Literapedia Book Notes for

Ion by Plato


  • Socrates—a man searching for truth
  • Ion--a rhapsode

Background to "Ion"

  1. Investigates the relationship between artists and their art.
  2. A rhapsode dramatically recited poetry (especially the works of Homer) for a living.
  3. Ion was a rhapsode and also professionally lectured on Homer.

Part 1: Is Ion’s Skill Genuine? (1-66)

  1. Ion claims to be an expert on Homer but not to understand other poetry.
  2. Socrates refutes this: "when a man has acquired a knowledge of a whole art [skill], the enquiry into good and bad is one and the same" (57).

Part 2: Poetic Inspiration (67-80)

  1. Socrates suggests that artists are inspired by the gods.
  2. Since performers are interpreters of the art, the inspiration extends to them, too.
  3. "The answer is that you praise Homer not by art but by divine inspiration" (80).

Part 3: Testing the Theory (81-179)

  1. Socrates asserts that the best interpreter of technical passages from Homer would be one knowledgeable in that skill.
  2. Ion just can’t let go of some stupid ideas—like good poets would make good generals.

Book Note Creator

Hal Waller, instructor