ἐπεὶ Περικλῆς, ὁ τουτωνὶ τῶν νεανίσκων πατήρ, τούτους ἃ μὲν διδασκάλων εἴχετο καλῶς καὶ εὖ ἐπαίδευσεν, [320a] ἃ δὲ αὐτὸς σοφός ἐστιν οὔτε αὐτὸς παιδεύει οὔτε τῳ ἄλλῳ παραδίδωσιν, ἀλλ᾽ αὐτοὶ περιιόντες νέμονται ὥσπερ ἄφετοι, ἐάν που αὐτόματοι περιτύχωσιν τῇ ἀρετῇ. εἰ δὲ βούλει, Κλεινίαν, τὸν Ἀλκιβιάδου τουτουῒ νεώτερον ἀδελφόν, ἐπιτροπεύων ὁ αὐτὸς οὗτος ἀνὴρ Περικλῆς, δεδιὼς περὶ αὐτοῦ μὴ διαφθαρῇ δὴ ὑπὸ Ἀλκιβιάδου, ἀποσπάσας ἀπὸ τούτου, καταθέμενος ἐν Ἀρίφρονος ἐπαίδευε: καὶ πρὶν ἓξ μῆνας γεγονέναι, [320b] ἀπέδωκε τούτῳ οὐκ ἔχων ὅτι χρήσαιτο αὐτῷ. καὶ ἄλλους σοι παμπόλλους ἔχω λέγειν, οἳ αὐτοὶ ἀγαθοὶ ὄντες οὐδένα πώποτε βελτίω ἐποίησαν οὔτε τῶν οἰκείων οὔτε τῶν ἀλλοτρίων. ἐγὼ οὖν, ὦ Πρωταγόρα, εἰς ταῦτα ἀποβλέπων οὐχ ἡγοῦμαι διδακτὸν εἶναι ἀρετήν: ἐπειδὴ δέ σου ἀκούω ταῦτα λέγοντος, κάμπτομαι καὶ οἶμαί τί σε λέγειν διὰ τὸ ἡγεῖσθαί σε πολλῶν μὲν ἔμπειρον γεγονέναι, πολλὰ δὲ μεμαθηκέναι, τὰ δὲ αὐτὸν ἐξηυρηκέναι. εἰ οὖν ἔχεις ἐναργέστερον ἡμῖν ἐπιδεῖξαι ὡς [320c] διδακτόν ἐστιν ἡ ἀρετή, μὴ φθονήσῃς ἀλλ᾽ ἐπίδειξον.
ἀλλ᾽, ὦ Σώκρατες, ἔφη, οὐ φθονήσω: ἀλλὰ πότερον ὑμῖν, ὡς πρεσβύτερος νεωτέροις, μῦθον λέγων ἐπιδείξω ἢ λόγῳ διεξελθών;
πολλοὶ οὖν αὐτῷ ὑπέλαβον τῶν παρακαθημένων ὁποτέρως βούλοιτο οὕτως διεξιέναι. δοκεῖ τοίνυν μοι, ἔφη, χαριέστερον εἶναι μῦθον ὑμῖν λέγειν.
ἦν γάρ ποτε χρόνος ὅτε θεοὶ μὲν ἦσαν, θνητὰ δὲ γένη [320d] οὐκ ἦν. ἐπειδὴ δὲ καὶ τούτοις χρόνος ἦλθεν εἱμαρμένος γενέσεως, τυποῦσιν αὐτὰ θεοὶ γῆς ἔνδον ἐκ γῆς καὶ πυρὸς μείξαντες καὶ τῶν ὅσα πυρὶ καὶ γῇ κεράννυται. ἐπειδὴ δ᾽ ἄγειν αὐτὰ πρὸς φῶς ἔμελλον, προσέταξαν Προμηθεῖ καὶ Ἐπιμηθεῖ κοσμῆσαί τε καὶ νεῖμαι δυνάμεις ἑκάστοις ὡς πρέπει. Προμηθέα δὲ παραιτεῖται Ἐπιμηθεὺς αὐτὸς νεῖμαι, “νείμαντος δέ μου,” ἔφη, “ἐπίσκεψαι:” καὶ οὕτω πείσας νέμει. νέμων δὲ τοῖς μὲν ἰσχὺν ἄνευ τάχους προσῆπτεν, [320e] τοὺς δ᾽ ἀσθενεστέρους τάχει ἐκόσμει: τοὺς δὲ ὥπλιζε, τοῖς δ᾽ ἄοπλον διδοὺς φύσιν ἄλλην τιν᾽ αὐτοῖς ἐμηχανᾶτο δύναμιν εἰς σωτηρίαν. ἃ μὲν γὰρ αὐτῶν σμικρότητι ἤμπισχεν, πτηνὸν φυγὴν ἢ κατάγειον οἴκησιν ἔνεμεν: ἃ δὲ ηὖξε μεγέθει, τῷδε [321a] αὐτῷ αὐτὰ ἔσῳζεν:
from Burnet's (1903) Oxford Classical Text, courtesy of the Perseus Project
An original translation
Take Pericles, the father of these young men here: he's given them a top-notch education in everything where teachers are involved. But as for his own knowledge, he doesn't educate them himself nor does he send them to anyone else; they wander by themselves, grazing like the sacred cows, and are left to stumble on goodness by accident. Or, if you like, take Cleinias, the younger brother of Alcibiades here. Our man Pericles is Cleinias' guardian and was afraid that he'd be - well - corrupted by Alcibiades. So Pericles dragged him away from Alcibiades and deposited him in Ariphron's house to be educated. Before six months were out, Ariphron sent him back to Alcibiades, since he didn't know what to do with him. I could list off many others, who, good though they were, couldn't make anyone else better, relative or stranger. When I look at these cases, Protagoras, I just don't think you can teach people to be good. But when I listen to you, I turn around and think you must have something to say, thanks to your vast experience, broad learning, and personal discoveries. So, if you can show me more clearly that goodness can be taught, don't hold back; prove it"
He said, "Oh, I won't hold back, Socrates. But shall I prove it to you - as an old man speaking to youngsters - with a myth, or by a rational explanation?"
Many in the audience suggested he go on however he liked.
"Well then," he said, "I think it would be more fun to tell you the myth. Once upon a time, there were gods but no mortal creatures. And when the preordained time of their birth came, the gods molded them within the earth, combining earth and ﬁre and all the compounds of earth and ﬁre. When they were ready to lead the creatures into the light, they ordered Prometheus and Epimetheus to equip them and distribute abilities to each as was ﬁtting. But Epimetheus begged Prometheus to make the allotment himself, saying, 'When I've made the allotment, you can look it over.' Once he'd persuaded him, Epimetheus made the allotment. And in making the allotment, he attributed strength without speed to some, but he decked the weaker ones out with speed. He gave weapons to some, but for the weaponless, he came up with some other capacity for their preservation: because those he'd made small, he gave wings or an underground home as an escape, while those he'd made large - that's just how he kept them safe.
Jowett's translation (1871)
[A]s for example, Pericles, the father of these young men, who gave them excellent instruction in all that could be learned from masters, in his own department of politics neither taught them, nor gave them teachers; but they were allowed to wander at their own free will in a sort of hope that they would light upon virtue of their own accord. Or take another example: there was Cleinias the younger brother of our friend Alcibiades, of whom this very same Pericles was the guardian; and he being in fact under the apprehension that Cleinias would be corrupted by Alcibiades, took him away, and placed him in the house of Ariphron to be educated; but before six months had elapsed, Ariphron sent him back, not knowing what to do with him. And I could mention numberless other instances of persons who were good themselves, and never yet made any one else good, whether friend or stranger. Now I, Protagoras, having these examples before me, am inclined to think that virtue cannot be taught. But then again, when I listen to your words, I waver; and am disposed to think that there must be something in what you say, because I know that you have great experience, and learning, and invention. And I wish that you would, if possible, show me a little more clearly that virtue can be taught. Will you be so good?
That I will, Socrates, and gladly. But what would you like? Shall I, as an elder, speak to you as younger men in an apologue or myth, or shall I argue out the question?
To this several of the company answered that he should choose for himself.
Well, then, he said, I think that the myth will be more interesting.
Once upon a time there were gods only, and no mortal creatures. But when the time came that these also should be created, the gods fashioned them out of earth and fire and various mixtures of both elements in the interior of the earth; and when they were about to bring them into the light of day, they ordered Prometheus and Epimetheus to equip them, and to distribute to them severally their proper qualities. Epimetheus said to Prometheus: "Let me distribute, and do you inspect." This was agreed, and Epimetheus made the distribution. There were some to whom he gave strength without swiftness, while he equipped the weaker with swiftness; some he armed, and others he left unarmed; and devised for the latter some other means of preservation, making some large, and having their size as a protection, and others small, whose nature was to fly in the air or burrow in the ground; this was to be their way of escape.
Compare Lamb's (1924) translation at the Perseus Project