I have often wondered by what arguments those who drew up the indictment against Socrates could persuade the Athenians that his life was forfeit to the state. The indictment against him was to this effect: Socrates is guilty of rejecting the gods acknowledged by the state and of bringing in strange deities: he is also guilty of corrupting the youth. [2]

First then, that he rejected the gods acknowledged by the state — what evidence did they produce of that? He offered sacrifices constantly, and made no secret of it, now in his home, now at the altars of the state temples, and he made use of divination with as little secrecy. Indeed it had become notorious that Socrates claimed to be guided by ‘the deity:’1 it was out of this claim, I think, that the charge of bringing in strange deities arose. [3] He was no more bringing in anything strange than are other believers in divination, who rely on augury, oracles, coincidences and sacrifices. For these men's belief is not that the birds or the folk met by accident know what profits the inquirer, but that they are the instruments by which the gods make this known; and that was Socrates' belief too. [4] Only, whereas most men say that the birds or the folk they meet dissuade or encourage them, Socrates said what he meant: for he said that the deity gave him a sign. Many of his companions were counselled by him to do this or not to do that in accordance with the warnings of the deity: and those who followed his advice prospered, and those who rejected it had cause for regret. [5] And yet who would not admit that he wished to appear neither a knave nor a fool to his companions? but he would have been thought both, had he proved to be mistaken when he alleged that his counsel was in accordance with divine revelation. Obviously, then, he would not have given the counsel if he had not been confident that what he said would come true. And who could have inspired him with that confidence but a god? And since he had confidence in the gods, how can he have disbelieved in the existence of the gods? [6] Another way he had of dealing with intimate friends was this: if there was no room for doubt, he advised them to act as they thought best; but if the consequences could not be foreseen, he sent them to the oracle to inquire whether the thing ought to be done. [7] Those who intended to control a house or a city, he said, needed the help of divination. For the craft of carpenter, smith, farmer or ruler, and the theory of such crafts, and arithmetic and economics and generalship might be learned and mastered by the application of human powers; [8] but the deepest secrets of these matters the gods reserved to themselves; they were dark to men. You may plant a field well; but you know not who shall gather the fruits: you may build a house well; but you know not who shall dwell in it: able to command, you cannot know whether it is profitable to command: versed in statecraft, you know not whether it is profitable to guide the state: though, for your delight, you marry a pretty woman, you cannot tell whether she will bring you sorrow: though you form a party among men mighty in the state, you know not whether they will cause you to be driven from the state. [9] If any man thinks that these matters are wholly within the grasp of the human mind and nothing in them is beyond our reason, that man, he said, is irrational. But it is no less irrational to seek the guidance of heaven in matters which men are permitted by the gods to decide for themselves by study: to ask, for instance, Is it better to get an experienced coachman to drive my carriage or a man without experience?2 Is it better to get an experienced seaman to steer my ship or a man without experience? So too with what we may know by reckoning, measurement or weighing. To put such questions to the gods seemed to his mind profane. In short, what the gods have granted us to do by help of learning, we must learn; what is hidden from mortals we should try to find out from the gods by divination: for to him that is in their grace the gods grant a sign. [10]

Moreover, Socrates lived ever in the open; for early in the morning he went to the public promenades and training-grounds; in the forenoon he was seen in the market; and the rest of the day he passed just where most people were to be met: he was generally talking, and anyone might listen. Yet none ever knew him to offend against piety and religion in deed or word. [11] He did not even discuss that topic so favoured by other talkers, “the Nature of the Universe”: and avoided speculation on the so-called “Cosmos” of the Professors, how it works, and on the laws that govern the phenomena of the heavens: indeed he would argue that to trouble one's mind with such problems is sheer folly. [12] In the first place, he would inquire, did these thinkers suppose that their knowledge of human affairs was so complete that they must seek these new fields for the exercise of their brains; or that it was their duty to neglect human affairs and consider only things divine? [13] Moreover, he marvelled at their blindness in not seeing that man cannot solve these riddles; since even the most conceited talkers on these problems did not agree in their theories, but behaved to one another like madmen. [14] As some madmen have no fear of danger and others are afraid where there is nothing to be afraid of, as some will do or say anything in a crowd with no sense of shame, while others shrink even from going abroad among men, some respect neither temple nor altar nor any other sacred thing, others worship stocks and stones and beasts, so is it, he held, with those who worry with “Universal Nature.” Some hold that “What is” is one, others that it is infinite in number: some that all things are in perpetual motion, others that nothing can ever be moved at any time: some that all life is birth and decay, others that nothing can ever be born or ever die. [15] Nor were those the only questions he asked about such theorists. Students of human nature, he said, think that they will apply their knowledge in due course for the good of themselves and any others they choose. Do those who pry into heavenly phenomena imagine that, once they have discovered the laws by which these are produced, they will create at their will winds, waters, seasons and such things to their need? Or have they no such expectation, and are they satisfied with knowing the causes of these various phenomena? [16]

Such, then, was his criticism of those who meddle with these matters. His own conversation was ever of human things. The problems he discussed were, What is godly, what is ungodly; what is beautiful, what is ugly; what is just, what is unjust; what is prudence, what is madness; what is courage, what is cowardice; what is a state, what is a statesman; what is government, and what is a governor;—these and others like them, of which the knowledge made a “gentleman,” in his estimation, while ignorance should involve the reproach of “slavishness.” [17]

So, in pronouncing on opinions of his that were unknown to them it is not surprising that the jury erred: but is it not astonishing that they should have ignored matters of common knowledge? [18] For instance, when he was on the Council and had taken the counsellor's oath by which he bound himself to give counsel in accordance with the laws, it fell to his lot to preside in the Assembly when the people wanted to condemn Thrasyllus and Erasinides and their colleagues to death by a single vote. That was illegal, and he refused the motion in spite of popular rancour and the threats of many powerful persons. It was more to him that he should keep his oath than that he should humour the people in an unjust demand and shield himself from threats. [19] For, like most men, indeed, he believed that the gods are heedful of mankind, but with an important difference; for whereas they do not believe in the omniscience of the gods, Socrates thought that they know all things, our words and deeds and secret purposes; that they are present everywhere, and grant signs to men of all that concerns man.3 [20]

I wonder, then, how the Athenians can have been persuaded that Socrates was a freethinker, when he never said or did anything contrary to sound religion, and his utterances about the gods and his behaviour towards them were the words and actions of a man who is truly religious and deserves to be thought so. 2.

No less wonderful is it to me that some believed the charge brought against Socrates of corrupting the youth. In the first place, apart from what I have said, in control of his own passions and appetites he was the strictest of men; further, in endurance of cold and heat and every kind of toil he was most resolute; and besides, his needs were so schooled to moderation that having very little he was yet very content. [2] Such was his own character: how then can he have led others into impiety, crime, gluttony, lust, or sloth? On the contrary, he cured these vices in many, by putting into them a desire for goodness, and by giving them confidence that self-discipline would make them gentlemen. [3] To be sure he never professed to teach this; but, by letting his own light shine, he led his disciples to hope that they through imitation of him would attain to such excellence. [4] Furthermore, he himself never neglected the body, and reproved such neglect in others. Thus over-eating followed by over-exertion he disapproved. But he approved of taking as much hard exercise as is agreeable to the soul;4 for the habit not only insured good health, but did not hamper the care of the soul. [5] On the other hand, he disliked foppery and pretentiousness in the fashion of clothes or shoes or in behaviour. Nor, again, did he encourage love of money in his companions. For while he checked their other desires, he would not make money himself out of their desire for his companionship. [6] He held that this self-denying ordinance insured his liberty. Those who charged a fee for their society he denounced for selling themselves into bondage; since they were bound to converse with all from whom they took the fee. [7] He marvelled that anyone should make money by the profession of virtue, and should not reflect that his highest reward would be the gain of a good friend; as though he who became a true gentleman could fail to feel deep gratitude for a benefit so great. [8] Socrates indeed never promised any such boon to anyone; but he was confident that those of his companions who adopted his principles of conduct would throughout life be good friends to him and to one another. How, then, should such a man “corrupt the youth”? Unless, perchance, it be corruption to foster virtue. [9]

But, said his accuser, he taught his companions to despise the established laws by insisting on the folly of appointing public officials by lot, when none would choose a pilot or builder or flautist by lot, nor any other craftsman for work in which mistakes are far less disastrous than mistakes in statecraft. Such sayings, he argued, led the young to despise the established constitution and made them violent. [10] But I hold5 that they who cultivate wisdom and think they will be able to guide the people in prudent policy never lapse into violence: they know that enmities and dangers are inseparable from violence, but persuasion produces the same results safely and amicably. For violence, by making its victims sensible of loss, rouses their hatred: but persuasion, by seeming to confer a favour, wins goodwill. It is not, then, cultivation of wisdom that leads to violent methods, but the possession of power without prudence. [11] Besides, many supporters are necessary to him who ventures to use force: but he who can persuade needs no confederate, having confidence in his own unaided power of persuasion. And such a man has no occasion to shed blood; for who would rather take a man's life than have a live and willing follower?

But his accuser argued thus. [12] Among the associates of Socrates were Critias and Alcibiades; and none wrought so many evils to the state. For Critias in the days of the oligarchy bore the palm for greed and violence: Alcibiades, for his part, exceeded all in licentiousness and insolence under the democracy. [13] Now I have no intention of excusing the wrong these two men wrought the state; but I will explain how they came to be with Socrates. [14] Ambition was the very life-blood of both: no Athenian was ever like them. They were eager to get control of everything and to outstrip every rival in notoriety. They knew that Socrates was living on very little, and yet was wholly independent; that he was strictly moderate in all his pleasures; and that in argument he could do what he liked with any disputant. [15] Sharing this knowledge and the principles I have indicated, is it to be supposed that these two men wanted to adopt the simple life of Socrates, and with this object in view sought his society? Did they not rather think that by associating with him they would attain the utmost proficiency in speech and action? [16] For my part I believe that, had heaven granted them the choice between the life they saw Socrates leading and death, they would have chosen rather to die. Their conduct betrayed their purpose; for as soon as they thought themselves superior to their fellow-disciples they sprang away from Socrates and took to politics; it was for political ends that they had wanted Socrates. [17]

But it may be answered: Socrates should have taught his companions prudence before politics. I do not deny it; but I find that all teachers show their disciples how they themselves practise what they teach, and lead them on by argument. And I know that it was so with Socrates: he showed his companions that he was a gentleman himself, and talked most excellently of goodness and of all things that concern man. [18] I know further that even those two were prudent so long as they were with Socrates, not from fear of fine or blow, but because at that time they really believed in prudent conduct. [19]

But many self-styled lovers of wisdom may reply: A just man can never become unjust; a prudent man can never become wanton; in fact no one having learned any kind of knowledge can become ignorant of it. I do not hold with this view.6 I notice that as those who do not train the body cannot perform the functions proper to the body, so those who do not train the soul cannot perform the functions of the soul: for they cannot do what they ought to do nor avoid what they ought not to do. [20] For this cause fathers try to keep their sons, even if they are prudent lads, out of bad company: for the society of honest men is a training in virtue, but the society of the bad is virtue's undoing. As one of the poets says:

““From the good shalt thou learn good things; but if thou minglest with the bad thou shalt lose even what thou hast of wisdom.”

And another says:

““Ah, but a good man is at one time noble, at another base.”


My testimony agrees with theirs; for I see that, just as poetry is forgotten unless it is often repeated, so instruction, when no longer heeded, fades from the mind. To forget good counsel is to forget the experiences that prompted the soul to desire prudence: and when those are forgotten, it is not surprising that prudence itself is forgotten. [22] I see also that men who take to drink or get involved in love intrigues lose the power of caring about right conduct and avoiding evil. For many who are careful with their money no sooner fall in love than they begin to waste it: and when they have spent it all, they no longer shrink from making more by methods which they formerly avoided because they thought them disgraceful. [23] How then can it be impossible for one who was prudent to lose his prudence, for one who was capable of just action to become incapable? To me indeed it seems that whatever is honourable, whatever is good in conduct is the result of training, and that this is especially true of prudence. For in the same body along with the soul are planted the pleasures which call to her: “Abandon prudence, and make haste to gratify us and the body.” [24]

And indeed it was thus with Critias and Alcibiades. So long as they were with Socrates, they found in him an ally who gave them strength to conquer their evil passions. But when they parted from him, Critias fled to Thessaly, and got among men who put lawlessness before justice; while Alcibiades, on account of his beauty, was hunted by many great ladies, and because of his influence at Athens and among her allies he was spoilt by many powerful men: and as athletes who gain an easy victory in the games are apt to neglect their training, so the honour in which he was held, the cheap triumph he won with the people, led him to neglect himself. [25] Such was their fortune: and when to pride of birth, confidence in wealth, vainglory and much yielding to temptation were added corruption and long separation from Socrates, what wonder if they grew overbearing? [26] For their wrongdoing, then, is Socrates to be called to account by his accuser? And does he deserve no word of praise for having controlled them in the days of their youth, when they would naturally be most reckless and licentious? Other cases, at least, are not so judged. [27] For what teacher of flute, lyre, or anything else, after making his pupils proficient, is held to blame if they leave him for another master, and then turn out incompetent? What father, whose son bears a good character so long as he is with one master, but goes wrong after he has attached himself to another, throws the blame on the earlier teacher? Is it not true that the worse the boy turns out with the second, the higher is his father's praise of the first? Nay, fathers themselves, living with their sons, are not held responsible for their boys' wrongdoing if they are themselves prudent men. [28] This is the test which should have been applied to Socrates too. If there was anything base in his own life, he might fairly have been thought vicious. But, if his own conduct was always prudent, how can he be fairly held to blame for the evil that was not in him? [29]

Nevertheless, although he was himself free from vice, if he saw and approved of base conduct in them, he would be open to censure. Well, when he found that Critias loved Euthydemus7 and wanted to lead him astray, he tried to restrain him by saying that it was mean and unbecoming in a gentleman to sue like a beggar to the object of his affection, whose good opinion he coveted, stooping to ask a favour that it was wrong to grant. [30] As Critias paid no heed whatever to this protest, Socrates, it is said, exclaimed in the presence of Euthydemus and many others, “Critias seems to have the feelings of a pig: he can no more keep away from Euthydemus than pigs can help rubbing themselves against stones.” [31] Now Critias bore a grudge against Socrates for this; and when he was one of the Thirty and was drafting laws with Charicles, he bore it in mind. He inserted a clause which made it illegal “to teach the art of words.” It was a calculated insult to Socrates, whom he saw no means of attacking, except by imputing to him the practice constantly attributed to philosophers,8 and so making him unpopular. For I myself never heard Socrates indulge in the practice, nor knew of anyone who professed to have heard him do so. The truth came out. [32] When the Thirty were putting to death many citizens of the highest respectability and were encouraging many in crime, Socrates had remarked: “It seems strange enough to me that a herdsman9 who lets his cattle decrease and go to the bad should not admit that he is a poor cowherd; but stranger still that a statesman when he causes the citizens to decrease and go to the bad, should feel no shame nor think himself a poor statesman.” [33] This remark was reported to Critias and Charicles, who sent for Socrates, showed him the law and forbade him to hold conversation with the young.

“May I question you,” asked Socrates, “in case I do not understand any point in your orders?”

“You may,” said they.

“Well now,” said he, [34] “I am ready to obey the laws. But lest I unwittingly transgress through ignorance, I want clear directions from you. Do you think that the art of words from which you bid me abstain is associated with sound or unsound reasoning? For if with sound, then clearly I must abstain from sound reasoning: but if with unsound, clearly I must try to reason soundly.” [35]

“Since you are ignorant, Socrates,” said Charicles in an angry tone, “we put our order into language easier to understand. You may not hold any converse whatever with the young.”

“Well then,” said Socrates, “that there may be no question raised about my obedience, please fix the age limit below which a man is to be accounted young.”

“So long,” replied Charicles, “as he is not permitted to sit in the Council, because as yet he lacks wisdom. You shall not converse with anyone who is under thirty.” [36]

“Suppose I want to buy something, am I not even then to ask the price if the seller is under thirty?”

“Oh yes,” answered Charicles, “you may in such cases. But the fact is, Socrates, you are in the habit of asking questions to which you know the answer: so that is what you are not to do.”

“Am I to give no answer, then, if a young man asks me something that I know? — for instance, ‘Where does Charicles live?’ or ‘Where is Critias?’”

“Oh yes,” answered Charicles, “you may, in such cases.” [37]

“But you see, Socrates,” explained Critias, “you will have to avoid your favourite topic, — the cobblers, builders and metal workers10; for it is already worn to rags by you in my opinion.”

“Then must I keep off the subjects of which these supply illustrations, Justice, Holiness, and so forth?”

“Indeed yes,” said Charicles, “and cowherds too: else you may find the cattle decrease.” [38]

Thus the truth was out: the remark about the cattle had been repeated to them: and it was this that made them angry with him.

So much, then, for the connexion of Critias with Socrates and their relation to each other. [39] I venture to lay it down that learners get nothing from a teacher with whom they are out of sympathy. Now, all the time that Critias and Alcibiades associated with Socrates they were out of sympathy with him, but from the very first their ambition was political advancement. For while they were still with him, they tried to converse, whenever possible, with prominent politicians. [40] Indeed, there is a story told of Alcibiades, that, when he was less than twenty years old, he had a talk about laws with Pericles, his guardian, the first citizen in the State. [41]

“Tell me, Pericles,” he said, “can you teach me what a law is?”

“Certainly,” he replied.

“Then pray teach me. For whenever I hear men praised for keeping the laws, it occurs to me that no one can really deserve that praise who does not know what a law is.” [42]

“Well, Alcibiades, there is no great difficulty about what you desire. You wish to know what a law is. Laws are all the rules approved and enacted by the majority in assembly, whereby they declare what ought and what ought not to be done.”

“Do they suppose it is right to do good or evil?”

“Good, of course, young man, — not evil.” [43]

“But if, as happens under an oligarchy, not the majority, but a minority meet and enact rules of conduct, what are these?”

“Whatsoever the sovereign power in the State, after deliberation, enacts and directs to be done is known as a law.”

“If, then, a despot, being the sovereign power, enacts what the citizens are to do, are his orders also a law?”

“Yes, whatever a despot as ruler enacts is also known as a law.” [44]

“But force, the negation of law, what is that, Pericles? Is it not the action of the stronger when he constrains the weaker to do whatever he chooses, not by persuasion, but by force?”

“That is my opinion.”

“Then whatever a despot by enactment constrains the citizens to do without persuasion, is the negation of law?”

“I think so: and I withdraw my answer that whatever a despot enacts without persuasion is a law.” [45]

“And when the minority passes enactments, not by persuading the majority, but through using its power, are we to call that force or not?”

“Everything, I think, that men constrain others to do ‘without persuasion,’ whether by enactment or not, is not law, but force.”

“It follows then, that whatever the assembled majority, through using its power over the owners of property, enacts without persuasion is not law, but force?” [46]

“Alcibiades,” said Pericles, “at your age, I may tell you, we, too, were very clever at this sort of thing. For the puzzles we thought about and exercised our wits on were just such as you seem to think about now.”

“Ah, Pericles,” cried Alcibiades, “if only I had known you intimately when you were at your cleverest in these things!” [47]

So soon, then, as they presumed themselves to be the superiors of the politicians, they no longer came near Socrates. For apart from their general want of sympathy with him, they resented being cross-examined about their errors when they came. Politics had brought them to Socrates, and for politics they left him. [48] But Criton was a true associate of Socrates, as were Chaerophon, Chaerecrates, Hermogenes, Simmias, Cebes, Phaedondas, and others who consorted with him not that they might shine in the courts or the assembly, but that they might become gentlemen, and be able to do their duty by house and household, and relatives and friends, and city and citizens. Of these not one, in his youth or old age, did evil or incurred censure. [49]

“But,” said his accuser, “Socrates taught sons to treat their fathers with contempt: he persuaded them that he made his companions wiser than their fathers: he said that the law allowed a son to put his father in prison if he convinced a jury that he was insane; and this was a proof that it was lawful for the wiser to keep the more ignorant in gaol.” [50] In reality Socrates held that, if you clap fetters on a man for his ignorance, you deserve to be kept in gaol yourself by those whose knowledge is greater than your own: and such reasoning led him frequently to consider the difference between Madness and Ignorance. That madmen should be kept in prison was expedient, he thought, both for themselves and for their friends: but those who are ignorant of what they ought to know deserve to learn from those who know it. [51]

“But,” said his accuser, “Socrates caused his companions to dishonour not only their fathers, but their other relations as well, by saying that invalids and litigants get benefit not from their relations, but from their doctor or their counsel. [52] Of friends too he said that their goodwill was worthless, unless they could combine with it some power to help one: only those deserved honour who knew what was the right thing to do, and could explain it. Thus by leading the young to think that he excelled in wisdom and in ability to make others wise, he had such an effect on his companions that no one counted for anything in their estimation in comparison with him.” [53] Now I know that he did use this language about fathers, relations and friends. And, what is more, he would say that so soon as the soul, the only seat of intelligence, is gone out of a man, even though he be our nearest and dearest, we carry out his body and hide it in the tomb. [54] Moreover, a man's dearest friend is himself: yet, even in his lifetime he removes or lets another remove from his body whatever is useless and unprofitable. He removes his own nails, hair, corns: he lets the surgeon cut and cauterize him, and, aches and pains notwithstanding, feels bound to thank and fee him for it. He spits out the saliva from his mouth as far away as he can, because to retain it doesn't help him, but harms him rather. [55]

Now in saying all this, he was not giving a lesson on “the duty of burying one's father alive, or making mincemeat of one's body”: he meant to show that unreason is unworth, and was urging the necessity of cultivating sound sense and usefulness, in order that he who would fain be valued by father or by brother or by anyone else may not rely on the bond of familiarity and neglect him, but may try to be useful to all those by whom he would be valued. [56]

Again, his accuser alleged that he selected from the most famous poets the most immoral passages, and used them as evidence in teaching his companions to be tyrants and malefactors: for example, Hesiod's line:

““No work is a disgrace, but idleness is a disgrace.”

Hes. WD 309
He was charged with explaining this line as an injunction to refrain from no work, dishonest or disgraceful, but to do anything for gain. [57] Now, though Socrates would fully agree that it is a benefit and a blessing to a man to be a worker, and a disadvantage and an evil to be an idler — that work, in fact, is a blessing, idleness an evil — “working,” “being a worker,” meant to him doing good work; but gambling and any occupation that is immoral and leads to loss he called idling. When thus interpreted there is nothing amiss with the line:

““No work is a disgrace, but idleness is a disgrace.”

Hes. WD 309
[58] Again, his accuser said that he often quoted the passage from Homer, showing how Odysseus:

““Whenever he found one that was a captain and a man of mark, stood by his side, and restrained him with gentle words: ‘Good sir, it is not seemly to affright thee like a coward, but do thou sit thyself and make all thy folk sit down...’ But whatever man of the people he saw and found him shouting, him he drove with his sceptre and chid him with loud words: ‘Good sir, sit still and hearken to the words of others that are thy betters: but thou art no warrior and a weakling, never reckoned whether in battle or in council.’”12

This passage, it was said, he explained to mean that the poet approved of chastising common and poor folk. [59] But Socrates never said that: indeed, on that view he would have thought himself worthy of chastisement. But what he did say was that those who render no service either by word or deed, who cannot help army or city or the people itself in time of need, ought to be stopped, even if they have riches in abundance, above all if they are insolent as well as inefficient. [60] But Socrates, at least, was just the opposite of all that: he showed himself to be one of the people and a friend of mankind. For although he had many eager disciples among citizens and strangers, yet he never exacted a fee for his society from one of them, but of his abundance he gave without stint to all. Some indeed, after getting from him a few trifles for nothing, became vendors of them at a great price to others, and showed none of his sympathy with the people, refusing to talk with those who had no money to give them.13 [61] But Socrates did far more to win respect for the State in the world at large than Lichas, whose services to Sparta have made his name immortal. For Lichas used to entertain the strangers staying at Sparta during the Feast of the Dancing Boys;14 but Socrates spent his life in lavishing his gifts and rendering the greatest services to all who cared to receive them. For he always made his associates better men before he parted with them.

Such was the character of Socrates. [62] To me he seemed to deserve honour rather than death at the hands of the State. And a consideration of his case in its legal aspect will confirm my opinion. Under the laws, death is the penalty inflicted on persons proved to be thieves, highwaymen, cutpurses, kidnappers, robbers of temples; and from such criminals no man was so widely separated as he. [63] Moreover, to the State he was never the cause of disaster in war, or strife or treason or any evil whatever. Again, in private life no man by him was ever deprived of good or involved in ill. [64] None of these crimes was ever so much as imputed to him. How then could he be guilty of the charges? For so far was he from “rejecting the gods,” as charged in the indictment, that no man was more conspicuous for his devotion to the service of the gods: so far from “corrupting the youth,” as his accuser actually charged against him, that if any among his companions had evil desires, he openly tried to reform them and exhorted them to desire the fairest and noblest virtue, by which men prosper in public life and in their homes. By this conduct did he not deserve high honour from the State? 3.

In order to support my opinion that he benefited his companions, alike by actions that revealed his own character and by his conversation, I will set down what I recollect of these.

First, then, for his attitude towards religion; his deeds and words were clearly in harmony with the answer given by the Priestess at Delphi to such questions as “What is my duty about sacrifice?” or about “cult of ancestors.” For the answer of the Priestess is, “Follow the custom of the State: that is the way to act piously.” And so Socrates acted himself and counselled others to act. To take any other course he considered presumption and folly. [2]

And again, when he prayed he asked simply for good gifts,15 “for the gods know best what things are good.” To pray for gold or silver or sovereignty or any other such thing, was just like praying for a gamble or a fight or anything of which the result is obviously uncertain. [3]

Though his sacrifices were humble, according to his means, he thought himself not a whit inferior to those who made frequent and magnificent sacrifices out of great possessions. The gods (he said) could not well delight more in great offerings than in small — for in that case must the gifts of the wicked often have found more favour in their sight than the gifts of the upright — and man would not find life worth having, if the gifts of the wicked were received with more favour by the gods than the gifts of the upright. No, the greater the piety of the giver, the greater (he thought) was the delight of the gods in the gift. He would quote with approval the line:

““According to thy power render sacrifice to the immortal gods,’

and he would add that in our treatment of friends and strangers, and in all our behaviour, it is a noble principle to render according to our power. [4] If ever any warning seemed to be given him from heaven, he would more easily have been persuaded to choose a blind guide who did not know the road in preference to one who could see and knew the way, than to disregard the admonition. All men, in fact, who flouted the warnings of the gods in their anxiety to avoid the censure of men, he denounced for their foolishness. He himself despised all human opinions in comparison with counsel given by the gods. [5]

He schooled his body and soul by following, a system which, in all human calculation, would give him a life of confidence and security, and would make it easy to meet his expenses. For he was so frugal that it is hardly possible to imagine a man doing so little work as not to earn enough to satisfy the needs of Socrates. He ate just sufficient food to make eating a pleasure, and he was so ready for his food that he found appetite the best sauce17: and any kind of drink he found pleasant, because he drank only when he was thirsty. [6] Whenever he accepted an invitation to dinner, he resisted without difficulty the common temptation to exceed the limit of satiety; and he advised those who could not do likewise to avoid appetizers that encouraged them to eat and drink what they did not want: for such trash was the ruin of stomach and brain and soul. [7] “I believe,” he said in jest, “it was by providing a feast of such things that Circe made swine; and it was partly by the prompting of Hermes,18 partly through his own self-restraint and avoidance of excessive indulgence in such things, that Odysseus was not turned into a pig.” [8] This was how he would talk on the subject, half joking, half in earnest.

Of sensual passion he would say: “Avoid it resolutely: it is not easy to control yourself once you meddle with that sort of thing.” Thus, on hearing that Critobulus had kissed Alcibiades' pretty boy, he put this question to Xenophon before Critobulus: [9] “Tell me, Xenophon, did you not suppose Critobulus to be a sober person, and by no means rash; prudent, and not thoughtless or adventurous?”

“Certainly,” said Xenophon.

“Then you are to look on him henceforth as utterly hot-headed and reckless: the man would do a somersault into a ring of knives; he would jump into fire.” [10]

“What on earth has he done to make you think so badly of him?” asked Xenophon.

“What has the man done? He dared to kiss Alcibiades' son, and the boy is very good-looking and attractive.”

“Oh, if that is the sort of adventure you mean, I think I might make that venture myself.”

“Poor fellow! [11] What do you think will happen to you through kissing a pretty face? Won't you lose your liberty in a trice and become a slave, begin spending large sums on harmful pleasures, have no time to give to anything fit for a gentleman, be forced to concern yourself with things that no madman even would care about?” [12]

“Heracles! what alarming power in a kiss!” cried Xenophon.

“What? Does that surprise you?” continued Socrates. “Don't you know that the scorpion, though smaller than a farthing, if it but fasten on the tongue, inflicts excruciating and maddening pain?”

“Yes, to be sure; for the scorpion injects something by its bite.” [13]

“And do you think, you foolish fellow, that the fair inject nothing when they kiss, just because you don't see it? Don't you know that this creature called ‘fair and young’ is more dangerous than the scorpion, seeing that it need not even come in contact, like the insect, but at any distance can inject a maddening poison into anyone who only looks at it?

“Maybe, too, the loves are called archers for this reason, that the fair can wound even at a distance.

“Nay, I advise you, Xenophon, as soon as you see a pretty face to take to your heels and fly: and you, Critobulus, I advise to spend a year abroad. It will certainly take you at least as long as that to recover from the bite.” [14]

Thus in the matter of carnal appetite, he held that those whose passions were not under complete control should limit themselves to such indulgence as the soul would reject unless the need of the body were pressing, and such as would do no harm when the need was there. As for his own conduct in this matter, it was evident that he had trained himself to avoid the fairest and most attractive more easily than others avoid the ugliest and most repulsive. [15] Concerning eating and drinking then and carnal indulgence such were his views, and he thought that a due portion of pleasure would be no more lacking to him than to those who give themselves much to these, and that much less trouble would fall to his lot. 4.

If any hold the opinion expressed in some written and spoken criticisms of Socrates that are based on inference, and think, that though he was consummate in exhorting men to virtue, he was an incompetent guide to it, let them consider not only the searching cross-examination with which he chastised those who thought themselves omniscient,19 but his daily talks with his familiar friends, and then judge whether he was capable of improving his companions. [2]

I will first state what I once heard him say about the godhead in conversation with Aristodemus the dwarf, as he was called. On learning that he was not known to sacrifice or pray or use divination, and actually made a mock of those who did so, he said: “Tell me, Aristodemus, do you admire any human beings for wisdom?”

“I do,” he answered. [3]

“Tell us their names.”

“In epic poetry Homer comes first, in my opinion; in dithyramb, Melanippides; in tragedy, Sophocles; in sculpture, Polycleitus; in painting, Zeuxis.” [4]

“Which, think you, deserve the greater admiration, the creators of phantoms without sense and motion, or the creators of living, intelligent, and active beings?”

“Oh, of living beings, by far, provided only they are created by design and not mere chance.”

“Suppose that it is impossible to guess the purpose of one creature's existence, and obvious that another's serves a useful end, which, in your judgment, is the work of chance, and which of design?”

“Presumably the creature that serves some useful end is the work of design.” [5]

“Do you not think then that he who created man from the beginning had some useful end in view when he endowed him with his several senses, giving eyes to see visible objects, ears to hear sounds? Would odours again be of any use to us had we not been endowed with nostrils? What perception should we have of sweet and bitter and all things pleasant to the palate had we no tongue in our mouth to discriminate between them? [6] Besides these, are there not other contrivances that look like the results of forethought? Thus the eyeballs, being weak, are set behind eyelids, that open like doors when we want to see, and close when we sleep: on the lids grow lashes through which the very winds filter harmlessly: above the eyes is a coping of brows that lets no drop of sweat from the head hurt them. The ears catch all sounds, but are never choked with them. Again, the incisors of all creatures are adapted for cutting, the molars for receiving food from them and grinding it. And again, the mouth, through which the food they want goes in, is set near the eyes and nostrils; but since what goes out is unpleasant, the ducts through which it passes are turned away and removed as far as possible from the organs of sense. With such signs of forethought in these arrangements, can you doubt whether they are the works of chance or design?”

“No, of course not. [7] When I regard them in this light they do look very like the handiwork of a wise and loving creator.”

“What of the natural desire to beget children, the mother's desire to rear her babe, the child's strong will to live and strong fear of death?”

“Undoubtedly these, too, look like the contrivances of one who deliberately willed the existence of living creatures.” [8]

“Do you think you have any wisdom yourself?”

“Oh! Ask me a question and judge from my answer.”

“And do you suppose that wisdom is nowhere else to be found, although you know that you have a mere speck of all the earth in your body and a mere drop of all the water, and that of all the other mighty elements you received, I suppose, just a scrap towards the fashioning of your body? But as for mind, which alone, it seems, is without mass, do you think that you snapped it up by a lucky accident, and that the orderly ranks of all these huge masses, infinite in number, are due, forsooth, to a sort of absurdity?” [9]

“Yes; for I don't see the master hand, whereas I see the makers of things in this world.”

“Neither do you see your own soul,20 which has the mastery of the body; so that, as far as that goes, you may say that you do nothing by design, but everything by chance.”

Here Aristodemus exclaimed: [10] “Really, Socrates, I don't despise the godhead. But I think it is too great to need my service.”

“Then the greater the power that deigns to serve you, the more honour it demands of you.” [11]

“I assure you, that if I believed that the gods pay any heed to man, I would not neglect them.”

“Then do you think them unheeding? In the first place, man is the only living creature that they have caused to stand upright; and the upright position gives him a wider range of vision in front and a better view of things above, and exposes him less to injury. Secondly, to grovelling creatures they have given feet that afford only the power of moving, whereas they have endowed man with hands, which are the instruments to which we chiefly owe our greater happiness. [12] Again, though all creatures have a tongue, the tongue of man alone has been formed by them to be capable of contact with different parts of the mouth, so as to enable us to articulate the voice and express all our wants to one another. Once more, for all other creatures they have prescribed a fixed season of sexual indulgence; in our case the only time limit they have set is old age. [13]

“Nor was the deity content to care for man's body. What is of yet higher moment, he has implanted in him the noblest type of soul. For in the first place what other creature's soul has apprehended the existence of gods who set in order the universe, greatest and fairest of things? And what race of living things other than man worships gods? And what soul is more apt than man's to make provision against hunger and thirst, cold and heat, to relieve sickness and promote health, to acquire knowledge by toil, and to remember accurately all that is heard, seen, or learned? [14] For is it not obvious to you that, in comparison with the other animals, men live like gods, by nature peerless both in body and in soul? For with a man's reason and the body of an ox we could not carry out our wishes, and the possession of hands without reason is of little worth. Do you, then, having received the two most precious gifts, yet think that the gods take no care of you? What are they to do, to make you believe that they are heedful of you?” [15]

“I will believe when they send counsellors, as you declare they do, saying, ‘Do this, avoid that.’”

“But when the Athenians inquire of them by divination and they reply, do you not suppose that to you, too, the answer is given? Or when they send portents for warning to the Greeks, or to all the world? Are you their one exception, the only one consigned to neglect? [16] Or do you suppose that the gods would have put into man a belief in their ability to help and harm, if they had not that power; and that man throughout the ages would never have detected the fraud? Do you not see that the wisest and most enduring of human institutions, cities and nations, are most god-fearing, and that the most thoughtful period of life is the most religious? [17] Be well assured, my good friend, that the mind within you directs your body according to its will; and equally you must think that Thought indwelling in the Universal disposes all things according to its pleasure. For think not that your eye can travel over many furlongs and yet god's eye cannot see the the whole world at once; that your soul can ponder on things in Egypt and in Sicily, and god's thought is not sufficient to pay heed to the whole world at once. [18] Nay, but just as by serving men you find out who is willing to serve you in return, by being kind who will be kind to you in return, and by taking counsel, discover the masters of thought, so try the gods by serving them, and see whether they will vouchsafe to counsel you in matters hidden from man. Then you will know that such is the greatness and such the nature of the deity that he sees all things21 and hears all things alike, and is present in all places and heedful of all things.” [19]

To me at least it seemed that by these sayings he kept his companions from impiety, injustice, and baseness, and that not only when they were seen by men, but even in solitude; since they ever felt that no deed of theirs could at any time escape the gods. 5.

But if Self-control too is a fair and noble possession, let us now consider whether he led men up to that virtue by discourse like the following:

“My friends, if we were at war and wanted to choose a leader most capable of helping us to save ourselves and conquer the enemy, should we choose one whom we knew to be the slave of the belly, or of wine, or lust, or sleep? How could we expect that such an one would either save us or defeat the enemy? [2] Or if at the end of our life we should wish to appoint a guardian to educate our boys or protect our girls or to take care of our goods, should we think a loose liver a trustworthy man to choose? Should we entrust live stock or storehouses or the management of works to a vicious slave? Should we be willing to take as a gift a page or an errandboy with such a character? [3] Surely then, if we should refuse a vicious slave, the master must look to it that he does not grow vicious himself? For whereas the covetous, by robbing other men of their goods, seem to enrich themselves, a vicious man reaps no advantage from the harm he does to others. If he is a worker of mischief to others, he brings much greater mischief on himself, if indeed the greatest mischief of all is to ruin not one's home merely, but the body and the soul. [4] In social intercourse what pleasure could you find in such a man, knowing that he prefers your sauces and your wines to your friends, and likes the women22 better than the company? Should not every man hold self-control to be the foundation of all virtue, and first lay this foundation firmly in his soul? [5] For who without this can learn any good or practise it worthily? Or what man that is the slave of his pleasures is not in an evil plight body and soul alike? From my heart I declare that every free man should pray not to have such a man among his slaves; and every man who is a slave to such pleasures should entreat the gods to give him good masters: thus, and only thus, may he find salvation.” [6]

Such were his words; but his own self-control was shown yet more clearly by his deeds than by his words. For he kept in subjection not only the pleasures of the body, but those too that money brings, in the belief that he who takes money from any casual giver puts himself under a master and endures the basest form of slavery. 6.

It is due to him that a conversation he had with Antiphon the Sophist should not go unrecorded. Antiphon came to Socrates with the intention of drawing his companions away from him, and spoke thus in their presence. [2]

Socrates, I supposed that philosophy must add to one's store of happiness. But the fruits you have reaped from philosophy are apparently very different. For example, you are living a life that would drive even a slave to desert his master. Your meat and drink are of the poorest: the cloak you wear is not only a poor thing, but is never changed summer or winter; and you never wear shoes or tunic. [3] Besides you refuse to take money, the mere getting of which is a joy, while its possession makes one more independent and happier. Now the professors of other subjects try to make their pupils copy their teachers: if you too intend to make your companions do that, you must consider yourself a professor of unhappiness.” [4]

To this Socrates replied:

“Antiphon, you seem to have a notion that my life is so miserable, that I feel sure you would choose death in preference to a life like mine. Come then, let us consider together what hardship you have noticed in my life. [5] Is it that those who take money are bound to carry out the work for which they get a fee, while I, because I refuse to take it, am not obliged to talk with anyone against my will? Or do you think my food poor because it is less wholesome than yours or less nourishing? or because my viands are harder to get than yours, being scarcer and more expensive? or because your diet is more enjoyable than mine? Do you not know that the greater the enjoyment of eating the less the need of sauce; the greater the enjoyment of drinking, the less the desire for drinks that are not available? [6] As for cloaks, they are changed, as you know, on account of cold or heat. And shoes are worn as a protection to the feet against pain and inconvenience in walking. Now did you ever know me to stay indoors more than others on account of the cold, or to fight with any man for the shade because of the heat, or to be prevented from walking anywhere by sore feet? [7] Do you not know that by training, a puny weakling comes to be better at any form of exercise he practises, and gets more staying power, than the muscular prodigy who neglects to train? Seeing then that I am always training my body to answer any and every call on its powers, do you not think that I can stand every strain better than you can without training? [8] For avoiding slavery to the belly or to sleep and incontinence, is there, think you, any more effective specific than the possession of other and greater pleasures, which are delightful not only to enjoy, but also because they arouse hopes of lasting benefit? And again, you surely know that while he who supposes that nothing goes well with him is unhappy, he who believes that he is successful in farming or a shipping concern or any other business he is engaged in is happy in the thought of his prosperity. [9] Do you think then that out of all this thinking there comes anything so pleasant as the thought: ‘I am growing in goodness and I am making better friends?’ And that, I may say, is my constant thought.

“Further, if help is wanted by friends or city, which of the two has more leisure to supply their needs, he who lives as I am living or he whose life you call happy? Which will find soldiering the easier task, he who cannot exist without expensive food or he who is content with what he can get? Which when besieged will surrender first, he who wants what is very hard to come by or he who can make shift with whatever is at hand? [10]

“You seem, Antiphon, to imagine that happiness consists in luxury and extravagance. But my belief is that to have no wants is divine;23 to have as few as possible comes next to the divine; and as that which is divine is supreme, so that which approaches nearest to its nature is nearest to the supreme.” [11]

In another conversation with Socrates Antiphon said:

Socrates, I for my part believe you to be a just, but by no means a wise man. And I think you realise it yourself. Anyhow, you decline to take money for your society. Yet if you believed your cloak or house or anything you possess to be worth money, you would not part with it for nothing or even for less than its value. [12] Clearly, then, if you set any value on your society, you would insist on getting the proper price for that too. It may well be that you are a just man because you do not cheat people through avarice; but wise you cannot be, since your knowledge is not worth anything.” [13]

To this Socrates replied:

“Antiphon, it is common opinion among us in regard to beauty and wisdom that there is an honourable and a shameful way of bestowing them. For to offer one's beauty for money to all comers is called prostitution; but we think it virtuous to become friendly with a lover who is known to be a man of honour. So is it with wisdom. Those who offer it to all comers for money are known as sophists, prostitutors of wisdom, but we think that he who makes a friend of one whom he knows to be gifted by nature, and teaches him all the good he can, fulfils the duty of a citizen and a gentleman. [14] That is my own view, Antiphon. Others have a fancy for a good horse or dog or bird: my fancy, stronger even than theirs, is for good friends. And I teach them all the good I can, and recommend them to others from whom I think they will get some moral benefit. And the treasures that the wise men of old have left us in their writings I open and explore with my friends. If we come on any good thing, we extract it, and we set much store on being useful to one another.”

For my part, when I heard these words fall from his lips, I judged him to be a happy man himself and to be putting his hearers in the way of being gentlemen. [15]

On yet another occasion Antiphon asked him: “How can you suppose that you make politicians of others, when you yourself avoid politics even if you understand them?”

“How now, Antiphon?” he retorted, “should I play a more important part in politics by engaging in them alone or by taking pains to turn out as many competent politicians as possible?” 7.

Let us next consider whether by discouraging imposture he encouraged his companions to cultivate virtue.24 For he always said that the best road to glory is the way that makes a man as good as he wishes to be thought. And this was how he demonstrated the truth of this saying: [2]

“Suppose a bad flute-player wants to be thought a good one, let us note what he must do. Must he not imitate good players in the accessories of the art? First, as they wear fine clothes and travel with many attendants, he must do the same. Further, seeing that they win the applause of crowds, he must provide himself with a large claque. But, of course, he must never accept an engagement, or he will promptly expose himself to ridicule as an incompetent player and an impostor to boot. And so, what with incurring heavy expense and gaining nothing, and bringing disgrace on himself as well, he will make his life burdensome, unprofitable and ridiculous. [3] So too if a man who is not a general or a pilot wanted to be thought a good one, let us imagine what would happen to him. If his efforts to seem proficient in these duties failed to carry conviction, would not his failure be galling to him? if they succeeded, would not his success be still more disastrous? for it is certain that if a man who knew nothing about piloting a ship or commanding an army were appointed to such work, he would lose those whom he least wanted to lose and would bring ruin and disgrace on himself.” [4]

By similar reasoning he would show how unprofitable is a reputation for wealth or courage or strength when it is undeserved. “Tasks beyond their powers,” he would say, “are laid on the incompetent, and no mercy is shown to them when they disappoint the expectation formed of their capability. [5] The man who persuades you to lend him money or goods and then keeps them is without doubt a rogue; but much the greatest rogue of all is the man who has gulled his city into the belief that he is fit to direct it.”

For my part I thought that such talks did discourage imposture among his companions.

1 That immanent ‘divine something,’ as Cicero terms it, which Socrates claimed as his peculiar possession.

2 Cyropaedia I. vi. 6.

3 IV. iii, 2; Cyropaedia I. vi. 46.

4 Cyropaedia I. vi. 17.

5 Cyropaedia I. iv. 21.

6 Cyropaedia VII. v. 75. Against Antisthenes.

7 IV. ii. 1.

8 i.e. the practice of “making the worse appear the better argument.” In Plato, Apol. 19b, Socrates makes Aristophanes (Clouds) author of this charge against him. Aristotle in the Rhetoric (B 24, 11) associates the practice with the name of Protagoras: cp. Diog. Laert. ix. 51.

9 Cyropaedia VIII. ii. 14.

10 Cyropaedia VI. ii. 37.

11 Hes. WD 309

12 Hom. Il. 2.188; Leaf's translation.

13 Aristippus especially is meant.

14 According to Eusebius this festival, which was held in the summer, was instituted in honour of the Spartans who fell fighting against the Argives for the possession of Thyrea.

15 Cyropaedia I. vi. 5.

16 Hes. WD 336

17 Cyropaedia I. v. 12.

18 In Odyssey, X. 281 f.

19 Sophists.

20 Cyropaedia VIII. Vii. 17.

21 Cyropaedia VIII. vii. 22.

22 Employed to entertain the guests at the banquet.

23 Cyropaedia VIII. iii. 40.

24 Cyropaedia I. vi. 22.

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