Socrates Refuses to Flee Death
Fear not—there are persons who are willing to get you out of prison at no great cost.
The informers are far from being exorbitant in their demands—a little money will satisfy them.
My means are certainly ample. They are at your service. If you have a scruple about spending all mine, here are foreigners who will give you the use of theirs.
One of them, Simmias the Theban, has brought a large sum of money for this very purpose.
Cebes and many others are prepared to spend their money in helping you to escape.
Do not hesitate on our account, and do not say, as you did in the court that you will have a difficulty in knowing what to do with yourself anywhere else.
Men will love you in other places to which you may go, and not in Athens only.
I have friends in Thessaly who will value and protect you. No Thessalian will give you any trouble.
Nor can I think that you are at all justified, Socrates, in betraying your own life when you might be saved; in acting thus you are playing into the hands of your enemies, who are hurrying on your destruction.
You are deserting your own children. You might bring them up and educate them; instead of which you go away and leave them, and they will have to take their chance; and if they do not meet with the usual fate of orphans, there will be small thanks to you.
No man should bring children into the world who is unwilling to persevere to the end in their nurture and education.
But you appear to be choosing the easier part, not the better and manlier, which would have been more becoming in one who professes to care for virtue in all his actions, like yourself.
I am ashamed not only of you, but of us who are your friends, when I reflect that the whole business will be attributed entirely to our want of courage.
The trial need never have come on, or might have been managed differently; and this last act, or crowning folly, will seem to have occurred through our negligence and cowardice, who might have saved you, if we had been good for anything; and you might have saved yourself, for there was no difficulty at all.
See now, Socrates, how sad and discreditable are the consequences, both to us and you. Make up your mind then, or rather have your mind already made up, for the time of deliberation is over.
There is only one thing to be done, which must be done this very night, and, if we delay at all, will be no longer practicable or possible; I beseech you therefore, Socrates, be persuaded by me, and do as I say.
Dear Crito, your zeal is invaluable if it correct. But if it is wrong, the greater the zeal the greater the danger.
For I am and always have been one of those natures who must be guided by reason, whatever the reason may be which upon reflection appears to me to be the best.
; and now that this chance has befallen me, I cannot repudiate my own words: the principles which I have hitherto honoured and revered I still honour, and unless we can at once find other and better principles, I am certain not to agree with you.
; no, not even if the power of the multitude could inflict many more imprisonments, confiscations, deaths, frightening us like children with hobgoblin terrors. 5
That is what I want to consider with your help, Crito:—whether, under my present circumstances, the argument appears to be in any way different or not; and is to be allowed by me or disallowed. That argument, which, as I believe, is maintained by many persons of authority, was to the effect, as I was saying, that the opinions of some men are to be regarded, and of other men not to be regarded.
Now you, Crito, are not going to die tomorrow. Therefore you are disinterested and not liable to be deceived by the circumstances in which you are placed.
Good opinions of the wise are to be valued. Bad opinions of the unwise should not valued.
The serious gymnastics student should attend to the praise and blame and opinion of his physician or trainer, and not that of everyone.
He should fear the censure and welcome the praise of that one only, and not of the many.
He should act and train, and eat and drink in the way which seems good to his single master who has understanding, rather than according to the opinion of all other men put together.
If he disobeys and disregards the opinion and approval of the one, and regards the opinion of the many who have no understanding, he will suffer evil.
What will the evil be, whither tending and what affecting, in the disobedient person?
This is true of other things which we need not separately enumerate.
In questions of just and unjust, fair and foul, good and evil, which are the subjects of our present consultation, ought we to follow the opinion of the many and to fear them; or the opinion of the one man who has understanding?
We should fear and revere him more than all the rest of the world.
If we desert him, we destroy and injure that principle in us which may be assumed to be improved by justice and deteriorated by injustice.
Take a parallel instance:—if, acting under the advice of those who have no understanding, we destroy that which is improved by health and is deteriorated by disease, would life be worth having?
The body would be destroyed. We cannot live with an evil and corrupted body.
Life will not be worth having if that higher part of man be destroyed, which is improved by justice and depraved by injustice.
That principle, whatever it may be in man, which has to do with justice and injustice, is superior and far more honourable than the body.
Then, we must not regard what the many say of us; but what he, the one man who has understanding of just and unjust, will say, and what the truth will say. And therefore you begin in error when you advise that we should regard the opinion of the many about just and unjust, good and evil, honourable and dishonourable.—‘Well,’ someone will say, ‘but the many can kill us.’
But still I find with surprise that the old argument is unshaken as ever.
A good life, is to be chiefly valued. A good life is equivalent to a just and honourable life.
From these premises I proceed to argue the question whether I ought or ought not to try and escape without the consent of the Athenians: and if I am clearly right in escaping, then I will make the attempt; but if not, I will abstain.
The other considerations which you mention, of money and loss of character and the duty of educating one’s children, are, I fear, only the doctrines of the multitude, who would be as ready to restore people to life, if they were able, as they are to put them to death—and with as little reason.
But now, since the argument has thus far prevailed, the only question which remains to be considered is whether we shall do rightly either in escaping or in suffering others to aid in our escape and paying them in money and thanks, or whether in reality we shall not do rightly;
If the latter, then death or any other calamity which may ensue on my remaining here must not be allowed to enter into the calculation.