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[620a] He said it was a strange, pitiful, and ridiculous spectacle, as the choice was determined for the most part by the habits of their former lives.1 He saw the soul that had been Orpheus’, he said, selecting the life of a swan,2 because from hatred of the tribe of women, owing to his death at their hands, it was unwilling to be conceived and born of a woman. He saw the soul of Thamyras3 choosing the life of a nightingale; and he saw a swan changing to the choice of the life of man, and similarly other musical animals.

1 Cf. Phaedo 81 E ff., Phaedr. 248-249, Tim. 42 A-D, 91 D ff. For the idea of reincarnation in Plato see What Plato Said, p. 529, on Phaedo 81 E-82 B.

2 Urwiek, The Message of Plato, p. 213, says: “If Plato knew anything at all of Indian allegory, he must have known that the swan (Hamsa) is in Hinduism the invariable symbol of the immortal Spirit; and to say, as he does, that Orpheus chose the life of a swan, refusing to be born again of a woman, is just an allegorical way of saying that he passed on into the spiritual life. . . . ”

3 Like Orpheus a singer. He contended with the Muses in song and was in consequence deprived by them of sight and of the gift of song. Cf. also Ion 533 B-C, Laws 829 D-E, Iliad ii. 595.

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