December 11: Handsome Is As Handsome Does

I think we know what the article "Fun In A Hot Tub" was about, especially in 1978.

Way up at the top of his description of Alcibiades, Plutarch says this:
It is not, perhaps, material to say any thing of the beauty of Alcibiades, only that it bloomed with him in all the ages of his life, in his infancy, in his youth, and in his manhood; and, in the peculiar character becoming to each of these periods, gave him, in every one of them, a grace and a charm.
His beautifulness, in other words, is his top attribute. And as if you needed any more evidence that life tilts toward the good-looking, the life of Alcibiades gives ancient sanction to it. Plenty of young rich d-bags would try this:
He gave a box on the ear to Hipponicus, the father of Callias, whose birth and wealth made him a person of great influence and repute. And this he did unprovoked by any passion or quarrel between them, but only because, in a frolic, he had agreed with his companions to do it.
But only a handsome man could get out of it like this:
...early the next morning, Alcibiades went to his house and knocked at the door, and, being admitted to him, took off his outer garment, and, presenting his naked body, desired him to scourge and chastise him as he pleased. Upon this Hipponicus forgot all his resentment, and not only pardoned him, but soon after gave him his daughter Hipparete in marriage.
If you present your naked body to a rich dude, and it has back acne and a spare tire and stuff, you're not getting his daughter in marriage. We all know that. Unsurprisingly, after such an auspicious courtship, the marriage didn't go well:
Hipparete was a virtuous and dutiful wife, but, at last, growing impatient of the outrages done to her by her husband’s continual entertaining of courtesans [heh -- ed.], as well strangers as Athenians, she departed from him and retired to her brother’s house. Alcibiades seemed not at all concerned at this, and lived on still in the same luxury; but the law requiring that she should deliver to the archon in person, and not by proxy, the instrument by which she claimed a divorce, when...she presented herself before him to perform this, Alcibiades came in, caught her up, and carried her home through the market-place.
And yet he still beguiled Socrates, who risked his life to save him in battle, which I think would not have happened if Alcibiades had looks that would stop an eight-day clock. (Thanks to my Southern in-laws for the pithy saying.)

The other handsome thing Alcibiades did, which is not in the excerpt, was to switch sides from Athens to Sparta during the hard-to-spell Peloponnesian War, and then switch back, without anyone stringing him up or anything. It's sort of like the way you can never lose your job as a cable news expert no matter how wrong you are, except I doubt the cable news experts looked as good naked as Alcibiades must have. But then he had to -- he had more to live down. The dude got away with everything. Keep doing those crunches, gentlemen!

1 comment:

Lisa Simeone said...

Yes, Socrates was clearly hot for Alcibiades, but don't forget about Diotima. He gave her high marks in the Symposim, surprising given his proclivities.