Volume 58, Issue 3, September 2018
Socrates as the Mimesis of Piety in Republic
The absence of any discussion of the virtue of piety in Plato’s Republic has been much remarked, but there are textual clues by which to recognize its importance for Plato’s construction and for the book’s intended effect. This dialogue is Socrates’s repetition, on the day after the first festival of Bendis, of a liturgical action that he undertook—at his own expense, at the “vote” of his “city”—on the previous day. Socrates’s activity in repeating it the next day is an “ethological” mimesis of properly pious liturgy. In the course of that liturgy we find that piety is specifically discussed, but in a (mimetic) mirror, and darkly (in its absence). The mirror of piety is the laws about stories of the gods. The absence is in the (missing) discussion of the best city, that is, one above aristocracy.