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and abiding for a necessary time, another leader brings
them back hither again, in many and long periods of time.
The journey, therefore, is not such as Telephus asserts it
to be in Eschylus. For he says that a single and simple
path leads to Hades : but it appears to me that the path is
neither simple nor one. For there would be no occasion
of leaders, nor could any one ever wander from the right
road, if there was but one way. But now it appears to
have many divisions and dubious turnings : and this I con-


jecture from our holy and legal rites. The soul, therefore,
which is properly adorned with virtue, and which possesses
wisdom, willingly follows its leader, and is not ignorant of
its present condition : but the soul which still adheres to
body through desire (as I said before), being for a long
space of time terrified about it, and struggling and suffering
abundantly about the visible place, is with violence and
great difficulty led away by its presiding daemon. And
when it arrives at that place where other souls are
assembled, all the rest fly from and avoid this unpurified
soul, which has been guilty either of unjust slaughter, or
has perpetrated such deeds as are allied to this, and are the
works of kindred souls ; nor is any one willing to become
either its companion or leader. But such a soul wanders
about, oppressed with every kind of anxiety and trouble,
till certain periods of time are accomplished : and these
being completed, it is driven by necessity to an abode
accommodated to its nature. But the soul which has
passed through life with purity and moderation, obtaining
the gods for its companions and leaders, will reside in a
place adapted to its purified condition.

There are indeed many and admirable places belonging
to the earth ; and the earth itself is neither of such a kind,
nor of such a magnitude, as those who are accustomed to
speak about it imagine, as I am persuaded from a certain
person's account.

How is this, Socrates, says Simmias ? For I myself also
have heard many things about the earth ; and yet perhaps
not these particulars which have obtained your belief I
should therefore be glad to hear you relate them.

Indeed, Simmias, says he, the art of Glaucus does not
appear to me to be necessary,^ in order to relate these
particulars ; but to evince their truth, seems to me to be
an undertaking beyond what the art of Glaucus can accom-
plish. Besides, I myself perhaps am not able to accomplish

^ A proverb of unknown origin, about matters requiring little trouble.


this ; and even though I should know how, the time which
is allotted me to live, Simmias, seems by no means sufficient
for the length of such a discourse. However, nothing
hinders me from informing you what I am persuaded is
the truth, respecting the form of the earth, and the places
which it contains.

And this information, says Simmias, will be sufficient.

I am persuaded, therefore, says he, in the first place, that
if the earth is in the middle of the heavens, and is of a
spherical figure, it has no occasion of air, nor of any other
such like necessity, to prevent it from falling : but that the
perfect similitude of the heavens to themselves, and the
equilibrity of the earth, are sufficient causes of its support.
For that which is equally inclined, when placed in the
middle of a similar nature, cannot tend more or less to one
part than another ; but, subsisting on all sides similarly
affected, it will remain free from all inclination. This is
the first thing of which I am pursuaded.

And very properly so, says Cebes.

But yet further, says he, that the earth is prodigiously
great; that we who dwell in places extending from Phasis
to the pillars of Hercules, inhabit only a small portion of it,
about the Mediterranean Sea, like ants or frogs about a
marsh ; and that there are many others elsewhere, who
dwell in many such-like places. For I am persuaded, that
there are everywhere about the earth many hollow places of
all-various forms and magnitudes ; into which there is a
confluence of water, mists, and air : but that the earth itself,
which is of a pure nature, is situated in the pure heavens,
in which the stars are contained, and which most of those
who are accustomed to speak about such particulars de-
nominate sether. But the places which we inhabit are
nothing more than the dregs of this pure earth, or cavities
into which its dregs continually flow. We are ignorant,
therefore, that we dwell in the cavities of this earth, and
imagine that we inhabit its upper parts. Just as if some
one dwelling in the middle bottom of the sea, should think
that he resided on its surface, and, beholding the sun and


other stars through the water, should imagine that the sea
is the heavens ; but through sloth and imbecility having
never ascended to the top of the sea, nor emerged from its
deeps into this region, has never perceived how much purer
and more beautiful it is than the place which he inhabits,
nor has received this information from any other who has
beheld this place of our abode. In the very same manner
are we affected : for, dwelling in a certain hollow of the
earth, we think that w^e reside on its surface ; and we call
the air heaven, as if the stars passed through this, as through
the heavens themselves. And this likewise, in the same
manner as in the above instance, happens to us through our
imbecility and sloth, which render us incapable of ascending
to the summit of the air. For, otherwise, if any one could
arrive at its summit, or, becoming winged, could fly thither,
he would be seen emerging from hence ; and just as fishes,
emerging hither from the sea, perceive what our region con-
tains, in the same manner would he behold the several particu-
lars belonging to the summit of the earth. And besides this,
if his nature was sufficient for such an elevated survey, he
would know that the heavens which he there beheld were
the true heavens, and that he perceived the true light and
the true earth. For this earth which we inhabit, the stones
which it contains, and the whole region of our abode, are all
corrupted and gnawed, just as things in the sea are corroded
by the salt : for nothing worthy of estimation grows in the
sea, nor does it contain anything perfect ; but caverns and
sand, and immense quantities of mud and filth, are found in
it wherever there is earth. Nor are its contents to be by
any means compared with the beauty of the various particu-
lars in our place of abode. IJut those upper regions of
the earth will appear to be yet far more excellent than these
which we inhabit. For, if it is proper to tell you a beautiful
fable, it is well worth hearing, Simmias, what kind of places
those are on the upper earth, situated under the heavens.

And gladly should we hear it, O Socrates, said Simmias.

It is reported then, my friend, says he, in the first place,
that this earth; if any one surveys it from on high, ai)pcar3


like those balls which are covered with twelve pieces of
leather, various, and distinguished with colours ; a pattern
of which are the colours found among us, and which our
painters use. But there the whole earth is composed from
materials of this kind, and such as are much more splendid
and pure than our region contains : for they are partly
indeed purple, and endued with a wonderful beauty ; partly
of a golden colour ; and partly more white than plaster or
snow ; and are composed from other colours in a similar
manner, and those more in number and more beautiful
than any we have ever beheld. For the hollow parts of
this pure earth, being filled with water and air, exhibit a
certain species of colour, shining among the variety of other
colours in such a manner, that from any one view the earth
is always varicoloured. Hence, whatever grows in this
earth grows analogous to its nature, such as its trees, and
flowers, and fruits : and again, its mountains and stones
possess a similar perfection and transparency, and are
rendered beautiful through various colours ; of which the
stones so much honoured by us in this place of our abode
are but small parts, such as sardin-stones, jaspers, and
emeralds, and all of this kind. But there nothing subsists
which is not of such a nature as I have described; and
there are other things far more beautiful than even these.
But the reason of this is because the stones there are pure,
and not consumed and corrupted, like ours, through rotten-
ness and salt, from a conflux of various particulars, which
in our places of abode cause filthiness and disease to the
stones and earth, animals and plants, which are found
among us. But this pure earth is adorned with all these,
and with gold and silver, and other things of a similar
nature : for all these are naturally apparent, since they are
both numerous and large, and are diffused everywhere
throughout the earth ; so that to behold it is the spectacle
of blessed spectators. This earth too contains many other
animals and men, some of whom inhabit its middle parts ;
others dwell about the air, as we do about the sea ; and
others reside in islands which the air flows round, and


which are situated not far from the continent. And in one
word, what water and the sea are to us, with respect to
utihty, that air is to them : but what air is to us, that aether
is to the inhabitants of this pure earth. But the seasons
there are endued with such an excellent temperament, that
the inhabitants are never molested with disease, and live
for a much longer time than those who dwell in our regions;
and they surpass us in sight, hearing, and wisdom, and
everything of this kind, as much as air excels water in
purity — and aether, air. And besides this, they have groves
and temples of the gods, in which the gods dwell in reality ;
and likewise oracles and divinations, and sensible percep-
tions of the gods, and such-like associations with them.
The sun too, and moon, and stars, are seen by them such
as they really are ; and in every other respect their felicity
is of a correspondent nature.

And in this manner indeed the whole earth naturally
subsists, and the parts which are situated about it. But it
contains about the whole of its ambit many places in
its concavities; some of which are more profound and
extended than the region which we inhabit : but others
are more profound, indeed, but yet have a less chasm than
the places of our abode ; and there are certain parts which
are less profound, but broader than ours. But all these
are in many places perforated into one another under the
earth, according to narrower and broader avenues, and have
passages of communication through which a great quantity
of water flows into the different hollows of the earth, as
into bowls ; and besides this, there are immense bulks of
ever-flowing rivers under the earth, and of hot and cold
waters ; likewise a great quantity of fire, mighty rivers of
fire, and many of moist mire, some of which are purer, and
others more muddy; as in Sicily there are rivers of mud,
which flow before a stream of fire, which is itself a flaming
torrent. And from these the several places are filled, into
which each flows at particular times. But all these are
moved upwards and downwards, like a swinging or oscil-
lation in the earth. And this is the cause of it : There is


a chasm in the earth, and this the greatest, and totally
perforated through the whole earth. And of this Homer
thus speaks —

" Far, very far, where under earth is found
A gulf, of every depth, tlie most profound : "

which he elsewhere and many other poets denominate
Tartarus, For into this chasm there is a conflux of all
rivers, from which they again flow upwards. But each
derives its quality from the earth through which it flows.
And the reason why they all flow into, and again out of this
chasm, is because this moisture cannot find either a bottom
or a basis. Hence it swings and seethes upwards and
downwards : and this too is the case with the air and wind
which are situated about it. For they follow this moisture,
both when they are impelled to more remote places of the
earth, and when to the places of our abode. And as in
respiration the flowing breath is perpetually expired and
inspired, so there the wind, which is swayed about together
with the moisture, causes certain vehement and immense
winds during its ingress and departure. When the water,
therefore, being impelled, flows into that place which we
call downwards, then the river flows through the earth into
different channels, and fill them ; just as those who pour into
another vessel the water which they have drawn. But when
this water, departing from thence, is impelled hither, it
again fills the rivers on the earth ; and these, when filled,
flow through channels and through the earth ; and when
they have severally passed through the avenues, which are
open to each, they produce seas, lakes, rivers, and fountains.
Flowing back again from hence under the earth, and some
of them streaming round longer and more numerous
places, but others round such as are shorter and less
numerous, they again hurl themselves into Tartarus ; and
some indeed much more profoundly, but others less so,
than they were drawn ; but the influxions of all of them are
deeper than the places from which they flow upwards. And
the effluxions of some are on a side opposite to their


influxions, but in others both take place on the same side.
There are some again which entirely flow round in a circle,
folding themselves like snakes, once or often about the
earth ; and tending downwards as much as possible, they
again fall into the chasm. On every side the rivers can
descend to the centre, but not beyond it, for the part
opposite to both directions is steep.

The other rivers, indeed, are many, great, and various :
but among this abundance there are certain streams, four
in number, of which the greatest, and which circularly flows
round the earth the outermost of all, is called the Ocean.
But that which flows opposite, and in a contrary direction
to this, is Acheron ; which, flowing through other solitary
places, and under the earth, devolves its waters into
the Acherusian marsh, into which many souls of the dead
pass ; and abiding there for certain destined spaces of time,
some of which are more and others less extended, they are
again sent into the generations of animals. The third river
of these hurls itself forth in the middle, and near its source
falls into a mighty place, burning with abundance of fire,
and produces a lake greater than our sea, and hot with
water and mud. But it proceeds from hence, turbulent and
miry, and, encircling the earth, arrives both elsewhere and
at the extremities of the Acherusian marsh, with the water
of which it does not become mingled ; but, often revolving
itself under the earth, flows into the more downward parts
of Tartarus. And this is the river which they still denomi-
nate Pyriphlegethon ; the streams of which burst up in
gushes in various parts of the earth. But the fourth river,
which is opposite to this, first falls as it is said into a place
dreadful and wild, and wholly tinged with a gloomy colour,
which they denominate Styx : and the influxive streams of
this river form the Stygian marsh. But falling into this,
and receiving vehement powers in its waters, it hides itself
under the earth, and, rolling round, proceeds contrary
to Pyriphlegethon, and meets with it in the Acherusian
marsh, in a contrary direction. Nor is the water of this
river mingled with anything, but, revolving in a circle, it


hurls itself into Tartarus, in a course opposite to Pyri-
phlegethon. But its name, according to the poets, is

These being thus naturally constituted, when the dead
arrive at that place into which the dcemon leads each, in the
first place they are judged, as well those who have lived in
a becoming manner, and piously, and justly, as those who
have not. And those who appear to have passed a middle
kind of life, proceeding to Acheron, and ascending the
vehicles prepared for them, arrive in these at the Acherusian
lake, and dwell there ; till being purified, and having
suffered punishment for any injuries they may have com-
mitted, they are enlarged ; and each receives the reward of
his beneficence, according to his deserts. But those who
appear to be incurable, through the magnitude of their
offences, because they have perpetrated either many and
great sacrileges, or many unjust slaughters, and such as are
contrary to law, or other things of this kind — these, a
destiny adapted to their guilt hurls into Tartarus, from
which they will never be discharged. But those who are
found to have committed curable, but yet mighty crimes,
such as those who have been guilty through anger of any
violence against their father or mother, and have lived the
remainder of their lives penitent for the offence, or who
have become homicides in any other similar manner ; with
respect to these, it is necessary that they should fall into
Tartarus : but after they have fallen, and have dwelt there
for a year, the waves hurl them out of Tartarus ; and the
ordinary homicides indeed into Cocytus, but the slayers of
fathers and mothers into Pyriphlegethon. But when, being
borne along by these rivers, they arrive at the Acherusian
marsh, they here bellow and invoke those whom they have
slaughtered or injured. But, invoking these, they sup-
pliantly entreat that they would suffer them to enter into the
lake, and forgive them. And if they persuade them to do
this, they depart, and find an end to their maladies : but if
they are unable to accomplish this, they are carried back
again into Tartarus, and from thence again into the rivers.


And they do not cease from suffering this, till they have
persuaded those they have injured to forgiveness. For this
punishment was ordained them by the judges. But those
who shall appear to have lived most excellently, with respect
to piety — these are they, who, being liberated and dismissed
from these places in the earth, as from the abodes of a
prison, shall arrive at the pure habitation on high, and
dwell on the setherial earth. And among these, those who
are sufficiently purified by philosophy shall live without
bodies, through the whole of the succeeding time, and
shall arrive at habitations yet more beautiful than these,
which it is neither easy to describe, nor is the present time
sufficient for such an undertaking.

But for the sake of these particulars which we have
related, we should undertake everything, Simmias, that we
may participate of virtue and prudence in the present life.
For the reward is beautiful, and the hope mighty. To
affirm, indeed, that these things subsist exactly as I have
described them, is not the province of a man endued with
intellect. But to assert that either these or certain par-
ticulars of this kind take place, with respect to our souls and
their habitations — since our soul appears to be immortal —
this is, I think, both becoming, and deserves to be hazarded
by him who believes in its reality. For the risk is a noble
one, and we must allure ourselves with things of this kind,
as with enchantments : and, on this account, I produced
the fable which you have just now heard me relate. But,
for the sake of these, it is proper that the man should be
confident about his soul, who in the present life bidding
farewell to those pleasures which regard the body and its
ornaments, as things foreign from his nature, has earnestly
applied himself to disciplines, as things of far greater con-
sequence ; and who having adorned his soul not with a
foreign but its own proper ornament — viz., with temperance
and justice, fortitude, liberty, and truth, expects a migration
to Hades, as one who is ready to depart whenever he
shall be called upon by Fate. You, therefore, says he,
Simmias and Cebes, and the rest who are here assembled,


will each depart in some period of time posterior to the
present ; but

Me now calling, Fate demands :

(as some tragic poet would say) and it is almost time that I
should betake myself to the bath. For it appears to me
better to wash myself before I drink the poison, and not to
trouble the women with washing my dead body.

When, therefore, he had thus spoken, — Be it so, Socrates,
says Crito : but what orders do you leave to these who are
present, or to myself, or respecting your children, or any-
thing else in the execution of which we can particularly
oblige you ?

None such as are new, says he, Crito, but that which I
have always said to you ; that if you take care of yourselves,
you will always perform in whatever you do that which is
acceptable to myself, to my family, and to your own selves,
though you should not promise me anything at present.
But if you neglect yourselves, and are unwilling to live
according to what has been now and formerly said, as
vestiges of direction in your course, you will accomplish
nothing, though you should now promise many things, and
in a very vehement manner.

We shall take care, therefore, says Crito, to act as you
desire. But how would you be buried ?

Just as you please, says he, if you can but catch me, and
I do not escape from you. And at the same time gently
laughing, and addressing himself to us, I cannot persuade
Crito, says he, my friends, that I am that Socrates who now
disputes with you, and orders every part of the discourse ;
but he thinks that I am he whom he will shortly behold
dead, and asks how I ought to be buried. But all that
long discourse which some time since I addressed to you,
in which I asserted that after I had drunk the poison I
should no longer remain with you, but should depart to
certain felicities of the blessed, this I seem to have declared
to him in vain, though it was undertaken to console both


you and myself. Promise, therefore, says he, for me to
Crito, just the contrary of what he promised to my judges.
For he promised that I should not run away ; but do you
engage that when I die I shall not stay with you, but shall
depart and entirely leave you ; that Crito may more easily
bear this separation, and may not be afflicted when he sees
my body either burnt or buried, as if I suffered some dread-
ful misfortune ; and that he may not say at my interment,
that Socrates is laid out, or is carried out, or is buried.
For be well assured of this, says he, excellent Crito, that
when we do not speak in a becoming manner, we are not
only culpable with respect to our speech, but likewise affect
our souls with a certain evil. But it is proper to be con-
fident, and to say that my body will be buried, and in such
a manner as is pleasing to you, and which you think is most
agreeable to our laws.

When he had thus spoken he rose, and went into
a certain room, that he might wash himself, and Crito
followed him : but he ordered us to w^ait for him.
We waited, therefore, accordingly, discoursing over and
reviewing among ourselves what had been said; and
sometimes speaking about his death, how great a calamity
it would be to us ; and sincerely thinking that we, like
those who are deprived of their father, should pass the
rest of our life in the condition of orphans. But when
he had washed himself, his sons were brought to him
(for he had two little ones, and one considerably advanced
in age), and the women belonging to his family like-
wise came in to him : but when he had spoken to them
before Crito, and had left them such injunctions as he
thought proper, he ordered the boys and women to depart;
and he himself returned to us. And it was now near the
setting of the sun : for he had been absent for a long time
in the bathing-room. But when he came in from washing,
he sat down ; and did not speak much afterwards. For
then the servant of the eleven magistrates came in, and
standing near liim, T do not perceive that in you, Socrates,
says he, which I have taken notice of in others ; I mean,


that they are angry with me, and curse me, when, being
compelled by the magistrates, I announce to them that they
must drink the poison. But, on the contrary, I have found
you at the present time to be the most generous, mild, and
the best of all the men that ever came into this place : and,
therefore, I am well convinced that you are not angry with

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Online LibraryPlatoSelections from Plato → online text (page 22 of 27)