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The Callias of Aeschines Socraticus and the Meaning of διαφορά at Athenaeus 5.220b

Kevin Muse

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

The philosophical dialogues of Socrates’ student Aeschines of Sphettos are known to us only from fragmentary quotations and brief testimonia (see Giannantoni, SSR). There is thus considerable uncertainty about their contents. Using historical, philological, and papyrological evidence, this paper refutes a widespread misinterpretation of Athenaeus’ indication of the content of Aeschines’ dialogue Callias. Where Athenaeus (5.220b) says that “his (sc. Aeschines’) Callias contains the διαφορά between Callias and his father” (ὁ δὲ Καλλίας αὐτοῦ περιέχει τὴν τοῦ Καλλίου πρὸς τὸν πατέρα διαφορὰν), ἡ διαφορά should be taken to mean “the quarrel” between the father and son and not “the contrast” (of character), as has often been posited since Hermann (1850).

From the wording of Athen. 5.220b (= Giannantoni SSR VI A F 73) it is often maintained that Aeschines’ Callias contained “the contrast” (τὴν διαφοράν) in character between the notorious spendthrift Callias and his frugal father Hipponicus (see, e.g., the Loeb translations of Gulick and now Olson; for prosopographical background on Callias and Hipponicus see Davies and Nails). An earlier and likewise common interpretation of this passage holds that διαφορά refers to “the quarrel” between Callias and Hipponicus (see Daléchamps’s translation, simultas, in Casaubon 1597; see also Schweighäuser, Krauss, Dittmar, Allmann, and Canfora). This paper argues that the older “quarrel” interpretation is correct and adduces arguments and evidence that have not yet been brought to bear on the problem: 1) It is shown that Hermann, who introduced the “contrast” (differentia) interpretation (1850, 13-16), did so on spurious chronological grounds. Hermann alleged that Hipponicus could not have been alive when Callias began wasting his patrimony and that therefore a quarrel between them about Callias' profligacy would have been impossible. But Callias was probably born earlier than Hermann asserted, and Hipponicus need not have been deceased for Callias to have begun squandering money--abundant parallels show that father-son conflict over spending was a commonplace of Greek literature of the fifth and fourth centuries BCE. 2) Review of the usage of διαφορά shows that when it appears in the construction διαφορὰ πρός  + acc. and in reference to human beings, as it does in Athen. 5.220b, it nearly always refers to quarrels. Notable instances include quarrels between fathers and spendthrift sons (see, e.g., Plut. Pericles 36.1-3, which mentions a quarrel between Callias’ half-brother Xanthippus and Pericles over Xanthippus’ debt). 3) An overlooked parallel in a papyrus fragment of Aeschines’ own Alcibiades (P. Oxyr 1608 F 4 = SSR VI A F 48; cf. also Berry 1950) shows that Alcibiades was depicted in that dialogue using the construction διαφορὰ πρός  + acc. to refer disparagingly to an alleged quarrel between Themistocles and his parents. From other sources, thought to derive ultimately from Aeschines (e.g., Aelian Var. Hist. 2.12), we are told that Themistocles was disowned for prodigality (ἀσωτία), the same vice for which Callias became proverbial (Athen. 4.169a; see Nails 2002 for passages alluding to Callias' reputation as a prodigal). The paper concludes with brief remarks about the significance of the διαφορά for reconstruction of the dialogue.

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