Socrates on love-charms and magic spells
Xenophon reports many intriguing conversations Socrates had with fellow Athenians and foreigners. One of these was held with an extremely beautiful young woman called Theodote who, given her beauty, frequently posed for painters and artists. The very end of their conversation reads like this:
“How, then,” she said. ‘would I be able to induce hunger in someone for what I have?”
“By Zeus,” he said Socrates, ‘if, first, you neither approach nor offer any reminder to those who are satiated until they stop being full and are in need again. Then, if you offer reminders to those who are in need by means of the most decorous intimacy possible and by visibly wishing to gratify, yet fleeing —until they are most in need. For it makes a big difference to give the same gifts at that point, rather than before they desire them.”
And Theodote said, “Why then, Socrates, don’t you become my fellow hunter of friends?”
“If, by Zeus,” he said, “you persuade me.”
“How, then, might I persuade you?” she said.
“You yourself will seek this out and will contrive it,” he said, “if you have some need of me.”
“Then visit me often,” she said.
And Socrates, joking about his own lack of busyness, said, “But Theodote, it is not very easy for me to find leisure, for in fact many affairs both private and public deprive me of leisure. And I also have female friends who will not allow me to leave them day or night, since they are learning love charms and incantations from me.”
“Do you understand these things, as well, Socrates?” she said.
“Well,” he said,” why do you think Apollodorus here and Antisthenes are never absent from me? And why do you think Cebes and Simmias are present from Thebes? Know well that this hasn’t happened without many love charms, incantations and spells.”
“Then lend me the spell,” she said, “ so that I might draw it first against you.”
“But, by Zeus,” he said, “ I myself do not wish to be drawn to you —but that you come to me.”
“Then I will go to you,” she said. “Only receive me.”
“But I will receive you,” he said, “unless some female dearer than you is inside.”
Xenophon Memorabilia III, 11 (Translation by Amy L. Bonnette, (Ithaca: Cornell University, 1994)
No wonder ugly Socrates ——who knew he knew nothing—– also knew he only knew much about only ONE specific topic. That topic was eros. In this respect he is not far from artists, who also claim to know much about our erotic life.