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Death of Socrates


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, he said, only, as I have always told you, I would have you look to yourselves; that is a service which you may be always 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.

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 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 have comforted you and myself, have had, as I perceive, no effect upon Crito. . . . Be of good cheer, my dear Crito, and say that you are burying my body only, and do with that as is usual, and as you think best. . . .

Crito then made a sign to the servant, who was standing by. 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 took it 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,1 as his manner was, Socrates 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 that other world — even so — and so be it according to my prayer. Then holding the cup to his lips, quite readily and cheerfully he drank off the poison.

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 friend. 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 in a loud and passionate cry which made cowards of us all. Socrates alone 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. After a time the man pressed his foot hard, and asked him if he could feel; and he said, No; and then his leg, and so upward and upward, 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 when he uncovered his face, for he had covered himself up, and said (they were his last words), Crito, I owe a cock to Asclepius1; 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, whom I may truly call the wisest, justest, and best of all the men whom I have ever known.

1 Plato, , 64, 66.

1 Throughout the dialogue Plato addresses his friend Echecrates, to whom he is relating the circumstances of the philosopher’s death.

1 The Greek god of healing.

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Chicago: Phœdo in Readings in Early European History, ed. Webster, Hutton (Boston: Ginn and Company, 1926), 127–128. Original Sources, accessed September 29, 2023,

MLA: . Phœdo, in Readings in Early European History, edited by Webster, Hutton, Boston, Ginn and Company, 1926, pp. 127–128. Original Sources. 29 Sep. 2023.

Harvard: , Phœdo. cited in 1926, Readings in Early European History, ed. , Ginn and Company, Boston, pp.127–128. Original Sources, retrieved 29 September 2023, from