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ECHECRATES: I should so like to hear about his death.


What did he say in his last hours? We were informed that he died by taking poison, but no one knew anything more; for Translated by Benjamin Jowett.

no Phliasian ever goes to Athens now, and it is a long time since any stranger from Athens has found his way hither; so that we had no clear account.


Phaedo, who is the narrator of the dialogue to Echecrates of PHAEDO: Did you not hear of the proceedings at the trial?

Phlius. Socrates, Apollodorus, Simmias, Cebes, Crito and an Attendant of the Prison.

ECHECRATES: Yes; some one told us about the trial, and we could not understand why, having been condemned, he SCENE: The Prison of Socrates.

should have been put to death, not at the time, but long afterwards. What was the reason of this?


PHAEDO: An accident, Echecrates: the stern of the ship which the Athenians send to Delos happened to have been crowned on the day before he was tried.



ECHECRATES: What is this ship?

PHAEDO: No; there were several of them with him.

PHAEDO: It is the ship in which, according to Athenian ECHECRATES: If you have nothing to do, I wish that you tradition, Theseus went to Crete when he took with him would tell me what passed, as exactly as you can.

the fourteen youths, and was the saviour of them and of himself. And they were said to have vowed to Apollo at the PHAEDO: I have nothing at all to do, and will try to gratify time, that if they were saved they would send a yearly mis-your wish. To be reminded of Socrates is always the greatest sion to Delos. Now this custom still continues, and the whole delight to me, whether I speak myself or hear another speak period of the voyage to and from Delos, beginning when of him.

the priest of Apollo crowns the stern of the ship, is a holy season, during which the city is not allowed to be polluted ECHECRATES: You will have listeners who are of the same by public executions; and when the vessel is detained by mind with you, and I hope that you will be as exact as you can.

contrary winds, the time spent in going and returning is very considerable. As I was saying, the ship was crowned on PHAEDO: I had a singular feeling at being in his company.

the day before the trial, and this was the reason why Socrates For I could hardly believe that I was present at the death of lay in prison and was not put to death until long after he a friend, and therefore I did not pity him, Echecrates; he was condemned.

died so fearlessly, and his words and bearing were so noble and gracious, that to me he appeared blessed. I thought that ECHECRATES: What was the manner of his death, Phaedo?

in going to the other world he could not be without a divine What was said or done? And which of his friends were with call, and that he would be happy, if any man ever was, when him? Or did the authorities forbid them to be present—so he arrived there, and therefore I did not pity him as might that he had no friends near him when he died?

have seemed natural at such an hour. But I had not the plea-40


sure which I usually feel in philosophical discourse (for phi-ECHECRATES: Were there any strangers?

losophy was the theme of which we spoke). I was pleased, but in the pleasure there was also a strange admixture of PHAEDO: Yes, there were; Simmias the Theban, and Cebes, pain; for I reflected that he was soon to die, and this double and Phaedondes; Euclid and Terpison, who came from feeling was shared by us all; we were laughing and weeping Megara.

by turns, especially the excitable Apollodorus—you know the sort of man?

ECHECRATES: And was Aristippus there, and Cleombrotus?


PHAEDO: No, they were said to be in Aegina.

PHAEDO: He was quite beside himself; and I and all of us were greatly moved.

ECHECRATES: Any one else?

ECHECRATES: Who were present?

PHAEDO: I think that these were nearly all.

PHAEDO: Of native Athenians there were, besides ECHECRATES: Well, and what did you talk about?

Apollodorus, Critobulus and his father Crito, Hermogenes, Epigenes, Aeschines, Antisthenes; likewise Ctesippus of the PHAEDO: I will begin at the beginning, and endeavour to deme of Paeania, Menexenus, and some others; Plato, if I repeat the entire conversation. On the previous days we had am not mistaken, was ill.

been in the habit of assembling early in the morning at the court in which the trial took place, and which is not far 41


from the prison. There we used to wait talking with one and rubbed his leg, saying, as he was rubbing: How singular another until the opening of the doors (for they were not is the thing called pleasure, and how curiously related to opened very early); then we went in and generally passed pain, which might be thought to be the opposite of it; for the day with Socrates. On the last morning we assembled they are never present to a man at the same instant, and yet sooner than usual, having heard on the day before when we he who pursues either is generally compelled to take the other; quitted the prison in the evening that the sacred ship had their bodies are two, but they are joined by a single head.

come from Delos, and so we arranged to meet very early at And I cannot help thinking that if Aesop had remembered the accustomed place. On our arrival the jailer who answered them, he would have made a fable about God trying to rec-the door, instead of admitting us, came out and told us to oncile their strife, and how, when he could not, he fastened stay until he called us. ‘For the Eleven,’ he said, ‘are now their heads together; and this is the reason why when one with Socrates; they are taking off his chains, and giving or-comes the other follows, as I know by my own experience ders that he is to die to-day.’ He soon returned and said that now, when after the pain in my leg which was caused by the we might come in. On entering we found Socrates just re-chain pleasure appears to succeed.

leased from chains, and Xanthippe, whom you know, sit-Upon this Cebes said: I am glad, Socrates, that you have ting by him, and holding his child in her arms. When she mentioned the name of Aesop. For it reminds me of a ques-saw us she uttered a cry and said, as women will: ‘O Socrates, tion which has been asked by many, and was asked of me this is the last time that either you will converse with your only the day before yesterday by Evenus the poet —he will friends, or they with you.’ Socrates turned to Crito and said: be sure to ask it again, and therefore if you would like me to

‘Crito, let some one take her home.’ Some of Crito’s people have an answer ready for him, you may as well tell me what accordingly led her away, crying out and beating herself. And I should say to him:—he wanted to know why you, who when she was gone, Socrates, sitting up on the couch, bent never before wrote a line of poetry, now that you are in prison 42


are turning Aesop’s fables into verse, and also composing dream, to compose a few verses before I departed. And first I that hymn in honour of Apollo.

made a hymn in honour of the god of the festival, and then Tell him, Cebes, he replied, what is the truth—that I had considering that a poet, if he is really to be a poet, should not no idea of rivalling him or his poems; to do so, as I knew, only put together words, but should invent stories, and that I would be no easy task. But I wanted to see whether I could have no invention, I took some fables of Aesop, which I had purge away a scruple which I felt about the meaning of cer-ready at hand and which I knew—they were the first I came tain dreams. In the course of my life I have often had intima-upon—and turned them into verse. Tell this to Evenus, Cebes, tions in dreams ‘that I should compose music.’ The same dream and bid him be of good cheer; say that I would have him came to me sometimes in one form, and sometimes in an-come after me if he be a wise man, and not tarry; and that to-other, but always saying the same or nearly the same words: day I am likely to be going, for the Athenians say that I must.

‘Cultivate and make music,’ said the dream. And hitherto I Simmias said: What a message for such a man! having been had imagined that this was only intended to exhort and en-a frequent companion of his I should say that, as far as I courage me in the study of philosophy, which has been the know him, he will never take your advice unless he is obliged.

pursuit of my life, and is the noblest and best of music. The Why, said Socrates,—is not Evenus a philosopher?

dream was bidding me do what I was already doing, in the I think that he is, said Simmias.

same way that the competitor in a race is bidden by the spec-Then he, or any man who has the spirit of philosophy, tators to run when he is already running. But I was not cer-will be willing to die, but he will not take his own life, for tain of this, for the dream might have meant music in the that is held to be unlawful.

popular sense of the word, and being under sentence of death, Here he changed his position, and put his legs off the couch and the festival giving me a respite, I thought that it would be on to the ground, and during the rest of the conversation he safer for me to satisfy the scruple, and, in obedience to the remained sitting.



Why do you say, enquired Cebes, that a man ought not to tion, and why, when a man is better dead, he is not permit-take his own life, but that the philosopher will be ready to ted to be his own benefactor, but must wait for the hand of follow the dying?


Socrates replied: And have you, Cebes and Simmias, who Very true, said Cebes, laughing gently and speaking in his are the disciples of Philolaus, never heard him speak of this?

native Boeotian.

Yes, but his language was obscure, Socrates.

I admit the appearance of inconsistency in what I am say-My words, too, are only an echo; but there is no reason ing; but there may not be any real inconsistency after all.

why I should not repeat what I have heard: and indeed, as I There is a doctrine whispered in secret that man is a pris-am going to another place, it is very meet for me to be think-oner who has no right to open the door and run away; this is ing and talking of the nature of the pilgrimage which I am a great mystery which I do not quite understand. Yet I too about to make. What can I do better in the interval between believe that the gods are our guardians, and that we are a this and the setting of the sun?

possession of theirs. Do you not agree?

Then tell me, Socrates, why is suicide held to be unlawful?

Yes, I quite agree, said Cebes.

as I have certainly heard Philolaus, about whom you were And if one of your own possessions, an ox or an ass, for just now asking, affirm when he was staying with us at example, took the liberty of putting himself out of the way Thebes: and there are others who say the same, although I when you had given no intimation of your wish that he have never understood what was meant by any of them.

should die, would you not be angry with him, and would Do not lose heart, replied Socrates, and the day may come you not punish him if you could?

when you will understand. I suppose that you wonder why, Certainly, replied Cebes.

when other things which are evil may be good at certain Then, if we look at the matter thus, there may be reason times and to certain persons, death is to be the only excep-in saying that a



man should wait, and not take his own life until God sum-is not so easily convinced by the first thing which he hears.

mons him, as he is now summoning me.

And certainly, added Simmias, the objection which he is Yes, Socrates, said Cebes, there seems to be truth in what now making does appear to me to have some force. For what you say. And yet how can you reconcile this seemingly true can be the meaning of a truly wise man wanting to fly away belief that God is our guardian and we his possessions, with and lightly leave a master who is better than himself? And I the willingness to die which we were just now attributing to rather imagine that Cebes is referring to you; he thinks that the philosopher? That the wisest of men should be willing you are too ready to leave us, and too ready to leave the gods to leave a service in which they are ruled by the gods who are whom you acknowledge to be our good masters.

the best of rulers, is not reasonable; for surely no wise man Yes, replied Socrates; there is reason in what you say. And thinks that when set at liberty he can take better care of so you think that I ought to answer your indictment as if I himself than the gods take of him. A fool may perhaps think were in a court?

so—he may argue that he had better run away from his We should like you to do so, said Simmias.

master, not considering that his duty is to remain to the Then I must try to make a more successful defence before end, and not to run away from the good, and that there you than I did when before the judges. For I am quite ready would be no sense in his running away. The wise man will to admit, Simmias and Cebes, that I ought to be grieved at want to be ever with him who is better than himself. Now death, if I were not persuaded in the first place that I am go-this, Socrates, is the reverse of what was just now said; for ing to other gods who are wise and good (of which I am as upon this view the wise man should sorrow and the fool certain as I can be of any such matters), and secondly (though rejoice at passing out of life.

I am not so sure of this last) to men departed, better than The earnestness of Cebes seemed to please Socrates. Here, those whom I leave behind; and therefore I do not grieve as I said he, turning to us, is a man who is always inquiring, and might have done, for I have good hope that there is yet some-45


thing remaining for the dead, and as has been said of old, Never mind him, he said.

some far better thing for the good than for the evil.

And now, O my judges, I desire to prove to you that the But do you mean to take away your thoughts with you, real philosopher has reason to be of good cheer when he is Socrates? said Simmias. Will you not impart them to us?—

about to die, and that after death he may hope to obtain the for they are a benefit in which we too are entitled to share.

greatest good in the other world. And how this may be, Moreover, if you succeed in convincing us, that will be an Simmias and Cebes, I will endeavour to explain. For I deem answer to the charge against yourself.

that the true votary of philosophy is likely to be misunder-I will do my best, replied Socrates. But you must first let stood by other men; they do not perceive that he is always me hear what Crito wants; he has long been wishing to say pursuing death and dying; and if this be so, and he has had something to me.

the desire of death all his life long, why when his time comes Only this, Socrates, replied Crito:—the attendant who is should he repine at that which he has been always pursuing to give you the poison has been telling me, and he wants me and desiring?

to tell you, that you are not to talk much, talking, he says, Simmias said laughingly: Though not in a laughing increases heat, and this is apt to interfere with the action of humour, you have made me laugh, Socrates; for I cannot the poison; persons who excite themselves are sometimes help thinking that the many when they hear your words will obliged to take a second or even a third dose.

say how truly you have described philosophers, and our Then, said Socrates, let him mind his business and be pre-people at home will likewise say that the life which philoso-pared to give the poison twice or even thrice if necessary; phers desire is in reality death, and that they have found that is all.

them out to be deserving of the death which they desire.

I knew quite well what you would say, replied Crito; but I And they are right, Simmias, in thinking so, with the ex-was obliged to satisfy him.

ception of the words ‘they have found them out’; for they 46


have not found out either what is the nature of that death sandals, or other adornments of the body? Instead of caring which the true philosopher deserves, or how he deserves or about them, does he not rather despise anything more than desires death. But enough of them:—let us discuss the mat-nature needs? What do you say?

ter among ourselves: Do we believe that there is such a thing I should say that the true philosopher would despise them.

as death?

Would you not say that he is entirely concerned with the To be sure, replied Simmias.

soul and not with the body? He would like, as far as he can, Is it not the separation of soul and body? And to be dead is to get away from the body and to turn to the soul.

the completion of this; when the soul exists in herself, and is Quite true.

released from the body and the body is released from the In matters of this sort philosophers, above all other men, soul, what is this but death?

may be observed in every sort of way to dissever the soul Just so, he replied.

from the communion of the body.

There is another question, which will probably throw light Very true.

on our present inquiry if you and I can agree about it:—

Whereas, Simmias, the rest of the world are of opinion Ought the philosopher to care about the pleasures—if they that to him who has no sense of pleasure and no part in are to be called pleasures—of eating and drinking?

bodily pleasure, life is not worth having; and that he who is Certainly not, answered Simmias.

indifferent about them is as good as dead.

And what about the pleasures of love—should he care for That is also true.


What again shall we say of the actual acquirement of knowl-By no means.

edge?—is the body, if invited to share in the enquiry, a hin-And will he think much of the other ways of indulging derer or a helper? I mean to say, have sight and hearing any the body, for example, the acquisition of costly raiment, or truth in them? Are they not, as the poets are always telling 47


us, inaccurate witnesses? and yet, if even they are inaccurate That is true.

and indistinct, what is to be said of the other senses?—for Well, but there is another thing, Simmias: Is there or is you will allow that they are the best of them?

there not an absolute justice?

Certainly, he replied.

Assuredly there is.

Then when does the soul attain truth?—for in attempting And an absolute beauty and absolute good?

to consider anything in company with the body she is obvi-Of course.

ously deceived.

But did you ever behold any of them with your eyes?


Certainly not.

Then must not true existence be revealed to her in thought, Or did you ever reach them with any other bodily sense?—

if at all?

and I speak not of these alone, but of absolute greatness, and Yes.

health, and strength, and of the essence or true nature of And thought is best when the mind is gathered into her-everything. Has the reality of them ever been perceived by self and none of these things trouble her—neither sounds you through the bodily organs? or rather, is not the nearest nor sights nor pain nor any pleasure,—when she takes leave approach to the knowledge of their several natures made by of the body, and has as little as possible to do with it, when him who so orders his intellectual vision as to have the most she has no bodily sense or desire, but is aspiring after true exact conception of the essence of each thing which he con-being?




And in this the philosopher dishonours the body; his soul And he attains to the purest knowledge of them who goes runs away from his body and desires to be alone and by to each with the mind alone, not introducing or intruding herself?

in the act of thought sight or any other sense together with 48


reason, but with the very light of the mind in her own clear-say, takes away from us the power of thinking at all. Whence ness searches into the very truth of each; he who has got rid, come wars, and fightings, and factions? whence but from as far as he can, of eyes and ears and, so to speak, of the the body and the lusts of the body? wars are occasioned by whole body, these being in his opinion distracting elements the love of money, and money has to be acquired for the which when they infect the soul hinder her from acquiring sake and in the service of the body; and by reason of all these truth and knowledge—who, if not he, is likely to attain the impediments we have no time to give to philosophy; and, knowledge of true being?

last and worst of all, even if we are at leisure and betake What you say has a wonderful truth in it, Socrates, replied ourselves to some speculation, the body is always breaking Simmias.

in upon us, causing turmoil and confusion in our enquiries, And when real philosophers consider all these things, will and so amazing us that we are prevented from seeing the they not be led to make a reflection which they will express truth. It has been proved to us by experience that if we would in words something like the following? ‘Have we not found,’

have pure knowledge of anything we must be quit of the they will say, ‘a path of thought which seems to bring us and body—the soul in herself must behold things in themselves: our argument to the conclusion, that while we are in the and then we shall attain the wisdom which we desire, and of body, and while the soul is infected with the evils of the which we say that we are lovers, not while we live, but after body, our desire will not be satisfied? and our desire is of the death; for if while in company with the body, the soul can-truth. For the body is a source of endless trouble to us by not have pure knowledge, one of two things follows—either reason of the mere requirement of food; and is liable also to knowledge is not to be attained at all, or, if at all, after death.

diseases which overtake and impede us in the search after For then, and not till then, the soul will be parted from the true being: it fills us full of loves, and lusts, and fears, and body and exist in herself alone. In this present life, I reckon fancies of all kinds, and endless foolery, and in fact, as men that we make the nearest approach to knowledge when we 49


have the least possible intercourse or communion with the gathering and collecting herself into herself from all sides body, and are not surfeited with the bodily nature, but keep out of the body; the dwelling in her own place alone, as in ourselves pure until the hour when God himself is pleased another life, so also in this, as far as she can;—the release of to release us. And thus having got rid of the foolishness of the soul from the chains of the body?

the body we shall be pure and hold converse with the pure, Very true, he said.

and know of ourselves the clear light everywhere, which is And this separation and release of the soul from the body no other than the light of truth.’ For the impure are not is termed death?

permitted to approach the pure. These are the sort of words, To be sure, he said.

Simmias, which the true lovers of knowledge cannot help And the true philosophers, and they only, are ever seeking saying to one another, and thinking. You would agree; would to release the soul. Is not the separation and release of the you not?

soul from the body their especial study?

Undoubtedly, Socrates.

That is true.

But, O my friend, if this is true, there is great reason to And, as I was saying at first, there would be a ridiculous hope that, going whither I go, when I have come to the end contradiction in men studying to live as nearly as they can of my journey, I shall attain that which has been the pursuit in a state of death, and yet repining when it comes upon of my life. And therefore I go on my way rejoicing, and not them.

I only, but every other man who believes that his mind has Clearly.

been made ready and that he is in a manner purified.

And the true philosophers, Simmias, are always occupied Certainly, replied Simmias.

in the practice of dying, wherefore also to them least of all And what is purification but the separation of the soul men is death terrible. Look at the matter thus:—if they have from the body, as I was saying before; the habit of the soul been in every way the enemies of the body, and are wanting 50


to be alone with the soul, when this desire of theirs is granted, Quite so, he replied.

how inconsistent would they be if they trembled and re-And is not courage, Simmias, a quality which is specially pined, instead of rejoicing at their departure to that place characteristic of the philosopher?

where, when they arrive, they hope to gain that which in life Certainly.

they desired—and this was wisdom—and at the same time There is temperance again, which even by the vulgar is to be rid of the company of their enemy. Many a man has supposed to consist in the control and regulation of the pas-been willing to go to the world below animated by the hope sions, and in the sense of superiority to them—is not tem-of seeing there an earthly love, or wife, or son, and convers-perance a virtue belonging to those only who despise the ing with them. And will he who is a true lover of wisdom, body, and who pass their lives in philosophy?

and is strongly persuaded in like manner that only in the Most assuredly.

world below he can worthily enjoy her, still repine at death?

For the courage and temperance of other men, if you will Will he not depart with joy? Surely he will, O my friend, if consider them, are really a contradiction.

he be a true philosopher. For he will have a firm conviction How so?

that there and there only, he can find wisdom in her purity.

Well, he said, you are aware that death is regarded by men And if this be true, he would be very absurd, as I was saying, in general as a great evil.

if he were afraid of death.

Very true, he said.

He would, indeed, replied Simmias.

And do not courageous men face death because they are And when you see a man who is repining at the approach afraid of yet greater evils?

of death, is not his reluctance a sufficient proof that he is That is quite true.

not a lover of wisdom, but a lover of the body, and probably Then all but the philosophers are courageous only from at the same time a lover of either money or power, or both?

fear, and because they are afraid; and yet that a man should 51


be courageous from fear, and because he is a coward, is surely thing truly bought or sold, whether courage or temperance a strange thing.

or justice. And is not all true virtue the companion of wis-Very true.

dom, no matter what fears or pleasures or other similar goods And are not the temperate exactly in the same case? They or evils may or may not attend her? But the virtue which is are temperate because they are intemperate—which might made up of these goods, when they are severed from wis-seem to be a contradiction, but is nevertheless the sort of dom and exchanged with one another, is a shadow of virtue thing which happens with this foolish temperance. For there only, nor is there any freedom or health or truth in her; but are pleasures which they are afraid of losing; and in their in the true exchange there is a purging away of all these things, desire to keep them, they abstain from some pleasures, be-and temperance, and justice, and courage, and wisdom her-cause they are overcome by others; and although to be con-self are the purgation of them. The founders of the myster-quered by pleasure is called by men intemperance, to them ies would appear to have had a real meaning, and were not the conquest of pleasure consists in being conquered by plea-talking nonsense when they intimated in a figure long ago sure. And that is what I mean by saying that, in a sense, they that he who passes unsanctified and uninitiated into the are made temperate through intemperance.

world below will lie in a slough, but that he who arrives Such appears to be the case.

there after initiation and purification will dwell with the gods.

Yet the exchange of one fear or pleasure or pain for an-For ‘many,’ as they say in the mysteries, ‘are the thyrsus-other fear or pleasure or pain, and of the greater for the less, bearers, but few are the mystics,’—meaning, as I interpret as if they were coins, is not the exchange of virtue. O my the words, ‘the true philosophers.’ In the number of whom, blessed Simmias, is there not one true coin for which all during my whole life, I have been seeking, according to my things ought to be exchanged?—and that is wisdom; and ability, to find a place;—whether I have sought in a right only in exchange for this, and in company with this, is any-way or not, and whether I have succeeded or not, I shall 52


truly know in a little while, if God will, when I myself arrive True, Cebes, said Socrates; and shall I suggest that we con-in the other world—such is my belief. And therefore I main-verse a little of the probabilities of these things?

tain that I am right, Simmias and Cebes, in not grieving or I am sure, said Cebes, that I should greatly like to know repining at parting from you and my masters in this world, your opinion about them.

for I believe that I shall equally find good masters and friends I reckon, said Socrates, that no one who heard me now, in another world. But most men do not believe this saying; not even if he were one of my old enemies, the Comic po-if then I succeed in convincing you by my defence better ets, could accuse me of idle talking about matters in which I than I did the Athenian judges, it will be well.

have no concern:—If you please, then, we will proceed with Cebes answered: I agree, Socrates, in the greater part of the inquiry.

what you say. But in what concerns the soul, men are apt to Suppose we consider the question whether the souls of be incredulous; they fear that when she has left the body her men after death are or are not in the world below. There place may be nowhere, and that on the very day of death she comes into my mind an ancient doctrine which affirms that may perish and come to an end—immediately on her re-they go from hence into the other world, and returning lease from the body, issuing forth dispersed like smoke or air hither, are born again from the dead. Now if it be true that and in her flight vanishing away into nothingness. If she the living come from the dead, then our souls must exist in could only be collected into herself after she has obtained the other world, for if not, how could they have been born release from the evils of which you are speaking, there would again? And this would be conclusive, if there were any real be good reason to hope, Socrates, that what you say is true.

evidence that the living are only born from the dead; but if But surely it requires a great deal of argument and many this is not so, then other arguments will have to be adduced.

proofs to show that when the man is dead his soul yet exists, Very true, replied Cebes.

and has any force or intelligence.

Then let us consider the whole question, not in relation to 53


man only, but in relation to animals generally, and to plants, Yes.

and to everything of which there is generation, and the proof And in this universal opposition of all things, are there will be easier. Are not all things which have opposites gener-not also two intermediate processes which are ever going ated out of their opposites? I mean such things as good and on, from one to the other opposite, and back again; where evil, just and unjust—and there are innumerable other op-there is a greater and a less there is also an intermediate proposites which are generated out of opposites. And I want to cess of increase and diminution, and that which grows is show that in all opposites there is of necessity a similar alter-said to wax, and that which decays to wane?

nation; I mean to say, for example, that anything which beYes, he said.

comes greater must become greater after being less.

And there are many other processes, such as division and True.

composition, cooling and heating, which equally involve a And that which becomes less must have been once greater passage into and out of one another. And this necessarily and then have become less.

holds of all opposites, even though not always expressed in Yes.

words—they are really generated out of one another, and And the weaker is generated from the stronger, and the there is a passing or process from one to the other of them?

swifter from the slower.

Very true, he replied.

Very true.

Well, and is there not an opposite of life, as sleep is the And the worse is from the better, and the more just is from opposite of waking?

the more unjust.

True, he said.

Of course.

And what is it?

And is this true of all opposites? and are we convinced that Death, he answered.

all of them are generated out of opposites?

And these, if they are opposites, are generated the one from 54


the other, and have there their two intermediate processes Then the living, whether things or persons, Cebes, are gen-also?

erated from the dead?

Of course.

That is clear, he replied.

Now, said Socrates, I will analyze one of the two pairs of Then the inference is that our souls exist in the world be-opposites which I have mentioned to you, and also its inter-low?

mediate processes, and you shall analyze the other to me.

That is true.

One of them I term sleep, the other waking. The state of And one of the two processes or generations is visible—

sleep is opposed to the state of waking, and out of sleeping for surely the act of dying is visible?

waking is generated, and out of waking, sleeping; and the Surely, he said.

process of generation is in the one case falling asleep, and in What then is to be the result? Shall we exclude the oppo-the other waking up. Do you agree?

site process? And shall we suppose nature to walk on one leg I entirely agree.

only? Must we not rather assign to death some correspond-Then, suppose that you analyze life and death to me in ing process of generation?

the same manner. Is not death opposed to life?

Certainly, he replied.


And what is that process?

And they are generated one from the other?

Return to life.


And return to life, if there be such a thing, is the birth of What is generated from the living?

the dead into the world of the living?

The dead.

Quite true.

And what from the dead?

Then here is a new way by which we arrive at the conclu-I can only say in answer—the living.

sion that the living come from the dead, just as the dead 55


come from the living; and this, if true, affords a most certain things which partook of life were to die, and after they were proof that the souls of the dead exist in some place out of dead remained in the form of death, and did not come to which they come again.

life again, all would at last die, and nothing would be alive—

Yes, Socrates, he said; the conclusion seems to flow neces-what other result could there be? For if the living spring sarily out of our previous admissions.

from any other things, and they too die, must not all things And that these admissions were not unfair, Cebes, he said, at last be swallowed up in death? (But compare Republic.) may be shown, I think, as follows: If generation were in a There is no escape, Socrates, said Cebes; and to me your straight line only, and there were no compensation or circle argument seems to be absolutely true.

in nature, no turn or return of elements into their opposites, Yes, he said, Cebes, it is and must be so, in my opinion; then you know that all things would at last have the same and we have not been deluded in making these admissions; form and pass into the same state, and there would be no but I am confident that there truly is such a thing as living more generation of them.

again, and that the living spring from the dead, and that the What do you mean? he said.

souls of the dead are in existence, and that the good souls A simple thing enough, which I will illustrate by the case have a better portion than the evil.

of sleep, he replied. You know that if there were no alterna-Cebes added: Your favorite doctrine, Socrates, that knowl-tion of sleeping and waking, the tale of the sleeping edge is simply recollection, if true, also necessarily implies a Endymion would in the end have no meaning, because all previous time in which we have learned that which we now other things would be asleep, too, and he would not be dis-recollect. But this would be impossible unless our soul had tinguishable from the rest. Or if there were composition only, been in some place before existing in the form of man; here and no division of substances, then the chaos of Anaxagoras then is another proof of the soul’s immortality.

would come again. And in like manner, my dear Cebes, if all But tell me, Cebes, said Simmias, interposing, what argu-56


ments are urged in favour of this doctrine of recollection. I And what is the nature of this knowledge or recollection? I am not very sure at the moment that I remember them.

mean to ask, Whether a person who, having seen or heard or One excellent proof, said Cebes, is afforded by questions.

in any way perceived anything, knows not only that, but has a If you put a question to a person in a right way, he will give conception of something else which is the subject, not of the a true answer of himself, but how could he do this unless same but of some other kind of knowledge, may not be fairly there were knowledge and right reason already in him? And said to recollect that of which he has the conception?

this is most clearly shown when he is taken to a diagram or What do you mean?

to anything of that sort. (Compare Meno.) I mean what I may illustrate by the following instance:—

But if, said Socrates, you are still incredulous, Simmias, I The knowledge of a lyre is not the same as the knowledge of would ask you whether you may not agree with me when a man?

you look at the matter in another way;—I mean, if you are True.

still incredulous as to whether knowledge is recollection.

And yet what is the feeling of lovers when they recognize a Incredulous, I am not, said Simmias; but I want to have lyre, or a garment, or anything else which the beloved has this doctrine of recollection brought to my own recollec-been in the habit of using? Do not they, from knowing the tion, and, from what Cebes has said, I am beginning to rec-lyre, form in the mind’s eye an image of the youth to whom ollect and be convinced; but I should still like to hear what the lyre belongs? And this is recollection. In like manner you were going to say.

any one who sees Simmias may remember Cebes; and there This is what I would say, he replied:—We should agree, if are endless examples of the same thing.

I am not mistaken, that what a man recollects he must have Endless, indeed, replied Simmias.

known at some previous time.

And recollection is most commonly a process of recovering that Very true.

which has been already forgotten through time and inattention.



Very true, he said.

And do we know the nature of this absolute essence?

Well; and may you not also from seeing the picture of a To be sure, he said.

horse or a lyre remember a man? and from the picture of And whence did we obtain our knowledge? Did we not Simmias, you may be led to remember Cebes?

see equalities of material things, such as pieces of wood and True.

stones, and gather from them the idea of an equality which Or you may also be led to the recollection of Simmias is different from them? For you will acknowledge that there himself?

is a difference. Or look at the matter in another way:—Do Quite so.

not the same pieces of wood or stone appear at one time And in all these cases, the recollection may be derived from equal, and at another time unequal?

things either like or unlike?

That is certain.

It may be.

But are real equals ever unequal? or is the idea of equality And when the recollection is derived from like things, then the same as of inequality?

another consideration is sure to arise, which is—whether the like-Impossible, Socrates.

ness in any degree falls short or not of that which is recollected?

Then these (so-called) equals are not the same with the Very true, he said.

idea of equality?

And shall we proceed a step further, and affirm that there I should say, clearly not, Socrates.

is such a thing as equality, not of one piece of wood or stone And yet from these equals, although differing from the with another, but that, over and above this, there is absolute idea of equality, you conceived and attained that idea?

equality? Shall we say so?

Very true, he said.

Say so, yes, replied Simmias, and swear to it, with all the Which might be like, or might be unlike them?

confidence in life.




But that makes no difference; whenever from seeing one when we first saw the material equals, and reflected that all thing you conceived another, whether like or unlike, there these apparent equals strive to attain absolute equality, but must surely have been an act of recollection?

fall short of it?

Very true.

Very true.

But what would you say of equal portions of wood and And we recognize also that this absolute equality has only stone, or other material equals? and what is the impression been known, and can only be known, through the medium produced by them? Are they equals in the same sense in of sight or touch, or of some other of the senses, which are which absolute equality is equal? or do they fall short of this all alike in this respect?

perfect equality in a measure?

Yes, Socrates, as far as the argument is concerned, one of Yes, he said, in a very great measure too.

them is the same as the other.

And must we not allow, that when I or any one, looking at From the senses then is derived the knowledge that all sen-any object, observes that the thing which he sees aims at sible things aim at an absolute equality of which they fall being some other thing, but falls short of, and cannot be, short?

that other thing, but is inferior, he who makes this observa-Yes.

tion must have had a previous knowledge of that to which Then before we began to see or hear or perceive in any the other, although similar, was inferior?

way, we must have had a knowledge of absolute equality, or Certainly.

we could not have referred to that standard the equals which And has not this been our own case in the matter of equals are derived from the senses?—for to that they all aspire, and and of absolute equality?

of that they fall short.


No other inference can be drawn from the previous state-Then we must have known equality previously to the time ments.



And did we not see and hear and have the use of our other as long as life lasts—for knowing is the acquiring and retain-senses as soon as we were born?

ing knowledge and not forgetting. Is not forgetting, Simmias, Certainly.

just the losing of knowledge?

Then we must have acquired the knowledge of equality at Quite true, Socrates.

some previous time?

But if the knowledge which we acquired before birth was Yes.

lost by us at birth, and if afterwards by the use of the senses That is to say, before we were born, I suppose?

we recovered what we previously knew, will not the process True.

which we call learning be a recovering of the knowledge And if we acquired this knowledge before we were born, which is natural to us, and may not this be rightly termed and were born having the use of it, then we also knew before recollection?

we were born and at the instant of birth not only the equal Very true.

or the greater or the less, but all other ideas; for we are not So much is clear—that when we perceive something, ei-speaking only of equality, but of beauty, goodness, justice, ther by the help of sight, or hearing, or some other sense, holiness, and of all which we stamp with the name of es-from that perception we are able to obtain a notion of some sence in the dialectical process, both when we ask and when other thing like or unlike which is associated with it but has we answer questions. Of all this we may certainly affirm that been forgotten. Whence, as I was saying, one of two alterna-we acquired the knowledge before birth?

tives follows:—either we had this knowledge at birth, and We may.

continued to know through life; or, after birth, those who But if, after having acquired, we have not forgotten what are said to learn only remember, and learning is simply rec-in each case we acquired, then we must always have come ollection.

into life having knowledge, and shall always continue to know Yes, that is quite true, Socrates.



And which alternative, Simmias, do you prefer? Had we we were born as men?

the knowledge at our birth, or did we recollect the things Certainly not.

which we knew previously to our birth?

And therefore, previously?

I cannot decide at the moment.


At any rate you can decide whether he who has knowledge Then, Simmias, our souls must also have existed without will or will not be able to render an account of his knowl-bodies before they were in the form of man, and must have edge? What do you say?

had intelligence.

Certainly, he will.

Unless indeed you suppose, Socrates, that these notions But do you think that every man is able to give an account are given us at the very moment of birth; for this is the only of these very matters about which we are speaking?

time which remains.

Would that they could, Socrates, but I rather fear that to-Yes, my friend, but if so, when do we lose them? for they morrow, at this time, there will no longer be any one alive are not in us when we are born—that is admitted. Do we who is able to give an account of them such as ought to be lose them at the moment of receiving them, or if not at given.

what other time?

Then you are not of opinion, Simmias, that all men know No, Socrates, I perceive that I was unconsciously talking these things?


Certainly not.

Then may we not say, Simmias, that if, as we are always They are in process of recollecting that which they learned repeating, there is an absolute beauty, and goodness, and an before?

absolute essence of all things; and if to this, which is now Certainly.

discovered to have existed in our former state, we refer all But when did our souls acquire this knowledge?—not since our sensations, and with this compare them, finding these 61


ideas to be pre-existent and our inborn possession—then proven even to my own satisfaction. I cannot get rid of the our souls must have had a prior existence, but if not, there feeling of the many to which Cebes was referring—the feel-would be no force in the argument? There is the same proof ing that when the man dies the soul will be dispersed, and that these ideas must have existed before we were born, as that this may be the extinction of her. For admitting that that our souls existed before we were born; and if not the she may have been born elsewhere, and framed out of other ideas, then not the souls.

elements, and was in existence before entering the human Yes, Socrates; I am convinced that there is precisely the body, why after having entered in and gone out again may same necessity for the one as for the other; and the argu-she not herself be destroyed and come to an end?

ment retreats successfully to the position that the existence Very true, Simmias, said Cebes; about half of what was of the soul before birth cannot be separated from the exist-required has been proven; to wit, that our souls existed be-ence of the essence of which you speak. For there is nothing fore we were born:—that the soul will exist after death as which to my mind is so patent as that beauty, goodness, and well as before birth is the other half of which the proof is the other notions of which you were just now speaking, have still wanting, and has to be supplied; when that is given the a most real and absolute existence; and I am satisfied with demonstration will be complete.

the proof.

But that proof, Simmias and Cebes, has been already given, Well, but is Cebes equally satisfied? for I must convince said Socrates, if you put the two arguments together—I mean him too.

this and the former one, in which we admitted that every-I think, said Simmias, that Cebes is satisfied: although he thing living is born of the dead. For if the soul exists before is the most incredulous of mortals, yet I believe that he is birth, and in coming to life and being born can be born sufficiently convinced of the existence of the soul before birth.

only from death and dying, must she not after death con-But that after death the soul will continue to exist is not yet tinue to exist, since she has to be born again?—Surely the 62


proof which you desire has been already furnished. Still I The search, replied Cebes, shall certainly be made. And suspect that you and Simmias would be glad to probe the now, if you please, let us return to the point of the argument argument further. Like children, you are haunted with a fear at which we digressed.

that when the soul leaves the body, the wind may really blow By all means, replied Socrates; what else should I please?

her away and scatter her; especially if a man should happen Very good.

to die in a great storm and not when the sky is calm.

Must we not, said Socrates, ask ourselves what that is which, Cebes answered with a smile: Then, Socrates, you must as we imagine, is liable to be scattered, and about which we argue us out of our fears—and yet, strictly speaking, they fear? and what again is that about which we have no fear?

are not our fears, but there is a child within us to whom And then we may proceed further to enquire whether that death is a sort of hobgoblin; him too we must persuade not which suffers dispersion is or is not of the nature of soul—

to be afraid when he is alone in the dark.

our hopes and fears as to our own souls will turn upon the Socrates said: Let the voice of the charmer be applied daily answers to these questions.

until you have charmed away the fear.

Very true, he said.

And where shall we find a good charmer of our fears, Now the compound or composite may be supposed to be Socrates, when you are gone?

naturally capable, as of being compounded, so also of being Hellas, he replied, is a large place, Cebes, and has many dissolved; but that which is uncompounded, and that only, good men, and there are barbarous races not a few: seek for must be, if anything is, indissoluble.

him among them all, far and wide, sparing neither pains nor Yes; I should imagine so, said Cebes.

money; for there is no better way of spending your money.

And the uncompounded may be assumed to be the same And you must seek among yourselves too; for you will not and unchanging, whereas the compound is always changing find others better able to make the search.

and never the same.



I agree, he said.

the mind—they are invisible and are not seen?

Then now let us return to the previous discussion. Is that That is very true, he said.

idea or essence, which in the dialectical process we define as Well, then, added Socrates, let us suppose that there are essence or true existence—whether essence of equality, two sorts of existences—one seen, the other unseen.

beauty, or anything else—are these essences, I say, liable at Let us suppose them.

times to some degree of change? or are they each of them The seen is the changing, and the unseen is the unchang-always what they are, having the same simple self-existent ing?

and unchanging forms, not admitting of variation at all, or That may be also supposed.

in any way, or at any time?

And, further, is not one part of us body, another part soul?

They must be always the same, Socrates, replied Cebes.

To be sure.

And what would you say of the many beautiful—whether And to which class is the body more alike and akin?

men or horses or garments or any other things which are Clearly to the seen—no one can doubt that.

named by the same names and may be called equal or beau-And is the soul seen or not seen?

tiful,—are they all unchanging and the same always, or quite Not by man, Socrates.

the reverse? May they not rather be described as almost al-And what we mean by ‘seen’ and ‘not seen’ is that which is ways changing and hardly ever the same, either with them-or is not visible to the eye of man?

selves or with one another?

Yes, to the eye of man.

The latter, replied Cebes; they are always in a state of And is the soul seen or not seen?


Not seen.

And these you can touch and see and perceive with the Unseen then?

senses, but the unchanging things you can only perceive with Yes.



Then the soul is more like to the unseen, and the body to as far as may be inferred from this argument, as well as from the seen?

the preceding one?

That follows necessarily, Socrates.

I think, Socrates, that, in the opinion of every one who And were we not saying long ago that the soul when using follows the argument, the soul will be infinitely more like the body as an instrument of perception, that is to say, when the unchangeable—even the most stupid person will not using the sense of sight or hearing or some other sense (for deny that.

the meaning of perceiving through the body is perceiving And the body is more like the changing?

through the senses)—were we not saying that the soul too is Yes.

then dragged by the body into the region of the changeable, Yet once more consider the matter in another light: When and wanders and is confused; the world spins round her, the soul and the body are united, then nature orders the soul and she is like a drunkard, when she touches change?

to rule and govern, and the body to obey and serve. Now Very true.

which of these two functions is akin to the divine? and which But when returning into herself she reflects, then she passes to the mortal? Does not the divine appear to you to be that into the other world, the region of purity, and eternity, and which naturally orders and rules, and the mortal to be that immortality, and unchangeableness, which are her kindred, which is subject and servant?

and with them she ever lives, when she is by herself and is True.

not let or hindered; then she ceases from her erring ways, And which does the soul resemble?

and being in communion with the unchanging is unchang-The soul resembles the divine, and the body the mortal—

ing. And this state of the soul is called wisdom?

there can be no doubt of that, Socrates.

That is well and truly said, Socrates, he replied.

Then reflect, Cebes: of all which has been said is not this And to which class is the soul more nearly alike and akin, the conclusion?—that the soul is in the very likeness of the 65


divine, and immortal, and intellectual, and uniform, and Yes.

indissoluble, and unchangeable; and that the body is in the And is it likely that the soul, which is invisible, in passing very likeness of the human, and mortal, and unintellectual, to the place of the true Hades, which like her is invisible, and multiform, and dissoluble, and changeable. Can this, and pure, and noble, and on her way to the good and wise my dear Cebes, be denied?

God, whither, if God will, my soul is also soon to go,—that It cannot.

the soul, I repeat, if this be her nature and origin, will be But if it be true, then is not the body liable to speedy blown away and destroyed immediately on quitting the body, dissolution? and is not the soul almost or altogether indisas the many say? That can never be, my dear Simmias and soluble?

Cebes. The truth rather is, that the soul which is pure at Certainly.

departing and draws after her no bodily taint, having never And do you further observe, that after a man is dead, the voluntarily during life had connection with the body, which body, or visible part of him, which is lying in the visible world, she is ever avoiding, herself gathered into herself;—and mak-and is called a corpse, and would naturally be dissolved and ing such abstraction her perpetual study—which means that decomposed and dissipated, is not dissolved or decomposed she has been a true disciple of philosophy; and therefore has at once, but may remain for a for some time, nay even for a in fact been always engaged in the practice of dying? For is long time, if the constitution be sound at the time of death, not philosophy the practice of death?—

and the season of the year favourable? For the body when Certainly—

shrunk and embalmed, as the manner is in Egypt, may re-That soul, I say, herself invisible, departs to the invisible main almost entire through infinite ages; and even in decay, world—to the divine and immortal and rational: thither ar-there are still some portions, such as the bones and ligaments, riving, she is secure of bliss and is released from the error which are practically indestructible:—Do you agree?

and folly of men, their fears and wild passions and all other 66


human ills, and for ever dwells, as they say of the initiated, and earthy, and is that element of sight by which a soul is in company with the gods (compare Apol.). Is not this true, depressed and dragged down again into the visible world, Cebes?

because she is afraid of the invisible and of the world beYes, said Cebes, beyond a doubt.

low—prowling about tombs and sepulchres, near which, as But the soul which has been polluted, and is impure at the they tell us, are seen certain ghostly apparitions of souls which time of her departure, and is the companion and servant of have not departed pure, but are cloyed with sight and there-the body always, and is in love with and fascinated by the fore visible.

body and by the desires and pleasures of the body, until she is led to believe that the truth only exists in a bodily form, (Compare Milton, Comus:—

which a man may touch and see and taste, and use for the purposes of his lusts,—the soul, I mean, accustomed to hate

‘But when lust,

and fear and avoid the intellectual principle, which to the By unchaste looks, loose gestures, and foul talk, But most by lewd and lavish act of sin, bodily eye is dark and invisible, and can be attained only by Lets in defilement to the inward parts, philosophy;—do you suppose that such a soul will depart The soul grows clotted by contagion, pure and unalloyed?

Imbodies, and imbrutes, till she quite lose, Impossible, he replied.

The divine property of her first being.

Such are those thick and gloomy shadows damp She is held fast by the corporeal, which the continual asso-Oft seen in charnel vaults and sepulchres, ciation and constant care of the body have wrought into her Lingering, and sitting by a new made grave, nature.

As loath to leave the body that it lov’d, Very true.