John Henry Wright.

Masterpieces of Greek literature; Homer: Tyrtaeus: Archilochus: Callistratus: Alcaeus: Sappho: Anacreon: Pindar: Aeschylus: Sophocles: Euripides Aristophanes: Herodotus: Thucydides: Xenophon: Plato: Theocritus: Lucian, with biographical sketches and notes; online

. (page 24 of 29)
Online LibraryJohn Henry WrightMasterpieces of Greek literature; Homer: Tyrtaeus: Archilochus: Callistratus: Alcaeus: Sappho: Anacreon: Pindar: Aeschylus: Sophocles: Euripides Aristophanes: Herodotus: Thucydides: Xenophon: Plato: Theocritus: Lucian, with biographical sketches and notes; → online text (page 24 of 29)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

have were their rings, and of these he got several
from the soldiers. So, after pointing out to them a
village where they would find quarters, and the road
by which they would proceed towards the land of the
Macrones, as evening fell he turned his back upon
them in the night, and was gone.


Plato was born at Athens in 427 B. c, of a wealthy and
aristocratic family which traced its descent from the old
kings of prehistoric times, and was connected with the law-
giver Solon. His father was Aristo, and in infancy he
himself received his grandfather's name Aristocles, but was
afterwards called Plato {Broad), from the breadth of his
chest, or his forehead, or from the copiousness of his style.
His mother was Perictione, sister of Charmides and cousin
of Critias, who were prominent among the Thirty Tyrants
who for a brief time ruled Athens at the close of the Pelo-
ponnesian War, 404 b. c. That he felt the course of Cri-
tias and Charmides to be no disgrace but a glory, is shown
by his naming a dialogue after each, and he cannot have been
in sympathy with the democratic party in his native city.

The youthful Plato is said to have distinguished himself
in gymnastics and even to have entered the Isthmian Games
at Corinth in competition for a prizCo Entirely probable is
the story that he had ambitions as a poet, and in particular
desired to distinguish himself in tragedy. His dialogues
show not only poetic studies and genius, but peculiar interest
in tragedy. The occasion and circumstances of his meet-
ing with Socrates are unknown. Very probably he joined
the company of Socrates's followers when he was about
twenty years old, or in 407 B. c.

On the death of Socrates, in April or May of 399 B. c,
Plato withdrew from Athens and spent some time in Egypt.
Thence he returned and formed a school, or more strictly,
according to Athenian law, a religious society of his follow-


ers, first in a gymnasium, and then in a garden of his own,
in a grove about a mile west of the city walls sacred to
Academus, — his Academy in the " grove of Academe." He
made more than one visit to Sicily — largely, it would seem,
in the hope of persuading the tyrant of Syracuse to become
a " philosopher," and thus to have the opportunity of put-
ting in practice some of his political schemes, but he spent
his last years at Athens, and died there in 347 B. c.

Plato showed his devotion to his master by making Soc-
rates the chief person in all but one (the Laws) of his dia-
logues, and by keeping himself entirely in the background.
Indeed, he mentions himself but twice. We think of him
as a writer, but he regarded himself as a teacher, and his
writings as secondary in importance to his oral instruction,
— useful chiefly as a reminder of what had been uttered in
conversation. Some of his dialogues, however, clearly have
in mind readers who may not be Athenians. The dialogue
form was chosen partly since this was the Socratic method
of imparting instruction, but chiefly because this allowed an
artistic expression of his thoughts.

Thirty-five dialogues, thirteen letters, some " definitions,"
and seven minor dialogues, which were considered spurious
even in ancient times, have' come down to us under the name
of Plato. The definitions and some of the letters and dia-
logues are not authentic. The Platonic authorship of the
most important dialogues, however, is vouched for by Aris-
totle's references to them.

The longest of Plato's dialogues is the Laws ; the great-
est is the Bepuhlic, in which he presents his views of the
ideal State ; the Phaedo, the Symposium, the Protagoras,
and the Gorgias are highly finished and dramatic. The
Apology purports to be the speech which Socrates made
to the court when on trial for his life.

We are fortunate in having an admirable translation of
Plato's works by the late Master of Balliol, Benjamin
Jowett, from which the following extracts are taken.




Socrates, the master of Plato, wrote no books himself.
He said that he was dissatisfied with books, for books
could not answer questions. He was born about 469 B. c,
the son of Sophroniscus, a stone-cutter, and he himself was
a sculptor during the early part of his life. A group of the
Graces which stood on the Acropolis was said to be his work.
But he turned from the carving of stone to the moulding of
men's minds and the search for truth. As Cicero says, he
was the first to call Philosophy down from the clouds to
dwell among men. He formed no school and received no
pupils, but as he met men on the street and in the market-
place, questioned them, and roused them to thought. Grad-
ually a band of followers formed around him, — chiefly
young men, among whom Plato, Alcibiades, and Xenophon
are best known to us. The character of Socrates had many
sides. Plato was his true successor in the search for truth.
Xenophon was not a philosopher, but being an intensely
practical man was much impressed by his ethical teachings.
Socrates's self-control and contempt for physical in compar-
ison with mental and moral pleasures were continued with
exaggerations by the Cynics and Stoics.

Alcibiades and others of the young men who had followed
Socrates entered upon political courses displeasing to the
Athenians, and in the spring of 399 b. c, Socrates was
brought to trial on the charge of corrupting the youth and
of introducing new divinities. The second " count" of the
indictment referred to his belief that a special divine influ-
ence (daemonium) often restrained him from action, thus
guiding him aright. He was condemned to death, and, ac-
cording to the custom of that time, drank the poison-hem-
lock (conium) in his cell. The Phaedo of Plato narrates
his life and conversation in the prison on the day of his
death, — the heart of the dialogue being devoted to an ar-
gument for the immortality of the soul.



From the Gorgias, pp. 521, 522.

Socrates. Callicles.

Socrates. Then to which service of the State do you
invite me ? determine for me. Am I to be the physi-
cian of the State, who will strive and struggle to make
the Athenians as good as possible ; or am I to be the
servant and flatterer of the State ? Speak out, my good
friend, freely and fairly as you did at first and ought
to do again, and tell me your entire mind.

Callicles. I say, then, that you should be the ser-
vant of the State.

Socrates. The flatterer? well, sir, that is a noble

Callicles. The Mysian,^ Socrates, or what you
please. For if you refuse, the consequences will be —

Socrates. Do not repeat the old story — that he
who likes will kill me and get my money ; for then I
shall have to repeat the old answer, that he will be a
bad man and will kill the good, and that the money
will be of no use to him, but he will wrongly use that
which he wrongly took, and if wrongly, basely, and if
basely, hurtfuUy.

Callicles. How confident you are, Socrates, that you
will never come to harm ! You seem to , think that
you are living in another country, and can never be
brought into a court of justice, as you very likely
may be brought by some miserable and mean person.

Socrates. Then I must indeed be a fool, Callicles,

1 In this is a distinct reference to Socrates' s position before his

2 A barbarian. He means, " Call me the lowest kind of slave, or
anything you like."


if I do not know that in the Athenian State any man
may suffer anything. And if I am brought to trial
and incur the dangers of which you speak, he will be
a villain who brings me to trial — of that I am very
sure, for no good man would accuse the innocent.
Nor shall I be surprised if I am put to death. Shall
I tell you why I anticipate this ?

Callicles, By all means.

Socrates. I think that I am the only, or almost the
only, Athenian living who practices the true art
politics ; I am the only politician of my time. Nov
seeing that when I speak, my words are not uttere^
with any view of gaining favor, and that I look to
what is best and not to what is most pleasant, having
no mind to use those arts and graces which you re-
commend, I shall have nothing to say in the justice
court. And you might argue with me, as I was argo
ing with Polus ; I shall be tried just as a physiciMii
would be tried in a court of little boys at the indict-
ment of the cook. What would he reply under such
circumstances, if some one were to accuse him, say-
ing, " O my boys, many evil things has this man done
to you : he is the death of you, especially of the
younger ones among you, cutting, and burning, an
starving, and suffocating you, until you know not
what to do ; he gives you the bitterest potions, and
compels yra to hunger and thirst. How unlike the
variety of meats and sweets on which I feasted you ! "
What do you suppose that the physician would be
able to reply when he found himself in such a pre-
dicament ? If he told the truth he could only p'^
" All these evil things, my boys, I did for v
health." And then would there not just be a claiiiur
among a jury like that ? How they would cry out !


Callicles. I dare say.

Socrates. Would lie not be utterly at a loss for a
reply ?

Callicles, He certainly would.

Soc7'ates. And I too shall be treated in the same
way, as I well know, if I am brought before the court.
For I shall not be able to rehearse to the people the
pleasures which I have procured for them, and which,
although I am not disposed to envy either the pro-
curers or enjoyers of them, are deemed by them to be
benefits and advantages. And if any one says that I
corrupt young men, and perplex their minds, or that
I speak evil of old men, and use bitter words towards
them, whether in private or public, it is useless for
me to reply, as I truly might : " All this I do for the
sake of justice, and with a view to your interest, my
judges, and to nothing else." And therefore there is
no saying what may happen to me.

Callicles. And do you think, Socrates, that a man
who is thus defenceless is in a good position ?

Socrates. Yes, Callicles, if he have that defence
which, as you have often acknowledged, he should
have — if he be his own defence, and have never
said or done anything wrong, either in respect of gods
or men ; and this has been repeatedly acknowledged
by us to be the best sort of defence. And if any
one could convict me of inability to defend myself
or others after this sort, I should blush for shame,
whether I was convicted before many, or before a
few, or by myself alone ; and if I died from want of
ability to do so, that would indeed grieve me. But if
I died because I have no power of flattery or rhetoric,
I am very sure that you would not find me repining
at death. For no man who is not an utter fool and



coward is afraid of death itself, but he is afraid of
doing wrong. For to go to the world below having
one's soul full of injustice is the last and worst of all


Socrates. Crito.

Scene. — The Prison of Socrates,

Socrates. Why have you come at this hour, Crito ?
it must be quite early ?

Crito. Yes, certainly.

Socrates. What is the exact time ?

Crito. The dawn is breaking.

Socrates. I wonder that the keeper of the prison
would let you in.

Crito. He knows me because I often come, Socrates ;
moreover, I have done him a kindness.

Socrates. And are you only just arrived ?

Crito. No, I came some time ago.

Socrates. Then why did you sit and say nothing
instead of at once awakening me ?

Crito. I should not have liked myself, Socrates, to
be in such great trouble and unrest as you are — in-
deed I should not : I have been watching with amaze-
ment your peaceful slumbers ; and for that reason I
did not awake you, because I wished to minimize the
pain. I have always thought you to be of a happy
disposition ; but never did I see anything like the
easy, tranquil manner in which you bear this calamity.

Socrates. Why, Crito, when a man has reached my
age he ought not to be repining at the approach of


Crito, And yet otiier old men find themselves in
similar misfortunes, and age does not prevent them
from repining.

Socrates. That is true. But you have not told me
why you come at this early hour.

Crito. I come to bring you a message which is sad
and painful ; not, as I believe, to yourself, but to all
of us who are your friends, and saddest of all to me.

Socrates. What ? Has the ship come from Delos,
on the arrival of which I am to die ?

Crito. No, the ship has not actually arrived, but
she will probably be here to-day, as persons who have
come from Sunium ^ tell me that they left her there ;
and therefore to-morrow, Socrates, will be the last
day of your life.

Socrates. Very well, Crito; if such is the will of
God, I am willing ; but my belief is that there will
be a delay of a day.

Crito. Why do you think so ?

Socrates. I will tell you. I am to die on the day
after the arrival of the ship.

Crito. Yes ; that is what the authorities say.

Socrates. But I do not think that the ship will be
here until to-morrow ; this I infer from a vision which
I had last night, or rather only just now, when you
fortunately allowed me to sleep.

Crito. And what was the nature of the vision ?

Socrates. There appeared to me the likeness of a
woman, fair and comely, clothed in bright raiment,
who called to me and said : " O Socrates,

" ' The third day hence to fertile Phthia thou shalt go.' " *

Crito. What a singular dream, Socrates !
^ Southern promontory of Attica. ^ Homer, Iliad, ix. 363.


Soerates. There can be no doubt about tbe mean-
ing, Crito, I think.

Crito. Yes, the meaning is only too clear. But
O, my beloved Socrates, let me entreat you once
more to take my advice and escape. For if you die I
shall not only lose a friend who can never be replaced,
but there is another evil : people who do not know
you and me will believe that I might have saved you
if I had been willing to give money, but that I did
not care. Now, can there be a worse disgrace than
this — that I should be thought to value money more
than the life of a friend ? For the many will not be
persuaded that I wanted you to escape, and that you

Socrates. But why, my dear Crito, should we care
about the opinion of the many? Good men, and they
are the only persons who are worth considering, will
think of these things truly as they occurred.

Crito. But you see, Socrates, that the opinion of
the many must be regarded, for what is now happening
shows that they can do the greatest evil to any one
who has lost their good opinion.

Socrates. I only wish it were so, Crito, and that
the many could do the greatest evil ; for then they
would also be able to do the greatest good — and what
a fine thing this would be ! But in reality they can
do neither ; for they cannot make a man either wise
or foolish ; and whatever they do is the result of

Crito. Well, I will not dispute with you; but
please to tell me, Socrates, whether you are not acting
out of regard to me and your other friends : are you
not afraid that if you escape from prison we may get
into trouble with the informers for having stolen you


away, and lose either the whole or a great part of our
property; or that even a worse evil may happen to
us ? Now, if you fear on our account, be at ease ; for
in order to save you, we ought surely to run this, or
even a greater risk ; be persuaded, then, and do as I

Socrates. Yes, Crito, that is one fear which you
mention, but by no means the only one.

Crito. Fear not — - there are persons who are will-
ing to get you out of prison at no great cost ; and as
for the informers, they are far from being exorbitant
in their demands — a little money will satisfy them.
My means, which are certainly ample, are at your ser-
vice, and if you have a scruple about spending all
mine, here are strangers who will give you the use of
theirs ; and one of them, Simmias the Theban, has
brought a large sum of money for this very purpose ;
and Cebes and many others are prepared ,to spend
their money in helping you to escape. I say, there-
fore, do not hesitate on our account, and do not say,
as you did in the Court, that you will have a difficulty
in knowing what to do with yourself anywhere else.
For men will love you in other places to which you
may go, and not in Athens only ; there are friends of
mine in Thessaly, if you like to go to them, who will
value and protect you, and no Thessalian will give
you any trouble. Nor can I think that you are at all
justified, Socrates, in betraying your own life when
you might be saved ; in acting thus you are playing
into the hands of your enemies, who are hurrying on
your destruction. And further I should say that you
are deserting your own children ; for you might bring
them up and educate them ; instead of which you go
away and leave them, and they will have to take their


cLance ; and if they do not meet with the usual fate
of orphans, there will be small thanks to you. No
. man should bring children into the world who is un-
willing to persevere to the end in their nurture and
education. But you appear to be choosing the easier
part, not the better and manlier, which would have
been more becoming in one who professes to care for
virtue in all his actions, like yourself. And indeed,
I am ashamed not only of you, but of us who are your
friends, when I reflect that the whole business will be
attributed entirely to our want of courage. The trial
need never have come on, or might have been managed
differently ; and this last act, or crowning folly, will
seem to have occurred through our negligence and
cowardice, who might have saved you, if we had been
good for anything ; and you might have saved your-
self, for there was no difficulty at all. See now, Soc-
rates, how sad and discreditable are the consequences,
both to us and you. Make up your mind then, or
rather have your mind already made up, for the time
of deliberation is over, and there is only one thing to
be done, which must be done this very night, and if
we delay at all will be no longer practicable or possi-
ble ; I beseech you therefore, Socrates, be persuaded
by me, and do as I say.

Socrates, Dear Crito, your zeal is invaluable, if a
right one ; but if wrong, the greater the zeal the
greater the danger ; and therefore we ought to con-
sider whether I shall or shall not do as you say. For
I am and always have been one of those natures who
must be guided by reason, whatever the reason may
be which upon reflection appears to me to be the best ;
and now that this chance has befallen me, I cannot
repudiate my own words : the principles which I have


hitherto honored and revered I still honor, and unless
we can at once find other and better principles, I am
certain not to agree with you ; no, not even if the
power of the multitude could inflict many more im-
prisonments, confiscations, deaths, frightening us like
children with hobgoblin terrors. What will be the
fairest way of considering the question ? Shall I re-
turn to your old argument about the opinions of men ?

— we were saying that some of them are to be re-
garded, and others not. Now were we right in main-
taining this before I was condemned ? And has the
argument which was once good now proved to be talk
for the sake of talking — mere childish nonsense ?
That is what I want to consider with your help, Crito :

— whether, under my present circumstances, the argu-
ment appears to be in any way different or not ; and
is to be allowed by me or disallowed. That argument,
which, as I believe, is maintained by many persons of
authority, was to the effect, as I was saying, that the
opinions of some men are to be regarded, and of
other men not to be regarded. Now you, Crito, are
not going to die to-morrow — at least, there is no hu-
man probability of this — and therefore you are dis-
interested, and not liable to be deceived by the cir-
cumstances in which you are placed. Tell me then,
whether I am right in saying that some opinions, and
the opinions of some men only, are to be valued, and
that other opinions, and the opinions of other men, are
not to be valued. I ask you whether I was right in
maintaining this ?

Crito. Certainly.

Socrates, The good are to be regarded, and not the

Crito, Yes.

/ CRITO 383

Socrates, And the opinions of the wise are good,
and the opinions of the unwise are evil?

Crito. Certainly.

Socrates. And what was said about another mat-
ter ? Is the pupil who devotes himself to the prac-
tice of gymnastics supposed to attend to the praise
and blame and opinion of every man, or of one man
only — his physician or trainer, whoever he may be ?

Crito. Of one man only.

Socrates. And he ought to fear the censure and
welcome the praise of that one only, and not of the

Crito. Clearly so.

Socrates. And he ought to act and train, and eat
and drink, in the way which seems good to his single
master who has understanding, rather than according
to the opinion of all other men put together ?

Crito. True.

Socrates. And if he disobeys and disregards the
opinion and approval of the one, and regards the
opinion of the many who have no understanding, will
he not suffer evil ?

Crito. Certainly he will.

Socrates. And what will the evil be, whither tend-
ing and what affecting, in the disobedient person ?

Crito. Clearly, affecting the body ; that is what is
destroyed by the evil.

Socrates. Very good ; and is not this true, Crito, of
other things which we need not separately enumerate ?
In questions of just and unjust, fair and foul, good
and evil, which are the subjecj:s of our present consul-
tation, ought we to follow the opinion of the many
and to fear them ; or the opinion of the one man who
has understanding ? ought we not to fear and rever-


ence him more than all the rest of the world : and if
we desert him shall we not destroy and injure that
principle in us which may be assumed to be improved
by justice and deteriorated by injustice ; — there is
such a principle ?

Crito. Certainly there is, Socrates.

Socrates. Take a parallel instance : if, acting un-
der the advice of those who have no understanding,
we destroy that which is improved by health and is
deteriorated by disease, would life be worth having ?
And that which has been destroyed is the "body ?

Crito, Yes.

Socrates. Could we live, having an evil and cor-
rupted body ?

Crito. Certainly not.

Socrates- And will life be worth having, if that
higher part of man be destroyed, which is improved
by justice and depraved by injustice ? Do we suppose
that principle, whatever it may be in man, which has
to do with justice and injustice, to be inferior to the
body ?

Crito. Certainly not.

Socrates. More honorable than the body?

Crito. Far more.

Socrates. Then, my friend, we must not regard
what the many say of us ; but what he, the one man
who has understanding of just and unjust, will say,
and what the truth will say. And therefore you be-
gin in error when you advise that we should regard
the opinion of the many about just and unjust, good
and evil, honorable and dishonorable. " Well," some
one will say, " but the many can kill us."

Crito. Yes, Socrates ; that will clearly be the an-


/Socrates. And it is true ; but still I find with sur-
prise that the old argument is unshaken as ever. And
I should like to know whether I may say the same
of another proposition — that not life, but a good life,
is to be chiefly valued.

Crito, Yes, that also remains unshaken.

Socrates, And a good life is eqtiivalent to a just
and honorable one — that holds also ?

Crito. Yes, it does.

Socrates. From these premises I proceed to argue
the question whether I ought or ought not to try and
escape without the consent of the Athenians ; and if I
am clearly right in escaping, then I will make the at-
tempt ; but if not, I will abstain. The other consid-
erations which you mention, of money and loss of
character, and the duty of educating one's children,
are, I fear, only the doctrines of the multitude, who
would be as ready to restore people to life, if they
were able, as they are to put them to death — and
with as little reason. But now, since the argument has
thus far prevailed, the only question which remains to
be considered is, whether we shall do rightly either in

Online LibraryJohn Henry WrightMasterpieces of Greek literature; Homer: Tyrtaeus: Archilochus: Callistratus: Alcaeus: Sappho: Anacreon: Pindar: Aeschylus: Sophocles: Euripides Aristophanes: Herodotus: Thucydides: Xenophon: Plato: Theocritus: Lucian, with biographical sketches and notes; → online text (page 24 of 29)