study of philosophy, which has always been the pursuit ,
of my life, and is the noblest and best of music. 10 The
dream was bidding me do what I was already doing, in the
same way that the competitor in a race is bidden by the
spectators to run when he is already running. But I was not
certain of this, as the dream might have meant music in the
popular sense of the word, and being under sentence of death,
and the festival giving me a respite, I thought that I should
be safer if I satisfied the scruple, and, in obedience to the
8 A famous writer of fables, who lived about 600 B.C. ; probably a native of
Phrygia in Asia Minor.
9 See Apology, note 8.
" See Republic, II. , note 17.
422 PLATO THE TEACHER
dream, composed a few verses before I departed. And first I
made a hymn in honor of the god of the festival, and then
considering that a poet, if he is really to be a poet or maker, 11
should not only put words together but make stories, and as I
have no invention, I took some fables of ^Esop, which I had
ready at hand and knew, and turned them into verse. Tell
Evenus this, and bid him be of good cheer; say that I would
have him come after me if he be a wise man, and not tarry j
and that to-day I am likely to be going, for the Athenians
say that I must.
Simmias said : What a message for such a man ! having
been a frequent companion of his I should say that, as far as
I know him, he will never take your advice unless he is
Why, said Socrates. Is not Evenus a philosopher ?
I think that he is, said Simmias.
Then he, or any man who has the spirit of philosophy, will
be willing to die, though he will not take his own life, for that
is held not to be right.
Here he changed his position, and put his legs off the couch
on to the ground, and during the rest of the conversation he
Why do you say, inquired Cebes, that a man ought not to
take his own life, but that the philosopher will be ready to fol-
low the dying ?
Socrates replied : And have you, Cebes and Simmias, who
are acquainted with Philolaus, 12 never heard him speak of
I never understood him, Socrates.
My words, too, are only an echo ; but I am very willing to
say what I have heard : and indeed, as I am going to another
place, I ought to be thinking and talking of the nature of the
pilgrimage which I am about to make. What can I do better
in the interval between this and the setting of the sun ? 13
Then tell me, Socrates, why is suicide held not to be right ?
as I have certainly heard Philolaus affirm when he was staying
11 The Greek word for poet means, literally, maker.
12 Philolaus (fil-o-la'us) : a distinguished philosopher, a disciple of Pythag-
oras and the instructor of Simmias and Cebes. See Phaedo, note i, on Sim-
13 Athenian law permitted no executions in the day-time.
with us at Thebes 14 ; and there are others who say the same,
although none of them has ever made me understand ,
But do your best, replied Socrates, and the day may come
when you will understand. I suppose that you wonder why,
as most things which are evil may be accidentally good, this
is to be the only exception (for may not death, too, be better
than life in some cases ?), and why, when a man is better
dead, he is not permitted to be his own benefactor, but must
wait for the hand of another.
By Jupiter ! 15 yes, indeed, said Cebes laughing, and speak-
ing in his native Doric. 16
I admit the appearance of inconsistency, replied Socrates,
but there may not be any real inconsistency after all in this.
There is a doctrine uttered in secret 17 that man is a prisoner
who has no right to open the door of his prison and run
away ; this is a great mystery which I do not quite under-
stand. Yet I too believe that the gods are our guardians,
and that we are a possession of theirs. Do you not agree ?
Yes, I agree to that, said Cebes.
And if one of your own possessions, an ox or an ass, for
example, took the liberty of putting himself out of the way
when you had given no intimation of your wish that he should
die, would you not be angry with him, and would you not
punish him if you could?
Certainly, replied Cebes.
Then there may be reason in saying that a man should
wait, and not take his own life until God summons him, as
he is now summoning me.
Yes, Socrates, said Cebes, there is surely reason in that.
And yet how can you reconcile this seemingly true belief that
God is our guardian and we his possessions, with that willing-
ness to die which we were attributing to the philosopher?
That the wisest of men should be willing to leave this service
in which they are ruled by the gods who are the best of
rulers, is not reasonable, for surely no wise man thinks that
when set at liberty he can take better care of himself than
14 See Protagoras, note 34.
15 Jupiter : the chief Roman deity, corresponding to the Greek Zeus.
18 Doric (d5r'ik) : a dialect of the Greek language.
17 This probably refers to a saying of Pythagoras, whose more important
teachings were kept secret from all except his disciples.
424 PLATO THE TEACHER
the gods take of him. A fool may perhaps think this — he
may argue that he had better run away from his master, not
considering that his duty is to remain to the end, and not to
run away from the good, and that there is no sense in his
running away. But the wise man will want to be ever with
him who is better than himself. Now this, Socrates, is the
reverse of what was just now said ; for upon this view the
wise man should sorrow and the fool rejoice at passing out of
The earnestness of Cebes seemed to please Socrates. Here,
said he, turning to us, is a man who is always inquiring, and
. is not to be convinced all in a moment, nor by every
And in this case, added Simmias, his objection does ap-
pear to me to have some force. For what can be the mean-
ing of a truly wise man wanting to fly away and lightly leave
a master who is better than himself. And I rather imagine
that Cebes is referring to you ; he thinks that you are too
ready to leave us, and too ready to leave the gods who, as
you acknowledge, are our good rulers.
Yes, replied Socrates ; there is reason in that. And this
indictment you think that I ought to answer as if I were in
That is what we should like, said Simmias.
Then I must try to make a better impression upon you than
I did when defending myself before the judges. For I am
quite ready to acknowledge, Simmias and Cebes, that I ought
to be grieved at death, if I were not persuaded that I am go-
ing to other gods who are wise and good (of this I am as cer-
tain as I can be of anything of the sort), and to men departed
(though I am not so certain of this) who are better than those
whom I leave behind ; and therefore I do not grieve as I
might have done, for I have good hope that there is yet
something remaining for the dead, and as has been said of
old, some far better thing for the good than for the evil.
But do you mean to take away your thoughts with you,
Socrates, said Simmias ? Will you not communicate them to
us? — the benefit is one in which we too may hope to share.
Moreover, if you succeed in convincing us, that will be an
answer to the charge against yourself.
I will do my best, replied Socrates. But you must first let
me hear what Crito wants ; he was going to say something to
Only this, Socrates, replied Crito : the attendant who is to
give you the poison has been telling me that you are not to
talk much, and he wants me to let you know this ; for that by
talking, heat is increased, and this interferes with the action
of the poison j those who excite themselves are sometimes
obliged to drink the poison two or three times.
Then, said Socrates, let him mind his business and be pre-
pared to give the poison two or three times, if necessary j
that is all.
I was almost certain that you would say that, replied
Crito ; but I was obliged to satisfy him.
Never mind him, he said.
And now I will make answer to you, O my judges, and
show that he who has lived as a true philosopher has reason to
be of good cheer when he is about to die, and that after ,
death he may hope to receive the greatest good in the
other world. And how this may be, Simmias and Cebes, I will
endeavor to explain. For I deem that the true disciple of
philosophy is likely to be misunderstood by other men ; they
do not perceive that he is ever pursuing death and dying ;
and if this is true, why, having had the desire of death all his
life long, should he repine at the arrival of that which he has
been always pursuing and desiring ?
Simmias laughed and said : Though not in a laughing hu-
mor, I swear that I cannot help laughing, when I think what
the wicked world will say when they hear this. They will
say that this is very true, and our people at home will agree
with them in saying that the life which philosophers desire is
truly death, and that they have found them out to be deserv-
ing of the death which they desire.
And they are right, Simmias, in saying this, with the ex-
ception of the words " They have found them out," for they
have not found out what is the nature of this death which the
true philosopher desires, or how he deserves or desires death.
But let us leave them and have a word with ourselves : Do we
believe that there is such a thing as death ?
To be sure, replied Simmias.
And is this anything but the separation of soul and body ?
And being dead is the attainment of this separation when the
426 PLATO THE TEACHER
soul exists in herself, and is parted from the body and the
body is parted from the soul — that is death ?
Exactly : that and nothing else, he replied.
And what do you say of another question, my friend, about
which I should like to have your opinion, and the answer to
which will probably throw light on our present inquiry : Do
you think that the philosopher ought to care about the pleas-
ures — if they are to be called pleasures — of eating and drink-
Certainly not, answered Simmias.
And what do you say of the pleasures of love — should he
care about them ?
By no means.
And will he think much of the other ways of indulging the
body, for example, the acquisition of costly raiment, or san-
dals, or other adornments of the body ? Instead of caring
about them, does he not rather despise anything more than
nature needs ? What do you say ?
I should say that the true philosopher would despise them.
Would you not say that he is entirely concerned with the
soul and not with the body ? He would like, as far as he
can, to be quit of the body and turn to the soul.
That is true.
In matters of this sort philosophers, above all other men,
may be observed in every sort of way to dissever the soul
from the body.
That is true.
Whereas, Simmias, the rest of the world are of opinion that
, a life which has no bodily pleasures and no part in them
is not worth having ; but that he who thinks nothing
of bodily pleasures is almost as though he were dead.
That is quite true.
What again shall we say of the actual acquirement of knowl-
edge ? — is the body, if invited to share in the inquiry, a hin-
derer or a helper ? I mean to say, have sight and hearing
any truth in them ? Are they not, as the poets are always
telling us, inaccurate witnesses? and yet, if even they are in-
accurate and indistinct, what is to be said of the other senses ?
— for you will allow that they are the best of them ?
Certainly, he replied.
Then when does the soul attain truth ? — for in attempting
to consider anything in company with the body she is ob-
Yes, that is true.
Then must not existence be revealed to her in thought, if
And thought is best when the mind is gathered into her-
self and none of these things trouble her — neither sounds nor
sights nor pain nor any pleasure, — when she has as little as
possible to do with the body, and has no bodily sense or feel-
ing, but is aspiring after being ?
That is true.
And in this the philosopher dishonors the body; his soul
runs away from the body and desires to be alone and by her-
That is true.
Well, but there is another thing, Simmias : Is there or is
there not an absolute justice ?
Assuredly there is.
And an absolute beauty and absolute good ?
But did you ever behold any of them with your eyes ?
Or did you ever reach them with any other bodily sense ?
(and I speak not of these alone, but of absolute greatness, and
health, and strength, and of the essence or true nature of
everything). Has the reality of them ever been perceived by
you through the bodily organs ? or rather, is not the nearest
approach to the knowledge of their several natures made by
him who so orders his intellectual vision as to have the most
exact conception of the essence of that which he considers ?
And he attains to the knowledge of them in their highest
purity who goes to each of them with the mind alone, not
allowing when in the act of thought the intrusion or ,,
introduction of sight or any other sense in the company
of reason, but with the very light of the mind in her clear-
ness penetrates into the very light of truth in each ; he has
got rid, as far as he can, of eyes and ears and of the whole
body, which he conceives of only as a disturbing element,
hindering the soul from the acquisition of knowledge when in
428 PLATO THE TEACHER
company with her — is not this the sort of man who, if ever
man did, is likely to attain the knowledge of existence?
There is admirable truth in that, Socrates, replied Simmias.
And when they consider all this, must not true philoso-
phers make a reflection, of which they will speak to one
another in such words as these : We have found, they will
say, a path of speculation which seems to bring us and the
argument to the conclusion, that while we are in the body,
and while the soul is mingled with this mass of evil, our de-
sire will not be satisfied, and our desire is of the truth. For
the body is a source of endless trouble to us by reason of the
mere requirement of food ; and also is liable to diseases which
overtake and impede us in the search after truth : and by
filling us so full of loves, and lusts, and fears, and fancies,
and idols, and every sort of folly, prevents our ever having,
as people say, so much as a thought. For whence come
wars, and fightings, and factions ? whence but from the body
and the lusts of the body ? For wars are occasioned by the
love of money, and money has to be acquired for the sake
and in the service of the body ; and in consequence of all
these things the time which ought to be given to philosophy
is lost. Moreover, if there is time and an inclination tow-
ard philosophy, yet the body introduces a turmoil and con-
fusion and fear into the course of speculation, and hinders us
from seeing the truth ; and all experience shows that if we
would have pure knowledge of anything we must be quit of
the body, and the soul in herself must behold all things in
themselves : then I suppose that we shall attain that which
we desire, and of which we say that we are lovers, and that
is wisdom ; not while we live, but after death, as the argu-
ment shows ; for if while in company with the body, the soul
cannot have pure knowledge, one of two things seems to fol-
low — either knowledge is not to be attained at all, or, if at
, all, after death. For then, and not till then, the soul
7 will be in herself alone and without the body. In this
present life, I reckon that we make the nearest approach to
knowledge when we have the least possible concern or in-
terest in the body, and are not saturated with the bodily
nature, but remain pure until the hour when God himself is
pleased to release us. And then the foolishness of the body
will be cleared away and we shall be pure and hold converse
with other pure souls, and know of ourselves the clear light
everywhere ; and this is surely the light of truth. For no
impure thing is allowed to approach the pure. These are the
sort of words, Simmias, which the true lovers of wisdom can-
not help saying to one another, and thinking. You will
agree with me in that ?
But if this is true, O my friend, then there is great hope
that, going whither I go, I shall there be satisfied with that
which has been the chief concern of you and me in our past
lives. And now that the hour of departure is appointed to
me, this is the hope with which I depart, and not I only,
but every man who believes that he has his mind purified.
Certainly, replied Simmias.
And what is purification but the separation of the soul from
the body, as I was saying before ; the habit of the soul gather-
ing and collecting herself into herself, out of all the courses
of the body; the dwelling in her own place alone, as in an-
other life, so also in this, as far as she can ; the release of
the soul from the chains of the body ?
Very true, he said.
And what is that which is termed death, but this very sep-
aration and release of the soul from the body?
To be sure, he said.
And the true philosophers, and they only, study and are
eager to release the soul. Is not the separation and release of
the soul from the body their especial study?
That is true.
And as I was saying at first, there would be a ridiculous
contradiction in men studying to live as nearly as they can in
a state of death, and yet repining when death comes.
Then Simmias, as the true philosophers are ever studying
death, to them, of all men, death is the least terrible. Look
at the matter in this way : how inconsistent of them to have
been always enemies of the body, and wanting to have the
soul alone, and when this is granted to them, to be trembling
and repining; instead of rejoicing at their departing to ,~
that place where, when they arrive, they hope to gain
that which in life they loved (and this was wisdom), and at
the same time to be rid of the company of their enemy.
430 PLATO THE TEACHER
Many a man has been willing to go to the world below in
the hope of seeing there an earthly love, or wife, or son, and
conversing with them. And will he who is a true lover of
wisdom, and is persuaded in like manner that only in the
world below he can worthily enjoy her, still repine at death ?
Will he not depart with joy ? Surely, he will, my friend, if
he be a true philosopher. For he will have a firm conviction
that there only, and nowhere else, he can find wisdom in her
purity. And if this be true, he would be very absurd, as I
was saying, if he were to fear death.
He would indeed, replied Simmias.
And when you see a man who is repining at the approach
of death, is not his reluctance a sufficient proof that he is not
a lover of wisdom, but a lover of the body, and probably at
the same time a lover of either money or power, or both ?
That is very true, he replied.
There is a virtue, Simmias, which is named courage. Is
not that a special attribute of the philosopher ?
Again, there is temperance. Is not the calm, and control,
and disdain of the passions which even the many call tem-
perance, a quality belonging only to those who despise the
body, and live in philosophy ?
That is not to be denied.
For the courage and temperance of other men, if you will
consider them, are really a contradiction.
How is that, Socrates ?
Well, he said, you are aware that death is regarded by men
in general as a great evil.
That is true, he said.
And do not courageous men endure death because they are
afraid of yet greater evils ?
That is true.
Then all but the philosophers are courageous only from fear,
and because they are afraid ; and yet that a man should be
courageous from fear, and because he is a coward, is surely a
And are not the temperate exactly in the same case ? They
are temperate because they are intemperate, — which may seem
to be a contradiction, but is nevertheless the sort of thing which
happens with this foolish temperance. For there are pleasures
which they must have, and are afraid of losing ; and therefore
they abstain from one class of pleasures because they are over-
come by another: and whereas intemperance is defined as ,
1 ' being under the dominion of pleasure, ' ' they overcome
only because they are overcome by pleasure. And that is what I
mean by saying that they are temperate through intemperance.
That appears to be true.
Yet the exchange of one fear or pleasure or pain for another
fear or pleasure or pain, which are measured like coins, the
greater with the less, is not the exchange of virtue. O my
dear Simmias, is there not one true coin for which all things
ought to exchange? — and that is wisdom 18 ; and only in ex-
change for this, and in company with this, is anything truly
bought or sold, whether courage or temperance or justice. And
is not all true virtue the companion of wisdom, no matter what
fears or pleasures or other similar goods or evils may or may
not attend her ? But the virtue which is made up of these
goods, when they are severed from wisdom and exchanged with
one another, is a shadow of virtue only, nor is there any free-
dom or health or truth in her ; but in the true exchange there
is a purging away of all these things, and temperance, and jus-
tice, and courage, and wisdom herself, are a purgation of them.
And I conceive that the founders of the mysteries 19 had a real
meaning and were not mere triflers when they intimated in a
figure long ago that he who passed unsanctified and uninitiated
into the world below will live in a slough, but that he who ar-
rives there after initiation and purification will dwell with the
gods. For ''many," as they say in the mysteries, "are the
thyrsus-bearers, but few are the mystics, " * — meaning, as I
I? Compare Isaiah lv. 2 : "Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is
not bread and your labor for that which satisfieth not." Compare also Pro-
Also Matt. xiii. 45 and 46: " Again the kingdom of heaven is like unto
a merchantman, seeking goodly pearls : who, when he had found one pearl
of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it."
19 See Symposium, note 32.
M Dionysus or Bacchus, god of wine, was one of the gods in whose worship
mysteries were employed. His devotees carried a wand or thyrsus. Among
these wand-bearers were many whose participation in the rites was merely
formal, in comparison with whom the true worshippers were few. Hence
arose the proverb quoted by Socrates. According to his interpretation, only
philosophers are completely purified and initiated into an understanding of
divine things. Compare Matt. xxii. 14: " For many are called but few are
432 PLATO THE TEACHER
interpret the words, the true philosophers. In the number of
whom I have been seeking, according to my ability, to find a
place during my whole life ; whether I have sought in a right
way or not, and whether I have succeeded or not, I shall truly
know in a little while, if God will, when I myself arrive in the
other world : that is my belief. And now Simmias and Cebes,
I have answered those who charge me with not grieving or re-
pining at parting from you and my masters in this world ; and
I am right in not repining, for I believe that I shall find other
masters and friends who are as good in the world below. But
all men cannot receive this, and I shall be glad if my words
have any more success with you than with the judges of Athe-
Cebes answered : I agree, Socrates, in the greater part of
what you say. But in what relates to the soul, men are apt to
be incredulous ; they fear that when she leaves the body
her place may be nowhere, and that on the very day of
death she may be destroyed and perish, — immediately on her
release from the body, issuing forth like smoke or air and van-
ishing away into nothingness. For if she could only hold to-
gether and be herself after she was released from the evils of
the body, there would be good reason to hope, Socrates, that
what you say is true. But much persuasion and many argu-
ments are required in order to prove that when the man is dead
the soul yet exists, and has any force or intelligence.
True, Cebes, said Socrates ; and shall I suggest that we talk
a little of the probabilities of these things ?
I am sure, said Cebes, that I should greatly like to know