1. Euthyd. 275 d – Socrates, to the Muses and Memory, for aid in remembering a conversation.
2. Phaedo 117 c – Socrates, to the Gods, as he takes the hemlock
3. Symp. 220 d – Socrates, to the Sun, after the twenty-four hour “trance” at Potidaia.
4. Phaedr. 237 a-b – Socrates, to the Muses, for aid in his first speech on love.
5. Ibid. 257 a-b – Socrates, to Eros, at the close of his second speech on love, for forgiveness, success in love, and intercession.
6. Ibid. 278 b – Socrates prays to be a philosopher.
7. Ibid. 279 b-c – Socrates, to Pan and others, for inner beauty, wisdom, temperance, and harmony.
8. Rep. I 327 a-b – Socrates tells of having prayed at the festival of Bendis.
9. Ibid. IV 432 c – Socrates prays for success in discovering the nature of justice.
10. Ibid. VIII 545 d-e – Socrates, to the Muses, for information on the origin of political dissension.
11. Tim. 27 b-d – Timaeus, to Gods and Goddesses, for a discourse pleasing to Gods and men.
12. Ibid. 48 d-e – Timaeus, to a God, for success in the second part of the discourse.
13. Critias 106 a-b – Timaeus, to the cosmos, as he ends his discourse, for truth and knowledge.
14. Ibid. 108 c-d – Critias, to Paean, the Muses, the Gods. and especially Memory, as he begins his discourse.
15. Phil. 25 b – Socrates, to a God, for aid in the argument.
16. Ibid. 61 b-c – Socrates, to Dionysus and Hephaestus, for success in the argument.
17. Laws IV 712 b – the Athenian, to a God, for aid in the discourse.
18, 19. Ibid. VII 823 d, X 887 c – the Athenian speaks as though praying.
20. Ibid. X 893 b – the Athenian, to a God and the Gods, for assistance in proving the existence of the Gods.
21. Epin. 980 b-c – the Athenian, to the Gods and the God, for a beautiful and excellent discourse
-Euthydemus 275 d, Republic IV 432 c, VIII 545 d-e, Philebus 25 b, 61 b-c.
The content of all five prayers is the same. In each place Socrates prays for some sort of aid in the argument, either for memory or for dialectical skill. As for example, in the Philebus:
“Socrates: All right. Now what description are we going to give of number three, the mixture of these two [viz. the classes of the finite and the infinite]?
Protarchus: That, I think, will be for you to tell me.
Socrates: Or rather for a God to tell us, if one comes to listen to my prayers.
Protarchus: Then offer your prayer, and look to see if He does.
Socrates: I am looking, and I fancy, Protarchus, that one of Them has befriended us for some little time.
Socrates: Then let us mingle our ingredients, Protarchus, with a prayer to the Gods, to Dionysus or Hephaestus or whichever God has been assigned this function of mingling. (61 b 11-c 2)”
The brief prayer in Republic IV plays the same role as the Philebus prayers: “Offer up a prayer with me, I [Socrates] said, and follow. That I will do, only lead on, he said. (432 c 5-6)”
In the Euthydemus Socrates must recall a complicated sophistical conversation of the day before: “What followed, Crito, how could I describe properly? It is not a small business to
recall and repeat wisdom ineffably great! So I must begin my description as the poets do, by invoking the Muses and Memory herself (275 c 5-d 2)”
Then again in Republic VIII: “Shall we, like Homer, invoke the Muses to tell ‘how faction first fell upon them,’ and say that these Goddesses playing with us and teasing us as if we
were children address us in lofty, mock-senrous tragic style? (545 d 5-e 3)”
-Phaedo 117 c
After receiving the cup of poison and instructions on how to take it, Socrates asked if he could pour a libation from the drink. When the jailor told him that there was no poison to spare for such an offering Socrates said: “I understand, but at least, I suppose, it is allowed to offer a prayer to the Gods and that must be done, for good luck in the migration from here to there. Then that is my prayer, and so may it be!”
-Symposium 220 d
The first such prayer occurs in Alcibiades’ Symposium speech in praise of Socrates. He tells how during the Potidaian campaign of 431-430 Socrates stood one day thinking from
sunrise to sunrise (220 c-d). And then, at the end of twenty-four hours, Socrates “… offered a prayer to the Sun and walked away.”
-Phaedrus 237 a-b
“Come then, ye clear-voiced Muses, whether it be from the nature of your song, or from the musical people of Liguria that ye came to be so styled, ‘assist the tale I tell’ under compulsion by my good friend here, to the end that he may think yet more highly of one dear to him, whom he already accounts a man of wisdom. (237 a 7-b 1)”
-Phaedrus 257 a-b
Socrates was temporarily unhappy with the speech on love which follows his prayer to the Muses (242 b-243 d). But he later views it in connection with his second speech and finds
that it had its appropriateness (264e-266 b). In effect, the two speeches are two parts of one speech (266 a). Thus a prayer to the Muses opens that one speech and a prayer to Eros
closes it. The latter is a remarkable prayer in many respects. For one thing it is the longest prayer in Plato’s dialogues.
“Thus then, dear Eros, I havy offered the fairest recantation and fullest atonement that my powers co-ild compass; some of its language, in particular, was perforce poetical, to please
Phaedrus. Grant me thy pardon for what went before, and thy favor for what ensued; be merciful and gracious, and take not from me the lover’s talent wherewith thou hast blessed
me; neither let it wither by reason of thy displeasure, but grant me still to increase in the esteem of the fair. And if anything that Phaedrus and I said earlier sounded discordant to
thy ear, set it down to Lysias, the only begetter of that discourse, and staying him from discourses after this fashion turn him toward the love of wisdom, even as his brother
Polemarchus has been turned. Then will his loving disciple here present no longer halt between two opinions, as now he does, but live for love in singleness of purpose with the aid of philosophical discourse. (257 a 3-b 6)”
-Phaedrus 278 b
Shortly after the prayer to Eros Socrates begins discussion of the nature of good and bad writing and speaking (258 d ff.). This is the main topic of the dialogue, the speeches on love
being illustrations of good and bad discourse. Socrates concludes that good speech is spoken not written, that it uses the methods of collection and division to gain knowledge of its
subject matter, and that it presupposes knowledge of the soul. He then observes: ” … the man … who believes this, and disdains all manner of discourse other than this, is, I would
venture to affirm, the man whose example you and I would pray that we might follow. (278 b 2-4)”
-Phaedrus 279 b-c
The final prayer in the Phaedrus and the most famous prayer in Plato comes at the close of the dialogue. The conversation has taken place under a tree outside the city during the heat of the day (227 a, 229 a-b). It has cooled off and Phaedrus suggests that they be going.
“Socrates: Oughtn’t we first to offer a prayer to the divinities here?
Phaedrus: To be sure.
Socrates: Dear Pan, and all ye other Gods that dwell in this place, grant that I may become fair within, and that such outward things as I have may not war against the spirit within me. May I count him rich who is wise, and as for gold, may I possess so much of it as only a temperate man might bear and carry with him. Is there anything more we can ask for, Phaedrus? The prayer contents me. (279 b 6-c 5)”
-Republic I 327 a-b
The Republic opens with Socrates as the narrator: “I went down yesterday to the Piraeus with Glaucon, the son of Ariston, to pay my devotions to the Goddess, and also I wished to see how they would conduct the festival since this was its inauguration. I thought the procession of the citizens very fine, but it was no better than the show made by the marching of the Thracian contingent. After we had said our prayers and seen the spectacle we were starting for town when Polemarchus, the son of Cephalus, caught sight of us … (I 327 a 1-b 3)
-Tim. 27 b 8-d 4
“Socrates: … And now, Timaeus, you, I suppose, should speak next, after duly calling upon the Gods.
Timaeus: All men, Socrates, who have any degree of right feeling, at the beginning of every enterprise, whether small or great, always call upon a God. And we, too, who are going to discourse of the nature of the universe, how created or how existing without creation, if we be not altogether out of our wits, must invoke Gods and Goddesses with a prayer that our words may be above all acceptable to them and in consequence to ourselves. Let this, then, be our invocation of the Gods, to which I add an exhortation of myself to speak in such manner as will be more intelligible to you, and will most accord with my own intent.”
-Laws X, 893 c-899 d
“To the work, then, and if we are ever to beseech a God’s help, let it be done now. Let us take it as understood that the Gods have, of course, been invoked in all earnest to assist our
proof of their own being, and plunge into the waters of the argument before us with the prayer as a sure guiding rope for our support.”