Plato’s Phaedo Φαίδων (or About The Soul)

 

Plato’s

Phaedo

Φαίδων

(or About The Soul)

Translated by George Theodoridis

© 2016

All rights reserved

 

 

 

PERSONS IN THE DIALOGUE:

Phaedo of Elis[1] The narrator

Echecrates of Phlius[2] (Ἐχεκράτης)

Socrates

Apollodorus of Phalleron[3] (a port in Athens) (Ἀπολλόδωρος Φαληρεύς)

Simmias of Thebes (Σιμμίας)

Cebes of Thebes (Κέβης)

Crito of Alopece ( Κρίτων Άλωπεκῆθεν)

 

 

Echecrates of Phlius meets Phaedo of Elis, a follower of Socrates, at Phlius, a remote village on the Peloponnese.

 

Echecrates: Were you there in prison yourself, Phaedo, on the day when Socrates drank the poison or did you hear of it from someone else?

Phaedo: I was there in person, Echecrates.

Echecrates: And what were the final words of this great man and how did he die? I would love to know this but none of the locals here visits Athens very often and it’s been a very long time since anyone from there has visited us and is able to inform us in any detailed way about this, other than that he drank the poison and died. No one could add anything more to this.

Phaedo: So you have learnt nothing about his court case and how it proceeded?

Echecrates: Yes, we did hear about the trial but we were all surprised that it had taken place so long before his death.[4] How did that happen Phaedo?

Phaedo: In his case it was simply a matter of luck, Echecrates. It so happened that the ship which the Athenians send to Delos was crowned the day before his trial.

Echecrates: What ship is that?

Phaedo: According to the Athenians, this is the ship used by Theseus when he took the seven young men and seven young women to Crete[5] and by killing the Minotaur, saved them, himself and Athens. The Athenians had vowed to Apollo at the time that if Theseus was victorious, they would send a ship with a religious mission[6] annually to Delos, a practice which continues to this day.
Once this mission begins then the established custom is that no public executions may be conducted in Athens and that the city is purified during the time it takes for the ship to go to Delos and return. The time that this takes place is often long, particularly if the journey is hampered by strong winds.
The sacred mission begins when Apollo’s priest crowns the stern of the ship and, as I said earlier, this took place the day before Socrates’ trial and that is why the period between his trial and his execution was so long.

Echecrates: Now tell me, Phaedo the main events relating to his death, what was said and what was done and which, of his friends were by the poor man, or didn’t the authorities allow any of them to be present? Did he die alone?

Phaedo: No, Echecrates, there were quite a few there with him.

Echecrates: Well, then, Phaedo, if you have no other work to stop you from doing so, please be so good as to tell me everything that took place there, in as much detail as you can.

Phaedo: Quite the opposite, in fact, Echecrates. I am free right now and so I shall tell you what went on. And for my part, it is far more pleasant than anything else for me to be talking about Socrates or to be hearing others talking about him and thus bring him to mind.

Echecrates: And there are others, as well, Phaedo who will feel the same joy hearing you speak about Socrates but now please try as much as you can to tell me everything in detail.

Phaedo: And yet, Echecrates, believe me, I, who was there, got a very strange impression of the whole thing because, though I was in the presence of a dying friend I felt no pity for him whatsoever seeing that the man himself, by his words and by his behaviour, he seemed to be so happy. He was ending his life so fearlessly and bravely that it occurred to me that he wasn’t going to Hades without the help of some god or other and that when he did arrive there he will be happier than anyone else ever.
[59] For this reason then, Echecrates, I felt no sense of pity at all of the sort one would think it would be natural to feel witnessing such a sad event.
Nor did I feel any joy either, the sort that we felt when we are engaged in philosophy, which is what we were doing at the time but it really was a strange impression, an unusual mixture, a combination of joy and sadness overtook me as I was thinking that   the dying man was of such caliber.
And it was the same with the rest of us there. We were all in the same psychological state, one minute laughing and the next shedding tears especially one of us, Apollodorus, whose manner you know very well.

Echecrates: But of course I do.

Phaedo: He was in such a state and so was I and all the rest of us. We were all very shaken by the whole experience.

Echecrates: So, who else happened to be there, Phaedo?

Phaedo: Apollodorus, himself and Critoboulos with his father, Hermogenes, as well as Epigenes, Aeschines, Antisthenes, Ctesippus from Paeania, Menexenus as well as some others from the surrounding districts. Plato, I think was ill that day.

Echecrates: Any foreigners there?

Phaedo: Yes, Simmias from Thebes and Cebes as well as Phaedondes and Eukleidis from Megara and Terpsion

Echecrates: But what about Aristippos and Cleombrotos, were they not there?

Phaedo: No. Apparently they were in Aigina.

Echecrates: Anyone else?

Phaedo: I think that’s about it, Echecrates. I think I’ve mentioned them all.

Echecrates: So, then, Phaedo, what was said amongst you all?

Phaedo: I’ll try and narrate everything that went on, Echecrates because, in fact we would all gather every morning at the court where the case was heard and which was near the prison, before we all went in to see Socrates.
So we would wait and chat amongst ourselves until the prison doors were opened, which was never very early. When they did open, we would go in and on most occasions we would spend the whole day with him.
On that day we had gathered much earlier than usual because on the evening before, after we had left the prison, we had learnt that the ship from Delos had arrived so we agreed to meet as early as possible the next day, at the usual place. The jailer who usually opened the door for us came out and told us not to enter until he told us. This is because The Eleven[7] had just unshackled Socrates and ordered to have him executed that day.
After a little while, the jailer returned and told us to go in.
When we entered, we found Socrates with his chains undone and Xanthipe[8], whom you know, sitting next to him holding their son. As soon as Xanthipe saw us she began a lament, the sort that women usually sing, saying, “O, Socrates you and your friends will speak for the last time” at which Socrates turn to Crito and said, “Crito, could someone please take her home?”
Some of Crito’s servants got up and took her out while she was screaming and beating herself in distress.
Socrates then sat up on his couch and bending his leg began to rub it and as he did he said, “what an odd thing it is, this thing that men call pleasure, ey? How peculiarly it is related to pain which we think of as being its opposite. These two, pleasure and pain are never present in a man at the same time but when a man wants one of them and gets it he is generally forced to get the other along as well, as if they are two bodies stemming from a single head.
I wonder,” Socrates went on, “if Aesop had thought of this would he not have composed a myth in which god, wanting to end the strife of these two -pain and pleasure- fastened both their heads together; and this is why when a man receives one of them, he also gets the other, which is my experience right now, now that the pain, caused to my leg by the chain has gone and it is followed by pleasure.”

At this Cebes said, “I am glad you mentioned Aesop, Socrates because it reminded me of something I was asked the day before yesterday by Evenus the poet as well as by many others before that. In fact, I am certain that Evenus will ask it again and the question will be Socrates, how is it that even though you’ve never composed a line of poetry in your life, suddenly, in prison, you are composing lines of poetry that include Aesop’s myths and are also writing hymns to Apollo. If you are concerned about how I should respond to him then you better tell me.”

“Well, Cebes,” Socrates answered, “tell him the truth. Tell him that I have composed these poems not so as to compete with him in this art, or with his poetry because I know very well that such a competition against him would not be easy but I was doing this in order to discover the meaning of some dreams I had, just in case they had commanded me to compose music because they used to do this to me often in the past.

The same dream would appear in one form or other and would always give me the same command: ‘Socrates,’ the dream would say, ‘compose and cultivate music!’ which right up until now I took to mean to go on doing what I was doing[9], in the same way that spectators cheer at the runners. I thought all along that the dream was doing the same sort of thing, that is, to encourage me to continue, making music with Philosophy since Philosophy is the greatest of all the muses and I was engaged with her.

But now, though, now that the trial is over and the festival of Apollo has delayed my execution, it seems to me that the dream is warning me to compose music -poetry- and it would not be wise of me to disobey it. It would be much safer if I did that, if I obeyed the dream before I took my leave from this world.

That’s why I first applied myself to compose a poem for the god of the Festival.[10] Then, I thought if I were to become a poet I should do what poets do and compose myths, stories, not simply put together arguments and speeches. However, I not being a story teller, used some of Aesop’s myths, those which I happened to have handy, those which I knew well and those that came to me first.

So then, Cebes, tell Evenus all this and tell him also to take care of himself and, if he’s wise, to follow me as quickly as he can, though it seems that I am departing today since that’s what the people have ordered.”

To which Simmias responded with, “what a thing to ask of Evenus, Socrates! I have met the man many times and from what I’ve gathered about him, this is not an advice that he will accept too readily.”

“But why not, Simmias,” asked Socrates. “Is not Evenus a philosopher?”

“Yes, I believe he is, Socrates.”

“Then he will accept it, Simmias. Evenus and everyone else who is a worthy participant of this practice will accept it, though, perhaps he might not be willing to commit suicide because they say it’s not permitted by the gods.”

And as he was saying this, my friend, Echecrates, he put his feet down onto the ground and kept them there throughout the rest of the conversation.

Then Cebes asked him, “Socrates, how do you mean, that the gods do not permit us to commit suicide but a philosopher must happily follow the dying?”

“But of course, Cebes,” said Socrates. “Have you and Simmias not heard of this view while you’ve been associating with Philolaos?”[11]

“No, nothing that was too clear, Socrates.”

“And I, too, am speaking from things I’ve heard, Cebes but I feel no scruples about relating to you all that I’ve heard on the matter. In fact, it is probably a good thing for me to do this, to examine and to talk about all matters relating to that other place, what sort of a place it is exactly and about the journey there since I am about to depart for it. In any case, Cebes, what else could we do until the setting of the sun?”

“So,” said Cebes, “what makes them say that the divine laws do not permit one to kill himself, Socrates? Because Philolaos too said what you are saying now about suicide, one time when he was staying with us, and so did as some others but I’ve never really heard from anyone anything in detail.”

“Well,” said Socrates, “don’t be too upset about it, you might very well hear something about it now. Perhaps, Cebes, this might sound odd to you but of all things this alone, death, is a simple matter, that is, good to all people and not, like in other case, good to some people and bad to others.[12] Nor does it ever happen, as it does in other things, that for some men it is more preferable to die than to live. Perhaps then it might sound odd to you that for those men who prefer death to life, the gods don’t like it that they give themselves that gift, the gift of death.”

Cebes then smiled a little and using the dialect of his hometown said, “Zeus knows this, Socrates.”

“And of course, he does,” said Socrates. “It sounds odd, said like this but there is, perhaps logic behind it. Because whilst the reason why these things are said only to the initiates,[13] which is that we mortals, while we are alive, are kept in some sort of guarded prison from which no one must free himself of his own accord, nor yet to leave in secret, it is too difficult a thought and reason for everyone to grasp. Still, Cebes, it seems to me that it’s a reasonable argument to accept that the god does exist and takes care of us and that we are his possessions -or do you disagree with this view?”

“No, I agree with it,” replied Cebes.

“Well then,” Socrates continued, “if you too had one of your possessions, say one of your servants, wanting to kill himself even though you did not order him to do so, would you not punish him in some way, if you could?”

“But of course,” said Cebes.

“Seeing the matter from that aspect then, perhaps it is not a mistake to think that no one must kill himself before the god sends him some need for him to do it, something he couldn’t escape from, just as he has done to me now, I mean the need for me to die.”

“Of course, Socrates,” said Cebes, “this seems to be correct but not so what you had said a little earlier, which is that philosophers should be absolutely willing to die. This seems to me to be quite illogical, that is, if it is truly the case that there exist a god who is taking care of us and that we are his possessions, his servants. It seems to me illogical that the wisest of the god’s servants, would not to be distressed if they are forced to leave this service, a service to the gods who are the best guardians of all things. Surely such men, I mean the philosophers, would not believe that by freeing himself he would be better able to take care of himself. An uneducated man, perhaps might think like that, I mean that he should escape from his master, not understanding that a servant should never leave a good master and that he should stay with him always and so escaping from him would be the wrong thing to do. The wise servant, of course would always want to stay with his better.

The opposite of what we were saying earlier, therefore Socrates, is correct, which that the wise men should feel distressed when they must die, whereas the unwise to be happy.”

It seemed to me that Socrates was pleased with Cebe’s arguments and turning to us he said, “Cebes always seeks for and finds some argument or other and will never be persuaded by any argument that anyone else puts to him.”

To this Simmias said, “Still, Socrates, it seems to me that Cebes is making a good point. I mean, why would the truly wise men, the philosophers want to leave their masters who are their betters, without feeling the slightest sadness? And it also seems to me that Cebes has directed his argument at your eagerness, Socrates to leave us and to leave the gods as well, who are good masters.”

“You’re quite right, men because you are telling me that I should defend myself here in the same way I have defended myself in court.”

“Indeed we are, Socrates!” said Simmias.

“Well then, I shall try and speak more persuasively here, towards you then I did in court towards the judges. In fact, Simmias and Cebes,” Socrates said, “it would be wrong for me not to be distressed by dying if I thought that I would not be going first to the other wise and good gods and then to the people who have died before me and who are better than those who are here. But now, you should be certain that I hope to go to those good people, something which I can’t prove with any certainty but you can be sure, more than anything else, that I can prove that I shall indeed be going to gods who are very good masters. This is why I am not as sad as I could have been but, in fact I am very hopeful that there is something there for those who have died and that, as it has been said for a long time, that something is far kinder to those who are good than to those who are evil.”

“And what would that something be, Socrates?” asked Simmias. “Or are you about to depart from us with that knowledge in mind, or will you share it with us here because I at least, believe that this is one good counsel that belongs to us all, while at the same time it will serve as your defence, if you can persuade us to accept what you say.”

“I shall do my best,” said Socrates. “But I’d like first to know what it is that Crito has been trying to say all this time.”

“What else could it be, Socrates,” said Crito other than the fact that for a long time, the man who is about to give you the poison has been telling me to ask you, not to talk too much because, he says, talking makes a person hot and this will be an unwelcome interference with the poison because it might well make it necessary for you to take the poison twice or even a third time.”

To which Socrates responded with, “never mind, Crito. Tell him, if you will, to be ready to administer it twice, or, if it needs be three times.”

“I knew that, this would be your answer, Socrates but he was insisting all this time and he became quite bothersome.”

“Never mind, Crito,” said Socrates. “I now want to defend myself to you, my judges

and to explain to you why I think that a man who has spent his entire life in Philosophy would have sufficient courage and hope that in that other life, after he dies, he will receive enormous good and it is this, Simmias and Cebes that I want to try and explain to you.

Because those who happen to practice Philosophy correctly run the risk of being misunderstood by the others because they simply do not perceive that philosophers are continuously pursuing death and dying. And if this is the case, then how odd it would that being engaged in death all of his life, when death does come, when the thing they were after and which they were practicing, does arrive, they would be troubled by it!”

To this Simmias laughed and said, “by Zeus, Socrates! I am absolutely not in the mood for laughing but you have, in fact, made me laugh! Because if most people heard you say this, I have no doubt that they will agree what they say about philosophers that they are truly in favour of death and that they are recognised because they truly deserve to suffer. My own people back home in Thebes will be saying exactly the same thing, Socrates. They will be saying that they have discovered the game that the philosophers are playing. They will be saying, ‘alright, since the life the philosophers wish so desperately to lead, is in fact death well then, the philosophers deserve to get what they most desire, which is death, so, let them die!'”

“And that would be quite right, Simmias,” said Socrates “with the only possible exception which is their view that they have discovered what game the philosophers are playing because they have not discovered what is the nature of death which the philosophers desire, why do they desire it and why it is they do so. But let us leave those people alone and let us talk with each other. Do we believe that death exist?”

“But of course,” said Simmias.

“In that case, Simmias, is death perhaps nothing more than the separation of the soul from the body? And is it possible for one to say that for one to be dead, his body must be separated from his soul and it now exist on its own, alone and that once his soul has been separated from his body, it, too exists on its own? Could therefore be true that is not this but something else?

“No, it must be this,” said Simmias.

“Well, let us examine this, then my good friend and see if you accept as true those things which I also accept as I believe that beginning from these things we will easier discover the answers to our questions. Does it seem that it is fitting for a philosopher to engage in the so called pleasures of,[14] say, eating and drinking?

“Not at all, Socrates?” said Simmias.

“And what about the pleasures of love, Simmias?”

“Not at all!”

“But then what else? Do you think this man would engage in the other pleasures of his body, possessing extravagant clothes, for example, or sandals or other things that would adorn his body? Would he not rather despise all these pleasures, all those things that Nature has no need of, instead of worrying about them?”

“I don’t think that the true philosopher would think much of those pleasures,” answered Simmias.

“Well then, Simmias, it appears to me that you think that a philosopher would not be concerned about the affairs of the body but, in fact, he would try as best he could to separate himself from it and move towards his soul.”

“Yes, that’ what I think.”

“And so then, it is obvious that the first thing for the philosopher -at odds with all other men- is to disengage as best he can the communion between the soul and the body.”

“Quite obvious.”

“In fact Simmias, most people believe that life is not worth living for a man who derives no pleasure from any of these things and that a man who doesn’t care at all about the pleasures that come from the body, would be almost dead.”

“You speak well, indeed, Socrates,” said Simmias.

“And what can we now say about the body itself? Is it going to be an aid or a hindrance in this enquiry we’re engaged? What I mean is this: Do sight and hearing offer man anything that is true and real? Or are the poets correct when they repeat to us over and over again that we neither see nor hear anything accurately?[15]

And if these two senses of the body are neither accurate nor clear, the other sense will obviously be even weaker. Would you not say that this is so?”

“We certainly would,” said Simmias.

“Well then, when can the soul attain the truth because when it tries to examine anything by means of the body, it is clear that it is deceived by it.”

“Quite so,” said Simmias.

“Therefore,” Socrates continued, “if anything at all makes itself clear to the soul it is through reasoning.”[16]

“Yes.”

“And the soul best uses reasoning when it is not interfered with by the senses of hearing or seeing, or by pain or joy but when it is as far as possible all alone, free from the body and so far as is possible, not in communion with it, nor touch it, if it is aspiring to attain the real truth.”

“This is true.”

“And so, here too, the soul of the Philosopher will rather scorn the body and leave it, wishing to be on its own.”

“It seems so.”

“Well then, what shall we say about Justice, Simmias, does it exist or not?”

“Indeed, we shall say it does, by Zeus!”

“And so do beauty and goodness?”

“But of course!”

“And have you seen then any of these with your eyes?”

“No, never.”

“And have you touched any of these things with any of the other senses of your body?

And by this I mean all things, such as size, for example or health, or strength, in other words, the very essence of them, whatever each of them is. Is it possible for one to see their most essential element through the senses of his body? Or is it that the following thing happens: That whoever amongst us wants to examine these things with greater accuracy, he must prepare himself to do so with his mind.

“You are right,” said Simmias.

“Therefore, my friend, if one wants to see something as accurately, as truthfully, and as clearly as possible he must approach that thing with his mind only[17], unaffected by his sight, nor must he drag in any other corporeal sense, along with the power of his logic. He must undertake to use his mind only so as to examine each thing, on each own and separately, only after he has shed as far as he can his sight and his hearing and let us say, divorce himself generally from the whole of his body because the body, if it is allowed to take part in the examination, it will disturb the soul and will not permit it to grasp the required truth and knowledge. Is it not so, Simmias that he who adopts this attitude, more than anyone else will discover the reality of the object he is examining?”

“Most wisely said, Socrates,” replied Simmias.

“It follows then, Simmias,” Socrates continued, “that it is from these considerations that the true philosophers must begin their discussion with each other and they must conclude with words like these: some path has somehow changed our way of thinking to conclude that, while we have our body and our soul is mingled in all of this evil, we will never properly attain that which we are after, by which we mean the truth[18]. This is because the body is forever demanding our attention. It is either hungry and if some disease or other happen to attack it then, such things hinder us from our pursuit of reality. Our body fills us with desires and pains and fears of all sorts of creatures of our imagination as well as a great deal of nonsense, so much so that, as men say, it takes away our ability to attain any knowledge at all.

Nothing but the body with its desires causes wars and disturbances and battles because all wars are waged for the sake of money which we need because of our body and spending all of our time in the pursuit of money, we become its slaves and we are left with no time at all in the pursuit of Philosophy.

And what is even worse is the fact that even when we are given some time and opportunity to separate ourselves from the body and we set ourselves upon some enquiry or other, it still manages to interfere in every aspect of that enquiry, causing us disturbance and confusion and befuddlement so that because of it we cannot recognise the truth.

It has been proven to us unequivocally that if we are ever going to gain clear knowledge of something, we must separate ourselves from our body and to examine with our soul only, each thing on its own. It seems then that it will only be possible for us to attain that which we desire and love the most, which is wisdom, after we die because, obviously, as this enquiry proves to us that we cannot attain it while we are alive.

Because if it is not possible to learn anything clearly when we are attached to the body, we must say that only one of two things is possible: either it is impossible to learn anything clearly anywhere at all or else, it is only possible after we die, since then the soul will be free of the body unlike before, when we were alive.

And whilst we are alive, it seems that we can be closer to the true knowledge if we can stop our communion with it as much as possible and commune with it only in cases of absolute emergency. We should keep ourselves free of its polluting effect and stay clean and separated from our body until the god himself frees us.

And in this way, separated and remaining pure and unpolluted by the foolishness of the body, we will be among other similarly pure men and we will learn ourselves the pure reality, which is perhaps the truth because it is unforgivable for the polluted to touch something the pure.

I believe, Simmias that it is unavoidable that all the true lovers of knowledge to be talking with each other and to be thinking in this way.

Or is this not what you think?”

“That is what they will certainly be doing, Socrates,” replied Simmias.

“Therefore,” continued Socrates, “if these things are true, my friend, I feel there’s great hope that when I have reached the end of the journey I am embarking now, I shall attain that which I have strived for all of my life and not only will that be true for me but also for anyone else who has similarly made his mind prepared and purified.”

“Quite so, Socrates.”

“And so this purification of the soul happens to be that very same thing we have been talking about for all this time, which is our separation, so far as we are able to accomplish this, our soul from our body and its practice of collecting and gathering itself into itself from every part of the body by itself alone and to live alone as far as possible, both now and afterwards when it is freed from the body, just as someone is freed from shackles.”

“That is true.”

“Is this release then of the soul from the body, not called death?”

“Yes it is.”

“And so is it not the real concern of the true philosophers and only of them, the release of the soul from its shackles, the body? Is this not the only concern of the philosophers, the release, the separation of the soul from the body?”

“This is obviously so, Socrates” replied Simmias.

“And so then, is what I was saying earlier true, that it would be quite ridiculous for a man who prepares himself this way during his whole life, so as to be as near as possible to death but then when death does come for him to feel sad. Would that no be ridiculous?”
“But of course it would.”

“And so, Simmias, those who think correctly, will be preoccupied with their death and thus death will incite less fear in them than in all the other people.

Now consider the following: If in fact they hate the body totally and love to be alone with their soul, would it not be quite stupid for them to be afraid and miserable when this does happen to them? If they don’t go with joy to that place where there would be a hope that there they would attain that which they desired all of their life, which is the understanding of the truth and that they would have discarded their body, in other words that which they hated all of their lives. And there too they would meet their loved children and wives and sons who have died. Many men desired deeply to go to Hades, motivated by this very hope that they there would meet heir loved ones and be with them. And of those who are truly wanting to attain wisdom and know full well that the only place they can do this is in Hades, will he be at all worried about dying? Will he not gladly go there?

We must, my friend, think that he will indeed be happy to go there, if he is a true philosopher because he would have formed the strong conviction that only there, in Hades and nowhere else is where he can attain true wisdom.

And if this is true then wouldn’t it be quite ridiculous for him to fear death?

“By Zeus, of course it would, Socrates!”

“Well then,” asked Socrates “is this not an adequate proof then, Simmias, that if you see a man who is anxious about dying that he is not a true lover of wisdom but one of the body and that he is also a lover of money and of honour, or one or other of these two?”

“But of course,” said Simmias.

“And,” Socrates continued, “do we not call such people, I mean people who love philosophy, brave?”

“Absolutely!”

“Prudence[19] also, Simmias, as the people call it, meaning the ability one has to withstand temptation and to reject it and to be orderly in all things so that he may fit in with those who treat their bodies with scorn and live in Philosophy, can these people not be called prudent?”

“Absolutely,” said Simmias.

“Because, if you want to examine the bravery and prudence of other, those who are not philosophers, you’ll find that this would not be possible.”

“Why, how is that Socrates?” asked Simmias

“You know that all those others, all those who are not philosophers believe that death is one of the worse evils, yes?”

“Yes, I know that very well.”

“The brave, then, when they face death, they face it being afraid of evils worse than death. Is that not so?”

“It is, Socrates.”

“In that case, Simmias, the non philosophers are brave because they are afraid and their bravery is only a consequence of their fear but it is not right for someone to be brave due to fear or cowardice.

“Certainly,” said Simmias.

“And the prudent?[20] Are they not victims of the same thing? I mean that they are prudent because they suffer from being imprudent? It seems odd but in fact it is not since their temperance is foolish. This is because by being afraid of missing out on other pleasures which they want, they deprive themselves of others which control them. And even though, this is called indulgence, to these men conquering these pleasures is done by being conquered themselves by pleasure, which fits in with what I have said just before, that in some sense they are prudent because they are imprudent.”

“It seems so,” Said Simmias.

“Oh, blessed Simmias!” Continued Socrates. “Is this not the right way then, the way I mean that leads to virtue? To be exchanging pleasures with pleasures and misery with misery and fear with fear, the bigger of them with the smaller, just as we exchange coins and is there not a single coin which is the correct coin, namely True Knowledge and could it be blessed Simmias that in fact all things are bought and sold by this coin and that with this coin is also bought both, bravery as well as prudence and justice? And can we not perhaps say that true virtue is in true knowledge, whether it includes fear or pleasure or other such good things or evil? And do you not think that when these things are separated from wisdom and are simply exchanged with each other, is not the virtue that derives from them, merely a drawing[21] and in truth, nothing more than a mere slave,[22] totally bereft of anything healthy or real?

Is perhaps reality not some purification of all these things and that prudence and justice and bravery and even wisdom itself not, in fact the very process of purification? And, of course, those who have introduced us to the initiation ceremonies[23] were not men of trivial worth and they have hinted from long ago now that those who arrive in the realm of Hades uninitiated and not having participated in the ceremony will find themselves lying in the mud whereas those who are cleansed and have taken part in the ceremonies, will, from the moment live among the gods, “because,” as they say in the mysteries, “many thyrsus bearers but few real mystics.” And, in my view it is these mystics who are the true philosophers and like whom, I tried to be as best I could during my whole life. Whether my efforts were well guided and whether I have achieved anything by them, I think the god, if he so wills, will let me know a little later.

So this, then is my defence, Simmias and Cebes and why I am not grieving in leaving you and the masters here, nor am I distressed because I believe that there, no less than here, I will also meet good masters and good friends, which is something that most people don’t believe.

So, if by this defence of mine, I have persuaded you more than I have persuaded the Athenian judges, I shall be very happy.”

When Socrates had said all that, Cebes said, “Socrates, I think that on all those other things you spoke well but on things relating to the soul, people will find them difficult to believe because they are afraid that once the soul is separated from the body, it will no longer exist anywhere. It will be destroyed and it will disappear on that very day the man dies because once it is separated from the body, it will disperse away like a breath, or like smoke and it will vanish and will not reappear anywhere.

However, if the soul were able to hold itself together and has managed to separate itself from all those ills you have just mentioned, well then, Socrates, there would be a great hope that what you are saying is, in fact true.

But this, Socrates, the view that when the man dies the soul continues to exist and still possesses some power and intelligence, requires quite a long and involved argument and much proof.”

“Quite so, Cebes,” replied Socrates “but what shall we do? Would you like us to talk about these things, to question this view, if it is true or not?”

“I would very much love to do that,” said Cebes. “I would love to know your opinion about these things.”

“Personally, of course” continued Socrates, “I believe that if anyone were to hear us talk now, even if he were an author of comedies[24], even he wouldn’t be able to say that I am simply chattering idly and about things that are entirely irrelevant.

So, if you like Cebes, and you see this discussion as virtuous and useful then by all means let us examine it. Let us then examine whether the souls of the dead exist in Hades or not.

There is a view, Cebes, about which we have talked earlier, an ancient one, that when the souls leave this place, continue to exist in Hades and that they then return back here, having been born from the dead. If this is the case, can we then possibly admit any other view than that our souls exist there, in Hades? Because, of course, they would never return here if they didn’t exist there which is proof enough that this view -that the living have come from the dead- is correct and that if this were not so, then we would need for sort of proof.”

“But of course,” said Cebes.

“Then,” continued Socrates, “if you want to understand the issue easily don’t look it as if it is referring only to humans but to all of the animals and to all of the plants and to all of the things that come to life. Let us examine, Cebes, if opposites are actually born out of opposites when we are examining how life is generated. For example, the beautiful is obviously the opposite of the ugly; the just is the opposite of the unjust and, of course, there are countless other such examples of opposites emerging out of opposites.

Let us therefore examine if is it unavoidable in all living things that are the opposite of something else, for them not to emerge from anywhere else other than from those opposites of theirs. For example, when something becomes bigger does it become so out of something that once was smaller which had become bigger?”

“Yes, that is so,” answered Cebes.

“Well then, if it becomes smaller, was it not from the greater that it did so?”

“Yes,” said Cebes.

“Also, is it the same with the weaker becoming strong out of the stronger and the fast out of the slow?”

“Of course,” said Cebes.

“And so,” continued Socrates, “what do you say about this, does the worse emerge out of the better and the just from the unjust?”

“Absolutely,” said Cebes.

“In that case,” said Socrates, “we have proven that all things are born in the same way, that the opposites are born out of their opposites.”

“Certainly,” said Cebes.

“And so again, what are you saying, Cebes,” asked Socrates. “that there exists between all these pairs of opposites two types of birth, one emerges from the other and then again the reverse, that is the other from the first? Is there not between a larger thing and a smaller one an increase and a decrease and is that not what we say about them, that one increases while the other decreases?

“Indeed,” said Cebes.

“And there are also,” said Socrates, “other opposing things, where the one is born out of the others, such as mixing together and separating and cold and hot which is how all opposites behave and if sometimes we have no names for them it is still always the case that this is the process they undergo, which is that the one is born of the other and then a second birth this time in reverse?”

“Of course.”

“Well then,” continued Socrates, “Is there an opposite thing to life, as is being asleep to being awake?”

“Of course,” answered Cebes.

“And what is that?” asked Socrates.

“Death,” answered Cebes.

“And so then, if these two are truly opposites, are they not born out of each other and between these two is there also the two births?”

“Of course.”

“And so now,” said Socrates, “I shall talk about one of the two opposing pairs which I have mentioned earlier, as well as that process in between, and then you tell me about the other one. I mean that of being asleep and being awake. Being awake is a state born out of being asleep and being asleep is born out of being awake, and these two were born out of falling asleep and out of waking up. Did you understand that well enough, Cebes?”

“Very much, Socrates,” replied Cebes.

“Then, Cebes, talk to me in the same way about life and death. Do you not think that being alive is the opposite of being dead?”

“It is,” said Cebes.

“And are they not born out of each other?”

“Yes, they are.”

“Well then what is born out that which is alive?”

“That which is dead,” answered Cebes.

“And what is born out of the dead?”

“I can say nothing else but that the answer to this question is the living.”

“And so, Cebes, the dead things and the dead men are born out of the living?”

“Obviously.”

“And so then, our souls exist in Hades.”

“It seems so.”

“And about these births, those that take place in the two phenomena, I mean life and death) one of them at least is thoroughly obvious, which is death, is it not?”

“Of course.”

“Well then shall we do?” Asked Socrates. “Can we refuse the existence of its opposite birth and blame Nature for that, or are we forced to accept that death is the opposite of life?”

“Indeed,” said Cebes.

“Which is it?” asked Socrates

“Rebirth,” answered Cebes.

“Which, if it existed, would be the rebirth of the dead, their return to life? For the dead to coming to live among the living?”

“Certainly.”

“So we agree on this, that the living have emerged out of the dead, just as the dead have emerged out of the living. Since this is true then, we also agree that this is certain proof that the souls of the dead exist somewhere, from where they return directly into life.”

“Yes, Socrates. It certainly follows from what we’ve agreed upon.”

“Well then look, Cebes,” continued Socrates “it seems to me that we were not wrong to agree upon these things because, if the exchange of the opposites did not happen always, like a perpetual cycle but the birth happened in a straight continuous line from one state into its opposite and did not return back to its original state, taking a turn, you should know, Cebes that all things would take on the same form in the end and would undergo the same experience, and they would have stopped regenerating.”

“How do you mean,” asked Cebes.

“What I am saying,” said Socrates, ” is not at all difficult to understand, Cebes but let me use an example. If the act of being asleep exists and to awaken was not a consequence and a return to it, then you know well, Cebes that everything would work towards showing that Endymion was quite silly and you wouldn’t be able to see him anywhere in all this, because they would have all undergone the same experience that he has, which is to be asleep; and if all things were mixed together and inseparable, we would soon witness something which Anaxagoras[25] said, which is ‘all things together,’ and, in the same way, dear Cebes, if all living things that have emerged from death did not return back to death, then surely, all things dead would remain dead and there would be none living. Would it not then be an inescapable conclusion that, in the end, all things would die and not a single thing remain alive?

Because if the living things emerged out of other things and not of things that have died, what means would there be to prevent all things from being swallowed by death?”

“I don’t believe there exist such a means,” answered Cebes “and it looks like what you’re saying is true, Socrates.”

“I believe it is so, Cebes, beyond any doubt,” said Socrates “and that we’re not deceived when we admit these to be our views; and that our view that one is reborn and lives again, is a real one and that the living are born from the dead and that the souls of the dead exist and that the virtuous souls exist in a better state than the evil ones.

“As for that,” added Cebes, “if it is true, as you often like to say, Socrates, it seems the act of learning for us is nothing more than an act of recollection[26] of something which we must have necessarily learnt in a previous life and now simply remember.[27] But this, Socrates, would be impossible if our soul did not exist somewhere before it appeared in this human form, so that looking at the issue in this way, it would seem that the soul is immortal.”

“But Cebes,” said Simmias interrupting, “remind me please of the proof that supports these things because I don’t remember them just now.”

“I shall do so with one, most beautiful word, Simmias,” said Cebes, “and it is this: when people are asked questions, that is if the questions are asked correctly, they will tell you all they know of their own accord, about the question but if they do not have the knowledge or the correct word they cannot do so. Then, if one takes them to some diagrams or some other such things they will then be able to see just how things are.”

“And, Simmias,” added Socrates, “if you are not persuaded by this, then see if you can accept it by looking at it in another way, that is if you are still skeptical about the view that learning is recalling.”

“No, I am not skeptical at all about this, ” said Simmias “but I do need to experience what we are talking about. So far as those things that Cebes was saying earlier I am more or less convinced but I still want to hear what it is you were trying to say just now about it.”

I shall say this,” said Socrates. “I am certain that we are in agreement that if someone can recollect something then it is obvious that he must have learnt that something at some time earlier.”

“But of course,” said Simmias.

“In that case, are we not also in agreement about this, that when knowledge[28] of something appears in this manner, it is, in fact, a recollection? But I am also referring to another manner of appearing, which is this: If someone who has either seen or heard some other thing, or he has perceived it by some other sense, not only would he have received knowledge of that things alone but he would have also placed in his mind some other idea as well, the knowledge of which is not the same as the first and thus then, would we not be able to say quite validly that he had remembered that of which the idea was initially perceived?”

“What do you mean,” asked Simmias.

“What I mean is this,” answered Socrates. “That the understanding of a man is different to the understanding of a lyre.”

“But, by Zeus, of course,” said Simmias.

“Therefore then Simmias, do you not know that when lovers see a lyre or some article of clothing or some other thing which their lover is accustomed to using, they experience the following: not only do they conceive the knowledge of the lyre but also the form of the person to whom the lyre belongs and this is a recollection. This is the same as when someone sees Simmias; often he will also remember Cebes as well. There are, of course thousands of such examples.”

“Of course, Socrates, thousands.”

“Well then, is it not the case that this experience of recollection is a means by which we recover that which, either through the passing of time or of not having seen it, we have forgotten?”

“Indeed,” said Simmias.

“So, are you also saying, Simmias, that it is possible for someone to see the drawing of a horse or a lyre and still remember a person, to see Simmias, in other words, in a drawing and to remember Cebes?”

“Yes it is,” said Simmias.

“As well, to see Simmias in a drawing and to remember Simmias himself?”

“Of course.”

“Well then does it not follow that recollection can happen of similar things as well as of dissimilar?”

“It does.”

“But then, when someone recollects something as a result of some similar things appearing before him, is it not inescapable to experience even this: to question in his mind if this new thing is entirely similar to that which he has just recollected or if it is in some way different?”

“Inescapable, indeed,” replied Simmias.

“In that case, then Simmias, examine if what I am about to say is correct.

“Am I right in believing that we are saying that there is such a thing as equality?[29] I mean not that wood is equal to wood, or a stone equal to another stone but, beyond those things and separate from them, there is something else, something we call equality. Will we admit that equality is something or it is not?”

“By Zeus,” replied Simmias confidently. “We shall indeed admit that it exists.”

“Yes, Simmias but do we also know what is this thing we call ‘equality?'”

“Of course we do.”

“And how did we obtain this knowledge,” asked Socrates. “Did we perhaps receive it from those things we’ve talked about just now, I mean, when we said that there is equality in wood and stone or other such things from which we concluded that equality itself is something outside those things? Is it from that discussion that we drew the conclusion that equality is something separate from them, or do you not think it different? Examine the matter also in this way, that is, do not the same pieces of wood or stone appear some times to be equal and some times not equal?”

“Of course,” said Simmias.

“So are you saying, Simmias,” continued Socrates, “that there are times when the same, equal things appear unequal or, are you saying that equality some times appears unequal?”

“Not so far, anyhow,” replied Simmias.

“In that case then,” said Socrates, “these equal things and this very thing called equality are not the one and same thing.”

“So it appears to me, too,” said Simmias “that they are not at all the one and same thing.”

“But then,” said Socrates, “whilst these equal things are different and a separate thing to equality, is it not from those things that you’ve formed the notion and the knowledge about equality?”

“Most certainly so,” said Simmias.

“And did you not form this idea about equality from these things, whether they are equal or not?”

“Of course.”

“Well then, it makes no difference at all whether equality differs or not from those equal things because until you see something else after you saw this and from it you’ve formed the idea of the other -be it similar or not- it would be impossible not to say you’ve recalled it.”

“Yes.”

“But then what of this,” asked Socrates. “do we perhaps experience this sort of thing, that when we see sticks and all those things we’ve just called equal, do we think that they are equal to that thing we called ‘equality,’ or are they missing something to qualify them as such? Are they equal to equality?”

“They lack a great deal,” answered Simmias.

“Do we not then agree that if someone sees something and forms the notion that he wants it to be like something else he saw previously but it cannot be so because it is inferior to it, do we then think that this phenomenon comes about because he has some prior knowledge of that thing which, he says resembles it but which is inferior to it?”

“Undoubtedly,” replied Simmias. “he must have had a previous knowledge of it.”

“What are you saying then, Simmias, is that we have in fact experienced this phenomenon or not, in respect of the things that are equal and equality itself?”

“We certainly have,” said Simmias.

“And so, do we think that it is absolutely necessary that we had knowledge of equality itself prior to that time when we first saw those similar things and that they desired to be similar to equality but are inferior?”

“Quite so,” said Simmias.

“In that case we must accept this also, that this idea of true equality did not come to us from anywhere else, nor is it possible for it to be formed of itself but it has come to us through our sight, or touch or some other of our senses, which, as I say, is the same with all such perceptions.”

“Indeed, Socrates. So far as our argument is concerned, all things are similar.”

“And so then, it is from our senses that we perceive that all sensible things strive to be equal to equality itself but they do not make it because they are inferior to it. Is this not what we say?”

“It is indeed, Socrates.”

“In which case,” continued Socrates, “before we began to see and hear and to use all our other senses, we must have somehow perceived the notion of equality, what sort of thing it is, since we were about to compare it with all those similar things which we perceive with our senses, since they all want to be like it, even though they are inferior to it.”

“It follows so from what we have said, Socrates,” said Simmias.

“And did we have those -our sight and our hearing and all our other senses- the moment we were born?” Asked Socrates.

“But of course,” replied Simmias.

“Therefore, it is from these senses, as we were saying before, that we have gained this knowledge of equality.”

“Yes.”

“And it is obvious, then that we have gained knowledge of the true equality before we were born.”

“Obvious indeed.”

“If that’s the case then, if we have obtained this knowledge before we were born and we were born with it, we knew of it both, before and immediately after, not only about the true equality and about what is greater or lesser but about all such things.

Because we are not now talking only about equality but about much more; we are now talking about beauty and about virtue and justice and about what is holy and, as I was saying, about all such things that we assert are how they are, both when we ask as well as when we reply about them. It is therefore certain that we have received knowledge about all these things before we were born.”

“Yes.”

“And, of course, since we have acquired this knowledge, we don’t just forget it each time but we are born always having that knowledge and we will possess it throughout our whole life. Because, Simmias, the knowing of something depends upon this, that once he has received knowledge of something he maintains it and does not forget it and, do we not call ‘forgetting’ the ‘loss of knowledge?'”

“We do, indeed, Socrates,” replied Simmias.

“And so at least this appears to us to be true then,” continued Socrates, “that when we perceive something, either by sight or hearing or by some other sense we are able to form from that thing a notion of some other thing which we have forgotten and which might be either similar or dissimilar, in which case, as I say, one of two things has occurred: either we were born knowing these things and we continue knowing them throughout our lives or, later when we speak about those who we say are learning them they are, in fact, doing nothing more than recalling them and therefore, learning is perhaps is simply a recollection of them.”[30]

“That is very much how it is, Socrates,” said Simmias.

“So,” continued Socrates, “which of the two do you prefer, that we are born with the knowledge or that we recollect later those things that we have learnt before?”

“I can’t decide, right now Socrates,” replied Simmias.

“Then will you be able to choose from what I will say now and to also tell me your opinion about this, can a man who knows something explain what it is that he knows or not?”

“Obviously he can, Socrates.”

“And what about other people, will they also be able to explain those things we were just talking about?”

“It would be my wish,” said Simmias “but my big fear is that this time tomorrow there will be no one who could do justice to it”

“So then you don’t think, Simmias that everyone knows these things?”

“Not at all, Socrates.”

“But they’ll remember those things they have learnt previously?”

“Quite so.”

“But when did our soul learnt of these things because it was not after we were born as humans.”

“Of course not.”

“So they have learnt them previous to being born?”

“Yes.”

“So the souls, Simmias, must have existed before we were born in this human form, when they were without a body. They had knowledge then.”

“Unless, of course we receive this knowledge at the moment of birth, Socrates because that’s the only time left for us as being possible.”

“It could well be, my friend but when exactly do we lose it since, as we decided, we were not born possessing it? Or do we perhaps lose it at the very same time that we receive it? Or do you think there is yet another time that we lose it?”

“No, Socrates, none at all. I think I spoke without thinking.”

“Well then, Simmias, is this how we feel about this? That, if those things about which we are constantly talking, really do exist and nothing beautiful nor virtuous and the essence of all other such things and so do all the things we perceive with our senses, the essence of which existed before we have even discovered them,

and if we refer these things to our perceptions, well then does it not follow that nor would our soul have existed before we were born? Because, surely, if these perceptions did not exist before we were born then surely nor would our souls?

Is this not how things are and is it not equally necessary for these perceptions, as for our souls to have existed even before we did, which also means that if these perception did not exist, then nor would have our souls?”

“Indeed it is equally necessary,” said Simmias “and our argument then goes beautifully to where you were just saying that both, our soul as well as the essence existed before we were born. Because I at least have nothing more obvious in my mind, nothing is more definitely proven, than that all these things, things like beauty and virtue about which you were just talking, do, in fact exist,” said Simmias.

“But has it been proven also to Cebes’ satisfaction?” Asked Socrates. “Because we must persuade him as well.”

“I believe Cebes has been persuaded enough, Socrates, even though I think he’s the most stubborn skeptic I know when it comes to accepting arguments. Still, I think on this issue he has been persuaded well enough that our soul existed before we were born. However, I’m not certain I, myself am convinced that our soul exists even after we die,” said Simmias. “I cannot get rid of the view that many people have, which is the one that Cebes has mention, that once we die our souls disperses and that is possibly the end of it. Because what’s there to prevent it from being born and formed , from some other place and to exist even before it enters the human body and then when it comes and the separates from it, for it then also to be totally destroyed?”

“You are right, Simmias,” said Cebes, “because it seems that half of what should be proven has been proven, which is that our soul existed before we were born. Now, if we want the proof to be complete we need now to prove also that it continues to exist in no less a fashion after we die.”

“But this has been proven already, Simmias and Cebes,” said Socrates. “All you have to do is join the two views together, this one to which we have just arrived to the one we formed earlier, which is that every living thing is born out of something that has died. Because if the soul existed earlier, it is necessary that as it moves into life and is born, that it is not born from anything but that from which it died. How can it be that it does not exist after death, since it is necessary for it to be born anew?

So, men what you are asking to be proven has been proven.

Still, it seems to me that you Cebes and you Simmias are happy to go on discussing this argument further, as if you have this childish fear that perhaps the truth is that the soul is taken by the wind and is dispersed as it leaves the body, especially when a man dies, not during fine weather but during a huge windstorm.”

Cebes laughed at this and said, “well then Socrates, try to convince us either that we are right in our fear, or, better still, that we should not be. In fact there might be someone among us who is also afraid of these things and so we must try to persuade him that he should not be afraid of death in the same way that one is afraid of terrible beasties.[31]

“In that case we should get someone to sing odes of exorcism every day until he is cured.”

“But where will we get another exorcist, Socrates, now that you are leaving us?”

“Greece,” said Socrates, “is quite a large country and within her there will certainly be some able exorcists. And then there are many foreign nations as well which we should visit and search through for this exorcist without the slightest concern about the expense because there is nothing more appropriate to spend our money on. As well, Cebes, in case you cannot find anyone else who could perform this exorcism better than you then you should also search for him amongst yourselves.”
“Yes, these things will be done,” Cebes went on, “but let us get back, if you like, to where we have left our discussion.”

“But of course, I would like that,” said Socrates. “How could I possibly not?”

“Good.”

“Now, we must ask ourselves a question,” said Socrates, “which is this: what sort of thing is susceptible to this experience, that is, the dispersing[32], and which sort of thing should we fear that will suffer it and which would not, following which we should investigate which of the two applies to the soul, (whether it is dispersible or not) and from the result of that investigation whether we should be hopeful or fearful about the fate of our soul.”

“Quite so,” said Cebes.

“So, then,” continued Socrates, “that which is brought together by combining other things and is thus a compounded substance, is liable to experiencing a dispersal in the same way it was combined?”

“So it seems,” said Cebes.

“And can we also come to the view that if something is not a compound, that it -and it alone- is not susceptible to this dispersal, more so than any other thing?”

“I think you are right, Socrates,” said Cebes.

“Then all those things that always remain in a constant and unchanging state are obviously uncompounded (that is, they do not consist of other parts) but those things that are changing and are never in the same state, these things are compounded (that is, they do consist of other parts). Is that not so?”

“I, at least think so, Socrates.”

“Let us now go to those things about which we were talking earlier. This essence about which we named during our questions and answers, the true essence, is it constant or ever changing? Do things like equality or beauty, do they, of themselves ever change at all or does each of them stay in the same constant and unchanging state, never allowing any variation of any sort at all?”

“It cannot be otherwise, Socrates but for them to stay in the same state, accepting no change at all.”

“What you are saying then, Cebes is that all these beautiful things, such as beautiful people or beautiful horses or beautiful clothes or all other such beautiful things with similar names and may be called equally beautiful, they are all similarly in a constant state or are they the reverse, that is, they are constantly changing? Could they, in fact be constantly changing and hardly ever the same, whether compared to themselves or to each other?”

“They are constantly in a state of change, Socrates,” replied Cebes.

[79]  “And so then these things you can touch them and see them and know them with your other senses but the constant things, the things that never change, you can only see with your mind because they have no form and are invisible.”

“Very true again, Socrates.”

“Shall we then accept that there are two types of things, the type of the visible and that of the invisible?”

“Yes,” said Cebes, “let us accept that”

“And that the invisible are always the same and constant, whereas the visible are ever changing and inconstant.”

“Yes, let us accept this also.”

“Now tell me Cebes, do we consist of anything else other than these two things, the body and the soul?”

“No, there is nothing else.”

“To which of these two types of things, then does the body resemble and is related more closely?”

“This is quite obvious in every human,” said Cebes. “Man is related to the visible things.”

“And the soul? Is it a visible or invisible thing?”

“To the humans, at least, it is invisible.”

“But we, of course say that things are either visible or invisible, according to the nature of the humans, or is there some other nature?”

“No, according to humans,” replied Cebes.

“And as for the soul, do we say that it is visible or invisible?”

“That it is not visible.”

“So it is invisible?” asked Socrates

“Yes.”

“So the soul then resembles more the invisible rather than the body which is more like the visible,” said Socrates.

“Without a doubt, Socrates.”

“And so, as we were saying a while back, when the soul uses the body, either through sight or hearing or through some other sense to examine something, because after all, this is what the body does, to examine things through its senses, it is then dragged out of the body towards those things which are ever changing and then, because it touches them, the soul itself wanders about, is confused and shaken as if it was drunk. Is that not so, Cebes,” asked Socrates.

“But of course,” replied Cebes.

“But when the soul does the examining by itself,” continued Socrates, “it leaves the body and goes to the world of the pure and the immortal and the constant and unchanging and because it is of the same nature as itself it stays always with it and stops wandering about and whenever it is left to itself and is permitted to be independent stays in the same state because it is in contact with things of the same nature as it.

Do we not call this experience of the soul, “wisdom?”[33]

“Well said, Socrates. It is true,” said Cebes.

“Still, from what we said earlier and from what we are saying now, to which of the two types[34] do you think the soul is more alike and related?”

“By this method, Socrates, to me at least it appears that even the most unintelligent man would agree that the soul would be most similar to that which is constant and changeless rather than with what is ever changing,” replied Cebes.

“And what about the body,” asked Socrates.

“It is more similar to the other.”[35]

“Now look at it from this point of view, Cebes,” continued Socrates. “that, when the soul and the body are together, nature demands that one of them,[36] must be the servant of the other and to be ordered by it and that the other, to do the managing. From this perspective then, which of the two do you think is similar to the divine and which to the mortal? Or do you believe that nature does not allow the divine should rule and lead and the mortal to be ruled and be lead?”

“It seems to me that it does, Socrates. Nature does allow the divine to rule,” said Cebes.

“So with which of the two is the soul similar?”

“Clearly, Socrates,” answered Cebes, “the soul resembles the divine and the body resembles the mortal.”

“Now then Cebes, from all that we have discussed, examine whether it is possible for us to conclude that the soul is most similar to the divine, in that it is immortal and intelligent and unique and non-dispersible and is always in the same unchangeable state,[37] whereas the body is most similar to the human and mortal and unintelligent and of many forms and easily dispersible and which is never in the same state.[38]

Do we need to say anything more, dear Cebes, to prove this is how these two things are?”

“No,” said Cebes, “we need say nothing more.”

“In this case then,” Socrates went on, “can we not conclude that the body dissolves quickly whereas the soul is entirely or almost entirely indissoluble?”

“Of course.”

“So you’ll observe, Cebes, that when a man dies, the visible part, which is his body and which we call the corpse and which is at a visible place and which must dissolve and disintegrate, does not suffer any of this immediately but can remain in this state for a long time after death, especially if his body is in good condition and the season is favourable. In fact, if the body is embalmed, as are those in Egypt, it will remain intact for a long time, perhaps even for ever. A number of its parts, in fact, even after the rest of the body decays, such as the bones and its tendons will remain, shall we say, immortal. Or is this not so?”

“It is, Socrates.”

“Whereas the soul, the invisible part which travels to another place which, like it, is noble and pure and invisible, I mean, in reality, in the world of Hades, the good and wise god, which is, if he is willing, where I and my soul will go very soon. This is the soul which has emerged from Nature and which will separate itself from the body, and which will disperse, is this the soul which, according to what most people say, we will lose immediately?

Impossible, dear Cebes and Simmias. What will most probably happen is this: If the soul separates itself from the body, cleanly, without dragging with it anything that belongs to the body -because it was never willing to have anything to do with it while alive but always avoided it and always practiced keeping itself withdrawn into itself because this is nothing more than evidence that it loved wisdom and that it was always studying how to die well. [81] Or is this not a study of dying?”

“Of course it is,” said Cebes.

“Well then,” Socrates continued, “since the soul finds itself in this condition, does it not go to a similar state as itself, that is, the invisible, the divine, the immortal and the wise and when it gets there, does it not earn the reward of being happy free from wandering about and from concerns and fears and wild desires and to be free from all those human evils and, as they initiates say, spend the rest of the time with the gods? Shall we admit this, Cebes or not?”

“Indeed we shall, by Zeus,” replied Cebes.

“So I believe, Cebes,” continued Socrates, “that if when the soul leaves the body is utterly polluted and impure because it has lived all its life within it and took care of it and loved it and was enchanted by of its desires and pleasures so much so that it thought that there was no other reality but that of the body,[39] something which a man may touch and see and drink and eat and use aphrodisiac substances; and is dark and invisible to the eye and is comprehensible only through philosophy and is accustomed to hating and fearing and running away, do you think that such a thing,[40] can leave the body pure and unpolluted?”

“Not at all,” replied Cebes.

“Yes, I believe that the soul will leave the body wrapped up in something that has the shape of the body which its association with it and its constant care of it has made itself part of its nature.”

“Indeed.”

“And we must believe, my friend that this pollution is heavy and burdensome and earthly and visible, a burden which drags the soul back into the world of the visible and because it fears the invisible and Hades wanders about the monuments and the tombs and around places where shadowy shapes of souls and apparitions have been seen which make these impure souls visible because they have not been released from the body purely but still take part in the visible world and that’s why they are seen.”

“Quite possibly, Socrates” said Cebes.

“It is also possible, Cebes, that these souls are not the souls of the virtuous but those of the evil which are forced to wander all around such places, being punished for the evil life they previously lived; and they continue to wander about because of the desires of the body which follows them everywhere and is bound within it. They are tied to those evil habits they practiced during their lives.”

“Which habits do you mean, Socrates,” asked Cebes.

“Those who thoughtlessly indulge in gluttony, for example,” answered Socrates “and violence and drunkenness. Their souls would enter the bodies of other species, like donkeys and the like. Don’t you agree?”

“I think your view is correct, Socrates.”

“Whereas,” continued Socrates, “the souls of those who preferred injustice and tyranny and violent theft will be put into the bodies of wolves and hawks and buzzards -or where else might we suggest such souls might end up?”

“Without question, Socrates, they would end up in such places,” said Cebes.

“And so then, Cebes, it is also obvious that each soul would end up in such a place that corresponds with what their owners practiced when they were alive.”

“Yes, obviously so,” agreed Cebes.

“And therefore, the happiest souls are those who had practiced by simple habit and without philosophising about them, the virtues most acceptable in a civil society, virtues which we call prudence and justice. Are they not the souls that end up in the best of places, Cebes?”
“Why are they the happiest, Socrates?”

“Because,” answered Socrates, “it follows that they will return to that species of animal which is like them, social and placid, perhaps like bees or wasps or ants or even begin again in the same species, that of men and become again men of moderation.”

“Yes, that follows,” agreed Cebes.

“As for ending up with the gods, that is not permissible to anyone who did not study philosophy or departed absolutely pure, no one who does not love learning.[41] And this is why, my dear friends Simmias and Cebes, the true lovers of wisdom avoid most adamantly the desires of the body, never giving in to them and are never afraid lest their wealth is destroyed or they are left poor, as do all the others who love money. Nor are they afraid of dishonor or the shame of being evil, as do those who love honour and glory. This is why they avoid such things.”

“Because those things would not seem proper to them, Socrates,” said Cebes.

“Quite so, indeed,” said Socrates “and that’s why those who care about their soul do not live answering to the demands of their body and, having said good by to all that, do not follow the same path as do that other lot of men because those men don’t know where they are going. Since the lovers of Philosophy know that they must not commit deeds that are against Philosophy and against the freedom and purification that Philosophy affords them they turn and follow her wherever she leads them.”

“How so, Socrates?”

“I will tell you,” answered Socrates. “This is because those who love learning know well that because Philosophy has received their soul fettered and glued into their body and forced to look at things that are real as if from within a prison and not look at Philosophy herself through herself, and that, further, she sees that this soul of theirs is rolling in utter ignorance and moreover, that this imprisonment comes about because of desires that make the man be an aide to his own imprisonment; and, as I was saying, those who love learning know that once Philosophy receives their soul in this state, she slowly encourages it and tries to set it free by pointing out to it that whilst the observations made by the eye and the ear and all the other senses, are nothing but a deception, she convinces it to distance itself from these senses and use them only when it’s absolutely necessary. Then she urges it to gather and collect itself into itself and to trust nothing else but itself, examined by itself.

Whatever real thing it wants to examine, if it is examined by any other means it cannot be believed as being true since it will be inconstant and because it will also be tangible and visible and not intelligible and invisible.

Since a true philosopher’s soul must not stand against this freedom stays away as much as it can from pleasures and desires and griefs and fears, thinking that whenever a man feels excessive pleasure or fear or grief or desire, he will suffer from these things in the same way as one will suffer greater harm than one might have expected from, say, when he is ill or when he has lost some wealth through these desires, a suffering in fact greater than he would have anticipated.

“And which suffering is this, Socrates,” asked Cebes.

“It is that which everyone’s soul is forced to believe during excessive pleasure or pain, which is that these feelings are the purest and the most true. This is simply not so. And are not these things that give him such pleasure and such pain mostly visible?” “Indeed, they are,” Cebes said.

“And so then, Cebes, does not the soul that suffers these things, not usually ties itself closer to the body?[42]

“How does it do that, Socrates?” asked Cebes.

“Each pleasure and each pain is like a nail[43] and fixes and glues the soul onto the body and makes it becomes just like the body and it will believe that everything that the body believes to be true is true and thus, since it will have the same views as does the body, it will find pleasure in the same things as the body does and will be forced, I believe, to attain the same habits and customs as the body, so much so that it will never manage to arrive into the realms of Hades pure and free of the pollutions of the body but it will sink into another body and, like a seed that is sown will grow out of it, thus not being able to take part in the communion with the divine and the pure and the unique.”

“What you say is true, Socrates,” said Cebes.

“And so,” continued Socrates, “this is why those who truly desire to learn are temperate and brave and not because of the reasons the masses give. Or do you disagree?”

“Not at all, Socrates.”

“Certainly not,” Socrates continued. “Because the philosopher’s soul can only think in this way. It is not possible for it to think that once Philosophy sets the soul free, it should then surrender itself to pleasure and to displeasure, in other words to tie itself again into these things and to work like that over and over again endlessly, as Penelope worked on that tapestry of hers, never intending to finish it.[44]

It will, instead, prepare itself to live in peace by staying away from such things of passion and by following reason and staying within the bounds of reasoned thought, always mindful of the truth and the sacred and by believing only in that which is not mere opinion, nourished by this thinking and believing that it should live in this manner while it lives here on earth.

[84b] Then, when it ends its life here on earth it will move on to another soul which is similar to it in nature and thus be freed from all human ills.

And so, Simmias and Cebes, a soul which has lived such a life will not be afraid lest it be snatched by the wind from the body it leaves and driven this way and that and vanish into nothingness.

When Socrates said all this there was a long silence and Socrates himself looked as if he was deeply absorbed by what he had said, as we were also. Cebes and Simmias began to talk among themselves and when Socrates saw them he asked, “what are you two talking about? Do you perhaps think that I have said something wrong? Because the issue still has many questions unanswered and there are many things one can object to, if one wants to delve into these things deeper. So, if you’re thinking of some other issue, I shall say nothing more about this. However, if you have some questions relating to it, do not hesitate to ask them and to discuss the matter between yourselves and if there are more things to be said to let me in on the discussion, if you think that I could be of any help to you.”

To this Simmias said, “well, to tell you the truth, Socrates, we’ve spent quite a bit of time just now we both had a question to ask and we urged each other to ask it of you but we didn’t want to disturb you and annoy you, in your present unfortunate circumstances.”

When Socrates heard this he laughed softly and said, “what a difficult job I would have to persuade others that I do not find my circumstances unfortunate at all, if, in fact, I can’t even persuade you of that! It seems though that you are afraid that I am now more irritable than I was before or that I behave like those prophetic swans who sing more than usual and at their best, when they feel that they are about to die, rejoicing[45] in the fact that they will soon go to their god, whose servants they are.

[85] Men though, being afraid of death, mistake these songs thinking them to be sorrowful as if the swans are mourning their death.

They do not think of the other birds who do not sing when they are hungry or cold or because of some other misfortune. Not the nightingale, not the swallow nor even the hoopee sing, as men say, out of sadness. No, I don’t believe these birds, including the swans, sing out of sadness but being dedicated to Apollo, they have the ability to prophesy and can see all the good things that are in Hades, so they enjoy that day more so than all the others and their songs reflect that joy. And I, too, consider myself the servant of the same god as the swans and dedicated to him and endowed, as they are with the gift of prophesy no lesser than theirs and so I will not be departing from life sadder than they are.

And so, about this matter, speak and ask whatever you like, so long as the eleven Athenians[46] permit it.”

“Very good, Socrates,” said Simmias. “I’ll tell you then what bothers me and then Cebes will tell you what bothers him about the things we said.

It seems to me -and to you too, Socrates- that it is either very difficult or impossible to know clearly what is the truth about these matters while we are in this life. However, not to examine thoroughly everything that is said about them until all questions have been answered would be an iidication of human laziness.

Because in such matters, a man must achieve one of two things: he will either learn how things are from others, or he will discover it by himself, or, if neither of these is possible, to take the best and most irrefutable human arguments and having climbed aboard that ship to venture through life upon it, admittedly with some danger, unless he finds some safer ship or some word from god.

But now I shall do as you have asked and put to you my question without feeling any shame nor later having the wish reproach myself for not telling you what is in my mind now.

Because, Socrates, when I examine, either on my own or together with Cebes all these things we have said, it seems to me that we have not answered the question sufficiently.”

To this Socrates answered, “Perhaps you’re right, my friend but tell me in what respect have we not done justice to the argument?”

[86]  “Well,” answered Simmias, “to my way of thinking, in the same respect that one may apply the argument about harmony, the lyre and its strings. Harmony is not a visible thing and with no body and in lyre with strings it is a most wonderful and divine thing. The lyre and its strings, however, are objects, things with a material shape, united together and of the earth and of the same species as all things mortal.

When therefore, someone smashes the lyre or puts it to the flames or brakes its strings, if this man were to insist upon the same thing you are asserting about the harmony which was given out by the lyre when it was intact, that it continues to exist and that it has not perished (because there is no way that the lyre can continue to exist whilst its strings are broken and its strings to continue to exist while they are mortal and at the same time harmony, which is of the same nature as the divine and the immortal has perished, though it was, just before, part of the that thing which is perishable) and that man supports the view that it is necessary that harmony, on its own continues to exist in some place and that the wood and the strings will rot totally well before harmony suffers in the slightest way.

And it is this, I think Socrates, which you also believe that is, that we believe that the soul is much like the harmony of the lyre, strung, as it were and held together in balance between the hot and the cold, the dry and the moist, in this very same manner our soul is a compound of some of these elements and in harmony, when they are all put together beautifully and in proper proportions.

So if therefore, the soul happens to be in harmony, it will become obvious that when our body is overly loosened or overly tightened by some illness or other suffering, the soul could not but immediately perish, even though it is absolutely divine as are all other harmonies, be they of music or of the works of other artists and the remnants of the body will continue to exist for a long time, until they are either completely burned or completely rot. So let us see how we would respond to someone who would argue that the soul, which are of the same characteristics and a part of the body will be the first to perish when the so called death comes.”

Socrates then looked around at everyone, as he was accustomed to do, smiled and said, “Simmias is quite right so if any of you is more able to respond to him why does he not do so? Because I think the man has made a good point. Still, I also think that we should hear from Cebes and see what flaw he finds with the argument before we take our time to consider how we should respond to the views expounded. Then once we have heard his thoughts we may either accept them if they reveal some truth or else we should defend our own position. Come then Cebes tell us what in our argument disturbs you enough not to accept it.”

“Well,” Cebes said, “it seems to me that the argument has not moved forward at all and it’s still where it was at the beginning and still with the same fault.

[87]Because, well the fact that our soul existed before it appeared in this current form, I have no doubt that it was adequately argued and, if I may say so, proven.

However, I don’t believe that the view that the soul continues to exist after we are dead has been also proven.

I do not agree with Simmias who disagrees with the view that the soul is stronger and more enduring than the body. I believe that, in fact, the soul is far superior to the body in all these things.

Still, one might well ask me, “why are you still not convinced when you see that when a man dies, his weaker part continues to exist? Does it not occur to you that his more enduring part can do nothing else but stay with the body all through the same length of time? To this question I ask you to consider this and tell me if I am saying anything of value or not and I shall use -as did Simmias- a simile and the simile is this:

It is like, when an old weaver dies someone says that he did not do so and still lives somewhere else, pointing as evidence the garment which he had weaved and wore and point out that it is still strong and has not gone anywhere. Then if anyone was not convinced with this proof he would ask, “which is the more enduring, the life of a man or a garment still in use and still worn,” and when the person who had asked the question was told that man lasts the longest, is convinced because that which lasts less is still there. But, Simmias, I believe that this is not so and I ask you to examine closely what I am saying. Anyone can see quite clearly that such talk is nonsense because the weaver had made and wore out many such garments and lasted longer than they did but died, one might suppose, just before the last one.

This, however does not mean that the man is weaker or more feeble than the garment. This simile, I believe works equally well also for the soul and the body and one may say the exact same things about them, which is that the soul lasts a long time whereas the body, being much weaker lasts less.

My view is that the soul wears out many bodies, particularly if the man lives a long time because if the body constantly changes and constantly dies the soul would need to weave and patch that part which has died or changed. But then, when eventually the soul dies, it will have to have weaved its last garment and to have died just before that garment, that is the body, perishes. It is only then that the body will exhibit its natural weakness and begin to decay and perish. So we shouldn’t rely on the argument that our soul continues to exist somewhere after we die.

[88]  Because if one were to accept such things and, even more so to the things you are saying, Simmias, that is to agree that not only our soul existed even before we were born but also that there is no impediment to holding the view that the souls of some men exist not only after they die but also that they will be born many times after they do so because the nature of the soul is so mighty that it can be born many times over; yet even if we allow this view, Simmias, surely we can’t allow the view also that as it does go through all its many births and the deaths the soul does not suffer at all and that it will not finally die and disappear altogether. And no one knows the time of this death of the body which will bring the complete destruction of the soul because it is impossible for any one of us to perceive it; and if this is the case the man who feels confident about his death, he does so foolishly unless he can demonstrate that the soul is immortal and indestructible.

If he can’t do that, then that man who is about to die must surely be afraid that once his soul has been separated from his body it will be lost totally and for ever along with the decay of his body.”

When we have heard what was said, all of us lost heart, as we later admitted to each other, because we were convinced and made happy by the earlier speech but now they tipped the argument upside down and brought us back to despair and disbelief. This, not only because of what has been said already but also because what was about to be said. We began to lose our faith in our ability to judge the speeches or that the issue itself was one about which no one could be certain.

Echecrates: By the gods, I sympathise with you, Phaedo because when I heard your words, I wondered which argument we should accept because Socrates’ argument was most credible but now it seems discredited.

Because I was really taken by the view that our soul is some kind of harmony and just now when you’ve mentioned it, I was reminded that I, too once held that same view.

But now I have a great need to go back to the beginning and look for another proof that when a man dies, his soul does not die with him, so, for Zeus’s sake, tell us what Socrates followed his argument with and whether he, like the rest of you showed some hesitation or did he just go on defending his view without the slightest unease and did he defend id successfully or not?

Tell us everything Phaedo and tell it to us as accurately as you can.

[89] Phaedo: Indeed, Echecrates. Socrates has often made a great impression on me but I have never marveled at him so much as I did that day when I was sitting next to him.

That he had his argument at the ready I was not in the least surprised. What did surprise me the most though, was, firstly the sweet, the gentle and the patient way by which he listened to the speeches of the young men[47] and then secondly how quickly he realised the impact that their words had upon us. Finally how well he cured us of our fear and brought us back, as if we were men fleeing from defeat in a battle and urged us to listen to him and examine with him the argument.

Echecrates: How did he do that?

Phaedo: I shall tell you. I happened to be sitting near him, at the right side of his couch, which was a great deal higher than mine. Socrates had a habit of playing with my hair which was long and hanging over my head, so just then he stroked my head and tugged gently at my hair and said, “perhaps you will cut your beautiful hair tomorrow, Phaedo?”

“Quite possibly, Socrates,” I said.

“Not tomorrow, Phaedo. Not if you listen to me.”

“But why?” I asked.

“Today, Phaedo, I shall cut my hair and you will cut this beautiful crop of yours, if our argument dies and we cannot bring it back to life again and if I were you and my argument escaped me and I could not stand up against Simmias and Cebes, I’d do what the Argives do and take an oath not to let your hair grow until you defeated Simmias and Cebes at their argument.”

So I replied, “But, Socrates, they say that even Hercules wasn’t able to beat two men!”

“Well, in that case,” he said call me to help you like an Iolaus, while the sun is still up.”

“In that case,” I said I will call you not as Herakles calling Iolaus but as Iolaus calling Herakles.”

“That makes no difference,” he said “but let us first let us makes sure we avoid any danger.”

“What sort of danger?”

“The danger of becoming a misologist, a hater of views,[48] just as some people become misanthropes, haters of men,” he said. “Because there is no greater evil that one might suffer than to become a hater of views.[49] Both, haters of men and haters of views stem from the same thing. Misanthropy stems from trusting a man deeply and without the slightest doubt that he is a lover of the truth, that he is sincere and trustworthy but then after a while you discover that, to the contrary, he is in fact a scheming and untrustworthy man. Then the same thing happens to you again with another man and if this happens often enough to you, particularly from those around you who you thought were your closest and dearest friends, you’ll end up being in a constant state of arguing and thinking that there’s nothing in anyone worthy of your trust at all. Have you noticed this?”

“Yes, of course, I have,” I said.

“And so,” Socrates said “is this clearly not a shameful thing that men try to enter into friendships with other men while being ignorant of the ways of men? Because had he done so, had he, in fact, entered into friendships being knowledgeable of human nature he would know what they were really like and that some men would be very good while others very bad, both types being few in number while those in the middle, that is, those who are only a little bad and those only a little good, are much more numerous.”

[90] “What do you mean?” I asked.

“I mean,” he continued, “that what is applicable to men concerning virtue is also applicable to them concerning their size. Do you think it’s more rare to find a man either very large or very small; Or a dog even, or any other creature at all, one that is very fast or very slow, or very ugly or very beautiful, or very black or very white? Have you not noticed that in all these things those at the extreme ends are more rare and fewer in number than those in the middle which are more common and in greater abundance?”

“Certainly,” I answered.

“And so then,” said Socrates, “if there were to be a contest in evil, would not be the case that few only would turn up for it?”

“It seems so,” I said.

“Yes, it does seem so,” he continued “but so far as this goes, discussions are not like men. I was simply following your lead into following this argument. Still, men and discussions are similar in that, if a man who has no skill in examining arguments wanted to believe that a particular argument was true, and then a little later he discovers that in fact it is false, be it really false or not, and he does this several times, that is, he thinks an argument is true then discovers otherwise, and then those who spend their lives arguing, disputing everything[50] come finally to the view that they are the only ones who have understood that nothing, not a single thing, nor a single one of the arguments is sound or stable but rather, all things turn upside down, as do the waters of Euripus, never staying still under any circumstances.”

“You are certainly correct there, Socrates,” I said.

“Well then, Phaedo,” continued Socrates, “wouldn’t it be a very sad thing if there were some true and strong argument,[51] one that can be understood but then the person comes across another argument which is only sometimes true and sometimes false but does not blame himself for his lack of discernment gets so angry that he blames all arguments in general does this for the rest of his life, hating all arguments and denouncing them, thus depriving himself of the knowledge of the truth and of reality?”

“Indeed, Socrates,” I said, “it would certainly be a very sad thing.”

“Well then,” continued Socrates, “let us make sure we don’t fall into this trap and let us not accept into our soul the view that there is nothing sound in any argument but that it is much more likely that we, ourselves are not yet at all sound in the mind and that we must struggle manfully and enthusiastically to become so -you and the others [91] for the sake of the whole of the rest of your life while I, because of my imminent death, fear that, right now, I am not at all a philosopher but much more like those uneducated, argumentative men who when they wish to argue about something, they make no effort to first examine it but, instead, they try all they can to make their argument appear correct to their audience.

Now, I believe that in the present circumstance, I am different to these men only in that I am not trying to convince my audience but rather myself and if my audience does, in fact, believe me, then it is of secondary importance to me.

And see how selfish is my thinking on this, dear friend: You see, if what I believe is true, believing it is of a great benefit as well, if I die and there is nothing, well then just before my death -these moments we have now- I shall not be so unpleasant to my audience with my lamentations;[52] and this ignorance of mine won’t be permanent -for that would be a bad thing- but will disappear not long after my death.

So, now, Simmias and Cebes, being prepared mentally like this, we may come to our discussion,” continued Socrates “but you two must persuade yourselves not by Socrates but the truth of the argument and if you agree with something I’ve said, well and good but if you disagree, do so by voicing all the arguments you can muster so that you help me in my efforts not to deceive both, you and me and, in my eagerness to win the argument, rush off like a bee leaving my sting behind.

But let us get back to our discussion,” said Socrates, “and begin by you reminding me what it was you said, if I appear to have forgotten. Simmias, of course, if I remember correctly, is not at all convinced and is afraid that even though the soul is more divine and far more beautiful than the body, being in the form of harmony, will perish first.

Cebes however, I believe agrees with me this much: that the soul is a thing which exists for longer period than the body but that it is not at all evident that once the soul has worn out many bodies, it perishes after the last one and that perhaps, this, in effect, is what death is, that is, the death of the soul because the destruction of the body itself ever continues.

Well then, Simmias and Cebes, are these the issues we need to discuss or are there others?”

They both agreed that they were, indeed the issues under discussion.

“Well then,” continued Socrates, “did you agree with all of my views or to some of them only and not to others?”

They both said that they agreed to some but not all.

“So what do you say about my view that the act of learning is an act of remembering and that if this is so, then we must also admit that the soul existed in some other place before it brought itself inside the body.[53]

[92] “On my part,” said Cebes, “I was thoroughly convinced by that view and remain so now against all other views.”

“So do I, of course,” said Simmias. “I am of the same view and I would find it quite odd if I were to form another view.”

“And yet, my Theban friend,” said Socrates, “you must! You must form a different view if you insist that a harmony is a compound thing and that the soul is made into a harmony from the elements of the body because obviously, you cannot agree with your view that the harmony has appeared before the appearance of its constituent parts. Or do you disagree?”

“Never, Socrates,” replied Simmias.

“So you understand then, Simmias, that when you say that the soul exists before it enters the form and body of man yet it is composed of things that do not exist before it, you are, in fact contradicting yourself. Because, the fact is that harmony is not what you think it is like: it is not like the soul because the lyre and the strings and the sounds exist well before they come together as a harmony and whilst harmony is the last to appear, it is the first to disappear. How then can your last view be reconciled with your previous one?”

“It cannot, not in any way,” agreed Simmias.

“Still,” continued Socrates, “if it agrees with your last view it should also agree with that on harmony.”

“It should, yes, Socrates.”

“But it doesn’t Simmias. You must therefore choose the one you prefer, that learning is remembering or that the soul is a harmony?”

“I much rather the former, Socrates,” said Simmias “because this last one came to me without any proof. It just seemed somewhat true and proper and probably why most men believe it to be true. However, I have formed the belief that all those arguments that only appear to be proof are follies and deceive men, both in Geometry as well as in all other sciences. As for our argument concerning learning and remembering, we have based our conclusion on facts that are sound since we have said that our soul must obviously have existed before it entered our body since it is the soul that has been given the very name “existence.”[54]

This is why I have accepted that argument conclusively and correctly and must therefore reject the view –either uttered by me or by others- that the soul is a harmony.

What do you say to this then, Simmias,” asked Socrates, “Do you think that a harmony or some other compound can exist in any other state than that in which its constituent elements exist?”

[93]  “Not at all,” replied Simmias.

“And, of course, I believe, nor do they do nor suffer anything which those elements it consists of, do or suffer.”

Simmias agreed.

“In which case, we cannot say that a harmony precedes its constituent elements but rather that it follows them.”

Simmias agreed.

“And a harmony could not possibly make any move or make a sound that is contrary to its elements.”

“That is quite so,” said Simmias.

“And isn’t it so also that a harmony is a harmony according to how its elements are harmonised?”

“I don’t understand,” said Simmias.

“Well, is it not true,” continued Socrates, “that when all its elements are brought together in harmony as much and as fully as it is possible it is a better harmony but when they are brought together badly and to a lesser degree it is an inferior harmony?”

“Yes, of course,” said Simmias.

“Perhaps then this might also be the case with the soul,” continued Socrates. “Perhaps even in the slightest way, the soul is of the same nature, which is to say that it is to a greater and better degree a soul or to a lesser and worse degree so than some other soul.”

“Under no circumstances,” said Simmias.

“Come then, Simmias! In the name of Zeus, tell me is what I am saying true or not? That one soul has a mind and is virtuous and is thus a good soul whereas another is senseless and hateful and therefore evil? Is all of this true?”

“They are certainly true, Socrates.”

“Well then, those who believe that the soul is a harmony what do they think these things, this virtue and evil in the soul, are? Which of the two –that this is yet another harmony-disharmony thing? And that the first, I mean the good soul entered the harmony and has in it another harmony, whereas the other, the evil soul did not enter the harmony and that it does not have inside it another harmony?”

“I don’t know myself,” said Simmias “but quite obviously those of that opinion would say things like that.”

“But earlier we have accepted that a soul is not at all greater or lesser a soul than any other and we have also accepted that a harmony is neither greater nor lesser or better or worse a harmony than any other. Is that not so, Simmias?”

“Quite so,” answered Simmias.

“And that the soul which is neither more nor less a harmony has entered neither more nor less into a harmony! Is that so?”

“It is,” said Simmias

“And in that case that soul is just as able to be in harmony than any other soul. It can be no more wicked nor virtuous than any other if we are to accept that wickedness is disharmony and virtue is harmony. Is that also true?”

“Yes,” sais Simmias, “it’s equally able to do that.”

“And so, since one soul is not at all more nor less a soul than any other it became a harmony neither more nor less so. Is that not so, Simmias?” asked Socrates.

“It is so,” said Simmias.

“And, of course, since this is true, the soul is neither more so nor less a part of harmony or disharmony.”

“Of course not,” Simmias agreed.

[94] “Therefore,” continued Socrates, “a soul may well be evil or virtuous more so than another soul if by evil we mean disharmony and virtue harmony?”

“Certainly not.”

“Perhaps then, Simmias, correct thinking will lead us to accept that no soul if it is a harmony will ever be part of evil because harmony, if it is indeed fully a harmony, will never be a part of disharmony. Is that not right, Simmias?” Asked Socrates.

“Of course not,” replied Simmias.

“Nor could a soul be a part of evil if it is a soul in full.”

“Of course,” said Simmias. “How could it possibly do that if all that we have said is true?”

“So, according to our argument, Simmias” continued Socrates, “the souls of all living creatures will be equally good, if nature has made them all to be nothing but souls.”

“That’s what I think as well, Socrates” said Simmias.

“And do you think, Simmias, that it is correct to say that the argument is correct if the soul is a harmony?”
“Not at all,” answered Simmias.

“What do you say then, Simmias, of all the things that make up a man is the soul its ruler, especially if the soul is a wise one or does something else rule?”

“Of course not, Socrates, the soul rules,” replied Simmias.

“And by which method do you think the soul rules, by obeying the desires of the body or by going against them? For example, when the body is hot or thirsty, does the soul drag it towards the opposites -not to drink, say, or not to eat when it’s hungry and so on with countless other things- do we see the soul opposing the body’s desires or not?”
“It opposes them, of course,” said Simmias.

“But Simmias, have we not agreed earlier that if the soul is a harmony, it could never make sounds opposing the tensions or the rests or the variations and whatever other conditions that the elements it is comprised of must undergo, but that it would follow them rather than lead them?

“We did indeed,” replied Simmias.

“Well what do you think of this then, Simmias? Is it not true that we now find that the soul is constantly doing the exact opposite? That it rules its constituent elements, opposing them in every way throughout the whole of life and that it their tyrant in every way, punishing some of them harshly with Gymnastic and medicine and less harshly others, some threatening and others admonishing, in agreement with the desires and passions and fears as if it and them are different and if speaking to something else other than those elements? Just as Homer in his “Odyssey”[55] has Odysseus beat his chest and say, “Endure this heart for you have endured far worse.”

Do you therefore, Simmias, think that Homer wrote these words believing that the soul is a harmony and that it is ruled by its elements and not one that leads and rules them and that it is far more divine than a mere harmony?”

“By Zeus, yes, Socrates, I believe so!”

“Well then, my good friend, it seems that it would not at all look good for us to say that the soul is a harmony because we would be in agreement with neither, divine Homer nor even ourselves!”

[95] “Quite so, Socrates,” said Simmias.

“And so, Simmias, we have been very kindly treated by the Theban goddess, Harmony but what of Cadmus’ demands? By what argument could we make peace with him?”

“I think you’ll find the right words to appease him,” said Cebes. “And you have explained the harmony argument far better than I expected. When Simmias was asking his questions I thought it would be impossible for anyone to find an answer to them so I was surprised that his argument couldn’t withstand your first attack on them and therefore, Socrates, I would not find it at all strange if Cadmus’ argument does not suffer the same fate.”

“My dear friend, ” continued Socrates, “don’t utter such big words, lest some evil eye topples the words I’m about to utter, though so far as that goes, may the gods act as they will. But let us continue, the Homeric way, to check if you are correct in what you are saying.

Now, the gist of what it is you wish to prove is that the soul is both, indestructible and immortal; and you want proof also that if a philosopher who is about to die believes with confidence that he will be happier (in the other life) than if he had died having had a different life altogether[56] or else his confidence is senseless and idiotic.

And that even if we proved that the soul is a mighty thing, similar to a god and that it existed even before we, mortals did; of that you say that it still does prove that it is immortal but simply that it lasts a long time and that it existed somewhere before us for an unknowable length of time, knowing much and having done much; and that in the beginning, it entered the body of the human as a sort of a disease at the beginning of its destruction and lives there in perpetual suffering until finally it vanishes in what we call “death.” And you also say, Cebes that so far as the fears of people are concerned about this, it makes no difference whether the soul enters a man’s body once only or often and that it is quite valid for a man to be afraid, unless a man is a fool and does know nor can argue that the soul is immortal.

I believe that this is more or less what you are saying, Cebes and I am repeating it often so that nothing may escape us and so that if you wish, you may add or subtract anything.”

“So far as I can see right now,” said Cebes, I have nothing to either add or subtract. You have said what I have said accurately.”

Socrates paused his speech for quite a while, working on some thought and then he finally said, “You’re not asking anything simple, by any means, Cebes because to get you the answer we must first examine the full question and the cause of birth and destruction.

If you like here I will tell you all that I have experienced personally and then, if you think that something that I have said can be of some use to your argument, by all means, use it.

“Yes, of course, Socrates, I would like that.”

“Well then, Cebes, listen. When I was young, Cebes I was enormously eager to study this science which we call The History of Nature.

[96] I thought it to be quite a lofty thing to know the causes of everything, in other words, why is something born, why it dies and why it exists and in my eagerness, I often changed my mind completely, turning my thoughts upside-down as I studied questions like this:

Is it true that heat and cold somehow, by some sort of fermentation,[57] as some people suggest, bring about the existence of living things and, do we think by our blood or by air, or by fire or by none of these things? And what of our senses? Is our hearing and our sight and our smell furnished by our brain and that from these senses come our memory and our opinion and then, once our memory and our opinion have rested, they furnish us with science?

And then again, I’d examine the destruction of these things and what went on in the heavens and everywhere around me on earth, and doing so I discovered that I was totally unsuited to examining any such matters at all and I will give you adequate proof of this. This examination has blinded me so much that I have unlearnt everything that I and others, thought I had previously learnt. Many things, including how a man grows. I earlier thought that this was obvious: man grows because he eats and drinks.

Because, since with the eating of food, flesh is added to flesh, bones to bones and so, too, to all his other parts are added the things appropriate to them, then all the small parts grow and so the small man becomes big.

Do you not think I was right?”

“Yes, I think so,” said Cebes.

“So, now tell me what you think of this also,” continued Socrates. “I was under the impression that I was capable of understanding that when a tall man stood next to a short man, he was taller by say the head that stood higher above the short man just as it is with horses and many more such things such as that ten was greater than eight by two and that two cubits were more than one since two is twice one.

“But what do you think of these things now?” asked Cebes.

“By Zeus,” he said, “I think I’m far from believing that I understand any of this. I cannot admit to knowing with any certainty at all if when we add one to one that it is the second one which becomes two or the first, or that we have two because we have conducted an addition of two single ones.

I just cannot understand how when these two “ones” are apart from each other, each is simply one but when they are brought close to each other, just by that very act alone they somehow become two!

Nor can I understand that dividing one by two we get the same result (two) though in the former case we had arrived at two by the opposite means, that is, by adding one to one!

So now I don’t even think I know how, by this method this “one” or anything else came into being, or died or it exists and so I no longer have any faith in this method but I have somehow concocted another method in my head and dismissed this one altogether.

Then I heard someone reading from a book which he said was written by Anaxagoras who said that it was the mind that puts everything in order[58] and which causes all things. That gave me great joy because it seemed to me to be somehow quite right that the mind is the cause of all things and then I thought that if this is so, then having the mind put all things in their right order and each thing in its proper place was how it should be.

So if anyone wants to know how something is born or destroyed or it exists he must first discover which is the best way for it to exist or to experience or to do anything else.

Accordingly then, so far as this is concerned, a man must examine nothing else but what is best and most useful for himself. It is also necessary for him to know what is the worst because so far as these two are concerned (what is best and what is worst) the science is the same.

As I was pondering over this, I was overjoyed at the thought that, in Anaxagoras, I have discovered a teacher whose view on the causes of the existence of things was in accord with mine and that he would explain to me first, if the earth was flat or round[59] and then he would also explain the cause and the need for such a thing, explaining what is best and why it is best for the earth to be one or the other.

And if he said that the Earth is in the centre of the Universe he would explain why being in the centre of the Universe was the best thing for it.[60]

[98] Once he explained these things to me, I thought that I would have no further desire to know anymore about any other types of causes.

Then I also thought that I’d go on questioning him in the same way about the sun, the moon and about other stars; the speed at which one raced towards another, about their revolutions and about all their other sufferings and learn perhaps how is it the best thing for them to suffer what it is they are suffering.

I thought this because he had said that all things are placed in order by the mind, so he would never give any other cause for these things to be as they are, other then the fact that this the best thing for them. And I also thought that once he had explained to me what was the cause for each of these things, individually and collectively, he would then also explain to me what was the best for each of them as well as for all of them.

Such hopes I had of learning about these things that I would not dismiss them even for a large sum of money so I obtained the books and read them with great urgency so as to learn as soon as possible what was the best and what the worst.

But, my dear friend my wonderful hope was completely lost because as I went on reading those books I saw that the man made no use of the mind at all and showed no cause for the reason the world was ordered so well. Instead he had some theories about air and ether and water and other such ridiculous things.

It was as if someone said, “look, Socrates does whatever he does by using his mind” and then begin by giving causes for everything I do by saying, for example, that I am sitting here now for the following reasons: Because my body is made of bones and sinews and that whilst the bones are solid and are separated from each other by joints, the sinews are capable of being stretched and loosened, and that they are wound all around the bones and the flesh and the skin, which holds all these things together.

And that because the bones can lift themselves at the point where they are joined with other bones and the sinews relax and stretch, I am able to bend all my limbs and this is the cause why I am sitting here in this bended posture.

And if he were to give you the cause for my talking with you, he would be saying very similar things about voice and wind and hearing and many other such things, neglecting to point out the truth, which is that I am here, talking with you because the Athenian citizens thought it proper to condemn me and that’s why I thought it better and more just to sit here and undergo the punishment they imposed upon me.

[99] Because, by Zeus,[61] I believe, both, my sinews and my bones would have gone off a very long time ago to Megara or the surrounding precincts of Boetia[62], guided by the view that this would be the best thing for them, had they not considered that it is more just and more becoming to escape and wide rather than to accept the city’s punishment.

However, putting forward such views as the causes for my sitting here is wrong.

If however, someone had suggested that if I was bereft of these things, these bones and these sinews I would not be able to do what I thought was best for me, he would be telling the truth; but to say that I do what I do because I have these things -these sinews and these bones- and that it would be an act considered by the mind to think like this and, instead, not to choose to do that which is best, such a view would be an unconsidered view.[63]

It is quite ridiculous not be able to understand that the cause is a separate thing to the discussion and that without which it would not be a cause but quite another thing and it seems to me that many when they are trying to say that something is a cause when a cause it is not, are behaving as does someone who is fumbling in the dark, trying to guess the name of a stranger.

And so we have one man[64] who places a whirlwind all around the earth and has it steadied and suspended from the heavens and another man supports it as if it were a flat trough, by air but neither of them seek to find the true power that has set these things as best as it is possible for them to be set. Nor do they believe that these things have some divine power but think that they will be able to find some Atlas, who’s stronger, more immortal and more able to hold all these things, rejecting the view that the actual good power that holds them all together, is nothing at all.

And so I would happily become a student to anyone who could teach me the nature of this cause. But this was deprived me, Cebes and I was not able to discover it myself nor learn it from anyone else, I shall explain to you, if you like, my second method of inquiry into causes.”

“I would love to hear it,” replied Cebes.

“Well, I thought that since I had failed in my examination of realities, I had to take care not to suffer what those people who look up directly at the sun, during an eclipse and not indirectly, at its reflection in water or some such thing and, like them, ruin my eyes, in this case, the eyes of my soul since I would be looking at these things with my physical eyes and feeling them using my other senses.

So I decided that I should seek out the proof in logic and there examine the truth of realities, of the things that truly exist.

[100] Perhaps though my analogy is not quite exact since I am not at all certain that he who examines realities in logic does not do so in mere images and thus is no better off than someone who examines them in their deeds.

Therefore I set about applying this method of examination: With each examination I would set up the proof which was the best and the most reliable and those things which agreed with that proof I deemed to be true, both in cause and in all other things and those that did not agree with it, I deemed them not be true.

But I’d like to explain all this more clearly to you, Cebes because I don’t think you have understood me.”

“That is so, by Zeus, Socrates. I’m not that certain I have.”

“What I am saying now,” continued Socrates, “is nothing new. It is something I have been saying for a long time, as well as just before.

And now I’ll try and explain to you the sort of cause that I have been examining and begin again with those things about which much has been said. Let us firstly accept as a given that there is such a thing as absolute beauty[65] and virtue and greatness and other such things and once we agree on this, I shall be able to show you what cause is and from there I shall prove that the soul is immortal.”

“Please, go ahead immediately, Socrates. We are fully in agreement.”

“Well then,” continued Socrates, “let me know if you think, as I do, that the following is correct:

That if there is anything other than beauty itself that is beautiful, it is only beautiful in as much as it consists of whatever beauty consists of and I think this is so of everything else.

Do you agree to this cause?” Socrates asked.

“Yes, Socrates, I agree to this cause,” replied Cebes.

“Still,” continued Socrates, “I cannot understand all those other, wise[66] causes. If someone were to tell me that something is beautiful because it has a colour like a flower in bloom or it has the right shape, well such things confuse me, so I ignore them and hold on to this view, which is perhaps a simplistic one but one I hold simply and absolutely, that nothing makes something beautiful other than the presence of beauty within it, or that its connection to that beauty, however that might have come about.

I will not confirm this yet but I will confirm the fact that all beauty becomes beautiful only by beauty itself.

This, I believe, would be the safest answer to give both to myself as well as to others and to this view I hold onto tightly because I don’t think it can be brought down, that all beautiful things are made beautiful by beauty.

Don’t you think so?”

“I do,” said Cebes.

“And isn’t it so that big things are big because of their bigness and small things are small because of their smallness?

“Yes, I do,” said Cebes.

[101] “So then if someone had said to you that one man is greater or smaller by a head you wouldn’t admit to that and you would, instead, insist that you will accept nothing else but the view that everything that which is greater is greater only by virtue of its greater size and that it is its size that makes it either greater than something else and that which is smaller than something else is smaller only because of its smallness.

And you would argue like this because you would be afraid lest you’d come up against the opposite argument that it is the head that makes a man greater or smaller, one minute supporting the view that the greater is greater and the smaller is smaller because of the head, which is a small thing and that this is a bizarre argument, to say that someone is greater by a something so small. Would you not be afraid of such an encounter, Cebes?”

Cebes laughed and said, “Of course I would!”

“Would you also then not be afraid to say that the number ten is greater than the number eight by two and that it is greater only by virtue of the two and not by the degree of its greatness? And that two cubits is greater than one cubit not by a half but by the degree of its greatness? Because here we have the same sort of fear of encountering the opposite argument.

“Absolutely,” said Cebes.

“And, would you not find it difficult, Cebes to say that when one is added to one that the cause of these being two is the addition, or that when you cleave one into two, the cause of there being two is the cleaving of that one?

And would you not shout out loudly that you do not know of any other way that any thing can come to exist except by taking part in its own proper the essence; and therefore, Cebes, would you not say that, in our examples, the only cause of there being two, is their taking part in duality and that this is the only cause of them becoming two: that they take part in duality and for them to become one they must take part in oneness?

You would put to one side all those sophisticated questions about additions and subtractions for men wiser than you to answer, you being, as they say, afraid of your own shadow and of your inexperience and who would rather rely on our secure principle.

Is this not how you would respond?

And if someone attacked this principle, you would let him go on talking uninterrupted until you examine the results of those attacks, whether according to you, they are all in agreement with each other.

And if you were asked to explain this principle, you would explain it in the same way, which is by assuming yet another principle, one you consider the best of the higher principles and then a higher one still until you came to one which you consider to be the best of them all. But you would not, of course, do as the contrarians[67] do and confuse the principle for the consequence, that is, not if you wanted to discover any of the realities. This is perhaps because these men never think nor care about such matters and their only talent is to please themselves even though they get everything mixed up.

[102]  But you, if you are truly a philosopher, would do, I think, as I say.”

“You are absolutely right,” said Simmias and Cebes, answering simultaneously.

Echecrates: By Zeus, Phaedo, no wonder they agreed. Anyone with the least bit of sense could see how clearly Socrates has explained everything.

Phaedo: Indeed, Echecrates. That’s what the whole group thought.

Echecrates: And it is the same with us who weren’t there and are hearing it all from you. But what happened next, Phaedo?

Phaedo: Well, as I remember them, once he had admitted all these things, and they had agreed that each one of these abstract forms exists and that what other things participate in these forms get their names from them, Socrates asked Cebes, “Now, Cebes, if you agree to all this, would you not also agree that when you say that Simmias is taller than Socrates but shorter than Phaedo, that, in fact, Simmias possesses both, tallness as well smallness also?”
“I do,” replied Cebes

“But,” Socrates continued, “you agree that the words ‘Simmias is taller than Socrates’ is not true because Simmias in not taller than Socrates because Socrates is Socrates but because Socrates has both characteristics, that of smallness as well as that of tallness.”

“True,” said Cebes.

“And it is the same case with Phaedo,” he continued. “That he is not shorter than Phaedo because Phaedo is Phaedo but because Phaedo, compared to Simmias is shorter.”

“That is so,” said Cebes.

“In which case, Simmias may be called both, short and tall when he is standing between the two men, by being taller than one of them and shorter than the other.” Then he laughed and said, “I know I sound like some legal document, Cebes but the matter is as I say it.”

Cebes agreed.

“And I am using such language because I want you to see the argument as I see it because, as I see it, not only will tallness never be at the same time both tall and short but also our tallness within us will never admit the small nor will it ever be exceeded by it. What it will do when the small comes towards it, is one of two things: either it will flee and withdraw from it or else it will perish because of it but it will never be anything other than what it is, whether it survives the approach of the small or it accepts it.

So, we can say that I have both, received as well as accepted smallness yet I am still the same short person I was before doing so. My tallness has not suffered the act of being made short, just as our shortness will never be or become tall and nor will any other opposite, which is still what it was ever be or become its opposite at the same time. It will either flee or disappear in the change.”

[103] “It seems to me that this is quite so,” said Cebes.

And then one of those present, I can’t quite remember who it was, having heard this discussion, said “By all the gods, have we not admitted the exact opposite to this in our earlier conversation? Did we not say that the greater is born out of the lesser and that out of the greater the lesser and that to put it simply, all opposites are born out of opposites? What I think is being said now, though is that this could never happen!”

Socrates turned his head towards the speaker and listened attentively. Then he replied, “you are doing a thing of virtue to remind us of this but you have not understood the difference between what we have said just now and what we have said earlier.

What we have said earlier was that opposites are born out of opposites whereas now we are saying that the opposite itself can never become its own opposite, whether it is in us or in Nature. Because, friend, earlier we were talking about things that possess qualities of their opposites and are called by their name whereas now we are talking about those opposites which are within them and are called by their name. We can never say that these very things would want to be or become their opposite.”

At that point Socrates turned to Cebes and asked him, “Has anything that this man said disturbed you, Cebes?”
“No,” said Cebes “though I must say that I am not disturbed by much.”

“So then,” Socrates continued, “we are in agreement then at least on this one thing, that nothing can be its own opposite.”

“Quite so, nothing can ever be its own opposite,” agreed Cebes.

“Now think also upon this question, Cebes and see if you agree with it: are there things which you may call hot or cold?”

“Yes.”

“And are these things the same as snow or fire?”

“No, by Zeus, of course not.”

“So the hot is something other than fire and the cold is something other than snow?” Asked Socrates.

“Yes.”

“So,” continued Socrates, “I think you’ll agree that the snow, at least while it is snow, if it ever did accept heat -as we were asserting earlier- it will continue to be what it once was, which is snow and, at the same time hot; but when the heat approaches snow, it will either retreat or perish.”

“Yes, of course,” said Cebes.

“And the fire,” continued Socrates, “when the cold approaches it, it, too, will either retreat or perish and will never dare, once it received the cold, remain that which it was, which is both fire and cold all at the same time.”

“You’re right, Socrates,” said Cebes.

“And there is also this, Cebes,” Socrates went on, “regarding some of these things, it is not only the case that their form[68] is worthy of being called by that name for all eternity but so does also some other thing, some other thing which is not of that form but has the form of that idea, that is, whenever it actually exists.

Perhaps this example will make what I am saying easier to understand: The odd number[69] must always be called ‘odd,’ is that not so?”

“It is.”

[104] “But then I ask this,” said Socrates, “is this odd thing the only thing that is odd or is there not something else which, though it is not identical to it in form, nevertheless it is still able to be called ‘odd’ as well as by its own name, simply by virtue of its very nature, which is, odd – the number three, for example, though there are many such examples.

And if we look at the number three can we not say that we can always call it by two different names, ‘odd’ and ‘three?’

And is it not possible for us not only with the number three but also with the number five and, in fact, half of all the numbers to called them both ‘odd’ as well as what they are by their nature, and can we not do the same with the number two and the number four and all the other numbers in that series, calling them both, ‘even’[70] as well as by what they are by their nature.

Is that not so?”

“But of course,” said Cebes.

“Now watch what I’m trying to prove to you; and it is this: not only, it appears, the opposites do not accept each other but it also appears that those things which are not opposites, have the opposites within them.

It appears that even they do not accept that form which is opposite to that which is within them but when this form appears, these things either vanish or retreat. Are we not saying that the number three will vanish or suffer some similar thing rather than stop being odd and become even?”

“Quite so,” said Cebes.

“Still,” Socrates continued, ” The number two at least is not opposite the number three.”

“Of course not,” said Cebes.

“In that case, not only do opposite forms refuse to accept each other but there are also other things that cannot tolerate the presence of opposites.”

“Absolutely,” said Cebes.

“Well then, would you like Cebes for us to determine which are these things, that is if we are able to do so?”

“But of course, I do,” said Cebes.

“In that case, Cebes, will not these things be those that when they do take hold of them not only force them to take their own form but, as well the form of some other opposite?”

“What do you mean,” asked Cebes.

“I am saying just what we were saying only a little while ago. You know that those forms which take possession of the number three will have to be not only three but also odd.”

“Yes, I certainly do know that.”

“Are we then not also saying that such a thing will never accept the form which is opposite to that which creates this result?”

“That is true. It cannot.”

“And has it not been created by the form of the odd?”

“Yes,” said Cebes.

“And the opposite of this is the form of the even?”

“Yes.”

“So the form of even will never be admitted by the form of the three.”

“No, it never will,” replied Cebes.

“The form of the three then has no part in that of even.”

“None at all.”

“So the three is uneven.”

“Quite so.”

“So here then is what I was saying earlier we should try to determine, which is, which things, whilst they are not opposite to other things, do not accept that opposite, just as the three, whilst it is not opposite to the form of even, will never accept it because it always brings after it that which is opposite. Similarly, the number two brings with it its opposite, which is the odd and the fire, the opposite to the cold and many other things behave similarly.

[105] So now see if we can arrive at this definition: not only opposites don’t accept opposites but that opposite which wishes to bring along with it something opposite to that to which it is heading, that very same thing that it is bringing along with it will never accept the opposite to that to which it is brought.

And let me remind you of this, because it is never a bad thing for one to hear something often: The number five will accept the form of even, nor the number ten, which is twice five, will accept the form of odd.

This double five then, even though it is not opposite to odd it will never accept the form of odd. Nor will the three fourths, nor all the other such fractions will accept the form of the whole. The same applies for the third and all the other such parts; they also will not accept the form of the whole. Tell me if you agree with this definition.”

“Indeed,” said Cebes. “I agree and I understand you very well.”

“Then tell me,” said Socrates “from the beginning but don’t reply to what I am asking but by another means, by the same means I do so. What I mean is answer outside that safe way of answering, of which I spoke at the beginning, because I can now see yet another safe method of answering me.

For example, if you had asked me, ‘what is that which, if it exists in a body, the body becomes hot’ I would not give you that stupid, safe answer, ‘heat’ considering all that we have said so far, I would give you a more refined answer, which is ‘fire.’

Similarly, if you had asked me, ‘what is that which, if it happens inside a body, that body will become ill,’ I will not answer, ‘illness.’ Rather I would say it is the fever. And if you had also asked me what is it that when it takes place inside a number, that number becomes odd, I would not answer you that it is the oddness but the number one, and so on.

Do you understand well enough what it is I want, Cebes?”

“Quite sufficiently,” replied Cebes.

“Then,” continued Socrates, “tell me what is it that if it takes place inside a body, that body becomes alive?”

“The soul,” answered Cebes.

“Which is what happens always, is that right, Cebes?”

“But of course,” said Cebes.

“So the soul,” continued Socrates, “no matter what it possesses, it will be brought to life?”

“Exactly, yes.”

“Which of the two is it then,” asked Socrates. “Is there anything against life or not?”

“Yes there is.”

“What is it?”

“Death.”

“So the soul,” said Socrates, “as we have concluded earlier, will never admit the opposite of what it brings with it.”

“Never!”

“What of this, then,” continued Socrates, “That which does not accept the form of even – what do we call it now?”

“Uneven,” said Cebes.

“And that which does not accept justice, and which does not accept the musical?”[71]

“Unjust for the first and unmusical for the second.”[72]

“Right. And that which does not accept death? How do we call that?”

“Immortal.”

“So the soul -does it or does it not accept death?”

“It does not.”

“Is the soul then immortal?”

“Yes, the soul is immortal,” answered Cebes.

“In that case, then, can we admit that this has been proven or not? What do you think?”

“It has been proven well enough” said Cebes.

[106] “What do you say then Cebes, if it was necessary for the uneven to be indestructible, would not the number three also be indestructible?”

“But of course.”

“And that if the heatless is indestructible, that is, whenever heat is brought towards snow, would not the snow flee and remain unmelted, because of course it could have never been destroyed nor could it have remained and accepted the heat.”

“You are right, Socrates,” said Cebes.

Similarly then with the uncold, if it were indestructible, when something cold approached it -approached fire- it would never be destroyed nor quenched but would flee and remain untouched.”

“This is necessarily so,” replied Cebes.

“Therefore,” continued Socrates, “is it not necessary for us to say the same thing about the immortal? If, that is, the immortal is indestructible, it is impossible for the soul to be destroyed, when death approaches it. Because, from what we’ve said earlier, the soul will never accept death, nor will it die, in the same way we said that the number three (which is odd) will never become even, nor fire will become cold and certainly the heat which is inside the fire will become cold.

But one might well ask, what prevents the odd from becoming even when it approaches the even as we have agreed, once the odd has been destroyed, to become itself even, in its place? To the person who asks this we are not able to argue that the odd is indestructible because the odd is not indestructible. Because if we were to admit that we would easily support the view that when the even approaches it, the odd and the number three, retreat.

And would we not argue in the same manner about fire and heat and all the other things?”

“Absolutely,” replied Cebes.

“And we may go on and say the same about the immortal because if it is also indestructible then the soul, when attacked by death also cannot be destroyed but if this is not the case then we’ll need to advance some other argument of its indestructibility.”

“No other argument is necessary to prove this,” said Cebes “because what thing could escape destruction if that very thing which is immortal and unchanging, accepts destruction?”

“God, of course,” said Socrates “and the form of life and every other thing that is immortal. I don’t believe that such things can be destroyed.”

“All men,” said Cebes “will prove this and more so, I think the gods,” said Cebes.

“Since then the immortal is also indestructible, if the soul also being immortal how can it not also be indestructible?” asked Socrates.

“It cannot happen,” replied Cebes.

“In which case, when death approaches man, his mortal part dies but the immortal gets up and leaves, untouched and undestroyed, giving way to death.”

“This seems to be true,” said Cebes.

[107] “And so,” continued Socrates, “the soul, Cebes is immortal and indestructible, more so than anything else and our soul then will most certainly will come to exist in the realm of Hades.”

“I, of course, Socrates,” said Cebes, “can find nothing to say against this assertion, nor any way to stop me from believing your words but this man here, Simmias, or anyone else here, if he has anything to say it would be best if he spoke up now because if he indeed wanted to speak on these matters or to hear about them, I cannot think of where there will ever be another opportunity like this one here, for him to do so.”

“But,” Simmias protested, “I have no reason at all not to believe what you said. But due to the enormity of the subject we’ve been discussing and because I have a poor perception of the weakness of human minds, I find myself forced to harbour in my mind one more disbelief about all that we have said.”

“Not only this, Simmias,” said Socrates “but you make a good point since all these first principles, even though you agree with them, should be examined once again, more clearly and if you analyse them thoroughly, you will, I think, be able to understand the argument as well as any man can and if that becomes clear you will need no further proof.”

“That is true,” said Cebes.

“But of course,” continued Socrates, “it is fair for us to believe that if the soul is immortal then it is in need of care, not only for the duration of what we call life but for all time; the danger of not taking care of it is enormous.

Because if death was merely the end of all things, evil men would cherish it which is to say, they’ll be freed all at once, along with their soul, also from their body and their evilness.

But now that we see that the soul is immortal there can be no way that it can escape evil, nor can there be any salvation for it other than by becoming as much as possible a better and wiser soul.

This is because the soul goes to Hades’ abode possessing nothing but its education and nurture, two things which, it is said, may either harm or help the deceased greatly as he sets off on his journey there.

Then, it is said that the spirit[73] which has been assigned to the man while he was alive will guide him to that place where the throng of the dead have gathered so as to be judged before they are led into Hades’ place by the appointed guide.

Once they have endured what they must and stay there the appropriate length of time, another guide brings them back here, after many eras.[74]

And as for the journey itself, it is not as Aeschylus would have it in his Telephus[75] that the path to Hades’ place is easy.

[108] As I see it then, the path there is neither easy nor a single one, otherwise there would be no need for guides since if the paths are singular, no one would be lost and it appears now that it is filled with diversions and roundabouts.

I say this having observed what happens during the sacrifices and the religious rites that take place here on earth.

And so the disciplined and wise soul follows its guide and is aware of its surroundings whereas the soul which has desires of the flesh, as I said earlier, and is excited about such things for a long time, here in the visible world, will, after a great deal of resistance and suffering, will be made to depart by force and pain by the appointed spirit.

And when it arrives there where the other similarly unclean souls are gathered, souls of men who have committed such deeds as unjust killings or other similar deeds, brother deeds and deeds of soul brothers, every other soul shuns it and neither turns to look upon it nor becomes a companion or guide to it, so that this soul will wander about hither and thither, overwhelmed by total confusion until many years pass and then it is dragged by force to the place most suitable for it.

Whereas the soul which has gone through life in purity and moderation will find gods and companions and guides and will end up in a place suitable for such a soul.

Earth has many places that are wonderful and in size or in any other way, is it like many people who talk about it say it is, or so someone has persuaded me to believe.”

“But how can you say such things about the Earth,” asked Simmias. “I, too have heard a great many things about the Earth but nothing like what you’ve been told. I would very much like to hear them.”

“But Simmias,” continued Socrates, ” to list them all to you would be so difficult that I would need to know Glaucus’[76] art and, in any case I doubt that even Glaucus’ art would be up to the task of proving the truth of my words, truth which not only I would never be able to prove but even if I could, I doubt I would be alive long enough to complete the argument!

Nothing prevents me, however, to tell you what I think is the shape of the Earth and what are its regions.”

“That would be ample, Socrates,” said Simmias.

[109]  “Well,” continued Socrates, “I have been convinced that, firstly, if Earth is situated in the centre of the heavens and is round, it would need neither air nor any other such thing to support it from falling because its similarity to the heavens from all directions with it and its own balance is adequate to keep it from falling. This is because when we place a thing that is balanced in the centre of something similar will not be able to incline in any direction, neither a little or a lot but will always remain similarly unswerving.

And this is my first conviction.”

“Quite rightly so,” answered Simmias.

“And because of this,” continued Socrates, “I have formed the opinion that the earth is a very large thing and those of us who live between the river Phasis[77] and the pillars of Hercules live on a very small part of it, all around the sea, like ants or frogs around the banks of a lake and that other folks live in many other similar places.

Because, from all around the earth there are many hollow places of many sorts and sizes where water, mist and air gather. The earth, however which is pure and is situated in the heaven and which is also pure and in which the stars are, is called “ether” by those who talk about such matters. The air, then and the water and the mist are the sediment of them all and they flow together into the earth’s hollows.

So whilst we live in the hollows of the earth and we falsely believe that we live on its surface, just as one who lived in the depths of the ocean would falsely believe that he lives on its surface; and from there, through the water, he sees the sun and all the other stars and forms the opinion that the sea is the sky.

And because of his weight and his inability to ever reach the upper parts of the sea, nor come out of it, nor stick his head outside it he cannot conceive that this place is far pure than the one he is in, nor has he heard about it from anyone else who has seen it.

It is the same with us. We are living in the hollows of the earth, yet think that we are on its surface and call the air, sky, and that is the sky wherein the stars move.

However, the truth is because of our weakness and our sluggishness we are not able to go through to the uppermost air but if anyone manages to reach the uppermost air, if he could get wings and fly high up and stick out his head he could see the things of that upper world, just as fish that stick their head out of the water can see things around our world.

[110]  And if he has the requisite endurance to see it, he could recognise the true sky and the true light and this is the true earth.

Because this earth of ours, its rocks – the whole place generally- is ruined, worn, just like all things in the sea are destroyed by the brine and nothing grows there nor is there anything of any value nor, to put it simply, is there anything perfect down there.
There are only caves there and where there is earth it is made of sand and useless clay and endless mud and nowhere there is there anything that might be compared with the beautiful things here on our world.

Those things that are on the world above us, however, could appear to be far better than those here.

And there is a lovely tale that may be told, Simmias, that tells us what sort of things are here, on the true earth, which is below the sky.”

“And we would very much like to hear it, Socrates,” said Simmias.

“What they say, my friend,” continued Socrates, “is that first, if anyone wanted to observe this earth from high up, it would look to him like one of those balls that are covered with twelve leather straps[78] of various and distinct colours, colours which are the same as we see here and which are used by painters as samples. And there, they say that the earth is made of these colours, only brighter and clearer than those we see because one part is of deep red and most beautiful whereas another part is golden in colour and yet another part is of the whitest possible colour, whiter even than chalk or snow and they are accompanied by other colours, much more numerous and much fairer than those we see here.

This is because even the earth’s hollows, which are filled with water and air, present a type of colour because they glisten within a whole lot of other colours of a great variety and that makes the whole planet look like it is a single endless entity of many and varied colours.

And so, all things that grow on this earth, trees, flowers, fruit are accordingly perfect and so are the mountains and the stones which are smoother and more translucent and far more beautiful than ours.

Even our small stones which are highly valued, I mean the sards and the jaspers, the emeralds are mere smaller pieces of them where everything else is just like these stones and even more beautiful.

There is nothing there that is not even more beautiful than what is here and the reason for this is that those stones are pure and not ravaged or destroyed by rot and brine and all those things that have flowed into one another and which create ugliness and sickness, both to the stones as well as to the animals and the plants.

[111] As well, they say that this earth is adorned with all these gems and even with gold and silver and other such things because these metals are visible and numerous and great in size all over the earth so that to see that land is a happy sight for the observer.

And they say that on that earth there live many more animals and humans some of whom live inland and while some others live all around it, in the air, just as we live all around our earth, near the sea. Others again live on islands, near the land, that are washed by the ether and, to put it simply, whatever need is served here by the water and the sea, on that earth it is served by the air and what is served by the air for us, there it is served by the ether.

As for the seasons, they are so moderate that the people there don’t get sick and live much longer than us and they have better eyesight, better hearing and are much wiser, just as air is purer than water and ether purer than air.

And they also have sacred groves and temples for the gods, actually inhabited gods and then there are prophecies and oracles and holy apparitions and other such communications take place between the gods and the people; and the sun and the moon and the stars are seen by the people as they really are and so their happiness is in accord with all this.

And so this is the nature of this whole earth and all that is around it.

And all around the earth, in its hollows, are many regions, some deeper and with wider openings than those we find here where we live, others again whilst deeper have a narrower opening than those here.

And then there are also some that are shallower than those here and wider and all these hollows are connected below by many subterranean passages, some larger and some smaller and through these passages flows much water from one lot to the other, as does in the caves of the volcanoes and endless volumes of perpetual streams of rivers that run under the surface, both hot and cold water, as well as much fire – many rivers of fire, in fact, as well as many rivers of wet clay, some of which is very clean while others are very muddy just as it happens in Sicily[79] where the rivers of clay flow before the stream of lava and the lava itself.

And all the regions around which these streams flow are flooded with them and all these streams move up and down, like a swing inside the earth. And here is how naturally this swing moves:

There is a vast chasm, the vastest of them all, which is driven right through the whole earth, from one end of it to the other and it’s the one [112] that Homer refers to as the one “very far, where there exists the deepest chasm beneath the earth.”[80] It is the place which he and other poets call Tartarus. This is because all the rivers run, both into this and out of this chasm and each one of them has the nature of the soil through which it traverses.

The reason why the rivers run into and out of this chasm is because the liquid has neither a bottom nor a foundation, so it hangs there in the air and sways up and down and the air and the wind which is all around it does the same because they follow it whether this liquid falls on the far side of the earth or the near and just as the air of those breathing blows in and then out from their mouth so also the wind, raised up with the liquid creates some fearful and extraordinary winds as it rushes out and then rushes back in.

When the water then, once it rushes out, retreats through the earth, to the place called “the lower” it runs into those regions of the streams and fills them, like pumps. Then, when the water leaves that place and rushes towards our end, it fills these places here and when it fills them up they rush through the subterranean channels, through the earth and when each reaches its own place, they become seas and lakes and rivers and springs.

After that they get back down under the earth, some go around many distant and greater regions, while others take on fewer and smaller areas and all fall again into Tartarus, some a great deal and others less so below the place where they have emerged but they all run into Tartarus below the place they have exited.

Some have emerged directly opposite the place they entered whereas others from the very same place.

Then there are also some streams which once they make the full circle, that is, they wind themselves right around the earth once or more times, as does the snake, they descend as far below as they can and again empty themselves into Tartarus.

And it is possible for them to descend from both ends of the earth all the way into the centre but no further than that because then, from that place the ground becomes for both streams, uphill.

And so there are many great streams and streams of all sorts but of those there are four and of them the greater of them, the one which flows outside of them all and all around them is the one called Oceanus and immediately opposite Oceanus and flowing in the opposite direction is the Acheron which flows through other places, deserts, beneath the earth and then ends at the Acherousian lake where the souls of most of the people end up. [113]  And when these souls remain there for a specific time -some longer some short periods are send off again to return here as animals.

The third river runs through these two and near the place where it springs from and then falls into a large place where it makes a huge fire and a lake bigger than our own sea boiling water with clay. From there it proceeds, cloudy and muddy, to wind itself like a snake right around the earth and to reach many other places and all the way to the edge of the Acherusian lake, without mingling with its waters.

Then, having made many circles beneath the surface of the earth, it plunges to the deepest parts of Tartarus. Tartarus is the river that they still call Pyriphlegethon[81] the streams of which, no matter what part of the earth they happen to blow out of, are parts of it lava.

Directly opposite this river is the fourth, which is called the Stygian river and it plunges into a place which, it is said, is, at first, fearsome and wild. It has a bluish colour and this river makes the lake Styx into which it empties its waters.

And when this river (Stygian) falls into the lake its waters receive fearsome powers. It then proceeds to go under the surface of the earth and circles all around it in the opposite direction of the River Pyriphlegethon until it meets it from the other end, in the Acherusian lake.

The waters of this river also mingle with none others but once it rushes around in circles, it also empties its waters into those of the Tartarus river, opposite to the River Pyriphlegethon. The poets call this river the Cocytus.[82]

And that’s how Nature has ordered these things but when the dead reach this place where the messenger brings each of them, they are first judged, both those who have live well and piously as well as those who did not. Those who are thought to have lived moderately well, that is, neither well nor badly, are taken by a boat that is there specifically for them, through the River Acheron and are brought to the lake where they live and are purified. Those who have committed crimes are given punishments that they must endure, whereas those who have done good deeds are given rewards, each according to their worth.

Now those who have been judged to be in an incurable state, due to their grave errors, because they have committed many and great sacrilegious deeds or have committed many unjust and evil murders or other such deeds, the fate more fitting for them is to be thrown into Tartarus from where they will never come out.

However those who have been deemed to have fallen into errors from which they can be cured but are great because, for example, acting in anger they have committed some act of violence against their father or their mother but lived out the rest of their lives in repentance; [114] or have murdered someone else under similar condition, these must be thrown into Tartarus but will be brought out again after a year.

The murderers will be brought to Cocytus whereas the patricides and the matricides will be brought to the River Pyriphlegethon.

Once they have been brought to the Acherousian lake, the first lot of them shout and beg those whom they have murdered and the second lot to those they have offended to allow them to get out into the lake and be accepted by them. If they are successful and persuade them, they get out and there their troubles end. If however do not manage to persuade them, they are taken back to Tartarus and from there they are taken back into the rivers. This will go on until they manage to convince those whom they have wronged.

Because that is the punishment which the judges have imposed upon them. Those, however who have been deemed to have lived in excellent piety will be freed from these regions beneath the earth and are released as from prisons and they arrive up into their pure home and are allowed to live upon the earth.

As for those who have been purified sufficiently by Philosophy, for the rest of their lives, they live totally without a body and make their way into homes which are even more beautiful than these, homes which are neither easy to describe nor do we have enough time to do so.

And so, Simmias, because of all these things that we have talked about, we must, while we are alive, do our very best to acquire, virtue and wisdom because contest is beautiful and the hope is great.

Now it is not fitting for a man with intelligence to feel certain that all these things are exactly as I have described them but these things or things similar to them exist in so far as our souls and their homes are concerned because, the soul certainly appears to be something immortal and therefore I think that it is both fitting and worth the risk for one to believe that it is so. Because the risk is beautiful and one needs to sing to himself these magical songs and this is why I have lengthened the telling of the myth.

This is why, then Simmias, a man must be convinced of the goodness of his soul, if throughout his life he rejected all bodily pleasure and adornments believing them to be alien to him and very likely to cause him harm and pursued the pleasures of learning. And after having adorned his soul, not with alien ornaments but with ornaments of its own, such as prudence, [115] justice, bravery, freedom and truth awaits his journey to Hades ready to go there when Fate calls him to do so.

So, you two, Simmias and Cebes and all the others will, sooner or later, each in turn take this very same journey. And Fate, as the tragic poet said, has already called me and it is almost time for me to go for the bath.[83]

Because, of course it is better to bathe before I drink the poison so that there will be no need to bother the women.”[84]

When he finished saying this, Crito said, “Well, Socrates what would you like me or the others to do either regarding your children or anything else, what would make you happy?”

“You could do what I always tell you to do, Crito,” answered Socrates. “I have nothing new to add. Look after yourselves and do whatever it is you will need to do for yourselves and these things will be giving me and my family and yourselves great joy, even if you promise no such thing right now.

If you neglect yourselves and do not want to live in the footprints of those things we have discussed now as well as at other times before, using them as examples, whether you promise me much and with much enthusiasm, you will have done nothing more.”
“We shall be certain to do so,” said Crito. “How would you like us to bury you?”

“Any way you like,” said Socrates, “that is, if you manage to catch me before I escape you,” he said and with a sweet laughter, he looked at us and said, “Ha, my friends, I have yet to convince Crito, that this man before him is Socrates, the man who is having a conversation with you all and the man who sets everything up in order! Rather, it seems, Crito thinks that I am the man whom he will see later as a corpse and so he now asks me how he should bury me!

And it seems as if the fact that I have been telling you at great length and for such a long time now that once I drink the poison I will not be here, near you, for much longer but I will go away to live in the abodes of happiness where the blessed live all this seems to have gone to waste on Crito who thinks that I did it so that I would comfort you all as well me.

So please give Crito for me, the opposite assurance of what he has given to the judges at my trial, which was that I shall remain here, whereas you should reassure him that I shall not.

Because when I die I shall leave this place so that Crito will be more able to bear the sadness and not feel too upset when he sees my body given the awful burial treatment, such as when it is burnt or buried and that he may not be given the opportunity at the funeral to say that he is laying out Socrates or that he is burying Socrates.

Because know this very well, my dear Crito,” Socrates continued, “that for one not to be able to express himself properly is not only itself bad it also causes damage to the soul. You must have courage and say that this body is being buried and then bury it as you please and as you feel it is more in accordance with the laws.”

[116] When he had said this he got up to go to another room to bathe and Crito followed him so we waited for them talking among ourselves and going over what was said and considering the enormous loss we will suffer, in truth believing that this day will end for us having to live the rest of our lives as orphans just as if we had lost a father.

When he had bathed and his children were brought to him -he had two little sons and one older- the women of his family had arrived and once he had talked with them in Crito’s presence giving them what messages he wished, he told the women and children to leave and he, himself, came over to us.

By then it was sunset because he was inside there for a long time.

He came and set, all bathed near us and from then on there was little discussed.

Then the servant of the Eleven came and standing next to Socrates said to him, “Socrates I will not accuse you of that which I accuse all the others who are angry at me and curse me when I bring to them the poison, something which the Rulers force me to do.

During this time and from elsewhere I have always known you to be the bravest and sweetest and most virtuous man of all who have come here.

Even now I can see that you are not disappointed with me because you know who are those responsible and so you are disappointed with them.

And now, Socrates, because you know what it is that I have come to announce, farewell and try to endure that which you cannot escape, as best you can.”

Immediately after this speech, the servant burst into tears and, turning the other way, left the room.

Socrates, turning his eyes towards him, said, “you, too, friend. Good bye and we shall do as you say.”

Then Socrates turned towards us and said, “how wise this man is! All this while I was here, he would approach me and talk with me and was the best of men and now, see with what a noble heart he cries for me!

Well now, Crito let us obey him and let someone bring me the poison, if it has been ground. If not let the man grind it.”

To which Crito said, “But I think, Socrates that there is still sun on the mountains and it is not yet sunset, and, I also know many others who drink it much after they are given the order to do so, well after they have their supper and have drunk well. Others would drink it only after their loved ones were brought to them, so don’t hurry at all. There is plenty of time.”

Socrates then said, “Quite so, Crito. There are those who do as you say and they do so because they think they have something to gain by it. I, of course will do no such thing because I will gain nothing if I drink the poison a little later.

[117] I will gain nothing but to become ridiculous, desiring life and feeling sad over something that is nothing, so please obey and do nothing else.”

And Crito, hearing this, nodded to the servant standing nearby, who went outside for quite a while, came back in, leading the man who was to give the poison, already ground in a cup.

When Socrates saw that man he asked him, “Well friend, since you know of such things, what is it that I must do?”

“Nothing else,” said the man “except that once you drink it, you should walk around until your legs feel heavy and then lie down and the drug will begin working,” and at the same time he offered the cup to Socrates.

And he, Echecrates, took it most serenely, without trembling at all or the colour of his face or his expression changing but as he was accustomed, looking steadily like a bull, at man and said, “What do you say about this drink, friend, is it permissible to pour out a libation?”

“Socrates, we prepare only as much as we think it is necessary to be drunk,” said the servant.

“I understand,” said Socrates “but it is certainly allowed and one must pray to the gods that my change of residence from here to there is a happy one, which is what I am also hoping that it be so.”

Then having said these words, he stopped and drank the whole cup easily and serenely.
Most of us had managed until then to control our tears but seeing him drinking the poison, all of it, to its last drop we could no longer do so.

And against my own will my began to fall in full measure so that I had to cover my face with my cloak and cry freely beneath it, not because him but because of my own misfortune, of losing such a friend.

Crito had got up and walked out of the room even before me because he was even less able to control his tears.

Apollodorus, who was unable to stop crying from earlier on, now, after letting out a loud roar of groaning and wailing brought everyone present, except Socrates, into tears.

At that stage Socrates said, “what is all this strange behaviour? It was to avoid this offensive exhibition that I have sent all the women away, because I have heard that one should die amidst good words. But please be calm now and show some strength.”

When we heard these words, we felt ashamed and restrained our tears.

He, on the other hand, began walking until he said that his legs felt heavy and then he lay down on his back according to the instructions of the man who gave him the poison. After a few moments he examined Socrates’ feet and legs and then squeezing one hard, asked him if he could feel it. Socrates answered “no.”

[118]  Then the man squeezed Socrates’ calves before going on to the upper parts of his body, pressing at various parts of it and pointing each one out to us as it grew cold. He continued this and said that Socrates would die when the coldness reached his heart. By now the parts around his abdomen were almost cold.

Socrates, uncovering his head, for he had covered it up earlier, uttered his final words:

“Crito, we owe Asclepius a rooster. Please pay it and don’t neglect it.”

“Of course,” said Crito. “This will be done. Is there anything else you wish done?”

Socrates did not respond to that question but after a short while he moved and the man uncovered him. His eyes were fixed and Crito seeing this shut them and shut also his mouth.

And this, my friend Echecrates was the end of our friend, the best of men as we can confirm, as well as the wisest and most just of all those we have ever known.

 

The End of Phaedo

———–

NOTES

[1] Phaedo of Elis was one of the closest of Socrates and Plato’s friends. When he was young he was abducted by pirates and Socrates freed him by paying the ransom, thereafter becoming Socrates’ student. After Socrates’ death, he returned to Elis and established the Eretrian School of Philosophy.

[2] Echecrates. Little is known of this man, other than the fact that he was from Phlius, a village in Sicyon in the northern Peleponnese (north-west of Corinth, present day Corinthia), and a follower of the Pythagorean school of thought.

[3] Fervently devoted student of Socrates. Appeared in the Symposium and in the Apology. According to Xenophon (“Apology”) when Socrates was led to jail, he shouted, “I cannot endure this, Socrates. I can see all too well that you have been condemned most unjustly!” At that Socrates, touched Apollodorus’ head gently and said to him, “but, my friend, would you rather they condemned me justly?” His brother, Aiantodorus, was also Socrates’ student. Apollodorus also appears in Plato’s “Symposium” and “Phaedo (https://bacchicstage.wordpress.com/plato/platos-apology/#_ftn28)

 

[4] For religious reasons (see note 5) Socrates’ execution was carried out some thirty days after his trial.

[5] Minos II, King of Crete angry at the fact that the Athenians have killed his son, Androgeon, besieged Athens and agreed to end this siege if the Athenians would agree to send annually seven young men and seven young women to Crete, to be eaten by the Minotaur, living in the labyrinth of Cnossos. This took place for two years but on the third, Theseus, the son of King Aegeas went along with the young men and women and with the help of King Minos’ daughter, Ariadne, killed the Minotaur, thus releasing Athens from that burden.

The ship goes to Delos as a promise to Apollo for helping Theseus succeed in his mission, Delos being Apollo’s island.

[6] ἄρξωνται τῆς θεωρίας. Θεωρία was a solemn religious mission of ceremonial sacrifice led by a delegation of eminent persons. It began with the crowning of the ship’s stern and ended when the ship returned to Athens. No execution may take place in the interim.

[7] “The Eleven” Athens, having lost the Peloponnesian War, was ruled by the Thirty Tyrants, Spartans who ruled brutally and who had murdered approx. 5% of the Athenian population. Their reign was brief because the Athenians, under the leadership of Thrasyboulos, formed rebel forces which expelled them. After that, Athens reverted back to their democratic ways that were in force before the Thirty. The Eleven Magistrates were responsible for the prison and the State’s executions.

[8] Socrates’ wife.

[9] “go on doing what I was doing” (which was to work with Philosophy)

[10] Apollo

[11] Phylolaos: Most likely from Croton but quite possibly also from Tarentum or Metapontum, all cities on the East cost of Italy which at the time was extensively colonised by Greeks. A well known Pythagorian at the time, about whom little is known. He and his sect were expelled from Italy, perhaps after the meeting place of the Pythagorian school was burned for the second time. He then came and settled in Thebes where he met Simmias and Cebes. He is thought to be the first to observe that the Earth is not the centre of the Universe but something he called “Central Fire.”

The Pythagorians believed that the gods did not permit suicide.

[12] Socrates is saying that death is (morally) a simple thing, that is, it is always and for everyone only good, in contrast with other things like illness, for example or marriage, which for some it is good but evil for others. Death is the absolute separation of the soul from everything material and from all influences by anything material, that is to say, it is the complete separation and purification.

[13] Here Socrates implies the teachings of the Orphics, which only the initiated could hear and which they had to keep absolutely secret and thus called “unuttered” as well as the mystic teachings of the Pythagoreans

[14] περὶ τὰς ἡδονὰς καλουμένας

[15] Here Socrates alludes to people like Parmenides, (fg 7) Empedocles and Epicharmon, who assert that we receive nothing accurate from any of the senses. In fact Epicharmus (fr12) said “νοῦς ὁρῆ καί νοῦς  ἀκοὺει, τ’ ἂλλα δέ κωφά καί τυφλά” (The mind sees and the mind hears but all the others i.e. senses, are deaf and blind.)

[16] ἐν τῷ λογίζεσθαι

[17] αὐτῇ τῇ διανοίᾳ

[18] τὸ ἀληθές

[19] ἡ σωφροσύνη loosely, “circumspection,” “self control.”

[20] Here, οἱ κόσμιοι αὐτῶν. Those of them who are prudent.

[21] σκιαγραφία

[22] ἀνδραποδώδης

[23] The annual Eleusinian Mysteries, held in honour of Demeter and Persephone, cults based in Eleusis, in West Attica.

[24] “even if he were an author of comedies” alluding to Aristophanes who had disparaged him in his “Clouds” where he portrays Socrates as a teacher suspended from the clouds, in a basket, teaching irrelevant nonsense to his students below.

[25] Anaxagoras of Clazomene (Asia Minor), one of the Presocratics. c 500-400BC, friend of Pericles and credited with being the bringer of Philosophy to Athens where he went when he was twenty years old. He introduced the notion of Nous (νοῦς) and, responding to Parmenides’ “nothing changes” the idea that “nothing becomes nor is lost but consists of and separates from pre-existing beings.” In other words, the universe consists of ingredients that have never and will never change and are all mixed so thoroughly that no individual ingredient is evident, yet this mixture is not absolutely uniform.

[26] ἀνάμνησις

[27] ἀναμιμνῃσκόμεθα

[28] ἐπιστήμη

[29] τὸ ἴσον

[30] οὐδὲν ἀλλ᾽ ἢ ἀναμιμνῄσκονται οὗτοι, καὶ ἡ μάθησις ἀνάμνησις ἂν εἴη.

 

[31] μορμολύκεια.

[32] τὸ διασκεδάννυσθαι

[33] φρόνησις

[34] ie, the visible or the invisible

 

[35] ie, the visible

[36] ie, the body, to be the servant of the soul.

[37] ie, constant

[38] ie, inconstant.

[39] σωματοειδές

[40] ie, the soul

[41] φιλομαθεῖ.

[42] καταδεῖται ψυχὴ ὑπὸ σώματος

[43] ἧλον

[44] Penelope weaved a shroud for her elderly father-in-law. She weaved during the day and undid the work at night, in an effort to delay making a decision as to which of her suitors she would marry, hoping that in the meantime her husband, Odysseus would return.

[45] γεγηθότες

[46] Magistrates

[47] ie of Simmias and Cebes

 

[48] μισόλογοι

[49] μισανθρωπία

[50] ie, the sophists.

[51] “βεβαίου λόγου καὶ δυνατοῦ”

[52] ὀδυρόμενος,

[53] πρὶν ἐν τῷ σώματι ἐνδεθῆναι;

[54] ἔχουσα τὴν ἐπωνυμίαν τὴν τοῦ “ὃ ἔστιν”

[55] Odyssey 20.17 (When Cyclops devoured his mates)

στῆθος δὲ πλήξας κραδίην ἠνίπαπε μύθῳ:

τέτλαθι δή, κραδίη: καὶ κύντερον ἄλλοποτ᾽ ἔτλης.

[56] That is, a non-philosophical life.

[57] σηπεδόνα τινὰ λάβῃ,

[58] διακοσμῶν

[59] The question was much discussed before and during the Socrates years. Before Anaxagoras, Anaximander thought that the earth was flat, whereas Anaximenes was of the view that it was round.

[60] So thought the Ionian and the Eleatic philosophers.

[61] Socrates here uses the idiom, “by the dog” (ἐπεὶ νὴ τὸν κύνα,)

[62] Where his friends around him advised him to go so as to escape his execution.

[63] μακρὰ ῥᾳθυμία

[64] “one man… and another” that is a philosopher.

[65] εἶναί τι καλὸν αὐτὸ καθ᾽ αὑτὸ

[66] τὰς ἄλλας αἰτίας τὰς σοφὰς

[67] ἀντιλογικοὶ

[68] τὸ εἶδος. I have used the word “form” consistently throughout this work but one may prefer use others, such as, for example “shape” or “idea” or “concept.”

[69] τὸ περιττὸν

[70] ἄρτιος

[71] “musical” In other words, the good.

[72] “unmusical” In other words, the evil.

[73] δαίμων

[74] The theory of Re-incarnation was supported by Empedocles (Purifications)

[75] Only fragments remain of this play and they do not include this reference.

[76] οὐχ ἡ Γλαύκου τέχνη, Glaucus’ art. A proverb which one used when trying to indicate that a problem was so difficult that it required Glaucus’ expertise to solve it. Glaucus was, variously, a prophetic sea god who later became Apollo’s teacher, or, a man who invented the art of forging iron, or again, that Glaucus, before he was deified, was an excellent diver. This latter art is most probably the one to which Socrates alludes.

[77] River Phasis. In Colchis, near the city of Poti, in Georgia. The Pillars of Hercules, on either side of the entrance to Straits of Gibraltar.

[78] αἱ δωδεκάσκυτοι σφαῖραι balls whose surface is covered with twelve straps of different colours.

[79] The volcano of Mt Etna

[80] Iliad, 8.14. Ἰλιάς Θ, 14 ἧχι βάθιστον ὑπὸ χθονός ἐστι βέρεθρον,

 

[81] Πυριφλεγέθοντα Pyriphlegethon, Hom. Od. x. 513-14 “Flame shooting”

 

[82] Κωκυτός, lamentation, ie, the river of wailing

[83] Here Socrates is alluding to Euripides’ “Alcestis” (252-255)

ὁρῶ δίκωπον ὁρῶ σκάφος ἐν

λίμναι· νεκύων δὲ πορθμεὺς

ἔχων χέρ’ ἐπὶ κοντῷ Χάρων

μ’ ἤδη καλεῖ· Τί μέλλεις;

[84] Who would be washing his corpse.

 

——-

NOTE:

John Burnett’s edition of the ancient Greek text may be viewed here