The Classical Quarterly (New Series)

Research Article

Cleombrotus of Ambracia: interpretations of a suicide from Callimachus to Agathias*

G. D. Williamsa1

a1 Columbia University

At Phaedo 59b Echecrates asks Phaedo who was present on the day when Socrates drank the hemlock in prison. Various Athenians are named (59b 6–10), then various foreigners (59c 1–2), but when Echecrates subsequently asks if two other foreigners, Aristippus and Cleombrotus, were present, Phaedo replies that they were said to be in Aegina (59c 4). After this fleeting reference to Cleombrotus, Plato does not mention him again in the Phaedo or any other dialogue; and yet in later antiquity a certain Cleombrotus of Ambracia rose to fame in connection with the Phaedo. Callimachus is our earliest source for the anecdote which immortalized the Ambracian (A.P. 7.471):

Εxs1F34πας ‘Ἥλιε xs03F0αxs1FD6ρε’ Κλεμβρτος xs1F61μβρακιxs1F7Dτης

xs1F05λατ' φ' xs1F51Ψηλο τεxs03F0εος εxs1F30ς xs1F08δην,

xs1F34ζιον οxs1F50δν xs1F30δxs1F7Cν θαντου κακν, λλ Πλτωνος

xs1F15ν τ περ Ψυxs03F0ς γρμμ' ναλεζμενος.


* I am grateful to Alan Cameron and Stephen White for commenting on an earlier draft of this paper, and to Byron Harries for invaluable assistance at every stage. My thanks also to an anonymous referee and to the editors for various improvements. The following works are cited by author's name only: R. S. Bluck, Plato's Phaedo (London, 1955); J. Burnet, Plato's Phaedo (Oxford, 1911); D. Gallop, Plato: Phaedo (Oxford, 1975); A. S. F. Gow and D. L. Page, The Greek Anthology: Hellenistic Epigrams (Cambridge, 1965); R. Hackforth, Plato's Phaedo (Cambridge, 1955); T. Sinko, ‘De Callimachi epigr. XXIII. W, Eos 11 (1905), 1–10; L. Spina, ‘Cleombroto, la fortuna di un suicidio (Callimaco, ep. 23)’, Vichiana 18 (1989), 12–39.