The informer and the sycophant in Diogenes Laertius

I’m currently rereading Diogenes Laertius’ Lives of the Philosophers as my bedtime book.  This evening I came across a curious passage in the life of Plato (III, 24):

There is a story that he [Plato] pleaded for Chabrias the general when he was tried for his life, although no one else at Athens would do so, and that, on this occasion, as he was going up to the Acropolis with Chabrias, Crobylus the informer met him and said, “What, are you come to speak for the defence?  Don’t you know that the hemlock of Socrates awaits you?”  To this Plato replied, “As I faced dangers when serving in the cause of my country, so I will face them now in the cause of duty for a friend.”

I noted the words, “Crobylus the informer”, and I wondered what Greek word ‘informer’ represented.  For we think of informers — delatores — as a feature of Roman society.  So I looked across the page — I’m reading this in the Loeb edition — and was amused to read Κρωβύλος ὁ συκοφάντες – “Crobylus the sycophant“.

I had never associated sycophancy with tale-bearing and informing, but of course the link is an obvious one.


Greek text critical marks as described by Diogenes Laertius

I’m reading through the first volume of Diogenes Laertius Lives of the Philosophers.  In book 3, devoted to Plato, we find the following interesting excursus, which I copy from a version present on Wikisource here.

65. The right interpretation of his dialogues includes three things: first, the meaning of every statement must be explained; next, its purpose, whether it is made for a primary reason or by way of illustration, and whether to establish his own doctrines or to refute his interlocutor; in the third place it remains to examine its truth.

And since certain critical marks are affixed to his works let us now say a word about these. The cross × is taken to indicate peculiar expressions and figures of speech, and generally any idiom of Platonic usage; the diple[65] (>) calls attention to doctrines and opinions characteristic of Plato; 66. the dotted cross (⨰) denotes select passages and beauties of style; the dotted diple (⋗) editors’ corrections of the text; the dotted obelus (÷) passages suspected without reason; the dotted antisigma (Ꜿ) repetitions and proposals for transpositions; the ceraunium the philosophical school; the asterisk (∗) an agreement of doctrine; the obelus (−) a spurious passage.

So much for the critical marks and his writings in general. As Antigonus of Carystus says in his Life of Zeno, when the writings were first edited with critical marks, their possessors charged a certain fee to anyone who wished to consult them.

65. A wedge-shaped mark >, used in early papyri to denote a fresh paragraph.

It is always good to see the actual basis for some of the remarks that get made in text critical handbooks.  Here at least, we have an explicit statement of what marks indicate what.