From the FAQ: Socrates on youth (debunked)

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Sam Hobbs

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May 3, 2002, 9:10:10 AM5/3/02
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Socrates on youth nowadays

A question which arises periodically on alt.quotations is for the full
text and the source of the "ancient" writing complaining about the bad
manners of youth nowadays. It is frequently suggested that Socrates
coined the material (almost certainly not true) although it is
occasionally attributed to Roman, Babylonian or other ancient sources.


The following material is courtesy of D.P.B. Smith, Jerry Melin, and
William Waterhouse (with some discussion also from Dave Bostock,
Daniel T. Earl, and Kurt Foster):

There are plenty of fake quotations around, and some of them have been
around for much more than thirty years. Any direct quotation from
"Socrates" is pretty suspect in the first place, since all we know
about Socrates is what others wrote about him -- no written work by
him has survived.

(From Jerry Melin) The book Nice Guys Finish Seventh: False Phrases,
Spurious Sayings, and Familiar Misquotations by Ralph Keyes (p. 20)
states:

...the mayor of Amsterdam attributed this observation to Socrates:
"The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for
authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in lace of
exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their
households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They
contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties
at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers." This
wisdom from the grave was subsequently reported in the New York Times
and reprinted widely. After Malcolm Forbes included Socrates's [sic]
words in a Forbes magazine editorial entitled "Youth," his research
staff went crazy trying to prove their authenticity. They contacted a
wide range of librarians, classicists, and other experts on Socrates.
None knew of any source for the passage. The researchers finally
called Amsterdam's mayor, Gijsbert van Hall. Van Hall said he'd seen
the lines by Socrates in a Dutch book whose title he could not recall.
There the search ended. "We suspect," Forbes's [sic] researchers
concluded, ". . . that Socrates never did make those cracks about
Athenian youth."

(From William C. Waterhouse) There has been some discussion of a
quotation attributed to Socrates, one version being this:

"The children now love luxury; they show disrespect for elders and
love chatter in place of exercise. Children are tyrants, not servants
of the households. They no longer rise when their elders enter the
room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up
dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize over their
teachers."
I don't know how it started, but I've found that it was probably
produced by cutting down and modifying a speech by "Right" in
Aristophanes' Clouds, 960ff. It's amusing to find it attributed to
Socrates, because of course Socrates in that play is the leading
representative of "Wrong".

From the quotations page in the FAQ
(now at http://home.earthlink.net/~altquot/):
======================
Anyway, here (in the translation by Patric Dickinson) are some parts
of the speech that resemble the "quotation" above:

. . .
A boy must hold his tongue among his elders.
. . .
Greed was abhorred, it was taboo to snatch
Radish tops, aniseed, or parsley before your elders,
Or to nibble kickshaws and giggle and twine one's feet.
. . .
So, you shall learn to hate the Agora,
And shun the baths and feel ashamed of smut;
. . .
And to get up and give your seat to your elders,
And not to behave towards your parents rudely
. . .

(From others) There are also sometimes suggestions that something
similar originated from ancient Sumer or Babylon, in particular,
something reputed to have been written on Babylonian clay tablets
thousands of years ago, a father complaining about how the rising
generation (his own son in particular) were lazy, disrespectful, were
going to make a mess of things, etc etc etc...

Another contribution was:

I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on
the frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless
beyond words.

When I was a boy, we were taught to be discrete and respectful of
elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise and impatient of
restraint.
--- Hesiod, Eighth Century B.C.
======================
Regards,
Sam

SteveMR200

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May 4, 2002, 8:00:02 PM5/4/02
to
On Fri, 03 May 2002 13:10:10 GMT, samue...@earthlink.net
(Sam Hobbs) wrote:

>"The children now love luxury; they show disrespect for elders and
>love chatter in place of exercise. Children are tyrants, not servants
>of the households. They no longer rise when their elders enter the
>room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up
>dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize over their
>teachers."
>

>From the quotations page in the FAQ
>(now at http://home.earthlink.net/~altquot/):

Every generation is convinced there has been a
deplorable breakdown of manners.
--Byron Dobell, _American Heritage_

--
Steve

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