“Sileni Alcibaides”

Desiderius Erasmus. From Des. Erasm. Rot. Opervm secvndvs tomvs Adagiorvm [Adages], 1540.

Image of Sileni Alcibaides

The title page of the Adages by the Christian humanist Erasmus.

Image of Sileni Alcibaides

The Inquisition selectively censored Erasmus’s work, as seen in these pages on the Sileni of Alcibaides.

… Alcibiades in Plato’s Symposium, who is preparing to deliver a panegyric of Socrates, draws a parallel between him and Sileni of this kind, because like them he was very different on close inspection from what he seemed in his outward bearing and appearance.

Anyone who had valued him skin-deep (as they say) would not have given twopence for him… Yet, had you opened this absurd Silenus [Socrates], you would have found, you may be sure, a divine being rather than a man, a great and lofty spirit worthy of a true philosopher, one who despised all the things for which other mortals run their races, sail the seas, toil, go to law, and fight in wars; a man above resenting any injury and over whom fortune had no power at all; so far from any fear that he despised even death…

[Beginning of crossed out passage] And what of Christ? Was not He too a marvelous Silenus, (if one may be allowed to use such language of Him)? And I for my part do not see how any who proudly call themselves Christians can escape the duty of reproducing this to the utmost of their power. Observe the outside surface of this Silenus: to judge by ordinary standards, what could be humbler or more worthy of disdain? … But this was the only system which He chose to set before His disciples and His friends—before us Christians…

Translation from Desiderius Erasmus. Collected Works of Erasmus, Vol. 34. Adages II vii 1 to III iii 100. Translated and annotated by R. A. B. Mynors. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1992. pp. 262–265.

Metadata Details
Item Type Book Section
Title Sileni Alcibaides
Short Title Erasmus's Adages, 1540
Book Title Des. Erasm. Rot. Opervm secvndvs tomvs Adagiorvm [Adages]
Place of Publication Basilae
Publisher Ex officina Frobeniana
Creator Desiderius Erasmus
Publication Date 1540
Language Latin
Call Number Case 6A 209
Location Special Collections 4th floor