Socrates used to exhort those who aspired to public offices to learn the duties that would be required in them. The duties of a military commander, and his responsibilities, sect. 1-5. He must know many things besides military tactics, 6-11.

1. I will now show that Socrates was of great service to those who aspired to posts of honor, by rendering them attentive to the duties of the offices which they sought.

Having heard that Dionysodorus had arrived at the city, offering to teach the art of a general, he said to one of those who were with him, whom he observed to be desirous of obtaining that honor in the state, 2. “It is indeed unbecoming, young man, that he who wishes to be commander of an army in his country should neglect to learn the duties of that office when he has an opportunity of learning them; and such a person would be far more justly punished by his country than one who should contract to make statues (for it), when he had not learned to make them; 3. for as the whole state, in the perils of war, is entrusted to the care of the general, it is likely that great advantages will occur if he act well, and great evils if he fall into error. How, then, would not he, who neglects to learn the duties of the office, while he is eager to be elected to it, be deservedly punished?” By making such observations, he induced the young man to go and learn.

4. When, after having learned, he returned to Socrates again, he began to joke upon him, saying, “Since Homer, my friends, has represented Agamemnon as dignified, does not this young man, after learning to be a general, seem to you to look more dignified than before? For as he who has learned to play the lyre is a lyrist, though he may not use the instrument, and he who has learned the art of healing is a physician, though he may not practice his art, so this youth will from henceforth be a general, though no one may elect him to command; but he who wants the proper knowledge is neither general nor physician, even though he be chosen to act as such by all the people in the world. 5. But,” he continued, “in order that we may have a better knowledge of the military art, in case any one of us should have to command a troop or company under you, tell us how he began to teach you generalship?” “He began,” replied the youth, “with the same thing with which he ended; for he taught me tactics, and nothing else.” 6. “But,” said Socrates, “how small a part of the qualifications of a general is this! For a general must be skillful in preparing what is necessary for war, able in securing provisions for his troops, a man of great contrivance and activity, careful, persevering, and sagacious; kind, and yet severe; open, yet crafty; careful of his own, yet ready to steal from others; profuse, yet rapacious; lavish of presents, yet eager to acquire money; cautious, yet enterprising; and many other qualities there are, both natural and acquired, which he, who would fill the office of general with ability, must possess. 7. It is good, indeed, to be skilled in tactics; for a well-arranged army is very different from a disorderly one; as stones and bricks, wood and tiles, if thrown together in confusion, are of no use whatever; but when the stones and tiles, materials not likely to rot or decay, are placed at the bottom and the top, and the bricks and wood are arranged in the middle (as in building), a house, which is a valuable piece of property, is formed.” 8. “What you have said, Socrates,” rejoined the youth, “is an exact illustration of our practice; for in the field of battle we must place the bravest troops in the front and rear, and the cowardly in the middle, that they may be led on by those before them, and pushed forward by those behind.” 9. “If indeed he has taught you to distinguish the brave and cowardly,” rejoined Socrates, “that rule may be of use; but if not, what profit is there in what you have learned? for if he ordered you, in arranging a number of coins, to lay the best first and last, and the worst in the middle, and gave you no instructions how to distinguish the good and bad, his orders to you would be to no purpose.” “But indeed,” he replied, “he did not teach me this; so that we must distinguish the brave from the cowardly ourselves.” 10. “Why should we not consider then,” said Socrates, “how we may avoid mistakes as to that matter?” “I am willing,” returned the young man. “If then we had to capture a sum of money, and were to place the most covetous men in front, should we not arrange them properly?” “It appears so to me.” “And what must generals do when entering on a perilous enterprise? Must they not place the most ambitious in front?” “They at least,” said the young man, “are those who are ready to brave danger for the sake of praise; and they are by no means difficult to discover, but will be everywhere conspicuous and easy to be selected.” 11. “But did your instructor,” inquired Socrates, “teach you to arrange an army, merely, or did he tell you in what direction, and in what manner, you must employ each division of your forces? “ “Not at all,” replied he. “Yet there are many occasions, on which it is not proper to draw up an army, or to conduct it, in the same way.” “But, by Jupiter, he gave me no explanation as to such occasions.” “Go again, then, by all means,” said Socrates, “and question him; for if he knows, and is not quite shameless, he will blush, after taking your money, to send you away in ignorance.”


A good general ought to take measures for the safety, maintenance, and success of his troops; and not to study his own honor alone, but that of his whole army.

1. Having met, on some occasion, a person who had been elected general, Socrates said to him, “Why is it, do you think, that Homer has styled Agamemnon ‘Shepherd of the people’? Is it not for this reason, that as a shepherd must be careful that his sheep be safe, and have food, so a general must take care that his soldiers be safe, and have provisions, and that the object be effected for which they serve? and they serve, no doubt, that they may increase their gratifications by conquering the enemy. 2. Or why has he praised Agamemnon in the following manner, saying that he was

Both characters, a good king, and an efficient warrior?

Does he not mean that he would not have been ‘an efficient warrior,’ if he had fought courageously alone against the enemy, and if he had not been the cause of courage to his whole army; and that he would not have been ‘a good king,’ if he had attended to his own subsistence only, and had not been the cause of comfort to those over whom he ruled? 3. For a man is chosen king, not that he may take good care of himself, but that those who have chosen him may prosper by his means; and all men, when they take the field, take it that their lives may be rendered as happy as possible, and choose generals that they may conduct them to the accomplishment of that object. 4. It is incumbent on the leader of an army, therefore, to render this to those who have chosen him their leader. Nor is it easy to find anything more honorable than such exertion, or more disgraceful than an opposite course of conduct.”

Thus considering what was the merit of a good leader, he omitted other points in his character, and left only this, that he should render those whom he commanded happy.


The duty of a commander of cavalry is twofold, to improve the condition both of his men and his horses; and not to leave the care of the horses to the troops, sect. 1-4. How he should train his men, and how he should be himself qualified to do so, 5-10. He should acquire oratorical power, that he may incite his men to exertion, and fire them with the desire of glory, 11-14.

1. I remember that he held a dialogue with a person who had been chosen Hipparch, to the following purport. “Could you tell me, young man,” said he, “with what object you desired to be a Hipparch? It certainly was not for the sake of riding first among the cavalry; for the horse-archers are honored with that dignity, as they ride even before the Hipparchs.” “You say the truth,” said the youth. “Nor was it, surely, for the sake of being noticed, for even madmen are noticed by everybody.” “You say the truth in that respect also.” 2. “But was it, then, that you expect to render the cavalry better, and present them in that condition to your country, and that, if there should be need for the services of cavalry, you hope, as their leader, to be the author of some advantage to the state?” “I do hope so, certainly.” “And it will be truly honorable to you,” continued Socrates, “if you are able to effect that object. But the command, to which you have been chosen, takes charge of both the horses and riders?” “It does so,” said the young man. 3. “Come, then, tell me this first of all, how you propose to render the horses better?” “That,” replied the other, “I do not consider to be my business; for I think that each man, individually, must take care of his own horse.” 4. “If, then,” said Socrates, “some of the men should present their horses before you so diseased in the feet, so weak in the legs, or so feeble in body, and others theirs so ill-fed, that they could not follow you; others, theirs so unmanageable, that they would not remain where you posted them; others, theirs so vicious that it would not he possible to post them at all; what would be the use of such cavalry to you? Or how would you be able, at the head of them, to be of any service to your country?” “You admonish me well,” said the youth, “and I will try to look to the horses as far as may be in my power.” 5. “And will you not also endeavor,” asked Socrates, “to make the riders better?” “I will,” said he. “You will first of all, then, make them more expert in mounting their horses.” “I ought to do so; for if any of them should fall off, they would thus be better prepared to recover themselves.” 6. “If, then,” said Socrates, “you should be obliged to hazard an engagement, whether will you order your men to bring the enemy down to the level sand on which you have been accustomed to ride, or will you try to exercise them on such ground as that on which the enemy may show themselves?” “The latter method will be the better,” said the young man. 7. “Will you also take any care that the greatest possible number of your men may be able to hurl the dart on horseback?” “That will be better too,” replied he. “And have you considered how to whet the courage of your cavalry, which makes them more courageous, and animate them against the enemy?” “If I have not yet considered,” said he, “I will now try to do so.” 8. “And have you at all considered how your cavalry may be induced to obey you? For without obedience you will have no profit either from horses or horsemen, spirited and valiant as they may be.” “You say the truth, Socrates,” said he; “but by what means can a leader most effectually induce them to obedience?” 9. “You are doubtless aware that in all circumstances men most willingly obey those whom they consider most able to direct; for in sickness patients obey him whom they think the best physician; on ship-board, the passengers obey him whom they think the best pilot, and in agriculture, people obey him whom they deem the best husbandman.” “Unquestionably,” said the young man. “Is it not then likely,” said Socrates, “that in horsemanship also, others will be most willing to obey him who appears to know best what he ought to do?” 10. “If, therefore, Socrates, I should myself appear the best horseman among them, will that circumstance be sufficient to induce them to obey me?” “If you convince them in addition,” said Socrates, “that it is better and safer for them to obey you.” “How, then, shall I convince them of that?” “With much more ease,” replied Socrates, “than if you had to convince them that bad things are better and more profitable than good.” 11. “You mean,” said the young man, “that a commander of cavalry, in addition to his other qualifications, should study to acquire some ability in speaking.” “And did you think,” asked Socrates, “that you would command cavalry by silence? Have you not reflected, that whatever excellent principles we have learned according to law, principles by which we know how to live, we learned all through the medium of speech; and that whatever other valuable instruction any person acquires, he acquires it by means of speech likewise? Do not those who teach best, use speech most; and those who know the most important truths, discuss them with the greatest eloquence? 12. Or have you not observed, that when a band of dancers and musicians is formed from this city, as that, for instance, which is sent to Delos, no one from any other quarter can compete with it; and that in no other city is manly grace shown by numbers of people like that which is seen here?” “What you say is true,” said he. 13. “But it is not so much in sweetness of voice, or in size and strength of body, that the Athenians excel other people, as in ambition, which is the greatest incitement to whatever is honorable and noble.” “This also is true,” said he. 14. “Do you not think, then,” said Socrates, “that if any one should study to improve the cavalry here, the Athenians would excel other people in that department also (as well in the equipment of their arms and horses as in the good order of the men, and in boldly defying danger to encounter the enemy), if they thought that by such means they would acquire praise and honor?” “It is probable,” said the young man. “Do not delay, therefore,” added Socrates, “but try to excite your men to those exertions by which you will both be benefited yourself, and your countrymen through your means.” “I will assuredly try,” replied he.


Nicomachides complaining that the Athenians had not chosen him general, though he was experienced in war, but Antisthenes, who had seen no military service, Socrates proceeds to show that Antisthenes, although he had never filled the office of commander, might have qualities to indicate that he would fill it with success.

1. Seeing Nicomachides, one day, coming from the assembly for the election of magistrates, he asked him, “Who have been chosen generals, Nicomachides?” “Are not the Athenians the same as ever, Socrates?” he replied; “for they have not chosen me, who am worn out with serving from the time I was first elected, both as captain and centurion, and with having received so many wounds from the enemy (he then drew aside his robe, and showed the scars of the wounds), but have elected Antisthenes, who has never served in the heavy-armed infantry, nor done anything remarkable in the cavalry, and who indeed knows nothing, but how to get money.” 2. “Is it not good, however, to know this,” said Socrates, “since he will then be able to get necessaries for the troops?” “But merchants,” replied Nicomachides, “are able to collect money; and yet would not, on that account, be capable of leading an army.” 3. “Antisthenes, however,” continued Socrates, “is given to emulation, a quality necessary in a general. Do you not know that whenever he has been chorus­manager he has gained the superiority in all his choruses?” “But, by Jupiter,” rejoined Nicomachides, “there is nothing similar in managing a chorus and an army.” 4. “Yet Antisthenes,” said Socrates, “though neither skilled in music nor in teaching a chorus, was able to find out the best masters in these departments.” “In the army, accordingly,” exclaimed Nicomachides, “he will find others to range his troops for him, and others to fight for him!” 5. “Well, then,” rejoined Socrates, “if he find out and select the best men in military affairs, as he has done in the conduct of his choruses, he will probably attain superiority in this respect also; and it is likely that he will be more willing to spend money for a victory in war on behalf of the whole state, than for a victory with a chorus in behalf of his single tribe.” 6. “Do you say, then, Socrates,” said he, “that it is in the power of the same man to manage a chorus well, and to manage an army well?” “I say,” said Socrates, “that over whatever a man may preside, he will, if he knows what he needs, and is able to provide it, be a good president, whether he have the direction of a chorus, a family, a city, or an army.” 7. “By Jupiter, Socrates,” cried Nicomachides, “I should never have expected to hear from you that good managers of a family would also be good generals.” “Come, then,” proceeded Socrates, “let us consider what are the duties of each of them, that we may understand whether they are the same, or are in any respect different.” “By all means,” said he. 8. “Is it not, then, the duty of both,” asked Socrates, “to render those under their command obedient and submissive to them?” “Unquestionably.” “Is it not also the duty of both to appoint fitting persons to fulfill the various duties?” “That is also unquestionable.” “To punish the bad, and to honor the good, too, belongs, I think, to each of them.” “Undoubtedly.” 9. “And is it not honorable in both to render those under them well­disposed towards them? “ “That also is certain.” “And do you think it for the interest of both to gain for themselves allies and auxiliaries or not?” “It assuredly is for their interest.” “Is it not proper for both also to be careful of their resources?” “Assuredly.” “And is it not proper for both, therefore, to be attentive and industrious in their respective duties?” 10. “All these particulars,” said Nicomachides, “are common alike to both; but it is not common to both to fight.” “Yet both have doubtless enemies,” rejoined Socrates. “That is probably the case,” said the other. “Is it not for the interest of both to gain the superiority over those enemies?” 11. “Certainly; but to say nothing on that point, what, I ask, will skill in managing a household avail, if it be necessary to fight?” “It will doubtless, in that case, be of the greatest avail,” said Socrates; “for a good manager of a house, knowing that nothing is so advantageous or profitable as to get the better of your enemies when you contend with them, nothing so unprofitable and prejudicial as to be defeated, will zealously seek and provide everything that may conduce to victory, will carefully watch and guard against whatever tends to defeat, will vigorously engage if he sees that his force is likely to conquer, and, what is not the least important point, will cautiously avoid engaging if he find himself insufficiently prepared. 12. Do not, therefore, Nicomachides,” he added, “despise men skillful in managing a household; for the conduct of private affairs differs from that of public concerns only in magnitude; in other respects they are similar; but what is most to be observed, is, that neither of them are managed without men, and that private matters are not managed by one species of men, and public matters by another; for those who conduct public business make use of men not at all differing in nature from those whom the managers of private affairs employ; and those who know how to employ them, conduct either private or public affairs judiciously, while those who do not know, will err in the management of both.”


Conversation of Socrates with Pericles the younger on the manner in which the Athenians might be made to recover their ancient spirit and ambition. They ought to be reminded of the deeds of their ancestors, sect. 1-12 ; and to be taught that indolence has been the cause of their degeneracy, 13. They ought to revive the institutions of their forefathers, or imitate those of the Lacedaemonians, 14; and to pay great attention to military affairs, 15-25. How the territory of Attica might be best secured against invasion, 26-28.

1. Conversing, on one occasion, with Pericles, the son of the great Pericles, Socrates said, “I have hopes, Pericles, that under your leadership the city will become more eminent and famous in military affairs, and will get the better of her enemies.” “I wish, Socrates,” said Pericles, “that what you say may happen; but how such effects are to be produced, I cannot understand.” “Are you willing, then,” asked Socrates, “that we should have some conversation on these points, and consider how far there is a possibility of effecting what we desire?” “I am quite willing,” replied Pericles. 2. “Are you aware, then,” said Socrates, “that the Athenians are not at all inferior in number to the Boeotians?” “I am,” said Pericles. “And whether do you think that a greater number of efficient and well-formed men could be selected from the Boeotians, or from the Athenians?” “The Athenians do not appear to me to be inferior in this respect.” “And which of the two peoples do you consider to be best disposed towards each other?” “I think that the Athenians are; for many of the Boeotians, being oppressed by the Thebans, entertain hostile feelings towards them. But at Athens I see nothing of the kind.” 3. “But the Athenians are moreover of all people most eager for honor and most friendly in disposition; qualities which most effectually impel men to face danger in the cause of glory and of their country.” “The Athenians are certainly not to be found fault with in these respects.” “And assuredly there is no people that have a record of greater or more numerous exploits of their ancestors than the Athenians; a circumstance by which many are prompted and stimulated to cultivate manly courage and to become brave.” 4. “All that you say is true, Socrates, but you see that since the slaughter of the thousand occurred at Lebadeia under Tolmides, and that at Delium under Hippocrates, the reputation of the Athenians has been lessened as far as regards the Boeotians, and the spirit of the Boeotians has been raised as far as regards the Athenians, so that the Boeotians, indeed, who formerly did not dare, even on their own soil, to meet the Athenians in the field without the aid of the Spartans and other Peloponnesians, now threaten to invade Attica single-handed; while the Athenians, who formerly, when the Boeotians were unsupported, ravaged Boeotia, are afraid lest the Boeotians should lay waste Attica.” 5. “I perceive, indeed,” said Socrates, “that such is the case; but the city seems to me now to be more favorably disposed for any good general; for confidence produces in men carelessness, indolence, and disobedience, but fear renders them more attentive, obedient, and orderly. 6. You may form a notion of this from people in a ship; for as long as they fear nothing, they are all in disorder, but as soon as they begin to dread a storm, or the approach of an enemy, they not only do everything that they are told to do, but are hushed in silence, waiting for the directions to be given, like a band of dancers.” 7. “Well then,” said Pericles, “if they would now, assuredly, obey, it would be time for us to discuss how we might incite them to struggle to regain their ancient spirit, glory, and happiness.” 8. “If then,” said Socrates, “we wished them to claim property of which others were in possession, we should most effectively urge them to lay claim to it, if we proved that it belonged to their fathers, and was their rightful inheritance; and since we wish that they should strive for pre-eminence in valor, we must show them that such pre-eminence was indisputably theirs of old, and that if they now exert themselves to recover it, they will be the most powerful of all people.” 9. “How, then, can we convince them of this?” “I think that we may do so, if we remind them that they have heard that their most ancient forefathers, of whom we have any knowledge, were the bravest of men.” 10. “Do you allude to the dispute between the gods, of which Cecrops and his assessors had the decision on account of their valor?” “I do allude to that, and to the education and birth of Erechtheus, and the war which occurred in his time with the people of the whole adjoining continent, as well as that which was waged under the Heracleidae against the Peloponnesians, and all the wars that were carried on under Theseus, in all of which they showed themselves the bravest people of their time; 11. and also, if you please, to what their descendants have since done, who lived not long before our day, not only contending, with their own unassisted strength, against the lords of all Asia and Europe, as far as Macedonia (who inherited vast power and wealth from their ancestors, and who had themselves performed great achievements), but also distinguished themselves, in conjunction with the Peloponnesians, both by land and sea. They, doubtless, are celebrated as having far surpassed other men of their time.” “They are so,” said Pericles. 12. “In consequence, though many migrations occurred in Greece, they remained in their own country; and many, when contending for their rights, submitted their claims to their arbitration, while many others, also, when persecuted by more powerful people, sought refuge with them.” 13. “I wonder, indeed, Socrates,” said Pericles, “how our city ever degenerated.” “I imagine,” said Socrates, “that as some athletes, owing to being prominent and distinguished, grow idle, and are left behind by their antagonists, so likewise the Athenians, after attaining great pre-eminence, grew neglectful of themselves, and consequently became degenerate.”

14. “By what means, then,” said Pericles, “could they now recover their pristine dignity?” “It appears to me,” replied Socrates, “not at all difficult to discover; for I think that if they learn what were the practices of their ancestors, and observe them not less diligently than they, they will become not at all inferior to them; but if they do not take that course, yet, if they imitate those who are now at the head of Greece, adopting the same principles as they do, and practicing the same with diligence equal to theirs, they will stand not at all below them, and, if they use greater exertion, even above them.” 15. “You intimate,” returned Pericles, “that honor and virtue are far away from our city; for when will the Athenians reverence their elders as the Spartans do, when they begin, even by their own fathers, to show disrespect to older men? Or when will they exercise themselves like them, when they not only are regardless of bodily vigor, but deride those who cultivate it? 16. Or when will they obey the magistrates like them, when they make it their pride to set them at nought? Or when will they be of one mind like them, when, instead of acting in concert for their mutual interests, they inflict injuries on one another, and envy one another more than they envy the rest of mankind? More than any other people, too, do they dispute in their private and public meetings; they institute more law-suits against one another, and prefer thus to prey upon one another than to unite for their mutual benefit. They conduct their public affairs as if they were those of a foreign state; they contend about the management of them, and rejoice, above all things, in having power to engage in such contests. 17. From such conduct much ignorance and baseness prevail in the republic, and much envy and mutual hatred are engendered in the breasts of the citizens; on which accounts I am constantly in the greatest fear lest some evil should happen to the state too great for it to bear.” 18. “Do not by any means suppose, Pericles,” rejoined Socrates, “that the Athenians are thus disordered with an incurable depravity. Do you not see how orderly they are in their naval proceedings, how precisely they obey the presidents in the gymnastic games, and how, in the arrangement of the choruses, they submit to the directions of their teachers in a way inferior to none?” 19. “This is indeed surprising,” said Pericles, “that men of that class should obey those who are set over them, and that the infantry and cavalry, who are thought to excel the ordinary citizens in worth and valor, should be the least obedient of all the people.” 20. “The council of the Areopagus, too,” said Socrates, “is it not composed of men of approved character?” “Undoubtedly,” replied Pericles. “And do you know of any judges who decide causes, and conduct all their business, with more exact conformity to the laws, or with more honor and justice? “ “I find no fault with them,” said Pericles. “We must not therefore despair,” said Socrates, “as if we thought that the Athenians are not inclined to be lovers of order.” 21. “Yet in military affairs,” observed Pericles, “in which it is most requisite to act with prudence, and order, and obedience, they pay no regard to such duties.” “It may be so,” returned Socrates, “for perhaps in military affairs men who are greatly deficient in knowledge have the command of them. Do you not observe that of harp­players, choristers, dancers, wrestlers, or pancratiasts, no one ventures to assume the direction who has not the requisite knowledge for it, but that all, who take the lead in such matters, are able to show from whom they learned the arts in which they are masters; whereas the most of our generals undertake to command without previous study? 22. I do not, however, imagine you to be one of that sort; for I am sensible that you can tell when you began to learn generalship not less certainly than when you began to learn wrestling. I am sure, too, that you have learned, and keep in mind, many of your father’s principles of warfare, and that you have collected many others from every quarter whence it was possible to acquire anything that would add to your skill as a commander. 23. I have no doubt that you take great care that you may not unawares be ignorant of anything conducive to generalship, and that, if you have ever found yourself deficient in any such matters, you have applied to persons experienced in them, sparing neither presents nor civilities, that you might learn from them what you did not know, and might render them efficient helpers to you.” 24. “You make me well aware, Socrates,” said Pericles, “that you do not say this from a belief that I have diligently attended to these matters, but from a wish to convince me that he who would be a general must attend to all such studies; and I indeed agree with you in that opinion.”

25. “Have you considered this also, Pericles,” asked Socrates, “that on the frontier of our territories lie great mountains, extending down to Boeotia, through which there lead into our country narrow and precipitous defiles; and that our country is girded by strong mountains, as it lies in the midst of them?” “Certainly,” said he. 26. “Have you heard, too, that the Mysians and Pisidians, who occupy extremely strong positions in the country of the Great King, and who are lightly armed, are able to make descents on the king’s territory, and do it great damage, while they themselves preserve their liberty?” “This, too, I have heard,” said Pericles. 27. “And do you not think that the Athenians,” said Socrates, “if equipped with light arms while they are of an age for activity, and occupying the mountains that fence our country, might do great mischief to our enemies, and form a strong bulwark for the inhabitants of our country?” “I think, Socrates,” said he, “that all these arrangements would be useful.” 28. “If these plans, then,” concluded Socrates, “appear satisfactory to you, endeavor, my excellent friend, to act upon them; for whatsoever of them you carry into execution, it will be an honor to yourself and an advantage to the state; and if you fail in the attempt for want of power, you will neither injure the state nor disgrace yourself.”


Socrates, by his usual process of interrogation, leads Glaucon, a young man who was extravagantly desirous of a post in the government, to confess that he was entirely destitute of the knowledge necessary for the office to which he aspired. He then shows that, unless a ruler has acquired an exact knowledge of state affairs, he can do no good to his country or credit to himself.

1. When Glaucon, the son of Ariston, attempted to harangue the people, from a desire, though he was not yet twenty years of age, to have a share in the government of the state, no one of his relatives, or other friends, could prevent him from getting himself dragged down from the tribunal, and making himself ridiculous; but Socrates alone, who had a friendly feeling towards him on account of Charmides the son of Glaucon, as well as on account of Plato, stopped him. 2. Meeting him by chance, he first stopped him by addressing him as follows, that he might be willing to listen to him: “Glaucon,” said he, “have you formed an intention to govern the state for us?” “I have, Socrates,” replied Glaucon. “By Jupiter,” rejoined Socrates, “it is an honorable office, if any other among men be so; for it is certain that, if you attain your object, you will be able yourself to secure whatever you may desire, and will be in a condition to benefit your friends; you will raise your father’s house, and increase the power of your country; you will be celebrated, first of all in your own city, and afterwards throughout Greece, and perhaps also, like Themistocles, among the Barbarians; and, wherever you may be, you will be an object of general admiration.” 3. Glaucon, hearing this, was highly elated, and cheerfully stayed to listen. Socrates next proceeded to say, “But it is plain, Glaucon, that if you wish to be honored, you must benefit the state.” “Certainly,” answered Glaucon. “Then, in the name of the gods,” said Socrates, “do not hide from us, but inform us with what proceeding you will begin to benefit the state?” 4. But as Glaucon was silent, as if just considering how he should begin, Socrates said, “As, if you wished to aggrandize the family of a friend, you would endeavor to make it richer, tell me whether you will in like manner also endeavor to make the state richer?” “Assuredly,” said he. 5. “Would it then be richer, if its revenues were increased?” “That is at least probable,” said Glaucon. “Tell me then,” proceeded Socrates, “from what the revenues of the state arise, and what is their amount; for you have doubtless considered, in order that if any of them fall short, you may make up the deficiency, and that if any of them fail, you may procure fresh supplies.” “These matters, by Jupiter,” replied Glaucon, “I have not considered.” 6. “Well then,” said Socrates, “if you have omitted to consider this point, tell me at least the annual expenditure of the state; for you undoubtedly mean to retrench whatever is superfluous in it.” “lndeed,” replied Glaucon, “I have not yet had time to turn my attention to that subject.” “We will therefore,” said Socrates, “put off making our state richer for the present; for how is it possible for him who is ignorant of its expenditure and its income to manage those matters?” 7. “But, Socrates,” observed Glaucon, “it is possible to enrich the state at the expense of our enemies.” “Extremely possible indeed,” replied Socrates, “if we be stronger than they; but if we be weaker, we may lose all that we have.” “What you say is true,” said Glaucon. 8. “Accordingly,” said Socrates, “he who deliberates with whom he shall go to war, ought to know the force both of his own country and of the enemy, so that, if that of his own country be superior to that of the enemy, he may advise it to enter upon the war, but, if inferior, may persuade it to be cautious of doing so.” “You say rightly,” said Glaucon. 9. “In the first place, then,” proceeded Socrates, “tell us the strength of the country by land and sea, and next that of the enemy.” “But, by Jupiter,” exclaimed Glaucon, “I should not be able to tell you on the moment, and at a word.” “Well, then, if you have it written down,” said Socrates, “bring it, for I should be extremely glad to hear what it is.” “But to say the truth,” replied Glaucon, “I have not yet written it down.” 10. “We will therefore put off considering about war before everything else,” said Socrates, “for it is very likely that, on account of the magnitude of those subjects, and as you are just commencing your administration, you have not yet examined into them. But to the defense of the country, I am quite sure that you have directed your attention, and that you know. how many garrisons are in advantageous positions, and how many not so, what number of men would be sufficient to maintain them, and what number would be insufficient, and that you will advise your countrymen to make the garrisons in advantageous positions stronger, and to remove the useless ones.” 11. “By Jove,” replied Glaucon, “(I shall recommend them to remove) them all, as they keep guard so negligently, that the property is secretly carried off out of the country.” “Yet if we remove the garrisons,” said Socrates, “do you not think that liberty will be given to anybody that pleases to pillage? But,” added he, “have you gone personally, and examined as to this fact, or how do you know that the garrisons conduct themselves with such negligence?” “I form my conjectures,” said he. “Well then,” inquired Socrates, “shall we settle about these matters also, when we no longer rest upon conjecture, but have obtained certain knowledge?” “Perhaps that,” said Glaucon, “will be the better course.” 12. “To the silver mines, however,” continued Socrates, “I know that you have not gone, so as to have the means of telling us why a smaller revenue is derived from them than came in some time ago.” “I have not gone thither,” said he. “Indeed the place,” said Socrates, “is said to be unhealthy, so that, when it is necessary to bring it under consideration, this will be a sufficient excuse for you.” “You jest with me,” said Glaucon. 13. “I am sure, however,” proceeded Socrates, “that you have not neglected to consider, but have calculated, how long the corn, which is produced in the country, will suffice to maintain the city, and how much it requires for the year, in order that the city may not suffer from scarcity unknown to you, but that, from your own knowledge, you may be able, by giving your advice concerning the necessaries of life, to support the city, and preserve it.” “You propose a vast field for me,” observed Glaucon, “if it will be necessary for me to attend to such subjects.” 14. “Nevertheless,” proceeded Socrates, “a man cannot order his house properly, unless he ascertains all that it requires, and takes care to supply it with everything necessary; but since the city consists of more than ten thousand houses, and since it is difficult to provide for so many at once, how is it that you have not tried to aid one first of all, suppose that of your uncle, for it stands in need of help? If you be able to assist that one, you may proceed to assist more; but if you be unable to benefit one, how will you be able to benefit many? Just as it is plain that, if a man cannot carry the weight of a talent, he need not attempt to carry a greater weight.” 15. “But I would improve my uncle’s house,” said Glaucon, “if he would but be persuaded by me.” “And then,” resumed Socrates, “when you cannot persuade your uncle, do you expect to make all the Athenians, together with your uncle, yield to your arguments? 16. Take care, Glaucon, lest, while you are eager to acquire glory, you meet with the reverse of it. Do you not see how dangerous it is for a person to speak of, or undertake, what he does not understand? Contemplate, among other men, such as you know to be characters that plainly talk of, and attempt to do, what they do not know, and consider whether they appear to you, by such conduct, to obtain more applause or censure, whether they seem to be more admired or despised. 17. Contemplate, again, those who have some understanding of what they say and do, and you will find, I think, in all transactions, that such as are praised and admired are of the number of those who have most knowledge, and that those who incur censure and neglect are among those that have least. 18. If therefore you desire to gain esteem and reputation in your country, endeavor to succeed in gaining a knowledge of what you wish to do; for if, when you excel others in this qualification, you proceed to manage the affairs of the state, I shall not wonder if you very easily obtain what you desire.”


Socrates exhorts Charmides, a man of ability, and acquainted with public affairs, to take part in the government, that he may not be charged with indolence, sects. 1-4. As Charmides distrusts his abilities for public speaking, Socrates encourages him by various observations, 5-9.

1. Observing that Charmides, the son of Glaucon, a man of worth, and of far more ability than those who then ruled the state, hesitated to address the people, or to take part in the government of the city, he said to him, “Tell me, Charmides, if any man, who was able to win the crown in the public games, and, by that means, to gain honor for himself, and make his birth­place more celebrated in Greece, should nevertheless refuse to become a combatant, what sort of person would you consider him to he?” “I should certainly think him indolent and wanting in spirit,” replied Charmides. 2. “And if any one were able,” continued Socrates, “by taking part in public affairs, to improve the condition of his country, and thus to attain honor for himself, but should yet shrink from doing so, might not he be justly regarded as wanting in spirit?” “Perhaps so,” said Charmides; “but why do you ask me that question?” “Because,” replied Socrates, “I think that you yourself, though possessed of sufficient ability, yet shrink from engaging even in those affairs in which it is your duty as a citizen to take a share.” 3. “But in what transaction have you discovered my ability,” said Charmides, “that you bring this charge against me?” “In those conferences,” answered Socrates, “in which you meet those who are engaged in the government of the state; for when they consult you on any point, I observe that you give them excellent advice, and that, when they are in any way in the wrong, you offer judicious objections.” 4. “But it is not the same thing, Socrates,” said he, “to converse with people in private, and to try one’s powers at a public assembly.” “Yet,” said Socrates, “he that is able to count, can count with no less exactness before a multitude than alone, and those who can play the harp best in solitude are also the best performers on it in company.” 5. “But do you not see,” said Charmides, “that bashfulness and timidity are naturally inherent in mankind, and affect us far more before a multitude than in private conversations?” “But I am prompted to remind you,” answered Socrates, “that while you neither feel bashfulness before the most intelligent, nor timidity before the most powerful, it is in the presence of the most foolish and weak that you are ashamed to speak. 6. And is it the fullers among them, or the cobblers, or the agricultural laborers, or the carpenters, or the copper-smiths, or the ship-merchants, or those who barter in the market, and meditate what they may buy for little and sell for more, that you are ashamed to address? For it is of all such characters that the assembly is composed. 7. How then do you think that your conduct differs from him, who, being superior to well-practiced opponents, should yet fear the unpracticed? For is not this the case with you, that though you converse at your ease with those who have attained eminence in state affairs, and of whom some undervalue you, and though you are far superior to many who make it their business to address the people, you yet shrink from uttering your sentiments before men who have never thought of political affairs, and who have shown no disrespect for your talents, from an apprehension that you may be laughed at?” 8. “And do not the people in the assembly,” asked Charmides, “appear to you often to laugh at those who speak with great judgment?” “Yes,” said Socrates, “and so do the other sort of people; and therefore I wonder at you, that you so easily silence one class of persons when they do so, and yet think that you shall not be able to deal with another. 9. Be not ignorant of yourself, my friend, and do not commit the error which the majority of men commit; for most persons, though they are eager to look into the affairs of others, give no thought to the examination of their own. Do not you, then, neglect this duty, but strive more and more to attend to yourself; and do not be regardless of the affairs of your country, if any department of them can be improved by your means; for, if they are in a good condition, not only the rest of your countrymen, but your own friends and yourself, will reap the greatest benefit.”


Socrates meets the captious questions of Aristippus about goodness and beauty in such a manner as to show that nothing is good or bad in itself, but only with reference to some object, sect. 1-3 ; and that nothing is beautiful or otherwise in itself, but that the beautiful must be considered with regard to the useful, 4-7. His remarks on buildings, to the same effect, 8-10.

1. When Aristippus attempted to confute Socrates, as he himself had previously been confuted by him, Socrates, wishing to benefit those who were with him, gave his answers, not like those who are on their guard lest their words be perverted, but like those who are persuaded that they ought above all things to do what is right. 2. What Aristippus had asked him, was, “whether he knew anything good,” in order that if he should say any such thing as food, or drink, or money, or health, or strength, or courage, he might prove that it was sometimes an evil. But Socrates, reflecting that if anything troubles us, we want something to relieve us from it, replied, as it seemed best to do, “Do you ask me whether I know anything good for a fever?” 3. “I do not.” “Anything good for soreness of the eyes?” “No.” “For hunger?” “No, nor for hunger either.” “Well then,” concluded Socrates, “if you ask me whether I know anything good that is good for nothing, I neither know anything, nor wish to know.”

4. Aristippus again asking him if he knew anything beautiful, he replied, “Many things.” “Are they then,” inquired Aristippus, “all like each other?” “Some of them,” answered Socrates, “are as unlike one another as it is possible for them to be.” “How then,” said he, “can what is beautiful be unlike what is beautiful?” “Because, assuredly,” replied Socrates, “one man, who is beautifully formed for wrestling, is unlike another who is beautifully formed for running; and a shield, which is beautifully formed for defense, is as unlike as possible to a dart, which is beautifully formed for being forcibly and swiftly hurled.” 5. “You answer me,” said Aristippus, “in the same manner as when I asked you whether you knew anything good.” “And do you imagine,” said Socrates, “that the good is one thing, and the beautiful another? Do you not know that with reference to the same objects all things are both beautiful and good? Virtue, for instance, is not good with regard to some things and beautiful with regard to others; and persons, in the same way, are called beautiful and good with reference to the same objects; and human bodies, too, with reference to the same objects, appear beautiful and good; and in like manner all other things, whatever men use, are considered beautiful and good with reference to the objects for which they are serviceable.” 6. “Can a dung-basket, then,” said Aristippus, “be a beautiful thing?” “Yes, by Jupiter,” returned Socrates, “and a golden shield may be an ugly thing, if the one be beautifully formed for its particular uses, and the other ill formed.” 7. “Do you say, then, that the same things may be both beautiful and ugly?” “Yes, undoubtedly, and also that they may be good and bad; for oftentimes what is good for hunger is bad for a fever, and what is good for a fever is bad for hunger; oftentimes what is beautiful in regard to running is the reverse in regard to wrestling, and what is beautiful in regard to wrestling is the reverse in regard to running; for whatever is good is also beautiful, in regard to purposes for which it is well adapted, and whatever is bad is the reverse of beautiful, in regard to purposes for which it is ill adapted.”

8. When Socrates said, too, that the same houses that were beautiful were also useful, he appeared to me to instruct us what sort of houses we ought to build. He reasoned on the subject thus, “Should not he, who purposes to have a house such as it ought to be, contrive that it may be most pleasant, and at the same time most useful, to live in? 9. This being admitted,” he said, “is it not, then, pleasant to have it cool in summer, and warm in winter?” When his hearers had assented to this, he said, “In houses, then, that look to the south, does not the sun, in the winter, shine into the porticoes, while, in the summer, it passes over our heads, and above the roof, and casts a shade? If it is well, therefore, that houses should thus be made, ought we not to build the parts towards the south higher, that the sun in winter may not be shut out, and the parts towards the north lower, that the cold winds may not fall violently on them? 10. To sum up the matter briefly, that would be the most pleasant and the most beautiful residence, in which the owner, at all seasons, would find the most satisfactory retreat, and deposit what belongs to him with the greatest safety.”

Paintings and colored decorations of the walls deprive us, he thought, of more pleasure than they give.

The most suitable ground for temples and altars, he said, was such as was most open to view, and least trodden by the public; for that it was pleasant for people to pray as they looked on them, and pleasant to approach them in purity.


Various definitions of fortitude, prudence, and temperance, madness, envy, idleness, command, happiness, given by Socrates. Fortitude is not equal in all men; it may be increased by exercise, sect. 1-3. Prudence and temperance not distinct from each other, 4. Justice, as well as other virtues, is wisdom, 5. The opposite to prudence is madness; ignorance distinct from madness, 6, 7. Envy is uneasiness of mind at the contemplation of the happiness of others, 8. Idleness is forbearance from useful occupation, 9. Command is exercised not by those who bear the name, merely, of kings and rulers, but by those who know how to command, 10-13. The best object of human life is to act well; the difference between acting well and acting fortunately, 14, 13.

1. Being asked, again, whether Fortitude was a quality acquired by education, or bestowed by nature, “I think,” said he, “that as one body is by nature stronger for enduring toil than another body, so one mind may be by nature more courageous in meeting dangers than another mind; for I see that men who are brought up under the same laws and institutions differ greatly from each other in courage. 2. I am of opinion, however, that every natural disposition may be improved, as to fortitude, by training and exercise; for it is evident that the Scythians and Thracians would not dare to take bucklers and spears and fight with the Lacedaemonians; and it is certain that the Lacedaemonians would not like to fight the Thracians with small shields and javelins, or the Scythians with bows. 3. In other things, also, I see that men differ equally from one another by nature, and make great improvements by practice; from which it is evident that it concerns all, as well the naturally ingenious as the naturally dull, to learn and study those arts in which they desire to become worthy of commendation.”

4. Prudence and Temperance he did not distinguish; for he deemed that he who knew what was honorable and good, and how to practice it, and who knew what was dishonorable, and how to avoid it, was both prudent and temperate. Being also asked whether he thought that those who knew what they ought to do, but did the contrary, were prudent and temperate, he replied, “No more than I think the [openly] imprudent and intemperate to be so; for I consider that all [prudent and temperate] persons choose from what is possible what they judge for their interest, and do it; and I therefore deem those who do not act [thus] judiciously to be neither prudent nor temperate.”

5. He said, too, that justice, and every other virtue, was [a part of] prudence, for that everything just, and everything done agreeably to virtue, was honorable and good; that those who could discern those things, would never prefer anything else to them; that those who could not discern them, would never be able to do them, but would even go wrong if they attempted to do them; and that the prudent, accordingly, did what was honorable and good, but that the imprudent could not do it, but went wrong even if they attempted to do it; and that since, therefore, all just actions, and all actions that are honorable and good, are done in agreement with virtue, it is manifest that justice, and every other virtue, is [comprehended in] prudence.

6. The opposite to prudence, he said, was Madness; he did not, however, regard ignorance as madness; though for a man to be ignorant of himself, and to fancy and believe that he knew what he did not know, he considered to be something closely bordering on madness. The multitude, he observed, do not say that those are mad who make mistakes in matters of which most people are ignorant, but call those only mad who make mistakes in affairs with which most people are acquainted; 7. for if a man should think himself so tall as to stoop when going through the gates in the city wall, or so strong as to try to lift up houses, or attempt anything else that is plainly impossible to all men, they say that he is mad; but those who make mistakes in small matters are not thought by the multitude to be mad; but just as they call “strong desire” “love,” so they call “great disorder of intellect” “madness.”

8. Considering what Envy was, he decided it to be a certain annoyance, not such as arises, however, at the ill success of friends, nor such as is felt at the good success of enemies, but those only, he said, were envious who were annoyed at the good success of their friends. When some expressed surprise, that any one who had a friendly feeling for another should feel annoyed at his good fortune, he reminded them that many are so disposed towards others as to be incapable of neglecting them if they are unfortunate, but would relieve them in ill fortune, though they are annoyed at their good fortune. This feeling, he said, could never arise in the breast of a sensible man, but that the foolish were constantly affected with it.

9. Considering what Idleness was, he said that he found most men did something; for that dice-players and buffoons did something; but he said that all such persons were idle, for it was in their power to go and do something better; he observed that a man was not idle, however, in passing from a better employment to a worse, but that, if he did so, he, as he [previously] had occupation, acted in that respect viciously.

10. Kings and Commanders, he said, were not those who held scepters merely, or those elected by the multitude, or those who gained authority by lot, or those who attained it by deceit, but those who knew how to command. 11. For when some one admitted that it was the part of a commander to enjoin what another should do, and the part of him who was commanded, to obey, he showed that in a ship the skillful man is the commander, and that the owner and all the other people in the ship were obedient to the man of knowledge; that, in agriculture, those who had farms, in sickness, those who were ill, in bodily exercises, those who practiced them, and indeed all other people, who had any business requiring care, personally took the management of it if they thought that they understood it, but if not, that they were not only ready to obey men of knowledge who were present, but even sent for such as were absent, in order that, by yielding to their directions, they might do what was proper. In spinning, too, he pointed out that women commanded men, as the one knew how to spin, and the other did not know. 12. But if any one remarked in reply to these observations, that a tyrant is at liberty not to obey judicious advisers, he would say, “And how is he at liberty not to obey, when a penalty hangs over him that does not obey a wise monitor? for in whatever affair a person does not obey a prudent adviser, he will doubtless err, and, by erring, will incur a penalty.” 13. If any one also observed that a tyrant might put to death a wise counsellor, “And do you think,” he would say, “that he who puts to death the best of his allies goes unpunished, or that he is exposed only to casual punishment? Whether do you suppose that a man who acts thus lives in safety, or, rather, by such conduct brings immediate destruction on himself?”

14. When some one asked him what pursuit he thought best for a man, he replied, “good conduct.” When he asked him again whether he thought “good fortune” a pursuit, he answered, “‘Fortune’ and ‘Conduct’ I think entirely opposed; for, for a person to light on anything that he wants without seeking it, I consider to be ‘good fortune,’ but to achieve anything successfully by learning and study, I regard as ‘good conduct;’ and those who make this the object of their pursuit appear to me to do well.”

15. The best men, and those most beloved by the gods, he observed, were those who, in agriculture, performed their agricultural duties well, those who, in medicine, performed their medical duties well, and those who, in political offices, performed their public duties well; but he who did nothing well, he said, was neither useful for any purpose, nor acceptable to the gods.


Socrates was desirous to benefit artisans by discoursing with them on the principles of their several arts. Of painting, sect. 1. Of representing perfect beauty, 2. Of expressing the affections of the mind, 3-5. Of statuary, 6-8. In what the excellence of a corslet consists, 9-14.

1. Whenever he conversed with any of those who were engaged in arts or trades, and who wrought at them for gain, he proved of service to them. Visiting Parrhasius the painter one day, and entering into conversation with him, he said, “Pray, Parrhasius, is not painting the representation of visible objects! At least you represent substances, imitating them by means of color, hollow and high, dark and light, hard and soft, rough and smooth, fresh and old.” “What you say is true,” said Parrhasius. 2. “And when you would represent beautiful figures, do you, since it is not easy to find one person with every part perfect, select, out of many, the most beautiful parts of each, and thus represent figures beautiful in every part?” “We do so,” said he. 3. “And do you also,” said Socrates, “give imitations of the disposition of the mind, as it may be most persuasive, most agreeable, most friendly, most full of regret, or most amiable? Or is this inimitable?” “How can that be imitated, Socrates,” said he, “which has neither proportion, nor color, nor any of the qualities which you just now mentioned, and is not even a visible object?” 4. “Is it not often observable in a man that he regards others with a friendly or unfriendly look?” “I think so,” said he. “Is this then possible to be copied in the eyes?” “Assuredly.” “And at the good or ill fortune of people’s friends, do those who are affected at it, and those who are not, appear to you to have the same sort of look?” “No, indeed; for they look cheerful at their good, and sad at their evil, fortune.” “Is it possible, then, to imitate these looks?” “Unquestionably.” 5. “Surely, also, nobleness and generosity of disposition, meanness and illiberality, modesty and intelligence, insolence and stupidity, show themselves both in the looks and gestures of men, whether they stand or move.” “What you say is just.” “Can these peculiarities be imitated?” “Certainly.” “Whether, then,” said Socrates, “do you think that people look with more pleasure on paintings in which beautiful, and good, and lovely characters are exhibited, or those in which the deformed, and evil, and detestable are represented?” “There is a very great difference indeed, Socrates,” replied Parrhasius.

6. Going once, too, into the workshop of Cleito, the statuary, and beginning to converse with him, he said, “I see and understand, Cleito, that you make figures of various kinds, runners and wrestlers, pugilists and pancratiasts, but how do you put into your statues that which most attracts the beholders through the eye, the lifelike appearance?” 7. As Cleito hesitated, and did not immediately answer, Socrates proceeded to ask, “Do you make your statues appear more lifelike by assimilating your work to the figures of the living?” “Certainly,” said he. “Do you not then make your figures appear more like reality, and more striking, by imitating the parts of the body, that are drawn up or drawn down, compressed or spread out, stretched or relaxed, by the gesture?” “Undoubtedly,” said Cleito. “And the representation of the passions of men engaged in any act, does it not excite a certain pleasure in the spectators?” “It is natural, at least, that it should be so,” said he. “Must you not, then, copy the menacing looks of combatants? And must you not imitate the countenance of conquerors, as they look joyful?” “Assuredly,” said he. “A statuary, therefore,” concluded Socrates, “must express the workings of the mind by the form.”

9. Entering the shop of Pistias, a corslet-maker, and Pistias having shown him some well-made corslets, Socrates observed, “By Juno, Pistias, this is an excellent invention, that the corslet should cover those parts of a man’s body that need protection, and yet should not hinder him from using his hands. 10. But tell me, Pistias,” he added, “why do you sell your corslets at a higher price than other makers, though you neither make them stronger nor of more costly materials?” “Because, Socrates,” said he, “I make them better proportioned.” “And do you make this proportion appear in the measure or weight of your corslets, that you set a higher price on them? For I suppose that you do not make them all equal or similar, if you make them to fit (different persons).” “Indeed,” replied he, “I do make them to fit, for there would be no use in a corslet without that quality.” 11. “Are not then,” said Socrates, “the bodies of some men well-proportioned, and those of others ill-proportioned?” “Certainly,” said Pistias. “How, then,” asked Socrates, “do you make a well-proportioned corslet fit an ill-proportioned body?” “As I make it fit,” answered Pistias; “for one that fits is well-proportioned.” 12. “You seem to me,” said Socrates, “to speak of proportion considered not independently, but with respect to the wearer, as if you should say of a shield, or a cloak, that it is well-proportioned to him whom it suits; and such appears to be the case with regard to other things, according to what you say. 13. But, perhaps, there may be some other considerable advantage in making to fit.” “Tell me, Socrates,” said he, “if you know any.” “Those corslets which fit,” answered Socrates, “are less oppressive by their weight, than those which do not fit, though they be both of equal weight; while those which do not fit are, either from hanging wholly on the shoulders, or from pressing heavily on some other part of the body, inconvenient and uneasy; but those which fit, as they have their weight distributed (so as to be borne) partly by the collar-bone and shoulder, partly by the upper part of the arm, and partly by the breast, back, and stomach, appear almost like, not a burden to be borne, but a natural appendage.” 14. “You have hit upon the very quality,” said Pistias, “for which I consider my manufacture deserving of the very highest price; some, however, prefer purchasing ornamented and gilded corslets.” “Yet if on this account,” said Socrates, “they purchase such as do not fit, they appear to me to purchase an ornamented and gilded annoyance. But,” added he, “since the body does not continue always in the same position, but is at one time bent, and at another straight, how can a corslet, which is exactly fitted to it, suit it?” “It cannot by any means,” said Pistias. “You mean, therefore,” said Socrates, “that it is not those which are exactly fitted to the body that suit, but those that do not gall in the wearing.” “I say what is clearly the case, Socrates,” replied he, “and now you exactly comprehend the matter.”


The visit of Socrates to Theodota, and his discourse with her, sect. 1-9. He tells her that true friends are not acquired without the manifestation of kind and good feelings, 9-12. He reminds her that in gratifying the appetites we must guard against satiety, 13, 14. His jests on taking leave of her, 15-18.

1. There being at one time a beautiful woman in the city, whose name was Theodota, a woman ready to form a connection with any one that made advances to her, and somebody in company with Socrates making mention of her, and saying that the beauty of this woman was beyond description, and that painters went to her to take her portrait, to whom she showed as much of her person as she could with propriety, “We ought then to go and see her,” remarked Socrates, “for it is not possible to comprehend by hearing that which surpasses description.” “Will you not be quick and follow me, then,” said he who had mentioned her.

2. Going, accordingly, to the house of Theodota, and finding her standing to a painter, they contemplated her figure; and when the painter had left off, Socrates said, “My friends, whether ought we to feel obliged to Theodota for having shown us her beauty, or she to us for having viewed it with admiration? If the exhibition be rather of advantage to her, ought not she to feel grateful to us, or if the sight has given rather more pleasure to us, ought not we to feel grateful to her?” 3. Somebody saying that he spoke reasonably, he added, “She, then, for the present, gains praise from us, and, when we have spoken of her to others, will gain profit in addition; but as for us, we now desire to embrace what we have seen, and shall go away excited, and long for her after we are away from her; the natural consequence of which is that we shall be her adorers, and that she will be worshipped as our mistress.” “If this be the case, indeed,” said Theodota, “I must feel gratitude to you for coming to see me.”

4. Soon after, Socrates, seeing her most expensively attired, and her mother with her in a dress and adornment above the common, with several handsome female attendants, not unbecomingly apparelled, and her house richly furnished in other respects, said to her, “Tell me, Theodota, have you an estate?” “Not I, indeed,” replied she. “But perhaps you have a house that brings you an income?” “Nor a house either,” said she. “Have you then any slaves that practice handicrafts?” “No, nor any slaves.” “How then,” said Socrates, “do you procure subsistence?” “If any one becomes my friend,” she replied, “and is willing to benefit me, he is my means of subsistence.” 5. By Juno, Theodota,” rejoined Socrates, “and he is an excellent acquisition to you; and it is much better to have a flock of friends than of sheep, oxen, and goats. But,” added he, “do you leave it to chance whether a friend, like a fly, shall wing his way to you, or do you use any contrivance (to attract them)?” 6. “And how,” said she, “can I find a contrivance for such a purpose?” “Much more readily,” said he, “than spiders can; for you know how they try to get subsistence; they weave fine nets, and feed upon whatever falls into them.” 7. “And do you advise me, too,” said she, “to weave a net?” “Yes,” said he, “for you ought not to think that you will catch friends, the most valuable prey that can be taken, without art. Do you not see how many arts hunters use to catch hares, an animal of but little worth? 8. As the hares feed in the night, they procure dogs for hunting by night, with which they chase them; as they conceal themselves in the day, they provide other dogs, which, perceiving by the smell the way that they have gone from their feeding-place to their forms, trace them out; and as they are swift of foot, so as soon to escape from view by running, they procure also other dogs, of great speed, that they may be caught by pursuit; and because some of them escape even from these dogs, they stretch nets across the path by which they flee, that they may fall into them and be entangled.” 9. “By what art of this kind, then,” said she, “can I catch friends?” “If,” said he, “instead of a dog, you get somebody to track and discover the lovers of beauty, and the wealthy, and who, when he has found them, will contrive to drive them into your nets.” “And what nets have I?” said she. 10. “You have one at least,” he replied, “and one that closely embraces its prey, your person; and in it you have a mind, by which you understand how you may gratify a person by looking at him, and what you may say to cheer him, and learn that you ought to receive with transport him who shows concern for you, and to shut out him who is insolent, to attend carefully on a friend when he is ill, to rejoice greatly with him when he has succeeded in anything honorable, and to cherish affection in your whole soul for the man who sincerely cares for you. To love I am sure that you know, not only tenderly, but with true kindness of heart; and your friends try to please you, I know, because you conciliate them, not with words merely, but by your behavior towards them.” “Indeed,” replied Theodota, “I use none of these schemes.” 11. “Yet,” said Socrates, “it is of great importance to deal with a man according to his disposition, and with judgment; for by force you can neither gain nor keep a friend, but by serving and pleasing him the animal is easily taken and attached to you.” “What you say is true,” said she.

12. “It becomes you, therefore,” proceeded Socrates, “in the first place, to request of your lovers only such favors as they will perform with least cost to themselves; and you must then make a return by obliging them in a similar way; for thus they will become most sincerely attached to you, and will love you longest, and benefit you most. 13. But you will please them most, if you grant them favors only when they solicit them; for you see that even the most savory meats, if a person offer them to another before he has an appetite for them, appear to him distasteful; and in the satisfied they excite even loathing; but if one offers food to another after having raised an appetite in him, it seems, though it be of a very ordinary kind, extremely agreeable.” 14. “How then can I,” said she, “excite such an appetite in any one of those that visit me?” “If when they are satiated,” said he, “you, in the first place, neither offer yourself to them, nor remind them of you, until, coming to an end of their satiety, they again feel a desire for you; and, when they do feel such desire, remind them (of your fondness) by the most modest address, and by showing yourself willing to gratify them, holding back, at the same time, until they are filled with impatient longing; for it is far better to grant the same favors at such a time, than before they had an appetite for them.” 15. “Why do not you, then, Socrates,” said she, “become my helper in securing friends?” “I will indeed,” said he, “if you can persuade me.” “And how then,” said she, “can I persuade you?” “You yourself will seek and find means to do so, if you should at all need me.” “Come often to see me, then,” said she. 16. Then Socrates, joking upon her easy life, said, “But, Theodota, it is not easy for me to find leisure; for my own numerous occupations, private and public, allow me no rest; and I have female friends also, who will not suffer me to leave them day or night, learning from me love-charms and incantations.” 17. “Do you then know such arts, too, Socrates?” said Theodota. “Through what other influence do you suppose that Apollodorus here, and Antisthenes, never leave me? and through what other influence do you suppose that Cebes and Simmias come to me from Thebes? Be assured, that such effects were not produced without many love-charms, incantations, and magic wheels.” 18. “Lend me, then, your magic wheel,” said she, “that I may set it a-going, first of all, against yourself.” “But, by Jupiter,” exclaimed Socrates, “I do not wish that I should be drawn to you, but that you should come to me.” “I will come then,” said she, “only take care to let me in,” “I will let you in,” replied he, “if another more acceptable than you be not within.”


Socrates shows the benefit of gymnastic exercises, as well on the health of the mind as on that of the body, sect. 1-4. The advantages of health and vigor, 5-8.

1. Noticing that Epigenes, one of his followers, was both very young and weak in body, he said to him, “How very unlike an athlete you are in frame, Epigenes!” “I am not an athlete, Socrates,” replied he. “You are not less of an athlete,” rejoined Socrates, “than those who are going to contend at the Olympic games. Does the struggle for life with the enemy, which the Athenians will demand of you when circumstances require, seem to you to be a trifling contest? 2. Yet, in the dangers of war, not a few, through weakness of body, either lose their lives, or save them with dishonor; many, from the same cause, are taken alive, and, as prisoners of war, endure for the rest of their lives, if such should be their fate, the bitterest slavery; or, falling into the most grievous hardships, and paying for their ransom sometimes more than they possess, pass the remainder of their existence in want of necessaries, and in the endurance of affliction; and many, too, incur infamy, being thought to be cowards merely from the imbecility of their bodily frame. 3. Do you think lightly of such penalties attached to weakness of body, or do you expect that you will endure such calamities with ease? I believe that what he must bear who attends to the health of his body, is far lighter and more pleasant than such afflictions. Or do you suppose that an ill condition of body is more salutary and advantageous than a good condition? Or do you despise the benefits secured by a good state of the body? 4. Yet the lot which falls to those who have their bodies in good condition is exactly the reverse of that which falls to those who have them in ill condition; for those who have their bodies in a good state are healthy and strong; and many, from being possessed of this advantage, save themselves with honor amid the struggles of war, and escape every peril; many, also, assist their friends and benefit their country, and, for such services, are thought worthy of favor, acquire great glory, and attain the highest dignities; and, on these accounts, pass the rest of their lives with greater pleasure and honor, and bequeath finer fortunes to their children. 5. Nor, because the city does not require warlike exercises publicly, ought we, on that account, to neglect them privately, but rather to practice them the more; for be well assured that neither in any other contest, nor in any affair whatever, will you at all come off the worse because your body is better trained (than that of other men); since the body must bear its part in whatever men do; and in all the services required from the body, it is of the utmost importance to have it in the best possible condition; 6. for even in that in which you think that there is least exercise for the body, namely, thinking, who does not know that many fail greatly from ill-health? and loss of memory, despondency, irritability, and madness, often, from ill-health of body, attack the mind with such force as to drive out all previous knowledge. 7. But to those who have their bodies in good condition, there is great assurance from danger, and no danger of suffering any such calamity from weakness of constitution; whilst it is likely, rather, that a healthy state of body will avail to produce consequences the reverse of those which result from an unhealthy state of it; and, indeed, to secure consequences the reverse of what we have stated, what would a man in his senses not undergo? 8. It is disgraceful, too, for a person to grow old in self-neglect, before he knows what he would become by rendering himself well-formed and vigorous in body; but this a man who neglects himself cannot know; for such advantages are not wont to come spontaneously.”


Several brief sayings of Socrates. We should not be offended at rudeness of manner more than at personal defects, sect. 1. Fasting the best remedy for loathing of food, 2. We should not be too nice as to food or drink, 3. He that punishes his slave, should consider whether he himself deserves like punishment, 4. Admonitions to travellers, 5. It is disgraceful to him who has been trained in the gymnasium to be outdone by a slave in enduring toil, 6.

1. A person being angry, because, on saluting another, he was not saluted in return, “It is an odd thing,” said Socrates to him, “that if you had met a man ill-conditioned in body, you would not have been angry, but to have met a man rudely disposed in mind provokes you.”

2. Another person saying that he ate without pleasure, “Acumenus,” said Socrates, “prescribes an excellent remedy for that disease.” The other asking, “What sort of remedy?” “To abstain from eating,” said Socrates; “for he says that, after abstaining, you will live with more pleasure, less expense, and better health.”

3. Another saying that the water which he had to drink at his house was warm, “When you wish to bathe in warm water, then,” said Socrates, “it will be ready for you.” “But it is (too) cold to bathe in,” said the other. “Are your slaves, then,” asked Socrates, “inconvenienced by drinking or bathing in it?” “No, by Jupiter,” replied he; “for I have often wondered how cheerfully they use it for both those purposes.” “And is the water in your house,” said Socrates, “or that in the temple of AescuIapius, the warmer for drinking?” “That at the temple of Aesculapius,” replied he. “And which is the colder for bathing in, that at your house, or that in the temple of Amphiaraus?” “That in the temple of Amphiaraus,” said he. “Consider, then,” said Socrates, “that you run the risk of being harder to please than your slaves or the sick.”

4. Another person beating his attendant severely, Socrates asked him why he was so angry at the slave. “Because,” said he, “he is very gluttonous and very stupid, very covetous and very idle.” “And have you ever reflected,” rejoined Socrates, “which of the two deserves the greater number of stripes, you or your slave?”

5. A person being afraid of the journey to Olympia, “Why,” said Socrates to him, “do you fear the journey? Do you not walk about at home almost all day? And, if you set out thither, you will walk and dine, walk and sup, and go to rest. Do you not know that if you were to extend (in a straight line) the walks which you take in five or six days, you would easily go from Athens to Olympia? But it will be better for you to start a day too soon than a day too late; for to be obliged to extend your days’ journeys beyond a moderate length is disagreeable; but to spend one day more on the road gives great ease; and it is better, therefore, to hasten to start than to hurry on the way.”

6. Another saying that he was utterly wearied with a long journey, Socrates asked him whether he carried any burden. “No, by Jupiter,” said he, “I did not, except my cloak.” “And did you travel alone,” said Socrates, “or did an attendant accompany you?” “An attendant was with me.” “Was he empty-handed, or did he carry anything?” “He carried, certainly, the bedding and other utensils.” “And how did he get over the journey?” “He appeared to me to come off better than myself.” “If you, then, had been obliged to carry his burden, how do you imagine that you would have fared?” “Very ill, by Jupiter; or rather, I should not have been able to carry it at all.” “And how can you think that it becomes a man trained to exercise to be so much less able to bear fatigue than a slave?”


Table-talk of Socrates in praise of frugality. In contributions to feasts, one guest should not strive to surpass another in the quality or quantity of what he contributes, sect. 1. He may be called 'opsophagos,' flesh-eater, who eats flesh alone, or with very little bread, 2-4. He that eats of many dishes at once acts foolishly in various ways, 5, 6. He may be truly said 'euoxeisthai,' to banquet, who lives on plain and wholesome food, 7.

1. When, among a number of persons who had met together to sup, some brought little meat, and others a great quantity, Socrates desired the attendant either to set the smallest dish on the table for common participation, or to distribute a portion of it to each. They, accordingly, who had brought a great deal were ashamed not to partake of what was put on table for the company in general, and not, at the same time, to put their own on table in return. They therefore offered their own dishes for the participation of the company; and when they had no greater share than those who brought but little, they ceased to buy meat at great cost.

2. Observing one of those at table with him taking no bread, but eating meat by itself, and a discussion having arisen at the same time about names, for what cause any particular name was given, “Can we tell,” said Socrates, “for what cause a man should be called 'opsophagos'? For everybody eats flesh with his bread when he has it; but I do not suppose that people are called 'opsophagoi' on that account.” “I should think not,” said one of the company. 3. “But,” said Socrates, “if a person should eat meat by itself without bread, not for the purpose of training, but of gratifying his appetite, whether would he seem to be an 'opsophagos' or not?” “Scarcely any other would more justly seem so,” said he. “And he that eats a great deal of meat with very little bread,” said another of the company, “what should he be called?” “To me,” replied Socrates, “it appears that he would justly be called 'opsophagos', and when other men pray to the gods for abundance of corn, he may pray for abundance of flesh.” 4. When Socrates said this, the young man, thinking that the words were directed at him, did not indeed leave off eating meat, but took some bread with it. Socrates, observing him do so, said, “Notice this young man, you that sit near him, whether he takes bread to his meat, or meat to his bread.”

5. Seeing another of the company taste of several dishes with the same piece of bread, “Can any cookery be more extravagant,” said he, “or more adapted to spoil dishes, than that which he practices who eats of several at the same time, putting all manner of sauces into his mouth at once? For as he mixes together more ingredients than the cooks, he makes what he eats more expensive; and as he mixes what they forbear to mix as being incongruous, he, if they do right, is in the wrong, and renders their art ineffectual. 6. And how can it be otherwise than ridiculous,” he added, “for a man to provide himself with cooks of the greatest skill, and then, though he pretends to no knowledge of their art, to undo what has been done by them? But another thing happens to him who is accustomed to eat of several dishes at once; for, if he has not several sorts of meat before him, he thinks himself stinted, missing what he has been used to. But he who is accustomed to make one piece of bread, and one piece of meat, go together, will be able to partake contentedly of one dish when several are just at hand.”

7. He observed also that 'euoxeisthai,' “to fare well,” was in the language of the Athenians called 'esthiein' “to eat; “ and that the 'eu', “well,” was added to denote that we should eat such food as would disorder neither mind nor body, and such as would not be difficult to be procured; so that he applied 'euoxeisthai,' “to fare well,” to those who fared temperately.



Socrates liked the society of young men; how he judged of them; his desire that they should be well educated, sect. 1, 2. The more powerful the mind in youth, the more likely it is, if ill trained, to run into vice, 3, 4. Happiness does not depend on riches, but on knowledge, and on being useful to our fellow-creatures, and gaining their esteem, 5.

1. So serviceable was Socrates to others, in every kind of transaction, and by every possible means, that to any one who reflects on his usefulness (even though he possess but moderate discernment), it is manifest that nothing was of greater benefit than to associate with Socrates, and to converse with him, on any occasion, or on any subject whatever; since even the remembrance of him, when he is no longer with us, benefits in no small degree those who were accustomed to enjoy his society, and accepted him (as a Teacher); for he sought to improve his associates not less in his humorous than in his serious conversation. 2. He would often say that he loved some particular person; but he was evidently enamored, not of those formed by nature to be beautiful, but of those naturally inclined to virtue. He judged of the goodness of people’s abilities from their quickness in learning the things to which they gave their attention, from their remembrance of what they learned, and from their desire for all those branches of knowledge by means of which it is possible to manage a family, state, and the universe well, and to govern men and their affairs with success; for he thought that such characters, when instructed, would not only be happy themselves, and regulate their own families judiciously, but would be able to render other men, and other communities (besides their own) happy. 3. He did not however make advances to all in the same manner. Those who thought that they had good natural abilities, but despised instruction, he endeavored to convince that minds which show most natural power have most need of education, pointing out to them that horses of the best breed, which are high-spirited and obstinate, become, if they are broken in when young, most useful and valuable, but if they are left unbroken, remain quite unmanageable and worthless; and that when hounds are of the best blood, able to endure toil, and eager to attack beasts, those well trained are most serviceable for the chase, and every way excellent, but, if untrained, are useless, rabid, and disobedient. 4. In like manner, he showed that men of the best natural endowments, possessed of the greatest strength of mind, and most energetic in executing what they undertake, became, if well disciplined and instructed in what they ought to do, most estimable characters, and most beneficent to society (as they then performed most numerous and important services), but that, if uninstructed, and left in ignorance, they proved utterly worthless and mischievous; for that, not knowing what line of conduct they ought to pursue, they often entered upon evil courses, and, being haughty and impetuous, were difficult to be restrained or turned from their purpose, and thus occasioned very many and great evils.

5. But those who prided themselves on their wealth, and thought that they required no education, but imagined that their riches would suffice to effect whatsoever they desired, and to gain them honor from mankind, he tried to reduce to reason by saying that the man was a fool who thought that he could distinguish the good and the evil in life without instruction; and that he also was a fool, who, though he could not distinguish them, thought that he would procure whatever he wished, and effect whatever was for his interest, by means of his wealth. He also said that the man was void of sense, who, not being qualified to pursue what was for his good, fancied that he would be prosperous in the world, and that everything necessary for his comfort was fully, or at least sufficiently, provided for him; and that he was equally void of sense, who, though he knew nothing, thought that he would seem good for something because of his riches, and, though evidently despicable, would gain esteem (through their influence).


No dependence to be placed on natural abilities without education. Socrates proceeds to show Euthydemus, a self-conceited young man, that in every art it is proper to have recourse to instructors, sect. 1, 2. He shows the folly of a man who should pretend to have learned everything of himself, 3-5. The necessity of instruction in the art of government, 6-7. By a long series of interrogations Socrates reduces Euthydemus to acknowledge his ignorance and incompetence, 8-23. The value of self-knowledge, 24-30. Further instructions given to Euthydemus, 30-40.

1. I will now show how Socrates addressed himself to such as thought that they had attained the highest degree of knowledge, and prided themselves on their ability. Hearing that Euthydemus, surnamed the Handsome, had collected many writings of the most celebrated poets and sophists, and imagined that by that means he was outstripping his contemporaries in accomplishments, and had great hopes that he would excel them all in talent for speaking and acting, and finding, by his first inquiries about him, that he had not yet engaged in public affairs on account of his youth, but that, when he wished to do any business, he usually sat in a bridle-maker’s shop near the Forum, he went himself to it, accompanied by some of his hearers; 2. and as somebody asked, first of all, “whether it was from his intercourse with some of the wise men, or from his own natural talents, that Themistocles attained such a pre-eminence above his fellow-citizens, that the republic looked to him whenever it wanted the service of a man of ability,” Socrates, wishing to excite the attention of Euthydemus, said that “it was absurd to believe that men of ability could not master the lowest mechanical arts without competent instructors, and to imagine that ability to govern a state, the most important of all arts, might spring up in men by the unassisted efforts of nature.”

3. On another occasion, when Euthydemus was one of the company, and Socrates saw him leaving the meeting, from apprehension lest he should seem to admire him for his wisdom, he observed, “It is evident, my friends, from the studies that he pursues, that Euthydemus here, when he comes of age, and the government give liberty of discussion on any point, will not refrain from offering his counsel; and I imagine that he has already framed an exordium for his public oration, taking precaution that he may not be thought to have learned anything from anybody; and it is pretty certain, therefore, that when he begins to speak, he will make his opening thus: 4. ‘I, O men of Athens, have never learned anything from any person, nor, though I heard of some that were skilled in speaking and acting, have I sought to converse with them; nor have I been anxious that any one of the learned should become my master; but I have done the exact contrary; for I have constantly avoided not only learning anything from any one, but even the appearance of learning anything; nevertheless I will offer you such advice as may occur to me without premeditation.’ 5. So it might be proper for those to commence a speech who desired to obtain a medical appointment from the government; indeed it would be necessary for them to commence their speech in this way: ‘I, O men of Athens, have never learned the medical art from any one, nor have been desirous that any physician should be my instructor; for I have constantly been on my guard, not only against learning anything of the art from any one, but even against appearing to have learned the medical art; nevertheless confer on me this medical appointment; for I will endeavor to learn by making experiments upon you.’” At this mode of opening a speech all who were present burst out into laughter.

6. As Euthydemus had now evidently begun to attend to what Socrates was saying, but was cautious of speaking himself, as thinking by his silence to clothe himself with reputation for modesty, Socrates, wishing to cure him of that fancy, said, “It is indeed strange, that those who desire to play on the lyre, or on the flute, or to ride, or to become expert in any such accomplishment, should endeavor to practice, as constantly as possible, that in which they desire to excel, and not by themselves merely, but with the aid of such as are considered eminent in those attainments, attempting and undergoing everything, so as to do nothing without their sanction, as supposing that they can by no other means attain reputation; but that of those who wish to become able to speak and act in affairs of government, some think that they will be suddenly qualified to achieve their object, without preparation or study, and by their own unassisted efforts. 7. Yet these pursuits are manifestly more difficult of attainment than those, inasmuch as of the very many who attempt them a much smaller number succeed in them; and it is evident, therefore, that those who pursue the one are required to submit to longer and more diligent study than those who pursue the other.”

8. Socrates used at first to make such remarks, while Euthydemus merely listened; but when he observed that he stayed, while he conversed, with more willingness, and hearkened to him with more attention, he at last came to the bridle-maker’s shop unattended. As Euthydemus sat down beside him, he said, “Tell me, Euthydemus, have you really, as I hear, collected many of the writings of men who are said to have been wise?” “I have indeed, Socrates,” replied he, “and I am still collecting, intending to persevere till I get as many as I possibly can.” 9. “By Juno,” rejoined Socrates, “I feel admiration for you, because you have not preferred acquiring treasures of silver and gold rather than of wisdom; for it is plain you consider that silver and gold are unable to make men better, but that the thoughts of wise men enrich their possessors with virtue.” Euthydemus was delighted to hear this commendation, believing that he was thought by Socrates to have sought wisdom in the right course. 10. Socrates, observing that he was gratified with the praise, said, “And in what particular art do you wish to become skillful, that you collect these writings?” As Euthydemus continued silent, considering what reply he should make, Socrates again asked, “Do you wish to become a physician? for there are many writings of physicians.” “Not I, by Jupiter,” replied Euthydemus. “Do you wish to become an architect, then? for a man of knowledge is needed for that art also.” “No, indeed,” answered he. “Do you wish to become a good geometrician, like Theodorus?” “Nor a geometrician either,” said he. “Do you wish then to become an astronomer?” said Socrates. As Euthydemus said “No,” to this, “Do you wish then,” added Socrates, “to become a rhapsodist? for they say that you are in possession of all the poems of Homer.” “No indeed,” said he, “for I know that the rhapsodists, though accurate in the knowledge of poems, are, as men, extremely foolish.” 11. “You are perhaps desirous then,” proceded Socrates, “of attaining that talent by which men become skilled in governing states, in managing households, able to command, and qualified to benefit other men as well as themselves?” “I indeed greatly desire,” said he, “Socrates, to acquire that talent.” “By Jupiter,” returned Socrates, “you aspire to a most honorable accomplishment, and a most exalted art, for it is the art of kings, and is called the royal art. But,” added he, “have you ever considered whether it is possible for a man who is not just to be eminent in that art?” “I have certainly,” replied he; “and it is not possible for a man to be even a good citizen without justice.” 12. “Have you yourself, then, made yourself master of that virtue?” “I think,” said he, “Socrates, that I shall be found not less just than any other man.” “Are there then works of just men, as there are works of artisans?” “There are, doubtless,” replied he. “Then,” said Socrates, “as artisans are able to show their works, would not just men be able also to tell their works?” “And why should not I,” asked Euthydemus, “be able to tell the works of justice; as also indeed those of injustice; for we may see and hear of no small number of them every day?”

13. “Are you willing then,” said Socrates, “that we should make a delta on this side, and an alpha on that, and then that we should put whatever seems to us to be a work of justice under the delta, and whatever seems to be a work of injustice under the alpha?” “If you think that we need those letters,” said Euthydemus, “make them.” 14. Socrates, having made the letters as he proposed, asked, “Does falsehood then exist among mankind?” “It does assuredly,” replied he. “Under which head shall we place it?” “Under injustice, certainly.” “Does deceit also exist?” “Unquestionably.” “Under which head shall we place that?” “Evidently under injustice.” “Does mischievousness exist?” “Undoubtedly.” “And the enslaving of men?” “That, too, prevails.” “And shall neither of these things be placed by us under justice, Euthydemus?” “It would be strange if they should be,” said he. 15. “But,” said Socrates, “if a man, being chosen to lead an army, should reduce to slavery an unjust and hostile people, should we say that he committed injustice?” “No, certainly,” replied he. “Should we not rather say that he acted justly?” “Indisputably.” “And if, in the course of the war with them, he should practice deceit?” “That also would be just,” said he. “And if he should steal and carry off their property, would he not do what was just?” “CertainIy,” said Euthydemus; “but I thought at first that you asked these questions only with reference to our friends.” “Then,” said Socrates, “all that we have placed under the head of injustice, we must also place under that of justice.” “It seems so,” replied Euthydemus. 16. “Do you agree, then,” continued Socrates, “that, having so placed them, we should make a new distinction, that it is just to do such things with regard to enemies, but unjust to do them with regard to friends, and that towards his friends our general should be as guileless as possible?” “By all means,” replied Euthydemus. 17. “Well, then,” said Socrates, “if a general, seeing his army dispirited, should tell them, inventing a falsehood, that auxiliaries were coming, and should, by that invention, check the despondency of his troops, under which head should we place such an act of deceit?” “It appears to me,” said Euthydemus, “that we must place it under justice.” “And if a father, when his son requires medicine, and refuses to take it, should deceive him, and give him the medicine as ordinary food, and, by adopting such deception, should restore him to health, under which head must we place such an act of deceit?” “It appears to me that we must put it under the same head.” “And if a person, when his friend was in despondency, should, through fear that he might kill himself, steal or take away his sword, or any other weapon, under which head must we place that act?” “That, assuredly, we must place under justice.” 18. “You say, then,” said Socrates, “that not even towards our friends must we act on all occasions without deceit?” “We must not indeed,” said he, “for I retract what I said before, if I may be permitted to do so.” “It is indeed much better that you should be permitted,” said Socrates, “than that you should not place actions on the right side. 19. But of those who deceive their friends in order to injure them (that we may not leave even this point unconsidered), which of the two is the more unjust, he who does so intentionally or he who does so involuntarily?” “Indeed, Socrates,” said Euthydemus, “I no longer put confidence in the answers which I give; for all that I said before appears to me now to be quite different from what I then thought; however, let me venture to say that he who deceives intentionally is more unjust than he who deceives involuntarily.”

20. “Does it appear to you, then, that there is a way of learning and knowing what is just, as there is of learning and knowing letters?” “I think there is.” “And which should you consider the better scholar, him who should purposely write or read incorrectly, or him who should do so unawares?” “Him who should do so purposely, for, whenever he pleased, he would be able to do both correctly.” “He, therefore, that purposely writes incorrectly may be a good scholar, but he who does so involuntarily is destitute of scholarship?” “How can it be otherwise?” “And whether does he who lies and deceives intentionally know what is just, or he who does so unawares?” “Doubtless he who does so intentionally.” “You therefore say that he who knows letters is a better scholar than he who does not know?” “Yes.” “And that he who knows what is just is more just than he who does not know?” “I seem to say so; but I appear to myself to say this I know not how.” 21. “But what would you think of the man, who, wishing to tell the truth, should never give the same account of the same thing, but, in speaking of the same road, should say at one time that it led towards the east, and at another towards the west, and, in stating the result of the same calculation, should sometimes assert it to be greater and sometimes less, what, I say, would you think of such a man?” “It would be quite clear that he knew nothing of what he thought he knew.”

22. “Do you know any persons called slave-like?” “I do.” “Whether for their knowledge or their ignorance?” “For their ignorance, certainly.” “Is it then for their ignorance of working in brass that they receive this appellation?” “Not at all.” “Is it for their ignorance of the art of building?” “Nor for that.” “Or for their ignorance of shoe-making?” “Not on any one of these accounts; for the contrary is the case, as most of those who know such trades are servile.” “Is this, then, an appellation of those who are ignorant of what is honorable, and good, and just?” “It appears so to me.” 23. “It therefore becomes us to exert ourselves in every way to avoid being like slaves.” “But, by the gods, Socrates,” rejoined Euthydemus, “I firmly believed that I was studying philosophy, by which I should, as I expected, be made fully acquainted with all that was proper to be known by a man striving after honor and virtue; but now, how dispirited must you think I feel, when I see that, with all my previous labor, I am not even able to answer a question about what I ought most of all to know, and am acquainted with no other course which I may pursue to become better!”

24. Socrates then said, “Tell me, Euthydemus, have you ever gone to Delphi?” “Yes, twice,” replied he. “And did you observe what is written somewhere on the temple wall, KNOW THYSELF?” “I did.” “And did you take no thought of that inscription, or did you attend to it, and try to examine yourself, to ascertain what sort of character you are?” “I did not indeed try, for I thought that I knew very well already, since I should hardly know anything else if I did not know myself.” 25. “But whether does he seem to you to know himself, who knows his own name merely, or he who (like people buying horses, who do not think that they know the horse that they want to know, until they have ascertained whether he is tractable or unruly, whether he is strong or weak, swift or slow, and how he is as to other points which are serviceable or disadvantageous in the use of a horse, so he), having ascertained with regard to himself how he is adapted for the service of mankind, knows his own abilities?” “It appears to me, I must confess, that he who does not know his own abilities, does not know himself.” 26. “But is it not evident,” said Socrates, “that men enjoy a great number of blessings in consequence of knowing themselves, and incur a great number of evils, through being deceived in themselves? For they who know themselves know what is suitable for them, and distinguish between what they can do and what they cannot; and, by doing what they know how to do, procure for themselves what they need, and are prosperous, and, by abstaining from what they do not know, live blamelessly, and avoid being unfortunate. By this knowledge of themselves, too, they can form an opinion of other men, and, by their experience of the rest of mankind, obtain for themselves what is good, and guard against what is evil. 27. But they who do not know themselves, but are deceived in their own powers, are in similar case with regard to other men, and other human affairs, and neither understand what they require, nor what they are doing, nor the characters of those with whom they connect themselves, but, being in error as to all these particulars, they fail to obtain what is good, and fall into evil. 28. They, on the other hand, who understand what they take in hand, succeed in what they attempt, and become esteemed and honored; those who resemble them in character willingly form connections with them; those who are unsuccessful in their affairs desire to be assisted with their advice, and to prefer them to themselves; they place in them their hopes of good, and love them, on all these accounts, beyond all other men. 29. But those, again, who do not know what they are doing, who make an unhappy choice in life, and are unsuccessful in what they attempt, nor only incur losses and sufferings in their own affairs, but become, in consequence, disreputable and ridiculous, and drag out their lives in contempt and dishonor. Among states, too, you see that such as, from ignorance of their own strength, go to war with others that are more powerful, are, some of them, utterly overthrown, and others reduced from freedom to slavery.”

30. “Be assured, therefore,” replied Euthydemus, “that I feel convinced we must consider self-knowledge of the highest value; but as to the way in which we must begin to seek self-knowledge, I look to you for information, if you will kindly impart it to me.” 31. “Well, then,” said Socrates, “you doubtless fully understand what sort of things are good, and what sort are evil.” “Yes, by Jupiter,” replied Euthydemus, “for if I did not understand such things, I should be in a worse condition than slaves are.” “Come then,” said Socrates, “tell me what they are.” “That is not difficult,” said he, “for, in the first place, health I consider to be a good, and sickness an evil, and, in the next, looking to the causes of each of them, as drink, food, and employments, I esteem such as conduce to health to be good, and such as lead to sickness to be evil.” 32. “Consequently,” said Socrates, “health and sickness themselves, when they are the causes of any good, will be good, and when they are the causes of any evil, will be evil.” “But when,” exclaimed Euthydemus, “can health be the cause of evil, and sickness of good?” “When, for example,” said Socrates, “some portion of a community, from being in good health, take part in a disgraceful expedition by land, or a ruinous voyage by sea, or in any other such matters, which are sufficiently common, and lose their lives, while others, who are left behind from ill-health, are saved.” “What you say is true,” said Euthydemus, “but you see that some men share in successful enterprises from being in health, while others, from being in sickness, are left out of them.” “Then,” said Socrates, “those things which are sometimes beneficial, and sometimes injurious are not more good than evil?” “Nothing, by Jupiter, is clear according to this way of reasoning. 33. But as to wisdom, Socrates, it is indisputably a good thing; for what business will not one who is wise conduct better than one who is untaught?” “Have you not heard, then, of Daedalus,” said Socrates, “how he was made prisoner by Minos on account of his wisdom, and compelled to serve him as a slave; how he was cut off, at once, from his country and from liberty, and how, when he endeavored to escape with his son, he lost the child, and was unable to save himself, but was carried away among barbarians, and made a second time a slave?” “Such a story is told, indeed,” said Euthydemus. “Have you not heard, too, of the sufferings of Palamedes? for everybody says that it was for his wisdom he was envied and put to death by Ulysses.” “That, too, is said,” replied Euthydemus. “And how many other men do you think have been carried off to the king on account of their wisdom, and made slaves there?”

34. “But as to happiness, Socrates,” said Euthydemus, “that at least appears to be an indisputable good.” “Yes, Euthydemus,” replied Socrates, “if we make it consist in things that are themselves indisputably good.” “But what,” said he, “among things constituting happiness can be a doubtful good?” “Nothing,” answered Socrates, “unless we join with it beauty, or strength, or wealth, or glory, or any other such thing.” 35. “But we must assuredly join them with it,” said Euthydemus; “for how can a person be happy without them?” “We shall then join with it, by Jupiter,” said Socrates, “things from which many grievous calamities happen to mankind; for many, on account of their beauty, are ruined by those who are maddened with passion for their youthful attractions; many, through confidence in their strength, have entered upon undertakings too great for it, and involved themselves in no small disasters; many, in consequence of their wealth, have become enervated, been plotted against, and destroyed; and many, from the glory and power that they have acquired in their country, have suffered the greatest calamities.” 36. “Well, then,” said Euthydemus, “if I do not say what is right when I praise happiness, I confess that I do not know what we ought to pray for to the gods.”

“These points, however,” proceeded Socrates, “you have perhaps not sufficiently considered, from too confident a belief that you were already well acquainted with them; but since you intend to be at the head of a democratic government, you doubtless know what a democracy is.” “Assuredly,” said he. 37. “Do you think it possible for a person to know what a democracy is, without knowing what the Demos is?” “No, indeed.” “And what do you conceive the Demos to be?” “I conceive it to be the poorer class of citizens.” “Do you know, then, which are the poor?” “How can I help knowing?” “You know then which are the rich?” “Just as well as I know which are the poor.” “Which sort of persons then do you call poor, and which sort rich?” “Those who have not sufficient means to pay for the necessaries of life, I regard as poor; those who have more than sufficient, I consider rich.” 38. “Have you ever observed, then, that to some who have very small means, those means are not only sufficient, but that they even save from them, while, to many, very large fortunes are not sufficient?” “I have indeed,” said Euthydemus, “(for you very properly put me in mind of it), since I have known some princes, who, from poverty, have been driven to commit injustice like the very poorest people.” 39. “Then,” said Socrates, “if such be the case, we must rank such princes among the Demos, and those that have but little we must rank, if they be good managers, among the rich?” “My own want of knowledge, indeed,” said Euthydemus, “obliges me to admit even this; and I am considering whether it would not be best for me to be silent; for I seem to know absolutely nothing.”

He went away, accordingly, in great dejection, holding himself in contempt, and thinking that he was in reality no better than a slave.

40. Of those who were thus treated by Socrates, many came to him no more; and these he regarded as too dull to be improved. But Euthydemus, on the contrary, conceived that he could by no other means become an estimable character, than by associating with Socrates as much as possible; and he in consequence never quitted him, unless some necessary business obliged him to do so. He also imitated many of his habits.

When Socrates saw that he was thus disposed, he no longer puzzled him with questions, but explained to him, in the simplest and clearest manner, what he thought that he ought to know, and what it would be best for him to study.


The necessity of temperance or self-control, and of right notions concerning the gods, sect. 1, 2. The gods have a providential care for mankind, 3-9. Other animals are formed by the gods for the use of man, 10. In addition to the senses common to man with the inferior animals, the gods have given him reason and speech, 11, 12. Though we do not see the gods, we are convinced of their existence from their works, 13, 14. We ought therefore to pay them honor according to our means, 15-18.

1. Socrates was never in haste that his followers should become skillful in speaking, in action, or in invention, but, previous to such accomplishments, he thought it proper that a love of self-control should be instilled into them; for he considered that those who had acquired those qualifications were, if devoid of self-control, only better fitted to commit injustice and to do mischief. 2. In the first place, therefore, he endeavored to impress his associates with right feelings towards the gods. Some, who were present with him when he conversed with others on this subject, have given an account of his discourses; but I myself was with him when he held a conversation with Euthydemus to the following effect.

3. “Tell me,” said he, “Euthydemus, has it ever occurred to you to consider how carefully the gods have provided for men everything that they require?” “It has indeed never occurred to me,” replied he. “You know at least,” proceeded Socrates, “that we stand in need, first of all, of light, with which the gods supply us.” “Yes, by Jupiter,” answered Euthydemus, “for if we had no light, we should be, as to the use of our eyes, like the blind.” “But, as we require rest, they afford us night, the most suitable season for repose.” “That is assuredly,” said Euthydemus, “a subject for thankfulness.” 4. “Then because the sun, being luminous, shows us the hours of the day, and everything else, while the night, being dark, prevents us from making such distinctions in it, have they not caused the stars to shine in the night, which show us the night-watches, and under the direction of which we perform many things that we require?” “So it is,” said he. “The moon, too, makes plain to us not only the divisions of the night, but also of the month.” “Assuredly,” said he. 5. “But that, since we require food, they should raise it for us from the earth, and appoint suitable seasons for the purpose, which prepare for us, in abundance and every variety, not only things which we need, but also things from which we derive pleasure, (what do you think of such gifts?)” “They certainly indicate love for man.” 6. “And that they should supply us with water, an element of such value to us, that it causes to spring up, and unites with the earth and the seasons in bringing to maturity, everything useful for us, and assists also to nourish ourselves, and, being mixed with all our food, renders it easier of digestion, more serviceable, and more pleasant; and that, as we require water in great quantities, they should supply us with it in such profusion, (what do you think of such a gift?)” “That also,” said he, “shows thought for us.” 7. “That they should also give us fire, a protection against cold and darkness, an auxiliary in every art and in everything that men prepare for their use, (for, in a word, men produce nothing of any consequence among the various things necessary to life, without the aid of fire,) (what do you think of such a gift?)” “That, likewise,” said he, “excels in philanthropy.” 8. [“That they should diffuse the air also around us everywhere in such abundance, as not only to preserve and support life, but to enable us to cross the seas by means of it, and to get provisions by sailing hither and thither among foreign lands, is not this a boon inexpressibly valuable?” “It is indeed inexpressibly so,” replied he.] “That the sun, too, when it turns towards us in the winter, should approach to mature some things, and to dry up others whose season (for ripening) has passed away; and that, having effected these objects, he should not come nearer to us, but turn back, as if taking care lest he should hurt us by giving us more heat than is necessary; and that when again, in his departure, he arrives at the point at which it becomes evident that, if he were to go beyond it, we should be frozen by the cold, he should again turn towards us, and approach us, and revolve in that precise part of the heaven in which he may be of most advantage to us, what do you think of things so regulated?” “By Jupiter,” replied Euthydemus, “they appear to be appointed solely for the sake of man.” 9. “Again, that the sun, because it is certain that we could not endure such heat or cold if it should come upon us suddenly, should approach us so gradually, and retire from us so gradually, that we are brought imperceptibly to the greatest extremes of both, (what do you think of that appointment?)” “I am reflecting, indeed,” said Euthydemus, “whether the gods can have any other business than to take care of man; only this thought embarrasses me, that other animals partake in these benefits.”

10. “But is not this also evident,” said Socrates, “that these animals are produced and nourished for the sake of man? For what other animal derives so many benefits from goats, sheep, horses, oxen, asses, and other such creatures, as man? To me it appears that he gains more advantages from them than from the fruits of the earth; at least he is fed and enriched not less from the one than from the other; and a great portion of mankind do not use the productions of the earth for food, but live by herds of cattle, supported by their milk, and cheese, and flesh; and all men tame and train the useful sort of animals, and use them as help for war and other purposes.” “I agree with what you say on that point,” said Euthydemus, “for I see some animals much stronger than we, rendered so subservient to men that they use them for whatever they please.” 11. “But that, since there are numberless beautiful and useful objects in the world, greatly differing from one another, the gods should have bestowed on men senses adapted to each of them, by means of which we enjoy every advantage from them; that they should have implanted understanding in us, by means of which we reason about what we perceive by the senses, and, assisted by the memory, learn how far everything is beneficial, and contrive many plans, by which we enjoy good and avoid evil; 12. and that they should have given us the faculty of speech, by means of which by information we impart to one another, whatever is good, and participate in it, enact laws, and enjoy constitutional government, what think you of such blessings?” “The gods certainly appear, Socrates, to exercise the greatest care for man in every way.” “And that, since we are unable to foresee what is for our advantage with regard to the future, they should assist us in that respect, communicating what will happen to those who inquire of them by divination, and instructing them how their actions may be most for their benefit, (what thoughts does that produce in you?)” “The gods seem to show you, Socrates,” rejoined he, “more favor than other men, since they indicate to you, without being asked, what you ought to do, and what not to do.”

13. “And that I speak the truth, you yourself also well know, if you do not expect to see the bodily forms of the gods, but will be content, as you behold their works, to worship and honor them. Reflect, too, that the gods themselves give us this intimation; for the other deities that give us blessings, do not bestow any of them by coming manifestly before our sight; and he that orders and holds together the whole universe, in which are all things beautiful and good, and who preserves it, for us who enjoy it, always unimpaired, undisordered, and undecaying, obeying his will swifter than thought and without irregularity, is himself manifested (only) in the performance of his mighty works, but is invisible to us while he regulates them. 14. Consider also that the sun, which appears manifest to all, does not allow men to contemplate him too curiously, but, if any one tries to gaze on him steadfastly, deprives him of his sight. The instruments of the deities you will likewise find imperceptible; for the thunderbolt, for instance, though it is plain that it is sent from above, and works its will with everything with which it comes in contact, is yet never seen either approaching, or striking, or retreating; the winds, too, are themselves invisible, though their effects are evident to us, and we perceive their course. The soul of man, moreover, which partakes of the divine nature if anything else in man does, rules, it is evident, within us, but is itself unseen. Meditating on these facts, therefore, it behoves you not to despise the unseen gods, but, estimating their power from what is done by them, to reverence what is divine.”

15. “I feel clearly persuaded, Socrates,” said Euthydemus, “that I shall never fail, in the slightest degree, in respect for the divine power, but I am dejected at the thought that no one among mankind seems to me ever to requite the favors of the gods without due gratitude.” 16. “But be not dejected at that reflection, Euthydemus,” said Socrates, “for you know that the deity at Delphi, whenever any one consults him how he may propitiate the gods, answers, ACCORDING TO THE LAW OF YOUR COUNTRY; and it is the law, indeed, everywhere, that every man should propitiate the gods with offerings according to his ability; and how, therefore, can any man honor the gods better or more piously, than by acting as they themselves direct? 17. It behoves us, however, not to do less than we are able, for, when any one acts thus, he plainly shows that he does not honor the gods. But it becomes him who fails, in no respect, to honor the gods according to his means, to be of good courage, and to hope for the greatest blessings; for no one can reasonably hope for greater blessings from others than from those who are able to benefit him most; nor on any other grounds than by propitiating them; and how can he propitiate them better than by obeying them to the utmost of his power?”

18. By uttering such sentiments, and by acting according to them himself, he rendered those who con­versed with him more pious and prudent.


Socrates inculcated a love of justice into his followers. He gave them an example of adherence to justice in his own life, sect. 1-4. He commences a conversation with Hippias, a sophist, 4-9. It is better to be just than merely to talk of justice, 10, 11; it is a part of justice to obey the laws; what a law is, 12-14; who are the best magistrates in states, 15; a general observance of the laws maintains concord, 16-18; there are certain unwritten laws, which it is not possible to transgress without incurring punishment, 19-24; to observe the divine laws is to be just, 25.

1. Concerning justice, too, he did not conceal what sentiments he entertained, but made them manifest even by his actions, for he conducted himself, in his private capacity, justly and beneficently towards all men, and, as a citizen, he obeyed the magistrates in all that the laws enjoined, both in the city and on military expeditions, so that he was distinguished above other men for his observance of order. 2. When he was president in the public assembly, he would not permit the people to give a vote contrary to law, but opposed himself, in defense of the laws, to such a storm of rage on the part of the populace as I think that no other man could have withstood. 3. When the Thirty Tyrants commanded him to do anything contrary to the laws, he refused to obey them; for both when they forbade him to converse with the young, and when they ordered him, and some others of the citizens, to lead a certain person away to death, he alone did not obey, because the order was given contrary to the laws. 4. When he was accused by Meletus, and others were accustomed, before the tribunal, to speak so as to gain the favor of the judges, and to flatter them, and supplicate them, in violation of the laws, and many persons, by such practices, had often been acquitted by the judges, he refused, on his trial, to comply with any practices opposed to the laws, and though he might easily have been acquitted by his judges, if he had but in a slight degree adopted any of those customs, he chose rather to die abiding by the laws than to save his life by transgressing them.

5. He held conversations to this effect with others on several occasions, and I know that he once had a dialogue of the following kind, concerning justice, with Hippias of Elis; for Hippias, on his return to Athens after an absence of some time, happened to come in the way of Socrates as he was observing to some people how surprising it was that, if a man wished to have another taught to be a shoemaker, or a carpenter, or a worker in brass, or a rider, he was at no loss whither he should send him to effect his object; [nay, that every place, as some say, was full of persons who would make a horse or an ox observant of right for any one that desired;] while as to justice, if any one wished either to learn it himself, or to have his son or his slave taught it, he did not know whither he should go to obtain his desire. 6. Hippias, hearing this remark, said, as if jesting with him, “What! are you still saying the same things, Socrates, that I heard from you so long ago?” “Yes,” said Socrates, “and what is more wonderful, I am not only still saying the same things, but am saying them on the same subjects; but you, perhaps, from being possessed of such variety of knowledge, never say the same things on the same subjects.” “Certainly,” replied Hippias, “I do always try to say something new.” 7. “About matters of which you have certain knowledge, then,” said Socrates, “as, for instance, about the letters of the alphabet, if any one were to ask you how many and what letters are in the word ‘Socrates,’ would you try to say sometimes one thing, and sometimes another; or to people who might ask you about numbers, as whether twice five are ten, would you not give the same answer at one time as at another?” “About such matters, Socrates,” replied Hippias, “I, like you, always say the same thing; but concerning justice I think that I have certainly something to say now which neither you nor any other person can refute.” 8. “By Juno,” returned Socrates, “it is a great good that you say you have discovered, since the judges will now cease from giving contradictory sentences, the citizens will cease from disputing about what is just, from going to law, and from quarrelling, and communities will cease from contending about their rights and going to war; and I know not how I can part with you till I have learned so important a benefit from its discoverer.” 9. “You shall not hear it, by Jupiter,” rejoined Hippias, “until you yourself declare what you think justice to be; for it is enough that you laugh at others, questioning and confuting everybody, while you yourself are unwilling to give a reason to anybody, or to declare your opinion on any subject.” 10. “What then, Hippias,” said Socrates, “have you not perceived that I never cease declaring my opinion as to what I conceive to be just?” “And what is this opinion of yours?” said Hippias. “If I make it known to you, not by words merely, but by actions, do not deeds seem to you to be a stronger evidence than words?” “Much stronger, by Jupiter,” said Hippias, “for many who say what is just do what is unjust, but a man who does what is just cannot be himself unjust.” 11. “Have you ever then found me bearing false witness, or giving malicious information, or plunging my friends or the state into quarrels, or doing anything else that is unjust?” “I have not.” “And do you not think it justice to refrain from injustice?” “You are plainly now,” said Hippias, “endeavoring to avoid expressing an opinion as to what you think just; for what you say is, not what the just do, but what they do not do.” 12. “But I thought,” rejoined Socrates, “that to be unwilling to do injustice was a sufficient proof of justice. If this, however, does not satisfy you, consider whether what I next say will please you better; for I assert that what is in conformity with the laws is just.” “Do you say, Socrates, that to be conformable to the laws, and to be just, is the same thing?” “I do indeed.” 13. “(I am puzzled); for I do not understand what you call conformable to law, or what you call just.” “Do you know the laws of the state?” said Socrates. “I do,” said the other. “And what do you consider them to be?” “What the citizens in concert have enacted as to what we ought to do, and what we ought to avoid doing.” “Would not he, therefore,” asked Socrates, “be an observer of the laws, who should conduct himself in the community agreeably to those enactments, and he be a violator of the laws who transgresses them?” “Undoubtedly,” said Hippias. “Would not he then do what is just who obeys the laws, and he do what is unjust who disobeys them?” “Certainly.” “Is not he then just who does what is just, and he unjust who does what is unjust?” “How can it be otherwise?” “He therefore that conforms to the laws is just,” added Socrates, “and he who violates the laws, unjust.”

14. “But,” objected Hippias, “how can any one imagine the laws, or obedience to them, to be a matter of absolute importance, when the very persons who make them often reject and alter them?” “(That objection is of no consequence,” said Socrates), “for states, which have commenced war, often make peace again.” “Undoubtedly they do,” said Hippias. “What difference will there be in your conduct, then, think you, if you throw contempt on those who obey the laws, because the laws may be changed, and if you blame those who act properly in war, because peace may be made? Do you condemn those who vigorously support their country in war?” “I do not indeed,” replied Hippias. 15. “Have you ever heard it said of Lycurgus the Lacedaemonian, then,” said Socrates, “that he would not have made Sparta at all different from other states, if he had not established in it, beyond others, a spirit of obedience to the laws? Do you not know, too, that of magistrates in states, those are thought the best who are most efficient in producing obedience to the laws, and that that state, in which the citizens pay most respect to the laws, is in the best condition in peace, and invincible in war? 16. The greatest blessing to states, moreover, is concord; and the senates and principal men in them often exhort the citizens to unanimity; and everywhere throughout Greece it is a law that the citizens shall take an oath to observe concord, an oath which they everywhere do take; but I conceive that this is done, not that the citizens may approve of the same choruses, or that they may praise the same flute-players, or that they may prefer the same poets, or that they may take delight in the same spectacles, but that they may obey the laws; for while the citizens adhere to these, states will be eminently powerful and happy; but without such unanimity, no state can be well governed, nor any family well regulated. 17. As an individual citizen, too, how could any person render himself less liable to penalties from the government, or more likely to have honors bestowed upon him, than by being obedient to the laws? How else would he incur fewer defeats in the courts of justice, or how more certainly obtain sentence in his favor? To whom would any one believe that he could more safely confide his money, or his sons or daughters? Whom would the whole community deem more trustworthy than him who respects the laws? From whom would parents, or relatives, or domestics, or friends, or citizens, or strangers, more certainly obtain their rights? To whom would the enemy sooner trust in cessation of arms, or in making a truce, or articles of peace? To whom would people more willingly become allies than to the observer of the laws, and to whom would the allies more willingly trust the leadership, or command of a fortress, or of a city? From whom would any one expect to meet with gratitude, on doing him a kindness, sooner than from the observer of the laws? Or whom would any one rather serve than him from whom he expects to receive a return? To whom would any one more desire to be a friend, or less desire to be an enemy, than such a man? With whom would any one be less inclined to go to war, than with him to whom he would most wish to be a friend, and least of all an enemy, and to whom the greatest part of mankind would wish to be friends and allies, and but a small number to be antagonists and enemies? 18. I, therefore, Hippias, pronounce that to obey the laws and to be just is the same; if you hold an opinion to the contrary, tell me.” “Indeed, Socrates,” rejoined Hippias, “I do not know that I entertain any sentiments opposed to what you have said of justice.”

19. “But are you aware, Hippias,” continued Socrates, “that there are unwritten laws?” “You mean those,” said Hippias, “that are in force about the same points everywhere.” “Can you affirm, then, that men made those laws?” “How could they,” said Hippias, “when they could not all meet together, and do not all speak the same language?” “Whom then do you suppose to have made these laws?” “I believe,” said he, “that it was the gods who made these laws for men, for among all men the first law is to venerate the gods.” 20. “Is it not also a law everywhere to honor parents?” “It is so.” “Is it not a law, too, that parents shall not intermarry with their children, nor children with their parents?” “This does not as yet, Socrates, appear to me to be a law of the gods?” “Why?” “Because I find that some nations transgress it.” 21. “Many others, too, they transgress,” said Socrates; “but those who violate the laws made by the gods incur punishment which it is by no means possible for man to escape, as many transgressors of the laws made by men escape punishment, some by concealment, others by open violence.” 22. “And what sort of punishment, Socrates,” said he, “cannot parents escape who intermarry with their children, and children who intermarry with their parents?” “The greatest of all punishments, by Jupiter,” replied Socrates, “for what greater penalty can those who beget children incur, than to have bad children?” 23. “How then,” said Hippias, “do they necessarily have bad children, when nothing hinders but that they may be good themselves, and have children by good partners?” “Because,” returned Socrates, “it is not only necessary that those who have children by each other should be good, but that they should be in full bodily vigor. Or do you suppose that the seed of those who are at the height of maturity is similar to that of those who have not yet reached maturity, or to that of those who are far past it?” “By Jupiter,” replied Hippias, “it is not at all likely that it should be similar.” “Which of the two then is the better?” “Doubtless that of those at full maturity.” “That of those who are not at full maturity, then, is not sufficiently energetic.” “Probably not.” “Accordingly they ought not to have children?” “No.” “Do not those, therefore, who have children under such circumstances, have them as they ought not?” “So it appears to me.” “What other persons, therefore, will have bad children, if not these?” “Well,” said Hippias, “I agree with you on this point also.”

24. “Is it not everywhere a law, also,” said Socrates, “that men should do good to those who do good to them?” “It is a law,” answered Hippias, “but it is transgressed.” “Those therefore who transgress it incur punishment,” continued Socrates, “by being deprived of good friends, and being compelled to have recourse to those who hate them. Are not such as do service to those who seek it of them good friends, and are not those who make no return to such as serve them hated by them for their ingratitude; and yet, because it is for their advantage to have their support, do they not pay the greatest court to them?” “Indeed, Socrates,” replied Hippias, “all these things seem to suit the character of the gods; for that the laws themselves should carry with them punishments for those who transgress them, appears to me to be the appointment of a lawgiver superior to man.”

25. “Whether, therefore, Hippias,” added Socrates, “do you consider that the gods appoint as laws, what is agreeable to justice, or what is at variance with justice?” “Not what is at variance with justice, certainly,” said Hippias, “for scarcely would any other make laws in conformity with justice, if a god were not to do so.” “It is the pleasure of the gods, therefore, Hippias,” concluded Socrates, “that what is in conformity with justice should also be in conformity with the laws.”

By uttering such sentiments, and acting in agreement with them, he rendered those who conversed with him more observant of justice.


Socrates rendered his followers better qualified for public life. The necessity of temperance, sect. 1, 2; the evils of intemperance, 3-7; the benefits arising from temperance, 8-10; the conduct of the temperate man, 11, 12.

1. I will now relate how he rendered his followers better qualified for the management of public business. Thinking it expedient that temperance should be observed by him who would succeed in anything honorable, he first made it evident to those who conversed with him, that he practiced this virtue beyond all other men, and then, by his discourse, he exhorted his followers, above everything, to the observance of temperance. He continued always, therefore, both himself to be mindful of, and to remind all his followers of, whatever was conducive to virtue; and I know that he once held a conversation on temperance with Euthydemus to the following effect: 2. “Tell me,” said he, “Euthydemus, do you regard liberty as an excellent and honorable possession for an individual or a community?” “The most excellent and honorable that can be,” replied he. 3. “Do you consider him, then, who is held under control by the pleasures of the body, and is rendered unable, by their influence, to do what is best for him, to be free?” “By no means,” replied Euthydemus. “Perhaps, then, to do what is best seems to you to be freedom, but to be under influences which will hinder you from doing it, you consider to be want of freedom?” “Assuredly,” said he. 4. “Do not the intemperate appear to you, then, to be absolutely without freedom?” “Yes, by Jupiter, and naturally so.” “And whether do the intemperate appear to you to be merely prevented from doing what is best, or to be forced, also, to do what is most dishonorable?” “They appear to me,” replied Euthydemus, “to be not less forced to do the one than they are hindered from doing the other.” 5. “And what sort of masters do you consider those to be, who hinder men from doing what is best, and force them to do what is worst?” “The very worst possible, by Jupiter,” replied he. “And what sort of slavery do you consider to be the worst?” “That,” said he, “under the worst masters.” “Do not then the intemperate,” said Socrates, “endure the very worst of slavery?” “It appears so to me,” answered Euthydemus. 6. “And does not intemperance seem to you, by banishing from men prudence, the greatest good, to drive them into the very opposite evil? Does it not appear to you to hinder them from attending to useful things, and learning them, by drawing them away to pleasure, and frequently, by captivating those who have a perception of good and evil, to make them choose the worse instead of the better?” “Such is the case,” said he. 7. “And whom can we suppose, Euthydemus, to have less participation in self-control than the intemperate man? for assuredly the acts of self-control and of intemperance are the very opposite to each other.” “I assent to this also,” said he. “And do you think that anything is a greater hindrance to attention to what is becoming, than intemperance?” “I do not.” “And do you imagine that there is any greater evil to man, than that which makes him prefer the noxious to the beneficial, which prompts him to pursue the one and to neglect the other, and which forces him to pursue a contrary course of conduct to that of the wise?” “There is none,” said Euthydemus.

8. “Is it not natural, then,” said Socrates, “that temperance should be the cause of producing in men effects contrary to those which intemperance produces?” “Undoubtedly,” said Euthydemus. “Is it not natural, therefore, also, that what produces those contrary effects should be best for man?” “It is natural,” said he. “Is it not consequently natural, then, Euthydemus, that temperance should be best for man?” “It is so, Socrates,” said he. 9. “And have you ever reflected upon this, Euthydemus?” “What?” “That even to those pleasures, to which alone intemperance seems to lead men, it cannot lead them, but that temperance produces greater pleasure than anything else?” “How?” said he. “Because intemperance, by not allowing men to withstand hunger, thirst, or the desire of sensual gratification, or want of sleep (through which privations alone is it possible for them to eat, and drink, and gratify other natural appetites, and go to rest and sleep with pleasure, waiting and restraining themselves until the inclinations may be most happily indulged), hinders them from having any due enjoyment in acts most necessary and most habitual; but temperance, which alone enables men to endure the privations which I have mentioned, alone enables them to find any delight worthy of mention in the gratifications to which I have alluded.” “What you say,” observed Euthydemus, “is indisputably true.” 10. “To learn what is honorable and good, moreover, and to study those accomplishments by which a man may ably govern himself, judiciously regulate his household, become useful to his friends and the state, and gain the mastery over his enemies (from which studies arise not only the greatest advantages, but also the greatest pleasures), and of which the temperate have enjoyment while they practice them, but the intemperate have no share in any of them, to whom can we say that it less belongs to attend to such things, than to him who has the least power to pursue them, being wholly occupied in attention to present pleasures?” 11. “You seem to me, Socrates,” said Euthydemus, “to say that the man who is under the influence of bodily pleasures, has no participation in any one virtue.” “For what difference is there, Euthydemus,” said he, “between an intemperate man and the most ignorant brute? How will he, who has no regard to what is best, but seeks only to enjoy what is most seductive by any means in his power, differ from the most senseless cattle? To the temperate alone it belongs to consider what is best in human pursuits, to distinguish those pursuits, according to experience and reason, into their several classes, and then to choose the good and refrain from the evil.”

12. Thus it was, he said, that men became most virtuous and happy, and most skillful in reasoning; and he observed that the expression 'dialegesthai,' “to reason,” had its origin in people’s practice of meeting together to reason on matters, and distinguishing them, 'dialegontas,' according to their several kinds. It was the duty of every one, therefore, he thought, to make himself ready in this art, and to study it with the greatest diligence; for that men, by the aid of it, became most accomplished, most able to guide others, and most acute in discussion.


The value of skill in argument and definition, sect. 1. Definition of PIETY, 2-4; of JUSTICE, 5, 6; of WISDOM, 7; of GOODNESS and BEAUTY, 8, 9; of COURAGE, 10, 11. Some other definitions, 12. Remarks on the Socratic method of argument, 13-15.

1. I will now endeavor to show that Socrates rendered those who associated with him more skillful in argument. For he thought that those who knew the nature of things severally, would be able to explain them to others; but as to those who did not know, he said that it was not surprising that they fell into error themselves, and led others into it. He therefore never ceased to reason with his associates about the nature of things. To go through all the terms that he defined, and to show how he defined them, would be a long task; but I will give as many instances as I think will suffice to show the nature of his reasoning.

2. In the first place, then, he reasoned of PIETY, in some such way as this. “Tell me,” said he, “Euthydemus, what sort of feeling do you consider piety to be?” “The most noble of all feelings,” replied he. “Can you tell me, then, who is a pious man?” “The man, I think, who honors the gods.” “Is it allowable to pay honor to the gods in any way that one pleases?” “No; there are certain laws in conformity with which we must pay our honors to them.” 3. “He, then, who knows these laws, will know how he must honor the gods?” “I think so.” “He therefore who knows how to pay honor to the gods, will not think that he ought to pay it otherwise than as he knows?” “Doubtless not.” “But does any one pay honors to the gods otherwise than as he thinks that he ought to pay them?” “I think not.” 4. “He therefore who knows what is agreeable to the laws with regard to the gods, will honor the gods in agreement with the laws?” “Certainly.” “Does not he, then, who honors the gods agreeably to the laws honor them as he ought?” “How can he do otherwise?” “And he who honors them as he ought, is pious?” “Certainly.” “He therefore who knows what is agreeable to the laws with regard to the gods, may be justly defined by us as a pious man?” “So it appears to me,” said Euthydemus.

5. “But is it allowable for a person to conduct himself towards other men in whatever way he pleases?” “No; but with respect to men also, he who knows what is in conformity with the laws, and how men ought, according to them, to conduct themselves towards each other, will be an observer of the laws.” “Do not those, then, who conduct themselves towards each other according to what is in conformity with the laws, conduct themselves towards each other as they ought?” “How can it be otherwise?” “Do not those, therefore, who conduct themselves towards each other as they ought, conduct themselves well?” “Certainly.” “Do not those, then, that conduct themselves well towards each other, act properly in transactions between man and man?” “Surely.” “Do not those, then, who obey the laws, do what is just?” “Undoubtedly.” 6. “And do you know what sort of actions are called just?” “Those which the laws sanction.” “Those, therefore, who do what the laws sanction, do what is just, and what they ought?” “How can it be otherwise?” “Do you think that any persons yield obedience to the laws who do not know what the laws sanction?” “I do not.” “And do you think that any who know what they ought to do, think that they ought not to do it?” “I do not think so.” “And do you know any persons that do other things than those which they think they ought to do?” “I do not.” “Those, therefore, who know what is agreeable to the laws in regard to men, do what is just?” “Certainly.” “And are not those who do what is just, just men?” “Who else can be so?” “Shall we not define rightly, therefore,” concluded Socrates, “if we define those to be just who know what is agreeable to the laws in regard to men?” “It appears so to me,” said Euthydemus.

7. “And what shall we say that WISDOM is? Tell me, whether do men seem to you to be wise, in things which they know, or are there some who are wise in things which they do not know?” “In what they know, certainly; for how can a man be wise in things of which he knows nothing?” “Those, then, who are wise, are wise by their knowledge?” “By what else can a man be wise, if not by his knowledge?” “Do you think wisdom, then, to be anything else than that by which men are wise?” “I do not.” “Is knowledge, then, wisdom?” “It appears so to me.” “Does it appear to you, however, that it is possible for a man to know all things that are?” “No, by Jupiter; not even, as I think, a comparatively small portion of them.” “It is not therefore possible for a man to be wise in all things?” “No, indeed.” “Every man is wise, therefore, in that only of which he has a knowledge?” “So it seems to me.”

8. “Shall we thus, too, Euthydemus,” said he, “inquire what is GOOD?” “How?” said Euthydemus. “Does the same thing appear to you to be beneficial to everybody?” “No.” “And does not that which is beneficial to one person appear to you to be sometimes hurtful to another?” “Assuredly.” “Would you say, then, that anything is good that is not beneficial?” “I would not.” “What is beneficial, therefore, is good, to whomsoever it is beneficial?” “It appears so to me,” said Euthydemus.

9. “And can we define the BEAUTIFUL in any other way than if you term whatever is beautiful, whether a person, or a vase, or anything else whatsoever, beautiful for whatever purpose you know that it is beautiful?” “No, indeed,” said Euthydemus. “For whatever purpose, then, anything may be useful, for that purpose it is beautiful to use it?” “Certainly.” “And is anything beautiful for any other purpose than that for which it is beautiful to use it?” “For no other purpose,” replied he. “What is useful is beautiful, therefore, for that purpose for which it is useful?” “So I think,” said he.

10. “As to COURAGE, Euthydemus,” said Socrates, “do you think it is to be numbered among excellent things?” “I think it one of the most excellent,” replied Euthydemus. “But you do not think courage a thing of use for small occasions?” “No, by Jupiter, but for the very greatest.” “Does it appear to you to be useful, with regard to formidable and dangerous things, to be ignorant of their character?” “By no means.” “They, therefore, who do not fear such things, because they do not know what they are, are not courageous?” “Certainly not; for, in that case, many madmen and even cowards would be courageous.” “And what do you say of those who fear things that are not formidable?” “Still less, by Jupiter, should they be called courageous.” “Those, then, that are good, with reference to formidable and dangerous things, you consider to be courageous, and those that are bad, cowardly?” “Certainly.” 11. “But do you think that any other persons are good, with reference to terrible and dangerous circumstances, except those who are able to conduct themselves well under them?” “No, those only,” said he. “And you think those bad with regard to them, who are of such a character as to conduct themselves badly under them?” “Whom else can I think so?” “Do not each, then, conduct themselves under them as they think they ought?” “How can it be otherwise?” “Do those, therefore, who cannot conduct themselves properly under them, know how they ought to conduct themselves under them?” “Doubtless not.” “Those then who know how they ought to conduct themselves under them, can do so?” “And they alone.” “Do those, therefore, who do not fail under such circumstances, conduct themselves badly under them?” “I think not.” “Those, then, who do conduct themselves badly under them, do fail?” “It seems so.” “Those, therefore, who know how to conduct themselves well in terrible and dangerous circumstances are courageous, and those who fail to do so are cowards?” “They at least appear so to me,” said Euthydemus.

12. Monarchy and tyranny he considered to be both forms of government, but conceived that they differed (greatly) from one another; for a government over men with their own consent, and in conformity with the laws of free states, he regarded as a monarchy; but a government over men against their will, and not according to the law of free states, but just as the ruler pleased, a tyranny; and wherever magistrates were appointed from among those who complied with the injunctions of the laws, he considered the government to be an aristocracy; wherever they were appointed according to their wealth, a plutocracy; and wherever they were appointed from among the whole people, a democracy.

13. Whenever any person contradicted him on any point, who had nothing definite to say, and who perhaps asserted, without proof, that some person, whom he mentioned, was wiser, or better skilled in political affairs, or possessed of greater courage, or worthier in some such respect [than some other whom Socrates had mentioned], he would recall the whole argument, in some such way as the following, to the primary proposition: 14. “Do you say that he whom you commend, is a better citizen than he whom I commend?” “I do say so.” “Why did we not then consider, in the first place, what is the duty of a good citizen?” “Let us do so.” “Would not he then be superior in the management of the public money who should make the state richer?” “Undoubtedly.” “And he in war who should make it victorious over its enemies?” “Assuredly.” “And in an embassy he who should make friends of foes?” “Doubtless.” “And he in addressing the people who should check dissension and inspire them with unanimity?” “I think so.” When the discussion was thus brought back to fundamental principles, the truth was made evident to those who had opposed him.

15. When he himself went through any subject in argument, he proceeded upon propositions of which the truth was generally acknowledged, thinking that a sure foundation was thus formed for his reasoning. Accordingly, whenever he spoke, he, of all men that I have known, most readily prevailed on his hearers to assent to his arguments; and he used to say that Homer had attributed to Ulysses the character of a sure orator, as being able to form his reasoning on points acknowledged by all mankind.


How Socrates rendered his followers 'mechanikous,' ingenious and adapted for business; his frankness and sincerity, 1. How far he thought that Geometry should be studied, 2, 3. How far he recommended that Astronomy should be pursued, 4-7. Vain investigations to be avoided, 8. Regard to be paid to health, 9. Counsel to be asked of the gods, 10.

1. That Socrates expressed his sentiments with sincerity to those who conversed with him, is, I think, manifest from what I have said. I will now proceed to show how much it was his care that his followers should be competently qualified for employments suited to their powers. Of all men that I have known, he was the most anxious to discover in what occupation each of those who attended him was likely to prove skillful; and of all that it becomes a man of honor and virtue to know, he taught them himself, whatever he knew, with the utmost cheerfulness; and what he had not sufficient knowledge to teach, he took them to those who knew, to learn.

2. He taught them also how far it was proper that a well-educated man should be versed in any department of knowledge. Geometry, for instance, he said that a man should study until he should be capable, if occasion required, to take or give land correctly by measurement; or to divide it or portion it out for cultivation; and this, he observed, it was so easy to learn, that he who gave any attention at all to mensuration, might find how large the whole earth was, and perfectly understand how it was measured. 3. But of pursuing the study of geometry to diagrams hard to understand, he disapproved; for he said that he could not see of what profit they were, though he himself was by no means unskilled in them; but he remarked that they were enough to consume a man’s whole life, and hinder him from attaining many other valuable branches of knowledge.

4. He recommended his followers to learn astronomy also, but only so far as to be able to know the hour of the night, the month, and the season of the year, with a view to travelling by land or sea, or distinguishing the earth, the periods of their revolutions, and the divisions of the above mentioned times, to profit by the signs for whatever other things are done at a certain period of the night, or month, or year. These particulars, he said, were easily learned from men who hunted by night, from pilots, and from many others whose business it was to know them. 5. But to continue the study of astronomy so far as to distinguish the bodies which do not move in the same circle with the heaven, the planets, and the irregular stars, and to weary ourselves in inquiring into their distances from the earth, the periods of their revolutions, and the causes of all these things, was what he greatly discountenanced; for he saw, he said, no profit in these studies either, though he had himself given attention to them; since they also, he remarked, were enough to wear out the life of a man, and prevent him from attending to many profitable pursuits.

6. Concerning celestial matters in general, he dissuaded every man from becoming a speculator how the divine power contrives to manage them; for he did not think that such points were discoverable by man, nor did he believe that those pleased the gods who inquired into things which they did not wish to make known. He observed, too, that a man who was anxious about such investigations, was in danger of losing his senses, not less than Anaxagoras, who prided himself highly on explaining the plans of the gods, lost his. 7. For Anaxagoras, when he said that fire and the sun were of the same nature, did not reflect that people can easily look upon fire, but cannot turn their gaze on the sun, and that men, if exposed to the rays of the sun, have complexions of a darker shade, but not if exposed to fire; he omitted to consider, too, that of the productions of the earth, none can come fairly to maturity without the rays of the sun, while, if warmed by the heat of the fire, they all perish; and when he said that the sun was a heated stone, he forgot that a stone placed in the fire does not shine, or last long, but that the sun continues perpetually the most luminous of all bodies.

8. He advised his followers also to learn computations, but in these, as in other things, he exhorted them to avoid useless labor; as far as it was of any profit, he investigated everything himself, and went through it with his associates.

9. He earnestly recommended those who conversed with him to take care of their health, both by learning whatever they could respecting it from men of experience, and by attending to it, each for himself, throughout his whole life, studying what food or drink, or what exercise, was most suitable for him, and how he might act in regard to them so as to enjoy the best health; for he said it would be difficult for a person who thus attended to himself to find a physician that would tell better than himself what was conducive to his health.

10. But if any one desired to attain to what was beyond human wisdom, he advised him to study divination; for he said that he who knew by what signs the gods give indications to men respecting human affairs, would never fail of obtaining counsel from the gods.


Socrates, though condemned to death, was not convicted of falsehood with regard to his DAEMON. His resolution to die. His innocence inspires him with courage. He thinks it good to die, and escape the evils of old age. Summary of the arguments of the Memorabilia.

1. But if any one thinks that he was convicted of falsehood with regard to his DAEMON, because sentence of death was pronounced on him by the judges although he said that the daemon admonished him what he ought and what he ought not to do, let him consider, in the first place, that he was already so advanced in years that he must have ended his life, if not then, at least not long after; and, in the next, that he relinquished only the most burdensome part of life, in which all feel their powers of intellect diminished, while, instead of enduring this, he acquired great glory by proving the firmness of his mind, pleading his cause, above all men, with the greatest regard to truth, ingenuousness, and justice, and bearing his sentence at once with the utmost resignation and the utmost fortitude.

2. It is indeed acknowledged that no man, of all that are remembered, ever endured death with greater glory; for he was obliged to live thirty days after his sentence, because the Delian festival happened in that month, and the law allowed no one to be publicly put to death until the sacred deputation should return from Delos; and during that time he was seen by all his friends living in no other way than at any preceding period; and, let it be observed, throughout all the former part of his life he had been admired beyond all men for the cheerfulness and tranquillity with which he lived. 3. How could any one have died more nobly than thus? Or what death could be more honorable than that which any man might most honorably undergo? Or what death could be happier than the most honorable? Or what death more acceptable to the gods than the most happy?

4. I will also relate what I heard respecting him from Hermogenes, the son of Hipponicus, who said that after Meletus had laid the accusation against him, he heard him speaking on any subject rather than that of his trial, and remarked to him that he ought to consider what defense he should make, but that he said at first, “Do I not appear to you to have passed my whole life meditating on that subject?” and then, when he asked him “How so?” he said that “he had gone through life doing nothing but considering what was just and abstaining from what was unjust, which he conceived to be the best meditation for his defense.” 5. Hermogenes said again, “Do you not see, Socrates, that the judges at Athens have already put to death many innocent persons, from being offended at their language, and have allowed many that were guilty to escape?” “But, by Jupiter, Hermogenes,” replied he, “when I was proceeding, a while ago, to study my address to the judges, the daemon testified disapprobation.” “You say what is strange,” rejoined Hermogenes. “And do you think it strange,” inquired Socrates, “that it should seem better to the divinity that I should now close my life? Do you not know, that, down to the present time, I would not admit to any man that he has lived either better or with more pleasure than myself? for I consider that those live best who study best to become as good as possible; and that those live with most pleasure who feel the most assurance that they are daily growing better and better. 7. This assurance I have felt, to the present day, to be the case with respect to myself; and, associating with other men, and comparing myself with others, I have always retained this opinion respecting myself; and, not only I, but my friends also, maintain a similar feeling with regard to me, not because they love me (for those who love others may be thus affected towards the objects of their love), but because they think that while they associated with me they became greatly advanced in virtue. 8. If I shall live a longer period, perhaps I shall be destined to sustain the evils of old age, to find my sight and hearing weakened, to feel my intellect impaired, to become less apt to learn, and more forgetful, and, in fine, to grow inferior to others in all those qualities in which I was once superior to them. If I should be insensible to this deterioration, life would not be worth retaining; and, if I should feel it, how could I live otherwise than with less profit, and with less comfort? 9. If I am to die unjustly, my death will be a disgrace to those who unjustly kill me; for if injustice is a disgrace, must it not be a disgrace to do anything unjustly? But what disgrace will it be to me, that others could not decide or act justly with regard to me? 10. Of the men who have lived before me, I see that the estimation left among posterity with regard to such as have done wrong, and such as have suffered wrong, is by no means similar; and I know that I also, if I now die, shall obtain from mankind far different consideration from that which they will receive who took my life; for I know that they will always bear witness to me that I have never wronged any man, or rendered any man less virtuous, but that I have always endeavored to make those better who conversed with me.” Such discourse he held with Hermogenes, and with others.

11. Of those who knew what sort of man Socrates was, such as were lovers of virtue, continue to regret him above all other men, even to the present day, as being most useful to them in their pursuit of virtue. To me, being such as I have described him, so pious that he did nothing without the sanction of the gods; so just, that he wronged no man even in the most trifling affair, but was of service, in the most important matters, to those who enjoyed his society; so temperate, that he never preferred pleasure to virtue; so wise, that he never erred in distinguishing better from worse, needing no counsel from others, but being sufficient in himself to discriminate between them; so able to explain and settle such questions by argument; and besides, so capable of discerning character, of confuting those who were in error, and of exhorting them to virtue and honor, he seemed to be such as the best and happiest of men would be. But if any one disapproves of my opinion, let him compare the conduct of others with that of Socrates, and determine accordingly.

Holy, Holy, HolyThe Philo LibraryHypatia's Bookshelf