translated by Benjamin Jowett
New York, C. Scribner's Sons, 
PERSONS OF THE DIALOGUE
PHAEDO, who is the narrator of the dialogue to ECHECRATES of Phlius
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 was.
Ech. 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.
Phaed. Did you not hear of the proceedings at the trial?
Ech. 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
Phaed. 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.
Ech. What is this ship?
Phaed. 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
Ech. 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?
Phaed. No; there were several of his friends with him.
Ech. If you have nothing to do, I wish that you would tell me what
passed, as exactly as you can.
Phaed. 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.
Ech. You will have listeners who are of the same mind with you,
and I hope that you will be as exact as you can.
Phaed. 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?
Phaed. He was quite overcome; and I myself and all of us were
Ech. Who were present?
Phaed. 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 ill.
Ech. Were there any strangers?
Phaed. Yes, there were; Simmias the Theban, and Cebes, and
Phaedondes; Euclid and Terpison, who came from Megara.
Ech. And was Aristippus there, and Cleombrotus?
Phaed. No, they were said to be in Aegina.
Ech. Anyone else?
Phaed. I think that these were about all.
Ech. And what was the discourse of which you spoke?
Phaed. 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 a philosopher?
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
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 this?
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
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
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
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 in court?
That is what we should like, said Simmias.
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 yourself.
I will do my best, replied Socrates. But you must first let me
hear what Crito wants; he was going to say something to me.
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
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 death?
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 replied.
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
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 say?
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
Certainly, he replied.
Then when does the soul attain truth?-for in attempting to
consider anything in company with the body she is obviously deceived.
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 after being?
That is true.
And in this the philosopher dishonors the body; his soul runs away
from the body and desires to be alone and by herself?
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 good?
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 of existence?
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
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
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
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
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 processes also?
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
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 other?
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
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
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
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 Simmias.
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 or not.
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 abstract essence?
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
That is certain.
But are real equals ever unequal? or is the idea of equality ever
That surely was never yet known, Socrates.
Then these (so-called) equals are not the same with the idea of
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 them?
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, too.
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
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 such conceptions.
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
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, I suppose?
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
Then you are not of opinion, Simmias, that all men know these
Then they are in process of recollecting that which they learned
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 had intelligence.
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
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
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 be
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
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
Yes; that is what I should imagine, said Cebes.
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, replied Cebes.
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 that.
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, he replied.
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
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
and is not the soul almost or altogether indissoluble?
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 that?
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
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 propensities?
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
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
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
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
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 Cebes.
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
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 utterly perish.
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.
Ech. 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.
Phaed. 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
Ech. How was that?
Phaed. 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 be severed.
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
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
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 this.
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
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 and flow.
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 melancholy.
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 I die.
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
They both agreed to this statement of them.
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 that.
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 this view.
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 harmony?
And that which is not more or less a harmony is not more or less
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
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, certainly.
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 the words,
"He beat his breast, and thus reproached his heart:
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 worse.
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, he replied.
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 understand me.
No, indeed, replied Cebes, not very well.
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 soul.
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
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
Ech. Yes, Phaedo; and I don't wonder at their assenting. Anyone
who has the least sense will acknowledge the wonderful clear. of
Phaed. Certainly, Echecrates; and that was the feeling of the
whole company at the time.
Ech. 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,
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 of Simmias?
And if Phaedo exceeds him in size, that is not because Phaedo is
Phaedo, but because Phaedo has greatness relatively to Simmias, who is
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
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
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
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 cold?
But are they the same as fire and snow?
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
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
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
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
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 odd.
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 odd principle?
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 uneven?
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 further examples.
Yes, he said, I quite understand you.
Tell me, then, what is that the inherence of which will render the
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, he replied.
And supposing that the odd were imperishable, must not three be
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 imperishable.
Yes, replied Socrates, all men will agree that God, and the
essential form of life, and the immortal in general, will never
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 world!
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
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 Simmias.
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 to tell.
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
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