Thomas Taylor's Translation Benjamin Jowett's Translation Henry Cary's Translation
"I am desirous of rendering to you, as my judges, the reason, as it appears to me, why a man who has truly passed his life in the exercise of philosophy should with great propriety be confident when about to die, and should possxess good hopes of obtaining the greatest advantages of death; and in what manner this takes place I will endeavor, Simmias and Cebes, to explain:

Those who are conversant with philosophy in a proper manner, seem to have concealed from others that the whole of their study is nothing else than how to die and be dead. If this then is true, it would certainly be absurd, that those who have made this alone their study through the whole of life, should when it arrives be afflected at a circumstance upon which they have before bestowed all their attention and labour. But here Simmias laughing, By Jupiter (says he), Socrates, you cause me to laugh, though I am very fra from desiring to do so at present; for I think that the multitude, if they heard this, would consider it as well said respecting philosophers; and that men of the present day would perfectly agree with you, that philosophers should in reality desire death, and that they are by no means ignorant that men of thid description deserve to suffer death. And indeed, Simmias, they would speak the truth, except in asserting that they are not ignorant of it: for both the manner in which true philosopheers desire to die, and how they are worthy of death, is concealed from them. But let us bid farewell to such as these (says he), and discourse among ourselves; and to begin, Do you think that death is any thing? Simmias replied, Entirely so.

Is it any thing else than a liberation of soul from body? and is not this to die, for the body to be liberated from the soul, and to subsist apart by itself? and likewise for the soul to be liberated from the body, and to be essentially separate? Is death any thing else but this?

It is no other (says Simmias)
Consider then, excellent man, whether the same things appear to you as to me; for from hence I think we shall understand better the subjects of our investigation. Does it appear to you that the philosopher is a man who is anxiously concerned about things which are called pleasures, such as meats and drinks?-

In the smallest degree, Socrates (says Simmias).

But what, is he sedulously employed in venereal concerns?-

By no means.

Of does such a man appear to you to esteem other particulars which regard the observance of the body, such as the acqui- sition of excellent garments and sandals, and other orna- ments of the body? whether does he appear to you to esteem or despise such partic- ulars, employing them only in so far as an abundant necessity requires?

A true philosopher (says Simmias) appears to me to be one who will despise every thing of this kind.

Does it, therefore, appear to you (says Socrates), that the whole employment of such a one will not consist in things which regard the body, but in separating himself from the body as much as possible, and in converting himself to his soul?

It does appear to to me.

Is it not, therefore, first of all evident, in things of this kind, that a philosopher, in a manner far surpassing other men, separates his soul in the highest degree from communion with the body?

It appears so.

And to the many, O Simmias, it appears that he who accounts nothing of this kind pleasant, and who does not partake of them is not worthy to live; but that he nearly approaches to death who is not concerned about the pleasures which subsist through the body.

You entirely speak the truth.

But what with respect to teh acquisition of wisdom? Is the body an impediment or not, if any one associates it in the investigation of wisdom? What I mean is the: Have sight and hearing in many any truth? or is the case such as the poets perpetually sing, that

'We nothing accurate
or see or hear?'

Though if these corporeal senses are neither accurate nor clear, by no means can the rest be so: for all the others are in a certain respect more depraved than these.

Entirely so, says he.

When then does the soul touch upon the truth? for, when it endeavours to consider any thing in conjunction with the body, it is evidently then deceived by the body.

You speak the truth.

Must not, therefore, something of reality become manifest to the soul, in the energy of reasoning, if this is ever the case?

It must.

But the soul then reasons in the most beautiful manner, when it is distrubed by nothing belonging to the body, neither by hearing, nor sight, nor pain, nor any pleasure, but subsists in the most eminent degree, itself by itself, bidding farewell to the body, and, as much as possible neither communi- cating nor being in contact with it, extends itself towards real being.

These things are so.

Does not the soul of a philosopher, therefore, in these employments, despise the body in the most eminent degree, and flying from it, seek to become essentially subsisting by itself?

It appears so.

But what shall we say, Simmias, about such things as the following? Do we say that the just itself is something or nothing?

By Jupiter, we say it is something.

And do we not also say, that the beautiful and the good are each of them something?

How is it possible that we should not?

But did you ever at any time behold any one of these with your eyes?

By no means, says he.

But did you ever touch upon these with any other corporeal sense? (but I speak concerning all of them; as for instance, about magnitude, health, strength, and, in one word, about the essence of all the rest, and which each truly possesses.) Is then the most true nature of these perceived through the ministry of the body? or rather shall we not say, that whoever among us prepares himself to think dianoetically in the most eminent and accurate manner about each particultar object of his speculation, such a one will accede the nearest possible to the knowledge of each?

Entirely so.

Will not he, therefore, accomplish this in dthe most pure manner, who in the highest degree betakes himself to each through his dianoetic energy, nor attracting any other sense, together with his reasoning; but who, exercising a dianoetic energy by itself sincere, at the same time endeavours to hunt after every thing which has true being subsisting by itself separate and pure; and who in the most eminent degree is liberated from the eyes and ears, and in short from the whole body, as disturbing the soul, and not suffering it to acquire truth and wisdom by its conjunction? Will not such a man, Simmias, procure for himself real being, if this can every be asserted of any one?

You speak the truth, Socrates (says Simmias), in a transcendent manner.

Is it not necessary, therefore (says Socrates), from hence, that an opinion of this kind should be present with genuine philosophers in such a manner, that they will speak among themselves as follows: In the consideration of things, this opinion, like a certain path, leads us in conjunction with reason from the vulgar track, that, as long as we are connected with a body, and our soul is contaminated with such an evil, we can never sufficiently obtain the object of our desire; and this object we have asserted to be truth? For the body subjects us to innumerable occupations through necessary aliment, and fills us with love, desire, fear, all various images, and a multitude of trifling concerns; not to mention that, if we are invaded by certain diseases, we are hindered by them in our hunting after real being; so that, as it is said, we can never truly, and in reality, acquire wisdom through the body. For nothing else but the body and its desires cause wars, seditions, and contests, of every kind: for all wars arise through the possession of wealth; and we are compelled to acquire riches through the body, becoming subservient to its cultivation; so that on all these accounts we have no leisure for the exercise of philosophy. But this is the extremity of all evils, that if at any time we are at leisure from its attendance, and betake ourselves to the speculation of any thing, then invading us on all sides in our investigations, it causes agitations and tumults, and so vehemently impels us, that we are not able through its presense to perceive the truth; but it is in reality demonstrated to us, that, if we are designed to know any thing purely, we must be liberated from the body, and behold things with the soul itself. And then, as it appears, we shall obtain the object of our desire, and of which we profess ourselves lovers, viz. wisdom, when we are dead, as our discourse evinces; but by no means while we are alive; for, if we can know nothing purely in conjunction with the body, one of these two consequences must ensue, either that we can never possess knowledge, or that we must obtain it after death; for then the soul will subsist apart by itself, separate from the body, but never before this takes place; and while we live in the body, as it appears, we shall approach in the nearest manner possible to knowledge, if in the most eminent degree we have no association with the body, nor any communication with it (except what the greatest necessity requires), nor are filled with its nature, but purify ourselves from its defiling connection, till Divinity itself dissolves our bonds. And thus being pure, and liberated from the madness of body, it is proper to believe that we shall then associate with others who are similarly pure, and shall through ourselves know every thing genuine and sincere; and this perhaps is the truth itself; for it is by no means lawful that the pure should be touched by that which is impure. And such, O Simmias, in my opinion, ought to be the discourse and sentiments of all such as are lovers of learning in a proper manner. Or does it not seem so to you?

It does, Socrates, more so than any thing.

If all this then (says Socrates) is true, my friend, much hope remains for him who arrives at that place to which I am now departing, that he shall there, if every any where, sufficiently obtain that for the sake of which we take so much pains in the present life: so that the journey which is no assigned me will be accompanied with good hope; as will likewise be the case with any other man who thinks that he ought to prepare his dianoetic part in such a manner that it may become as it were pure.

Entirely so (says Simmias).

But does not purification consist in this, as we formerly asserted in our discourse: I mean, in separating the soul from the body in the most eminent degree, and in accustoming it to call together and collect itself essentially on all sides from the body, and to dwell as much as possible, both now and hereafter, along by itself, becoming by this means liberated from the body as from detaining bonds?

Entirely so (says he).

Is not death called a solution and separation of the soul from body?

Perfectly so (says he).

But those alone who philosophize rightly, as we have said, always and especially providentially attend to the solution of the soul: and this is the meditation of philosophers, a solution and separation of the soul from the body; or do you not think so?

I do.

Would it not, therefore, as I said at first, be ridiculous for a man who has so prepared himself in the present life as to approach very near to death, to live indeed in the manner we have described, and yet, when death arrives, be afflicted? would not this be ridiculous?

How indeed should it not?

In reality, therefore (says he), O Simmias, those who philosophize rightly will meditate how to die; and to be dead will be to them of all men a thing the least terrible. But from hence consider as follows: for, if they are on all sides enemies to the body, but desire to possess the soul subsisting by itself, would it not be very irrational for them to be terrified and troubled when death approaches, and to be unwilling to depart to that place, where when they have arrived they may hope to enjoy that which they were lovers of in the present life (but they were lovers of wisdom), and to be liberated from the association of that nature to which they were always inimical? Or do you think it possible, that many should be willing, of their own accord, to descend into Hades, allured by the hope of seeing and conversing with departed beautiful youths, wives and children whom they have loved; and that the true lover of wisdom, who has exceedingly nourished this hope, that he shall never possess wisdom as he ought any where but in Hades, should be affliced when dying, and should not depart thither with readiness and delight? For it is necessary, my friend, to think in this manner of one who is a true philosopher; since such a one is very much of opinion, that he shall never any where, but in that place, acquire the possession of wisdom with purity; and if this be the case would it not be very irrational, as we just now said, for a man of this kind to be terrified at death?

Very much so, by Jupiter, says he.

This then will be an argument sufficient to convince you, that he whom you behold afflicted, when about to die, is not a philosopher, but a lover of body: and this same person is a lover of riches and honours, either desiring the possession of one or these, or of both.

The case is entirely so, (says he) as you represent it.

Does not then, O Simmias, that which is called fortitude eminently belong to such as are thus disposed?

Entirely so, (says he).

Doe not temperance also, which even the multitude thus denominate as a virtue, through which we are not agitatee by desires, but regard them with moderation and contempt; does it now, I say, belong to those only who despise the body in the most eminent degree, and live in the exercise of philosophy?

It is necessary, says he.

For, if you are willing (says Socrates) to consider the fortitude and temperance of others, they will appear to you to be absurdities.

But how, Socrates?

You know (says he) that all others look upon death as the greatest of evils.

In the highest degree so, says he.

Those who are bold, therefore, among these, sustain death when they do sustain it, through the dread of greater evils.

They do so.

All men, therefore, except philosophers, are bold through fearing and dread, though it is absurd that any one should be bold through fear and cowardice.

Entirely so.

But what, are not the moderate among these affected in the same manner? and are they not temperate by a certain intemperance? Though this is in a certain respect impossible, yet a passion similar to this happens to them with respect to this foolish temperance: for, fearing to be deprived of other pleasures which at the same time they desire, they abstain from others, by others being vanquished. And though they call intemperance a subjection to pleasures; yet at the same time it happens to them, that, being vanquished by certain pleasures, they rule over others; and this is similar to what I just now said, that after a certain manner they become temperate through intemperance.

It seems so, indeed.

But, O blessed Simmias, this is by no means the right road to virtue, to change pleasures for pleasures, pains for pains, fear for fear, and the greater for the lesser, like pieces of money: but that alone is the proper coin, I mean wisdom, for which all these ought to be changed. And indeed, for the same of this, and with this every thing must in reality be bought and sold, both fortitude and temperance, justice, and, in one word, true virtue, which subsists with wisdom, whether pleasures and pains, and every thing else of this kind, are present or absent: but if these are separated from wisdom, and changed from one another, such virtue does not merit to be called even a shadowy description, but is in reality servile, and possesses nothing salutary and true. But that which is in reality true virtue is a purification from every thing of this kind; and temperance and justice, fortitude, and prudence itself, are each of them a certain purification. And those who instituted the mysteries for us appear to have been by no means contemptible persons, but to have really signified formerly, in an obscure manner, that whoever descended into Hades uninitiated, and without being a partaker of the mysteries, should be plunged into mire; but that whoever arrived thee, purified and initiated, should dwell with the Gods. For, as it is said by dhose who write about the mysteries,

'The thrysus-bearers numerous are seen,
But few the Bacchuses have always been."

These few are, in my opinion, no other than those who philosophize rightly; and that I may be ranked in that number of these, I shall leave nothing unattempted, but exert myself in all possible ways. But whether or not my exertions will be properly directed, and whether I shall accomplish any thing when I arrive thither, I shall clearly know, very shortly, if Divinity pleases, as it appears to me. And this (says he), Simmias and Cebes, is my apology, why upon leaving you, and the rulers of the prsent life, I ought not to be afflicted and indignant, since I am persuaded that I shall there meet with masters and companions not less good than such as are here. This indeed is incredible to many; but if my apology shall have more influence with you than with the judges of the Athenians, it will have a good effect."
And now I will make answer to you, O my judges, and show that he who has lived as a true philosopher has reason to be of good cheer when he is about to die, and that after death he may hope to receive the greatest good in the other world. And how this may be, Simmias and Cebes, I will endeavor to explain.

For I deem that the true disciple of philosophy is likely to be misunderstood by other men; they do not perceive that he is ever pursuing death and dying; and if this is true, why, having had the desire of death all his life long, should he repine at the arrival of that which he has been always pursuing and desiring?

Simmias laughed and said: Though not in a laughing humor, I swear that I cannot help laughing when I think what the wicked world will say when they hear this. They will say that this is very true, and our people at home will agree with them in saying that the life which philosophers desire is truly death, and that they have found them out to be deserving of the death which they desire.

And they are right, Simmias, in saying this, with the exception of the words "They have found them out"; for they have not found out what is the nature of this death which the true philosopher desires, or how he deserves or desires death. But let us leave them and have a word with ourselves: Do we believe that there is such a thing as death?

To be sure, replied Simmias.

And is this anything but the separation of soul and body? And being dead is the attainment of this separation; when the soul exists in herself, and is parted from the body and the body is parted from the soul-that is death?

Exactly: that and nothing else, he replied.

And what do you say of another question, my friend, about which I should like to have your opinion, and the answer to which will probably throw light on our present inquiry: Do you think that the philosopher ought to care about the pleasures-if they are to be called pleasures-of eating and drinking?

Certainly not, answered Simmias.

And what do you say of the pleasures of love-should he care about them?

By no means.

And will he think much of the other ways of indulging the body-for example, the acquisition of costly raiment, or sandals, or other adornments of the body? Instead of caring about them, does he not rather despise anything more than nature needs? What do you say?

I should say the true philosopher would despise them.

Would you not say that he is entirely concerned with the soul and not with the body? He would like, as far as he can, to be quit of the body and turn to the soul.

That is true.

In matters of this sort philosophers, above all other men, may be observed in every sort of way to dissever the soul from the body.

That is true.

Whereas, Simmias, the rest of the world are of opinion that a life which has no bodily pleasures and no part in them is not worth having; but that he who thinks nothing of bodily pleasures is almost as though he were dead.

That is quite true.

What again shall we say of the actual acquirement of knowledge?-is the body, if invited to share in the inquiry, a hinderer or a helper? I mean to say, have sight and hearing any truth in them? Are they not, as the poets are always telling us, inaccurate witnesses? and yet, if even they are inaccurate and indistinct, what is to be said of the other senses?-for you will allow that they are the best of them?

Certainly, he replied.

Then when does the soul attain truth?-for in attempting to consider anything in company with the body she is obviously deceived.

Yes, that is true.

Then must not existence be revealed to her in thought, if at all?


And thought is best when the mind is gathered into herself and none of these things trouble her-neither sounds nor sights nor pain nor any pleasure-when she has as little as possible to do with the body, and has no bodily sense or feeling, but is aspiring after being?

That is true.

And in this the philosopher dishonors the body; his soul runs away from the body and desires to be alone and by herself?

That is true.

Well, but there is another thing, Simmias: Is there or is there not an absolute justice?

Assuredly there is.

And an absolute beauty and absolute good?

Of course.

But did you ever behold any of them with your eyes?

Certainly not.

Or did you ever reach them with any other bodily sense? (and I speak not of these alone, but of absolute greatness, and health, and strength, and of the essence or true nature of everything). Has the reality of them ever been perceived by you through the bodily organs? or rather, is not the nearest approach to the knowledge of their several natures made by him who so orders his intellectual vision as to have the most exact conception of the essence of that which he considers?


And he attains to the knowledge of them in their highest purity who goes to each of them with the mind alone, not allowing when in the act of thought the intrusion or introduction of sight or any other sense in the company of reason, but with the very light of the mind in her clearness penetrates into the very fight of truth in each; he has got rid, as far as he can, of eyes and ears and of the whole body, which he conceives of only as a disturbing element, hindering the soul from the acquisition of knowledge when in company with her-is not this the sort of man who, if ever man did, is likely to attain the knowledge of existence?

There is admirable truth in that, Socrates, replied Simmias.

And when they consider all this, must not true philosophers make a reflection, of which they will speak to one another in such words as these: We have found, they will say, a path of speculation which seems to bring us and the argument to the conclusion that while we are in the body, and while the soul is mingled with this mass of evil, our desire will not be satisfied, and our desire is of the truth. For the body is a source of endless trouble to us by reason of the mere requirement of food; and also is liable to diseases which overtake and impede us in the search after truth: and by filling us so full of loves, and lusts, and fears, and fancies, and idols, and every sort of folly, prevents our ever having, as people say, so much as a thought.

For whence come wars, and fightings, and factions? whence but from the body and the lusts of the body? For wars are occasioned by the love of money, and money has to be acquired for the sake and in the service of the body; and in consequence of all these things the time which ought to be given to philosophy is lost.

Moreover, if there is time and an inclination toward philosophy, yet the body introduces a turmoil and confusion and fear into the course of speculation, and hinders us from seeing the truth: and all experience shows that if we would have pure knowledge of anything we must be quit of the body, and the soul in herself must behold all things in themselves: then I suppose that we shall attain that which we desire, and of which we say that we are lovers, and that is wisdom, not while we live, but after death, as the argument shows; for if while in company with the body the soul cannot have pure knowledge, one of two things seems to follow-either knowledge is not to be attained at all, or, if at all, after death.

For then, and not till then, the soul will be in herself alone and without the body. In this present life, I reckon that we make the nearest approach to knowledge when we have the least possible concern or interest in the body, and are not saturated with the bodily nature, but remain pure until the hour when God himself is pleased to release us. And then the foolishness of the body will be cleared away and we shall be pure and hold converse with other pure souls, and know of ourselves the clear light everywhere; and this is surely the light of truth. For no impure thing is allowed to approach the pure. These are the sort of words, Simmias, which the true lovers of wisdom cannot help saying to one another, and thinking. You will agree with me in that?

Certainly, Socrates.

But if this is true, O my friend, then there is great hope that, going whither I go, I shall there be satisfied with that which has been the chief concern of you and me in our past lives. And now that the hour of departure is appointed to me, this is the hope with which I depart, and not I only, but every man who believes that he has his mind purified.

Certainly, replied Simmias.

And what is purification but the separation of the soul from the body, as I was saying before; the habit of the soul gathering and collecting herself into herself, out of all the courses of the body; the dwelling in her own place alone, as in another life, so also in this, as far as she can; the release of the soul from the chains of the body?

Very true, he said.

And what is that which is termed death, but this very separation and release of the soul from the body?

To be sure, he said.

And the true philosophers, and they only, study and are eager to release the soul. Is not the separation and release of the soul from the body their especial study?

That is true.

And as I was saying at first, there would be a ridiculous contradiction in men studying to live as nearly as they can in a state of death, and yet repining when death comes.


Then, Simmias, as the true philosophers are ever studying death, to them, of all men, death is the least terrible. Look at the matter in this way: how inconsistent of them to have been always enemies of the body, and wanting to have the soul alone, and when this is granted to them, to be trembling and repining; instead of rejoicing at their departing to that place where, when they arrive, they hope to gain that which in life they loved (and this was wisdom), and at the same time to be rid of the company of their enemy. Many a man has been willing to go to the world below in the hope of seeing there an earthly love, or wife, or son, and conversing with them. And will he who is a true lover of wisdom, and is persuaded in like manner that only in the world below he can worthily enjoy her, still repine at death? Will he not depart with joy? Surely he will, my friend, if he be a true philosopher. For he will have a firm conviction that there only, and nowhere else, he can find wisdom in her purity. And if this be true, he would be very absurd, as I was saying, if he were to fear death.

He would, indeed, replied Simmias.

And when you see a man who is repining at the approach of death, is not his reluctance a sufficient proof that he is not a lover of wisdom, but a lover of the body, and probably at the same time a lover of either money or power, or both?

That is very true, he replied.

There is a virtue, Simmias, which is named courage. Is not that a special attribute of the philosopher?


Again, there is temperance. Is not the calm, and control, and disdain of the passions which even the many call temperance, a quality belonging only to those who despise the body and live in philosophy?

That is not to be denied.

For the courage and temperance of other men, if you will consider them, are really a contradiction.

How is that, Socrates?

Well, he said, you are aware that death is regarded by men in general as a great evil.

That is true, he said.

And do not courageous men endure death because they are afraid of yet greater evils?

That is true.

Then all but the philosophers are courageous only from fear, and because they are afraid; and yet that a man should be courageous from fear, and because he is a coward, is surely a strange thing.

Very true.

And are not the temperate exactly in the same case? They are temperate because they are intemperate-which may seem to be a contradiction, but is nevertheless the sort of thing which happens with this foolish temperance. For there are pleasures which they must have, and are afraid of losing; and therefore they abstain from one class of pleasures because they are overcome by another: and whereas intemperance is defined as "being under the dominion of pleasure," they overcome only because they are overcome by pleasure. And that is what I mean by saying that they are temperate through intemperance.

That appears to be true.

Yet the exchange of one fear or pleasure or pain for another fear or pleasure or pain, which are measured like coins, the greater with the less, is not the exchange of virtue. O my dear Simmias, is there not one true coin for which all things ought to exchange?-and that is wisdom; and only in exchange for this, and in company with this, is anything truly bought or sold, whether courage or temperance or justice. And is not all true virtue the companion of wisdom, no matter what fears or pleasures or other similar goods or evils may or may not attend her? But the virtue which is made up of these goods, when they are severed from wisdom and exchanged with one another, is a shadow of virtue only, nor is there any freedom or health or truth in her; but in the true exchange there is a purging away of all these things, and temperance, and justice, and courage, and wisdom herself are a purgation of them.

And I conceive that the founders of the mysteries had a real meaning and were not mere triflers when they intimated in a figure long ago that he who passes unsanctified and uninitiated into the world below will live in a slough, but that he who arrives there after initiation and purification will dwell with the gods. For "many," as they say in the mysteries, "are the thyrsus bearers, but few are the mystics,"-meaning, as I interpret the words, the true philosophers.

In the number of whom I have been seeking, according to my ability, to find a place during my whole life; whether I have sought in a right way or not, and whether I have succeeded or not, I shall truly know in a little while, if God will, when I myself arrive in the other world: that is my belief.

And now, Simmias and Cebes, I have answered those who charge me with not grieving or repining at parting from you and my masters in this world; and I am right in not repining, for I believe that I shall find other masters and friends who are as good in the world below. But all men cannot believe this, and I shall be glad if my words have any more success with you than with the judges of the Athenians.

But now I wish to render an account to you, my judges, of the reason why a man who has really devoted his life to philosophy, when he is about to die, appears to me, on good grounds, to have confidence, and to entertain a firm hope that the greatest good will befall him in the other world when he has departed this life.  How, then, this comes to pass, Simmias and Cebes, I will endeavor to explain.”

“For as many as rightly apply themselves to philosophy seem to have left all others in ignorance, that they aim at nothing else than to die and be dead.  If this, then, is true, it would surely be absurd to be anxious about nothing else than this during their whole life, but, when it arrives, to be grieved at what they have been long anxious about and aimed at.”

22.  Upon this, Simmias, smiling, said, “By Jupiter!  Socrates, though I am not now at all inclined to smile, you have made me do so; for I think that the multitude, if they heard this, would think it was very well said in reference to philosophers, and that our countrymen particularly would agree with you, that true philosophers do desire death, and that they are by no means ignorant that they deserve to suffer it.”

“And, indeed, Simmias, they would speak the truth, except in asserting that they are not ignorant; for they are ignorant of the sense in which true philosophers desire to die, and in what sense they deserve death, and what kind of death.  But,” he said, “let us take leave of them, and speak to one another.  Do we think that death is any thing?”

“Certainly,” replied Simmias.

23.  “Is it any thing else than the separation of the soul from the body?  And is not this to die, for the body to be apart by itself separated from the soul, and for the soul to subsist apart by itself separated from the body?  Is death any thing else than this?”

“No, but this,” he replied.

“Consider, then, my good friend, whether you are of the same opinion as I; for thus, I think, we shall understand better the subject we are considering.  Does it appear to you to be becoming in a philosopher to be anxious about pleasures, as they are called, such as meats and drinks?”

“By no means, Socrates,” said Simmias.

“But what? about the pleasures of love?”

“Not at all.”

24.  “What, then?  Does such a man appear to you to think other bodily indulgences of value?  For instance, does he seem to you to value or despise the possession of magnificent garments and sandals, and other ornaments of the body except so far as necessity compels him to use them?”

“The true philosopher,” he answered, “appears to me to despise them.”

“Does not, then,” he continued, “the whole employment of such a man appear to you to be, not about the body, but to separate himself from it as much as possible, and be occupied about his soul?”

“It does.”

“First of all, then, in such matters, does not the philosopher, above all other men, evidently free his soul as much as he can from communion with the body?”

“It appears so.”

25.  “And it appears, Simmias, to the generality of men, that he who takes no pleasure in such things, and who does not use them, does not deserve to live; but that he nearly approaches to death who cares nothing for the pleasures that subsist through the body.”

“You speak very truly.”

“But what with respect to the acquisition of wisdom?  Is the body an impediment, or not, if any one takes it with him as a partner in the search?  What I mean is this:  Do sight and hearing convey any truth to men, or are they such as the poets constantly sing, who say that we neither hear nor see any thing with accuracy?  If, however, these bodily senses are neither accurate nor clear, much less can the others be so; for they are all far inferior to these.  Do they not seem so to you?”

“Certainly,” he replied.

26.  “When, then,” said he, “does the soul light on the truth? for when it attempts to consider any thing in conjunction with the body, it is plain that it is then led astray by it.”

“You say truly.”

“Must it not, then, be by reasoning, if at all, that any of the things that really are become known to it?”


“And surely the soul then reasons best when none of these things disturb it—­neither hearing, nor sight, nor pain, nor pleasure of any kind; but it retires as much as possible within itself, taking leave of the body; and, so far as it can, not communicating or being in contact with it, it aims at the discovery of that which is.”

“Such is the case.”

“Does not, then, the soul of the philosopher, in these cases, despise the body, and flee from it, and seek to retire within itself?”

“It appears so.”

27.  “But what as to such things as these, Simmias?  Do we say that justice itself is something or nothing?”

“We say it is something, by Jupiter!”

“And that beauty and goodness are something?”

“How not?”

“Now, then, have you ever seen any thing of this kind with your eyes?”

“By no means,” he replied.

“Did you ever lay hold of them by any other bodily sense?  But I speak generally, as of magnitude, health, strength and, in a word, of the essence of every thing; that is to say, what each is.  Is, then, the exact truth of these perceived by means of the body, or is it thus, whoever among us habituates himself to reflect most deeply and accurately on each several thing about which he is considering, he will make the nearest approach to the knowledge of it?”


28.  “Would not he, then, do this with the utmost purity, who should in the highest degree approach each subject by means of the mere mental faculties, neither employing the sight in conjunction with the reflective faculty, nor introducing any other sense together with reasoning; but who, using pure reflection by itself, should attempt to search out each essence purely by itself, freed as much as possible from the eyes and ears, and, in a word, from the whole body, as disturbing the soul, and not suffering it to acquire truth and wisdom, when it is in communion with it.  Is not he the person, Simmias, if any one can, who will arrive at the knowledge of that which is?”

29.  “You speak with wonderful truth, Socrates,” replied Simmias.

“Wherefore,” he said, “it necessarily follows from all this that some such opinion as this should be entertained by genuine philosophers, so that they should speak among themselves as follows:  ’A by-path, as it were, seems to lead us on in our researches undertaken by reason,’ because so long as we are encumbered with the body, and our soul is contaminated with such an evil, we can never fully attain to what we desire; and this, we say, is truth.  For the body subjects us to innumerable hinderances on account of its necessary support; and, moreover, if any diseases befall us, they impede us in our search after that which is; and it fills us with longings, desires, fears, all kinds of fancies, and a multitude of absurdities, so that, as it is said in real truth, by reason of the body it is never possible for us to make any advances in wisdom.

30.  For nothing else than the body and its desires occasion wars, seditions, and contests; for all wars among us arise on account of our desire to acquire wealth:  and we are compelled to acquire wealth on account of the body, being enslaved to its service; and consequently on all these accounts we are hindered in the pursuit of philosophy. 

But the worst of all is, that if it leaves us any leisure, and we apply ourselves to the consideration of any subject, it constantly obtrudes itself in the midst of our researches, and occasions trouble and disturbance, and confounds us so that we are not able, by reason of it, to discern the truth.  It has, then, in reality been demonstrated to us that if we are ever to know any thing purely, we must be separated from the body, and contemplate the things themselves by the mere soul; and then, as it seems, we shall obtain that which we desire, and which we profess ourselves to be lovers of—­wisdom—­when we are dead, as reason shows, but not while we are alive.

31.  For if it is not possible to know any thing purely in conjunction with the body, one of these two things must follow, either that we can never acquire knowledge, or only after we are dead; for then the soul will subsist apart by itself, separate from the body, but not before.  And while we live we shall thus, as it seems, approach nearest to knowledge, if we hold no intercourse or communion at all with the body, except what absolute necessity requires, nor suffer ourselves to be polluted by its nature, but purify ourselves from it, until God himself shall release us.  And thus being pure, and freed from the folly of body, we shall in all likelihood be with others like ourselves, and shall of ourselves know the whole real essence, and that probably is truth; for it is not allowable for the impure to attain to the pure.  Such things, I think, Simmias, all true lovers of wisdom must both think and say to one another.  Does it not seem so to you?”

“Most assuredly, Socrates.”

32.  “If this, then,” said Socrates, “is true, my friend, there is great hope for one who arrives where I am going, there, if anywhere, to acquire that in perfection for the sake of which we have taken so much pains during our past life; so that the journey now appointed me is set out upon with good hope, and will be so by any other man who thinks that his mind has been, as it were, purified.”

“Certainly,” said Simmias.

“But does not purification consist in this, as was said in a former part of our discourse, in separating as much as possible the soul from the body, and in accustoming it to gather and collect itself by itself on all sides apart from the body, and to dwell, so far as it can, both now and hereafter, alone by itself, delivered, as it were, from the shackles of the body?”

“Certainly,” he replied.

33.  “Is this, then, called death, this deliverance and separation of the soul from the body?”

“Assuredly,” he answered.

“But, as we affirmed, those who pursue philosophy rightly are especially and alone desirous to deliver it; and this is the very study of philosophers, the deliverance and separation of the soul from the body, is it not?”

“It appears so.”

“Then, as I said at first, would it not be ridiculous for a man who has endeavored throughout his life to live as near as possible to death, then, when death arrives, to grieve? would not this be ridiculous?”

“How should it not?”

“In reality, then, Simmias,” he continued, “those who pursue philosophy rightly, study to die; and to them, of all men, death is least formidable.  Judge from this.  Since they altogether hate the body and desire to keep the soul by itself, would it not be irrational if, when this comes to pass, they should be afraid and grieve, and not be glad to go to that place where, on their arrival, they may hope to obtain that which they longed for throughout life?  But they longed for wisdom, and to be freed from association with that which they hated. 34.  Have many of their own accord wished to descend into Hades, on account of human objects of affection, their wives and sons, induced by this very hope of their seeing and being with those whom they have loved? and shall one who really loves wisdom, and firmly cherishes this very hope, that he shall nowhere else attain it in a manner worthy of the name, except in Hades, be grieved at dying, and not gladly go there?  We must think that he would gladly go, my friend, if he be in truth a philosopher; for he will be firmly persuaded of this, that he will nowhere else than there attain wisdom in its purity; and if this be so, would it not be very irrational, as I just now said, if such a man were to be afraid of death?”

“Very much so, by Jupiter!” he replied.

35.  “Would not this, then,” he resumed, “be a sufficient proof to you with respect to a man whom you should see grieved when about to die, that he was not a lover of wisdom, but a lover of his body?  And this same person is probably a lover of riches and a lover of honor, one or both of these.”

“It certainly is as you say,” he replied.

“Does not, then,” he said, “that which is called fortitude, Simmias, eminently belong to philosophers?”

“By all means,” he answered.

“And temperance, also, which even the multitude call temperance, and which consists in not being carried away by the passions, but in holding them in contempt, and keeping them in subjection, does not this belong to those only who most despise the body, and live in the study of philosophy?”

“Necessarily so,” he replied.

36.  “For,” he continued, “if you will consider the fortitude and temperance of others, they will appear to you to be absurd.”

“How so, Socrates?”

“Do you know,” he said, “that all others consider death among the great evils?”

“They do indeed,” he answered.

“Then, do the brave among them endure death when they do endure it, through dread of greater evils?”

“It is so.”

“All men, therefore, except philosophers, are brave through being afraid and fear; though it is absurd that any one should be brave through fear and cowardice.”


“But what, are not those among them who keep their passions in subjection affected in the same way? and are they not temperate through a kind of intemperance?  And although we may say, perhaps, that this is impossible, nevertheless the manner in which they are affected with respect to this silly temperance resembles this, for, fearing to be deprived of other pleasures, and desiring them, they abstain from some, being mastered by others.  And though they call intemperance the being governed by pleasures, yet it happens to them that, by being mastered by some pleasures, they master others, and this is similar to what was just now said, that in a certain manner they become temperate through intemperance.”

“So it seems,”

37.  “My dear Simmias, consider that this is not a right exchange for virtue, to barter pleasures for pleasures, pains for pains, fear for fear, and the greater for the lesser, like pieces of money, but that that alone is the right coin, for which we ought to barter all these things, wisdom, and for this and with this everything is in reality bought and sold Fortitude, temperance and justice, and, in a word true virtue, subsist with wisdom, whether pleasures and fears, and everything else of the kind, are present or absent, but when separated from wisdom and changed one for another, consider whether such virtue is not a mere outline and in reality servile, possessing neither soundness nor truth.  But the really true virtue is a purification from all such things, and temperance, justice, fortitude and wisdom itself, are a kind of initiatory purification

38.  And those who instituted the mysteries for us appear to have been by no means contemptible, but in reality to have intimated long since that whoever shall arrive in Hades unexpiated and uninitiated shall lie in mud, but he that arrives there purified and initiated shall dwell with the gods ‘For there are,’ say those who preside at the mysteries, ‘many wand-bearers, but few inspired’.  These last, in my opinion, are no other than those who have pursued philosophy rightly that I might be of their number. 

I have to the utmost of my ability left no means untried, but have endeavored to the utmost of my power.  But whether I have endeavored rightly, and have in any respect succeeded, on arriving there I shall know clearly, if it please God—­very shortly, as it appears to me.”

39.  “Such, then, Simmias and Cebes,” he added, “is the defense I make, for that I, on good grounds, do not repine or grieve at leaving you and my masters here, being persuaded that there, no less than here, I shall meet with good masters and friends.  But to the multitude this is incredible If, however, I have succeeded better with you in my defense than I did with the Athenian judges, it is well.”