At the Egyptian city of Naucratis, there was a famous old god, whose name was Theuth; the bird which is called the Ibis was sacred to him, and he was the inventor of many arts, such as arithmetic and calculation and geometry and astronomy and draughts and dice, but his great discovery was the use of letters. Now in those days Thamus was the king of the whole of Upper Egypt, which is the district surrounding that great city which is called by the Hellenes Egyptian Thebes, and they call the god himself Ammon. To him came Theuth and showed his inventions, desiring that the other Egyptians might be allowed to have the benefit of them; he went through them, and Thamus inquired about their several uses, and praised some of them and censured others, as he approved or disapproved of them. There would be no use in repeating all that Thamus said to Theuth in praise or blame of the various arts. But when they came to letters, This, said Theuth, will make the Egyptians wiser and give them better memories; for this is the cure of forgetfulness and of folly. Thamus replied: O most ingenious Theuth, he who has the gift of invention is not always the best judge of the utility or inutility of his own inventions to the users of them. And in this instance a paternal love of your own child has led you to say what is not the fact; for this invention of yours will create forgetfulness in the learner’s souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves. You have found a specific not for memory but for reminiscence, and you give your disciples only the pretence of wisdom; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome, having the reputation of knowledge without the reality.
— Socrates, as written by Plato (c. 370 B.C.), in his dialogue with Phaedrus. Available in Symposium and Phaedrus: Unabridged, translated from the Greek by Benjamin Jowett, (New York: Dover Publications, 1993), p. 87
"At the Egyptian city of Naucratis"
The Oracle had her biggest impact on Socrates. A native of Athens born a decade after the Persian wars, he became the most celebrated thinker of antiquity because of his uncompromising inquiries into ethics and moral philosophy. The Pythia‘s relationship with him was beguiling in its simplicity. On a visit to Delphi, one of his students asked if any man was wiser. None, she replied. This declaration became a turning point that guided his inquiries. At the end of his life, at his trial for corrupting Athenian youth, Socrates testified that his pursuit of wisdom grew out of his puzzlement over this prophecy. Deeply aware of his own ignorance, and seeking to understand Apollo‘s claim, Socrates said he began a lifelong search to interview men of high repute for wisdom but always came away unimpressed. Even as his constant questioning made him poor and unpopular, religious duty kept him asking and searching, trying to understand the Oracle’s meaning. In the end, he decided it meant that real wisdom is the exclusive property of the gods and Apollo’s reference to him was “as if he would say to us, The wisest of you men is he who has realized, like Socrates, that in respect of wisdom he is really worthless.”
— William J. Broad in The Oracle: The Lost Secrets and Hidden Message of Ancient Delphi, (New York: Penguin Press, 2006), p. 63.
"The Oracle had her biggest impact on Socrates"
The effect of these investigations of mine, gentlemen, has been to arouse against me a great deal of hostility, and hostility of a particularly bitter and persistent kind, which has resulted in various malicious suggestions, and in having that term ‘wise’ applied to me. This is due to the fact that whenever I succeed in disproving another person’s claim to wisdom in a given subject, the bystanders assume that I know everything about that subject myself. But the truth of the matter, gentlemen, is likely to be this: that real wisdom is the property of the god [Apollo], and this oracle is his way of telling us that human wisdom has little or no value. It seems to me that he is not referring literally to Socrates, but has merely taken my name as an example, as if he would say to us, ‘The wisest of you men is he who has realized, like Socrates, that in respect of wisdom he is really worthless.’
— Socrates, as recounted by Plato in The Apology of Socrates. Available in The Last Days of Socrates, (New York: Penguin Books, 2003), p. 46. Translated originally by Hugh Tredennick in 1954; revised translation by Harold Tarrant in 1993.
"The effect of these investigations of mine"