Thursday, September 15, 2011

Chaerephon the Bat

Chaerephon is one of history's memorable secondary characters, in the sense that we hardly see him at all and yet can hardly forget him. He was a real person, a close childhood friend of Socrates. Xenophon calls him one of Socrates's "true companions" in the Memorabilia; in Plato's Apology, Socrates mentions him as a good friend of both Socrates and many in Socrates's jury; Aristophanes makes him a character and companion of Socrates in The Clouds, and we find him talked about in The Wasps and The Birds, as well. It was Chaerephon who went to the Oracle at Delphi and asked it whether there was any man in Greece wiser than Socrates, and thus it is Chaerephon whom Plato, at least, suggests was the one who started Socrates on his mission to find people who really knew what they were talking about. We know bits and pieces about his biography from Plato's Apology. In The Clouds Aristophanes refers to him as a living corpse, which perhaps is a clue to his appearance, and this may be thought confirmed by the fact that Aristophanes also nicknames Chaerephon "the bat" in The Birds. In both cases, of course, Aristophanes would have expected his audience to get the joke, so we can well imagine that the labels would have been obvious to the (apparently many) Athenian citizens who knew Chaerephon. I've always liked the bat label in particular: Chaerephon the Bat has a nice ring to it. It's hard to avoid thinking of him as looking a little like Dracula.

So you can imagine my delight on discovering that there is an entire genus of bats with the name Chaerephon.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please understand that this weblog runs on a third-party comment system, not on Blogger's comment system. If you have come by way of a mobile device and can see this message, you may have landed on the Blogger comment page, or the third party commenting system has not yet completely loaded; your comments will only be shown on this page and not on the page most people will see, and it is much more likely that your comment will be missed.