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The Death Scene




When he had done speaking, Crito said: And have you any
  Jowett's Notes
commands for us, Socrates--anything to say about your  
children, or any other matter in which we can serve you?

The setting is the Jail in the Agora
Full View Athens (207K)
Artist: Ru Dien-Jen
Nothing particular, he said: only, as I have always told you,
I would have you look to yourselves; that is a service which
you may always be doing to me and mine as well as to
yourselves. And you need not make professions; for if you
take no thought for yourselves, and walk not according to the
precepts which I have given you, not now for the first time,


the warmth of your professions will be of no avail.

Ruins of the Jail
Photo: Steven S. Tigner
We will do our best, said Crito. But in what way would you
have us bury you?
In any way that you like; only you must get hold of me, and
take care that I do not walk 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--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 comforted you and myself,     
have had, I perceive, no effect upon Crito. And therefore I
want you to be surety for me now, as he was surety for me
at the trial: but let the promise be of another sort; for he
was my surety to the judges that I would remain, but 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
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 as is usual, and as you


think best.
When he had spoken these words, he arose and went into
the bath chamber with Crito, who bade us wait; and we
waited, 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

Ruins of the Well Where Prisoners Bathed
Photo: Steven S. Tigner


the bath his children were brought to him--(he had two young He takes leave of
sons and an elder one); and the women of his family also his family.
came, and he talked to them and gave them a few directions
in the presence of Crito; and he then 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 The humanity of the


and stood by him, saying: To you, Socrates, whom I know jailer.
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--indeed, I am
sure that you will not be angry with me; for others, as you
are aware, and not I, are the guilty cause. 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 for me. But we must do as he says,
Crito; 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 many Crito would detain
a one has taken the draught late, and after the announcement Socrates a little
has been made to him, he has eaten and drunk, and indulged while.
in sensual delights; do not hasten then, there is still time.
Socrates said: Yes, Crito, and they of whom you speak are
right in doing thus, for they think that they will gain by the Socrates thinks that
delay; but I am right in not doing thus, for I do not think that there is nothing to be


I should gain anything by drinking the poison a little later; gained by delay.
I should be sparing and saving a life which is already gone: I
could only laugh at myself for this. Please then to do as I
say, and not to refuse me.
Crito, when he heard this, made a sign to the servant, and the
servant went in, and remained for some time, and then
returned with the jailer carrying a 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

Pharmaceutical Vials Used for Preparing Hemlock
Photo: Steven S. Tigner


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 manner 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: yet I may and must pray to the gods to prosper my
journey from this to that other world--may this, then, which
is my prayer, be granted to me. Then holding 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 over myself, for certainly I was


not weeping over him, but at the thought of my own calamity
in having lost such a companion. Nor was I the first, for
Crito, when he found himself unable to restrain his tears, had
got up and moved away, and I followed; and at that moment.
Apollodorus, who had been weeping all the time, broke out
a loud cry which made cowards of us all. Socrates alone


in retained his calmness: What is this strange outcry? he said.
I sent away the women mainly in order that they might not
offend in this way, for I have heard that a man should die
in peace. Be quiet, then, and have patience.
When we heard that, 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. 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: Crito, I owe a cock to Asclepius;
will you remember to pay the debt? The debt shall be paid,

Offering to Asclepius
Photo: Steven S. Tigner
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, whom I may
truly call the wisest, and justest, and best of all the men
whom I have ever known.

Ruins of Phaedo's House
Photo: Steven S. Tigner