05:18:21.
Catharine Roth (tweak, upgraded link, coding) on 20 February 2015@01:30:01.
Catharine Roth (upgraded link, coding) on 20 February 2015@09:54:00.
David Whitehead (expanded n.7, at the prompting of Prof Elizabeth Irwin) on 8 November 2015@04:51:14.
David Whitehead (various tweaks) on 9 November 2015@03:39:42.
Catharine Roth (tweaked betacode) on 11 November 2016@01:36:47.


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