Alfred John Church.

Callias. A tale of the fall of Athens online

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and ships, who have not even attended to my own affairs, but have sought
to do to others what I thought to be their highest good? What should be
done to me for being such a man? Surely something good, something
suitable to one who is your benefactor, and who requires leisure that he
may spend it in giving you good advice. There is nothing, I conceive,
more suitable than that I should be maintained at the public expense in
the Town Hall, with those who have done great services to the State.
Surely I deserve such a reward far more than he who has won a chariot
race at the Olympic games; for he only makes you think yourselves
fortunate, whereas I teach you to be happy.'

"Of course there was a loud murmur of disapprobation at this. Even some
of those who had voted for acquittal were vexed at language so bold.

"Socrates began again: 'You think that I show too much pride when I talk
in this fashion. But it is not so. Let me show you what I mean. As to
the penalty which the accuser demands, I cannot say whether it be good
or evil; but the other things which I might propose in its stead I know
to be evils - imprisonment, or a fine with imprisonment till it be paid,
or exile, which last, indeed, you might accept. But if you cannot endure
my ways, O men of Athens, think you that others would endure them? And
what a life for a man of my age to lead, this wandering from city to
city! But if anyone should say, Why, O Socrates, will you not depart to
some other city, and there live quietly, and hold your tongue? I answer,
To do this would be to disobey the god, and I cannot do it. And indeed
to live without talking and questioning about such matters is not to
live at all. But I have not yet named the penalty. If I had money I
should propose some fine which I could pay; but I have none, except
indeed you are willing to impose upon me some small fine, for I think
that I could raise a pound of silver.' At this there was another growl
from the judges; and some of us who were standing by Socrates caught him
by the robe, and whispered to him. After a pause, he said, 'Some of my
friends, Crito and Plato and Apollodorus, advise me to propose a fine of
thirty minas[88] and offer to be security. So I propose that sum.'

"Of course the result was certain. A majority much larger than before
voted for the death penalty. Then the condemned man spoke for the last
time. You will be able to read for yourself the very words that he said.
I can now give you only an idea of the end of his speech. He had told
the judges, speaking especially to those who had voted for his
acquittal, that the voice that was wont to warn him had never hindered
him in the course of his speech, though it was not the speech that he
should have made if he had wanted to save his life. From this he argued
that he and they had reason to believe that death was a good thing.
'Either,' he said, 'the dead are nothing and feel nothing, or they
remove hence to some other place. What can be better than to feel
nothing? What days or nights in all our lives are better than those
nights in which we sleep soundly without even a dream? But if the common
belief is true, and we pass in death to that place wherein are all who
have ever died, what greater good can there be than this? If one passes
from those who are called judges here to those who really judge and
administer true justice, to √Жacus and Minos and Rhadamanthus, is this a
change to be lamented? What would not any one of you give to join the
company of Homer and Orpheus and Hesiod? or talk with those who led that
great army of Greeks to Troy, or with any of the many thousands of good
men and women that have lived upon the earth? Verily, I would die many
times if I could only hope to do this. And now it is time' - for these
were his very last words of all - 'that we should separate. I go to die,
you remain to live; but which of us is going the better way, only the
gods know.'"

There was a deep silence in the room after Crito had finished speaking.
It was broken at last by Callias, who asked, "How long since was that?"

"Nearly two months," said Simmias, "but by a strange chance Socrates was
not put to death for nearly a month after his condemnation. It so
happened that the Sacred Ship started for Delos just at the time, and
during its voyage - in fact from the moment that the priest fastens the
chaplet on the stern - no man can be put to death. For thirty days then
he was kept in prison. There we were permitted to visit him, and there
we heard many things that are well worth being remembered."

"I want to hear everything," cried Callias.

"You shall in good time," said Crito. "Come to my house to-morrow and I
will put you in the way of your getting what you want."

"But you ought to hear," cried Apollodorus, who had hitherto taken no
part in the conversation, "what the teacher said to me, though, indeed,
it shows no great wisdom in me that he had occasion to say it. 'O
Socrates,' I said, when I saw him turning away from the place where he
had stood before his judges - and nothing could be more cheerful than his
look - 'O Socrates, this indeed is the hardest thing to bear that you
should have been condemned unjustly.' 'Nay, not so, my friend,' he
answered, 'would the matter have been more tolerable if I had been
condemned justly?'"

There was a general laugh. "That is true," said Crito, "but certainly as
far as Athens is concerned, it was a more shameful thing."


[85] The lines from Hesiod:

"No labor mars an honest name;
'Tis only Idleness is shame,"

was one instance (quoted by Xenophon in the Recollections of Socrates).
Another (from the same source) is the story of how Ulysses stayed the
Greeks from hurrying to their ships and leaving the siege of Troy. The
common men he struck, but if he found a chief in the crowd he only
remonstrated with him,

"But if he saw perchance, some common man
Blinded with panic, clamorous of tongue,
With staff he smote him, adding blow to blame."

[86] The priestess of Apollo at Delphi.

[87] It was the curious custom in the Athenian courts of criminal
justice that the accused, if found guilty, was required to name a
counter penalty to that proposed by the prosecutor. The prosecutor, as
has been seen, had proposed death. Socrates, under the circumstances,
could hardly have proposed anything less than banishment, if he had any
wish that it should be accepted by the court.

[88] Rather more than $600.



Callias, as may be supposed, did not fail to keep his appointment with
the utmost punctuality. He found at Crito's house very nearly the same
company that had been assembled the day before at Xenophon's. After the
usual greetings had been interchanged, the host said, "I propose, if it
is agreeable to you all, to hold the conversation which we are to have
to-day at the house of our friend Plato. He has written to invite us,
not because he can himself see us, for he is not sufficiently recovered
from his late illness, but because we shall thus be able to talk with
his friend Phaedo; for as all know there is no more fitting person than
Phaedo to tell our young friend Callias the things that he desires to
hear. For though we were all present, Xenophon only excepted, on that
day when the Master left us, having given us his last instructions, yet
there is no one who so well remembers and is so well able to describe
all that was then said or done. I propose, therefore, that we transfer
ourselves to his house."

The proposition met with general assent and the party set out.

Crito naturally took charge of Callias as being his special guest. As
the two were walking, the young man said, "Tell me, Crito, if it is not
unpleasing to you, whether in the thirty days during which the Master
was held in prison, any efforts were made to save his life?"

"I am glad," said Crito, "that you have asked me that question privately
and not before others, for, indeed, this is a matter which has caused me
no little amount of trouble and shame. Some people blame me because,
they say, though a rich man I did not bribe the jailer of the prison in
which Socrates was confined, and thus enable him to escape. I am
blameable, indeed, but for an exactly opposite reason. I did bribe the
man - this of course is in absolute confidence between you and me - and in
this, as the Master showed me, I was wrong. Indeed I never received from
him so severe a rebuke as I did concerning this matter. But let me tell
you what happened. I had arranged everything. The jailer was to let him
escape. There were people ready to carry him out of the country. I went
to him early in the morning of the day when the ship was expected to
return. I told him what I had done. I made light of the money that the
affair was to cost. I could well afford it, I said, and if I could not
there were others ready to contribute. And then I attacked him, it was
an impudent thing to do, but I felt as if I could do anything that we
should not lose him. I told him that it was wrong of him to do his best
to let his enemies get their way. I said to him, 'Thus acting you desert
your children, whom you might bring up and educate. But if you die you
will leave them orphans and friendless. Either you ought not to have
children or you ought to take some trouble about them. Surely this does
not become one who has made virtue his study throughout his life. And
remember what a disgrace will fall upon us, for it will certainly be
said that we did not do our best to save your life.'

"Well, I cannot tell you now a tenth part of what he said. I have it all
written down at home, but I may say what you will easily believe that I
was as helpless in his hands as the veriest pretender whom he has ever
cross-examined. I know that he ended by making me thoroughly ashamed of
myself. One of his chief arguments was this:

"'Suppose, Crito, that as I was in the act of escaping, the State itself
were to say to me: Are you not seeking to destroy by so acting the laws
of the State itself? Is not that State already dissolved wherein public
sentences are set aside by private persons? What should I answer to such
questions? And if the laws were to say, What complaint have you got to
make against us that you seek to destroy us? Do you not owe your being
to us, seeing that your father and mother married according to our
ordering? Have we not given you nurture, education, all the good things
that you possess as being an Athenian? Have you not acknowledged us by
living in the city, by having children in it? And if they were further
to say, Verily, he who acts in this way in which you are about to act is
a corrupter of youth - what could I answer?

"'And tell me, Crito,' he went on, 'whither would you have me betake
myself? Not surely to any well-ordered city seeing that I had shown
myself the enemy of such order, but rather to some abode of riot, which
would indeed ill become one who had professed to be a lover of virtue
and righteousness. And as for my children, how shall I benefit them? By
taking them elsewhere and bringing them up not as citizens of Athens,
but as citizens of some other State which I myself here have judged
inferior, seeing that all my life long I have deliberately preferred
Athens to it?' Verily, Callias, when he said this, I had no answer. But
here we are at Phaedo's house."

Callias was not a little surprised when he was introduced to the man
whom he had been brought to see. Phaedo was a man much younger than
himself; indeed he had scarcely completed his eighteenth year. His
appearance was singularly attractive, and his manners had all the grace
and ease of a well-born and well-bred man. That he was not an Athenian
was evident from his speech, which was somewhat tinged with a Doric
accent. Altogether Callias was at a loss to think who or what he could
be, and how he came to be regarded as the best interpreter of the
Master's last words. An opportunity, however, arrived for enlightening
him. After a few minutes' conversation, a slave appeared with a message
for the master of the house. Plato who had been compelled to absent
himself from the last interview with Socrates, as has been said, was
still so unwell that his physician forbade the excitement of seeing
visitors. He now sent for Phaedo to entrust him with a message of
apology for his fellow disciples whom he was unable to entertain, and
partly to set him free to act the part of host in his stead.

Crito seized the opportunity of his temporary absence from the room to
give some particulars about him. "He comes of a very good family in
Elis, and was taken prisoner about this time last year when Athens and
Sparta were allies and acting against that country. He was sold in the
slave market here, and I cannot tell the cruelties that he endured from
the wretch who bought him. Somehow he heard of Socrates, ran away from
his owner and begged for the Master's protection. Of course, the only
thing was to buy him, and equally of course, Socrates was wholly unable
to do this. But the Master, if he had no wealth of his own, happily had
wealthy friends. He went to Plato and, by great good luck, Plato had a
very powerful hold over the poor fellow's owner; the man owed him a
large sum of money, the interest of which was overdue. He was purchased,
and at once set free. Plato found that he had been remarkably well
educated and that he showed an extraordinary aptitude for philosophy.
The lad's devotion to Socrates was unbounded. He never lost a chance of
being near him; he was present of course at the last day, and he watched
and listened with an intense earnestness that seemed to engrave
everything on his mind as one engraves letters upon marble or bronze.
But, see, he is coming back. Now you will understand why I have brought
you to see him."

The young man, at this moment, returned to the room.

"Tell me, Phaedo," said Crito, "what you saw and heard on the last day
of the Master's life. My friend Callias here, who has just come back
from campaigning against the Great King, desires to hear it from you,
and, indeed, though we all were present on that day, you seem to
remember it more accurately than any."

"I will do my best," said the youth modestly. "I do not know," he went
on, addressing himself especially to Callias, "whether you will wholly
understand me when I say that I did not feel compassion as one might
feel for one who was dying - he was so calm and so happy. Neither, on the
other hand, did I feel the pleasure that commonly followed from his
discourses, for I knew that he would soon cease to be."

"It was just so with all of us," said Crito, "but go on."

"We had been to visit Socrates daily through the time of his
imprisonment, assembling very early in the morning, and waiting till the
doors of the prison were opened, and so we did on this day, only earlier
than usual, because we knew that the Sacred Ship had arrived the evening
before. The jailer came out. 'You must wait, gentlemen,' he said, 'the
Eleven[89] are with him. They are taking off his chains, and are telling
him that he must die to-day.' After a little while the man came out
again, and said that we might go in. When we went in, we found Socrates
sitting on the side of his bed, and his wife, Xanthippe, near him,
holding one of his children in her arms. As soon as she saw us, she
began to lament and say, 'O Socrates, here are your friends come to see
you for the last time.' Then Socrates, looking at her, said to Crito,
'Let some one take her home.' So one of Crito's servants led her away.
After a while, for of course I must leave out many things, the Master
said, 'I have a message for Evenus, who seeks to know, I am told, why I
have taken to writing verses in prison. Tell him that a god appeared to
me in a dream and told me to cultivate the muses. Tell him also that if
he is wise he will follow me as speedily as possible, for it seems that
the Athenians command that I depart to-day.'

"'But, Socrates,' said Simmias, 'this is a strange piece of advice, and
one which Evenus is not likely to take.'

"'Why so,' said Socrates, 'is he not a philosopher? Surely he should be
ready to go the road which I am going. Only he must not kill himself.'
'Why do you say this?' said Cebes.

"You will correct me," said Phaedo, turning to the company, "if I
misrepresent anything that you said."

"Speak on without fear," said Simmias, "you seem to have the memory of
all the muses."

Phaedo resumed, "Socrates said, 'You ask me why a man may not kill
himself? Well, there is first this reason that we are as sentinels set
at a post, which we must not leave until we are bidden; then again if
men be servants of the gods, as seems likely, how can they withdraw from
this service without leave? Would you not be angry if one of your
servants were to do it?'

"'True,' said Cebes, "'but if we are the servants of the gods, and
therefore in the best guardianship, should we not be sorry to quit it?
If so, is it not for the foolish to desire death and for the wise to
regret it?' 'You are right,' replied the Master, 'and if I did not
expect when I depart hence to go to the realms of the wise and good gods
and to the company of righteous men, I should indeed grieve at death.
And that I am right in so expecting let me now seek to prove to you, for
what better could I do on this the last day of my life? But stay; Crito
wishes to say something. What is it?' Crito said, 'He who has to give
the poison says that you must talk as little as possible, for that if a
man so excites himself he has to drink sometimes two potions or even
three.' 'Let him take his course,' said the master, 'and prepare what he
thinks needful. And now to the matter in hand. Death, then, is nothing
but a separation of the soul from the body. That you concede. And you
concede further that a philosopher should care little for the things of
the body, and that when he is most free from the body, then he sees most
clearly the highest and best things, perceiving, for instance, right and
justice and honor and goodness, veritable things all of them, but such
as cannot be discerned with the eyes or handled with the hands. For the
body with its desires and wants hinders us, and makes us waste our time
on the things that it covets, so that we have neither time nor temper
for wisdom. If then we are ever to reach absolute Truth we must get rid
of the hindrance. While we live we do this to the best of our ability,
and he is the wisest man and best philosopher who does it most
completely; but wholly we cannot do it, till the god shall liberate us
from the control of this companion - And this is done by Death, which is
the complete separation of soul and body. Shall then the philosopher,
who has all his life been striving for such partial separation as may be
possible, complain when the gods send him this separation that is
complete? And this is my defence, my friends, for holding it to be a
good thing to die.' 'Yes,' replied Cebes, 'but many fear that when the
soul is thus parted from the body, it may be nowhere, being dissipated
like a breath or a puff of smoke when the body with which it has been
united dies.' 'You desire, then,' said Socrates, 'that I should prove to
you that the soul does not perish when it is thus separated from the
body?' 'Yes,' we all said, 'that is what we all wish.' 'First then,' he
went on, 'is it not true that every thing implies that which is opposite
to it, as Right implies Wrong, and Fair implies Foul, and _to sleep_ is
the opposite of _to wake_? If so does not _to die_ imply its opposite
_to live again_?

"'Secondly, is it not true that the highest part of our knowledge is a
remembering again? For there are things which we know not through our
senses. How then do we know them? Surely because we had this knowledge
of them at some previous time.'

"'But,' said Cebes, 'may it not be true that the soul has been made
beforehand to enter the body; and having entered it lives therein, and
yet perishes when its dwelling is dissolved?'

"'Being of a frail nature, I suppose,' said the Master, 'it's all to be
blown away by the wind, so that a man should be especially afraid to die
on a stormy day.'

"At this we all laughed, for we did laugh many times and heartily that
day, though now this may seem to others and indeed to ourselves almost
incredible, seeing what we were about to lose.

"'Well,' the Master went on, 'I will seek to relieve you of this fear.
Is it not true that things that are made up of parts are liable to be
separated? And is it not also true that the soul is not made up of
parts, but is simple and not compounded? Also it is visible things that
perish; but the soul is not visible. Again the soul is the ruler, and
the body the servant. Is it not true that the divine and immortal rule
the human and mortal senses?'

"To this we all agreed.

"The Master began again, for he now, as I may say, had to put before us
the conclusion of the whole matter. 'We may think thus, then, may we
not? If the soul depart from the body in a state of purity, not taking
with it any of the uncleannesses of the body, from which indeed it has
kept itself free during life as far as was possible - for this is true
philosophy - then it departs into that invisible region which is of its
own nature, and being freed from all fears and desires and other evils
of mortality, spends the rest of its existence with the gods and the
spirits of the good that are like unto itself. But if it depart,
polluted and impure, having served the body, and suffered itself to be
bewitched by its pleasures and desires, then it cannot attain to this
pure and heavenly region, but must abide in some place that is more
fitted for it.'

"Much else he said on this point to which we listened as though it were
another Orpheus that was singing to us. And when he had ended and sat
wrapt in thought, we were silent, fearing to disturb him. And so we
remained for no little space of time in silence, he sitting on the bed,
as if he neither saw nor heeded any of the things that were about him,
and we regarded him most earnestly.

"After a while he woke up, as it were, from his reverie and said, 'You
have agreed with me so far; yet it may be that you have yet fears and
doubts in your minds which I have not yet dispersed. If so let me hear
them, that I may, if it be possible, rid you of them, for indeed I
cannot, as I conceive, leave behind me a greater gift for you than such
a riddance. Speak then, if there is anything that you would say.'

"Simmias said - I put, you will perceive, his argument in a few words:
'May it not be that the soul is in the body as a harmony is in a harp?
For the harmony is invisible and beautiful and divine, and the harp is
visible and material and mortal. Yet when the harp perishes, then the
harmony also, of necessity, ceases to be.'

"When Simmias had ended, Cebes began: 'I do indeed believe that the soul
is more durable than the body. Just so; the wearer is more durable than
the thing which he wears. Yet at the last, one thing that he weaves
proves to be more durable than he. So may the soul outlast many bodies,
and yet perish finally, worn out, so to speak, by having gone through so
many births.'

"Have I put these things rightly, O Simmias and Cebes?" said the young
philosopher, addressing them, "though indeed I have made them very

"You have put them rightly," the two agreed.

"When we heard these things," Phaedo went on, "we were also greatly
disturbed; for we desired to believe that which the Master was seeking
to prove, and seemed to have attained certainly, and now we were thrown
back again into confusion and doubt."

"And how did the Master take it, O Phaedo?" said Callias; "for indeed I
feel much as you describe yourselves as having felt. Having reached a
certain hope, not to say conviction, I am now disturbed by fears."

"Nothing could be more admirable than his behavior. That he should be
able to answer, was to be expected; but that he should receive these
objections so sweetly, so gently, and perceiving our dismay, quickly
encourage us, and, so to speak, reform our broken ranks - this indeed was
beyond all praise.

"I myself was sitting on a low seat by the side of his bed. He dropped
his hand, and stroked my head and the hair which lay upon my neck, I
wore it long in those days,[90] for he was often wont to play with my
hair. Then he said, 'I suppose, Phaedo, that you intend to cut off these
beautiful locks to-morrow, as mourners are wont to do.'

"'I suppose so,' I said.

"'But you must cut them off to-day and not to-morrow if our doctrine be

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Online LibraryAlfred John ChurchCallias. A tale of the fall of Athens → online text (page 20 of 22)