BECK index

by Plato

Translated by Sanderson Beck

This has been published in the WISDOM BIBLE as a book. For ordering information, please click here.

1. Interval Between Trial and Execution
2. Witnesses of the Death of Socrates
3. Last Visit to Socrates
4. Socrates Composing Poems
5. Evenus to Follow Socrates
6. Suicide Not Divine Will
7. Why Flee Good Rulers on Earth?
8. Dying Go to Good Gods
9. Philosopher Seeks Release of Soul
10. Body a Hindrance to Wisdom
11. Problems of the Body
12. Philosophers Practice Dying
13. Philosophers Not Afraid of Death
14. Fears of Soul Vanishing
15. Generation of Opposites
16. Living Born from the Dead
17. Souls of Dead Come Back to Life
18. Learning Is Recalling
19. Equality Known Before Birth
20. Abstract Knowledge Recalled
21. Souls Know Before Birth
22. Thus Souls Exist Before Birth

23. Do Souls Exist After Death?
24. The Childlike Fear of Death
25. The Uncompounded Are Unchanging
26. Soul Like the Invisible
27. Soul Like the Unchanging
28. Soul Masters the Body
29. Soul Departs Body at Death
30. Impure Souls Wander the Earth
31. Reincarnate by Nature
32. Wise Care for Souls
33. Philosopher Avoids Pleasures
34. Philosopher Sees Truth
35. Socrates Not Worried by Doubts
36. Soul, Like Harmony, May Perish
37. Soul May Perish After Many Lives
38. Listeners Disheartened
39. Warning about Logic Hating
40. Truth in Argument
41. Harmony Comes After
42. Soul Has Harmony and Discord
43. Soul May Oppose Body
44. Argument of Cebes Reviewed

45. Socrates Studied Nature
46. Mind the Cause of Everything
47. Physical Things Not Cause
48. Decided to Use Reasoning
49. Ideas as Causes
50. Greatness and Smallness
51. Opposite Cannot Be Its Opposite
52. Things That Cannot Stand Their Opposite
53. Three Can Never Be Even
54. Soul Makes the Body Alive
55. The Soul Is Immortal
56. The Soul Is Indestructible
57. Souls at Death Follow Guides
58. Socrates Describes the Earth
59. The Other World
60. The Chasm of Tartarus
61. The Four Streams of Tartarus
62. The Dead Are Judged
63. Care for the Soul Important
64. Corpse of Socrates Not Him
65. Socrates Gets Ready for Execution
66. Socrates Drinks the Drug
67. The End of the Best

Then Socrates pausing for a long time
and considering something in himself
said, "It is not a trivial thing, Cebes, you are seeking;
for it is necessary to investigate completely
the cause of generation and decay.
So I will tell you
my own experience concerning these things, if you wish;
since if something appears to you useful in what I say,
you may use it for persuasion when you argue."

"I certainly do wish it," said Cebes.

"Then hear what I will say.
For I, Cebes," he said, "when young
was tremendously eager for this wisdom,
which they call the study of nature.
For it seemed to me to be magnificent,
to know the causes of each thing,
why each thing comes into being
and why it perishes and why it exists;
and I often changed myself topsy-turvy
considering first such things:
do heat and cold take some putrefaction, as some argued,
and then living things grow together;
and is it the blood by which we think,
or the air or fire, or none of these,
and is the brain what provides the sensations
of hearing and seeing and smelling,
and out of these does memory and opinion come,
and out of memory and opinion received
does knowledge according to these become stable?
And considering the ruin of these things,
and the state of heaven and earth,
until finally it seemed to be unnatural for me
to consider this matter at all.

"And I will give you sufficient proof;
for what I knew distinctly before,
as it seemed to myself and to others,
then by that consideration thus quite blinded,
so that I unlearned even what before I was thinking to know,
about many other things and by what a person grows.
For this I was thinking before was clear to everyone,
that it is by eating and drinking;
for when out of food flesh accrues to flesh,
and bones to bones,
and thus according to the same argument also
parts of the same grow to each of the others,
and then the little bulk becomes more later,
and thus the small person becomes big;
then I was thinking thus.
Does it not seem reasonable to you?"

"Yes," said Cebes.

"Then consider this also.
For I was thinking it seemed to me adequate,
whenever some person stood alongside
the big one would appear to be larger
than the small one by a head,
and a horse with a horse;
and still more palpably than this,
ten seemed to me to be more than eight
because two was added to it,
and the two-cubit to be larger than the cubit
because of being twice as long."

"And now," said Cebes, "what do you think about this?"

"By Zeus," he said, "my place is far from thinking
I know the cause of any of these things,
who does not accept myself at all that,
when one is added to one,
whether the one to which was added became two,
or the one added,
or whether the one added and the one to which was added
because of the addition one to the other became two;
for I wonder if, when each of them was without the other,
each was then one and they were not then two,
and when they were brought near to each other,
then this was the cause of their becoming two,
the putting of them closer together with each other.
And still I am not persuaded that, if one is divided,
the division causes it to become two;
for then they arose because one was near to each other
and added to another,
and now because one is subtracted and separated from another.
Because of this I no longer believe I know even
the meaning of how one or anything else is generated
or perishes or exists, according to this type of method,
but I made at random another way myself,
and I do not accept this anymore.

"But when I heard someone reading out of a book,
as he said, of Anaxagoras, and arguing that
it is the mind which sets in order and causes everything,
I was pleased by this cause
and it seemed to me good to have some way
for the mind to be the cause of everything,
and I thought, if this is so,
the mind in ordering orders everything
and puts each thing itself how it is best to have it;
so if anyone wishes to discover the cause of each,
how it is generated or perishes or exists,
one must discover about it,
how it is best for it either to be
or to experience anything whatsoever or to do.
And then out of this argument nothing else is fitting
for a person to consider concerning both it and others,
but the virtue and the best.
And it is necessary to know this and the worst;
for the knowledge about them is the same.

"Contemplating these things I was glad to think
I had discovered a teacher of the causes of reality
according to my mind in Anaxagoras,
and to me would be shown first
whether the earth is flat or round,
and when shown, he would explain the cause and necessity,
arguing the better and why it was better for her to be such;
and if he said she was in the center,
he would explain how it was better
for her to be in the center;
and if these things would be proved,
I was prepared to yearn no longer
for any other kind of cause.

"And I was prepared also thus about the sun,
learning in like manner about both the moon
and the other stars,
the speed toward each other and courses
and the other phenomena,
how it is better for each of them
both to do and undergo what is undergone.

"For I never thought that,
having said they were ordered by mind,
any other cause would be offered for them
than that it is best to have them so as they are;
so having given a cause to each and to all in common
I was thinking it was being explained
what was best for each and good for all in common;
and I would not give up these hopes for a great deal,
but taking the books very seriously
I read them as quickly as I could in order to know
as quickly as possible the best and the worst.

"So from this wonderful hope, friend, I was swept away,
when advancing in reading
I saw the man made no use of the mind
nor did he charge any causes in the ordering of things,
but air and ether and water
and many other oddities were charged.

"And it seemed to me it was most like experiencing as if
someone said that Socrates does everything he does by mind,
and when attempting to explain the causes of each thing I do,
should say first that because of these things
I am now sitting here:
my body being composed out of bones and muscles,
and the bones are hard
and have joints separating them from each other,
and the muscles can be contracted and relaxed,
surrounding the bones with the flesh
and skin which contains them;
so raising the bones in their sockets
loosening and tightening the muscles
makes possible the bending which is now my care,
and because of this cause
I am sitting here in a bent position;
and concerning the discussion with you
he would argue other causes
such as voice and air and hearing and many other such causes,
neglecting to say the true causes that,
since it seemed to the Athenians it was best to condemn me,
and so because of these things
it seemed to me best to sit here,
and more right staying to undergo
whatever judgment they order;
since by the dog,
I fancy long ago these muscles and bones
would have been either around Megara or Boeotia,
carried by an opinion of the best,
if I did not think it was more just and beautiful
before fleeing and escaping
to undergo the judgment which the city may impose.

"But to call such things causes is very odd;
and if anyone should say that without having such things
as bones and muscles and other things I have,
I could not have done what seemed to me best,
one would be saying the truth;
yet to say because of these things I do what I do
and I do these by mind,
but not from choosing what is best,
would be a far-fetched and rash way of speaking.
For the discussion is unable to distinguish that
the cause is in reality something else,
and the other is that without which
the cause could never be a cause;
so it appears to me many are groping as in the dark,
attaching a false name to a stranger,
when they address a cause this way.

"And so someone by putting a whirlwind around the earth
makes the earth remain below heaven,
and another as a flat trough
supported on a foundation of air;
but of the power which is able now to establish these
placing them as is best,
they neither seek this
nor do they think it has any divine force,
but they believe they can discover an Atlas
stronger and more immortal and all-embracing than this,
and in truth they do not think at all of the good
which must both unite and embrace.

"Therefore of such causes
I would like to become a student
wherever, whenever, from anyone;
but since I was deprived of this and did not find it
nor was I able to learn it from another,
about the second voyage seeking for the cause
which I conducted,
do you wish me," he asked, "to add what I did, Cebes?"

"I do wish it enormously," he said.

"It seemed to me then," he said, "after this,
since I had failed in considering the realities,
it was necessary to be careful that I should not suffer
as those who watch and look at the sun during an eclipse;
for some ruin their eyes,
unless they look at it in water or something like that.
And I understood this,
and was afraid lest the soul would be completely blinded
looking at the things with the eyes
and attempting to perceive them with each of the senses.

"So it seemed to me necessary
to take refuge in the meanings
to consider in them the truth of the realities.
Perhaps then the way I represent some is not accurate.
For I do not at all concede
that considering the realities in their meanings
is to consider them in images any more than in actions;
but then in this way I began,
and hypothesizing each argument
which I judge to be most sound,
whatever seems to me to agree with this,
I assume as being true,
both concerning causes and any other thing whatever,
and what does not, as not true.
But I wish to tell you more clearly what I mean;
for I think now you do not understand."

"No, by God," said Cebes, "certainly not."

"Well," he said, "I mean this, nothing new,
but as always and elsewhere and in the past argument
I have not stopped saying it.
For I am going to try to explain to you
the form of the cause which I have been working on,
and I am back again on those much repeated things
and begin from those,
hypothesizing there is a certain beauty in and of itself
and goodness and greatness and all the rest;
which if you grant me and agree these exist,
I hope out of this to explain to you the cause
and discover how the soul is immortal."

"Truly," said Cebes, "as it is granted to you
quickly conclude."

"Consider then next," he said, "these things,
if they seem to you as they do to me.
For it appears to me,
if anything else is beautiful except beauty itself,
for no other reason is it beautiful
than for the reason that it shares in that beauty;
and so I say this of all things.
Do you consent to such a cause?"

"I consent," he said.

"Now then," he said, "I do not yet understand
nor am I able to know these other wise causes;
but if anyone tells me the reason
why anything whatever is beautiful
is either its flowery color or shape
or anything else of that kind whatever,
I let the other things go,
for I am confused by all the others,
and this I hold simply and absolutely
and perhaps simplistically by myself,
that nothing else makes it beautiful
except either the presence or communion of that beauty
in whatever way that may also come to it;
for this is still not confirmed,
but that all beautiful things become beautiful by beauty.
For this seems to me to be the most sure thing to answer
both to myself and another,
and holding to this I believe it will never fall,
but it is safe both for me and anyone else to answer
that beautiful things are beautiful by beauty;
or does it not seem so to you too?"

"It does."

"And great things are great
and the greater greater by greatness,
and the lesser are less by smallness?"


"And you would not accept it,
if someone said one is greater than another by a head,
and the smaller smaller in the same way,
but you would affirm that you say nothing else
but that every greater thing is greater than another
by nothing else than greatness,
and on account of this greater, because of greatness,
and the smaller is smaller by nothing else than by smallness,
and on account of this smaller, because of smallness,
fearing I think, lest some opposite argument met you,
if you said someone is greater by a head and smaller,
first that the greater is greater by the same thing
and the smaller smaller,
since the greater is greater by a head which is small,
and this is monstrous,
that something is great by something small;
or would you not be afraid of this?"

And laughing Cebes said, "I would."

"Then," he said, "would you be afraid to say
ten is two more than eight,
and surpasses it on account of this cause,
but rather it counts more also on account of counting?
And the two-cubit is greater than the one-cubit by half,
but not by greatness?
For the same fear is there."

"Certainly," he said.

"But what? Would you not avoid saying that
in adding one to one addition is the cause of the two
or division of the dividing?
And you would shout loudly
that you know of no other way each thing is generated
than by sharing in the essential idea
of each thing in which it shares,
and in these you do not have any other cause
of the generating of the two than sharing in duality,
and it is necessary for things intending to be two
to share in this,
and whatever intends to be one in unity,
and you would let go of these divisions
and additions and other such subtleties,
passing yourself for the wiser to answer;
and you would be afraid, as in the saying,
of your own shadow and ignorance,
having that sure hypothesis, would you answer thus?

"And if anyone should challenge this hypothesis,
you would let it go and not answer
until you should consider the things that come from that,
whether to you they agree with each other or disagree;
and when you have to give the meaning of that principle,
you would give it in the same way,
by hypothesizing another hypothesis,
which should appear best of the higher ones,
until you should come to what was sufficient,
and at the same time you would not mix,
as the contentious do
in discussing about the beginning
and what comes out of that,
if you wish to find any of the realities.
For perhaps none of those think at all about this argument;
for adequate by their common wisdom in mixing everything up
nevertheless they can be satisfied with this themselves;
but if you are a philosopher,
I think you should do as I say."

"You tell the truth," said Simmias and Cebes together.

ECHECRATES. By Zeus, Phaedo, reasonably said;
for amazingly it seems to me how distinctly
even to one having small intelligence he said these things.

PHAEDO. Certainly, Echecrates,
and it seemed so to everyone present.

ECHECRATES. Also for us not present, but hearing now.
But what was the discussion after this?

PHAEDO. As I believe,
when these things were consented to by him,
and they had agreed each of these forms exists
and other things sharing in these have their names,
then after this he asked, "So if you say these things thus,
do you not, when you say Simmias is greater than Socrates,
but smaller than Phaedo,
say then there is in Simmias both greatness and smallness?"

"I do."

"But," he said, "you agree
that Simmias exceeding Socrates
is not as stated in that phrase also true.
For not by having been born
does Simmias exceed Socrates in this,
but by the greatness which he happens to have;
nor does he exceed Socrates because Socrates is Socrates,
but because Socrates has smallness
next to that one's greatness."


"And he is not exceeded by Phaedo,
because Phaedo is Phaedo,
but because Phaedo has greatness
next to the smallness of Simmias."

"This is so."

"Thus Simmias has the name small and large,
being in between the two,
by exceeding in greatness he is exceeding the smallness,
and submitting to the greatness exceeding his smallness."
And at once smiling he said, "I am speaking like a book,
but then anyway it is as I say."

He agreed.

"And I am talking this way on account of
wishing for it to seem to you as it does to me.
For it appears to me not only that greatness itself
will never be at the same time great and small,
but also that the greatness in us will never accept the small
nor will it be exceeded by it,
but one of two things,
either it flees and withdraws,
when its opposite, the small, comes toward it,
or by that one coming near it perishes;
but it will not in surviving and accepting smallness
be other than as it was.
Just as I accepted and survived smallness,
and still being as I am, I am this same small person;
and the greatness has not endured being small;
as also the same way the smallness in us
will never become and be great,
nor will any other opposite, which is still as it was
become and be at the same time opposite,
but it either goes away or perishes in this experience."

"Absolutely," said Cebes, "thus it appears to me."

And one of those present hearing said---
who it was I don't clearly remember:
"Before the gods,
is not what we agreed to in the previous argument
the very opposite of what is being said now,
out of the lesser the greater is generated
and out of the greater the lesser,
and simply the very generation of opposites
is out of their opposites?
But now it seems to me it is being said
that this could never occur."

And Socrates turning his head and listening,
said, "Like a man you have spoken,
yet you do not understand the difference
between the meaning of now and then.
For then it was said
out of the opposite thing
the opposite thing is generated,
but now, that the opposite itself
could never become its own opposite,
neither in us nor in nature.
For then, friend, we were talking about
things having opposites, naming these by those names,
but now about those themselves,
which having have the name named;
and those themselves we say
will never accept generation from each other."
And looking at Cebes at the same time he said, "Cebes,
are you at all bothered by any of the things which he said?"

"Not so much," said Cebes,
"though I am not saying that many things don't bother me."

"Then we are agreed," he said, "plainly on this,
an opposite is never to be an opposite to itself."

"Completely," he said.

"So still also consider," he said,
"if you agree with me on this.
Do you call anything heat and cold?"

"I do."

"Then is it the same as snow and fire?"

"By God, no."

"But something other than fire is heat
and something other than snow is cold?"


"But here, I think, it seems to you,
if snow ever accepted heat,
as in the previous argument,
it will no longer be as it was, snow and warm,
but encountering heat
will either withdraw itself or perish."


"And fire encountering cold
either withdraws itself or perishes,
yet it can never endure accepting the cold
and still be as it was, fire and cold."

"You say the truth," he said.

"Then it is," he said, "concerning some of these,
that not only the form itself
is worthy of its name into the eternity of time,
but also something else, which is not that,
but has the shape of that always whenever it exists.
But still in the following
perhaps it will be clearer what I am saying.
For the odd it is always necessary for this name to occur,
as now we are saying; or is it not?"


"Then is it the only one, for I am asking this,
or is there something else also,
which is not the same as the odd,
but similarly it is necessary to call this also
with its own name always because of its nature,
so that it never is separated from the odd?
And I mean the same is also possible
in the case of three and many others.
But consider the three.
Then does it not seem to you
it may always be addressed by its own name
and as odd, which is not the same as three?
But similarly thus in the case of both the three
and the five and half of all the numbers,
so that not being the same as the odd
each of them is always odd;
and in the same way the two
and the four and all in the other series of numbers
not being the same as the even
similarly each of these is always even;
do you agree or not?"

"Of course," he said.

"Now," he said, "observe what I wish to clarify.
And here it is, that it appears
not only are those opposites not accepting each other,
but also opposites which not being opposites to each other
always have opposites,
these similarly do not accept that form
which is opposite to the reality in them,
but in its approach they perish or withdraw;
are we not saying the three will perish or anything else
before it will submit to becoming even
while it is still remaining three?"

"Certainly," said Cebes.

"But," he said, "two is not opposite to three."


"Then not only opposite forms
approaching each other do not remain,
but also certain other opposites approaching do not remain."

"You say the truth," he said.

"Then do you wish," he said, "if we can,
to determine what these are?"


"Then Cebes," he said, "will they be those which,
when they take possession,
not only compel it to take its own form,
but also always of some opposite?"

"What do you mean?"

"The same as we just said.
For you know of course that
those forms which take possession of the three,
must be in themselves not only three but also odd."


"So still such, we said, the opposite forms to that shape,
which make it this, never could be."


"And does the odd make it?"


"And is the even opposite to this?"


"Then the three will never come to the form of the even."

"Of course not."

"So the three has no part in the even."

"No part."

"Then the three is uneven."


"Now what I said is to be determined is
what things not being opposites to something
nevertheless do not accept the opposite itself,
as now the three in not being the opposite to the even
does not any the more accept it,
for it always brings forth the opposite to it,
and the two to the odd
and fire to the cold and all the rest---
but see if you note this,
not only the opposite does not accept the opposite,
but also that, which brings forth something opposite to that,
which it approaches,
will never accept the oppositeness of the very thing brought.

"And again recall,
for there is no harm in hearing it often.
The five will not accept the even,
nor the ten, the double, the odd;
so this itself is also not opposite to the other,
but nevertheless it will not accept that of the odd;
nor the half nor such others that of the whole,
also in turn a third and all such things,
if you follow and agree on this."

"Very certainly I both agree," he said, "and follow."

"So again," he said, "tell me from the beginning.
And do not answer me what I ask, but imitate me.
And I mean beyond what was first said, that safe answer,
seeing now another safe one out of what was said.
For if you ask me what makes something hot,
I will not tell you that safe ignorant answer
that it is heat,
but out of the more refined now, that it is fire;
and if you ask, what makes a body ill,
I will not say that it is an illness, but a fever;
and what makes a number to be odd,
I will not say oddness, but a one, and so on.
But see if already you sufficiently understand what I mean."

"But quite sufficiently," he said.

"So answer," he said, "what makes the body to be alive?"

"The soul," he said.

"Then is this always the case?"

"Of course," he said.

"Then the soul that takes possession of it,
does it always come bringing life to that?"

"It does," he said.

"And first is there anything opposite to life or not?"

"There is," he said.



"Then will the soul ever accept the opposite
to what it always brings,
as out of the previous agreement?"

"Most certainly not," said Cebes.

"What then?
So now what do we name the form not accepting the even?"

"Uneven," he said.

"And what does not accept the just and the musical?"

"Unmusical," he said, "and the unjust."

"Well; and what does not accept death, we call what?"

"Immortal," he said.

"Then does the soul not accept death?"


"So the soul is immortal."


"Well," he said; "then shall we say
this is demonstrated; how does it seem?"

"And most sufficiently, Socrates."

"What then, Cebes?" he said.
"If it was necessary for the uneven to be indestructible,
what else than indestructible would the three be?"

"For how could it not?"

"Then if also it was necessary
for the heatless to be indestructible,
whenever any heat approached snow,
would the snow withdraw to be safe and unmelted?
for it could not have perished,
nor could it remaining have accepted the heat."

"You say the truth," he said.

"In the same way, I think, also
if the coldless were indestructible,
whenever anything cold approached fire,
it would never be extinguished nor perish,
but having gone away safe it would endure."

"By necessity," he said.

"Then also," he said,
"is it not necessary to say this about the immortal?
If the immortal is also indestructible,
it is impossible for the soul,
when death comes upon it, to perish;
for out of what was said before
it will not accept death nor will it be dead,
just as we said the three will not be even, nor will the odd,
nor fire cold, nor the heat in the fire.

"But what prevents, someone might say,
the odd from becoming even when approached by the even,
as we agreed,
but perishing the even becomes it instead of that?

"To the one saying this
we would have nothing to contend that it does not perish;
for the uneven is not indestructible;
since if this were conceded to us,
we could easily contend that when the even approaches
the odd and the three withdrawing are gone;
and we could contend this about fire and heat and the others.
Or could we not?"


"So too now concerning the immortal,
if it is conceded to us also to be indestructible;
but if not, another argument would be needed."

"But it is not needed," he said, "on account of this;
for scarcely anything else would not accept ruin,
if the immortal which is eternal will accept ruin."

"But God, I think," said Socrates,
"and the form of life itself,
and if there is anything else immortal,
by all it would be agreed they will never perish."

"Of course by all people, by God," he said,
"and even more, I think, by gods."

"Since then the immortal is also incorruptible,
the soul, if it happens it is immortal,
also would be indestructible?"

"Very definitely."

"Then when death comes upon a person
the mortal part of one, it seems, dies,
and the immortal, safe and incorruptible,
going away is gone, withdrawing from death."

"It appears so."

"Then more than all, Cebes," he said,
"the soul is immortal and indestructible,
and in reality our souls will exist in Hades."

"So I, Socrates," he said,
"have nothing else to say along these lines
nor can I disbelieve the arguments.
However, if Simmias or anyone else has anything to say,
he would do well not to keep silent;
as I do not know any other time to which it could be delayed
other than now in the present,
if anyone is wishing
either to say or hear anything about such things."

"But," said Simmias,
"I myself have no disbelief from the discussion;
yet under the greatness which the arguments are about,
and not esteeming human weakness,
I still must have disbelief
along my lines about what was said."

"Not only that, Simmias," said Socrates,
"but also the first hypotheses,
even if they are believed by you,
similarly should be more carefully examined;
and if you analyze them sufficiently,
I think, you will follow the argument
as closely as it is possible for a human to do;
and if this itself becomes clear,
you will not seek further."

"You tell the truth," he said.

"But, men," he said, "it is right to understand that,
if the soul is immortal,
then it is necessary to take care of her
not only for this time which we call life, but for all time,
and the danger now also seems to be terrible
if one does not take care of her.
For if death were a release from everything,
it would be a god-send for the evil
who in dying would be released from the body
and at the same time from their evils with the soul;
but now since it appears to be immortal,
no one can escape from evils nor be saved in any other way
except by becoming as good and wise as possible.

"For the soul goes into Hades having nothing else
except her education and nurture,
which it is said greatly helps or harms the dead
in the very beginning of the journey there.
And so it is said, that then each angel
of each of the dead, as assigned in life,
attempts to lead them into a place,
where those gathered must be judged to pass into Hades
with that guide who has been appointed
to conduct them from here to there;
and there occurring that which must happen
and remaining for the necessary time
another guide brings them here again
after many long periods of time.

"And the journey is not as Aeschylus's Telephus says;
for that one says a simple path brings one into Hades,
but it appears to me to be neither simple nor single.
For it would not need guides;
for no one could ever stray from a single road.
But now it seems to have many forks and circuits;
I speak from the signs of the holy rites and customs here.

"Therefore the orderly and sensible soul follows
and does not ignore the present;
but the one having desires of the body,
as I said previously,
excited about that for a long time
and around the visible place,
after much resistance and much suffering,
departs led by force and with pain by the appointed angel.

"And arriving where the others are,
the impure and any having done such a thing
as taking part in unjust murders or other such actions,
which happen to be brother acts of these and of sister souls,
it is avoided and shunned by all
who also are not willing to become its companion nor guide,
but she wanders by herself in complete confusion,
until it should be a certain time,
when going out by necessity
she is carried into her proper home;
but those who passed through life purely and moderately,
and getting divine companions and guides,
each lives in her proper place.
And there are many marvelous regions of the earth,
and she is neither in size
nor in any way what she is imagined
by those who are used to talking about the earth,
as I am persuaded by someone."

And Simmias said, "What do you mean by that, Socrates?
For I have heard much about the earth myself,
yet not the things you believe;
so gladly I would listen."

"Well then, Simmias, it does not seem to me
to be the art of Glaucus to narrate what she is;
yet as truth,
it appears to me to be harder than by the art of Glaucus,
and at the same time perhaps I would not be able to,
and besides, even if I knew how,
it seems to me my life, Simmias, would be over
before the argument is adequate.
Yet nothing prevents my telling what I believe to be
the form of the earth and her regions."

"But," said Simmias, "that will be adequate."

"I believe then," he said, "that first,
if she is in the middle of the heavens being carried round,
she needs neither air nor any other such necessity
for her not to fall,
but sufficient to maintain her
are the likeness of heaven to all of it
and the equal balance of the earth herself;
for something equally balanced
put in the middle of something similar
will not incline at all more nor less,
but similarly stays unswerving.
First," he said, "I believe this."

"And correctly," said Simmias.

"Next then," he said, "she is something very large,
and those of us living
between the pillars of Heracles and the Phasis river
live in a small portion around the sea,
like ants or frogs around a pond,
and many others elsewhere live in many such places.
For there are everywhere around the earth
many hollows of all sorts both in form and greatness,
into which the water and the mists and the air
have flowed together;
but the earth pure herself is situated in the pure heaven,
in which the stars are,
which is called ether
by many who are used to talking about such things;
of which these are the sediment
and flow together always into the hollows of the earth.

"So our living in her hollows is unnoticed,
and we think we are living up on the earth,
just as if someone who lived at the bottom of mid-ocean
should think one lived on the sea,
and through the water seeing the sun and the other stars
should believe the sea to be heaven,
and because of slowness and weakness
never reached the surface of the sea nor ever seen,
getting out and popping up out of the sea into this place,
which happens to be more pure and beautiful than theirs,
nor having heard from another who had seen.

"And this is the same thing we have experienced;
for living in some of the hollows of the earth
is to think one is living above her,
and to call the air heaven,
since because of this heaven the stars really move;
but the fact is, by weakness and slowness
we are not able to go through to the utmost air;
since, if anyone should go to the top of it
or becoming winged should reach it, popping up to look down,
just as the fish popping up out of the sea see things here,
so someone there also could look down on things,
and if by nature were capable to hold up to the looking,
would recognize that that is truly heaven
and truly the light and so truly the earth.

"For this earth and the stones and the whole region here
are corrupted and devoured,
just like things in the sea by the brine,
and nothing worth any meaning grows in the sea,
nor, as one might say, is anything perfect,
but it is caves and sand and endless mud and mire,
where there would be earth also,
and nothing is in any way worthy to be judged beautiful
compared to our things;
but those things would appear to surpass even much more ours.
For if it is necessary also to tell a story,
worth hearing, Simmias,
it hits upon the things on the earth
which are below the heavens."

"But Socrates," said Simmias,
"we would gladly listen to this story."

"Then it is said, friend," he said,
"first that to see the earth is such,
if one looked from above, as twelve spheres,
varied, with distinct colors,
for which also the colors are like patterns,
with which the painters color;
but there the whole earth is made out of these,
and out of even brighter and purer ones than these;
for the purple also is of amazing beauty, and the golden,
and the white whiter than chalk or snow,
and she is composed likewise out of the other colors,
still more amazing and beautiful than the ones we see.
For these very same hollows which are full of water and air,
present a form of color
shining among the other varied colors,
so that in her continuous form she appears varied.

"And in this same reality
growing things grow in proportion,
trees and flowers and the fruits;
and further the mountains likewise and the stones
are by the same ratio smoother and transparent
and the colors more beautiful;
and the pebbles which here are these prized ones,
sards and jaspers and emeralds and all such gems;
but there what is not such
is even more beautiful than these.
And the reason for this is that those stones are pure
and not devoured and corrupted as those here are
by rottenness and brine flowing together here,
which also produce in stones and earth
and the other animals and plants deformity and disease.
And the earth herself has been arranged with all these
and also with gold and silver and other such things.
For showing forth these have grown, being many,
abundant and large and in many places of the earth,
so that seeing her is a blessed sight to see.

"And upon her there are many other animals and people,
some living inland, and some around the air,
as we around the sea,
and some on islands
which the air flows around being next to the mainland;
and in a word,
what the water and the sea are to us for our use,
there the air is this,
and what the air is to us, the ether is to them.

"And its seasons have such temperature,
that they have no diseases
and a lifetime is much longer than here,
and sight and hearing and sensibility and all such things
stand apart from ours in the same way as
air stands apart more pure than water and ether than air.

"So also even their groves and sacred places are divine,
in which gods are really living,
and speaking and prophecies and visions of the gods
and such communions occur with these to them;
and the sun and moon and stars
are seen by them as they really are,
and otherwise happiness is in accord with these.

"And so the whole earth has such a nature
and the things around the earth;
but in her, down in her hollows
round about the whole are many regions,
some deeper and more spread out than those in which we live,
and some deeper having a narrower opening than our region,
and some are shorter in depth than here and are wider;
but all these are connected to each other by the earth
in many places down both narrower and wider,
and having passages through which much water flows
from one to another like in a basin,
and ever flowing rivers extraordinarily large under the earth
and of warm and cold waters,
and much fire and great rivers of fire,
and many streams of mud both thinner and thicker,
like in Sicily the rivers of mud flowing before the lava
and the lava itself;
and so which fill each of the regions,
as to each by chance the flowing around each time occurs.
And all these move up and down
like some oscillation within the earth;
and so this oscillation through nature is some such thing.

"One of the chasms of the earth
happens to be greater than the rest
and is bored right through the whole earth,
this of which Homer himself says,

'Far off, where deepest beneath the earth is an abyss;'
and which elsewhere
he and many other poets have called Tartarus.
For all the rivers flow together into this chasm
and flow out of it again;
and each becomes such,
as the earth through which it also flows.

"And the cause of all the streams
flowing in and out of here
is that this liquid has no foundation nor base.
So it oscillates and waves up and down,
and the air and the wind around it do the same thing;
for they follow it
both when it moves into the other side of the earth
and when it moves into this side,
and like the breath stream of the breathing
always blows out and blows in,
so too there the wind oscillates with the liquid
and produces some terrible and extraordinary winds
both going out and going in.

"Therefore when the water withdraws
into the region called the lower,
it flows into the streams down there through the earth
and fills them like pumps;
and when it sinks from there, and moves here,
it fills the ones here again,
and being filled they flow through the passages
and through the earth,
and into the regions they each reach,
into which each makes a path,
and they make seas and marshes and rivers and springs;
and from there again sinking beneath the earth,
some going around larger regions and more,
and others lesser and smaller,
again emptying into Tartarus,
some much below where they were emitted, and some a little;
but all flow in below the exit.

"And some flow in opposite where they came out,
and others below the same part;
and there are some going completely around in a circle,
either once or even many times
wound around the earth like snakes,
descending as low as possible emptying in again.
And it is possible to go down both ways
as far as the center, but no further;
for it is uphill to both streams
from either side of the center.

"So then these streams are many
and great and of all kinds;
and it happens then that among these many are four streams,
the greatest and outermost of which flows in a circle
and is called Oceanus,
and opposite this flowing oppositely is Acheron,
which flows through other desert regions
and flowing under the earth arrives into the Acherusian lake,
at which the souls of most of the dead arrive
and having stayed for the time due,
some longer, and some shorter,
again are sent out to be born into living creatures.

"And the third river comes out between these,
and near its exit it falls into
a great region burning with much fire,
and it makes a lake greater than the sea by us,
boiling with water and mud;
and from there it withdraws in a circle turbid and muddy,
and winding around to another place
it arrives also at the edge of the Acherusian lake,
not mingling with its water;
but winding around many times beneath the earth
empties lower than Tartarus;
and this is what they name Pyriphlegethon,
from which also the lava streams drawn off
spout up wherever they happen to on the earth.
"And opposite this the fourth falls
first into a region terrible and wild, as it is said,
the whole of which having a dark blue color,
which they name Stygian,
and the lake, which the river emptying makes, Styx;
and having fallen in here
and received terrible powers in the water,
passing beneath the earth,
winding around it withdraws opposite to the Pyriphlegethon
and meets it in the Acherusian lake from the other side;
and also this water does not mingle with any,
but this too going around in a circle
empties into Tartarus opposite to the Pyriphlegethon;
and the name of this is, as the poets say, Cocytus.

"Such is the nature of these,
when the dead arrive at the place
where the angel brings each,
first they are judged,
those who lived well and piously and those who did not.

"And the ones judged not to have lived moderately,
going to the Acheron, embarking on ships which are for them,
arrive in them at the lake,
and there they live and are purified of the wrongs
making amends they are forgiven,
if someone did something wrong,
and of the good deeds they gain something
each according to merit;
but the ones judged to have incurable wrongs
because of the greatness of the faults,
or who committed many and great sacrileges
or unjust murders and many crimes,
or who happened to do any other such things,
the fitting destiny casts these into Tartarus,
from where they never get out.

"But the curable ones,
judged to have committed great crimes,
who in anger did something violent to father or mother,
and lived the rest of their life in repentance,
or who were manslaughterers in some other such way,
they fall into Tartarus by necessity,
they having fallen and also having been there a year
the wave throws them out,
the manslaughterers by the Cocytus,
the father-beaters and mother-beaters by the Pyriphlegethon;
and when they have been carried by the Acherusian lake,
from there they cry and call,
to those they killed, and to those they offended,
and calling they beg and ask to allow them
to get out into the lake and be accepted,
and if they persuade them,
they get out and they cease the evils,
but if not, they are carried again into the Tartarus
and from there again into the rivers,
and these sufferings do not stop
until they persuade those they wronged;
for this is the sentence imposed on them by the judges.

"But the ones judged to have lived excelling in holiness,
these are free from these regions in the earth
and released as from prisons,
and arriving up into the pure home they dwell on earth.
And of these those purified sufficiently by philosophy
live without bodies altogether in the time thereafter,
and arrive into homes even more beautiful than these,
which are not easy to describe
nor is there sufficient time in the present.
However, on account of these things we discussed
we ought to do everything
so as to share in virtue and thoughtfulness in life;
for the contest is beautiful and the hope great.

"So for such things to be relied upon as being thus,
as I described,
it is not fitting for a man having intelligence;
yet that it is this or some such thing
concerning our souls and the homes,
since the soul appears to be immortal,
this also seems to me fitting
and a venture worthy of imagining it is so;
for the venture is beautiful;
and such things are useful in singing to oneself,
wherefore I also have lengthened the past story.

"However on account of these things
it is useful for a man to take courage concerning his soul,
who in life renounced the other pleasures of the body
and its ornaments, as being alien,
believing even more it is another thing to be perfected,
and has been serious about learning things
and has adorned the soul not with something alien
but with her own order,
discretion and justice and courage and freedom and truth,
thus one waits for the journey into Hades,
as passing when destiny should call.

"So you, Simmias," he said, "and Cebes and the others,
hereafter in some time each will pass;
but now already it calls me,
a man of tragedy would say, destiny,
and the hour is close for me to turn to the bath;
for it is better to be bathed to drink the drug
and not cause the women the trouble of bathing the corpse."

When he had said these things,
Crito said, "Well, Socrates, what do you direct me to do
either concerning the children or anything else
which we could do for you as a special favor?"

"As I always say, Crito," he said, "nothing new;
that taking care of yourselves
you are doing a favor both to me and mine and yourselves,
if you do, even if now you do not promise;
but if you neglect yourselves
and are not willing to live as on the track
of these speeches now and the previous ones,
no, even if you promise much in the present and vehemently,
you will not do any better."

"Accordingly we shall be eager," he said, "to do so;
but in what manner shall we bury you?"

"However you wish," he said,
"if you can catch me and I do not escape from you."
And laughing gently and at once looking toward us he said,
"I have not convinced Crito, men, that I am this Socrates,
who now is conversing and arranging each part of the arguing,
but he thinks I am that corpse
which he will see a little later,
and so he asks how he should bury me.
And though I have just made much argument, that,
when I drink the drug, I shall no longer stay with you,
but I shall go away into the joys of the blessed,
these things about me to him I seem to say otherwise,
encouraging at once both you and myself.

"So you will give me a pledge to Crito," he said,
"the opposite than the one which you pledged to the judges.
For that one was to remain;
but you will pledge I am not to remain, when I die,
but I shall go away,
so that Crito may bear it more easily,
and seeing my body either burned or buried
would not be upset on my behalf as terrible suffering,
nor say at the funeral
that Socrates is being displayed or carried out or buried.
for know well, excellent Crito," he said,
"to say what is not beautiful not only is wrong by itself,
but also it produces evil in the souls.
But you must have courage and say this body is being buried,
and bury it thus as is pleasing to you
and as you believe is most customary."

Having said this he stood up
to go into a room for bathing,
and Crito followed him, and he ordered us to wait.
Thus waiting we were discussing among ourselves
about the things said and examined,
and then about the circumstances gone through,
how it would come to be for us,
really believing as though deprived of a father
we would spend life thereafter as orphans.

And when he had bathed
and the children had been brought to him---
for there were two of his small sons, and one big one---
and the women of the family had arrived,
having conversed with them facing Crito
and commanded some things he wished,
he ordered the women and the children to go away,
and came himself to us.

And it was already near sunset;
for he spent a long time inside.
And coming he sat down having bathed,
and after that not much was discussed,
and the servant of the eleven came and stood by him;
"Socrates," he said, "I shall not condemn you
as I condemn others, who are angry with me and curse,
when I give them the word
to drink the drug compelled by the rulers.
And I have known you to be otherwise in this time
the noblest and gentlest and best man who ever arrived here,
and even now I know well that you are not angry with me,
but with those, for you know the ones responsible.
Now, for you know what I came to announce,
goodby and try to bear the constraints as easy as possible."
And at once bursting into tears turning he went away.

And Socrates looking up at him said, "And goodby to you,
and we shall do these things."
And at once to us he said, "What a charming person!
and during all the time he has come to me
and conversed sometimes and was the most agreeable of men,
and now how nobly he weeps for me.
But come now, Crito, let us obey him,
and let someone bring the drug, if it has been ground;
and if not, let a person grind it."

And Crito said, "But I think, Socrates,
the sun is still on the mountains and has not yet set.
And at the same time I know also others drank it quite late,
when the word should be given to them,
they have dined and drank quite well,
and kept company with some whom they happened to desire.
But do not hurry at all;
for it is still permitted."

And Socrates said, "Naturally, Crito,
those do these things, which you say,
for they think they gain by doing them,
and I naturally shall not do these things;
for I think I would not gain anything
by drinking it a little later
other than to bring on ridicule for myself,
clinging to life and sparing it
when there is nothing still in it.
But come," he said, "obey and do not do otherwise."

And Crito having heard nodded to the boy standing nearby.
And the boy going out and spending a long time
came leading the one intending to give the drug,
bringing it in a cup ground;
and Socrates seeing the person said, "Well, best one,
for you have knowledge of these things,
what is necessary to do?"

"Nothing," he said, "except drinking it
to walk around until your legs become heavy, then lie down;
and thus it will do it itself."

And at the same time he held out the cup to Socrates;
and taking it and very gently, Echecrates,
not trembling nor changing color or expression,
but as he was accustomed to doing,
looking up like a bull toward the person, he said,
"What do you say about pouring out a libation to someone?
Is it allowed or not?"

"We grind such amount, Socrates," he said,
"as we think to be the measure to drink."

"I understand," he said;
"but it is allowed and useful to pray anyway to the gods,
that the change of residence from here to there be fortunate;
which now also I pray and may it be so."
And having said these things at once holding it up
he drank it off very accommodatingly and calmly.

And most of us up to this time
were reasonably able to restrain from weeping,
but as we saw him drinking and having drunk it,
no longer could we, but in spite of myself even
my tears were coming not in drops,
so that hiding my face I was wailing;
for it was not for him, but for my own fortune,
of a man who was being deprived of such a companion.

And Crito got up even before I,
when he could not restrain his tears.
But Apollodorus even in the previous time
did not stop weeping,
and so then really roaring out the wailing was so upsetting
that there was no one who did not break down
of those present except Socrates himself.

But he said, "What sort of things
you are doing, you wonders!
Yet not least did I send away the women on account of this,
so that they would not offend in such ways;
for I have heard that it is useful to die among praising.
But keep quiet and be patient."

And we having heard were ashamed
and restrained the weeping.
And walking around, when he said his legs were heavy,
he lay down on his back;
for the person ordered this;
and at once this giver of the drug grasping him,
after a time he examined his feet and legs,
and when he had pressed hard his foot he asked if he felt it;
"No," he said;
and after this in turn the calves;
and going up thus he showed us that
he was growing cold and stiff.
And again he touched him and said that
when it reached his heart, then he would be gone.

So already the cooling was nearly about his abdomen,
and uncovering his head, for he had covered it up,
he said, which he really uttered dying,
"Crito," he said, "we owe to Asclepius a cock;
but pay it and do not neglect it."

"But this shall be done," said Crito;
"but see, if you have anything else to say."
Having asked him this he no longer answered,
but a short time after he moved,
and the person uncovered him,
and his eyes were set;
and Crito seeing it closed his mouth and eyes.

Such was the end, Echecrates, of our companion,
a man, as we might say,
of those we had experience of at that time
who was best and besides most sensible and most just.

Copyright 1996, 2002 by Sanderson Beck

This has been published in the WISDOM BIBLE as a book. For ordering information, please click here.

Introduction to Socrates and Plato
CRITO by Plato


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

BECK index