Two Songs in the Kallipolis of Plato's Republic
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Two Songs in the Kallipolis of Plato’s Republic. (2021). The Political Science Reviewer, 45(1), 193-219.


In Plato’s Republic, Socrates specifies the training of rulers in the Kallipolis. The Kallipolis is the aristocratic city-state, and the best constitution among the luxurious or sick constitutions. The initial stage of the rulers’ education covers music for the soul and gymnastics for the body (411e–412a). Harmonizing these two forms of education occupies Socrates’ attention in Books. II and III. Despite the import of music on politics and the soul, Socrates’ discussion is perplexing. He endorses the enharmonic modes in the Kallipolis, instead of the older and more austere diatonic modes. He includes the Phrygian mode in the Kallipolis, but that mode is associated with the timocratic constitution, Dionysus, and the forbidden aulos (399a, d). When he discusses the musical modes and rhythms, he seems not to know specifics about the modes and says that he doesn’t know how the rhythms relate to the constitutions (398e, 400a–c). At first glance Socrates’ account seems incoherent and incomplete. Despite the apparent lack of content and coherence in Socrates’ account, this paper argues that he specifies the words, musical mode, and rhythms of the Kallipolis enough for us to identify two lines of music that are permissible. Socrates names the “heroic” and “enoplios” rhythms (400b–c). Socrates’ additional description of the rhythms shows that heroic rhythm is in the first line of the Odyssey and the enoplios is in the first line of the Iliad. His description of the musical modes shows that he identifies the Dorian and Phrygian modes. I apply a selection of notes from the appropriate modes to the two lines of Homer’s epic poems. The words of the two lines complete the elements necessary for a song, according to Socrates. I do not claim that Socrates references these lines in particular. I argue, instead, that these lines conform to his requirements. This paper concludes by presenting two songs that are fit for the Kallipolis in Plato’s Republic.

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