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WISDOM OF GREECE, ISRAEL, ROME Contents

This dialog is set in the Athenian prison between the trial and execution of Socrates. Crito was a close friend of Socrates. According to Diogenes Laertius, he made sure that none of the needs of Socrates were left unsupplied. His sons, Critobulus, Hermogenes, Epigenes, and Ctesippus, were frequent listeners of Socrates.

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CRITO
by Plato

Translated by Sanderson Beck

1. Crito Visits Socrates in Prison
2. Dream of Socrates
3. Crito Fears Public Opinion
4. Crito Has Money for Escape
5. Crito Urges Socrates to Escape
6. Socrates Suggests Reasoning
7. Only Knowledgeable Opinion Good
8. Living Justly Is Best
9. Is Escaping Right?
10. We Must Not Do Wrong
11. Should We Wrong the State?
12. The Laws Ask for Respect
13. Laws Say Obey or Persuade
14. The State's Arguments
15. What Escape Would Be Like
16. Escape Would Break Laws
17. They Agree with the Arguments

1
SOCRATES. Why did you come at this time, Crito?
Or isn't it still early?

CRITO. It certainly is.

SOCRATES. About what time?

CRITO. Dawn is breaking.

SOCRATES. I am surprised that the prison guard
was willing to let you in.

CRITO. He is used to me already, Socrates,
on account of coming so often,
and in addition I have done something good for him.

SOCRATES. And have you just come or long ago?

CRITO. Fairly long ago.

SOCRATES. Then why did you not wake me immediately,
instead of sitting by in silence?

CRITO. No, no, by Zeus, Socrates,
I only wish I myself were not so sleepless and depressed.
But I have been marveling at you for a long time
perceiving how pleasantly you sleep;
and I did not wake you on purpose,
so that you could continue so pleasantly.
Both often and before in all your life
you have had a happy disposition,
and especially now in your present misfortune,
you bear it so easily and mildly.

SOCRATES. Surely, Crito, it would be a mistake at my age
to resent it if I must die now.

CRITO. Others, Socrates, at your age
are caught in such misfortunes,
but age does not prevent them from resenting their fate.

SOCRATES. That is true.
But why did you come so early?

CRITO. To bring a message, Socrates---
not hard for you, as it appears to me,
but to me and all your companions both hard and heavy,
which I suppose I might bear the heaviest.

SOCRATES. What is it?
Has the ship arrived from Delos,
upon whose arrival I must die?

CRITO. It hasn't arrived yet,
but it seems to me it will come today
from reports of some who came from Sunium and left it there.
So it is clear from these reports that it will come today,
and by force tomorrow, Socrates,
will be the end of your life.

2
SOCRATES. But good luck, Crito.
If this is the will of the gods, so be it.
Yet I don't think it will come today.

CRITO. What makes you think so?

SOCRATES. I will tell you.
For I must die on the day after the ship comes in.

CRITO. That is what the authorities say.

SOCRATES. Then I don't think it will come today,
but tomorrow.
I infer this from a dream
I had a little while ago during the night;
and it chanced opportunely that you did not wake me.

CRITO. What was the dream?

SOCRATES. It seemed a beautiful and good-looking woman
clothed in white, came to me,
called me and said, "Socrates,

'On the third day you will come to fertile Phthia.'"

CRITO. A strange dream, Socrates.

SOCRATES. No, rather a plain one,
as it seems to me, Crito.

3
CRITO. Very plain, apparently.
But, dear Socrates, even now
you can still be persuaded by me and be saved;
since for me, if you die, it is not one misfortune,
but apart from losing such a companion
that I could never find anywhere,
besides it will seem to many,
who do not know me and you closely,
that I could have saved you,
if I had been willing to spend the money, but neglected to.
Yet what reputation could be more shameful than this---
to seem to make money more important than friends?
For many will not believe that while we were eager,
you yourself were not willing to escape from here.

SOCRATES. But why should you, blessed Crito,
care about what the many think?
For the most reasonable, who are more worth considering,
will think these things were done as they actually were.

CRITO. But you see that it is necessary, Socrates,
to care about the opinion of the many.
These present circumstances make it clear
that those who are many are able to accomplish
not only the smallest evil but also nearly the greatest,
if they are prejudiced against someone.

SOCRATES. If only, Crito, the many were able
to accomplish the greatest evil,
so that they would also be able to do the greatest good,
and that would be beautiful;
but now they do neither one;
for they are able to make one neither wise nor unwise,
but they do whatever happens by chance.

4
CRITO. That may be so.
But Socrates, tell me this:
are you not thinking about me and the other companions,
if you escaped from here,
the informers would cause trouble for us
for having stolen you away from here,
and we would be forced either
to lose all our property or much money
or to suffer something else in addition?
For if this is what you fear, be glad;
for it is right for us to risk this danger in saving you
and if necessary even greater than this.
But obey me and don't do otherwise.

SOCRATES. I am considering this, Crito,
and many other things.

CRITO. Then don't be afraid of this;
for surely it is not much silver,
which some would take to save you and get out of here.
Then don't you see how the informers are easily bought
and not much silver is needed for them?
My money is at your command,---which I think is enough;
and if out of some concern for me
you think mine should not be spent,
strangers here are ready to spend theirs;
and one of them has provided for this purpose enough silver,
Simmias the Theban; and ready also is Cebes and many others.

So, as I say, not fearing these things
do not hesitate to save yourself,
and don't you be disagreeable about what you said in court,
that if you went away
you would not know what to do with yourself.
For in many other places wherever you go they will love you;
and if you wish to go to Thessaly,
for my sake there are strangers there
who will make much of you and offer you safety
so that no one in Thessaly will bother you.

5
Besides, Socrates, you do not seem right to me
to attempt this, giving yourself up, when you might be saved;
and you are striving to bring such things upon yourself
as also your enemies strive for
and have hastened wishing to destroy you.

Furthermore you seem to me
to be abandoning your children,
whom you might both bring up and educate
you will depart leaving them behind,
and as far as you are concerned,
whatever chances, this they will do;
and chances are they will probably be such things
as usually occur to orphans in their destitution.

For one either should not have children,
or should continue on in the raising and educating;
but you seem to me to choose the laziest way;
but, as a good and courageous man would choose,
you should choose these things,
having said all through your life
that you really care about virtue;
so I am ashamed both for you and for us, your companions,
lest it seem the whole affair concerning you
has been conducted in cowardice on our part,
both the bringing in of the case into court,
as it might not have been brought in as it was brought in,
and the trial of this case as it occurred,
and then this end as though a mockery of the affair
will seem to have escaped us by our baseness and cowardice,
who did not save you nor did you yourself,
which was possible, even if our help was small.

Therefore, Socrates, see that these things
be not both bad and shameful for you and for us.
But decide, rather there is no time still to decide,
but only to have decided.
And there is one decision;
for everything must be done this coming night.
And if we delay, it can no longer be done.
But by all means, Socrates, obey me
and don't do anything else at all.

6
SOCRATES. Dear Crito, your eagerness is worth much,
if it should prove to be correct;
but if not, the greater it is, the harder.
Therefore we must look at whether I should do this or not;
since I not only now but always have been such a one
who obeys the logic which upon reasoning appears to me best.

And the arguments which I argued before
cannot now be rejected,
since this has chanced to happen to me,
but they appear nearly the same to me,
and I rank first and honor the same ones as before;
and unless we have better arguments in the present,
know well that I shall not yield to you,
not even if the current power of the present multitude
could frighten us like children,
threatening imprisonment and death and confiscation of money.

So how could we look at this most reasonably?
Whether we should first take up this argument,
which you argue about opinions,
whether it was argued correctly each time or not,
that intelligence must hold to some opinions, and not others;
or was it correct before I was condemned to die,
but now it has become clear
that it was argued merely for the sake of argument,
but it was in truth play and nonsense?

But, Crito, I am eager to examine together with you,
whether it appears something else to me, since I am here,
or the same,
and whether we should say goodby to it or obey it.
And it was argued, as I think each time,
by those thinking to argue something,
as I was just now saying,
that of the opinions which people believe
some ought to be made much of, and others not.

Before the gods, Crito,
does this not seem to you to be argued correctly?
For you who are outside the human probability
of being about to die tomorrow,
and you not being swayed by the present misfortune:
consider then,
does it not seem to be sufficiently argued to you,
that not all the opinions of people should be honored,
but some and not others?
What do you say?
Is this not argued correctly?

CRITO. Correctly.

SOCRATES. Then should not the good ones be honored,
and not the bad ones?

CRITO. Yes.

SOCRATES. And are not the good those of the wise,
and the bad those of the unwise?

CRITO. Of course.

7
SOCRATES. Well then, how were such things argued?
Does the athletic man practicing this pay attention
to the praise and blame and opinion of every man,
or to that of only one
who happens to be a physician or trainer?

CRITO. Only the one.

SOCRATES. Then one should not be afraid of the blame,
and should esteem the praise of that one,
but not that of the many.

CRITO. Clearly.

SOCRATES. So practicing and training
and eating and drinking in this way which is
in accord with the one with knowledge and understanding
is better than that of everyone else.

CRITO. That is so.

SOCRATES. Well. But disobeying the one
and dishonoring his opinion and praises,
while honoring the arguments of the many
who have no understanding, will one not suffer harm?

CRITO. Of course.

SOCRATES. And what is this harm
and where does it extend
and into what part of the disobedient?

CRITO. Clearly into the body. For it ruins it.

SOCRATES. You argue correctly.
Then is this other also not so, Crito,
so that we do not go through them all,
furthermore concerning justice and injustice
and shame and honor and good and evil,
about which we are now deliberating,
should we obey the opinion of the many and be afraid of it,
or that of the one, if it is someone of understanding,
who should be respected and feared more than all the others?
If we do not follow that one,
we shall injure and ruin
that which is made better by justice,
and which is destroyed by injustice.
Or is this nothing?

CRITO. I believe it, Socrates.

8
SOCRATES. Come now, if what
by health becomes improved and by disease is ruined
is destroyed by obeying the opinion of those not aware,
is it still livable for us when it is ruined?
And this is the body, is it not?

CRITO. Yes.

SOCRATES. So then is the body livable for us
after it is bad and ruined?

CRITO. Certainly not.

SOCRATES. But is it livable for us after that is ruined
which is maltreated by wrong and benefited by justice?
Or do we think that that, whatever it is of ours,
which is concerned with wrong or justice,
is less important than the body?

CRITO. Certainly not.

SOCRATES. But more important?

CRITO. Much more.

SOCRATES. So, best one, we must not consider at all
what the many will say to us,
but what the aware, the one,
will say about justice and wrong, and truth itself.
So at first you brought this in incorrectly,
introducing the opinion of the many
as necessary for us to consider
concerning justice and beauty and goodness and the opposites.
But really, some might say, the many can kill us.

CRITO. That is also clear, for it would be said, Socrates.

SOCRATES. You say the truth.
But, admirable one, this argument which we discussed
seems to me still the same as it was before;
and now see if it still holds for us or not,
that it is not living that is best, but living well.

CRITO. Yet it holds.

SOCRATES. And that this well
and beautifully and justly are the same thing
holds or does it not hold?

CRITO. It holds.

9
SOCRATES. Then out of this agreement we must look at
whether it is right for me to try to escape from here
without permission of the Athenians,
or whether it is not right;
and if it appears to be right, let us try,
but if not, let us dismiss it.
But what you say are considerations
about spending money and opinion and supporting children,
these in truth, Crito, are speculations of those many
who easily kill and would bring to life again,
if they could, with no intelligence.

But since the argument so compels,
we must consider no other than what we just now discussed,
whether we shall act justly in paying money and thanking
these here who will let me escape,
both the ones escaping and the ones escaped from,
or in truth shall we be wrong in doing all these things;
and if we appear wrong in these actions,
it may be necessary not to debate
whether it is necessary staying here and keeping quiet to die
but whether to suffer anything whatsoever before wronging.

CRITO. To me you seem to speak beautifully, Socrates;
but let's see what we should do.

SOCRATES. Let us look, good friend, together,
and if you can contradict anything I am saying,
contradict it, and I will obey you;
but if not, stop already, blessed one,
saying often to me the same argument,
that I should escape from here
without permission of the Athenians;
since I value doing these things with your approval,
but not unwillingly.
Now see if the beginning of the investigation
is sufficiently reasonable for you,
and try to answer the questioning to the best of your belief.

CRITO. I will try.

10
SOCRATES. Are we saying that
in no way are we to wrong intentionally,
or are we to wrong in some way, but not in others?
Or is it never good nor beautiful to wrong,
as we have agreed often at an earlier time?

As I also just said;
or are all those earlier agreements of ours
in these few days to be thrown out and past, Crito,
so as old men discussing seriously with each other
has it eluded us that we are not different than children?

Or above all is it as we said at that time,
whether the many say so or not,
and whether we must still suffer harder things than these
or even gentler ones,
nevertheless is not injustice both bad and shameful
to the wrong-doer in whatever way it happens?
Did we say this or not?

CRITO. We said it.

SOCRATES. Then we must never wrong.

CRITO. Of course not.

SOCRATES. Nor retaliate against wrong,
as the many think, since we must never wrong.

CRITO. Apparently not.

SOCRATES. But what? Must one do evil or not?

CRITO. Doubtless one must not, Socrates.

SOCRATES. But what? Doing evil actions against the evil,
as the many say, is just or not just?

CRITO. Never.

SOCRATES. For doing evil to people is
no different than wronging.

CRITO. You say the truth.

SOCRATES. Then one must not retaliate
nor do evil to any person,
no matter what one may suffer from them.
And see, Crito, that in conceding these things
you do not agree in a way contrary to your opinion.
For I know that these things are held
and will be held by few.
Thus those who believe this and those who don't,
on this there is no common decision,
but by force of this condemn each other,
seeing each others' decisions.

Therefore look very carefully
at whether you agree with this opinion
and let us begin with the decision here,
that it is never correct to wrong or retaliate
or suffering evil to avenge by returning evil;
or do you stand aside and not agree from the beginning?
For it seems to me thus both before and still now;
but if to you it seems anything else,
say it and teach.
But if you are holding to it as before,
listen to the next point.

CRITO. But I am holding to it and agree with you;
but say it.

SOCRATES. Then the next thing I am saying,
but rather asking is:
should someone do what he has agreed is just or deceive?

CRITO. He should do it.

11
SOCRATES. So consider what comes out of this.
By our escaping from here, not obeying the state,
are we doing evil to anyone,
and to those whom we must least of all or not?
and are we holding to what we agreed was just or not?

CRITO. I have no reply, Socrates, to the question,
for I don't understand.

SOCRATES. But look at it this way.
If we were about to run away from here,
or whatever one should name this,
the laws and the community might come and ask:
"Tell me, Socrates, what have you in mind to do?
Is this another action you are attempting to plan
to destroy our laws and the entire state
as far as you are concerned?
Or does it seem to you
that the state may exist and not be overturned,
in which court rulings have no strength,
but by private people they are made ineffective and ruined?"

What shall we say, Crito, to this and other such things?
For one might have much to say, especially an orator,
on behalf of this destroyed law,
which directs that court judgments be effective.
Or shall we say to them,
"The state wronged us and did not judge the case correctly"?
Shall we say these things or what?

CRITO. These things by Zeus, Socrates.

12
SOCRATES. What then, if the laws should say,
"Socrates, and was this agreed to by you and us,
or was it to abide by the verdicts which the state judges?"
So if I were surprised by what they were saying,
perhaps they might say, "Socrates,
don't be surprised by what is said, but answer,
since also you are in the habit
of using questioning and answering.
Come on, what fault do you find with us and the state
that you are attempting to destroy us?
First did we not give you birth
and was it not through our security
your mother and father conceived you?
So tell those of us, the laws concerning marriage,
what do you complain is not well?"

"I do not complain," I would say.

"But what about those concerning nurturing and education,
in which you also were educated?
Or was it not well directed by us, the appointed laws,
instructing your father
to educate you in music and gymnastics?"

"Well," I would say.

"Fine. And when born and raised and educated,
would you have to say first
that you were not both our offspring and slave,
yourself and your ancestors?
And if this is so,
then do you think justice is equal for you and for us,
and whatever we may attempt to do to you,
do you think it is just for you to do this back?
Justice was not equal for you toward your father
and toward your master, if you happened to have one,
so that whatever was suffered, this also might be done back,
nor hearing bad things to talk back
nor being struck to strike back
nor many other such things;
and toward your country and the laws will it be so for you,
so that if we attempt to destroy you thinking it is just,
you also will attempt to destroy us laws and the country
as much as possible,
and will you say doing this is acting justly,
the one who in truth cares about virtue?

"Or is your wisdom such that you do not see
that more than mother and father and all other ancestors
the country is honorable and revered and holy
and in greater esteem both among the gods
and among humans who have intelligence,
also she must be revered and more yielded to and humored
when the country is angry than when the father is,
and either persuade or do what she may order,
and suffer whatever she directs be suffered,
keeping quiet, and if beaten or imprisoned
or brought to war to be wounded or killed,
these are to be done,
and justice is like this,
and not yielding nor retreating nor leaving the post,
not only in war and in court but everywhere
one must do what the state and the country may order,
or persuade her what is natural justice,
but to be violent is neither holy to mother nor father,
and even much less to one's country?"

What shall we say to this, Crito?
Are the laws telling the truth or not?

CRITO. It seems so to me.

13
SOCRATES. "Look now, Socrates,"
perhaps the laws would say, "if what we say is true,
what you are now attempting to do to us is not just.
For we gave you birth, nurtured, educated you,
giving a share of everything which is beautiful
to you and all the other citizens,
yet proclaiming permission to any Athenian wishing to do it,
when one has become a citizen
and seen the business in the state and our laws,
if we do not please,
one is allowed to take one's things
and go away wherever one wishes.
And none of our laws stand in the way nor forbid it,
if any of you wishes to go into a colony,
if we and the state do not please you,
or move your home elsewhere,
whoever wishes may go to those places keeping his things.

"But those of you who remain,
having seen the way we judge cases
and administer other things of the state,
then we say have agreed with us in action
to what we order them to do,
and the one not obeying we say wrongs in three ways,
because of not obeying us who gave birth,
and because of those who nurtured,
and because of having agreed with us to obey
one neither obeyed nor persuaded us,
if we were not doing what is beautiful,---
also we are not proposing harsh commands to do what we order,
but while we are offering two alternatives,
either persuade us or do it,
one does neither of these.

14
"We say that you, Socrates,
will be liable for these responsibilities,
if you do what you have in mind,
and you not least of the Athenians, but especially."

Then if I should say, "Why so?"
Perhaps they might justly reproach me saying,
because among the Athenians I especially
happened to have acknowledged this agreement.

For they would say, "Socrates, we have great evidence
that we and the state pleased you;
for more than all other Athenians
you would not have particularly stayed at home in her,
if you were not particularly pleased,
and you did not go out of the state for a festival,
except once to the isthmus,
nor anywhere else, if not on military service,
nor did you make another journey anywhere like other people,
nor did you want to know other states nor other laws,
but we and our state were adequate for you;
so strongly did you prefer us and agree with our politics
that you even produced children in her,
so pleased were you with the state.

"Furthermore in this trial
you might have proposed the sentence of exile, if you wished,
and what now you are attempting against the state's will,
at that time you might have done with its permission.
But then you were proud not being upset if you must die,
but preferred, as you said, death before exile;
and now you are not ashamed of those words,
nor do you respect us laws, attempting to ruin us,
you are acting as the meanest slave would act,
attempting to run away contrary to contracts and agreements,
which you contracted with us as a citizen.

"So first reply to this,
whether we are telling the truth saying
you agreed to be a citizen according to us by action,
but not by word, or is it not true?"

What shall we say to this, Crito?
But should we not agree?

CRITO. By necessity, Socrates.

SOCRATES. "Are you not then," they would say,
"breaking these contracts and agreements with us,
not agreed to by necessity nor deception
nor forced to decide in a short time, but in seventy years,
in which you could have gone away,
if we did not please you
and the agreements did not appear to you to be just?
But you preferred neither Lacedaemon nor Crete,
which each time you say have good laws,
nor any other of the Greek states nor of the foreigners,
but you went abroad from her
less than the lame and blind and other handicapped;
so much more than other Athenians
were you pleased with the state and us the laws---is clear;
for who would be pleased with a state without its laws?
And now are you not holding to the agreements?
If you are persuaded by us, Socrates;
and you will not be ridiculous out of the state in exile.

15
"For look, by transgressing in this
and making these mistakes,
what good are you doing for yourself or for your companions?
For that your companions themselves risk both exile
and being deprived of citizenship or loss of property,
is pretty clear;
and first if you yourself go to some nearby state,
either Thebes or Megara,---for both have good laws,---
you will go as an enemy, Socrates, to these states,
and those who care for their state, will look down on you
thinking you are a corrupter of the laws,
and you will confirm for the judges the opinion
so that they will correctly think the verdict was just;
for whoever is a corrupter of the laws,
might seriously be thought to be
a corrupter of the young and thoughtless people.

"Then will you avoid the states with good laws
and the most civilized men?
And doing this then will life be worthwhile for you?
Or will you approach them and be unashamed of discussing---
what arguments, Socrates?
Or what you did here,
that virtue and justice are most valuable for people,
and institutions and laws?
And don't you think that Socrates' business
would appear unseemly?
One ought to think so.

"However you will depart from these places,
and go into Thessaly along with Crito's visitors;
for there disorder and licentiousness are greatest,
and perhaps they would enjoy hearing with laughter
of your running away from prison, dressed in some disguise,
or wearing a skin or other things
in which runaways usually dress up,
and altering your appearance;
but that an old man, probably with a short time left in life,
dared so to want life shamelessly, broke the greatest laws,
will no one say it?
Perhaps, if you don't bother anyone;
but if not, Socrates,
you will hear many things unworthy of yourself.
You will live as inferior to all people and as a slave;
what will you be doing feasting in Thessaly,
as though you journeyed to Thessaly for a banquet?
And where are those arguments of ours
concerning justice and the other virtues?

"However you may wish to live
for the sake of the children,
so that you may raise and educate them?
But what?
Bringing them into Thessaly will you raise and educate them,
making them strangers, so that they may enjoy even this?
Or maybe not this, but if they are raised during your life
will they be better raised and educated,
your not being with them?
for your companions will take care of them.
If you journey to Thessaly will they take care,
but if you journey to Hades will they not take care?
If really someone is a help
their claiming to be your companions,
one should think so.

16
"But, Socrates, be persuaded by us who raised you,
do not make children more important
nor life nor anything else before justice,
so that going to Hades you may have all these things
to argue in your defense to those ruling there;
for it does not appear by doing these things
to be better for you here nor more just nor more holy,
nor for any of the others
nor will it be better when you arrive there.

"But now you go away wronged, if you do go away,
not by us the laws but by people;
and if you escape so shamefully
retaliating and returning bad actions,
breaking your agreements and contracts with us,
and acting bad to those whom you least should do so,---
yourself and friends and country and us,---
we shall be angry with you while you live,
and there our brothers, the laws in Hades,
will not receive you kindly,
knowing that you attempted to destroy us,
as far as you could.
But do not let Crito persuade you to do what he says
rather than what we say."

17
My dear friend Crito, know well
that this is what I seem to hear,
as the Corybantes seem to hear the flutes,
and in myself the sound of these arguments rings,
and it makes it impossible to hear any others;
but know, as it seems now to me,
if you would argue against these, you will speak in vain.
Yet if you think you might accomplish anything, say it.

CRITO. But, Socrates, I have nothing to say.

SOCRATES. Let it be now, Crito,
and let us act this way,
since God leads this way.

Notes to:

1: The ship from Delos is explained in Phaedo 1.
2: The quote is from Homer's Iliad IX, 363.
17: Corybantes were attendants of the great Mother Goddess in a mystic cult with wild dances, which claimed to heal mental disorders.

Copyright 1996, 2002 by Sanderson Beck

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WISDOM OF GREECE, ISRAEL, ROME Contents
Introduction to Socrates and Plato
ALCIBIADES by Plato
APOLOGIA SOKRATOUS (DEFENSE OF SOCRATES) by Plato
PHAEDO by Plato

SOCRATES

"Know Yourself"
The Sophists
Prudence and Courage
The Lover
The Banquet
Inspiration
Rhetoric
Justice
The Good
The Trial
Prison and Death

BECK index