Translated by Benjamin Jowett
Persons of the Dialogue:
Phaedo, who is the narrator of
the dialogue to ECHECRATES of Phlius Socrates, Apollodorus, Simmias, Cebes,
Crito, Attendant of the Prison
Scene: The Prison of Socrates
Place of the narration: Phlius
Echecrates. Were you yourself,
Phaedo, in the prison with Socrates on the day when he drank the poison?
Phaedo. Yes, Echecrates, I
Echecrates. I wish that you
would tell me about his death. What did he say in his last hours? We were
informed that he died by taking poison, but no one knew anything more;
for no Phliasian ever goes to Athens now, and a long time has elapsed since
any Athenian found his way to Phlius, and therefore we had no clear account.
Phaedo. Did you not hear of
the proceedings at the trial?
Echecrates. Yes; someone told
us about the trial, and we could not understand why, having been condemned,
he was put to death, as appeared, not at the time, but long afterwards.
What was the reason of this?
Phaedo. An accident, Echecrates.
The reason was that the stern of the ship which the Athenians send to Delos
happened to have been crowned on the day before he was tried.
Echecrates. What is this ship?
Phaedo. This is the ship in
which, as the Athenians say, Theseus went to Crete when he took with him
the fourteen youths, and was the saviour of them and of himself. And they
were said to have vowed to Apollo at the time, that if they were saved
they would make an annual pilgrimage to Delos. Now this custom still continues,
and the whole period of the voyage to and from Delos, beginning when the
priest of Apollo crowns the stern of the ship, is a holy season, during
which the city is not allowed to be polluted by public executions; and
often, when the vessel is detained by adverse winds, there may be a very
considerable delay. As I was saying, the ship was crowned on the day before
the trial, and this was the reason why Socrates lay in prison and was not
put to death until long after he was condemned.
Echecrates. What was the manner
of his death, Phaedo? What was said or done? And which of his friends had
he with him? Or were they not allowed by the authorities to be present?
And did he die alone?
Phaedo. No; there were several
of his friends with him.
Echecrates. If you have nothing
to do, I wish that you would tell me what passed, as exactly as you can.
Phaedo. I have nothing to do,
and will try to gratify your wish. For to me, too, there is no greater
pleasure than to have Socrates brought to my recollection, whether I speak
myself or hear another speak of him.
Echecrates. You will have listeners
who are of the same mind with you, and I hope that you will be as exact
as you can.
Phaedo. I remember the strange
feeling which came over me at being with him. For I could hardly believe
that I was present at the death of a friend, and therefore I did not pity
him, Echecrates; his mien and his language were so noble and fearless in
the hour of death that to me he appeared blessed. I thought that in going
to the other world he could not be without a divine call, and that he would
be happy, if any man ever was, when he arrived there, and therefore I did
not pity him as might seem natural at such a time. But neither could I
feel the pleasure which I usually felt in philosophical discourse (for
philosophy was the theme of which we spoke). I was pleased, and I was also
pained, because I knew that he was soon to die, and this strange mixture
of feeling was shared by us all; we were laughing and weeping by turns,
especially the excitable Apollodorus-you know the sort of man?
Phaedo. He was quite overcome;
and I myself and all of us were greatly moved.
Echecrates. Who were present?
Phaedo. Of native Athenians
there were, besides Apollodorus, Critobulus and his father Crito, Hermogenes,
Epigenes, Aeschines, and Antisthenes; likewise Ctesippus of the deme of
Paeania, Menexenus, and some others; but Plato, if I am not mistaken, was
Echecrates. Were there any
Phaedo. Yes, there were; Simmias
the Theban, and Cebes, and Phaedondes; Euclid and Terpison, who came from
Echecrates. And was Aristippus
there, and Cleombrotus?
Phaedo. No, they were said
to be in Aegina.
Echecrates. Anyone else?
Phaedo. I think that these
were about all.
Echecrates. And what was the
discourse of which you spoke?
Phaedo. I will begin at the
beginning, and endeavor to repeat the entire conversation. You must understand
that we had been previously in the habit of assembling early in the morning
at the court in which the trial was held, and which is not far from the
prison. There we remained talking with one another until the opening of
the prison doors (for they were not opened very early), and then went in
and generally passed the day with Socrates. On the last morning the meeting
was earlier than usual; this was owing to our having heard on the previous
evening that the sacred ship had arrived from Delos, and therefore we agreed
to meet very early at the accustomed place. On our going to the prison,
the jailer who answered the door, instead of admitting us, came out and
bade us wait and he would call us. "For the Eleven," he said, "are now
with Socrates; they are taking off his chains, and giving orders that he
is to die to-day." He soon returned and said that we might come in. On
entering we found Socrates just released from chains, and Xanthippe, whom
you know, sitting by him, and holding his child in her arms. When she saw
us she uttered a cry and said, as women will: "O Socrates, this is the
last time that either you will converse with your friends, or they with
you." Socrates turned to Crito and said: "Crito, let someone take her home."
Some of Crito's people accordingly led her away, crying out and beating
herself. And when she was gone, Socrates, sitting up on the couch, began
to bend and rub his leg, saying, as he rubbed: "How singular is the thing
called pleasure, and how curiously related to pain, which might be thought
to be the opposite of it; for they never come to a man together, and yet
he who pursues either of them is generally compelled to take the other.
They are two, and yet they grow together out of one head or stem; and I
cannot help thinking that if Aesop had noticed them, he would have made
a fable about God trying to reconcile their strife, and when he could not,
he fastened their heads together; and this is the reason why when one comes
the other follows, as I find in my own case pleasure comes following after
the pain in my leg, which was caused by the chain."
Upon this Cebes said: I am very glad
indeed, Socrates, that you mentioned the name of Aesop. For that reminds
me of a question which has been asked by others, and was asked of me only
the day before yesterday by Evenus the poet, and as he will be sure to
ask again, you may as well tell me what I should say to him, if you would
like him to have an answer. He wanted to know why you who never before
wrote a line of poetry, now that you are in prison are putting Aesop into
verse, and also composing that hymn in honor of Apollo.
Tell him, Cebes, he replied, that
I had no idea of rivalling him or his poems; which is the truth, for I
knew that I could not do that. But I wanted to see whether I could purge
away a scruple which I felt about certain dreams. In the course of my life
I have often had intimations in dreams "that I should make music." The
same dream came to me sometimes in one form, and sometimes in another,
but always saying the same or nearly the same words: Make and cultivate
music, said the dream. And hitherto I had imagined that this was only intended
to exhort and encourage me in the study of philosophy, which has always
been the pursuit of my life, and is the noblest and best of music. The
dream was bidding me to do what I was already doing, in the same way that
the competitor in a race is bidden by the spectators to run when he is
already running. But I was not certain of this, as the dream might have
meant music in the popular sense of the word, and being under sentence
of death, and the festival giving me a respite, I thought that I should
be safer if I satisfied the scruple, and, in obedience to the dream, composed
a few verses before I departed. And first I made a hymn in honor of the
god of the festival, and then considering that a poet, if he is really
to be a poet or maker, should not only put words together but make stories,
and as I have no invention, I took some fables of esop, which I had ready
at hand and knew, and turned them into verse. Tell Evenus this, and bid
him be of good cheer; that I would have him come after me if he be a wise
man, and not tarry; and that to-day I am likely to be going, for the Athenians
say that I must.
Simmias said: What a message for such
a man! having been a frequent companion of his, I should say that, as far
as I know him, he will never take your advice unless he is obliged.
Why, said Socrates,-is not Evenus
I think that he is, said Simmias.
Then he, or any man who has the spirit
of philosophy, will be willing to die, though he will not take his own
life, for that is held not to be right.
Here he changed his position, and
put his legs off the couch on to the ground, and during the rest of the
conversation he remained sitting.
Why do you say, inquired Cebes, that
a man ought not to take his own life, but that the philosopher will be
ready to follow the dying?
Socrates replied: And have you, Cebes
and Simmias, who are acquainted with Philolaus, never heard him speak of
I never understood him, Socrates.
My words, too, are only an echo; but
I am very willing to say what I have heard: and indeed, as I am going to
another place, I ought to be thinking and talking of the nature of the
pilgrimage which I am about to make. What can I do better in the interval
between this and the setting of the sun?
Then tell me, Socrates, why is suicide
held not to be right? as I have certainly heard Philolaus affirm when he
was staying with us at Thebes: and there are others who say the same, although
none of them has ever made me understand him.
But do your best, replied Socrates,
and the day may come when you will understand. I suppose that you wonder
why, as most things which are evil may be accidentally good, this is to
be the only exception (for may not death, too, be better than life in some
cases?), and why, when a man is better dead, he is not permitted to be
his own benefactor, but must wait for the hand of another.
By Jupiter! yes, indeed, said Cebes,
laughing, and speaking in his native Doric.
I admit the appearance of inconsistency,
replied Socrates, but there may not be any real inconsistency after all
in this. There is a doctrine uttered in secret that man is a prisoner who
has no right to open the door of his prison and run away; this is a great
mystery which I do not quite understand. Yet I, too, believe that the gods
are our guardians, and that we are a possession of theirs. Do you not agree?
Yes, I agree to that, said Cebes.
And if one of your own possessions,
an ox or an ass, for example took the liberty of putting himself out of
the way when you had given no intimation of your wish that he should die,
would you not be angry with him, and would you not punish him if you could?
Certainly, replied Cebes.
Then there may be reason in saying
that a man should wait, and not take his own life until God summons him,
as he is now summoning me.
Yes, Socrates, said Cebes, there is
surely reason in that. And yet how can you reconcile this seemingly true
belief that God is our guardian and we his possessions, with that willingness
to die which we were attributing to the philosopher? That the wisest of
men should be willing to leave this service in which they are ruled by
the gods who are the best of rulers is not reasonable, for surely no wise
man thinks that when set at liberty he can take better care of himself
than the gods take of him. A fool may perhaps think this-he may argue that
he had better run away from his master, not considering that his duty is
to remain to the end, and not to run away from the good, and that there
is no sense in his running away. But the wise man will want to be ever
with him who is better than himself. Now this, Socrates, is the reverse
of what was just now said; for upon this view the wise man should sorrow
and the fool rejoice at passing out of life.
The earnestness of Cebes seemed to
please Socrates. Here, said he, turning to us, is a man who is always inquiring,
and is not to be convinced all in a moment, nor by every argument.
And in this case, added Simmias, his
objection does appear to me to have some force. For what can be the meaning
of a truly wise man wanting to fly away and lightly leave a master who
is better than himself? And I rather imagine that Cebes is referring to
you; he thinks that you are too ready to leave us, and too ready to leave
the gods who, as you acknowledge, are our good rulers.
Yes, replied Socrates; there is reason
in that. And this indictment you think that I ought to answer as if I were
That is what we should like, said
Then I must try to make a better impression
upon you than I did when defending myself before the judges. For I am quite
ready to acknowledge, Simmias and Cebes, that I ought to be grieved at
death, if I were not persuaded that I am going to other gods who are wise
and good (of this I am as certain as I can be of anything of the sort)
and to men departed (though I am not so certain of this), who are better
than those whom I leave behind; and therefore I do not grieve as I might
have done, for I have good hope that there is yet something remaining for
the dead, and, as has been said of old, some far better thing for the good
than for the evil.
But do you mean to take away your
thoughts with you, Socrates? said Simmias. Will you not communicate them
to us?-the benefit is one in which we too may hope to share. Moreover,
if you succeed in convincing us, that will be an answer to the charge against
I will do my best, replied Socrates.
But you must first let me hear what Crito wants; he was going to say something
Only this, Socrates, replied Crito:
the attendant who is to give you the poison has been telling me that you
are not to talk much, and he wants me to let you know this; for that by
talking heat is increased, and this interferes with the action of the poison;
those who excite themselves are sometimes obliged to drink the poison two
or three times.
Then, said Socrates, let him mind
his business and be prepared to give the poison two or three times, if
necessary; that is all.
I was almost certain that you would
say that, replied Crito; but I was obliged to satisfy him.
Never mind him, he said.
And now I will make answer to you,
O my judges, and show that he who has lived as a true philosopher has reason
to be of good cheer when he is about to die, and that after death he may
hope to receive the greatest good in the other world. And how this may
be, Simmias and Cebes, I will endeavor to explain. For I deem that the
true disciple of philosophy is likely to be misunderstood by other men;
they do not perceive that he is ever pursuing death and dying; and if this
is true, why, having had the desire of death all his life long, should
he repine at the arrival of that which he has been always pursuing and
Simmias laughed and said: Though not
in a laughing humor, I swear that I cannot help laughing when I think what
the wicked world will say when they hear this. They will say that this
is very true, and our people at home will agree with them in saying that
the life which philosophers desire is truly death, and that they have found
them out to be deserving of the death which they desire.
And they are right, Simmias, in saying
this, with the exception of the words "They have found them out"; for they
have not found out what is the nature of this death which the true philosopher
desires, or how he deserves or desires death. But let us leave them and
have a word with ourselves: Do we believe that there is such a thing as
To be sure, replied Simmias.
And is this anything but the separation
of soul and body? And being dead is the attainment of this separation;
when the soul exists in herself, and is parted from the body and the body
is parted from the soul-that is death?
Exactly: that and nothing else, he
And what do you say of another question,
my friend, about which I should like to have your opinion, and the answer
to which will probably throw light on our present inquiry: Do you think
that the philosopher ought to care about the pleasures-if they are to be
called pleasures-of eating and drinking?
Certainly not, answered Simmias.
And what do you say of the pleasures
of love-should he care about them?
By no means.
And will he think much of the other
ways of indulging the body-for example, the acquisition of costly raiment,
or sandals, or other adornments of the body? Instead of caring about them,
does he not rather despise anything more than nature needs? What do you
I should say the true philosopher
would despise them.
Would you not say that he is entirely
concerned with the soul and not with the body? He would like, as far as
he can, to be quit of the body and turn to the soul.
That is true.
In matters of this sort philosophers,
above all other men, may be observed in every sort of way to dissever the
soul from the body.
That is true.
Whereas, Simmias, the rest of the
world are of opinion that a life which has no bodily pleasures and no part
in them is not worth having; but that he who thinks nothing of bodily pleasures
is almost as though he were dead.
That is quite true.
What again shall we say of the actual
acquirement of knowledge?-is the body, if invited to share in the inquiry,
a hinderer or a helper? I mean to say, have sight and hearing any truth
in them? Are they not, as the poets are always telling us, inaccurate witnesses?
and yet, if even they are inaccurate and indistinct, what is to be said
of the other senses?-for you will allow that they are the best of them?
Certainly, he replied.
Then when does the soul attain truth?-for
in attempting to consider anything in company with the body she is obviously
Yes, that is true.
Then must not existence be revealed
to her in thought, if at all?
And thought is best when the mind
is gathered into herself and none of these things trouble her-neither sounds
nor sights nor pain nor any pleasure-when she has as little as possible
to do with the body, and has no bodily sense or feeling, but is aspiring
That is true.
And in this the philosopher dishonors
the body; his soul runs away from the body and desires to be alone and
That is true.
Well, but there is another thing,
Simmias: Is there or is there not an absolute justice?
Assuredly there is.
And an absolute beauty and absolute
But did you ever behold any of them
with your eyes?
Or did you ever reach them with any
other bodily sense? (and I speak not of these alone, but of absolute greatness,
and health, and strength, and of the essence or true nature of everything).
Has the reality of them ever been perceived by you through the bodily organs?
or rather, is not the nearest approach to the knowledge of their several
natures made by him who so orders his intellectual vision as to have the
most exact conception of the essence of that which he considers?
And he attains to the knowledge of
them in their highest purity who goes to each of them with the mind alone,
not allowing when in the act of thought the intrusion or introduction of
sight or any other sense in the company of reason, but with the very light
of the mind in her clearness penetrates into the very fight of truth in
each; he has got rid, as far as he can, of eyes and ears and of the whole
body, which he conceives of only as a disturbing element, hindering the
soul from the acquisition of knowledge when in company with her-is not
this the sort of man who, if ever man did, is likely to attain the knowledge
There is admirable truth in that,
Socrates, replied Simmias.
And when they consider all this, must
not true philosophers make a reflection, of which they will speak to one
another in such words as these: We have found, they will say, a path of
speculation which seems to bring us and the argument to the conclusion
that while we are in the body, and while the soul is mingled with this
mass of evil, our desire will not be satisfied, and our desire is of the
truth. For the body is a source of endless trouble to us by reason of the
mere requirement of food; and also is liable to diseases which overtake
and impede us in the search after truth: and by filling us so full of loves,
and lusts, and fears, and fancies, and idols, and every sort of folly,
prevents our ever having, as people say, so much as a thought. For whence
come wars, and fightings, and factions? whence but from the body and the
lusts of the body? For wars are occasioned by the love of money, and money
has to be acquired for the sake and in the service of the body; and in
consequence of all these things the time which ought to be given to philosophy
is lost. Moreover, if there is time and an inclination toward philosophy,
yet the body introduces a turmoil and confusion and fear into the course
of speculation, and hinders us from seeing the truth: and all experience
shows that if we would have pure knowledge of anything we must be quit
of the body, and the soul in herself must behold all things in themselves:
then I suppose that we shall attain that which we desire, and of which
we say that we are lovers, and that is wisdom, not while we live, but after
death, as the argument shows; for if while in company with the body the
soul cannot have pure knowledge, one of two things seems to follow-either
knowledge is not to be attained at all, or, if at all, after death. For
then, and not till then, the soul will be in herself alone and without
the body. In this present life, I reckon that we make the nearest approach
to knowledge when we have the least possible concern or interest in the
body, and are not saturated with the bodily nature, but remain pure until
the hour when God himself is pleased to release us. And then the foolishness
of the body will be cleared away and we shall be pure and hold converse
with other pure souls, and know of ourselves the clear light everywhere;
and this is surely the light of truth. For no impure thing is allowed to
approach the pure. These are the sort of words, Simmias, which the true
lovers of wisdom cannot help saying to one another, and thinking. You will
agree with me in that?
But if this is true, O my friend,
then there is great hope that, going whither I go, I shall there be satisfied
with that which has been the chief concern of you and me in our past lives.
And now that the hour of departure is appointed to me, this is the hope
with which I depart, and not I only, but every man who believes that he
has his mind purified.
Certainly, replied Simmias.
And what is purification but the separation
of the soul from the body, as I was saying before; the habit of the soul
gathering and collecting herself into herself, out of all the courses of
the body; the dwelling in her own place alone, as in another life, so also
in this, as far as she can; the release of the soul from the chains of
Very true, he said.
And what is that which is termed death,
but this very separation and release of the soul from the body?
To be sure, he said.
And the true philosophers, and they
only, study and are eager to release the soul. Is not the separation and
release of the soul from the body their especial study?
That is true.
And as I was saying at first, there
would be a ridiculous contradiction in men studying to live as nearly as
they can in a state of death, and yet repining when death comes.
Then, Simmias, as the true philosophers
are ever studying death, to them, of all men, death is the least terrible.
Look at the matter in this way: how inconsistent of them to have been always
enemies of the body, and wanting to have the soul alone, and when this
is granted to them, to be trembling and repining; instead of rejoicing
at their departing to that place where, when they arrive, they hope to
gain that which in life they loved (and this was wisdom), and at the same
time to be rid of the company of their enemy. Many a man has been willing
to go to the world below in the hope of seeing there an earthly love, or
wife, or son, and conversing with them. And will he who is a true lover
of wisdom, and is persuaded in like manner that only in the world below
he can worthily enjoy her, still repine at death? Will he not depart with
joy? Surely he will, my friend, if he be a true philosopher. For he will
have a firm conviction that there only, and nowhere else, he can find wisdom
in her purity. And if this be true, he would be very absurd, as I was saying,
if he were to fear death.
He would, indeed, replied Simmias.
And when you see a man who is repining
at the approach of death, is not his reluctance a sufficient proof that
he is not a lover of wisdom, but a lover of the body, and probably at the
same time a lover of either money or power, or both?
That is very true, he replied.
There is a virtue, Simmias, which
is named courage. Is not that a special attribute of the philosopher?
Again, there is temperance. Is not
the calm, and control, and disdain of the passions which even the many
call temperance, a quality belonging only to those who despise the body
and live in philosophy?
That is not to be denied.
For the courage and temperance of
other men, if you will consider them, are really a contradiction.
How is that, Socrates?
Well, he said, you are aware that
death is regarded by men in general as a great evil.
That is true, he said.
And do not courageous men endure death
because they are afraid of yet greater evils?
That is true.
Then all but the philosophers are
courageous only from fear, and because they are afraid; and yet that a
man should be courageous from fear, and because he is a coward, is surely
a strange thing.
And are not the temperate exactly
in the same case? They are temperate because they are intemperate-which
may seem to be a contradiction, but is nevertheless the sort of thing which
happens with this foolish temperance. For there are pleasures which they
must have, and are afraid of losing; and therefore they abstain from one
class of pleasures because they are overcome by another: and whereas intemperance
is defined as "being under the dominion of pleasure," they overcome only
because they are overcome by pleasure. And that is what I mean by saying
that they are temperate through intemperance.
That appears to be true.
Yet the exchange of one fear or pleasure
or pain for another fear or pleasure or pain, which are measured like coins,
the greater with the less, is not the exchange of virtue. O my dear Simmias,
is there not one true coin for which all things ought to exchange?-and
that is wisdom; and only in exchange for this, and in company with this,
is anything truly bought or sold, whether courage or temperance or justice.
And is not all true virtue the companion of wisdom, no matter what fears
or pleasures or other similar goods or evils may or may not attend her?
But the virtue which is made up of these goods, when they are severed from
wisdom and exchanged with one another, is a shadow of virtue only, nor
is there any freedom or health or truth in her; but in the true exchange
there is a purging away of all these things, and temperance, and justice,
and courage, and wisdom herself are a purgation of them. And I conceive
that the founders of the mysteries had a real meaning and were not mere
triflers when they intimated in a figure long ago that he who passes unsanctified
and uninitiated into the world below will live in a slough, but that he
who arrives there after initiation and purification will dwell with the
gods. For "many," as they say in the mysteries, "are the thyrsus bearers,
but few are the mystics,"-meaning, as I interpret the words, the true philosophers.
In the number of whom I have been seeking, according to my ability, to
find a place during my whole life; whether I have sought in a right way
or not, and whether I have succeeded or not, I shall truly know in a little
while, if God will, when I myself arrive in the other world: that is my
belief. And now, Simmias and Cebes, I have answered those who charge me
with not grieving or repining at parting from you and my masters in this
world; and I am right in not repining, for I believe that I shall find
other masters and friends who are as good in the world below. But all men
cannot believe this, and I shall be glad if my words have any more success
with you than with the judges of the Athenians.
Cebes answered: I agree, Socrates,
in the greater part of what you say. But in what relates to the soul, men
are apt to be incredulous; they fear that when she leaves the body her
place may be nowhere, and that on the very day of death she may be destroyed
and perish-immediately on her release from the body, issuing forth like
smoke or air and vanishing away into nothingness. For if she could only
hold together and be herself after she was released from the evils of the
body, there would be good reason to hope, Socrates, that what you say is
true. But much persuasion and many arguments are required in order to prove
that when the man is dead the soul yet exists, and has any force of intelligence.
True, Cebes, said Socrates; and shall
I suggest that we talk a little of the probabilities of these things?
I am sure, said Cebes, that I should
gready like to know your opinion about them.
I reckon, said Socrates, that no one
who heard me now, not even if he were one of my old enemies, the comic
poets, could accuse me of idle talking about matters in which I have no
concern. Let us, then, if you please, proceed with the inquiry.
Whether the souls of men after death
are or are not in the world below, is a question which may be argued in
this manner: The ancient doctrine of which I have been speaking affirms
that they go from this into the other world, and return hither, and are
born from the dead. Now if this be true, and the living come from the dead,
then our souls must be in the other world, for if not, how could they be
born again? And this would be conclusive, if there were any real evidence
that the living are only born from the dead; but if there is no evidence
of this, then other arguments will have to be adduced.
That is very true, replied Cebes.
Then let us consider this question,
not in relation to man only, but in relation to animals generally, and
to plants, and to everything of which there is generation, and the proof
will be easier. Are not all things which have opposites generated out of
their opposites? I mean such things as good and evil, just and unjust-and
there are innumerable other opposites which are generated out of opposites.
And I want to show that this holds universally of all opposites; I mean
to say, for example, that anything which becomes greater must become greater
after being less.
And that which becomes less must have
been once greater and then become less.
And the weaker is generated from the
stronger, and the swifter from the slower.
And the worse is from the better,
and the more just is from the more unjust.
And is this true of all opposites?
and are we convinced that all of them are generated out of opposites?
And in this universal opposition of
all things, are there not also two intermediate processes which are ever
going on, from one to the other, and back again; where there is a greater
and a less there is also an intermediate process of increase and diminution,
and that which grows is said to wax, and that which decays to wane?
Yes, he said.
And there are many other processes,
such as division and composition, cooling and heating, which equally involve
a passage into and out of one another. And this holds of all opposites,
even though not always expressed in words-they are generated out of one
another, and there is a passing or process from one to the other of them?
Very true, he replied.
Well, and is there not an opposite
of life, as sleep is the opposite of waking?
True, he said.
And what is that?
Death, he answered.
And these, then, are generated, if
they are opposites, the one from the other, and have there their two intermediate
Now, said Socrates, I will analyze
one of the two pairs of opposites which I have mentioned to you, and also
its intermediate processes, and you shall analyze the other to me. The
state of sleep is opposed to the state of waking, and out of sleeping waking
is generated, and out of waking, sleeping, and the process of generation
is in the one case falling asleep, and in the other waking up. Are you
agreed about that?
Then suppose that you analyze life
and death to me in the same manner. Is not death opposed to life?
And they are generated one from the
What is generated from life?
And what from death?
I can only say in answer-life.
Then the living, whether things or
persons, Cebes, are generated from the dead?
That is clear, he replied.
Then the inference is, that our souls
are in the world below?
That is true.
And one of the two processes or generations
is visible-for surely the act of dying is visible?
Surely, he said.
And may not the other be inferred
as the complement of nature, who is not to be supposed to go on one leg
only? And if not, a corresponding process of generation in death must also
be assigned to her?
Certainly, he replied.
And what is that process?
And revival, if there be such a thing,
is the birth of the dead into the world of the living?
Then there is a new way in which we
arrive at the inference that the living come from the dead, just as the
dead come from the living; and if this is true, then the souls of the dead
must be in some place out of which they come again. And this, as I think,
has been satisfactorily proved.
Yes, Socrates, he said; all this seems
to flow necessarily out of our previous admissions.
And that these admissions are not
unfair, Cebes, he said, may be shown, as I think, in this way: If generation
were in a straight line only, and there were no compensation or circle
in nature, no turn or return into one another, then you know that all things
would at last have the same form and pass into the same state, and there
would be no more generation of them.
What do you mean? he said.
A simple thing enough, which I will
illustrate by the case of sleep, he replied. You know that if there were
no compensation of sleeping and waking, the story of the sleeping Endymion
would in the end have no meaning, because all other things would be asleep,
too, and he would not be thought of. Or if there were composition only,
and no division of substances, then the chaos of Anaxagoras would come
again. And in like manner, my dear Cebes, if all things which partook of
life were to die, and after they were dead remained in the form of death,
and did not come to life again, all would at last die, and nothing would
be alive-how could this be otherwise? For if the living spring from any
others who are not the dead, and they die, must not all things at last
be swallowed up in death?
There is no escape from that, Socrates,
said Cebes; and I think that what you say is entirely true.
Yes, he said, Cebes, I entirely think
so, too; and we are not walking in a vain imagination; but I am confident
in the belief that there truly is such a thing as living again, and that
the living spring from the dead, and that the souls of the dead are in
existence, and that the good souls have a better portion than the evil.
Cebes added: Your favorite doctrine,
Socrates, that knowledge is simply recollection, if true, also necessarily
implies a previous time in which we learned that which we now recollect.
But this would be impossible unless our soul was in some place before existing
in the human form; here, then, is another argument of the soul's immortality.
But tell me, Cebes, said Simmias,
interposing, what proofs are given of this doctrine of recollection? I
am not very sure at this moment that I remember them.
One excellent proof, said Cebes, is
afforded by questions. If you put a question to a person in a right way,
he will give a true answer of himself; but how could he do this unless
there were knowledge and right reason already in him? And this is most
clearly shown when he is taken to a diagram or to anything of that sort.
But if, said Socrates, you are still
incredulous, Simmias, I would ask you whether you may not agree with me
when you look at the matter in another way; I mean, if you are still incredulous
as to whether knowledge is recollection.
Incredulous, I am not, said Simmias;
but I want to have this doctrine of recollection brought to my own recollection,
and, from what Cebes has said, I am beginning to recollect and be convinced;
but I should still like to hear what more you have to say.
This is what I would say, he replied:
We should agree, if I am not mistaken, that what a man recollects he must
have known at some previous time.
And what is the nature of this recollection?
And, in asking this, I mean to ask whether, when a person has already seen
or heard or in any way perceived anything, and he knows not only that,
but something else of which he has not the same, but another knowledge,
we may not fairly say that he recollects that which comes into his mind.
Are we agreed about that?
What do you mean?
I mean what I may illustrate by the
following instance: The knowledge of a lyre is not the same as the knowledge
of a man?
And yet what is the feeling of lovers
when they recognize a lyre, or a garment, or anything else which the beloved
has been in the habit of using? Do not they, from knowing the lyre, form
in the mind's eye an image of the youth to whom the lyre belongs? And this
is recollection: and in the same way anyone who sees Simmias may remember
Cebes; and there are endless other things of the same nature.
Yes, indeed, there are-endless, replied
And this sort of thing, he said, is
recollection, and is most commonly a process of recovering that which has
been forgotten through time and inattention.
Very true, he said.
Well; and may you not also from seeing
the picture of a horse or a lyre remember a man? and from the picture of
Simmias, you may be led to remember Cebes?
Or you may also be led to the recollection
of Simmias himself?
True, he said.
And in all these cases, the recollection
may be derived from things either like or unlike?
That is true.
And when the recollection is derived
from like things, then there is sure to be another question, which is,
whether the likeness of that which is recollected is in any way defective
Very true, he said.
And shall we proceed a step further,
and affirm that there is such a thing as equality, not of wood with wood,
or of stone with stone, but that, over and above this, there is equality
in the abstract? Shall we affirm this?
Affirm, yes, and swear to it, replied
Simmias, with all the confidence in life.
And do we know the nature of this
To be sure, he said.
And whence did we obtain this knowledge?
Did we not see equalities of material things, such as pieces of wood and
stones, and gather from them the idea of an equality which is different
from them?-you will admit that? Or look at the matter again in this way:
Do not the same pieces of wood or stone appear at one time equal, and at
another time unequal?
That is certain.
But are real equals ever unequal?
or is the idea of equality ever inequality?
That surely was never yet known, Socrates.
Then these (so-called) equals are
not the same with the idea of equality?
I should say, clearly not, Socrates.
And yet from these equals, although
differing from the idea of equality, you conceived and attained that idea?
Very true, he said.
Which might be like, or might be unlike
But that makes no difference; whenever
from seeing one thing you conceived another, whether like or unlike, there
must surely have been an act of recollection?
But what would you say of equal portions
of wood and stone, or other material equals? and what is the impression
produced by them? Are they equals in the same sense as absolute equality?
or do they fall short of this in a measure?
Yes, he said, in a very great measure,
And must we not allow that when I
or anyone look at any object, and perceive that the object aims at being
some other thing, but falls short of, and cannot attain to it-he who makes
this observation must have had previous knowledge of that to which, as
he says, the other, although similar, was inferior?
And has not this been our case in
the matter of equals and of absolute equality?
Then we must have known absolute equality
previously to the time when we first saw the material equals, and reflected
that all these apparent equals aim at this absolute equality, but fall
short of it?
That is true.
And we recognize also that this absolute
equality has only been known, and can only be known, through the medium
of sight or touch, or of some other sense. And this I would affirm of all
Yes, Socrates, as far as the argument
is concerned, one of them is the same as the other.
And from the senses, then, is derived
the knowledge that all sensible things aim at an idea of equality of which
they fall short-is not that true?
Then before we began to see or hear
or perceive in any way, we must have had a knowledge of absolute equality,
or we could not have referred to that the equals which are derived from
the senses-for to that they all aspire, and of that they fall short?
That, Socrates, is certainly to be
inferred from the previous statements.
And did we not see and hear and acquire
our other senses as soon as we were born?
Then we must have acquired the knowledge
of the ideal equal at some time previous to this?
That is to say, before we were born,
And if we acquired this knowledge
before we were born, and were born having it, then we also knew before
we were born and at the instant of birth not only equal or the greater
or the less, but all other ideas; for we are not speaking only of equality
absolute, but of beauty, goodness, justice, holiness, and all which we
stamp with the name of essence in the dialectical process, when we ask
and answer questions. Of all this we may certainly affirm that we acquired
the knowledge before birth?
That is true.
But if, after having acquired, we
have not forgotten that which we acquired, then we must always have been
born with knowledge, and shall always continue to know as long as life
lasts-for knowing is the acquiring and retaining knowledge and not forgetting.
Is not forgetting, Simmias, just the losing of knowledge?
Quite true, Socrates.
But if the knowledge which we acquired
before birth was lost by us at birth, and afterwards by the use of the
senses we recovered that which we previously knew, will not that which
we call learning be a process of recovering our knowledge, and may not
this be rightly termed recollection by us?
For this is clear, that when we perceived
something, either by the help of sight or hearing, or some other sense,
there was no difficulty in receiving from this a conception of some other
thing like or unlike which had been forgotten and which was associated
with this; and therefore, as I was saying, one of two alternatives follows:
either we had this knowledge at birth, and continued to know through life;
or, after birth, those who are said to learn only remember, and learning
is recollection only.
Yes, that is quite true, Socrates.
And which alternative, Simmias, do
you prefer? Had we the knowledge at our birth, or did we remember afterwards
the things which we knew previously to our birth?
I cannot decide at the moment.
At any rate you can decide whether
he who has knowledge ought or ought not to be able to give a reason for
what he knows.
Certainly, he ought.
But do you think that every man is
able to give a reason about these very matters of which we are speaking?
I wish that they could, Socrates,
but I greatly fear that to-morrow at this time there will be no one able
to give a reason worth having.
Then you are not of opinion, Simmias,
that all men know these things?
Then they are in process of recollecting
that which they learned before.
But when did our souls acquire this
knowledge?-not since we were born as men?
And therefore previously?
Then, Simmias, our souls must have
existed before they were in the form of man-without bodies, and must have
Unless indeed you suppose, Socrates,
that these notions were given us at the moment of birth; for this is the
only time that remains.
Yes, my friend, but when did we lose
them? for they are not in us when we are born-that is admitted. Did we
lose them at the moment of receiving them, or at some other time?
No, Socrates, I perceive that I was
unconsciously talking nonsense.
Then may we not say, Simmias, that
if, as we are always repeating, there is an absolute beauty, and goodness,
and essence in general, and to this, which is now discovered to be a previous
condition of our being, we refer all our sensations, and with this compare
them-assuming this to have a prior existence, then our souls must have
had a prior existence, but if not, there would be no force in the argument?
There can be no doubt that if these absolute ideas existed before we were
born, then our souls must have existed before we were born, and if not
the ideas, then not the souls.
Yes, Socrates; I am convinced that
there is precisely the same necessity for the existence of the soul before
birth, and of the essence of which you are speaking: and the argument arrives
at a result which happily agrees with my own notion. For there is nothing
which to my mind is so evident as that beauty, goodness, and other notions
of which you were just now speaking have a most real and absolute existence;
and I am satisfied with the proof.
Well, but is Cebes equally satisfied?
for I must convince him too.
I think, said Simmias, that Cebes
is satisfied: although he is the most incredulous of mortals, yet I believe
that he is convinced of the existence of the soul before birth. But that
after death the soul will continue to exist is not yet proven even to my
own satisfaction. I cannot get rid of the feeling of the many to which
Cebes was referring-the feeling that when the man dies the soul may be
scattered, and that this may be the end of her. For admitting that she
may be generated and created in some other place, and may have existed
before entering the human body, why after having entered in and gone out
again may she not herself be destroyed and come to an end?
Very true, Simmias, said Cebes; that
our soul existed before we were born was the first half of the argument,
and this appears to have been proven; that the soul will exist after death
as well as before birth is the other half of which the proof is still wanting,
and has to be supplied.
But that proof, Simmias and Cebes,
has been already given, said Socrates, if you put the two arguments together-I
mean this and the former one, in which we admitted that everything living
is born of the dead. For if the soul existed before birth, and in coming
to life and being born can be born only from death and dying, must she
not after death continue to exist, since she has to be born again? surely
the proof which you desire has been already furnished. Still I suspect
that you and Simmias would be glad to probe the argument further; like
children, you are haunted with a fear that when the soul leaves the body,
the wind may really blow her away and scatter her; especially if a man
should happen to die in stormy weather and not when the sky is calm.
Cebes answered with a smile: Then,
Socrates, you must argue us out of our fears-and yet, strictly speaking,
they are not our fears, but there is a child within us to whom death is
a sort of hobgoblin; him too we must persuade not to be afraid when he
is alone with him in the dark.
Socrates said: Let the voice of the
charmer be applied daily until you have charmed him away.
And where shall we find a good charmer
of our fears, Socrates, when you are gone?
Hellas, he replied, is a large place,
Cebes, and has many good men, and there are barbarous races not a few:
seek for him among them all, far and wide, sparing neither pains nor money;
for there is no better way of using your money. And you must not forget
to seek for him among yourselves too; for he is nowhere more likely to
The search, replied Cebes, shall certainly
be made. And now, if you please, let us return to the point of the argument
at which we digressed.
By all means, replied Socrates; what
else should I please?
Very good, he said.
Must we not, said Socrates, ask ourselves
some question of this sort?-What is that which, as we imagine, is liable
to be scattered away, and about which we fear? and what again is that about
which we have no fear? And then we may proceed to inquire whether that
which suffers dispersion is or is not of the nature of soul-our hopes and
fears as to our own souls will turn upon that.
That is true, he said.
Now the compound or composite may
be supposed to be naturally capable of being dissolved in like manner as
of being compounded; but that which is uncompounded, and that only, must
be, if anything is, indissoluble.
Yes; that is what I should imagine,
And the uncompounded may be assumed
to be the same and unchanging, where the compound is always changing and
never the same?
That I also think, he said.
Then now let us return to the previous
discussion. Is that idea or essence, which in the dialectical process we
define as essence of true existence-whether essence of equality, beauty,
or anything else: are these essences, I say, liable at times to some degree
of change? or are they each of them always what they are, having the same
simple, self-existent and unchanging forms, and not admitting of variation
at all, or in any way, or at any time?
They must be always the same, Socrates,
And what would you say of the many
beautiful-whether men or horses or garments or any other things which may
be called equal or beautiful-are they all unchanging and the same always,
or quite the reverse? May they not rather be described as almost always
changing and hardly ever the same either with themselves or with one another?
The latter, replied Cebes; they are
always in a state of change.
And these you can touch and see and
perceive with the senses, but the unchanging things you can only perceive
with the mind-they are invisible and are not seen?
That is very true, he said.
Well, then, he added, let us suppose
that there are two sorts of existences, one seen, the other unseen.
Let us suppose them.
The seen is the changing, and the
unseen is the unchanging.
That may be also supposed.
And, further, is not one part of us
body, and the rest of us soul?
To be sure.
And to which class may we say that
the body is more alike and akin?
Clearly to the seen: no one can doubt
And is the soul seen or not seen?
Not by man, Socrates.
And by "seen" and "not seen" is meant
by us that which is or is not visible to the eye of man?
Yes, to the eye of man.
And what do we say of the soul? is
that seen or not seen?
Then the soul is more like to the
unseen, and the body to the seen?
That is most certain, Socrates.
And were we not saying long ago that
the soul when using the body as an instrument of perception, that is to
say, when using the sense of sight or hearing or some other sense (for
the meaning of perceiving through the body is perceiving through the senses)-were
we not saying that the soul too is then dragged by the body into the region
of the changeable, and wanders and is confused; the world spins round her,
and she is like a drunkard when under their influence?
But when returning into herself she
reflects; then she passes into the realm of purity, and eternity, and immortality,
and unchangeableness, which are her kindred, and with them she ever lives,
when she is by herself and is not let or hindered; then she ceases from
her erring ways, and being in communion with the unchanging is unchanging.
And this state of the soul is called wisdom?
That is well and truly said, Socrates,
And to which class is the soul more
nearly alike and akin, as far as may be inferred from this argument, as
well as from the preceding one?
I think, Socrates, that, in the opinion
of everyone who follows the argument, the soul will be infinitely more
like the unchangeable even the most stupid person will not deny that.
And the body is more like the changing?
Yet once more consider the matter
in this light: When the soul and the body are united, then nature orders
the soul to rule and govern, and the body to obey and serve.
Now which of these two functions is
akin to the divine? and which to the mortal? Does not the divine appear
to you to be that which naturally orders and rules, and the mortal that
which is subject and servant?
And which does the soul resemble?
The soul resembles the divine and
the body the mortal-there can be no doubt of that, Socrates.
Then reflect, Cebes: is not the conclusion
of the whole matter this?-that the soul is in the very likeness of the
divine, and immortal, and intelligible, and uniform, and indissoluble,
and unchangeable; and the body is in the very likeness of the human, and
mortal, and unintelligible, and multiform, and dissoluble, and changeable.
Can this, my dear Cebes, be denied?
But if this is true, then is not the
body liable to speedy dissolution?and is not the soul almost or altogether
And do you further observe, that after
a man is dead, the body, which is the visible part of man, and has a visible
framework, which is called a corpse, and which would naturally be dissolved
and decomposed and dissipated, is not dissolved or decomposed at once,
but may remain for a good while, if the constitution be sound at the time
of death, and the season of the year favorable? For the body when shrunk
and embalmed, as is the custom in Egypt, may remain almost entire through
infinite ages; and even in decay, still there are some portions, such as
the bones and ligaments, which are practically indestructible. You allow
And are we to suppose that the soul,
which is invisible, in passing to the true Hades, which like her is invisible,
and pure, and noble, and on her way to the good and wise God, whither,
if God will, my soul is also soon to go-that the soul, I repeat, if this
be her nature and origin, is blown away and perishes immediately on quitting
the body as the many say? That can never be, dear Simmias and Cebes. The
truth rather is that the soul which is pure at departing draws after her
no bodily taint, having never voluntarily had connection with the body,
which she is ever avoiding, herself gathered into herself (for such abstraction
has been the study of her life). And what does this mean but that she has
been a true disciple of philosophy and has practised how to die easily?
And is not philosophy the practice of death?
That soul, I say, herself invisible,
departs to the invisible worldto the divine and immortal and rational:
thither arriving, she lives in bliss and is released from the error and
folly of men, their fears and wild passions and all other human ills, and
forever dwells, as they say of the initiated, in company with the gods.
Is not this true, Cebes?
Yes, said Cebes, beyond a doubt.
But the soul which has been polluted,
and is impure at the time of her departure, and is the companion and servant
of the body always, and is in love with and fascinated by the body and
by the desires and pleasures of the body, until she is led to believe that
the truth only exists in a bodily form, which a man may touch and see and
taste and use for the purposes of his lusts-the soul, I mean, accustomed
to hate and fear and avoid the intellectual principle, which to the bodily
eye is dark and invisible, and can be attained only by philosophy-do you
suppose that such a soul as this will depart pure and unalloyed?
That is impossible, he replied.
She is engrossed by the corporeal,
which the continual association and constant care of the body have made
natural to her.
And this, my friend, may be conceived
to be that heavy, weighty, earthy element of sight by which such a soul
is depressed and dragged down again into the visible world, because she
is afraid of the invisible and of the world below-prowling about tombs
and sepulchres, in the neighborhood of which, as they tell us, are seen
certain ghostly apparitions of souls which have not departed pure, but
are cloyed with sight and therefore visible.
That is very likely, Socrates.
Yes, that is very likely, Cebes; and
these must be the souls, not of the good, but of the evil, who are compelled
to wander about such places in payment of the penalty of their former evil
way of life; and they continue to wander until the desire which haunts
them is satisfied and they are imprisoned in another body. And they may
be supposed to be fixed in the same natures which they had in their former
What natures do you mean, Socrates?
I mean to say that men who have followed
after gluttony, and wantonness, and drunkenness, and have had no thought
of avoiding them, would pass into asses and animals of that sort. What
do you think?
I think that exceedingly probable.
And those who have chosen the portion
of injustice, and tyranny, and violence, will pass into wolves, or into
hawks and kites; whither else can we suppose them to go?
Yes, said Cebes; that is doubtless
the place of natures such as theirs. And there is no difficulty, he said,
in assigning to all of them places answering to their several natures and
There is not, he said.
Even among them some are happier than
others; and the happiest both in themselves and their place of abode are
those who have practised the civil and social virtues which are called
temperance and justice, and are acquired by habit and attention without
philosophy and mind.
Why are they the happiest?
Because they may be expected to pass
into some gentle, social nature which is like their own, such as that of
bees or ants, or even back again into the form of man, and just and moderate
men spring from them.
That is not impossible.
But he who is a philosopher or lover
of learning, and is entirely pure at departing, is alone permitted to reach
the gods. And this is the reason, Simmias and Cebes, why the true votaries
of philosophy abstain from all fleshly lusts, and endure and refuse to
give themselves up to them-not because they fear poverty or the ruin of
their families, like the lovers of money, and the world in general; nor
like the lovers of power and honor, because they dread the dishonor or
disgrace of evil deeds.
No, Socrates, that would not become
them, said Cebes.
No, indeed, he replied; and therefore
they who have a care of their souls, and do not merely live in the fashions
of the body, say farewell to all this; they will not walk in the ways of
the blind: and when philosophy offers them purification and release from
evil, they feel that they ought not to resist her influence, and to her
they incline, and whither she leads they follow her.
What do you mean, Socrates?
I will tell you, he said. The lovers
of knowledge are conscious that their souls, when philosophy receives them,
are simply fastened and glued to their bodies: the soul is only able to
view existence through the bars of a prison, and not in her own nature;
she is wallowing in the mire of all ignorance; and philosophy, seeing the
terrible nature of her confinement, and that the captive through desire
is led to conspire in her own captivity (for the lovers of knowledge are
aware that this was the original state of the soul, and that when she was
in this state philosophy received and gently counseled her, and wanted
to release her, pointing out to her that the eye is full of deceit, and
also the ear and other senses, and persuading her to retire from them in
all but the necessary use of them and to be gathered up and collected into
herself, and to trust only to herself and her own intuitions of absolute
existence, and mistrust that which comes to her through others and is subject
to vicissitude)-philosophy shows her that this is visible and tangible,
but that what she sees in her own nature is intellectual and invisible.
And the soul of the true philosopher thinks that she ought not to resist
this deliverance, and therefore abstains from pleasures and desires and
pains and fears, as far as she is able; reflecting that when a man has
great joys or sorrows or fears or desires he suffers from them, not the
sort of evil which might be anticipated-as, for example, the loss of his
health or property, which he has sacrificed to his lusts-but he has suffered
an evil greater far, which is the greatest and worst of all evils, and
one of which he never thinks.
And what is that, Socrates? said Cebes.
Why, this: When the feeling of pleasure
or pain in the soul is most intense, all of us naturally suppose that the
object of this intense feeling is then plainest and truest: but this is
not the case.
And this is the state in which the
soul is most enthralled by the body.
How is that?
Why, because each pleasure and pain
is a sort of nail which nails and rivets the soul to the body, and engrosses
her and makes her believe that to be true which the body affirms to be
true; and from agreeing with the body and having the same delights she
is obliged to have the same habits and ways, and is not likely ever to
be pure at her departure to the world below, but is always saturated with
the body; so that she soon sinks into another body and there germinates
and grows, and has therefore no part in the communion of the divine and
pure and simple.
That is most true, Socrates, answered
And this, Cebes, is the reason why
the true lovers of knowledge are temperate and brave; and not for the reason
which the world gives.
Certainly not! For not in that way
does the soul of a philosopher reason; she will not ask philosophy to release
her in order that when released she may deliver herself up again to the
thraldom of pleasures and pains, doing a work only to be undone again,
weaving instead of unweaving her Penelope's web. But she will make herself
a calm of passion and follow Reason, and dwell in her, beholding the true
and divine (which is not matter of opinion), and thence derive nourishment.
Thus she seeks to live while she lives, and after death she hopes to go
to her own kindred and to be freed from human ills. Never fear, Simmias
and Cebes, that a soul which has been thus nurtured and has had these pursuits,
will at her departure from the body be scattered and blown away by the
winds and be nowhere and nothing.
When Socrates had done speaking, for
a considerable time there was silence; he himself and most of us appeared
to be meditating on what had been said; only Cebes and Simmias spoke a
few words to one another. And Socrates observing this asked them what they
thought of the argument, and whether there was anything wanting? For, said
he, much is still open to suspicion and attack, if anyone were disposed
to sift the matter thoroughly. If you are talking of something else I would
rather not interrupt you, but if you are still doubtful about the argument
do not hesitate to say exactly what you think, and let us have anything
better which you can suggest; and if I am likely to be of any use, allow
me to help you.
Simmias said: I must confess, Socrates,
that doubts did arise in our minds, and each of us was urging and inciting
the other to put the question which he wanted to have answered and which
neither of us liked to ask, fearing that our importunity might be troublesome
under present circumstances.
Socrates smiled and said: O Simmias,
how strange that is; I am not very likely to persuade other men that I
do not regard my present situation as a misfortune, if I am unable to persuade
you, and you will keep fancying that I am at all more troubled now than
at any other time. Will you not allow that I have as much of the spirit
of prophecy in me as the swans? For they, when they perceive that they
must die, having sung all their life long, do then sing more than ever,
rejoicing in the thought that they are about to go away to the god whose
ministers they are. But men, because they are themselves afraid of death,
slanderously affirm of the swans that they sing a lament at the last, not
considering that no bird sings when cold, or hungry, or in pain, not even
the nightingale, nor the swallow, nor yet the hoopoe; which are said indeed
to tune a lay of sorrow, although I do not believe this to be true of them
any more than of the swans. But because they are sacred to Apollo and have
the gift of prophecy and anticipate the good things of another world, therefore
they sing and rejoice in that day more than they ever did before. And I,
too, believing myself to be the consecrated servant of the same God, and
the fellow servant of the swans, and thinking that I have received from
my master gifts of prophecy which are not inferior to theirs, would not
go out of life less merrily than the swans. Cease to mind then about this,
but speak and ask anything which you like, while the eleven magistrates
of Athens allow.
Well, Socrates, said Simmias, then
I will tell you my difficulty, and Cebes will tell you his. For I dare
say that you, Socrates, feel, as I do, how very hard or almost impossible
is the attainment of any certainty about questions such as these in the
present life. And yet I should deem him a coward who did not prove what
is said about them to the uttermost, or whose heart failed him before he
had examined them on every side. For he should persevere until he has attained
one of two things: either he should discover or learn the truth about them;
or, if this is impossible, I would have him take the best and most irrefragable
of human notions, and let this be the raft upon which he sails through
life-not without risk, as I admit, if he cannot find some word of God which
will more surely and safely carry him. And now, as you bid me, I will venture
to question you, as I should not like to reproach myself hereafter with
not having said at the time what I think. For when I consider the matter
either alone or with Cebes, the argument does certainly appear to me, Socrates,
to be not sufficient.
Socrates answered: I dare say, my
friend, that you may be right, but I should like to know in what respect
the argument is not sufficient.
In this respect, replied Simmias:
Might not a person use the same argument about harmony and the lyre-might
he not say that harmony is a thing invisible, incorporeal, fair, divine,
abiding in the lyre which is harmonized, but that the lyre and the strings
are matter and material, composite, earthy, and akin to mortality? And
when someone breaks the lyre, or cuts and rends the strings, then he who
takes this view would argue as you do, and on the same analogy, that the
harmony survives and has not perished; for you cannot imagine, as we would
say, that the lyre without the strings, and the broken strings themselves,
remain, and yet that the harmony, which is of heavenly and immortal nature
and kindred, has perished-and perished too before the mortal. The harmony,
he would say, certainly exists somewhere, and the wood and strings will
decay before that decays. For I suspect, Socrates, that the notion of the
soul which we are all of us inclined to entertain, would also be yours,
and that you too would conceive the body to be strung up, and held together,
by the elements of hot and cold, wet and dry, and the like, and that the
soul is the harmony or due proportionate admixture of them. And, if this
is true, the inference clearly is that when the strings of the body are
unduly loosened or overstrained through disorder or other injury, then
the soul, though most divine, like other harmonies of music or of the works
of art, of course perishes at once, although the material remains of the
body may last for a considerable time, until they are either decayed or
burnt. Now if anyone maintained that the soul, being the harmony of the
elements of the body, first perishes in that which is called death, how
shall we answer him?
Socrates looked round at us as his
manner was, and said, with a smile: Simmias has reason on his side; and
why does not some one of you who is abler than myself answer him? for there
is force in his attack upon me. But perhaps, before we answer him, we had
better also hear what Cebes has to say against the argument-this will give
us time for reflection, and when both of them have spoken, we may either
assent to them if their words appear to be in consonance with the truth,
or if not, we may take up the other side, and argue with them. Please to
tell me then, Cebes, he said, what was the difficulty which troubled you?
Cebes said: I will tell you. My feeling
is that the argument is still in the same position, and open to the same
objections which were urged before; for I am ready to admit that the existence
of the soul before entering into the bodily form has been very ingeniously,
and, as I may be allowed to say, quite sufficiently proven; but the existence
of the soul after death is still, in my judgment, unproven. Now my objection
is not the same as that of Simmias; for I am not disposed to deny that
the soul is stronger and more lasting than the body, being of opinion that
in all such respects the soul very far excels the body. Well, then, says
the argument to me, why do you remain unconvinced? When you see that the
weaker is still in existence after the man is dead, will you not admit
that the more lasting must also survive during the same period of time?
Now I, like Simmias, must employ a figure; and I shall ask you to consider
whether the figure is to the point. The parallel which I will suppose is
that of an old weaver, who dies, and after his death somebody says: He
is not dead, he must be alive; and he appeals to the coat which he himself
wove and wore, and which is still whole and undecayed. And then he proceeds
to ask of someone who is incredulous, whether a man lasts longer, or the
coat which is in use and wear; and when he is answered that a man lasts
far longer, thinks that he has thus certainly demonstrated the survival
of the man, who is the more lasting, because the less lasting remains.
But that, Simmias, as I would beg you to observe, is not the truth; everyone
sees that he who talks thus is talking nonsense. For the truth is that
this weaver, having worn and woven many such coats, though he outlived
several of them, was himself outlived by the last; but this is surely very
far from proving that a man is slighter and weaker than a coat. Now the
relation of the body to the soul may be expressed in a similar figure;
for you may say with reason that the soul is lasting, and the body weak
and short-lived in comparison. And every soul may be said to wear out many
bodies, especially in the course of a long life. For if while the man is
alive the body deliquesces and decays, and yet the soul always weaves her
garment anew and repairs the waste, then of course, when the soul perishes,
she must have on her last garment, and this only will survive her; but
then again when the soul is dead the body will at last show its native
weakness, and soon pass into decay. And therefore this is an argument on
which I would rather not rely as proving that the soul exists after death.
For suppose that we grant even more than you affirm as within the range
of possibility, and besides acknowledging that the soul existed before
birth admit also that after death the souls of some are existing still,
and will exist, and will be born and die again and again, and that there
is a natural strength in the soul which will hold out and be born many
times-for all this, we may be still inclined to think that she will weary
in the labors of successive births, and may at last succumb in one of her
deaths and utterly perish; and this death and dissolution of the body which
brings destruction to the soul may be unknown to any of us, for no one
of us can have had any experience of it: and if this be true, then I say
that he who is confident in death has but a foolish confidence, unless
he is able to prove that the soul is altogether immortal and imperishable.
But if he is not able to prove this, he who is about to die will always
have reason to fear that when the body is disunited, the soul also may
All of us, as we afterwards remarked
to one another, had an unpleasant feeling at hearing them say this. When
we had been so firmly convinced before, now to have our faith shaken seemed
to introduce a confusion and uncertainty, not only into the previous argument,
but into any future one; either we were not good judges, or there were
no real grounds of belief.
Echecrates. There I feel with
you-indeed I do, Phaedo, and when you were speaking, I was beginning to
ask myself the same question: What argument can I ever trust again? For
what could be more convincing than the argument of Socrates, which has
now fallen into discredit? That the soul is a harmony is a doctrine which
has always had a wonderful attraction for me, and, when mentioned, came
back to me at once, as my own original conviction. And now I must begin
again and find another argument which will assure me that when the man
is dead the soul dies not with him. Tell me, I beg, how did Socrates proceed?
Did he appear to share the unpleasant feeling which you mention? or did
he receive the interruption calmly and give a sufficient answer? Tell us,
as exactly as you can, what passed.
Phaedo. Often, Echecrates,
as I have admired Socrates, I never admired him more than at that moment.
That he should be able to answer was nothing, but what astonished me was,
first, the gentle and pleasant and approving manner in which he regarded
the words of the young men, and then his quick sense of the wound which
had been inflicted by the argument, and his ready application of the healing
art. He might be compared to a general rallying his defeated and broken
army, urging them to follow him and return to the field of argument.
Echecrates. How was that?
Phaedo. You shall hear, for
I was close to him on his right hand, seated on a sort of stool, and he
on a couch which was a good deal higher. Now he had a way of playing with
my hair, and then he smoothed my head, and pressed the hair upon my neck,
and said: To-morrow, Phaedo, I suppose that these fair locks of yours will
Yes, Socrates, I suppose that they
will, I replied.
Not so if you will take my advice.
What shall I do with them? I said.
To-day, he replied, and not to-morrow,
if this argument dies and cannot be brought to life again by us, you and
I will both shave our locks; and if I were you, and could not maintain
my ground against Simmias and Cebes, I would myself take an oath, like
the Argives, not to wear hair any more until I had renewed the conflict
and defeated them.
Yes, I said, but Heracles himself
is said not to be a match for two.
Summon me then, he said, and I will
be your Iolaus until the sun goes down.
I summon you rather, I said, not as
Heracles summoning Iolaus, but as Iolaus might summon Heracles.
That will be all the same, he said.
But first let us take care that we avoid a danger.
And what is that? I said.
The danger of becoming misologists,
he replied, which is one of the very worst things that can happen to us.
For as there are misanthropists or haters of men, there are also misologists
or haters of ideas, and both spring from the same cause, which is ignorance
of the world. Misanthropy arises from the too great confidence of inexperience;
you trust a man and think him altogether true and good and faithful, and
then in a little while he turns out to be false and knavish; and then another
and another, and when this has happened several times to a man, especially
within the circle of his most trusted friends, as he deems them, and he
has often quarreled with them, he at last hates all men, and believes that
no one has any good in him at all. I dare say that you must have observed
Yes, I said.
And is not this discreditable? The
reason is that a man, having to deal with other men, has no knowledge of
them; for if he had knowledge he would have known the true state of the
case, that few are the good and few the evil, and that the great majority
are in the interval between them.
How do you mean? I said.
I mean, he replied, as you might say
of the very large and very small, that nothing is more uncommon than a
very large or a very small man; and this applies generally to all extremes,
whether of great and small, or swift and slow, or fair and foul, or black
and white: and whether the instances you select be men or dogs or anything
else, few are the extremes, but many are in the mean between them. Did
you never observe this?
Yes, I said, I have.
And do you not imagine, he said, that
if there were a competition of evil, the first in evil would be found to
be very few?
Yes, that is very likely, I said.
Yes, that is very likely, he replied;
not that in this respect arguments are like men-there I was led on by you
to say more than I had intended; but the point of comparison was that when
a simple man who has no skill in dialectics believes an argument to be
true which he afterwards imagines to be false, whether really false or
not, and then another and another, he has no longer any faith left, and
great disputers, as you know, come to think, at last that they have grown
to be the wisest of mankind; for they alone perceive the utter unsoundness
and instability of all arguments, or, indeed, of all things, which, like
the currents in the Euripus, are going up and down in never-ceasing ebb
That is quite true, I said.
Yes, Phaedo, he replied, and very
melancholy too, if there be such a thing as truth or certainty or power
of knowing at all, that a man should have lighted upon some argument or
other which at first seemed true and then turned out to be false, and instead
of blaming himself and his own want of wit, because he is annoyed, should
at last be too glad to transfer the blame from himself to arguments in
general; and forever afterwards should hate and revile them, and lose the
truth and knowledge of existence.
Yes, indeed, I said; that is very
Let us, then, in the first place,
he said, be careful of admitting into our souls the notion that there is
no truth or health or soundness in any arguments at all; but let us rather
say that there is as yet no health in us, and that we must quit ourselves
like men and do our best to gain health-you and all other men with a view
to the whole of your future life, and I myself with a view to death. For
at this moment I am sensible that I have not the temper of a philosopher;
like the vulgar, I am only a partisan. For the partisan, when he is engaged
in a dispute, cares nothing about the rights of the question, but is anxious
only to convince his hearers of his own assertions. And the difference
between him and me at the present moment is only this-that whereas he seeks
to convince his hearers that what he says is true, I am rather seeking
to convince myself; to convince my hearers is a secondary matter with me.
And do but see how much I gain by this. For if what I say is true, then
I do well to be persuaded of the truth, but if there be nothing after death,
still, during the short time that remains, I shall save my friends from
lamentations, and my ignorance will not last, and therefore no harm will
be done. This is the state of mind, Simmias and Cebes, in which I approach
the argument. And I would ask you to be thinking of the truth and not of
Socrates: agree with me, if I seem to you to be speaking the truth; or
if not, withstand me might and main, that I may not deceive you as well
as myself in my enthusiasm, and, like the bee, leave my sting in you before
And now let us proceed, he said. And
first of all let me be sure that I have in my mind what you were saying.
Simmias, if I remember rightly, has fears and misgivings whether the soul,
being in the form of harmony, although a fairer and diviner thing than
the body, may not perish first. On the other hand, Cebes appeared to grant
that the soul was more lasting than the body, but he said that no one could
know whether the soul, after having worn out many bodies, might not perish
herself and leave her last body behind her; and that this is death, which
is the destruction not of the body but of the soul, for in the body the
work of destruction is ever going on. Are not these, Simmias and Cebes,
the points which we have to consider?
They both agreed to this statement
He proceeded: And did you deny the
force of the whole preceding argument, or of a part only?
Of a part only, they replied.
And what did you think, he said, of
that part of the argument in which we said that knowledge was recollection
only, and inferred from this that the soul must have previously existed
somewhere else before she was enclosed in the body? Cebes said that he
had been wonderfully impressed by that part of the argument, and that his
conviction remained unshaken. Simmias agreed, and added that he himself
could hardly imagine the possibility of his ever thinking differently about
But, rejoined Socrates, you will have
to think differently, my Theban friend, if you still maintain that harmony
is a compound, and that the soul is a harmony which is made out of strings
set in the frame of the body; for you will surely never allow yourself
to say that a harmony is prior to the elements which compose the harmony.
No, Socrates, that is impossible.
But do you not see that you are saying
this when you say that the soul existed before she took the form and body
of man, and was made up of elements which as yet had no existence? For
harmony is not a sort of thing like the soul, as you suppose; but first
the lyre, and the strings, and the sounds exist in a state of discord,
and then harmony is made last of all, and perishes first. And how can such
a notion of the soul as this agree with the other?
Not at all, replied Simmias.
And yet, he said, there surely ought
to be harmony when harmony is the theme of discourse.
There ought, replied Simmias.
But there is no harmony, he said,
in the two propositions that knowledge is recollection, and that the soul
is a harmony. Which of them, then, will you retain?
I think, he replied, that I have a
much stronger faith, Socrates, in the first of the two, which has been
fully demonstrated to me, than in the latter, which has not been demonstrated
at all, but rests only on probable and plausible grounds; and I know too
well that these arguments from probabilities are impostors, and unless
great caution is observed in the use of them they are apt to be deceptive-in
geometry, and in other things too. But the doctrine of knowledge and recollection
has been proven to me on trustworthy grounds; and the proof was that the
soul must have existed before she came into the body, because to her belongs
the essence of which the very name implies existence. Having, as I am convinced,
rightly accepted this conclusion, and on sufficient grounds, I must, as
I suppose, cease to argue or allow others to argue that the soul is a harmony.
Let me put the matter, Simmias, he
said, in another point of view: Do you imagine that a harmony or any other
composition can be in a state other than that of the elements out of which
it is compounded?
Or do or suffer anything other than
they do or suffer?
Then a harmony does not lead the parts
or elements which make up the harmony, but only follows them.
For harmony cannot possibly have any
motion, or sound, or other quality which is opposed to the parts.
That would be impossible, he replied.
And does not every harmony depend
upon the manner in which the elements are harmonized?
I do not understand you, he said.
I mean to say that a harmony admits
of degrees, and is more of a harmony, and more completely a harmony, when
more completely harmonized, if that be possible; and less of a harmony,
and less completely a harmony, when less harmonized.
But does the soul admit of degrees?
or is one soul in the very least degree more or less, or more or less completely,
a soul than another?
Not in the least.
Yet surely one soul is said to have
intelligence and virtue, and to be good, and another soul is said to have
folly and vice, and to be an evil soul: and this is said truly?
But what will those who maintain the
soul to be a harmony say of this presence of virtue and vice in the soul?-Will
they say that there is another harmony, and another discord, and that the
virtuous soul is harmonized, and herself being a harmony has another harmony
within her, and that the vicious soul is inharmonical and has no harmony
I cannot say, replied Simmias; but
I suppose that something of that kind would be asserted by those who take
And the admission is already made
that no soul is more a soul than another; and this is equivalent to admitting
that harmony is not more or less harmony, or more or less completely a
And that which is not more or less
a harmony is not more or less harmonized?
And that which is not more or less
harmonized cannot have more or less of harmony, but only an equal harmony?
Yes, an equal harmony.
Then one soul not being more or less
absolutely a soul than another, is not more or less harmonized?
And therefore has neither more nor
less of harmony or of discord?
She has not.
And having neither more nor less of
harmony or of discord, one soul has no more vice or virtue than another,
if vice be discord and virtue harmony?
Not at all more.
Or speaking more correctly, Simmias,
the soul, if she is a harmony, will never have any vice; because a harmony,
being absolutely a harmony, has no part in the inharmonical?
And therefore a soul which is absolutely
a soul has no vice?
How can she have, consistently with
the preceding argument?
Then, according to this, if the souls
of all animals are equally and absolutely souls, they will be equally good?
I agree with you, Socrates, he said.
And can all this be true, think you?
he said; and are all these consequences admissible-which nevertheless seem
to follow from the assumption that the soul is a harmony?
Certainly not, he said.
Once more, he said, what ruling principle
is there of human things other than the soul, and especially the wise soul?
Do you know of any?
Indeed, I do not.
And is the soul in agreement with
the affections of the body? or is she at variance with them? For example,
when the body is hot and thirsty, does not the soul incline us against
drinking? and when the body is hungry, against eating? And this is only
one instance out of ten thousand of the opposition of the soul to the things
of the body.
But we have already acknowledged that
the soul, being a harmony, can never utter a note at variance with the
tensions and relaxations and vibrations and other affections of the strings
out of which she is composed; she can only follow, she cannot lead them?
Yes, he said, we acknowledged that,
And yet do we not now discover the
soul to be doing the exact opposite-leading the elements of which she is
believed to be composed; almost always opposing and coercing them in all
sorts of ways throughout life, sometimes more violently with the pains
of medicine and gymnastic; then again more gently; threatening and also
reprimanding the desires, passions, fears, as if talking to a thing which
is not herself, as Homer in the "Odyssey" represents Odysseus doing in
"He beat his breast, and thus reproached
Endure, my heart; far worse hast thou
endured!" Do you think that Homer could have written this under the idea
that the soul is a harmony capable of being led by the affections of the
body, and not rather of a nature which leads and masters them; and herself
a far diviner thing than any harmony?
Yes, Socrates, I quite agree to that.
Then, my friend, we can never be right
in saying that the soul is a harmony, for that would clearly contradict
the divine Homer as well as ourselves.
True, he said.
Thus much, said Socrates, of Harmonia,
your Theban goddess, Cebes, who has not been ungracious to us, I think;
but what shall I say to the Theban Cadmus, and how shall I propitiate him?
I think that you will discover a way
of propitiating him, said Cebes; I am sure that you have answered the argument
about harmony in a manner that I could never have expected. For when Simmias
mentioned his objection, I quite imagined that no answer could be given
to him, and therefore I was surprised at finding that his argument could
not sustain the first onset of yours; and not impossibly the other, whom
you call Cadmus, may share a similar fate.
Nay, my good friend, said Socrates,
let us not boast, lest some evil eye should put to flight the word which
I am about to speak. That, however, may be left in the hands of those above,
while I draw near in Homeric fashion, and try the mettle of your words.
Briefly, the sum of your objection is as follows: You want to have proven
to you that the soul is imperishable and immortal, and you think that the
philosopher who is confident in death has but a vain and foolish confidence,
if he thinks that he will fare better than one who has led another sort
of life, in the world below, unless he can prove this; and you say that
the demonstration of the strength and divinity of the soul, and of her
existence prior to our becoming men, does not necessarily imply her immortality.
Granting that the soul is longlived, and has known and done much in a former
state, still she is not on that account immortal; and her entrance into
the human form may be a sort of disease which is the beginning of dissolution,
and may at last, after the toils of life are over, end in that which is
called death. And whether the soul enters into the body once only or many
times, that, as you would say, makes no difference in the fears of individuals.
For any man, who is not devoid of natural feeling, has reason to fear,
if he has no knowledge or proof of the soul's immortality. That is what
I suppose you to say, Cebes, which I designedly repeat, in order that nothing
may escape us, and that you may, if you wish, add or subtract anything.
But, said Cebes, as far as I can see
at present, I have nothing to add or subtract; you have expressed my meaning.
Socrates paused awhile, and seemed
to be absorbed in reflection. At length he said: This is a very serious
inquiry which you are raising, Cebes, involving the whole question of generation
and corruption, about which I will, if you like, give you my own experience;
and you can apply this, if you think that anything which I say will avail
towards the solution of your difficulty.
I should very much like, said Cebes,
to hear what you have to say.
Then I will tell you, said Socrates.
When I was young, Cebes, I had a prodigious desire to know that department
of philosophy which is called Natural Science; this appeared to me to have
lofty aims, as being the science which has to do with the causes of things,
and which teaches why a thing is, and is created and destroyed; and I was
always agitating myself with the consideration of such questions as these:
Is the growth of animals the result of some decay which the hot and cold
principle contracts, as some have said? Is the blood the element with which
we think, or the air, or the fire? or perhaps nothing of this sort-but
the brain may be the originating power of the perceptions of hearing and
sight and smell, and memory and opinion may come from them, and science
may be based on memory and opinion when no longer in motion, but at rest.
And then I went on to examine the decay of them, and then to the things
of heaven and earth, and at last I concluded that I was wholly incapable
of these inquiries, as I will satisfactorily prove to you. For I was fascinated
by them to such a degree that my eyes grew blind to things that I had seemed
to myself, and also to others, to know quite well; and I forgot what I
had before thought to be self-evident, that the growth of man is the result
of eating and drinking; for when by the digestion of food flesh is added
to flesh and bone to bone, and whenever there is an aggregation of congenial
elements, the lesser bulk becomes larger and the small man greater. Was
not that a reasonable notion?
Yes, said Cebes, I think so.
Well; but let me tell you something
more. There was a time when I thought that I understood the meaning of
greater and less pretty well; and when I saw a great man standing by a
little one I fancied that one was taller than the other by a head; or one
horse would appear to be greater than another horse: and still more clearly
did I seem to perceive that ten is two more than eight, and that two cubits
are more than one, because two is twice one.
And what is now your notion of such
matters? said Cebes.
I should be far enough from imagining,
he replied, that I knew the cause of any of them, indeed I should, for
I cannot satisfy myself that when one is added to one, the one to which
the addition is made becomes two, or that the two units added together
make two by reason of the addition. For I cannot understand how, when separated
from the other, each of them was one and not two, and now, when they are
brought together, the mere juxtaposition of them can be the cause of their
becoming two: nor can I understand how the division of one is the way to
make two; for then a different cause would produce the same effect-as in
the former instance the addition and juxtaposition of one to one was the
cause of two, in this the separation and subtraction of one from the other
would be the cause. Nor am I any longer satisfied that I understand the
reason why one or anything else either is generated or destroyed or is
at all, but I have in my mind some confused notion of another method, and
can never admit this.
Then I heard someone who had a book
of Anaxagoras, as he said, out of which he read that mind was the disposer
and cause of all, and I was quite delighted at the notion of this, which
appeared admirable, and I said to myself: If mind is the disposer, mind
will dispose all for the best, and put each particular in the best place;
and I argued that if anyone desired to find out the cause of the generation
or destruction or existence of anything, he must find out what state of
being or suffering or doing was best for that thing, and therefore a man
had only to consider the best for himself and others, and then he would
also know the worse, for that the same science comprised both. And I rejoiced
to think that I had found in Anaxagoras a teacher of the causes of existence
such as I desired, and I imagined that he would tell me first whether the
earth is flat or round; and then he would further explain the cause and
the necessity of this, and would teach me the nature of the best and show
that this was best; and if he said that the earth was in the centre, he
would explain that this position was the best, and I should be satisfied
if this were shown to me, and not want any other sort of cause. And I thought
that I would then go and ask him about the sun and moon and stars, and
that he would explain to me their comparative swiftness, and their returnings
and various states, and how their several affections, active and passive,
were all for the best. For I could not imagine that when he spoke of mind
as the disposer of them, he would give any other account of their being
as they are, except that this was best; and I thought when he had explained
to me in detail the cause of each and the cause of all, he would go on
to explain to me what was best for each and what was best for all. I had
hopes which I would not have sold for much, and I seized the books and
read them as fast as I could in my eagerness to know the better and the
What hopes I had formed, and how grievously
was I disappointed! As I proceeded, I found my philosopher altogether forsaking
mind or any other principle of order, but having recourse to air, and ether,
and water, and other eccentricities. I might compare him to a person who
began by maintaining generally that mind is the cause of the actions of
Socrates, but who, when he endeavored to explain the causes of my several
actions in detail, went on to show that I sit here because my body is made
up of bones and muscles; and the bones, as he would say, are hard and have
ligaments which divide them, and the muscles are elastic, and they cover
the bones, which have also a covering or environment of flesh and skin
which contains them; and as the bones are lifted at their joints by the
contraction or relaxation of the muscles, I am able to bend my limbs, and
this is why I am sitting here in a curved posture: that is what he would
say, and he would have a similar explanation of my talking to you, which
he would attribute to sound, and air, and hearing, and he would assign
ten thousand other causes of the same sort, forgetting to mention the true
cause, which is that the Athenians have thought fit to condemn me, and
accordingly I have thought it better and more right to remain here and
undergo my sentence; for I am inclined to think that these muscles and
bones of mine would have gone off to Megara or Boeotia-by the dog of Egypt
they would, if they had been guided only by their own idea of what was
best, and if I had not chosen as the better and nobler part, instead of
playing truant and running away, to undergo any punishment which the State
inflicts. There is surely a strange confusion of causes and conditions
in all this. It may be said, indeed, that without bones and muscles and
the other parts of the body I cannot execute my purposes. But to say that
I do as I do because of them, and that this is the way in which mind acts,
and not from the choice of the best, is a very careless and idle mode of
speaking. I wonder that they cannot distinguish the cause from the condition,
which the many, feeling about in the dark, are always mistaking and misnaming.
And thus one man makes a vortex all round and steadies the earth by the
heaven; another gives the air as a support to the earth, which is a sort
of broad trough. Any power which in disposing them as they are disposes
them for the best never enters into their minds, nor do they imagine that
there is any superhuman strength in that; they rather expect to find another
Atlas of the world who is stronger and more everlasting and more containing
than the good is, and are clearly of opinion that the obligatory and containing
power of the good is as nothing; and yet this is the principle which I
would fain learn if anyone would teach me. But as I have failed either
to discover myself or to learn of anyone else, the nature of the best,
I will exhibit to you, if you like, what I have found to be the second
best mode of inquiring into the cause.
I should very much like to hear that,
Socrates proceeded: I thought that
as I had failed in the contemplation of true existence, I ought to be careful
that I did not lose the eye of my soul; as people may injure their bodily
eye by observing and gazing on the sun during an eclipse, unless they take
the precaution of only looking at the image reflected in the water, or
in some similar medium. That occurred to me, and I was afraid that my soul
might be blinded altogether if I looked at things with my eyes or tried
by the help of the senses to apprehend them. And I thought that I had better
have recourse to ideas, and seek in them the truth of existence. I dare
say that the simile is not perfect-for I am very far from admitting that
he who contemplates existence through the medium of ideas, sees them only
"through a glass darkly," any more than he who sees them in their working
and effects. However, this was the method which I adopted: I first assumed
some principle which I judged to be the strongest, and then I affirmed
as true whatever seemed to agree with this, whether relating to the cause
or to anything else; and that which disagreed I regarded as untrue. But
I should like to explain my meaning clearly, as I do not think that you
No, indeed, replied Cebes, not very
There is nothing new, he said, in
what I am about to tell you; but only what I have been always and everywhere
repeating in the previous discussion and on other occasions: I want to
show you the nature of that cause which has occupied my thoughts, and I
shall have to go back to those familiar words which are in the mouth of
everyone, and first of all assume that there is an absolute beauty and
goodness and greatness, and the like; grant me this, and I hope to be able
to show you the nature of the cause, and to prove the immortality of the
Cebes said: You may proceed at once
with the proof, as I readily grant you this.
Well, he said, then I should like
to know whether you agree with me in the next step; for I cannot help thinking
that if there be anything beautiful other than absolute beauty, that can
only be beautiful in as far as it partakes of absolute beauty-and this
I should say of everything. Do you agree in this notion of the cause?
Yes, he said, I agree.
He proceeded: I know nothing and can
understand nothing of any other of those wise causes which are alleged;
and if a person says to me that the bloom of color, or form, or anything
else of that sort is a source of beauty, I leave all that, which is only
confusing to me, and simply and singly, and perhaps foolishly, hold and
am assured in my own mind that nothing makes a thing beautiful but the
presence and participation of beauty in whatever way or manner obtained;
for as to the manner I am uncertain, but I stoutly contend that by beauty
all beautiful things become beautiful. That appears to me to be the only
safe answer that I can give, either to myself or to any other, and to that
I cling, in the persuasion that I shall never be overthrown, and that I
may safely answer to myself or any other that by beauty beautiful things
become beautiful. Do you not agree to that?
Yes, I agree.
And that by greatness only great things
become great and greater greater, and by smallness the less becomes less.
Then if a person remarks that A is
taller by a head than B, and B less by a head than A, you would refuse
to admit this, and would stoutly contend that what you mean is only that
the greater is greater by, and by reason of, greatness, and the less is
less only by, or by reason of, smallness; and thus you would avoid the
danger of saying that the greater is greater and the less by the measure
of the head, which is the same in both, and would also avoid the monstrous
absurdity of supposing that the greater man is greater by reason of the
head, which is small. Would you not be afraid of that?
Indeed, I should, said Cebes, laughing.
In like manner you would be afraid
to say that ten exceeded eight by, and by reason of, two; but would say
by, and by reason of, number; or that two cubits exceed one cubit not by
a half, but by magnitude?-that is what you would say, for there is the
same danger in both cases.
Very true, he said.
Again, would you not be cautious of
affirming that the addition of one to one, or the division of one, is the
cause of two? And you would loudly asseverate that you know of no way in
which anything comes into existence except by participation in its own
proper essence, and consequently, as far as you know, the only cause of
two is the participation in duality; that is the way to make two, and the
participation in one is the way to make one. You would say: I will let
alone puzzles of division and addition-wiser heads than mine may answer
them; inexperienced as I am, and ready to start, as the proverb says, at
my own shadow, I cannot afford to give up the sure ground of a principle.
And if anyone assails you there, you would not mind him, or answer him
until you had seen whether the consequences which follow agree with one
another or not, and when you are further required to give an explanation
of this principle, you would go on to assume a higher principle, and the
best of the higher ones, until you found a resting-place; but you would
not refuse the principle and the consequences in your reasoning like the
Eristics-at least if you wanted to discover real existence. Not that this
confusion signifies to them who never care or think about the matter at
all, for they have the wit to be well pleased with themselves, however
great may be the turmoil of their ideas. But you, if you are a philosopher,
will, I believe, do as I say.
What you say is most true, said Simmias
and Cebes, both speaking at once.
Echecrates. Yes, Phaedo; and
I don't wonder at their assenting. Anyone who has the least sense will
acknowledge the wonderful clear. of Socrates' reasoning.
Phaedo. Certainly, Echecrates;
and that was the feeling of the whole company at the time.
Echecrates. Yes, and equally
of ourselves, who were not of the company, and are now listening to your
recital. But what followed?
Phaedo. After all this was admitted,
and they had agreed about the existence of ideas and the participation
in them of the other things which derive their names from them, Socrates,
if I remember rightly, said:-
This is your way of speaking; and
yet when you say that Simmias is greater than Socrates and less than Phaedo,
do you not predicate of Simmias both greatness and smallness?
Yes, I do.
But still you allow that Simmias does
not really exceed Socrates, as the words may seem to imply, because he
is Simmias, but by reason of the size which he has; just as Simmias does
not exceed Socrates because he is Simmias, any more than because Socrates
is Socrates, but because he has smallness when compared with the greatness
And if Phaedo exceeds him in size,
that is not because Phaedo is Phaedo, but because Phaedo has greatness
relatively to Simmias, who is comparatively smaller?
That is true.
And therefore Simmias is said to be
great, and is also said to be small, because he is in a mean between them,
exceeding the smallness of the one by his greatness, and allowing the greatness
of the other to exceed his smallness. He added, laughing, I am speaking
like a book, but I believe that what I am now saying is true.
Simmias assented to this.
The reason why I say this is that
I want you to agree with me in thinking, not only that absolute greatness
will never be great and also small, but that greatness in us or in the
concrete will never admit the small or admit of being exceeded: instead
of this, one of two things will happen-either the greater will fly or retire
before the opposite, which is the less, or at the advance of the less will
cease to exist; but will not, if allowing or admitting smallness, be changed
by that; even as I, having received and admitted smallness when compared
with Simmias, remain just as I was, and am the same small person. And as
the idea of greatness cannot condescend ever to be or become small, in
like manner the smallness in us cannot be or become great; nor can any
other opposite which remains the same ever be or become its own opposite,
but either passes away or perishes in the change.
That, replied Cebes, is quite my notion.
One of the company, though I do not
exactly remember which of them, on hearing this, said: By Heaven, is not
this the direct contrary of what was admitted before-that out of the greater
came the less and out of the less the greater, and that opposites are simply
generated from opposites; whereas now this seems to be utterly denied.
Socrates inclined his head to the
speaker and listened. I like your courage, he said, in reminding us of
this. But you do not observe that there is a difference in the two cases.
For then we were speaking of opposites in the concrete, and now of the
essential opposite which, as is affirmed, neither in us nor in nature can
ever be at variance with itself: then, my friend, we were speaking of things
in which opposites are inherent and which are called after them, but now
about the opposites which are inherent in them and which give their name
to them; these essential opposites will never, as we maintain, admit of
generation into or out of one another. At the same time, turning to Cebes,
he said: Were you at all disconcerted, Cebes, at our friend's objection?
That was not my feeling, said Cebes;
and yet I cannot deny that I am apt to be disconcerted.
Then we are agreed after all, said
Socrates, that the opposite will never in any case be opposed to itself?
To that we are quite agreed, he replied.
Yet once more let me ask you to consider
the question from another point of view, and see whether you agree with
me: There is a thing which you term heat, and another thing which you term
But are they the same as fire and
Most assuredly not.
Heat is not the same as fire, nor
is cold the same as snow?
And yet you will surely admit that
when snow, as before said, is under the influence of heat, they will not
remain snow and heat; but at the advance of the heat the snow will either
retire or perish?
Very true, he replied.
And the fire too at the advance of
the cold will either retire or perish; and when the fire is under the influence
of the cold, they will not remain, as before, fire and cold.
That is true, he said.
And in some cases the name of the
idea is not confined to the idea; but anything else which, not being the
idea, exists only in the form of the idea, may also lay claim to it. I
will try to make this clearer by an example: The odd number is always called
by the name of odd?
But is this the only thing which is
called odd? Are there not other things which have their own name, and yet
are called odd, because, although not the same as oddness, they are never
without oddness?-that is what I mean to ask-whether numbers such as the
number three are not of the class of odd. And there are many other examples:
would you not say, for example, that three may be called by its proper
name, and also be called odd, which is not the same with three? and this
may be said not only of three but also of five, and every alternate number-each
of them without being oddness is odd, and in the same way two and four,
and the whole series of alternate numbers, has every number even, without
being evenness. Do you admit that?
Yes, he said, how can I deny that?
Then now mark the point at which I
am aiming: not only do essential opposites exclude one another, but also
concrete things, which, although not in themselves opposed, contain opposites;
these, I say, also reject the idea which is opposed to that which is contained
in them, and at the advance of that they either perish or withdraw. There
is the number three for example; will not that endure annihilation or anything
sooner than be converted into an even number, remaining three?
Very true, said Cebes.
And yet, he said, the number two is
certainly not opposed to the number three?
It is not.
Then not only do opposite ideas repel
the advance of one another, but also there are other things which repel
the approach of opposites.
That is quite true, he said.
Suppose, he said, that we endeavor,
if possible, to determine what these are.
By all means.
Are they not, Cebes, such as compel
the things of which they have possession, not only to take their own form,
but also the form of some opposite?
What do you mean?
I mean, as I was just now saying,
and have no need to repeat to you, that those things which are possessed
by the number three must not only be three in number, but must also be
And on this oddness, of which the
number three has the impress, the opposite idea will never intrude?
And this impress was given by the
And to the odd is opposed the even?
Then the idea of the even number will
never arrive at three?
Then three has no part in the even?
Then the triad or number three is
To return then to my distinction of natures which are not opposites, and
yet do not admit opposites: as, in this instance, three, although not opposed
to the even, does not any the more admit of the even, but always brings
the opposite into play on the other side; or as two does not receive the
odd, or fire the cold-from these examples (and there are many more of them)
perhaps you may be able to arrive at the general conclusion that not only
opposites will not receive opposites, but also that nothing which brings
the opposite will admit the opposite of that which it brings in that to
which it is brought. And here let me recapitulate-for there is no harm
in repetition. The number five will not admit the nature of the even, any
more than ten, which is the double of five, will admit the nature of the
odd-the double, though not strictly opposed to the odd, rejects the odd
altogether. Nor again will parts in the ratio of 3:2, nor any fraction
in which there is a half, nor again in which there is a third, admit the
notion of the whole, although they are not opposed to the whole. You will
agree to that?
Yes, he said, I entirely agree and
go along with you in that.
And now, he said, I think that I may
begin again; and to the question which I am about to ask I will beg you
to give not the old safe answer, but another, of which I will offer you
an example; and I hope that you will find in what has been just said another
foundation which is as safe. I mean that if anyone asks you "what that
is, the inherence of which makes the body hot," you will reply not heat
(this is what I call the safe and stupid answer), but fire, a far better
answer, which we are now in a condition to give. Or if anyone asks you
"why a body is diseased," you will not say from disease, but from fever;
and instead of saying that oddness is the cause of odd numbers, you will
say that the monad is the cause of them: and so of things in general, as
I dare say that you will understand sufficiently without my adducing any
Yes, he said, I quite understand you.
Tell me, then, what is that the inherence
of which will render the body alive?
The soul, he replied.
And is this always the case?
Yes, he said, of course.
Then whatever the soul possesses,
to that she comes bearing life?
And is there any opposite to life?
There is, he said.
And what is that?
Then the soul, as has been acknowledged,
will never receive the opposite of what she brings. And now, he said, what
did we call that principle which repels the even?
And that principle which repels the
musical, or the just?
The unmusical, he said, and the unjust.
And what do we call the principle
which does not admit of death?
The immortal, he said.
And does the soul admit of death?
Then the soul is immortal?
Yes, he said.
And may we say that this is proven?
Yes, abundantly proven, Socrates,
And supposing that the odd were imperishable,
must not three be imperishable?
And if that which is cold were imperishable,
when the warm principle came attacking the snow, must not the snow have
retired whole and unmelted-for it could never have perished, nor could
it have remained and admitted the heat?
True, he said.
Again, if the uncooling or warm principle
were imperishable, the fire when assailed by cold would not have perished
or have been extinguished, but would have gone away unaffected?
Certainly, he said.
And the same may be said of the immortal:
if the immortal is also imperishable, the soul when attacked by death cannot
perish; for the preceding argument shows that the soul will not admit of
death, or ever be dead, any more than three or the odd number will admit
of the even, or fire or the heat in the fire, of the cold. Yet a person
may say: "But although the odd will not become even at the approach of
the even, why may not the odd perish and the even take the place of the
odd?" Now to him who makes this objection, we cannot answer that the odd
principle is imperishable; for this has not been acknowledged, but if this
had been acknowledged, there would have been no difficulty in contending
that at the approach of the even the odd principle and the number three
took up their departure; and the same argument would have held good of
fire and heat and any other thing.
And the same may be said of the immortal:
if the immortal is also imperishable, then the soul will be imperishable
as well as immortal; but if not, some other proof of her imperishableness
will have to be given.
No other proof is needed, he said;
for if the immortal, being eternal, is liable to perish, then nothing is
Yes, replied Socrates, all men will
agree that God, and the essential form of life, and the immortal in general,
will never perish.
Yes, all men, he said-that is true;
and what is more, gods, if I am not mistaken, as well as men.
Seeing then that the immortal is indestructible,
must not the soul, if she is immortal, be also imperishable?
Then when death attacks a man, the
mortal portion of him may be supposed to die, but the immortal goes out
of the way of death and is preserved safe and sound?
Then, Cebes, beyond question the soul
is immortal and imperishable, and our souls will truly exist in another
I am convinced, Socrates, said Cebes,
and have nothing more to object; but if my friend Simmias, or anyone else,
has any further objection, he had better speak out, and not keep silence,
since I do not know how there can ever be a more fitting time to which
he can defer the discussion, if there is anything which he wants to say
or have said.
But I have nothing more to say, replied
Simmias; nor do I see any room for uncertainty, except that which arises
necessarily out of the greatness of the subject and the feebleness of man,
and which I cannot help feeling.
Yes, Simmias, replied Socrates, that
is well said: and more than that, first principles, even if they appear
certain, should be carefully considered; and when they are satisfactorily
ascertained, then, with a sort of hesitating confidence in human reason,
you may, I think, follow the course of the argument; and if this is clear,
there will be no need for any further inquiry.
That, he said, is true.
But then, O my friends, he said, if
the soul is really immortal, what care should be taken of her, not only
in respect of the portion of time which is called life, but of eternity!
And the danger of neglecting her from this point of view does indeed appear
to be awful. If death had only been the end of all, the wicked would have
had a good bargain in dying, for they would have been happily quit not
only of their body, but of their own evil together with their souls. But
now, as the soul plainly appears to be immortal, there is no release or
salvation from evil except the attainment of the highest virtue and wisdom.
For the soul when on her progress to the world below takes nothing with
her but nurture and education; which are indeed said greatly to benefit
or greatly to injure the departed, at the very beginning of its pilgrimage
in the other world.
For after death, as they say, the
genius of each individual, to whom he belonged in life, leads him to a
certain place in which the dead are gathered together for judgment, whence
they go into the world below, following the guide who is appointed to conduct
them from this world to the other: and when they have there received their
due and remained their time, another guide brings them back again after
many revolutions of ages. Now this journey to the other world is not, as
Aeschylus says in the "Telephus," a single and straight path-no guide would
be wanted for that, and no one could miss a single path; but there are
many partings of the road, and windings, as I must infer from the rites
and sacrifices which are offered to the gods below in places where three
ways meet on earth. The wise and orderly soul is conscious of her situation
and follows in the path; but the soul which desires the body, and which,
as I was relating before, has long been fluttering about the lifeless frame
and the world of sight, is after many struggles and many sufferings hardly
and with violence carried away by her attendant genius, and when she arrives
at the place where the other souls are gathered, if she be impure and have
done impure deeds, or been concerned in foul murders or other crimes which
are the brothers of these, and the works of brothers in crime-from that
soul everyone flees and turns away; no one will be her companion, no one
her guide, but alone she wanders in extremity of evil until certain times
are fulfilled, and when they are fulfilled, she is borne irresistibly to
her own fitting habitation; as every pure and just soul which has passed
through life in the company and under the guidance of the gods has also
her own proper home.
Now the earth has divers wonderful
regions, and is indeed in nature and extent very unlike the notions of
geographers, as I believe on the authority of one who shall be nameless.
What do you mean, Socrates? said Simmias.
I have myself heard many descriptions of the earth, but I do not know in
what you are putting your faith, and I should like to know.
Well, Simmias, replied Socrates, the
recital of a tale does not, I think, require the art of Glaucus; and I
know not that the art of Glaucus could prove the truth of my tale, which
I myself should never be able to prove, and even if I could, I fear, Simmias,
that my life would come to an end before the argument was completed. I
may describe to you, however, the form and regions of the earth according
to my conception of them.
That, said Simmias, will be enough.
Well, then, he said, my conviction
is that the earth is a round body in the center of the heavens, and therefore
has no need of air or any similar force as a support, but is kept there
and hindered from falling or inclining any way by the equability of the
surrounding heaven and by her own equipoise. For that which, being in equipoise,
is in the center of that which is equably diffused, will not incline any
way in any degree, but will always remain in the same state and not deviate.
And this is my first notion.
Which is surely a correct one, said
Also I believe that the earth is very
vast, and that we who dwell in the region extending from the river Phasis
to the Pillars of Heracles, along the borders of the sea, are just like
ants or frogs about a marsh, and inhabit a small portion only, and that
many others dwell in many like places. For I should say that in all parts
of the earth there are hollows of various forms and sizes, into which the
water and the mist and the air collect; and that the true earth is pure
and in the pure heaven, in which also are the stars-that is the heaven
which is commonly spoken of as the ether, of which this is but the sediment
collecting in the hollows of the earth. But we who live in these hollows
are deceived into the notion that we are dwelling above on the surface
of the earth; which is just as if a creature who was at the bottom of the
sea were to fancy that he was on the surface of the water, and that the
sea was the heaven through which he saw the sun and the other stars-he
having never come to the surface by reason of his feebleness and sluggishness,
and having never lifted up his head and seen, nor ever heard from one who
had seen, this region which is so much purer and fairer than his own. Now
this is exactly our case: for we are dwelling in a hollow of the earth,
and fancy that we are on the surface; and the air we call the heaven, and
in this we imagine that the stars move. But this is also owing to our feebleness
and sluggishness, which prevent our reaching the surface of the air: for
if any man could arrive at the exterior limit, or take the wings of a bird
and fly upward, like a fish who puts his head out and sees this world,
he would see a world beyond; and, if the nature of man could sustain the
sight, he would acknowledge that this was the place of the true heaven
and the true light and the true stars. For this earth, and the stones,
and the entire region which surrounds us, are spoilt and corroded, like
the things in the sea which are corroded by the brine; for in the sea too
there is hardly any noble or perfect growth, but clefts only, and sand,
and an endless slough of mud: and even the shore is not to be compared
to the fairer sights of this world. And greater far is the superiority
of the other. Now of that upper earth which is under the heaven, I can
tell you a charming tale, Simmias, which is well worth hearing.
And we, Socrates, replied Simmias,
shall be charmed to listen.
The tale, my friend, he said, is as
follows: In the first place, the earth, when looked at from above, is like
one of those balls which have leather coverings in twelve pieces, and is
of divers colors, of which the colors which painters use on earth are only
a sample. But there the whole earth is made up of them, and they are brighter
far and clearer than ours; there is a purple of wonderful luster, also
the radiance of gold, and the white which is in the earth is whiter than
any chalk or snow. Of these and other colors the earth is made up, and
they are more in number and fairer than the eye of man has ever seen; and
the very hollows (of which I was speaking) filled with air and water are
seen like light flashing amid the other colors, and have a color of their
own, which gives a sort of unity to the variety of earth. And in this fair
region everything that grows-trees, and flowers, and fruits-is in a like
degree fairer than any here; and there are hills, and stones in them in
a like degree smoother, and more transparent, and fairer in color than
our highly valued emeralds and sardonyxes and jaspers, and other gems,
which are but minute fragments of them: for there all the stones are like
our precious stones, and fairer still. The reason of this is that they
are pure, and not, like our precious stones, infected or corroded by the
corrupt briny elements which coagulate among us, and which breed foulness
and disease both in earth and stones, as well as in animals and plants.
They are the jewels of the upper earth, which also shines with gold and
silver and the like, and they are visible to sight and large and abundant
and found in every region of the earth, and blessed is he who sees them.
And upon the earth are animals and men, some in a middle region, others
dwelling about the air as we dwell about the sea; others in islands which
the air flows round, near the continent: and in a word, the air is used
by them as the water and the sea are by us, and the ether is to them what
the air is to us. Moreover, the temperament of their seasons is such that
they have no disease, and live much longer than we do, and have sight and
hearing and smell, and all the other senses, in far greater perfection,
in the same degree that air is purer than water or the ether than air.
Also they have temples and sacred places in which the gods really dwell,
and they hear their voices and receive their answers, and are conscious
of them and hold converse with them, and they see the sun, moon, and stars
as they really are, and their other blessedness is of a piece with this.
Such is the nature of the whole earth,
and of the things which are around the earth; and there are divers regions
in the hollows on the face of the globe everywhere, some of them deeper
and also wider than that which we inhabit, others deeper and with a narrower
opening than ours, and some are shallower and wider; all have numerous
perforations, and passages broad and narrow in the interior of the earth,
connecting them with one another; and there flows into and out of them,
as into basins, a vast tide of water, and huge subterranean streams of
perennial rivers, and springs hot and cold, and a great fire, and great
rivers of fire, and streams of liquid mud, thin or thick (like the rivers
of mud in Sicily, and the lava-streams which follow them), and the regions
about which they happen to flow are filled up with them. And there is a
sort of swing in the interior of the earth which moves all this up and
down. Now the swing is in this wise: There is a chasm which is the vastest
of them all, and pierces right through the whole earth; this is that which
Homer describes in the words,
"Far off, where is the inmost depth
beneath the earth"; and which he in other places, and many other poets,
have called Tartarus. And the swing is caused by the streams flowing into
and out of this chasm, and they each have the nature of the soil through
which they flow. And the reason why the streams are always flowing in and
out is that the watery element has no bed or bottom, and is surging and
swinging up and down, and the surrounding wind and air do the same; they
follow the water up and down, hither and thither, over the earth-just as
in respiring the air is always in process of inhalation and exhalation;
and the wind swinging with the water in and out produces fearful and irresistible
blasts: when the waters retire with a rush into the lower parts of the
earth, as they are called, they flow through the earth into those regions,
and fill them up as with the alternate motion of a pump, and then when
they leave those regions and rush back hither, they again fill the hollows
here, and when these are filled, flow through subterranean channels and
find their way to their several places, forming seas, and lakes, and rivers,
and springs. Thence they again enter the earth, some of them making a long
circuit into many lands, others going to few places and those not distant,
and again fall into Tartarus, some at a point a good deal lower than that
at which they rose, and others not much lower, but all in some degree lower
than the point of issue. And some burst forth again on the opposite side,
and some on the same side, and some wind round the earth with one or many
folds, like the coils of a serpent, and descend as far as they can, but
always return and fall into the lake. The rivers on either side can descend
only to the center and no further, for to the rivers on both sides the
opposite side is a precipice.
Now these rivers are many, and mighty,
and diverse, and there are four principal ones, of which the greatest and
outermost is that called Oceanus, which flows round the earth in a circle;
and in the opposite direction flows Acheron, which passes under the earth
through desert places, into the Acherusian Lake: this is the lake to the
shores of which the souls of the many go when they are dead, and after
waiting an appointed time, which is to some a longer and to some a shorter
time, they are sent back again to be born as animals. The third river rises
between the two, and near the place of rising pours into a vast region
of fire, and forms a lake larger than the Mediterranean Sea, boiling with
water and mud; and proceeding muddy and turbid, and winding about the earth,
comes, among other places, to the extremities of the Acherusian Lake, but
mingles not with the waters of the lake, and after making many coils about
the earth plunges into Tartarus at a deeper level. This is that Pyriphlegethon,
as the stream is called, which throws up jets of fire in all sorts of places.
The fourth river goes out on the opposite side, and falls first of all
into a wild and savage region, which is all of a dark-blue color, like
lapis lazuli; and this is that river which is called the Stygian River,
and falls into and forms the Lake Styx, and after falling into the lake
and receiving strange powers in the waters, passes under the earth, winding
round in the opposite direction to Pyriphlegethon, and meeting in the Acherusian
Lake from the opposite side. And the water of this river too mingles with
no other, but flows round in a circle and falls into Tartarus over against
Pyriphlegethon, and the name of this river, as the poet says, is Cocytus.
Such is the name of the other world;
and when the dead arrive at the place to which the genius of each severally
conveys them, first of all they have sentence passed upon them, as they
have lived well and piously or not. And those who appear to have lived
neither well nor ill, go to the river Acheron, and mount such conveyances
as they can get, and are carried in them to the lake, and there they dwell
and are purified of their evil
deeds, and suffer the penalty of the wrongs which they have done to others,
and are absolved, and receive the rewards of their good deeds according
to their deserts. But those who appear to be incurable by reason of the
greatness of their crimes-who have committed many and terrible deeds of
sacrilege, murders foul and violent, or the like-such are hurled into Tartarus,
which is their suitable destiny, and they never come out. Those again who
have committed crimes, which, although great, are not unpardonable-who
in a moment of anger, for example, have done violence to a father or mother,
and have repented for the remainder of their lives, or who have taken the
life of another under like extenuating circumstances-these are plunged
into Tartarus, the pains of which they are compelled to undergo for a year,
but at the end of the year the wave casts them forth-mere homicides by
way of Cocytus, parricides and matricides by Pyriphlegethon-and they are
borne to the Acherusian Lake, and there they lift up their voices and call
upon the victims whom they have slain or wronged, to have pity on them,
and to receive them, and to let them come out of the river into the lake.
And if they prevail, then they come forth and cease from their troubles;
but if not, they are carried back again into Tartarus and from thence into
the rivers unceasingly, until they obtain mercy from those whom they have
wronged: for that is the sentence inflicted upon them by their judges.
Those also who are remarkable for having led holy lives are released from
this earthly prison, and go to their pure home which is above, and dwell
in the purer earth; and those who have duly purified themselves with philosophy
live henceforth altogether without the body, in mansions fairer far than
these, which may not be described, and of which the time would fail me
Wherefore, Simmias, seeing all these
things, what ought not we to do in order to obtain virtue and wisdom in
this life? Fair is the prize, and the hope great.
I do not mean to affirm that the description
which I have given of the soul and her mansions is exactly true-a man of
sense ought hardly to say that. But I do say that, inasmuch as the soul
is shown to be immortal, he may venture to think, not improperly or unworthily,
that something of the kind is true. The venture is a glorious one, and
he ought to comfort himself with words like these, which is the reason
why lengthen out the tale. Wherefore, I say, let a man be of good cheer
about his soul, who has cast away the pleasures and ornaments of the body
as alien to him, and rather hurtful in their effects, and has followed
after the pleasures of knowledge in this life; who has adorned the soul
in her own proper jewels, which are temperance, and justice, and courage,
and nobility, and truth-in these arrayed she is ready to go on her journey
to the world below, when her time comes. You, Simmias and Cebes, and all
other men, will depart at some time or other. Me already, as the tragic
poet would say, the voice of fate calls. Soon I must drink the poison;
and I think that I had better repair to the bath first, in order that the
women may not have the trouble of washing my body after I am dead.
When he had done speaking, Crito said:
And have you any commands for us, Socrates-anything to say about your children,
or any other matter in which we can serve you?
Nothing particular, he said: only,
as I have always told you, I would have you look to yourselves; that is
a service which you may always be doing to me and mine as well as to yourselves.
And you need not make professions; for if you take no thought for yourselves,
and walk not according to the precepts which I have given you, not now
for the first time, the warmth of your professions will be of no avail.
We will do our best, said Crito. But
in what way would you have us bury you?
In any way that you like; only you
must get hold of me, and take care that I do not walk away from you. Then
he turned to us, and added with a smile: I cannot make Crito believe that
I am the same Socrates who have been talking and conducting the argument;
he fancies that I am the other Socrates whom he will soon see, a dead body-and
he asks, How shall he bury me? And though I have spoken many words in the
endeavor to show that when I have drunk the poison I shall leave you and
go to the joys of the blessed-these words of mine, with which I comforted
you and myself, have had, I perceive, no effect upon Crito. And therefore
I want you to be surety for me now, as he was surety for me at the trial:
but let the promise be of another sort; for he was my surety to the judges
that I would remain, but you must be my surety to him that I shall not
remain, but go away and depart; and then he will suffer less at my death,
and not be grieved when he sees my body being burned or buried. I would
not have him sorrow at my hard lot, or say at the burial, Thus we lay out
Socrates, or, Thus we follow him to the grave or bury him; for false words
are not only evil in themselves, but they infect the soul with evil. Be
of good cheer, then, my dear Crito, and say that you are burying my body
only, and do with that as is usual, and as you think best.
When he had spoken these words, he
arose and went into the bath chamber with Crito, who bade us wait; and
we waited, talking and thinking of the subject of discourse, and also of
the greatness of our sorrow; he was like a father of whom we were being
bereaved, and we were about to pass the rest of our lives as orphans. When
he had taken the bath his children were brought to him-(he had two young
sons and an elder one); and the women of his family also came, and he talked
to them and gave them a few directions in the presence of Crito; and he
then dismissed them and returned to us.
Now the hour of sunset was near, for
a good deal of time had passed while he was within. When he came out, he
sat down with us again after his bath, but not much was said. Soon the
jailer, who was the servant of the Eleven, entered and stood by him, saying:
To you, Socrates, whom I know to be the noblest and gentlest and best of
all who ever came to this place, I will not impute the angry feelings of
other men, who rage and swear at me when, in obedience to the authorities,
I bid them drink the poison-indeed, I am sure that you will not be angry
with me; for others, as you are aware, and not I, are the guilty cause.
And so fare you well, and try to bear lightly what must needs be; you know
my errand. Then bursting into tears he turned away and went out.
Socrates looked at him and said: I
return your good wishes, and will do as you bid. Then, turning to us, he
said, How charming the man is: since I have been in prison he has always
been coming to see me, and at times he would talk to me, and was as good
as could be to me, and now see how generously he sorrows for me. But we
must do as he says, Crito; let the cup be brought, if the poison is prepared:
if not, let the attendant prepare some.
Yet, said Crito, the sun is still
upon the hilltops, and many a one has taken the draught late, and after
the announcement has been made to him, he has eaten and drunk, and indulged
in sensual delights; do not hasten then, there is still time.
Socrates said: Yes, Crito, and they
of whom you speak are right in doing thus, for they think that they will
gain by the delay; but I am right in not doing thus, for I do not think
that I should gain anything by drinking the poison a little later; I should
be sparing and saving a life which is already gone: I could only laugh
at myself for this. Please then to do as I say, and not to refuse me.
Crito, when he heard this, made a
sign to the servant, and the servant went in, and remained for some time,
and then returned with the jailer carrying a cup of poison. Socrates said:
You, my good friend, who are experienced in these matters, shall give me
directions how I am to proceed. The man answered: You have only to walk
about until your legs are heavy, and then to lie down, and the poison will
act. At the same time he handed the cup to Socrates, who in the easiest
and gentlest manner, without the least fear or change of color or feature,
looking at the man with all his eyes, Echecrates, as his manner was, took
the cup and said: What do you say about making a libation out of this cup
to any god? May I, or not? The man answered: We only prepare, Socrates,
just so much as we deem enough. I understand, he said: yet I may and must
pray to the gods to prosper my journey from this to that other world-may
this, then, which is my prayer, be granted to me. Then holding the cup
to his lips, quite readily and cheerfully he drank off the poison. And
hitherto most of us had been able to control our sorrow; but now when we
saw him drinking, and saw too that he had finished the draught, we could
no longer forbear, and in spite of myself my own tears were flowing fast;
so that I covered my face and wept over myself, for certainly I was not
weeping over him, but at the thought of my own calamity in having lost
such a companion. Nor was I the first, for Crito, when he found himself
unable to restrain his tears, had got up and moved away, and I followed;
and at that moment. Apollodorus, who had been weeping all the time, broke
out in a loud cry which made cowards of us all. Socrates alone retained
his calmness: What is this strange outcry? he said. I sent away the women
mainly in order that they might not offend in this way, for I have heard
that a man should die in peace. Be quiet, then, and have patience.
When we heard that, we were ashamed,
and refrained our tears; and he walked about until, as he said, his legs
began to fail, and then he lay on his back, according to the directions,
and the man who gave him the poison now and then looked at his feet and
legs; and after a while he pressed his foot hard and asked him if he could
feel; and he said, no; and then his leg, and so upwards and upwards, and
showed us that he was cold and stiff. And he felt them himself, and said:
When the poison reaches the heart, that will be the end. He was beginning
to grow cold about the groin, when he uncovered his face, for he had covered
himself up, and said (they were his last words)-he said: Crito, I owe a
cock to Asclepius; will you remember to pay the debt? The debt shall be
paid, said Crito; is there anything else? There was no answer to this question;
but in a minute or two a movement was heard, and the attendants uncovered
him; his eyes were set, and Crito closed his eyes and mouth.
Such was the end, Echecrates, of our
friend, whom I may truly call the wisest, and justest, and best of all
the men whom I have ever known.