Chapter 10

The Death of Socrates

by Plato Icon

When he had done speaking, Crito said:

Crito Do you have any commands for us, Socrates? Anything to say about your children, or anything else in which we can serve you?
Socrates Just take care of yourselves. That is a service you can render to me and to all. But if you have no thought for yourselves and do not follow the rule which I have prescribed for you it will be useless.
Crito We will do our best. How shall we bury you?
Socrates Any way 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 have been talking and conducting the argument; he fancies that I am the other Socrates whom he will soon see, a dead body. He asks= How shall he bury me?

I have already said that after I drink the poison, I shall leave you and go to the joys of the blessed. I said these words to comfort you and myself. But these had had no effect upon Crito.

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. He was surety for me to the judges that I would remain, and you must be my surety to him that I shall not remain, but go away and depart.


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.

He then went into a chamber 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. 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. The women of his family also came. He talked to them and gave them a few directions in the presence of Crito. Then he dismissed them and returned 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 feelings of other men, who rage and swear at me, when, in obedience to the authorities, I bid them drink the poison—I am sure that you will not be angry with me. Others, and not I, are 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 I return your good wishes, and will do as you bid. [Turning to us] How charming he is. Since I have been in prison he has always been coming to see me, and was good to me. 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.
Crito Yet, the sun is still upon the hill-tops, and I know that many a one has taken the draught late, and after the announcement 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 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 You, my good friend, are experienced in these matters. Please tell me how to proceed.
Jailer 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 colour or feature, looking at the man with all his eyes, Echecrates, as his manner was, took the cup and said:

Socrates May I make a libation out of this cup to any god? I must ask the gods to prosper my journey from this to the other world—even so—and so be it according to my prayer.

He agreed. Raising the cup to his lips, quite readily and cheerfully he drank off the poison. And hitherto most of us had been able to control 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. Crito was unable to restrain his tears. He got up and I followed. 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.

Socrates What is this strange outcry?

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.

Socrates Be quiet, then, and have patience.

When we heard his words we were ashamed, and refrained our tears. He walked about until his legs began to fail. Then he lay on his back, according to the directions.

The man who gave him the poison looked at his feet and legs now and then. After a while, he pressed Socrates’ foot hard, and asked him if he could feel. Socrates said, No.

He repeated this with his leg, and so upwards and upwards. Socrates showed us that he was cold and stiff.

He felt them himself, and said:

Socrates When the poison reaches the heart, that will be the end.

He was beginning to grow cold about the groin, when he uncovered his face, for he had covered himself up, and said—they were his last words—he said:

Socrates Crito, I owe a cock to Asclepius. Will you remember to pay the debt?
Crito The debt shall be paid. 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 of our friend Socrates. Of all the men of his time whom I have known, he was the wisest and justest and best.


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