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A Classics Club \\J \ College Edition 
Published by arrangement**** with Walter ]. Black 




Decoration before Symposium, courtesy of The Bettmann Archive; decoration before 
Republic, adapted from a painting on a cup in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 




CRITO 6 1 




BOOK I; What is justice? Is the just 
life happier than the unjust? 221 

BOOK II; The life of a well-ordered 
state and education of its soldier citizens in music 
and gymnastics, and in right ideas of God. 253 

BOOK III: Exclusion of the poets 
from the schools. Value of the right sort of music 
and gymnastics. Selection of the best hoys and girls 
for training as rulers. 288 

BOOK IV: The virtues of such a state 
wisdom, courage, and temperance, justice also to 
}je found there. The same virtues appear in the life 
of a well-ordered individual. 306 



BOOK V: Education of women. Com- 
munity of wives and children in the governing 
classes. Humanity in war. Rulers must be philos- 
ophers. 332 

BOOK VI: Nature of the true philos- 
opher, "spectator of all time and all existence." Con- 
tribution of the philosopher to the state. The Idea 
of the Good. 368 

BOOK VII: Figure of mankind in the 
dark cave. Special education and training of rulers 
in science, philosophy, and practice of government. 398 

BOOK VIII: Four inferior types of 
government timocracy, oligarchy, democracy, and 
tyranny. Corresponding types of individuals. How 
from the better they degenerate to the worse. 429 

BOOK IX: The tyrant as the most un- 
just and most miserable of men. The just and wise 
man as ruler over himself and therefore the hap- 
piest. 460 

BOOK X: Further reasons for exclud- 
ing poetry from the state. The rewards of justice 
and wisdom in this life and the next. 477 




SOME twenty-four hundred years ago that part of the world 
which then represented Western civilization was divided into 
two opposing leagues of states. One league was headed by a 
seagoing, trading democracy, mistress of a marine empire of colonies 
and more or less subject states, scattered through the neighboring 
seas. The other was led by an inland, military aristocracy, conqueror 
of considerable territory close around herself and ally of whatever 
states feared the spread of democratic imperialism. The democracy 
was Athens, then at the height of her expanding pride and glory. 
The aristocracy was Sparta, conservative and tenacious, holding on 
to all that had ever been hers. Athens had a matchless fleet; Sparta 
an army without equal on shore. 

The citizens of democratic Athens were proud of their liberty, 
their government by popular assemblies and officials chosen yearly 
by a combination of ballot and lot. Women, foreigners, and slaves 
were, of course, excluded from politics but the vote of every f reeborn 
Athenian man counted for as much as every other's. They were 
proud too in Athens of their unparalleled culture, their literature, 
drama, music, and art. The beautiful new Parthenon, temple of 
their patron goddess Athene, shone down on them from the Acrop- 
olis. In their theaters were produced the tragedies and comedies 
that are still the marvels of the world. Among writers and intel- 
lectuals there was much free thought and speculation on questions 
of science, philosophy, and religion. The city, however, was strict in 
performing its duties to the gods of the fathers, celebrating in special 
state the festivals of Athene, of the nature god Dionysus and the 
earth mother Demeter. Athenians revered and consulted the mys- 
Jerious oracle of Apollo in its rocky ravine at Delphi and competed in 


the pan-Hellenic games at Olympia in honor of the great Zeus. In 
soldierly Sparta, life was far more austere, more like that of an armed 
garrison in a country of aliens. As hardened warriors, Spartans 
scorned the things that made men soft: wealth, trade, luxury, and 
refinements. They were proud of their physical strength, bravery, 
and discipline. 

In 431 B.C. the long smoldering rivalry between the two leagues 
broke out in open war over the problem of who was to control the sea 
routes to the West, that is, to Sicily and South Italy. Until then 
Sparta's ally Corinth had had almost a monopoly of relations with 
the flourishing Greek settlements in that region. But now Athens 
wanted the trade in Western grain and metals for her empire. For 
twenty-seven years the so-called Peloponncsian War dragged on with 
the advantage swinging first to one side and then to the other. By 
404, Athens was exhausted, drained of men and resources, her harbor 
empty of ships, her empire shattered. For a few months she was com- 
pelled to submit to government by a pro-Spartan, aristocratic clique 
of her own citizens, the infamous Thirty. In their short term of office 
they did their best to liquidate all the leading democrats of the city. 
But that was more than even defeated Athens could endure. At the 
end of the year the people rose, drove out the Thirty, and set up the 
forms of democracy once more. But Athens had lost faith in her own 
powers and the treacherous and cold-blooded behavior of her citizens 
had shaken her people's confidence in one another. Who was to be 
trusted when enemies ringed her around and her own turned and 
stabbed hen' The city was split into factions, each hating the other 
more than they did the Spartans. 

For some time there had existed in Greece a class of professional 
teachers of citizenship, to train young men in the arts of politics, 
public speaking, and debate, that they might know how to acquit 
themselves in the assemblies and courts and on the commissions to 
which they might be appointed. These teachers were called Sophists. 
Among themselves they differed a good deal both as to method of 
teaching and as to the kind of moral and intellectual standards they 
gave their pupils to follow. The more old-fashioned still kept their 


faith in the gods of Homer and the poets, and in the codes of patri- 
otism and fair dealing that had been accepted before the war. Others 
were advocates of the new materialistic science that saw the universe 
as a product of whirling atoms and chance. They doubted whether 
there were gods who took any interest in men. Others still more skep- 
tical denied that men could ever know anything certain about world, 
or gods, or anything at all. Many of these went on to assert that right 
and wrong, justice and injustice, truth and falsehood were merely 
artificial conventions, agreed on and upheld by human societies for 
their own convenience or forced upon them by superior might. 
Everyone could see that they differed from time to time and nation 
to nation. There were therefore no divine and unchangeable laws of 
right and wrong, that remained right and wrong always and every- 
where. "The truth is that which is agreed on, at the time of agree- 
ment and as long as the agreement lasts." The one thing certain was 
that men by nature were greedy for pleasure, money, and fame and 
would always get what they could by fair means or foul. 

To the mass of plain Athenians teachings like these were horrify- 
ing and blasphemous. No wonder, they thought, the gods had 
ceased to defend a city that sheltered such wickedness and atheism in 
its walls! On one man in particular, who had long been a conspicu- 
ous figure in city life, their suspicion and anger suddenly fell. This 
man was Socrates (469-399), a stonecutter by trade, frequently 
called a Sophist, though he protested he was not. He had no class- 
room, gave no formal instruction and took no pay. He only walked 
atouTthe^places where Athenians congregated, the streets, the mar- 
ket place and the gymnasium, or sat in the houses of acquaintances, 
talking cheerily to whoever stopped to listen. On the much discussed 
scientific problems of the nature and origin of the universe he had 
nothing to say. In that connection the only question, he said, that 
interested him was why the universe was made as it was, and that 
question he had never found anyone able to answer. Why then waste 
time arguing over things that all wise men disagreed about, in search 
for a knowledge that would do one no good if one had it? What men 
needed to know was how to make the best out of living. Socrates was 


one of those who, as Cicero said afterward, brought philosophy down 
from heaven to earth. 

To the Sophists and materialists, who denied the existence of any 
absolute goodness and truth and ridiculed the old moralities and the 
old faith, he was utterly opposed. Yet neither would he return blindly 
and uncritically to the old ways simply because they were old. To 
believe a thing because one's grandfather believed it was no more 
right than to believe it because a Sophist preached it. The only way 
now to cure the disillusionment, cynicism and doubt to which 
Athenian disasters and sophistic reasoning had brought too many of 
the youth of the day was to push reasoning further. The method he 
used to persuade people to do this has been a model for imitation 
ever since. Start with a simple question suggested by something 
someone else has said. Ask him innocently to explain what he thinks 
is the meaning of some familiar word, the name of something im- 
material but regarded commonly as important friendship, courage, 
justice, truth. Show him by more probing questions how stupid his 
conventional definition is and kindle his interest to try for something 
better, something that will pierce down to the very heart of the prob- 
lem of human values. Even if he reaches no positive conclusion, both 
he and the listening circle will have realized for a moment, at least, 
how foolishly they have taken for granted habits, opinions, and atti- 
tudes that were prejudiced, harmful, and false, and how thrilling 
and inspiring may be the hunt for honesty and truth. "We shall be 
better, braver, and less helpless if we think that we ought to inquire 
[about such things] than we should have been if we indulged in the 
idle fancy that there was no knowing and no use in trying to know." 

To Socrates, as he said at his trial, what the Athenians seemed to 
need most in these years of bitter discomfiture was not a siren to 
flatter and soothe them with sham promises of a speedy return of 
prosperity and grandeur, but a gadfly to sting them to unflinching 
self-examination, to see where in the past they had been wrong- 
headed and mistaken and how with patience and hard thinking they 
might yet build better lives for themselves and for their city. If only 
men could be brought to see the good, he was sure they would always 


choose it and understand, as he did, that to do <;vil was worse even 
than to suffer it. Men were bad because they were thoughtless and 
ignorant. Straight thinking must lead to right living. 

Socrates was no philosophical innovator with disturbing new 
theories about the gods. lie believed that they were good and that 
they watched over and protected good men and women. He himself 
heard often a divine voice forbidding him to do things he should 
not do. He paid the usual offerings in the temples. But his manner 
of speaking of divine as well as other matters was unusual. His way 
of questioning popular ideas, old as well as new, seemed really just 
one more way of teaching the young to have no respect for their 
elders and to speculate about what their ancestors had accepted in 
reverence and trust. If he had only been willing to keep silence and 
stop his perpetual discussions, that unsettled everybody's mind in 
this time of danger to the state, the jury would undoubtedly have let 
him go. But "I shall not change my ways," he said, "though I die a 
thousand deaths." The jury thereupon condemned him to die. 

Like Jesus, Socrates left no written word behind him. But likfe 
him, he left devoted followers who wrote their recollections of what 
he had said and done. Most of this early Socratic literature, like the 
primitive Christian documents, has disappeared. But one of Socrates' 
disciples was the author of a series of dialogues that began as a monu- 
ment to a beloved master, but went on to become the starting point of 
much that was to be fruitful and profound in European thought to 
this day. As one of our modern thinkers has remarked, philosophy 
ever since then has consisted largely of footnotes on Plato. 

Plato (427-347) came of a distinguished Athenian family. In his 
youth, as he tells us in a letter, he had looked forward eagerly to 
entering public life. He was twenty-three when the war ended with 
\he overthrow of the discredited democratic government. Among the 
'tristocratic Thirty were his mother's brother and cousin and they 
invited Plato to join them. "I thought," he says, "these men were 
going to put a stop to the evils that had been happening and govern 
the city with justice, so I watched their conduct closely to see what 
they would do. But . . . they very soon showed me that the pre- 


ceding regime had been a golden age by comparison." The worst 
\veaknesses of the democracy seemed nothing beside the savagery 
of the Thirty. When, however, the Thirty were expelled, Plato hoped 
once more to take a part in city politics. The restored democracy was 
at first surprisingly moderate and even generous in its treatment of 
those who had tried to destroy it. But ere long the young man's 
sensitive conscience was shocked again. His teacher Socrates, "whom 
I would not hesitate to call the most righteous man of that time," was 
accused by influential democrats of impiety and put to death. "The 
more I reflected on what was going on and what kind of men were 
active in politics and what kind of laws and customs we had, and the 
older I grew, the more I realized how hard it is to reform public life." 

Grieving for Socrates and baffled in his hope of doing something 
with the democrats to improve the state of things at Athens, he went 
abroad and stayed for over ten years. In Sicily, he spent some time at 
the court of Dionysius I of Syracuse observing the working of a dic- 
tatorship. "At last," he says, "I came to the conclusion that all exist- 
ing states are badly governed and the condition of their laws prac- 
tically incurable without the application of drastic remedies and help 
of fortune . . . and that the ills of the human race will never dis- 
appear until by God's gift those who are sincere and true lovers of 
wisdom attain political power, or the rulers of our cities learn true 

Some time after reaching this conclusion, Plato returned to Athens 
and founded his Academy, since called the first European university, 
on a private estate outside the city walls. Not if he could, would he 
start another violent revolution in government. He had seen enough 
of blood, slaughter, and exile. But after the manner of Socrates he 
would serve his city by teaching young men the love of wisdom, 
truth, and justice, until reform came peacefully by education and 
persuasion. Like Socrates, he believed virtue to be a form of knowl- 
edge that could be taught. But his program of teaching was more 
far-reaching and systematic than Socrates' had been. It included pre- 
paratory studies in mathematics, astronomy, music, and logic as well 
as in politics and ethics. Only by strict discipline, did he think, could 


a young mind be made keen enough to penetrate beyond the dis- 
ordered welter of our present world and perceive the unchangeable 
principles of truth. Before long the Academy was drawing students 
from all over the Greek world. It continued to do so for some nine 
hundred years, until the Christian emperor Justinian at last closed 
its doors in 529 A.D. 

The latter half of his life Plato spent teaching, lecturing, and 
writing at his school, except for two trips he made back to Syracuse. 
In 367, the second Dionysius succeeded his father. I le had ambitions 
to be a great ruler, showed a hopeful interest in learning, and was 
susceptible to influence. There seemed a chance that under wise 
guidance he might become the beneficent statesman that Plato was 
longing to see come into power somewhere. Plato paid him two 
visits, anxious now that an opportunity seemed at hand, to test his 
ideals in practice. But Dionysius was not, after all, the stuff of which 
philosopher rulers are made. He tired quickly of study, was easily 
excited to jealousy and suspicion. His word could not be relied on. 
Deeply disappointed, Plato came home to Athens. He died there at 
the age of eighty. The wars between Greek cities and parties were 
still going on, breaking down the strength and morale of all of them, 
regardless of the menace of a rising new power in the North. Nine 
years after Plato's death Greece found herself lying helpless before 
the armies of Philip of Macedonia, father of Alexander the Great. 
The day of the free Greek city state was over. 

Plato left behind him a mass of writings, of which we possess sev- 
eral letters and at least twenty-five authentic dialogues. His own 
views as well as his master's he presented in the form, not of imposing 
treatises or heavy textbooks, but of dramatic conversations between 
friends, fresh, spontaneous, humorous, and informal, held as chance 
might have it, in some house or public building or open space of 
Athens, where Socrates had been known to talk. In all but the latest 
dialogues Socrates figures as the presiding genius and chief speaker, 
even when, as time goes on, the ideas he is expressing are no longer 
his but his disciple's. Plato in his own person says never a word. 
Taken together, however, these dialogues contain his answers to the 


three fundamental questions that had been raised by his predecessors 
and contemporaries. 5Ji^jvhcre_can man firid anything whick-W 
can know is truth? Second, what are the origin and constitution of 
the natural world in which man is set? Third, for what purpose was 
man created and what should he choose as his aim in life? 

Put into simple, modern words, Plato's solution of the problem of 
how we can discover knowledge that is true may be summarized as 
follows. Our senses, sight, touch, and hearing, often deceive us. Our 
sense impressions, taken alone, are misleading and superficial and tell 
us nothing about the real nature of the things around us. Common 
opinion, grounded as it is on sensation, hearsay, and habit, cannot be 
trusted as a guide to truth. But through our reason we may arrive at 
what may be rightfully called true knowledge and understanding. 
Through reason we may use our sense experiences and memories of 
past experiences as material for a process of analysis, classification, 
and synthesis that bit by bit builds up for us a pattern of permanent, 
invisible order behind the perplexing panorama which is all that 
our senses alone perceive. 

The first steps in this reasoning process we take unconsciously in 
childhood. We play, for example, with the household cat, noticing 
the looks and behavior of the little beast as an entirely strange and 
unique individual. But soon afterward we make the acquaintance of 
the neighbor's cat, of a stray kitten in the street, and eventually we 
sift out of our experience with cats and kittens certain traits that we 
see are common to all cats as distinguished from other animals, such 
as dogs. Thus we form a conception of cats as a class or species with 
its own place in nature, sure henceforth that every cat we meet will 
possess those qualities of cattishness which it shares with every other 
of its class, however it may differ in accidental details of size, color, 
or playfulness. The same is true of every object and creature with 
which we come in contact stones, trees, rivers, beetles, birds, cows. 
We learn to see them all not as disconnected, separate individuals but 
as members of some one permanent class or species, which itself is 
part of one vast, related universe. Even the belief in our own per- 


sonal uniqueness we finally lose and accept the fact that we are but 
one of the great family of mankind. 

So with motion and change in our world. From day to day, uncom- 
prehendingly at first, we watch the rising and setting of the sun and 
moon, the changes in the weather, the wandering of the stars through 
the night sky. At length we discern behind the show of ceaseless, hap- 
hazard variation the fixed and stately march of the planets and the 
seasons of the year. Certain qualities, that themselves are always the 
same, appear and reappear in innumerable changing and perishing 
objects. Many different objects are white a house, a woman's dress, 
a cloud. Many different objects arc square a mathematician's dia- 
gram, a tile, a rug. Many different objects have beauty a flower, a 
sunset, a human face. Many different words and thoughts contain 
truth a proposition in geometry, a report of a game, a rule of morals. 
There are then, we come to sec, certain qualities or essences or, as 
Plato called them, Ideas, such as whiteness, squareness, beauty, truth, 
which our minds may learn to ~ecognize as permanent realities, con- 
tinually imparting their unchanging form and character to the transi- 
ent flux of mortality on our earth. The more persistently we examine 
with our reason the shifting kaleidoscope which is all our senses per- 
ceive, the plainer we find traces of deep and essential connection be- 
tween objects and movements that previously seemed to us uncon- 
nected, the more, as Plato said, we collect "into a unity by means of 
reason the many particulars of sense." Therewith we arrive at a 
knowledge" that is sure and superior to mere opinion, a knowledge of 
things not in their superficial aspects, but in their inner nature and 
purpose, which is their reality. 

The problem of the constitution of the universe was then to Plato 
a double one. From what we have already said it is clear that he saw 
it as a combination of two contradictory elements or principles. There 
was, first, the well-knit, harmonious, and changeless pattern running 
through it for whoever had a mind to understand. There was also the 
more or less misshapen, conflicting, and short-lived mass of concrete 
objects, which we daily see, touch, and handle. Our world is made up 
of these objects, is never at rest, is always in process of dying or being 


born, of becoming something else. No single object in it, however 
near it may come to perfection, is ever absolutely perfect or lasting. 
The pattern running through it is marred by countless flaws of ugli- 
ness and decay, storms, earthquakes, deformities of man and beast. 
"What is that which always is/' Plato asks in his dialogue of 
Timaeus, "and is never becoming? What is that which is always be- 
coming and never is?" There are two worlds, was his answer. One is 
an invisible, spiritual world of perfect order and design, containing 
in itself the eternal models or Ideas of all that appears temporarily 
and imperfectly in this the perfect cat, the perfect color, the perfect 
square, perfect beauty and truth. That is the heavenly world of true 
Being, presided over by the greatest of all Ideas, the Idea of the 
Good, the Supreme One, the Father, God. Our material world by 
contrast is a world of Non-being, of becoming but never remaining 
the same, of evil polluting good, of beauty forever fading and passing 
away, a faulty copy of a peerless pattern. "Life, like a dome of many- 
colored glass, stains the white radiance of eternity." 

The creation and ordering of our world Plato describes in the 
Timaeus. God, the all-perfect ruler of the spiritual world, though 
himself lacking nothing, beheld the sphere of Non-being, or, as it was 
to be later called, matter, and found it lifeless, dark, and chaotic. 
Himself all goodness, he desired all things to be like himself, good 
and not evil. So he looked to the spiritual world of Ideas about him 
and framed a material world after its model, bringing down spirit to 
unite with matter, making it rich and diversified and endowing it 
with life, soul, and intelligence. The sky he created as a vast globe, 
placing within it the stars, sun, and moon in their orbits and setting 
them to revolve as in a great dance. The earth he fastened in the 
center. Time began as the celestial bodies rolled on, marking the 
days and nights, months and years. 

Next, God made creatures of every sort and capacity to inhabit the 
universe, following still the patterns already existing in the ideal 
world. He created first the lesser gods, the Olympian deities, Zeus, 
Apollo, Athene, and the rest, and after them the beasts, birds, fishes, 
and land animals, bestowing on each an appropriate soul. Last of all, 


he poured what was left of matter into the cup in which he had mixed 
the world's soul and from this diluted mixture created the throng of 
human souls, which he distributed among the stars. For a while the 
souls were content to live there in purity and bliss, but eventually 
they were drawn by their kinship to the material earth beneath to 
desire bodies. Thereupon the Creator assigned to the lesser gods the 
duty of preparing mortal bodies out of material earth, air, fire, and 
water. Thenceforth each soul, as its turn comes, is joined for a life- 
time to a body and joined thereby to the lower appetites and passions 
that cling to it throughout its earthly career. It finds itself, as Plato 
says in the Phaedrus, driving a chariot with two horses, one a white 
horse, gallant and gentle, straining continually to mount, keeping his 
eyes ever on the divine world to which he aspires to return, the other 
a dark horse, unruly and vicious, obstinately plunging downward 
and dragging the chariot behind him. 

But even after its descent to earth, the soul has its reminders of 
the world of true Being of which it was once a part. It has its 
glimpses, as we have said, of the sublime order governing the tangled 
maze of earthly phenomena. It has also its own memories, faint and 
blurred though they be, of a wisdom and perfection surpassing any- 
thing this world has ever shown it. Our learning is often remember- 
ing what we once knew in another life. But few men understand the 
meaning of these reminders. In the Phaedo and again in the Re- 
public Plato describes the sight-loving, art-loving folk who are "fond 
of fine tones and colors and forms and all the artificial products of 
them but whose minds are not capable of seeing or loving absolute 
beauty," even when forced to admit that none of the beautiful things 
they prize is wholly free of ugliness. They can love the many beauti- 
ful but not beauty itself, which is one, nor can they follow a guide 
who points the way thither. True lovers of wisdom, on the contrary, 
are never content with what their bodily eyes can see but are ever 
searching with their reasons for the invisible, pure and immutable 
essence of things. They "distinguish the Idea from the objects that 
participate in the Idea." 

In the course of the inspired speech on love which Socrates de- 


livers in the dialogue called the Symposium, he tells how a man may 
rise, as on a ladder, from love of one fair, earthly face or form to a 
love that reaches upward to the divine. First, "he will himself per- 
ceive that the beauty of one form is akin to the beauty of another; 
and then . . . how foolish he will be not to recognize that beauty in 
every form is one and the same/' At this point "he will abate his 
violent love of one object," which now seems a small thing, and be- 
come a lover of all beautiful forms. Next, he will realize that beauty 
of mind is more precious than beauty of body and so mount to a love 
of beauty of spirit, justice, and truth, as revealed in noble institutions 
and laws, "from fair forms to fair practices and from fair practices to 
fair thoughts, until from fair thoughts he arrives at the idea of abso- 
lute beauty and at last knows what absolute beauty is." For "he who 
has learned to see the beautiful in due order and succession, when he 
comes toward the end, will suddenly perceive a nature of wondrous 
beauty, . . . not growing and decaying, not waxing and waning, 
nor fair from one point of view and foul from another, but Beauty 
only, absolute, separate, simple, everlasting, which without diminu- 
tion and increase or any change is imparted to the ever growing and 
perishing beauties of all other things." 

But does a man find beauty merely to lose it in death> No, for the 
soul of man is immortal, as Socrates proves at length in the Phaedo 
and more briefly in the last book of the Republic. He who in this life 
hungers for wisdom and goodness, and trains himself by unwearying 
exercise to behold and commune with the world of true Being, after 
death will either be reincarnated in the person of another wise and 
upright man or, having finished his term of earthly imprisonment, 
soar back to the life of heaven. Whereas the soul that has lived en- 
grossed in material things, a slave to its lusts and passions, is sent 
by the powers that rule the afterlife to suffer punishment and be 
born again in the body of a more brutish man or of an animal. Only 
after years of pain and struggle in the lowest depths of existence 
will it emerge purified to reascend the path to the sky. "Wherefore 
my counsel is that we hold fast ever to the heavenly way and follow 
after justice and virtue always. . . . Thus we shall live dear to one 


another and to the gods, both while we sojourn here and when, like 
victors in the games, ... we receive our reward." And herein lies 
the answer to the third of the questions Plato had set before him. 
What should a man do with his life? 

But for Plato it was not enough to have uncovered the principles 
of order, reason, and right in the inner world of man's thought and 
conscience and in the outer world of nature. Logic, metaphysics, and 
ethics were not complete without politics, the attempt to put these 
same principles into operation in the life of humanity in the mass, as 
a whole so turbulent and miserable. Could society be reorganized in 
such a way as to give all kinds of men, the ignorant and simple as 
well as the cultivated and intellectual, both the requisite material 
security and the chance to live the best lives of which they were 
capable? Could the earthly state be rebuilt to accord with the heav- 
enly ideal of justice? And would such a state, by the mere fact of 
being built upon justice, be more peaceful and more happy than 
other states? 

To answer these questions, not long after he founded the Acad- 
emy, Plato wrote the Republic. It is the earliest and in many respects 
the noblest of all works on sociology and political theory. He begins 
by describing the rise of a community of the type he knows best, a 
Greek city state. It starts in a river valley opening into the sea. It is 
small; its boundaries can be traced from any high peak. In one of his 
later books, the Laws, Plato sets the ideal number of citizen families 
at 5040. But small as it is, the community contains in itself enough to 
supply its elementary wants. The tops of the encircling hills are 
dark with forest, in which woodsmen cut timber and fuel. The slopes 
below are pastures for herdsmen and their goats and cattle. Along 
the river lie the farmers' fields and orchards. From the river's mouth 
fishermen put out with their nets and traders sail with cargoes to 
other ports. The population grows and its members feel the need of 
closer cooperation. The men from the hills and fields meet the fisher- 
men and traders from the harbor in a market for the exchange ofr 
wares. Modes of life become more diversified and specialized. Walls 
are built to protect the wealth of craftsmen and merchants. Money 

1 6 PLATO 

takes the place of barter. Trade widens and the community estab- 
lishes relations, friendly or unfriendly, with its neighbors. As an 
independent political and economic unit it holds its own with other 
states in its world. For years, in fact, hundreds of such little states 
had been growing up and flourishing along the Mediterranean coasts. 

The state then has arrived. A society is organized. A simple gov- 
ernment is set up by general agreement. The settlers are separated 
into classes, the natural outcome of the community needs. The great 
majority are workers and producers of all kinds on the soil and the 
sea and in the city shops. They have their homes and families, own 
their lands, houses, and tools, lead active, healthful lives, sturdy 
and temperate. They are not rich but have sufficient for comfort. 
But they need assurance of security, that they and their children may 
enjoy the fruits of their labors. To give them this security a second 
class of citizens is created. A body of men is set apart to have arms 
and war for its profession. Its members are chosen as boys for bravery 
and enterprise and trained and disciplined in barracks and on athletic 
fields. They live apart from the rest of the community and devote 
themselves entirely to their calling. They are taught to combine 
courage with gentleness, the duties of a police force with those of an 
army. To enemies they must be formidable, but to their fellow coun- 
trymen protective and helpful, trusty watchdogs of the state and not 
wolves. From this class of public-spirited soldiers and guardians rises 
in due time the third and smallest class, the rulers and magistrates of 
the state. 

At this point in the dialogue we realize that Plato has passed 
from describing an ordinary Greek community to planning an ideal 
state. His bold, courteous, and responsible soldier class is an ideal 
aristocracy, like nothing then existing in any Greek commonwealth, 
resembling most, of course, the Spartan nobility but without the 
harsh Spartan characteristics. For the benefit of democratic Athe- 
nians he now explains that not every citizen is fitted for a public 
office. Some men are made of gold, some of iron, and some of earth. 
All are better and happier when doing just the things for which they 
are individually qualified. Not, however and here he becomes, as 


he admits, audacious that mere differences of physique oi sex 
should be taken as denoting necessarily inferiority in mental endow- 
ment. "Women," for instance, "are the same in kind as men." 
Though in general tending to be inferior, yet "many women are in 
many things superior to many men." They may be musical, philo- 
sophical, skillful in healing disease, able executives. Girls, therefore, 
should receive the same education and training, intellectual and 
physical, as boys and be granted the same opportunity to rise to high 
position in the state. In Plato's time the well-bred, respectable Athe- 
nian woman spent her life in almost Oriental seclusion in the 
women's quarters of her father's or her husband's house. The tragedy 
writer, Euripides, had put into the mouth of his barbarian heroine, 
Medea, a fierce complaint of the injustices of a woman's lot. The 
comedian Aristophanes had produced two half burlesque appeals 
for women's participation in politics. But as far as we know, Plato 
was the first to argue seriously that women should share as equals 
with men in the public life of the state. 

Having dared this much, Plato piles one audacity on another, 
eugenics on women's rights. No considerations of ingrained habit or 
traditional morality deter him now from building his ideal state 
logically and scientifically to the last detail. If the life of the com- 
munity is to be maintained at the highest possible level, every effort 
must be made to provide the best possible leaders. In other words, 
leaders must be bred systematically from the best available human 
stock. Yet how can the best men and women of each generation at 
the height of their vigor be used for the production of children and 
yet be protected from the petty distractions and cares of a family, 
that will inevitably interfere with their services to the state? How 
can the partiality and favoritism that invariably accompany the family 
hereditary system be eliminated from the choice and training of 
rulers, and character and talent be made the only qualifications that 

And here we arrive at Plato's famous proposal for community of 
wives and children in the guardian and ruling classes. The men and 
women whose lives are spent in public duty live all, like the soldiers, 

1 8 PLATO 

in public dormitories, eat in common dining-halls and own no pri- 
vate property whatever. From time to time a committee of elders 
arrange a set of matings between those whom they judge best 
matched and suited to become parents. Each mating is a matter of 
religious ceremony but temporary, for the purpose of child produc- 
tion only. The children born of these unions are taken at once from 
their mothers, who then are free to return to their work. Their off- 
spring are brought up in state nurseries with the greatest skill and 
attention. They are the children of the state, no child knowing his 
mother or father or known to them, no distinction of birth setting 
one above another. As they grow up, they are solicitously watched, 
trained and tested to ensure that each receives exactly the education 
for which he is naturally adapted. If among these offspring of the 
choicest and best one proves mean-spirited, timid, or dull, he is re- 
moved from the nursery and placed in the family of a farmer, shop- 
keeper, or sailor, to learn a less rigorous profession. If, on the other 
hand, a golden child is found in a worker's family, he is taken from 
home and brought up with the best. It is understood that the well- 
being of the entire state depends on the scrupulousness with which 
the sifting and rearing of these children is carried out; for a state is 
what its rulers make it. 

At great length Plato discusses the education to be given the gifted 
girls and boys of his select group. He does not aim to fill their minds 
with a mass of miscellaneous factual information, such as that which 
the children in our modern schools are expected to acquire. Instead 
he would teach them first physical poise and grace of manner, stan- 
dards of brave and sincere conduct, and reverence for the gods. His 
curriculum begins with grammar and music, in which are included 
literature and history. From these the child gathers a knowledge of 
the illustrious men and deeds of the past and a conception of life 
and duty. Poets, however, like the mighty Homer, who tell of un- 
worthy acts of the gods, are banned. The child's thoughts are not to 
be sullied by the immoralities of the old myths. The music is all to be 
of the heroic, inspiriting sort. From it the child learns rhythm and 
harmony of movement and gentleness of soul. Voluptuous or riotous 


music, that lulls the listener to dreams of indolence or intoxicates him 
with sensual delight, is strictly forbidden. As the child grows tall and 
strong, he passes intu the hands of gymnastic and athletic trainers, 
who develop in him physical vigor and endurance, temperate habits 
of food and drink, and a spirit of fearlessness and self-control. 

Thus far Plato's ideal education is not very unlike that which was 
actually given to wellborn Athenian boys in his time, except that 
they were fed from infancy on stories from Homer and exposed to 
whatever might be the harmful effects of love ditties and drinking 
songs. But for the best of his children who give promise of true talent 
for leadership this kind of education is barely the beginning. They 
have next to take all the mathematics available in that day, arith- 
metic and geometry, plane and solid, studied not only from the ap- 
plied, practical point of view but also from the purely theoretical. 
Here starts their training in reasoning power and in perception of 
invisible, abstract law. After mathematics comes astronomy, which 
means the principles of number and form in motion, as exemplified 
in the visible orbits of the stars and in the ideal constitution of the 
heavens. At the age of twenty, the youths and maidens who have 
so far acquitted themselves most satisfactorily pass on to a still more 
advanced type of education. For study they take up what Plato calls 
dialectic, what we might call philosophical logic. Their minds, that 
have hitherto been occupied with separate sciences, now attempt by 
a method of questioning and criticism, analysis and synthesis, to rise 
to a grasp of general principles and to see the relations of each branch 
of knowledge to the rest. However, they start this process gradually, 
for young people are easily thrown off their balance by too sudden 
introduction to the excitements of free thought and speculation, and 
are apt to end by believing nothing at all. The intervals between 
study they spend at military camps and on campaign duty in the 
field, learning the soldier's trade and performing feats of daring and 

Ten years go by in this apprenticeship and then the best are ready 
for the highest reaches of philosophy and responsible posts in the 
state. For five years more they pursue their inquiries and researches 


to "the end of the intellectual world," until at length they arrive at 
a conception of the Idea of the Good, the supreme One, that like the 
sun in the sky is the cause and the light of all things below, both the 
world of Ideas and the world of sense. With its light to enlighten 
them, they serve for the next fifteen years in all the departments of 
state, leading armies, going on embassies, judging in courts, amass- 
ing the widest possible experience of men and affairs. Finally, at the 
age of fifty, those who have distinguished themselves throughout 
and given evidence of the ripest wisdom come to the end of their long 
preparation. In turn they undertake the chief command of the state, 
alternating, however, their periods of active ruling with other periods 
of retirement, to refresh themselves with lifting up their thoughts 
again to the universal Light, that by its radiant guidance they may 
order the state and the lives of the people in it. Never have these 
rulers handled silver or gold, owned houses or land, lest they should 
be tempted to become landlords and tyrants instead of guardians and 
saviors. "And when they have brought up in each generation others 
like themselves and left them to govern the state in their place, then 
they will depart to the islands of the Blest and dwell there and the 
city will honor them with public memorials and sacrifices." 

In the seventh book of the Republic, Plato describes in one of his 
best known parables the life, as it must be, of the multitude of man- 
kind. They sit as it were in the depths of a huge cave, their backs to 
the entrance, their faces toward the dark. Behind their backs within 
the cave a fire is burning that casts a fitful light around the den. Be- 
tween the fire and the backs of the crowd artificial objects of all 
kinds, images of living things in wood and stone, are being passed 
continually to and fro. Their shadows are thrown by the fire on the 
wall toward which the eyes of the multitude are turned. Thus they 
stay, gazing at shadows all their lives, shadows distorted by the 
flickering flame. But to the multitude these shadows are realities, 
for they know no other. A few cavemen, however, have the curi- 
osity and courage to turn their eyes from the phantoms that rivet the 
attention of the rest and make their way, blinking and dazzled at 
first, toward the glimmer of daylight at the cave's mouth, and so out 


into the world of living nature and the splendor of the sun. There 
they learn quickly to disdain the images and their shadows, and bask 
in the light of truth. But having learned this, they must not remain 
in the upper world, for they were "created not to please them- 
selves." "Each of you, when his turn comes, must descend again into 
the general underground abode and get the habit of seeing in the 
dark. When you have acquired it, you will see ten thousand times 
better than the inhabitants of the den and you will know what the 
various images are and what they represent, because you have seen 
the beautiful and just and good in their truth. Then our state . . . 
will be a reality and not a dream only and be administered in spirit 
unlike that of other states, where men fight with one another over 
shadows and go mad in struggles for power/* 

To Plato then, as when he wrote the letter from which we quoted 
earlier, the crucial problem of all society was the problem of leader- 
ship. "Until philosophers are kings/' he declares, "or the kings and 
princes of this world have the spirit and power of philosophy, and 
political authority and wisdom are united in one . . . cities will 
never have rest from their troubles no, nor the human race, I be- 
lieve." Poor, human race, to this day it still has more of the rulers 
who fight over shadows and go mad for power than of those who 
have the spirit of philosophy! But in the ideal state all rulers will be 
philosophers. They with their wisdom, the soldiers with their 
courage, the mass of workers with their thrift and temperance, each 
class contentedly engaged in the work for which it is best fitted, will 
compose a community rich in the crowning virtue of all, which is 
justice or the securing to every man and woman of what is his to 
have and do. Such a state will manifestly be happy above all others; 
for it will be at peace within itself and its laws will be laws in the 
true sense of the word, based on the natural and unvarying principles 
of reason and right. Similarly, the individual may obey the same 
principles and cultivate the same four virtues of wisdom, courage, 
temperance, and justice. He may set his own inner life in order, 
master his animal passions, and, at peace with himself, be happy and 


blessed as no disordered soul can be, however pampered by wealth or 
high estate. 

But having enjoyed the perfection of his own creation, Plato turns 
from it to the actual world with a sigh. What good is there in existing 
states and systems of governments? What kinds of men now are 
making or marring their own and other men's lives? One by one he 
characterizes the current forms of political organization, pointing out 
their virtues and failings, and along with each the type of individual 
whose disposition and behavior correspond to the form of state under 
discussion. A monarchy, or rule of a noble king, and an aristocracy, 
or rule of the noblest class, are forms assumed by the ideal state and 
therefore likely to be happiest and best, just as a man is happiest 
when ruled by the noblest elements in himself. 

Unfortunately, in this world of change and becoming, it is all too 
easy for even ideal states to deteriorate. The magistrates in charge 
grow careless and no longer enforce the laws for the breeding and 
training of children. The quality of the ruling stock declines. Its 
members gradually yield to the temptations of power and possession. 
They set up private families, acquire houses and lands, accumulate 
riches, and through their wealth dominate the state. It is then no 
longer an aristocracy but an oligarchy, ruled by a few in their own 
instead of the general interest. The men who control it, though out- 
wardly respectable and dignified, are inwardly greedy misers. For a 
time the people endure their growing oppressiveness, the widening 
gap that separates the poor workers from their bloated masters, the 
increasing crowds of unemployed drones that prey on the state. But 
at last they rise in the name of liberty, eject the oligarchs, and estab- 
lish a democracy or rule of the multitude for themselves. 

On this democracy, however, Plato pours a flood of irony and de- 
rision, revealing plainly what a mockery the Athenian democracy in 
its decadence had seemed to him. It is "a charming form of govern- 
ment, full of variety and disorder, dispensing a sort of equality to 
equals and unequals alike." The young feel themselves on a level 
with the old. Teachers fear and flatter their scholars, scholars despise 
their teachers. Even "horses and asses have a way of marching along 


with all the rights and dignities of freemen. . . . Everything is just 
ready to burst with liberty." Citizens "chafe impatiently at the least 
touch of authority and at length, as you know, cease to pay any re- 
gard to laws, written or unwritten." The individual produced by 
such an environment drifts rudderless, at the mercy of every whim 
blowing him hither and yon, always looking for some new amuse- 
ment and never satisfied long with any. But in time men grow dis- 
gusted with a freedom that spells mainly lawlessness and insecurity. 
They rush to enroll under a leader who presently appears, proclaim- 
ing himself their champion and deliverer, "kind and good to every- 
one." As soon, however, as he has made sure of his strength, he turns 
into a tyrant, ruling by bloodshed and terror. Such a man, who sub- 
jects both his people and his own spirit to his brutal lust for power 
at any price, is at once the most terrible and the most wretched of 
human beings and his government the lowest form of political deg- 
radation. There is left only a hope that some day a true statesman 
will rise and overthrow him and lead the harassed and suffering 
people back to a juster order. 

But what, asks Plato, is a man to do who has tasted how sweet is 
philosophy and has known the folly of the multitude? He may try 
his utmost to make them see the better ways of wisdom but the more 
faithfully he does this, the more likely he is to arouse their fear and 
hatred. In their ignorance they will misunderstand him, turn on 
him, persecute him, even put him to death. (The reader recalls the 
fate of Socrates.) "No politician is honest, nor is there any champion 
of justice at whose side he may fight and be saved. Such a man may 
indeed be compared to one fallen among wild beasts. He will nor 
join in the wickedness of his fellows, but single-handed he is unable 
to oppose all their fierce natures. So, seeing he can be of no help to 
the state or his friends, ... he holds his peace and goes his own 
way. He is like one who in a storm of dust and sleet, which the driv- 
ing wind hurries along, retires under the shelter of the wall . . . 
satisfied if only he can live his own life pure from wrong or un- 
righteousness and depart in peace and good will with bright hoj?es." 
The dark multitude in the cave may refuse to be helped. 


What, in that case, of the ideal state/ 3 Was it futile even to imagine 
it? No, for "in heaven . . . there is laid up a pattern of it, which 
whoever desires may behold and beholding may take up his abode 
there. . . . He will live after the manner of that city and have 
naught to do with any other." It is the shining city that every man 
may build for humanity in idea and in which he may dream that a 
wiser and braver race will some day, somewhere, come to dwell. 

There have been criticisms of the Republic ever since it was writ- 
ten. Plato's pupil Aristotle, who also wrote a book on politics, said 
that it made the life of the rulers too hard, depriving them of all 
normal sources of happiness, families, private possessions, freedom to 
choose their own surroundings and occupations, pomps and deco- 
rations of office. Human nature, he thought, was bound to resent such 
restrictions, and if the rulers were unhappy, how could they make a 
happy state? Plato himself put the same objection into the lips of one 
of the speakers in the Republic. The rulers are like poor soldiers, 
kept forever at stern garrison duty. How can they be happy? The 
reply came at once. The aim of this state is "not the disproportionate 
happiness of one favored class but the greatest happiness of the 
whole." The rulers are not "peasants at a festival, rollicking through 
a season of revelry." Even so, to men and women of their high tem- 
perament and training their life will not be the hardship it seems to 
an ordinary, worldly-minded spectator. It has its rare compensations 
in the scope it offers for the exercise of their gifts in making life good 
for their fellowmen. In all probability they will prove to be the hap- 
piest of human beings. 

In his old age Plato compiled a book of Laws for the government 
of what he called a second-best state, which, he admitted, would 
probably seem more practical to men at large than his ideal common- 
wealth. In this he omitted the most radical and visionary features of 
the ideal state, the community of wives, children, and property in 
the ruling class, the equal education and privileges of women. He re- 
stored the family as an institution for all citizens and put merely such 
limitation on property holdings as would prevent the development 


of extremes of wealth and poverty. He laid considerably more 
emphasis on the importance of law in the state and left less room for 
the exercise of the rulers' personal authority. His rulers, of course, 
were no lo iger ideal men. Possibly his experiences with Dionysius 
II had also made him wary of trusting too much to individuals in 
power. Aristotle's recommendation, when it came, was for a modified 
democracy, a constitutional government of the middle class. 

Perhaps the nearest approach that has yet been made to a realiza- 
tion of Plato's scheme for the choice and training of rulers was the 
so-called Ottoman system, which for two hundred years furnished 
the founders of the Turkish Empire with soldiers and ministers that 
were the wonder and despair of Christian Europe. In any history of 
the Near East one may read how it was started by the Moslem con- 
querors of the Balkan peninsula and Asia Minor in the fourteenth 
century and how successfully it worked until, during the late six- 
teenth and seventeenth centuries, a slacker administration re- 
laxed the rules forbidding marriage and hereditary offices. A Vien- 
nese ambassador to Constantinople, writing home, comments on the 
painful contrast between the Turkish practice of searching out and 
educating as the priceless treasures of the state their most promising 
boys, regardless of birth or race, and the Western concern for a fine 
horse, or hawk, or dog and neglect of all human youth save such as 
happened to be born to money or rank. That Plato might not have 
been altogether wrong in thinking that men and women of suffi- 
ciently generous disposition might be content to live cut off from the 
common run of experience and dedicated to some absorbing service 
we may guess from what we have ourselves seen of scientists, ex- 
plorers, revolutionaries, and devotees of religion, to whom nothing 
matters in comparison with their ideal or their cause. 

The dialogues of Plato, as we have said and as anyone may tell 
from even this brief and incomplete sketch, are the starting point of 
many of the important sciences and philosophies of our own day. 
To begin with, he was the first to lay down certain fundamental 
rules of logical reasoning. In the dialogues Socrates is represented as 
insisting on definition of terms, analysis of individual instances as a 


basis for generalization, the distinction between opinion or wisbful 
thinking and knowledge, and between words and thiigs. Plato's 
pupil Aristotle formulated logic into a definite science. Political 
theory, economics, sociology and esthetics all go back to Plato as to 
their founder. His Laws contain numerous detailed provisions for 
city planning, health regulation, business and administration in his 
"second-best state." Some of these were taken as models for legisla- 
tion during the Alexandrian period that came after the Macedonian 
conquests in Greece, Asia, and Egypt. From the laws of that period 
the Romans borrowed certain features of their imperial codes. Ac- 
cordingly, Plato has been called the father of European juris- 
prudence. The Romans also took over, with a few modifications, his 
program of youthful education and passed it on to the Middle Ages 
and beyond to the Renaissance. Literature, history, mathematics, 
and philosophy are still the traditional backbone of a Liberal Arts 
course. Women are now claiming the share in education and public 
life that Plato would have given them. 

Finally, Plato was the father of all philosophers who explain our 
visible, restless world of mixed beauty and perversity by picturing 
behind it an invisible, creative spirit of intelligence, order, and come- 
liness, striving to impress itself upon reluctant clay. Man, being a 
compound of spirit and matter, can be trained from childhood to 
master the earthly passions that darken his vision and hold him down. 
He can learn to love goodness and develop his reason to see the law 
that has been working in our universe from the beginning. So having 
lived, at death he will fly away from the bodily prison house and re- 
iurn at last to the heaven whence he came. As for the individual, so 
for the community: there is an ideal life to be created here below, 
patterned on the principles of justice that are as immutable as those 
that govern the stars. According to these, no man, woman, or child 
shall be hindered from having what is his own to have and all shall 
live willingly together in peace. To Plato the ideal state was a city, 
a city walled and set in a green valley, like the Greek states he knew. 
So for centuries after him, when men turned from the tumults and 
disappointments of this world to hopes of a fairer world above the 


sky, they imagined it as a city, the city of God. In time the Christian 
church claimed a part in Plato, believing, though wrongly, that he 
had been taught these doctrines by the prophet Jeremiah in Egypt. 
He had, they said, a soul "naturally Christian." 

For our book we have chosen five of the dialogues that have special 
interest for the general reader, using the translation made by Pro- 
fessor Jowett of Oxford. The Apology and Crito are the earliest of 
these dialogues. They are a part of Plato's first memorial to his master, 
his account of Socrates' words and bearing during his trial and im- 
prisonment. The Phaedo and Symposium were written probably 
some years later. The dramatic interest still centers around the per- 
sonality of Socrates but the ideas expressed include much that we 
are sure was Plato's own maturer thinking on the themes of death 
and the invisible world, human aspiration and love. In the Republic 
the chief speaker is still Socrates but the thought is wholly Platonic. 
It is the most comprehensive of the dialogues, in its views of the 
world above and below and its survey of human life in all its aspects, 
the life of the individual and of society. Because of their length, we 
have had to cut the Phaedo and the Republic, the former slightly 
and the latter to a larger extent. But the reader will nonetheless, we 
believe, find the line of the argument clear to follow. Plato in the 
body he will never discover among the friends who meet and talk so 
happily or so earnestly around the dinner table or in the prison cell. 
But Plato's mind he will learn to know a little as the creator of these 
immortal scenes at a time when the lights of his civilization seemed 
to be growing dim. 





IT is the year 399 B.C. Four years ago Athens drove out the bloody 
terror of the Thirty, which the Spartans had set up to govern her 
after their victory in the Peloponnesian War. She has restored her 
democratic constitution, but hardly yet begun to recover from the 
shock of her terrible defeat and humiliation. Her citizens are embit- 
tered, suspicious, eager to blame anyone and everyone for the mis- 
takes and failures of the past. In this year Socrates, now seventy years 
of age, is accused by three men, Meletus, Anytus, and Lycon, of the 
formidable crimes of corrupting the youth of the city and professing 
to disbelieve in the ancestral gods. Of the accusers themselves we 
know almost nothing. Meletus and Lycon, we hear, resent espe- 
cially Socrates' attitude toward the current fashions in poetry and 
other literature. Anytus is angered by Socrates' outspoken criticism 
of the narrow commercial training he is giving his only son. But the 
charge they bring is such as to stir up superstitious fears of sacrilege 
and moral uneasiness in the popular mind. Several of Socrates' old 
pupils have indeed been involved in the disgraceful events of recent 
years. His case comes before a citizen court of five hundred and one 
jurors, a majority vote being sufficient to convict tj _ 

The Apology is Plato's version of his master's speech in his own 
defense, written down possibly within two or three years after its 
delivery. That Plato was present and heard it we know from Socrates' 
allusions to him on pages 52 and 57. How nearly he has reproduced 
Socrates' very words we cannot, of course, judge. As it comes to us 
the Apology is actually three speeches. In the first Socrates, fear 
lessly and with much play of ironical humor, refutes not only the 
formal charges contained in the plaintiffs* immediate indictment but 
also the slanderous stories circulated about him by his enemies in 



years past. He explains and justifies his way of life and religious be- 
liefs, and in a sharp bit of cross-examination exposes the insincerity 
of the quickly befuddled Meletus. At the close the court votes him 
guilty by the comparatively small majority of sixty. The penalty for 
his offense has next to be determined, since it comes under no exist- 
ing law. The accusers demand a verdict of death. By rule of court, 
however, the culprit may propose a counterpenalty, the jurors then 
to choose between the two. In a short second speech Socrates, less 
conciliatory and more hotly defiant than before, proposes that in- 
stead of punishment he receive the reward of a distinguished citizen, 
honorable maintenance at the public expense. If he must pay some- 
thing, he may with his friends* help scrape together enough for a 
moderate fine. The court, annoyed, we may suppose, by what seems 
his obstinate frivolity, votes to approve the death sentence. In his 
final words, Socrates, now calm again, accepts the decision and bids 
his judges and fellow-citizens farewell. 



Socrates, Meletus 

SCENE : In the Court 

Socrates speaks: 

HOW you, O Athenians, have been affected by my accusers, 
I cannot tell; but I know that they almost made me forget 
who I was so persuasively did they speak; and yet they have 
hardly uttered a word of truth. But of the many falsehoods told by 
them, there was one which quite amazed me I mean when they 
said that you should be upon your guard and not allow yourselves to 
be deceived by the force of my eloquence. To say this, when they 
were certain to be detected as soon as I opened my lips and proved 
myself to be anything but a great speaker, did indeed appear to me 
most shameless unless by the force of eloquence they mean the force 
of truth; for if such is their meaning, I admit that I am eloquent. But 
in how different a way from theirs! Well, as I was saying, they have 
scarcely spoken the truth at all; but from me you shall hear the whole 
truth : not, however, delivered after their manner in a set oration duly 
ornamented with words and phrases. No, by heaven! but I shall use 
the words and arguments which occur to me at the moment; for I am 
confident in the justice of my cause. 1 At my time of life I ought not 
to be appearing before you, O men of Athens, in the character of a 
juvenile orator let no one expect it of me. And I must beg of you to 

1 Or "I trust that what I say is right." 



grant me a favor: If I defend myself in my accustomed manner, and 
you hear me using the words which I have been in the habit of using 
in the agora, 2 at the tables of the money-changers, or anywhere else, 
I would ask you not to be surprised, and not to interrupt me on this 
account. For I am more than seventy years of age, and appearing now 
for the first time in a court of law, I am quite a stranger to the lan- 
guage of the place; and therefore I would have you regard me as if I 
were really a stranger, whom you would excuse if he spoke in his 
native tongue, and after the fashion of his country. Am I making an 
unfair request of you? Never mind the manner, which may or may 
not be good; but think only of the truth of my words, and give heed 
to that: let the speaker speak truly and the judge decide justly. 

And first, I have to reply to the older charges and to my first ac- 
cusers, and then I will go on to the later ones. For of old I have had 
many accusers, who have accused me falsely to you during many 
years; and I am more afraid ot them than of Anytus and his associates, 
who are dangerous, too, in their own way. But far more dangerous 
are the others, who began when you were children, and took pos- 
session of your minds with their falsehoods, telling of one Socrates, a 
wise man, who speculated about the heaven above, and searched into 
the earth beneath, and made the worse appear the better cause. The 
disseminators of this tale are the accusers whom I dread; for their 
hearers are apt to fancy that such inquirers do not believe in the exist- 
ence of the gods. And they are many, and their charges against me are 
of ancient date, and they were made by them in the days when you 
were more impressible than you are now in childhood, or it may have 
been in youth and the cause when heard went by default, for there 
was none to answer. And hardest of all, I do not know and cannot tell 
he names of my accusers; unless in the chance case of a Comic poet. 
All who from envy and malice have persuaded you some of them 
having first convinced themselves all this class of men are most diffi- 
cult to deal with; for I cannot have them up here, and cross-examine 
them, and therefore I must simply fight with shadows in my own 

2 The market place, where citizens met on all kinds of business. It corresponded 
to what in a Roman city was called the forum. 


defense, and argue when there is no one who answers. I will ask you 
then to assume with me, as I was saying, that my opponents are of 
two kinds; one recent, the other ancient: and I hope that you will see 
die propriety of my answering the latter first, for these accusations 
you heard long before the others, and much oftener. 

Well, then, I must make my defense, and endeavor to clear away 
in a short time a slander which has lasted a long time. May I succeed, 
if to succeed he for my good and yours, or likely to avail me in my 
cause! The task is not an easy one; I quite understand the nature of it. 
And so leaving the event with God, in obedience to the law I will now 
make my defense. 

I will begin at the beginning, and ask what is the accusation which 
has given rise to the slander of me, and in fact has encouraged Meletus 
to prefer this charge against me. Well, what do the slanderers say"? 
They shall be my prosecutors, and I will sum up their words in an 
affidavit: "Socrates is an evil-doer, and a curious person, who searches 
into things under the earth and in heaven, and he makes the worse 
appear the better cause; and he teaches the aforesaid doctrines to 
others. >r uch is the nature of the accusation: it is just what you have 
yourselves seen in the comedy of Aristophanes, 3 who has introduced 
a man whom he calls Socrates, going about and saying that he walks 
in air, and talking a deal of nonsense concerning matters of which I 
do not pretend to know either much or little not that I mean to speak 
disparagingly of anyone who is a student of natural philosophy. I 
should be very sorry if Meletus could bring so grave a charge against 
me. But the simple truth is, O Athenians, that I have nothing to do 
with physical speculations. Very many of those here present are wit- 
nesses to the truth of this, and to them I appeal. Speak then, you who 
have heard me, and tell your neighbors whether any of you have eve? 
known me hold forth in few words or in many upon such matters. 
. . . You hear their answer. And from what they say of this part of 
the charge you will be able to judge of the truth of the rest. 

As little foundation is there for the report that I am a teacher, and 

3 The satiric poet, who in his comeHv, The Clouds, had introduced an absurd 
2nd bombastic figur* of Socrates. 


take money; this accusation has no more truth in it than the other. 
Although, if a man were really able to instruct mankind, to receive 
money for giving instruction would, in my opinion, be an honor to 
him. There is Gorgias of Leontium, and Prodicus of Ceos, and I lip- 
pias of Elis,' 4 who go the round of the cities, and are able to persuade 
the young men to leave their own citizens by whom they might be 
taught for nothing, and come to them whom they not only pay, but 
are thankful if they may be allowed to pay them. There is at this time 
a Parian philosopher residing in Athens, of whom I have heard; and 
I came to hear of him in this way: I came across a man who has spent 
a world of money on the Sophists, Callias, the son of Hipponicus, 
and knowing that he had sons, I asked him: "Callias," I said, "if your 
two sons were foals or calves, there would be no difficulty in finding 
someone to put over them; we should hire a trainer of horses, or a 
Farmer probably, who would improve and perfect them in their own 
proper virtue and excellence; but as they are human beings, whom 
are you thinking of placing over them? Is there anyone who under- 
stands human and political virtue? You must have thought about the 
matter, for you have sons; is there anyone?" "There is," he said. "Who 
is he?" said I; "and of what country? and what does he charge?" 
"Evenus 5 the Parian," he replied; "he is the man, and his charge is 
five minae." Happy is Evenus, I said to myself, if he really has this 
wisdom, and teaches at such a moderate charge. Had I the same, I 
should have been very proud and conceited; but the truth is that I 
have no knowledge of the kind. 

I dare say, Athenians, that someone among you will reply, "Yes, 
Socrates, but what is the origin of these accusations which are brought 
"against you; there must have been something strange which you have 
been doing? All these rumors and this talk about you would never 
have arisen if you had been like other men: tell us, then, what is the 
cause of them, for we should be sorry to judge hastily of you." Now I 

4 Gorgias, Prodicus, and Hippias were well-known Sophists and professional teach- 
ers of the day. Sec page 4. 

5 A poet and teacher from the island of Paros, then at Athens. None of his poenu 
have come down to us. 

6 The mina of this period was worth in our money roughly |ao. 


regard this as a fair challenge, and I will endeavor to explain to you 
the reason why I am called wise and have such an evil fame. Please 
to attend then. And although some of you may think that I am jok- 
ing, I declare that I will tell you the entire truth. Men of Athens, 
this reputation of mine has come of a certain sort of wisdom which I 
possess. If you ask me what kind of wisdom, I reply, wisdom such as 
may perhaps be attained by man, for to that extent I am inclined to 
believe that I am wise; whereas the persons of whom I was speaking 
have a superhuman wisdom, which I may fail to describe, because I 
have it not myself; and he who says that I have, speaks falsely, and is 
taking away my character. And here, O men of Athens, I must beg 
you not to interrupt me, even if I seem to say something extravagant. 
For the word which I will speak is not mine. I will refer you to a wit- 
ness who is worthy of credit; that witness shall be the God of Delphi 7 
he will tell you about my wisdom, if I have any, and of what sort it 
is. You must have known Chaerephon; he was early a friend of mine, 
and also a friend of yours, for he shared in the recent exile of the peo- 
ple, and returned with you. Well, Chaerephon, as you know, was 
very impetuous in all his doings, and he went to Delphi and boldly 
asked the oracle to tell him whether as I was saying, I must beg you 
not to interrupt he asked the oracle to tell him whether anyone was 
wiser than I was, and the Pythian prophetess answered, that there 
was no man wiser. Chaerephon is dead himself; but his brother, who 
is in court, will confirm the truth of what I am saying. 

Why do I mention this? Because I am going to explain to you why 
I have such an evil name. When I heard the answer, I said to myself, 
What can the god mean? and what is the interpretation of his riddle? 
for I know that I have no wisdom, small or great. What then can he 
mean when he says that I am the wisest of men? And yet he is a god, 
and cannot lie; that would be against his nature. After long consider- 
ation, I thought of a method of trying the question. I reflected that 
if I could only find a man wiser than myself, then I might go to the 
god with a refutation in my hand. I should say to him, "Here is a man 

7 Apollo, the sun god, was also god of Delphi, and the Pythian prophetess was his 
priestess, through whom his oracle spoke. 


who is wiser than I am; but you said that I was the wisest." Accord- 
ingly I went to one who had the reputation of wisdom, and observed 
him his name I need not mention; he was a politician whom 1 
selected for examinationand the result was as follows: When I be- 
gan to talk with him, I could not help thinking that he was not really 
wise, although he was thought wise by many, and still wiser by him- 
self; and thereupon I tried to explain to him that he thought himself 
wise, but was not really wise; and the consequence was that he hated 
me, and his enmity was shared by several who were present and heard 
me. So I left him, saying to myself, as I went away: Well, although 
I do not suppose that either of us knows anything really beautiful 
and good, I am better off than he is for he knows nothing, and 
thinks that he knows; Jjneitherjcnqw nor think that I know. In this 
latter particular, then, I seem to have slightly the advantage of him. 
Then I went to another who had still higher pretensions to wisdom, 
and my conclusion was exactly the same. Whereupon I made another 
enemy of him, and of many others besides him. 

Then I went to one man after another, being not unconscious of 
the enmity which I provoked, and I lamented and feared this: but 
necessity was laid upon me the word of God, I thought, ought to be 
considered first. And I said to myself, Go I must to all who appear to 
know, and find out the meaning of the oracle. And I swear to you, 
Athenians, by the dog I swear! for I must tell you the truththe re- 
sult of my mission was just this: I found that the men most in repute 
were all but the most foolish; and that others less esteemed were really 
wiser and better. I will tell you the tale of my wanderings and of the 
Herculean labors, as I may call them, which I endured only to find 
at last the oracle irrefutable. After the politicians, I went to the poets; 
tragic, dithyrambic, and all sorts. And there, I said to myself, you will 
be instantly detected; now you will find out that you are more ig- 
norant than they are. Accordingly, I took them some of the most 
elaborate passages in their own writings, and asked what was the 
meaning of them thinking that they would teach me something. 
Will you believe me? I am almost ashamed to confess the truth, but I 
must say that there is hardly a person present who would not have 


talked better about their poetry than they did themselves. Then I 
knew that not by wisdom do poets write poetry, but by a sort of genius 
and inspiration; they are like divinerr or soothsayers who also say 
many fine things, but do not understand the meaning of them. The 
poets appeared to me to be much in the same case; and I further ob- 
served that upon the strength of their poetry they believed themselves 
to be the wisest of men in other things in which they were not wise 
So I departed, conceiving myself to be superior to them for the same 
reason that I was superior to the politicians. 

At last I went to the artisans, for I was conscious that I knew noth- 
ing at all, as I may say, and I was sure that they knew many fine 
things; and here I was not mistaken, for they did know many things 
of which I was ignorant, and in this they certainly were wiser than I 
was. But I observed that even the good artisans fell into the same 
error as the poets; because they were good workmen they thought that 
they also knew all sorts of high matters, and this defect in them over- 
shadowed their wisdom; and therefore I asked myself on behalf of the 
oracle, whether I would like to be as I was, neither having their 
knowledge nor their ignorance, or like them in both; and I made an- 
swer to myself and to the oracle that I was better off as I was. 

This inquisition has led to my having many enemies of the worst 
and most dangerous kind, and has given occasion also to many calum- 
nies. And I am called wise, for my hearers always imagine that I my- 
self possess the wisdom which I find wanting in others: but the truth 
is, O men of Athens, that God only is wise; and by his answer he in- 
tends to show that the wisdom of men is worth little or nothing; he is 
not speaking of Socrates, he is only using my name by way of illus- 
tration, as if he said, "He, O men, is the wisest, who, like Socrates, 
knows that his wisdom is in truth worth nothing." And so I go about 
the world, obedient to the god, and search and make inquiry into the 
wisdom of anyone, whether citizen or stranger, who appears to be 
wise; and if he is not wise, then in vindication of the oracle I show 
him that he is not wise; and my occupation quite absorbs me, and I 
have no time to give either to any public matter of interest or to any 


concern of my own, but I am in utter poverty by reason of my devo- 
tion to the god. 

There is another thing: young men of the richer classes, who have 
not much to do, come about me of their own accord; they like to hear 
the pretenders examined, and they often imitate me, and proceed to 
examine others; there are plenty of persons, as they quickly discover, 
who think that they know something, but really know little or noth- 
ing; and then those who are examined by them instead of being angry 
with themselves are angry with me: "This confounded Socrates/' 
they say; "this villainous misleader of youth!" and then if somebody 
asks them, "Why, what evil does he practice or teach?" they do not 
know, and cannot tell; but in order that they may not appear to be at 
a loss, they repeat the ready-made charges which are used against all 
philosophers about teaching things up in the clouds and under the 
earth, and having no gods, and making the worse appear the better 
cause; for they do not like to confess that their pretense of knowledge 
has been detected which is the truth; and as they are numerous and 
ambitious and energetic, and are drawn up in battle array and have 
persuasive tongues, they have filled your ears with their loud and 
inveterate calumnies. And this is the reason why my three accusers, 
Meletus and Anytus and Lycon, have set upon me; Meletus, who 
has a quarrel with me on behalf of the poets; Anytus, on behalf of the 
craftsmen and politicians; Lycon, on behalf of the rhetoricians: and 
as I said at the beginning, I cannot expect to get rid of such a mass of 
calumny all in a moment. And this, O men of Athens, is the truth 
and the whole truth; I have concealed nothing, I have dissembled 
nothing. And yet, I know that my plainness of speech makes them 
hate me, and what is their hatred but a proof that I am speaking the 
truth? Hence has arisen the prejudice against me; and this is the 
reason of it, as you will find out either in this or in any future in- 

I have said enough in my defense against the first class of my ac- 
cusers; I turn to the second class. They are headed by Meletus, that 
good man and true lover of his country, as he calls himself. Against 
these, too, I must try to make a defense. Let their affidavit be read; it 


contains something of this kind: It says that Socrates is a doer of evil, 
who corrupts the youth; and who does not believe in the gods of the 
state, but has other new divinities of his own. Such is the charge; and 
now let us examine the particular counts. He says that I am a doer of 
evil, and corrupt the youth; but I say, O men of Athens, that Meletus 
is a doer of evil, in that he pretends to be in earnest when he is only 
in jest, and is so eager to bring men to trial from a pretended zeal and 
interest about matters in which he really never had the smallest in- 
terest. And the truth of this I will endeavor to prove to you. 

Come hither, Meletus, and let me ask a question of you. You think 
a great deal about the improvement of youth? 

MELETUS: Yes, I do. 

SOCRATES: Tell the judges, then, who is their improver; for you 
must know, as you have taken the pains to discover their corrupter, 
and are citing and accusing me before them. Speak, then, and tell 
the judges who their improver is. Observe, Meletus, that you are 
silent, and have nothing to say. But is not this rather disgraceful, and 
a very considerable proof of what I was saying, that you have no 
interest in the matter? Speak up, friend, and tell us who their im- 
prover is. 

MELETUS: The laws. 

SOCRATES: But that, my good sir, is not my meaning. I want to 
know who the person is, who, in the first place, knows the laws. 

MELETUS: The judges, Socrates, who are present in court. 

SOCRATES: What, do you mean to say, Meletus, that they are able 
to instruct and improve youth? 

MELETUS: Certainly they are. 

SOCRATES: What, all of them, or some only and not others? 

MELETUS : All of them. 

SOCRATES: By the goddess Hera, 8 that is good news! There are 
plenty of improvers, then. And what do you say of the audience do 
they improve them? 

MELETUS: Yes, they do. 

8 The queen of the Olympian gods, wife of Zeus, the Thunderer, king of the gods. 


SOCRATES: And the senators? 

MELETUS: Yes, the senators improve them. 

SOCRATES: But perhaps the members of the assembly corrupt 
them? or do they too improve them? 

MELETUS: They improve them. 

SOCRATES: Then every Athenian improves and elevates them; aD 
with the exception of myself; and I alone am their corrupter? Is that 
what you affirm? 

MELETUS: That is what I stoutly affirm. 

SOCRATES: I am very unfortunate if you are right. But suppose I 
ask you a question : How about horses? Does one man do them harm 
and all the world good? Is not the exact opposite the truth? One man 
is able to do them good, or at least not many; the trainer of horses, 
that is to say, does them good, and others who have to do with them 
rather injure them. Is not that true, Meletus, of horses, or of any 
other animals? Most assuredly it is; whether you and Anytus say yes 
or no. Happy indeed would be the condition of youth if they had one 
corrupter only, and all the rest of the world were their improvers. But 
you, Meletus, have sufficiently shown that you never had a thought 
about the young: your carelessness is seen in your not caring about 
the very things which you bring against me. 

And now, Meletus, I will ask you another question by Zeus I 
will: Which is better, to live among bad citizens, or among good 
ones? Answer, friend, I say; the question is one which may be easily 
answered. Do not the good do their neighbors good, and the bad do 
them evil? 

MELETUS: Certainly. 

SOCRATES: And is there anyone who would rather be injured than 
benefited by those who live with him? Answer, my good friend, the 
law requires you to answer does anyone like to be injured? 

MELETUS: Certainly not. 

SOCRATES: And when you accuse me of corrupting and deteriorat- 
ing the youth, do you allege that I corrupt them intentionally or unin- 


MELETUS: Intentionally, I say. 

SOCRATES: But you have just admitted that the good do theh 
neighbors good, and the evil do them evil. Now, is that a truth which 
your superior wisdom has recognized thus early in life, and am I, at 
my age, in such darkness and ignorance as not to know that if a man 
with whom I have to live is corrupted by me, I am very likely to be 
harmed by him; and yet I corrupt him, and intentionally, too so you 
say, although neither I nor any other human being is ever likely to be 
convinced by you. But either I do not corrupt them, or I corrupt 
them unintentionally; and on either view of the case you lie. If my 
offense is unintentional, the law has no cognizance of unintentional 
offenses: you ought to have taken me privately, and warned and ad- 
monished me; for if I had been better advised, I should have left off 
doing what I only did unintentionally no doubt I should; but you 
would have nothing to say to me and refused to teach me. And now 
you bring me up in this court, which is a place not of instruction, but 
of punishment. 

It will be very clear to you, Athenians, as I was saying, that Meletus 
has no care at all, great or small, about the matter. But still I should 
like to know, Meletus, in what I am affirmed to corrupt the young. I 
suppose you mean, as I infer from your indictment, that I teach them 
not to acknowledge the gods which the state acknowledges, but some 
other new divinities or spiritual agencies in their stead. These are the 
lessons by which I corrupt the youth, as you say. 

MELETUS: Yes, that I say emphatically. 

SOCRATES: Then, by the gods, Meletus, of whom we are speaking, 
tell me and the court, in somewhat plainer terms, what you mean! for 
I do not as yet understand whether you affirm that I teach other men 
to acknowledge some gods, and therefore that I do believe in gods, 
and am not an entire atheist this you do not lay to my charge but 
only you say that they are not the same gods which the city recog- 
nizes: the charge is that they are different gods. Or, do you mean that 
I am an atheist simply, and a teacher of atheism? 

MELETUS: I mean the latter that you are a complete atheist. 


SOCRATES: What an extraordinary statement! Why do you think 
so, Meletus? Do you mean that I do not believe in the godhead of the 
sun or moon, like other men? 

MELETUS: I assure you, judges, that he does not: for he says that 
the sun is stone, and the moon earth. 

SOCRATES: Friend Melctus, you think that you are accusing An- 
axagoras 9 and you have hut a bad opinion of the judges, if you fancy 
them illiterate to such a degree as not to know that these doctrines are 
found in the books of Anaxagoras the Clazomenian, which are full 
of them. And so, forsooth, the youth are said to be taught them by 
Socrates, when there are not unfrequently exhibitions of them at the 
theater 10 (price of admission one drachma n at the most); and they 
might pay their money, and laugh at Socrates if he pretends to father 
these extraordinary views. And so, Meletus, you really think that I 
do not believe in any god? 

MELETUS: I swear by Zeus that you believe absolutely in none at 

SOCRATES: Nobody will believe you, Meletus, and I am pretty sure 
that you do not believe yourself. I cannot help thinking, men of 
Athens, that Meletus is reckless and impudent, and that he has writ- 
ten this indictment in a spirit of mere wantonness and youthful 
bravado. Has he not compounded a riddle, thinking to try me? He 
said to himself: I shall see whether the wise Socrates will discover my 
facetious contradiction, or whether I shall be able to deceive him an<? 
the rest of them. For he certainly does appear to me to contradict 
himself in the indictment as much as if he said that Socrates is guilty 
of not believing in the gods, and yet of believing in them but this is 
not like a person who is in earnest. 

I should like you, O men of Athens, to join me in examining what 
I conceive to be his inconsistency; and do you, Meletus, answer. And 

9 A philosopher and astronomer, who had taught at Athens, some thirty years 
before, that the sun and moon were made of rocks and soil, like our earth. Hii 
books hare all been lost. 

10 Aristophanes caricatured the theories of Anaxagoras. Other playwrights, at 
Euripides, treated them seriously. 

11 A drachma was a hundredth part of a mina, that is, worth about twenty cents 


I must remind the audience of my request that they would not make 
a disturbance if I speak in my accustomed manner. 

Did ever a man, Meletus, believe in the existence of human things, 
and not of human beings? ... I wish, men of Athens, that he 
would answer, and not be always trying to get up an interruption. 
Did ever any man believe in horsemanship, and not in horses? or in 
flute-playing, and not in flute-players? No, my friend; I will answer 
to you and to the court, as you refuse to answer for yourself. There 
is no man who ever did. But now please to answer the next question: 
Can a man believe in spiritual and divine agencies, and not in spirits 
or demigods? 

MELETUS: He cannot. 

SOCRATES: How lucky I am to have extracted that answer, by the 
assistance of the court! But then you swear in the indictment that I 
teach and believe in divine or spiritual agencies (new or old, no mat- 
ter for that); at any rate, I believe in spiritual agencies so you say 
and swear in the affidavit; and yet if I believe in divine beings, how 
can I help believing in spirits or demigods; must I not? To be sure I 
must; and therefore I may assume that your silence gives consent. 
Now what are spirits or demigods? are they not either gods or the 
sons of gods? 

MELETUS: Certainly they are. 

SOCRATES: But this is what I call the facetious riddle invented by 
you : the demigods or spirits are gods, and you say first that I do not 
believe in gods, and then again that I do believe in gods; that is, if I 
believe in demigods. For if the demigods are the illegitimate sons of 
gods, whether by the nymphs or by any other mothers, of whom they 
are said to be the sons what human being will ever believe that 
there are no gods if they are the sons of gods? You might as well af- 
firm the existence of mules, and deny that of horses and asses. Such 
nonsense, Meletus, could only have been intended by you to make 
trial of me. You have put this into the indictment because you had 
nothing real of which to accuse me. But no one who has a particle of 
understanding will ever be convinced by you that the same men can 


believe in divine and superhuman things, and yet not believe that 
there are gods and demigods and heroes. 

I have said enough in answer to the charge of Meletus: any elab- 
orate defense is unnecessary; but I know only too well how many are 
the enmities which I have incurred, and this is what will be my de- 
struction if I am destroyed not Meletus, nor yet Anytus, but the 
envy and detraction of the world, which has been the death of many 
good men, and will probably be the death of many more; there is no 
danger of my being the last of them. 

Someone will say: And arc you not ashamed, Socrates, of a course 
of life which is likely to bring you to an untimely end: 1 To him I may 
fairly answer: There you are mistaken: a man who is good for any- 
thing ought not to calculate the chance of living or dying; he ought 
only to consider whether in doing anything he is doing right or 
wrong acting the part of a good man or of a bad. Whereas, upon 
your view, the heroes who fell at Troy were not good for much, and 
the son of Thetis 12 above all, who altogether despised danger in 
comparison with disgrace; and when he was so eager to slay Hector, 
his goddess mother said to him, that if he avenged his companion 
Patroclus, and slew Hector, he would die himself "Fate/* she said, 
in these or the like words, "waits for you next after Hector"; he, re- 
ceiving this warning, utterly despised danger and death, and instead 
of fearing them, feared rather to live in dishonor, and not to avenge 
his friend. "Let me die forthwith," he replies, "and be avenged of my 
enemy, rather than abide here by the beaked ships, a laughingstock 
and a burden of the earth." Had Achilles any thought of death and 
danger? For wherever a man's place is, whether the place which he 
has chosen or that in which he has been placed by a commander, 
there he ought to remain in the hour of danger; he should not think 
of death or of anything but of disgrace. And this, O men of Athens, 
is a true saying. 

Strange, indeed, would be my conduct, O men of Athens, if I, 

12 The Greek Achilles, son of the goddess Thetis, in spite of his mother's warning, 
fought and slew the Trojan Hector to avenge the death of his comrade Patroclu*. 
See Homer, Iliad, XVIII, 94-126. 


who, when I was ordered by the generals whom you chose to com- 
mand me at Potidaea 13 and Amphipolis and Delium, remained 
where they placed rne, like any other man, facing death if now, 
when, as I conceive and imagine, God orders me to fulfill the phi- 
losopher's mission of searching into myself and other men, I were to 
desert my post through fear of death, or any other fear; that would 
indeed be strange, and I might justly be arraigned in court for deny- 
ing *he existence of the gods, if I disobeyed the oracle because I was 
afraid of death, fancying that I was wise when I was not wise. For 
the fear of death is indeed the pretense of wisdom, and not real wis- 
dom, being a pretense of knowing the unknown; and no one knows 
whether death, which men in their fear apprehend to be the greatest 
evil, may not be the greatest good. Is not this ignorance of a disgrace- 
ful sort, the ignorance wnlch is the conceit that a man knows what he 
does not know? And in this respect only I believe myself to differ 
from men in general, and may perhaps claim to be wiser than they 
are: that whereas I know but little of the world below, I do not sup- 
pose that I know: but I do know that injustice and disobedience to a 
better, whether God or man, i evil and dishonorable, and I will never 
fear or avoid a possible good rather than a certain evil. And therefore 
if you let me go now, and are not convinced by Anytus, who said that 
since I had been prosecuted I must be put to death (or if not, that I 
ought never to have been prosecuted at all); and that if I escape now, 
your sons will all be utterly ruined by listening to my words if you 
say to me, Socrates, this time we will not mind Anytus, and you 
shall be let off, but upon one condition, that you are not to inquire 
and speculate in this way any more, and that if you are caught doing 
so again you shall die; if this was the condition on which you let me 
go, I should reply: Men of Athens, I honor and love you; but I shall 
obey God rather than you, and while I have life and strength I shall 
never cease from the practice and teaching of philosophy, exhorting 
anyone whom I meet and saying to him after my manner: "You, my 
friend a citizen of the great and mighty and wise city of Athens- 
is Socrates had served in the Athenian infantry during some of the northern 
Campaigns of the Peloponnesian War. 


are you not ashamed of heaping up the greatest amount of money and 
honor and reputation, and caring so little about wisdom and truth 
and the greatest improvement of the soul, which you never regard or 
heed at all?" And if the person with whom I am arguing, says: "Yes, 
hut I do care;" then I do not leave him or let him go at once; but I 
proceed to interrogate and examine and cross-examine him, and if I 
think that he has no virtue in him, but only says that he has, I re- 
proach him with undervaluing the greater and overvaluing the less. 
And I shall repeat the same words to everyone whom I meet, young 
and old, citizen and alien, but especially to the citizens, inasmuch as 
they are my brethren. For know that this is the command of God; and 
I believe that no greater good has ever happened in the state than my 
service to the God. For I do nothing but go about persuading you all, 
old and young alike, not to take thought j.or your persons or your 
properties, but first and chiefly to care about the greatest improve- 
ment of the soul. I tell you that virtue is not given by money, but that 
from virtue comes money and every other good of man, public as well 
as private. This is my teaching, and if this is the doctrine which cor- 
rupts the youth, I am a mischievous person. But if anyone says that 
this is not my teaching, he is speaking an untruth. Wherefore, O men 
of Athens, I say to you, do as Anytus bids or not as Anytus bids, and 
either acquit me or not; but whichever you do, understand that I shall 
never alter my ways, not even if I have to die many times. 

Men of Athens, do not interrupt, but hear me; there was an under- 
standing between us that you should hear me to the end; I have some- 
thing more to say, at which you may be inclined to cry out; but I be- 
lieve that to hear me will be good for you, and therefore I beg that 
you will not cry out. I would have you know that if you kill such an 
one as I am, you will injure yourselves more than you will injure me. 
Nothing will injure me, not Meletus nor yet Anytus they cannot, 
for a bad man is not permitted to injure a better than himself. I do not 
deny that Anytus may, perhaps, kill him, or drive him into exile, or 
deprive him of civil rights; and he may imagine, and others may 
imagine, that he is inflicting a great injury upon him: but there I do 


not agree. For the evil of doing as he is doing the evil of unjustly 
taking away the life of another is greater far. 

And now, Athenians, I am not going to argue for my own sake, as 
you may think, but for yours, that you may not sin against the God 
by condemning me, who am his gift to you. For if you kill me you will 
not easily find a successor to me, who, if I may use such a ludicrous 
figure of speech, am a sort of gadfly, given to the state by God; and 
the state is a great and noble steed who is tardy in his motions owing 
to his very size, and requires to be stirred into life. I am that gadfly 
which God has attached to the state, and all day long and in all 
places am always fastening upon you, arousing and persuading and 
reproaching you. You will not easily find another like me, and there- 
fore I would advise you to spare me. I dare say that you may feel out 
of temper (like a person who is suddenly awakened from sleep), and 
you think that you might easily strike me dead as Anytus advises, and 
then you would sleep on for the remainder of your lives, unless God 
in his care of you sent you another gadfly. When I say that I am given 
to you by God, the proof of my mission is this: if I had been like other 
men, I should not have neglected all my own concerns or patiently 
seen the neglect of them during all these years, and have been doing 
yours, coming to you individually like a father or elder brother, ex- 
horting you to regard virtue; such conduct, I say, would be unlike 
human nature. If I had gained anything, or if my exhortations had 
been paid, there would have been some sense in my doing so; but 
now, as you will perceive, not even the impudence of my accusers 
dares to say that I have ever exacted or sought pay of anyone; of that 
they have no witness. And I have a sufficient witness to the truth of 
what I say my poverty. 

Someone may wonder why I go about in private giving advice and 
busying myself with the concerns of others, but do not venture to 
come forward in public and advise the state. I will tell you why. You 
have heard me speak at sundry times and in divers places of an oracle 
or sign which comes to me, and is the divinity which Meletus ridi- 
cules in the indictment. This sign, which is a kind of voice, first be- 


gan to come to me when I was a child; it always forbids but never 
commands me to do anything which I am going to do. This is what 
deters me from being a politician. And rightly, as I think. For I am 
certain, O men of Athens, that if I had engaged in politics, I should 
have perished long ago, and done no good either to you or to myself. 
And do not be offended at my telling you the truth : for the truth is, 
that no man who goes to war with you or any other multitude, hon- 
estly striving against the many lawless and unrighteous deeds which 
are done in a state, will save his life; he who will fight for the right, if 
he would live even for a brief space, must have a private station and 
not a public one. 

I can give you convincing evidence of what I say, not words only, 
but what you value far more actions. Let me relate to you a passage 
of my own life which will prove to you that I should never have 
yielded to injustice from any fear of death, and that as I should have 
refused to yield, I must have died at once. I will tell you a tale of the 
courts, not very interesting perhaps, but nevertheless true. The only 
office of state which I ever held, O men of Athens, was that of sena- 
tor: 14 the tribe Antiochis, which is my tribe, had the presidency at 
the trial of the generals who had not taken up the bodies of the slain 
after the battle of Arginusae; and you proposed to try them in a body, 
contrary to law, as you all thought afterwards; but at the time I was 
the only one of the Prytanes who was opposed to the illegality, and I 
gave my vote against you; and when the orators threatened to im- 
peach and arrest me, and you called and shouted, I made up my mind 
that I would run the risk, having law and justice with me, rather than 
take part in your injustice because I feared imprisonment and death. 
This happened in the days of the democracy. But when the oligarchy 

14 As senator, Socrates had been once a member of the government Council of 
Five Hundred, composed of fifty men elected yearly from each of the ten Attic 
tribes. Each group of fifty, called a Prytany, held the presidency in turn, acting as 
an executive committee of the Council for one tenth of the year. In the year 406 B.C. 
many Athenian sailors were drowned during a naval battle with the Spartans off 
Arginusae on the Asiatic coast. The battle ended in a victory for Athens, but the 
generals of the fleet were bitterly blamed for not rescuing the drowned men. Those 
who returned to Athens were refused the right of individual hearing, tried and 
executed in a body. 


of the Thirty 15 was in power, they sent for me and four others into 
the rotunda, and bade us bring Leon the Salaminian from Salarnis, 
as they wanted to put him to death. This was a specimen of the sort 
of commands which they were always giving with the view of im- 
plicating as many as possible in their crimes; and then I showed, not 
in word only but in deed, that, if I may be allowed to use such an 
expression, I cared not a straw for death, and that my great and only 
care was lest I should do an unrighteous or unholy thing. For the 
strong arm of that oppressive power did not frighten me into doing 
wrong; and when we came out of the rotunda the other four went to 
Salamis and fetched Leon, but I went quietly home. For which I 
might have lost my life, had not the power of the Thirty shortly after- 
wards come to an end. And many will witness to my words. 

Now do you really imagine that I could have survived all these 
years, if I had led a public life, supposing that like a good man I had 
always maintained the right and had made justice, as I ought, the first 
thing? No indeed, men of Athens, neither I nor any other man. But 
I have been always the same in all my actions, public as well as pri- 
vate, and never have I yielded any base compliance to those who are 
slanderously termed my disciples, or to any other. Not that I have any 
regular disciples. But if anyone likes to come and hear me while I am 
pursuing my mission, whether he be young or old, he is not excluded. 
Nor do I converse only with those who pay; but anyone, whether he 
be rich or poor, may ask and answer me and listen to my words; and 
whether he turns out to be a bad man or a good one, neither result 
can be justly imputed to me; for I never taught or professed to teach 
him anything. And if anyone says that he has ever learned or heard 
anything from me in private which all the world has not heard, let 
me tell you that he is lying. 

But I shall be asked, Why do people delight in continually con- 
versing with you? I have told you already, Athenians, the whole 

15 The Thirty Tyrants set up by the Spartan commanders to govern Athens after 
her final defeat in 404 B.C. They practiced a policy of terror, killing or exiling the 
leaders of the democracy and anyone else they disliked. Leon of Salamis seems to 
have been an innocent victim. See Plato, Letters, VII, 324- 


truth about this matter: they like to hear the cross-examination of the 
pretenders to wisdom; there is amusement in it. Now this duty of 
cross-examining other men has been imposed upon me by God; and 
has been signified to me by oracles, visions, and in every way in 
which the will of divine power was ever intimated to anyone. This is 
true, O Athenians; or, if not true, would be soon refuted. If I am or 
have been corrupting the youth, those of them who are now grown 
up and have become sensible that I gave them bad advice in the days 
of their youth should come forward as accusers, and take their re- 
venge; or if they do not like to come themselves, some of their rela- 
tives, fathers, brothers, or other kinsmen, should say what evil their 
families have suffered at my hands. Now is their time. Many of them 
I see in the court. There is Crito, who is of the same age and of the 
same deme with myself, and there is Critobulus his son, whom I also 
see. Then again there is Lysanias of Sphettus, who is the father of 
Aeschines he is present; and also there is Antiphon of Cephisus, 
who is the father of Epigenes; and there are the brothers of several 
who have associated with me. There is Nicostratus the son of Theos- 
dotides, and the brother of Theodotus (now Theodotus himself is 
dead, and therefore he, at any rate, will not seek to stop him); and 
there is Paralus the son of Demodocus, who had a brother Theages; 
and Adeimantus the son of Ariston, whose brother Plato is present; 
and Aeantodorus, who is the brother of Apollodorus, whom I also see. 
I might mention a great many others, some of whom Meletus should 
have produced as witnesses in the course of his speech; and let him 
ttill produce them, if he has forgotten I will make way for him. And 
let him say, if he has any testimony of the sort which he can produce. 
Nay, Athenians, the very opposite is the truth. For all these are ready 
to witness on behalf of the corrupter, of the injurer of their kindred, 
as Meletus and Anytus call me; not the corrupted youth only there 
might have been a motive for that but their uncorrupted elder rela- 
tives. Why should they too support me with their testimony: 5 Why, 
indeed, except for the sake of truth and justice, and because they 
know that I am speaking the truth, and that Meletus is a liar. 

Well, Athenians, this and the like of this is all the defense which 


I have to offer. Yet a word more. Perhaps there may be someone who 
is offended at me, when he calls to mind how he himself on a similar, 
or even a less serious occasion, prayed and entreated the judges with 
many tears, and how he produced his children in court, which was a 
moving spectacle, together with a host of relations and friends; 
whereas I, who am probably in danger of my life, will do none of 
these things. The contrast may occur to his mind, and he may be set 
against me, and vote in anger because he is displeased at me on this 
account. Now if there be such a person among you mind, I do not 
say that there is to him I may fairly reply: My friend, I am a man, 
and like other men, a creature of flesh and blood, and not "of wood or 
stone/' as Homer says; 16 and I have a family, yes, and sons, O Athe- 
nians, three in number, one almost a man, and two others who are still 
young; and yet I will not bring any of them hither in order to peti- 
tion you for an acquittal. And why not? Not from any self-assertion or 
want of respect for you. Whether I am or am not afraid of death is 
another question, of which I will not now speak. But, having regard 
to public opinion, I feel that such conduct would be discreditable to 
myself, and to you, and to the whole state. One who has reached my 
years, and who has a name for wisdom, ought not to demean himself. 
Whether this opinion of me be deserved or not, at any rate the world 
has decided that Socrates is in some way superior to other men. And 
if those among you who are said to be superior in wisdom and courage, 
and any other virtue, demean themselves in this way, how shameful 
is their conduct! I have seen men of reputation, when they have been 
condemned, behaving in the strangest manner: they seemed to fancy 
that they were going to suffer something dreadful if they died, and 
that they could be immortal if you only allowed them to live; and I 
think that such are a dishonor to the state, and that any stranger 
coming in would have said of them that the most eminent men of 
Athens, to whom the Athenians themselves give honor and command, 
are no better than women. And I say that these things ought not to be 
done by those of us who have a reputation; and if they are done, you 

16 Homer, Odyssey, XIX, 165. 


ought not to permit them; you ought rather to show that you are far 
more disposed to condemn the man who gets up a doleful scene and 
makes the city ridiculous than him who holds hie peace. 

But, setting aside the question of public opinion, there seems to be 
something wrong in asking a favor of a judge, and thus procuring an 
acquittal, instead of informing and convincing him. For his duty is, 
not to make a present of justice, but to give judgment; and he has 
sworn that he will judge according to the laws, and not according to 
nis own good pleasure; and we ought not to encourage you, nor 
should you allow yourselves to be encouraged, in this habit of per- 
jurythere can be no piety in that. Do not then require me to do what 
I consider dishonorable and impious and wrong, especially now, 
when 1 am being tried for impiety on the indictment of Meletus. For 
if, O men of Athens, by force of persuasion and entreaty I could over- 
power your oaths, then I should be teaching you to believe that there 
are no gods, and in defending should simply convict myself of the 
charge of not believing in them. But that is not so far otherwise. For 
I do believe that there are gods, and in a sense higher than that 
in which any of my accusers believe in them. And to you and to God 
t commit my cause, to be determined by you as is best for you and me. 

He is convicted Ivy the judges 

There are many reasons why I am not grieved, O men of Athens, 
at the vote of condemnation. I expected it, and am only surprised that 
the votes are so nearly equal; for I had thought that the majority 
against me would have been far larger; but now, had thirty votes 
gone over to the other side, I should have been acquitted. And I may 
say, I think, that I have escaped Meletus. I may say more; for with- 
out the assistance of Anytus and Lycon, anyone may see that he 
would not have had a fifth part of the votes, as the law requires, 17 in 
which case he would have incurred a fine of a thousand drachmas. 
And so he proposes death as the penalty. And what shall I propose 

17 If an accuser fell so far short of proving his case that less than one fifth of 
the jurors voted in his favor, he was liable by law to a fine of a thousand drachmas, 

about $200. 


on my part, O men of Athens ? Clearly that which is my due. And 
what is my due? What return shall be made to the man who has 
never had the wit to be idle during his whole life; but has been care' 
less of what the many care for wealth, and family interests, and 
military offices, and speaking in the assembly, and magistracies, and 
plots, and parties. Reflecting that I was really too honest a man to be 
a politician and live, I did not go where I could do no good to you or 
to myself; but where I could do the greatest good privately to every 
one of you, thither I went, and sought to persuade every man among 
you that he must look to himself, and seek virtue and wisdom before 
he looks to his private interests, and look to the state before he looks 
to the interests of the state; and that this should be the order which 
he observes in all his actions. What shall be done to such an one? 
Doubtless some good thing, O men of Athens, if he has his reward; 
and the good should be of a kind suitable to him. What would be a 
reward suitable to a poor man who is your benefactor, and who desires 
leisure that he may instruct your* There can be no reward so fitting as 
maintenance in the Prytaneum, 18 O men of Athens, a reward which 
he deserves far more than the citizen who has won the prize at Olynv 
pia in the horse or chariot race, whether the chariots were drawn by 
two horses or by many. For I am in want, and he has enough; and he 
only gives you the appearance of happiness, and I give you the 
reality. And if I am to estimate the penalty fairly, I should say that 
maintenance in the Prytaneum is the just return. 

Perhaps you think that I am braving you in what I am saying now, 
as in what I said before about the tears and prayers. But this is not 
so. I speak rather because I am convinced that I never intentionally 
wronged anyone, although I cannot convince you the time has been 
too short; if there were a law at Athens, as there is in other cities, that 
a capital cause should not be decided in one day, then I believe that I 
should have convinced you. But I cannot in a moment refute great 
slanders; and, as I am convinced that I never wronged another, I will 
assuredly not wrong myself. I will not say of myself that I deserve any 

18 The public hall in which were entertained ambassadors, victorious generals, 
winners at the Olympic Barnes, and other illustrious citizens. 


evil, or propose any penalty. Why should I? Because I am afraid of 
the penalty of death which Meletus proposes? When I do not know 
whether death is a good or an evil, why should I propose a penalty 
which would certainly be an evil? Shall I say imprisonment? And why 
should I live in prison, and be the slave of the magistrates of the 
year of the Eleven? 19 Or shall the penalty be a fine, and imprison- 
ment until the fine is paid? There is the same objection. I should have 
to lie in prison, for money I have none, and cannot pay. And if I say 
exile (and this may possibly be the penalty which you will affix), I 
must indeed be blinded by the love of life, if I am so irrational as to 
expect that when you, who are my own citizens, cannot endure my 
discourses and words and have found them so grievous and odious 
that you will have no more of them, others are likely to endure me. 
No indeed, men of Athens, that is not very likely. And what a life 
should I lead, at my age, wandering from city to city, ever changing 
my place of exile, and always being driven out! For I am quite sure 
that wherever I go, there, as here, the young men will flock to me; 
and if I drive them away, their elders will drive me out at their re- 
quest; and if I let them come, their fathers and friends will drive me 
out for their sakes. 

Someone will say: Yes, Socrates, but cannot you hold your tongue,, 
and then you may go into a foreign city, and no one will interfere 
with you? Now I have great difficulty in making you understand my 
answer to this. For if I tell you that to do as you say would be a dis- 
obedience to the God, and therefore that I cannot hold my tongue, 
you will not believe that I am serious; and if I say again that daily to 
discourse about virtue, and of those other things about which you 
hear me examining myself and others, is the greatest good of man, 
and that the unexamined life is not worth living, you are still less 
likely to believe me. Yet I say what is true, although a thing of which 
it is hard for rne to persuade you. Also, I have never been accustomed 
to think that I deserve to suffer any harm. Had I money I might have 
estimated the offense at what I was able to pay, and not have beer\ 

19 The Eleven were the city police board, one of whose duties was to see to the 
execution of court sentences 


much the worse. But I have none, and therefore I must ask you to 
proportion the fine to my means. Well, perhaps I could afford a mina, 
and therefore I propose that penalty: Plato, Crito, Critobulus, and 
Apollodorus, my friends here, bid me say thirty minae, and they will 
be the sureties. Let thirty minae be the penalty; for which sum they 
will be ample security to you. 

He is sentenced to death 

Not much time will be gained, O Athenians, in return for the evil 
name which you will get from the detractors of the city, who will 
say that you killed Socrates, a wise man; for they will call me wise, 
even although I am not wise, when they want to reproach you. If 
you had waited a little while, your desire would have been fulfilled 
in the course of nature. For I am far advanced in years, as you may 
perceive, and not far from death. I am speaking now not to all of 
you, but only to those who have condemned me to death. And I have 
another thing to say to them : You think that I was convicted because 
I had no words of the sort which would have procured my acquittal 
I mean, if I had thought fit to leave nothing undone or unsaid. Not 
so; the deficiency which led to my conviction was not of words 
certainly not. But I had not the boldness or impudence or inclination 
to address you as you would have liked me to do, weeping and wailing 
and lamenting, and saying and doing many things which you have 
been accustomed to hear from others, and which, as I maintain, are 
unworthy of me. I thought at the time that I ought not to do anything 
common or mean when in danger: nor do I now repent of the style 
of my defense; I would rather die having spoken after my manner, 
than speak in your manner and live. For neither in war nor yet at 
law ought I or any man to use every way of escaping death. Often in 
battle there can be no doubt that if a man will throw away his arms, 
and fall on his knees before his pursuers, he may escape death; and 
in other dangers there are other ways of escaping death, if a man is 
willing to say and do anything. The difficulty, my friends, is not to 
avoid death, but to avoid unrighteousness; for that runs faster than 
death. I am old and move slowly, and the slower runner has over- 


takea me, and my accusers are keen and quick, and the faster runner, 
who is unrighteousness, has, overtaken them. And now I depart 
hence condemned by you to suffer the penalty of death they too go 
their ways condemned by the truth to suffer the penalty of villainy 
and wrong; and I must abide by my award let them abide by theirs. 
I suppose that these things may be regarded as fated and I think 
that they are well. 

And now, O men who have condemned me, I would fain prophesy 
to you; for I am about to die, and in the hour of death men are gif f ed 
with prophetic power. And I prophesy to you who are my murderers, 
that immediately after my departure punishment far heavier than you 
have inflicted on me will surely await you. Me you have killed be- 
cause you wanted to escape the accuser, and not to give an account of 
your lives. But that will not be as you suppose: far otherwise. For 
I say that there will be more accusers of you than there are now; 
accusers whom hitherto I have restrained: and as they are younger 
they will be more inconsiderate with you, and you will be more 
offended at them. If you think that by killing men you can prevent 
someone from censuring your evil lives, you are mistaken; that is not 
a way of escape which is either possible or honorable; the easiest and 
the noblest way is not to be disabling others, but to be improving 
yourselves. This is the prophecy which I utter before my departure 
to the judges who have condemned me. 

Friends, who would have acquitted me, I would like also to talk 
with you about the thing which has come to pass, while the magis- 
trates are busy, and before I go to the place at which I must die. Stay 
then a little, for we may as well talk with one another while there 
is time. You are my friends, and I should like to show you the mean- 
ing of this event which has happened to me. O my judges for you 
I may truly call judges I should like to tell you of a wonderful 
circumstance. Hitherto the divine faculty of which the internal 
oracle is the source has constantly been in the habit of opposing me 
even about trifles, if I was going to make a slip or error in any 
matter; and now as you see there has come upon me that which may 
be thought, and is generally believed to be, the last and worst evil. 


But the oracle made no sign of opposition, either when I was leaving 
my house in the morning, or when I was on my way to the court, or 
while I was speaking, at anything which I was going to say; arid yet 
I have often been stopped in the middle of a speech, but now in noth- 
ing I either said or did touching the matter in hand has the oracle 
opposed me. What do I take to be the explanation of this silence? 
I will tell you. It is an intimation that what has happened to me is a 
good, and that those of us who think that death is an evil are in 
error. For the customary sign would surely have opposed me had I 
been going to evil and not to good. 

Let us reflect in another way, and we shall see that there is great 
reason to hope that death is a good; for one of two things either 
death is a state of nothingness and utter unconsciousness, or, as men 
say, there is a change and migration of the soul from this world to 
another. Now if you suppose that there is no consciousness, but a 
sleep like the sleep of him who is undisturbed even by dreams, death 
will be an unspeakable gain. For if a person were to select the night 
in which his sleep was undisturbed even by dreams, and were to com- 
pare with this the other days and nights of his life, and then were to 
tell us how many days and nights he had passed in the course of his 
life better and more pleasantly than this one, I think that any man, I 
will not say a private man, but even the great king will not find many 
such days or nights, when compared with the others. Now if death 
be of such a nature, I say that to die is gain; for eternity is then only 
a single night. But if death is the journey to another place, and there, 
as men say, all the dead abide, what good, O my friends and judges, 
can be greater than this? If indeed when the pilgrim arrives in the 
world below, he is delivered from the professors of justice in this 
world, and finds the true judges who are said to give judgment 
there, Minos and Rhadamanthus and Aeacus and Triptolemus, and 
other sons of God who were righteous in their own life, that 
pilgrimage will be worth making. What would not a man give if he 
might converse with Orpheus and Musaeus and Hesiod and Homer? 
Nay, if this be true, let me die again and again. I myself, too, shall 
have a wonderful interest in there meeting and conversing with 


Palamedes, and Ajax the son of Telamon, and any other ancient 
hero who has suffered death through an unjust judgment; and there 
will be no small pleasure, as I think, in comparing my own suffer- 
ings with theirs. Above all, I shall then be able to continue my search 
into true and false knowledge; as in this world, so also in the next; 
and I shall find out who is wise, and who pretends to be wise, and 
is not. What would not a man give, O judges, to be able to examine 
the leader of the great Trojan expedition; or Odysseus or Sisyphus, or 
numberless others, men and women too! What infinite delight would 
there be in conversing with them and asking them questions! In an- 
other world they do not put a man to death for asking questions: 
assuredly not. For besides being happier than we are, they will be 
immortal, if what is said is true. 

Wherefore, O judges, be of good cheer about death, and know 
of a certainty, that no evil can happen to a good man, either in life 
or after death. He and his are not neglected by the gods; nor has my 
own approaching end happened by mere chance. But I see clearly 
that the time had arrived when it was better for me to die and be re- 
leased from trouble; wherefore the oracle gave no sign. For which 
reason, also, I am not angry with my condemners, or with my ac- 
cusers; they have done me no harm, although they did not mean to 
do me any good; and for this I may gently blame them. 

Still I have a favor to ask of them. When my sons are grown up, 
I would ask you, O my friends, to punish them; and I would have 
you trouble them, as I have troubled you, if they seem to care about 
riches, or anything, more than about virtue; or if they pretend to be 
something when they are really nothing then reprove them, as I 
have reproved you, for not caring about that for which they ought to 
care, and thinking that they are something when they are really 
nothing. And if you do this, both I and my sons will have received 
justice at your hands. 

The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our ways I to die, 
and you to live. Which is better God only knows. 




A MONTH has passed since Socrates was condemned to die and still 
he waits chained in his cell in prison. For his trial took place just as 
the sacred ship, bearing the yearly thank offering of Athens to the 
ancient shrine of Apollo on the island of Delos, was being preparec 
for her sailing, as Socrates' young friend Phacdo explains in the nexi 
dialogue, pages 85-86. The offering commemorates a famous event 
in the city's legendary history, its delivery by the hero Theseus with 
the god's aid from the savage tyranny of the king of Crete, who re- 
quired an annual tribute of the best Athenian youth to satisfy his 
man-devouring Minotaur. The period from the time when the priest 
at Athens crowns the ship before its departure until it returns to 
harbor is, Phaedo says, a "holy season," during which the city must 
not be polluted by the taking of human life. So Socrates, like any 
other convicted criminal, must wait to die until the vessel is back at 

But now the weeks of respite are nearly over. The ship has been 
sighted off Sunium, the southernmost promontory of Attica, less than 
thirty-five miles by sea from the Peiraeus, the port of Athens. In 
another day it should arrive. Crito, an old and tried friend of Socrates,, 
one of those who at his trial had volunteered to make up the sum of 
any fine that might be imposed on him (page 57), visits him in a last 
desperate effort to persuade him to allow his friends to buy off the 
jailers and whatever spy informers may be about and arrange for 
his escape that night to Thessaly or to some other place, where he 
can live in safety. 



SocrateSj Crito 

SCENE : The Prison of Socrates 
Socrates speaks: 

^ ~^k TT" I IY have you come at this hour, Crito? it must be quite 

\V early? 

* V CRITO: Yes, certainly. 

SOCRATES: What is the exact time? 

CRITO: The dawn is breaking. 

SOCRATES: J wonder that the keeper of the prison would let 
you in. 

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

SOCRATES: And are you only just arrived? 

CRITO: No, I came some time ago. 

SOCRATES: Then why did you sit and say nothing, instead of at 
once awakening me? 

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



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

CRITO: And yet other old men find themselves in similar misfor- 
tunes, and age does not prevent them from repining. 

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

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

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

CRITO: No, the ship has not actually arrived, but she will prob- 
ably be here today, as persons who have come from Sunium tell 
me that they left her there; and therefore tomorrow, Socrates, will 
be the last day of your life. 

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

CRITO : Why do you think so? 

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

CRJTO: Yes; that is what the authorities say. 

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

CRITO: And what was the nature of the vision? 

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

The third day hence to fertile Phthia shalt thou go. 1 

CRITO: What a singular dream, Socrates! 

SOCRATES: There can be no doubt about the meaning, Crito, I 

1 Iliad. IX, 363. 


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

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

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

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

CRITO: Well, I will not dispute with you; but please to tell me, 
Socrates, whether you are not acting out of regard to me and your 
other friends: are you not afraid that if you escape from prison we 
may get into trouble with the informers for having stolen you away, 
and lose either the whole or a great part of our property; or that 
even a worse evil may happen to us? Now, if you fear on our account, 
be at ease; for in order to save you, we ought surely to run this, or 
even a greater risk; be persuaded, then, and do as I say. 

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

CRITO: Fear not there are persons who are willing to get you out 
of prison at no great cost; and as for the informers, they are far from 
being exorbitant in their demands a little money will satisfy them. 
My means, which are certainly ample, are at your service, and if you 


have a scruple about spending all mine, here are strangers who will 
give you the use of theirs; and one of them, Simmias the Theban, 2 
has brought a large sum of money for this very purpose; and Cebes 
and many others are prepared to spend their money in helping you to 
escape. I say, therefore, do not hesitate on our account, and do not 
say, as you did in the court, that you will have a difficulty in know- 
ing what to do with yourself anywhere else. For men will love you 
in other places to which you may go, and not in Athens only; there 
are friends of mine in Thessaly, 3 if you like to go to them, who will 
value and protect you, and no Thessalian will give you any trouble. 
Nor can I think that you are at all justified, Socrates, in betraying 
your own life when you might be saved; in acting thus you are play- 
ing into the hands of your enemies, who are hurrying on your 
destruction. And further I should say that you are 3csertmg your 
own children; for you might bring them up and educate them; 
instead of which you go away and leave them, and they will have 
to take their chance; and if they do not meet with the usual fate of 
orphans, there will be small thanks to you. No man should bring 
children into the world who is unwilling to persevere to the end in 
their nurture and education. But you appear to be choosing the 
easier part, not the better and manlier, which would have been more 
becoming in one who professes to care for virtue in all his actions, 
like yourself. And indeed, I am ashamed not only of you, but of us 
who are your friends, when I reflect that the whole business will be 
attributed entirely to our want of courage. The trial need never have 
come on, or might have been managed differently; and this last act, 
or crowning folly, will seem to have occurred through our negligence 
and cowardice, who might have saved you, if we had been good for 
anything; and you might have saved yourself, for there was no diffi- 
culty at all. See now, Socrates, how sad and discreditable are the 
consequences, both to us and you. Make up your mind then, or 
rather have your mind already made up, for the time of deliberation 

2 Simmias and his friend Cebes, pupils of Socrates from the nearby city of Thebes, 
figure largely in the next dialogue, the Phaedo. 

3 A province of northern Greece. 


is over, and there is only one thing to be done, which must be done 
this very night, and, if we delay at all, will be no longer practicable 
or possible; I beseech you therefore, Socrates, be persuaded by me, 
and do as I say. 

SOCRATES: Dear Crito, your zeal is invaluable, if a right one; but 
if wrong, the greater the zeal the greater the danger; and therefore 
we ought to consider whether I shall or shall not do as you say. For 
I am and always have been one of those ^natujre^whojtnus^^^mdeji 
by reason, whatever the reason may be which upon reflection ap- 

J - . .- , .,, - Jt,, , _ _ + -, , _.-! -*-- 

pears to me to be the best; and now that this chance has befallen me, 
r "cannot Trepiidiate my own" words : the principles which I have 
nither6"hbnorecTand revered I still honor, and unless we can at once 
find other and better principles, I am certain not to agree with you; 
no, not even if the power of the multitude could inflict many more 
imprisonments, confiscations, deaths, frightening us like children 
with hobgoblin terrors. What will be the fairest way of considering 
the question? Shall I return to your old argument about the opinions 
of men? we were saying that some of them are to be regarded, and 
others not. Now were we right in maintaining this before I was con- 
demned? And has the argument which was once good now proved 
to be talk for the sake of talking mere childish nonsense? That is 
what I want to consider with your help, Crito: whether, under my 
present circumstances, the argument appears to be in any way differ- 
ent or not; and is to be allowed by me or disallowed. That argument, 
which, as I believe, is maintained by many persons of authority, was 
to the effect, as I was sayjng^.that the opinions of some men are 
to^be regarded, and of other men not to be regar3ed. Now you, 
Crito, are not going to die tomorrow at least, there is no human 
probability of this and therefore you are disinterested and not liable 
to be deceived by the circumstances in which you are placed. Tell 
me then, whether I am right in saying that some opinions, and the 
opinions of some men only, are to be valued, and that other opinions, 
and the opinions of other men, are not to be valued. I ask you whether 
I was right in maintaining this? 
CRITO: Certainly. 


SOCRATES: The good are to be regarded, and not the bad? 

CRITO: Yes. 

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

CRITO: Certainly. 

SOCRATES: And what was said about another matter? Is the pupil 
who devotes himself to the practice of gymnastics supposed to attend 
to the praise and blame and opinion of every man, or of one man 
only his physician or trainer, whoever he may be^ 

CRITO: Of one man only. 

SOCRATES: And he ought to fear the censure and welcome the 
praise of that one only, and not of the many? 

CRITO: Clearly so. 

SOCRATES: And he ought to act and train, and eat and drink in 
the way which seems good to his single master who has understand- 
ing, rather than according to the opinion of all other men put to- 

CRITO: True. 

SOCRATES: And if he disobeys and disregards the opinion and ap- 
proval of the one, and regards the opinion of the many who have no 
understanding, will he not suffer evil? 

CRITO: Certainly he will. 

SOCRATES: And what will the evil be, whither tending and what 
affecting, in the disobedient person? 

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

SOCRATES: Very good; and is not this true, Crito, of other things 
which we need not separately enumerate? In questions of just and 
unjust, fair and foul, good and evil, which are the subjects of our 
present consultation, ought we to follow the opinion of the many 
and to fear them; or the opinion of the one man who has understand- 
ing? ought we not to fear and reverence him more than all the rest 
of the world: and if we desert him shall we not destroy and injure 
that principle in us which may be assumed to be improved by justice 
and deteriorated by injustice there is such a principle? 


CRITO: Certainly there is, Socrates. 

SOCRATES: Take a parallel instance: if, acting under the advice 
of those who have no understanding, we destroy that which is im- 
proved by health and is deteriorated by disease, would life be worth 
having? And that which has been destroyed is the body? 

CRITO: Yes. 

SOCRATES: Could we live, having an evil and corrupted body? 

CRITO: Certainly not. 

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

CRITO: Certainly not. 

SOCRATES: More honorable than the body? 

CRITO: Far more. 

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

CRITO: Yes, Socrates; that will clearly be the answer. 

SOCRATES: And it is true: but still I find with surprise that the 
old argument is unshaken as ever. And I should like to know whether 
I may say the same of another proposition that not life, but a good 
life, is to be chiefly valued? 

CRITO: Yes, that also remains unshaken. 

SOCRATES: And a good life is equivalent to a just and honorable 
one that holds also? 

CRITO: Yes, it does. 

SOCRATES: From these premises I proceed to argue the question 
whether I ought or ought not to try and escape without the consent 
of the Athenians: and if I am clearly right in escaping, then I will 
make the attempt; but if not, I will abstain. The other considerations 
which you mention, of money and loss of character and the duty of 


educating one's children, are, I fear, only the doctrines of the multi- 
tude, who would be as ready to restore people to life, if they were 
able, as they are to put them to death and with as little reason. 
But now, since the argument has thus far prevailed, the only question 
zvhich remains to be considered is whether we shall do rightly either 
in escaping or in suffering others to aid in our escape and paying 
them in money and thanks, or whether in reality we shall not do 
rightly; and if the latter, then death or any other calamity which may 
ensue on my remaining here must not be allowed to enter into the 

CRITO: I think that you are right, Socrates; how then shall we 

SOCRATES: Let us consider the matter together, and do you either 
refute me if you can, and I will be convinced; or else cease, my dear 
friend, from repeating to me that I ought to escape against the wishes 
of the Athenians: for I highly value your attempts to persuade me 
to do so, but I may not be persuaded against my own better judg- 
ment. And now please to consider my first position, and try how 
you can best answer me. 

CRITO: I will. 

SOCRATES: Are we to say that we are never intentionally to do 
wrong, or that in one way we ought and in another way we ought 
not to do wrong, or is doing wrong always evil and dishonorable, 
as I was just now saying, and as has been already acknowledged 
by us? Are all our former admissions which were made within a few 
days to be thrown away? And have we, at our age, been earnestly 
discoursing with one another all our life long only to discover that 
we are no better than children? Or, in spite of the opinion of the 
many, and in spite of consequences whether better or worse, shall we 
insist on the truth of what was then said, that injustice is always an 
evil and dishonor to him who acts unjustly? Shall we say so or not? 

CRITO: Yes. 

SOCRATES: Then we must do no wrong? 

CRITO: Certainly not. 


SOCRATES: NOT, -when injured, injure in return, as the many 
imagine; for we must injure no one at all? 

CRITO: Clearly not. 

SOCRATES: Again, Crito, may we do evil? 

CRITO : Surely not, Socrates. 

JOCRATES: And what of doing evil in return for evil, which is the 
morality of the manyis that just or not? 

CRITO: Not just. 

SOCRATES: For doing evil to another is the same as injuring him? 

CRITO: Very true. 

SOCRATES: Then we ought not to retaliate or render evil for evil 
to anyone, whatever evil we may have suffered from him. But I 
would have you consider, Crito, whether you really mean what you 
are saying. For this opinion has never been held, and never will be 
held, by any considerable number of persons; and those who are 
agreed and those who are not agreed upon this point have no common 
ground, and can only despise one another when they see how widely 
they differ. Tell me, then, whether you agree with and assent to 
my first principle, that neither injury nor retaliation nor warding 
off evil by evil is ever right. And shall that be the premise of our argu- 
ment? Or do you decline and dissent from this? For so I have ever 
thought, and continue to think; but, if you are of another opinion, let 
me hear what you have to say. If, however, you remain of the same 
mind as formerly, I will proceed to the next step. 

CRITO: You may proceed, for I have not changed my mind. 

SOCRATES: Then I will go on to the next point, which may be put 
in the form of a question: Ought a man to do what he admits to be 
right, or ought he to betray the right? 

CRITO: He ought to do what he thinks right. 

SOCRATES: But if this is true, what is the application? In leaving 
the prison against the will of the Athenians, do I wrong any? or 
rather do I not wrong those whom I ought least to wrong? Do I not 
desert the principles which were acknowledged by us to be just 
what do you say? 

CRITO: I cannot tell, Socrates; for I do not know. 


SOCRATES: Then consider the matter in this way: Imagine that 
I am about to play truant (you may call the proceeding by any 
name which you like), and the laws and the government come and 
interrogate me: "Tell us, Socrates," they say; "what are you about? 
are you not going by an act of yours to overturn us the laws, and 
the whole state, as far as in you lies? Do you imagine that a state 
can subsist and not be overthrown, in which the decisions of law 
have no power, but are set aside and trampled upon by individuals?" 
What will be our answer, Crito, to these and the like words? Any- 
one, and especially a rhetorician, will have a good deal to say on 
behalf of the law which requires a sentence to be carried out. He 
will argue that this law should not be set aside; and shall we reply, 
"Yes; but the state has injured us and given an unjust sentence." 
Suppose I say that? 

CRITO: Very good, Socrates. 

SOCRATES: "And was that our agreement with you?" the law 
would answer; "or were you to abide by the sentence of the state?" 
And if I were to express my astonishment at their words, the law 
would probably add: "Answer, Socrates, instead of opening your 
eyes: you are in the habit of asking and answering questions. Tell us: 
What complaint have you to make against us which justifies you in 
attempting to destroy us and the state? In the first place did we not 
bring you into existence? Your father married your mother by our 
aid and begat you. Say whether you have any objection to urge against 
those of us who regulate marriage?" None, I should reply. "Or against 
those of us who after birth regulate the nurture and education of 
children, in which you also were trained? Were not the laws, which 
have the charge of education, right in commanding your father to 
train, you in music and gymnastic?" Right, I should reply. "Well 
then, since you were brought into the world and nurtured and edu- 
cated by us, can you deny in the first place that you are our child 
and slave, as your fathers were before you? And if this is true you 
are not on equal terms with us; nor can you think that you have 
a right to do to us what we are doing to you. Would you have any 
right to strike or revile or do any other evil to your father or your 


master, if you had one, because you have been struck or reviled by 
him, or received some other evil at his hands? You would not say 
this. And because we think right to destroy you, do you think that 
you have any right to destroy us in return, and your country as fai 
as in you lies? Will you, O professor of true virtue, pretend that you 
are justified in this? Has a philosopher like you failed to discover that 
our country is more to be valued and higher and holier far than 
mother or father or any ancestor, and more to be regarded in the eyes 
of the gods and of men of understanding? also to be soothed, and 
gently and reverently entreated when angry, even more than a father, 
and either to be persuaded, or if not persuaded, to be obeyed? And 
when we are punished by her, whether with imprisonment or stripes, 
the punishment is to be endured in silence; and if she lead us to 
wounds or death in battle, thither we follow as is right; neither may 
anyone yield or retreat or leave his rank, but whether in battle or in a 
court of law, or in any other place, he must do what his city and his 
country order him; or he must change their view of what is just: and 
if he may do no violence to his father or mother, much less may he do 
violence to his country/' What answer shall we make to this, Crito? 
Do the laws speak truly, or do they not? 

CRITO: I think that they do. 

SOCRATES: Then the laws will say: "Consider, Socrates, if we are 
speaking truly that in your present attempt you are going to do us an 
injury. For, having brought you into the world, and nurtured and 
educated you, and given you and every other citizen a share in every 
good which we had to give, we further proclaim to any Athenian by 
the liberty which we allow him, that if he does not like us when he 
has become of age and has seen the ways of the city, and made our 
acquaintance, he may go where he pleases and take his goods with 
him. None of us laws will forbid him or interfere with him. Anyone 
who does not like us and the city, and who wants to emigrate to a 
colony or to any other city, may go where he likes, retaining his 
property. But he who has experience of the manner in which we 
order justice and administer the state, and still remains, has entered 
into an implied contract that he will do as we command him. And 


he who disobeys us is, as we maintain, thrice wrong; first, because 
in disobeying us he is disobeying his parents; secondly, because we 
are the authors of his education; thirdly, because he has made an 
agreement with us that he will duly obey our commanas; and he 
neither obeys them nor convinces us that our commands are unjust; 
and we do not rudely impose them, but give him the alternative of 
obeying or convincing us; that is what we offer, and he does neither. 
These are the sort of accusations to which, as we were saying, you, 
Socrates, will be exposed if you accomplish your intentions; you, 
above all other Athenians." 

Suppose now I ask, why I rather than anybody else? They will 
justly retort upon me that I above all other men have acknowledged 
the agreement. "There is clear proof/' they will say, "Socrates, that 
we and the city were not displeasing to you. Of all Athenians you 
have been the most constant resident in the city, which, as you 
never leave, you may be supposed to love. For you never went out of 
the city either to see the games, except once when you went to the 
Isthmus, 4 or to any other place unless when you were on military 
service; nor did you travel as other men do. Nor had you any curiosity 
to know other states or their laws: your affections did not go beyond 
us and our state; we were your special favorites, and you acquiesced 
in our government of you; and here in this city you begat your chil- 
dren, which is a proof of your satisfaction. Moreover, you might in 
the course of the trial, if you had liked, have fixed the penalty at 
banishment; the state which refuses to let you go now would have let 
you go then. But you pretendedjhat you preferred death to exile, 5 
and that you"were not unwilling tp^ die. And now you haveTSgolteh 
t&eselme sentiments, anTpayno respect to us, the laws, of whom 
you are the destroyer; and are doing what only a miserable slave 
would do, running away and turning your back upon the compact? 
and agreements which you made as a citizen. And, first of all, answei 
this very question: Are we right in saying that you agreed to be 

4 The Isthmian games, held on the Isthmus of Corinth in honor of the sea god 
Poseidon, were almost as famous as the Olympian games in honor of Zeus. 

5 See Apology, page 56. 


governed according to us in deed, and not in word only? Is that 
true or not?" How shall we answer, Crito? Must we not assent? 

CRITO: We cannot help it, Socrates. 

SOCRATES: Then will they not say: "You, Socrates, are breaking 
the covenants and agreements which you made with us at your 
leisure, not in any haste or under any compulsion or deception, but 
after you have had seventy years to think of them, during which time 
you were at liberty to leave the city, if we were not to your mind, 
or if our covenants appeared to you to be unfair. You had your 
choice, and might have gone either to Lacedaemon a or Crete, both 
which states are often praised by you for their good government, or 
to some other Hellenic or foreign state. Whereas you, above all other 
Athenians, seemed to be so fond of the state, or, in other words, of us, 
her laws (and who would care about a state which has no laws?), 
that you never stirred out of her; the halt, the blind, the maimed were 
not more stationary in her than you were. And now you run away 
and forsake your agreements. Not so, Socrates, if you will take our 
advice; do not make yourself ridiculous by escaping out of the city. 

"For just consider, if you transgress and err in this sort of way, 
what good will you do either to yourself or to your friends? That 
your friends will be driven into exile and deprived of citizenship, or 
will lose their property, is tolerably certain; and you yourself, if you 
fly to one of the neighboring cities, as, for example, Thebes or 
Megara, both of which are well governed, will come to them as an 
enemy, Socrates, and their government will be against you, and all 
patriotic citizens will cast an evil eye upon you as a subverter of the 
laws, and you will confirm in the minds of the judges the justice of 
their own condemnation of you. For he who is a corrupter of the laws 
is more than likely to be a corrupter of the young and foolish portion 
of mankind. Will you then flee from well-ordered cities and virtuous 
men? and is existence worth having on these terms? Or will you gc 
to them without shame, and talk to them, Socrates? And what will 
you say to them? What you say here about virtue and justice and 

6 Another name for Sparta. 


institutions and laws being the best things among men? Would that 
be decent of you? Surely not. But if you go away from well-governed 
states to Crito's friends in Thessaly, where there is great disorder and 
license, they will be charmed to hear the tale of your escape from 
prison, set off with ludicrous particulars of the manner in which you 
were wrapped in a goatskin or some other disguise, and meta- 
morphosed as the manner is of runaways; but will there be no one 
to remind you that in your old age you were not ashamed to violate 
the most sacred laws from a miserable desire of a little more life? 
Perhaps not, if you keep them in a good temper; but if they are out 
of temper you will hear many degrading things; you will live, but 
how? as the flatterer of all men, and the servant of all men; and 
doing what? eating and drinking in Thessaly, having gone abroad 
in order that you may get a dinner. And where will be your fine 
sentiments about justice and virtue? Say that you wish to live for the 
sake of your children you want to bring them up and educate them 
will you take them into Thessaly and deprive them of Athenian 
citizenship? Is this the benefit which you will confer upon them? 
Or are you under the impression that they will be better cared for 
and educated here if you are still alive, although absent from them; 
for your friends will take care of them? Do you fancy that if you are 
an inhabitant of Thessaly they will take care of them, and if you are 
an inhabitant of the other world that they will not take care of them? 
Nay; but if they who call themselves friends are good for anything, 
they will to be sure they will. 

"Listen, then, Socrates, to us who have brought you up. Think 
not of life and children first, and of justice afterwards, but of justice 
first, that you may be justified before the princes of the world below. 
For neither will you nor any that belong to you be happier or holier 
or juster in this life, or happier in another, if you do as Crito bids. 
Now you depart in innocence, a sufferer and not a doer of evil; a 
victim, not of the laws, but of men. But if you go forth, returning evil 
for evil, and injury for injury, breaking the covenants and agreements 
which you have made with us, and wronging those whom you 
Wight least of all to wrong, that is to say, yourself, your friends, your 


country, and us, we shall be angry with you while you live, and our 
brethren, the laws in the world below, will receive you as an enemy; 
for they will know that you have done your best to destroy us. Listen, 
then, to us and not to Crito." 

This, dear Crito, is the voice which I seem to hear murmuring in 
my ears, like the sound of the flute in the ears of the mystic; that 
voice, I say, is humming in my ears, and prevents me from hearing 
any other. And I know that anything more which you may say will 
be vain. Yet speak, if you have anything to say. 

CRITO: I have nothing to say, Socrates. 

SOCRATES: Leave me then, Crito, to fulfill the will of God, and to 
follow whither he leads. 




SOME time after Socrates' execution, we learn from the dialogue that 
follows, his disciple Phaedo comes to the town of Phlius in northern 
Peloponnesus, on his way back, perhaps, to his native city of Elis in 
the west. At Phlius he meets Echecrates and a group of other friends 
of Socrates, all anxious to hear how it went with him at the end. 
Accordingly Phaedo, who had sat on a stool beside Socrates that last 
afternoon, while Socrates' hand stroked his hair, tells them in full 
the story of what was done and said. 

The fateful ship from Delos had arrived the day before. The little 
circle of Socrates* intimates therefore had gathered early to spend 
with him the time until evening, when the poison hemlock would 
be given him to drink. Crito, the old, close friend of the family, who 
had previously tried in vain to induce Socrates to escape, was there 
to take his parting instructions and close his eyes when all was 
finished. Other Athenians present included Phaedo and the irre- 
pressible Apollodorus, who cried aloud when Socrates drank the cup 
and made the rest break down. Plato, however, was kept away by 
illness. Socrates' wife and children came and went. A few friends 
from other cities were there, among them Simmias and Cebes of 
Thebes, who had offered through Crito to share in the expense and 
risks of Socrates' escape (page 68). These last led in the talk with 
Socrates while the hours passed. The subject of the talk arose natu- 
rally out of what was uppermost in all their minds the reasons why 
a philosopher should welcome release from the chain of the body 
and be certain that his soul was immortal. 

The dialogue may well represent truly the grandeur, composure, 
and reasonableness of Socrates in the face of death and his compas- 
sionate concern for his friends whom he wished to fortify with some 



thing of His own strength. The general drift of the conversation too 
may actually have been as here described. The philosophical proofs, 
however, which Socrates brings forward to convince his friends that 
his soul will not vanish like smoke when his body dies imply at 
points a more developed theory of the universe as matter and spirit 
than seems ever to have been really his. Opposites spring from op- 
posites in a never-ending rhythm; hence life must infallibly follow 
death. The soul knows and remembers ideas, he says later. Ideas are 
the immortal and unchangeable causes of the world. Hence the soul, 
that has a vision of immortal things and is a bringer always of life to 
the body, and that departs when death appears, must itself share in 
the essence of immortality. These are Platonic arguments, beyond 
what we know as the reach of Socrates' own thinking. The tale of 
the judgment of souls in the afterlife is set in a background of physi- 
cal science, in which, Socrates says earlier, he is no longer inter- 
ested. Our dialogue then is made up partly, perhaps, of genuine 
memories of Socrates' last words, as reported to Plato afterward, and 
partly of Plato's own mature reasons for believing his master right 
in his confidence that soon he would be meeting the great dead in 
another and a juster world. The personality of Socrates and the 
thought of Plato together make the Phaedo what it is, an unforget- 
table picture of one of the noblest scenes in European literature. 


narrator of the Dialogue), Echecrates of 
Phlius, Socrates, Apollodorus, Simmias, 
Cebes, Crito, Attendant of the Prison, 

SCENE : The Prison of Socrates 
Echecrates speaks: 

"WT[ T"ERE you yourself, Phaedo, in the prison with Socrates 
% % / on the day when he dran?;< the poison? 
V \ PHAEDO: Yes, Echecrates, I was. 

ECHECRATES: I should so like to hear ahout his death. What did he 
say in his last hours? We were informed that he died by taking 
poison, but no one knew anything more; for no Phliasian ever goes 
to Athens now, and it is a long time since any stranger from Athens 
has found his way hither; so that we had no clear account. 

PHAEDO: Did you not hear of the proceedings at the trial? 

ECHECRATES: Yes; someone told us about the trial, and we could 
not understand why, having been condemned, he should have been 
put to death, not at the time, but long afterwards. What was the 
reason of this? 

PHAEDO: An accident, Echecrates: the stern of the ship which the 
Athenians send to Delos happened to have been crowned on the day 
before he was tried. 



ECHECRATES: What is this ship? 

PHAEDO: It is the ship in which, according to Athenian tradition, 
Theseus went to Crete when he took with him the fourteen youths, 
and was the savior of them and of himself. And they are said to 
have vowed to Apollo at the time, that if they were saved they would 
send a yearly mission to Delos. Now this custom still continues, and 
the whole period of the voyage to and from Delos, beginning when 
the priest of Apollo crowns the stern of the ship, is a holy season, 
during which the city is not allowed to be polluted by public execu- 
tions; and when the vessel is detained by contrary winds, the time 
spent in going and returning is very considerable. As I was saying, 
the ship was crowned on the day before the trial, and this was the 
reason why Socrates lay in prison and was not put to death until long 
after he was condemned. 

ECHECRATES: What was the manner of his death, Phaedo? What 
was said or done? And which of his friends were with him? Or did 
the authorities forbid them to be present so that he had no friends 
near him when he died? 

PHAEDO: No; there were several of them with him. 

ECHECRATES: If you have nothing to do, I wish that you would 
tell me what passed, as exactly as you can. 

PHAEDO: I have nothing at all to do, and will try to gratify your 
wish. To be reminded of Socrates is always the greatest delight to 
me, whether I speak myself or hear another speak of him. 

ECHECRATES: You will have listeners who are of the same mind 
with you, and I hope that you will be as exact as you can. 

PHAEDO: I had a singular feeling at being in his company. For I 
could hardly believe that I was present at the death of a friend, and 
therefore I did not pity him, Echecrates; he died so fearlessly, and 
his words and bearing were so noble and gracious, that to me he ap- 
peared blessed. I thought that in going to the other world he couM 
not be without a divine call, and that he would be happy, if any mar. 
?ver was, when he arrived there; and therefore I did not pity him as 
might have seemed natural at such an hour. But I had not the 
pleasure which I usually feel in philosophical discourse (for philos- 


ophy was the theme of which we spoke). I was pleased, but in the 
pleasure there was also a strange admixture of pain; for I reflected 
that he was soon to die, and this double feeling was shared by us all; 
we were laughing and weeping by turns, especially the excitable 
Apollodorus you know the sort of man? 


PHAEDO: He was quite beside himself; and I and all of us were 
greatly moved. 

ECHECRATES: Who were present? 

PHAEDO: Of native Athenians there were, besides Apollodorus, 
Critobulus and his father Crito, Hermogenes, Epigenes, Aeschines, 
Antisthenes; likewise Ctesippus of the deme of Paeania, Menexenus, 
and some others; Plato, if I am not mistaken, was ill. 

ECHECRATES: Were there any strangers? 

PHAEDO: Yes, there were; Simmias the Theban, and Cebes, and 
Phaedonides; Euclid and Terpsion, who came from Megara. 

ECHECRATES: And was Aristippus there, and Cleombrotus? 

PHAEDO : No, they were said to be in Aegina. 

ECHECRATES: Any one else? 

PHAEDO: I think that these were nearly all. 

ECHECRATES: Well, and what did you talk about? 

PHAEDO: I will begin at the beginning, and endeavor to repeat the 
entire conversation. On the previous days we had been in the habit 
of assembling early in the morning at the court in which the trial took 
place, and which is not far from the prison. There we used to wait 
talking with one another until the opening of the doors (for they 
were not opened very early); then we went in and generally passed 
the day with Socrates. On the last morning we assembled sooner than 
usual, having heard on the day before when we quitted the prison in 
the evening that the sacred ship had come from Delos; and so we 
arranged to meet very early at the accustomed place. On our arrival 
the jailer who answered the door, instead of admitting us, came out 
and told us to stay until he called us. "For the Eleven," l he said, "are 

1 On the Eleven see Apology, note 19. 


now with Socrates; they are taking off his chains, and giving orders 
that he is to die today." He soon returned and said that we might 
come in. On entering we found Socrates just released from chains, 
and Xanthippe, 2 whom you know, sitting by him and holding his 
child in her arms. When she saw us she uttered a cry and said, as 
women will: "O Socrates, this is the last time that either you will 
converse with your friends, or they with you." Socrates turned to 
Crito and said: "Crito, let someone take her home." Some of Crito's 
people accordingly led her away, crying out and beating herself. 

And when she was gone, Socrates, sitting up on the couch, bent 
and rubbed his leg, saying, as he was rubbing: "How singular is the 
thing called pleasure, and how curiously related to pain, which might 
be thought to be the opposite of it; for they are never present to a man 
at the same instant, and yet he who pursues either is generally com- 
pelled to take the other; their bodies are two, but they are joined by a 
single head. And I cannot help thinking that if Aesop had remem- 
bered them, he would have made a fable about God trying to recon- 
cile their strife, and how, when he could not, he fastened their heads 
together; and this is the reason why when one comes the other fol- 
lows: as I know by my own experience now, when after the pain in 
my leg which was caused by the chain pleasure appears to succeed." 

Upon this Cebes said: "I am glad, Socrates, that you have men- 
tioned the name of Aesop. For it reminds me of a question which has 
been asked by many, and was asked of me only the day before yester- 
day by Evenus 3 the poet he will be sure to ask it again, and there- 
fore if you would like me to have an answer ready for him, you may 
as well tell me what I should say to him: he wanted to know why 
you, who never before wrote a line of poetry, now that you are in 
prison are turning Aesop's fables into verse, and also composing that 
hymn in honor of Apollo." 

"Tell him, Cebes," he replied, "what is the truththat I had no 
idea of rivaling him or his poems; to do so, as I knew, would be no 
easy task. But I wanted to see whether I could purge away a scruple 

2 The wife of Socrates. 

3 See Apology, page 36- 


which I felt about the meaning of certain dreams, In the course of my 
life I have often had intimations in dreams that I should compose 
music. The same dream came to me sometimes in one form, and 
sometimes in another, but always saying the same or nearly the same 
words: 'Cultivate and make music/ said the dream. And hitherto I 
had imagined that this was only intended to exhort and encourage 
me in the study of philosophy, which has been the pursuit of my 
life, and is the noblest and best of music. The dream was bidding me 
do what I was already doing, in the same way that the competitor in 
a race is bidden by the spectators to run when he is already running. 
But I was not certain of this; for the dream might have meant music 
in the popular sense of the word, and being under sentence of death, 
and the festival giving me a respite, I thought that it would be safer 
for me to satisfy the scruple, and, in obedience to the dream, to com- 
pose a few verses before I departed. And first I made a hymn in honor 
of the god of the festival, and then considering that a poet, if he is 
really to be a poet, should not only put together words, but should 
invent stories, and that I have no invention, I took some fables of 
Aesop, which I had ready at hand and which I knew they were the 
first I came upon and turned them into verse. Tell this to Evenus, 
Cebes, and bid him be of good cheer; say that I would have him come 
after me if he be a wise man, and not tarry; and that today I am likely 
to be going, for the Athenians say that I must." 

Simmias said: "What a message for such a man! Having been a fre- 
quent companion of his I should say that, as far as I know him, he 
will never take your advice unless he is obliged/' 

"Why," said Socrates, ''is not Evenus a philosopher?" 

"I think that he is," said Simmias. 

"Then he, or any man who has the spirit of philosophy, will be 
willing to die; but he will not take his own life, for that is held to be 

Here he changed his position, and put his legs off the couch on to 
the ground, and during the rest of the conversation he remained sit- 

"Why do you say," inquired Cebes, "that a man ought not to take 


his own life, but that the philosopher will be ready to follow the 

Socrates replied: "And have you, Cebes and Simmias, who are 
the disciples of Philolaus, 4 never heard him speak of this?" 

"Yes, but his language was obscure, Socrates." 

"My words, too, are only an echo; but there is no reason why I 
should not repeat what I have heard: and indeed, as I am going to 
another place, it is very meet for me to be thinking and talking of the 
nature of the pilgrimage which I am about to make. What can I do 
better in the interval between this and the setting of the sun"?" 

"Then tell me, Socrates, why is suicide held to be unlawful? as I 
have certainly heard Philolaus, about whom you were just now ask- 
ing, affirm when he was staying with us at Thebes; and there are 
others who say the same, although I have never understood what was 
meant by any of them." 

"Do not lose heart," replied Socrates, "and the day may come 
when you will understand. I suppose that you wonder why, when 
other things which are evil may be good at certain times and to certain 
persons, death is to be the only exception, and why, when a man is 
better dead, he is not permitted to be his own benefactor, but must 
wait for the hand of another." 

"Very true," said Cebes, laughing gently and speaking in his native 
Boeotian. 5 

"I admit the appearance of inconsistency in what I am saying; but 
there may not be any real inconsistency after all. There is a doctrine 
whispered in secret that man is a prisoner who has no right to open 
the door and run away; this is a great mystery which I do not quite 
understand. Yet I too believe that the gods are our guardians, and that 
we men are a possession of theirs. Do you not agree?" 

"Yes, I quite agree," said Cebes. 

"And if one of your own possessions, an ox or an ass, for example, 
took the liberty of putting himself out of the way when you had 

4 A Pythagorean philosopher of Thebes. 

5 Boeotia was the province northwest of Attica, of which Thebes was the chief 
city. Athenians considered the Boeotian dialect countrified and inelegant. 


given no intimation of your wish that he should die, would you not 
be angry with him, and would you not punish him if you could?" 

"Certainly/' replied Cebes. 

"Then, if we look at the matter thus, there may be reason in saying 
that a man should wait, and not take his own life until God summons 
him, as he is now summoning me." 

"Yes, Socrates," said Cebes, "there seems to be truth in what you 
say. And yet how can you reconcile this seemingly true belief that 
God is our guardian and we his possessions, with the willingness to 
die which you were just now attributing to the philosopher? That 
the wisest of men should be willing to leave a service in which they 
are ruled by the gods, who are the best of rulers, is not reasonable; 
for surely no wise man thinks that when set at liberty he can take 
better care of himself than the gods take of him. A fool may perhaps 
think so he may argue that he had better run away from his master, 
not considering that his duty is to remain to the end, and not to run 
away from the good, and that there would be no sense in his running 
away. The wise man will want to be ever with him who is better 
than himself. Now this, Socrates, is the reverse of what was just now 
said; for upon this view the wise man should sorrow and the fool 
rejoice at passing out of life." 

The earnestness of Cebes seemed to please Socrates. "Here," said 
he, turning to us, "is a man who is always inquiring, and is not so 
easily convinced by the first thing which he hears." 

"And certainly," added Simmias, "the objection which he is now 
making does appear to me to have some force. For what can be the 
meaning of a truly wise man wanting to fly away and lightly leave a 
master who is better than himself? And I rather imagine that Cebes 
is referring to you; he thinks that you are too ready to leave us, and 
too ready to leave the gods whom you acknowledge to be our good 

"Yes," replied Socrates; "there is reason in what you say. And so 
you think that I ought to answer your indictment as if I were in a 

"We should like you to do so," said Simmias, 


"Then I must try to make a more successful defense before you 
than I did before the judges. For I am quite ready to admit, Simmias 
and Cebes, that I ought to be grieved at death, if I were not per- 
suaded in the first place that I am going to other gods who are wise 
and good (of which I am as certain as I can be of any such matters), 
and secondly (though I am not so sure of this last) to men departed, 
better than those whom I leave behind; and therefore I do not grieve 
as I might have done, for I have good hope that there is yet something 
remaining for the dead, and as has been said of old, some far better 
thing for the good than for the evil." 

"But do you mean to take away your thoughts with you, Socratesr 1 " 
said Sirnmias. "Will you not impart them to us? for they are a benefit 
in which we too are entitled to share. Moreover, if you succeed in 
convincing us, that will be an answer to the charge against your- 

"I will do my best," replied Socrates. "But you must first let me 
hear what Crito wants; he has long been wishing to say something 
to me/' 

"Only this, Socrates," replied Crito: "the attendant who is to give 
you the poison has been telling me, and he wants me to tell you, that 
you are not to talk much; talking, he says, increases heat, and this is 
apt to interfere with the action of the poison; persons who excite 
themselves are sometimes obliged to take a second or even a third 

"Then," said Socrates, "let him mind his business and be prepared 
to give the poison twice or even thrice if necessary; that is all." 

"I knew quite well what you would say," replied Crito; "but I was 
obliged to satisfy him." 

"Never mind him," he said. 

"And now, O my judges, I desire to prove to you that the real phi- 
losopher has reason to be of good cheer when he is about to die, and 
that after death he may hope to obtain the greatest good in the other 
world. And how this may be, Simmias and Cebes, I will endeavor to 
explain. For I deem that the true votary of philosophy is likely to be 
misunderstood by other men; they do not perceive that he is always 


pursuing death and dying; and if this be so, and he has had the desire 
of death all his life long, why when his time comes should he repine 
at that which he has been always pursuing and desiring?" 

Siminias said laughingly: "Though not in a laughing humor, you 
have made me laugh, Socrates; for I cannot help thinking that the 
many when they hear your words will say how truly you have de- 
scribed philosophers, and our people at home will likewise say that 
the life which philosophers desire is in reality death, and that they 
have found them out to be deserving of the death which they desire." 

"And they are right, Simmias, in thinking so, with the exception 
of the words 'they have found them out'; for they have not found out 
either what is the nature of that death which the true philosopher 
deserves, or how he deserves or desires death. But enough of them 
let us discuss the matter among ourselves. Do we believe that there is 
such a thing as death?" 

"To be sure," replied Simmias. 

"Is it not the separation of soul and body? And to be dead is the 
completion of this; when the soul exists in herself, and is released 
from the body and the body is released from the soul, what is this but 

"Just so," he replied. 

"There is another question, which will probably throw light on 
our present inquiry if you and I can agree about it : Ought the phi- 
losopher to care about the pleasures if they are to be called pleasures 
of eating and drinking?" 

"Certainly not," answered Simmias. 

"And what about the pleasures of love should he care for them?" 

"By no means." 

"And will he think much of the other ways of indulging the body, 
for example, the acquisition of costly raiment, or sandals, or other 
adornments of the body? Instead of caring about them> does he not 
rather despise anything more than nature needs? What do you say?" 

"I should say that the true philosopher would despise them." 

'Would you not say that he is entirely concerned with the soul and 


not with the body? He would like, as far as he can, to get away from 
the body and to turn to the soul.'* 

"Quite true." 

"In matters of this sort philosophers, above all other men, may be 
observed in every sort of way to dissever the soul from the communion 
of the body." 

'Very true/' 

''Whereas, Simmias, the rest of the world are of opinion that to him 
who has no sense of pleasure and no part in bodily pleasure, life is 
not worth having; and that he who is indifferent about them is as good 
as dead." 

'That is also true." 

"What again shall we say of the actual acquirement of knowledge? 
Is the body, if invited to share in the inquiry, a hinderer or a helper? 
1 mean to say, have sight and hearing any truth in them? Are they 
not, as the poets are always telling us, inaccurate witnesses? and yet, 
if even they are inaccurate and indistinct, what is to be said of the 
other senses? for you will allow that they are the best of them?" 

"Certainly," he replied. 

"Then when does the soul attain truth? for in attempting to con- 
sider anything in company with the body she is obviously deceived " 


'Then must not true existence be revealed to her in thought, if at 


"And thought is best when the mind is gathered into herself and 
none of these things trouble her neither sounds nor sights nor pain 
nor any pleasure when she takes leave of the body, and has as little 
as possible to do with it, when she has no bodily sense or desire, but 
is aspiring after true being?" 


"And in this the philosopher dishonors the body; his soul runs 
away from his body and desires to be alone and by herself?" 

"That is true." 


"Well, but there is another thing, Simmias: Is there or is there not 
an absolute justice?" 

"Assuredly there is." 

"And an absolute beauty and absolute good?" 

"Of course." 

"But did you ever behold any of them with your eyes?" 

"Certainly not." 

"Or did you ever reach them with any other bodily sense? and 1 
speak not of these alone, but of absolute greatness, and health, and 
strength, and of the essence or true nature of everything. Has the 
reality of them ever been perceived by you through the bodily organs? 
or rather, is not the nearest approach to the knowledge of their several 
natures made by him who so orders his intellectual vision as to have 
the most exact conception of the essence of each thing which he con- 


"And he attains to the purest knowledge of them who goes to each 
with the mind alone, not introducing or intruding in the act of 
thought sight or any other sense together with reason, but with the 
very light of the mind in her own clearness searches into the very 
truth of each; he who has got rid, as far as he can, of eyes and ears 
and, so to speak, of the whole body, these being in his opinion dis- 
tracting elements which when they infect the soul hinder her from 
acquiring truth and knowledge who, if not he, is likely to attain to 
the knowledge of true being?" 

"What you say has a wonderful truth in it, Socrates," replied 

"And when real philosophers consider all these things, will they 
not be led to make a reflection which they will express in words some- 
thing like the following? 'Have we not found,' they will say, 'a path 
of thought which seems to bring us and our argument to the conclu 
sion, that while we are in the body, and while the soul is infected with 
the evils of the body, our desire will not be satisfied? and our desire 
is of the truth. For the body is a source of endless trouble to us by 
reason of the mere requirement of food; and is liable also to diseases 


which overtake and impede us in the search after true being: it fill} 
us full of loves, and lusts, and fears, and fancies of all kinds, and end' 
less foolery, and in fact, as men say, takes away from us the power of 
thinking at all. Whence come wars, and fightings, and factions? 
whence but from the body and the lusts of the body? Wars are occa- 
sioned by the love of money, and money has to be acquired for the 
sake and in the service of the body; and by reason of all these impedi- 
ments we have no time to give to philosophy; and, last and worst of 
all, even if we are at leisure and betake ourselves to some speculation, 
the body is always breaking in upon us, causing turmoil and confu- 
sion in our inquiries, and so amazing us that we are prevented from 
seeing the truth. It has been proved to us by experience that if we 
would have pure knowledge of anything we must be quit of the body 
the soul in herself must behold things in themselves: and then we 
shall attain the wisdom which we desire, and of which we say that 
we are lovers; not while we live, but after death; for if while in com- 
pany with the body, the soul cannot have pure knowledge, one of two 
things follows either knowledge is not to be attained at all, or, if at 
all, after death. For then, and not till then, the soul will be parted 
from the body and exist in herself alone. In this present life, I reckon 
that we make the nearest approach to knowledge when we have the 
least possible intercourse or communion with the body, and are not 
surfeited with the bodily nature, but keep ourselves pure until the 
hour when God himself is pleased to release us. And thus having got 
rid of the foolishness of the body we shall be pure and hold converse 
with the pure, and know of ourselves the clear light everywhere, 
which is no other than the light of truth. For the impure are not per- 
mitted to approach the pure/ These are the sort of words, Simmias, 
which the true lovers of knowledge cannot help saying to one another, 
and thinking. You would agree; would you not?" 

"Undoubtedly, Socrates." 

''But, O my friend, if this be true, there is great reason to hope that, 
going whither I go. when I have come to the end of my journey, 1 
shall attain that which has been the pursuit of my life. And there- 
fore I go on my way rejoicing, and not I only, but every other man 


who believes that his mind has been made ready and that he is in a 
manner purified." 

"Certainly," replied Simmias. 

"And what is purification but the separation of the soul from the 
body, as I was saying before; the habit of the soul gathering and col- 
lecting herself into herself from all sides out of the body; the dwell- 
ing in her own place alone, as in another life, so also in this, as far a? 
she can; the release of the soul from the chains of the body?" 

"Very true," he said. 

"And this separation and release of the soul from the body is 
termed death?" 

"To be sure," he said. 

"And the true philosophers, and they only, are ever seeking to re- 
lease the soul. Is not the separation and release of the soul from the 
body their especial study?" 

"That is true." 

"And, as I was saying at first, there would be a ridiculous contra- 
diction in men studying to live as nearly as they can in a state of 
death, and yet repining when it comes upon them." 


"And the true philosophers, Simmias, are always occupied in the 
practice of dying, wherefore also to them least of all men is death ter- 
rible. Look at the matter thus: if they have been in every way the 
enemies of the body, and are wanting to be alone with the soul, when 
this desire of theirs is granted, how inconsistent would they be if they 
trembled and repined, instead of rejoicing at their departure to that 
place where, when they arrive, they hope to gain that which in life 
they desired and this was wisdom and at the same time to be rid of 
the company of their enemy. Many a man has been willing to go to 
the world below animated by the hope of seeing there an earthly love, 
or wife, or son, and conversing with them. And will he who is a true 
lover of wisdom, and is strongly persuaded in like manner that only 
in the world below he can worthily enjoy her, still repine at death? 
Will he not depart with joy? Surely he will, O my friend, if he be a 
true philosopher. For he will have a firm conviction that there, and 


there only, he can find wisdom in her purity. And if this be Vrue, he 
would be very absurd, as I was saying, if he were afraid of death/' 

"He would indeed," replied Simmias. 

"And when you see a man who is repining at the approach of* 
death, is not his reluctance a sufficient proof that he is not a lover of 
wisdom, but a lover of the body, and probably at the same time a lover 
of either money or power, or both?" 

"Quite so," he replied. 

"And is not courage, Simmias, a quality which is specially char- 
acteristic of the philosopher?" 


"There is temperance again, which even by the vulgar is sup- 
posed to consist in the control and regulation of the passions, and in 
the sense of superiority to them is not temperance a virtue belong- 
ing to those only who despise the body, and who pass their lives in 

"Most assuredly." 

"For the courage and temperance of other men, if you will consider 
them, are really a contradiction." 

"How so?" 

"Well," he said, "you are aware that death is regarded by men in 
general as a great evil." 

"Very true," he said. 

"And do not courageous men face death because they are afraid of 
yet greater evils?" 

"That is quite true." 

"Then all but the philosophers are courageous only from fear, and 
because they are afraid; and yet that a man should be courageous from 
fear, and because he is a coward, is surely a strange thing," 

"Very true." 

"And are not the temperate exactly in the same case? They are 
temperate because they are intemperate which might seem to be a 
contradiction, but is nevertheless the sort of thing which happens 
with this foolish temperance. For there are pleasures which they are 
afraid of losing; and in their desire to keep them, they abstain from 


some pleasures, because they are overcome by others; and although to 
be conquered by pleasure is called by men intemperance, to them the 
conquest of pleasure consists in being conquered by pleasure. And 
that is what I mean by saying that, in a sense, they are made tem- 
perate through intemperance." 

"Such appears to be the case." 

"Yet the exchange of one fear or pleasure or pain for another fear 
or pleasure or pain, and of the greater for the less, as if they were 
coins, is not the exchange of virtue. O my blessed Simmias, is there 
not one true coin for which all things ought to be exchanged? and 
that is wisdom; and only in exchange for this, and in company with 
this, is anything truly bought or sold, whether courage or temperance 
or justice. And is not all true virtue the companion of wisdom, no 
matter what fears or pleasures or other similar goods or evils may or 
may not attend her? But the virtue which is made up of these goods, 
when they are severed from wisdom and exchanged with one another, 
is a shadow of virtue only, nor is there any freedom or health or truth 
in her; but in the true exchange there is a purging away of all these 
things, and temperance, and justice, and courage, and wisdom herself 
are the purgation of them. The founders of the mysteries c would ap- 
pear to have had a real meaning, and were not talking nonsense when 
they intimated in a figure long ago that he who passes unsanctified 
and uninitiated into the world below will lie in a slough, but that he 
who arrives there after initiation and purification will dwell with the 
gods. For 'many/ as they say in the mysteries, 'are the thyrsus-bear- 
ers, 7 but few are the mystics' meaning, as I interpret the words, 'the 
true philosophers/ In the number of whom, during my whole life, 1 
have been seeking, according to my ability, to find a place; whether I 
have sought in a right way or not, and whether I have succeeded or 
not, I shall truly know in a little while, if God will, when I myself 
arrive in the other world such is my belief. And therefore I maintain 

6 Secret rites connected with the worship of several Greek divinities, to which only 
the purified and initiated were admitted. 

7 The thyrsus was a wand, often wreathed with leaf garlands, carried in religioui 

100 PLATO 

that I am right, Simmias and Ccbes, in not grieving or repining at 
parting from you and my masters in this world, for I believe that I 
shall equally find good masters and friends in another world. But 
most men do not believe this saying; if then I succeed in convincing 
you by my defense better than I did the Athenian judges, it will be 

Cebes answered : "I agree, Socrates, in the greater part of what you 
say. But in what concerns the soul, men are apt to be incredulous; 
they fear that when she has left the body her place may be nowhere, 
and that on the very day of death she may perish and come to an end 
immediately on her release from the body, issuing forth dispersed 
like smoke or air and in her flight vanishing away into nothingness. 
If she could only be collected into herself after she has obtained re- 
lease from the evils of which you were speaking, there would be good 
reason to hope, Socrates, that what you say is true. But surely it re- 
quires a great deal of argument and many proofs to show that when 
the man is dead his soul yet exists, and has any force or intelligence." 

"True, Cebes/' said Socrates; "and shall I suggest that we converse 
a little of the probabilities of these things?" 

"I am sure," said Cebes, "that I should greatly like to know your 
opinion about them." 

"I reckon," said Socrates, "that no one who heard me now, not 
even if he were one of my old enemies, the Comic poets, 8 could accuse 
me of idle talking about matters in which I have no concern. If you 
please, then, we will proceed with the inquiry. 

"Suppose we consider the question whether the souls of men after 
death are or are not in the world below. There comes into my mind 
an ancient doctrine which affirms that they go from hence into the 
other world, and returning hither, are born again from the dead. Now 
if it be true that the living come from the dead, then our souls must 
exist in the other world, for if not, how could they have been born 
again? And this would be conclusive, if there were any real evidence 

8 In the Apology Socrates referred to Aristophanes' caricature of him. Page 35, 
note 3. 


that the living are only born from the dead; but if this is not so, then 
other arguments will have to be adduced." 

"Very true," replied Cebes. 

"Then let us consider the whole question, not in relation to man 
only, but in relation to animals generally, and to plants, and to every- 
thing of which there is generation, and the proof will be easier. Are 
not all things which have opposites generated out of their opposites? 
I mean such things as good and evil, just and unjust and there are 
innumerable other opposites which are generated out of opposites. 
And I want to show that in all opposites there is of necessity a similar 
alternation; I mean to say, for example, that anything which be- 
comes greater must become greater after being less." 


"And that which becomes less must have been once greater and 
then have become less." 


"And the weaker is generated from the stronger, and the swifter 
from the slower." 

"Very true." 

"And the worse is from the better, and the more just is from the 
more unjust." 

"Of course." 

"And is this true of all opposites? and are we convinced that all of 
them are generated out of opposites?" 


"And in this universal opposition of all things, are there not also 
two intermediate processes which are ever going on, from one to the 
other opposite, and back again; where there is a greater and a less 
there is also an intermediate process of increase and diminution, and 
that which grows is said to wax, and that which decays to wane?" 

"Yes," he said. 

"And there are many other processes, such as division and com- 
position, cooling and heating, which equally involve a passage into 
and out of one another. And this necessarily holds of all opposites, 
even though not always expressed in wordsthey are really generated 

102 PLATO 

out of one another, and there is a passing or process from one to the 
other of them?'* 

"Very true/' he replied. 

"Well, and is there not an opposite of life, as sleep is the opposite 
of waking?" 

"True," he said. 

"And what is it?" 

"Death," he answered. 

"And these, if they are opposites, are generated the one from the 
other, and have their two intermediate processes also?" 

"Of course. " 

"Now," said Socrates, "I will analyze one of the two pairs of op- 
posites which I have mentioned to you, and also its intermediate 
processes, and you shall analyze the other to me. One of them I term 
sleep, the other waking. The state of sleep is opposed to the state of 
waking, and out of sleeping waking is generated, and out of waking, 
sleeping; and the process of generation is in the one case falling 
asleep, and in the other waking up. Do you agree?" 

"I entirely agree." 

"Then, suppose that you analyze life and death to me in the same 
manner. Is not death opposed to life?" 


"And they are generated one from the other?" 


"What is generated from the living?" 

"The dead." 

"And what from the dead?" 

"I can only say in answer the living." 

"Then the living, whether things or persons, Cebes, are generated 
from the dead?" 

"That is clear," he replied. 

"Then the inference is that our souls exist in the world below?" 

"That is true." 

"And one of the two processes or generations is visiblefor surely 
the act of dying is visible?" 


"Surely," he said. 

"What then is to be the result? Shall we exclude the opposite 
process? and shall we suppose nature to walk on one leg only? Must 
we not rather assign to death some corresponding process of gener- 

"Certainly/* he replied. 

"And what is that process?" 

"Return to life." 

"And return to life, if there be such a thing, is the birth of the dead 
into the world of the living?" 

"Quite true." 

"Then here is a new way by which we arrive at the conclusion 
that the living come from the dead, just as the dead come from the 
living; and this, if true, affords a most certain proof that the souls of 
the dead exist in some place out of which they come again." 

"Yes, Socrates," he said; "the conclusion seems to flow necessarily 
out of our previous admissions." 

"And that these admissions were not unfair, Cebes," he said, "may 
be shown, I think, as follows: If generation were in a straight line 
only, and there were no compensation or circle in nature, no turn or 
return of elements into their opposites, then you know that all things 
would at last have the same form and pass into the same state, and 
there would be no more generation of them/' 

"What do you mean?" he said. 

"A simple thing enough, which I will illustrate by the case of 
sleep," he replied. "You know that if there were no alternation of 
sleeping and waking, the tale of the sleeping Endymion 9 would in 
the end have no meaning, because all other things would be asleep 
too, and he would not be distinguishable from the rest. Or if there 
were composition only, and no division of substances, then the chaos 
of Anaxagoras 10 would come again. And in like manner, my dear 

9 A beautiful youth, who in the myth sleeps forever in a mountain cave, where he 
is visited at night by the adoring moon. 

10 The philosopher Anaxagoras had taught that in the beginning Mind or Intelli- 
gence by separating substances had brought form and order into the chaotic 


104 PLATO 

Cebes, if all things which partook of life were to die, and after they 
were dead remained in the form of death, and did not come to life 
again, all would at last die, and nothing would be alive what other 
result could there he? For if the living spring from any other things, 
and they too die, must not all things at last be swallowed up in 

"There is no escape, Socrates," said Cebes; "and to me your argu- 
ment seems to Ire absolutely true." 

"Yes," he said, "Cebes, it is and must be so, in my opinion; and we 
have not been deluded in making these admissions; but I am confident 
that there truly is such a thing as living again, and that the living 
spring from the dead, and that the souls of the dead are in existence, 
and that the good souls have a better portion than the evil." 

Cebes added: "Your favorite doctrine, Socrates, that knowledge is 
simply recollection, if true, also necessarily implies a previous time in 
which we have learned that which we now recollect. But this would 
be impossible unless our soul had been in some place before existing 
in the form of man; here then is another proof of the soul's im- 

"But tell me, Cebes," said Simmias, interposing, "what arguments 
are urged in favor of this doctrine of recollection. I am not very sure 
at the moment that I remember them." 

"One excellent proof," said Cebes, "is afforded by questions. If 
you put a question to a person in a right way, he will give a true an- 
swer of himself, but how could he do this unless there were knowl- 
edge and right reason already in him? And this is most clearly shown 
when he is taken to a diagram 11 or to anything of that sort." 

"But if," said Socrates, "you are still incredulous, Simmias, I would 
ask you whether you may not agree with me when you look at the 
matter in another way I mean, if you are still incredulous as to 
whether knowledge is recollection?" 

"Incredulous i am not," said Simmias; "but i want to have "his 

11 In the Meno, in earlier dialogue, Plato had represented Socrates as drawing 
from an untaught slave boy the right answer to a geometrical problem, thus proving, 
he said, that knowledge is often recollection of things known in a j>ast existence. 


doctrine of recollection brought to my own recollection, and, from 
what Cebes has said, I am beginning to recollect and be convinced: 
but I should still like to hear what you were going to say." 

"This is what I would say," he replied. 'We should agree, if I am 
not mistaken, that what a man recollects he must have known at some 
previous time." 

"Very true." 

"And what is the nature of this knowledge or recollection? I mean 
to ask whether a person who, having seen, or heard, or in any way 
perceived anything, knows not only that, but has a conception of 
something else which is the subject, not of the same but of some 
other kind of knowledge, may not be fairly said to recollect that of 
which he has the conception?" 

"What do you mean?" 

"I mean what I may illustrate by the following instance: The 
knowledge of a lyre is not the same as the knowledge of a man?" 


"And yet what is the feeling of lovers when they recognize a lyre, 
or a garment, or anything else which the beloved has been in the 
habit of using? Do not they, from knowing the lyre, form in the 
mind's eye an image of the youth to whom the lyre belongs? And 
this is recollection. In like manner anyone who sees Simmias may 
remember Cebes; and there are endless examples of the same thing." 

"Endless, indeed," replied Simmias. 

"And recollection is most commonly a process of recovering that 
which has been already forgotten through time and inattention." 

"Very true," he said. 

"Well; and may you not also from seeing the picture of a horse or a 
lyre remember a man? and from the picture of Simmias, you may be 
led to remember Cebes?" 


"Or you may also be led to the recollection of Simmias himself?" 

"Quite so." 

"And in all these cases, the recollection may be derived from thing* 
either like or unlike?" 

106 PLATO 

"It may be." 

"And when the recollection is derived from like things, then an- 
other consideration is sure to arise, which is whether the likeness in 
any degree falls short or not of that which is recollected?" 

"Very true/' he said. 

"And shall we proceed a step further, and affirm that there is such 
a thing as equality, not of one piece of wood or stone with another, 
but that, over and above this, there is absolute equality"? Shall we say 

"Say so, yes," replied Simmias, "and swear to it, with all the confi- 
dence in life." 

"And do we know the nature of this absolute essence?" 

"To be sure," he said. 

"And whence did we obtain our knowledge? Did we not see 
equalities of material things, such as pieces of wood and stones, and 
gather from them the idea of an equality which is different from 
them? For you will acknowledge that there is a difference. Or look at 
the matter in another way: Do not the same pieces of wood or stone 
appear at one time equal, and at another time unequal?" 

"That is certain." 

"But are real equals ever unequal? or is the idea of equality the 
same as of inequality?" 

"Impossible, Socrates." 

"Then these (so-called) equals are not the same with the idea of 

"I should say, clearly not, Socrates." 

"And yet from these equals, although differing from the idea of 
equality, you conceived and attained that idea?" 

"Very true," he said. 

"Which might be like, or might be unlike them?" 


"But that makes no difference: whenever from seeing one thing 
you conceived another, whether like or unlike, there must surely 
have been an act of recollection?" 

"Very true." 


"But what would you say of equal portions of wood and stone, or 
other material equals? and what is the impression produced by them? 
Are they equals in the same sense in which absolute equality is equal? 
or do they fall short of this perfect equality in a measure?" 

"Yes," he said, "in a very great measure too." 

"And must we not allow, that when I or anyone, looking at any 
object, observes that the thing which he sees aims at being some other 
thing, but falls short of, and cannot be, that other thing, but is in- 
ferior, he who makes this observation must have had a previous 
knowledge of that to which the other, although similar, was inferior?" 


"And has not this been our own case in the matter of equals and of 
absolute equality?" 


"Then we must have known equality previously to the time when 
we first saw the material equals, and reflected that all these apparent 
equals strive to attain absolute equality, but fall short of it?" 

"Very true." 

"And we recognize also that this absolute equality has only been 
known, and can only be known, through the medium of sight or 
touch, or of some other of the senses, which are all alike in this 

"Yes, Socrates, as far as the argument is concerned, one of them is 
the same as the other." 

"From the senses then is derived the knowledge that all sensible 
things aim at an absolute equality of which they fall short?" 


"Then before we began to see or hear or perceive in any way, we 
must have had a knowledge of absolute equality, or we could not have 
referred to that standard the equals which are derived from the 
senses? for to that they all aspire, and of that they fall short." 

"No other inference can be drawn from the previous statements." 

"And did we not see and hear and Have the use of our other senses 
as soon as we were born?" 



"Then we must have acquired the knowledge of equality at some 
previous time?" 


"That is to say, before we were born, I suppose)" 


"And if we acquired this knowledge before we were born, and 
were born having the use of it, then we also knew before we were 
born and at the instant of birth not only the equal or the greater or the 
less, but all other ideas; for we are not speaking only of equality, but 
of beauty, goodness, justice, holiness, and of all which we stamp with 
the name of essence in the dialectical process, both when we ask and 
when we answer questions. Of all this we may certainly affirm that 
we acquired the knowledge before birth?" 

"We may." 

"But if, after having acquired, we have not forgotten what in each 
case we acquired, then we must always have conic into life having 
knowledge, and shall always continue to know as long as life lasts 
for knowing is the acquiring and retaining knowledge and not for- 
getting. Is not forgetting, Simmias, just the losing of knowledge?" 

"Quite true, Socrates." 

"But if the knowledge which we acquired before birth was lost by 
us at birth, and if afterwards by the use of the senses we recovered 
what we previously knew, will not the process which we call learning 
be a recovering of the knowledge which is natural to us, and may not 
this be rightly termed recollection?" 

"Very true." 

"So much is clear that when we perceive something, either by 
the help of sight, or hearing, or some other sense, from that percep- 
tion we are able to obtain a notion of some other thing like or unlike 
which is associated with it but has been forgotten. Whence, as I was 
saying, one of two alternatives follows: either we had this knowledge 
at birth, and continued to know through life; or, after birth, those 
who are said to learn only remember, and learning is simply recol- 

"Yes, that is quite true, Socrates." 


"And which alternative, Simmias, do you prefer? Had we the 
knowledge at our birth, or did we recollect the things which we knew 
previously to our birth?" 

"I cannot decide at the moment." 

"At any rate, you can decide whether he who has knowledge will 
or will not be able to render an account of his knowledge? What do 
you say?" 

"Certainly, he will." 

"But do you think that every man is able to give an account of 
these very matters about which we are speaking?" 

"Would that they could, Socrates, but I rather fear that tomorrow, 
at this time, there will no longer be anyone alive who is able to give 
an account of them such as ought to be given." 

"Then you are not of opinion, Simmias, that all men know these 

"Certainly not." 

"They are in process of recollecting that which they learned be- 


"But when did our souls acquire this knowledge? Not since we 
were born as men?" 

"Certainly not." 

"And therefore, previously?" 


"Then, Simmias, our souls must also have existed without bodies 
before they were in the form of man, and must have had intelli- 

"Unless indeed you suppose, Socrates, that these notions are given 
us at the very moment of birth; for this is the only time which re- 

"Yes, my friend, but if so, when do we lose them? for they are not 
in us when we are born that is admitted. Do we lose them at the 
moment of receiving them, or if not at what other time?" 

"No, Socrates, I perceive that I was unconsciously talking nan- 


"Then may we not say, Simmias, that if, as we are always repeat- 
ing, there is an absolute beauty, and goodness, and an absolute essence 
of all things; and if to this, which is now discovered to have existed in 
our former state, we refer all our sensations, and with this compare 
them, finding these ideas to be pre-existent and our inborn posses- 
sionthen our souls must have had a prior existence, but if not, there 
would be no force in the argument? There is the same proof that 
these ideas must have existed before we were born, as that our souls 
existed before we were born; and if not the ideas, then not the souls." 

"Yes, Socrates; I am convinced that there is precisely the same 
necessity for the one as for the other; and the argument retreats suc- 
cessfully to the position that the existence of the soul before birth 
cannot be separated from the existence of the essence of which you 
speak. For there is nothing which to my mind is so patent as that 
beauty, goodness, and the other notions of which you were just now 
speaking have a most real and absolute existence; and 1 am satisfied 
with the proof." 

"Well, but is Cebes equally satisfied? for I must convince him 

"I think," said Simmias, "that Cebes is satisfied: although he is the 
most incredulous of mortals, yet I believe that he is sufficiently con- 
vinced of the existence of the soul before birth. But that after death 
the soul will continue to exist is not yet proven even to my own satis- 
faction. I cannot get rid of the feeling of the many to which Cebes 
was referring the feeling that when the man dies the soul will be 
dispersed, and that this may be the extinction of her. For admitting 
that she may have been born elsewhere, and framed out of other 
elements, and was in existence before entering the human body, why 
after having entered in and gone out again may she not herself be 
destroyed and come to an end?" 

"Very true, Simmias," said Cebes; "about half of what was re- 
quired has been proven; to wit, that our souls existed before we were 
born. That the soul will exist after death as well as before birth is the 
other half of which the proof is still wanting, and has to be supplied; 
when that is given the demonstration will be complete." 


"But that proof, Simmias and Cebes, has been already given," said 
Socrates, "if you put the two arguments together I mean this and the 
former one, in which we admitted that everything living is born of 
the dead. For if the soul exists before birth, and in coming to life and 
being born can be born only from death and dying, must she not 
after death continue to exist, since she has to be born again"? Surely 
the proof which you desire has been already furnished. Still I suspect 
that you and Simmias would be glad to probe the argument further. 
Like children, you are haunted with a fear that when the soul leaves 
the body, the wind may really blow her away and scatter her; espe- 
cially if a man should happen to die in a great storm and not when 
the sky is calm." 

Cebes answered with a smile: "Then, Socrates, you must argue us 
out of our fears and yet, strictly speaking, they are not our fears, but 
there is a child within us to whom death is a sort of hobgoblin: him 
too we must persuade not to be afraid when he is alone in the dark." 

Socrates said: "Let the voice of the charmer be applied daily until 
you have charmed away the fear." 

"And where shall we find a good charmer of our fears, Socrates, 
when you are gone?" 

"Hellas," he replied, "is a large place, Cebes, and has many good 
men, and there are barbarous races not a few: seek for him among 
them all, far and wide, sparing neither pains nor money; for there is 
no better way of spending your money. And you must seek among 
yourselves too; for you will not find others better able to make the 

"The search," replied Cebes, "shall certainly be made. And now, if 
you please, let us return to the point of the argument at which we di- 

"By all means," replied Socrates; "what else should I please?" 

"Very good." 

"Must we not," said Socrates, "ask ourselves what that is which, as 
we imagine, is liable to be scattered, and about which we fear? and 
what again is that about which we have no fear? And then we may 
proceed further to inquire whether that which suffers dispersion is or 

112 PLATO 

is not of the nature of soul our hopes and fears as to our own souls 
will turn upon the answers to these questions." 

"Very true/' he said. 

"Now the compound or composite may be supposed to he naturally 
capable, as of being compounded, so also of being dissolved; but that 
which is uncompounded, and that only, must be, if anything is, in- 

"Yes; I should imagine so," said Cebes. 

"And the uncompounded may be assumed to be the same and un- 
changing, whereas the compound is always changing and never the 

"I agree," he said. 

"Then now let us return to the previous discussion. Is that idea or 
essence, which in the dialectical process we define as essence or true 
existence whether essence of equality, beauty, or anything else- 
are these essences, I say, liable at times to some degree of change? or 
are they each of them always what they are, having the same simple 
self -existent and unchanging forms, not admitting of variation at all, 
or in any way, or at any time; 1 " 

"They must be always the same, Socrates," replied Cebes. 

"And what would you say of the many beautiful whether men 01 
horses or garments or any other things which are named by the same 
names and may be called equal or beautiful are they all unchanging 
and the same always, or quite the reverse? May they not rather be de- 
scribed as almost always changing and hardly ever the same, either 
with themselves or with one another?" 

"The latter," replied Cebes; "they are always in a state of change." 

"And these you can touch and see and perceive with the senses, 
but the unchanging things you can only perceive with the mind 
they are invisible and are not seen?" 

"That is very true," he said. 

"Well then," added Socrates, "let us suppose that there are tw 
sorts of existences one seen, the other unseen." 

"Let us suppose them." 

"The seen is the changing, and the unseen is the unchanging?" 


"That may be also supposed." 

"And, further, is not one part of us body, another part soul?" 

"To be sure." 

"And to which class is the body more alike and akin?" 

"Clearly to the seen no one can doubt that." 

"And is the soul seen or not seen?" 

"Not by man, Socrates." 

"And what we mean by 'seen' and 'not seen' is that which is of 
is not visible to the eye of man?" 

"Yes, to the eye of man." 

"And is the soul seen or not seen?" 

"Not seen." 

"Unseen then?" 


"Then the soul is more like to the unseen, and the body to the 

"That follows necessarily, Socrates." 

"And were we not saying long ago that the soul, when using the 
body as an instrument of perception, that is to say, when using the 
sese of sight or hearing or some other sense (for the meaning of 
perceiving through the body is perceiving through the senses) were 
we not saying that the soul too is then dragged by the body into the 
region of the changeable, and wanders and is confused; the world 
spins round her, and she is like a drunkard, when she touches 

"Very true." 

"But when returning into herself she reflects, then she passes into 
the other world, the region of purity, and eternity, and immortality, 
and unchangeableness, which are her kindred, and with them she 
ever lives, when she is by herself and is not let or hindered; then she 
ceases from her erring ways, and being in communion with the un- 
changing is unchanging. And this state of the soul is called wisdom?" 

"That is well and truly said, Socrates/' he replied. 

"And to which class is the soul more nearly alike and akin, as far 

114 PLATO 

as may be inferred from this argument, as well as from the preceding 

"I think, Socrates, that, in the opinion of everyone who follows 
the argument, the soul will he infinitely more like the unchangeable 
even the most stupid person will not deny that." 

"And the body is more like the changing?" 


"Yet once more consider the matter in another light. When the 
soul and the body are united, then nature orders the soul to rule and 
govern, and the body to obey and serve. Now which of these two 
functions is akin to the divine? and which to the mortal? Does not the 
divine appear to you to be that which naturally orders and rules, and 
the mortal to be that which is subject and servant?" 


"And which does the soul resemble?" 

"The soul resembles the divine, and the body the mortal there 
can be no doubt of that, Socrates." 

"Then reflect, Cebes: of all which has been said is not this the con- 
clusion? that the soul is in the very likeness of the divine, and im- 
mortal, and intellectual, and uniform, and indissoluble, and un- 
changeable; and that the body is in the very likeness of the human, 
and mortal, and unintellectual, and multiform, and dissoluble, and 
changeable. Can this, my dear Cebes, be denied?" 

"It cannot." 

"But if it be true, then is not the body liable to speedy dissolution? 
and is not the soul almost or altogether indissoluble?" 


"And do you further observe, that after a man is dead, the body, 
or visible part of him, which is lying in the visible world, and is called 
a corpse, and would naturally be dissolved and decomposed and dis- 
sipated, is not dissolved or decomposed at once, but may remain for 
some time, nay even for a long time, if the constitution be sound at 
the time of death, and the season of the year favorable? For the body, 
when shrunk and embalmed, as the manner is in Egypt, may remain 
almost entire through infinite ages; and even in decay, there are still 


some portions, such as the bones and ligaments, which are practically 
indestructible. Do you agreed* 


"And is it likely that the soul, which is invisible, in passing to the 
place of the true Hades, which like her is invisible, and pure, and 
noble, and on her way to the good and wise God, whither, if God 
will, my soul is also soon to go that the soul, I repeat, if this be her 
nature and origin, will be blown away and destroyed immediately on 
quitting the body, as the many say? That can never be, my dear Sim- 
mias and Cebes. The truth rather is, that the soul which is pure at 
departing and draws after her no bodily taint, having never volun- 
tarily during life had connection with the body, which she is ever 
avoiding, herself gathered into herself; and making such abstraction 
her perpetual study which means that she has been a true disciple 
of philosophy; and therefore has in fact been always engaged in the 
practice of dying for is not philosophy the study of death?" 


"That soul, I say, herself invisible, departs to the invisible world 
to the divine and immortal and rational: thither arriving, she is 
secure of bliss and is released from the error and folly of men, their 
fears and wild passions and all other human ills, and forever dwells, 
as they say of the initiated, in company with the gods. Is not this true, 

"Yes," said Ccbes, "beyond a doubt." 

"But the soul which has been polluted, and is impure at the time 
of her departure, and is the companion and servant of the body al' 
ways, and is in love with and fascinated by the body and by the de- 
sires and pleasures of the body, until she is led to believe that the truth 
only exists in a bodily form, which a man may touch and see and taste, 
and use for the purposes of his lusts the soul, I mean, accustomed to 
hate and fear and avoid the intellectual principle, which to the bodily 
eye is dark and invisible, and can be attained only by philosophy- 
do you suppose that such a soul will depart pure and unalloyed?" 

"Impossible," he replied. 

"She is held fast by the corporeal, which the continual association 
and constant care of the body have wrought into her nature." 


"Very true." 

"And this corporeal element, my friend, is heavy and weighty and 
earthy, and is that element of sight hy which a soul is depressed and 
dragged down again into the visible world, because she is afraid of 
the invisible and of the world below prowling about tombs and 
sepulchers, near which, as they tell us, are seen certain ghostly ap- 
paritions of souls which have not departed pure, but are cloyed with 
sight and therefore visible." 

"That is very likely, Socrates." 

"Yes, that is very likely, Cebes; and these must be the souls, not 
of the good, but of the evil, which are compelled to wander about 
such places in payment of the penalty of their former evil way of life; 
and they continue to wander until, through the craving after the 
corporeal which never leaves them, they are imprisoned finally in 
another body. And they may be supposed to find their prisons in the 
same natures which they have had in their former lives." 

"What natures do you mean, Socrates'?" 

"What I mean is that men who have followed after gluttony, and 
wantonness, and drunkenness, and have had no thought of avoiding 
them, would pass into asses and animals of that sort. What do you 

"I think such an opinion to be exceedingly probable." 

"And those who have chosen the portion of injustice, and tyranny, 
and violence, will pass into wolves, or into hawks and kites whither 
else can we suppose them to go?" 

"Yes," said Cebes; "with such natures, beyond question/* 

"And there is no difficulty," he said, "in assigning to all of them 
places answering to their several natures and propensities?" 

"There is not," he said. 

"Some are happier than others; and the happiest both in them- 
selves and in the place to which they go are those who have practiced 
the civil and social virtues which are called temperance and justice, 
and are acquired by habit and attention without philosophy and 


"Why are they the happiest?" 

"Because they may be expected to pass into some gentle and social 
kind which is like their own, such as bees or wasps or ants, or back 
again into the form of man, and just and moderate men may be sup- 
posed to spring from them." 

"Very likely." 

"No one who has not studied philosophy and who is not entirely 
pure at the time of his departure is allowed to enter the company of 
the gods, but the lover of knowledge only. And this is the reason, 
Simmias and Ccbes, why the true votaries of philosophy abstain from 
all fleshly lusts, and hold out against them and refuse to give them- 
selves up to them not because they fear poverty or the ruin of their 
families, like the lovers of money, and the world in general; nor like 
the ibvers of power and honor, because they dread the dishonor or 
disgrace of evil deeds." 

"No, Socrates, that would not become them," said Cebes. 

"No, indeed," he replied; "and therefore they who have any care 
of their own souls, and do not merely live molding and fashioning 
the body, say farewell to all this; they will not walk in the ways of the 
blind : and when philosophy offers them purification and release from 
evil, they feel that they ought not to resist her influence, and whither 
she leads they turn and follow." 

"What do you mean, Socrates?" 

"I will tell you," he said. "The lovers of knowledge are conscious 
that the soul was simply fastened and glued to the body until phi- 
losophy received her, she could only view real existence through the 
bars of a prison, not in and through herself; she was wallowing in the 
mire of every sort of ignorance, and by reason of lust had become the 
principal accomplice in her own captivity. This was her original state; 
and then, as I was saying, and as the lovers of knowledge are well 
aware, philosophy, seeing how terrible was her confinement, of which 
she was to herself the cause, received and gently comforted her and 
sought to release her, pointing out that the eye and the ear and the 
other senses are full of deception, and persuading her to retire from 
them, and abstain from all but the necessary use of them, and be 


gathered up and collected into herself, bidding her trust in herself 
and her own pure apprehension of pure existence, and to mistrust 
whatever comes to her through other channels and is subject to vari- 
ation; for such things are visible and tangible, but what she sees in 
her own nature is intelligible and invisible. And the soul of the true 
philosopher thinks that she ought not to resist this deliverance, and 
therefore abstains from pleasures and desires and pains and fears, as 
far as she is able; reflecting that when a man has great joys or sorrows 
or fears or desires, he suffers from them, not merely the sort of evil 
which might be anticipated as for example, the loss of his health or 
property which he has sacrificed to his lusts but an evil greater far, 
which is the greatest and worst of all evils, and one of which he never 

"What is it, Socrates?" said Cebes. 

"The evil is that when the feeling of pleasure or pain is most in- 
tense, every soul of man imagines the objects of this intense feeling 
to be then plainest and truest: but this is not so, they are really the 
things of sight." 

"Very true." 

"And is not this the state in which the soul is most enthralled by 
the body?" 

"How so?" 

"Why, because each pleasure and pain is a sort of nail which nails 
and rivets the soul to the body, until she becomes like the body, and 
believes that to be true which the body affirms to be true; and from 
agreeing with the body and having the same delights she is obliged 
to have the same habits and haunts, and is not likely ever to be pure 
at her departure to the world below, but is always infected by the 
body; and so she sinks into another body and there germinates and 
grows, and has therefore no part in the communion of the divine and 
pure and simple." 

"Most true, Socrates," answered Cebes. 

"And this, Cebes, is the reason why the true lovers of knowledge 
are temperate and brave; and not for the reason which the world 


"Certainly not." 

"Certainy not! The soul of a philosopher will reason in quite an- 
other way; she will not ask philosophy to release her in order that 
when released she may deliver herself up again to the thralldom of 
pleasures and pains, doing a work only to he undone again, weaving 
instead of unweaving her Penelope's web. 12 But she will calm pas- 
sion, and follow reason, and dwell in the contemplation of her, be- 
holding the true and divine (which is not matter of opinion), and 
thence deriving nourishment. Thus she seeks to live while she lives, 
and after death she hopes to go to her own kindred and to that which 
is like her, and to be freed from human ills. Never fear, Simmias and 
Cebes, that a soul which has been thus nurtured and has had these 
pursuits, will at her departure from the body he scattered and blown 
away by the winds and be nowhere and nothing." 

When Socrates had done speaking, for a considerable time there 
was silence; he himself appeared to be meditating, as most of us were, 
on what had been said; only Cebes and Simmias spoke a few words 
to one another. And Socrates observing them asked what they thought 
of the argument, and whether there was anything wanting? "For," 
said he, "there are many points still open to suspicion and attack, if 
anyone were disposed to sift the matter thoroughly. Should you be 
considering some other matter I say no more, but if you are still in 
doubt do not hesitate to say exactly what you think, and let us have 
anything better which you can suggest; and if you think that I can be 
of any use, allow me to help you." 

Simmias said: "i must confess, Socrates, that doubts did arise in 
our minds, and each of us was urging and inciting the other to put the 
question which we wanted to have answered but which neither of us 
liked to ask, fearing that our importunity might be troublesome at 
such a time." 

Socrates replied with a smile: "O Simmias, what are you saying? I 
am not very likely to persuade other men that I do not regard my 

12 In the Odyssey, Homer tells how Penelope, the wife of Odysseus, as a device 
to keep her suitors at bay, pulled out every night on her loom what she had wove 
by day. XIX, 180-150, 

120 PLATO 

present situation as a misfortune, if I cannot even persuade you that I 
am no worse off now than at any other time in my life. Will you not 
allow that I have as much of the spirit of prophecy in me as the 
swans? For they, when they perceive that they must die, having sung 
all their life long, do then sing more lustily than ever, rejoicing in the 
thought that they are about to go away to the god whose ministers 
they are. But men, because they are themselves afraid of death, slan- 
derously affirm of the swans that they sing a lament at the last, not 
considering that no bird sings when cold, or hungry, or in pain, not 
even the nightingale, nor the swallow, nor yet the hoopoe; which are 
said indeed to tune a lay of sorrow, although I do not believe this to 
be true of them any more than of the swans. But because they are 
sacred to Apollo, they have the gift of prophecy, and anticipate the 
good things of another world; wherefore they sing and rejoice in that 
day more than ever they did before. And I too, believing myself to be 
the consecrated servant of the same God, and the fellow servant of 
the swans, and thinking that I have received from my master gifts of 
prophecy which are not inferior to theirs, would not go out of life less 
merrily than the swans. Never mind then, if this be your only ob- 
jection, but speak and ask anything which you like, while the eleven 
magistrates of Athens allow it." 

"Very good, Socrates," said Simmias; "then I will tell you my dif- 
ficulty, and Cebes will tell you his. I feel myself (and I daresay that 
you have the same feeling), how hard or rather impossible is the 
attainment of any certainty about questions such as these in the 
present life. And yet I should deem him a coward who did not prove 
what is said about them to the uttermost, or whose heart failed him 
before he had examined them on every side. For he should persevere 
until he has achieved one of two things: either he should discover, 
or be taught the truth about them; or, if this be impossible, I would 
have him take the best and most irrefragable of human theories and 
let this be the raft upon which he sails through life not without 
risk, as I admit, if he cannot find some word of God which will more 
surely and safely carry him. And now, as you bid me, I will venture 
to question you, and then I shall not have to reproach myself here- 


after with not having said at the time what I think. For when I con- 
sider the matter, either alone or with Cebcs, the argument does cer- 
tainly appear to me, Socrates, to be not sufficient." 

Socrates answered: "I dare say, my friend, that you may be right, 
but I should like to know in what respect the argument is insuffi- 

"In this respect," replied Simmias. "Suppose a person to use the 
same argument about harmony and the lyre might he not say that 
harmony is a thing invisible, incorporeal, perfect, divine, existing in 
the lyre which is harmonized, but that the lyre and the strings are 
matter and material, composite, earthy, and akin to mortality? And 
when someone breaks the lyre, or cuts and rends the strings, then he 
who takes this view would argue as you do, and on the same analogy, 
that the harmony survives and has not perished you cannot imagine, 
he would say, that the lyre without the strings, and the broken strings 
themselves which are mortal remain, and yet that the harmony, 
which is of heavenly and immortal nature and kindred, has perished 
perished before the mortal. The harmony must still be somewhere, 
and the wood and strings will decay before anything can happen to 
that. The thought, Socrates, must have occurred to your own mind 
that such is our conception of the soul; and that when the body is in 
a manner strung and held together by the elements of hot and cold, 
wet and dry, then the soul is the harmony or due proportionate ad- 
mixture of them. But if so, whenever the strings of the body are un- 
duly loosened or overstrained through disease or other injury, then 
the soul, though most divine, like other harmonies of music or of 
works of art, of course perishes at once; although the material remains 
of the body may last for a considerable time, until they are either 
decayed or burnt. And if anyone maintains that the soul, being the 
harmony of the elements of the body, is first to perish in that which 
is called death, how shall we answer him?" 

Socrates looked fixedly at us as his manner was, and said with a 
smile: "Simmias has reason on his side; and why does not some one 
of you who is better able than myself answer him? for there is force 
in his attack upon me. But perhaps, before we answer him, we had 

122 PLATO 

better also hear what Cebes has to say, that we may gain time for 
reflection, and when they have both spoken, we may either assent to 
them, if there is truth in what they say, or if not, we will maintain 
our position. Please to tell me then, Cebes," he said, "what was the 
difficulty which troubled you?" 

Cebes said: "I will tell you. My feeling is that the argument is 
where it was, and open to the same objections which were urged 
before; for I am ready to admit that the existence of the soul before 
entering into the bodily form has been very ingeniously, and, if I may 
say so, quite sufficiently proven; but the existence of the soul after 
death is still, in my judgment, unproven. Now my objection is not the 
same as that of Simmias; for I am not disposed to deny that the soul 
is stronger and more lasting than the body, being of opinion that in 
all such respects the soul very far excels the body. Well then, says 
the argument to me, why do you remain unconvinced? When you 
see that the weaker continues in existence after the man is dead, will 
you not admit that the more lasting must also survive during the same 
period of time? Now I will ask you to consider whether the objection, 
which, like Simmias, I will express in a figure, is of any weight. The 
analogy which I will adduce is that of an old weaver, who dies, and 
after his death somebody says: 'He is not dead, he must be ali v e 
see, there is the coat which he himself wove and wore, and which 
remains whole and undecayed/ And then he proceeds to ask of some 
one who is incredulous, whether a man lasts longer, or the coat which 
is in use and wear; and when he is answered that a man lasts far 
Conger, thinks that he has thus certainly demonstrated the survival 
of the man, who is the more lasting, because the less lasting remains. 
But that, Simmias, as I would beg you to remark, is a mistake; any- 
one can see that he who talks thus is talking nonsense. For the truth 
is, that the weaver aforesaid, having woven and worn many such 
coats, outlived several of them; and was outlived by the last; but a 
man is not therefore proved to be slighter and weaker than a coat. 
Now the relation of the body to the soul may be expressed in a 
similar figure; and anyone may very fairly say in like manner that 
the soul is lasting, and the body weak and shortlived in comparison. 


He may argue in like manner that every soul wears out many bodies, 
especially if a man live many years. While he is alive the body 
deliquesces and decays, and the soul always weaves another garment 
and repairs the waste. But of course, whenever the soul perishes, she 
must have on her last garment, and this will survive her; and then at 
length, when the soul is dead, the body will show its native weak- 
ness, and quickly decompose and pass away. I would therefore rather 
not rely on the argument from superior strength to prove the con- 
tinued existence of the soul after death. For granting even more 
than you affirm to be possible, and acknowledging not only that the 
soul existed before birth, but also that the souls of some exist, and 
will continue to exist after death, and will be born and die again and 
again, and that there is a natural strength in the soul which will hold 
out and be born many times nevertheless, we may be still inclined 
to think that she will weary in the labors of successive births, and 
may at last succumb in one of her deaths and utterly perish; and this 
death and dissolution of the body which brings destruction to the 
soul may be unknown to any of us, for no one of us can have had any 
experience of it: and if so, then I maintain that he who is confident 
about death has but a foolish confidence, unless he is able to prove 
that the soul is altogether immortal and imperishable. But if he 
cannot prove the soul's immortality, he who is about to die will al- 
ways have reason to fear that when the body is disunited, the soul 
also may utterly perish." 

All of us, as we afterwards remarked to one another, had an un- 
pleasant feeling at hearing what they said. When we had been so 
firmly convinced before, now to have our faith shaken seemed to 
introduce a confusion and uncertainty, not only into the previous 
argument, but into any future one; either we were incapable of 
forming a judgment, or there were no grounds of belief. 

ECHECRATES: There I feel with you by heaven I do, Phaedo, and 
when you were speaking, I was beginning to ask myself the same 
question : What argument can I ever trust again? For what could be 
more convincing than the argument of Socrates, which has now 

124 PLATO 

fallen into discredit? That the soul is a harmony is a doctrine which 
has always had a wonderful attraction for me, and, when mentioned, 
came back to me at once, as my own original conviction. And now I 
must begin again and find another argument which will assure me 
that when the man is dead the soul survives. Tell me, I implore you, 
how did Socrates proceed? Did he appear to share the unpleasant 
feeling which you mention? Or did he calmly meet the attack? And 
did he answer forcibly or feebly? Narrate what passed as exactly as 
you can. 

PHAEDO: Often, Echecrates, I have wondered at Socrates, but 
never more than on that occasion. That he should be able to answer 
was nothing, but what astonished me was, first, the gentle and 
pleasant and approving manner in which he received the words of 
the young men, and then his quick sense of the wound which had 
been inflicted by the argument, and the readiness with which he 
healed it. He might be compared to a general rallying his defeated 
and broken army, urging them to accompany him and return to the 
field of argument. 

ECHECRATES: What followed? 

PHAEDO: You shall hear, for I was close to him on his right hand, 
seated on a sort of stool, and he on a couch which was a good deal 
higher. He stroked my head, and pressed the hair upon my neck- 
he had a way of playing with my hair and then he said: "Tomorrow, 
Phaedo, I suppose that these fair locks of yours will be severed.** 18 

"Yes, Socrates, I suppose that they will," I replied. 

"Not so, if you will take my advice." 

"What shall I do with them?" I said. 

"Today," he replied, "and not tomorrow, if this argument dies and 
we cannot bring it to life again, you and I will both shave our locks: 
and if I were you, and the argument got away from me, and I could 
not hold my ground against Simmias and Cebes, I would myself 
take an oath, like the Argives, not to wear hair any more until I had 
renewed the conflict and defeated them." 

13 A custom of many ancient peoples, to ait off the hair in sign of mourning. 


"Yes," I said; "but Heracles himself is said not to be a match foi 

"Summon me then," he said, "and I will be your lolaus 14 until 
the sun goes down." 

"I summon you rather," I rejoined, "not as Heracles summoning 
lolaus, but as lolaus might summon Heracles." 

"That will do as well," he said. "But first let us take care that we 
avoid a danger." 

"Of what nature?" I said. 

"Lest we become misologists," 15 he replied; "no worse thing can 
happen to a man than this. For as there are misanthropists or haters 
of men, there are also misologists or haters of ideas, and both spring 
from the same cause, which is ignorance of the world. Misanthropy 
arises out of the too great confidence of inexperience; you trust a man 
and think him altogether true and sound and faithful, and then in a 
little while he turns out to be false and knavish; and then another 
and another, and when this has happened several times to a man, 
especially when it happens among those whom he deems to be his 
own most trusted and familiar friends, and he has often quarreled 
with them, he at last hates all men, and believes that no one has any 
good in him at all. You must have observed this trait of character?" 

"1 have." 

"And is not the feeling discreditable? Is it not obvious that such a 
one, having to deal with other men, was clearly without any experi- 
ence of human nature; for experience would have taught him the 
true state of the case, that few are the good and few the evil, and 
that the great majority are in the interval between them." 

"What do you mean?" I said. 

"I mean," he replied, "as you might say of the very large and very 
small that nothing is more uncommon than a very large or very 
small man; and this applies generally to all extremes, whether of 
great and small, or swift and slow, or fair and foul, or black and 

14 The friend and charioteer of Heracles, with whose aid he slew the many* 
headed monster, Hydra. 

15 Haters of reasoning or discussion. 

126 PLATO 

white: and whether the instances you select be men or dogs or any- 
thing else, few are the extremes, but many are in the mean between 
them. Did you never observe this?" 

"Yes," I said, "I have." 

"And do you not imagine," he said, "that if there were a competi- 
tion in evil, the worst would be found to be very few?" 

"Yes, that is very likely," I said. 

"Yes, that is very likely," he replied; "although in this respect 
arguments are unlike men there I was led on by you to say more 
than I had intended; but the point of comparison was that when a 
simple man who has no skill in dialectics believes an argument to be 
true which he afterwards imagines to be false, whether really false 
or not, and then another and another, he has no longer any faith left, 
and great disputers, as you know, come to think at last that they have 
grown to be the wisest of mankind; for they alone perceive the utter 
unsoundness and instability of all arguments, or indeed, of all things, 
which, like the currents in the Euripus, 10 are going up and down in 
never-ceasing ebb and flow." 

"That is quite true," I said. 

"Yes, Phaedo," he replied, "and how melancholy, if there be such 
a thing as truth or certainty or possibility of knowledge, that a man 
should have lighted upon some argument or other which at first 
seemed true and then turned out to be false, and instead of blaming 
himself and his own want of wit, because he is annoyed, should at 
last be too glad to transfer the blame from himself to arguments in 
general: and forever afterwards should hate and revile them, and 
lose truth and the knowledge of realities." 

"Yes, indeed," I said; "that is very melancholy." 

"Let us then, in the first place," he said, "be careful of allowing or 
of admitting into our souls the notion that there is no health or 
soundness in any arguments rt all. Rather say that we have not yet 
attained to soundness in ourselves, and that we must struggle man- 
fully and do our best to gain health of mind you and all other men 

16 A narrow strait between the island of Euboea and the Greek mainland, through 
which the tides swirl constantly in and out. 


having regard to the whole of your future life, and I myself in the 
prospect of death. For at this moment I am sensible that I have not 
the temper of a philosopher; like the vulgar, I am only a partisan. 
Now the partisan, when he is engaged in a dispute, cares nothing 
about the rights of the question, but is anxious only to convince his 
hearers of his own assertions. And the difference between him and 
me at the present moment is merely this that whereas he seeks to 
convince his hearers that what he says is true, I am rather seeking to 
convince myself; to convince my hearers is a secondary matter with 
me. And do but see how much I gain by the argument. For if what I 
say is true, then I do well to be persuaded of the truth; but if there be 
nothing after death, still, during the short time that remains, I shall 
not distress my friends with lamentations, and my ignorance will not 
last, but will die with me, and therefore no harm will be done. This 
is the state of mind, Simmias and Cebes, in which I approach the 
argument. And I would ask you to be thinking of the truth and not 
of Socrates: agree with me, if I seem to you to be speaking the truth; 
or if not, withstand me might and main, that I may not deceive you 
as well as myself in my enthusiasm, and like the bee, leave my sting 
in you before I die. 

"And now let us proceed," he said. "And first of all let me be sure 
that I have in my mind what you were saying. Simmias, if I remem- 
ber rightly, has fears and misgivings whether the soul, although a 
fairer and diviner thing than the body, being as she is in the form of 
harmony, may not perish first. On the other hand, Cebes appeared 
to grant that the soul was more lasting than the body, but he said 
that no one could know whether the soul, after having worn out 
many bodies, might not perish herself and leave her last body behind 
her; and that this is death, which is the destruction not of the body 
but of the soul, for in the body the work of destruction is ever going 
on. Are not these, Simmias and Cebes, the points which we have to 

They both agreed to this statement of them. 

He proceeded: "And did you deny the force of the whole preced- 
ing argument, or of a part only?" 


"Of a part only," they replied. 

"And what did you think," he said, "of that part of the argument 
in which we said that knowledge was recollection, and hence inferred 
that the soul must have previously existed somewhere else before she 
was enclosed in the body?" 

Cebes said that he had been wonderfully impressed by that part of 
the argument, and that his conviction remained absolutely unshaken. 
Simmias agreed, and added that he himself could hardly imagine the 
possibility of his ever thinking differently. 

"But," rejoined Socrates, "you will have to think differently, my 
Theban friend, if you still maintain that harmony is a compound, and 
that the soul is a harmony which is made out of strings set in the 
frame of the body; for you will surely never allow yourself to say 
that a harmony is prior to the elements which compose it." 

"Never, Socrates." 

"But do you not see that this is what you imply when you say that 
the soul existed before she took the form and body of man, and was 
made up of elements which as yet had no existence? For harmony is 
not like the soul, as you suppose; but first the lyre, arid the strings, 
and the sounds exist in a state of discord, and then harmony is made 
last of all, and perishes first. And how can such a notion of the soul 
as this agree with the other?" 

"Not at all," replied Simmias. 

"And yet," he said, "there surely ought to be harmony in a dis- 
course of which harmony is the theme?" 

"There ought," replied Simmias. 

"But there is no harmony," he said, "in the two propositions that 
knowledge is recollection, and that the soul is a harmony. Which of 
them will you retain?" 

"I think," he replied, "that I have a much stronger faith, Socrates, 
in the first of the two, which has been fully demonstrated to me, than 
in the latter, which has not been demonstrated at all, but rests only 
on probable and plausible grounds; and is therefore believed by the 
many. I know too well that these arguments from probabilities are 
impostors, and unless great caution is observed in the use of them, 

PHAEDO 1 2p 

they are apt to be deceptive in geometry, and in other things too.. 
But the doctrine of knowledge and recollection has been proven to ma 
on trustworthy grounds: and the proof was that the soul must have 
existed before she came into the body, because to her belongs the 
essence of which the very name implies existence. Having, as I am 
convinced, rightly accepted this conclusion, and on sufficient 
grounds, I must, as I suppose, cease to argue or allow others to argue 
that the soul is a harmony." 

"Let me put the matter, Simmias," he said, "in another point of 
view: Do you imagine that a harmony or any other composition can 
be in a state other than that of the elements, out of which it is com- 

"Certainly not." 

"Or do or suffer anything other than they do or suffer"?" 

He agreed. 

"Then a harmony does not, properly speaking, lead the parts or 
elements which make up the harmony, but only follows them." 

He assented. 

"For harmony cannot possibly have any motion, or sound, or other 
quality which is opposed to its parts." 

"That would be impossible," he replied. 

"And does not the nature of every harmony depend upon the man- 
ner in which the elements are harmonized?" 

"I do not understand you," he said. 

"I mean to say that a harmony admits of degrees, and is more of a 
harmony, and more completely a harmony, when more truly and 
fully harmonized, to any extent which is possible; and less of a 
harmony, and less completely a harmony, when less truly and fully 


"But does the soul admit of degrees? Or is one soul in the very 
least degree inore or less, or more or less completely a soul than an- 

"Not in the least." 

130 PLATO 

"Yet surely of two souls, one is said to have intelligence and virtue, 
and to be good, and the other to have folly and vice, and to he an 
evil soul: and this is said truly?" 

"Yes, truly." 

"But what will those who maintain the soul to be a harmony say 
of this presence of virtue and vice in the soul? Will they say that 
here is another harmony, and another discord, and that the virtuous 
soul is harmonized, and herself being a harmony has another har- 
mony within her, and that the vicious soul is inharmonical and has 
no harmony within her?" 

"I cannot tell," replied Simmias; "but I suppose that something 
of the sort would be asserted by those who say that the soul is a 

"And we have already admitted that no soul is more a soul than 
another; which is equivalent to admitting that harmony is not more 
or less harmony, or more or less completely a harmony?" 

"Quite true." 

"And that which is not more or less a harmony is not more or less 


"And that which is not more or less harmonized cannot have more 
or less of harmony, but only an equal harmony?" 

"Yes, an equal harmony." 

"Then one soul, not being more or less absolutely a soul than an- 
other, is not more or less harmonized?" 


"And therefore has neither more nor less of discord, nor yet of 

"She has not." 

"And having neither more nor less of harmony or of discord, one 
soul has no more vice or virtue than another, if vice be discord ana 
virtue harmony?" 

"Not at all more." 

"Or speaking more correctly, Simmias, the soul, if she is a harmony, 


will never have any vice; because a harmony, being absolutely a 
harmony, has no part in the inharmonical." 


"And therefore a soul which is absolutely a soul has no vice?" 

"How can she have, if the previous argument holds?" 

"Then, if all souls are equally by their nature souls, all souls of all 
living creatures will be equally good?" 

"I agree with you, Socrates," he said. 

"And can all this be true, think you?" he said; "for these are the 
consequences which seem to follow from the assumption that the soul 
is a harmony?" 

"It cannot be true." 

"Once more," he said, "what ruler is there of the elements of 
human nature other than the soul, and especially the wise soul? Do 
you know of any?" 

"Indeed, I do not." 

"And is the soul in agreement with the affections of the body, or 
is she at variance with them? For example, when the body is hot and 
thirsty, docs not the soul incline us against drinking? And when the 
body is hungry, against eating? And this is only one instance out of 
ten thousand of the opposition of the soul to the things of the body." 

"Very true." 

"But we have already acknowledged that the soul, being a har- 
mony, can never utter a note at variance with the tensions and relaxa- 
tions and vibrations and other affections of the strings out of which 
she is composed; she can only follow, she cannot lead them?" 

"It must be so," he replied. 

"And yet do we not now discover the soul to be doing the exact 
opposite leading the elements of which she is believed to be com- 
posed; almost always opposing and coercing them in all sorts of ways 
throughout life, sometimes more violently with the pains of medicine 
and gymnastic; then again more gently; now threatening, now ad- 
monishing the desires, passions, fears, as if talking to a thing which is 
not herself, as Homer in the Odyssey represents Odysseus doing in 
the words 

132 PLATO 

He beat his breast, and thus reproached his heart: 
Endure, my heart; far worse hast thou enduredl 17 

Do you think that Homer wrote this under the idea that the soul is a 
harmony capable of being led by the affections of the body, and not 
rather of a nature which should lead and master them herself a far 
diviner thing than any harmony?" 

"Yes, Socrates, I quite think so/* 

"Then, my friend, we can never be right in saying that the soul is 
a harmony, for we should contradict the divine Homer, and contra- 
dict ourselves." 

"True/' he said. 

"Thus much," said Socrates, "of Harmonia, your Theban goddess, 
who has graciously yielded to us; but what shall I say, Cebes, to her 
husband Cadmus, 18 and how shall I make peace with him?" 

"I think that you will discover a way of propitiating him," said 
Cebes; "I am sure that you have put the argument with Harmonia in 
a manner that I could never have expected. For when Simmias was 
mentioning his difficulty, I quite imagined that no answer could be 
given to him, and therefore I was surprised at finding that his argu- 
ment could not sustain the first onset of yours, and not impossibly 
the other, whom you call Cadmus, may share a similar fate/' 

"Nay, my good friend," said Socrates, "let us not boast, lest some 
evil eye should put to flight the word which I am about to speak. 
That, however, may be left in the hands of those above; while I draw 
near in Homeric fashion, and try the mettle of your words. Here lies 
the point: You want to have it proven to you that the soul is im- 
perishable and immortal, and the philosopher who is confident in 
death appears to you to have but a vain and foolish confidence, if he 
believes that he will fare better in the world below than one who 
has led another sort of life, unless he can prove this: and you say 
that the demonstration of the strength and divinity of the soul, and 

17 Odyssey, XX, 17, 18. 

18 The fabulous first king of Thebes and inventor of the Greek alphabet. Socrates 
is playfully speaking of Simmias and Cebes, the Thebans, as mouthpieces respectively 
of the Theban goddess of music and the Theban king of letters. 


Df her existence priot to our becoming men, does not necessarily 
imply her immortality. Admitting the soul to be long-lived, and to 
have known and done much in a former state, still she is not on that 
account immortal; and her entrance into the human form may be a 
Bort of disease which is the beginning of dissolution, and may at last, 
after the toils of life are over, end in that which is called death. And 
whether the soul enters into the body once only or many times, does 
not, as you say, make any difference in the fears of individuals. For 
any man, who is not devoid of sense, must fear, if he has no knowl- 
edge and can give no account of the soul's immortality. This, or 
something like this, I suspect to be your notion, Cebes; and I de- 
signedly recur to it in order that nothing may escape us, and that 
you may, if you wish, add or subtract anything/' 

"But," said Cebes, "as far as I see at present, I have nothing to add 
or subtract: I mean what you say that I mean." 

Socrates paused awhile, and seemed to be absorbed in reflection. 
At length he said: "You are raising a tremendous question, Cebes, 
involving the whole nature of generation and corruption, about 
which, if you like, I will give you my own experience; and if any- 
thing which I say is likely to avail towards the solution of your dif- 
ficulty you may make use of it." 

"I should very much like," said Cebes, "to hear what you have to 

"Then I will tell you," said Socrates. "When I was young> Cebes, 
I had a prodigious desire to know that department of philosophy 
which is called the investigation of nature; to know the causes of 
things, and why a thing is and is created or destroyed appeared to me 
to be a lofty profession; and I was always agitating myself with the 
consideration of questions such as these: Is the growth of animals 
the result of some decay which the hot and cold principle contracts, 
as some have said? 18 Is the blood the element with which we think, 
or the air, or the fire? or perhaps nothing of the kind but the brain 
may be the originating power of the perceptions of hearing and sight 

19 This sentence might be better translated: "Do heat and cold by a sort of fer- 
mentation bring about the growth of living things, as some people say?" 

134 PLATO 

and smell, and memory and opinion may come from them, and science 
may be based on memory and opinion when they have attained fixity. 
And then I went on to examine the corruption of them, and then to 
the things of heaven and earth, and at last I concluded myself to be 
utterly and absolutely incapable of these incpiries, as I will satisfac- 
torily prove to you. For I was fascinated by them to such a degree that 
my eyes grew blind to things which I had seemed to myself, and also 
to others, to know quite well; I forgot what I had before thought 
self-evident truths; e.g. such a fact as that the growth of man is the 
result of eating and drinking; for when by the digestion of food flesh 
is added to flesh and bone to bone, and whenever there is an aggre- 
gation of congenial elements, the lesser bulk becomes larger and the 
small man great. Was not that a reasonable notion?" 

"Yes," said Cebes, "I think so." 

"Well; but let me tell you something more. There was a time when 
I thought that I understood the meaning of greater and less pretty 
well; and when I saw a great man standing by a little one, I fancied 
that one was taller than the other by a head; or one horse would ap- 
pear to be greater than another horse: and still more clearly did I 
seem to perceive that ten is two more than eight, and that two cubits 
are more than one, because two is the double of one." 

"And what is now your notion of such matters?" said Cebes. 

"I should be far enough from imagining," he replied, "that I knew 
the cause of any of them, by heaven I should; for I cannot satisfy my- 
self that, when one is added to one, the one to which the addition is 
made becomes two, or that the two units added together make two by 
reason of the addition. I cannot understand how, when separated 
from the other, each of them was one and not two, and now, when 
they are brought together, the mere juxtaposition or meeting of 
them should be the cause of their becoming two: neither can I under- 
stand how the division of one is the way to make two; for then a dif- 
ferent cause would produce the same effect as in the former instance 
the addition and juxtaposition of one to one was the cause of two, in 
this the separation and subtraction of one from the other would be 
the cause. Nor am I any longer satisfied that I understand the reason 


why one or anything else is either generated or destroyed or is at all, 
but I have in my mind some confused notion of a new method, and 
can never admit the other. 

"Then I heard someone reading, as he said, from a book of Anaxa- 
goras, 20 that mind was the disposer and cause of all, and I was de- 
lighted at this notion, which appeared quite admirable, and I said to 
myself: If mind is the disposer, mind will dispose all for the best, and 
put each particular in the best place; and I argued that if anyone 
desired to find out the cause of the generation or destruction or exist- 
ence of anything, he must find out what state of being or doing or 
suffering was best for that thing, and therefore a man had only to 
consider the best for himself and others, and then he would also know 
the worse, since the same science comprehended both. And I re- 
joiced to think that I had found in Anaxagoras a teacher of the 
causes of existence such as I desired, and I imagined that he would 
tell me first whether the earth is flat or round; and whichever was 
true, he would proceed to explain the cause and the necessity of this 
being so, and then he would teach me the nature of the best and 
show that this was best; and if he said that the earth was in the 
center, he would further explain that this position was the best, and 
I should be satisfied with the explanation given, and not want any 
other sort of cause. 

"And I thought that I would then go on and ask him about the 
sun and moon and stars, and that he would explain to me their com- 
parative swiftness, and their returnings and various states, active and 
passive, and how all of them were for the best. For I could not 
imagine that when he spoke of mind as the disposer of them, he 
would give any other account of their being as they are, except that 
this was best; and I thought that when he had explained to me in 
detail the cause of each and the cause of all, he would go on to ex- 
plain to me what was best for each and what was good for all. These 

20 Anaxagoras laid down the general principle that Mind was the cause of the 
universe (See Phaedo, note 10) but never went on to show either how Mind acted 
on matter to produce its results or why it saw fit to produce these results and no 
others. In specific instances he spoke of physical substances as if they, taken alone, 
were sufficient explanation. 

136 PLATO 

hopes I would not have sold for a large sum of money, and I seized the 
books and read them as fast as I could in my eagerness to know the 
better and the worse. 

"What expectations I had formed, and how grievously was I dis- 
appointed! As I proceeded, I found my philosopher altogether for- 
saking mind or any other principle of order, but having recourse to 
air, and ether, and water, and other eccentricities. I might compare 
him to a person who began by maintaining generally that mind is the 
cause of the actions of Socrates, but who, when he endeavored to ex- 
plain the causes of my several actions in detail, went on to show 
that I sit here because rny body is made up of bones and muscles; 
and the bones, as he would say, are hard and have joints which divide 
them, and the muscles are elastic, and they cover the bones, which 
have also a covering or environment of flesh and skin which con- 
tains them; and as the bones are lifted at their joints by the contrac- 
tion or relaxation of the muscles, I am able to bend my limbs, and 
this is why I am sitting here in a curved posture that is what he 
would say; and he would have a similar explanation of my talking to 
you, which he would attribute to sound, and air, and hearing, and 
he would assign ten thousand other causes of the same sort, forget- 
ting to mention the true cause, which is, that the Athenians have 
thought fit to condemn me, and accordingly I have thought it better 
and more right to remain here and undergo my sentence; for I am 
inclined to think that these muscles and bones of mine would have 
gone off long ago to Megara or Boeotia by the dog they would, if 
they had been moved only by their own idea of what was best, and if 
I had not chosen the better and nohler part, instead of playing truant 
and running away, of enduring any punishment which the state 

"There is surely a strange confusion of causes and conditions in all 
this. It may be said, indeed, that without bones and muscles and 
the other parts of the body I cannot execute my purposes. But to say 
that I do as I do because of them, and that this is the way in which 
mind acts, and not from the choice of the best / is a very carcl^s^ and 
idle mode of speaking. I wonder that they cannot distinguish the 


cause from the condition, which the many, feeling about in the dark, 
are always mistaking and misnaming. And thus one man makes a 
vortex all round and steadies the earth by the heaven; another gives 
the air as a support to the earth, which is a sort of broad trough. Any 
power which in arranging them as they are arranges them for the best 
never enters into their minds; and instead of finding any superior 
strength in it, they rather expect to discover another Atlas 21 of the 
world who is stronger and more everlasting and more containing than 
the good; of the obligatory and containing power of the good they 
think nothing; and yet this is the principle which I would fain learn 
if anyone would teach me. But as I have failed either to discover 
myself, or to learn of anyone else, the nature of the best, I will exhibit 
to you, if you like, what I have found to be the second best mode of 
inquiring into the cause." 

"I should very much like to hear," he replied. 

Socrates proceeded: "I thought that as I had failed in the con- 
templation of true existence, I ought to be careful that I did not lose 
the eye of my soul; as people may injure their bodily eye by observ- 
ing and gazing on the sun during an eclipse, unless they take the 
precaution of only looking at the image reflected in the water, or in 
some similar medium. So in my own case, I was afraid that my soul 
might be blinded altogether if I looked at things with my eyes or 
tried to apprehend them by the help of the senses. And I thought 
that I had better have recourse to the world of mind and seek there the 
truth of existence. I daresay that the simile is not perfect for I am 
very far from admitting that he who contemplates existences through 
the medium of thought, sees them only 'through a glass darkly,' any 
more than he who considers them in action and operation. How< 
ever, this was the method which I adopted: I first assumed some 
principle which I judged to be the strongest, and then I affirmed as 
true whatever seemed to agree with this, whether relating to the cause 
or to anything else; and that which disagreed I regarded as untrue. 

21 The mountain in Libya that was popularly supposed to support heaven on it* 

138 PLATO 

But I should like to explain my meaning more clearly, as I do not 
think that you as yet understand me." 

"No, indeed," replied Cebes, "not very well." 

"There is nothing new," he said, "in what I am about to tell you; 
but only what I have been always and everywhere repeating in the 
previous discussion and on other occasions: I want to show you the 
nature of that cause which has occupied my thoughts. I shall have 
to go back to those familiar words which are in the mouth of every- 
one, and first of all assume that there is an absolute beauty and good- 
ness and greatness, and the like; grant me this, and I hope to be able 
to show you the nature of the cause, and to prove the immortality of 
the soul." 

Cebes said: "You may proceed at once with the proof, for I grant 
you this." 

"Well," he said, "then I should like to know whether you agree 
with me in the next step; for I cannot help thinking, if there be any- 
thing beautiful other than absolute beauty, should there be such, 
that it can be beautiful only in so far as it partakes of absolute beauty 
and I should say the same of everything. Do you agree in this notion 
of the cause?" 

"Yes," he said, "I agree." 

He proceeded: "I know nothing and can understand nothing of 
any other of those wise causes which are alleged; and if a person says 
to me that the bloom of color, or form, or any such thing is a source 
of beauty, I leave all that, which is only confusing to me, and simply 
and singly, and perhaps foolishly, hold and am assured in my own 
mind that nothing makes a thing beautiful but the presence and 
participation of beauty in whatever way or manner obtained; for 
as to the manner I am uncertain, but I stoutly contend that by beauty 
all beautiful things become beautiful. This appears to me to be the 
safest answer which I can give, either to myself or to another, and to 
this I cling, in the persuasion that this principle will never be over- 
thrown, and that to myself or to anyone who asks the question, I may 
safely reply, that by beauty beautiful things become beautiful. Do 
you not agree with me?" 


"I do." 

"And that by greatness only great things become great and greater 
greater, and by smallness the less become less?" 


"Then if a person were to remark that A is taller by a head than B, 
and B less by a head than A, you would refuse to admit his statement, 
and would stoutly contend that what you mean is only that the 
greater is greater by, and by reason of, greatness, and the less is less 
only by, and by reason of, smallness; and thus you would avoid the 
danger of saying that the greater is greater and the less less by the 
measure of the head, which is the same in both, and would also 
avoid the monstrous absurdity of supposing that the greater man is 
greater by reason of a head, which is small. You would be afraid to 
draw such an inference, would you not?" 

"Indeed, I should," said Cebes, laughing. 

"In like manner you would be afraid to say that ten exceeded eight 
by, and by reason of, two; but would say by, and by reason of, num- 
ber; or you would say that two cubits exceed one cubit not by a half,, 
but by magnitude? for there is the same liability to error in all these 

"Very true," he said. 

"Again, would you not be cautious of affirming that the addition of 
one to one, or the division of one, is the cause of two? And you would 
loudly asseverate that you know of no way in which anything comes 
into existence except by participation in its own proper essence, and 
consequently, as far as you know, the only cause of two is the partici- 
pation in duality this is the way to make two, and the participation 
in one is the way to make one. You would say: I will let alone 
puzzles of division and addition wiser heads than mine may answer 
them; inexperienced as I am, and ready to start, as the proverb says, 
at my own shadow, I cannot afford to give up the sure ground of a 
principle. And if anyone assails you there, you would not mind him, 
or answer him, until you had seen whether the consequences which 
follow agree with one another or not, and when you are further re- 
quired to give an explanation of this principle, you would go on to 

140 PLATO 

assume a higher principle, and a higher, until you found a resting- 
place in the best of the higher; but you would not confuse the prin- 
ciple and the consequences in your reasoning, like the Eristics 22 
at least if you wanted to discover real existence. Not that this confu- 
sion signifies to them, who never care or think about the matter at all, 
for they have the wit to be well pleased with themselves however 
great may be the turmoil of their ideas. But you, if you are a phi- 
losopher, will certainly do as I say." 

"What you say is most true," said Simmias and Cebes, both speak- 
ing at once. 

ECHECRATES: Yes, Phaedo; and I do not wonder at their assent- 
ing. Anyone who has the least sense will acknowledge the wonderful 
clearness of Socrates' reasoning. 

PHAEDO: Certainly, Echecrates; and such was the feeling of the 
whole company at the time. 

ECHECRATES: Yes, and equally of ourselves, who were not of the 
company, and are now listening to your recital. But what followed? 

PHAEDO: After all this had been admitted, and they had agreed 
that ideas exist, and that other things participate in them and derive 
their names from them, Socrates, if I remember rightly, said: 

"This is your way of speaking; and yet when you say that Sim- 
mias is greater than Socrates and less than Phaedo, do you not predi- 
cate of Simmias both greatness and smallness?" 

"Yes, I do." 

"But still you allow that Simmias does not really exceed Socrates, 
as the words may seem to imply, because he is Simmias, but by reason 
of the size which he has; just as Simmias does not exceed Socrates 
because he is Simmias, any more than because Socrates is Socrates, 
but because he has smallness when compared with the greatness of 


"And if Phaedo exceeds him in size, this is not because Phaedo is 

22 The name given to a philosophic school in Megara, where much attention 
was paid to the art of disputation. 


Phaedo, but because Phaedo has greatness relatively to Simmias, who 
is comparatively smaller?" 

"That is true." 

"And therefore Simmias is said to be great, and is also said to be 
small, because he is in a mean between them, exceeding the smallness 
of the one by his greatness, and allowing the greatness of the other 
to exceed his smallness." He added, laughing, "I am speaking like a 
book, but I believe that what I am saying is true." 

Simmias assented. 

"I speak as I do because I want you to agree with me in thinking, 
not only that absolute greatness will never be great and also small, 
but that greatness in us or in the concrete will never admit the small 
or admit of being exceeded: instead of this, one of two things will 
happen, either the greater will fly or retire before the opposite, which 
is the less, or at the approach of the less has already ceased to exist; 
but will not, if allowing or admitting of smallness, be changed by 
that; even as I, having received and admitted smallness when com- 
pared with Simmias, remain just as I was, and am the same small 
person. And as the idea of greatness cannot condescend ever to be or 
become small, in like manner the smallness in us cannot be or become 
great; nor can any other opposite which remains the same ever be or 
become its own opposite, but either passes away or perishes in the 

"That," replied Cebes, "is quite my notion." 

Hereupon one of the company, though I do not exactly remember 
which of them, said: "In heaven's name, is not this the direct con- 
trary of what was admitted before that out of the greater came the 
less and out of the less the greater, and that opposites were simply 
generated from opposites; but now this principle seems to be utterly 

Socrates inclined his head to the speaker and listened. "I like your 
courage," he said, "in reminding us of this, But you do not observe 
that there is a difference in the two cases. For then we were speaking 
of opposites in the concrete, and now of the essential opposite which, 
as is affirmed, neither in us nor in nature can ever be at variance 

142 PLATO 

with itself: then, my friend, we were speaking of things in which 
opposites are inherent and which are called after them, but now 
about the opposites which are inherent in them and which give their 
name to them; and these essential opposites will never, as we main- 
tain, admit of generation into or out of one another." At the same 
time, turning to Cebes, he said: "Are you at all disconcerted, Cebes, 
at our friend's objection?" 

"No, I do not feel so," said Cebes; "and yet I cannot deny that I 
am often disturbed by objections." 

"Then we are agreed, after all," said Socrates, "that the opposite 
will never in any case be opposed to itself?" 

"To that we are quite agreed," he replied. 

"Yet once more let me ask you to consider the question from an- 
other point of view, and see whether you agree with me : There is a 
thing which you term heat, and another thing which you term cold?" 


"But are they the same as fire and snow?" 

"Most assuredly not." 

"Heat is a thing different from fire, and cold is not the same with 


"And yet you will surely admit, that when snow, as was before 
said, is under the influence of heat, they will not remain snow and 
heat; but at the advance of the heat, the snow will either retire of 

"Very true," he replied. 

"And the fire too at the advance of the cold will either retire of 
perish; and when the fire is under the influence of the cold, they 
will not remain as before, fire and cold." 

"That is true," he said. 

"And in some cases the name of the idea is not only attached to 
the idea in an eternal connection, but anything else which, not be- 
ing the idea, exists only in the form of the idea, may also lay claim 
to it. I will try to make this clearer by an example: The odd number 
is always called by the name of odd?" 


"Very true." 

"But is this the only thing which is called odd? Are there not other 
things which have their own name, and yet are called odd, because, 
although not the same as oddness, they are never without oddness? 
that is what I mean to ask whether numbers such as the number 
three are not of the class of odd. And there are many other examples: 
would you not say, for example, that three may be called by its 
proper name, and also be called odd, which is not the same with 
three? and this may be said not only of three but also of five, and of 
every alternate number each of them without being oddness is 
odd; and in the same way two and four, and the other series of alter- 
nate numbers, have every number even, without being evenness. Do 
you agree?" 

"Of course." 

"Then now mark the point at which I am aiming: not only do 
essential opposites exclude one another, but also concrete things, 
which, although not in themselves opposed, contain opposites; these, 
I say, likewise reject the idea which is opposed to that which is con- 
tained in them, and when it approaches them they either perish or 
withdraw. For example: Will not the number three endure annihila- 
tion or any tiling sooner than be converted into an even number, 
while remaining three?" 

"Very true," said Cebes. 

"And yet," he said, "the number two is certainly not opposed to 
the number three?" 

"It is not." 

"Then not only do opposite ideas repel the advance of one another, 
but also there are other natures which repel the approach of op- 

"Very true," he said. 

* * * * * 

"Tell me, then, what is that of which the inherence will render 
the body alive?" 2B 

23 Or, "what is that which by its presence in the body makes it alive?" 

144 PLATO 

"The soul," he replied. 

"And is this always the case?" 

"Yes," he said, "of course." 

"Then whatever the soul possesses, to that she comes bearing 

"Yes, certainly." 

"And is there any opposite to life?" 

"There is," he said. 

"And what is that?" 


"Then the soul, as has been acknowledged, will never receive the 
opposite of what she brings." 

"Impossible," replied Cebes. 

"And now," he said, "what did we just now call that principle 
which repels the even?" 

"The odd." 

"And that principle which repels the musical or the just?" 

"The unmusical," he said, "and the unjust." 

"And what do we call that principle which does not admit of 

"The immortal," he said. 

"And does the soul admit of death?" 


"Then the soul is immortal?" 

"Yes," he said. 

"And may we say that this has been proven?" 

"Yes, abundantly proven, Socrates," he replied. 

"Supposing that the odd were imperishable, must not three be 

"Of course." 

"And if that which is cold were imperishable, when the warm 
principle came attacking the snow, must not the snow have retired 
whole and unrnelted for it could never have perished, nor could it 
have remained and admitted the heat?" 

"True," he said. 


"Again, if the uncooling or warm principle were imperishable, the 
fire when assailed by cold would not have perished or have been ex- 
tinguished, but would have gone away unaffected? 

"Certainly," he said. 

"And the same may be said of the immortal: if the immortal is 
also imperishable, the soul when attacked by death cannot perish; 
for the preceding argument shows that the soul will not admit of 
death, or ever be dead, any more than three or the odd number will 
admit of the even, or fire, or the heat in the fire, of the cold. Yet a 
person may say: But although the odd will not become even at the 
approach of the even, why may not the odd perish and the even 
take the place of the odd? Now to him who makes this objection, 
we cannot answer that the odd principle is imperishable; for this has 
not been acknowledged, but if this had been acknowledged, there 
would have been no difficulty in contending that at the approach of 
the even the odd principle and the number three took their de- 
parture; and the same argument would have held good of fire and 
heat and any other thing." 

"Very true." 

"And the same may be said of the immortal : if the immortal is also 
imperishable, then the soul will be imperishable as well as immortal; 
but if not, some other proof of her imperishableness will have to be 

"No other proof is needed," he said; "for if the immortal, being 
eternal, is liable to perish, then nothing is imperishable." 

"Yes," replied Socrates, "and yet all men will agree that God, and 
the essential form of life, and the immortal in general, will never 

"Yes, all men," he said; "that is true; and what is more, gods, if I 
am not mistaken, as well as men." 

"Seeing then that the immortal is indestructible, must not the 
soul, if she is immortal, be also imperishable?" 

"Most certainly." 

"Then when death attacks a man, the mortal portion of him may 

146 PLATO 

be supposed to die, but the immortal retires at the approach of death 
and is preserved safe and sound?" 


"Then, Cebes, beyond question, the soul is immortal and im- 
perishable, and our souls will truly exist in another world!" 

"I am convinced, Socrates," said Cebes, "and have nothing more 
to object; but if my friend Simmias, or anyone else, has any further 
objection to make, he had better speak out, and not keep silence, 
since I do not know to what other season he can defer the discussion, 
if there is anything which he wants to say or to have said." 

"But I have nothing more to say," replied Simmias; "nor can I see 
any reason for doubt after what has been said. But I still feel and 
cannot help feeling uncertain in my own mind, when I think of the 
greatness of the subject and the feebleness of man." 

"Yes, Simmias," replied Socrates, "that is well said: and I may add 
that first principles, even if they appear certain, should be carefully 
considered; and when they are satisfactorily ascertained, then, with 
a sort of hesitating confidence in human reason, you may, I think, 
follow the course of the argument; and if that be plain and clear, 
there will be no need for any further inquiry." 

"Very true." 

"But then, O my friends," he said, "if the soul is really immortal, 
what care should be taken of her, not only in respect of the portion 
of time which is called life, but of eternity! And the danger of 
neglecting her from this point of view does indeed appear to be 
awful. If death had only been the end of all, the wicked would have 
had a good bargain in dying, for they would have been happily quit 
not only of their body, but of their own evil together with their souls. 
But now, inasmuch as the soul is manifestly immortal, there is no 
release or salvation from evil except the attainment of the highest 
virtue and wisdom. For the soul, when on her progress to the world 
below, takes nothing with her but nurture and education; and these 
are said greatly to benefit or greatly to injure the departed, at the 
very beginning of his journey thither. 


'Tor after death, as they say, the genius of each individual, to 
whom he belonged in life, leads him to a certain place in which the 
dead are gathered together, whence after judgment has been given 
they pass into the world below, following the guide, who is ap- 
pointed to conduct them from this world to the other: and when 
they have there received their due and remained their time, another 
guide brings them back again after many revolutions of ages. Now 
this way to the other world is not, as Aeschylus says in the Telephus, 
a single and straight path if that were so no guide would be needed, 
for no one could miss it; but there are many partings of the road, and 
windings, as I infer from the rites and sacrifices which are offered to 
the gods below in places where three ways meet on earth. The wise 
and orderly soul follows in the straight path and is conscious of 
her surroundings; but the soul which desires the body, and which, 
as I was relating before, has long been fluttering about the lifeless 
frame and the world of sight, is, after many struggles and many suf- 
ferings, hardly and with violence carried away by her attendant 
genius; and when she arrives at the place where the other souls are 
gathered, if she be impure and have done impure deeds, whether 
foul murders or other crimes which are the brothers of these, and 
the works of brothers in crime from that soul everyone flees and 
turns away; no one will be her companion, no one her guide, but 
alone she wanders in extremity of evil until certain times are ful- 
filled, and when they are fulfilled, she is borne irresistibly to her own 
fitting habitation; as every pure and just soul which has passed 
through life in the company and under the guidance of the gods has 
also her own proper home. 

Socrates next describes the earth at length, "a round body in 
the center of the heavens" kept in place by the fact that it is in 
the center and therefore "in equipoise." Men live in a hollow of 
it } engulfed in mists and the lower air, like creatures on the 
bottom of the sea f too feeble to climb to the true surface and 
see the true heaven, the true light, and the true earth. This up- 
per earth is piled with pure and uncorrupted beauty of rock t 

148 PLATO 

tree, and flower. Animals and men may live there free from 
disease, in constant communion with the gods. 

The body of earth is pierced with chasms and channels, 
through which flow huge subterranean streams of water, fire 
and mud. The vast and quaking central chasm, out of which 
all streams rise and into which they ultimately fall again, is 
Tartarus. Of the streams the greatest are, first, Ocean, that flows 
in a circle around the earth, then Acheron, that empties into the 
Acherusian lake, to which the souls of the dead are sent for 
purification. The third is the boiling river Pyriphlegethon, "that 
throws up jets of fire in different parts of the earth." The fourth 
is the dark Cocytus of strange powers, that drops into Lake Styx. 

"Such is the nature of the other world; and when the dead arrive 
at the place to which the genius of each severally guides them, first of 
all, they have sentence passed upon them, as they have lived well 
and piously or not. And those who appear to have lived neither well 
nor ill go to the river Acheron, and embarking in any vessels which 
they may find, are carried in them to the lake, and there they dwell 
and are purified of their evil deeds, and having suffered the penalty 
of the wrongs which they have done to others, they are absolved, and 
receive the rewards of their good deeds, each of them according to his 
deserts. But those who appear to be incurable by reason of the great- 
ness of their crimes who have committed many and terrible deeds 
of sacrilege, murders foul and violent, or the like such are hurled 
into Tartarus which is their suitable destiny, and they never come 
out. Those again who have committed crimes, which, although 
great, are not irremediable who in a moment of anger, for example, 
have done some violence to a father or a mother, and have repented 
for the remainder of their lives, or, who have taken the life of another 
under the like extenuating circumstances these are plunged into 
Tartarus, the pains of which they are compelled to undergo for a 
year, but at the end of the year the wave casts them forth mere 
homicides by way of Cocytus, parricides and matricides by Pyriphle- 
gethon and they are borne to the Acherusian lake, and there they 


lift up their voices and call upon the victims whom they have slain 
or wronged, to have pity on them, and to be kind to them, and let 
them come out into the lake. And if they prevail, then they come 
forth and cease from their troubles; but if not, they are carried back 
again into Tartarus and from thence into the rivers unceasingly, 
until they obtain mercy from those whom they have wronged: for 
that is the sentence inflicted upon them by their judges. Those too 
who have been pre-eminent for holiness of life are released from this 
earthly prison, and go to their pure home which is above, and dwell 
in the purer earth; and of these, such as have duly purified them- 
selves with philosophy live henceforth altogether without the body, 
in mansions fairer still, which may not be described, and of which 
the time would fail me to tell. 

"Wherefore, Simmias, seeing all these things, what ought not we 
to do that we may obtain virtue and wisdom in this life? Fair is the 
pxize, and the hope great! 

"A man of sense ought not to say, nor will I be very confident, that 
the description which I have given of the soul and her mansions is 
exactly true. But I do say that, inasmuch as the soul is shown to be 
immortal, he may venture to think, not improperly or unworthily, 
that something of the kind is true. The venture is a glorious one, and 
he ought to comfort himself with words like these, which is the 
reason why I lengthen out the tale. Wherefore, I say, let a man be 
of good cheer about his soul, who having cast away the pleasures and 
ornaments of the body as alien to him and working harm rather than 
good, has sought after the pleasures of knowledge; and has arrayed 
the soul, not in some foreign attire, but in her own proper jewels, 
temperance, and justice, and courage, and nobility, and truth in 
these adorned she is ready to go on her journey to the world below, 
when her hour comes. You, Simmias and Cebes, and all other men 
will depart at some time or other. Me already, as a tragic poet would 
say, the voice of fate calls. Soon I must drink the poison; and I think 
that I had better repair to the bath first, in order that the women may 
not have the trouble of washing my body after I am dead/' 

When he had done speaking, Crito said: "And have you any 


commands for us, Socrates anything to say about your children, or 
any other matter in which we can serve you?" 

"Nothing particular, Crito," he replied; "only, as I have always 
told you, take care of yourselves; that is a service which you may be 
ever rendering to me and mine and to all of us, whether you promise 
to do so or not. But if you have no thought for yourselves, and care 
not to walk according to the rule which I have prescribed for you, 
not now for the first time, however much you may profess or promise 
at the moment, it will be of no avail." 

<r We will do our best," said Crito: "And in what way shall we bury 

"In any way that you like; but you must get hold of me, and take 
care that I do not run away from you." 

Then he turned to us, and added with a smile: "I cannot make 
Crito believe that I am the same Socrates who has been talking and 
conducting the argument; he fancies that I am the other Socrates 
whom he will soon see, a dead body and he asks, How shall he bury 
me? And though I have spoken many words in the endeavor to 
show that when I have drunk the poison I shall leave you and go to 
the joys of the blessed these words of mine, with which I was 
comforting you and myself, have had, as I perceive, no effect upon 
Crito. And therefore I want you to be surety for me to him now, as at 
the trial he was surety to the judges for me: but let the promise be of 
another sort; for he was surety for me to the judges that I would re- 
main, and you must be my surety to him that I shall not remain, 
but go away and depart; and then he will suffer less at my death, 
and not be grieved when he sees my body being burned or buried. I 
would not have him sorrow at my hard lot, or say at the burial, Thus 
we lay out Socrates, or, Thus we follow him to the grave or bury 
him; for false words are not only evil in themselves, but they infect 
the soul with evil. Be of good cheer then, my dear Crito, and say that 
you are burying my body only, and do with that whatever is usual, 
and what you think best." 

When he had spoken these words, he arose and went into a cham- 
ber to bathe; Crito followed him and told us to wait. So we remained 


behind, talking and thinking of the subject of discourse, and also of 
the greatness of our sorrow; he was like a father of whom we were 
being bereaved, and we were about to pass the rest of our lives as 
orphans. When he had taken the bath his children were brought to 
him (he had two young sons and an elder one); and the women of 
his family also came, and he talked to them and gave them a few 
directions in the presence of Crito; then he dismissed them and re- 
turned to us. 

Now the hour of sunset was near, for a good deal of time had 
passed while he was within. When he came out, he sat down with 
us again after his bath, but not much was said. Soon the jailer, who 
was the servant of the Eleven, entered and stood by him, saying: "To 
you, Socrates, whom I know to be the noblest and gentlest and best 
of all who ever came to this place, I will not impute the angry feel- 
ings of other men, who rage and swear at me, when, in obedience to 
the authorities, I bid them drink the poison indeed, I am sure that 
you will not be angry with me; for others, as you are aware, and not 
I, arc to blame. And so fare you well, and try to bear lightly what 
must needs be you know my errand." Then bursting into tears he 
turned away and went out. 

Socrates looked at him and said: "I return your good wishes, and 
will do as you bid." Then turning to us, he said, "How charming the 
man is: since I have been in prison he has always been coming to see 
me, and at times he would talk to me, and was as good to me as could 
be, and now see how generously he sorrows on my account. We must 
do as he says, Crito; and therefore let the cup be brought, if the 
poison is prepared: if not, let the attendant prepare some." 

"Yet," said Crito, "the sun is still upon the hilltops, and I know 
that many a one has taken the draught late, and after the announce- 
ment has been made to him, he has eaten and drunk, and enjoyed 
the society of his beloved; do not hurry there is time enough." 

Socrates said: "Yes, Crito, and they of whom you speak are right 
in so acting, for they think that they will be gainers by the delay; 
but I am right in not following their example, for I do not think that 
I should gain anything by drinking the poison a little later*. I should 


only be ridiculous in my own eyes for sparing and saving a life which 
is already forfeit. Please then to do as I say, and not to refuse me." 

Crito made a sign to the servant, who was standing by; and he went 
out, and having been absent for some time, returned with the jailer 
carrying the cup of poison. Socrates said: "You, my good friend, who 
are experienced in these matters, shall give me directions how I am 
to proceed." 

The man answered: "You have only to walk about until your legs 
are heavy, and then to lie down, and the poison will act." 

At the same time he handed the cup to Socrates, who in the easiest 
and gentlest manner, without the least fear or change of color or 
feature, looking at the man with all his eyes, Echecrates, as his man- 
ner was, took the cup and said: "What do you say about making a 
libation out of this cup to any god"? May I, or not?" 

The man answered: "We only prepare, Socrates, just so much as 
we deem enough." 

"I understand," he said; "but I may and must ask the gods to 
prosper my journey from this to the other world even so and so be 
it according to my prayer." 

Then raising the cup to his lips, quite readily and cheerfully he 
drank off the poison. And hitherto most of us had been able to con- 
trol our sorrow; but now when we saw him drinking, and saw too 
that he had finished the draught, we could no longer forbear, and 
in spite of myself my own tears were flowing fast; so that I covered 
my face and wept, not for him, but at the thought of my own calamity 
in having to part from such a friend. Nor was I the first; for Crito, 
when he found himself unable to restrain his tears, had got up, and 
I followed; and at that moment, Apollodorus, who had been weeping 
all the time, broke out in a loud and passionate cry which made 
cowards of us all. 

Socrates alone retained his calmness: "What is this strange out- 
cry?" he said. "I sent away the women mainly in order that they 
might not misbehave in this way, for I have been told that a man 
should die in peace. Be quiet then, and have patience." 

When we heard his words we were ashamed, and refrained our 


tears; and he walked about until, as he said, his legs began to fail, 
and then he lay on his back, according to the directions, and the 
man who gave him the poison now and then looked at his feet and 
legs; and after a while he pressed his foot hard, and asked him if he 
could feel; and he said, "No"; and then his leg, and so upwards and 
upwards, and showed us that he was cold and stiff. And he felt them 
himself, and said: "When the poison reaches the heart, that will 
be the end/' 

I le was beginning to grow cold about the groin, when he uncov- 
ered his face, for he had covered himself up, and said they were 
his last words he said: "Crito, I owe a cock to Asclepius; 24 will 
you remember to pay the debt?" 

"The debt shall be paid/' said Crito; "is there anything else?' 

There was no answer to this question; but in a minute or two a 
movement was heard, and the attendants uncovered him; his eyes 
were set, and Crito closed his eyes and mouth. 

Such was the end, Echecrates, of our friend; concerning whom I 
may truly say, that of all the men of his time whom I have known^ 
he was the wisest and justest and best. 

24 The god of health and medicine. Physicians were called his sons. 




NOT LONG probably after he wrote the Phaedo, some twelve or fif- 
teen years after Socrates' death, Plato composed the lovely dialogue 
known as the Symposium. In it he harked back to an incident of 
Socrates' earlier life, a banquet held at Athens in the year 416 B.C. 
The atmosphere of this dialogue, in contrast to that of the three that 
precede it here, is lighthearted and happy. The war with Sparta is 
going on but no one yet foresees its disastrous close nor the tragic 
parts that some of the evening's guests will play in the events to 
come. No shadow of doom hangs over Socrates. Everyone is carefree 
and unsuspecting and the talk is not of death and the chances of 
immortality but of life and love. Because of this particular talk the 
banquet is long remembered. The same excitable Apollodorus whom 
we met in the Phaedo tells the story of it years afterward to a friend. 
He himself was not of the company, for in 416 he was still a boy 
who had not yet made Socrates' acquaintance, but he has his account 
from Aristodemus, who was there at Socrates' own invitation. 

The occasion is the celebration by a youthful poet, Agathon, of 
the prize won by his tragedy in a dramatic contest just over. Among 
the guests reclining around his table, besides Socrates and Aristo- 
demus, are two other young literary men, Phaedrus and Pausanias, 
also Eryximachus, a physician, and Aristophanes, the renowned 
comedian and satirist. At Eryximachus' suggestion the party agrees 
to drink sparingly, send away the hired flute-girl, and for its enter- 
tainment listen to speeches, made in turn by each man at table in 
praise of Love. Love, we must understand, in any noble sense of 
the word, means to Athenian gentlemen of this period the love of 
men for other men, the protective love of a full-grown man for some 
gallant and promising youth or the love of two comrades for one an- 

158 PLATO 

other. These were the loves that mattered in a man's life and exalted 
his character. Women were kept secluded at home and their rela- 
tionship to men was on a lower plane altogether. 

After some chaffing, first Phaedrus makes a pretty speech, sprinkled 
thick with literary allusions and extolling Love as the mightiest of 
the deities. Next Pausanias, more cautiously, discriminates between 
what he calls the heavenly and the vulgar Aphrodite, or goddess of 
love. Eryximachus draws a physicist's picture of the forces of love 
and appetite for both good and evil, health and disease, in human 
affairs and in nature. Aristophanes spins a weird fable of the origin 
of the persistent craving that human creatures feel for each other's 
society. Agathon follows with a flowery rhapsody on Love as the 
source of everything beautiful in life. Socrates, the last to speak, 
raises the level of the whole discussion by a sublime description of 
the Love that is itself poor and needy but that lifts man from the 
passions of earth to a vision of the absolute beauty of God. To avoid, 
however, any accusation of over-solemnity, he attributes his ideas 
to a mysterious wise woman, who taught him all he knows on the 
subject. But the momentary seriousness is broken by the entrance 
of the laughing, brilliant Alcibiades, drunk from his revels, crowned 
with ribbons and violets, the spoiled, popular idol of the day, of 
whose destiny to become the hated betrayer of his city no one dreams. 
He is haled to a scat at table and called upon for his speech. He 
starts out, recklessly, impertinently. I le will praise Socrates, nothing 
but Socrates, the fascinating spellbinder, the intrepid soldier, the 
Socrates who has taught him even against his will the difference 
between love of the senses and love of the mind, the only man who 
has ever made him ashamed. He is ribald one moment, serious the 
next. But again the discourse is interrupted. A mob of hilarious 
merrymakers pours in. Drinking becomes general. Most of the 
original guests depart. Aristodemus falls asleep in his place. When 
he wakes at cock crow, only three are left, Agathon and Aristophanes, 
the tragic and the comic poets, and Socrates, still serene and talking. 



Glaucon, Aristodemus, Phaedrus, Pausan- 

ias, Eryximachus, Aristophanes, Agathon, 

Socrates, Alcib lades 

SCENE: The House of Agathon 
Apollodorus speaks: 

CONCERNING the things about which you ask to be in- 
formed I believe that I am not ill-prepared with an answer. 
For the day before yesterday I was coming from my own 
home at Phalerum to the city, and one of my acquaintance, who had 
caught a sight of me from behind, calling out playfully in the dis- 
tance, said: "Apollodorus, O thou Phalerian 1 man, halt!" So I did as 
I was bid; and then he said, "I was looking for you, Apollodorus, 
only just now, that I might ask you about the speeches in praise of 
love, which were delivered by Socrates, Alcibiades, and others, at 
Agathon's supper. Phoenix, the son of Philip, told another person 
who told me of them; his narrative was very indistinct, but he said 
that you knew, and I wish that you would give me an account of 
them. Who, if not you, should be the reporter of the words of your 
friend? And first tell me," he said, "were you present at this meet- 

"Your informant, Glaucon," I said, "must have been very indis- 

1 Probably a play of words on 0a\ap6s "bald-headed." 


l6o PLATO 

tinct indeed, if you imagine that the occasion was recent; or thai" I 
rxnild have been of the party/* 

"Why, yes," he replied, "I thought so." 

"Impossible," I said. "Are you ignorant that for many years Aga- 
thon has not resided at Athens; and not three have elapsed since I 
became acquainted with Socrates, and have made it my daily business 
to know all that he says and does. There was a time when I was run- 
ning about the world, fancying myself to be well employed, but I 
was really a most wretched being, no better than you are now. I 
thought that I ought to do anything rather than be a philosopher." 

"Well," he said, "jesting apart, tell me when the meeting oc- 

"In our boyhood," I replied, "when Agathon won the prize with 
his first tragedy, on the day after that on which he and his chorus 
offered the sacrifice of victory." 

"Then it must have been a long while ago," he said; "and who 
told you did Socrates?" 

"No, indeed," I replied, "but the same person who told Phoenix- 
he was a little fellow, who never wore any shoes, Aristodemus, of 
the deme of Cydathenaeum. He had been at Agathon 's feast; and I 
think that in those days there was no one who was a more devoted 
admirer of Socrates. Moreover, I have asked Socrates about the truth 
of some parts of his narrative, and he confirmed them." 

"Then," said Glaucon, "let us have the tale over again; is not the 
road to Athens just made for conversation?" 

And so we walked, and talked of the discourses on love; and 
therefore, as I said at first, I am not ill-prepared to comply with your 
request, and will have another rehearsal of them if you like. For to 
speak or to hear others speak of philosophy always gives me the 
greatest pleasure, to say nothing of the profit. But when I hear an- 
other strain, especially that of you rich men and traders, such con- 
versation displeases me; and I pity you who are my companions, be- 
cause you think that you are doing something when in reality you 
are doing nothing. And I dare say that you pity me in return, whom 
you regard as an unhappy creature, and very probably you are right' 


But I certainly know of you what you only think of me there is the 

COMPANION: I see, Apollodorus, that you are just the same al- 
ways speaking evil of yourself, and of others; and I do believe that 
you pity all mankind, with the exception of Socrates, yourself first 
of all, true in this to your old name, which, however deserved, I 
know not how you acquired, of Apollodorus the madman; for you 
are always raging against yourself and everybody but Socrates. 

APOLLODORUS: Yes, friend, and the reason why I am said to be 
mad, and out of my wits, is just because I have these notions of my* 
self and you; no other evidence is required. 

COMPANION: No more of that, Apollodorus; but let me renew my 
request that you would repeat the conversation. 

APOLLODORUS: Well, the tale of love was on this wise but per- 
haps I had better begin at the beginning, and endeavor to give you 
the exact words of Aristodemus: 

He said that he met Socrates fresh from the bath and sandaled; 
and as the sight of the sandals was unusual, he asked him whither 
he was going that he had been converted into such a beau. 

"To a banquet at Agathon's," he replied, "whose invitation to his 
sacrifice of victory I refused yesterday, fearing a crowd, but promis' 
ing that I would come today instead; and so I have put on my finery, 
because he is such a fine man. What say you to going with me un- 

"I will do as you bid me," I replied. 

"Follow then," he said, "and let us demolish the proverb: 

To the feasts of inferior men the good unbidden go; 
instead of which our proverb will run : 

To the feasts of the good the good unbidden go; 2 
and this alteration may be supported by the authority of Homer him- 

2 In the Greek, the change in the proverb consists in substituting the word 
"Agathon" for the word that is here translated "of inferior men." "Agathon" is 
both the name of their host and the genitive plural of the adjective meaning "good." 

1 62 PLATO 

self, 3 who not only demolishes but literally outrages the proverb. For, 
after picturing Agamemnon as the most valiant of men, he makes 
Menelaus, who is but a faint-hearted warrior, come unbidden to the 
banquet of Agamemnon, who is feasting and offering sacrifices, not 
the better to the worse, but the worse to the better." 

"I rather fear, Socrates," said Aristodemus, "lest this may still be 
my case; and that, like Menelaus in Homer, I shall be the inferior 
person, who 

to the feasts of the wise unhidden goes. 

But I shall say that I was bidden of you, and then you will have to 
make an excuse," 

" 'Two going together/ " he replied, in Homeric fashion, 4 "one 
or other of them may invent an excuse by the way." 

This was the style of their conversation as they went along. 
Socrates dropped behind in a fit of abstraction, and desired Aristo- 
demus, who was waiting, to go on before him. When he reached the 
house of Agathon he found the doors wide open, and a comical thing 
happened. A servant coming out met him, and led him at once into 
the banqueting hall in which the guests were reclining, for the 
banquet was about to begin. 

"Welcome, Aristodemus," said Agathon, as soon as he appeared; 
"you are just in time to sup with us; if you come on any other matter 
put it off, and make one of us, as I was looking for you yesterday 
and meant to have asked you, if I could have found you. But what 
have you done with Socrates?" 

I turned round, but Socrates was nowhere to be seen; and I had 
to explain that he had been with me a moment before, and that I 
came by his invitation to the supper. 

"You were quite right in coming," said Agathon; "but where is he 

3 Iliad, XVII 587, 588, and II. 408. 

4 Iliad, X, 224, 225. 


"He was behind me just now, as I entered," he said, "and I cannot 
think what has become of him." 

"Go and look for him, boy," said Agathon, "and bring him in; and 
do you, Aristodemus, meanwhile take the place by Eryximachus." 

The servant then assisted him to wash, and he lay down, and 
presently another servant came in and reported that our friend Soc- 
rates had retired into the portico of the neighboring house. "There 
he is fixed," said he, "and when I call to him he will not stir." 

"How strange," said Agathon; "then you must call him again, and 
keep calling him." 

"Let him alone," said my informant; "he has a way of stopping 
anywhere and losing himself without any reason. I believe that he 
will soon appear; do not therefore disturb him." 

"Well, if you think so, I will leave him," said Agathon. And then, 
turning to the servants, he added, "Let us have supper without wait- 
ing for him. Serve up whatever you please, for there is no one to give 
you orders; hitherto I have never left you to yourselves. But on this 
occasion imagine that you are our hosts, and that I and the company 
are your guests; treat us well, and then we shall commend you." 

After this, supper was served, but still no Socrates; and during 
the meal Agathon several times expressed a wish to send for him, but 
Aristodemus objected; and at last when the feast was about half over 
for the fit, as usual, was not of long duration Socrates entered. 
Agathon, who was reclining alone at the end of the table, begged 
that he would take the place next to him; that "I may touch you," he 
said, "and have the benefit of that wise thought which came into 
your mind in the portico, and is now in your possession; for I am 
certain that you would not have come away until you had found 
what you sought." 

"How I wish," said Socrates, taking his place as he was desired, 
"that wisdom could be infused by touch, out of the fuller into the 
emptier man, as water runs through wool out of a fuller cup into an 
emptier one; if that were so, how greatly should I value the privilege 
of reclining at your side! For you would have filled me full with a 
stream of wisdom plenteous and fair; whereas my own is of a very 

164 PLATO 

mean and questionable sort, no better than a dream. But yours is 
bright and full of promise, and was manifested forth in all the 
splendor of youth the day before yesterday, in the presence of more 
than thirty thousand Hellenes." 

"You are mocking, Socrates," said Agathon, "and ere long you 
and I will have to determine who bears off the palm of wisdom of 
this Dionysus 5 shall be the judge; but at present you are better oc- 
cupied with supper." 

Socrates took his place on the couch, and supped with the rest; 
and then libations were offered, and after a hymn had been sung to 
the god, and there had been the usual ceremonies, they were about 
to commence drinking, when Pausanias said, "And now, my friends, 
how can we drink with least injury to ourselves? I can assure you 
that I feel severely the effect of yesterday's potations, and must have 
time to recover; and I suspect that most of you are in the same pre- 
dicament, for you were of the party yesterday. Consider then: How 
can the drinking be made easiest?" 

''I entirely agree," said Aristophanes, "that we should, by all 
means, avoid hard drinking, for I was myself one of those who were 
yesterday drowned in drink." 

"I think that you are right," said Eryximachus, the son of Acu- 
menus; "but I should still like to hear one other person speak. Is 
Agathon able to drink hard?" 

"I am not equal to it," said Agathon. 

"Then," said Eryximachus, "the weak heads like myself, Aristo- 
demus, Phaedrus, and others who never can drink, are fortunate in 
finding that the stronger ones are not in a drinking mood. (I do not 
include Socrates, who is able either to drink or to abstain, and will 
not mind, whichever we do.) Well, as none of the company seems 
disposed to drink much, I may be forgiven for saying, as a physician, 
that drinking deep is a bad practice, which I never follow, if I can 
help, and certainly do not recommend to another, least of all to any- 
one who still feels the effects of yesterday's carouse." 

5 The god of wine and the ecstasy of Nature, also known as Bacchus. 


"I always do what you advise, and especially what you prescribe 
as a physician/' rejoined Phaedrus the Myrrhinusian, "and the rest 
of the company, if they are wise, will do the same." 

It was agreed that drinking was not to be the order of the day, but 
that they were all to drink only so much as they pleased. 

"Then," said Eryximachus, "as you are all agreed that drinking is 
to be voluntary, and that there is to be no compulsion, I move, in the 
next place, that the flute-girl, who has just made her appearance, be 
told to go away and play to herself, or, if she likes, to the women who 
are within. Today let us have conversation instead; and, if you will 
allow me, I will tell you what sort of conversation." 

This proposal having been accepted, Eryximachus proceeded as 
follows : 

"I will begin," he said, after the manner of Melanippe in Eurip- 
ides: " 'Not mine the word' 6 which I am about to speak, but that 
of Phaedrus. For often he says to me in an indignant tone : 'What a 
strange thing it is, Eryximachus, that, whereas other gods have poems 
and hymns made in their honor, the ^reat and glorious god, Love, 
has no encomiast among all the poets who aic so many. There are 
the worthy sophists too the excellent Prodicus, for example who 
have descanted in prose on the virtues of Heracles 7 and other heroes; 
and, what is still more extraordinary, I have met with a philosophical 
work in which the utility of salt has been made the theme of an elo- 
quent discourse; and many other like things have had a like honor 
bestowed upon them. And only to think that there should have been 
an eager interest created about them, and yet that to this clay no onr 
has ever dared worthily to hymn Love's praises! So entirely has thi: 
great deity been neglected/ Now in this Phaedrus seems to me to be 
quite right, and therefore I want to offer him a contribution; also I 
think that at the present moment we who are here assembled cannot 
do better than honor the god Love. If you agree with me, there will 

6 The Wise Melanippe of Euripides in which this line occurs is lost but we have 
the line in Fragment 487. 

7 The Sophist Prodicus was author of a popular moral tale called The Choice oj 


be no lack of conversation; for I mean to propose that each of us in 
turn, going from left to right, shall make a speech in honor of Love. 
Let him give us the best which he can; and Phaedrus, because he is 
sitting first on the left hand, and because he is the father of the 
thought, shall begin." 

"No one will vote against you, Eryximachus," said Socrates. "How 
can I oppose your motion, who profess to understand nothing but 
matters of love; nor, I presume, will Agathon and Pausanias; and 
there can be no doubt of Aristophanes, whose whole concern is with 
Dionysus and Aphrodite; 8 nor will anyone disagree of those whom 
I see around me. The proposal, as I am aware, may seem rather hard 
upon us whose place is last; but we shall be contented if we hear 
some good speeches first. Let Phaedrus begin the praise of Love, and 
good luck to him." All the company expressed their assent, and de- 
sired him to do as Socrates bade him. 

Aristodemus did not recollect all that was said, nor do I recollect 
all that he related to me; but I will tell you what 1 thought most 
worthy of remembrance, and what the chief speakers said. 

Phaedrus began by affirming that: "Love is a mighty god, and won- 
derful among gods and men, but especially wonderful in his birth. 
For he is the eldest of the gods, which is an honor to him; and a 
proof of his claim to this honor is, that of his parents there is no 
memorial; neither poet nor prose- writer has ever affirmed that he had 
any. As I lesiod says: 

First Chaos came, and then broad-bosomed Earth, 
The everlasting seat of all that is, 
And Love. 9 

In other words, after Chaos, the Earth and Love, these two, came 
into being. Also Parmenides sings of Generation: 

First in the train of gods, he fashioned Love. 10 

8 The Greek goddess of love, whom the Romans identified with their goddesi 

9 Hesiod.TVieogony, 116-120. 

10 We have only fragments of the famous poem of the philosopher Parmenides on 
Nature. The line Phaedrus quotes here is in our Fragment 15. 


And Acusilaus xl agrees with Hesiod. Thus numerous are the wit- 
nesses who acknowledge Love to be the eldest of the gods. And not 
only is he the eldest, he is also the source of the greatest benefits to 
us. For I know not any greater blessing to a young man who is begin- 
ning life than a virtuous lover, or to the lover than a beloved youth. 
For the principle which ought to be the guide of men who would 
nobly live that principle, I say, neither kindred, nor honor, nor 
wealth, nor any other motive is able to implant so well as love. Of 
what am I speaking? Of the sense of honor and dishonor, without 
which neither states nor individuals ever do any good or great work. 
And I say that a lover who is detected in doing any dishonorable act, 
or submitting through cowardice when any dishonor is done to him 
by another, will be more pained at being detected by his beloved than 
at being seen by his father, or by his companions, or by anyone else. 
The beloved too, when he is found in any disgraceful situation> has 
the same feeling about his lover. And if there were only some way 
of contriving that a state or an army should be made up of lovers and 
their loves, they would be the very best governors of their own city, 
abstaining from all dishonor, and emulating one another in honor; 
and when fighting at each other's side, although a mere handful, they 
would overcome the world. For what lover would not choose rather 
to be seen by all mankind than by his beloved, either when abandon- 
ing his post or throwing away his arms? He would be ready to die a 
thousand deaths rather than endure this. Or who would desert his 
beloved or fail him in the hour of danger? The veriest coward would 
become an inspired hero, equal to the bravest, at such a time; Love 
would inspire him. That courage which, as Homer says, the god 
breathes into the souls of some heroes, 12 Love of his own nature 
infuses into the lover. 

"Love will make men dare to die for their beloved love alone; 

11 Acusilaus of Argos was a fifth century compiler of chronicles and gencalogie* . 
whose work has entirely disappeared. 

12 Iliad, X, 4 8a; XV, s6a. 


and women as well as men. Of this, Alcestis, 13 the daughter of Pelias, 
is a monument to all Hellas; for she was willing to lay down her life 
on behalf of her husband, when no one else would, although he had 
a father and mother; but the tenderness of her love so far exceeded 
theirs, that she made them seem to be strangers in blood to their own 
son, and in name only related to him; and so noble did this action of 
hers appear to the gods, as well as to men, that among the many 
who have done virtuously she is one of the very few to whom, in 
admiration of her noble action, they have granted the privilege of 
returning alive to earth; such exceeding honor is paid by the gods to 
the devotion and virtue of love. But Orpheus, 14 the son of Ocagrus, 
the harper, they sent empty away, and presented to him an apparition 
only of her whom he sought, but herself they would not give up, 
because he showed no spirit; he was only a harp-player, and did not 
dare like Alcestis to die for love, but was contriving how he might 
enter Hades alive; moreover, they afterwards caused him to suffer 
death at the hands of women, as the punishment of his cowardliness. 
Very different was the reward of the true love of Achilles towards his 
lover Patroclus 15 his lover and not his love (the notion that Patro- 
clus was the beloved one is a foolish error into which Aeschylus 16 has 
fallen, for Achilles was surely the fairer of the two, fairer also than 
all the other heroes; and, as Homer 17 informs us, he was still beard- 
less, and younger far). And greatly as the gods honor the virtue of 
love, still the return of love on the part of the beloved to the lover is 
more admired and valued and rewarded by them, for the lover is 
more divine; because he is inspired by God. Now Achilles was quite 
aware, for he had been told by his mother, that he might avoid death 

13 Alcestis laid down her life to ransom her husband Admetus from death and, as 
a reward for her selfless courage, was brought back from the lower world by the 
hero Heracles. Her story was known to every Greek. 

14 The tale of Orpheus, who went down alive to Hades to rescue his lost wife 
Eurydice and failed, was also familiar to everyone. 

15 The vengeance taken by Achilles for the death of his friend Patroclus is the 
theme of the last six books of the Iliad. His mother Thetis warns him in Book 
XVIII, 95-96. Socrates in his Apology also recalls the bravery of Achilles. Page 46. 

1C A reference to the missing play of the Myrmidons. See Fragments 135-136. 
17 I Had, XI, 786, 787. 


and return home, and live to a good old age, if he abstained from 
slaying Hector. Nevertheless he gave his life to revenge his friend, 
and dared to die, not only in his defense, but after he was dead. 
Wherefore the gods honored him even above Alcestis, and sent him 
to the Islands of the Blest. 18 These are my reasons for affirming that 
Love is the eldest and noblest and mightiest of the gods, and the 
chiefest author and giver of virtue in life, and of happiness after 

This, or something like this, was the speech of Phaedrus; and some 
other speeches followed which Aristodemus did not remember; the 
next which he repeated was that of Pausanias. "Phaedrus," he said, 
"the argument has not been set before us, I think, quite in the right 
form: we should not be called upon to praise Love in such an indis- 
criminate manner. If there were only one Love, then what you said 
would be well enough; but since there are more Loves than one, you 
should have begun by determining which of them was to be the 
theme of our praises. I will amend this defect; and first of all I will 
tell you which Love is deserving of praise, and then try to hymn 
the praiseworthy one in a manner worthy of him. For we all know 
that Love is inseparable from Aphrodite, and if there were only one 
Aphrodite there would be only one Love; but as there are two god- 
desses there must be two Loves. And am I not right in asserting that 
there are two goddesses? The elder one, having no mother, who is 
called the heavenly Aphrodite she is the daughter of Uranus; 19 the 
younger, who is the daughter of Zeus and Dione her we call com- 
mon; and the Love who is her fellow worker is rightly named 
common, as the other love is called heavenly. All the gods ought to 
have praise given to them, but not without distinction of their na- 
tures; and therefore I must try to distinguish the characters of the 
two Loves. 

"Now actions vary according to the manner of their performance. 

18 Pindar, Olympian, II, 79-82. 

19 The primeval god of Heaven, father of iJronus, who in turn was father of Zeus. 
A daughter of Uranus would therefore be far older and more queenly than a 
daughter of Zeus and a mortal maid Dione. 

170 PLATO 

Take, for example, that which we are now doing, drinking, singing 
and talking these actions arc not in themselves either good or evil, 
but they turn out in this or that way according to the mode of per- 
forming them; arid when well done they are good, and when wrongly 
done they are evil; and in like manner not every love, but only that 
which has a noble purpose, is noble and worthy of praise. The Love 
who is the offspring of the common Aphrodite is essentially common, 
and has no discrimination, being such as the meaner sort of men feel, 
and is apt to be of women as well as of youths, and is of the body 
rather than of the soul the most foolish beings are the objects of 
this love which desires only to gain an end, but never thinks of 
accomplishing the end nobly, and therefore docs good and evil quite 
indiscriminately. The goddess who is his mother is far younger than 
the other, and she was bom of the union of the male and female, 
and partakes of both. But the offspring of the heavenly Aphrodite is 
derived from a mother in whose birth the female has no part she is 
from the male only; this is that love which is of youths, and the god- 
dess being older, there is nothing of wantonness in her. Those who 
are inspired by this love turn to the male, and delight in him who is 
the more valiant and intelligent nature; anyone may recognize the 
pure enthusiasts in the very character of their attachments. For they 
love not boys, but intelligent beings whose reason is beginning to be 
developed, much about the time at which their beards begin to grow. 
And in choosing young men to be their companions, they mean to be 
faithful to them, and pass their whole life in company with them, not 
to take them in their inexperience, and deceive them, and play the 
fool with them, or run away from one to another of them. But the 
love of young boys should be forbidden by law, because their future 
is uncertain; they may turn out good or bad, either in body or soul, 
and much noble enthusiasm may be thrown away upon them; in 
this matter the good are a law to themselves, and the coarser sort of 
lovers ought to be restrained by force, as we restrain or attempt to 
restrain them from fixing their affections on women of free birth. 
These are the persons who bring a reproach on love; and some have 
been led to deny the lawfulness of such attachments because they 


see the impropriety and evil of them; for surely nothing that is 
decorously and lawfully done can justly be censured. Now here and 
in Laccdaemon the rules about love are perplexing, but in most cities 
they are simple and easily intelligible; in Elis and Boeotia, and in 
countries having no gifts of eloquence, they are very straightforward; 
the law is simply in favor of these connections, and no one, whether 
young or old, has anything to say to their discredit; the reason being, 
as I suppose, that they are men of few words in those parts, and 
therefore the lovers do not like the trouble of pleading their suit. In 
Ionia and other places, and generally in countries which are subject 
to the barbarians, the custom is held to be dishonorable; loves of 
youths share the evil repute in which philosophy and gymnastics are 
held, because they are inimical to tyranny; for the interests of rulers 
require that their subjects should be poor in spirit, and that there 
should be no strong bond of friendship or society among them, which 
love, above all other motives, is likely to inspire, as our Athenian 
tyrants learned by experience; for the love of Aristogeiton and the 
constancy of I larmodius 20 had a strength which undid their power. 
And, therefore, the ill repute into which these attachments have 
fallen is to be ascribed to the evil condition of those who make them 
to be ill-reputed; that is to say, to the self-seeking of the governors 
and the cowardice of the governed; on the other hand, the indis- 
criminate honor which is given to them in some countries is attrib- 
utable to the laziness of those who hold this opinion of them. 

"In our own country a far better principle prevails, but, as I was 
saying, the explanation of it is rather perplexing. For, observe that 
open loves are held to be more honorable than secret ones, and that 
the love of the noblest and highest, even if their persons are less 
beautiful than others, is especially honorable. Consider, too, how 
great is the encouragement which all the world gives to the lover; 
neither is he supposed to be doing anything dishonorable; but if he 
succeeds he is praised, and if he fail he is blamed. And in the pur- 

20 In 510 B.C. the two friends, Harmodius and Aristogeiton, at the cost of their 
own lives, started the revolt that overthrew the tyranny of the sons of Peisistratus 
and opened the way for democracy in Athens- 


suit of his love the custom of mankind allows him to do many 
strange things, which philosophy would bitterly censure if they were 
done from any motive of interest, or wish for office or power. He may 
pray, and entreat, and supplicate, and swear, and lie on a mat at the 
door, and endure a slavery worse than that of any slave in any other 
case friends and enemies would be equally ready to prevent him, 
but now there is no friend who will be ashamed of him and ad- 
monish him, and no enemy will charge him with meanness or flat- 
tery; the actions of a lover have a grace which ennobles them; and 
custom has decided that they are highly commendable and that there 
is no loss of character in them; and, what is strangest of all, he only 
may swear and forswear himself (so men say), and the gods will for- 
give his transgression, for there is no such thing as a lover's oath. 
Such is the entire liberty which gods and men have allowed the 
lover, according to the custom which prevails in our part of the 

"From this point of view a man fairly argues that in Athens to love 
and to be loved is held to be a very honorable thing. But when 
parents forbid their sons to talk with their lovers, and place them 
under a tutor's care, who is appointed to see to these things, and 
their companions and equals cast in their teeth anything of the sort 
which they may observe, and their elders refuse to silence the re- 
provers and do not rebuke them anyone who reflects on all this will, 
on the contrary, think that we hold these practices to be most dis- 
graceful. But, as I was saying at first, the truth as I imagine is, that 
whether such practices are honorable or whether they are dishonor- 
able is not a simple question; they are honorable to him who follows 
them honorably, dishonorable to him who follows them dishonorably. 
There is dishonor in yielding to the evil, or in an evil manner; but 
there is honor in yielding to the good, or in an honorable manner. 
Evil is the vulgar lover who loves the body rather than the soul, inas- 
much as he is not even stable, because he loves a thing which is in 
itself unstable, and therefore when the bloom of youth which he was 
desiring is over, he takes wing and flies away, in spite of all his words 
and promises; whereas the love of the noble disposition is lifelong, for 


it becomes one with the everlasting. The custom of our country would 
have both of them proven well and truly, and would have us yield to 
the one sort of lover and avoid the other, and therefore encourages 
some to pursue, and others to fly; testing both the lover and beloved 
in contests and trials, until they show to which of the two classes they 
respectively belong. And this is the reason why, in the first place, a 
hasty attachment is held to be dishonorable, because time is the true 
test of this as of most other things; and secondly there is a dishonor 
in being overcome by the love of money, or of wealth, or of political 
power, whether a man is frightened into surrender by the loss of 
them, or, having experienced the benefits of money and political 
corruption, is unable to rise above the seductions of them. For none 
of these things are of a permanent or lasting nature; not to mention 
that no generous friendship ever sprang from them. There remains, 
then, only one way of honorable attachment which custom allows 
in the beloved, and this is the way of virtue; for as we admitted that 
any service which the lover does to him is not to be accounted flattery 
or a dishonor to himself, so the beloved has one way only of volun- 
tary service which is not dishonorable, and this is virtuous service. 

"For we have a custom, and according to our custom anyone who 
does service to another under the idea that he will be improved by 
him either in wisdom, or in some other particular of virtue such a 
voluntary service, I say, is not to be regarded as a dishonor, and is not 
open to the charge of flattery. And these two customs, one the love 
of youth, and the other the practice of philosophy and virtue in 
general, ought to meet in one, and then the beloved may honorably 
indulge the lover. For when the lover and beloved come together, 
having each of them a law, and the lover thinks that he is right in 
doing any service which he can to his gracious loving one; and the 
other that he is right in showing any kindness which he can to him 
who is making him wise and good; the one capable of communicating 
wisdom and virtue, the other seeking to acquire them with a view to 
education and wisdom; when the two laws of love are fulfilled and 
meet in one then, and then only, may the beloved yield with honor 
to the lover. Nor when love is of this disinterested sort is there any 


disgrace in being deceived, but in every other case there is equal dis- 
grace in being or not being deceived. For he who is gracious to his 
lover under the impression that he is rich, and is disappointed of his 
gains because he turns out to be poor, is disgraced all the same: for 
he has done his best to show that he would give himself up to any- 
one's 'uses base' for the sake of money; but this is not honorable. And 
on the same principle, he who gives himself to a lover because he is 
a good man, and in the hope that he will be improved by his com- 
pany, shows himself to be virtuous, even though the object of his 
affection turn out to be a villain, and to have no virtue; and if he is 
deceived he has committed a noble error. For he has proved that for 
his part he will do anything for anybody with a view to virtue and 
improvement, than which there can be nothing nobler. Thus noble 
in every case is the acceptance of another for the sake of virtue. This 
is that love which is the love of the heavenly goddess, and is heavenly, 
and of great price to individuals and cities, making the lover and 
the beloved alike eager in the work of their own improvement. But 
all other loves are the offspring of the other, who is the common 
goddess. To you, Phaedrus, I offer this my contribution in praise of 
love, which is as good as I could make extempore." 

Pausamas came to a pause this is the balanced way in which I 
have been taught by the wise to speak; and Aristodemus said that the 
turn of Aristophanes was next, but either he had eaten too much, or 
from some other cause he had the hiccough, and was obliged to 
change turns with Eryximachus the physician, who was reclining on 
the couch below him. 

"Eryximachus," he said, "you ought either to stop my hiccough, 
or to speak in my turn until I have left off." 

"I will do both," said Eryximachus: "I will speak in your turn, 
and do you speak in mine; and while I am speaking let me recom- 
mend you to hold your breath, and if after you have done so for some 
time the hiccough is no better, then gargle with a little water; and if 
it still continues, tickle your nose with something and sneeze; and if 
you sneeze once or twice, even the most violent hiccough is sure to 


"I will do as you prescribe/' said Aristophanes, "and now get on." 
Eryximachus spoke as follows: "Seeing that Pausanias made a fair 
beginning, and but a larne ending, I must endeavor to supply his de- 
ficiency. I think that he has rightly distinguished two kinds of love. 
But my art further informs me that the double love is not merely an 
affection of the soul of man towards the fair, or towards anything, 
but is to be found in the bodies of all animals and in productions of 
the earth, and I may say in all that is; such is the conclusion which I 
seem to have gathered from my own art of medicine, whence I learn 
how great and wonderful and universal is the deity of love, whose 
empire extends over all things, divine as well as human. 21 And from 
medicine I will begin, that I may do honor to my art. There are in 
the human body these two kinds of love, which are confessedly dif- 
ferent and unlike, and being unlike, they have loves and desires 
which are unlike; and the desire of the healthy is one, and the desire 
of the diseased is another; and as Pausanias was just now saying that 
to indulge good men is honorable, and bad men dishonorable: so 
too in the body the good and healthy elements are to be indulged, 
and the bad elements and the elements of disease are not to be in- 
dulged, but discouraged. And this is what the physician has to do, 
and in this the art of medicine consists: for medicine may be regarded 
generally as the knowledge of the loves and desires of the body, and 
how to satisfy them or not; and the best physician is he who is able 
to separate fair love from foul, or to convert one into the other; and 
he who knows how to eradicate and how to implant love, whichever 
is required, and can reconcile the most hostile elements in the con- 
stitution and make them loving friends, is a skillful practitioner. 

"Now the most hostile are the most opposite, such as hot and cold, 
bitter and sweet, moist and dry, and the like. And my ancestor, 
Asclepius, 22 knowing how to implant friendship and accord in these 
elements, was the creator of our art, as our friends the poets here tell 

21 The philosopher Empedocles (c. 440 B.C.) had given the name of Love to the 
creative, cohesive forces pervading the universe and of Strife to the forces of decay 
and disruption. 

22 See Phaedo, note 23. 


us, and I believe them; and not only medicine in every branch, but 
the arts of gymnastic and husbandry are under his dominion. Any- 
one who pays the least attention to the subject will also perceive that 
in music there is the same reconciliation of opposites; and I suppose 
that this must have been the meaning of Heraclitus, 23 although his 
words are not accurate; for he says that the One is united by dis- 
union, like the harmony of the bow and the lyre. Now there is an 
absurdity in saying that harmony is discord or is composed of ele- 
ments which are still in a state of discord. But what he probably 
meant was, that harmony is composed of differing notes of higher or 
lower pitch which disagreed once, but are now reconciled by the art 
of music; for if the higher and lower notes still disagreed, there could 
be no harmony clearly not. For harmony is a symphony, and sym- 
phony is an agreement; but an agreement of disagreements while 
they disagree there cannot be; you cannot harmonize that which dis- 
agrees. In like manner rhythm is compounded of elements short and 
long, once differing and now in accord; which accordance, as in the 
former instance, medicine, so in all these other cases, music implants, 
making love and unison to grow up among them; and thus music, 
too, is concerned with the principles of love in their application to 
harmony and rhythm. Again, in the essential nature of harmony and 
rhythm there is no difficulty in discerning love which has not yet 
become double. But when you want to use them in actual life, either 
in the composition of songs or in the correct performance of airs or 
meters composed already, which latter is called education, then the 
difficulty begins, and the good artist is needed. Then the old tale has 
to be repeated of fair and heavenly love the love of Urania 24 the 
fair and heavenly muse and of the duty of accepting the temperate, 
and those who are as yet intemperate only that they may become 
temperate, and of preserving their love; and again, of the vulgar 

23 The poet and philosopher Heraclitus (c. 500 B.C.) had dwelt upon the principles 
of flux, change, and conflict in the universe. The world, he seems to say here, is held 
together by the combination of forces pulling opposite ways, as the harmony of bow 
and lyre is produced by the blending of discordant notes. Fragment 45. 

24 The muse of astronomy. 


Polyhymnia, 25 who must be used with circumspection that the 
pleasure be enjoyed, but may not generate licentiousness; just as in 
my own art it is a great matter so to regulate the desires of the epicure 
that he may gratify his tastes without the attendant evil of dis- 
ease. Whence I infer that in music, in medicine, in all other things 
human as well as divine, both loves ought to be noted as far as may 
be, for they are both present. 

"The course of the seasons is also full of both these principles; and 
when, as I was saying, the elements of hot and cold, moist and dry, 
attain the harmonious love of one another and blend in temperance 
and harmony, they bring to men, animals, and plants health and 
plenty, and do them no harm; whereas the wanton love, getting the 
upper hand and affecting the seasons of the year, is very destructive 
and injurious, being the source of pestilence, and bringing many 
other kinds of diseases on animals and plants; for hoar-frost and hail 
and blight spring from the excesses and disorders of these elements 
of love, which to know in relation to the revolutions of the heavenly 
bodies and the seasons of the year is termed astronomy. Furthermore 
all sacrifices and the whole province of divination, which is the art of 
communion between gods and men these, I say, are concerned only 
with the preservation of the good and the cure of the evil love. For 
all manner of impiety is likely to ensue if, instead of accepting and 
honoring and reverencing the harmonious love in all his actions, a 
man honors the other love, whether in his feelings towards gods or 
parents, towards the living or the dead. Wherefore the business of 
divination is to see to these loves and to heal them, and divination is 
the peacemaker of gods and men, working by a knowledge of the 
religious or irreligious tendencies which exist in human loves. Such 
is the great and mighty, or rather omnipotent force of love in general. 
And the love, more especially, which is concerned with the good, 
and which is perfected in company with temperance and justice, 
whether among gods or men, has the greatest power, and is the source 
of all our happiness and harmony, and makes us friends with the 

25 The muse of songs and solemn hymns. 

1?8 PLATO 

gods who are above us, and with one another. I dare say that I too 
have omitted several things which might be said in praise of Love, 
but this was not intentional, and you, Aristophanes, may now supply 
the omission or take some other line of commendation; for I perceive 
that you are rid of the hiccough/' 

"Yes," said Aristophanes, who followed, "the hiccough is gone; 
not, however, until I applied the sneezing; and I wonder whether the 
harmony of the body has a love of such noises and ticklings, for 1 no 
sooner applied the sneezing than I was cured." 

Eryximachus said: "Beware, friend Aristophanes, although you 
are going to speak, you are making fun of me; and I shall have to 
watch and see whether I cannot have a laugh at your expense, when 
you might speak in peace.'' 

"You are quite right," said Aristophanes, laughing. "I will unsay 
my words; but do you please not to watch me, as I fear that in the 
speech which I am about to make, instead of others laughing with 
me, which is to the manner born of our muse and would be all the 
better, I shall only be laughed at by them." 

"Do you expect to shoot your bolt and escape, Aristophanes'? Well, 
perhaps if you are very careful and bear in mind that you will be 
called to account, I may be induced to let you off." 

Aristophanes professed to open another vein of discourse; he had 
a mind to praise Love in another way, unlike that either of Pausanias 
or Eryximachus. "Mankind," he said, "judging by their neglect of 
him, have never, as I think, at all understood the power of Love. For 
if they had understood him they would surely have built noble 
temples and altars, and offered solemn sacrifices in his honor; but this 
is not done, and most certainly ought to be done: since of all the gods 
he is the best friend of men, the helper and the healer of the ills 
which are the great impediment to the happiness of the race. I will 
try to describe his power to you, and you shall teach the rest of the 
world what I am teaching you. In the first place, let me treat of the 
nature of man and what has happened to it; for the original human 
nature was not like the present, but different. The sexes were not 
two as they are now, but originally three in number; there was man, 


woman, and the union of the two, having a name corresponding to 
this double nature, which had once a real existence, but is now lost, 
and the word "androgynous" 2G is only preserved as a term of re- 
proach. In the second place, the primeval man was round, his back 
and sides forming a circle; and he had four hands and four feet, one 
head with two faces, looking opposite ways, set on a round neck and 
precisely alike; also four ears, two privy members, and the remainder 
to correspond. He could walk upright as men now do, backwards or 
forwards as he pleased, and he could also roll over and over at a great 
pace, turning on his four hands and four feet, eight in all, like 
tumblers going over and over with their legs in the air; this was when 
he wanted to run fast. Now the sexes were three, and such as I have 
described them; because the sun, moon, and earth are three; and the 
man was originally the child of the sun, the woman of the earth, and 
the man-woman of the moon, which is made up of sun and earth, and 
they were all round and moved round and round like their parents. 
Terrible was their might and strength, and the thoughts of their 
hearts were great, and they made an attack upon the gods; of them 
is told the tale of Otys and Ephialtes 27 who, as Homer says, dared 
to scale heaven, and would have laid hands upon the gods. Doubt 
reigned in the celestial councils. Should they kill them and annihilate 
the race with thunderbolts, as they had done the giants, then there 
would be an end of the sacrifices and worship which men offered to 
them; but, on the other hand, the gods could not suffer their inso- 
lence to be unrestrained. 

"At last, after a good deal of reflection, Zeus discovered a way. He 
said: Methinks I have a plan which will humble their pride and 
improve their manners; men shall continue to exist, but I will cut 
them in two and then they will be diminished in strength and in- 
creased in numbers; this will have the advantage of making them 
more profitable to us. They shall walk upright on two legs, and if 

26 A compound of the Greek words meaning "man" and "woman" i.e., a crea- 
ture of two sexes, bisexual. 

27 Homer speaks twice of these giants, who tried to scale heaven and subjugate 
the gods. Iliad, V, 385-391; Odyssey, XI, 305-320. 

l8o PLATO 

they continue xnsolent and will not be quiet, I will split them again 
and they shall hop about on a single leg. He spoke and cut men in 
two, like a sorb-apple which is halved for pickling, or as you might 
divide an egg with a hair; and as he cut them one after another, he 
bade Apollo give the face and the half of the neck a turn in order 
that the man might contemplate the section of himself: he would 
thus learn a lesson of humility. Apollo was also bidden to heal their 
wounds and compose their forms. So he gave a turn to the face and 
pulled the skin from the sides all over that which in our language is 
called the belly, like the purses which draw in, and he made one 
mouth at the center, which he fastened in a knot (the same which is 
called the navel); he also molded the breast and took out most of the 
wrinkles, much as a shoemaker might smooth leather upon a last; he 
left a few, however, in the region of the belly and navel, as a memo- 
rial of the primeval state. After the division the two parts of man, 
each desiring his other half, came together, and throwing their arms 
about one another, entwined in mutual embraces, longing to grow 
into one; they were on the point of dying from hunger and self- 
neglect, because they did not like to do anything apart; and when one 
of the halves died and the other survived, the survivor sought another 
mate, man or woman as we call them being the sections of entire 
men or women and clung to that. They were being destroyed, when 
Zeus in pity of them invented a new plan: he turned the parts of 
generation round to the front, for this had not been always their 
position, and they sowed the seed no longer as hitherto like grass- 
hoppers in the ground, but in one another; and after the transposition 
the male generated in the female in order that by the mutual em- 
braces of man and woman they might breed, and the race might con- 
tinue; or if man came to man they might be satisfied, and rest, and 
go their ways to the business of life: so ancient is the desire of one 
another which is implanted in us, reuniting our original nature, mak- 
ing one of two, and healing the state of man. 

"Each of us when separated, having one side only, like a flat fish, 
is but the indenture of a man, and he is always looking for his other 
half. Men who are a section of that double nature which was once 


called androgynous are lovers of women; adulterers are generally 
of this breed, and also adulterous women who lust after men: the 
women who are a section of the woman do not care for men, but 
have female attachments; the female companions are of this sort. 
But they who are a section of the male follow the male, and while 
they are young, being slices of the original man, they hang about 
men and embrace them, and they are themselves the best of boys 
and youths, because they have the most manly nature. Some indeed 
assert that they are shameless, but this is not true; for they do not act 
thus from any want of shame, but because they are valiant and 
manly, and have a manly countenance, and they embrace that which 
is like them. And these when they grow up become our statesmen, 
and these only, which is a great proof of the truth of what I am say- 
ing. When they reach manhood they are lovers of youth, and are not 
naturally inclined to marry or beget children if at all, they do so 
only in obedience to the law; but they are satisfied if they may be 
allowed to live with one another unwedded; and such a nature is 
prone to love and ready to return love, always embracing that which 
is akin to him. And when one of them meets with his other half, the 
actual half of himself, whether he be a lover of youth or a lover of 
another sort, the pair are lost in an amazement of love and friendship 
and intimacy, and one will not be out of the other's sight, as I may 
say, even for a moment: these are the people who pass their whole 
lives together; yet they could not explain what they desire of one 
another. For the intense yearning which each of them has towards the 
other does not appear to be the desire of lover's intercourse, but of 
something else which the soul of either evidently desires and cannot 
tell, and of which she has only a dark and doubtful presentiment. 
Suppose Hephaestus, 28 with his instruments, to come to the pair 
who are lying side by side and to say to them, 'What do you people 
want of one another?' they would be unable to explain. And suppose 
further, that when he saw their perplexity he said: 'Do you desire to 
be wholly one; always day and night to be in one another's COM- 

28 The Greek god of fire and metallurgy, whom the Romans later knew as Vulcan. 
His instruments were the anvil, bellows, and hammer. 


pany? for if this is what you desire, I am ready to melt you into one 
and let you grow together, so that being two you shall become one, 
and while you live live a common life as if you were a single man, 
and after your death in the world below still be one departed soul 
instead of two; I ask whether this is what you lovingly desire, and 
whether you are satisfied to attain this?' there is not a man of them 
who when he heard the proposal would deny or would not acknowl- 
edge that this meeting and melting into one another, this becoming 
one instead of two, was the very expression of his ancient need. 

"And the reason is that human nature was originally one and we 
were a whole, and the desire and pursuit of the whole is called love. 
There was a time, I say, when we were one, but now because of the 
wickedness of mankind God has dispersed us, as the Arcadians were 
dispersed into villages by the Lacedaemonians. 29 And if we are not 
obedient to the gods, there is a danger that we shall be split up again 
and go about in basso-relievo, like the profile figures having only half 
a nose which are sculptured on monuments, and that we shall be 
like tallies. Wherefore let us exhort all men to piety, that we may 
avoid evil, and obtain the good, of which Love is to us the lord and 
minister; and let no one oppose him he is the enemy of the gods who 
opposes him. For if we are friends of the god and at peace with him 
we shall find our own true loves, which rarely happens in this world 
at present. I am serious, and therefore I must beg Eryximachus not 
to make fun or to find any allusion in what I am saying to Pausanias 
and Agathon, who, as I suspect, are both of the manly nature, and 
belong to the class which I have been describing. But my words have 
a wider application they include men and women everywhere; and 
I believe that if our loves were perfectly accomplished, and each one 
returning to his primeval nature had his original true love, then our 
race would be happy. And if this would be best of all, the best in the 
next degree and under present circumstances must be the nearest 
approach to such an union; and that will be the attainment of a con- 

29 In 385 B.C. the Spartans, in order to cru^h a revolt of the subject Arcadians, 
destroyed their chief town, Mantinea, and scattered its inhabitants among the 


genial love. Wherefore, if we would praise him who has given to us 
the benefit, we must praise the god Love, who is our greatest bene- 
factor, both leading us in this life back to our own nature, and giving 
us high hopes for the future, for he promises that if we are pious, he 
will restore us to our original state, and heal us and make us happy 
and blessed. This, Eryximachus, is my discourse of love, which, al- 
though different to yours, I must beg you to leave unassailcd by the 
shafts of your ridicule, in order that each may have his turn; each, or 
rather either, for Agathon and Socrates are the only ones left." 

"Indeed, I am not going to attack you," said Eryximachus, "for I 
thought your speech charming, and did I not know that Agathon and 
Socrates are masters in the art of love, I should be really afraid that 
they would have nothing to say, after the world of things which have 
been said already. But, for all that, I am not without hopes." 

Socrates said: "You played your part well, Eryximachus; but if 
you were as I am now, or rather as I shall be when Agathon has 
spoken, you would, indeed, be in a great strait." 

"You want to cast a spell over me, Socrates," said Agathon, "in the 
hope that I may be disconcerted at the expectation raised among the 
audience that I shall speak well." 

"I should be strangely forgetful, Agathon," replied Socrates, "of 
the courage and magnanimity which you showed when your own 
compositions were about to be exhibited, and you came upon the 
stage with the actors and faced the vast theater altogether undis- 
mayed, if I thought that your nerves could be fluttered at a small 
party of friends." 

"Do you think, Socrates," said Agathon, "that my head is so full 
of the theater as not to know how much more formidable to a man 
of sense a few good judges are than many fools?" 

"Nay," replied Socrates, "I should be very wrong in attributing to 
you, Agathon, that or any other want of refinement. And I am quite 
aware that if you happened to meet with any whom you thought 
wise, you would care for their opinion much more than for that of the 
many. But then we, having been a part of the foolish many in the 

184 PLATO 

theater, cannot be regarded as the select wise; though I know that 
if you chanced to be in the presence, not of one of ourselves, but of 
lome really wise man, you would be ashamed of disgracing yourself 
before him would you not?" 

"Yes," said Agathon. 

"But before the many you would not be ashamed, if you thought 
that you were doing something disgraceful in their presence?" 

Here Phaedrus interrupted them, saying: "Do not answer him, my 
dear Agathon; for if he can only get a partner with whom he can 
talk, especially a good-looking one, he will no longer care about the 
completion of our plan. Now I love to hear him talk; but just at 
present I must not forget the encomium on Love which I ought to 
receive from him and from everyone. When you and he have paid 
your tribute to the god, then you may talk." 

"Very good, Phaedrus," said Agathon; "I see no reason why I 
should not proceed with my speech, as I shall have many other oppor- 
tunities of conversing with Socrates. Let me say first how I ought to 
speak, and then speak : 

"The previous speakers, instead of praising the god Love, or un- 
folding his nature, appear to have congratulated mankind on the 
benefits which he confers upon them. But I would rather praise the 
god first, and then speak of his gifts; this is always the right way of 
praising everything. May I say without impiety or offense, that of all 
the blessed gods he is the most blessed because he is the fairest and 
best? And he is the fairest: for, in the first place, he is the youngest, 
and of his youth he is himself the witness, fleeing out of the way of 
age, who is swift enough, swifter truly than most of us like. Love 
hates him and will not come near him; but youth and love live and 
move together like to like, as the proverb says. Many things were 
said by Phaedrus about Love in which I agree with him; but I cannot 
agree that he is older than lapetus and Cronus 30 not so; I maintain 
him to be the youngest of the gods, and youthful ever. The ancient 

30 On Cronus, see Symposium, note 19. lapetus was the brother of Cronus and like 
him, a Titan. In the myth the two were the first inhabitants of the earth. 


doings among the gods of which Hesiod and Parmenides 31 spoke, if 
the tradition of them be true, were done of Necessity and not of 
Love; had Love been in those days, there would have been no chain- 
ing or mutilation of the gods, or other violence, but peace and sweet- 
ness, as there is now in heaven, since the rule of Love began. Love if 
young and also tender; he ought to have a poet like Homer to de- 
scribe his tenderness, as Homer says of Ate, 32 that she is a goddess 
and tender: 

Her feet are tender, for she sets her steps, 
Not on the ground but on the heads of men. 

Herein is an excellent proof of her tenderness that she walks not 
upon the hard but upon the soft. Let us adduce a similar proof of the 
tenderness of Love; for he walks not upon the earth, nor yet upon 
the skulls of men, which are not so very soft, but in the hearts and 
souls of both gods and men, which are of all things the softest: in 
them he walks and dwells and makes his home. Not in every soul 
without exception, for where there is hardness he departs, where 
there is softness there he dwells; and nestling always with his feet 
and in all manner of ways in the softest of soft places, how can he be 
other than the softest of all things? Of a truth he is the tenderest as 
well as the youngest, and also he is of flexile form; for if he were hard 
and without flexure he could not enfold all things, or wind his way 
into and out of every soul of man undiscovered. And a proof of his 
flexibility and symmetry of form is his grace, which is universally 
admitted to be in an especial manner the attribute of Love; ungrace 
and love are always at war with one another. The fairness of his com- 
plexion is revealed by his habitation among the flowers; for he dwells 
not amid bloomless or fading beauties, whether of body or soul or 
aught else, but in the place of flowers and scents, there he sits and 
abides. Concerning the beauty of the god I have said enough; and 

31 The Theogony of Hesiod contains some primitive, savage tales of gods cruel to 
one another. 176-182, 453-462, 853-868, 886-900. None of Parrnenides' tales have 
come down to us. 

32 Ate, the goddess of bane and destruction, is described in the Iliad, XIX, 91-94. 



yet there remains much more which I might say. Of his virtue I have 
now to speak: his greatest glory is that he can neither do nor suffer 
wrong to or from any god or any man; for he suffers not by force if he 
suffers; force comes not near him, neither when he acts does he act 
by force. For all men in all things serve him of their own free will, and 
where there is voluntary agreement, there, as the laws which are 
the lords of the city say, is justice. And not only is he just but ex- 
ceedingly temperate, for Temperance is the acknowledged ruler of 
the pleasures and desires, and no pleasure ever masters Love; he is 
their master and they are his servants; and if he conquers them he 
must be temperate indeed. As to courage, even the God of War is no 
match for him; he is the captive and Love is the lord, for love, the 
love of Aphrodite, masters him, as the tale runs; 33 and the master 
is stronger than the servant. And if he conquers the bravest of all 
others, he must be himself the bravest. 

"Of his courage and justice and temperance I have spoken, but I 
have yet to speak of his wisdom; 3i and according to the measure of 
my ability I must try to do my best. In the first place he is a poet (and 
here, like Eryximachus, I magnify my art), and he is also the source 
of poesy in others, which he could not be if he were not himself a 
poet. And at the touch of him everyone becomes a poet, even though 
he had no music in him before; this also is a proof that Love is a good 
poet and accomplished in all the fine arts; for no one can give to 
another that which he has not himself, or teach that of which he has 
no knowledge. Who will deny that the creation of the animals is his 
doing? Are they not all the works of his wisdom, born and begotten 
of him? And as to the artists, do we not know that he only of them 
whom love inspires has the light of fame? he whom Love touches 
not walks in darkness. The arts of medicine and archery and divina- 
tion were discovered by Apollo, under the guidance of love and 
desire; so that he too is a disciple of Love. Also the melody of the 

33 Ares, god of war, was in the Greek myth the husband of Aphrodite, goddess of 
love, as in the imitative Latin myth Mars was the husband of Venus. 

34 Love is endowed by Agathon with the four great Greek virtue*, justice, tem- 
perance, courage, and wisdom. 


Muses, the metallurgy of Hephaestus, the weaving of Athene, 35 the 
empire of Zeus over gods and men, are all due to Love, who was the 
inventor of them. And so Love set in order the empire of the gods 
the love of beauty, as is evident, for with deformity Love has no con- 
cern. In the days of old, as I began by saying, dreadful deeds were 
done among the gods, for they were ruled by Necessity; but now 
since the birth of Love, and from the love of the beautiful, has 
sprung every good in heaven and earth. Therefore, Phaedrus, I say 
of Love that he is the fairest and best in himself, and the cause of 
what is fairest and best in all other things. And there comes into my 
mind a line of poetry in which he is said to be the god who 

Gives peace on earth and calms the stormy deep, 
Who stills the winds and bids the sufferer sleep . 3G 

This is he who empties men of disaffection and fills them with affec- 
tion, who makes them to meet together at banquets such as these: 
in sacrifices, feasts, dances, he is our lord who sends courtesy and 
sends away discourtesy, who gives kindness ever and never gives un- 
kindncss; the friend of the good, the wonder of the wise, the amaze- 
ment of the gods; desired by those who have no part in him, and 
precious to those who have the better part in him; parent of delicacy, 
luxury, desire, fondness, softness, grace; regardful of the good, re- 
gardless of the evil: in every word, work, wish, fear savior, pilot, 
comrade, helper; glory of gods and men, leader best and brightest: in 
whose footsteps let every man follow, sweetly singing in his honor 
and joining in that sweet strain with which love charms the souls of 
gods and men. Such is the speech, Phaedrus, half -playful, yet having 
a certain measure of seriousness, which, according to my ability, I 
dedicate to the god." 

When Agathon had done speaking, Aristodemus said that there 
was a general cheer; the young man was thought to have spoken in 

35 Athene, the virgin patroness of Athens, was goddess of intelligence and various 
crafts and skills. Among the Romans her place was filled by Minerva. 

36 Agathon is here apparently quoting a line of some composition of his owm, 
Jvith an echo in it of Odyssey, V, &gi, 392. 


a manner worthy of himself, and of the god. And Socrates, looking at 
Eryximachus, said: "Tell me, son of Acumenus, was there not reason 
in my fears? and was I not a true prophet when I said that Agathon 
would make a wonderful oration, and that I should be in a strait"?" 

"The part of the prophecy which concerns Agathon," replied 
Eryximachus, "appears to me to be true; but not the other part that 
you will be in a strait." 

"Why, my dear friend," said Socrates, "must not I or anyone be 
in a strait who has to speak after he has heard such a rich and varied 
discourse"? I am especially struck with the beauty of the concluding 
words who could listen to them without amazement? When I re- 
flected on the immeasurable inferiority of my own powers, I was 
ready to run away for shame, if there had been a possibility of escape. 
For I was reminded of Gorgias, and at the end of his speech I fancied 
that Agathon was shaking at me the Gorginian or Gorgonian head 
of the great master of rhetoric, which was simply to turn me and my 
speech into stone, as Homer says, 37 and strike me dumb. And then 
I perceived how foolish I had been in consenting to take my turn 
with you in praising love, and saying that I too was a master of the 
art, when I really had no conception how anything ought to be 
praised. For in my simplicity I imagined that the topics of praise 
should be true, and that this being presupposed, out of the true the 
speaker was to choose the best and set them forth in the best manner. 
And I felt quite proud, thinking that I knew the nature of true praise, 
and should speak well. WTiereas I now see that the intention was to 
attribute to Love every species of greatness and glory, whether really 
belonging to him or not, without regard to truth or falsehood that 
was no matter; for the original proposal seems to have been not that 
each of you should really praise Love, but only that you should ap- 
pear to praise him. And so you attribute to Love every imaginable 
form of praise which can be gathered anywhere; and you say that 'he 

37 The Sophist Gorgias, under whom Agathon may have studied, ws known as 
an elegant speaker. Socrates pretends to be as terrified as Odysseus was at the 
entrance to Hades, when he thought he wight meet the Gorgon Medusa's head, which 
turned everyone who looked on it into stone. Odyssey, XI, 632-635. 


is all this/ and 'the cause of all that/ making him appear the fairest 
and best of all to those who know him not, for you cannot impose 
upon those who know him. And a noble and solemn hymn of praise 
have you rehearsed. But as I misunderstood the nature of the praise 
when I said that I would take my turn, I must beg to be absolved 
from the promise which I made in ignorance, and which (as Eurip- 
ides would say) 38 was a promise of the lips and not of the mind. 
Farewell then to such a strain: for I do not praise in that way; no, 
indeed, I cannot. But if you like to hear the truth about love, I am 
ready to speak in my own manner, though I will not make myself 
ridiculous by entering into any rivalry with you. Say then, Phaedrus, 
whether you would like to have the truth about love, spoken in any 
words and in any order which may happen to come into my mind at 
the time. Will that be agreeable to you?" 

Aristodemus said that Phaedrus and the company bade him speak 
in any manner which he thought best. "Then," he added, "let me 
have your permission first to ask Agathon a few more questions, in 
order that I may take his admissions as the premises of my discourse." 

"I grant the permission," said Phaedrus; "put your questions." 
Socrates then proceeded as follows: 

"In the magnificent oration which you have just uttered, I think 
that you were right, my dear Agathon, in proposing to speak of the 
nature of Love first and afterwards of his works that is a way of 
beginning which I very much approve. And as you have spoken so 
eloquently of his nature, may I ask you further, Whether love is the 
love of something or of nothing? And here I must explain myself: I 
do not want you to say that love is the love of a father or the love of a 
mother that would be ridiculous; but to answer as you would, if I 
asked is a father a father of something? to which you would find no 
difficulty in replying, of a son or daughter: and the answer would be 

"Very true/' said Agathon. 

"And you would say the same of a mother?*' 

$8 Euripides, Hippolytus, 6x. "My tongue hath sworn; my mind is yet unsworn," 

190 PLATO 

He assented. 

'Tet let me asx you one more question in order to illustrate my 
meaning: Is not a brother to be regarded essentially as a brother of 

"Certainly," he replied. 

"That is, of a brother or sister?" 

"Yes," he said. 

"And now," said Socrates, "I will ask about Love: Is Love of some- 
thing or of nothing?" 

"Of something, surely," he replied. 

"Keep in mind what this is, and tell me what I want to know 
whether Love desires that of which love is." 

"Yes, surely." 

"And does he possess, or does he not possess, that which he loves 
and desires?" 

"Probably not, I should say/' 

"Nay," replied Socrates, "I would have you consider whether 
'necessarily' is not rather the word. The inference that he who desires 
something is in want of something, and that he who desires nothing 
is in want of nothing, is in my judgment, Agathon, absolutely and 
necessarily true. What do you think?" 

"I agree with you," said Agathon. 

"Very good. Would he who is great, desire to be great, or he who 
is strong, desire to be strong?" 

"That would be inconsistent with our previous admissions." 

"True. For he who is anything cannot want to be that which he 

"Very true." 

"And yet," added Socrates, "if a man being strong desired to be 
strong, or being swift desired to be swift, or being healthy desired 
to be healthy, in that case he might be thought to desire something 
which he already has or is. I give the example in order that we may 
avoid misconception. For the possessors of these qualities, Agathon, 
must be supposed to have their respective advantages at the time, 
whether they choose or not; and who can desire that which he has? 


Therefore, when a person says, I am well and wish to be well, or I 
am rich and wish to be rich, and I desire simply to have what I have 
to him we shall reply: You, my friend, having wealth and health 
and strength, want to have the continuance of them; for at this mo- 
ment, whether you choose or no, you have them. And when you say, 
I desire that which I have and nothing else, is not your meaning that 
you want to have what you now have in the future? He must agree 
with us must he not?" 

"He must," replied Agathon. 

"Then," said Socrates, "he desires that what he has at present may 
be preserved to him in the future, which is equivalent to saying that 
he desires something which is nonexistent to him, and which as 
yet he has not got." 

"Very true," he said. 

"Then he and everyone who desires, desires that which he has not 
already, and which is future and not present, and which he has not, 
and is not, and of which he is in want; these are the sort of things 
which love and desire seek?" 

"Very true," he said. 

"Then now," said Socrates, "let us recapitulate the argument. 
First, is not love of something, and of something too which is want- 
ing to a man? 

"Yes," he replied. 

"Remember further what you said in your speech, or if you do not 
remember I will remind you: you said that the love of the beautiful 
set in order the empire of the gods, for that of deformed things there 
is no love did you not say something of that kind?" 

"Yes," said Agathon. 

"Yes, my friend, and the remark was a just one. And if this is true, 
Love is the love of beauty and not of deformity?" 

He assented. 

"And the admission has been already made that Love is of some- 
thing which a man wants and has not?" 

"True," he said. 

"Then Love wants and has not beauty?" 


"Certainly," he replied. 

"And would you call that beautiful which wants and does not 
possess beauty?" 

"Certainly not." 

"Then would you still say that love is beautiful?" 

Agathon replied: "I fear that I did not understand what I was 

"You made a very good speech, Agathon," replied Socrates; "but 
there is yet one small question which I would fain ask: Is not the 
good also the beautiful?" 


"Then in wanting the beautiful, love wants also the good?" 

"I cannot refute you, Socrates," said Agathon. "Let us assume 
tiiat what you say is true." 

"Say rather, beloved Agathon, that you cannot refute the truth; 
for Socrates is easily refuted. 

"And now, taking my leave of you, I will rehearse a tale of love 
which I heard from Diotima of Mantinea, 39 a woman wise in this 
and in many other kinds of knowledge, who in the days of old, when 
the Athenians offered sacrifice before the coming of the plague, de- 
layed the disease ten years. She was my instructress in the art of love, 
and I shall repeat to you what she said to me, beginning with the 
admissions made by Agathon, which are nearly if not quite the same 
which I made to the wise woman when she questioned me: I think 
that this will be the easiest way, and I shall take both parts myself 
as well as I can. As you, Agathon, suggested, I must speak first of the 
f ~eing and nature of Love, and then of his works. First I said to her 
in nearly the same words which he used to me, that Love was a 
mighty god, and likewise fair; and she proved to me as I proved to 
him that, by my own showing, Love was neither fair nor good. 'What 
do you mean, Diotima/ I said, 'is love then evil and foul?' 'Hush/ 

39 To a Greek these names would suggest something divinely favored in the woman 
and prophetic in the place from which she came. Whether Diotima was a real 
woman or a figment of Socrates' or, more probably, Plato's imagination, we do not 


she cried; 'must that he foul which is not fair}' 'Certainly/ I said* 
'And is that which is not wise, ignorant? do you not see that there is 
a mean between wisdom and ignorance?' 'And what may that be?' I 
said. 'Right opinion/ she replied; 'which, as you know, being in- 
capable of giving a reason, is not knowledge (for how can knowl- 
edge be devoid of reason?) nor again, ignorance (for neither r can 
ignorance attain the truth), but is clearly something which is a mean 
between ignorance and wisdom/ 'Quite true/ I replied. 'Do not then 
insist/ she said, 'that what is not fair is of necessity foul, or what is 
not good evil; or infer that because love is not fair and good he is 
therefore foul and evil; for he is in a mean between them/ 'Well/ I 
said, 'Love is surely admitted by all to be a great god/ 'By those who 
know or by those who do not know?' 'By all/ 'And now, Socrates,' 
she said with a smile, 'can Love be acknowledged to be a great god 
by those who say that he is not a god at all?' 'And who are they?' I 
said. 'You and I are two of them/ she replied. 'How can that be?' I 
said. 'It is quite intelligible/ she replied; 'for you yourself would 
acknowledge that the gods are happy and fair of course you would 
would you dare to say that any god was not?' 'Certainly not/ I re- 
plied. 'And you mean by the happy, those who are the possessors of 
things good or fair?' 'Yes/ 'And you admitted that Love, because he 
was in want, desires those good and fair things of which he is in 
want?' 'Yes, I did/ 'But how can he be a god who has no portion in 
what is either good or fair?' 'Impossible/ Then you see that you also 
deny the divinity of Love/ 

" 'What then is Love?' I asked; 'is he mortal?' 'No/ What then?* 
'As in the former instance, he is neither mortal nor immortal, but in 
a mean between the two/ What is he,Diotima?' 'He is a great spirit 
(Safytw/), and like all spirits he is intermediate between the divine 
and the mortal/ 'And what/ I said, 'is his power?' 'He interprets/ 
she replied, 'between gods and men, conveying and taking across to 
the gods the prayers and sacrifices of men, and to men the commands 
and replies of the gods; he is the mediator who spans the chasm which 
divides them, and therefore in him all is bound together, and through 
him the arts of the prophet and the priest, their sacrifices and mys* 


teries and charms, and all prophecy and incantation, find their way. 
For God mingles not with man; but through Love all the intercourse 
and converse of God with man, whether awake or asleep, is carried 
on. The wisdom which understands this is spiritual; all other wisdom, 
such as that of arts and handicrafts, is mean and vulgar. Now these 
spirits or intermediate powers arc many and diverse, and one of them 
is Love/ 'And who,' I said, 'was his father, and who his mother?' 
'The tale/ she said, 'will take time; nevertheless I will tell you. On 
the birthday of Aphrodite there was a feast of the gods, at which the 
god Poros or Plenty, who is the son of Metis or Discretion, was one of 
the guests. When the feast was over, Penia or Poverty, as the manner 
is on such occasions, came about the doors to beg. Now Plenty, who 
was the worse for nectar (there was no wine in those clays), went into 
the garden of Zeus and fell into a heavy sleep; and Poverty, consider- 
ing her own straitened circumstances, plotted to have a child by him, 
and accordingly she lay down at his side and conceived Love, who 
partly because he is naturally a lover of the beautiful, and because 
Aphrodite is herself beautiful, and also because he was born on her 
birthday, is her follower and attendant. And as his parentage is, so 
also are his fortunes. In the first place he is always poor, and any- 
thing but tender and fair, as the many imagine him; and he is rough 
and squalid, and has no shoes, nor a house to dwell in; on the bare 
earth exposed he lies under the open heaven, in the streets, or at the 
doors of houses, taking his rest; and like his mother he is always in 
distress. Like his father too, whom he also partly resembles, he is 
always plotting against the fair and good; he is bold, enterprising, 
strong, a mighty hunter, always weaving some intrigue or other, keen 
in the pursuit of wisdom, fertile in resources; a philosopher at all 
times, terrible as an enchanter, sorcerer, sophist. He is by nature 
neither mortal nor immortal, but alive and flourishing at one mo- 
ment when he is in plenty, and dead at another moment, and again 
alive by reason of his father's nature. But that which is always flow- 
ing in is always flowing out, and so he is never in want and never in 
wealth; and, further, he is in a mean between ignorance and knowl- 
edge. The truth of the matter is this: No god is a philosopher or 


seeker after wisdom, for he is wise already; nor does any man who is 
wise seek after wisdom. Neither do the ignorant seek after wisdom. 
For herein is the evil of ignorance, that he who is neither good nor 
wise is nevertheless satisfied with himself: he has no desire for that 
of which he feels no want/ 

11 'But who then, Diotima/ I said, 'are the lovers of wisdom, if they 
are neither the wise nor the foolish?' 'A child may answer that ques- 
tion/ she replied; 'they are those who are in a mean between the 
two; Love is one of them. For wisdom is a most beautiful thing, and 
Love is of the beautiful; and therefore Love is also a philosopher or 
lover of wisdom, and being a lover of wisdom is in a mean between 
the wise and the ignorant. And of this too his birth is the cause; for 
his father is wealthy and wise, and his mother poor and foolish. Such, 
my dear Socrates, is the nature of the spirit Love. The error in your 
conception of him was very natural, and as I imagine from what you 
say, has arisen out of a confusion of love and the beloved, which 
made you think that love was all beautiful. For the beloved is the 
truly beautiful, and delicate, and perfect, and blessed; but the prin- 
ciple of love is of another nature, and is such as I have described/ 

"I said: 'Q thou stranger woman, thou sayest well; but, assuming 
Love to be such as you say, what is the use of him to men?' 'That, 
Socrates/ she replied, 'I will attempt to unfold: of his nature and 
birth I have already spoken; and you acknowledge that love is of the 
beautiful. But someone will say: Of the beautiful in what, Socrates 
and Diotima? or rather let me put the question more clearly, and 
ask: When a man loves the beautiful, what does he desire?' I an- 
swered her: 'That the beautiful may be his/ 'Still/ she said, 'the 
answer suggests a further question : What is given by the possession 
of beauty?' 'To what you have asked/ I replied, 'I have no answer 
ready/ "Then/ she said, 'let me put the word "good" in the place of 
the beautiful, and repeat the question once more: If he who loves 
loves the good, what is it then that he loves?' 'The possession of the 
good/ I said. 'And what does he gain who possesses the good?' 'Hap 
piness/ I replied; 'there is less difficulty in answering that question/ 
'Yes/ she said, 'the happy are made happy by the acquisition of good 

196 PLATO 

things. Nor is there any need to ask why a man desires happiness; 
the answer is already final/ 'You are right/ I said. 'And is this wish 
and this desire common to all: 5 and do all men always desire their 
own good, or only some men? what say you?' 'All men/ I replied; 
'the desire is common to all.' 'Why, then/ she rejoined, 'are not all 
men, Socrates, said to love, but only some of them? Whereas you say 
that all men are always loving the same things.' 'I myself wonder/ I 
said, 'why this is/ 'There is nothing to wonder at/ she replied; 'the 
reason is that one part of love is separated off and receives the name 
of the whole, but the other parts have other names/ 'Give an illustra- 
tion/ I said. 

"She answered me as follows: 'There is poetry, which, as you 
know, is complex and manifold. All creation or passage of non-being 
into being is poetry or making, 40 and the processes of all art are cre- 
ative; and the masters of arts are all poets or makers/ 'Very true/ 
'Still/ she said, 'you know that they are not called poets, but have 
other names; only that portion of the art which is separated off from 
the rest, and is concerned with music and meter, is termed poetry, 
and they who possess poetry in this sense of the word are called poets/ 
Very true/ I said. 'And the same holds of love. For you may say 
generally that all desire of good and happiness is only the great and 
subtle power of love; but they who are drawn towards him by any 
other path, whether the path of money-making or gymnastics or 
philosophy, are not called lovers the name of the whole is appro- 
priated to those whose affection takes one form only they alone are 
said to love, or to be lovers/ 'I dare say/ I replied, 'that you are right/ 
'Yes/ she added, 'and you hear people say that lovers are seeking for 
their other half; 41 but I say that they are seeking neither for the half 
of themselves, nor for the whole, unless the half or the whole be also a 
good. And they will cut off their own hands and feet and cast them 
away, if they are evil; for they love not what is their own, unless per- 

40 The Greek word meaning "poetry," poiesis, comes like our own word from 
the Greek verb that means "to make." Hence the earliest meaning of poetry was a 
making, a creating, and a poet might be a maker of other things besides verse. 
Diotima chooses to recall the old meaning. 

41 An allusion to Aristophanes' speech. 


chance there be someone who calls what belongs to him the good, 
and what belongs to another the evil. For there is nothing which men 
love but the good. Is there anything:*' 'Certainly, I should say, that 
there is nothing.' Then/ she said, 'the simple truth is, that men love 
the good/ Tes/ I said. To which must be added that they love the 
possession of the good?' 'Yes, that must be added/ 'And not only the 
possession, but the everlasting possession of the good?' 'That must 
be added too/ 'Then love/ she said, 'may be described generally as 
the love of the everlasting possession of the good?' 'That is most 

" Then if this be the nature of love, can you tell me further/ she 
said, 'what is the manner of the pursuit? what are they doing who 
show all this eagerness and heat which is called love? and what is 
the object which they have in view? Answer me/ 'Nay, Diotima/ I 
replied, 'if I had known, I should not have wondered at your wisdom, 
neither should I have come to learn from you about this very matter/ 
Well/ she said, 'I will teach you: The object which they have in 
view is birth in beauty, whether of body or soul/ 'I do not understand 
you/. I said; 'the oracle requires an explanation/ 'I will make my 
meaning clearer/ she replied. 'I mean to say, that all men are bring- 
ing to birth in their bodies and in their souls. There is a certain 
age at which human nature is desirous of procreationprocreation 
which must be in beauty and not in deformity; and this procreation 
is the union of man and woman, and is a divine thing; for conception 
and generation are an immortal principle in the mortal creature, and 
in the inharmonious they can never be. But the deformed is always 
inharmonious with the divine, and the beautiful harmonious: Beauty, 
then, is the destiny or goddess of parturition who presides at birth, 
and therefore, when approaching beauty, the conceiving power is 
propitious, and diffusive, and benign, and begets and bears fruit: at 
the sight of ugliness she frowns and contracts and has a sense of 
pain, and turns away, and shrivels up, and not without a pang re- 
frains from conception. And this is the reason why, when the hour 
of conception arrives, and the teeming nature is full, there is such a 
flutter and ecstasy about beauty, whose approach is the alleviation of 

198 PLATO 

the pain of travail. For love, Socrates, is not, as you imagine, the love 
of the beautiful only/ What then"?' 'The love of generation and 
of birth in beauty/ 'Yes/ I said. 'Yes, indeed/ she replied. 'But why of 
generation?' 'Because to the mortal creature, generation is a sort of 
eternity and immortality/ she replied; 'and if, as has been already 
admitted, love is of the everlasting possession of the good, all men 
will necessarily desire immortality together with good: wherefore 
love is of immortality/ 

"All this she taught me at various times when she spoke of love. 
And I remember her once saying to me, 'What is the cause, Socrates, 
of love, and the attendant desire? See you not how all animals, birds, 
as well as beasts, in their desire of procreation, are in agony when 
they take the infection of love, which begins with the desire of union; 
whereto is added the care of offspring, on whose behalf the weakest 
are ready to battle against the strongest even to the uttermost, and to 
die for them, and will let themselves be tormented with hunger or 
suffer anything in order to maintain their young. Man may be sup- 
posed to act thus from reason; but why should animals have these 
passionate feelings? Can you tell me why?' Again I replied that I 
did not know. She said to me: 'And do you expect ever to become a 
master in the art of love, if you do not know this?' 'But I have told 
you already, Diotima, that my ignorance is the reason why I corne 
to you; for I am conscious that I want a teacher; tell me then the 
cause of this and of the other mysteries of love/ 'Marvel not/ she 
said, 'if you believe that love is of the immortal, as we have several 
times acknowledged; for here again, and on the same principle too, 
the mortal nature is seeking as far as is possible to be everlasting and 
immortal: and this is only to be attained by generation, because 
generation always leaves behind a new existence in the place of the 
old. Nay, even in the life of the same individual there is succession 
and not absolute unity: a man is called the same, and yet in the short 
interval which elapses between youth and age, and in which every 
animal is said to have life and identity, he is undergoing a perpetual 
process of loss and reparation hair, flesh, bones, blood, and the whole 
body are always changing. Which is true not only of the body, but 


also of the soul, whose habits, tempers, opinions, desires, pleasures, 
pains, fears, never remain the same in any one of us, but are always 
coming and going; and equally true of knowledge, and what is still 
more surprising to us mortals, not only do the sciences in general 
spring up and decay, so that in respect of them we are never the same; 
but each of them individually experiences a like change. 42 For what 
is implied in the word "recollection," but the departure of knowledge, 
which is ever being forgotten, and is renewed and preserved by recol- 
lection, and appears to be the same although in reality new, accord- 
ing to that law of succession by which all mortal things are pre- 
served, not absolutely the same, but by substitution, the old worn-out 
mortality leaving another new and similar existence behind unlike 
the divine, which is always the same and not another? And in this 
way, Socrates, the mortal body, or mortal anything, partakes of im- 
mortality; but the immortal in another way. Marvel not then at the 
love which all men have of their offspring; for that universal love and 
interest is for the sake of immortality.' 

"I was astonished at her words, and said: 'Is this really true, O 
thou wise Diotima?' And she answered with all the authority of an 
accomplished sophist: 'Of that, Socrates, you may be assured; think 
only of the ambition of men, and you will wonder at the senseless- 
ness of their ways, unless you consider how they are stirred by the 
love of an immortality of fame. They are ready to run all risks greater 
far than they would have run for their children, and to spend money 
and undergo any sort of toil, and even to die, for the sake of leaving 
behind them a name which shall be eternal. Do you imagine that 
Alcestis 43 would have died to save Admetus, or Achilles to avenge 
Patroclus, or your own Codrus in order to preserve the kingdom for 

42 A clearer rendering of this passage is: "And stranger far than this, our knowl- 
edge changes. Some of it grows and some is lost, so that we are never the same even 
in what we know and each separate piece of our knowledge undergoes the same 

43 The examples of Alcestis and Achilles have already been cited by Phaedrus in 
his speech. Codrus, a legendary king of Athens, offered himself to be slain because 
an oracle had said that only after the invading enemy had killed the Athenian king 
would they be driven out. 

200 PLATO 

his sons, if they had not imagined that the memory of their virtues, 
which still survives among us, would be immortal? Nay/ she said, 'i 
am persuaded that all men do all things, and the better they are the 
more they do them, in hope of the glorious fame of immortal virtue; 
for they desire the immortal. 

" Those who are pregnant in the body only betake themselves to 
women and beget children this is the character of their love; their 
offspring, as they hope, will preserve their memory and give them the 
blessedness and immortality which they desire in the future. But souls 
which are pregnant for there certainly are men who are more cre- 
ative in their souls than in their bodies conceive that which is proper 
for the soul to conceive or contain. And what are these conceptions? 
wisdom and virtue in general. And such creators are poets and all 
artists who are deserving of the name inventor. But the greatest and 
fairest sort of wisdom by far is that which is concerned with the 
ordering of states and families, and which is called temperance and 
justice. And he who in youth has the seed of these implanted in him 
and is himself inspired, when he comes to maturity desires to beget 
and generate. He wanders about seeking beauty that he may beget 
offspring for in deformity he will beget nothing and naturally em- 
braces the beautiful rather than the deformed body; above all, when 
he finds a fair and noble and well-nurtured soul, he embraces the two 
in one person, and to such a one he is full of speech about virtue and 
the nature and pursuits of a good man; and he tries to educate him; 
and at the touch of the beautiful which is ever present to his memory, 
even when absent, he brings forth that which he had conceived long 
before, and in company with him tends that which he brings forth; 
and they are married by a far nearer tie and have a closer friendship 
than those who beget mortal children, for the children who are their 
common offspring are fairer and more immortal. Who, when he 
thinks of Homer and Hesiod and other great poets, would not rather 
have their children than ordinary human ones? Who would not 
emulate th*im in the creation of children such as theirs, which have 
preserved tb< ; T memory and given them everlasting glory? Or who 


would not have such children as Lycurgus 44 left behind him to be 
the saviors, not only of Lacedaemon, but of Hellas, as one may say? 
There is Solon, too, who is the revered father of Athenian laws; and 
many others there are in many other places, both among Hellenes 
and barbarians, who have given to the woJd many noble works, and 
have been the parents of virtue of every kind; and many temples 
have been raised in their honor for the sake of children such as theirs; 
which were never raised in honor of anyone, for the sake of his mortal 

" 'These are the lesser mysteries of love, into which even you, 
Socrates, may enter; to the greater and more hidden ones which are 
the crown of these, and to which, if you pursue them in a right spirit, 
they will lead, I know not whether you will be able to attain. But I 
will do my utmost to inform you, and do you follow if you can. For 
he who would proceed aright in this matter should begin in youth 
to visit beautiful forms; and first, if he be guided by his instructor 
aright, to love one such form only out of that he should create fair 
thoughts; and soon he will of himself perceive that the beauty of one 
form is akin to the beauty of another; and then if beauty of form in 
general is his pursuit, how foolish would he be not to recognize that 
the beauty in every form is one and the same! And when he per- 
ceives this he will abate his violent love of the one, which he will 
despise and deem a small thing, and will become a lover of all beauti- 
ful forms; in the next stage he will consider that the beauty of the 
mind is more honorable than the beauty of the outward form. So 
that if a virtuous soul have but a little comeliness, he will be content 
to love and tend him, and will search out and bring to the birth 
thoughts which may improve the young, until he is compelled to con- 
template and see the beauty of institutions and laws, and to under- 
stand that the beauty of them all is of one family, and that personal 
beauty is a trifle; and after laws and institutions he will go on to the 
sciences, that he may see their beauty, being not like a servant in 
love with the beauty of one youth or man or institution, himself a 

44 The legendary founder of the Spartan laws and constitution. Solon (c. tioo B.cJ> 
was the great lawgiver and statesman of early Athenian history. 

202 PLATO 

slave mean and narrow-minded, but drawing towards and contem- 
plating the vast sea of beauty, he will create many fair and noble 
thoughts and notions in boundless love of wisdom; until on that 
shore he grows and waxes strong, and at last the vision is revealed to 
him of a single science, which is the science of beauty everywhere. 
To this I will proceed; please to give me your very best attention : 

" 'He who has been instructed thus far in the things of love, and 
who has learned to see the beautiful in due order and succession, 
when he comes toward the end will suddenly perceive a nature of 
wondrous beauty (and this, Socrates, is the final cause of all our 
former toils) a nature which in the first place is everlasting, not 
growing and decaying, or waxing and waning; secondly, not fair in 
one point of view and foul in another, or at one time or in one relation 
or at one place fair, at another time or in another relation or at an- 
other place foul, as if fair to some and foul to others, or in the likeness 
of a face or hands or any other part of the bodily frame, or in any 
form of speech or knowledge, or existing in any other being, as for 
example, in an animal, or in heaven, or in earth, or in any other 
place; but beauty absolute, separate, simple, and everlasting, which 
without diminution and without increase, or any change, is im- 
parted to the ever-growing and perishing beauties of all other things. 
He who, from these ascending under the influence of true love, 
begins to perceive that beauty is not far from the end. And the true 
order of going, or being led by another, to the things of love, is to 
begin from the beauties of earth and mount upwards for the sake of 
that other beauty, using these as steps only, and from one going on 
to two, and from two to all fair forms, and from fair forms to fair 
practices, and from fair practices to fair notions, until from fair no- 
tions he arrives at the notion of absolute beauty, and at last knows 
what the essence of beauty is. This, my dear Socrates/ said the 
stranger of Mantinea, 'is that life above all others which man should 
live, in the contemplation of beauty absolute; a beauty which if you 
once beheld, you would see not to be after the measure of gold, and 
garments, and fair boys and youths, whose presence now entrances 
you; and you and many a one would be content to live seeing them 


only and conversing with them without meat or drink, if that were 
possible you only want to look at them and to be with them. But 
what if man had eyes to see the true beautythe divine beauty, I 
mean, pure and clear and unalloyed, not clogged with the pollutions 
of mortality and all the colors and vanities of human life thither 
looking, and holding converse with the true beauty simple and 
diviner 1 Remember how in that communion only, beholding beauty 
with the eye of the mind, he will be enabled to bring forth, not 
images of beauty, but realities (for he has hold not of an image but 
of a reality), and bringing forth and nourishing true virtue to be- 
come the friend of God and immortal, if mortal man may. Would 
that be an ignoble life?' 

"Such, Phaedrus and I speak not only to you, but to all of you 
were the words of Diotima; and I am persuaded of their truth. And 
being persuaded of them, I try to persuade others, that in the attain- 
ment of this end human nature will not easily find a helper better 
than love. And therefore, also, I say that every man ought to honor 
him as 1 myself honor him, and walk in his ways, and exhort others to 
do the same, and praise the power and spirit of love according to the 
measure of my ability now and ever. 

"The words which I have spoken, you, Phaedrus, may call an 
encomium of love, or anything else which you please." 

When Socrates had done speaking, the company applauded, and 
Aristophanes was beginning to say something in answer to the allu- 
sion which Socrates had made to his own speech, when suddenly 
there was a great knocking at the door of the house, as of revelers, 
and the sound of a flute-girl was heard. Agathon told the attendants 
to go and see who were the intruders. "If they are friends of ours," 
he said, "invite them in, but if not, say that the drinking is over." 

A little while afterwards they heard the voice of Alcibiades re- 
sounding in the court; he was in a great state of intoxication, and kept 
roaring and shouting, "Where is Agathon? Lead me to Agathon," 
and at length, supported by the flute-girl and some of his attendants, 
he found his way to them. 

"Hail, friends," he said, appearing at the door crowned with a 

204 PLATO 

massive garland of ivy and violets, his head flowing with ribands: 
'Will you have a very drunken man as a companion of your revels? 
Or shall I crown Agathon, which was my intention in coming, and 
go away? For I was unable to come yesterday, and therefore I am 
here today, carrying on my head these ribands, that taking them 
from my own head, I may crown the head of this fairest and wisest of 
men, as I may be allowed to call him. Will you laugh at me because 
I am drunk? Yet I know very well that I am speaking the truth, al- 
though you may laugh. But first tell me: if I come in shall we have 
the understanding of which I spoke? Will you drink with me or not?" 

The company were vociferous in begging that he would take his 
place among them, and Agathon specially invited him. Thereupon 
he was led in by the people who were with him; and as he was being 
led, intending to crown Agathon, he took the ribands from his own 
head and held them in front of his eyes; he was thus prevented from 
seeing Socrates, who made way for him, and Alcibiades took the 
vacant place between Agathon and Socrates, and in taking the place 
he embraced Agathon and crowned him. 

"Take off his sandals/' said Agathon, "and let him make a third 
on the same couch/' 

"By all means; but who makes the third partner in our revels?" 
said Alcibiades, turning round and starting up as he caught sight of 
Socrates. "By Heracles," he said, "what is this? Here is Socrates al- 
ways lying in wait for me, and always, as his way is, coming out at all 
sorts of unsuspected places: and now, what have you to say for your- 
self, and why are you lying here, where I perceive that you have 
contrived to find a place, not by a joker or lover of jokes, like Aris- 
tophanes, but by the fairest of the company?" 

Socrates turned to Agathon and said: "I must ask you to protect 
me, Agathon; for the passion of this man has grown quite a serious 
matter to me. Since I became his admirer I have never been allowed 
to speak to any other fair one, or so much as to look at them. If I do, 
he goes wild with envy and jealousy, and not only abuses me but can 
hardly keep his hands off me, and at this moment he may do me some 
harm. Please to see to this, and either reconcile me to him, or, if he 


attempts violence, protect me, as I am in bodily fear of his mad and 
passionate attempts." 

"There can never be reconciliation between you and me," said 
Alcibiades; "but for the present I will defer your chastisement. Andl 
I must beg you, Agathon, to give me back some of the ribands that I 
may crown the marvelous head of this universal dcspotI would not 
have him complain of me for crowning you, and neglecting him-' 
who in conversation is the conqueror of all mankind; and this not 
only once, as you were the day before yesterday, but always/' Where^ 
upon, taking some of the ribands, he crowned Socrates, and again 

Then he said: "You seem, my friends, to be sober, which is a thing 
not to be endured; you must drink for that was the agreement under 
which I was admitted and I elect myself master of the feast until 
you are well drunk. Let us have a large goblet, Agathon, or rather/' 
he said, addressing the attendant, "bring me that wine-cooler." The 
wine-cooler which had caught his eye was a vessel holding more 
than two quarts this he filled and emptied, and bade the attendant 
fill it again for Socrates. 

"Observe, my friends," said Alcibiades, "that this ingenious trick 
of mine will have no effect on Socrates, for he can drink any quantify 
of wine and not be at all nearer being drunk." 

Socrates drank the cup which the attendant filled for him. 

Eryximachus said: "What is this, Alcibiades? Are we to have 
neither conversation nor singing over our cups; but simply to drink 
as if we were thirsty?" 

Alcibiades replied: "Hail, worthy son of a most wise and worthy 

"The same to you," said Eryximachus; "but what shall we do?" 

"That I leave to you," said Alcibiades. 

"The wise physician skilled our wounds to heal 45 

shall prescribe and we will obey. What do you want?" 

"Well," said Eryximachus, "before you appeared we had passed 

45 Iliad. XT, 514- 

2o6 PLATO 

a resolution that each one of us in turn should make a speech in praise 
of love, and as good a one as he could: the turn was passed round 
from left to right; and as all of us have spoken, and you have not 
spoken but have well drunken, you ought to speak, and then impose 
upon Socrates any task which you please, and he on his right hand 
neighbor, and so on." 

"That is good, Eryximachus," said Alcibiades; "and yet the com- 
parison of a drunken man's speech with those of sober men is hardly 
fair; and I should like to know, sweet friend, whether you really be- 
lieve what Socrates was just now saying; for I can assure you that 
the very reverse is the fact, and that if I praise anyone but himself in 
his presence, whether God or man, he will hardly keep his hands off 

"For shame," said Socrates. 

"Hold your tongue," said Alcibiades, "for, by Poseidon, there is 
no one else whom I will praise, when you are of the company." 

"Well then," said Eryximachus, "if you like, praise Socrates." 

"What do you think, Eryximachus?" said Alcibiades. "Shall I at- 
tack him and inflict the punishment before you all?" 

"What are you about?" said Socrates; "are you going to raise a 
laugh at my expense? Is that the meaning of your praise?" 

"I am going to speak the truth, if you will permit me." 

"I not only permit, but exhort you to speak the truth/' 

"Then I will begin at once," said Alcibiades, "and if I say any- 
thing which is not true, you may interrupt me if you will, and say 
'that is a lie/ though my intention is to speak the truth. But you 
must not wonder if I speak anyhow, as things come into my mind; 
for the fluent and orderly enumeration of all your singularities is not 
a task which is easy to a man in my condition. 

"And now, my boys, I shall praise Socrates in a figure which will 
appear to him to be a caricature, and yet I speak, not to make fun of 
him, but only for the truth's sake. I say, that he is exactly like the 
busts of Silenus, 4 * which are set up in the statuaries' shops, holding 

46 Silenus was the leader of the satyrs, half human, half woodland beast, com- 
panions of the god Bacchus or Dionysus in his revels. 


pipes and flutes in their mouths; and they are made to open in the 
middle, and have images of gods inside them. I say also that he is 
like Marsyas 47 the satyr. You yourself will not deny, Socrates, that 
your face is like that of a satyr. Aye, and there is a resemblance in 
other points too. For example, you are a hully, as I can prove by wit- 
nesses, if you will not confess. And arc you riot a flute-player? That 
you are, and a performer far more wonderful than Marsyas. He in- 
deed with instruments used to charm the souls of men by the power 
of his breath, and the players of his music do so still: for the melodies 
of Olympus are derived from Marsyas who taught them, and these, 
whether they are played by a great master or by a miserable flute- 
girl, have a power which no others have; they alone possess the soul 
and reveal the wants of those who have need of gods and mysteries, 
because they are divine. But you produce the same effect with your 
words only, and do not require the flute: that is the difference be- 
tween you and him. When we hear any other speaker, even a very 
good one, he produces absolutely no effect upon us, or not much, 
whereas the mere fragments of you and your words, even at second- 
hand, and however imperfectly repeated, amaze and possess the souls 
of every man, woman, and child who comes within hearing of them, 
And if I were not afraid that you would think me hopelessly drunk, 
I would have sworn as well as spoken to the influence which they 
have always had and still have over me. For my heart leaps within me 
more than that of any Corybantian reveler, 48 and my eyes rain tears 
when I hear them. And I observe that many others are affected in the 
same manner. I have heard Pericles and other great orators, and I 
thought that they spoke well, but I never had any similar feeling; 
my soul was not stirred by them, nor was I angry at the thought of 
my own slavish state. But this Marsyas has often brought me to such 
a pass, that I have felt as if I could hardly endure the life which I 
am leading (this, Socrates, you will admit); and I am conscious that 

47 A satyr who played the flute with such ravishing charm that he challenged 
Apollo to a musical contest. 

48 The Corybantes were priests of the Asiatir *-nddess Cybele, who worshiped her 
with wild ard violent dancing. 

20 8 PLATO 

if I did not shut my ears against him, and fly as from the voice of the 
siren, my fate would be like that of others he would transfix me, and 
I should grow old sitting at his feet. For he makes me confess that I 
ought not to live as I do, neglecting the wants of my own soul, and 
busying myself with the concerns of the Athenians; therefore I hold 
my ears and tear myself away from him. And he is the only person 
who ever made me ashamed, which you might think not to be in my 
nature, and there is no one else who does the same. For I know that 1 
cannot answer him or say that I ought not to do as he bids, but when 
I leave his presence the love of popularity gets the better of me. And 
therefore I run away and fly from him, and when I see him I am 
ashamed of what I have confessed to him. Many a time have I wished 
that he were dead, and yet I know that I should be much more sorry 
than glad, if he were to die : so that I am at my wit's end. 

"And this is what I and many others have suffered from the flute- 
playing of this satyr. Yet hear me once more while I show you how 
exact the image is, and how marvelous his power. For let me tell you; 
none of you know him; but I will reveal him to you; having begun, I 
must go on. See you how fond he is of the fair? He is always with 
them and is always being smitten by them, and then again he knows 
nothing and is ignorant of all things such is the appearance which 
he puts on. Is he not like a Silenus in this? To be sure he is: his 
outer mask is the carved head of the Silenus; but, O my companions 
in drink, when he is opened, what temperance there is residing 
within! Know you that beauty and wealth and honor, at which the 
many wonder, are of no account with him, and are utterly despised 
by him: he regards not at all the persons who are gifted with them; 
mankind are nothing to him; all his life is spent in mocking and 
flouting at them. But when I opened him, and looked within at his 
serious purpose, I saw in him divine and golden images of such 
fascinating beauty that I was ready to do in a moment whatever 
Socrates commanded: they may have escaped the observation of 
others, but I saw them. Now I fancied that he was seriously en- 
amoured of my beauty, and I thought that I should therefore have 


a grand opportunity of hearing him tell what he knew, for I had a 
wonderful opinion of the attractions of my youth. In the prosecution 
of this design, when I next went to him, I sent away the attendant 
who usually accompanied me (I will confess the whole truth, and 
beg you to listen; and if I speak falsely, do you, Socrates, expose the 
falsehood). Well, he and I were alone together, and I thought that 
when there was nobody with us, I should hear him speak the lan- 
guage which lovers use to their loves when they are by themselves, 
and I was delighted. Nothing of the sort; he conversed as usual, and 
spent the day with me and then went away. Afterwards I challenged 
him to the palaestra; 40 and he wrestled and closed with me several 
times when there was no one present; I fancied that I might succeed 
in this manner. Not a bit; I made no way with him. Lastly, as I had 
failed hitherto, I thought that I must take stronger measures and 
attack him boldly, and, as I had begun, not give him up, but see how 
matters stood between him and me. So I invited him to sup with me, 
just as if he were a fair youth, and I a designing lover. I le was not 
easily persuaded to come; he did, however, after a while accept the in- 
vitation, and when he came the first time, he wanted to go away at 
once as soon as supper was over, and I had not the face to detain him. 
The second time, still in pursuance of my design, after we had 
supped, I went on conversing far into the night, and when he wanted 
to go away, I pretended that the hour was late and that he had much 
better remain. So he lay down on the couch next to me, the same on 
which he had supped, and there was no one but ourselves sleeping 
in the apartment. All this may be told without shame to anyone. But 
what follows I could hardly tell you if I were sober. Yet as the proverb 
says, 'In vino veritas,' whether with boys, or without them; 50 and 
therefore I must speak. Nor, again, should I be justified in conceal- 
ing the lofty actions of Socrates when I come to praise him. Moreover, 
I have felt the serpent's sting; and he who has suffered, as they say, 

49 Training school for wrestling and other athletic sports. 

50 The Greeks had a familiar proverb, "Wine speaks the truth," for which Pro- 
fessor Jowett gives here the Latin equivalent. It was sometimes apparently ex- 
Vanded to "Wine and children speak the truth." 

210 PLATO 

is willing to tell his fellow sufferers only, as they alone will be likely 
to understand him, and will not be extreme in judging of the saying: 
or doings which have been wrung from his agony. For I have beer 
bitten by a more than viper's tooth; I have known in my soul, or ir 
my heart, or in some other part, that worst of pangs, more violent in 
ingenuous youth than any serpent's tooth, the pang of philosophy, 
v/hich will make a man say or do anything. And you whom I see 
around me, Phaedrus and Agathon and Eryximachus and Pausanias 
and Aristodemus and Aristophanes, all of you, and I need not say 
Socrates himself, have had experience of the same madness and 
passion in your longing after wisdom. Therefore listen and ex- 
cuse my doings then and my sayings now. But let the attendants 
and other profane and unmannered persons close up the doors of 
their ears. 

"When the lamp was put out and the servants had gone away, I 
thought that I must be plain with him and have no more ambiguity. 
So I gave him a shake, and I said: 'Socrates, are you asleep?' 'No,' he 
said. 'Do you know what I am meditating?' 'What are you meditat- 
ing?' he said. 'I think,' I replied, 'that of all the lovers whom I have 
ever had you are the only one who is worthy of me, and you appear 
to be too modest to speak. Now I feel that I should be a fool to refuse 
you this or any other favor, and therefore I come to lay at your feet all 
that I have and all that my friends have, in the hope that you will 
assist me in the way of virtue, which I desire above all things, and in 
which I believe that you can help me better than anyone else. And 1 
should certainly have more reason to be ashamed of what wise men 
would say if I were to refuse a favor to such as you, than of what 
the world, who are mostly fools, would say of me if I granted it/ To 
these words he replied in the ironical manner which is so character- 
istic of him: 'Alcibiades, my friend, you have indeed an elevated aim 
if what you say is true, and if there really is in me any power by which 
you may become better; truly you must see in me some rare beauty of 
a kind infinitely higher than any which I see in you. And therefore, 
if you mean to share with ***e and to exchange beauty for beauty, 


you will have greatly the advantage of me; you will gain true beauty 
in return for appearance like Diorncd, gold in exchange for brass. 5 * 
But look again, sweet friend, and see whether you are not deceived 
in me. The mind begins to grow critical when the bodily eye fails, 
and it will be a long time before you get old/ Hearing this, I said: 1 
have told you my purpose, which is quite serious, and do you consider 
what you think best for you and me.' 'That is good/ he said; 'at some 
other time then we will consider and act a.s seems best about this and 
about other matters/ Whereupon, I fancied that he was smitten, and 
that the words which I had uttered like arrows had wounded him, 
and so without waiting to hear more I got up, and throwing my coat 
about him crept under his threadbare cloak, as the time of year was 
winter, and there I lay during the whole night having this wonderful 
monster in my arms. This again, Socrates, will not be denied by you. 
And yet, notwithstanding all, he was so superior to my solicitations, 
so contemptuous and derisive and disdainful of my beauty, which 
really, as I fancied, had some attractions hear, O judges; for judges 
you shall be of the haughty virtue of Socrates nothing more hap- 
pened, but in the morning when I awoke (let a -U the gods and god- 
desses be my witnesses) I arose as from the couch of a father or an 
elder brother. 

"What do you suppose must have been my feelings, after this 
rejection, at the thought of my own dishonor? And yet I could not 
help wondering at his natural temperance and self-restraint and man- 
liness. I never imagined that I could have met with a man such as he 
is in wisdom and endurance. And therefore I could not be angry with 
him or renounce his company, any more than I could hope to win 
him. For I well knew that if Ajax could not be wounded by steel, 52 
much less he by money; and my only chance of captivating him by 
my personal attractions had failed. So I was at my wit's end; no one 
was ever more hopelessly enslaved by another. All this happened be- 

51 Homer relates how the warrior Diomed cleverly exchanged his bronze armor 
for gold. Iliad, VI, 834-236 

52 The great warrior Ajax had a sevenfold shield that no spear could pierce. 
Sophodes, A tax, r-,76. 

212 PLATO 

fore he and I went on the expedition to Potidaea; 53 there we messed 
together, and I had the opportunity of observing his extraordinary 
power of sustaining fatigue. His endurance was simply marvelous 
when, being cut off from our supplies, we were compelled to go 
without food. On such occasions, which often happen in time of 
war, he was superior not only to me but to everybody; there was no 
one to be compared to him. Yet at a festival he was the only person 
who had any real powers of enjoyment; though not willing to drink, 
he could if compelled beat us all at that; wonderful to relate, no 
human being had ever seen Socrates drunk; and his powers, if I am 
not mistaken, will be tested before long. His fortitude in enduring 
cold was also surprising. There was a severe frost, for the winter in 
that region is really tremendous, and everybody else either remained 
indoors, or if they went out had on an amazing quantity of clothes, 
and were well shod, and had their feet swathed in felt and fleeces; 
in the midst of this, Socrates with his bare feet on the ice and in his 
ordinary dress marched better than the other soldiers who had shoes, 
and they looked daggers at him because he seemed to despise them. 
"I have told you one tale, and now I must tell you another, which 
is worth hearing, 

Of the doings and sufferings of the enduring man 54 

while he was on the expedition. One morning he was thinking about 
something which he could not resolve; he would not give it up, but 
continued thinking from early dawn until noon there he stood fixed 
in thought; and at noon attention was drawn to him, and the rumor 
ran through the wondering crowd that Socrates had been standing 
and thinking about something ever since the break of day. At last, 
in the evening after supper, some lonians out of curiosity (I should 
explain that this was not in winter but in summer), brought out their 
mats and slept in the open air that they might watch him and see 
whether he would stand all night. There he stood until the follow- 

53 In his Apology f Socrates refers to the campaigns at Potidaea and Delium. See 
page 47, note 15. 

54 Odyssey, IV. 241-242. 


ing morning: and with the return of light he offered up a prayer to the 
sun, and went his way. 

"I will also tell, if you please and indeed I am bound to tell of 
his courage in battle; for who but he saved my life? Now this was the 
engagement in which I received the prize of valor: for I was wounded 
and he would not leave me, but he rescued me and my arms; and he 
ought to have received the prize of valor which the generals wanted 
to confer on me partly on account of my rank, and I told them so 
(this, again, Socrates will not impeach or deny), but he was more 
eager than the generals that I and not he should have the prize. 
There was another occasion on which his behavior was very remark- 
ablein the flight of the army after the battle of Delium, where he 
served among the heavy armed I had a better opportunity of seeing 
him than at Potidaea, for I was myself on horseback, and therefore 
comparatively out of danger. He and Laches were retreating, for the 
troops were in flight, and I met them and told them not to be dis- 
couraged, and promised to remain with them; and there you might 
see him, Aristophanes, as you describe, 55 just as he is in the streets of 
Athens, stalking like a pelican, and rolling his eyes, calmly contem- 
plating enemies as well as friends, and making very intelligible to 
anybody, even from a distance, that whoever attacked him would be 
likely to meet with a stout resistance; and in this way he and his com- 
panion escaped for this is the sort of man who is never touched in 
war; those only are pursued who are running away headlong. I par- 
ticularly observed how superior he was to Laches in presence of 

"Many are the marvels which I might narrate in praise of Soc- 
rates; most of his ways might perhaps be paralleled in another man, 
but his absolute unlikeness to any human being that is or ever has 
been is perfectly astonishing. You may imagine Brasidas and others 
to have been like Achilles; or you may imagine Nestor and Antenor 
to have been like Pericles; 56 and the same may be said of other 
famous men, but of this strange being you will never be able to find 

65 Aristophanes, Clouds, 362. 

50 That is, other brave men have been like Achilles, other wise men like Pericles. 

214 PLATO 

any likeness, however remote, either among men who now are or 
who ever have been other than that which I have already suggested 
of Silenus and the satyrs; and they represent in a figure not only him- 
self, but his words. For, although I forgot to mention this to you 
before, his words are like the images of Silenus which open; they are 
ridiculous when you first hear them; he clothes himself in language 
that is like the skin of the wanton satyr for his talk is of pack- 
asses and smiths and cobblers and curriers, and he is always repeat- 
ing the same things in the same words, so that any ignorant or inex- 
perienced person might feel disposed to laugh at him; but he who 
opens the bust and sees what is within will find that they are the only 
words which have a meaning in them, and also the most divine, 
abounding in fair images of virtue, and of the widest comprehension, 
or rather extending to the whole duty of a good and honorable man. 

"This, friends, is my praise of Socrates. I have added my blame of 
him for his ill treatment of me; and he has ill treated not only me, 
but Charmides the son of Glaucon, and Euthydemus the son of 
Diocles, and many others in the same way beginning as their lover 
he has ended by making them pay their addresses to him. Wherefore 
I say to you, Agathon: 'Be not deceived by him; learn from me and 
take warning, and do not be a fool and learn by experience, as the 
proverb says/ " 

When Alcibiades had finished, there was a laugh at his outspoken- 
ness; for he seemed to be still in love with Socrates. 

'Tou are sober, Alcibiades," said Socrates, "or you would never 
have gone so far about to hide the purpose of your satyr's praises, for 
all this long story is only an ingenious circumlocution, of which the 
point comes in by the way at the end; you want to get up a quarrel 
between me and Agathon, and your notion is that I ought to love you 
and nobody else, and that you and you only ought to love Agathon. 
But the plot of this satyric or Silenic drama has been detected, and 
you must not allow him, Agathon, to set us at variance." 

"I believe you are right," said Agathon, "and I am disposed to 
think that his intention in placing himself between you and me was 




THE Republic is both the greatest and the longest, save one, of all 
Plato's dialogues, too long unfortunately to be reprinted here in full. 
No other has the same breadth of sweep, from earth to sky and back 
again, or attempts so earnestly to bring philosophy, the pursuit of 
ideal wisdom and goodness, into active, useful connection with the 
everyday life of humanity. No other sets out so clearly the perennial 
problems that beset every planner of a better social order, problems 
of morals, education, eugenics, relationship of the sexes, government, 
ownership of property, which keep us still puzzled two thousand 
years later. 

The Republic was written probably between 380 and 370 B.C., 
though the conversation of which it professes to be a record is imag- 
ined as taking place only a few years apparently after the banquet of 
the Symposium. No information is given by which to date it, but the 
sky seems darker than it was over the Symposium. Democracy, we 
hear, makes a wretched farce of government. The lawless citizen 
mob has ears only for unprincipled, flattering demagogues, and the 
just man who longs to serve his country is reviled and thrust aside. 

The setting of the conversation is simple. Socrates himself relates 
how on his way home from a trip to the Peiraeus to watch the festival 
of the Thracian goddess worshiped there, he was stopped by a young 
friend, who insisted on taking him to his house for supper. There he 
found his friend's benign old father, Cephalus, resting in his cush- 
ioned chair, and a group of young men ready for talk. Cephalus 
greets Socrates with some pleasant remarks on the comforts of peace- 
ful old age fortified by memories of a life spent doing justice. It 
is the signal for Socrates to begin catechizing. But at this Cephalus 
excuses himself, deputing his son Polemarchus to answer for him. 



Polcmarchus, asked to define justice, gives thoughtless, conventional 
replies, which Socrates easily proves to be absurd. A Sophist, Thrasy- 
machus, full of fight, breaks impatiently in with his cynical defini- 
tion. Justice is a fine name for the interest of the stronger. Might 
makes anything right and always has. The successful in this world 
are in fact the unscrupulous and unjust. But Socrates disposes shortly 
of Thrasymachus too. The dishonesty of unjust men makes everyone 
distrust them and eventually brings them to ruin. 

Two more serious young thinkers, however, Glaucon and Adei- 
mantus, brothers of Plato, start the discussion off again by refusing 
to be satisfied with what Socrates has said. He has failed to tell them 
what justice itself is, apart from its effects, or why, if the life of jus- 
tice is as profitable as he makes out, young men must be bribed to 
choose it with promises of honor and reward. If a good reputation is 
so important, why not merely keep up a facade of just and honorable 
dealing, while at the same time secretly getting away with murder? 
Is there anything in justice, regardless of consequences, that makes 
the life of every just man, simply because he is just, happier than 
that of an unjust man can ever be? 

With these questions of Glaucon and Adeimantus the real hunt 
for justice is on and fills the rest of the book. No more is heard of 
supper or the fine torch-race that was to follow after. It is easier, 
Socrates begins, to grasp the true nature of justice when writ in large 
letters than in small, when expressed, that is, in the constitution of a 
state than in the acts of a lone individual. So first he will construct 
a just state. What would be the ideal state? What its organization 
and government? How would its children be educated and the best 
selected and trained to become its wise rulers? Could we~firrd~in such 
a state the justice for which we are looking? Can an analogy now be 
drawn between the peace and harmony of this wcll-balance4 and 
nqEly administcrccTcommunity and the inner peace of a man' \vhose 
faculties are governed bv^ t?* ^l"^^^^ principles of wisdomT 
courage, tempcrateness, and; *+ 1^, ji^fi^?- What, next, of our 
present world, as it actually exists? How far do any of its types of 
government approach in excellence the ideal state? What of the 

220 PLATO 

corresponding types of individuals? If a people enslaved to a tyrant 
lives in continual torment, is the tyrant himself, faithless, fearful, 
jealous, violent, a slave to his own greeds and passions, anything but 
the most miserable of them all? Can anyone who subjects the best 
in himself to the beast, who has never known what pure pleasures 
are, be counted happy, no matter how high his station? Through life 
after life the soul of man will go on learning by trial and pain that 
in goodness lies its happiness here and hereafter. 

What is justice? Is the just life happier than the unjust? 


(the narrator}, Glaucon, Adeimantus, 

Polemarchus, Cephalus, Thrasy- 

machus, Cleitophon 

SCENE : In the house of Cephalus at the Peiraeus 

Socrates speaks to his friends of the Dialogue 
which had taken place the day before. 

I WENT down yesterday to the Peiraeus 1 with Glaucon the son 
of Ariston, that I might offer up my prayers to the goddess; 2 and 
also because I wanted to see in what manner they would cele- 
brate the festival, which was a new thing. I was delighted with the 
procession of the inhabitants; but that of the Thracians was equally, 
if not more, beautiful. When we had finished our prayers and viewed 
)he spectacle, we turned in the direction of the city; and at that in- 
stant Polemarchus the son of Cephalus chanced to catch sight of us 
from a distance as we were starting on our way home, and told his 
servant to run and bid us wait for him. The servant took hold of me 
by the cloak behind, and said: "Polemarchus desires you to wait." 

1 The distance from Athens to the harbor of Peiraeus is about five miles. 

2 Bendis, the Thracian moon-goddess. 


222 PLATO 

I turned round, and asked him where his master was. 

"There he is," said the youth, "coming after you, if you will only 

''Certainly we will," said Glaucon; and in a few minutes Pole- 
marchus appeared, and with him Adeimantus, Glaucon's brother, 
Niceratus the son of Nicias, and several others who had been at the 

Polemarchus said to me: "I perceive, Socrates, that you and your 
companion are already on your way to the city." 

"You are not far wrong," I said. 

"But do you see," he rejoined, "how many we are?" 

"Of course." 

"And are you stronger than all these"? for if not, you will have to 
remain where you are." 

"May there not be the alternative," I said, "that we may persuade 
you to let us go?" 

"But can you persuade us, if we refuse to listen to you?" he said. 

"Certainly not," replied Glaucon. 

"Then we are not going to listen; of that you may be assured." 

Adeimantus added: "Has no one told you of the torch-race on 
horseback in honor of the goddess which will take place in the eve- 

"With horses!" I replied. "That is a novelty. Will horsemen carry 
torches and pass them one to another during the race?" 

"Yes," said Polemarchus, "and not only so, but a festival will be 
celebrated at night, which you certainly ought to see. Let us rise 
soon after supper and see this festival; there will be a gathering of 
young men, and we will have a good talk. Stay then, and do not 
be perverse." 

Glaucon said : "1 suppose, since you insist, that we must." 

"Very good," I replied. 

Accordingly we went with Polemarchus to his house; and there 
we found his brothers Lysias and Euthyclemus, and with them 
Thrasymachus the Chalcedonian, Charmantides the Paeanian, and 
Cleitor>hon the son of Aristonymus. There too was Cephalus the 


father of Polemarchus, whom I had not seen for a long time, and I 
thought him very much aged. Fie was seated on a cushioned chair, 
and had a garland on his head, for he had been sacrificing in the 
court; and there were some other chairs in the room arranged in a 
semicircle, upon which we sat down by him. He saluted me eagerly, 
and then he said: 

"You don't come to see me, Socrates, as often as you ought. If I 
were still able to go and see you I would not ask you to come to me. 
But at my age I can hardly get to the city, and therefore you should 
come oftener to the Peiraeus. For let me tell you, that the more the 
pleasures of the body fade away, the greater to me is the pleasure and 
charm of conversation. Do not then deny my request, but make our 
house your resort and keep company with these young men; we 
are old friends, and you will be quite at home with us." 

I replied: "There is nothing which for my part I like better, 
Cephalus, than conversing with aged men; for I regard them as 
travelers who have gone a journey which I too may have to go, and 
of whom I ought to inquire, whether the way is smooth and easy, or 
rugged and difficult. And this is a question which I should like to ask 
of you who have arrived at that time which the poets call the 
'threshold of old age' : Is life harder towards the end, or what report 
do you give of if/' 

"I will tell you, Socrates," he said, "what my own feeling is. Men 
of my age flock together; we are birds of a feather, as the old proverb 
says; and at our meetings the tale of my acquaintance commonly is: 
I cannot eat, I cannot drink; the pleasures of youth and love are fled 
away; there was a good time once, but now that is gone, and life is no 
longer life. Some complain of the slights which are put upon them by 
relations, and they will tell you sadly of how many evils their old 
age is the cause. But to me, Socrates, these complainers seem to 
blame that which is not really in fault. For if old age were the cause, 
I too being old, and every other old man, would have felt as they 
do. But this is not my own experience, nor that of others whom I have 
known. How well I remember the aged poet Sophocles, when in 

224 PLATO 

you still the man you wereX 'Peace/ lie replied; 'most gladly have I 
escaped the thing of which you speak; I feel as if I had escaped from 
a mad and furious master/ I lis words have often occurred to my 
mind since, and they seem as good to me now as at the time when he 
uttered them. For certainly old age has a great sense of calm and 
freedom; when the passions relax their hold, then, as Sophocles says, 
we are freed from the grasp not of one mad master only, but of many. 
The truth is, Socrates, that these regrets, and also the complaints 
about relations, are to be attributed to the same cause, which is not 
old age, but men's characters and tempers; for he who is of a calm and 
happy nature will hardly feel the pressure of age, but to him who is 
of an opposite disposition youth and age are equally a burden." 

I listened in admiration, and wanting to draw him out, that he 
might go on, "Yes, Cephalus," I said; "but I rather suspect that 
people in general are not convinced by you when you speak thus; 
they think that old age sits lightly upon you, not because of your 
happy disposition, but because you are rich, and wealth is well known 
to be a great comforter." 

"You are right/' he replied; "they are not convinced: and there is 
something in what they say; not, however, so much as they imagine. 
I might answer them as Themistocles 3 answered the Scriphian who 
was abusing him and saving that he was famous not for his own 

o / o 

merits but because he was an Athenian : If you had been a native of 
my country or I of yours, neither of us would have been famous/ And 
to those who are not rich and are impatient of old age, the same reply 
may be made; for to the good poor man old age cannot be a light 
burden, nor can a bad rich man ever have peace with himself." 

"May I ask, Cephalus, whether your fortune was for the most 
part inherited or acquired by you?" 

"Acquired! Socrates, do you want to know how much I acquired? 
In the art of making money I have been midway between my father 
and grandfather: for my grandfather, whose name I bear, doubled 
and trebled the value of his patrimony, that which he inherited being 

3 Plato gets this anecdote from the historian Herodotus (c. 450 B.C.), VIII, 135. 


much what I possess now; but my father Lysanias reduced the prop 
erty below what it is at present: and I shall be satisfied if I leave to 
these my sons not less but a little more than I received." 

"That was why I asked you the question," I replied, "because 1 
see that you are indifferent about money, which is a characteristic 
rather of those who have inherited their fortunes than of those who 
have acquired them; the makers of fortunes have a second love of 
money as a creation of their own, resembling the affection of authors 
for their own poems, or of parents for their children, besides that 
natural love of it for the sake of use and profit which is common to 
them and all men. And hence they are very bad company, for they 
can talk about nothing but the praises-of wealth." 

"That is true," he said. 

"Yes, that is very true, but may I ask another question? What do 
you consider to be the greatest blessing which you have reaped from 
your wealth?" 

"One," he said, "of which I coi'ld not expect easily to convince 
others. For let me tell you, Socrates, that when a man thinks himself 
to be near death, fears and cares enter into his mind which he never 
had before; the talcs of a world below and the punishment which is 
exacted there of deeds done here were once a laughing matter to him, 
but now he is tormented with the thought that they may be true: 
either from the weakness of age, or because lie is now drawing nearer 
to that other place, he has a clearer view of these things; suspicions 
and alarms crowd thickly upon him, and he begins to reflect and 
consider what wrongs he has done to others. And when he finds that 
the sum of his transgressions is great he will many a time like a child 
start up in his sleep for fear, and he is filled with dark forebodings. 
But to him who is conscious of no sin, sweet hope, as Pindar charm- 
ingly says, is the kind nurse of his age: Hope (he says), cherishes the 
soul of him who lives in justice and holiness, and is the nurse of his 
age and the companion of his journey; hope which is mightiest to 
sway the restless soul of man. 4 How admirable are his words! And 

4 These lines are a fragment of a lost poem of the great singer of odes, Pindar (c. 
480 B.C.). Fragment 214, Loeb edition. 

226 PLATO 

the great blessing of riches, I do not say to every man, hut to a good 
man, is, that he has had no occasion to deceive or to defraud others, 
either intentionally or unintentionally; and when he departs to the 
world helow he is not in any apprehension about offerings due to the 1 
gods or debts which he owes to men. Now to this peace of mind the 
possession of wealth greatly contributes; and therefore I say, that, set- 
ting one thing against another, of the many advantages which wealth 
has to give, to a man of sense this is in my opinion the greatest." 

'Well said, Cephalus," I replied; "but as concerning justice, 
what is it? To speak the truth and to pay your debts no more than 
this? And even to this are there not exceptions'? Suppose that a friend 
when in his right mind has deposited arms with me and he asks for 
them when he is not in his right mind, ought I to give them back to 
him? No one would say that I ought or that I should be right in doing 
so, any more than they would say that I ought always to speak the 
truth to one who is in his condition." 

"You are quite right," he replied. 

"But then," I said, "speaking the truth and paying your debts is 
not a correct definition of justice." 

"Quite correct, Socrates, if Simonides is to be believed," said 
Polemarchus, interposing. 

"I fear," said Cephalus, "that I must go now, for I have to look 
after the sacrifices, and I hand over the argument to Polemarchus 
and the company." 

"Is not Polemarchus your heir?" I said. 

"To be sure," he answered, and went away laughing to the sacri- 

"Tell me then, O thou heir of the argument, what did Simonides 
say, and according to you truly say, about justice?" 

"He said that the repayment of a debt is just, 5 and in saying so he 
appears to me to be right." 

"I should be sorry to doubt the word of such a wise and inspired 

5 This definition is not in any of the surviving fragments of the caustic poet 
Simonides (c. 500 B.C.). It represents evidently an average business man's idea of 
decency: one should keep one's word and pay one's debts. 


man, but his meaning, though probably clear to you, is the reverse 
of clear to me. For he certainly does not mean, as we were just now 
saying, that I ought to return a deposit of arms or of anything else 
to one who asks for it when he is not in his right senses; and yet a 
deposit cannot be denied to be a debt." 


"Then when the person who asks me is not in his right mind I am 
by no means to make,, the return?" 

"Certainly not." 

"When Simonides said that the repayment of a debt was justice, 
he did not mean to include that case?" 

"Certainly not; for he thinks that a friend ought always to do good 
to a friend and never evil." 

"You mean that the return of a deposit of gold which is to the 
injury of the receiver, if the two parties arc friends, is not the repay- 
ment of a debt that is what you would imagine him to say?" 


"And are enemies also to receive what we owe to them?" 

"To be sure," he said, "they arc to receive what we owe them, and 
an enemy, as I take it, owes to an enemy that which is due or proper 
to him that is to say, evil." 

"Simonides, then, after the manner of poets, would seem to have 
spoken darkly of the nature of justice; for he really meant to say that 
justice is the giving to each man what is proper to him, and this he 
termed a debt." 

"That must have been his meaning," he said. 

"By heaven!" I replied; "and if we asked him what due or proper 
thing is given by medicine, and to whom, what answer do you think 
that he would make to us?" 

"He would surely reply that medicine gives drugs and meat and 
drink to human bodies." 

"And what due or proper thing is given by cookery, and to what?" 

"Seasoning to food." 

"And what is that which justice gives, and to whom?" 


"If, Socrates, we are to be guided at all by the analogy of the p 
ceding instances, then justice is the art which gives good to friei 
and evil to enemies/' 6 

"That is his meaning then?" 

"I think so/' 

"And who is best able to do good to his friends and evil to 
enemies in time of sickness?" 

"The physician." 

"Or when they are on a voyage, amid the perils of the sea?" 

"The pilot." 

"And in what sort of actions or with a view to what result is 1 
just man most able to do harm to his enemy and good to his friendi 

"In going to war against the one and in making alliances with 1 

"But when a man is well, my dear Polemarchus, there is 
need of a physician?" 


"And he who is not on a voyage has no need of a pilot?" 


"Then in time of peace justice will be of no use?" 

"I am very far from thinking so." 

"You think that justice may be of use in peace as well as in wa 


"Like husbandry for the acquisition of corn?" 


"Or like shoemaking for the acquisition of shoes that is what ) 


"And what similar use or power of acquisition has justice in ti 
of peace?" 

"In contracts, Socrates, justice is of use." 

"And by contracts you mean partnerships?" 


6 The definition is now extended and clarified until it seems to meet all 
of popular morality. Even so Socrales is not satisfied with it. 


"But is the just man or the skillful player a more useful and better 
partner at a game of draughts?" 

'The skillful player." 

"And in the laying of bricks and stones is the just man a more use- 
ful or better partner than the builder?" 

"Quite the reverse." 

"Then in what sort of partnership is the just man a better partner 
than the harp-player, as in playing the harp the harp-player is cer- 
tainly a better partner than the just man?" 

"In a money partnership." 

"Yes, Polemarchus, but surely not in the use of money; for you 
do not want a just man to be your counselor in the purchase or sale of 
a horse; a man who is knowing about horses would be better for that, 
would he not?" 


"And when you want to buy a ship, the shipwright or the pilot 
would be better?" 


"Then what is that joint use of silver or gold in which the just 
man is to be preferred?" 

"When you want a deposit to be kept safely." 

"You mean when money is not wanted, but allowed to lie?" 


"That is to say, justice is useful when money is useless?" 

"That is the inference." 

"And when you want to keep a pruning-hook safe, then justice is 
useful to the individual and to the state; but when you want to use 
it, then the art of the vine-dresser?" 


"And when you want to keep a shield or a lyre, and not to use 
them, you would say that justice is useful; but when you want to 
use them, then the art of the soldier or of the musician?" 


"And so of all other things; justice is useful when they are useless, 
and useless when they are useful?" 

230 PLATO 

"That is the inference *' 

'Then justice is not good for much. But let us consider this further 
point: Is not he who can best strike a blow in a boxing match or in 
any kind of fighting best able to ward off a blow?" 


"And he who is most skillful in preventing or escaping from a dis- 
ease is best able to create one?" 


"And he is the best guard of a camp who is best able to steal a 
march upon the enemy?" 


"Then he who is a good keeper of anything is also a good thief?" 

"That, I suppose, is to be inferred." 

"Then if the just man is good at keeping money, he is good at 
stealing it." 

"That is implied in the argument." 

"Then, after all, the just man has turned out to be a thief. And 
this is a lesson which I suspect you must have learnt out of Homer; 
for he, speaking of Autolycus, the maternal grandfather of Odysseus, 
who is a favorite of his, affirms that 

He was excellent above all men in theft and perjury. 7 

And so, you and Homer and Simonides are agreed that justice is an 
art of theft; to be practiced however 'for the good of friends and for 
the harm of enemies/ that was what you were saying?" 

"No, certainly not that, though I do not now know what I did say; 
but I still stand by the latter words." 

"Well, there is another question: By friends and enemies do we 
mean those who are so really, or only in seeming?" 

"Surely," he said, "a man may be expected to love those whom he 
thinks good, and to hate those whom he trunks evil." 

"Yes, but do not persons often err about good and evil: many who 
are not good seem to be so, and conversely?" 

7 Odyssey, XIX, 395-396. 


"That is true." 

"Then to them the good will be enemies and the evil will be their 


"And in that case they will be right in doing good to the evil and 
evil to the good?" 


"But the good are just and would not do an injustice?" 


"Then according to your argument it is just to injure those who 
do no wrong?" 

"Nay> Socrates; the doctrine is immoral." 

"Then I suppose that we ought to do good to the just and harm to 
the unjust?" 

"I like that better." 

"But see the consequence: Many a man who is ignorant of human 
nature has friends who are bad friends, and in that case he ought to 
do harm to them; and he has good enemies whom he ought to benefit; 
but, if so, we shall be saying the very opposite of that which we af- 
firmed to be the meaning of Simonides." 

"Very true," he said; "and I think that we had better correct an 
error into which we seem to have fallen in the use of the words 
'friend' and 'enemy/ " 

"What was the error, Polemarchus?" I asked. 

"We assumed that he is a friend who seems to be or who is thought 

"And how is the error to be corrected?" 

"We should rather say that he is a friend who is, as well as seems, 
good; and that he who seems only, and is not good, only seems to be 
and is not a friend; and of an enemy the same may be said." 

"You would argue that the good are our friends and the bad our 


"And instead of saying simply as we did at first, that it is just to do 
good to our friends and harm to our enemies, we should further say: 

232 PLATO 

It is just to do good to our friends when they are good ana narm to our 
enemies when they are evil?" 

"Yes, that appears to me to be the truth." 

"But ought the just to injure anyone at all?" 

"Undoubtedly he ought to injure those who are both wicked and 
his enemies/' 

"When horses are injured, are they improved or deteriorated?" 

"The latter." 

"Deteriorated, that is to say, in the good qualities of horses, not of 

"Yes, of horses." 

"And dogs are deteriorated in the good qualities of dogs, and not 
of horses?" 

"Of course." 

"And will not men who are injured be deteriorated in that which 
is the proper virtue of man?" 


"And that human virtue is justice?" 

"To be sure." 

"Then men who are injured are of necessity made unjust?" 

"That is the result." 

"But can the musician by his art make men unmusical?" 

"Certainly not." 

"Or the horseman by his art make them bad horsemen?" 


"And can the just by justice make men unjust, or, speaking geiv 
erally, can the good by virtue make them bad?" 

"Assuredly not." 

"Any more than heat can produce cold?" 

"It cannot." 

"Or drought moisture?" 

"Clearly not." 

"Nor can the good harm anyone?" 


"And the just is the good?" 



"Then to injure a friend or anyone else is not the act of a just man, 
but of the opposite, who is the unjust"?" 8 

"I think that what you say is quite true, Socrates." 

"Then if a man says that justice consists in the repayment of debts, 
and that good is the debt which a just man owes to his friends, and 
evil the debt which he owes to his enemies to say this is not wise; 
for it is not true, if, as has been clearly shown, the injuring of anothei 
can be in no case just." 

"I agree with you," said Polemarchus. 

"Then you and I are prepared to take up arms against anyone who 
attributes such a saying to Simonidcs or Bias or Pittacus, 9 or any 
other wise man or seer?" 

"I am quite ready to do battle at your side/' he said. 

"Shall I tell you whose I believe the saying to be?" 


"I believe that Periander 10 or Perdiccas or Xerxes or Ismenias thft 
Theban, or some other rich and mighty man, who had a great opinion 
of his own power, was the first to say that justice is 'doing good to 
your friends and harm to your enemies/ " 

"Most true," he said. 

"Yes," I said; "but if this definition of justice also breaks down, 
what other can be offered?" 

Several times in the course of the discussion Thrasymachus n had 
made an attempt to get the argument into his own hands, and had 
been put down by the rest of the company, who wanted to hear the 
end. But when Polemarchus and I had done speaking and there was 
a pause, he could no longer hold his peace; and, gathering himself 

8 Plato was, as far as we know, the first European to declare that a good man 
would not return evil for evil nor do injury even to his enemies. 

9 Bias and Pittacus were two of the Seven Wise Men of ancient Greece. 

10 Periander (c. 600 B.C.) was also one of the Seven Men as well as a firm 
and able ruler of Corinth. 

11 The cocksure Sophist now gives bluntly the cynical answer to Socrates' question. 
There is no such thing as absolute right or wrong. In any state the governing pam 
makes the moral code and they are out to get what they can for themselves. So rijtht 
is whatever suits the strong. 

234 PLATO 

up, he came at us like a wild beast, seeking to devour us. We were 
quite panic-stricken at the sight of him. 

He roared out to the whole company: "What folly, Socrates, has 
taken possession of you all? And why, sillybillies, do you knock 
under to one another? I say that if you want really to know what 
justice is, you should not only ask but answer, and you should not 
seek honor to yourself from the refutation of an opponent, but have 
your own answer; for there is many a one who can ask and cannot 
answer. And now I will not have you say that justice is duty or ad- 
vantage or profit or gain or interest, for this sort of nonsense will not 
do for me; I must have clearness and accuracy." 

I was panic-stricken at his words, and could not look at him with- 
out trembling. Indeed I believe that if I had not fixed my eye upon 
him, I should have been struck dumb: but when I saw his fury rising, 
I looked at him first, and was therefore able to reply to him. 

"Thrasyrnachus," I said, with a quiver, "don't be hard upon us. 
Polemarchus and I may have been guilty of a little mistake in the 
argument, but I can assure you that the error was not intentional. If 
we were seeking for a piece of gold, you would not imagine that we 
were 'knocking under to one another/ and so losing our chance of 
finding it. And why, when we are seeking for justice, a thing more 
precious than many pieces of gold, do you say that we are weakly 
yielding to one another and not doing our utmost to get at the truth? 
Nay, my good friend, we are most willing and anxious to do so, but 
the fact is that we cannot. And if so, you people who know all things 
should pity us and not be angry with us/* 

"How characteristic of Socrates!" he replied, with a bitter laugh; 
"that's your ironical style! Did I not foresee have I not already told 
you, that whatever he was asked he would refuse to answer, and 
try irony or any other shuffle, in order that he might avoid answer- 

"You are a philosopher, Thrasymachus," I replied, "and well 
know that if you ask a person what numbers make up twelve, taking 
care to prohibit him whom you ask from answering twice six, or three 


times four, or six times two, or four times three, Tor this sort of 
nonsense will not do for me/ then obviously, if that is your way of 
putting the question, no one can answer you. But suppose that he 
were to retort, Thrasymachus, what do you mean? If one of these 
numbers which you interdict 12 be the true answer to the question, 
am I falsely to say some other number which is not the right one? 
Is that your meaning?' How would you answer him?" 

"Just as if the two cases were at all alike!" he said. 

"Why should they not be?" I replied; "and even if they are not : 
but only appear to be so to the person who is asked, ought he not to 
say what he thinks, whether you and I forbid him or not?" 

"I presume then that you are going to make one of the interdicted 

"I dare say that I may, notwithstanding the danger, if upon reflec- 
tion I approve of any of them." 

"But what if I give you an answer about justice other and better/' 
he said, "than any of these? What do you deserve to have done to 

"Done to me! As becomes the ignorant, I must learn from the wise 
that is what I deserve to have done to me." 

"What, and no payment! A pleasant notion!" 

"I will pay when I have the money," I replied. 

"But you have, Socrates," said Glaucon; "and you, Thrasymachus, 
need be under no anxiety about money, for we will all make a con- 
tribution for Socrates/' 

"Yes," he replied, "and then Socrates will do as he always does- 
refuse to answer himself, but take and pull to pieces the answer of 
someone else." 

"Why, my good friend," I said, "how can anyone answer who 
knows, and says that he knows, just nothing; and who, even if he 
has some faint notions of his own, is told by a man of authority not 
to utter them? The natural thing is, that the speaker should be some- 
one like yourself who professes to know and can tell what he knows. 

12 Forbid. 

236 PLATO 

Will you then kindly answer, for the edification of the company and 
of myself?" 

Glaucon and the rest of the company joined in my request, and 
Thrasymachus, as anyone might see, was in reality eager to speak; 
for he thought that he had an excellent answer, and would dis- 
tinguish himself. But at first he affected to insist on my answering; at 
length he consented to begin. "Behold," he said, "the wisdom of 
Socrates; he refuses to teach himself, and goes about learning of 
others, to whom he never even says Thank you/' 

"That I learn of others," I replied, "is quite true; but that I am un- 
grateful I wholly deny. Money I have none, and therefore I pay in 
praise, which is all I have; and how ready I am to praise anyone who 
appears to me to speak well you will very soon find out when you 
answer; for I expect that you will answer well." 

"Listen, then/' he said. "I proclaim that justice is nothing else 
than the interest of the stronger. And now why do you not praise me? 
But of course you won't." 

"Let me first understand you," I replied. "Justice, as you say, is the 
\nterest of the stronger. What, Thrasymachus, is the meaning of this? 
You cannot mean to say that because Polydamas, the pancratiast, 13 is 
stronger than we are, and finds the eating of beef conducive to his 
bodily strength, that to eat beef is therefore equally for our good who 
are weaker than he is, and right and just for us?" 

"That's abominable of you, Socrates; you take the words in the 
sense which is most damaging to the argument." 

"Not at all, my good sir," I said; "I am trying to understand them; 
and I wish that you would be a little clearer." 

"Well," he said, "have you never heard that forms of government 
differ; there are tyrannies, and there are democracies, and there are 
aristocracies?" 14 

13 The winner in a "pancratium" or all-out trial of strength in a wrestling or 
boxing match. The ordinary Athenian ate little meat. 

14 The three forms of government, autocracy or monarchy, democracy, and aris- 
tocracy, had been listed about a century earlier by the poet Pindar: "Where the 
tyrant's court or where the boisterous mob or where the wise have charge of the 
city." Pythian Ode, II, 86-88. 


"Yes, I know." 

"And the government is the ruling power in each state?" 


"And the different forms of government make laws democratical, 
aristocratical, tyrannical, with a view to their several interests; and 
these laws, which are made by them for their own interests, are the 
justice which they deliver to their subjects, and him who trans- 
gresses them they punish as a breaker of the law, and unjust. And 
that is what I mean when I say that in all states there is the same 
principle of justice, which is the interest of the government; and as 
the government must be supposed to have power, the only reasonable 
conclusion is that everywhere there is one principle of justice, which 
is the interest of the stronger." 

"Now I understand you," I said; "and whether you are right or 
not I will try to discover. But let me remark, that in defining justice 
you have yourself used the word 'interest' which you forbade me to 
use. It is true, however, that in your definition the words 'of the 
stronger' are added." 

"A small addition, you must allow," he said. 

"Great or small, never mind about that: we must first inquire 
whether what you are saying is the truth. Now we are both agreed 
that justice is interest of some sort, but you go on to say 'of the 
stronger'; about this addition I am not so sure, and must therefore 
consider further." 


"I will; and first tell me, do you admit that it is just for subjects to 
obey their rulers?" 

"I do." 

"But are the rulers of states absolutely infallible, or are they some- 
times liable to err?" 

"To be sure," he replied, "they are liable to err." 

"Then in making their laws they may sometimes make them 
rightly, and sometimes not?" 


"When they make them rightly, they make them agreeably to 

238 PLATO 

their interest; when they are mistaken, contrary to their interest; you 
admit that?" 


"And the laws which they make must be obeyed by their subjects 
and that is what you call justice?" 


"Then justice, according to your argument, is not only obedience 
to the interest of the stronger but the reverse?" 

"What is that you are saying?" he asked. 

"I am only repeating what you are saying, I believe. But let us 
consider: Have we not admitted that the rulers may be mistaken 
about their own interest in what they command, and also that to 
obey them is justice? Has not that been admitted?" 


"Then you must also have acknowledged justice not to be for the 
interest of the stronger, when the rulers unintentionally command 
things to be done which are to their own injury. For if, as you say, 
justice is the obedience which the subject renders to their commands, 
in that case, O wisest of men, is there any escape from the conclusion 
that the weaker are commanded to do, not what is for the interest, but 
what is for the injury of the stronger?" 

"Nothing can be clearer, Socrates," said Polemarchus. 

"Yes," said Cleitophon, interposing, "if you are allowed to be his 

"But there is no need of any witness," said Polemarchus, "for 
Thrasymachus himself acknowledges that rulers may sometimes 
command what is not for their own interest, and that for subjects to 
obey them is justice." 

"Yes, Polemarchus, Thrasymachus said that for subjects to do 
what was commanded by their rulers is just." 

"Yes, Cleitophon, but he also said that justice is the interest of the 
stronger, and, while admitting both these propositions, he further 
acknowledged that the stronger may command the weaker who are 
his subjects to do what is not for his own interest; whence follows 
that justice is the injury quite as much as the interest of the stronger." 


"But," said Cleitophon, "he meant by the interest of the stronger 
what the stronger thought to be his interest this was what the 
weaker had to do; and this was affirmed by him to be justice." 

"Those were not his words/' rejoined Polemarchus. 

"Never mind/' I replied, "if he now says that they are, let us ac- 
cept his statement. Tell me, Thrasymachus," I said, "did you mean 
by justice what the stronger thought to be his interest, whether 
really so or not?" 

"Certainly not," he said. "Do you suppose that I call him who is 
mistaken the stronger at the time when he is mistaken?" 

"Yes," I said, "my impression was that you did so, when you ad- 
mitted that the ruler was not infallible but might be sometimes mis- 

"You argue like an informer, Socrates. Do you mean, for example, 
that he who is mistaken about the sick is a physician in that he is 
mistaken? or that he who errs in arithmetic or grammar is an arith- 
metician or grammarian at the time when he is making the mistake, 
in respect of the mistake? True, we say that the physician or arith- 
metician or grammarian has made a mistake, but this is only a way of 
speaking; for the fact is that neither the grammarian nor any other 
person of skill ever makes a mistake in so far as he is what his name 
implies; they none of them err unless their skill fails them, and then 
they cease to be skilled artists. No artist or sage or ruler errs at the 
time when he is what his name implies; though he is commonly said 
to err, and I adopted the common mode of speaking. But to be per- 
fectly accurate, since you are such a lover of accuracy, we should 
say that the ruler, in so far as he is a ruler, is unerring, and, being 
unerring, always commands that which is for his own interest; and 
the subject is required to execute his commands; and therefore, as I 
said at first and now repeat, justice is the interest of the stronger." 

"Indeed, Thrasymachus, and do I really appear to you to argue 
like an informer?" 

"Certainly," he replied. 

"And do you suppose that I ask these questions with any design 
of injuring you in the argument?" 

240 PLATO 

"Nay," he replied, " 'suppose' is not the word I know it; but you 
will be found out, and by sheer force of argument you will never 

"I shall not make the attempt, my dear man; but to avoid any mis- 
understanding occurring between us in future, let me ask, in what 
sense do you speak of a ruler or stronger whose interest, as you were 
saying, he being the superior, it is just that the inferior should exe- 
cute is he a ruler in the popular or in the strict sense of the term/' 

"In the strictest of all senses," he said. "And now cheat and play 
the informer if you can; I ask no quarter at your hands. But you 
tiever will be able, never." 

"And do you imagine," I said, "that I am such a madman as to try 
and cheat Thrasymachus? I might as well shave a lion." 

"Why," he said, "you made the attempt a minute ago, and you 

"Enough," I said, "of these civilities. It will be better that I should 
ask you a question: Is the physician, taken in that strict sense of 
which you are speaking, a healer of the sick or a maker of money? 
And remember that I am now speaking of the true physician." 

"A healer of the sick," he replied. 

"And the pilot that is to say, the true pilot is he a captain of 
sailors or a mere sailor?" 

"A captain of sailors." 

"The circumstance that he sails in the ship is not to be taken into 
account; neither is he to be called a sailor; the name pilot by which 
he is distinguished has nothing to do with sailing, but is significant 
of his skill and of his authority over the sailors." 

"Very true," he said. 

"Now," I said, "every art has an interest?" 


"For which the art has to consider and provide?" 

"Yes, that is the aim of art." 

"And the interest of any art is the perfection of it this and noth- 
ing else?" 

"What do you mean?*' 


"I mean what I may illustrate negatively by the example of th~ 
body. Suppose you were to ask me whether the body is self-sufficing 
or has wants, I should reply: Certainly the body has wants; for the 
body may be ill and require to be cured, and has therefore interests 
to which the art of medicine ministers; and this is the origin and 
intention of medicine, as you will acknowledge. Am I not right?" 

"Quite right," he replied. 

"But is the art of medicine or any other art faulty or deficient in 
any quality in the same way that the eye may be deficient in sight or 
the ear fail of hearing, and therefore requires another art to provide 
for the interests of seeing and hearing has art in itself, I say, any 
similar liability to fault or defect, and does every art require another 
supplementary art to provide for its interests, and that another and 
another without end? Or have the arts to look only after their own 
interests? Or have they no need either of themselves or of another? 
having no faults or defects, they have no need to correct them, 
either by the exercise of their own art or of any other; they have only 
to consider the interest of their subject-matter. For every art remains 
pure and faultless while remaining true that is to say, while perfect 
and unimpaired. Take the words in your precise sense, and tell me 
whether I am not right." 

"Yes, clearly." 

"Then medicine does not consider the interest of medicine, but 
the interest of the body?" 

"True," he said. 

"Nor does the art of horsemanship consider the interests of the art 
of horsemanship, but the interests of the horse; neither do any other 
arts care for themselves, for they have no needs; they care only for 
that which is the subject of their art?" 

"True," he said. 

"But surely, Thrasymachus, the arts are the superiors and rulers 
of their own subjects?" 

To this he assented with a good deal of reluctance. 

"Then," I said, "no science or art considers or enjoins the interest 


of the stronger or superior, but only the interest of the subject and 

He made an attempt to contest this proposition also, but finally 

"Then," I continued, "no physician, in so far as he is a physician, 
considers his own good in what he prescribes, but the good of his 
patient; for the true physician is also a ruler having the human body 
as a subject, and is not a mere money-maker; that has been ad- 


"And the pilot likewise, in the strict sense of the term, is a ruler of 
rjailors and not a mere sailor?" 

"That has been admitted." 

"And such a pilot and ruler will provide and prescribe for the in- 
terest of the sailor who is under him, and not for his own or the ruler's 

He gave a reluctant "Yes." 

"Then," I said, "Thrasymachus, there is no one in any rule who, 
in so far as he is a ruler, considers or enjoins what is for his own in- 
terest, but always what is for the interest of his subject or suitable to 
his art; to that he looks, and that alone he considers in everything 
which he says and does." 

When we had got to this point in the argument, and everyone 
saw that the definition 15 of justice had been completely upset, 
Thrasymachus, instead of replying to me, said: "Tell me, Socrates, 
have you got a nurse?" 

"Why do you ask such a question," I said, "when you ought rathei 
to be answering?" 

"Because she leaves you to snivel, and never wipes your nose: 
she has not even taught you to know the shepherd from the sheep/* 

"What makes you say that?" I replied. 

"Because you fancy that the shepherd or neatherd fattens or tends 
the sheep or oxen with a view to their own good and not to the good 

15 Thrasymachus' definition. 


of himself or his master; and you further imagine that the rulers of 
states, if they are true rulers, never think of their subjects as sheep, 
and that they are not studying their own advantage day and night. 
Oh, no; and so entirely astray are you in your ideas about the just and 
unjust as not even to know that justice and the just are in reality 
another's good; that is to say, the interest of the ruler and stronger, 
and the loss of the subject and servant; and injustice the opposite; 
for the unjust is lord over the truly simple and just: he is the stronger, 
and his subjects do what is for his interest, and minister to his hap- 
piness, which is very far from being their own. Consider further, most 
foolish Socrates, that the just is always a loser in comparison with 
the unjust. 16 First of all, in private contracts: wherever the unjust is 
the partner of the just you will find that, when the partnership is 
dissolved, the unjust man has always more and the just less. Sec- 
ondly, in their dealings with the State : when there is an income-tax, 
the just man will pay more and the unjust less on the same amount 
of income; and when there is anything to be received the one gains 
nothing and the other much. Observe also what happens when they 
take an office; there is the just man neglecting his affairs and perhaps 
suffering other losses, and getting nothing out of the public, because 
he is just; moreover he is hated by his friends and acquaintance for 
refusing to serve them in unlawful ways. But all this is reversed in 
the case of the unjust man. I am speaking, as before, of injustice on a 
large scale in which the advantage of the unjust is most apparent; 
and my meaning will be most clearly seen if we turn to that highest 
form of injustice in which the criminal is the happiest of men, and 
the sufferers or those who refuse to do injustice are the most miserable 
that is to say tyranny, which by fraud and force takes away the 
property of others, not little by little but wholesale; comprehending 
in one, things sacred as well as profane, private and public; for which 
acts of wrong, if he were detected perpetrating any one of them 
singly, he would be punished and incur great disgrace they who do 

16 Thrasymachus now broadens out his position by adding the assertion that the 
good man, in contrast to the bad, is always the loser in everything that makes life 

244 PLATO 

such wrong in particular cases are called robbers of temples, and 
man-stealers and burglars and swindlers and thieves. But when a 
man besides taking away the money of the citizens has made slaves 
of them, then, instead of these names of reproach, he is termed happy 
and blessed, not only by the citizens but by all who hear of his hav- 
ing achieved the consummation of injustice. For mankind censure 
injustice, fearing that they may be the victims of it and not because 
they shrink from committing it. And thus, as I have shown, Soc- 
rates, injustice, when on a sufficient scale, has more strength and 
freedom and mastery than justice; and, as I said at first, justice is the 
interest of the stronger, whereas injustice is a man's own profit and 

Thrasymachus, when he had thus spoken, having, like a bath- 
man, deluged our ears with his words, had a mind to go away. But 
the company would not let him; they insisted that he should remain 
and defend his position; and I myself added my own humble request 
that he would not leave us. 

"Thrasymachus," I said to him, "excellent man, how suggestive 
are your remarks! And are you going to run away before you have 
fairly taught or learned whether they are true or not? Is the attempt 
to determine the way of man's life so small a matter in your eyes to 
determine how life may be passed by each one of us to the greatest 

"And do I differ from you," he said, "as to the importance of the 

"You appear rather," I replied, "to have no care or thought about 
us, Thrasymachus whether we live better or worse from not know- 
ing what you say you know is to you a matter of indifference. 17 
Prithee, friend, do not keep your knowledge to yourself; we are a 
large party; and any benefit which you confer upon us will be amply 
rewarded. For my own part I openly declare that I am not convinced, 
and that I do not believe injustice to be more gainful than justice, 

17 Better translated: "You seem to," I replied, "or else to care nothing for us and 
be quite indifferent whether we live better or worse from not knowing what you 
lay you know." 


even if uncontrolled and allowed to have free play. For, granting 
that there may be an unjust man who is able to commit injustice 
either by fraud or force, still this does not convince me of the superior 
advantage of injustice, and there may be others who are in the same 
predicament with myself. Perhaps we may be wrong; if so, you in 
your wisdom should convince us that we are mistaken in preferring 
justice to injustice." 

"And how am I to convince you," he said, "if you are not already 
convinced by what I have just said; what more can I do for you? 
Would you have me put the proof bodily into your souls?" 18 

"Heaven forbid!" I said; "I would only ask you to be consistent; 
or, if you change, change openly and let there be no deception. For 
I must remark, Thrasymachus, if you will recall what was previously 
said, that although you began by defining the true physician in an 
exact sense, you did not observe a like exactness when speaking of the 
shepherd; you thought that the shepherd as a shepherd tends the 
sheep not with a view to their own good, but like a mere diner or 
banqueter with a view to the pleasures of the table; or, again, as a 
trader for sale in the market, and not as a shepherd. Yet surely the art 
of the shepherd is concerned only with the good of his subjects; he 
has only to provide the best for them, since the perfection of the art 
is already insured whenever all the requirements of it are satisfied. 
And that was what I was saying just now about the ruler. I con- 
ceived that the art of the ruler, considered as ruler, whether in a state 
or in private life, could only regard the good of his flock or subjects; 
whereas you seem to think that the rulers in states, that is to say, the 
true rulers, like being in authority." 

"Think! Nay, I am sure of it." 

"Then why in the case of lesser offices do men never take them 
willingly without payment, unless under the idea that they govern 
for the advantage not of themselves but of others? 

Government, which means the reformation of evils in society, 
is a hard task. Officials have either to he paid for their labors in 

18 Or "Shall I take the proof and ram it i* to your head?" 

246 PLATO 

money and honor or else he induced to serve loy the fear that 
otherwise they will he ruled hy men worse than themselves. 

There is reason to think that if a city were composed entirely of good 
men, then to avoid office would be as much an object, of contention as 
to obtain office is at present; then we should have plain proof that 
the true ruler is not meant by nature to regard his own interest, but 
that of his subjects; and everyone who knew this would choose rather 
to receive a benefit from another than to have the trouble of confer- 
ring one. So far am I from agreeing with Thrasymachus that justice 
is the interest of the stronger. This latter question need not be further 
discussed at present; but when Thrasymachus says that the life of 
the unjust is more advantageous than that of the just, his new state- 
ment appears to me to be of a far more serious character. 19 Which of 
us has spoken truly? And which sort of life, Glaucon, do you pre- 

"I for my part deem the life of the just to be the more advan- 
tageous," he answered. 

"Did you hear all the advantages of the unjust which Thrasy- 
machus was rehearsing?" 

"Yes, I heard him," he replied, "but he has not convinced me." 

"Then shall we try to find some way of convincing him, if we can, 
that he is saying what is not true?" 

"Most certainly," he replied. 

"If," I said, "he makes a set speech and we make another recount- 
ing all the advantages of being just, and he answers and we rejoin, 
there must be a numbering and measuring of the goods which are 
claimed on either side, and in the end we shall want judges to 
decide; but if we proceed in our inquiry as we lately did, by making 
admissions to one another, we shall unite the offices of judge and 
advocate in our own persons." 

"Very good," he said. 

"And which method do I understand you to prefer?" I said. 

19 Socrates arrives now at the main question of the Republic. Is the unjust life 
really happier and more profitable than the just? 


"That which you propose." 

"Well, then, Thrasymachus," I said, "suppose you hegin at the 
beginning and answer me. You say that perfect injustice is more 
gainful than perfect justice?" 

"Yes, that is what I say, and I have given you my reasons." 

"And what is your view about them? Would you call one of them 
virtue and the other vice?" 


"I suppose that you would call justice virtue and injustice vice? ' 

"What a charming notion! So likely too, seeing that I affirm injus- 
tice to be profitable and justice not." 

"What else then would you say?" 

"The opposite," he replied. 

"And would you call justice vice?" 

"No, I would rather say sublime simplicity.*' 

"Then would you call injustice malignity?" 

"No; I would rather say discretion." 

"And do the unjust appear to you to be wise and good?" 

"Yes," he said; "at any rate those of them who are able to be per- 
fectly unjust, and who have the power of subduing states and na- 
tions; but perhaps you imagine me to be talking of cutpurses. Even 
this profession if undetected has advantages, though they are not to 
be compared with those of which I was just now speaking." 

"I do not think that I misapprehend your meaning, Thrasy- 
machus," I replied; "but still I cannot hear without amazement that 
you class injustice with wisdom and virtue, and justice with the 

"Certainly, I do so class them." 

"Now," I said, "you are on more substantial and almost unanswer- 
able ground; for if the injustice which you were maintaining to be 
profitable had been admitted by you as by others to be vice and de- 
formity, an answer might have been given to you on received prin- 
ciples; but now I perceive that you will call injustice honorable and 
strong, and to the unjust you will attribute all the qualities which 

248 PLATO 

were attributed by us before to the just, seeing that you do not hesi- 
tate to rank injustice with wisdom and virtue." 

"You have guessed most infallibly/' he replied. 

"Then I certainly ought not to shrink from going through with 
the argument so long as I have reason to think that you, Thrasy- 
machus, are speaking your real mind; for I do believe that you are 
now in earnest and are not amusing yourself at our expense." 

"I may be in earnest or not, but what is that to you? to refute the 
argument is your business/* 

"Very true," I said; "that is what I have to do. 

Socrates argues that a wise and good craftsman does not try to 
over-reach or get the better of his fellow craftsmen but that the 
unjust man tries to get the better of everybody, even his unjust 
comrades. Hence he is neither wise nor good. 

You would not deny that a state may be unjust and may be unjustly 
attempting to enslave other states, or may have already enslaved 
them, and may be holding many of them in subje lion?" 

"True/' he replied; "and I will add that the best and most perfectly 
unjust state will be most likely to do so." 

"I know/' I said, "that such was your position; but what I would 
further consider is, whether this power which is possessed by the 
superior state can exist or be exercised without justice or only with 

"If you are right in your view, and justice is wisdom, then only 
with justice; but if I am right, then without justice." 

"I am delighted, Thrasymachus, to see you not only nodding as- 
sent and dissent, but making answers which are quite excellent." 

"That is out of civility to you," he replied. 

"You are very kind," I said; "and would you have the goodness 
also to inform me, whether you think that a state, or an army, or a 
band of robbers and thieves, or any other gang of evil-doers could 
act at all if they injured one another?" 

"No indeed," he said, "they could not." 


"But if they abstained from injuring one another, then they might 
act together better?" 


"And this is because injustice creates divisions and hatreds and 
fighting, and justice imparts harmony and friendship; is not that true, 

"I agree," he said, "because I do not wish to quarrel with you." 

"How good of you," I said; "but I should like to know also whether 
injustice, having this tendency to arouse hatred, wherever existing, 
among slaves or among freemen, will not make them hate one an- 
other and set them at variance and render them incapable of com- 
mon action?" 


"And even if injustice be found in two only, will they not quarrel 
and fight, and become enemies to one another and to the just?" 

"They will." 

"And suppose injustice abiding in a single person, would your 
wisdom say that she loses or that she retains her natural power?" 

"Let us assume that she retains her power." 

"Yet is not the power which injustice exercises of such a nature 
that wherever she takes up her abode, whether in a city, in an army, 
in a family, or in any other body, that body is, to begin with, ren- 
dered incapable of united action by reason of sedition and distrac- 
tion; and does it not become its own enemy and at variance with all 
that opposes it, and with the just? Is not this the case?" 

"Yes, certainly." 

"And is not injustice equally fatal when existing in a single per- 
son; in the first place rendering him incapable of action because he 
is not at unity with himself, and in the second place making him 
an enemy to himself and the just? Is not that true, Thrasymachus?" 


"And O my friend," I said, "surely the gods are just?" 

"Granted that they are." 

"But if so, the unjust will be the enemy of the gods, and the just 
will be their friend?" 

250 PLATO 

"Feast away in triumph, and take your fill of the argument; I will 
not oppose you, lest I should displease the company." 

"Well then, proceed with your answers, and let me have the re- 
mainder of my repast. For we have already shown that the just are 
clearly wiser and better and abler than the unjust, and that the un- 
just are incapable of common action; nay more, that to speak as we 
did of men who are evil acting at any time vigorously together is not 
strictly true, for if they had been perfectly evil, they would have laid 
hands upon one another; but it is evident that there must have been 
some remnant of justice in them, which enabled them to combine; if 
there had not been they would have injured one another as well as 
their victims; they were but half-villains in their enterprises; for had 
they been whole villains, and utterly unjust, they would have been 
utterly incapable of action. That, as I believe, is the truth of the mat- 
ter, and not what you said at first. But whether the just have a better 
and happier life than the unjust is a further question which we also 
proposed to consider. 20 I think that they have, and for the reasons 
which I have given; but still I should like to examine further, for no 
light matter is at stake, nothing less than the rule of human life." 


"I will proceed by asking a question: Would you not say that a 
horse has some end?" 

"I should." 

"And the end or use of a horse or of anything would be that which 
could not be accomplished, or not so well accomplished, by any other 

"I do not understand," he said. 

"Let me explain. Can you see, except with the eye?" 

"Certainly not." 

"Or hear, except with the ear?" 


"These then may be truly said to be the ends of these organs?" 

20 Having shown that even the fiercest and most unjust men are compelled to 
practice some justice among themselves in order to survive, Socrates returns to the 
central question of the dialogue- 


"They may/' 

"But you can cut off a vine-branch with a dagger or with a chisel, 
and in many other ways?" 

"Of course." 

"And yet not so well as with a pruning-hook made for the pur- 


"May we not say that this is the end of a pruning-hook?" 

"We may." 

"Then now I think you will have no difficulty in understanding 
my meaning when I asked the question whether the end of anything 
would be that which could not be accomplished, or not so well ac- 
complished, by any other thing?" 

"I understand your meaning," he said, "and assent." 

"And that to which an end is appointed has also an excellence? 
Need I ask again whether the eye has an end?" 

"It has." 

"And has not the eye an excellence?" 


"And the ear has an end and an excellence also?" 


"And the same is true of all other things; they have each of them 
an end and a special excellence?" 

"That is so." 

"Well, and can the eyes fulfill their end if they are wanting in 
their own proper excellence and have a defect instead?" 

"How can they," he said, "if they are blind and cannot see?" 

"You mean to say, if they have lost their proper excellence, which 
is sight; but I have not arrived at that point yet. I would rather ask 
the question more generally, and only inquire whether the things 
which fulfill their ends fulfill them by their own proper excellence, 
and fail of fulfilling them by their own defect?" 

"Certainly," he replied. 

"I *night say the same of the ears; when deprived of their own 
proper excellence they cannot fulfill their end?" 

252 PLATO 


"And the same observation will apply to all other things?" 

"I agree." 

"Well; and has not the soul an end which nothing else can ful- 
fill? For example, to superintend and command and deliberate and 
the like. Are not these functions proper to the soul, and can they 
rightly be assigned to any other?" 

"To no other." 

"And is not life to be reckoned among the ends of the soul?" 

"Assuredly," he said. 

"And has not the soul an excellence also?" 


"And can she or can she not fulfill her own ends when deprived 
of that excellence?" 

"She cannot." 

"Then an evil soul 21 must necessarily be an evil ruler and super- 
intendent, and the good soul a good ruler?" 

"Yes, necessarily." 

"And we have admitted that justice is the excellence of the soul, 
and injustice the defect of the soul?" 

"That has been admitted." 

"Then the just soul and the just man will live well, and the unjust 
man will live ill?" 

"That is what your argument proves." 

"And he who lives well is blessed and happy, and he who lives ill 
the reverse of happy?" 


"Then the just is happy, and the unjust miserable?" 

"So be it." 

"But happiness and not misery is profitable." 

"Of course." 

21 Socrates here passes too hastily from the physical to the moral sphere. He 
assumes without proof that evil in the soul is like a physical defect in the body, 
which deprives it of the ability to function normally and intelligently. Hence his 
promptly expressed dissatisfaction with his own argumexxt at this point. He deals 
with the subject more adequately later. 


"Then, my blessed Thrasymachus, injustice can never be more 
profitable than justice/' 

"Let this, Socrates/' he said, "be your entertainment at the Ben- 
didea." 22 

"For which I am indebted to you," I said, "now that you have 
grown gentle towards me and have left off scolding. Nevertheless, I 
have not been well entertained; but that was my own fault and not 
yours. As an epicure snatches a taste of every dish which is sue- 
cessively brought to table, he not having allowed himself time to 
enjoy the one before, so have I gone from one subject to another 
without having discovered what I sought at first, the nature of jus- 
tice. I left that inquiry and turned away to consider whether justice 
is virtue and wisdom or evil and folly; and when there arose a further 
question about the comparative advantages of justice and injustice, 
I could not refrain from passing on to that. And the result of the 
whole discussion has been that I know nothing at all. For I know not 
what justice is, and therefore I am not likely to know whether it is or 
is not a virtue, nor can I say whether the just man is happy or un- 


The life of a well-ordered state and education of Us soldier 
citizens in music and gymnastics, and in right 
ideas of God. 

WITH these words I was thinking that I had made an end of the dis- 
cussion; but the end, in truth, proved to be only a beginning. For 
Glaucon, who is always the most pugnacious of men, was dissatisfied 
at Thrasymachus' retirement; he wanted to have the battle out. So 
he said to me: "Socrates, do you wish really to persuade us, or only 

22 Festival of the goddess Bendis. 

254 PLATO 

to seem to have persuaded us, that to be just is always better than to 
be unjust?" 

"I should wish really to persuade you," I replied, "if I could." 

"Then you certainly have not succeeded. Let me ask you now: 
How would you arrange l goods are there not some which we wel- 
come for their own sakes, and independently of their consequences, 
as, for example, harmless pleasures and enjoyments, which delight 
us at the time, although nothing follows from them?" 

"I agree in thinking that there is such a class/' I replied. 

"Is there not also a second class of goods, such as knowledge, sight, 
health, which are desirable not only in themselves, but also for their 

"Certainly," I said. 

"And would you not recognize a third class, such as gymnastic, 
and the care of the sick, and the physician's art; also the various ways 
of money-making these do us good but we regard them as disagree- 
able; and no one would choose them for their own sakcs, but only 
for the sake of some reward or result which flows from them?" 

"There is," I said, "this third class also. But why do you ask?" 

"Because I want to know in which of the three classes you would 
place justice?" 

"In the highest class," I replied, "among those goods which he 
who would be happy desires both for their own sake and for the sake 
of their results." 

"Then the many are of another mind; they think that justice is to 
be reckoned in the troublesome class, among goods which are to be 
pursued for the sake of rewards and of reputation, but in themselves 
are disagreeable and rather to be avoided." 

"I know," I said, "that this is their manner of thinking, and that 
this was the thesis which Thrasymachus was maintaining just now, 
when he censured justice and praised injustice. But I am too stupid 
to be convinced by him." 

"I wish," he said, "that you would hear me as well as him, and 

1 Or classify. 


then I shall see whether you and I agree. For Thrasymachus seems 
to me, like a snake, to have been charmed by your voice sooner than 
he ought to have been; but to my mind the nature of justice and injus- 
tice have not yet been made clear. 2 Setting aside their rewards and 
results, I want to know what they are in themselves, and how they 
inwardly work in the soul. If you please, then, I will revive the argu- 
ment of Thrasymachus. And first I will speak of the nature and 
origin of justice according to the common view of them. Secondly, I 
will show that all men who practice justice do so against their will, of 
necessity, but not as a good. And thirdly, I will argue that there is 
reason in this view, for the life of the unjust is after all better far than 
the life of the just if what they say is true, Socrates, since I myself 
am not of their opinion. But still I acknowledge that I am perplexed 
when I hear the voices of Thrasymachus and myriads of others din- 
ning in my ears; and, on the other hand, I have never yet heard the 
superiority of justice to injustice maintained by anyone in a satisfac- 
tory way. I want to hear justice praised in respect of itself; then I 
shall be satisfied, and you are the person from whom I think that I 
am most likely to hear this; and therefore I will praise the unjust life 
to the utmost of my power, and my manner of speaking will indicate 
the manner in which I desire to hear you too praising justice and 
censuring injustice. Will you say whether you approve of my 

"Indeed I do; nor can I imagine any theme about which a man of 
sense would oftener wish to converse." 

"I am delighted," he replied, "to hear you say so, and shall begin 
by speaking, as I proposed, of the nature and origin of justice. 

"They say that to do injustice is, by nature, good; to suffer injus- 
tice, evil; but that the evil is greater than the good. And so when men 
have both done and suffered injustice and have had experience of 
both, not being able to avoid the one and obtain the other, they think 

2 The theory of Thrasymachus is now to be restated by Plato's brothers far 
more powerfully than that blustering Sophist was able to do it. They demand a 
thoroughgoing refutation of the cynic's idea that the good man's life is an abnormal 
life, that naturally every man is out for himself, to get whatever he can without 
being found out. 

256 PLATO 

that they had better agree among themselves to have neither; 3 hence 
there arise laws and mutual covenants; and that which is ordained by 
law is termed by them lawful and just. This they affirm to be the 
origin and nature of justice; it is a mean or compromise, between the 
best of all, which is to do injustice and not be punished, and the worst 
of all, which is to suffer injustice without the power of retaliation; 
and justice, being at a middle point between the two, is tolerated not 
as a good, but as the lesser evil, and honored by reason of the inability 
of men to do injustice. For no man who is worthy to be called a man 
would ever submit to such an agreement if he were able to resist; he 
would be mad if he did. Such is the received account, Socrates, of 
the nature and origin of justice. 

"Now that those who practice justice do so involuntarily and be- 
cause they have not the power to be unjust will best appear if we 
imagine something of this kind: having given both to the just and 
the unjust power to do what they will, let us watch and see whither 
desire will lead them; then we shall discover in the very act the just 
and unjust man to be proceeding along the same road, following their 
interest, which all natures deem to be their good, and are only di- 
verted into the path of justice by the force of law. The liberty which 
we are supposing may be most completely given to them in the form 
of such a power as is said to have been possessed by Gyges, 4 the an- 
cestor of Croesus the Lydian. According to the tradition, Gyges was 
a shepherd in the service of the king of Lydia; there was a great storm, 
and an earthquake made an opening in the earth at the place where 
he was feeding his flock. Amazed at the sight, he descended into the 
opening, where, among other marvels, he beheld a hollow brazen 
horse, having doors, at which he stooping and looking in saw a dead 

3 A better translation is: "Those who have not enough power to avoid the one 
and enjoy the other conclude they would better make a compact between themselves 
that they will neither commit nor suffer injustice." Plato is here the originator of 
the theory that governments began first with social contracts by which bands of men 
pledged themselves to refrain from harming one another in order to make possible 
an advantageous life together. 

4 A different story of Gyges and how he won the queen and the kingdom of Lydia, 
with no word of a magic ring, had been told by the historian Herodotus (c. 450 
B.C.), I, 8-13. 


body of stature, as appeared to him, more than human, and having 
nothing on but a gold ring; this he took from the finger of the dead 
and reascended. Now the shepherds met together, according to cus- 
tom, that they might send their monthly report about the flocks to 
the king; into their assembly he came having the ring on his finger, 
and as he was sitting among them he chanced to turn the collet 5 of 
the ring inside his hand, when instantly he became invisible to the 
rest of the company and they began to speak of him as if he were no 
longer present. He was astonished at this, and again touching the 
ring he turned the collet outwards and reappeared; he made several 
trials of the ring, and always with the same result when he turned 
the collet inwards he became invisible, when outwards he reap- 
peared. Whereupon he contrived to be chosen one of the messengers 
who were sent to the court; where as soon as he arrived he seduced 
the queen, and with her help conspired against the king and slew 
him, and took the kingdom. Suppose now that there were two such 
magic rings, and the just put on one of them and the unjust the 
other; no man can be imagined to be of such an iron nature that he 
would stand fast in justice. No man would keep his hands off what 
was not his own when he could safely take what he liked out of the 
market, or go into houses and lie with anyone at his pleasure, or kill 
or release from prison whom he would, and in all respects be like a 
god among men. Then the actions of the just would be as the actions 
of the unjust; they would both come at last to the same point. And 
this we may truly affirm to be a great proof that a man is just, not 
willingly or because he thinks that justice is any good to him in- 
dividually, but of necessity, for wherever anyone thinks that he can 
safely be unjust, there he is unjust. For all men believe in their hearts 
that injustice is far more profitable to the individual than justice, and 
he who argues as I have been supposing, will say that they are right. 
If you could imagine anyone obtaining this power of becoming in- 
visible, and never doing any wrong or touching what was another's, 
he would be thought by the lookers-on to be a most wretched idiot,, 

5 Or setting 

258 PLATO 

although they would praise him to one another's faces, and keep up 
appearances with one another from a fear that they too might suffer 
injustice. Enough of this. 

''Now, if we are to form a real judgment of the life of the just and 
unjust, we must isolate them; there is no other way; and how is the 
isolation to be effected? I answer: Let the unjust man be entirely un- 
just, and the just man entirely just; 6 nothing is to be taken away from 
either of them, and both are to be perfectly furnished for the work of 
their respective lives. First, let the unjust be like other distinguished 
masters of craft; like the skillful pilot or physician, who knows in- 
tuitively his own powers and keeps within their limits, and who, if 
he fails at any point, is able to recover himself. So let the unjust make 
his unjust attempts in the right way, and lie hidden if he means to be 
great in his injustice (he who is found out is nobody); for the highest 
reach of injustice is to be deemed just when you are not. Therefore I 
say that in the perfectly unjust man we must assume the most perfect 
injustice; there is to be no deduction, but we must allow him, while 
doing the most unjust acts, to have acquired the greatest reputation 
for justice. If he have taken a false step he must be able to recover 
himself; he must be one who can speak with effect, if any of his 
deeds come to light, and who can force his way where force is re- 
quired by his courage and strength, and command of money and 
friends. And at his side let us place the just man in his nobleness 
and simplicity, wishing, as Aeschylus says, to be and not to seem 
good. There must be no seeming, fpr if he seem to be just he will be 
honored and rewarded, and then we shall not know whether he is 
just for the sake of justice or for the sake of honors and rewards; 
therefore, let him be clothed in justice only, and have no other cover- 
ing; and he must be imagined in a state of life the opposite of the 
former. Let him be the best of men, and let him be thought the 
worst; then he will have been put to the proof; and we shall see 

6 The question is now to be put in its most extreme form. Let the unjust man 
have it all his own way, be never found out, and get everything he wants. Let the 
just man make a failure of living, be poor and utterly despised by everyone. Which 
of them will be the happier? 


whether he will be affected by the fear of infamy and its conse- 
quences. And let him continue thus to the hour of death; being just 
and seeming to be unjust. When both have reached the uttermost 
extreme, the one of justice and the other of injustice, let judgment be 
given which of them is the happier of the two." 

"Heavens! my dear Glaucon," I said, "how energetically you polish 
them up for the decision, first one and then the other, as if they were 
two statues." 

"I do my best/' he said. "And now that we know what they are 
like there is no difficulty in tracing out the sort of life which awaits 
either of them. This I will proceed to describe; but as you may think 
the description a little too coarse, I ask you to suppose, Socrates, that 
the words which follow are not mine. Let me put them into the 
mouths of the eulogists of injustice. They will tell you that the just 
man who is thought unjust will be scourged/ racked, bound will 
have his eyes burnt out; and, at last, after suffering every kind of evil, 
he will be impaled. 7 Then he will understand that he ought to seem 
only, and not to be, just; the words of Aeschylus may be more truly 
spoken of the unjust than of the just. For the unjust is pursuing a 
reality; he does not live with a view to appearances he wants to be 
really unjust and not to seem only: 

His mind lias a soil deep and fertile, 

Out of which spring his prudent counsels. 8 

In the first place, he is thought just, and therefore bears rule in the 
city; he can marry whom he will, and give in marriage to whom he 
will; also he can trade and deal where he likes, and always to his own 
advantage, because he has no misgivings about injustice; and at 
every contest, whether in public or private, he gets the better of his 
antagonists, and gains at their expense, and is rich, and out of his 
gains he can benefit his friends, and harm his enemies; moreover, he 
can offer sacrifices, and dedicate gifts to the gods abundantly and 

7 Or crucified. The fate of Plato's just man was often in later centuries compared 

with that of Christ. 

8 Aeschylus, Seven Against Thebes, 580, 581. 

260 PLATO 

magnificently, and can honor the gods or any man whom he wants 
to honor in a far better style than the just, and therefore he is likely 
to be dearer than they are to the gods. And thus, Socrates, gods and 
men are said to unite in making the life of the unjust better than the 
life of the just." 

I was going to say something in answer to Glaucon, when Adei- 
mantus, his brother, interposed: "Socrates," he said, "you do not 
suppose that there is nothing more to be urgedX' 

"Why, what else is there?" I answered. 

"The strongest point of all has not been even mentioned," he re- 

"Well, then, according to the proverb, 'Let brother help brother/ 
if he fails in any part do you assist him; although I must confess that 
Glaucon has already said quite enough to lay me in the dust, and 
take from me the power of helping justice." 

"Nonsense," he replied. "But let me add something more: There 
is another side to Glaucon's argument about the praise and censure 
of justice and injustice, which is equally required in order to bring 
out what I believe to be his meaning. Parents and tutors are always 
telling their sons and their wards that they are to be just; but why? 
not for the sake of justice, but for the sake of character and reputa- 
tion; in the hope of obtaining for him who is reputed just some of 
those offices, marriages, and the like which Glaucon has enumerated 
among the advantages accruing to the unjust from the reputation of 
justice. More, however, is made of appearances by this class of per- 
sons than by the others; for they throw in the good opinion of the 
gods, and will tell you of a shower of benefits which the heavens, as 
they say, rain upon the pious; and this accords with the testimony of 
the noble Hesiod and Homer, the first of whom says, that the gods 
make the oaks of the just 

To bear acorns at their summit, and bees in the middle; 
And the sheep are bowed down with the weight of their fleeces, 9 

9 Hesiod, Works and Days, 232-4. 


and many other blessings of a like kind are provided for them. And 
Homer has a very similar strain; for he speaks of one whose fame is 

As the fame of some blameless king who, like a god, 
Maintains justice; to whom the black earth brings forth 
Wheat and barley, 'whose trees are bowed, with fruit, 
And his sheep never fail to bear, and the sea gives him fish. 10 

Still grander are the gifts of heaven which Musaeus n and his son 
vouchsafe to the just; they take them down into the world below, 
where they have the saints lying on couches at a feast, everlastingly 
drunk, crowned with garlands; their idea seems to be that an im- 
mortality of drunkenness is the highest meed of virtue. Some extend 
their rewards yet further; the posterity, as they say, of the faithful and 
just shall survive to the third and fourth generation. This is the style 
in which they praise justice. But about the wicked there is another 
strain; they bury them in a slough in Hades, and make them carry 
water in a sieve; also while they are yet living they bring them to in- 
famy, and inflict upon them the punishments which Glaucon de- 
scribed as the portion of the just who are reputed to be unjust; noth- 
ing else does their invention supply. Such is their manner of praising 
the one and censuring the other. 

"Once more, Socrates, I will ask you to consider another way of 
speaking about justice and injustice, which is not confined to the 
poets, but is found in prose writers. The universal voice of mankind 
is always declaring that justice and virtue arc honorable, but grievous 
and toilsome; and that the pleasures of vice and injustice are easy of 
attainment, and are only censured by law and opinion. They say 
also that honesty is for the most part less profitable than dishonesty; 
and they are quite ready to call wicked men happy, and to honor 
them both in public and private when they are rich or in any other 
way influential, while they despise and overlook those who may be 
weak and poor, even though acknowledging them to be better than 

10 Odyssey, XIX, 109-113. 

11 A mythical poet and seer, son of the divinely gifted Orpheus. He was said to 
have been the first composer of priestly poetry and hymns of solemn purification. 


the others. But most extraordinary of all is their mode of speaking 
about virtue and the gods: they say that the gods apportion calamity 
and misery to many good men, and good and happiness to the wicked. 
And mendicant prophets go to rich men's doors and persuade them 
that they have a power committed to them by the gods of making an 
atonement for a man's own or his ancestor's sins by sacrifices or 
charms, with rejoicings and feasts; and they promise to harm an 
enemy, whether just or unjust, at a small cost; with magic arts and 
incantations binding heaven, as they say, to execute their will. And 
the poets are the authorities to whom they appeal, now smoothing the 
path of vice with the words of Hesiod: Vice may be had in abundance 
without trouble; the way is smooth and her dwelling-place is near. 
But before virtue the gods have set toil, 1 ' 2 and a tedious and uphill 
road: then citing Homer as a witness that the gods may be influenced 
by men; for he also says: The gods, too, may be turned from their 
'purpose; and men pray to them and avert their wrath by sacrifices and 
soothing entreaties, and by libations and the odor of fat, when they 
have sinned and transgressed. 1 ^ And they produce a host of books 
written by Musaeus and Orpheus, who were children of the Moon 
and the Muses that is what they say according to which they per- 
form their ritual, and persuade not only individuals, but whole cities, 
that expiations and atonements for sin may be made by sacrifices and 
amusements which fill a vacant hour, and are equally at the service 
of the living and the dead; the latter sort they call mysteries, and 
they redeem us from the pains of hell, but if we neglect them no one 
knows what awaits us." 

He proceeded: "And now when the young hear all this said about 
virtue and vice, and the way in which gods and men regard them, 
how are their minds likely to be affected, my dear Socrates those of 
them, I mean, who are quickwitted, and, like bees on the wing, light 
on every flower, and from all that they hear are prone to draw con- 
clusions as to what manner of persons they should be and in what 
way they should walk if they would make the best of life? Probably 

12 Hesiod, Works and Days, sSy-sSg. 

13 Iliad, IX, 497-501. 


the youth will say to himself in the words of Pindar: Can 1 by justice 
or by crooked ways of deceit ascend a loftier tower which may be a 
fortress to me all my days? 14 For what men say is that, if I am really 
just and am not also thought just, profit there is none, but the 
pain and loss on the other hand are unmistakable. But if, though 
unjust, I acquire the reputation of justice, a heavenly life is prom- 
ised to me. Since then, as philosophers prove, appearance tyran- 
nizes over truth and is lord of happiness, to appearance I must 
devote myself. I will describe around me a picture and shadow 
of virtue to be the vestibule and exterior of my house; behind I 
will trail the subtle and crafty fox, as Archilochus, 15 greatest of 
sages, recommends. But I hear someone exclaiming that the conceal- 
ment of wickedness is often difficult; to which I answer, Nothing 
great is easy. Nevertheless, the argument indicates this, if we would 
be happy, to be the path along which we should proceed. With a 
view to concealment we will establish secret brotherhoods and polit- 
ical clubs. And there are professors of rhetoric who teach the art of 
persuading courts and assemblies; and so, partly by persuasion and 
partly by force, I shall make unlawful gains and not be punished. 
Still I hear a voice saying that the gods cannot be deceived, neither 
can they be compelled. But what if there are no gods? or, suppose 
them to have no care of human things why in either case should we 
mind about concealment? And even if there are gods, and they do 
care about us, yet we know of them only from tradition and the 
genealogies of the poets; and these are the very persons who say that 
they may be influenced and turned by 'sacrifices and soothing en- 
treaties and by offerings.' Let us be consistent then, and believe both 
or neither. If the poets speak truly, why then we had better be unjust, 
and offer of the fruits of injustice; for if we are just, although we may 
escape the vengeance of heaven, we shall lose the gains of injustice; 
but, if we are unjust, we shall keep the gains, and by our sinning and 

14 Pindar, Fragment 213, Loeb edition. 

15 An early Greek poet (650 B.C.) and inventor of new meters, author of both 
grave and sharply satiric verse which was much admired by his contemporaries. His 
statue was sometimes set up beside Homer's. 

264 PLATO 

praying, and praying and sinning, the gods will be propitiated, and 
we shall not be punished. But there is a world below in which either 
we or our posterity will suffer for our unjust deeds. Yes, my friend, 
will be the reflection, but there are mysteries and atoning deities, and 
these have great power, That is what mighty cities declare; and the 
children of the gods, who were their poets and prophets, bear a like 

"On what principle, then, shall we any longer choose justice 
rather than the worst injustice/ 3 when, if we only unite the latter with 
a deceitful regard to appearances, we shall fare to our mind both with 
gods and men, in life and after death, as the most numerous and the 
highest authorities tell us. Knowing all this, Socrates, how can a man 
who has any superiority of mind or person or rank or wealth, be 
willing to honor justice; or indeed to refrain from laughing when he 
hears justice praised? And even if there should be someone who is 
able to disprove the truth of my words, and who is satisfied that jus- 
tice is best, still he is not angry with the unjust, but is very ready to 
forgive them, because he also knows that men are not just of their 
own free will; unless, peradventure, there be someone whom the 
divinity within him may have inspired with a hatred of injustice, or 
who has attained knowledge of the truth but no other man. He only 
blames injustice who, owing to cowardice or age or some weakness, 
has not the power of being unjust. And this is proved by the fact that 
when he obtains the power, he immediately becomes unjust as far as 
he can be. 

"The cause of all this, Socrates, was indicated by us at the begin- 
ning of the argument, when my brother and I told you how aston- 
ished we were to find that of all the professing panegyrists of justice 
beginning with the ancient heroes of whom any memorial has been 
preserved to us, and ending with the men of our own time no one 
has ever blamed injustice or praised justice except with a view to the 
glories, honors, and benefits which flow from them. No one has ever 
adequately described either in verse or prose the true essential nature 
of either of them abiding in the soul, and invisible to any human or 
divine eye; or shown that of all the things of a man's soul which he 


has within him, justice is the greatest good, and injustice the greatest 
evil. Had this been the universal strain, had you sought to persuade 
us of this from our youth upwards, we should not have been on the 
watch to keep one another from doing wrong, but everyone would 
have been his own watchman, because afraid, if he did wrong, of 
harboring in himself the greatest of evils. I dare say that Thrasy- 
machus and others would seriously hold the language which I have 
been merely repeating, and words even stronger than these about 
justice and injustice, grossly, as I conceive, perverting their true 
nature. But I speak in this vehement manner, as I must frankly con- 
fess to you, because I want to hear from you the opposite side; and I 
would ask you to show not only the superiority which justice has 
over injustice, but what effect they have on the possessor of them 
which makes the one to be a good and the other an evil to him. And 
please, as Glaucon requested of you, to exclude reputations; for un- 
less you take away from each of them his true reputation and add on 
the false, we shall say that you do not praise justice, but the appear- 
ance of it; we shall think that you are only exhorting us to keep 
injustice dark, and that you really agree with Thrasymachus in 
thinking that justice is another's good and the interest of the 
stronger, and that injustice is a man's own profit and interest, though 
injurious to the weaker. Now as you have admitted that justice is one 
of that highest class of goods which are desired indeed for their re- 
sults, but in a far greater degree for their own sakes like sight or 
hearing or knowledge or health, or any other real and natural and 
not merely conventional good I would ask you in your praise of 
justice to regard one point only: I mean the essential good and evil 
which justice and injustice work in the possessors of them. Let others 
praise justice and censure injustice, magnifying the rewards and 
honors of the one and abusing the other; that is a manner of arguing 
which, coming from them, I am ready to tolerate, but from you who 
have spent your whole life in the consideration of this question, un- 
less I hear the contrary from your own lips, I expect something better. 
And therefore, I say, not only prove to us that justice is better than 
injustice, but show what they either of them do to the possessor of 

266 PLATO 

them, which makes the one to be a good and the other an evil, 
whether seen or unseen by gods and men." 

I had always admired the genius of Glaucon and Adeimantus, but 
on hearing these words I was quite delighted, and said: "Sons of an 
illustrious father, that was not a bad beginning of the Elegiac verses 
which the admirer 16 of Glaucon made in honor of you after you 
had distinguished yourselves at the battle of Megara: 

Sows of Ariston, (he sang,) divine offspring of an illustrious 

The epithet is very appropriate, for there is something truly divine in 
being able to argue as you have done for the superiority of injustice, 
and remaining unconvinced by your own arguments. And I do be- 
lieve that you are not convinced this I infer from your general 
character, for had I judged only from your speeches I should have 
mistrusted you. But now, the greater my confidence in you, the 
greater is my difficulty in knowing what to say. For I am in a strait 
between two; on the one hand I feel that I am unequal to the task; 
and my inability is brought home to me by the fact that you were not 
satisfied with the answer which I made to Thrasymachus, proving, as 
I thought, the superiority which justice has over injustice. And yet I 
cannot refuse to help, while breath and speech remain to me; I am 
afraid that there would be an impiety in being present when justice 
is evil spoken of and not lifting up a hand in her defense. And there- 
fore I had best give such help as I can." 

Glaucon and the rest entreated me by all means not to let the ques- 
tion drop, but to proceed in the investigation. They wanted to arrive 
at the truth, first, about the nature of justice and injustice, and sec- 
ondly, about their relative advantages. I told them, what I really 
thought, that the inquiry would be of a serious nature, and would re- 
quire very good eyes. "Seeing then," I said, "that we are no great wits, 
I think that we had better adopt a method which I may illustrate thus; 
suppose that a short-sighted person had been asked by someone to 

16 Who this "admirer" was we do not know. 


read small letters from a distance; and it occurred to someone else that 
they might be found in another place which was larger and in which 
the letters were larger if they were the same and he could read the 
larger letters first, and then proceed to the lesser this would have 
been thought a rare piece of good fortune/' 

"Very true," said Adeimantus; "but how does the illustration apply 
to our inquiry?" 

"I will tell you," I replied; "justice, which is the subject of our 
inquiry, is, as you know, sometimes spoken of as the virtue of an 
individual, and sometimes as the virtue of a State." 17 

"True," he replied. 

"And is not a State larger than an individual?" 

"It is." 

"Then in the larger the quantity of justice is likely to be larger and 
more easily discernible. I propose therefore that we inquire into the 
nature of justice and injustice, first as they appear in the State, anc] 
secondly in the individual, proceeding from the greater to the lesser 
and comparing them." 

"That," he said, "is an excellent proposal." 

"And if we imagine the State in process of creation, we shall see 
the justice and injustice of the State in process of creation also." 

"I dare say." 

"When the State is completed there may be a hope that the object 
of our search will be more easily discovered." 

"Yes, far more easily," 

"But ought we to attempt to construct one?" I said; "for to do so, as 
I am inclined to think, will be a very serious task. Reflect therefore." 

"I have reflected," said Adeimantus, "and am anxious that you 
should proceed." 

"A State," I said, "arises, as I conceive, out of the needs of man- 
kind; no one is self-sufficing, but all of us have many wants. Can 
any other origin of a State be imagined?" 

17 With this Socrates launches on the serious argument of the dialogue, showing 
first what ideal justice would be, if realized in the outward life of the community, 
and then how the same principles would work in the inner life of an individual. 

268 PLATO 

"There can be no other/' 

"Then, as we have many wants, and many persons are needed tc 
supply them, one takes a helper for one purpose and another for an- 
other; and when these partners and helpers are gathered together in 
one habitation the body of inhabitants is termed a State." 

"True," he said. 

"And they exchange with one another, and one gives, and another 
receives, under the idea that the exchange will be for their good." 

"Very true." 

"Then," I said, 'let us begin and create in idea a State; and yet 
the true creator is necessity, who is the mother of our invention." 

"Of course," he replied. 

"Now the first and greatest of necessities is food, which is the con- 
dition of life and existence." 


"The second is a dwelling, and the third clothing and the like." 


"And now let us see how our city will be able to supply this great 
demand: We may suppose that one man is a husbandman, another 
a builder, someone else a weaver shall we add to them a shoemaker, 
or perhaps some other purveyor to our bodily wants?" 

"Quite right." 

"The barest notion of a State must include four or five men/' 


"And how will they proceed? Will each bring the result of his 
labors into a common stock? the individual husbandman, for ex- 
ample, producing for four, and laboring four times as long and as 
much as he need in the provision of food with which he supplies 
others as well as himself; or will he have nothing to do with others 
and not be at the trouble of producing for them, but provide for him- 
self alone a fourth of the food in a fourth of the time, and in the re- 
maining three fourths of his time be employed in making a house 
or a coat or a pair of shoes, having no partnership with others, but 
supplying himself all his own wants?" 


Adeimantus thought that he should aim at producing food only 
and not at producing everything. 

"Probably," I replied, "that would be the better way; and when I 
hear you say this, I am myself reminded that we are not all alike; 
there are diversities of natures among us which are adapted to dif- 
ferent occupations.'* 

"Very true." 

"And will you have a work better done when the workman has 
many occupations, or when he has only one?" 

"When he has only one." 

"Further, there can be no doubt that a work is spoilt when not 
done at the right time?" 

"No doubt." 

"For business is not disposed to wait until the doer of the business 
is at leisure; but the doer must follow up what he is doing, and make 
the business his first object." 

"He must." 

"And if so, we must infer that all things are produced more plenti- 
fully and easily and of a better quality when one man does one thing 
which is natural to him and does it at the right time, and leaves other 


"Then more than four citizens will be required; for the husband- 
man will not make his own plow or mattock, or other implements 
of agriculture, if they are to be good for anything. Neither will the 
builder make his tools and he too needs many; and in like manner 
the weaver and shoemaker." 


"Then carpenters, and smiths, and many other artisans, will be 
sharers in our little State, which is already beginning to grow?" 


"Yet even if we add neatherds, shepherds, and other herdsmen, in 
order that our husbandmen may have oxen to plow with, and build- 
ers as well as husbandmen may have draught cattle, and curriers and 
weavers fleeces and hidesstill our State will not be very large." 


"That is true; yet neither will it be a very small State which con- 
tains all these." 

"Then, again, there is the situation of the city to find a place 
where nothing need be imported is wellnigh impossible." 


"Then there must be another class of citizens who will bring the 
required supply from another city"?" 

"There must." 

"But if the trader goes empty-handed, having nothing which they 
require who would supply his need, he will come back empty- 

"That is certain." 

"And therefore what they produce at home must be not only 
enough for themselves, but such both in quantity and quality as to 
accommodate those from whom their wants are supplied." 

"Very true." 

"Then more husbandmen and more artisans will be required?" 

"They will." 

"Not to mention the importers and exporters, who are called mer- 


"Then we shall want merchants?" 

"We shall." 

"And if merchandise is to be carried over the sea, skillful sailors 
will also be needed, and in considerable numbers?" 

"Yes, in considerable numbers." 

"Then, again, within the city, how will they exchange their 
productions? To secure such an exchange was, as you will remember, 
one of our principal objects when we formed them into a society and 
constituted a State." 

"Clearly they will buy and sell." 

"Then they will need a market place, and a money-token for pur- 
poses of exchange." 


"Suppose now that a husbandman, or an artisan, brings some pro- 


duction to market, and he comes at a time when there is no one to 
exchange with him is he to leave his calling and sit idle in the 
market place?" 

"Not at all; he will find people there who, seeing the want, under* 
take the office of salesmen. In well-ordered states they are commonly 
those who are the weakest in bodily strength, and therefore of little 
use for any other puqx>se; their duty is to be in the market, and to 
give money in exchange for goods to those who desire to sell and to 
take money from those who desire to buy." 

"This want, then, creates a class of retail traders in our State. Is 
not 'retailer' the term which is applied to those who sit in the market 
place engaged in buying and selling, while those who wander from 
one city to another are called merchants?" 

"Yes," he said. 

"And there is another class of servants, who are intellectually 
hardly on the level of companionship; still they have plenty of bodily 
strength for labor, which accordingly they sell, and are called, if I do 
not mistake, hirelings, hire being the name which is given to the 
price of their labor." 


"Then hirelings will help to make up our population?" 


"And now, Adeimantus, is our State matured and perfected?" 

"I think so." 

"Where, then, is justice, and where is injustice, and in what part 
of the State did they spring up?" 

"Probably in the dealings of these citizens with one another. I 
cannot imagine that they are more likely to be found anywhere else." 

"I dare say that you are right in your suggestion," I said; "we had 
better think the matter out, and not shrink from the inquiry. 

"Let us then consider, first of all, what will be their way of life, 
now that we have thus established them. Will they not produce corn, 
and wine, and clothes, and shoes, and build houses for themselves? 
And when they are housed, they will work, in summer, commonly, 
stripped and barefoot, but in winter substantially clothed and shod. 

2/2 PLATO 

They will feed on barley-meal and flour of wheat, baking and knead- 
ing them, making noble cakes and loaves; these they will serve up on 
a mat of reeds or on clean leaves, themselves reclining the while 
upon beds strewn with yew or myrtle. And they and their children 
will feast, drinking of the wine which they have made, wearing gar- 
lands on their heads, and hymning the praises of the gods, in happy 
converse with one another. And they will take care that their families 
do not exceed their means; having an eye to poverty or war." 

"But," said Glaucon, interposing, you have not given them a 
relish to their meal." 

"True," I replied, "I had forgotten; of course they must have a 
relish salt, and olives, and cheese, and they will boil roots and herbs 
such as country people prepare; for a dessert we shall give them figs, 
and peas, and beans; and they will roast myrtle-berries and acorns 
at the fire, drinking in moderation. And with such a diet they may 
be expected to live in peace and health to a good old age, and be- 
queath a similar life to their children after them." 

"Yes, Socrates," he said, "and if you were providing for a city of 
pigs, how else would you feed the beasts?" 

"But what would you have, Glaucon?" i replied. 

"Why," he said, "you should give them the ordinary conveniences 
of life. People who are to be comfortable are accustomed to lie on 
sofas, and dine oft tables, and they should have sauces and sweets in 
the modern style." 

"Yes," I said, "now I understand: the question which you would 
have me consider is, not only how a State, but how a luxurious State 
is created; and possibly there is no harm in this, ror in such a State we 
shall be more likely to see how justice and injustice originate. In my 
opinion the true and healthy constitution of the State is the one 
which 1 have described. But if you wish also to see a State at fever- 
heat, 1 have no objection. For I suspect that many will not be satisfied 
with the simpler way of life. They will be for adding sofas, and 
tables, and other furniture; also dainties, and perfumes, and incense, 
and courtesans, and cakes, all these not of one sort only, but in every 
variety; we must go beyond the necessaries of which I was at first 


speaking, such as houses, and clothes, and shoes; the arts of the 
painter and the embroiderer will have to be set in motion, and gold 
and ivory and all sorts of materials must be procured." 

"True," he said. 

"Then we must enlarge our borders; for the original healthy State 
is no longer sufficient. Now will the city have to fill and swell with a 
multitude of callings which are not required by any natural want; 
such as the whole tribe of hunters and actors, of whom one large class 
have to do with forms and colors; another will be the votaries of music 
poets and their attendant train of rhapsodists, players, dancers, con- 
tractors; also makers of divers kinds of articles, including women's 
dresses. And we shall want more servants. Will not tutors be also in 
request, and nurses wet and dry, tirewomen and barbers, as well as 
confectioners and cooks; and swineherds, too, who were not needed 
and therefore had no place in the former edition of our State, but are 
needed now? They must not be forgotten : and there will be animals 
of many other kinds, if people eat them." 


"And living in this way we shall have much greater need of physi- 
cians than before?" 

"Much greater." 

"And the country which was enough to support the original in- 
habitants will be too small now, and not enough?" 

"Quite true." 

"Then a slice of our neighbors' land 18 will be wanted by us for 
pasture and tillage, and they will want a slice of ours, if, like our- 
selves, they exceed the limit of necessity, and give themselves up to 
the unlimited accumulation of wealth?" 

"That, Socrates, will be inevitable." 

"And so we shall go to war, Glaucon. Shall we not?*' 

"Most certainly," he replied. 

"Then, without determining as yet whether war does good o 
harm, thus much we may affirm, that now we have discovered war 

18 The state that becomes rich will inevitably sooner or later be involved in war. 

274 PLATO 

to be derived from causes which are also the causes of almost all the 
evils in States, private as well as public." 


"And our State must once more enlarge; and this time the enlarge- 
ment will be nothing short of a whole army, which will have to go 
out and fight with the invaders for all that we have, as well as for the 
things and persons whom we were describing above." 

"Why?" he said; "are they not capable of defending themselves?" 

"No," I said; "not if we were right in the principle which was ac- 
knowledged by all of us when we were framing the State: the prin- 
ciple, as you will remember, was that one man cannot practice many 
arts with success." 

"Very true," he said. 

"But is not war an art?" 


"And an art requiring as much attention as shoemaking?" 

"Quite true." 

"And the shoemaker was not allowed by us to be a husbandman, or 
a weaver, or a builder in order that we might have our shoes well 
made; but to him and to every other worker was assigned one work 
for which he was by nature fitted, and at that he was to continue 
ivorking all his life long and at no other; he was not to let oppor- 
tunities slip, and then he would become a good workman. Now noth- 
ing can be more important than that the work of a soldier should be 
well done. But is war an art so easily acquired that a man may be a 
warrior who is also a husbandman, or shoemaker, or other artisan; 
although no one in the world would be a good dice or draught player 
who merely took up the game as a recreation, and had not from his 
earliest years devoted himself to this and nothing else? No tools will 
make a man a skilled workman, or master of defense, nor be of any 
use to him who has not learned how to handle them, and has never 
bestowed any attention upon them. How then will he who takes up 
shield or other implement of war become a good fighter all in a day, 
ivhether with heavy-armed or any other kind of troops?" 


"Yes," he said, "the tools which would teach men their own us* 
would be beyond price/* 

"And the higher the duties of the guardian," I said, "the more 
time, and skill, and art, and application will be needed by him?" 

"No doubt," he replied. 

"Will he not also require natural aptitude for his calling?" 


"Then it will be our duty to select, if we can, natures which are 
fitted for the task of guarding the city?" 

"It will." 

"And the selection will be no easy matter," I said; "but we must 
be brave and do our best." 

"We must." 

"Is not the noble youth very like a well-bred dog in respect of 
guarding and watching?" 

"What do you mean?" 

"I mean that both of them ought to be quick to see, and swift to 
overtake the enemy when they see him; and strong too if, when they 
have caught him, they have to fight with him." 

"All these qualities," he replied, "will certainly be required by 

"Well, and your guardian must be brave if he is to fight well?" 


"And is he likely to be brave who has no spirit, whether horse or 
dog or any other animal? Have you never observed how invincible 
and unconquerable is spirit and how the presence of it makes the soul 
of any creature to be absolutely fearless and indomitable?" 

"I have." 

"Then now we have a clear notion of the bodily qualities which are 
required in the guardian." 


"And also of 'the mental ones; his soul is to be full of spirit?" 


"But are not these spirited natures apt to be savage with one an- 
other, and with everybody else?" 

2/6 PLATO 

"A difficulty by no means easy to overcome," he replied. 

"Whereas/' I said, "they ought to be dangerous to their enemies, 
and gentle to their friends; if not, they will destroy themselves with- 
out waiting for their enemies to destroy them." 

"True," he said. 

"What is to be done then?" I said; "how shall we find a gentle 
nature which has also a great spirit, for the one is the contradiction 
of the other?" 


"He will not be a good guardian who is wanting in either of these 
two qualities; and yet the combination of them appears to be impos- 
sible; and hence we must infer that to be a good guardian is impos- 

"I am afraid that what you say is true," he replied. 

Here feeling perplexed I began to think over what had preceded. 
"My friend," I said, "no wonder that we are in a perplexity; for we 
have lost sight of the image which we had before us." 

"What do you mean?" he said. 

"I mean to say that there do exist natures gifted with those op- 
posite qualities." 

"And where do you find them?" 

"Many animals," I replied, "furnish examples of them; our friend 
the dog is a very good one: you know that well-bred dogs are per- 
fectly gentle to their familiars and acquaintances, and the reverse to 

"Yes, I know." 

"Then there is nothing impossible or out of the order of nature in 
our finding a guardian who has a similar combination of qualities?" 

"Certainly not." 

"Would not he who is fitted to be a guardian, besides the spirited 
nature, need to have the qualities of a philosopher?" 

"I do not apprehend your meaning/' 

"The trait of which I am speaking," I replied, "may be also seen 
in the dog, and is remarkable in the animal." 

"What trait?" 


"Why, a dog, whenever he sees a stranger, is angry; when an ac- 
quaintance, he welcomes him, although the one has never done him 
any harm, nor the other any good. Did this never strike you as 

"The matter never struck me before; but I quite recognize the 
truth of your remark." 

"And surely this instinct of the dog is very charming; your dog is 
a true philosopher." 


"Why, because he distinguishes the face of a friend and of an 
enemy only by the criterion of knowing and not knowing. And must 
not an animal be a lover of learning who determines what he likes 
and dislikes by the test of knowledge and ignorance?" 

"Most assuredly." 

"And is not the love of learning the love of wisdom, which is phi- 

"They are the same," he replied. 

"And may we not say confidently of man also, that he who is likely 
to be gentle to his friends and acquaintances must by nature be a 
lover of wisdom and knowledge?" 

"That we may safely affirm." 

"Then he who is to be a really good and noble guardian of the 
State will require to unite in himself philosophy and spirit and swift- 
ness and strength?" 


"Then we have found the desired natures; and now that we have 
found them, how are they to be reared and educated? Is not this an 
inquiry which may be expected to throw light on the greater inquiry 
which is our final end: How do justice and injustice grow up in 
States? for we do not want either to omit what is to the point or to 
draw out the argument to an inconvenient length." 

Adeimantus thought that the inquiry would be of great service to 

"Then," I said, "my dear friend, the task must not be given up, 
even if somewhat long." 

278 PLATO 

"Certainly not." 

"Come then, and let us pass a leisure hour in story telling, and out 
story shall be the education of our heroes." 

"By all means." 

"And what shall he their education? 19 Can we find a better than 
the traditional sort? And this has two divisions, gymnastic for the 
body, and music for the soul." 


"Shall we begin education with music, and go on to gymnastic 

"By all means." 

"And when you speak of music, do you include literature or 
not?" 2 

"I do." 

"And literature may be either true or false?" 


'And the young should be trained in both kinds, and we begin 
with the false?" 

"I do not understand your meaning," he said. 

"You know," I said, "that we begin by telling children stories 
which, though not wholly destitute of truth, are in the main ficti- 
tious; and these stories are told them when they are not of an age to 
learn gymnastics." 

"Very true." 

"That was my meaning when I said that we must teach music 
before gymnastics." 

"Quite right," he said. 

"You know also that the beginning is the most important part of 
any work, especially in the case of a young and tender thing; for 

19 The program of music and gymnastics which Socrates now lays down as re- 
quired education for the guardian or soldier class is the normal curriculum of 
Athenian schools, freed of a few defects. Further on Socrates will describe the 
higher education of the boys and girls selected to become rulers. 

20 Under the heading of music the Greeks included not only the study of harmony 
and musical theory and skill in playing the lyre, but also the reading of poetry and 
other literature, and a general grounding in the culture of the ajre. 


that is the time at which the character is being formed and the desired 
impression is more readily taken." 

''Quite true." 

"And shall we just carelessly allow children to hear any casual 
tales which may be devised by casual persons, and to receive into 
their minds ideas for the most part the very opposite of those which 
we should wish them to have when they are grown up?" 

"We cannot." 

"Then the first thing will be to establish a censorship of the writers 
of fiction, and let the censors receive any tale of fiction which is good, 
and reject the bad; and we will desire mothers and nurses to tell their 
children the authorized ones only. Let them fashion the mind with 
such tales, even more fondly than they mold the body with their 
hands; but most of those which are now in use must be discarded." 

"Of what tales are you speaking?" he said. 

"You may find a model of the lesser in the greater," I said; "for 
they are necessarily of the same type, and there is the same spirit in 
both of them." 

"Very likely," he replied; "but I do not as yet know what you 
would term the greater." 

"Those," I said, "which are narrated by Homer and Hesiod, and 
the rest of the poets, who have ever been the great storytellers of 

"But which stories do you mean," he said; "and what fault do you 
find with them?" 

"A fault which is most serious," I said; "the fault of telling a lie, 
and, what is more, a bad lie." 

"But when is this fault committed?" 

"Whenever an erroneous representation is made of the nature of 
gods and heroes, as when a painter paints a portrait not having the 
shadow of a likeness to the original. 

"Yes," he said, "that sort of thing is certainly very blameable; but 
what are the stories which you mean?" 

"First of all," I said, "there was that greatest of all lies in high 
places, which the poet told about Uranus, and which was a bad lie 


too I mean what Hesiod says that Uranus did, and how Cronus re< 
taliated on him. 21 The doings of Cronus, and the sufferings which in 
turn his son inflicted upon him, even if they were true, ought cer- 
tainly not to be lightly told to young and thoughtless persons; if pos- 
sible, they had better be buried in silence. But if there is an absolute 
necessity for their mention, a chosen few might hear them in a mys- 
tery, and they should sacrifice not a common [Eleusinian] pig, 22 but 
some huge and unprocurable victim; and then the number of the 
hearers will be very few indeed/' 

''Why, yes," said he, "those stories are extremely objectionable." 

"Yes, Adeimantus, they are stories not to be repeated in our State; 
the young man should not be told that in committing the worst of 
crimes he is far from doing anything outrageous; and that even if he 
chastises his father when he does wrong, in whatever manner, he 
will only be following the example of the first and greatest among 
the gods." 

"I entirely agree with you," he said; "in my opinion those stories 
are quite unfit to be repeated." 

"Neither, if we mean our future guardians to regard the habit of 
quarreling among themselves as of all things the basest, should any 
word be said to them of the wars in heaven, and of the plots and 
fightings of the gods against one another, for they are not true. No, 
we shall never mention the battlesof the giants, or let them be em- 
broidered on garments; and we shall be silent about the innumerable 
other quarrels of gods and heroes with their friends and relatives. If 
they would only believe us we would tell them that quarreling is un- 
holy, and that never up to this time has there been any quarrel be- 
tween citizens; this is what old men and old women should begin by 
telling children; and when they grow up, the poets also should be 
told to compose for them in a similar spirit. But the narrative of 
Hephaestus binding Hera his mother, or how on another occasion 

21 Hesiod, Theogony, 154-182, 496. Uranus was the oldest of the nature deities 
of Greece, Cronus his son, and Zeus the son of Cronus. Each father in turn mal- 
treated his son and was in the end brutally mutilated or crushed by him. 

22 A pig was the usual sacrifice at the mystery worship of the earth goddess 
Demeter, held in her temple at Eleusis, not far from Athens. 


Zeus sent him flying for taking her part when she was being 
beaten, 23 and all the battles of the gods in Homer 24 these tales must 
not be admitted into our State, whether they are supposed to have 
an allegorical meaning or not. For a young person cannot judge what 
is allegorical and what is literal; anything that he receives into his 
mind at that age is likely to become indelible and unalterable; and 
therefore it is most important that the tales which the young first 
hear should be models of virtuous thoughts." 

"There you are right," he replied; "but if anyone asks where are 
such models to be found and of what tales are you speaking how 
shall we answer him?" 

I said to him, "You and I, Adeimantus, at this moment are not 
poets, but founders of a State: now the founders of a State ought to 
know the general forms in which poets should cast their tales, and 
the limits which must be observed by them, but to make the talcs is 
not their business." 

"Very true," he said; "but what are these forms of theology which 
you mean?" 

"Something of this kind," I replied: "God is always to be repre- 
sented as he truly is, whatever be the sort of poetry, epic, lyric or 
tragic, in which the representation is given." 


"And is he not truly good? and must he not be represented *s 


"And no good thing is hurtful?" 

"No, indeed." 

"And that which is not hurtful hurts not?" 

"Certainly not." 

"And that which hurts not does no evil?" 


"And can that which does no evil be a cause of evil?" 


23 Iliad, I, 586-594. 

24 Iliad, XX, 1-74; XXI, 985-518. 


"And the good is advantageous?" 


"And therefore the cause of well-being?" 


"It follows therefore that the good is not the cause of all things, 
but of the good only?" 


"Then God, if he be good, is not the author of all things, as the 
many assert, but he is the cause of a few things only, and not of most 
things that occur to men. For few are the goods of human life, and 
many are the evils, and the good is to be attributed to God alone; of 
the evils the causes are to be sought elsewhere, and not in him." 

"That appears to me to be most true," he said. 

"Then we must not listen to Homer or to any other poet who is 
guilty of the folly of saying that two casks 

Lie at the threshold of Zeus, full of lots, one of good, the other 
of evil lots, 25 

and that he to whom Zeus gives a mixture of the two 

Sometimes meets with evil fortune, at other times with good; 
but that he to whom is given the cup of unmingled ill, 

Him wild hunger drives o'er the beauteous earth. 
And again 

Zeus, who is the dispenser of good and evil to ws. 26 

And if anyone asserts that the violation of oaths and treaties, which 
was really the work of Pandarus, 27 was brought about by Athene and 
Zeus, or that the strife and contention of the gods was instigated by 

25 This and the two following poetic lines are quoted from the Iliad, XXIV, 

26 This line is not to be found in our Homer. 

27 Pandarus shot the arrow that broke the pledged truce between Greeks and 
Trojans. Iliad, IV, 68-1x6. Homer tells us, however, that the goddess Athene put 
the idea into his mind. 


Themis and Zeus, 28 he shall not have our approval; neither will we 
allow our young men to hear the words of Aeschylus, that 

God plants guilt among men when he desires utterly to destroy a 
house.' 29 

And if a poet writes of the sufferings of Niobe the subject of the 
tragedy in which these iambic verses occur or of the house of 
Pelops, 80 or of the Trojan war or on any similar theme, either we 
must not permit him to say that these are the works of God, or if 
they are of God, he must devise some explanation of them such as 
we are seeking: he must say that God did what was just and right, 
and they were the better for being punished; but that those who are 
punished are miserable, and that God is the author of their misery 
the poet is not to be permitted to say; though he may say that the 
wicked are miserable because they require to be punished, and are 
benefited by receiving punishment from God; but that God being 
good is tho. flnrfanr nf pvil tp anyone is la be strenuously denied, and 
not to be said orsung or heard in verse or prose by anyone whether old 
or^Dung in any well-ordered commonwealth. Such a fiction is 

"I agree with you," he replied, "and am ready to give my assent 
to the law." 

"Let this then be one of our rules and principles concerning the 
gods, to which our poets and reciters will be expected to conform 
that God is not the author of all things, but of good only." 

"That will do/' he said. 

"And what do you think of a second principle? Shall I ask you 
whether God is a magician, and of a nature to appear insidiously now 
in one shape, and now in another sometimes himself changing and 

28 In the Iliad, XX, 4-32, the gods are summoned by Themis at command of 
Zeus to a council at which Zeus knows they will disagree. 

29 Aeschylus' tragedy of the unhappy Niobe, whose children were all slain by 
the god Apollo, is lost. 

30 The workings of the curse on the descendants of Pelops Atreus, Agamemnon, 
Electra, and Orestes were the subject of several great series of tragedies by Aeschylus, 
Sophocles, and Euripides. 

284 PLATO 

passing into many forms, sometimes deceiving us with the semblance 
of such transformations; or is he one and the same immutably fixed 
in his own proper image?" 

"I cannot answer you/' he said, "without more thought." 

"Well," I said; "but if we suppose a change in anything, that 
change must be effected either by the thing itself, or by some other 

"Most certainly." 

"And things which are at their best are also least liable to be altered 
or discomposed; for example, when healthiest and strongest, the hu- 
man frame is least liable to be affected by meats and drinks, and the 
plant which is in the fullest vigor also suffers least from winds or the 
heat of the sun or any similar causes." 

'^Qf course." 

"And will not the bravest and wisest soul be least confused or de- 
ranged by any external influence?" 


"And the same principle, as I should suppose, applies to all com- 
posite things furniture, houses, garments: when good and well 
made, they are least "altered by time and circumstances." 

"Very true." 

"Then everything which is good, whether made by art or nature, 
or both, is least liable to suffer change from without?" 


"But surely God and the things of God are in every way perfect?" 

"Of course they are." 

'Then he can hardly be compelled by external influence to take 
many shapes?" 

"He cannot." 

"But may he not change and transform himself?" 

"Clearly," he said, "that must be the case if he is changed at all." 

"And will he then change himself for the better and fairer, or foi 
the worse and more unsightly?" 

"If he change at all he can only change for the worse, for we can- 
not suppose him to be deficient either in virtue or beauty." 


"Very true, Adeimantus; but then, would anyone, whether God 
or man, desire to make himself worse?" 


"Then it is impossible that God should ever be willing to change; 
being, as is supposed, the fairest and best that is conceivable, every 
God remains absolutely and forever in his own form/* 

"That necessarily follows," he said, "in my judgment." 

"Then," I said, "my dear friend, let none of the poets tell us that 

The gods, taking the disguise of strangers from other lands, 
Walk up and down cities in all sorts of forms; 31 

and let no one slander Proteus and Thetis, 32 neither let anyone, 
either in tragedy or in any other kind of poetry, introduce Hera dis- 
guised in the likeness of a priestess asking an alms 

For the life-giving daughters of Inachus the river of Argos; 33 

let us have no more lies of that sort. Neither must we have mothers 
under the influence of the poets scaring their children with a bad 
version of these myths telling how certain gods, as they say, 'go 
about by night in the likeness of so many strangers and in divers 
forms'; but let them take heed lest they make cowards of their chil- 
dren, and at the same time speak blasphemy againstj:he_gods.^ __ 

"Heavenr'orbid," he said. 

"But although the gods are themselves unchangeable, still by 
witchcraft and deception they may make us think that they appear in 
various forms?" 

"Perhaps," he replied. 

"Well, but can you imagine that God will be willing to lie, 
whether in word or deed, or to put forth a phantom of himself?" 

"I cannot say," he replied. 

81 Homer, Odyssey, XVII, 485, 486. 

32 The god Proteus was distinguished for his ability to slide from one shape into 
another. The goddess Thetis transformed herself to escape the pursuit of the mortal 
Peleus, by whom eventually she had her son Achilles. 

33 From another lost tragedy of Aeschylus. 

286 PLATO 

"Do you not know," I said, "that the true lie, if such an expres- 
sion may be allowed, is hated of gods and men?" 

"What do you mean?" he said. 

"I mean that no one is willingly deceived in that which is the truest 
and highest part of himself, or about the truest and highest matters; 
there, above all, he is most afraid of a lie having possession of him." 

"Still," he said, "I do not comprehend you." 

"The reason is," I replied, "that you attribute some profound 
meaning to my words; but I am only saying that deception, or being 
deceived or uninformed about the highest realities in the highest 
jjXf'of themselves, which is the soul, and in that part of them to have 
and to hold the lie, is what mankind least like; that, I say, is what 
they utterly detest. 1 ' 

"There is nothing more hateful to them." 

"And, as I was just now remarking, this ignorance in the soul of 
him who is deceived may be called the true lie; for the lie in words is 
only a kind of imitation and shadowy image of a previous affection C ' 
the soul, not pure unadulterated falsehood. Am I not right?" 

"Perfectly right." 

"The true lie is hated not only by the gods, but also by men?" 


"Whereas the lie in words is in certain cases useful and not hate* 
ful; in dealing with enemies that would be an instance; or again, 

7 o ' o ' 

when those whom we call our friends in a fit of madness or illusion 
are going to do some harm, then it is useful and is a sort of medicine 
or preventive; also in the tales of mythology, of which we were just 
now speaking because we do not know the truth about ancient 
times, we make falsehood as much like truth as we can, and so turn 
it to account." 

"Very true," he said. 

"But can any of these reasons apply to God? Can we suppose that 
he is ignorant of antiquity, and therefore has recourse to invention?" 

"That would be ridiculous," he said. 

"Then the lying poet has no place in our idea of God?" 


"I should say not." 

"Or perhaps he may tell a lie because he is afraid of enemies?' 

"That is inconceivable." 

"But he may have friends who are senseless or mad?" 

"But no mad or senseless person can be a friend of God." 

"Then no motive can be imagined why God should lie?" 

"None whatever." 

"Then the superhuman and divine is absolutely incapable of 


"Then is God perfectly simple and true both in word and deed; 
he changes not; he deceives not, either by sign or word, by dream or 
waking vision." 

"Your thoughts," he said, "are the reflection of my own." 

"You agree with me then," I said, "that this is the second type or 
form in which we should write and speak about divine things. The 
gods are not magicians who transform themselves, neither do they 
deceive mankind in any way." 

"I grant that." 

"Then, although we are admirers of Homer, we do not admire 
the lying dream which Zeus sends to Agamemnon; 34 neither will 
we praise the verses of Aeschylus in which Thetis says that Apollo at 
her nuptials was celebrating in song her fair progeny whose days 
were to be long, and to know no sickness. And when he had spoken 
of my lot as in all things Messed of heaven he raised a note of triumph 
and cheered my soul. And I thought that the word of Phoebus, being 
divine and full of prophecy, would not fail. And now he himself who 
uttered the strain, he who was present at the banquet, and who said 
this he it is who has slain my son. 35 These are the kind of senti- 
ments about the gods which will arouse our anger; and he who utters 
them shall be refused a chorus; neither shall we allow teachers to 
make use of them in the instruction of the young, meaning, as we 

84 Iliad, II, 1-34. The lying dream promised a quick and easy victory over Troy. 
35 From a lost tragedy. Thetis' son Achilles was slain in his youth at Troy. 


dp^that our guardians, as far as men can be, should be true wor- 
'shipers of the gods and like them/' 

"I entirely agree," he said, "in these principles, and promise to make 
them my laws." 


Exclusion of the poets from the schools. Value of the 

right sort of music and gymnastics. Selection of the best 

hoys and girls for training as rulers. 

Socrates goes on proving in more detail the harmful effect 
on the young of the old poets' tales of the gods and the spirit 
world. He does the same for drama and music that are frivolous, 
ignoble, or sensuous. 

BUT shall our superintendence go no further, and are the poets only 
to be required by us to express tr^^magejofjhe^ood in their works, 
on pain, if they do anything else, of expulsion from our State? Or 
is the same control to be extended to other artists, and are they also 
to be prohibited from exhibiting the opposite forms of vice and in- 
temperance and meanness and indecency in sculpture and building 
and the other creative arts; and is he who cannot conform to this rule 
of ours to be prevented from practicing his art in our State, lest the 
taste of ourjjtizens be corrupted by him*? We would not have our 
guardians grow up amid images of moral deformity, as in some 
noxious pasture, and there browse and feed upon many a baneful 
herb and flower day by day, little by little, until they silently gather a 
festering mass of corruption Jn their own souL Let our artists rather be 
those who are gifted to discern the true nature of ;jhe jreautif ul and 
graceful; then will our youth dwell in a land of health, amid fair 
sights and sounds, and receive the good in everything; and beauty, 
the effluence of fair works, shall flow into the eye and ear, like a 
health-giving breeze from a purer region, and insensibly draw the 


sou.Lfl.Qm , eadfestj[ears into likeness and sympathy wjj^tjta^ 
of reason*" 

"There can be no nobler training than that," he replied. 

"And therefore," I said, "Glaucon, musical training is a more potent 
instrument than any other, because rhythm and harmony .find their 
way into the inward places of the soul, on which they mightily 
fasten, imparting grace, and making the soul of him who is rightly 
educated graceful, or of him who is ill-educated ungraceful; and also 
because he who has received this true education of the inner being 
will most shrewdly perceive omissions or faults in art and nature, and 
with a true taste, while he praises and rejoices over and receives into 
his soul the good, and becomes noble and good, he will justly blame 
and hate the bad, now in the days of his youth, even before he is able 
to know the reason why; and when reason comes he will recognize 
and salute the friend with whom his education has made him long 

"Yes," he said, "I quite agree with you in thinking that our youth 
should be trained in music and on the grounds which you mention." 

"Just as in learning to read," I said, "we were satisfied when we 
knew the letters of the alphabet, which are very few, in all their re- 
curring sizes and combinations; not slighting them as unimportant 
^hether they occupy a space large or small, but everywhere eager to 
make them out; and not thinking ourselves perfect in the art of read- 
ing until W& Recognize them wherever they are found." 

'True/'' ; 

"Or, as we recognize the reflection of letters in the water, or in a 
mirror, only when we know the letters themselves; the same art and 
study giving us the knowledge of both." 


"Even so, as I maintain, neither we nor our guardians, whom we 
have to educate, can ever become musical until we and they know 
the essential forms of temperance, courage, liberality, magnificence, 
and their kindred, as well as the contrary forms, in all their com- 
binations, and can recognize them and their images wherever the) 


are found, not slighting them either in small things or great, but be- 
lieving them all to be within the sphere of one art and study." 

"Most assuredly/' 

"And when a beautiful soul harmonizes with a beautiful form, 
and the two are cast in one mold, that will be the fairest of sights to 
him who has an eye to see it?" 

"The fairest indeed." 

"And the fairest is also the loveliest?" 

"That may b*> assumed." 

"And the man who has the spirit of harmony will be most in love 
With the loveliest; but he will not love him who is of an inharmonious 

"That is true," he replied, "if the deficiency be in his soul; but if 
there be any merely bodily defect in another he will be patient of it, 
and will love all the same." 

"I perceive," I said, "that you have or have had experiences of this 
sort, and I agree. But let me ask you another question: Has excess 
of pleasure any affinity to temperance?" 

"How can that be?" he replied; "pleasure deprives a man of the 
use of his faculties quite as much as pain." 

"Or any affinity to virtue in general?" 

"None whatever." 

"Any affinity to wantonness and intemperance?" 

"Yes, the greatest." 

"And is there any greater or keener pleasure than that of sensual 

"No, nor a madder." 

Whereas true love is a love ojjbeauty and order temperate and, 

"Quite true," he said. 

"Then no intemperance or madness should be allowed to approach 
true love?" 

"Certainly not." 

"Then mad or intemperate pleasure must never be allowed to come 


near the lover and his beloved; neither of them can have any part in it 
if their love is of the right sort?*' 

"No, indeed, Socrates, it must never come near them." 

"Then I suppose that in the city which we are founding you would 
make a law to the effect that a friend should use no other familiarity 
to his love than a father would use to his son, and then only for a 
noble purpose, and he must first have the other's consent; and this 
rule is to limit him in all his intercourse, and he is never to be seen 
going further, or, if he exceeds, he is to be deemed guilty of coarse- 
ness and bad taste." 

"I quite agree," he said. 

"Thus much of music, which makes a fair ending; for what should 
be the end of music if not the love of beauty?" 

"I agree," he said. 

"After music comes gymnastic, in which our youth are next to be 


"Gymnastic as well as music should begin in early years; the 
training in it should be careful and should continue through life. 
Now my belief is and this is a matter upon which I should like to 
have your opinion in confirmation of my own, but my own belief is 
not that the good body by any bodily excellence improves the soul, 
but, on the contrary, that the good soul, by her own excellence, im- 
proves the body as far as this may be possible. What do you say/' 

"Yes, I agree." 

"Then, to the mind when adequately trained, we shall be right in 
handing over the more particular care of the body; and in order to 
avoid prolixity we will now only give the general outlines of the sub- 

"Very good." 

"That they must abstain from intoxication has been already re- 
marked by us; for of all persons a guardian should be the last to get 
drunk and not know where in the world he is." 

"Yes," he said; "that a guardian should require another guardian 
to take care of him is ridiculous indeed." 


"But next, what shall we say of their food; for the men are in 
training for the great contest of all are they not?" 

"Yes," he said. 

"And will the habit of body of our ordinary athletes be suited to 

"Why not?" 

"I am afraid," I said, "that a habit of body such as they have is 
but a sleepy sort of thing, and rather perilous to health. Do you not 
observe that these athletes sleep away their lives, and are liable to 
most dangerous illnesses if they depart, in ever so slight a degree, 
from their customary regimen?" 

"Yes, I do." 

"Then," I said, "a finer sort of training will be required for oui 
^varrior _athletes,*"who are to be like wakeful dogs, and to see and 
hear with the utmost keenness; amid the many changes of water and 
also of food, of summer heat and winter cold, which they will have 
to endure when on a campaign, they must not be liable to break 
down in health." 

"That is my view." 

"The really excellent gymnastic is twin sister of that simple music 
which we were just now describing." 

"How so?" 

"Why, I conceive that there is a gymnastic which, like our music, 
is sicjElejmd good; and especially^the military* gymnasticr" 

"WhaTaoTyou mean?" 

"My meaning may be learned from Homer; he, you know, feeds 
his heroes at their feasts, when they are campaigning, on soldiers' 
fare; they have no fish, although they are on the shores of the Helles- 
pont, and they are not allowed boiled meats but only roast, which is 
the food most convenient for soldiers, requiring only that they should 
light a fire, and not involving the trouble of carrying about pots and 


"And I can hardly be mistaken in saying that sweet sauces are 


nowhere mentioned in Homer. In proscribing them, however, he is 
not singular; all professional athletes are well aware that a man who is 
to be in good condition should take nothing of the kind." 

"Yes," he said; "and knowing this, they are quite right in not tak- 
ing them." 

"Then you would not approve of Syracusan dinners, and the re- 
finements of Sicilian cookery?" 

"I think not." 

"Nor, if a man is to be in condition, would you allow him to have 
a Corinthian girl as his fair friend?" 

"Certainly not." 

"Neither would you approve of the delicacies, as they are thought, 
of Athenian confectionery?" 

"Certainly not." 

"All such feeding and living may be rightly compared by us to 
melody and song composed in the panharmonic style, 1 and in all tbf' 


"There complexity engendered license, and here disease; whereas 
simplicity in music was the_ parent of temperance in the soul; and 
simplicity in gymnastic of health injhejbpdy." 

"But when intemperance and diseases multiply in a State, halls of 
justice and medicine are always being opened; and the arts of the 
doctor and the lawyer give themselves airs, finding how keen is the 
interest which not only the slaves but the freemen of a city take about 

"Of course." 

"And yet what greater proof can there be of a bad and disgraceful 
state of education than this, that not only artisans and the meaner 
sort of people need the skill of first-rate physicians and judges, but 

1 In the passage omitted above Socrates has just said that the only melodies he 
would admit into his state were those austere and serious airs in the simple Dorian 
and Phrygian modes that required comparatively few notes to play and called for 
neither complicated instruments nor a "panharmonic" scale. 

294 PLATO 

also those who would profess to have had .a liberal education? | not 
disgraceful, and a great sign of the want of good breeding, that a 
man should have to go abroad for his law and physic because he has 
none of his own at home, and must therefore surrender himself into 
the hands of other men whom he makes lords and judges over him?" 

"Of all things," he said, "the most disgraceful." 

"Would you say 'most/ " I replied, "when you consider that there 
is a further stage of the evil in which a man is not only a life-long 
litigant, passing all his days in the courts, either as plaintiff or de- 
fendant, but is actually led by his bad taste to pride himself on his 
'litigiousness; he imagines that he is a master in dishonesty; able to. 
take every crooked turn, and wriggle into and out of every hole, 
bending like a withy and getting out of the way of justice: and all 
for what? in order to gain small points not worth mentioning, he 
not knowing that so to order his life as to be able to do without a 


napping judge is a far higher and nobler sort of thing. Is not that 
still more disgraceful?" 

"Yes," he said, "that is still more disgraceful." 

"Well," I said, "and to require the help of medicine, not when a 
wound has to be cured, or on occasion of an epidemic, but just be- 
cause, by indolence and a habit of life such as we have been describ- 
ing, men fill themselves with waters and winds, as if their bodies 
were a marsh, compelling the ingenious sons of Asclepius 2 to find 
more names for diseases, such as flatulence and catarrh; is not this, 
too, a disgrace?*' 

"Yes," he said, "they do certainly give very strange and new- 
fangled names to diseases." 

"Yes," I said, "and I do not believe that there were any such dis- 
eases in the days of Asclepius; and this I infer from the circumstance 
that the hero Eurypylus, after he has been wounded in Homer, 
drinks a posset of Pramnian wine well besprinkled with barley-meal 
and grated cheese, which are certainly inflammatory, and yet the sons 
of Asclepius who were at the Trojan war do not blame the damsel 

2 "Sons of Asclepius" was a name for physicians. See Phaedo, note 33. 


who gives him the drink, or rebuke Patroclus, who is treating his 
case." 3 

"Well," he said; "that was surely an extraordinary drink to be 
given to a person in his condition." 

"Not so extraordinary," I replied, "if you bear in mind that in 
former days, as is commonly said, before the time of Herodicus, the 
guild of Asclepius did not practice our present system of medicine, 
which may be said to educate diseases. But Herodicus, 4 being a 
trainer, and himself of a sickly constitution, by a combination of 
training and doctoring found out a way of torturing first and chiefly 
himself, and secondly the rest of the world." 

"How was that?" he said. 

"By the invention of lingering death; for he had a mortal disease 
which he perpetually tended, and as recovery was out of the ques- 
tion, he passed his entire life as a valetudinarian; he could do nothing 
but attend upon himself, and he was in constant torment whenever 
he departed in anything from his usual regimen, and so dying hard, 
by the help of science he struggled on to old age." 

"A rare reward of his skill!" 

"Yes," I said; "a reward which a man might fairly expect who never 
understood that, if Asclepius did not instruct his descendants in 
valetudinarian arts, the omission arose, not from ignorance or inex- 
perience of such a branch of medicine, but because he knew that in 
all well-ordered states every individual has an occupation to which 
he must attend, and has therefore no leisure to spend in continually 
being ill. This we remark in the case of the artisan, but, ludicrously 
enough, do not apply the same rule to people of the richer sort." 

"How do you mean?" he said. 

"I mean this: When a carpenter is ill he asks the physician for a 
rough and ready cure; an emetic or a purge or a cautery or the knife 
these are his remedies. And if someone prescribes for him a course 

3 Plato is quoting inaccurately from memory. In the Iliad, XI, 624-641, this treat- 
ment is given to the wounded Machaon and the aged Nestor. 

4 A Greek physician of the fifth century B.C., teacher of the so-called Father of 
Medicine, Hippocrates. He is said to have stressed the value of gymnastics and 
massage coupled with proper diet. 

296 PLATO 

of dietetics, and tells him that he must swathe and swaddle his 
head, and all that sort of thing, he replies at once that he has no time 
to be ill, and that he sees no good in a life which is spent in nursing 
his disease to the neglect of his customary employment; and there- 
fore bidding good-bye to this sort of physician, he resumes his ordi- 
nary habits, and either gets well and lives and does his business, or, 
if his constitution fails, he dies and has no more trouble." 

"Yes," he said, "and a man in his condition of life ought to use the 
art of medicine thus far only." 

"Has he not," I said, "an occupation; and what profit would there 
be in his life if he were deprived of his occupation?" 
"Quite true," he said. 

"But with the rich man this is otherwise; of him we do not say 
that he has any specially appointed work which he must perform, if 
he would live." 

"He is generally supposed to have nothing to do." 
"Then you never heard of the saying of Phocylides, 5 that as soon 
as a man has a livelihood he should practice virtue?" 

"Nay," he said, "I think that he had better begin somewhat 

"Let us not have a dispute with him about this," I said; "but rather 
ask ourselves: Is the practice of virtue obligatory on the rich man, or 
can he live without it? And if obligatory on him, then let us raise a 
further question, whether this dieting of disorders, which is an im- 
pediment to the application of the mind in carpentering and the 
mechanical arts, does not equally stand in the way of the sentiment of 

"Of that," he replied, "there can be no doubt; such excessive care 
of the body, when carried beyond the rules of gymnastic, is most 
inimical to the practice of virtue." 

"Yes, indeed/' I replied, "and equally incompatible with the man- 
agement of a house, an army, or an office of state; and, what is most 
important of all, irreconcilable with any kind of study or thought or 

5 The author of moral maxims in verse, a few fragments of which have come 
4own to us. He wrote about 530 B.C. 


self -reflection there is a constant suspicion that headache and gid- 
diness are to be ascribed to philosophy, and hence all practicing or 
making trial of virtue in the higher sense is absolutely stopped; for a 
man is always fancying that he is being made ill, and is in constant 
anxiety about the state of his body." 

"Yes, likely enough." 

"And therefore our politic Asclepius may be supposed to have 
exhibited the power of his art only to persons who, being generally 
of healthy constitution and habits of life, had a definite ailment; 
such as these he cured by purges and operations, and bade them live 
as usual, herein consulting the interests of the State; but bodies which 
disease had penetrated through and through he would not have at- 
tempted to cure by gradual processes of evacuation and infusion; he 
did not want to lengthen out good-for-nothing lives, or to have weak 
fathers begetting weaker sons; if a man was not able to live in the 
ordinary way he had no business to cure him; for such a cure would 
have been of no use either to himself, or to the State. 

The best physicians are those who both know their art and have 
had the greatest experience of disease. They would better not 
be themselves too robust in health. 

This is the sort of medicine, and this is the sort of law, which you will 
sanction in your state. They will minister to better natures, giving 
health both of soul and of body; but those who are diseased in their 
bodies they will leave to die, and the corrupt and incurable souls they 
will put an end to themselves." 

"That is clearly the best thing both for the patients and for the 

"And thus our youth, having been educated only in that simple 
music which, as we said, inspires temperance, will be reluctant to 
go to law." 


"And the musician, who, keeping to the same track, is content to 
practice the simple gymnastic, will have nothing to do with medicine 
unless in some extreme case." 

2p8 PLATO 

^Phat I quite believe/' 

"The very exercises and toils which he undergoes are intended to 
stimulate the spirited element of his nature, and not to increase his 
strength; he will not, like common athletes, use exercise and regimen 
to develop his muscles." 

"Very right," he said. 

"Neither are the two arts of music and gymnastic really designed, 
as is often supposed, the one for the training of the soul, the other 
for the training of the body." 

"What then is the real object of them?" 

"I believe," I said, "that the teachers of both have in view chiefly 
ihe improvement of the soul." 
* ."How can that be?" he asked. 

"Did you never observe," I said, "the effect on the mind itself of 
sxclusive devotion to gymnastic, or the opposite effect of an ex- 
clusive devotion to music?" 

"In what way shown?" he said. 

v^The one producing a t^r^gr ^ ih^rlnfy flr>f l f^ro^y, the other 
of softness and effeminacy," I replied. 

"Yes," he said, "I am quite aware that the mere athlete becomes 
^too much of a savage, and that the mere musician is melted and 
softened bey<ojnd^wiiat'i&.gaQd.for Jjim." 

~**Yet surely," I said, "this ferocityjpnly comes f roja^njiit^. which, j 
rightly educated, would give courage,"Tu^if too much intensified, 
is liable to become hard and brutal." 

"That I quite think." 

"On the other hand, the philosopher will have the quality of 
gentleness. And this also, when too much indulged, will turn to soft- 
ness, but, if educated rightly, will be gentle anjdjn&dfiEit&l' 

"True." -~ - "" 

"And in our opinion the guardians ought to have both these 


"And both should be in harmony?" 

"Beyond question." 


"And the harmonious soul is both temperate and courageous?" 

"Yes." - ~ ' 

"And the inharmonious is cowardly and boorish?" 

"Very true." 

"And, when a man allows music to play upon him and to pour 
into his soul through the funnel of his ears those sweet and soft and 
melancholy airs of which we were just now speaking, and his whole 
life is passed in warbling and the delights of song; in the first stage 
of the process the passion or spirit which is in him is tempered like 
iron, and made useful, instead of brittle and useless. But, if he car- 
ries on the softening and soothing process, in the next stage he begins 
to melt and waste, until he has wasted away his spirit and cut out the 
sinews of his soul; and he becomes a feeble warrior." 

"Very true." 

"If the element of spirit is naturally weak in him the change is 
speedily accomplished, but if he have a good deal, then the power of 
music weakening the spirit renders him excitable; on the least 
provocation he flames up at once, and is speedily extinguished; in 
stead of having spirit he grows irritable and passionate and is quite 


"And so in gymnastics, if a man takes violent exercise and is a 
great feeder, and the reverse of a great student of music and phi- 
losophy, at first the high condition of his body fills him with pride 
and spirit, and he becomes twice the man that he was." 


"And what happens? if he do nothing else, and holds no converse 
with the Muses, does not even that intelligence which there may be 
in him, having no taste of any sort of learning or inquiry or thought 
or culture, grow feeble and dull and blind, his mind never waking 
up or receiving nourishment, and his senses not being purged of their 

"True," he said. 

"And he ends by becoming a hater of philosophy, uncivilized, 
never using the weapon of persuasion he is like a wild beast, all 


violence and fierceness, and knows no other way of dealing; and he 

ety and grace." 

"That is quite true," he said. 

"And as there are two principles of human nature, 6 one the spirited 
and the other the philosophical, some God, as I should say, has given 
mankind two arts answering to them (and only indirectly to the soul 
and body), in order that these two principles (like the strings of an 
instrument) may be relaxed or drawn tighter until they are duly 

"That appears to be the intention." 

"And he who mingles music with gymnastic in the fairest propor- 
/fons, an3T>est attempers them to the soul, may be rightly called the 
true musician and harmonist in a far higher sense than the tuner of 
the strings/' 

"You are quite right, Socrates." 

"And such a presiding genius will be always required in our State 
if the government is to last." 

"Yes, he will be absolutely necessary." 

"Such, then, are our principles of nurture and education. Where 
would 'lie the use of going into further details about the dances of 
our citizens, or about their hunting and coursing, their gymnastic 
and equestrian contests'? For these all follow the general principle, 
and having found that, we shall have no difficulty in discovering 

"I dare say that there will be no difficulty." 

"Very good, I said; then what is the next question? Must we not 
ask who are to be rulers and who subjects?" 


"There can be no doubt that the elder must rule the younger." 


"And that the best of these must rule." 7 

6 Later Socrates enlarges more fully on these two elements in human nature, the 
spirited and energetic will and the rational and understanding mind. 

7 At this point Socrates begins the selection of the best soldier lads and lasses for 
training in the higher task of ruling the state. 


"That is also clear." 

"Now, are not the best husbandmen those who are most devoted 
to husbandry?" 


"And as we are to have the best of guardians for our city, must 
they not be those who have most the character of guardians?" 


"And to this end they ought to be wise and efficient, and to have 
3 special care of the State?" 


"And a man will be most likely to care about that which he loves?" 

"To be sure." 

"And he will be most likely to love that which he regards as hav- 
ing the same interests with himself, and that of which the good or 
evil fortune is supposed by him at any time most to affect his own?" 

"Very true," he replied. 

"Then there must be a selection. Let us note among the guardians 
those who in their whole life show the greatest eagerness to do what 
is for the good of their country, and the greatest repugnance to do 
what is againsthirr .interests." 

"Those are the right men." 

"And they will have to be watched at every age, in order that we 
may see whether they preserve their resolution, and never, under the 
influence either of force or enchantment, forget or cast off their sense 
of duty to the State. ***** We must watch them from their 
youth upwards, and make them perform actions in which they are 
most likely to forget or to be deceived, and he who remembers and is 
not deceived is to be selected, and he who fails in the trial is to be 
rejected. That will be the way?" 


"And there should also be toils and pains and conflicts prescribed 
for them, in which they will be made to give further proof of the 
same qualities." 

'Very right," he replied. 

"And then," I said, "we must try them with enchantments that is 

302 PLATO 

the third sort of test and see what will be their hehavior: like those 
who take colts amid noise and tumult to see if they are of a timid 
nature, so must we take our youth amid terrors of some kind, and 
again pass them into pleasures, and prove them more thoroughly 
than gold is proved in the furnace, that we may discover whether 
they are armed against all enchantments, and of a noble bearing al- 
ways, good guardians of themselves and of the music which they 
have learned, and retaining under all circumstances a rhythmical 
and harmonious nature, such as will be most serviceable to the in- 
dividual and to the State. And he who at every age, as boy and youth 
and in mature life, has come out of the rial victorious and pure, shall 
be appointed ajruj^r^aji^^Ujaj^diiiii^f the State; he shall be honored in 
liFe and death, and shall receive sepulture and other memorials of 
honor, the greatest that we have to give. But him who fails, we must 
reject. I am inclined to think that this is the sort of way in which our 
rulers and guardians should be chosen and appointed. I speak gen- 
erally, and not with any pretension to exactness." 

"And, speaking generally, I agree with you," he said. 

"And perhaps the word 'guardian' in the fullest sense ought to be 
applied to this higher class only who preserve us against foreign 
enemies and maintain peace among our citizens at home, that the 
one may not have the will, or the others the power, to harm us. The 
young men whom we before called guardians may be more properly 
designated auxiliaries and supporters of the principles of the rulers." 

"I agree with you," he said. 

"How then may we devise one of those needful falsehoods of 
which we lately spoke just one royal lie which may deceive the 
rulers, if that be possible, and at any rate the rest of the city?" 

"What sort of lie?" he said. 

"Nothing new," I replied; "only an old Phoenician tale 8 of what 
has often occurred before now in other places (as the poets say, and 
have made the world believe), though not in our time, and I do not 

8 In the form of a fanciful allegory Socrates states his belief in the natural in- 
equality of human beings. A "Phoenician tale" meant something extraordinary and 


know whether such an event could ever happen again, or could now 
wen be made probable, if it did." 

"How your words seem to hesitate on your lips!" 

"You will not wonder," I replied, "at my hesitation when you have 

"Speak," he said, "and fear not." 

"Well then, I will speak, although I really know not how to look 
you in the face, or in what words to utter the audacious fiction, which 
I propose to communicate gradually, first to the rulers, then to the 
soldiers, and lastly to the people. They are to be told that their youth 
was a dream, and the education and training which they received 
from us, an appearance only; in reality during all that time they 
were being formed and fed in the womb of the earth, where they 
themselves and their arms and appurtenances were manufactured; 
when they were completed, the earth, their mother, sent them up; 
and so, their country being their mother and also their nurse, they 
are bound to advise for her good, and to defend her against attacks, 
and her citizens they are to regard as children of the earth and their 
own brothers." 

"You had good reason," he said, "to be ashamed of the lie which 
you were going to tell." 

"True," I replied, "but there is more coming; I have only told you 
half . Citizens, we shall say to them in our tale, you are brothers, yet 
God has framed you differently. Some of you have the power of com- 
mand, and in the composition of these he has mingled gold, where- 
fore also they have the greatest honor; others he has made of silver, 
to be auxiliaries; others again who are to be husbandmen and crafts- 
men he has composed of brass and iron; and the species will generally 
be preserved in the children. But as all are of the same original stock, 
a golden parent will sometimes have a silver son, or a silver parent a 
golden son. And God proclaims as a first principle to the rulers, and 
above all else, that there is nothing which they should so anxiously 
guard, or of which they are to be such good guardians, as of the purity 
of the race. They should observe what elements mingle in their off 
spring; for if the son of a golden or silver parent has an admixture 

304 PLATO 

of brass and iron, then nature orders a transposition of ranks, and the 
eye of the ruler must not be pitiful towards the child because he has 
to descend in the scale and become a husbandman or artisan^ just_as 
there may be sons of artisans who having an admixture of gold 01 
silver in them are raised to honor, and become guardians or auxili- 
aries. For an oracle says that when a man of brass or iron guards the 
State, it will be destroyed. Such is the tale; is there any possibility of 
making our citizens believe in it/* 

"Not in the present generation," he replied; "there is no way oF 
accomplishing this; but their sons may be made to believe in the tale, 
and their sons' sons, and posterity after them." 

"I see the difficulty," I replied; "yet the fostering of such a belief 
will make them care more for the city and for one another. Enough, 
however, of the fiction, which may now fly abroad upon the wingi 
of rumor, while we arm our earth-born heroes, and lead them forth 
under the command of their rulers. Let them look round and 
select a spot whence they can best suppress insurrection, if any 
prove refractory within, and also defend themselves against enemies, 
who like wolves may come down on the fold from without; there let 
them encamp, and whe i they have encamped, let them sacrifice to 
the proper Gods and prepare their dwellings." 

"Just so," he said. 

"And their dwellings must be such as will shield them against the 
cold of winter and the heat of summer." 

"I suppose that you mean houses," he replied. 

"Yes," I said; "but they must be the houses of soldiers, and not of 

"What is the difference?" he said. 

"That I will endeavor to explain," I replied. "To keep watchdogs, 
who, from want of discipline or hunger, or some evil habit or other, 
would turn upon the sheep and worry them, and behave not like 
dogs but wolves, would be a foul and monstrous thing in a shep- 

"Truly monstrous," he said. 

"And therefore every care must be taken that our auxiliaries, being 


stronger than our citizens, may not grow to be too much for them and 
become savage tyrants instead of friends and allies?" 

"Yes, great care should be taken." 

"And would not a really good education furnish the best safe- 

"But they are well educated already," he replied. 

"I cannot be so confident, my dear Glaucon," I said; "I am much 
more certain that they ought to be, and that true education, whatever 
that may be, will have the greatest tendency to civilize and humanize 
them in their relations to one another, and to those who are under 
their protection." 

"Very true," he replied. 

"And not only their education, but their habitations, and all that 
belongs to them, should be such as will neither impair their virtue as 
guardians, nor tempt them to prey upon the other citizens. Any man 
of sense must acknowledge that." 

"He must." 

"Then now let us consider what will be their way of life, if they 
are to realize our idea of them. In the first place, none of them should 
have any property of his own beyond what is absolutely necessary; 9 
neither should they have a private house or store closed against any 
one who has a mind to enter; their provisions should be only such as 
are required by trained warriors, who are men of temperance and 
courage; they should agree to receive from the citizens a fixed rate of 
pay, enough to meet the expenses of the year and no more; and they 
will go to mess and live together like soldiers in a camp. Gold and 
silver we will tell them that they have from God; the diviner metal 
is within them, and they have therefore no need of the dross which is 
current among men, and ought not to pollute the divine by any such 
earthly admixture; for that commoner metal has been the source of 
many unholy deeds, but their own is undefiled. And they alone of all 
the citizens may not touch or handle silver or gold, or be under the 
same roof with them, or wear them, or drink from them. And this 

9 The soldier guardians and rulers of the state live apart from the mass (f common 
folk, under a system of communism. 

306 PLATO 

will be their salvation, and they will be the saviors of the State. But 
should they ever acquire homes or lands or moneys of their own, they 
will become housekeepers and husbandmen instead of guardians, 
enemies and tyrants instead of allies of the other citizens; hating and 
being hated, plotting and being plotted against, they will pass their 
whole life in much greater terror of internal than of external enemies, 
and the hour of ruin, both to themselves and to the rest of the State, 
will be at hand. For all which reasons may we not say that thus shall 
our State be ordered, and that these shall be the regulations ap- 
pointed by us for our guardians concerning their houses and all other 

"Yes/' said Glaucon. 


The virtues of such a state wisdom, courage, and tem- 
perance. Justice also to he found there. The same virtues 
appear in the life of a well-ordered individual. 

HERE Adeimantus interposed a question: "How would you answer, 
Socrates," said he, "if a person were to say that you are making these 
people miserable, and that they are the cause of their own unhappi- 
ness; the city in fact belongs to them, but they are none the better 
for it; whereas other men acquire lands, and build large and hand- 
some houses, and have everything handsome about them, offering 
sacrifices to the gods on their own account, and practicing hospitality; 
moreover, as you were saying just now, they have gold and silver, and 
all that is usual among the favorites of fortune; but our poor citizens 
are no better than mercenaries who are quartered in the city and are 
always mounting guard?" 

"Yes," I said; "and you may add that they are only fed, and not 
paid in addition to their food, like other men; and therefore they 
cannot, if they would, take a journey of pleasure; they have no money 


to spend on a mistress or any other luxurious fancy, which, as the 
world goes, is thought to be happiness; and many other accusations 
of the same nature might be added." 

"But," said he, "let us suppose all this to be included in the 

"You mean to ask," I said, "what will be our answer?" 


"If we proceed along the old path, my belief," I said, "is that we 
shall find the answer. And our answer will be that, even as they are, 
our guardians may very likely be the happiest of men; but that our 
aim in founding the State was not the disproportionate happiness of 
any one class, but the greatest happiness of the whole; we thought 
that in a State which is ordered with a view to the good of the whole 
we should be most likely to find justice, and in the ill-ordered State 
injustice: and, having found them, we might then decide which of 
the two is the happier. At present, I take it, we are fashioning the 
happy State, not piecemeal, or with a view of making a few happy 
citizens, but as a whole; and by and by we will proceed to view the 
opposite kind of State. Suppose that we were painting a statue, and 
someone came up to us and said, Why do you not put the most beauti- 
ful colors on the most beautiful parts of the body; 5 The eyes ought to 
be purple, but you have made them black/ To him we might fairly 
answer, 'Sir, you would not surely have us beautify the eyes to such 
a degree that they are no longer eyes; consider rather whether, by 
giving this and the other features their due proportion, we make the 
whole beautiful/ And so I say to you, do not compel us to assign to 
the guardians a sort of happiness which will make them anything 
but guardians; for we too can clothe our husbandmen in royal ap- 
parel, and set crowns of gold on their heads, and bid them till the 
ground as much as they like, and no more. Our potters also might be 
allowed to repose on couches, and feast by the fireside, passing round 
the wine cup, while their wheel is conveniently at hand, and work- 
ing at pottery only as much as they like; in this way we might make 
every class happy and then, as you imagine, the whole State would 
be happy. Bu^ dc not put this idea into our heads; for, if we listen to 

308 PLATO 

you, the husbandman will be no longer a husbandman, the potter 
will cease to be a potter, and no one will have the character of any 
distinct class in the State. Now this is not of much consequence 
where the corruption of society, and pretension to be what you are 
not, is confined to cobblers; but when the guardians of the laws and 
of the government are only seeming and not real guardians, then 
see how they turn the State upside down; and on the other hand they 
alone have the power of giving order and happiness to the State. We 
mean our guardians to be true saviors and not the destroyers of the 
State, whereas our opponent is thinking of peasants at a festival, who 
are enjoying a life of revelry, not of citizens who are doing their duty 
to the State. But, if so, we mean different things, and he is speaking 
of something which is not a State. And therefore we must considei 
whether in appointing our guardians we would look to their greatest 
happiness individually, or whether this principle of happiness does 
not rather reside in the State as a whole. But if the latter be the truth, 
then the guardians and auxiliaries, and all others equally with them, 
must be compelled or induced to do their own work in the best way. 
And thus the whole State will grow up in a noble order, and the sev- 
eral classes will receive the proportion of happiness which nature as- 
signs to them." 

"I think that you are quite right." 

"I wonder whether you will agree with another remark which 
occurs to me," 

"What may that be?" 

"There seem to be two causes of the deterioration of the arts." 

"What are they?" 

"Wealth," I said, "and poverty." 

"How do they act?" 

"The process is as follows: When a potter becomes rich, will he, 
think you, any longer take the same pains with his art?" 

"Certainly not." 

"He will grow more and more indolent and careless?" 

"Very true." 

"And the result will be that he becomes a worse potter?" 


"Yes; he greatly deteriorates." 

"But, on the other hand, if he has no money, and cannot provide 
himself with tools or instruments, he will not work equally well him- 
self, nor will he teach his sons or apprentices to work equally well." 

"Certainly not." 

"Then, under the influence either of poverty or of wealth, work- 
men and their work are equally liable to degenerate?" 

"That is evident." 

"Here, then, is a discovery of new evils," I said, "against which the 
guardians will have to watch, or they will creep into the city un- 

"What evils?" 

"Wealth," I said, "and poverty; the one is the parent of luxury 
and indolence, and the other of meanness and viciousness, and both 
of discontent." 

"That is very true," he replied; "but still I should like to know, 
Socrates, how our city will be able to go to war, especially against 
an enemy who is rich and powerful, if deprived of the sinews of 

"There would certainly be a difficulty," I replied, "in going to wai 
with one such enemy; but there is no difficulty where there are two 
of them." 

"How so'?" he asked. 

"In the first place," I said, "if we have to fight, our side will be 
trained warriors fighting against an army of rich men." 

"That is true," he said. 

"And do you not suppose, Adeimantus, that a single boxer who 
was perfect in his art would easily be a match for two stout and well- 
to-do gentlemen who were not boxers?" 

"Hardly, if they came upon him at once." 

"What, not," I said, "if he were able to run away and then turn 
and strike at the one who first came up? And supposing he were to do 
this several times under the heat of a scorching sun, might he not, 
being an expert, overturn more than one stout personage?" 

"Certainlv." he said, "there would be nothing wonderful in that." 

310 PLATO 

"And yet rich men probably have a greater superiority in the 
science and practice of boxing than they have in military qualities." 

"Likely enough." 

"Then we may assume that our athletes will be able to fight with 
two or three times their own number?" 

"I agree with you, for I think you right." 

"And suppose that, before engaging, our citizens send an embassy 
to one of the two cities, telling them what is the truth : Silver and gold 
we neither have nor are permitted to have, but you may; do you 
therefore come and help us in war, and take the spoils of the other 
city. Who, on hearing these words, would choose to fight against lean 
wiry dogs, rather than, with the dogs on their side, against fat and 
tender sheep?" 

"That is not likely; and yet there might be a danger to the poor 
State if the wealth of many States were to be gathered into one." 

"But how simple of you to use the term State at all of any but 
our own!" 

"Why so?" 

"You ought to speak of other States in the plural number; not one 
of them is a city, but many cities, as they say in the game. For indeed 
any city, however small, is in fact divided into two, one the city of the 
poor, the other of the rich; these are at war with one another; and in 
either there are many smaller divisions, and you would be altogether 
beside the mark if you treated them all as a single State. But if you 
deal with them as many, and give the wealth or power or persons of 
the one to the others, you will always have a great many friends and 
not many enemies. And your State, while the wise order which hat 
now been prescribed continues to prevail in her, will be the greatest 
of States, I do not mean to say in reputation or appearance, but in 
deed and truth, though she number not more than a thousand de- 
fenders. A single State which is her equal you will hardly find, either 
among Hellenes or barbarians, though many that appear to be as 
great and many times greater." 

"That is most true," he said. 

"And what," I said, "will be the best limit for our rulers to fix 


when they are considering the size of the State and the amount of 
territory which they are to include, and beyond which they will not 

"What limit would you propose?" 

"I would allow the State to increase so far as is consistent with 
unity; that, I think, is the proper limit." 

"Very good," he said. 

"Here then," I said, "is another order which will have to be con- 
veyed to our guardians: Let our city be accounted neither large nor 
small, but one and self-sufficing/' 

"And surely," said he, "this is not a very severe order which we 
impose upon them." 

"And the other," said I, "of which we were speaking before is 
lighter still I mean the duty of degrading the offspring of the 
guardians when inferior, and of elevating into the rank of guardians 
the offspring of the lower classes, when naturally superior. The in- 
tention was, that, in the case of the citizens generally, each individual 
should be put to the use for which nature intended him, one to one 
work, and then every man would do his own business, and be one 
and not many; and so the whole city would be one and not many." 

"Yes," he said; "that is not so difficult." 

"The regulations which we are prescribing, my good Adeimantus, 
are not, as might be supposed, a number of great principles, but 
trifles all, if care be taken, as the saying is, of the one great thing 
a thing, however, which I would rather call not great, but sufficient 
for our purpose." 

"What may that be?" he asked. 

"Education," I said, "and nurture: If our citizens are well edu- 
cated, and grow into sensible men, they will easily see their way 
through all these, as well as other matters which I omit; such, for 
example, as marriage, the possession of women and the procreation 
of children, which will all follow the general principle that friends 
have all things in common, as the proverb says/' 

"That will be the best way of settling them." 

"Also," I said, "the State, if once started well, moves with accumu- 

312 PLATO 

lating force like a wheel. For good nurture and education implant 
good constitutions, and these good constitutions taking root in a good 
education improve more and more, and this improvement affects the 
breed in man as in other animals." 

"Very possibly," he said. 

"Then to sum up: This is the point to which, above all, the atten- 
tion of our rulers should be directed that music and gymnastic be 
preserved in their original form, and no innovation made. They 
must do their utmost to maintain them intact. And when anyone says 
that mankind most regard 

The newest song which the singers have, 1 

they will be afraid that he may be praising, not new songs, but a new 
kind of song; and this ought not to be praised, or conceived to be the 
meaning of the poet; for any musical innovation is full of danger to 
the whole State, and ought to be prohibited. So Damon tells me, and 
I can quite believe him; he says that when modes of music change, 
the fundamental laws of the State always change with them." 

"Yes," said Adeimantus; "and you may add my suffrage to Damon'i 
and your own." 

"Then," I said, "our guardians must lay the foundations of their 
fortress in music?" 

"Yes," he said; "the lawlessness of which you speak too easily 
steals in." 

"Yes," I replied, "in the form of amusement; and at first sight it 
appears harmless." 

"Why, yes," he said, "and there is no harm; were it not that little 
by little this spirit of license, finding a home, imperceptibly pene- 
trates into manners and customs; whence, issuing with greater force, 
it invades contracts between man and man, and from contracts goes 
on to laws and constitutions, in utter recklessness, ending at last, Soc- 
rates, by an overthrow of all rights, private as well as public." 

"Is that trueX' I said. 

1 Homer, Odyssey, I, 35*. 


"That is my belief/' he replied. 

"Then, as I was saying, our youth should be trained from the first in 
a stricter system, for if amusements become lawless, and the youths 
themselves become lawless, they can never grow up into well-con- 
ducted and virtuous citizens." 

"Very true/' he said. 

"And when they have made a good beginning in play, and by the 
help of music have gained the habit of good order, then this habit of 
order, in a manner how unlike the lawless play of the others! will 
accompany them in all their actions and be a principle of growth to 
them, and if there be any fallen places in the State will raise them 
up again." 

"Very true/' he said. 

"Thus educated, they will invent for themselves any lesser rules 
which their predecessors have altogether neglected." 

"What do you mean?" 

"I mean such things as these : when the young are to be silent be 
fore their elders; how they are to show respect to them by standing 
and making them sit; what honor is due to parents; what garments 
or shoes are to be worn; the mode of dressing the hair; deportment 
and manners in general. You would agree with me?" 


"But there is, I think, small wisdom in legislating about such mat- 
ters I doubt if it is ever done; nor are any precise written enactments 
about them likely to be lasting/' 


"It would seem, Adeimantus, that the direction in which education 
starts a man, will determine his future life. Does not like always at- 
tract like?" 

"To be sure." 

"Until some one rare and grand result is reached which may be 
good, and may be the reverse of good?" 

"That is not to be denied." 

"And for this reason," I said, "I shall not attempt to legislate 
further about them." 

314 PLATO 

"Naturally enough," he replied. 

"Well, and about the business of the agora, and the ordinary deal- 
igs between man and man, or again about agreements with artisans; 
bout insult and injury, or the commencement of actions, and the 
ppointment of juries, what would you say? there may also arise 
uestions about any impositions and exactions of market and harbor 
ues which may be required, and in general about the regulations of 
larkets, police, harbors, and the like. But, oh heavens! shall we con- 
escend to legislate on any of these particulars'?" 

"I think/' he said, "that there is no need to impose laws about them 
i good men; what regulations are necessary they will find out soon 
nough for themselves." 

"Yes," I said, "my friend, if God will only preserve to them the 
LWS which we have given them." 

It is useless to try by endless reform legislation to cure ras- 
cality in a state when its fundamental order is wrong. 

"What, then," he said, "is still remaining to us of the work of 

"Nothing to us," I replied; "but to Apollo, the god of Delphi, there 
imains the ordering of the greatest and noblest and chiefest things 
: all." 

"Which are they?" he said. 

"The institution of temples and sacrifices, and the entire service 
: gods, demigods, and heroes; also the ordering of the repositories 
: the dead, and the rites which have to be observed by him who 
ould propitiate the inhabitants of the world below. These are mat- 
:rs of which we are ignorant ourselves, and as founders of a city we 
lould be unwise in trusting them to any interpreter but our an- 
;stral deity. He is the god who sits in the center, on the navel of the 
irth, and he is the interpreter of religion to all mankind." 

"You are right, and we will do as you propose." 

"But where, amid all this, is justice? son of Ariston, tell me where, 
fow that our city has been made habitable, light a candle and 


search, and get your brother and Polemarchus and the rest of our 
friends to help, and let us see where in it we can discover justice and 
where injustice, and in what they differ from one another, and 
which of them the man who would be happy should have for his 
portion, whether seen or unseen by gods and men/* 

"Nonsense," said Glaucon: "did you not promise to search your- 
self, saying that for you not to help justice in her need would be an 

"I do not deny that I said so; and as you remind me, I will be as 
good as my word; but you must join." 

<r We will," he replied. 

"Well, then, I hope to make the discovery in this way: I mean to 
begin with the assumption that our State, if rightly ordered, is 

"That is most certain." 

"And being perfect, is therefore wise and valiant and temperate 
and just." 2 

"That is likewise clear." 

"And whichever of these qualities we find in the State, the one 
which is not found will be the residue?" 

"Very good." 

"If there were four things, and we were searching for one of them, 
wherever it might be, the one sought for might be known to us from 
the first, and there would be no further trouble; or we might know 
the other three first, and then the fourth would clearly be the one 

"Very true," he said. 

"And is not a similar method to be pursued about the virtues, 
which are also four in number?" 


"First among the virtues found in the State, wisdom comes into 
view, and in this I detect a certain peculiarity." 

2 Here Plato lists, as he does in other dialogues, what to him are the four great 
virtues wisdom, courage, temperance or self-control, and justice. From this time 
an they were accepted as the standard virtues of the ancient world. 

316 PLATO 

"What is that?" 

"The State which we have been describing is said to be wise as 
being good in counsel?" 

"Very true." 

"And good counsel is clearly a kind of knowledge, for not by 
ignorance, but by knowledge, do men counsel well?" 


"And the kinds of knowledge in a State are many and diverse?" 

"Of course." 

"There is the knowledge of the carpenter; but is that the sort of 
knowledge which gives a city the title of wise and good in counsel?" 

"Certainly not; that would only give a city the reputation of skill 
in carpentering." 

"Then a city is not to be called wise because possessing a knowl- 
edge which counsels for the best about wooden implements?" 

"Certainly not." 

"Nor by reason of a knowledge which advises about brazen pots, 
nor as possessing any other similar knowledge?" 

"Not by reason of any of them," he said. 

"Nor yet by reason of a knowledge which cultivates the earth; that 
would give the city the name of agricultural?" 


"Well," I said, "and is there any knowledge in our recently- 
founded State among any of the citizens which advises, not about 
any particular thing in the State, but about the whole, and considers 
how a State can best deal with itself and with other States?" 

"There certainly is." 

"And what is this knowledge, and among whom is it found?" I 

"It is the knowledge of the guardians," he replied, "and is found 
among those whom we were just now describing as perfect 

"And what is the name which the city derives from the possession 
of this sort of knowledge?" 

"The name of good in counsel and truly wise." 


"And will there be in our city more of these true guardians or more 

"The smiths," he replied, "will be far more numerous." 

"Will not the guardians be the smallest of all the classes who re- 
ceive a name from the profession of some kind of knowledge?" 

"Much the smallest." 

"And so by reason of the smallest part or class, and of the knowl- 
edge which resides in this presiding and ruling part of itself, the 
whole State, being thus constituted according to nature, will be 
wise; and this, which has the only knowledge worthy to be called 
wisdom, has been ordained by nature to be of all classes the least." 

"Most true." 

"Thus, then," I said, "the nature and place in the State of one of 
the four virtues has somehow or other been discovered." 

"And, in my humble opinion, very satisfactorily discovered," he 

"Again," I said, "there is no difficulty in seeing the nature of 
courage, and in what part that quality resides which gives the name 
of courageous to the State." 

"How do you mean?" 

"Why," I said, "everyone who calls any State courageous or cow- 
ardly, will be thinking of the part which fights and goes out to war on 
the State's behalf." 

"No one," he replied, "would ever think of any other." 

"The rest of the citizens may be courageous or may be cowardly, 
but their courage or cowardice will not, as I conceive, have the ef- 
fect of making the city either the one or the other." 

"Certainly not." 

"The city will be courageous in virtue of a portion of herself which 
preserves under all circumstances that opinion about the nature of 
things to be feared and not to be feared in which our legislator edu^ 
cated them; and this is what you term courage." 

"I should like to hear what you are saying once more, for I do not 
think that I perfectly understand you." 

"I mean that courage is a kind of salvation." 

318 PLATO 

"Salvation of what?" 

"Of the opinion respecting things to be feared, what they are and 
of what nature, which the law implants through education; and I 
mean by the words 'under all circumstances' to intimate that in 
pleasure or in pain, or under the influence of desire or fear, a man 
preserves, and does not lose this opinion. Shall I give you an illus- 

"If you please." 

"You know," I said, "that dyers, when they want to dye wool for 
making the true sea-purple, begin by selecting their white color first; 
this they prepare and dress with much care and pains, in order that 
the white ground may take the purple hue in full perfection. The 
dyeing then proceeds; and whatever is dyed in this manner becomes 
a fast color, and no washing either with lyes or without them can 
take away the bloom. But, when the ground has not been duly pre- 
pared, you will have noticed how poor is the look either of purple or 
of any other color." 

"Yes," he said; "I know that they have a washed-out and ridic- 
ulous appearance." 

"Then now," I said, "you will understand what our object was in 
selecting our soldiers, and educating them in music and gymnastic; 
we were contriving influences which would prepare them to take the 
dye of the laws in perfection, and the color of their opinion about 
dangers and of every other opinion was to be indelibly fixed by their 
nurture and training, not to be washed away by such potent lyes as 
pleasure mightier agent far in washing the soul than any soda or 
lye; or by sorrow, fear, and desire, the mightiest of all other solvents. 
And this sort of universal saving power of true opinion in con- 
formity with law about real and false dangers I call and maintain to 
be courage, unless you disagree." 

"But I agree," he replied; "for I suppose that you mean to exclude 
mere uninstructed courage, such as that of a wild beast or of a slave 
this, in your opinion, is not the courage which the law ordains, and 
ought to have another name/* 

"Most certainly." 


"Then I may infer courage to be such as you describe?' 1 

"Why, yes/' said I, "you may, and if you add the words 'of a citi- 
zen/ you will not be far wrong; hereafter, if you like, we will carry 
the examination further, but at present we are seeking not for 
courage but justice; and for the purpose of our inquiry we have said 

"You are right," he replied. 

"Two virtues remain to be discovered in the State first, temper- 
jiace, and then justice which is the end of our search." 

"Very true." 

"Now, can we find justice without troubling ourselves about 

"I do not know how that can be accomplished," he said, "nor do I 
desire that justice should be brought to light and temperance lost 
sight of; and therefore I wish that you would do me the favor of con- 
sidering temperance first.' 

"Certainly," I replied, "I should not be justified in refusing your 

"Then consider," he said. 

"Yes," I replied; "I will; and as far as I can at present see, the 
virtue of temperance has more of the nature of harmony and sym- 
phony than the preceding." 

"How so?" he asked. 

"Temperance," I replied, "is the ordering or controlling of certain 
pleasures and desires; this is curiously enough implied in the saying 
of 'a man being his own master'; and other traces of the same notion 
may be found in language." 

"No doubt," he said. 

"There is something ridiculous in the expression 'master of him- 
self; for the master is also the servant and the servant the master; 
and in all these modes of speaking the same person is denoted." 


"The meaning is/' I believe, "that in the human soul there is a 
better and also a worse principle; and when the better has the worse 
under control, then a man is said to be master of himself; and this is 

320 PLATO 

a term of praise: but when, owing to evil education or association, 
the better principle, which is also the smaller, is overwhelmed by the 
greater mass of the worse in this case he is blamed and is called the 
slave of self and unprincipled/' 

"Yes, there is reason in that/' 

"And now," I said, "look at our newly-created State, and there 
you will find one of these two conditions realized; for the State, as 
you will acknowledge, may be justly called master of itself, if the 
words 'temperance* and 'self-mastery' truly express the rule of the 
better part over the worse." 

"Yes," he said, "I see that what you say is true." 

"Let me further note that the manifold and complex pleasures and 
desires and pains are generally found in children and women and 
servants, and in the freemen so called who are of the lowest and more 
numerous class." 

"Certainly," he said. 

'Whereas the simple and moderate desires which follow reason, 
and are under the guidance of mind and true opinion, are to be found 
only in a few, and those the best born and best educated." 

"Very true." 

"These two, as you may perceive, have a place in our State; and 
the meaner desires of the many are held down by the virtuous desires 
and wisdom of the few." 

"That I perceive," he said. 

"Then if there be any city which may be described as master of 
its own pleasures and desires, and master of itself, ours may claim 
such a designation?" 

"Certainly," he replied. 

"It may also be called temperate, and for the same reasons?" 


"And if there be any State in which rulers and subjects will be 
agreed as to the question who are to rule, that again will be our 



"And the citizens being thus agreed among themselves, in which 
class will temperance be found in the rulers or in the subjects?" 

"In both, as I should imagine," he replied. 

"Do you observe that we were not far wrong in our guess that 
temperance was a sort of harmony?" 

"Why so?" 

"Why, because temperance is unlike courage and wisdom, each 
of which resides in a part only, the one making the State wise and 
the other valiant; not so temperance, which extends to the whole, 
and runs through all the notes of the scale, and produces a harmony 
of the weaker and the stronger and the middle class, Whether you 
suppose them to be stronger or weaker in wisdom or power or num- 
bers or wealth, or anything else. Most truly then may we deem 
temperance to be the agreement of the naturally superior and inferior, 
as to the right to rule of either, both in states and individuals." 

"I entirely agree with you." 

"And so," I said, "we may consider three out of the four virtues 
to have been discovered in our State. The last of those qualities 
which make a state virtuous must be justice, if we only knew what 
that was." 

"The inference is obvious." 

"The time then has arrived, Glaucon, when, like huntsmen, we 
should surround the cover, and look sharp that justice does not steal 
away, and pass out of sight and escape us; for beyond a doubt she is 
somewhere in this country: watch therefore and strive to catch a 
sight of her, and if you see her first, let me know." 

"Would that I could! but you should regard me rather as a fol- 
lower who has just eyes enough to see what you show himthat is 
about as much as I am good for." 

"Offer up a prayer with me and follow." 

"I will, but you must show me the way." 

"Here is no path," I said, "and the wood is dark and perplexing; 
still we must push on." 

"Let us push on." 

322 PLATO 

Here I saw something: "Halloo!" I said, "I begin to perceive a 
track, and I believe that the quarry will not escape." 

"Good news," he said. 

"Truly," I said, "we are stupid fellows." 

"Why so?" 

'Why, my good sir, at the beginning of our inquiry, ages ago, 
there was justice tumbling out at our feet, and we never saw her; 
nothing could be more ridiculous. Like people who go about look- 
ing for what they have in their hands that was the way with us 
we looked not at what we were seeking, but at what was far off in 
the distance; and therefore, I suppose, we missed her." 

'What do you mean?" 

"I mean to say that in reality for a long time past we have been 
talking of justice, and have failed to recognize her." 

"I grow impatient at the length of your exordium." 

'Well then, tell me," I said, "whether I am right or not: You re- 
member the original principle which we were always laying down 
at the foundation of the State, that one man should practice one thing 
only, the thing to which his nature was best adapted; now justice is 
this principle or a part of it." 

"Yes, we often said that one man should do one thing only." 

"Further, we affirmed that justice was doing one's own business, 
and not being a busybody; we said so again and again, and many 
others have said the same to us." 

"Yes, we said so/' 

''Then to do one's own business in a certain way may be assumed 
to be justice. Can you tell me whence I derive this inference?" 

"I cannot, but I should like to be told." 

"Because I think that this is the only virtue which remains in the 
State when the other virtues of temperance and courage and wisdom 
are abstracted; and, that this is the ultimate cause and condition of 
the existence of all of them, and while remaining in them is also their 
preservative; and we were saying that if the three were discovered by 
us, justice would be the fourth or remaining one." 

"That follows of necessity." 


"If we are asked to determine which of these four qualities by its 
presence contributes most to the excellence of the State, whether 
the agreement of rulers and subjects, or the preservation in the 
soldiers of the opinion which the law ordains about the true nature 
of dangers, or wisdom and watchfulness in the rulers, or whether 
this other which I am mentioning, and which is found in children 
and women, slave and freeman, artisan, ruler, subject the quality, I 
mean, of every one doing his own work, and not being a busybody, 
would claim the palm the question is not so easily answered." 

"Certainly," he replied, "there would be a difficulty in saying 

"Then the power of each individual in the State to do his own 
work appears to compete with the other political virtues, wisdom, 
temperance, courage." 

"Yes," he said. 

"And the virtue which enters into this competition is justice?" 


"Let us look at the question from another point of view: Are not 
the rulers in a State those to whom you would entrust the office of 
determining suits at law?" 


"And are suits decided on any other ground but that a man may 
neither take what is another's, nor be deprived of what is his own?" 

"Yes; that is their principle." 

"Which is a just principle?" 


"Then on this view also justice will be admitted to be the having 
and doing what is a man's own, and belongs to him?" 3 

"Very true." 

"Think, now, and say whether you agree with me or not. Sup- 

3 Here at last Socrates arrives at the first acceptable definition of social justice, a* 
condition in which every person has and does peacefully what it is his right to have 
and to do, fills the place for which he is fitted. The same definition, translated into 
psychological terms, is then applied to the state of the individual whose faculties 
are so fairly and harmoniously adjusted that each plays that part in his inner life 
that it rightfully should, neither more nor less. 

324 PLATO 

pose a carpenter to be doing the business of a cobbler, or a cobbler 
of a carpenter; and suppose tbem to exchange their implements or 
their duties, or the same person to be doing the work of both, or 
whatever be the change; do you think that any great harm would 
result to the State?" 

"Not much." 

"But when the cobbler or any other man whom nature designed 
to be a trader, having his heart lifted up by wealth or strength or 
the number of his followers, or any like advantage, attempts to 
force his way into the class of warriors, or a warrior into that of 
legislators and guardians, for which he is unfitted, and either to take 
the implements or the duties of the other; or when one man is trader, 
legislator, and warrior all in one, then I think you will agree with me 
in saying that this interchange and this meddling of one with another 
is the ruin of the State." 

"Most true." 

"Seeing then," I said, "that there are three distinct classes, any 
meddling of one with another, or the change of one into another, 
is the greatest harm to the State, and may be most justly termed 


"And the greatest degree of evil-doing to one's own city would be 
termed by you injustice?" 


"This then is injustice; and on the other hand when the trader, 
the auxiliary, and the guardian each do their own business, that is 
justice, and will make the city just." 

"I agree with you." 

'We will not," I said, "be over-positive as yet; but if, on trial, 
this conception of justice be verified in the individual as well as in 
the State, there will be no longer any room for doubt; if it be not 
verified, we must have a fresh inquiry. First let us complete the old 
investigation, which we began, as you remember, under the im- 
pression that, if we could previously examine justice on the larger 


cale, there would be less difficulty in discerning her in the indi- 
idual. That larger example appeared to be the State, and accord- 
ugly we constructed as good a one as we could, knowing well that 
i the good State justice would be found. Let the discovery which 
/e made be now applied to the individual if they agree, we shall be 
atisfied; or, if there be a difference in the individual, we will come 
>ack to the State and have another trial of the theory. The friction 
f the two when rubbed together may possibly strike a light in which 
ustice will shine forth, and the vision which is then revealed we 
/ill fix in our souls." 

"That will be in regular course; let us do as you say." 

I proceeded to ask: "When two things, a greater and less, are 
ailed by the same name, are they like or unlike in so far as they are 
ailed the same?" 

"Like," he replied. 

"The just man then, if we regard the idea of justice only, will 
e like the just State?" 

"He will." 

"And a State was thought by us to be just when the three classes 
i the State severally did their own business; and also thought to be 
*mperate and valiant and wise by reason of certain other affections 
nd qualities of these same classes?" 

"True," he said. 

"And so of the individual; we may assume that he has the same 
tiree principles in his own soul which are found in the State; and 
.e may be rightly described in the same terms, because he is affected 
i the same manner?" 

"Certainly," he said. 

Socrates develops more fully his theory of three principles or 
elements in each mans nature, corresponding to the three 
classes in the ideal state. The reasoning intellect matched, the 
wise rulers, the courageous spirit the intrepid soldiery and the 
bodily desires and appetites the working classes that provide for 
the physical needs of the state. 

326 PLATO 

"Must we not then infer that the individual is wise in the same 
way, and in virtue of the same quality which makes the State wise?" 


"Also that the same quality which constitutes courage in the State 
constitutes courage in the individual, and that hoth the State and 
the individual bear the same relation to all the other virtues?" 


"And the individual will be acknowledged by us to be just in the 
same way in which the State is just?" 

"That follows of course." 

"We cannot but remember that the justice of the State consisted 
in each of the three classes doing the work of its own class?" 

"We are not very likely to have forgotten," he said. 

"We must recollect that the individual in whom the several quali- 
ties of his nature do their own work will be just, and will do his own 

"Yes," he said, "we must remember that too." 

"And ought not the rational principle, which is wise, and has the 
care of the whole soul, to rule, and the passionate or spirited principle 
to be the subject and ally?" 


"And, as we were saying, the united influence of music and gym- 
nastic will bring them into accord, nerving and sustaining the reason 
with noble words and lessons, and moderating and soothing and 
civilizing the wildness of passion by harmony and rhythm?" 

"Quite true," he said. 

"And these two, thus nurtured and educated, and having learned 
truly to know their own functions, will rule over the concupiscent, 
which in each of us is the largest part of the soul and by nature 
most insatiable of gain; over this they will keep guard, lest, waxing 
great and strong with the fullness of bodily pleasures, as they are 
termed, the concupiscent soul, no longer confined to her own sphere, 
should attempt to enslave and rule those who are not her natural' 
born subjects, and overturn the whole life of man?" 

"Very true," he said. 


"Both together will they not be the Lest defenders of the whole 
soul and the whole body against attacks from without; the one 
counseling, and the other fighting under his leader, and courageously 
executing his commands and counsels?" 


"And he is to be deemed courageous whose spirit retains in pleas- 
ure and in pain the commands of reason about what he ought or 
ought not to fear?" 

"Right," he replied. 

"And him we ^all wise who has in him that little part which 
rules, and which proclaims these commands; that part too being sup- 
posed to have a knowledge of what is for the interest of each of the 
three parts and of the whole?" 


"And would you not say that he is temperate who has these same 
elements in friendly harmony, in whom the one ruling principle of 
reason, and the two subject ones of spirit and desire are equally 
agreed that reason ought to rule, and do not rebel?" 

"Certainly," he said, "that is the true account of temperance 
whether in the State or individual." 

"And surely," I said, "we have explained again and again how 
and by virtue of what quality a man will be just." 

"That is very certain." 

"And is justice dimmer in the individual, and is her form different, 
or is she the same which we found her to be in the State?" 

"There is no difference in my opinion," he said. 

"Because, if any doubt is still lingering in our minds, a few com- 
monplace instances will satisfy us of the truth of what I am saying." 

"What sort of instances do you mean?" 

"If the case is put to us, must we not admit that the just State, 
or the man who is trained in the principles of such a State, will be 
less likely than the unjust to make away with a deposit of gold 01 
silver? Would anyone deny this?" 

"No one," he replied. 


'Will the just man or citizen ever be guilty of sacrilege or theft, 
or treachery either to his friends or to his country?" 


"Neither will he ever break faith where there have been oaths or 


"No one will be less likely to commit adultery, or to dishonor his 
father and mother, or to fail in his religious duties?" 

"No one." 

"And the reason is that each part of him is doing its own business, 
whether in ruling or being ruled?" 

"Exactly so." 

"Are you satisfied then that the quality which makes such men 
and such states is justice, or do you hope to discover some other?" 

"Not I, indeed." 

"Then our dream has been realized; and the suspicion which we 
entertained at the beginning of our work of construction, that some 
divine power must have conducted us to a primary form of justice, 
has now been verified?" 

"Yes, certainly." 

"And the division of labor which required the carpenter and the 
shoemaker and the rest of the citizens to be doing each his own busi- 
ness, and not another's, was a shadow of justice, and for that reason 
it was of use?" 


"But in reality justice was such as we were describing, being con- 
cerned however, not with the outward man, but with the inward, 
which is the true self and concernment of man : for the just man does 
not permit the several elements within him to interfere with one 
another, or any of them to do the work of others he sets in order 
his own inner life, and is his own master and his own law, and at 
peace with himself; and when he has bound together the three 
principles within him, which may be compared to the higher, lower, 
and middle notes of the scale, and the intermediate intervalswhen 
he has bound all these together, and is no longer many, but has 


become one entirely temperate and perfectly adjusted nature, then 
he proceeds to act, if he has to act, whether in a matter of property, 
or in the treatment of the body, or in some affair of politics or private 
business; always thinking and calling that which preserves and co- 
operates with this harmonious condition, just and good action, and 
the knowledge which presides over it, wisdom, and that which at 
any time impairs this condition, he will call unjust action, and the 
opinion which presides over it ignorance." 

"You have said the exact truth, Socrates." 

"Very good; and if we were to affirm that we had discovered the 
just man and the just State, and the nature of justice in each of 
them, we should not be telling a falsehood?" 

"Most certainly not." 

"May we say so, then?" 

"Let us say so." 

"And now," I said, "injustice has to be considered," 


"Must not injustice be a strife which arises among the three prin- 
ciplesa meddlesomeness, and interference, and rising up of a part 
of the soul against the whole, an assertion of unlawful authority, 
which is made by a rebellious subject against a true prince, of whom 
he is the natural vassal what is all this confusion and delusion but 
injustice and intemperance and cowardice and ignorance, and every 
form of vice?" 

"Exactly so." 

"And if the nature of justice and injustice be known, then the 
meaning of acting unjustly and being unjust, or, again, of acting 
justly, will also be perfectly clear?" 

"What do you mean?" he said. 

"Why," I said, "they are like disease and health; being in the 
soul just what disease and health are in the body." 

"How so?" he said. 

"Why," I said, "that which is healthy causes health, and that 
which is unhealthy causes disease " 


330 PLATO 

"And just actions cause justice, and unjust actions cause injustice? ' 

"That is certain." 

"And the creation of health is the institution of a natural order 
and government of one by another in the parts of the body; and the 
creation of disease is the production of a state of things at variance 
with this natural order?" 


"And is not the creation of justice the institution of a natural 
order and government of one by another in the parts of the soul, 
and the creation of injustice the production of a state of things at 
variance with the natural order?" 

"Exactly so," he said. 

"Then virtue is the health and beauty and well-being of the soul, 
<md vice the disease and weakness and deformity of the same?" 


"And do not good practices lead to virtue, and evil practices to 


"Still our old question of the comparative advantage of justice 
and injustice has not been answered: Which is the more profitable, 
to be just and act justly and practice virtue, whether seen or unseen 
of gods and men, or to be unjust and act unjustly, if only unpun- 
ished and unreformed?" 

"In my judgment, Socrates, the question has now become ridic- 
ulous. We know that, when the bodily constitution is gone, life is no 
longer endurable, though pampered with all kinds of meats and 
drinks, and having all wealth and all power; and shall we be told that 
when the very essence of the vital principle is undermined and cor- 
rupted, life is still worth having to a man, if only he be allowed to do 
whatever he likes with the single exception that he is not to acquire 
justice and virtue, or to escape from injustice and vice; assuming 
them both to be such as we have described?" 

"Yes,"I said, "the question is, as you say, ridiculous. Still, as we are 
near the spot at which we may see the truth in the clearest manner 
with our own eyes, let us not faint by the way." 


"Certainly not," he replied. 

"Come up hither/' I said, "and behold the various forms of vice, 
those of them, I mean, which are worth looking at/' 

"I am following you," he replied; "proceed." 

I said, "The argument seems to have reached a height from 
which, as from some tower of speculation, a man may look down and 
see that virtue is one, but that the forms of vice are innumerable; 
there being four special ones 4 which are deserving of note." 

"What do you mean?" he said. 

"I mean," I replied, "that there appear to be as many forms of the 
soul as there are distinct forms of the State." 

"How many?" 

"There are five of the State, and five of the soul," I said. 

"What are they?" 

"The first," I said, "is that which we have been describing, and 
which may be said to have two names, monarchy and aristocracy, 5 
accordingly as rule is exercised by one distinguished man or by 

"True," he replied. 

"But I regard the two names as describing one form only; for 
whether the government is in the hands of one or many, if the gov- 
ernors have been trained in the manner which we have supposed, 
the fundamental laws of the State will be maintained." 

"That is true," he replied. 

4 The description of the four inferior types of states and souls, together with the 
explanation of how the process of deterioration begins and continues down to the 
worst, docs not, as we might expect, follow at once. Socrates is interrupted and forced 
by his audience to give a far more complete account of the workings of his ideal 
system before he is allowed to go on. He does not get back to the inferior systems 
until Book VIII, page 429. 

5 The ideal system is hereafter spoken of sometimes as a monarchy, sometimes as 
an aristocracy. In both cases it is government by a ruler or rulers of the rare caliber 
described in the next four books. 

332 PLATO 


Education of women. Community of wives and children 

in the governing classes. Humanity in war. Rulers must 

he philosophers. 

"SucH is the good and true City or State, and the good and true man 
is of the same pattern; and if this is right every other is wrong; and 
the evil is one which affects not only the ordering of the State, but 
also the regulation of the individual soul, and is exhibited in four 

"What are they?" he said. 

I was proceeding to tell the order in which the four evil forms 
appeared to me to succeed one another, when Polemarchus, who was 
sitting a little way off, just beyond Adeimantus, began to whisper to 
him: stretching forth his hand, he took hold of the upper part of his 
coat by the shoulder, and drew him towards him, leaning forward 
himself so as to be quite close and saying something in his ear, of 
which I only caught the words, "Shall we let him off, or what shall 
we do?" 

"Certainly not," said Adeimantus, raising his voice. 

"Who is it," I said, "whom you are refusing to let off?" 

"You," he said. 

I repeated, "Why am I especially not to be let off?" 

'Why," he said, "we think that you are lazy, and mean to cheat us 
out of a whole chapter which is a very important part of the story; 
and you fancy that we shall not notice your airy way of proceeding; 
as if it were self-evident to everybody, that in the matter of women 
and children 'friends have all things in common/ " 

"And was I not right, Adeimantus?" 

"Yes," he said; "but what is right in this particular case, like 
everything else, requires to be explained; for community may be of 
many kinds. Please v therefore, to say what sort of community you 


mean. We have been long expecting that you would tell us some- 
thing about the family life of your citizens how they will bring 
children into the world, and rear them when they have arrived, and, 
in general, what is the nature of this community of women and chil- 
drenfor we are of opinion that the right or wrong management of 
such matters will have a great and paramount influence on the State 
for good or for evil. And now, since the question is still undeter- 
mined, and you are taking in hand another State, we have resolved, 
as you heard, not to let you go until you give an account of all this." 

"To that resolution/ 1 said Glaucon, "you may regard me as saying 

"And without more ado," said Thrasymachus, "you may consider 
us all to be equally agreed." 

I said: "You know not what you are doing in thus assailing me. 
What an argument are you raising about the State! Just as I thought 
that I had finished, and was only too glad that I had laid this question 
to sleep, and was reflecting how fortunate I was in your acceptance 
of what I then said, you ask me to begin again at the very foundation, 
ignorant of what a hornet's nest of words you are stirring. Now I 
foresaw this gathering trouble, and avoided it." 

"For what purpose do you conceive that we have come here," said 
Thrasymachus, "to look for gold, or to hear discourse?" 

"Yes, but discourse should have a limit." 

"Yes, Socrates," said Glaucon, "and the whole of life is the only 
limit which wise men assign to the hearing of such discourses. But 
never mind about us; take heart yourself and answer the question in 
your own way: What sort of community of women and children is 
this which is to prevail among our guardians? and how shall we 
manage the period between birth and education, which seems to re- 
quire the greatest care? Tell us how these things will be." 

"Yes, my simple friend, but the answer is the reverse of easy; many 
more doubts arise about this than about our previous conclusions. 
For the practicability of what is said may be doubted; and looked at 
in another point of view, whether the scheme, if ever so practicable, 

334 PLATO 

would be for ttie best, is also doubtful. 1 Hence I feel a reluctance to 
approach the subject, lest our aspiration, my dear friend, should turn 
out to be a dream only/' 

"Fear not," he replied, "for your audience will not be hard upon 
you; they are not skeptical or hostile." 

I said: "My good friend, I suppose that you mean to encourage 
me by these words." 

"Yes," he said. 

"Then let me tell you that you are doing just the reverse; the en- 
couragement which you offer would have been all very well had I 
myself believed that I knew what I was talking about: to declare 
the truth about matters of high interest which a man honors and 
loves among wise men who love him need occasion no fear or falter- 
ing in his mind; but to carry on an argument when you are yourself 
only a hesitating inquirer, which is my condition, is a dangerous and 
slippery thing; and the danger is not that I shall be laughed at (of 
which the fear would be childish), but that I shall miss the truth 
where I have most need to be sure of my footing, and drag my 
friends after me in my fall. And I pray Nemesis 2 not to visit upon 
me the words which I am going to utter. For I do indeed believe that 
to be an involuntary homicide is a less crime than to be a deceiver 
about beauty or goodness or justice in the matter of laws. And that is 
a risk which I would rather run among enemies than among friends, 
and therefore you do well to encourage me." 

Glaucon laughed and said : "Well then, Socrates, in case you and 
your argument do us any serious injury you shall be acquitted be- 
forehand of the homicide, and shall not be held to be a deceiver; 
take courage then and speak." 

"Well," I said, "the law says that when a man is acquitted he is 
free from guilt, and what holds at law may hold in argument." 

"Then why should you mind?" 

1 Notice the hesitation of Socrates to dogmatize about the radical schemes he is 
about to propose. He offers what seems an ideal and visionary solution to an 
eternally perplexing problem and keeps his hearers from breaking out in violent 
opposition by reminding them that he is "only a hesitating inquirer." 

2 The godde c< who pursues with her vengeance men who have sinned. 


"Well," I replied, "I suppose that I must retrace my steps and say 
what I perhaps ought to have said before in the proper place. The 
part of the men has been played out, and now properly enough 
comes the turn of the women. Of them I will proceed to speak, and 
the more readily since I am invited by you. 

"For men born and educated like our citizens, the only way, in my 
opinion, of arriving at a right conclusion about the possession and 
use of women and children is to follow the path on which we 
originally started, when we said that the men were to be the 
guardians and watchdogs of the herd." 3 


"Let us further suppose the birth and education of our women to 
be subject to similar or nearly similar regulations; then we shall see 
whether the result accords with our design." 

"What do you mean?" 

"What I mean may be put into the form of a question," I said. 
"Are dogs divided into hes and shes, or do they both share equally in 
hunting and in keeping watch and in the other duties of dogs? or do 
we entrust to the males the entire and exclusive care of the flocks, 
while we leave the females at home, under the idea that the bearing 
and suckling their puppies is labor enough for them?" 

"No," he said, "they share alike; the only difference between them 
is that the males are stronger and the females weaker." 

"But can you use different animals for the same purpose, unless 
they are bred and fed in the same way?" 

"You cannot." 

"Then, if women are to have the same duties as men, they must 
have the same nurture and education?" 


"The education which was assigned to the men was music and 

3 Note that all that follows as to the life and sexual relations of women and the 
birth and nurture of children applies only to the women and children of the 
warrior and ruler classes, who live in community houses and own no private 
property. See page 301 ff. Ordinary people, business men, farmers, workers of all 
sorts, live in families under their own roofs just as people do everywhere else. 

33^ PLATO 


"Then women must be taught music and gymnastic and also the 
art of war, which they must practice like the men?" 

"That is the inference, I suppose." 

"I should rather expect," I said, "that several of our proposals, if 
they are carried out, being unusual, may appear ridiculous." 

"No doubt of it." 

"Yes, and the most ridiculous thing of all will be the sight of 
women naked in the palaestra, 4 exercising with the men, especially 
when they are no longer young; they certainly will not be a vision of 
beauty, any more than the enthusiastic old men who in spite of 
wrinkles and ugliness continue to frequent the gymnasia." 

"Yes, indeed," he said; "according to present notions the proposal 
would be thought ridiculous." 

"But then," I said, "as we have determined to speak our minds, we 
must not fear the jests of the wits which will be directed against this 
sort of innovation; how they will talk of women's attainments both in 
music and gymnastic, and above all about their wearing armor and 
riding upon horseback!" 

"Very true," he replied. 

"Yet having begun we must go forward to the rough places of the 
law; at the same time begging of these gentlemen for once in their 
life to be serious. Not long ago, as we shall remind them, the Hel- 
lenes were of the opinion, which is still generally received among the 
barbarians, that the sight of a naked man was ridiculous and im- 
proper; and when first the Cretans and then the Lacedaemonians 
introduced the custom, the wits of that day might equally have 
ridiculed the innovation." 

"No doubt." 

"But when experience showed that to let all things be uncovered 
was far better than to cover them up, and the ludicrous effect to the 
outward eye vanished before the better principle which reason as- 
serted, then the man was perceived to be a fool who directs the shafts 

4 See Symposium, note 49. 


of his ridicule at any other sight but that of folly and vice, or seri 
ously inclines to weigh the beautiful by any other standard but that 
of the good" 

'Very true," he replied. 

"First, then, whether the question is to be put in jest or in earnest^ 
let us come to an understanding about the nature of woman: Is she 
capable of sharing either wholly or partially in the actions of men, or 
not at all? And is the art of war one of those arts in which she can 
or can not share? That will be the best way of commencing the in- 
quiry, and will probably lead to the fairest conclusion." 

"That will be much the best way." 

"Shall we take the other side first and begin by arguing against 
ourselves; in this manner the adversary's position will not be unde- 

"Why not?" he said. 

"Then let us put a speech into the mouths of our opponents. They 
will say: 'Socrates and Glaucon, no adversary need convict you, for 
you yourselves, at the first foundation of the State, admitted the prin- 
ciple that everybody was to do the one work suited to his own nature.' 
And certainly, if I am not mistaken, such an admission was made by 
us. 'And do not the natures of men and women differ very much in- 
deed?' And we shall reply: 'Of course they do/ Then we shall be 
asked whether the tasks assigned to men and to women should not 
be different, and such as are agreeable to their different natures. 
Certainly they should. 'But if so, have you not fallen into a serious 
inconsistency in saying that men and women, whose natures are so 
entirely different, ought to perform the same actions?' What defense 
will you make for us, my good sir, against anyone who offers these 

"That is not an easy question to answer when asked suddenly; and 
I shall and I do beg of you to draw out the case on our side." 

"These are the objections, Glaucon, and there are many others of 
a like kind, which I foresaw long ago; they made me afraid and re- 
luctant to take in hand any law about the possession and nurture of 
women and children." 

338 PLATO 

"By Zeus," he said, "the problem to be solved is anything but 

"Why yes," I said, "but the fact is that when a man is out of his 
depth, whether he has fallen into a little swimming bath or into mid- 
ocean, he has to swim all the same." 

"Very true." 

"And must not we swim and try to reach the shorewe will hope 
that Arion's dolphin 5 or some other miraculous help may save us?" 

"I suppose so," he said. 

"Well then, let us see if any way of escape can be found. We 
acknowledged did we not? that different natures ought to have dif- 
ferent pursuits, and that men's and women's natures are different. 
And now what are we saying? That different natures ought to have 
the same pursuits; this is the inconsistency which is charged upon 


"Verily, Glaucon," I said, "glorious is the power of the art of 

"Why do you say so?" 

"Because I think that many a man falls into the practice against his 
will. When he thinks that he is reasoning he is really disputing, just 
because he cannot define and divide, and so know that of which he 
is speaking; and he will pursue a merely verbal opposition in the 
spirit of contention and not of fair discussion/' 

"Yes," he replied, "such is very often the case; but what has that 
to do with us and our argument?" 

"A great deal; for there is certainly a danger of our getting unin- 
tentionally into a verbal opposition." 

"In what way?" 

"Why we valiantly and pugnaciously insist upon the verbal truth, 
that different natures ought to have different pursuits, but we never 
considered at all what was the meaning of sameness or difference of 

5 The tale of the sweet singer Arion, who was compelled by his wicked shipmates 
to throw himself into the sea and was saved by a dolphin that bore him to land 
on his back, is told by Herodotus, I, 84. 


nature, or why we distinguished them when we assigned different 
pursuits to different natures and the same to the same natures." 

"Why, no," he said, "that was never considered by us." 

I said: "Suppose that by way of illustration we were to ask the 
question whether there is not an opposition in nature between bald 
men and hairy men; and if this is admitted by us, then, if bald men 
are cobblers, we should forbid the hairy men to be cobblers, and 

"That would be a jest," he said. 

"Yes," I said, "a jest; and why? because we never meant when we 
constructed the State, that the opposition of natures should extend to 
every difference, but only to those differences which affected the 
pursuit in which the individual is engaged; we should have argued, 
for example, that a physician and one who is in mind a physician 
may be said to have the same nature." 


"Whereas the physician and the carpenter have different natures?" 


"And if," I said, "the male and female sex appear to differ in theii 
fitness for any art or pursuit, we should say that such pursuit or art 
ought to be assigned to one or the other of them; but if the difference 
consists only in women bearing and men begetting children, this does 
not amount to a proof that a woman differs from a man in respect of 
the sort of education she should receive; and we shall therefore con- 
tinue to maintain that our guardians and their wives ought to have 
the same pursuits." 

"Very true," he said. 

"Next, we shall ask our opponent how, in reference to any of the 
pursuits or arts of civic life, the nature of a woman differs from that 
of a man?" 

"That will be quite fair." 

"And perhaps he, like yourself, will reply that to give a sufficient 
answer on the instant is not easy; but after a little reflection there is 
no difficulty." 

"Yes, perhaps." 

340 PLATO 

"Suppose then that we invite him to accompany us in the argu- 
ment, and then we may hope to show him that there is nothing 
peculiar in the constitution of women which would affect them in the 
administration of the State." 

"By all means." 

"Let us say to him: Come now, and we will ask you a question: 
when you spoke of a nature gifted or not gifted in any respect, did 
you mean to say that one man will acquire a thing easily, another 
with difficulty; a little learning will lead the one to discover a great 
deal; whereas the other, after much study and application, no sooner 
learns than he forgets; or again, did you mean, that the one has a body 
which is a good servant to his mind, while the body of the other is a 
hindrance to him? would not these be the sort of differences which 
distinguish the man gifted by nature from the one who is ungif ted?" 

"No one will deny that." 

"And can you mention any pursuit of mankind in which the male 
sex has not all these gifts and qualities in a higher degree than the 
female? Need I waste time in speaking of the art of weaving, and the 
management of pancakes and preserves, in which womankind does 
really appear to be great, and in which for her to be beaten by a man 
is of all things the most absurd?" 

"You are quite right," he replied, "in maintaining the general 
inferiority of the female sex: although many women are in many 
things superior to many men, yet on the whole what you say is true." 

"And if so, my friend," I said, "there is no special faculty of ad- 
ministration in a state which a woman has because she is a woman, 
or which a man has by virtue of his sex, but the gifts of nature are 
alike diffused in both; all the pursuits of men are the pursuits of 
women also, but in all of them a woman is inferior to a man." 

"Very true." 

"Then are we to impose all our enactments on men and none of 
them on womep.7 r 

"That will never do." 

"One woman has a gift of healing, another not; one is a musician, 
and another has no music in her nature?" 


"Very true. 

"And one woman has a turn for gymnastic and military exercises, 
and another is unwarlike and hates gymnastics?" 


"And one woman is a philosopher, and another is an enemy of phi- 
losophy; one has spirit, and another is without spirit?" 

"That is also true." 

"Then one woman will have the temper of a guardian, and another 
not. Was not the selection of the male guardians determined by dif- 
ferences of this sort?" 


"Men and women alike possess the qualities which make a 
guardian; they differ only in their comparative strength or weakness." 


"And those women who have such qualities are to be selected as 
the companions and colleagues of men who have similar qualities 
and whom they resemble in capacity and in character?" 

"Very true." 

"And ought not the same natures to have the same pursuits?" 

"They ought." 

"Then, as we were saying before, there is nothing unnatural in 
assigning music and gymnastic to the wives of the guardians to 
that point we come round again." 

"Certainly not." 

"The law which we then enacted was agreeable to nature, and 
therefore not an impossibility or mere aspiration; and the contrary 
practice, which prevails at present, is in reality a violation of nature." 

"That appears to be true." 

"We had to consider, first, whether our proposals were possible, 
and secondly whether they were the most beneficial?" 


"And the possibility has been acknowledged?" 


"The very great benefit has next to be established?" 

"Quite so." 

342 PLATO 

'Tou will admit that the same education which makes a man a 
good guardian will make a woman a good guardian; for their original 
nature is the same?" 


"I should like to ask you a question." 

"What is it?" 

"Would you say that all men are equal in excellence, or is one 
man better than another?" 

"The latter." 

"And in the commonwealth which we were founding do you con- 
ceive the guardians who have been brought up on our model system 
to be more perfect men, or the cobblers whose education has been 

"What a ridiculous question!" 

"You have answered me," I replied: "Well, and may we not 
further say that our guardians are the best of our citizens?" 

"By far the best." 

"And will not their wives be the best women?" 

"Yes, by far the best." 

"And can there be anything better for the interests of the State 
than that the men and women of a State should be as good as 

"There can be nothing better." 

"And this is what the arts of music and gymnastic, when present 
in such manner as we have described, will accomplish?" 


"Then we have made an enactment not only possible but in the 
highest degree beneficial to the State?" 


"Then let the wives of our guardians strip, for their virtue will be 
their robe, and let them share in the toils of war and the defense of 
their country; only in the distribution of labors the lighter are to be 
assigned to the women, who are the weaker natures, but in other 
respects their duties are to be the same. And as for the man who 
laughs at naked women exercising their bodies from the best of mo- 


tives, in his laughter he is plucking 'A fruit of unripe wisdom/ 6 and 
he himself is ignorant of what he is laughing at, or what he is about; 
for that is, and ever will be, the best of sayings, 'That the useful 
is the noble and the hurtful is the base/ " 

"Very true." 

"I lere, then, is one difficulty in our law about women, which we 
may say that we have now escaped; the wave has not swallowed us 
up alive for enacting that the guardians of either sex should have all 
their pursuits in common; to the utility and also to the possibility of 
this arrangement the consistency of the argument with itself bears 

"Yes, that was a mighty wave which you have escaped." 

''Yes/' I said, "but a greater is coming; you will not think much 
of this when you see the next." 

"Go on; let me see." 

"The law," I said, "which is the sequel of this and of all that has 
preceded, is to the following effect : That the wives of our guardians 
are to be common, 7 and their children are to be common, and no 
parent is to know his own child, nor any child his parent." 

"Yes," he said, "that is a much greater wave than the other; and the 
possibility as well as the utility of such a law are far more question^ 

"I do not think," I said, "that there can be any dispute about the 
very great utility of having wives and children in common; the pos- 
sibility is quite another matter, and will be very much disputed." 

"I think that a good many doubts may be raised about both." 

"You imply that the two questions must be combined," I replied. 
"Now I meant that you should admit the utility; and in this way, as 

6 Pindar, Fragment 209. 

7 Some years before the appearance of the Republic, the comedy writer Aristoph- 
anes had produced a play, Ecclesiazusae, in which the women of Athens took 
over the city government. The men having made such a glaring failure of politics, 
it was not hard to convince them that women might perhaps do better and should 
be given a chance. One of the new laws set up a universal system of free love. 
There was nothing in this burlesque suggestion, however, remotely like Plato's 
carefully planned scheme of eugenics by which, breeding from the best, he would 
steadily raise the quality of his citizen stock. 

344 PLATO 

I thought, I should escape from one of them, and then there would 
remain only the possibility." 

"But that little attempt is detected, and therefore you will please 
to give a defense of both." 

"Well," I said, "I submit to my fate. Yet grant me a little favor: let 
me feast my mind with the dream as day dreamers are in the habit of 
feasting themselves when they are walking alone; for before they 
have discovered any means of effecting their wishes that is a matter 
which never troubles them they would rather not tire themselves 8 
by thinking about possibilities; but assuming that what they desire is 
already granted to them, they proceed with their plan, and delight in 
detailing what they mean to do when their wish has come true that 
is a way which they have of not doing much good to a capacity which 
was never good for much. Now I myself am beginning to lose heart, 
and I should like, with your permission, to pass over the question of 
possibility at present. Assuming therefore the possibility of the 
proposal, I shall now proceed to inquire how the rulers will carry 
out these arrangements, and I shall demonstrate that our plan, if 
executed, will be of the greatest benefit to the State and to the 
guardians. First of all, then, if you have no objection, I will endeavor 
with your help to consider the advantages of the measure; and here- 
after the question of possibility." 

"I have no objection; proceed." 

"First, I think that if our rulers and their auxiliaries are to be 
worthy of the name which they bear, there must be willingness to 
obey in the one and the power of command in the other; the 
guardians must themselves obey the laws, and they must also imitate 
the spirit of them in any details which are entrusted to their care." 

"That is right," he said. 

"You," I said, "who are their legislator, having selected the men, 
will now select the women and give them to them; they must be as 

8 The rest of this sentence is better translated: "By thinking about possibilities 
and impossibilities, but assuming their wish fulfilled, proceed to work out the de- 
tails, imagining happily what they will do when it comes true, thus making still 
more idle a mind that was already idle." 


far as possible of like natures with them; and they must live in com- 
mon houses and meet at common meals. None of them will have any- 
thing specially his or her own; they will be together, and will be 
brought up together, and will associate at gymnastic exercises. And 
so they will be drawn by a necessity of their natures to have inter- 
course with each other necessity is not too strong a word, I think?" 

"Yes," he said; "necessity, not geometrical, but another sort of 
necessity which lovers know, and which is far more convincing and 
constraining to the mass of mankind/' 

"True," I said; "and this, Glaucon, like all the rest, must proceed 
after an orderly fashion; in a city of the blessed, licentiousness is an 
unholy thing which the rulers will forbid." 

"Yes," he said, "and it ought not to be permitted." 

"Then clearly the next thing will be to make matrimony sacred in 
the highest degree, and what is most beneficial will be deemed 


"And how can marriages be made most beneficial? That is a ques- 
tion which I put to you, because I see in your house dogs for hunt- 
ing, and of the nobler sort of birds not a few. Now, I beseech you, 
do tell me, have you ever attended to their pairing and breeding?" 

"In what particulars?" 

'Why, in the first place, although they are all of a good sort, are 
not some better than others?" 


"And do you breed from them all indifferently, or do you take care 
to breed from the best only?" 

"From the best." 

"And do you take the oldest or the youngest, or only those of ripe 

"I choose only those of ripe age." 

"And if care was not taken in the breeding, your dogs and birds 
would greatly deteriorate?" 


"And the same of horses and of animals in general?" 

346 PLATO 


"Good heavens! my dear friend," I said, "what consummate skill 
will our rulers need if the same principle holds of the human species!" 

"Certainly, the same principle holds; but why does this involve 
any particular skill?" 

"Because," I said, "our rulers will often have to practice upon the 
body corporate with medicines. Now you know that when patients 
do not require medicines, but have only to be put under a regimen, 
the inferior sort of practitioner is deemed to be good enough; but 
when medicine has to be given, then the doctor should be more of 
a man." 

"That is quite true," he said; "but to what are you alluding?" 

"I mean," I replied, "that our rulers will find a considerable dose 
of falsehood and deceit necessary for the good of their subjects: we 
were saying that the use of all these things regarded as medicines 
might be of advantage." 

"And we were very right." 

"And this lawful use of them seems likely to be often needed in 
the regulations of marriages and births," 

"How so?" 

"Why," I said, "the principle has been already laid down that the 
best of either sex should be united with the best as often, and the 
inferior with the inferior, as seldom as possible; and that they should 
rear the offspring of the one sort of union, but not of the other, if the 
flock is to be maintained in first-rate condition. Now these goings-on 
must be a secret which the rulers only know, or there will be a further 
danger of our herd, as the guardians may be termed, breaking out 
into rebellion." 

'Very true." 

"Had we not better appoint certain festivals at which we will bring 
together the brides and bridegrooms, and sacrifices will be offered 
and suitable hymeneal songs composed by our poets: the number of 
weddings is a matter which must be left to the discretion of the 
rulers, whose aim will be to preserve the average of population? 
There are many other things which they will have to consider, such 


as the effects of wars and diseases and any similar agencies, in order 
as far as this is possible to prevent the State from becoming either 
too large or too small." 

"Certainly/' he replied. 

"We shall have to invent some ingenious kind of lots which the 
less worthy may draw on each occasion of our bringing them to- 
gether, and then they will accuse their own ill-luck and not the 

"To be sure," he said. 

"And I think that our braver and better youth, besides their other 
honors and rewards, might have greater facilities of intercourse with 
women given them; their bravery will be a reason, and such fathers 
ought to have as many sons as possible." 


"And the proper officers, whether male or female or both, for of- 
fices are to be held by women as well as by men" 


"The proper officers will take the offspring of the good parents to 
the pen 01 fold, and there they will deposit them with certain nurses 
who dwell in a separate quarter; but the offspring of the inferior, or 
of the better when they chance to be deformed, will be put away in 
some mysterious, unknown place, as they should be." 

"Yes," he said, "that must be done if the breed of the guardians 
is to be kept pure." 

"They will provide for their nurture, and will bring the mothers 
to the fold when they are full of milk, taking the greatest possible 
care that no mother recognizes her own child; and other wet-nurses 
may be engaged if more are required. Care will also be taken that 
the process of suckling shall not be protracted too long; and the 
mothers will have no getting up at night or other trouble, but will 
hand over all this sort of thing to the nurses and attendants." 

"You suppose the wives of our guardians to have a fine easy time 
of it when they are having children." 

"Why," said I, "and so they ought. Let us, however, proceed with- 

348 PLATO 

our scheme. We were saying that the parents should be in the prime 
of life?" 

"Very true. 1 ' 

"And what is the prime of life? May it not be defined as a period 
of about twenty years in a woman's life, and thirty in a man's?" 

"Which years do you mean to include?" 

"A woman," I said, "at twenty years of age may begin to bear chil- 
dren to the State, and continue to bear them until forty; a man may 
begin at five-and-twenty, when he has passed the point at which the 
pulse of life beats quickest, and continue to beget children until he 
be fifty-five." 

"Certainly," he said, "both in men and women those years are the 
prime of physical as well as of intellectual vigor." 

"Anyone above or below the prescribed ages who takes part in the 
public hymeneals shall be said to have done an unholy and un- 
righteous thing; the child of which he is the father, if it steals into 
life, will have been conceived under auspices very unlike the sacri- 
fices and prayers, which at each hymeneal priestesses and priests and 
the whole city will offer, that the new generation may be better 
and more useful than their good and useful parents, whereas his 
child will be the offspring of darkness and strange lust." 

"Very true," he replied. 

"And the same law will apply to anyone of those within the pre- 
scribed age who forms a connection with any woman in the prime of 
life without the sanction of the rulers; for we shall say that he is rais- 
ing up a bastard to the State, uncertified and unconsecrated." 

"Very true," he replied. 

"This applies, however, only to those who are within the specified 
age: after that we allow them to range at will, except that a man may 
not marry his daughter or his daughter's daughter, or his mother or 
his mother's mother; and women, on the other hand, are prohibited 
from marrying their sons or fathers, or son's son or father's father, and 
so on in either direction. And we grant all this, accompanying the 
permission with strict orders to prevent any embryo which may come 
into being from seeing the light; and if any force a way to the birth, 


the parents must understand that the offspring of such an union can- 
not be maintained, and arrange accordingly." 

"That also," he said, "is a reasonable proposition. But how wiD 
they know who are fathers and daughters, and so on?" 

"They will never know. The way will be this: dating from the day 
of the hymeneal, the bridegroom who was then married will call all 
the male children who are born in the seventh and the tenth month 
afterwards his sons, and the female children his daughters, and they 
will call him father, and he will call their children his grandchil- 
dren, and they will call the elder generation grandfathers and grand- 
mothers. All who were begotten at the time when their fathers and 
mothers came together will be called their brothers and sisters, and 
these, as I was saying, will be forbidden to intermarry. This, how- 
ever, is not to be understood as an absolute prohibition of the mar- 
riage of brothers and sisters; if the lot favors them, and they receive 
the sanction of the Pythian Oracle, 9 the law will allow them." 

"Quite right," he replied. 

"Such is the scheme, Glaucon, according to which the guardians of 
our State are to have their wives and families in common. And now 
you would have the argument show that this community is consistent 
with the rest of our polity, and also that nothing can be better- 
would you not?" 

"Yes, certainly." 

"Shall we try to find a common basis by asking of ourselves what 
ought to be the chief aim of the legislator in making laws and in the 
organization of a State what is the greatest good, and what is the 
greatest evil, and then consider whether our previous description has 
the stamp of the good or of the evil?" 

"By all means." 

"Can there be any greater evil than discord and distraction and 
plurality where unity ought to reign? or any greater good fhan the 
bond of unity?" 

"There cannot." 

9 Apollo's oracle at Delphi. See Apology, note 7. 


"And there is unity where there is community of pleasures and 
pains where all the citizens are glad or grieved on the same occasions 
of joy and sorrow?" 

"No doubt." 

"Yes; and where there is no common but only private feeling a State 
is disorganized when you have one half of the world triumphing 
and the other plunged in grief at the same events happening to the 
city or the citizens?" 


"Such differences commonly originate in a disagreement about the 
use of the terms 'mine' and 'not mine/ 'his' and 'not his.' " 

"Exactly so." 

"And is not that the best-ordered State in which the greatest 
number of persons apply the terms 'mine' and 'not mine' in the same 
way to the same thing?" 

"Quite true." 

"Or that again which most nearly approaches to the condition of 
the individual as in the body, when but a finger of one of us is hurt, 
the whole frame, drawn towards the soul as a center and forming one 
kingdom under the ruling power therein, feels the hurt and sympa- 
thizes all together with the part affected, and we say that the man has 
a pain in his finger; and the same expression is used about any other 
part of the body, which has a sensation of pain at suffering or of 
pleasure at the alleviation of suffering." 

"Very true," he replied; "and I agree with you that in the best- 
ordered State there is the nearest approach to this common feeling 
which you describe." 

"Then when anyone of the citizens experiences any good or evil, 
the whole State will make his case their own, and will either rejoice 
or sorrow with him?" 

"Yes," he said, "that is what will happen in a well-ordered State." 

"It will now be time," I said, "for us +o return to our State and see 
whether this or some other form is most in accordance with these 
fundamental principles." 

"Very good." 


"Our State like every other has rulers and subjects?" 


"All of whom will call one another citizens?" 

"Of course." 

"But is there not another name which people give to their rulers in 
other States?" 

"Generally they call them masters, but in democratic States they 
simply call them rulers." 

"And in our State what other name besides that of citizens do 
the people give the rulers?" 

"They are called saviors and helpers," he replied. 

"And what do the rulers call the people?" 

"Their maintainers and foster-fathers." 

"And what do they call them in other States?" 


"And what do the rulers call one another in other States?" 

"Fellow rulers." 

"And what in ours?" 

"Fellow guardians." 

"Did you ever know an example in any other State of a ruler who 
would speak of one of his colleagues as his friend and of another as 
not being his friend?" 

"Yes, very often." 

"And the friend he regards and describes as one in whom he has 
an interest, and the other as a stranger in whom he has no interest?" 


"But would any of your guardians think or speak of any other 
guardian as a stranger?" 

"Certainly he would not; for everyone whom they meet will be 
regarded by them either as a brother or sister, or father or mother, 
or son or daughter, or as the child or parent of those who are thus 
connected with him." 

"Capital," I said; "but let me ask you once more: Shall they be a 
family in name only; or shall they in all their actions be true to the 
name? For example, in the use of the word 'father/ would the care 

352 PLATO 

of a father be implied and the filial reverence and duty and obedience 
to him which the law commands; and is the violator of these duties to 
be regarded as an impious and unrighteous person who is not likely to 
receive much good either at the hands of God or of man? Are these to 
be or not to be % the strains which the children will hear repeated in 
their ears by all the citizens about those who are intimated to them to 
be their parents and the rest of their kinsfolk?" 

"These/' he said, "and none other; for what can be more ridic- 
ulous than for them to utter the names of family ties with the lips 
only and not to act in the spirit of them?" 

"Then in our city the language of harmony and concord will be 
more often heard than in any other. As I was describing before, when 
anyone is well or ill, the universal word will be 'with me it is well' or 
'it is ill/ " 

"Most true." 

"And agreeably to this mode of thinking and speaking, were we 
not saying that they will have their pleasures and pains in common?" 

"Yes, and so they will." 

"And they will have a common interest in the same thing which 
they will alike call 'my own/ and having this common interest they 
will have a common feeling of pleasure and pain?" 

"Yes, far more so than in other States." 

"And the reason of this, over and above the general constitution 
of the State, will be that the guardians will have a community of 
women and children?" 

"That will be the chief reason." 

"And this unity of feeling we admitted to be the greatest good, as 
was implied in our own comparison of a well-ordered State to the 
relation of the body and the members, when affected by pleasure or 

"That we acknowledged, and very rightly." 

"Then the community of wives and children among our citizens is 
clearly the source of the greatest good to the State?" 


"And this agrees with the other principle which we were affirm- 


ing that the guardians were not to have houses or lands or any other 
property; their pay was to be their food, which they were to receive 
from the other citizens, and they were to have no private expenses; 
for we intended them to preserve their true character of guardians.'* 

"Right," he replied. 

"Both the community of property and the community of families, 
as I am saying, tend to make them more truly guardians; they will not 
tear the city in pieces by differing about 'mine' and 'not mine'; each 
man dragging any acquisition which he has made into a separate 
house of his own, where he has a separate wife and children and pri- 
vate pleasures and pains; but all will be aftected as far as may be by 
the same pleasures and pains because they are all of one opinion about 
what is near and dear to them, and therefore they all tend towards a 
common end/' 

"Certainly," he replied. 

"And as they have nothing but their persons which they can call 
their own, suits and complaints will have no existence among them; 
they will be delivered from all those quarrels of which money or 
children or relations are the occasion." 

"Of course they will." 

"Neither will trials for assault or insult ever be likely to occui 
among them. For that equals should defend themselves against equali 
we shall maintain to be honorable and right; we shall make the pro 
Section of the person a matter of necessity." 

"That is good," he said. 

"Yes; and there is a further good in the law; viz., that if a man has 
a quarrel with another he will satisfy his resentment then and there, 
and not proceed to more dangerous lengths." 


"To the elder shall be assigned the duty of ruling and chastising 
the younger." 


"Nor can there be a doubt that the younger will not strike or do 
any other violence to an elder, unless the magistrates command him; 
nor will he slight him in any way. For there are two guardians, sharne 

354 PLATO 

and fear, mighty to prevent him: shame, which makes men refrain 
from laying hands on those who are to them in the relation of 
parents; fear, that the injured one will be succored by the others who 
are his brothers, sons, fathers." 

"That is true," he replied. 

"Then in every way the laws will help the citizens to keep the 
peace with one another? 

"Yes, there will be no want of peace/ 1 

"And as the guardians will never quarrel among themselves there 
will be no danger of the rest of the city being divided either against 
them or against one another." 

"None whatever." 

"I hardly like even to mention the little meannesses of which they 
will be rid, for they are beneath notice: such, for example, as the 
(lattery of the rich by the poor, and all the pains and pangs which men 
experience in bringing up a family, and in finding money to buy 
necessaries for their household, borrowing and then repudiating, get- 
ting how they can, and giving the money into the hands of women 
and slaves to keep the many evils of so many kinds which people 
suffer in this way are mean enough and obvious enough, and not 
worth speaking of." 

"Yes," he said, "a man has no need of eyes in order to perceive 

"And from all these evils they will be delivered, and their life will 
be blessed as the life of Olympic victors and yet more blessed." 

"How so?" 

"The Olympic victor," I said, "is deemed happy in receiving a part 
only of the blessedness which is secured to our citizens, who have 
won a more glorious victory and have a more complete maintenance at 
the public cost. For the victory which they have won is the salvation 
of the whole State; and the crown with which they and their chil- 
dren are crowned is the fullness of all that life needs; they receive 
rewards from the hands of their country while living, and after death 
have an honorable burial." 

"Yes," he said, "and glorious rewards they are/' 


"Do you remember," I said, "how in the course of the previous dis 
cussion someone who shall be nameless accused us of making oui 
guardians unhappy 10 they had nothing and might have possessed 
all things to whom we replied that, if an occasion offered, we might 
perhaps hereafter consider this question, but that, as at present ad- 
vised, we would make our guardians truly guardians, and that we 
were fashioning the State with a view to the greatest happiness, not 
of any particular class, but of the whole?" 

"Yes, I remember." 

"And what do you say, now that the life of our protectors is made 
out to be far better and nobler than that of Olympic victors is the 
life of shoemakers, or any other artisans, or of husbandmen, to be 
compared with it?" 

"Certainly not." 

"At the same time I ought here to repeat what I have said else- 
where, that if any of our guardians shall try to be happy in such a 
manner that he will cease to be a guardian, and is not content with 
this safe and harmonious life, which, in our judgment, is of all lives 
the best, but infatuated by some youthful conceit of happiness which 
gets up into his head shall seek to appropriate the whole state to him- 
self, then he will have to learn how wisely Hesiod spoke, when he 
said, 'half is more than the whole/ " n 

"If he were to consult me, I should say to him: Stay where you are, 
when you have the offer of such a life." 

"You agree then," I said, "that men and women are to have a com- 
mon way of life such as we have described common education, com- 
mon children; and they are to watch over the citizens in common 
whether abiding in the city or going out to war; they are to keep 
watch together, and to hunt together like dogs; and always and in all 
things, as far as they are able, women arc to share with the men? And 
in so doing they will do what is best, and will not violate, but preserve 
the natural relation of the sexes." 

"I agree with you," he replied. 

10 This was at the beginning of Book IV, page 306. 

11 Hesiod, Works and Days, 40. 

356 PLATO 

"The inquiry," I said, "has yet to be made, whether such a com- 
munity will be found possible as among other animals, so also 
among men and if possible, in what way possible}" 

"You have anticipated the question which I was about to suggest." 

"There is no difficulty," I said, "in seeing how war will be carried 
on by them." 


"Why, of course they will go on expeditions together; and will 
take with them any of their children who are strong enough, that, 
after the manner of the artisan's child, they may look on at the work 
which they will have to do when they are grown up; and besides look- 
ing on they will have to help and be of use in war, and to wait upon 
their fathers and mothers. Did you never observe in the arts how the 
potters' boys look on and help, long before they touch the wheel?" 

"Yes, I have." 

"And shall potters be more careful in educating their children and 
in giving them the opportunity of seeing and practicing their duties 
than our guardians will be?" 

"The idea is ridiculous," he said. 

Children who are allowed on the battlefield should he pro- 
tected from undue risks. Honors are to he paid to hrave soldiers. 

"Next, how shall our soldiers treat their enemies? What about 

"In what respect do you mean?" 

"First of all, in regard to slavery? Do you think it right that Hel- 
lenes should enslave Hellenic States, 12 or allow others to enslave 
them, if they can help? Should not their custom be to spare them, 
considering the danger which there is that the whole race may one 
day fall under the yoke of the barbarians?" 

"To spare them is infinitely better." 

"Then no Hellene should be owned by them as a slave; that is a 

12 The Greek national name for themselves was Hellenes. The Romans called 
them Greci, whence our Greeks. Socrates now prescribes a code of humanity in 
, at least for Greeks fighting Greeks. 



rule which they will observe and advise the other Hellenes to ob- 

"Certainly," he said; "they will in this way be united against the 
barbarians and will keep their hands off one another." 

"Next as to the slain; ought the conquerors," I said, "to take any- 
thing but their armor; 5 Does not the practice of despoiling an enemy 
afford an excuse for not facing the battle? Cowards skulk about the 
dead, pretending that they are fulfilling a duty, and many an army 
before now has been lost from this love of plunder." 

"Very true." 

"And is there not illiberality and avarice in robbing a corpse, and 
also a degree of meanness and womanishness in making an enemy 
of the dead body when the real enemy has flown away and left only 
his fighting gear behind him is not this rather like a dog who cannot 
get at his assailant, quarreling with the stones which strike him in- 

"Very like a dog," he said. 

"Then we must abstain from spoiling the dead or hindering their 

"Yes," he replied, "we most certainly must." 

"Neither shall we offer up arms at the temples of the gods, least 
of all the arms of Hellenes, if we care to maintain good feeling with 
other Hellenes; and, indeed, we have reason to fear that the offering 
of spoils taken from kinsmen may be a pollution unless commanded 
by the god himself?" 

"Very true." 

"Again, as to the devastation of Hellenic territory or the burning 
of houses, what is to be the practice?" 

"May I have the pleasure," he said, "of hearing your opinion?" 

"Both should be forbidden, in my judgment; I would take the 
annual produce and no more. Shall I tell you why?" 

"Pray do." 

"Why, you see, there is a difference in the names 'discord* 13 and 

13 Or faction. 

358 PLATO 

'war/ and I imagine that there is also a difference in their natures; the 
one is expressive of what is internal and domestic, the other of what 
is external and foreign; and the first of the two is termed discord, and 
only the second, war." 

"That is a very proper distinction/' he replied. 

"And may I not observe with equal propriety that the Hellenic racs 
is all united together by ties of blood and friendship, and alien and 
strange to the barbarians?" 

"Very good," he said. 

"And therefore when Hellenes fight with barbarians and bar- 
barians with Hellenes, they will be described by us as being at war 
when they fight, and by nature enemies, and this kind of antagonism 
should be called war; but when Hellenes fight with one another we 
shall say that Hellas is then in a state of disorder and discord, they 
being by nature friends; and such enmity is to be called discord." 

"I agree." 

"Consider then/' I said, "when that which we have acknowledged 
to be discord occurs, and a city is divided, if both parties destroy the 
lands and burn the houses of one another, how wicked does the 
strife appear! No true lover of his country would bring himself tc 
tear in pieces his own nurse and mother: There might be reason in 
the conqueror depriving the conquered of their harvest, but still they 
would have the idea of peace in their hearts and would not mean to 
go on fighting forever." 

"Yes," he said, "that is a better temper than the other." 

"And will not the city, which you are founding, be an Hellenic 

"It ought to be," he replied. 

'Then will not the citizens be good and civilized?" 

"Yes, very civilized." 

"And will they not be lovers of Hellas, and think of Hellas as 
their own land, and share in the common temples?" 

"Most certainly/' 

"And any difference which arises among them will be regarded 


by them as discord only a quarrel among friends, which is not to be 
called a war?" 

"Certainly not." 

"Then they will quarrel as those who intend some day to be 


"They will use friendly correction, but will not enslave or destroy 
their opponents; they will be correctors, not enemies?" 

"Just so." 

"And as they are Hellenes themselves they will not devastate 
Hellas, nor will they burn houses, nor ever suppose that the whole 
population of a city men, women, and children are equally their 
enemies, for they know that the guilt of war is always confined to a 
few persons and that the many are their friends. And for all these 
reasons they will be unwilling to waste their lands and raze their 
houses; their enmity to them will only last until the many innocent 
sufferers have compelled the guilty few to give satisfaction?" 

"I agree," he said, "that our citizens should thus deal with their 
Hellenic enemies; and with barbarians as the Hellenes now deal with 
one another." 

"Then let us enact this law also for our guardians: that they are 
neither to devastate the lands of Hellenes nor to burn their houses." 

"Agreed; and we may agree also in thinking that these, like all our 
previous enactments, are very good. 

"But still I must say, Socrates, that if you are allowed to go on in 
this way you will entirely forget the other question which at the 
commencement of this discussion you thrust aside: Is such an order 
of things possible, and how, if at all? For I am quite ready to acknowl- 
edge that the plan which you propose, if only feasible, would do all 
sorts of good to the State. I will add, what you have omitted, that 
your citizens will be the bravest of warriors, and will never leave their 
ranks, for they will all know one another, and each will call the other 
father, brother, son; and if you suppose the women to join their 
armies, whether in the same rank or in the rear, either as a terror to 
the enemy, or as auxiliaries in case of need, I know that they will then 

360 PLATO 

be absolutely invincible; and there are many domestic advantages 
which might also be mentioned and which I also fully acknowledge; 
but, as I admit all these advantages and as many more as you please, 
if only this State of yours were to come into existence, we need say 
no more about them; assuming then the existence of the State, let us 
now turn to the question of possibility and ways and means the rest 
may be left." 

"If I loiter for a moment, you instantly make a raid upon me/' I 
said, "and have no mercy; I have hardly escaped the first and second 
waves, and you seem not to be aware that you are now bringing upon 
me the third, which is the greatest and heaviest. When you have 
seen and heard the third wave, I think you will be more considerate 
and will acknowledge that some fear and hesitation was natural re- 
specting a proposal so extraordinary as that which I have now to state 
and investigate." 

"The more appeals of this sort which you make," he said, "the more 
determined are we that you shall tell us how such a State is possible: 
speak out and at once." 

"Let me begin by reminding you that we found our way hither in 
the search after justice and injustice." 

"True," he replied; "but what of that?" 

"I was only going to ask whether, if we have discovered them, we 
are to require that the just man should in nothing fail of absolute 
justice; or may we be satisfied with an approximation, and the attain- 
ment in him of a higher degree of justice than is to be found in other 

"The approximation will be enough." 

* We were inquiring into the nature of absolute justice and into the 
character of the perfectly just, and into injustice and the perfectly 
unjust, that we might have an ideal. We were to look at these in order 
that we might judge of our own happiness and unhappiness accord- 
ing to the standard which they exhibited and the degree in which we 
resembled them, but not with any view of showing that they could 
exist in fact." 

"True," he said. 


''Would a painter be any the worse because, after having deline- 
ated with consummate art an ideal of a perfectly beautiful man, he 
was unable to show that any such man could ever have existed?" 

"He would be none the worse." 

"Well, and were we not creating an ideal of a perfect State?" 

"To be sure." 

"And is our theory a worse theory because we are unable to prove 
the possibility of a city being ordered in the manner described?" 14 

"Surely not," he replied. 

"That is the truth," I said. "But if, at your request, I am to try and 
show how and under what conditions the possibility is highest, I 
must ask you, having this in view, to repeat your former admissions." 

"What admissions?" 

"I want to know whether ideals are ever fully realized in lan- 
guage? Does not the word express more than the fact, and must not 
the actual, whatever a man may think, always, in the nature of 
things, fall short of the truth? What do you say?" 

"I agree." 

"Then you must not insist on my proving that the actual State will 
in every respect coincide with the ideal: if we are only able to dis- 
cover how a city may be governed nearly as we proposed, you will 
admit that we have discovered the possibility which you demand; 
and will be contented. I am sure that I should be contented will not 

"Yes, I will." 

"Let me next endeavor to show what is that fault in States which is 
the cause of their present maladministration, and what is the least 
change which will enable a State to pass into the truer form; and 
let the change, if possible, be of one thing only, or, if not, of two; at 
any rate, let the changes be as few and slight as possible." 

"Certainly," he replied. 

"I think," I said, "that there might be a reform of the State if only 

14 Socrates is justifying faith in an ideal, even if that ideal may never be fully 
realized on earth. He has more to say to the same effect at the end of Book IX, 
page 476. 

362 PLATO 

one change were made, which is not a slight or easy though still 9 
possible one." 

"What is it?" he said. 

"Now then/' I said, "I go to meet that which I liken to the greatest 
of the waves; yet shall the word be spoken, even though the wave 
break and drown me in laughter and dishonor; and do you mark my 


I said: "Until philosophers are kings, or the kings and princes of 
this world have the spirit and power of philosophy , and political 
greatness and wisdom meet in one, and those commoner natures who 
pursue either to the exclusion of the other are compelled to stand 
aside, cities will never have rest from their evils, no, nor the human 
race, as I believe, and then only will this our State have a possibility 
of life and behold the light of day. 15 Such was the thought, my dear 
Glaucon, which I would fain have uttered if it had not seemed too 
extravagant; for to be convinced that in no other State can there be 
happiness private or public is indeed a hard thing." 

"Socrates, what do you mean? I would have you consider that the 
word which you have uttered is one at which numerous persons, and 
very respectable persons too, in a figure pulling off their coats all in a 
moment, and seizing any weapon that comes to hand, will run at you 
might and main, before you know where you are, intending to do 
heaven knows what; and if you don't prepare an answer, and put 
yourself in motion, you will be 'pared by their fine wits/ and no mis- 

"You got me into the scrape," I said. 

"And I was quite right; however, I will do all I can to get you out 
of it; but I can only give you good will and good advice, and, perhaps, 
I may be able to fit answers to your questions better than another 
that is all. And now, having such an auxiliary, you must do your 
best to show the unbelievers that you are right." 

"I ought to try/' I said, "since you offer me such invaluable assist- 

15 This is probably the most quoted sentence in all Plato's dialogues. 


ance. And I think that, if there is to be a chance of our escaping, we 
must explain to them whom we mean when we say that philosophers 
are to rule in the State; then we shall be able to defend ourselves. 
There will be discovered to be some natures who ought to study phi- 
losophy and to be leaders in the State; and others who are not born 
to be philosophers, and are meant to be followers rather than 

Socrates tells how the natural philosopher may he recognized in 
youth. He "has a taste for every sort of knowledge," is "curious 
to learn and never satisfied." 

He said: "Who then are the true philosophers?" 

"Those," I said, "who are loYers_oLthe yi^on j^.tqitbu" 

"That is also good," he said; "but I should like to know what you 

"To another," I replied, "I might have a difficulty in explaining; 
but I am sure that you will admit a proposition which I am about to 

"What is the proposition?" 

"That since beauty is the opposite of ugliness, they are two?" 


"And inasmuch as they are two, each of them is one?" 

"True again." 

"And of just and unjust, good and evil, and of every other class, 16 
the same remark holds: taken singly, each of them is one; but from 
the various combinations of them with actions and things and with 
one another, they are seen in all sorts of lights and appear many?" 

"Very true." 

"And this is the distinction which I draw between the sight-loving, 

16 Better translated "and of all ideas." Plato is putting into Socrates' mouth his 
own famous theory of Ideas or Absolute Reality. Absolute and perfect justice, 
goodness, and beauty exist in some invisible realm, each in itself a unity. But to 
him who sees only their varying influences and effects upon our world of natural 
objects and human acts they appear each as merely a shifting conglomerate of more 
or less just, good, or beautiful objects and acts. A true philosopher looks past this 
multitude of imperfectly beautiful things to the single perfect and eternal idea of 
bejuity behind them. 

364 PLATO 

art-loving, practical class and those of whom I am speaking, and who 
are alone worthy of the name of philosophers." 

"How do you distinguish them?" he said. 

"The lovers of sounds and sights," I replied, "are, as I conceive, 
fond of fine tones and colors and forms and all the artificial products 
that are made out of them, but their mind is incapable of seeing or 
loving absolute beauty." 

"True," he replied. 

"Few are they who are able to attain to the sight of this." 

"Very true." 

"And he who, having a sense of beautiful things has no sense of 
absolute beauty, or who, if another lead him to a knowledge of that 
beauty is unable to follow of such an one I ask, Is he awake or in a 
dream only? Reflect : is not the dreamer, sleeping or waking, one who 
likens dissimilar things, who puts the copy in the place of the real 

"I should certainly say that such an one was dreaming/' 

"But take the case of the other, who recognizes the existence of 
absolute beauty and is able to distinguish the idea from the objects 
which participate in the idea, neither putting the objects in the place 
of the idea nor the idea in the place of the objects is he a dreamer, or 
is he awake?" 

"He is wide awake." 

"And may we not say that the mind of the one who knows has 
knowledge, and that the mind of the other, who opines only, has 


"But suppose that the latter should quarrel with us and dispute 
our statement, can we administer any soothing cordial or advice to 
him, without revealing to him that there is sad disorder in his wits?" 

"We must certainly offer him some good advice," he replied. 

"Come, then, and let us think of something to say to him. Shall 
we begin by assuring him that he is welcome to any knowledge which 
he may have, and that we are rejoic?^ at his having it? But we should 


like to ask him a question : Does he who has knowledge know some- 
thing or nothing? (You must answer for him.)" 

"I answer that he knows something." 

"Something that is or is not?" 

"Something that is; for how can that which is not ever be known?" 

"And are we assured, after looking at the matter from many points 
of view, that absolute being is or may be absolutely known, but that 
the utterly non-existent is utterly unknown?" 

"Nothing can be more certain." 

"Good. But if there be anything which is of such a nature as to be 
and not to be, that will have a place intermediate between pure be- 
ing and the absolute negation of being?" 

"Yes, between them." 

"And, as knowledge corresponded to being and ignorance of neces- 
sity to not-being, for that intermediate between being and not-being 
there has to be discovered a corresponding intermediate between 
ignorance and knowledge, if there be such?" 


Socrates explains that there are three stages of Toeing. There are 
first the two extremes, one^absQlwte+jinchangeable, pure being, 
-what Plato calls the Idea; the other, complete noMxhf>j,njz of noth- 
ingness. In between them is our -world of 

objects, that neither perfectly are nor are notjTCofresponding 
to these three stages of being are the three stag$_of human intel- 
ligence, first is true knowlpfyPr ^V which we know clearly what 
we can of absolute being or the world of Ideas, Second is igno- 
rance, our state as regards non-being. Third is opinion, the faulty 
and uncertain knowledge we have of the shifting world of 

"And in that interval there has now been discovered something 
which we call opinion?" 

"There has." 

"Then what remains to be discovered is the object which partakes 
equally of the nature of being and not-being, and cannot rightly be 

366 PLATO 

termed either, pure and simple; this unknown term, when discovered, 
we may truly call the subject of opinion, and assign each to their 
proper faculty the extremes to the faculties of the extremes and the 
mean to the faculty of the mean." 


"This being premised, I would ask the gentleman who is of opinion 
that there is no absolute or unchangeable idea of beauty in whose 
opinion the beautiful is the manifold he, I say, your lover of beauti- 
ful sights, who cannot bear to be told that the beautiful is one, and 
the just is one, or that anything is one to him I would appeal, say- 
ing, Will you be so very kind, sir, as to tell us whether, of all these 
beautiful things, there is one which will not be found ugly; or of the 
just, which will not be found unjust; or of the holy, which will not 
also be unholy?" 

"No," he replied; "the beautiful will in some point of view be 
found ugly; and the same is true of the rest." 

"And may not the many which are doubles be also halves? 
doubles, that is> of one thing, and halves of another?" 

"Quite true." 

"And things great and small, heavy and light, as they are termed, 
will not be denoted by these any more than by the opposite names?" 

"True; both these and the opposite names will always attach to all 
of them." 

"And can any one of those many things which are called by par- 
ticular names be said to be this rather than not to be this?" 

He replied: "They are like the punning riddles which are asked 
at feasts or the children's puzzle about the eunuch aiming at the bat, 
with what he hit him, as they say in the puzzle, and upon what the 
bat was sitting. 17 The individual objects of which I am speaking are 

17 The riddle is put into English by Shorey in the Loeb edition of the Republic, 
1, 531, note c. 

A tale there is, a man, yet not a man, 
Seeing, saw not, a bird and not a bird, 
Perching upon a bough and not a bough, 
And hit itnot, with a stone and not a stone. 

The answer is contained in the words, "eunuch, bat, reed and pumice stone." 


also a riddle, and have a double sense : nor can you fix them in your 
mind, either as being or not-being, or both, or neither." 

"Then what will you do with them?" I said. "Can they have a 
better place than between being and not-being? For they are clearly 
not in greater darkness or negation than not-being, or more full of 
light and existence than being." 

"That is quite true," he said. 

"Thus then we seem to have discovered that the many ideas which 
the multitude entertain about the beautiful and about all other things 
are tossing about in some region which is half-way between pure 
being and pure not-being?" 18 

"We have." 

"Yes; and we had before agreed that anything of this kind which 
we might find was to be described as matter of opinion, and not as 
matter of knowledge; being the intermediate flux which is caught and 
detained by the intermediate faculty." 

"Quite true." 

"Then those who see the many beautiful, and who yet neither see 
absolute beauty, nor can follow any guide who points the way 
thither; who see the many just, and not absolute justice, and the like 
such persons may be said to have opinion but not knowledge?" 

"That is certain." 

"But those who see the absolute and eternal and immutable may 
be said to know, and not to have opinion only?" 

"Neither can that be denied." 

"The one love and embrace the subjects of knowledge, the other 
those of opinion? The latter are the same, as I dare say you will re- 
member, who listened to sweet sounds and gazed upon fair colors, 
but would not tolerate the existence of absolute beauty." 

"Yes, I remember." 

"Shall we then be guilty of any impropriety in calling them lovers 

18 In other words, the notions which men who know only the imperfect images 
of beauty and justice in this world form of beauty and justice themselves will be as 
unstable sua<S variable as are the images on which they are based. 

$68 PLATO 

of opinion rather than lovers of wisdom, and will they be very angry 
with us for thus describing them?" 

"I shall tell them not to be angry; no man should be angry at what 
is true." 

"But those who love the truth in each thing are to be called lovers 
of wisdom and not lovers of opinion/' 



Nature of the true philosopher, "spectator of all time and 

all existence." Contribution of the philosopher to the 

state. The Idea of the Good. 

"AND thus, Glaucon, after the argument has gone a weary way, the 
true and the raise pniiosophers have at length appeared in view." 

"I do not think/' he said, "that the way could have been short- 

"I suppose not," I said; "and yet I believe that we might have had 
a better view of both of them if the discussion could have been con- 
fined to this one subject and if there were not many other questions 
awaiting us, which he who desires to see in what respect the life of 
the just differs from that of the unjust must consider." 

"And what is the next question?" he asked. 

"Surely," I said, "the one which follows next in order. Inasmuch as 
philosophers only are able to grasp the eternal and unchangeable, 
and those who wander in the region of the many and variable are not 
philosophers, I must ask you which of the two classes should be the 
rulers of our State?" 

"And how can we rightly answer that question?" 

"Whichever of the two are best able to guard the laws and institu- 
tions of our State let them be our guardians." 

"Very good." 


"Neither/' I said, "can there he any question that the guardian 
who is to keep anything should have eyes rather than no eyes?" 

"There can he no question of that." 

"And are not those who are verily and indeed wanting in the 
knowledge of the true being of each thing, and who have in their 
souls no clear pattern, and are unable as with a painter's eye to look 
at the absolute truth and to that original to repair, and having perfect 
vision of the other world to order the laws about beauty, goodness, 
justice in this, if not already ordered, and to guard and preserve the 
order of them are not such persons, I ask, simply blind?" 

"Truly," he replied, "they are much in that condition." 

"And shall they be our guardians when there are others who, be- 
sides being their equals in experience and falling short of them in no 
particular of virtue, also know the very truth of each thing?" 

"There can be no reason," he said, "for rejecting those who have 
this greatest of all great qualities; they must always have the first 
place unless they fail in some other respect." 

"Suppose then," I said, "that we determine how far they can unite 
this and the other excellences." 

"By all means." 

"In the. first-placets. _we._ began by observing, the nature of the 
philosopher has to be ascertained. We must come to an understand- 
ing about him, and, when we have done so, then, if I am not mis- 
taken, we shall also acknowledge that such a union of qualities is 
possible, and that those in whom they are united, and those only, 
should be rulers in the State." 

"What do you mean?" 

"Let us suppose that philosophical minds always love knowledge 
of a sort which shows them the eternal nature not varying from gen- 
eration and corruption/' 


"And further," I said, 'let us agree that they are lovers of all true 
being; there is no part whether greater or less, or more or less honor 
able, which they are willing to renounce; as we said before of the 
lover and the man of ambition." 

370 PLATO 


"And if they are to be what we were describing, is there not an- 
other quality which they should also possess?" 

"What quality?" 

"Truthfulness: they will never intentionally receive into their 
mind falsehood, which is their detestation, and they will love the 

"Yes, that may he safely affirmed of them." 

" 'May be/ my friend," I replied, "is not the word; say rather, 
'must be affirmed': for he whose nature is amorous of anything 
cannot help loving all that belongs or is akin to the object of his affec- 

"Right," he said. 

"And is there anything more akin to wisdom than truth?" 

"How can there be?" 

"Can the same nature be a lover of wisdom and a lover of false- 


'The true lover of learning then must from his earliest youth, as 
far as in him lies, desire all truth?" 


"But then again, as we know by experience, he whose desires are 
strong in one direction will have them weaker in others; they will be 
like a stream which has been drawn off into another channel." 


"He whose desires are drawn towards knowledge in every form 
will be absorbed in the pleasures of the soul, and will hardly feel 
bodily pleasureI mean, if he be a true philosopher and not a sham 

"That is most certain." 

"Such a one is sure to be temperate and the reverse of covetous; 
for the motives which make another man desirous of having and 
spending have no place in his character/' 

'Very true." 


"Another criterion of the philosophical nature has also to be con- 

"What is that?" 

"There should be no secret-corner of illiberality; nothing can be 
more antagonistic than meanness to a soul which is ever longing after 
the whole of things both divine and human." 

"Most true/' he replied. 

"Then how can he who has magnificence of mind and is the spec- 
tator of all time and all existence, think much of human life?" 

"He cannot." 

"Or can such a one account death fearful?" 

"No indeed." 

"Then the cowardly and mean nature has no part in true phi- 

"Certainly not." 

"Or again : can he .who is harmoniously constituted, who is not 
covetous or mean, or a boaster, or a coward can he, I say, ever be un- 
just or hard in his dealings?" 


"Then you will soon observe whether a man is just and gentle, or 
rude and unsociable; these are the signs which distinguish even in 
youth the philosophical nature from the unphilosophical." 


"There is another point which should be remarked." 

'What point?" 

"Whether he has or has not a pleasure in learning; for no one will 
love that which gives him pain, and in which after much toil he 
makes little progress." 

"Certainly not." 

"And again, if he is forgetful and retains nothing of what he learns, 
will he not be an empty vessel?" 

"That is certain." 

"Laboring in vain, he must end in hating himself and his fruitless 

37 2 PLATO 


"Then a soul which forgets cannot be ranked among genuine 
philosophic natures; we must insist that the philosopher should have 
a good memory ?" 


"And once more, the inharmonious and unseemly nature can only 
tend to disproportion?" 


"And do you consider truth to be akin to proportion or to dis- 

"To proportion." 

"Then, besides other qualities, we must try to find a naturally well- 
proportioned and gracious mind, which will move spontaneously to- 
wards the true being of everything." 


"Well, and do not all these qualities, which we have been enumer- 
ating, go together, and are they not, in a manner, necessary to a soul, 
which is to have a full and perfect participation of being?" 

"They are absolutely necessary," he replied. 

"And must not that be a blameless study which he only can pursue 
who has the gift of a good memory, and is quick to learn, noble, 
gracious, the friend of truth, justice, courage, temperance, who are 
his kindred?" 

"The god of jealousy himself," he said, "could find no fault with 
such a study." 

"And to men like him," I said, "when perfected by years and edu- 
cation, and to these only you will entrust the State." l 

Here Adeimantus interposed and said: "To these statements, Soc- 
rates, no one can offer a reply; but when you talk in this way, a 
strange feeling passes over the minds of your hearers: They fancy 
that they are led astray a little at each step in the argument, owing 
to their own want of skill in asking and answering questions; these 

1 Socrates has now drawn a portrait of the philosopher statesman to whom, In 
contrast to the grasping politician, his ideal state can be safely entrusted. Yet in 
Another moment he will admit that philosophers can make a failure of politic.- 


littles accumulate, and at the end of tlie discussion they are found to 
have sustained a mighty overthrow and all their former notions ap- 
pear to be turned upside down. And as unskillful players of 
draughts 2 are at last shut up hy their more skillful adversaries and 
have no piece to move, so they too find themselves shut up at last; for 
they have nothing to say in this new game of which words are the 
counters; and yet all the time they are in the right. The observation 
is suggested to me by what is now occurring. For any one of us might 
say, that although in words he is not able to meet you at each step of 
the argument, he sees as a fact that the votaries of philosophy, when 
they carry on the study, not only in youth as a part of education, but 
as the pursuit of their maturer years, most of them become strange 
monsters^ not to say utter rogues, and that those who may be con- 
sidered the best of them are made useless to the world by the very 
study which you extol." 

"Well, and do you think that those who say so are wrong?" 

"I cannot tell," he replied; "but I should like to know what is your 

"Hear my answer; I am of opinion that they are quite right." 

"Then how can you be justified in saying that cities will not cease 
from evil until philosophers rule in them, when philosophers are 
acknowledged by us to be of no use to them?" 

"Yr,u ask a question," I said, "to which a reply can only be given 
in a parable." 

"Yes, Socrates; and that is a way of speaking to which you are not 
at all accustomed, I suppose." 

"I perceive," I said, "that you are vastly amused at having plunged 
me into such a hopeless discussion; but now hear the parable, and 
then you will be still more amused at the meagerness of my imagina- 
tion : for the manner in which the best men are treated in their own 
States is so grievous that no single thing on earth is comparable to it; 
and therefore, if I am to plead their cause, I must have recourse to 
fiction, and put together a figure made up of many things, like the 

3 Or checkers. 

374 PLATO 

fabulous unions of goats and stags which are found in pictures. 
Imagine then a fleet or a ship in which there is a captain 3 who is 
taller and stronger than any of the crew, but he is a little deaf and 
has a similar infirmity in sight, and his knowledge of navigation is 
not much better. The sailors are quarreling with one another about 
the steering everyone is of opinion that he has a right to steer, 
though he has never learned the art of navigation and cannot tell 
who taught him or when he learned, and will further assert that it 
cannot be taught, and they are ready to cut in pieces anyone who 
says the contrary. They throng about the captain, begging and pray- 
ing him to commit the helm to them; and if at any time they do not 
prevail, but others are preferred to them, they kill the others or 
throw them overboard, and having first chained up the noble cap- 
tain's senses with drink or some narcotic drug, they mutiny and take 
possession of the ship and make free with the stores; thus, eating and 
drinking, they proceed on their voyage in such manner as might be 
expected of them. Him who is their partisan and cleverly aids them 
in their plot for getting the ship out of the captain's hands into their 
own whether by force or persuasion, they compliment with the name 
of sailor, pilot, able seaman, and abuse the other sort of man, whom 
they call a good-for-nothing; but that the true pilot must pay atten- 
tion to the year and seasons and sky and stars and winds, and what- 
ever else belongs to his art, if he intends to be really qualified for 
the command of a ship, and that he must and will be the steerer, 
whether other people like or not the possibility of this union of 
authority with the steerer's art has never seriously entered into their 
thoughts or been made part of their calling. Now in vessels which 
are in a state of mutiny and by sailors who are mutineers, how will 
the true pilot 4 be regarded? Will he not be called by them a prater, 
a star-gazer, a good-for-nothing?" 

3 The ship's captain, strong and tall but a little deaf and a little weaksighted and 
knowing not much about the art of navigation, is a figure of the Athenian democ- 
racy. The impudent, ungovernable sailors are the self-seeking, cheap politicians who 
plot to get control of the ship of state. 

4 The trained, patriotic philosopher statesman. 


"Of course/* said Adeimantus. 

"Then you will hardly need," I said, "to hear the interpretation 
t) the figure, which describes the true philosopher in his relation to 
the State; for you understand already/* 


"Then suppose you now take this parable to the gentleman who 
is surprised at finding that philosophers have no honor in their cities; 
explain it to him and try to convince him that their having honor 
would be far more extraordinary." 

"I will." 

"Say to him, that, in deeming the best votaries of philosophy to 
be useless to the rest of the world, he is right; but also tell him to 
attribute their uselessness to the fault of those who will not use them, 
and not to themselves. The pilot should not humbly beg the sailors 
to be commanded by him that is not the order of nature; neither 
are 'the wise to go to the doors of the rich* 5 the ingenious author 
of* this saying told a lie but the truth is, that, when a man is ill, 
whether he be rich or poor, to the physician he must go, and he who 
wants to be governed, to him who is able to govern. The ruler who 
is good for anything ought not to beg his subjects to be ruled by 
him; although the present governors of mankind are of a different 
stamp; they may be justly compared to the mutinous sailors, and the 
true helmsmen to those who are called by them good-for-nothings 
and star-gazers." 

"Precisely so," he said. 

"For these reasons, and among men like these, philosophy, thg 
noblest pursuit of all, is not likely to be much esteemed by those of 
the opposite faction; not that the greatest and most lasting injury is 
done to her by her opponents, but by her own professing followers, 
the same of whom you suppose the accuser to say, that the greater 
number of them are arrant rogues, and the best are useless; in which 
opinion I agreed." 


5 A saying ascribed to the poet Simonides. 

3/6 PLATO 

"And the reason why the good Q are useless has now been ex- 

"And we have next to consider the corruptions of. tlie,jphHosophic 
nature, why so many are spoiled and so few escape spoiling I am 
speaking of those who were said to be useless but not wicked and, 
when we have done with them, we will speak of the jmitaloj^of 
philosophy, what manner of men arc they who aspire after a profes- 
sion which is above them and of which they are unworthy, and then, 
by their manifold inconsistencies, bring upon philosophy, and upon 
all philosophers, that universal reprobation of which we speak." 

"What are these corruptions'?" he said. 

"I will see if I can explain them to you. Everyone will admit that 
a nature having in perfection all the qualities which we required in 
a philosopher, is a rare plant which is seldom seen among men." 

"Rare indeed." 

"And what numberless and powerful causes tend to destroy these 
rare natures!" 

"What causes?" 

"In the first place there are theijtwjo^virtues r their courage, tem- 
perance, and the rest of them, every one of which praiseworthy 
qualities (and this is a most singular circumstance) destroys and 
distracts from philosophy the soul which is the possessor of them." 

"That is very singular," he replied. 

"Then there are all the ordinary goods of life beauty, wealth, 
strength, rank, and great connections in the State you understand 
the sort of things these also have a corrupting and distracting 

"I understand; but I should like to know more precisely what you 
mean about them." 

"Grasp the truth as a wtx>le," I said, "and in the rig^t way; you 

6 That is, the best, just mentioned. 


will then have no difficulty in apprehending the preceding remarks, 
and they will no longer appear strange to you." 

"And how am I to do so?" he asked. 

"Why," I said, "we know that all germs or seeds, whether vege- 
table or animal, when they fail to meet with proper nutriment or 
climate or soil, in proportion to their vigor, are all the more sensitive 
to the want of a suitable environment, 7 for evil is a greater enemy 
to what is good than to what is not." 

"Very true." 

"lliere is reason in, supposing that the finest Batuie^wbeil.UGdes- 
alien conditions, receive more injury than the inferior, because the 
contrast is greater." 

"And may we not say, Adeimantus, thatihaiwost gifted minds, 
when they are ill-educated, become pre-eminently bad? Do not great 
crimes and the spirit of pure evil spring out of a fullness of nature 
ruined by education rather than from any inferiority, whereas weak 
natures are scarcely capable of any very great good or very great 

"There I think that you are right." 

"And our philosopher follows the same analogy he is like a plant 
which, having proper nurture, must necessarily grow and mature 
into all virtue, but, if sown and planted in an alien soil, becomes the 
most noxious of all weeds, unless he be preserved by some divine 
power. Do you really think, as people so often say, that our youth 
are corrupted by Sophists, or that private teachers of the art corrupt 
them in any degree worth speaking of? Are not the public who say 
these things the greatest of all Sophists? And do they not educate 
to perfection young and old, men and women alike, and fashion them 
after their own hearts?" 

"When is this accomplished?" he said. 

"When they meet together, and the world sits down at an assem- 
bly, or in a court of law, or a theater, or a camp, or in any other popu- 

7 Or "the more vigorous they are, the more sensitive they are to a lack of suitable 

3/8 PLATO 

lar resort, and there is a great uproar, and they praise some things 
which are being said or done, and blame other things, equally exag~ 
gerating both, shouting and clapping their hands, and the echo of 
the rocks and the place in which they arc assembled redoubles the 
sound of the praise or blame at such a time will not a young man's 
heart, as they say, leap within him? Will any private training en- 
able him to stand firm against the overwhelming flood of popular 
opinion; 1 or will he be carried away by the stream? Will he not have 
the notions of good and evil which the public in general have he 
will do as they do, and as they are, such will he be?" 

"Yes, Socrates; necessity will compel him." 

"And yet," I said, "there is a still greater necessity, which has not 
been mentioned." 

"What is that?" 

"The gentle force of attainder or confiscation or death, which, as 
you are aware, these new Sophists and educators, who are the pub- 
lic, apply when their words are powerless." 8 

"Indeed they do; and in right good earnest." 

"Now what opinion of any other Sophist, or of any private person, 
can be expected to overcome in such an unequal contest?" 

"None," he replied. 

"No, indeed," I said, "even to make the attempt is a great piece 
of folly; there neither is, nor has been, nor is ever likely to be, any 
different type of character which has had no other training in virtue 
but that which is supplied by public opinion I speak, my friend, of 
human virtue only; what is more than human, as the proverb says, 
is not included: for I would not have you ignorant that, in the pres- 
ent evil state of governments, whatever is saved and comes to good is 
saved by the power of God, as we may truly say." 

"I quite assent," he replied. 

"Then let me crave your assent also to a further observation." 

"What are you going to say?" 

"Why, that all those mercenary individuals, whom the many call 

8 An apparently prophetic allusion by Socrates to his own future condemnation 
by a popular jury. 


Sophists and whom they deem to be their adversaries, do, in fact, 
teach nothing but the opinion of the many, that is to say, the opin- 
ions of their assemblies; and this is their wisdom. I might compare 
them to a man who should study the tempers and desires of a mighty 
strong beast who is fed by him he would learn how to approach 
and handle him, also at what times and from what causes he is dan- 
gerous or the reverse, and what is the meaning of his several cries, 
and by what sounds, when another utters them, he is soothed or 
infuriated; and you may suppose further, that when, by continually 
attending upon him, he has become perfect in all this, he calls his 
knowledge wisdom, and makes of it a system or art, which he pro- 
ceeds to teach, although he has no real notion of what he means by 
the principles or passions of which he is speaking, but calls this 
honorable and that dishonorable, or good or evil, or just or unjust, 
all in accordance with the tastes and tempers of the great brute. Good 
he pronounces to be that in which the beast delights and evil to be 
that which he dislikes; and he can give no other account of them 
except that the just and noble arc the necessary, having never him- 
self seen, and having no power of explaining to others the nature of 
either, or the difference between them, which is immense. By heaven, 
would not such a one be a rare educator?" 

"Indeed he would." 

<% And in what way does he who thinks that wisdom is the discern- 
ment of the tempers and tastes of the motley multitude, whether in 
painting or music, or, finally, in politics, differ from him whom I 
have been describing? For when a man consorts with the many, and 
exhibits to them his poem or other work of art or the service which 
he has done the State, making them his judges when he is not 
obliged, the so-called necessity of Diomed 10 will oblige him to pro- 
duce whatever they praise. And yet the reasons are utterly ludicrous 
which they give in confirmation of their own notions about the hon- 

9 Another figure for the people of the Athenian democracy, the general mob. 

10 An expression, apparently, for the compulsion a man may feel to keep on 
working at an almost impossible task. In the Iliad, XIV, 128, Diomed urges the 
Creeks to go on fighting, "wounded though we be, for it is necessary." 

380 PLATO 

orable and good. Did you ever hear any of them which were not?" 

"No, nor am I likely to hear." 

"You recognize the truth of what I have been saying? Then let me 
ask you to consider further whether the world will ever be induced 
to believe in the existence of absolute beauty rather than of the many 
beautiful, or of the absolute in each kind rather than of the many in 
each kind?" 

"Certainly not/' 

"Then the world cannot possibly be a philosopher?" 


"And therefore philosophers must inevitably fall under the cen- 
sure of the world?" 

"They must." 

"And of individuals who consort with the mob and seek to please 

"That is evident." 

"Then, do you see any way in which the philosopher can be pre- 
served in his calling to the end? and remember what we were saying 
of him, that he was to have quickness and memory and courage and 
magnificence these were admitted by us to be the true philoso- 
pher's gifts." 


"Will not such a one from his early childhood be in all things first 
among all, especially if his bodily endowments are like his mental 

"Certainly," he said. 

"And his friends and fellow-citizens will want to use him as he 
gets older for their own purposes?" 

"No question." 

"Falling at his feet, they will make requests to him and do him 
honor and flatter him, because they want to get into their hands now 
the power which he will one day possess." 

"That often happens," he said. 

"And what will a man such as he is be likely to do under such 


circumstances, especially if he be a citizen of a great city, rich and 
noble, and a tall proper youth? Will he not be full of boundless 
aspirations, and fancy himself able to manage the affairs of Hellenes 
and of barbarians, and having got such notions into his head will 
he not dilate and elevate himself in the fullness of vain pomp and 
senseless pride?" 

"To be sure he will." 

"Now, when he is in this state of mind, if someone gently comes 
to him and tells him that he is a fool and must get understanding, 
which can only be got by slaving for it, do you think that, under such 
adverse circumstances, he will be easily induced to listen?" 

"Far otherwise." 

"And even if there be someone who through inherent goodness or 
natural reasonableness has had his eyes opened a little and is hum- 
bled and taken captive by philosophy, how will his friends behave 
when they think that they are likely to lose the advantage which they 
were hoping to reap from his companionship? Will they not do and 
say anything to prevent him from yielding to his better nature and 
to render his teacher powerless, using to this end private intrigues 
as well as public prosecutions?" 

"There can be no doubt of it." 

"And how can one who is thus circumstanced ever become a 


"Then we*e we not right in saying that even the very qualities 
which make a man a philosopher may, if he be ill-educated, divert 
him from philosophy, no less than riches and their accompaniments 
and the other so-called goods of life?" 

"We were quite right." 

"Thus, my excellent friend, is brought about all that ruin and fail- 
ure which I have been describing of the natures best adapted to the 
best of all pursuits; they are natures which we maintain to be rare 
at any time; this being the class out of which come the men who are 
authors of the greatest evil to States and individuals; and also of the 

382 PLATO 

greatest good when the tide carries them in that direction; but a small 
man never was the doer of any great thing either to individuals or to 

"That is most true," he said. 

"And so philosophy is left desolate, with her marriage rite incom- 
plete : for her own have fallen away and forsaken her, and while they 
are leading a false and unbecoming life, other unworthy persons, 
seeing that she has no kinsmen to be her protectors, enter in and dis- 
honor her; and fasten upon her the reproaches which, as you say, her 
reprovers utter, who affirm of her votaries that some are good for noth- 
ing, and that the greater number deserve the severest punishment." 

"That is certainly what people say." 

"Yes; and what else would you expect," I said, "when you think of 
the puny creatures who, seeing this land open to them a land well 
stocked with fair names and showy titles like prisoners running out 
of prison into a sanctuary, take a leap out of their trades into phi- 
losophy; those who do so being probably the cleverest hands at theii 
own miserable crafts? For, although philosophy be in this evil case, 
still there remains a dignity about her which is not to be found in the 
arts. And many are thus attracted by her whose natures are imperfect 
and whose souls are maimed and disfigured by their meannesses, as 
their bodies are by their trades and crafts. Is not this unavoidable?" 


"Are they not exactly like a bald little tinker who has just got out 
of durance and come into a fortune; he takes a bath and puts on a 
new coat, and is decked out as a bridegroom going to marry his 
master's daughter, who is left poor and desolate?" 

"A most exact parallel." 

"What will be the issue of such marriages? Will they not be vile 
and bastard?" 

"There can be no question of it." 

"And when persons who are unworthy of education approach 
philosophy and make an alliance with her who is in a rank above 
them, what sort of ideas and opinions are likely to be generated? 


Will they not be sophisms captivating to the ear, having nothing in, 
them genuine, or worthy of or akin to true wisdom?" 

"No doubt," he said. 

"Then, Adeimantus/' I said, "the worthy disciples of philosophy 
will be but a small remnant : perchance some noble and well-educated 
person, detained by exile in her service, who in the absence of cor- 
rupting influences remains devoted to her; or some lofty soul born in 
a mean city, the politics of which he contemns and neglects; and 
there may be a gifted few who leave the arts, which they justly de- 
spise, and come to her; or peradventure there are some who are re- 
strained by our friend Theages' bridle; for everything in the life of 
Theages X1 conspired to divert him from philosophy; but ill-health 
kept him away from politics. My own case of the internal sign is 
hardly worth mentioning, for rarely, if ever, has such a monitor been 
given to any other man. Those who belong to this small class have 
tasted how sweet and blessed a possession philosophy is, and have 
also seen enough of the madness of the multitude; and they know 
that no politician is honest, nor is there any champion of justice at 
whose side they may fight and be saved. Such a one may be com- 
pared to a man who has fallen among wild beasts he will not join 
in the wickedness of his fellows, but neither is he able singly to resist 
all their fierce natures, and therefore seeing that he would be 
jf no use to the State or to his friends, and reflecting that he would 
have to throw away his life without doing any good either to himself 
or others, he holds his peace, and goes his own way. He is like one 
who, in the storm of dust and sleet which the driving wind hurries 
along, retires under the shelter of a wall; and seeing the rest of man- 
kind full of wickedness, he is content, if only he can live his own 
life and be pure from evil or unrighteousness, and depart in peace 
and good will, with bright hopes." 

"Yes," he said, "and he will have done a great work before he de- 

11 A former pupil of Socrates. See the Apology, page 52. The "bridle of Theages" 
was the poor health that kept him always out of politics in spite of many so-called 
temptations. It was evidently by now a proverbial expression in Socratic circles. 


"A great work yes; but not the greatest, unless he find a State 
suitable to him; for in a State which is suitable to him, he will have 
a larger growth and be the savior of his country, as well as of him- 

Socrates expatiates further on the inability of men under the 
present system to realize what philosophy can do for them. 
Hence, he says, the need of a better form of society, where 
true-born philosophers may receive the right education and the 
opportunity to use their gifts for the benefit of their fellow men. 

"And this was what we foresaw, and this was the reason why 
truth forced us to admit, not without fear and hesitation, that neither 
cities nor States nor individuals will ever attain perfection until ^the 
small class of philosophers whom we termed useless but not corrupt 
are providentially compelled, whether they will or not, to take care 
of the State, and until a like necessity be laid on the State to obey 
them; or until kings, or if not kings, the sons of kings or princes, are 
divinely inspired with a true love of true philosophy. That either or 
both of these alternatives are impossible, I see no reason to affirm : if 
they were so, we might indeed be justly ridiculed as dreamers and 
visionaries. Am I not right?" 

"Quite right." 

"If then, in the countless ages of the past, or at the present hour 
in some foreign clime which is far away and beyond our ken, the 
perfected philosopher is or has been or hereafter shall 12 be com- 
pelled by a superior power to have the charge of the State, we are 
ready to assert to the death, that this our constitution has been, and 
is yea, and will be whenever the Muse of Philosophy is queen. 
There is no impossibility in all this; that there is a difficulty, we 
acknowledge ourselves." 

"My opinion agrees with yours," he said. 

"But do you mean to say that this is not the opinion of the multi- 

12 In some future age, some faraway clime, the ideal may be realized. 


"I should imagine not/' he replied. 

"O my friend/' I said, "do not attack the multitude: they will 
change their minds, if, not in an aggressive spirit but gently and with 
the view of soothing them and removing their dislike of over-educa- 

o o 

tion, you show them your philosophers as they really are and de- 
scribe as you were just now doing their character and profession, and 
then mankind will see that he of whom you are speaking is not such 
as they supposed if they view him in this new light, they will 
surely change their notion of him, and answer in another strain. 
Who can be at enmity with one who loves them, who that is himself 
gentle and free from envy will be jealous of one in whom there is no 
jealousy"? Nay, let me answer for you, that in a few this harsh temper 
may be found but not in the majority of mankind." 

"I quite agree with you," he said. 

"And do you not also think, as I do, that the harsh feeling which 
the many entertain towards philosophy originates in the pretenders, 
who rush in uninvited, and are always abusing them, and finding 
fault with them, who make persons instead of things the theme of 
their conversation? and nothing can be more unbecoming in philos 
ophers than this/' 

"It is most unbecoming.'* 

"For he, Adeimantus, whose mind is fixed upon true being, has 
surelj\no time to look down upon the affairs of earth, or to be filled 
with majice and envy, contending against men; his eye is ever <J$ 
rected towards things fixed and immutable, which he sees neither 
injuring nor injured by one another, but all in order moving accord^ 
ing to reason; these he imitates, and to these he will, as far as he 
can, conform himself. Can a man help imitating that with which he 
holds reverential converse?" 


"And the philosopher holding converse with the divine order, be- 
comes orderly and divine, as far as the nature of man allows; but like 
everyone else, he will suffer from detraction." 

"Of course." 

386 PLATO 

"And if a necessity be laid upon him of fashioning, not only him- 
self, but human nature generally, whether in States or individuals, 
into that which he beholds elsewhere, will he, think you, be an un- 
skillful artificer of justice, temperance, and every civil virtue?" 

"Anything but unskillful." 

"And if the world perceives that what we are saying about him is 
the truth, will they be angry with philosophy? Will they disbelieve 
us, when we tell them that no State can be happy which is not de- 
signed by artists who imitate the heavenly pattern?" 

"They will not be angry if they understand," he said. "But how 
will they draw out the plan of which you are speaking?" 

"They will begin by taking the State and the manners of men, 
from which, as from a tablet, they will rub out the picture, and leave 
a clean surface. This is no easy task. But whether easy or not, herein 
will lie the difference between them and every other legislator 
they will have nothing to do either with individual or State, and will 
inscribe no laws, until they have either found, or themselves made, 
a clean surface." 

"They will be very right," he said. 

"Having effected this, they will proceed to trace an outline of the 

"No doubt." 

"And when they are filling in the work, as I conceive, they will 
often turn their eyes upwards and downwards: I mean that they 
will first look at absolute justice and beauty and temperance, and 
again at the human copy; and will mingle and temper the various 
elements of life into the image of a man; and this they will conceive 
according to that other image, which, when existing among men, 
Homer calls the form and likeness of God." 13 

"Very true," he said. 

"And one feature they will erase, and another they will put in, 
until they have made the ways of men, as far as possible, agreeable 
to the ways of God?" 

13 Homer uses the epithet, "like to a god," of his greatest heroes, such as Achilles 
and Telemachus. Iliad, I, 131; XXIV, 630; Odyssey, III, 416. 


"Indeed," he said, "in no way could they make a fairer picture." 

"And now/' I said, "are we beginning to persuade those whom you 
described as rushing at us with might and main, that the painter of 
constitutions is such a one as we were praising; at whom they were 
so very indignant because to his hands we committed the State; and 
are they growing a little calmer at what they have just heard?" 

"Much calmer, if there is any sense in them." 

"Why, where can they still find any ground for objection? Will 
they doubt that the philosopher is a lover of truth and being?" 

"They would not be so unreasonable." 

"Or that his nature, being such as we have delineated, is akin to 
the highest good?" 

"Neither can they doubt this." 

"But again, will they tell us that such a nature, placed under 
favorable circumstances, will not be perfectly good and wise if any 
ever was? Or will they prefer those whom we have rejected?" 

"Surely not." 

"Then will they still be angry at our saying, that, until philoso- 
phers bear rule, States and individuals will have no rest from evil, 
nor will this our imaginary State ever be realized?" 

"I think that they will be less angry." 

"Shall we assume that they are not only less angry but quite gentle, 
and that they have been converted and for very shame, if for no other 
reason, cannot refuse to come to terms?" 

"By all means," he said. 

"Then let us suppose that the reconciliation has been effected. 
Will anyone deny the other point, that there may be sons of kings 01 
princes who are by nature philosophers?" 

"Surely no man," he said. 

"And when they have come into being will anyone say that they 
must of necessity be destroyed; that they can hardly be saved is not 
denied even by us; but that in the whole course of ages no single one 
of them can escape who will venture to affirm this?" 

'Who indeed!" 

388 PLATO 

"But," said I, "one is enough; 14 let there he one man who has a 
city obedient to his will, and he might bring into existence the ideal 
polity about which the world is so incredulous." 

"Yes, one is enough." 

"The ruler may impose the laws and institutions which we have 
been describing, and the citizens may possibly be willing to obey 


"And that others should approve of what we approve is no miracle 
or impossibility?" 

"I think not." 

"But we have sufficiently shown, in what has preceded, that all 
this, if only possible, is assuredly for the best." 

"We have." 

"And now we say not only that our laws, if they could be enacted, 
would be for the best, but also that the enactment of them, though 
difficult, is not impossible." 

<r Very good." 

"And so with pain and toil we have reached the end of one sub- 
ject, but more remains to be discussed; how and by what studies and 
pursuits will the saviors of the constitution be created, and at what 
ages are they to apply themselves to their several studies?" 


"I omitted the troublesome business of the possession of women, 
and the procreation of children, and the appointment of the rulers, 
because I knew that the perfect State would be eyed with jealousy 
and was difficult of attainment; but that piece of cleverness was not 
of much service to me, for I had to discuss them all the same. The 
women and children are now disposed of, but the other question of 
the rulers must be investigated from the very beginning. We were 
saying, as you will remember, that they were to be lovers of their 
country, tried by the test of pleasures and pains, and neither in hard- 

14 For a moment Socrates sounds hopeful. One true statesman, with the power 
and the will to make the ways of men pleasing to God, could bring the ideal state 
into being 


ships, nor in dangers, nor at any other critical moment were to lose 
their patriotism he was to be rejected who failed, but he who always 
came forth pure, like gold tried in the refiner's fire, was to be made 
a ruler, and to receive honors and rewards in life and after death. 
This was the sort of thing which was being said, and then the argu- 
ment turned aside and veiled her face; not liking to stir the question 
which has now arisen." 

"I perfectly remember/' he said. 

"Yes, my friend," I said, "and I then shrank from hazarding the 
bold word; but now let me dare to say that the perfect guardian 
must be a philosopher." 

"Yes," he said, "let that be affirmed." 

"And do not suppose that there will be many of them; for the 
gifts which were deemed by us to be essential rarely grow together; 
they are mostly found in shreds and patches." 

"What do you mean?" he said. 

"You are aware," I replied, "that quick intelligence, memory, 
sagacity, cleverness, and similar qualities, do not often grow to- 
gether, and that persons who possess them and are at the same time 
high-spirited and magnanimous are not so constituted by nature as 
to live orderly and in a peaceful and settled manner; they are driven 
any way by their impulses, and all solid principle goes out of them." 

"Very true," he said. 

"On the other hand, those steadfast natures which can better be 
depended upon, which in a battle are impregnable to fear and im- 
movable, are equally immovable when there is anything to be 
learned; they are always in a torpid state, and are apt to yawn and go 
to sleep over any intellectual toil." 

"Quite true." 

"And yet we were saying that both qualities were necessary in 
those to whom the higher education is to be imparted, and who are 
to share in any office or command." 

"Certainly," he said. 

"And will they be a class which is rarely found?" 

"Yes, indeed." 

390 PLATO 

"Then the aspirant must not only be tested in those labors and 
dangers and pleasures which we mentioned before, but there is an- 
other kind of probation which we did not mention he must be 
exercised also in many kinds of knowledge, to see whether the soul 
will be able to endure the highest of all, or will faint under them, as 
in any other studies and exercises." 

"Yes/* he said, "you are quite right in testing him. But what do 
you mean by the highest of all knowledge?" 

"You may remember," I said, "that we divided the soul into three 
parts; and distinguished the several natures of justice, temperance, 
courage, and wisdom?" 

"Indeed," he said, "if I had forgotten, I should not deserve to hear 

"And do you remember the word of caution which preceded the 
discussion of them?" 

"To what do you refer?" 

"We were saying, if I am not mistaken, that he who wanted to see 
them in their perfect beauty must take a longer and more circuitous 
way, at the end of which they would appear; but that we could add 
on a popular exposition of them on a level with the discussion which 
had preceded. And you replied that such an exposition would be 
enough for you, and so the inquiry was continued in what to me 
seemed to be a very inaccurate manner; whether you were satisfied 
or not, it is for you to say." 

"Yes," he said, "I thought and the others thought that you gave us 
a fair measure of truth." 

"But, my friend," I said, "a measure of such things which in any 
degree falls short of the whole truth is not fair measure; for nothing 
imperfect is the measure of anything, although persons are too apt to 
be contented and think that they need search no further." 

"Not an uncommon case when people are indolent." 

"Yes," I said; "and there cannot be any worse fault in a guardian 
of the State and of the laws." 



"The guardian then/' I said, "must be required to take the longei 
circuit, and toil at learning 15 as well as at gymnastics, or he will never 
reach the highest knowledge of all which, as we were just now saying, 
is his proper calling/' 

"What," he said, "is there a knowledge still higher than this 
higher than justice and the other virtues?" ~" ; - ' < 

"Yes," I said, "there is. And of the virtues too we must behold not 
the outline merely, as at present nothing short of the most finished 
picture should satisfy us. When little things are elaborated with an 
infinity of pains, in order that they may appear in their full beauty 
and utmost clearness, how ridiculous that we should not think the 
highest truths worthy of attaining the highest accuracy!" 

"A right noble thought; but do you suppose that we shall refrain 
from asking you what is this highest knowledge?" 

"Nay," I said, "ask if you will; but I am certain that you have 
heard the answer many times, and now you either do not under- 
stand me or, as I rather think, you are disposed to be troublesome; 
for you have pftenjbeen tojjjjhat the,idea of good 1G is the highest 
knowledge, and that all other things become useful and advantageous 
onlyEylheir use of this. You can hardly be ignorant that of this I 
was about to speak, concerning which, as you have often heard me 
say, we know so little; and, without which, any other knowledge or 
possession of any kind will profit us nothing. Do you think that the 
possession of all other things is of any value if we do not possess the 
good? or the knowledge of all other things if we have no knowledge 
of beauty and goodness?" 

"Assuredly not." 

15 The higher duties and education of the philosopher ruler are now to be 

16 The Idea -of the. Good is, according to Plato, speaking here through Socrates' 
lips, the crowning Idea of all and the cause of every lesser idea, such as that of 
beauty, truth or justice. Through the light that radiates from it as from the sun in 
the sky we perceive these lesser lights. Towards the Idea of the Good as toward the 
goal of all his searching, the philosopher will press to catch in its light a vision of 
the perfect life for man. Some students of Plato take the Idea of the Good as an- 
other name for God. Others understand by it a pattern of supreme goodness existing 

392 PLATO 

"You are further aware that most people affirm pleasure to be the 
good, but the finer sort of wits say it is knowledge?" 


"And you are aware too that the latter cannot explain what they 
mean by knowledge, but are obliged after all to say knowledge of the 

"How ridiculous!" 

"Yes," I said, "that they should begin by reproaching us with our 
ignorance of the good, and then presume our knowledge of it for 
the good they define to be knowledge of the good, just as if we under- 
stood them when they use the term 'good' this is of course ridic- 

"Most true," he said. 

"And those who make pleasure their good are in equal perplexity; 
for they are compelled to admit that there are bad pleasures as well 
as good." 


"And therefore to acknowledge that bad and good are the same?" 


"There can be no doubt about the numerous difficulties in which 
this question is involved." 

"There can be none." 

"Further, do we not see that many are willing to do or to have or 
to seem to be what is just and honorable without the reality; but no 
one is satisfied with the appearance of good the reality is what they 
seek; in the case of the good, appearance is despised by everyone." 

"Very true," he said. 

"Of this then, which every soul of man pursues and makes the end 
of all his actions, having a presentiment that there is such an end, and 
yet hesitating because neither knowing the nature nor having the 
same assurance of this as of other things, and therefore losing what- 
ever good there is in other things of a principle such and so great as 
this ought the best men in our State, to whom everything is en- 
trusted, to be in the darkness of ignorance?" 

"Certainly not," he said. 


"I am sure," I said, "that he who does not know how the beautiful 
and the just are likewise good will be but a sorry guardian of them; 
and I suspect that no one who is ignorant of the good will have a true 
knowledge of them/* 

"That," he said, "is a shrewd suspicion of yours." 

"And if we only have a guardian who has this knowledge our 
State will be perfectly ordered?" 

"Of course," he replied; "but I wish that you would tell me 
whether you conceive this supreme principle of the good to be knowl- 
edge or pleasure, or different from either?" 

"Aye," I said, "I knew all along that a fastidious gentleman like 
you would not be contented with the thoughts of other people about 
these matters." 

"True, Socrates; but I must say that one who like you has passed a 
lifetime in the study of philosophy should not be always repeating 
the opinions of others, and never telling his own." 

"Well, but has anyone a right to say positively what he does not 

"Not," he said, "with the assurance of positive certainty; he has no 
right to do that: but he may say what he thinks, as a matter of 

"And do you not know," I said, "that all mere opinions are bad, 
and the best of them blind? You would not deny that those who have 
any true notion without intelligence are only like blind men who 
feel their way along the road?" 

"Very true." 

"And do you wish to behold what is blind and crooked and base, 
when others will tell you of brightness and beauty?" 

"Still, I must implore you, Socrates," said Glaucon, "not to turn 
away just as you are reaching the goal; if you will only give such an 
explanation of the good as you have already given of justice and tem- 
perance and the other virtues, we shall be satisfied." 

"Yes, my friend, and I shall be at least equally satisfied, but I can- 
not help fearing that I shall fail, and that my indiscreet zeal will bring 
ridicule upon me. No, sweet sirs, let us not at present ask what is the 

394 PLATO 

actual nature of the good, 17 for to reach what is now in my thoughts 
would be an effort too great for me. But of the child of the good 
who is likest him, I would fain speak, if I could be sure that you 
wished to hear otherwise, not." 

"By all means," he said, "tell us about the child, and you shall re- 
main in our debt for the account of the parent." 

"I do indeed wish," I replied, "that I could pay, and you receive, 
the account of the parent, and not, as now, of the offspring only; 
take, however, this latter by way of interest, and at the same time 
have a care that I do not render a false account, although I have no 
intention of deceiving you." 

"Yes, we will take all the care that we can: proceed." 

"Yes," I said, "but I must first come to an understanding with you, 
and remind you of what I have mentioned in the course of this dis- 
cussion, and at many other times." 


"The old story, that there is a many beautiful and a many good, 
and so of other things which we describe and define; to all of them 
the term 'many' is applied." 

"True," he said. 

"And there is an absolute beauty and an absolute good, and of 
other things to which the term 'many* is applied there is an abso- 
lute; for they may be brought under a single idea, which is called 
the essence of each." 

"Very true." 

"The many, as we say, are seen but not known, and the ideas are 
known but not seen," 


"And what is the organ with which we see the visible things?" 

"The sight," he said. 

"And with the hearing," I said, "we hear, and with the other 
senses perceive the other objects of sense?" 


17 Socrates refuses to define by any formula that highest good "which every soul 
of nwm pursues" but of which the human mind can speak only in symbols. 


"But have you remarked that sight is hy far the most costly and 
complex piece of workmanship which the artificer of the senses ever 

"No, I never have," he said. 

"Then reflect: has the ear or voice need of any third or additional 
nature in order that the one may be able to hear and the other to be 

"Nothing of the sort." 

"No, indeed," I replied; "and the same is true of most, if not all, 
the other sensesyou would not say that any of them requires such 
an addition?" 

"Certainly not." 

"But you see that without the addition of some other nature there 
is no seeing or being seen?" 

"How do you mean?" 

"Sight being, as I conceive, in the eyes, and he who has eyes want- 
ing to see; color being also present in them, still unless there be a third 
nature specially adapted to the purpose, the owner of the eyes will 
see nothing and the colors will be invisible." 

"Of what nature are you speaking?" 

"Of that which you term light," I replied. 

"True," he said. 

"Noble, then, is the bond which links together sight and visibility, 
and great beyond other bonds by no small difference of nature; for 
light is their bond, and light is no ignoble thing?" 

"Nay," he said, "the reverse of ignoble." 

"And which," I said, "of the gods in heaven would you say was 
the lord of this element? Whose is that light which makes the eye to 
see perfectly and the visible to appear?" 

"You mean the sun, as you and all mankind say." 

"May not the relation of sight to this deity be described as follows?" 


"Neither sight nor the eye in which sight resides is the sun?" 


"Yet of all the organs of sense the eye is the most like the sun?" 

390 PLATO 

"By far the most like." 

"And the power which the eye possesses is a sort of effluence 
which is dispensed from the sun?" 


"Then the sun is not sight, but the author of sight who is recog- 
nized by sight?" 

"True," he said. 

"And this is he whom I call the child of the good, whom the good 
begat in his own likeness, to be in the visible world, in relation to 
sight and the things of sight, what the good is in the intellectual 
world in relation to mind and the things of mind." 

"Will you be a little more explicit?" he said. 

"Why, you know," I said, "that the eyes, when a person directs 
them towards objects on which the light of day is no longer shining, 
but the moon and stars only, see dimly, and are nearly blind; they 
seem to have no clearness of vision in them?" 

"Very true." 

"But when they are directed towards objects on which the sun 
shines, they see clearly and there is sight in them?" 


"And the soul is like the eye: when resting upon that on which 
truth and being shine, the soul perceives and understands, and is 
radiant with intelligence; but when turned towards the twilight of 
becoming and perishing, then she has opinion only, and goes blink- 
ing about, and is first of one opinion and then of another, and seems 
to have no intelligence?" 

"Just so." 

"Now, that which imparts truth to the known and the power ol 
knowing to the knower is what I would have you term the idea of 
good, and this you will deem to be the cause of science, and of truth 
in so far as the latter becomes the subject of knowledge; beautiful 
too, as are both truth and knowledge, you will be right in esteeming 
this other nature as more beautiful than either; and, as in the previous 
instance, light and sight may be truly said to be like the sun> and yet 
not to be the sun, so in this other sphere, science and truth may be 


deemed to be like the good, but not the good; the good has a place of 
honor yet higher." 

"What a wonder of beauty that must be," he said, "which is the 
author of science and truth, and yet surpasses them in beauty; for 
you surely cannot mean to say that pleasure is the good?" 

"God forbid," I replied; "but may I ask you to consider the image 
in another point of view?" 

"In what point of view?" 

"You would say, would you not, that the sun is not only the author 
of visibility in all visible things, but of generation and nourishment 
and growth, though he himself is not generation?" 


"In like manner the good may be said to be not only the author of 
knowledge to all things known, but of their being and essence, and 
yet the good is not essence, but far exceeds essence \n dignity and 

Glaucon said, with a ludicrous earnestness: "By the light of 
heaven, how amazing!" 

"Yes," I said, "and the exaggeration may be set down to you; for 
you made me utter my fancies." 

Socrates analyzes the degree of reality in the objects of mans 
'knowledge. Beginning with the most unsubstantial and tran- 
sient, shadows and reflections in water, he goes on to the solid, 
material objects that fill our visible world, of which the shad- 
ows and reflections are only copies. Beyond them, however, is 
the invisible world of perfect ideas, of which this imperfect 
world and the mathematician's figures are but copies and shad- 
ows. Still above and beyond all multiplicity is the supreme 
principle of the One, to which only the most highly trained 
reason may soar. 

398 PLATO 


Figure of mankind in the dark cave. Special education 

and training of rulers in science, philosophy and practice 

of government. 

"AND now," I said, 'let me show in a figure l how far our nature is 
enlightened or unenlightened. Behold! human beings living in an 
underground den, which has a mouth open towards the light and 
reaching all along the den; here they have been from their childhood, 
and have their legs and necks chained so that they cannot move, and 
can only see before them, being prevented by the chains from turn- 
ing round their heads. Above and behind them a fire is blazing at a 
distance, and between the fire and the prisoners there is a raised way; 
and you will see, if you look, a low wall built along the way, like the 
screen which marionette players have in front of them, over which 
they show the puppets." 

"I see." 

"And do you see," I said, "men passing along the wall carrying all 
sorts of vessels, and statues and figures of animals made of wood and 
stone and various materials, which appear over the wall? Some of 
them are talking, others silent." 

"You have shown me a strange image, and they are strange 

"Like ourselves," I replied; "and they see only their own shadows, 2 
or the shadows of one another, which the fire throws on the opposite 
wall of the cave?" 

1 The famous parable of the cave, in which Socrates is made to contrast again the 
material world of our everyday sense experience and the spiritual world of pure 
thought and truth. 

2 The dwellers in the den see only the shadows of puppets, which are themselves 
only imitations of really living things. That is, they see only the appearances of 
material things, not their true nature. 


"True/* he said; "how could they see anything but the shadows i! 
they were never allowed to move their heads?" 

"And of the objects which are being carried in like manner they 
would only see the shadows?" 

"Yes," he said. 

"And if they were able to converse with one another, would they 
not suppose that they were naming what was actually before them?" 

"Very true." 

"And suppose further that the prison had an echo which came 
from the other side, would they not be sure to fancy when one of the 
passers-by spoke that the voice which they heard came from the pass- 
ing shadow?" 

"No question," he replied. 

"To them," I said, "the truth would be literally nothing but the 
shadows of the images." 

"That is certain." 

"And now look again, and see what will naturally follow if the 
prisoners are released and disabused of their error. At first, when 
any of them is liberated and compelled suddenly to stand up and turn 
his neck round and walk and look towards the light, he will suffer 
sharp pains; the glare will distress him, and he will be unable to see 
the realities of which in his former state he had seen the shadows: 
and then conceive someone saying to him that what he saw before 
was an illusion, but that now, when he is approaching nearer to being 
and his eye is turned towards more real existence, he has a clearer 
vision what will be his reply? And you may further imagine that 
his instructor is pointing to the objects as they pass and requiring 
him to name them, will he not be perplexed? Will he not fancy that 
the shadows which he formerly saw are truer than the objects which 
are now shown to him?" 

"Far truer." 

"And if he is compelled to look straight at the light, will he not 
have a pain in his eyes which will make him turn away to take refuge 
in the objects of vision which he can see, and which he will con- 

400 PLATO 

ceive to be in reality clearer than the things which are now being 
shown to him?" 3 

"True," he said. 

"And suppose once more, that he is reluctantly dragged up a steep 
and rugged ascent, and held fast until he is forced into the presence 
of the sun himself, is he not likely to be pained and irritated? When 
he approaches the light his eyes will be dazzled, and he will not be 
able to see anything at all of what are now called realities/' 

"Not all in a moment/' he said. 

"He will require to grow accustomed to the sight of the upper 
world. And first he will see the shadows best, next the reflections of 
men and other objects in the water, and then the objects themselves; 
then he will gaze upon the light of the moon and the stars and the 
spangled heaven; and he will see the sky and the stars by night better 
than the sun or the light of the sun by day?" 


"Last of all he will be able to see the sun, and not mere reflec- 
tions of him in the water, but he will see him in his own proper place, 
and not in another; and he will contemplate him as he is." 


"I le will then proceed to argue that this is he who gives the season 
and the years, and is the guardian of all that is in the visible world,, 
and in a certain way the cause of all things which he and his fellows 
have been accustomed to behold?" 

"Clearly," he said, "he would first see the sun and then reason 
about him." 

"And when he remembered his old habitation, and the wisdom of 
the den and his fellow prisoners, do you not suppose that he would 
felicitate himself on the change, and pity them?" 

"Certainly, he would." 

"And if they were in the habit of conferring honors among them- 

3 He will think the shadows to which he is accustomed more real than the puppets 
behind him that caused them. The puppets in turn he will find easier to look at 
than the living creatures in the world of sunlight outside, of which the puppets 
were but copies. 


selves on those who were quickest to observe the passing shadows 
and to remark which of them went before, and which followed after, 
and which were together; and who were therefore best able to draw 
conclusions as to the future, do you think that he would care for 
such honors and glories, or envy the possessors of them? Would he 
not say with Homer, 'Better to be the poor servant of a poor master/ 4 
and to endure anything, rather than think as they do and live after 
their manner?" 

"Yes," he said, "I think that he would rather suffer anything than 
entertain these false notions and live in this miserable manner." 

"Imagine once more," I said, "such a one coming suddenly out of 
the sun to be replaced in his old situation; 5 would he not be certain 
to have his eyes full of darkness?" 

"To be sure," he said. 

"And if there were a contest, and he had to compete in measuring 
the shadows with the prisoners who had never moved out of the den, 
while his sight was still weak, and before his eyes had become steady 
(and the time which would be needed to acquire this new habit of 
sight might be very considerable), would he not be ridiculous? Men 
would say of him that up he went and down he came without his 
eyes; and that it was better not even to think of ascending; and if any 
one tried to loose another and lead him up to the light, let them only 
catch the offender, and they would put him to death." 

"No question," he said. 

"This entire allegory," I said, "you may now append, dear 
Glaucon, to the previous argument; the prison house is the world of 
sight, the light of the fire is the sun, and you will not misapprehend 
me if you interpret the journey upwards to be the ascent of the soul 
into the intellectual world according to my poor belief, which, at your 
desire, I have expressed whether rightly or wrongly, God knows. 
But, whether true or false, my opinion is that in the world of knowl- 
edge the idea of good appears last of all, and is seen only with an 

4 Homer continues, "than to be lord of all the dead who have perished." Odyssey, 
XI, 489-491- 

5 Or "such a one going down again and taking his old position." 

402 PLATO 

effort; and, when seen, is also inferred to be the universal author of 
all things beautiful and right, parent of light and of the lord of light 
in this visible world, and the immediate source of reason and truth 
in the intellectual; and that this is the power upon which he who 
would act rationally either in public or private life must have his eye 

"I agree," he said, "as far as I am able to understand you." 

"Moreover," I said, "you must not wonder that those who attain 
to this beatific vision are unwilling to descend to human affairs; for 
their souls are ever hastening into the upper world where they desire 
to dwell; which desire of theirs is very natural, if our allegory may 
be trusted." 

"Yes, very natural." 

"And is there anything surprising in one who passes from divine 
contemplations to the evil state of man, misbehaving himself in a 
ridiculous manner; if, while his eyes are blinking and before he has 
become accustomed to the surrounding darkness, he is compelled to 
fight in courts of law, or in other places, about the images or the 
shadows of images of justice, and is endeavoring to meet the concep- 
tions of those who have never yet seen absolute justice?" 

"Anything but surprising," he replied. 

"Anyone who has common sense will remember that the bewilder- 
ments of the eyes are of two kinds, and arise from two causes, either 
from coming out of the light or from going into the light, which is 
true of the mind's eye, quite as much as of the bodily eye; and he 
who remembers this when he sees anyone whose vision is perplexed 
and weak, will not be too ready to laugh; he will first ask whether 
that soul of man has come out of the brighter life, and is unable to 
see because unaccustomed to the dark, or having turned from dark- 
ness to the day is dazzled by excess of light. And he will count the 
one happy in his condition and state of being, and he will pity the 
other; or, if he have a mind to laugh at the soul which comes from 
below into the light, there will be more reason in this than in the 
laugh which greets him who returns from above out of the light into 
the den." 


"That," he said, "is a very just distinction." 

"But then, if I am right, certain professors of education must be 
wrong when they say that they can put a knowledge into the soul 
which was not there before, like sight into blind eyes/' 

"They undoubtedly say this," he replied. 

"Whereas our argument shows that the power and capacity of 
learning exists in the soul already; and that just as the eye was unable 
to turn from darkness to light without the whole body, so too the 
instrument of knowledge can only by the movement of the whole 
soul be turned from the world of becoming into that of being, and 
learn by degrees to endure the sight of being, and of the brightest 
and best of being, or in other words, of the good." 

"Very true." ""^ 

"And must there not be some art which will effect conversion in 
the easiest and quickest manner; not implanting the faculty of sight, 
for that exists already, but has been turned in the wrong direction, 
and is looking away from the truth?" 

"Yes," he s&id, "such an art may be presumed." 

"And whereas the other so-called virtues of the soul seem to be 
akin to bodily qualities, for even when they are not originally innate 
they can be implanted later by habit and exercise, the virtue of wis- 
dom more than anything else contains a divine element which always 
remains, and by this conversion is rendered useful and profitable; or, 
on the other hand, hurtful and useless. Did you never observe the 
narrow intelligence flashing from the keen eye of a clever rogue- 
how eager he is, how clearly his paltry soul sees the way to his end; 
he is the reverse of blind, but his keen eyesight is forced into the 
service of evil, and he is mischievous in proportion to his clever- 

"Very true," he said. 

"But what if there had been a circumcision of such natures in th^ 
days of their youth; and they had been severed from those sensual 
pleasures, such as eating and drinking, which, like leaden weights, 
were attached to them at their birth, and which drag them down and 
turn the vision of their souls upon the things that are below if, I 

404 PLATO 

say, they had been released from these impediments and turned in 
the opposite direction, the very same faculty in them would have 
seen the truth as keenly as they see what their eyes are turned to 

"Very likely." 

"Yes," I said; "and there is another thing which is likely, or rather 
a necessary inference from what has preceded, that neither the un- 
educated and uninformed of the truth, nor yet those who never make 
an end of their education, will be able ministers of State; not the 
former, because they have no single aim of duty which is the rule of 
all their actions, private as well as public; nor the latter, because they 
will not act at all except upon compulsion, fancying that they are 
already dwelling apart in the islands of the blest." 

"Very true," he replied. 

"Then," I said, "the business of us who are the founders of the 
State will be to compel the best minds to attain that knowledge which 
we have already shown to be the greatest of all they must continue 
to ascend until they arrive at the good; but when they have ascended 
and seen enough we must not allow them to do as they do now." 

"What do you mean?" 

"I mean that they remain in the upper world : but this must not be 
allowed; they must be made to descend again among the prisoners in 
the den, and partake of their labors and honors, whether they are 
worth having or not." 

"But is not this unjust?" he said; "ought we to give them a worse 
life, when they might have a better?" 

"You have again forgotten, my friend," I said, "the intention of the 
legislator, who did not aim at making any one class in the State happy 
above the rest; the happiness was to be in the whole State, and he 
held the citizens together by persuasion and necessity, making them 
benefactors of the State, and therefore benefactors of one another; 
to this end he created them, not to please themselves, but to be his 
instruments in binding up the State." 

"True," he said, "I had forgotten." 

"Observe, Glaucon, that there will be no injustice in compelling 


our philosophers to have a care and providence of others; we shall 
explain to them that in other States, men of their class are not obliged 
to share in the toils of politics: and this is reasonable, for they grow 
up at their own sweet will, and the government would rather not have 
them. Being self-taught, they cannot be expected to show any grati- 
tude for a culture which they have never received. But we have 
brought you into the world to be rulers of the hive, kings of your- 
selves and of the other citizens, and have educated you far better 
and more perfectly than they have been educated, and you are better 
able to share in the double duty. Wherefore each of you, when his 
turn comes, must go down to the general underground abode, and 
get the habit of seeing in the dark. When you have acquired the 
habit, you will see ten thousand times better than the inhabitants of 
the den, and you will know what the several images are, and what 
they represent, because you have seen the beautiful and just and good 
in their truth. And thus our State, which is also yours, will be a 
reality, and not a dream only, and will be administered in a spirit 
unlike that of other States, in which men fight with one another 
about shadows only and are distracted in the struggle for power, 
which in their eyes is a great good. Whereas the truth is that the 
State in which the rulers are most reluctant to govern is always the 
best and most quietly governed, and the State in which they are most 
eager, the worst." 

"Quite true/' he replied. 

"And will our pupils, when they hear this, refuse to take their 
turn at the toils of State, when they are allowed to spend the greater 
part of their time with one another in the heavenly light?" 

"Impossible," he answered; "for they are just men, and the com- 
mands which we impose upon them are just; there can be no doubt 
that every one of them will take office as a stern necessity, and not 
after the fashion of our present rulers of State." 

"Yes, my friend," I said; "and there lies the point. You must con- 
trive for your future rulers another and a better life than that of a 
ruler, and then you may have a well-ordered State; for only in the 

406 PLATO 

State which offers this, will they rule who are truly rich, not in silver 
and gold, but in virtue and wisdom, which are the true blessings of 
life. Whereas if they go to the administration of public affairs, poor 
and hungering after their own private advantage, thinking that 
hence they are to snatch the chief good, order there can never be; 
for they will be fighting about office, and the civil and domestic broils 
which thus arise will be the ruin of the rulers themselves and of the 
whole State." 

"Most true," he replied. 

"And the only life which looks down upon the life of political 
ambition is that of true philosophy. Do you know of any other?" 

"Indeed, I do not," he said. 

"And those who govern ought not to be lovers of the task? For, if 
they are, there will be rival lovers, and they will fight." 

"No question." 

"Who then are those whom we shall compel to be guardians? 
Surely they will be the men who are wisest about affairs of State, and 
by whom the State is best administered, and who at the same time 
have other honors and another and a better life than that of politics?" 

"They are the men, and I will choose them," he replied. 

"And now shall we consider in what way such guardians will be 
produced, and how they are to be brought from darkness to light- 
as some are said to have ascended from the world below to the gods?" 

"By all means," he replied. 

"The process," I said, "is not the turning over of an oyster shell, 6 
but the turning round of a soul passing from a day which is little 
better than night to the true day of being, that is, the ascent from 
below, which we affirm to be true philosophy?" 

"Quite so." 

"And should we not inquire what sort of knowledge has the power 
of effecting such a change?" 


6 A reference to a game in which the players, divided into two sides, either chased 
their opponents or ran away according as an oyster shell, tossed into the air, fell with 
its dark or light side uppermost. 


"What sort of knowledge is there which would draw the soul from 
becoming to being? 7 And another consideration has just occurred 
to me: You will remember that our young men are to be warrior 

"Yes, that was said." 

"Then this new kind of knowledge must have an additional 

"What quality?" 

"Usefulness in war." 

"Yes, if possible." 

"There were two parts in our former scheme of education, were 
there not?" 

"Just so." 

"There was gymnastic which presided over the growth and decay 
of the body, and may therefore be regarded as having to do with 
generation and corruption?" 


"Then that is not the knowledge which we are seeking to dis 


"But what do you say of music, that also entered to a certain e* 
tent into our former scheme?" 

"Music," he said, "as you will remember, was the counterpart of 
gymnastic, and trained the guardians by the influences of habit, by 
harmony making them harmonious, by rhythm rhythmical, but not 
giving them science; 8 and the words, whether fabulous or possibly 
true, had kindred elements of rhythm and harmony in them. But in 
music there was nothing which tended to that good which you are 
now seeking." 

"You are most accurate," I said, "in your recollection; in music 

1 That is, from the world of change and decay to the world of true, uncorruptible 
being. Socrates is looking now for a course of study that will develop in the finest 
boys and girls both the necessary practical skills and the power of abstract reasoned 
judgment, that will enable them to look at this woild from the point of view of 
someone above it. 

8 Or knowledge in the true sense as distinguished from mere habit. 

408 PLATO 

there certainly was nothing of the kind. But what branch of knowl- 
edge is there, my dear Glaucon, which is of the desired nature; since 
all the useful arts were reckoned mean by us?" 

"Undoubtedly; and yet if music and gymnastic are excluded, 'and 
vhe arts are also excluded, what remains?" 

'Well," I said, "there may be nothing left of our special subjects; 
ind then we shall have to take something which is not special, but 
of universal application." 

"What may that be?" 

"A something which all arts and sciences and intelligences use fn 
common, and which everyone first has to learn among the elements 
or education." 

"What is that?" 

"The little matter of distinguishing one, two, and three in a word, 
number and calculation: do not all arts and sciences necessarily par- 
take of them?" 


"Then the art of war partakes of them?" 

"To be sure." 

"Then Palamedes, 9 whenever he appears in tragedy, proves Aga- 
memnon ridiculously unfit to be a general. Did you never remark 
how he declares that he had invented number, and had numbered 
the ships and set in array the ranks of the army at Troy; which im- 
plies that they had never been numbered before, and Agamemnon 
must be supposed literally to have been incapable of counting his own 
fleet how could he if he was ignorant of number? And if that is true, 
what sort of general must he have been?" 

"I should say a very strange one, if this was as you say." 

"Can we deny that a warrior should have a knowledge of arith- 

"Certainly he should, if he is to have the smallest understanding of 

The hero of lost plays by Aeschylus and Euripides. In the story he was falsely 
accused by Agamemnon, Diomcd, and Odysseus of treason to the Greek cause and 
stoned to death. He was said also to have been the inventor of the Greek alphabet, 
weights, and measures. 


military tactics, or indeed, I should rather say, if he is to be a man 
at all." 

"I should like to know whether you have the same notion which I 
have of this study?" 

"What is your notion?" 

"It appears to me to be a study of the kind which we are seeking, 
and which leads naturally to reflection, but never to have been 
rightly used; for the true use of it is simply to draw the soul towards 
being. 10 

Socrates uses the illustration of three fingers to show that there 
are aspects of any visible object which the mind understands at 
once, without further thinking, such as that the objects in this 
case are fingers. But other aspects, matters of size, of hardness 
and softness, of unity and number, these are all relative. Ques- 
tions regarding them the mind cannot answer without reflect- 

If simple unity could be adequately perceived by the sight or by any 
other sense, then, as we were saying in the case of the finger, there 
would be nothing to attract towards being; but when there is some 
contradiction always present, and one is the reverse of one and in- 
volves the conception of plurality, then thought begins to be aroused 
within us, and the soul perplexed and wanting to arrive at a decision 
asks, What is absolute unity"? This is the way in which the study of 
the one has a power of drawing and converting the mind to the con- 
templation of true being." 

"And surely/' he said, "this occurs notably in the case of one; for 
we sec the same thing to be both one and infinite in multitude?" 

"Yes," I said; "and this being true of one must be equally true of all 


"And all arithmetic and calculation have to do with number?'* 


10 Socrates proceeds to prove the value both for concrete use and as an incentivf 
to abstract thinkinf of the comparatively new studies of arithmetic and geometry. 

4 1 PLATO 

"And they appear to lead the mind towards truth?" 

<f Yes, in a very remarkable manner." 

'Then this is knowledge of the kind for which we are seeking, 
having a double use, military and philosophical; for the man of war 
must learn the art of number or he will not know how to array his 
troops, and the philosopher also, because he has to rise out of the sea 
of change and lay hold of true being, and therefore he must be an 

'That is true." 

"And our guardian is both warrior and philosopher?" 


"Then this is a kind of knowledge which legislation may fitly pre- 
scribe; and we must endeavor to persuade those who are to be the 
principal men of our State to go and learn arithmetic, not as ama- 
teurs, but they must carry on the study until they see the nature of 
numbers with the mind only; nor again, like merchants or retail 
traders, with a view to buying or selling, but for the sake of their 
military use, and of the soul herself; and because this will be the 
easiest way for her to pass from becoming to truth and being." 

"That is excellent," he said. 

"Yes," I said, "and now having spoken of it, I must add how 
charming the science is! and in how many ways it conduces to our 
desired end, if pursued in the spirit of a philosopher, and not of a 

"How do you mean?" 

"I mean, as I was saying, that arithmetic has a very great and ele- 
vating effect, compelling the soul to reason about abstract number, 
and rebelling against the introduction of visible or tangible objects 
into the argument. You know how steadily the masters of the art 
repel and ridicule anyone who attempts to divide absolute unity 
when he is calculating, and if you divide, they multiply, 11 taking 

11 Socrates' meaning seems to be that in a philosophical argument about things 
that are really units, the ordinary man tends to divide or split up the unity into 
numerous parts and to talk of them, whereat the expert will multiply or reduce the 
parts to one again. 


care that one shall continue one and not become lost in fractions." 

"That is very true." 

"Now, suppose a person were to say to them: O my friends, what 
are these wonderful numbers about which you are reasoning, in 
which, as you say, there is a unity such as you demand, and each unit 
is equal, invariable, indivisible, what would they answer?" 

"They would answer, as I should conceive, that they were speak- 
ing of those numbers which can only be realized in thought." 

"Then you see that this knowledge may be truly called neces- 
sary, necessitating as it clearly does the use of the pure intelligence 
in the attainment of pure truth?" 

"Yes; that is a marked characteristic of it." 

"And have you further observed, that those who have a natural 
talent for calculation are generally quick at every other kind of 
knowledge; and even the dull, if they have had an arithmetical 
training, although they may derive no other advantage from it, always 
become much quicker than they would otherwise have been." 

"Very true," he said. 

"And indeed, you will not easily find a more difficult study, and 
not many as difficult." 

"You will not." 

"And, for all these reasons, arithmetic is a kind of knowledge in 
which the best natures should be trained, and which must not be 
given up." 

"I agree." 

"Let this then be made one of our subjects of education. And next, 
shall we inquire whether the kindred science also concerns us?" 

"You mean geometry?" 

"Exactly so." 

"Clearly," he said, "we are concerned with that part of geometry 
which relates to war; for in pitching a camp, or taking up a position^, 
or closing or extending the lines of an army, or any other military 
maneuver, whether in actual battle or on a march, it will make all 
the difference whether a general is or is not a geometrician." 

"Yes." I said, "but for that purpose a very little of either geomeirv 

412 PLATO 

or calculation will be enough; the question relates rather to the 
greater and more advanced part of geometry whether that tends in 
any degree to make more easy the vision of the idea of good; and 
thither, as I was saying, all things tend which compel the soul to 
turn her gaze towards that place, where is the full perfection of being, 
which she ought, by all means, to behold." 

"True," he said. 

"Then if geometry compels us to view being, it concerns us; if 
becoming only, it does not concern us?" 

"Yes, that is what we assert." 

"Yet anybody who has the least acquaintance with geometry will 
not deny that such a conception of the science is in flat contradiction 
to the ordinary language of geometricians." 

"How so?" 

"They have in view practice only, and are always speaking, in a 
narrow and ridiculous manner, of squaring and extending and apply- 
ing and the like they confuse the necessities of geometry with those 
of daily life; whereas knowledge is the real object of the whole 

"Certainly," he said. 

"Then must not a further admission be made?" 

"What admission?" 

"That the knowledge at which geometry aims is knowledge of the 
eternal, and not of aught perishing and transient." 

"That," he replied, "may be readily allowed, and is true." 

"Then, my noble friend, geometry will draw the soul towards 
truth, and create the spirit of philosophy, and raise up that which is 
now unhappily allowed to fall down." 

"Nothing will be more likely to have such an effect." 

"Then nothing should be more sternly laid down than that the 
inhabitants of your fair city should by all means learn geometry. 
Moreover the science has indirect effects, which are not small." 

"Of what kind?" he said. 

"There are the military advantages of which you spoke," I said; 
"and in all departments of knowledge, as experience proves, anyone 


who has studied geometry is infinitely quicker of apprehension than 
one who has not." 

"Yes, indeed," he said; "there is an infinite difference between 

"Then shall we propose this as a second branch of knowledge 
which our youth will study?" 

"Let us do so," he replied. 

"And suppose we make astronomy the third what do you say?" 

"I am strongly inclined to it," he said; "the observation of the 
seasons and of months and years is as essential to the general as it is 
to the farmer or sailor." 

"I am amused," I said, "at your fear of the world, which makes you 
guard against the appearance of insisting upon useless studies; and I 
quite admit the difficulty of believing that in every man there is an 
eye 12 of the soul which, when by other pursuits lost and dimmed, is 
by these purified and re-illumined; and is more precious far than ten 
thousand bodily eyes, for by it alone is truth seen. Now there are two 
classes of persons: one class of those who will agree with you and 
will take your words as a revelation; another class to whom they will 
be utterly unmeaning, and who will naturally deem them to be idle 
tales, for they see no sort of profit which is to be obtained from them. 
And therefore you had better decide at once with which of the two 
you are proposing to argue. You will very likely say with neither, and 
that your chief aim in carrying on the argument is your own improve- 
ment; at the same time you do not grudge to others any benefit which 
they may receive." 

"I think that I should prefer to carry on the argument mainly on 
my own behalf/' 

"Then take a step backward, for we have gone wrong in the order 
of the sciences." 

"What was the mistake?" he said. 

"After plane geometry," I said, "we proceeded at once to solids in 

12 Or "at your apparent fear that the public may think you are introducing use- 
less studies; it is indeed difficult and not at all easy to realize that in every man 
there is an eye. ..." 

414 PLATO 

revolution, instead of taking solids in themselves; whereas after the 
second dimension the third, which is concerned with cubes and 
dimensions of depth, ought to have followed." 13 

"That is true, Socrates; but so little seems to be known as yet 
about these subjects." 

'Why, yes/' I said, "and for two reasons: in the first place, no 
government patronizes them; this leads to a want of energy in the 
pursuit of them, and they are difficult; in the second place, students 
cannot learn them unless they have a director. But then a director 
can hardly be found, and even if he could, as matters now stand, the 
students, who are very conceited, would not attend to him. That, 
however, would be otherwise if the whole State became the director 
of these studies and gave honor to them; then disciples would want to 
come, and there would be continuous and earnest search, and dis- 
coveries would be made; since even now, disregarded as they are by 
the world, and maimed of their fair proportions, and although none 
of their votaries can tell the use of them, still these studies force their 
way by their natural charm, and very likely, if they had the help of 
the State, they \vould some day emerge into light." 

"Yes," he said, "there is a remarkable charm in them. But I do not 
clearly understand the change in the order. First you began with a 
geometry of plane surfaces?" 

"Yes," I said. 

"And you placed astronomy next, and then you made a step back- 

"Yes, and I have delayed you by my hurry; the ludicrous state of 
solid geometry, which, in natural order, should have followed, made 
me pass over this branch and go on to astronomy, or motion of solids." 

"True," he said. 

"Then assuming that the science now omitted would come into 
existence if encouraged by the State, let us go on to astronomy, which 
will be fourth." 

13 That is, solid geometry should come next after plane. In Plato's day the spread 
of geometry from plane surfaces to solids was just taking place, in part, perhaps, 
under his direction. 


"The right order," he replied. "And now, Socrates, as you rebuked 
the vulgar manner in which I praised astronomy before, my praise 
shall be given in your own spirit. For everyone, as I think, must see 
that astronomy compels the soul to look upwards and leads us from 
this world to another." 

"Everyone but myself," I said; "to everyone else this may be clear, 
but not to me." 

"And what then would you say?" 

"I should rather say that those who elevate astronomy into phi- 
losophy appear to me to make us look downwards and not upwards." 

"What do you mean?" he asked. 

"You," I replied, "have in your mind a truly sublime conception 
of our knowledge of the things above. And I dare say that if a person 
were to throw his head back and study the fretted ceiling, you would 
still think that his mind was the percipient, and not his eyes. 14 And 
you are very likely right, and I may be a simpleton; but, in my opin- 
ion, that knowledge only which is of being and of the unseen can 
make the soul look upwards, and whether a man gapes at the heavens 
or blinks on the ground, seeking to learn some particular of sense, I 
would deny that he can learn, for nothing of that sort is matter of 
science; his soul is looking downwards, not upwards, whether his way 
to knowledge is by water or by land, whether he floats, or only lies on 
his back." 

"I acknowledge," he said, "the justice of your rebuke. Still, I 
should like to ascertain how astronomy can be learned in any manner 
more conducive to that knowledge of which we are speaking?" 

"I will tell you," I said: "The starry heaven which we behold is 
wrought upon a visible ground, and therefore, although the fairest 
and most perfect of visible things, must necessarily be deemed in- 
ferior far to the true motions of absolute swiftness and absolute slow- 
ness, which are relative to each other, and carry with them that which 
is contained in them, in the true number and in every true figure. 

14 Glaucon is taking the idea of higher in a literal sense, as if gazing at physical 
objects on the ceiling or in the sky were itself a nobler form of study than gazing 
at similar objects on the ground. 

41 6 PLATO 

Now, these are to be apprehended by reason and intelligence, but 
not by sight/' 

"True," he replied. 

"The spangled heavens should be used as a pattern and with a 
view to that higher knowledge; their beauty is like the beauty of 
figures or pictures excellently wrought by the hand of Daedalus, or 
some other great artist, which we may chance to behold; any 
geometrician who saw them would appreciate the exquisiteness of 
their workmanship, but he would never dream of thinking that in 
them he could find the true equal or the true double, or the truth of 
any other proportion." 

"No," he replied, "such an idea would be ridiculous." 

"And will not a true astronomer have the same feeling when he 
looks at the movements of the stars/ 1 Will he not think that heaven 
and the things in heaven are framed by the Creator of them in the 
most perfect manner? But he will never imagine that the proportions 
of night and day, or of both to the month, or of the month to the 
year, or of the stars to these and to one another, and any other things 
that are material and visible can also be eternal and subject to no 
deviation that would be absurd; and it is equally absurd to take so 
much pains in investigating their exact truth." 

"I quite agree, though I never thought of this before." 

"Then," I said, "in astronomy, as in geometry, we should employ 
problems, 15 and let the heavens alone if we would approach the sub- 
ject in the right way and so make the natural gift of reason to be of 
any real use." 

"That," he said, "is a work infinitely beyond our present astrono- 

"Yes," I said; "and there are many other things which must also 
have a similar extension given to them, if our legislation is to be of 
any value. But can you tell me of any other suitable study?" 

15 Plato is here proposing something not unlike our modern theoretical and 
mathematical astronomy. The stars, being physical bodies in an imperfect, physical 
universe, do not, he argues, in their movements follow with absolute precision the 
lines of ideal, mathematical figures. Astronomy, he insists, is more than looking at 
the sky. 


"No," he said, "not without thinking." 

"Motion," I said, "has many forms, and not one only; two of them 
are obvious enough even to wits no better than ours; and there are 
others, as I imagine, which may be left to wiser persons." 

"But where are the two?" 

"There is a second," I said, "which is the counterpart of the one 
already named." 

"And what may that be?" 

"The second," I said, "would seem relatively to the ears to be what 
the first is to the eyes; for I conceive that as the eyes are designed to 
look up at the stars, so are the ears to hear harmonious motions; and 
these are sister sciences as the Pythagoreans 16 say, and we, Glaucon, 
agree with them?" 

"Yes," he replied. 

"But this," I said, "is a laborious study, and therefore we had better 
go and learn of them; and they will tell us whether there are any 
other applications of these sciences. At the same time, we must not 
lose sight of our own higher object." 

"What is that?" 

"There is a perfection which all knowledge ought to reach, and 
which our pupils ought also to attain, and not to fall short of, as I 
was saying that they did in astronomy. For in the science of harmony, 
as you probably know, the same thing happens. The teachers of 
harmony compare the sounds and consonances which are heard only, 
and their labor, like that of the astronomers, is in vain." 

"Yes, by heaven!" he said; "and 'tis as good as a play to hear them 
talking about their condensed notes, 17 as they call them; they put 
their ears close alongside of the strings like persons catching a sound 
from their neighbor's wall one set of them declaring that they dis- 
tinguish an intermediate note and have found the least interval 
which should be the unit of measurement; the others insisting that 

16 The school of Pythagoras (r. 500 B.C.) emphasized the study of a philosophical 
type of mathematics and musical harmony. 

17 Or refined notes, a term for musical notes separated by the smallest possible 

4 1 8 PLATO 

the two sounds have passed into 1S the same either party setting 
their cars before their understanding." 

"You mean," I said, "those gentlemen who tease and torture the 
strings and rack them on the pegs of the instrument: I might carry 
on the metaphor and speak after their manner of the blows which 
the plectrum gives, and make accusations against the strings, both of 
backwardness and forwardness to sound; but this would be tedious, 
and therefore I will only say that these are not the men, and that I 
am referring to the Pythagoreans, of whom I was just now proposing 
to inquire about harmony. For they too are in error, like the astrono- 
mers; they investigate the numbers of the harmonies which are heard, 
but they never attain to problems that is to say, they never reach 
the natural harmonies of number, or reflect why some numbers are 
harmonious and others not." 19 

"That," he said, "is a thing of more than mortal knowledge." 

"A thing," I replied, "which I would rather call useful; that is, if 
sought after with a view to the beautiful and good; but if pursued in 
any other spirit, useless." 

"Very true," he said. 

"Now, when all these studies reach the point of intercommunion 
and connection with one another, and come to be considered in their 
mutual affinities, then, I think, but not till then, will the pursuit of 
them have a value for our objects; otherwise there is no profit in 

"I suspect so; but you are speaking, Socrates, of a vast work." 

"What do you mean?" I said; "the prelude or what? Do you not 
know that all this is but the prelude to the actual strain which we 
have to learn? For you surely would not regard the skilled mathemati- 
cian as a dialectician?" 

"Assuredly not," he said; "I have hardly ever known a mathemati- 
cian who was capable of reasoning." 

"But do you imagine that men who are unable to give and take a 
reason will have the knowledge which we require o them?" 

18 Or merged into. 

19 That is, never attempt a general theory of music. 


"Neither can this be supposed." 

"And so, Glaucon," I said, "we have at last arrived at the hymn of 
dialectic. 20 This is that strain which is of the intellect only, but which 
the faculty of sight will nevertheless be found to imitate; for sight, 
as you may remember, was imagined by us after a while to behold the 
real animals and stars, and last of all the sun himself. And so with 
dialectic; when a person starts on the discovery of the absolute by 
the light of reason only, and without any assistance of sense, and 
perseveres until by pure intelligence he arrives at the perception o 
the absolute good, he at last finds himself at the end of the intel- 
lectual world, as in the case of sight at the end of the visible." 

"Exactly," he said. 

"Then this is the progress which you call dialectic?" 


"But the release of the prisoners from chains, and their translation 
from die shadows to the images and to the light, and the ascent from 
the underground den to the sun, while in his presence they are vainly 
trying to look on animals and plants and the light of the sun, but are 
able to perceive even with their weak eyes the images in the water 
(which are divine), and are the shadows of true existence (not shad- 
ows of images cast by a light of fire, which compared with the sun is 
only an image) this power of elevating the highest principle in the 
soul to the contemplation of that which is best in existence, with 
which we may compare the raising of that faculty which is the very 
light of the body to the sight of that which is brightest in the material 
and visible world this power is given, as I was saying, by all that 
study arid pursuit of the arts which has been described." 

"I agree in what you are saying," he replied, "which may be hard 
to believe, yet, from another point of view, is harder still to deny. 
This however is not a theme to be treated of in passing only, but will 
have to be discussed again and again." 

20 The name Plato used for the practice of philosophic reasoning. The mind, 
trained by these various separate sciences to think exactly along abstract lines, now 
reaches the point where it can rise to consider the essential nature of the world as 
a whole and the absolute good above it. 

420 PLATO 

Further praise of dialectic, which alone goes directly to first 
^principles and does not depend, like the arts and sciences, on 
insecure hypotheses. 

"And do you also agree," I said, "in describing the dialectician as 
one who attains a conception of the essence of each thing? And he 
who does not possess and is therefore unable to impart this concep- 
tion, in whatever degree he fails, may in that degree also be said to 
fail in intelligence? Will you admit so much?'* 

"Yes," he said; "how can I deny it?" 

"And you would say the same of the conception of the good? Until 
the person is able to abstract and define rationally the idea of good, 
and unless he can run the gauntlet of all objections, and is ready to 
disprove them, not by appeals to opinion, but to absolute truth, never 
faltering at any step of the argument unless he can do all this, you 
would say that he knows neither the idea of good nor any other good; 
he apprehends only a shadow, if anything at all, which is given by 
opinion and not by science; dreaming and slumbering in this life, 
before he is well awake here, he arrives at the world below, and has 
his final quietus." 

"In all that I should most certainly agree with you." 

"And surely you would not have the children of your ideal State, 
whom you are nurturing and educating if the ideal ever becomes a 
reality you would not allow the future rulers to be like posts, having 
no reason in them, and yet to be set in authority over the highest 

"Certainly not," 

"Then you will make a law that they shall have such an education 
as will enable them to attain the greatest skill in asking and answer- 
ing questions?" 

"Yes," he said, "you and I together will make it." 

"Dialectic, then, as you will agree, is the coping stone of the 
sciences, and is set over them; no other science can be placed higher 
the nature of knowledge can no further go?" 

"I agree," he said. 


"But to whom we are to assign these studies, and in what way 
they are to be assigned, are questions which remain to be con- 

"Yes, clearly." 

"You remember," I said, "how the rulers were chosen before?" 

"Certainly," he said. 

"The same natures must still be chosen, and the preference again 
given to the surest and the bravest, and, if possible, to the fairest; 
and, having noble and generous tempers, they should also have the 
natural gifts which will facilitate their education," 

"And what are these?" 

"Such gifts as keenness and ready powers of acquisition; for the 
mind more often faints from the severity of study than from the 
severity of gymnastics: the toil is more entirely the mind's own, and 
is not shared with the body." 

"Very true," he replied. 

"Further, he of whom we are in search should have a good memory, 
and be an unwearied solid man who is a lover of labor in any line; or 
he will never be able to endure the great amount of bodily exercise 
and to go through all the intellectual discipline and study which we 
require of him." 

"Certainly," he said; "he must have natural gifts." 

"The mistake at present is that those who study philosophy have 
no vocation, and this, as I was before saying, is the reason why she 
has fallen into disrepute: her true sons should take her by the hand 
and not bastards." 

"What do you mean?" 

"In the first place, her votary should not have a lame or halting 
industry I mean, that he should not be half industrious and half 
idle: as, for example, when a man is a lover of gymnastic and hunt- 
ing, and all other bodily exercises, but a hater rather than a lover of 
the labor of learning or listening or inquiring. Or the occupation to 
which he devotes himself may be of an opposite kind, and he may 
have the other sort of lameness." 

"Certainly," he said. 

422 PLATO 

"And as to truth/* I said, "is not a soul equally to be deemed halt 
and lame which hates voluntary falsehood and is extremely indignant 
at herself and others when they tell lies, hut is patient of involuntary 
falsehood, and does not mind wallowing like a swinish beast in the 
mire of ignorance, and has no shame at being detected?" 

"To be sure/' 

"And, again, in respect of temperance, courage, magnificence, 
and every other virtue, should we not carefully distinguish between 
the true son and the bastard? for where there is no discernment of 
such qualities, states and individuals unconsciously err; and the state 
makes a ruler, and the individual a friend, of one who, being defec- 
tive in some part of virtue, is in a figure lame or a bastard/' 

"That is very true/' he said. 

"All these things, then, will have to be carefully considered by us; 
and if only those whom we introduce to this vast system of education 
and training are sound in body and mind, justice herself will have 
nothing to say against us, and we shall be the saviors of the constitu- 
tion and of the State; but, if our pupils are men of another stamp, the 
reverse will happen, and we shall pour a still greater flood of ridicule 
on philosophy than she has to endure at present." 

"That would not be creditable." 

"Certainly not," I said; "and yet perhaps, in thus turning jest into 
earnest, I am equally ridiculous." 

"In what respect?" 

"I had forgotten," I said, "that we were not serious, and spoke with 
too much excitement. For when I saw philosophy so undeservedly 
trampled underfoot of men I could not help feeling a sort of indigna- 
tion at the authors of her disgrace : and my anger made me too vehe- 

"Indeed! I was listening, and did not think so." 

"But I, who am the speaker, felt that I was. And now let me re- 
mind you that, although in our former selection we chose old men, 
we must not do so in this. Solon was under a delusion when he said 
that a man when he grows old may learn many things for he can 

K-h.PLm.LUj: JUUK vii 423 

no more learn much than he can run much; youth is the time for any 
extraordinary toil." 

"Of course." 

"And, therefore, calculation and geometry and all the other ele- 
ments of instruction, which are a preparation for dialectic, should be 
presented to the mind in childhood; 21 not, however, under any no- 
tion of forcing our system of education." 

"Why not?" 

"Because a freeman ought not to be a slave in the acquisition of 
knowledge of any kind. Bodily exercise, when compulsory, does no 
harm to the body; but knowledge which is acquired under compul- 
sion obtains no hold on the mind." 

"Very true." 

"Then, my good friend," I said, "do not use compulsion, but let 
early education be a sort of amusement; you will then be better able 
to find out the natural bent." 

"That is a very rational notion," he said. 

"Do you remember that the children, too, were to be taken to see 
the battle on horseback; and that if there were no danger they were 
to be brought close up and, like young hounds, have a taste of blood 
given them?" 

"Yes, I remember." 

"The same practice may be followed," I said, "in all these things 
labors, lessons, dangers and he who is most at home in all of them 
ought to be enrolled in a select number." 

"At what age?" 

"At the age when the necessary gymnastics are over: the period 
whether of two or three years which passes in this sort of training is 
useless for any other purpose; for sleep and exercise are unpropitious 
to learning; and the trial of who is first in gymnastic exercises is one 
of the most important tests to which our youth are subjected." 

"Certainly," he replied. 

"After that time those who are selected from the class of twenty 

21 Socrates sketches now a plan for the life of high training and service that will 
fall to the select and gifted group of rulers in his ideal state. 

424 PLATO 

years old will be promoted to higher honor, and the sciences which 
they learned without any order in their early education will now be 
brought together, and they will be able to see the natural relationship 
of them to one another and to true being. " 

"Yes," he said, "that is the only kind of knowledge which takes 
lasting root." 

"Yes," I said; "and the capacity for such knowledge is the great 
criterion of dialectical talent : the comprehensive mind is always the 

"I agree with you," he said. 

"These," I said, "are the points which you must consider; and 
those who have most of this comprehension, and who are most stead- 
fast in their learning, and in their military and other appointed duties, 
when they have arrived at the age of thirty will have to be chosen by 
you out of the select class, and elevated to higher honor; and you will 
have to prove them by the help of dialectic, in order to learn which of 
them is able to give up the use of sight and the other senses, and in 
company with truth to attain absolute being. And here, my friend, 
great caution is required." 

"Why great caution}" 

"Do you not remark," I said, "how great is the evil which dialectic 
has introduced?" 

"What evil?" he said. 

"The students of the art are filled with lawlessness." 22 

"Quite true," he said. 

"Do you think that there is anything so very unnatural or inex- 
cusable in their case? or will you make allowance for them?" 

"In what way make allowance?" 

"I want you," I said, "by way of parallel, to imagine a supposititious 
son who is brought up in great wealth; he is one of a great and 
numerous family, and has many flatterers. When he grows up to 
manhood, he learns that his alleged are not his real parents; but who 

22 A warning against the temporarily upsetting effect of much free thought and 
criticism on the young and immature boys and girls, who then, like puppies, want 
to pull every belief to pieces. 


the real are he is unable to discover. Can you guess how he will b 
likely to behave towards his flatterers and his supposed parents, first 
of all during the period when he is ignorant of the false relation, and 
then again when he knows? Or shall I guess for you?" 

"If you please." 

"Then I should say that while he is ignorant of the truth he will be 
likely to honor his father and his mother and his supposed relations 
more than the flatterers; he will be less inclined to neglect them when 
in need, or to do or say anything against them; and he will be less 
willing to disobey them in any important matter." 

"He will." 

"But when he has made the discovery, I should imagine that he 
would diminish his honor and regard for them, and would become 
more devoted to the flatterers; their influence over him would greatly 
increase; he would now live after their ways, and openly associate 
with them, and, unless he were of an unusually good disposition, he 
would trouble himself no more about his supposed parents or other 

"Well, all that is very probable. But how is the image applicable 
to the disciples of philosophy?" 

"In this way: you know that there are certain principles about jus- 
tice and honor, which were taught us in childhood, and under their 
parental authority we have been brought up, obeying and honoring 

"That is true." 

"There are also opposite maxims and habits of pleasure which 
flatter and attract the soul, but do not influence those of us who have 
any sense of right, and they continue to obey and honor the maxims 
of their fathers." 


"Now, when a man is in this state, and the questioning spirit asks 
what is fair or honorable, and he answers as the legislator has taught 
him, and then arguments many and diverse refute his words, until he 
is driven into believing that nothing is honorable any more than dis- 
honorable, or just and good any more than the reverse, and so of all 

426 PLATO 

the notions which he most valued, do you think that he will still 
honor and obey them as before?" 


"And when he ceases to think them honorable and natural as here- 
tofore, and he fails to discover the true, can he be expected to pursue 
any life other than that which flatters his desires?" 

"He cannot." 

"And from being a keeper of the law he is converted into a breaker 
of it?" 


"Now all this is very natural in students of philosophy such as I 
have described, and also, as I was just now saying, most excusable." 

"Yes," he said; "and, I may add, pitiable." 

"Therefore, that your feelings may not be moved to pity about our 
citizens who are now thirty years of age, every care must be taken in 
introducing them to dialectic." 


"There is a danger lest they should taste the dear delight too early; 
for youngsters, as you may have observed, when they first get the 
taste in their mouths, argue for amusement, and are always contra- 
dicting and refuting others in imitation of those who refute them; 
like puppy dogs, they rejoice in pulling and tearing at all who come 
near them." 

"Yes," he said, "there is nothing which they like better," 

"And when they have made many conquests and received defeats 
at the hands of many, they violently and speedily get into a way of 
not believing anything which they believed before, and hence, not 
only they, but philosophy and all that relates to it is apt to have a bad 
name with the rest of the world." 

"Too true," he said. 

"But when a man begins to get older, he will no longer be guilty 
of such insanity; he will imitate the dialectician who is seeking for 
truth, and not the eristic, 23 who is contradicting for the sake of amuse- 

23 Se Phaedo, note 22. 


ment; and the greater moderation of his character will increase in- 
stead of diminishing the honor of the pursuit." 

'Very true/' he said. 

"And did we not make special provision for this, when we said 
that the disciples of philosophy were to be orderly and steadfast, not, 
as now, any chance aspirant or intruder?" 

"Very true." 

"Suppose," I said, "the study of philosophy to take the place of 
gymnastics and to be continued diligently and earnestly and ex- 
clusively for twice the number of years which were passed in bodily 
exercise will that be enough?" 

"Would you say six or four years?" he asked. 

"Say five years," I replied; "at the end of the time they must be 
sent down again into the den and compelled to hold any military or 
other office which young men are qualified to hold: in this way they 
will get their experience of life, and there will be an opportunity of 
trying whether, when they are drawn all manner of ways by tempta- 
tion, they will stand firm or flinch." 

"And how long is this stage of their lives to last?" 

"Fifteen years," I answered; "and when they have reached fifty 
years of age, then let those who still survive and have distinguished 
themselves in every action of their lives and in every branch of knowl- 
edge come at last to their consummation. The time has now arrived at 
which they must raise the eye of the soul to the universal light which 
lightens all things, and behold the absolute good; for that is the pat- 
tern according to which they are to order the State and the lives of 
individuals, and the remainder of their own lives also; making phi- 
losophy their chief pursuit, but, when their turn comes, toiling also 
at politics and ruling for the public good, not as though they were 
performing some heroic action, but simply as a matter of duty; and 
when they have brought up in each generation others like themselves 
and left them in their place to be governors of the State, then they 
will depart to the Islands of the Blest and dwell there; and the city 
will give them public memorials and sacrifices and honor them, if 

428 PLATO 

the Pythian oracle consent, as demigods, but if not, as in any case 
blessed and divine." 

"You are a sculptor, Socrates, and have made statues of our gov- 
ernors faultless in beauty." 

"Yes," I said, "Glaucon, and of our governesses too; for you must 
not suppose that what I have been saying applies to men only and 
not to women as far as their natures can go." 

"There you are right," he said, "since we have made them to share 
in all things like the men." 

"Well," I said, "and you would agree (would you not?) that what 
has been said about the State and the government is not a mere 
dream, and although difficult not impossible, but only possible in the 
way which has been supposed; that is to say, when the true phi- 
losopher kings are born in a State, one or more of them, despising the 
honors of this present world which they deem mean and worthless, 
esteeming above all things right and the honor that springs from 
right, and regarding justice as the greatest and most necessary of all 
things, whose ministers they are, and whose principles will be exalted 
by them when they set in order their own city?" 

"How will they proceed?" 

"They will begin by sending out into the country all the inhabit- 
ants of the city who are more than ten years old, and will take pos- 
session of their children, who will be unaffected by the habits of 
their parents; these they will train in their own habits and laws, I 
mean in the laws which we have given them: and in this way the 
State and constitution of which we were speaking will soonest and 
most easily attain happiness, and the nation which has such a consti- 
tution will gain most." 

"Yes, that will be the best way. And I think, Socrates, that you 
have very well described how, if ever, such a constitution might 
come into being." 

"Enough then of the perfect State, and of the man who bears its 
image there is no difficulty in seeing how we shall describe him." 

"There is no difficulty," he replied; "and I agree with you in think- 
ing that nothing more need be said/ 1 



Four inferior types of government timocracy, oligarchy, 
democracy, and tyranny. Corresponding types of indi- 
viduals. How from the better they degenerate 
to the worse. 

"AND so, Glaucon, we have arrived at the conclusion that in the per- 
fect State wives and children are to be in common; and that all edu- 
cation and the pursuits of war and peace are also to he common, and 
the best philosophers and the bravest warriors are to be their kings?" 

"That," replied Glaucon, "has been acknowledged." 

"Yes," I said; "and we have further acknowledged that the gov- 
ernors, when appointed themselves, will take their soldiers and place 
them in houses such as we were describing, which are common to all, 
and contain nothing private, or individual; and about their property, 
you remember what we agreed?" 

"Yes, I remember that no one was to have any of the ordinary pos- 
sessions of mankind; they were to be warrior athletes and guardians, 
receiving from the other citizens, in lieu of annual payment, only 
their maintenance, and they were to take care of themselves and of 
the whole State." 

"True," I said; "and now that this division of our task is concluded, 
let us find the point at which we digressed, that we may return into 
the old path." 

"There is no difficulty in returning; you implied, then as now, 
that you had finished the description of the State: you said that such 
a State was good, and that the man was good who answered to it, al- 
though, as now appears, you had more excellent things to relate both 
of State and man. And you said further, that if this was the true 
form, then the others were false; and of the false forms, you said, as 1 
remember, that there were four principal ones, and that their defects, 
and the defects of the individuals corresponding to them, were worth 

430 PLATO 

examining. When we had seen all the individuals, and finally agreed 
as to who was the best and who was the worst of them, we were to 
consider whether the best was not also the happiest, and the worst 
the most miserable. I asked you what were the four forms of govern- 
ment of which you spoke, and then Polemarchus and Adeimantus put 
in their word; and you began again, and have found your way to the 
point at which we have now arrived." 

"Your recollection," I said, "is most exact." 

"Then, like a wrestler," he replied, "you must put yourself again 
in the same position; and let me ask the same questions, and do you 
give me the same answer which you were about to give me then." 

"Yes, if I can, I will," I said. 

"I shall particularly wish to hear what were the four constitutions 
of which you were speaking." 

"That question," I said, "is easily answered: ike-four goy^rjamejats 
of-AYjhicJbLLspoJce^.so.far as they hay e. distract names,_are, first, those 
of Crete and Sparta* 1 which are generally applauded; what is termed 
ojigajrchj_ comes next; this is not equally approved, and is a form of 
government which teems with evils; thirdly, democracy, which natu- 
rally follows oligarchy, although very different; and lastly comes 
tj&ajiny, great and famous, which differs from them all, and is the 
fourth and worst disorder of a State. I do not know, do you? of any 
other constitution which can be said to have a distinct character. 
There are lordships and principalities which are bought and sold, and 
some other intermediate forms of government. But these are nonde- 
scripts and may be found equally among Hellenes and among bar- 

"Yes," he replied, "we certainly hear of many curious forms of gov- 
ernment which exist among them." 

"Do you know," I said, "that^goj/ejnniments vary as thejispositions 
of men vary, and that there must be as many of the one as there are 

1 The governments of Crete and Sparta, for which many Athenians professed great 
admiration, were what Socrates a little later calls tiinocracics or governments of 
honor. By this he means not an aristocracy or government of the wisest and best, 
as in the ideal state, but government by a soldier caste, ambitious for military glory 
and authority. 


of the other? For we cannot suppose that States are made of 'oak and 
rock/ and not out of the human natures which are in them, and 
which in a figure turn the scale and draw other things after them?" 

"Yes," he said, "the States are as the men are; they grow out of 
human characters." 

"Then if the constitutions of States are five, the dispositions of 
individual minds will also be five?" 


"Him who answers to anstocr.aqjr, and whom we rightly call just 
and^opcj, we have already described." 

"We have." 

"Then let us now proceed to describe the inferior sort of natures, 
being the contentious and ambitious, who answer to the Spartan 
polity; also the oligarchical, democratical, and tyrannical. Let us 
place the most just by the side of the most unjust, and when we see 
them we shall be able to compare the relative happiness or unhappi- 
ness of him who leads a life of pure justice or pure injustice. The 
inquiry will then be completed. And we shall know whether we 
ought to pursue injustice, as Thrasymachus advises, or in accordance 
with the conclusions of the argument to prefer justice." 

"Certainly," he replied, "we must do as you say." 

"Shall we follow our old plan, which we adopted with a view to 
clearness, of taking the State first and then proceeding to the in- 
dividual, and begin with the government of honor? I know of no 
name for such a government other than timocracy, or perhaps 
timarchy. We will compare with this the like character in the in- 
dividual; and, after that, consider oligarchy and the oligarchical man; 
and then again we will turn our attention to democracy and the demo- 
cratical man; and lastly, we will go and view the city of tyranny, and 
once more take a look into the tyrant's soul, and try to arrive at a 
satisfactory decision." 

"That way of viewing and judging of the matter will be very 

"First, then," I said, "let us inquire how timocracy (the govern- 
ment of honor) arises out of aristocracy (the government of the best). 

432 PLATO 

Clearly, all political changes originate in divisions of the actual gov- 
erning power; a government which is united, however small, can- 
not be moved." 

"Very true," he said. 

"In what way, then, will our city be moved, and in what manner 
will the two classes of auxiliaries 2 and rulers disagree among them- 
selves or with one another? Shall we, after the manner of Homer, 
pray the Muses 3 to tell us 'how discord first arose'? Shall we imagine 
them in solemn mockery, to play and jest with us as if we were chil- 
dren, and to address us in a lofty tragic vein, making believe to be in 

"How would they address us?" 

"After this manner: A city which is thus constituted can hardly 
be shaken; but, seeing that everything which has a beginning has 
also an end, even a constitution such as yours will not last forever, 
but will in time be dissolved. And this is the dissolution: In planU 
that grow in the earth, as well as in animals that move on the earth's 
surface, fertility and sterility of soul and body occur when the cir- 
cumferences of the circles of each are completed, which in short- 
lived existences pass over a short space, and in long-lived ones over a 
long space. But to the knowledge of human fecundity and sterility 
all the wisdom and education of your rulers will not attain; the laws 
Which regulate them will not be discovered by an intelligence which 
iis alloyed with sense, but will escape them, and they will bring chil- 
dren into the world when they ought not. 

In a very obscure passage Socrates explains mathematically the 
cycles of good and evil births. 

When your guardians are ignorant of the law of births, and unite 
bride and bridegroom out of season, the children will not be goodly 
or fortunate. And though only the best of them will be appointed by 
their predecessors, still they will be unworthy to hold their fathers' 
places, and when they come into power as guardians, they will soon 

2 That is, soldier guardians. 

3 See the opening lines of the Iliad, I, 1-7. 


be found to fail in taking care of us, the Muses, first byjundervaluing 
rnjytsic; which, neglect will soon extend to gymnastic; and hence the 
young men of your State will be less cultivated. In the succeeding 
generation rulers will be appointed who have lost the guardian power 
of testing the metal of your different races, which, like Hesiod's, are 
of gold and silver and brass and iron. 4 And so iron will be mingled 
with silver, and brass with gold, and hence there will arise dis- 
similarity and inequality and irregularity, which always and in all 
places are causes of hatred and war. This the Muses affirm to be the 
stock from which discord has sprung, wherever arising; und this is 
their answer to us." 

"Yes, and we may assume that they answer truly." 

"Why, yes," I said, "of course they answer truly; how can the 
Muses speak falsely?" 

"And what do the Muses say next?" 

"When discord arose, then the two races were drawn different 
ways: the iron and brass fell to acquiring money and land and houses 
and gold and silver; but the gold and silver races, not wanting money 
but having the true riches in their own nature, inclined towards 
virtue and the ancient order of things. There was a battle between 
them, and at last they agreed to distribute their land and houses 
among individual owners; and they enslaved their friends and main- 
tainers, whom they had formerly protected in the condition of free- 
men, and made of them subjects and servants; and they themselves 
were engaged in war and in keeping a watch against them." 

"I believe that you have rightly conceived the origin of the 

"And the new government which thus arises will be of a form in- 
termediate between oligarchy 5 and aristocracy?" 

"Very true." 

"Such will be the change, and after the change has been made, 
how will they proceed? Clearly, the new State, being in a mean be- 

4 See page 303. 

5 Oligarchy, as we shall sec later, means to Socrates government by the rich and 
by persons intent on making money. 

434 PLATO 

tween oligarchy and the perfect State, will partly follow one and 
partly the other, and will also have some peculiarities/' 

"True," he said. 

"In the honor given to rulers, in the abstinence of the warrior class 
from agriculture, handicrafts, and trade in general, in the institution 
of common meals, and in the attention paid to gymnastics and mili- 
tary training in all these respects this State will resemble the 


"But in the fear of admitting philosophers to power, because they 
are no longer to be had simple and earnest, but are made up of mixed 
elements; and in turning from them to passionate and less complex 
characters, who are by nature fitted for war rather than peace; and 
in the value set by them upon military stratagems and contrivances, 
and in the waging of everlasting wars this State will be for the most 
part peculiar." 


"Yes," I said; "and men of this stamp will be covetous of money, 
like those who live in oligarchies; they will have a fierce secret long- 
ing after gold and silver, which they will hoard in dark places, having 
magazines and treasuries of their own for the deposit and conceal- 
ment of them; also castles which are just nests for their eggs, and in 
which they will spend large sums on their wives, or on any others 
whom they please." 

"That is most true," he said. 

"And they are miserly because they have no means of openly ac- 
quiring the money which they prize; they will spend that which is 
another man's on the gratification of their desires, stealing their 
pleasures and running away like children from the law, their father 
they have been schooled not by gentle influences but by force, for 
they have neglected her who is the true Muse, the companion of 
reason and philosophy, and have honored gymnastic more than 

"Undoubtedly," he said, "the form of government which you de- 
Kribe is a mixture of good and evil." 


"Why, there is a mixture," I said; "but one thing, and one thing 
only, is predominantly seen the spirit ojgonj;ention and^arnbitJQJi* 
and these are due to the prevalence of the passionate or spirited 

"Assuredly," he said. 

"Such is the origin and such the character of this State, which has 
been described in outline only; the more perfect execution was not 
required, for a sketch is enough to show the type of the most per- 
fectly just and most perfectly unjust; and to go through all the States 
and all the characters of men, omitting none of them, would be an 
interminable labor." 

"Very true," he replied. 

"Now what man answers to this form of government how did he 
come into being, and what is he like?" 

"I think," said Adeimantus, "that in the spirit of contention which 
characterizes him, he is not unlike our friend Glaucon." 6 

"Perhaps," I said, "he may be like him in that one point; but there 
are other respects in which he is very different." 

"In what respects?" 

"He should have more of self-assertion and be less cultivated, and 
yet a friend of culture; and he should be a good listener, but no 
speaker. Such a person is apt to be rough with slaves, unlike the edu- 
cated man, who is too proud for that; and he will also be courteous 
to freemen, and remarkably obedient to authority; he is a lover of 
power and a lover of honor; claiming to be a ruler, not because he is 
eloquent, or on any ground of that sort, but because he is a soldier 
and has performed feats of arms; he is also a lover of gymnastic exer- 
cises and of the chase." 

"Yes, that is the type of character which answers to timocracy." 

"Such a one will despise riches only when he is young; but as he 
gets older he will be more and more attracted to them, because he. 
has a piece of the avaricious nature in him, and is not ^single- 
minded jtpwards virtue, having lost his best guardian." 

6 Glaucon, it may be noticed, throughout the dialogue is the liveliest of the 
young arguers and the quickest wit. 

436 PLATO 

"Who was that?" said Adeimantus. 

"Philosophy/' I said, "tempered with music, who comes and takes 
up her abode in a man, and is the only savior of his virtue throughout 

"Good," he said. 

"Such," I said, "is the timocratical youth, and he is like the tirrio- 
cratical State." 


"His origin is as follows: He is often the young son of a brave 
father, who dwells in an ill-governed city, of which he declines the 
honors and offices, and will not go to law, or exert himself in any 
way, but is ready to waive his rights in order that he may escape 

"And how does the son come into being?" 

"The character of the son begins to develop when he hears his 
mother complaining that her husband has no place in the govern- 
ment, of which the consequence is that she has no precedence among 
other women. Further, when she sees her husband not very eager 
about money, and instead of battling and railing in the law courts or 
assembly, taking whatever happens to him quietly; and when she ob- 
serves that his thoughts always center in himself, while he treats her 
with very considerable indifference, she is annoyed, and says to her 
son that his father is only half a man and far too easy-going: adding 
all the other complaints about her own ill treatment which women 
are so fond of rehearsing." 

"Yes," said Adeimantus, "they give us plenty of them, and their 
complaints are so like themselves." 

"And you know," I said, "that the old servants also, who are sup- 
posed to be attached to the family, from time to time talk privately in 
the same strain to the son; and if they see anyone who owes money 
to his father, or is wronging him in any way, and he fails to prosecute 
them, they tell the youth that when he grows up he must retaliate 
upon people of this sort, and be more of a man than his father. He 
has only to walk abroad and he hears and sees the same sort of 
thing: those who do their own business in the city are called simple- 


tons, and held in no esteem, while the busybodies are honored and 
applauded. The result is that the young man, hearing and seeing all 
these things hearing, too, the words of his father, and having a 
nearer view of his way of life, and making comparisons of him and 
others is drawn opposite ways: while his father is watering and 
nourishing the rational principle in his soul, the others are encourag- 
ing the passionate and appetitive; and he being not originally of a bad 
nature, but having kept bad company, is at last brought by their 
joint influence to a middle point, and gives up the kingdom which is 
within him to the middle principle of contentiousness and passion, 
and becomes arrogant and ambitious." 

"You seem to me to have described his origin perfectly." 

"Then we have now," I said, "the second form of government ami 
the second type of character?" 

"We have." 

"Next, let us look at another man who, as Aeschylus says, 'is set 
over against another State'; 7 or rather, as our plan requires, begin 
with the State." 

"By all means." 

"I believe that oligarchy follows next in order." 

"And what manner of government do you term ojigaxday?" 

"A government resting on a valuatipn^j3>ropj^ 
rich have power andlhe poor man is deprived ofjt." 

"I understand," he repliecr 

"Ought I not to begin by describing how the change from 
timocracy to oligarchy arises?" 


"Well," I said, "no eyes are required in order to see how the one 
passes into the other." 


"The accumulation of gold in the treasury of private individuals 
is the ruin of timocracy; they invent jllggal^ modes of expenditure; 
for j5jbaljdatiiy,Dr.tliek wives care about the law?" 

7 Should be "gate." Aeschylus, Seven Against Thebes, 438. 


"Yes, indeed." 

"And then one, seeing another grow rich, seeks to rival him, and 
thus the great mass of the citizens become lovers of money/* 

"Likely enough." 

"And so they grow richer and richer, and the more they think of 
making a fortune the less they think of virtue; for when riches and 
virtue are placed together in the scales of the balance, the one always 
rises as the other falls." 


"And in proportion as riches and rich men .are. honored in the 
State, virtue. and the. virtu,QU3.aj:e jdishQaoxecL" 


, "And what is honored is cultivated, and that which has no honor 
is neglected." 

"That is obvious." 

"And so at last, instead of loving contention and glory, men be- 
come lovers of trade and money; they honor and look up to the rich 
man, and make a ruler of him, and dishonor the poor man." 

"They do so." 

"They next proceed to make ajawjwhich xes a sum of money, as 
the qualification of citizenship; the sum is higher in one place and 
lower in another, as the oligarchy is more or less exclusive; and they 
allow no one whose property falls below the amount fixed to have any 
share in the government. These changes in the constitution they ef- 
fect by force of arms, if intimidation has not already done their 

"Very true." 

"And this, speaking generally, is the way in which oligarchy is 

"Yes," he said; "but what are the characteristics of this form of 
government, and what are the defects of which we were speaking?" 

"First of all," I said, "consider the nature of the qualification. Just 
think what would happen if pilots were to be chosen according to 
their property, and a poor man were refused permission to steer, even 
though he were a better pilot?" 


"You mean that they would shipwreck?" 

"Yes; and is not this true of the government of anything?" 

"I should imagine so." 

"Except a city? or would you include a city?" 

"Nay," he said, "the case of a city is the strongest of all, inasmuch 
as the rule of a city is the greatest and most difficult of all." 

"This, then, will be the first great defect of oligarchy?" 


"And here is another defect which is quite as bad." 

"What defect?" 

"The ineyit&bje division: such a State is not one, but two States,- 
thejone of poor, tjie other of rich men; and they are living on the 
same spot and always conspiring against one another." 

"That, surely, is at least as bad." 

"Another discreditable feature is, that, for a like reason, the^are. 
incapable of carrying on any war. Either they arm the multitude, and 
then they are more afraid of them than of the enemy; or, if they do 
not call them out in the hour of battle, they are oligarchs indeed, few 
to fight as they are few to rule. And at the same time their fondness 
for money makes them unwilling to pay taxes." 

"How discreditable!" 

"And, as we said before, under such a constitution the same per- 
sons have too many callings they are husbandmen, tradesmen, war- 
riors, all in one. Does that look well?" 

"Anything but well." 

"There is another evil which is, perhaps, the greatest of all, and 
to which this State first begins to be liable." 

"What evil?" 

"A man may sell all that he has, and another may acquire his prop- 
erty; yet after the sale he may dwell in the city of which he is no 
longer a part, being neither trader, nor artisan, nor horseman, nor 
hoplite, 8 but only a poor, helpless creature." 

"Yes, that is an evil which also first begins in this State." 

8 A heavy-armed infantry soldier. 


"The evil is certainly not prevented there; for oligarchies have 
both the extremes of great wealth and utter poverty/' 


"But think again: In his wealthy days, while he was spending his 
money, was a man of this sort a whit more good to the State for the 
purposes of citizenship? Or did he only seem to be a member of the 
ruling body, although in truth he was neither ruler nor subject, but 
just a spendthrift?'* 

"As you say, he seemed to be a ruler, but was only a spend- 

"May we not say that this is the drone in the house who is like 
the drone in the honeycomb, and that the one is the plague of the 
city as the other is of the hive?" 

"Just so, Socrates/' 

"And God has made the flying drones, Adeimantus, all without 
stings, whereas of the walking drones he has made some without 
stings but others have dreadful stings; of the stingless class are those 
who in their old age end as paupers; of the stingers come all the 
criminal class, as they are termed." 

"Most true," he said. 

"Clearly then, whenever you see paupers in a State, somewhere in 
that neighborhood there are hidden away thieves and cut-purses and 
robbers of temples, and all sorts of malefactors." 


"Well," I said, "and in oligarchical States do you not find 

"Yes," he said; "nearly everybody is a pauper who is not a ruler." 

"And may we be so bold as to affirm that there are also many 
criminals to be found in them, rogues who have stings, and whom 
the authorities are careful to restrain by force?" 

"Certainly, we may be so bold." 

"The existence of such persons is to be attributed to want of 
education, ill training, and an evil constitution of the State?" 



"Such, then, is the form and such are the evils of oligarchy; and 
there may be many other evils/' 

"Very likely." 

"Then oligarchy, or the form of government in which the rulers 
are elected for their wealth, may now be dismissed. Let us next pro- 
ceed to consider the nature and origin of the individual who answers 
to this State.'* 

"By all means." 

"Does not the timocratical man change into the oligarchical on 
this wise?" 


"A time arrives when the representative of timocracy has a son: 
at first he begins by emulating his father and walking in his footsteps, 
but presently he sees him of a sudden foundering against the State 
as upon a sunken reef, and he and all that he has is lost; he may have 
been a general or some other high officer who is brought to trial under 
a prejudice raised by informers, and either put to death, or exiled, or 
deprived of the privileges of a citizen, and all his property taken 
from him." 

"Nothing more likely." 

"And the son has seen and known all this he is a ruined man, 
and his fear has taught him to knock ambition and passion headfore- 
most from his bosom's throne; humbled by poverty he takes to money- 
making and by mean and miserly savings and hard work gets a for- 
tune together. Is not such a one likely to seat the concupiscent and 
covetous element on the vacant throne and to suffer it to play the 
great king within him, girt with tiara and chain and scimitar?" 

"Most true," he replied. 

"And when he has made reason and spirit sit down on the ground 
obediently on either side of their sovereign, and taught them to know 
their place, he compels the one 9 to think only of how lesser sums 
may be turned into larger ones, and will not allow the other 10 to 
worship and admire anything but riches and rich men, or to be 

That is, his reason. 
10 His spirit. 

442 PLATO 

ambitious of anything so much as the acquisition of wealth and the 
means of acquiring it." 

"Of all changes," he said, "tjiere is none so speedy or so sure as 
the conversion of the ambitious youth into the avaricious one." 

"And the avaricious," I said, "is the oligarchical youth?" 

"Yes," he said; "at any rate the individual out of whom he came is 
like the State out of which oligarchy came." 

"Let us then consider whether there is any likeness between 

"Very good." 

"First, then, they resemble one another in the value which they 
set upon wealth?" 


"Also in their penurious, laborious character; the individual only 
satisfies his necessary appetites, and confines his expenditure to 
them; his other desires he subdues, under the idea that they are un- 


"He is a shabby fellow, who saves something out of everything 
and makes a purse for himself; and this is the sort of man whom 
the vulgar applaud. Is he not a true image of the State which he 

"He appears to me to be so; at any rate money is highly valued by 
him as well as by the State." 

* * * * * 

"For these reasons such a one will be more respectable than most 
people; yet the true virtue of a unanimous and harmonious soul will 
flee far away and never come near him." 

"I should expect so." 

"And surely, the miser individually will be an ignoble competitor 
in a State for any prize of victory, or other object of honorable am- 
bition; he will not spend his money in the contest for glory; so afraid 
is he of awakening his expensive appetites and inviting them to help 
and join in the struggle; in true oligarchical fashion he fights with a 


small part only of his resources, and the result commonly is that he 
loses the prize and saves his money/' 

"Very true." 

"Can we any longer doubt, then, that thejniser andjnfipey- 
maker answers to the oligarchical State?" 

"There can be no doubt." 

"Next comes democracy; n of this the origin and nature have still 
to be considered by us; and then we will inquire into the ways of the 
democratic man, and bring him up for judgment." 

"That," he said, "is our method." 

"Well," I said, "and how does the change from oligarchy into 
democracy arise? Is it not on this wise? The good at which such a 
State aims is to become as rich as possible, a desire which is in- 

'What then?" 

"The rulers, being aware that their power rests upon their wealth, 
refuse to curtail by law the extravagance of the spendthrift youth 
because theygain J^yjlieir ; ruin; they take interest-from them and buy 
up their estates and thus increase their own wealth and importance?" 

"To be sure/^ 

"There can be no doubt that the love o w..ealth and the spirit of 
nipderation paBnot-ejdsJLtogether, in citizens of the same .state to any 
considerable extent; one or the other will be disregarded." 

"That is tolerably clear." 

"And in oligarchical States, from the general spread of careless- 
ness and extravagance, men of good family have often been reduced 
to beggary?" 

"Yes, often." 

"And still they remain in the city; there they are, ready to sting and 
fully armed, and some of them owe money, some have forfeited their 
citizenship; a third class are in both predicaments; and they hate 
and conspire against those who have got their property, and against 
everybody else, and are eager for revolution," 

11 Democracy here takes the shape of the divided and demoralized dtizeni of 
Athens in the years after the Pelopennesian War. 

444 PLATO 

"That is true/' 

"On the other hand, the men of business, stooping as they walk, 
and pretending not even to see those whom they have already ruined, 
insert their sting that is, their money into someone else who is not 
on his guard against them, and recover the parent sum many times 
over multiplied into a family of children: 12 and so they make drone 
and pauper to abound in the State/' 

*Tes," he said, "there are plenty of them that is certain. 

"The evil blazes up like a fire; and they will not extinguish it, 
either by restricting a man's use of his own property, or by another 

"What other?" 

"One which is the next best, and has the advantage of compelling 
the citizens to look to their characters: Letjhere Jbg a general rule 
that everyone shall enter into voluntary contracts at his own risk, 18 
and there will be less of this scandalous money-making, and the evils 
of which we were speaking will be greatly lessened in the State." 

'Tes, they will be greatly lessened." 

"At present the governors, induced by the motives which I have 
named, treat their subjects badly; while they and their adherents, 
especially the young men of the governing class, are habituated to 
lead a life of luxury and idleness both of body and mind; they do 
nothing, and are incapable of resisting either pleasure or pain," 

"Very true." 

"They themselves care only for making money, and are as indif- 
ferent as the pauper to the cultivation of virtue." 

'Tes, quite as indifferent." 

"Such is the state of affairs which prevails among them. And oftea 
rulers and their subjects may come in one another's way, whether on 
a journey or on some other occasion of meeting, on a pilgrimage or a 
march, as fellow-soldiers or fellow-sailors; aye and they may observe 
the behavior of each other in the very moment of dangerfor where 

12 Rich men lend money on ruinous terms and so increase the number of bank- 
rupts and paupers. 

13 That is, the state will cease to enforce money contracts, 


danger is, there is no fear that the poor will be despised by the rich- 
and very likely the wiry sunburnt poor man may be placed in battle 
at the side of a wealthy one who has never spoilt his complexion and 
has plenty of superfluous flesh when he sees such a one puffing and 
at his wits' end, how can he avoid drawing the conclusion that men 
like him are only rich because no one has the courage to despoil 
them? And when they meet in private will not people be saying to 
one another: 'Our warriors are not good for much'?" 

"Yes/' he said, "I am quite aware that this is their way of talking/' 

"And, as in a body which is diseased the addition of a touch from 
without may bring on illness, and sometimes even when there is no 
external provocation a commotion may arise withinin the same way 
wherever there is weakness in the State there is also likely to be ill- 
ness, of which the occasion may be very slight, the one party intro- 
ducing from without their oligarchical, the other their democratical 
allies, and then the State falls sick, and is at war with herself; and 
may be at times distracted, even when there is no external cause." 

"Yes, surely ." 

"And then democracy comes into being after the poor have con- 
quered their opponents, slaughtering some and banishing some, 
while to the remainder they give an equal share of freedom and 
power; and this is the form of government in which the magistrates 
are commonly elected by lot." 

"Yes,** he said, "that is the nature of democracy, whether the revo- 
lution has been effected by arms, or whether fear has caused the op- 
posite party to withdraw." 

"And now what is their manner of life, and what sort of a govern- 
ment have they? for as the government is, such will be the man." 

"Clearly," he said. 

"In the first place, are they not free; and is not the city full of 
freedom and frankness a man may say and do what he likes?" 

" 'Tis said so," he replied. 

"And where freedom is, the individual is clearly able to order for 
himself his own life as he pleases?" 


446 PLATO 

"Then in this kind of State there will he the greatest variety of 
human natures?" 

"There will." 

"This, then, seems likely to be the fairest of States, being like an 
embroidered robe which is spangled with every sort of flower. And 
just as women and children think a variety of colors to be of all things 
most charming, so there are many men to whom this State, which is 
spangled with the manners and characters of mankind, will appear 
Jo be the fairest of States." 


"Yes, my good sir, and there will be no better in which to look for 
a government." 


"Because of the liberty which reigns there they have a complete 
assortment of constitutions; and he who has a mind to establish a 
State, as we have been doing, must go to a democracy as he would to 
a bazaar at which they sell them, and pick out the one that suits him; 
then, when he has made his choice, he may found his State." 

"He will be sure to have patterns enough." 

"And there being no necessity," I said, "for you to govern in this 
State, even if you have the capacity, or to be governed, unless you 
like, or to go to war when the rest go to war, or to be at peace when 
others are at peace, unless you are so disposed there being no neces- 
sity also, because some law forbids you to hold office or be a dicast, 14 
that you should not hold office or be a dicast, if you have a fancy 
is not this a way of life which for the moment is supremely delight- 

"For the moment, yes." 

"And is not their humanity to the condemned in some cases quite 
charming? Have you not observed how, in a democracy, many per- 
sons, although they have been sentenced to death or exile, just stay 
where they are and walk about the world the gentleman parades 
like a hero, and nobody sees or cares?" 

14 Or "sit on juries." 


"Yes," he replied, "many and many a one." 

"See too," I said, "the forgiving j$pirit of democracy, and the 'don't 
care' atxJuF triles, and the disregard which she shows of all the fine 
principles which we solemnly laid down at the foundation of the city 
as when we said that, except in the case of some rarely gifted nature, 
there never will be a good man who has not from his childhood been 
used to play amid things of beauty and make of them a joy and a 
study how grandly does she trample all these fine notions of ours 
under her feet, never giving a thought to the pursuits which make a 
statesman, and promoting to honor anyone who professes to be the 
people's friend." 
^Tes, she is of a noble spirit." 

"These and other kindred characteristics are proper to democracy, 
which is a charming form of government, full of variety and disor- 
der, and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequals alike." 

"We know her well." 

"Consider now," I said, "what manner of man the individual is, 
or rather consider, as in the case of the State, how he comes into 

"Very good," he said. 

"Is not this the way he is the son of the miserly and oligarchical 
father who has trained him in his own habits?" 


"And, like his father, he keeps under by force the pleasures which 
are of the spending and not of the getting sort, being those which 
are called unnecessary?" 


Necessary pleasures are those that come from satisfying natural 
and essential needs, such as need of eating. Unnecessary are 
those that a man can as well or better do without, such as the 
eating of luxurious food. The first are not costly and keep a man 
in health and strength. The second are wasteful of money and 
may he hurtful. 

448 PLATO 

"When a young man who has been brought up as we were just 
now describing, in a vulgar and miserly way, has tasted drones' 
honey and has come to associate with fierce and crafty natures who 
are able to provide for him all sorts of refinements and varieties of 
pleasure then, as you may imagine, the change will begin of the 
oligarchical principle within him into the democratical?" 


"And as in the city like was helping like, and the change was ef- 
fected by an alliance from without assisting one division of the citi- 
zens, so too the young man is changed by a class of desires coming 
from without to assist the desires within him, that which is akin and 
alike again helping that which is akin and alike?" 


"And if there be any ally which aids the oligarchical principle 
within him, whether the influence of a father or of kindred, advising 
or rebuking him, then there arises in his soul a faction and an op- 
posite faction, and he goes to war with himself." 

"It must be so." 

"And there are times when the democratical principle gives way tc 
the oligarchical, and some of his desires die, and others are ban- 
ished; a spirit of reverence enters into the young man's soul and order 
is restored." 

"Yes," he said, "that sometimes happens." 

"And then, again, after the old desires have been driven out, fresh 
ones spring up, which are akin to them, and because he their father 
does not know how to educate them, wax fierce and numerous." 

"Yes," he said, "that is apt to be the way." 

"They draw him to his old associates, and holding secret inter- 
course with them, breed and multiply in him." 

"Very true." 

"At length they seize upon the citadel of the young man's soul, 
which they perceive to be void of all accomplishments and fair pur- 
suits and true words, which make their abode in the minds of men 
who are dear to the gods, and are their best guardians and sentinels." 

"None better." 


"False and boastful conceits and phrases mount upwards and take 
their place." 

"They are certain to do so." 

"And so the young man returns into the country of the lotus- 
eaters, and takes up his dwelling there in the face of all men; and if 
any help be sent by his friends to the oligarchical part of him, the 
aforesaid vain conceits shut the gate of the king's fastness; and they 
will neither allow the embassy itself to enter, nor if private advisers 
offer the fatherly counsel of the aged will they listen to them or re- 
ceive them. There is a battle and they gain the day, and then modesty, 
which they call silliness, is ignominiously thrust into exile by them, 
and temperance, which they nickname unmanliness, is trampled in 
the mire and cast forth; they persuade men that moderation and 
orderly expenditure are vulgarity and meanness, and so, by the help 
of a rabble of evil appetites, they drive them beyond the border." 

"Yes, with a will." 

"And when they have emptied and swept clean the soul of him 
who is now in their power and who is being initiated by them in great 
mysteries, the next thing is to bring back to their house jjisjgdeuce and 
anarchy and waste and impudence in bright array having garlands on 
their heads, and a great company with them, hymning their praises 
arid calling them by sweet names; insolence they term breeding, and 
anarchy liberty, and waste magnificence, and impudence courage. 
And so the young man passes out of his original nature, which was 
trained in the school of necessity, into the freedom and libertinism 
of useless and unnecessary pleasures." 

"Yes," he said, "the change in him is visible enough." 

"After this he lives on, spending his money and labor and time on 
unnecessary pleasures quite as much as on necessary ones; but if he 
be fortunate, and is not too much disordered in his wits, when years 
have elapsed, and the heyday of passion is over supposing that ne 
then re-admits into the city some part of the exiled virtues, and dos 
not wholly give himself up to their successors in that case he bal- 
ances his pleasures and lives in a sort of equilibrium, putting the gov- 
ernment of himself into the hands of the one which comes first and 


wins the turn; and when he has had enough of that, then into the 
hands of another; he despises none of them but encourages them all 

'Very true," he said. 

"Neither does he receive or let pass into the fortress any true word 
of advice; if anyone says to him that some pleasures are the satisfac- 
tions of good and noble desires, and others of evil desires, and that he 
ought to use and honor some and chastise and master the others 
whenever this is repeated to him he shakes his head and says that 
they are all alike, and that one is as good as another." 

"Yes," he said; "that is the way with him." 

"Yes," I said, "he lives from day to day indulging the appetite of 
the hour; and sometimes he is lapped in drink and strains of the 
flute; then he becomes a water-drinker, and tries to get thin; then he 
takes a turn at gymnastics; sometimes idling and neglecting every- 
thing, then once more living the life of a philosopher; often he is 
busy with politics, and starts to his feet and says and does whatever 
comes into his head; and, if he is emulous of anyone who is a war- 
rior, off he is in that direction, or of men of business, once more in 
that. His life has neither law nor order; and this distracted existence 
he terms joy and bliss and freedom; and so he goes on." 

"Yes," he replied, "he is all liberty and equality." 

"Yes," I said; "his life is motley and manifold and an epitome of 
the lives of many; he answers to the State which we described as 
fair and spangled. And many a man and many a woman will take 
him for their pattern, and many a constitution and many an example 
of manners is contained in him." 

"Just so." 

"Let him then be set over against democracy; he_may truly be 
calJgfLthe dernqcratic. man." 

"Let that be his place," he said. 

"Last of all comes the most beautiful of all, man and State 
tyranny and the tyrant; these we have now to consider." 

"Quite true," he said. 


"Say then, my friend, in what manner does tyranny arise? -that 
it has a democratic origin is evident." 


"And does not tyranny spring from democracy in the same manner 
as democracy from oligarchy I mean, after a sort?" 


"The good which oligarchy proposed to itself and the means by 
which it was maintained was excess of wealth-pam I not right?" 


"And the insatiable desire of wealth and the neglect of all other 
things for the sake of money-getting was also the ruin of oligarchy?" 


"And L <fernojcjacyjias her. own good, of which the insatiable desire 
brings, her to dissolution?" 

"What good?" 

"Freedom," I replied; "which, as they tell you in a democracy, is 
the glory of the State and that therefore in a democracy alone will 
the freeman of nature deign to dwell." 

"Yes; the saying is in everybody's mouth." 

"I was going to observe that the insatiable desire of this and the 
neglect of other things introduces the change in democracy, which 
occasions a demand for tyranny." 

"How so?" 

"When a democracy which is thirsting for freedom has evil cup- 
bearers presiding over the feast, and has drunk too deeply of the 
strong wine of freedom, then, unless her rulers are very amenable 
and give a plentiful draught, 15 she calls them to account and pun- 
ishes them, and says that they are cursed oligarchs." 

"Yes," he replied, "a very common occurrence." 

"Yes," I said; "and loyal citizens are insultingly termed by her 
slaves who hug their chains and men of naught; she would have sub- 
jects who are like rulers, and rulers who are like subjects: these are 
men after her own heart, whom she praises and honors both in 

15 Or "give her freedom without limit." 

452 PLATO 

private and public. Now, in such a State, can liberty have any 

"Certainly not." 

"By degrees the anarchy finds a way into private houses, and ends 
by getting among the animals and infecting them." 

"How do you mean?" 

"I mean that the father grows accustomed to descend to the level 
of his sons and to fear them, and the son is on a level with his father, 
he having no respect or reverence for either of his parents; and this 
is his freedom, and the metic is equal with the citizen and the citizen 
with the metic, and the stranger is quite as good as either." 

"Yes," he said, "that is the way." 

"And these are not the only evils," I said "there are several lesser 
ones: In such a state of society the master fears and flatters his 
scholars, and the scholars despise their masters and tutors; young 
and old are all alike; and the young man is on a level with the old, and 
is ready to compete with him in word or deed; and old men con- 
descend to the young and are full of pleasantry and gaiety; they are 
loth to be thought morose and authoritative, and therefore they adopt 
the manners of the young." 

"Quite true," he said. 

"The last extreme of popular liberty is when the slave bought 
with money, whether male or female, is just as free as his or her 
purchaser; nor must I forget to tell of the liberty and equality of the 
two sexes in relation to each other." 

"Why not, as Aeschylus says, 16 utter the word which rises to our 

"That is what I am doing," I replied; "and I must add that no one 
who does not know would believe, how much greater is the liberty 
which the animals who are under the dominion of man have in a 
democracy than in any other State: for truly, the she-dogs, as the 
proverb says, are as good as their she-mistresses, and the horses and 
asses have a way of marching along with all the rights and dignities 

16 Aeschylus, Fragment 351. 


of freemen; and they will run at anybody who comes in their way if 
he does not leave the road clear for them: and all things are just 
ready to burst with liberty." 

"When I take a country walk," he said, "I often experience what 
you describe. You and I have dreamed the same thing." 

"And above all," I said, "and as the result of all, seejbow .sensitive 
the citizens become; they chafe impatiently at the least touch of 
authority, and at length, as you know, they cease to care even for 
the laws, written or unwritten; they will have no one over them." 

"Yes," he said, "I know it too well." 

"Such, my friend," I said, "is the fair and glorious beginning out of 
which springs tyranny." 

"Glorious indeed," he said. "But what is the next step?" 

"The ruin of oligarchy is the ruin of democracy; the same disease 
magnified and intensified by liberty overmasters democracy the 
truth being that the excessive increase of ^jiything often causes a 
reaction_in.-the opposite direction; and this is the case not only in the 
seasons and in vegetable and animal life, but above all informs -of 


"The excess of liberty, whether in States or individuals, seems onl) 
tojpass into excess of slavery." 

"Yes, the natural order." 

"And so tyranny naturally arises out of democracy, and the most 
aggravated form of tyranny and slavery out of the most extreme form 
of liberty?" 

"As we might expect." 

"That, however, was not, as I believe, your questionyou rather 
desired to know what is that disorder which is generated alike in oli- 
garchy and democracy, and is the ruin of both?" 

"Just so," he replied. 

"Well," I said, "I meant to refer to the class of idle spendthrifts, 
of whom the more courageous are the leaders ajjji the more timid the 
follojvers, the same whom we were comparing to drones, some sting- 
less, and others having stings." 

454 PLATO 

"A very just comparison." 

^These two classes are the plagues of every city in which they 
are generated, being what phlegm and bile are to the body. And 
the good physician and lawgiver of the State ought, like the wise bee- 
master, to keep them at a distance and prevent, if possible, their ever 
coming in; and if they have anyhow found a way in, then he should 
have them and their cells cut out as speedily as possible." 

"Yes, by all means," he said. 

"Then, in order that we may see clearly what we are doing, let us 
imagine democracy to be divided, as indeed it is, into three classes; 
for in the first place freedom creates rather more drones in the demo- 
cratic than there were in the oligarchical State." 

"That is true." 

"And in the democracy they are certainly more intensified." 

"How so?" 

"Because in the oligarchical State they are disqualified and driven 
from office, and therefore they cannot train or gather strength; 
whereas in a democracy they are almost the entire ruling power, and 
while the keener sort speak and act, the rest keep buzzing about the 
bema 17 and do not suffer a word to be said on the other side; hence 
in democracies almost everything is managed by the drones." 

"Very true," he said. 

'"Then there is another class which is always being severed from 
the mass." 

"What is that?" 

"They are the orderly class, which in a nation of traders is sure 
to be the richest." 

"Naturally so." 

"They are the most squeezable persons and yield the largest 
amount of honey to the drones." 

"Why," he said, "there is little to be squeezed out of people who 
have little." 

"And this is called the wealthy class, and the drones feed upon 

17 The speaker's stand in an assembly. 


"That is pretty much the case," he said. 

CTTie-people are a third class, consisting of those whgjszark with 
their own hands; they are not politicians, and have not much to live 
upon. This, when assembled, is the largest and most powerful class 
in a democracy." 

"True," he said; "but then the multitude is seldom willing to 
congregate unless they get a little honey." 

"And do they not share?" I said. "Do not their leaders deprive the 
rich of their estates and distribute them among the people; at the 
same time taking care to reserve the larger part for themselves?" 

"Why, yes," he said, "to that extent the people do share." 

"And the persons whose property is taken from them are com- 
pelled to defend themselves before the people as they best can?" 

"What else can they do?" 

"And then, although they may have no desire of change, the 
others charge them with plotting against the people and being friends 
of oligarchy?" 


"And the end is that when they see the people, not of their own 
accord, but through ignorance, and because they are deceived by 
informers, seeking to do them wrong, then at last they are forced to 
become oligarchs in reality; they do not wish to be, but the sting of 
the drones torments them and breeds revolution in them." 

"That is exactly the truth." 

"Then come impeachments and judgments and trials of one an- 


"TCha people have always some champion 18 whom they set over 
thejnjjnd nurse into greatness." 

"Yes, that is their way." 

"This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs; when 
he first appears above ground he is a protector." _ 

"Yes, that is quite clear." 

18 The following description of the rise of a tyrant in a weakened and disordered 
tate sounds as true for the twentieth century as for the fourth B.C. 

45 6 PLATO 

"How then does a protector begin to change into a tyrant? Clearly 
when he does what the man is said to do in the tale of the Arcadian 
temple of Lycaean Zeus." 

"What tale?" 

"The tale is that he who has tasted the entrails of a single human 
victim minced up with the entrails of other victims is destined to be- 
come a wolf. Did you never hear it?" 

"Oh, yes." 

"And the protector of the people is like him; having a mob en- 
tirely at his disposal, he is not restrained from shedding the blood of 
kinsmen; by the favorite method of false accusation he brings them 
into court and murders them, making the life of man to disappear, 
and with unholy tongue and lips tasting the blood of his fellow-citi- 
zens; some he kills and others he banishes, at the same time hinting 
at the abolition of debts and partition of lands: and after this, what 
will be his destiny? Must he not either perish at the hands of hi$ 
enemies, or from being a man become a wolf that is, a tyrant?" 


"This," I said, "is he who begins to make a party against the rich?" 

"The same." 

"After a while he is driven out, but comes back, in spite of his 
enemies, a tyrant full grown." 

"That is clear." 

"And if they are unable to expel him, or to get him condemned 
to death by a public accusation, they conspire to assassinate him." 

"Yes," he said, "that is their usual way." 

"Then comes the famous request for a bodyguard, which is the 
device of all those who have got thus far in their tyrannical career 
'Let not the people's friend/ as they say, 'be lost to them/ " 


"Ihe people readily assent; aUjtheir . Jears are for him they have 
none for themselves?' 

"Very true/' 

"And when a man who is wealthy and is also accused of being an 


enemy of the people sees this, then, my friend, as the oracle said to 

By pehhly Hermits' shore he flees and rests not, and is not 
ashamed to he a coward." 19 

"And quite right too/' said he, "for if he were, he would never be 
ashamed again." 

"But if he is caught he dies." 

"Of course." 

"And he, the protector of whom we spoke, is to be seen, not 'lard- 
ing the plain* with his bulk, but himself the overthrower of many, 
standing up in the chariot of State with the reins in his hand, no 
longer protector, but tyrant absolute." 

"No doubt," he said. 

"And now let us consider the happiness of the man/ an cf also of 
the State in which a creature like him is generated/' 

"Yes," he said, "let us consider that." 

"At first, in the early days of his power, he is full of smiles, and he 
salutes everyone whom he meets; he to be called a tyrant, who is 
making promises in public and also in private! liberating debtors, and 
distributing land to the people and his followers, and wanting to be 
so kind and good to everyone!" 

"Of course," he said. 

"But when he has disposed of foreign enemies by conquest or 
treaty, and there is nothing to fear from them, then he is always 
stirring up some war or other, in order that the people may require 
a leader." 

"To be sure." 

"Has he not also another object, which is that they may be im- 
poverished by payment of taxes, and thus compelled to devote them- 
selves to their daily wants and therefore less likely to conspire against 


19 Herodotus, I, 5*. 

45$ PLATO 

"And if any of them are suspected by him of having notions of 
freedom, and of resistance to his authority, he will have a good pre- 
text for destroying them by placing them at the mercy of the enemy; 
and for all these reasons the tyrant must be always getting up a war." 

"He must." 

"Now he begins to grow unpopular/' 

"A necessary result." 

"Then some of those who joined in setting him up, and who are 
in power, speak their minds to him and to one another, and the more 
courageous of them cast in his teeth what is being done." 

"Yes, that may be expected." 

"And the tyrant, if he means to rule, must get rid of them; he_can- 
JQoJLstor^jyvhile he has a friend or an enemy who is good for any- 


"He cannot." 

"And therefore he must look about him and see who is valiant, who 
is high-minded, who is wise, who is wealthy; happy man, he is the 
enemy of them all, and must seek occasion against them whether he 
will or no, until he has made a purgation of the State." 

"Yes," he said, "and a rare purgation." 

*Tes," I said, "not the sort of purgation which the physicians make 
of the body; for they take away the worse and leave the better part, 
but he does the reverse." 

"If he is to rule, I suppose that he cannot help himself." 

"What a blessed alternative," I said, "to be compelled to dwell 
only with the many bad, and to be by them hated, or not to live at 

"Yes, that is the alternative." 

"And the more detestable his actions are to the citizens the more 
satellites and the greater devotion in them will he require?" 


"And who are the devoted band, and where will he procure them?" 

"They will flock to him," he said, "of their own accord, if he pays 


"By the dog!" I said, "here are more drones, of every sort and from 
every land." 

"Yes," he said, "there are." 

"But will he not desire to get them on the spot?" 

"How do you mean?" 

"He will rob the citizens of their slaves; he will then set them free 
and enroll them in his bodyguard." 

"To be sure," he said; "and he will be able to trust them best of 

"What a blessed creature," I said, "must this tyrant be; he has put 
to death the others and has these for his trusted friends." 

"Yes," he said; "they are quite of his sort." 

"Yes," I said, "and these are the new citizens whom he has called 
into existence, who admire him and are his companions, while the 
good hate and avoid him." 

"Of course." 

Eventually , when the people find how cruelly the tyrant op- 
presses them f they will try to drive him out. But by then he will 
he tgo^ strong for them f They will learn what the tyranny of 
slaves is. 

"Thus liberty, getting out of all order and reason, passes into the 
harshest and bitterest form of slavery." 

"True," he said. 

"Very well; and may we not rightly say that we have sufficiently 
discussed the nature of tyranny, and the manner of the transition 
from democracy to tyranny?" 

"Yes, quite enough," he said. 

460 PLATO 


The tyrant as the most unjust and most miserable of men. 

The just and wise man as ruler over himself and therefore 

the happiest. 

"LAST of all comes the tyrannical man, about whom we have once 
more to ask, how is he formed out of the democratical? and how does 
he live, in happiness or in misery?" 

"Yes," he said, "he is the only one remaining/' 

"There is, however," I said, "a previous question which remains 

"What question?" 

"I do not think that we have adequately determined the nature and 
number of the appetites, and until this is accomplished the inquiry 
will always be confused." 

"Well," he said, "it is not too late to supply the omission." 

"Very true," I said; "and observe the point which I want to under- 
stand: Certain of the unnecessary pleasures and appetites I conceive 
to be unlawful; everyone appears to have them, but in some persons 
they are controlled by the laws and by reason, and the better desires 
prevail over them either they are wholly banished or they become 
few and weak; while in the case of others they are btronger, and there 
are more of them." 

"Which appetites do you mean?" 

"I mean those which are awake when the reasoning and human 
and ruling power is asleep; then the wild beast within us, gorged with 
meat or drink, starts up and having shaken off sleep, goes forth to 
satisfy his desires; and there is no conceivable folly or crime not ex- 
cepting incest or any other unnatural union, or parricide, or the eat- 
ing of forbidden food which at such a time, when he has parted 
company with all shame and sense, a man may not be ready to com- 


"Most true," he said. 

"But when a man's pulse is healthy and temperate, and when be- 
fore going to sleep he has awakened his rational powers, and fed them 
on noble thoughts and inquiries, collecting himself in meditation; 
after having first indulged his appetites neither too much nor too 
little, but just enough to lay them to sleep, and prevent them and 
their enjoyments and pains from interfering with the higher principle 
which he leaves in the solitude of pure abstraction, free to contem- 
plate and aspire to the knowledge of the unknown, whether in past 
present, or future: when again he has allayed the passionate element, 
if he has a quarrel against anyone I say, when, after pacifying the 
two irrational principles, he rouses up the third, 1 which is reason, 
before he takes his rest, then, as you know, he attains truth most 
nearly, and is least likely to be the sport of fantastic and lawless 

"I quite agree." 

"In saying this I have been running into a digression; but the 
point which I desire to note is that in all of us, even in good men, 
there is a lawless wild-beast nature, which peers out in sleep. 2 Pray, 
consider whether I am right, and you agree with me." 

"Yes, I agree." 

"And now remember the character which we attributed to the 
democratic man. 3 He was supposed from his youth upwards to have 
been trained under a miserly parent, who encouraged the saving 
appetites in him, but discountenanced the unnecessary, which aim 
only at amusement and ornament?" 


"And then he got into the company of a more refined, licentious 
sort of people, and taking to all their wanton ways rushed into the 
opposite extreme from an abhorrence of his father's meanness. At 
last, being a better man than his corruptors, he was drawn in both 

1 The three principles or elements that together make up human nature, the 
animal appetites, the passionate and spirited will, and the reasoning intellect, have 
already been briefly described in Book IV, page 325. 

2 The idea here seems almost an anticipation of Freud. 

3 See page 447 ff . 

462 PLATO 

directions until he halted midway and led a life, not of vulgar and 
slavish passion, but of what he deemed moderate indulgence in vari- 
ous pleasures. After this manner the democrat was generated out of 
the oligarch?" 

"Yes," he said; "that was our view of him, and is so still." 

"And now," I said, "years will have passed away, and you must 
conceive this man, such as he is, to have a son, who is brought up in 
his father's principles." 

"I can imagine him." 

"Then you must further imagine the same thing to happen to the 
son which has already happened to the father: he is drawn into a 
perfectly lawless life, which by his seducers is termed perfect liberty; 
and his father and friends take part with his moderate desires, and 
the opposite party assist the opposite ones. As soon as these dire 
magicians and tyrant-makers find that they are losing their hold on 
him, they contrive to implant in him a master passion, to be lord 
over his idle and spendthrift lusts a sort of monstrous winged drone 
that is the only image which will adequately describe him." 

"Yes," he said, "that is the only adequate image of him." 

"And when his other lusts, amid clouds of incense and perfumes 
and garlands and wines, and all the pleasures of a dissolute life, now 
let loose, come buzzing around him, nourishing to the utmost the 
sting of desire which they implant in his drone-like nature, then at 
last this lord of the soul, having Madness for the captain of his guard, 
breaks out into a frenzy; and if he finds in himself 4 any good opin- 
ions or appetites in process of formation, and there is in him any 
sense of shame remaining, to these better principles he puts an end, 
and casts them forth until he has purged away temperance and 
brought in madness to the full." 

"Yes," he said, "that is the way in which the tyrannical man is 

Socrates describes the further steps in the development of the 
tyrannical man, his reckless pursuit of amusement, money, and 

* Or "in the man." 


love, his maltreatment of his father, his treachery to his friends, 
the evil he and his gang do to the city. 

"Let me ask you not to forget the parallel of the individual and 
the State; bearing this in mind, and glancing in turn from one to the 
other of them, will you tell me their respective conditions?" 

"What do you mean?" he asked. 

"Beginning with the State," I replied, "would you say that a city 
which is governed by a tyrant is free or enslaved?" 

"No city," he said, "can be more completely enslaved." 

"And yet, as you see, there are freemen as well as masters in such 
a State?" 

"Yes," he said, "I see that there are a few; but the people, speak- 
ing generally, and the best of them are miserably degraded and en- 

"Then if the man is like the State," I said, "must not the same rule 
prevail? his soul is full of meanness and vulgarity the best elements 
in him are enslaved; and there is a small ruling part, which is also 
the worst and maddest." 


"And would you say that the soul of such a one is the soul of a 
freeman, or of a slave?" 

"He has the soul of a slave, in my opinion." 

"And the State which is enslaved under a tyrant is utterly in- 
capable of acting voluntarily?" 

"Utterly incapable." 

"And also the soul which is under a tyrant (I am speaking of the 
soul taken as a whole) is least capable of doing what she desires; there 
is a gadfly which goads her, and she is full of trouble and remorse?" 


"And is the city which is under a tyrant rich or poor?" 


"And the tyrannical soul must be always poor and insatiable?" 5 


6 Or "unsatisfied." 

464 PLATO 

"And must not such a State and such a man be always full of fea 

"Yes, indeed." 

"Is there any State in which you will find more of lamentati 
and sorrow and groaning and pain?" 

"Certainly not." 

"And is there any man in whom you will find more of this sort 
misery than in the tyrannical man, who is in a fury of passions a 


"Reflecting upon these and similar evils, you held the tyranni 
State to be the most miserable of States?'* 

"And I was right," he said. 

"Certainly," I said. "And when you see the same evils in the tyr< 
nical man, what do you say of him?" 

"I say that he is by far the most miserable of all men." 

"There," I said, "I think that you are beginning to go wrong." 

"What do you mean?" 

"I do not think that he has as yet reached the utmost extreme 

"Then who is more miserable?" 

"One of whom I am about to speak." 

"Who is that?" 

"He who is of a tyrannical nature, but instead of leading a j 
vate life has been cursed with the further misfortune of bein 
public tyrant." 

"From what has been said, I gather that you are right." 

"Yes," I replied, "but in this high argument you should be a lit 
nore certain, and should not conjecture only; for of all questio 
:his respecting good and evil is the greatest." 

"Very true," he said. 

"Let me then offer you an illustration, which may, I think, thr< 
* light upon this subject." 

"What is your illustration?" 

"The case of rich individuals 6 in cities who possess many slav< 

6 Or "private citizens." 


from them you may form an idea of the tyrant's condition, for they 
both have slaves; the only difference is that he has more slaves." 

"Yes, that is the difference." 

"You know that they live securely and have nothing to apprehend 
from their servants?" 

"What should they fear?" 

"Nothing. But do you observe the reason of this?" 

"Yes; the reason is, that the whole city is leagued together for the 
protection of each individual." 

"Very true," I said. "But imagine one of these owners, the master 
say of some fifty slaves, together with his family and property and 
slaves, carried off by a god into the wilderness, where there are no 
freemen to help him will he not be in an agony of fear lest he and 
his wife and children should be put to death by his slaves?" 

"Yes," he said, "he will be in the utmost fear." 

"The time has arrived when he will be compelled to flatter divers 
of his slaves, and make many promises to them of freedom and other 
things, much against his will he will have to cajole his own 

"Yes," he said, "that will be the only way of saving himself." 

"And suppose the same god, who carried him away, to surround 
him with neighbors who will not suffer one man to be the master of 
another, and who, if they could catch the offender, would take his 

"His case will be still worse, if you suppose him to be everywhere 
surrounded and watched by enemies." 

"And is not this the sort of prison in which the tyrant will be bound 
he who being by nature such as we have described, is full of all 
sorts of fears and lusts? His soul is dainty and greedy, and yet alone, 
of all men in the city, he is never allowed to go on a journey, or to see 
the things which other freemen desire to see, but he lives in his hole 
Hke a woman hidden in the house, and is jealous of any other citizen 
who goes into foreign parts and sees anything of interest." 

"Very true," he said. 

"And amid evils such as these will not he who is ill-governed in his 

466 PLATO 

own person the tyrannical man, I mean whom you just now de- 
cided to be the most miserable of all will not he be yet more 
miserable when, instead of leading a private life, he is constrained by 
fortune to be a public tyrant? He has to be master of others when he 
is not master of himself: he is like a diseased or paralytic man who is 
compelled to pass his life, not in retirement, but fighting and com- 
bating with other men/' 

"Yes," he said, "the similitude is most exact." 

"Is not his case utterly miserable? and does not the actual tyrant 
lead a worse life than he whose life you determined to be the worst?" 


"He who is the real tyrant, whatever men may think, is the real 
slave, and is obliged to practice the greatest adulation and servility, 
and to be the flatterer of the vilest of mankind. He has desires which 
he is utterly unable to satisfy, and has more wants than anyone, and 
is truly poor, if you know how to inspect the whole soul of him : all 
his life long he is beset with fear and is full of convulsions and dis- 
tractions, even as the State which he resembles: and surely the re- 
semblance holds?" 

"Very true," he said. 

"Moreover, as we were saying before, he grows worse from having 
power: he becomes and is of necessity more jealous, more faithless, 
more unjust, more friendless, more impious, than he was at first; he is 
the purveyor and cherisher of every sort of vice, and the consequence 
is that he is supremely miserable, and that he makes everybody else 
as miserable as himself." 

"No man of any sense will dispute your words." 

"Come, then," I said, "and as the general umpire in theatrical con- 
tests proclaims the result, do you also decide who in your opinion is 
first in the scale of happiness, and who second, and in what order 
the others follow: there are Jive of them in all they are the royal., 7 , 
timocratjcal,J^ga^ , tyrannical." 

7 The word "royal" here stands for the best type of man, he, who, like the ideal 
atate, is ruled by the noblest element in him, or who. as Socrates says, is "king over 


"The decision will be easily given/' he replied; "they shall be 
choruses coming on the stage, and I must judge them in the order in 
which they enter, by the criterion of virtue and vice, happiness and 

"Need we hire a herald, or shall I announce that the son of Ariston 
(the best) 8 has decided that the best and justest is also the happiest, 
and that this is he who is the most royal man and king over himself; 
and that the worst and most unjust man is also the most miserable, 
and that this is he who being the greatest tyrant of himself is also the 
greatest tyrant of his State?" 

"Make the proclamation yourself," he said. 

"And shall I add, whether seen or unseen by gods and men?" 

"Let the words be added." 

"Then this," I said, "will be our first proof; and there is another, 
which may also have some weight." 

"What is that?" 

Socrates repeats with slight change his division of the human 
soul into three principles, the intellect that loves knowledge and 
wisdom, the passionate spirit that loves power and fame, and 
the sensual appetites that desire wealth as means to their satis- 

"We may begin by assuming that there are three classes of men- 
lovers of wisdom, lovers of honor, lovers of gain?" 


"And there are three kinds of pleasure, which are their several 

"Very true." 

"Now, if you examine the three classes of men, and ask of them in 
turn which of their lives is pleasantest, each will be found praising 
his own and depreciating that of others: the money-maker will con- 
trast the vanity of honor or of learning if they bring no money with 
the solid advantages of gold and silver?" 

8 The adjective "aristos" in Greek means "best." 

468 PLATO 

"True," he said. 

"And the lover of honor what will be his opinion? Will he not 
think that the pleasure of riches is vulgar, while the pleasure of 
learning, if it brings no distinction, is all smoke and nonsense to 

"Very true." 

"And are we to suppose," I said, "that the philosopher sets any 
value on other pleasures in comparison with the pleasure of knowing 
the truth, and in that pursuit abiding, ever learning, not so far in- 
deed from the heaven of pleasure? Does he not call the other pleasures 
necessary, under the idea that if there were no necessity for them, 
he would rather not have them?" 

"There can be no doubt of that," he replied. 

"Since, then, the pleasures of each class and the life of each are 
in dispute, and the question is not which life is more or less honor- 
able, or better or worse, but which is the more pleasant or painless- 
how shall we know who speaks truly?" 

"I cannot myself tell," he said. 

"Well, but what ought to be the criterion? Is any better than ex- 
perience and wisdom and reason?" 

"There cannot be a better," he said. 

"Then," I said, "reflect. Of the three individuals, which has the 
greatest experience of all the pleasures which we enumerated? Has 
the lover of gain, in learning the nature of essential truth, greater 
experience of the pleasure of knowledge than the philosopher has of 
the pleasure of gain?" 

"The philosopKej:^" he replied, "has greatly the adya^itgge; for he 
has of necessity always known the taste of the other pleasures from 
his childhood upwards: but the lover of gain in all his experience 
has not of necessity tasted or, I should rather say, even had he de- 
sired, could hardly have tasted the sweetness of learning and know- 
ing truth." 

"Then the lover of wisdom has a great advantage over the lover 
of gain, for he has a double experience?" 

"Yes, very great." 


"Again, has he greater experience of the pleasures of honor, or the 
lover of honor of the pleasures of wisdom"?" 9 

"Nay," he said, "all three are honored in proportion as they attain 
their object; for the rich man and the brave man and the wise man 
alike have their crowd of admirers, and as they all receive honor they 
all have experience of the pleasures of honor; but the delight which is 
to be found in the knowledge of true being is known to the phi' 
losophcr only." 

"His experience, then, will enable him to judge better than any 

"Far better." 

"And he is the only one who has wisdom as well as experience?" 


"Further, the very faculty which is the instrument of judgment is 
not possessed by the covetous or ambitious man, but only by the 

"What faculty?" 

"Reason, with whom, as we were saying, the decision ought to 


"And reasoning is peculiarly his instrument?" 


"If wealth and gain were the criterion, then the praise or blame of 
the lover of gain would surely be the most trustworthy?" 


"Or if honor or victory or courage, in that case the judgment o 
the ambitious or pugnacious would be the truest?" 


"But since experience and wisdom and reason are the judges" 

"The only inference possible," he replied, "is that pleasures which 
are approved by the lover of wisdom and reason are the truest." 

"And so we arrive at the result, that the pleasure of the intelligent 

9 Better translated, "Has he had less experience of the pleasure of honor than the 
lover of honor has had of the pleasure of wisdom?" 


part of the soul is the pleasantest of the three, and that he of us in 
whom this is the ruling principle has the pleasantest life." 

"Unquestionably," he said, "the wise man speaks with authority 
when he approves of his own life." 

"And what does the judge affirm to be the life which is next, and 
the pleasure which is next?" 

"Clearly that of the soldier and lover of honor; who is nearer to 
himself than the money-maker." 

"Last comes the lover of gain?" 

"Very true," he said. 

"Twice in succession, then, has the just man overthrown the un- 
just in this conflict; and now comes the third trial, which is dedicated 
to Olympian Zeus the savior: a sage whispers in my ear that no 
pleasure except that of the wise is quite true and pure all others are 
a shadow only; and surely this will prove the greatest and most de- 
cisive of falls?" 

"Yes, the greatest; but will you explain yourself?" 

Many things which men count pleasures belong in fact to the 
neutral ground of physical release from bodily hungers, desires, 
and pain. Pure pleasures, that have no antecedent in pain, the 
soul finds best in the high regions of true and immortal being. 

"In general, those kinds of things which are in the service of the 
body have less of truth and essence than those which are in the serv- 
ice of the soul?" 

"Far less." 

"And has not the body itself less of truth and essence than the 


'What is filled with more real existence, and actually has a more 
real existence, is more really filled than that which is filled with less 
real existence and is less real?" 

"Of course." 

"And if there be a pleasure in being filled with that which is ac- 


cording to nature, 10 that which is more really filled with more real 
being will more really and truly enjoy true pleasure; whereas that 
which participates in less real being will be less truly and surely satis- 
fied, and will participate in an illusory and less real pleasurei 3 " 


"Those then who know not wisdom and virtue, and are always 
busy with gluttony and sensuality, go down and up again as far as 
the mean; and in this region they move at random throughout life, 
but they never pass into the true upper world; thither they neither 
look, nor do they ever find their way, neither are they truly filled with 
true being, nor do they taste of pure and abiding pleasure. Like 
cattle, with their eyes always looking down and their heads stooping 
to the earth, that is, to the dining table, they fatten and feed and 
breed, and, in their excessive love of these delights, they kick and 
butt at one another with horns and hoofs which are made of iron; 
and they kill one another by reason of their insatiable lust. For they 
fill themselves with that which is not substantial, and the part of 
themselves which they fill is also unsubstantial and incontinent." 

"Verily, Socrates," said Glaucon, "you describe the life of the many 
like an oracle." 

"Their pleasures are mixed with pains how can they be other- 
wise^ For they are mere shadows and pictures of the true, and are 
colored by contrast, which exaggerates both light and shade, and so 
they implant in the minds of fools insane desires of themselves; and 
they are fought about as Stesichorus n says that the Greeks fought 
about the shadow of Helen at Troy in ignorance of the truth." 

"Something of that sort must inevitably happen/' 

The farther away a man's pleasures are from reason and phi- 
losophy, the more of a mockery and a shadow they become. The 
tyrant is at the farthest extreme from the philosopher king. By 

10 Or "is in harmony with nature." 

11 According to one strange legend, attributed to the poet Stesichorus (590 B.C.), 
the real Helen was all the time in Egypt and only her wraith went with Paris to 
Troy. The tragedy writer Euripides, a contemporary of Socrates, based his play 
Helena on this legend. 

472 PLATO 

mathematical calculation the latter lives 729 times more hap- 
pily than he. 

'Well/' I said, "and now having arrived at this stage of the argu- 
ment, we may revert to the words which brought us hither: Was not 
someone saying that injustice was a gain to the perfectly unjust who 
was reputed to be just?" 

"Yes, that was said." 

"Now then, having determined the power and quality of justice 
and injustice, let us have a little conversation with him." 

"What shall we say to him?" 

"Let us make an image of the soul, that he may have his own words 
presented before his eyes." 

"Of what sort?" 

"An ideal image of the soul, like the composite creations of ancient 
mythology, such as the Chimera or Scylla or Cerberus, 12 and there 
are many others in which two or more different natures are said to 
grow into one." 

"There are said to have been such unions/' 

"Then do you now model the form of a multitudinous, many- 
headed monster, having a ring of heads of all manner of beasts, tame 
and wild, which he is able to generate and metamorphose at will." 

"You suppose marvelous powers in the artist; but, as language is 
more pliable than wax or any similar substance, let there be such a 
model as you propose." 

"Suppose now that you make a second form as of a lion, and a third 
of a man, 13 the second smaller than the first, and the third smaller 
than the second." 

"That," he said, "is an easier task; and I have made them as you 

12 All three were monstrous, many-headed beasts. For a description of the 
Chimera, see Iliad, VI, 179-182; of Scylla, Odyssey, XII, 85-100; of Cerberus, Heriod, 
Theogony, 311-312. 

13 Note that as Socrates describes this complex creature, containing in itself a 
many-headed monster, a lion's heart and a reasoning man, he is simply repeating 
his idea already expressed of the three natures shut up in each human soul. 


"And now join them, and let the three grow into one." 

"That has been accomplished/' 

"Next fashion the outside of them into a single image, as of a man, 
so that he who is not able to look within, and sees only the outer 
hull, may believe the beast to be a single human creature/' 

"I have done so," he said. 

"And now, to him who maintains that it is profitable for the human 
creature to be unjust, and unprofitable to be just, let us reply that, if 
he be right, it is profitable for this creature to feast the multitudinous 
monster and strengthen the lion and the lion-like qualities, but to 
starve and weaken the man, who is consequently liable to be dragged 
about at the mercy of either of the other two; and he is not to attempt 
to familiarize or harmonize them with one another he ought rather 
to suffer them to fight and bite and devour one another." 

"Certainly," he said; "that is what the approver of injustice says." 

"To him the supporter of justice makes answer that he should ever 
so speak and act as to give the man within him in some way or other 
the most complete mastery over the entire human creature. He should 
watch over the many-headed monster like a good husbandman, foster- 
ing and cultivating the gentle qualities, and preventing the wild ones 
from growing; he should be making the lion-heart his ally, and in 
common care of them all should be uniting the several parts with one 
another and with himself." 

"Yes," he said, "that is quite what the maintainer of justice will 

"And so from every point of view, whether of pleasure, honor, or 
advantage, the approver of justice is right and speaks the truth, and 
the disapprover is wrong and false and ignorant?" 

"Yes, from every point of view." 

"Come, now, and let us gently reason with the unjust, who is not 
intentionally in error. 'Sweet sir/ we will say to him, 'what think you 
of things esteemed noble and ignoble? Is not the noble that which 
subjects the beast to the man, or rather to the god in man; and the 
ignoble that which subjects the man to the beast?' He can hardly 
avoid saying Yes, can he now?" 

374 PLATO 

fabulous unions of goats and stags which are found in pictures. 
Imagine then a fleet or a ship in which there is a captain 3 who is 
taller and stronger than any of the crew, but he is a little deaf and 
has a similar infirmity in sight, and his knowledge of navigation is 
not much better. The sailors are quarreling with one another about 
the steering everyone is of opinion that he has a right to steer, 
though he has never learned the art of navigation and cannot tell 
who taught him or when he learned, and will further assert that it 
cannot be taught, and they are ready to cut in pieces anyone who 
says the contrary. They throng about the captain, begging and pray- 
ing him to commit the helm to them; and if at any time they do not 
prevail, but others are preferred to them, they kill the others or 
throw them overboard, and having first chained up the noble cap- 
tain's senses with drink or some narcotic drug, they mutiny and take 
possession of the ship and make free with the stores; thus, eating and 
drinking, they proceed on their voyage in such manner as might be 
expected of them. Him who is their partisan and cleverly aids them 
in their plot for getting the ship out of the captain's hands into their 
own whether by force or persuasion, they compliment with the name 
of sailor, pilot, able seaman, and abuse the other sort of man, whom 
they call a good-for-nothing; but that the true pilot must pay atten- 
tion to the year and seasons and sky and stars and winds, and what- 
ever else belongs to his art, if he intends to be really qualified for 
the command of a ship, and that he must and will be the steerer, 
whether other people like or notthe possibility of this union of 
authority with the steerer's art has never seriously entered into their 
thoughts or been made part of their calling. Now in vessels which 
are in a state of mutiny and by sailors who are mutineers, how will 
the true pilot 4 be regarded? Will he not be called by them a prater, 
a star-gazer, a good-for-nothing?" 

3 The ship's captain, strong and tall but a little deaf and a little weaksighted and 
knowing not much about the art of navigation, is a figure of the Athenian democ- 
racy. The impudent, ungovernable sailors are the self-seeking, cheap politicians who 
plot to get control of the ship of state. 

4 The trained, patriotic philosopher statesman. 


"Such appears to be the reason/' 

"And therefore, being desirous of placing him under a rule like 
that of the best, we say that he ought to be the servant of the best, in 
whom the Divine rules; not, as Thrasymachus supposed, 15 to the 
injury of the servant, but because everyone had better be ruled by 
divine wisdom dwelling within him; or, if this be impossible, then by 
an external authority, in order that we may be all, as far as possible, 
under the same government, friends and equals." 

"True," he said. 

"And this is clearly seen to be the intention of the law, which is 
the ally of the whole city; and is seen also in the authority which we 
exercise over children, and the refusal to let them be free until we 
have established in them a principle analogous to the constitution of 
a state, and by cultivation of this higher element have set up in their 
hearts a guardian and ruler like our own, and when this is done they 
may go their ways." 

"Yes," he said, "the purpose of the law is manifest.*' 

"From what point of view, then, and on what ground can we say 
that a man is profited by injustice or intemperance or other baseness, 
which will make him a worse man, even though he acquire money or 
power by his wickedness?" 

"From no point of view at all." 

"What shall he profit, if his injustice be undetected and unpun- 
ished? lie who is undetected only gets worse, whereas he who is de- 
tected and punished has the brutal part of his nature silenced and 
humanized; the gentler element in him is liberated, and his whole 
soul is perfected and ennobled by the acquirement of justice and 
temperance and wisdom, more than the body ever is by receiving 
gifts of beauty, strength and health, in proportion as the soul is more 
honorable than the body." 

"Certainly," he said. 

"To this nobler purpose the man of understanding will devote 
the energies of his life. And in the first place, he will honor studies 

15 For Thrasymachus' assertion that the just man was always the loser in any 
situation, turn back to page 236. 

476 PLATO 

which impress these qualities on his soul, and will disregard others?" 

"Clearly/' he said. 

"In the next place, he will regulate his bodily habit and training, 
and so far will he be from yielding to brutal and irrational pleasures, 
that he will regard even health as quite a secondary matter; his first 
object will be not that he may be fair or strong or well, unless he is 
likely thereby to gain temperance, but he will always desire so to at- 
temper the body as to preserve the harmony of the soul?" 

"Certainly he will, if he has true music in him." 

"And in the acquisition of wealth there is a principle of order and 
harmony which he will also observe; he will not allow himself to be 
dazzled by the foolish applause of the world, and heap up riches to his 
own infinite harm?" 

"Certainly not/' he said. 

"He will look at the city which is within him, and take heed that 
no disorder occur in it, such as might arise either from superfluity or 
from want; and upon this principle he will regulate his property and 
gain or spend according to his means." 

'Very true." 

"And, for the same reason, he will gladly accept and enjoy such 
honors as he deems likely to make him a better man; but those, 
whether private or public, which are likely to disorder his life, he 
will avoid?" 

"Then, if that is his motive, he will not be a statesman." 

"By the dog of Egypt, he will! in the city which is his own he cer- 
tainly will, though in the land of his birth perhaps not, unless he 
have a divine call." 

"I understand! you mean that he will be a ruler in the city of 
which we are the founders, and which exists in idea only; 1G for I do 
not believe that there is such a one anywhere on earth?" 

"In heaven," I replied, "there is laid up a pattern of it, methinks, 
which he who desires may behold, and beholding, may set his own 

16 The final justification for building a city of the ideal, in which the soul, if not 
the body, may take up its abode. From this passage the Stoics and other men after 
Plato built up their idea of a heavenly city of God. 


house in order. But whether such a one exists, or ever will exist in 
fact, is no matter; for he will live after the manner of that city, hav- 
ing nothing to do with any other/' 
"I think so/' he said. 


Further reasons for excluding poetry from the state. The 

rewards of justice and wisdom in this life 

and the next. 

"Op THE many excellences which I perceive in the order of our State, 
there is none which upon reflection pleases me better than the rule 
about poetry. 

Socrates adds new arguments to those he earlier made use of, 
in Book 111, in support of his "rule about poetry." The great 
Homer, whom he admits he has always loved, and the tragic 
poets must he banished from the ideal state, for they are but 
imitators of the life of visible nature and so paint an inferior 
view of truth. They "feed and water" the emotions and passions 
of men instead of restraining them hy reason. 

Therefore, Glaucon," I said, "whenever you meet with any of the 
eulogists of Homer declaring that he has been the educator of Hel- 
las, and that he is profitable for education and for the ordering of 
human things, and that you should take him up again and again and 
get to know him and regulate your whole life according to him, we 
may love and honor those who say these things they are excellent 
people, as far as their lights extend; and we are ready to acknowledge 
that Homer is the greatest of poets and first of tragedy writers; but 
we must remain firm in our conviction that hymns to the gods and 
praises of famous men are the only poetry which ought to be ad- 
mitted into our State, For if you go beyond this and allow the honeyed 
muse to enter, either in epic or lyric verse, not law and the reason of 

478 PLATO 

mankind, which by common consent have ever been deemed best, 
but pleasure ancy^ajnjyj^^ ^ n j our ^H te *" 

1fT TKat is most true," he said. 

"And now since we have reverted to the subject of poetry, let this 
our defense serve to show the reasonableness of our former judgment 
in sending away out of our State an art having the tendencies which 
we have described; for reason constrained us. But that she may not 
impute to us any harshness or want of politeness, let us tell her that 
there is an ancient quarrel between philosophy and poetry; of which 
there are many proofs, such as the saying of 'the yelping hound howl- 
ing at her lord/ 1 or of one 'mighty in the vain talk of fools/ and 'the 
mob of sages circumventing Zeus/ and the 'subtle thinkers who are 
beggars after all'; and there are innumerable other signs of ancient 
enmity between them. Notwithstanding this, let us assure our sweet 
friend and the sister arts of imitation, that if she will only prove her 
title to exist in a well-ordered State we shall be delighted to receive 
-heV we are very conscious of her charms; but we may not on that 
account betray the truth. I dare say, Glaucon, that you are as much 
charmed by her as I am, especially when she appears in Homer?" 

"Yes, indeed, I am greatly charmed." 

"Shall I propose, then, that she be allowed to return from exile, but 
upon this condition only that she make a defense of herself in lyrical 
or some other meter?" 


"And we may further grant to those of her defenders who are lovers 
of poetry and yet not poets the permission to speak in prose on her 
oehalf : 2 let them show not only that she is pleasant but also useful 
tn States ftrifi tn human ^fe r and we will listen in a kindly spirit; for 
if this can be proved we shall surely be the gainers I mean, if there 
is a use in poetry as well as a delight?" 

"Certainly," he said, "we shall be the gainers." 

"If her defense fails, then, my dear friend, like other persons who 

1 The source of this and the following quotations is unknown. 

2 The challenge was taken up by Plato's pupil Aristotle in his Poetics and by 
many who have written defenses of poetry in the centuries since. 


are enamoured of something, but put a restraint upon themselves 
when they think their desires are opposed to their interests, so too 
must we after the manner of lovers give her up, though not without 
a struggle. We too are inspired by that love of poetry which the edu- 
cation of noble States has implanted in us, and therefore we would 
have her appear at her best and truest; but so long as she is unable to 
make good her defense, this argument of ours shall be a charm to us, 
which we will repeat to ourselves while we listen to her strains; that 
vtfe may not fall away into the childish love of her which captivates 
thpjnflnyir Af all events we are well aware that poetry being such as 
we have described is not to be regarded seriously as attaining to the 
truthj^nd he who listens to her, fearing for the safety of the city 
which is within him, should be on his guard against her seductions 
and make our words his law." 

"Yes," he said, "I quite agree with you.'* 

"Yes," I said, "my dear Glaucon, for great is the issue at stake, 
greater than appears, whether a man is to be good or bad. And what 
will anyone be profited if under the influence of honor or money or 
power, aye, or under the excitement of poetry, he neglect justice and 
- ueXl 

"Yes," he said; "I have been convinced by the argument, as I be- 
lieve that anyone else would have been." 

"And yet no mention has been made of the greatest prizes 3 and 
rewards which await virtue." 

"What, are there any greater still? If there are, they must be of an 
inconceivable greatness." 

"Why," I said, "what was ever great in a short time? The whole 
period of three score years and ten is surely but a little thing in com- 
parison with eternity?" 

"Say rather 'nothing/ " he replied. 

3 Having now satisfactorily proved, as he set out to do, that the righteous life, 
regardless of outside circumstances, is itself its one reward, Plato closes the dialogue 
with a picture of the good man, as he actually lives, beloved of God in this world 
and the next. Already in the Phaedo he had argued at length for the immortality 
of the human soul. Now he presents one more argument and crowns it with an 
imaginative and awe-inspiring vision. 

480 PLATO 

"And should an immortal being seriously think of this little space 
rather than of the whole?" 

"Of the whole, certainly. But why do you ask?" 

"Are you not aware," I said, "that the soul of man is immortal and 

He looked at me in astonishment, and said: "No, by heaven! And 
are you really prepared to maintain this?" 

"Yes," I said, "I ought to be, and you too there is no difficulty in 
proving it." 

"I see a great difficulty; but I should like to hear you state this 
argument of which you make so light." 

"Listen, then." 

"I am attending." 

"There is a thing which you call good and another which you call 

"Yes," he replied. 

"Would you agree with me in thinking that the corrupting and 
destroying element is the evil, and the saving and improving element 
the good?" 


"And you admit that everything has a good and also an evil; as 
ophthalmia is the evil of the eyes and disease of the whole body; as 
mildew is of corn, and rot of timber, or rust of copper and iron: in 
everything, or in almost everything, there is an inherent evil and dis- 

"Yes," he said. 

"And anything which is infected by any of these evils is made 
evil, and at last wholly dissolves and dies?" 


"The vice and evil which is inherent in each is the destruction of 
each; and if this does not destroy them there is nothing else that will; 
for good certainly will not destroy them, nor again, that which is 
neither good nor evil." 

"Certainly not." 

"If, then, we find any nature which having this inherent corrup- 


tion cannot be dissolved or destroyed, 4 we may be certain that of such 
a nature there is no destruction?" 

"That may be assumed/' 

"Well," I said, "and is there no evil which corrupts the soul?" 

"Yes/' he said, "there are all the evils which we were just now 
passing in review: unrighteousness, intemperance, cowardice, igno- 

**But does any of these dissolve or destroy her? And_here-do not 
let us falljnto the error of sujpposn^thj^he^ 

when he is detected, perishes through his own injustice, :which i&aix 
evil of the soul. Take the analogy of the body: The evil of the body is 
aTHsease which wastes and reduces and annihilates the body; and all 
the things of which we were just now speaking come to annihilation 
through their own corruption attaching to them and inhering in 
them and so destroying them. Is not this true?" 


"Consider the soul in like manner. Does the injustice or other evil 
which exists in the soul waste and consume her? do they by attaching 
to the soul and inhering in her at last bring her to death, and so sepa- 
rate her from the body?" 

"Certainly not." 

"And yet," I said, "it is unreasonable to suppose that anything can 
perish from without through affection of external evil which could 
not be destroyed from within by a corruption of its own?" 

"It is," he replied. 

"Consider," I said, "Glaucon, that even the badness of food, 
whether staleness, decomposition, or any other bad quality, when 
confined to the actual food, is not supposed to destroy the body; al- 
though, if the badness of food communicates corruption to the body, 
then we should say that the body has been destroyed by a corruption 
of itself, which is disease, brought on by this; 5 but that the body, 
being one thing, can be destroyed by the badness of food, which is 

4 Or better, "which has an evil that corrupts but is not able to dissolve or 
destroy it," 

5 Or "by the food." 

482 PLATO 

another, and which does not engender any natural infection this we 
shall absolutely deny?" 

"Very true." 

"And, on the same principle, unless some bodily evil can produce 
an evil of the soul, we must not suppose that the soul, which is one 
rfiing, can be dissolved by any merely external evil which belongs to 

"Yes," he said, "there is reason in that." 

"Either, then, let us refute this conclusion, or, while it remains 
unrefuted, let us never say that fever, or any other disease, or the 
knife put to the throat, or even the cutting up of the whole body into 
the minutest pieces, can destroy the soul, until she herself is proved 
to become more unholy or unrighteous in consequence of these things 
being done to the body; but that the soul, or anything else if not de- 
stroyed by an internal evil, can be destroyed by an external one, is not 
to be affirmed by any man." 

"And surely," he replied, "no one will ever prove that the souls of 
men become more unjust in consequence of death." 

"But if someone who would rather not admit the immortality of 
the soul boldly denies this, and says that the dying do really become 
more evil and unrighteous, then, if the speaker is right, I suppose that 
injustice, like disease, must be assumed to be fatal to the unjust, and 
that those who take this disorder die by the natural inherent power 
of destruction which evil has, and which kills them sooner or later, 
but in quite another way from that in which, at present, the wicked 
receive death at the hands of others as the penalty of their deeds?" 

"Nay," he said, "in that case injustice, if fatal to the unjust, will 
not be so very terrible to him, for he will be delivered from evil. But 
I rather suspect the opposite to be the truth, and that injustice which, 
if it have the power, will murder others, keeps the murderer alive- 
aye, and well awake too; so far removed is her dwelling-place from 
being a house of death." 

"True," I said; "if the inherent natural vice or evil of the soul is 
unable to kill or destroy her, hardly will that which is appointed to be 


the destruction of some other body, destroy a soul or anything else 
except that o which it was appointed to be the destruction." 

"Yes, that can hardly be." 

"But the soul which cannot be destroyed by an evil, whether in- 
herent or external, must exist forever, and if existing forever, must be 

"Certainly/ 1 

"That is the conclusion," I said; "and, if a true conclusion, then 
the souls must always be the same, for if none be destroyed they will 
not diminish in number. Neither will they increase, for the increase 
of the immortal natures must come from something mortal, and all 
things would thus end in immortality." 

"Very true." 

"But this we cannot believe reason will not allow us any more 
than we can believe the soul, in her truest nature, to be full of variety 
and difference 6 and dissimilarity." 

"What do you mean?" he said. 

"The soul," I said, "being, as is now proven, immortal, must be the 
fairest of compositions and cannot be compounded of many ele- 

"Certainly not." 

"Her immortality is demonstrated by the previous argument, and 
there are many other proofs; but to see her as she really is, not as we 
now behold her, marred by communion with the body and other 
miseries, you must contemplate her with the eye of reason, injjej 
original purity; and tnen her beauty will be revealed, and justice and 
inj^jcj[]ajnd h\l the things which we have described will be mani- 
fested more clearly. Thus far, we have spoken the truth concerning 
her as she appears at present, but we must remember also that we 
have seen her only in a condition which may be compared to that of 
the sea-god Glaucus, 7 whose original image can hardly be discerned 
because his natural members are broken off and crushed and dam- 

6 Or "diversity and contradiction in itself." 

7 A sea god, depicted in art as a bearded old man with a body ending in a fish's tail 
and covered with seaweed and shells. 

484 PLATO 

aged by the waves in all sorts of ways, and incrustations have grown 
over them of seaweed and shells and stones, so that he is more like 
some monster than he is to his own natural form. And the soul which 
we behold is in a similar condition, disfigured by ten thousand ills. 
But not there, Glaucon, not there must we look." 

"Where then?" 

"At her love of wisdom. Let us see whom she affects, and what 
society and converse she seeks in virtue of her near kindred with the 
immortal and eternal and divine; also how different she would be- 
come if wholly following this superior principle, and borne by a 
divine impulse out of the ocean in which she now is, and disengaged 
from the stones and shells and things of earth and rock which in wild 
variety spring up around her because she feeds upon earth, and is 
overgrown by the good things of this life as they are termed: then 
you would see her as she is, and know whether she have one shape 
only or many, or what her nature is. Of her affections and of the 
forms which she takes in this present life I think that we have now 
said enough." 

"True," he replied. 

"And thus," I said, "we have fulfilled the conditions of the argu- 
ment; we have not introduced the rewards and glories of justice, 
which, as you were saying, are to be found in Homer and Hesiod; 
but justice in her own nature has been shown to be best for the soul 
in her own nature. Let a man do what is just, whether he have the 
ring of Gyges ^QT not, and even if in addition to the ring of Gyges 
he put on the helmet of Llades." 9 

"Very true." 

"And now, Glaucon, there will be no harm in further enumerat- 
ing how many and how great are the rewards which justice and the 
other virtues procure to the soul from gods and men, both in life and 
after death." 

"Certainly not," he said. 

"Will you repay me, then, what you borrowed in the argument: 1 " 

8 See page 256. 

9 The helmet which made the wearer invisible. Iliad, V, 844, 845. 


"What did I borrow?" 

"The assumption that the just man should appear unjust and the 
unjust just: 10 for you were of opinion that even if the true state of 
the case could not possibly escape the eyes of gods and men, still this 
admission ought to be made for the sake of the argument, in order 
that pure justice might be weighed against pure injustice. Do you 

"I should be much to blame if I had forgotten." 

"Then, as the cause is decided, I demand on behalf of justice that 
the estimation in which she is held by gods and men and which we 
acknowledge to be her due should now be restored to her by us; since 
she has been shown to confer reality, and not to