Written cir. 380 B.C.
Translated by Benjamin Jowett, modernized by Dr. G
Characters of the dialogue
CRITO, a friend
The jail cell of Socrates, near dawn, as the prisoner awakens.
Socrates. Crito? Why are you here at this hour? It must be very early.
Crito. Yes, it is.
Soc. What's the time?
Cr. Dawn is breaking.
Soc. I'm surprised that my jailor let you in.
Cr. He knows me--I mean, I come here often, Socrates. Well, I've done him a
Soc. How long have you been here?
Cr. For some time. [43b]
Soc. Then why didn't you awaken me
Cr. Why would I disturb you when you are out of pain? I wish that I could sleep
so soundly to forget my sorrows. I've been wondering
at you, how you can sleep so peacefully. You've
always been a marvel of calm, but I've never seen you so at ease and cheerful as you are now, in
Soc. Why, Crito, when a man has reached my age he shouldn't sorrow at the prospect of death.
Cr. And yet age does not stop other old men from complaining.
Soc. That may be. But why have you come here so early?
Cr. I bring a message that is sad and painful--not to yourself, I
think, but to all of us who are your friends. And it is saddest
of all to me. [43d]
Soc. What! I suppose that the ship has
arrived from Delos, so that now I am to die?
Cr. Not yet, but the ship is going to arrive later today. Some people who came from Sunium tell me that they
have left her there. And so, Socrates, tomorrow will be the last
day of your life.
Soc. Very well, Crito, if that's God's will. But I think
that there will be a delay of one more day. [44a]
Soc. I'll tell you. I am to die on the day after the arrival of
Cr. That's what the authorities say.
Soc. The ship will not be here until tomorrow. I know it from a vision
that I had last night, or rather just now, when happily you let me sleep.
Cr. What kind of vision?
Soc. There came to me the likeness of a woman, very fair and beautiful,
clothed in a spectacular white gown, who called to me and said: "On the third day
hence must thou come to fertile Phthia, O Socrates."
Cr. What a dream, Socrates!
Soc. There can't be any doubt about its meaning, Crito.
Cr. No, the meaning is clear. So, my dear Socrates,
let me urge you once again to take my advice and escape from this place. If
you stay here and die, I'll lose a friend who can never be replaced, but people who don't know
the two of us will think that I could have saved you if I had been willing to
put up the money, [44c] but that I didn't care. What a disgrace that would be to me!
People would think that I value money more than my friend's life? The
many never will believe that I asked you to escape, but you refused.
Soc. But Crito, why worry about the false opinions of
the many? Any good person, whose opinions are worth considering, will
know what really happened. [44d]
Cr. But don't you see, Socrates, popular opinion must
be considered, too. Look at your own trial. The crowd can do the greatest
of all harms to anyone who has lost their good opinion.
Soc. I wish that they could, my friend, for then they could
also do the greatest good, and that would be well. But the truth is
that they can do neither good nor harm. They can't make anybody wise. What they
think does not matter. [44e]
Cr. Well, I won't argue with you about that right now. But tell me, honestly,
aren't you being a little too considerate of me and your other
friends? You're afraid that your escape will make trouble for us with
the informers, for having stolen you away. You worry that our property will be
confiscated--or some greater evil will happen to us. If that's your fear, put
it aside, Socrates! [45a] It's only right for your friends to take risks to save you. Be persuaded, then, and
as I say.
Soc. I have more fears than these, Crito.
Cr. Don't worry! There are people here ready to save you and bring you
safely out of prison! It won't be costly. The informers aren't very
greedy in their
demands. A few coins take care of them. [45b] My funds are ample, and they are
at your service, but if you are concerned about spending so much of my money, here
are strangers who will give you theirs. One of them, Simmias
the Theban, has brought with him a purse full of cash for this very purpose, and
and many others are ready to spend their money, too. So, look, don't worry
about making your escape, and don't say, as
you said in court, that you won't know what to
do with yourself if you go into exile abroad. [45c]
Wherever you go, you will be loved. I have
friends in Thessaly, and if you will go to them, they will value and protect
you so that
no Thessalonian will give you any trouble at all. . . Think, Socrates, how can you
be right, betraying your own life when you could save it? Your death will play
into the hands of your enemies. [45d] It will betray your
children. Anyone who brings
children into the world must see to their nurture and education. You can't
raise them and educate them, if you die and leave them to their chance in the world, and if they do not meet with the
fate of orphans, it will be small thanks to you. Look, if you choose
to die you are choosing the easier part, not the better and more humane part that
would become anyone like yourself who teaches virtue. [45e]
be ashamed, and so will all of us who are your friends, because this
whole business of yours will be blamed on our lack of courage. Your
trial need never have come on, or it might have been brought to another
and the end of it all, which is the crowning absurdity, will seem to have
happened because of cowardice and [46a] unmanly
fear, for we might have saved
you, if we had been good for anything. See how disgraceful and miserable all
of this will be for us, as well as for you. Make up your mind then, or rather
be decided already now, for there's no more time to deliberate here. There is only one thing to be done,
and it must be done this very night, or else never. Socrates, I beg you, be persuaded
me, and do as I say with no more delays! [46b]
Soc. Dear Crito, your zeal is invaluable, if it is right, but
if wrong, the greater the zeal the greater the evil. That is why we have considered
before today whether
this thing should be done or not. My nature is guided by
reason, by whatever reason
appears best to me after reflection, [46c] and now I can hardly forget the
conclusions that we reached before. Unless we can find better arguments now, I will not agree with you--no, not even
if the power of the crowd could inflict many more imprisonments, confiscations,
and deaths, frightening us like children with hobgoblin terrors. What's the
best way to consider the question again? Shall we return [46d]
to our old argument about the opinions of
people, some of which are to be
and others, as we were saying, are not to be regarded? Were we
right in maintaining this before I was condemned? Or was our argument then
nothing more than idle talk or worthless amusement? I'll consider the whole
question again with
your help, Crito: whether, in my present situation, the argument now appears
to be any different than it was before. I think the argument is
accepted by many who claim to be authorities: [46e] the opinions
of some people are to be regarded, while the opinions of others are not to be
you, Crito, are a disinterested person who is not scheduled [47a]
to die tomorrow--and
so you are not likely to be deceived by the circumstances in which you are
me, then, your opinion. Am I right in saying that some opinions, and the opinions
of some people only, are to be valued, while other opinions, and the opinions
of other people, are not to be valued. Have I been right in
Soc. The good are to be regarded, and not the
Soc. And the opinions of
those with knowledge are good, and the opinions of those without knowledge are
Soc. And so, for instance, what about the student of
gymnastics? [47b] Should
he care about everybody's opinion, and everybody's praise and blame of him, or
should he care only about the opinion of his physical trainer?
Cr. Of the trainer only.
Soc. And he ought to fear the censure and welcome the praise of only that one
person, and not of the many?
Cr. That's clear.
Soc. And he ought to live and train, and eat and drink as he is advised by
this single expert, who has understanding, not as he is advised by everybody
Cr. True. [47c]
Soc. And if he disobeys and disregards the opinion and approval of
the expert, but accepts the opinion of the many who have no understanding, he will
suffer harm, won't he?
Soc. What harm?
Cr. Well, harm to his body. His body will suffer, if he disobeys the
Soc. Yes, very good, Crito! And is this not true also in other things? In
any case of just and unjust, fair
and foul, or good and evil (of which we were speaking just now), should we follow
[47d] the opinion of the many and
fear them, or the opinion of
the one person who has understanding, the one who ought to be feared and
than all the rest of the world, the person whose opinion can't be ignored without
destroying or injuring that principle of justice within
us--is there not such a
Cr. Surely there is, Socrates.
Soc. Now take a parallel case. If we act under the advice of people who have no understanding,
so that we destroy our physical health, will our life be maintained?
[47e] I mean,
Soc. Could we live, having a badly corrupted body?
Soc. And if the part of us that is improved by justice and damaged by
injustice, if that higher part of us is depraved, will life be worth having?
Is that principle which has to do with justice and injustice in us--whatever
we want to name it--do we suppose that it is [48a]
inferior to the body?
Cr. Certainly not.
Soc. More honored, then?
Cr. Far more honored.
Soc. Then, my friend, we must not regard what the many will say about
us. We must regard what will be said by the one person who has understanding of
the just and unjust, for that person will speak the truth. And so you
are wrong to suggest that we should worry about the opinion of the many, or whatever
they happen to say is just or unjust, good or evil, honorable or dishonorable. And yet, someone
then will argue,
"But the many have power, and they can kill us, if they want to." [48b]
Cr. Yes, Socrates, now there's the point...
Soc. Yes, but still the old
argument remains as unshaken as ever. And now it remains to ask if the
same principle is true in one more case. Which is more valuable: life, or a good life?
Cr. A good life.
Soc. And a good life is equivalent to a just and honorable
Soc. Well then, from these premises we now should be prepared to answer the question
I should try to escape without the consent of the Athenians. [48c]
escape is good and just and honorable, then I will attempt it,
but if not, I will remain here. These other arguments that you make--about money and loss of
reputation, and the duty of educating
children--I'm afraid they are only the doctrines of the multitude, who would be as
call people back to life, if they were able, as they are to put them to death, and
with as little reason. So now, the
only question that remains is whether it is good to escape, or to allow others to aid
my escape, [48d] and to pay them in money and thanks, or whether these things are
not good. If they are not good, then death or any other consequence of my remaining here must not be allowed to enter into the
Cr. I suppose that you are right about that, Socrates. So how will we
Soc. Let's consider the matter together. Refute
me if you can, and I will be convinced, or else, my dear friend, stop pressing
me to escape against the wishes of the Athenians. I hope to be persuaded by you, but
it cannot be against my own
better judgment. [49a] So now consider my first
argument, and do
your best to answer me.
Cr. I will.
Soc. What shall we say: that we never should do intentional
or that in one way we should and in another way we should not do wrong? Isn't
the doing of wrong always evil and dishonorable, as I was just now saying,
and as we have acknowledged before? Are all our former conclusions to be thrown away?
[49b] And have
we, all these years of our long lives, been talking with one another only to discover
now in our old age that we are no better than children? Or can we believe, in spite of the opinion of the many, and in spite of
the personal consequences, that injustice is
always an evil and dishonor to anyone who acts unjustly? Shall we agree about that?
Soc. Then we must do no wrong?
Cr. Certainly not.
Soc. And when we are injured, we must not return the injury against others, for
we must not injure any one at all? [49c]
Cr. Clearly not.
Soc. Again, Crito, may we do evil?
Cr. Surely not, Socrates.
Soc. And what of doing evil in return for evil, which is the
morality of the many, is that just or unjust?
Soc. For doing evil to another is the same as
Cr. Very true.
Soc. Then we should not retaliate or render evil for evil
to others, whatever evil we may have suffered from them. But I would have you
consider whether you really mean what you are saying, Crito. [49d]
For most people
don't share this opinion; they never have and never will. There is no common
ground between those who believe
in it, and those who don't, and they can only disrespect one another when
they differ so much. Tell me, then, whether you agree to my first principle, that neither injury nor retaliation nor
warding off evil by evil is ever right. Shall that be the premise of
our agreement? Or do you disagree with this? [49e]
For this has been
my opinion for a long time, and I still believe it, but if you hold a different opinion, let
me hear what you have to say. If, however, you remain of the same mind as
before, I will go forward to the next step.
Cr. Go ahead. I haven't changed my mind.
Soc. All right, the next step starts with a question: should people do what they
they have agreed to do, or
should they cheat on their promises?
Cr. They should fulfill their agreement.
Soc. Well, if that's true, then what's the application? [50a]
Don't I cheat
if I leave the
prison against the will of the Athenians? Don't
I wrong those whom I ought least to wrong? Don't I abandon the principles which
we have acknowledged to be just? What do you say?
Cr. I can't tell, Socrates. I don't know.
Soc. Then consider the issue in another way: Imagine that
am about to cheat (cheating in whatever way you care to imagine), and
The Laws and The State come and interrogate me. "Tell us,
Socrates," they say; "what are you doing? Are you trying to overturn
us, The Laws and The State? [50b] Do you imagine that any state can continue and
not be overturned, when the decisions of law have no
power, but are ignored by individuals?"
What will be our answer, Crito, to these words or to words like these? Nobody,
and especially no clever rhetorician, will have any trouble describing our evil
conduct. The law requires my sentence to be carried out.
Of course, I might reply, "Yes, but The State has injured me [50c]
an unjust sentence." Suppose I say that?
Cr. That would be a very good argument, Socrates.
Soc. But then The Laws would say:
"And was that our agreement with you?
Weren't you supposed to abide by the sentence of the
State?" And if I looked astonished, then The Laws might add: "Answer,
instead of opening your eyes so wide like that. You are used to answering
questions. [50d] Tell us then what complaint you have to make against us
that justifies your attempt to destroy us and The State? In the first
place did we not bring you into existence? Your father married your mother
by our aid and begat you. Do you have any objection against those of us who regulate marriage?
No, we suppose not. Or
against those of us who regulate the nurture and education of
children in which you were reared and trained? Were those of us right who
ordered [50e] your father to train you in music and
gymnastics?" They were right, I would have to admit. "Well, then, since you were brought
the world and nurtured and educated by us, can you deny in the first place
that you are our child and slave, as your
ancestors were before you?
if this is true you are not on equal terms with us. You cannot think that
you have any right to do to us what we are doing to you. [51a]
You have no right to strike or revile or
harm your father or to your master,
if you had one, even when you have been struck or reviled by him, or when you
some other harm at his hands. Isn't that true? Even if we
think that it is right to destroy you, you have no right to destroy
us in return, or to destroy The State if you can. How can a professor of
wisdom argue against this? How can any philosopher, like you, have failed to discover that
our country is more [51b]
to be valued, higher, and holier by far than any mother or father or any
ancestor, and it is more valued in the eyes of the gods and of people of understanding? Our
country is to be soothed, and gently and reverently entreated when it is angry, even
than a father, and unless it can be persuaded of its error, it must be obeyed.
When we are punished, whether with imprisonment or lashes, the punishment is to be endured
in silence. And if our country leads us to battle, there we must follow
as is right, even if it means that we may be wounded or killed; we may not yield or retreat or leave
our rank in the fighting. Whether in battle or in a court of law, or in any other place,
[51c] the citizen must do
what his city and his country order him; or he must change their view of
what is just. He may no more do violence against his city than he may do violence
against his father or mother." Crito, what answer shall we make to this? Do
The Laws speak the truth, or don't they?
Cr. I think that they do.
Soc. Then The Laws will say: "If this is true, Socrates, then in your
truancy you will do us wrong. For, after we have brought you into the world, and nurtured and educated you,
[51d] and after we have given you and every other citizen a share in every good that we have to
give, we further proclaim and give the right to every Athenian, that if
he does not like us when he has come of age, and seen the ways of the
city, and made our acquaintance, he may go where he pleases and take his
goods with him; and none of us laws will forbid him or interfere with him.
Any of those who do not like us or the city, and who want to go to
a colony or to any other city, [51e] they may go where they like, and take their
property. But anyone who has experienced how we order justice and
administer The State, and still remains here, has entered into an implied contract
that he will do as we command. And whoever disobeys us, we say, is thrice wrong: first, because in disobeying us
parents; second, because we are the authors of his education; third, because
he has made an agreement with us that he will duly obey our commands or else
he will convince us that our commands are wrong. [52a]
We give him the alternative of obeying
convincing us, but he disobeys when he does neither. These are the
sort of accusations that will be made against you, Socrates, if you go forward
with your truancy, and the accusations will be stronger against you, than
against any other Athenian."
Well then, suppose I ask why my
offense would be worse than other Athenian's?
They will answer me that I above all other men have
acknowledged the agreement. [52b] They will say, "Socrates, there is clear
proof that we and the city were not displeasing to you.
Of all Athenians you have been the most constant resident in the city. You
never leave it, so you must love it. You never went out
of the city either to see the games or to travel, as other people do. You never
left the city at all, except once when you went to the Isthmus,
or when you were on military service. [52c] You never had the curiosity to know other
or their laws. Your affections did not go beyond us and The State: we were your
favorites, and you acquiesced in our government of you. This is the city in which you begat your children, which is a
of your satisfaction. Moreover, if you had liked, you might have fixed
the penalty at banishment in the course of your trial. The State which refuses
to let you go now would have let you go then. But you claimed that
you preferred death to exile, and that you were not grieved at death. And
now you have forgotten these fine sentiments, and pay no respect to us, The
Laws. [52d] You would destroy us or run away and turn your back upon the
agreements that you made as a citizen. So answer our question. In both
your words and your deeds, didn't you agree to be governed by
us? Is that true or not?" How shall we answer
that, Crito? Must we not agree?
Cr. There is no choice, Socrates.
Soc. Then, The Laws will continue to accuse me: "Socrates, you are breaking
covenants that you made with us. These agreements were not made in
any haste or under any compulsion or deception, and you have had seventy years
to think about them. During all of that time you were free to leave the
city, if we were not acceptable to your mind, or if our agreements seemed
unfair to you. You had your choice. You could have moved to Sparta or
Crete, which you so often have praised for their good governments. You could
have gone to any other Greek or foreign city. [53a] But no, you never went anywhere else, you were so
fond of The State and of us, The Laws. The crippled, the blind, the maimed, were not more stationary in
the city than you
were. And now you would run away and forsake your
agreements. Not so, Socrates, if
you will take our advice. Do not make yourself ridiculous by escaping now from the city.
"Just consider, if you transgress and err in this way, what
good will it do yourself or your friends? Your friends almost
certainly will be driven into exile and deprived of citizenship, and they will
their property. And you yourself, if you escape to
one of the neighboring cities, maybe Thebes or Megara, both of
which are well-governed cities, you will come to them as an enemy, Socrates, and
their government will be against you, and all patriotic citizens will cast
an evil eye upon you as a breaker of laws, and you will confirm in
the minds of the Athenian judges, too, the justice of their condemnation of you.
he who is a corrupter of laws is more than likely to be corrupter of
the young and foolish portion of humankind. Will you then flee? And will
your life be worth living on
these terms? If you go to any well-ordered city, and talk to any virtuous
people, what will you say to them, Socrates? What will you
say to them about virtue and justice and institutions and laws
being the best things among men? [53d] Will you be so shameless? Or suppose that you
avoid well-ordered states and go to Crito's friends
Thessaly, where there is great disorder and license. They will be charmed to
have the tale of your escape from prison, set off with ludicrous particulars
about how you were wrapped in a goatskin or some other silly disguise,
like a runaway. But will there be no one there to remind you [53e]
that in your old age you violated the
sacred laws from a miserable desire of a little more life? Perhaps not,
if you keep them in a good temper. But if they grow out of temper you will
hear many degrading things said against you. You will live, but how? As the flatterer
all men, and the servant of all men? Doing what? Eating and drinking
Thessaly, having gone abroad to get dinner? [54a] And where
will be all of your fine sentiments about justice and virtue then? Say that you
want to live for the sake of your children, so that you can bring them up
and educate them: will you take them to Thessaly and deprive them of
Athenian citizenship? Is that the up-bringing that you would give them?
Or, since they will be better cared for and
educated here in Athens, will you leave them here for you friends to take of
them? Do you think that they will care for your children if you are living in
but not if you are an inhabitant
of the Next World? No, if you have true friends, [54b]
they surely will care for
your children after your death.
"Then listen to us, Socrates, for we have brought you up. Think not of
life and children first, and of justice afterwards. Think of justice first, so
you may be justified before the judges of the world below. If you do
as Crito bids, you will not be happier in the Next World, and your family and
friends will not be happier or holier or more just in this life. [54c]
If you stay
and accept your sentence, you will depart in
a sufferer and not a doer of evil--a victim not of The Laws, but
of men. But if you leave, returning evil for evil, and injury for injury,
breaking the covenants and agreements that you have made with us,
and wronging those whom you ought least to wrong--that is, yourself, your
friends, your city, and us--we shall be angry with you while you live,
and our brethren, the laws in the world below, will receive you as an enemy; for they will know that you have done your best to destroy us. So
listen to us [54d] and not to Crito."
This is the voice which I seem to hear murmuring, like the
sound of the flute in the ears of the mystic. The voice keeps humming
so that I can't hear any other. And I know that
anything more that you may say will be in vain. Yet speak, if you have
anything to say.
Cr. I have nothing more to say, Socrates.
Soc. Then let me abide [54e] by the will of God.