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By Plato 

Translated by Benjamin Jowett 

Persons of the Dialogue 




The Prison of Socrates. 

Socrates. WHY have you come at this hour, Crito? it must be quite 

Crito. Yes, certainly. 

Soc. What is the exact time? 

Cr. The dawn is breaking. 

Soc. I wonder the keeper of the prison would let you in. 

Cr. He knows me because I often come, Socrates; moreover. I have done 
him a kindness. 

Soc. And are you only just come? 

Cr. No, I came some time ago. 

Soc. Then why did you sit and say nothing, instead of awakening me 
at once? 

Cr. Why, indeed, Socrates, I myself would rather not have all this 
sleeplessness and sorrow. But I have been wondering at your peaceful 
slumbers, and that was the reason why I did not awaken you, because 
I wanted you to be out of pain. I have always thought you happy in 
the calmness of your temperament; but never did I see the like of 
the easy, cheerful way in which you bear this calamity. 

Soc. Why, Crito, when a man has reached my age he ought not to be 
repining at the prospect of death. 

Cr. And yet other old men find themselves in similar misfortunes, 
and age does not prevent them from repining. 

Soc. That may be. But you have not told me why you come at this early 
hour . 

Cr. I come to bring you a message which is sad and painful; not, as 
I believe, to yourself but to all of us who are your friends, and 
saddest of all to me. 

Soc. What! I suppose that the ship has come from Delos, on the arrival 
of which I am to die? 

Cr. No, the ship has not actually arrived, but she will probably be 
here to-day, as persons who have come from Sunium tell me that they 
have left her there; and therefore to-morrow, Socrates, will be the 
last day of your life. 

Soc. Very well, Crito; if such is the will of God, I am willing; but 
my belief is that there will be a delay of a day. 

Cr. Why do you say this? 

Soc. I will tell you. I am to die on the day after the arrival of 
the ship? 

Cr. Yes; that is what the authorities say. 

Soc. But I do not think that the ship will be here until to-morrow; 
this I gather from a vision which I had last night, or rather only 
just now, when you fortunately allowed me to sleep. 

Cr. And what was the nature of the vision? 

Soc. There came to me the likeness of a woman, fair and comely, clothed 
in white raiment, who called to me and said: Socrates- 

"The third day hence, to Phthia shalt thou go." 

Cr. What a singular dream, Socrates! 

Soc. There can be no doubt about the meaning Crito, I think. 

Cr. Yes: the meaning is only too clear. But, 0! my beloved Socrates, 
let me entreat you once more to take my advice and escape. For if 
you die I shall not only lose a friend who can never be replaced, 
but there is another evil: people who do not know you and me will 
believe that I might have saved you if I had been willing to give 
money, but that I did not care. Now, can there be a worse disgrace 
than this- that I should be thought to value money more than the life 
of a friend? For the many will not be persuaded that I wanted you 
to escape, and that you refused. 

Soc. But why, my dear Crito, should we care about the opinion of the 
many? Good men, and they are the only persons who are worth considering, 
will think of these things truly as they happened. 

Cr. But do you see. Socrates, that the opinion of the many must be 
regarded, as is evident in your own case, because they can do the 
very greatest evil to anyone who has lost their good opinion? 

Soc. I only wish, Crito, that they could; for then they could also 
do the greatest good, and that would be well. But the truth is, that 
they can do neither good nor evil: they cannot make a man wise or 
make him foolish; and whatever they do is the result of chance. 

Cr. Well, I will not dispute about that; but please to tell me, Socrates, 
whether you are not acting out of regard to me and your other friends: 
are you not afraid that if you escape hence we may get into trouble 
with the informers for having stolen you away, and lose either the 
whole or a great part of our property; or that even a worse evil may 
happen to us? Now, if this is your fear, be at ease; for in order 
to save you, we ought surely to run this or even a greater risk; be 
persuaded, then, and do as I say. 

Soc. Yes, Crito, that is one fear which you mention, but by no means 
the only one. 

Cr. Fear not. There are persons who at no great cost are willing to 
save you and bring you out of prison; and as for the informers, you 
may observe that they are far from being exorbitant in their demands; 

a little money will satisfy them. My means, which, as I am sure, are 
ample, are at your service, and if you have a scruple about spending 
all mine, here are strangers who will give you the use of theirs; 
and one of them, Simmias the Theban, has brought a sum of money for 
this very purpose; and Cebes and many others are willing to spend 
their money too. I say, therefore, do not on that account hesitate 
about making your escape, and do not say, as you did in the court, 
that you will have a difficulty in knowing what to do with yourself 
if you escape. For men will love you in other places to which you 
may go, and not in Athens only; there are friends of mine in Thessaly, 
if you like to go to them, who will value and protect you, and no 
Thessalian will give you any trouble. Nor can I think that you are 
justified, Socrates, in betraying your own life when you might be 
saved; this is playing into the hands of your enemies and destroyers; 
and moreover I should say that you were betraying your children; for 
you might bring them up and educate them; instead of which you go 
away and leave them, and they will have to take their chance; and 
if they do not meet with the usual fate of orphans, there will be 
small thanks to you. No man should bring children into the world who 
is unwilling to persevere to the end in their nurture and education. 
But you are choosing the easier part, as I think, not the better and 
manlier, which would rather have become one who professes virtue in 
all his actions, like yourself. And, indeed, I am ashamed not only 
of you, but of us who are your friends, when I reflect that this entire 
business of yours will be attributed to our want of courage. The trial 
need never have come on, or might have been brought to another issue; 
and the end of all, which is the crowning absurdity, will seem to 
have been permitted by us, through cowardice and baseness, who might 
have saved you, as you might have saved yourself, if we had been good 
for anything (for there was no difficulty in escaping); and we did 
not see how disgraceful, Socrates, and also miserable all this will 
be to us as well as to you. Make your mind up then, or rather have 
your mind already made up, for the time of deliberation is over, and 
there is only one thing to be done, which must be done, if at all, 
this very night, and which any delay will render all but impossible; 
I beseech you therefore, Socrates, to be persuaded by me, and to do 
as I say. 

Soc. Dear Crito, your zeal is invaluable, if a right one; but if wrong, 

the greater the zeal the greater the evil; and therefore we ought 

to consider whether these things shall be done or not. For I am and 

always have been one of those natures who must be guided by reason, 

whatever the reason may be which upon reflection appears to me to 

be the best; and now that this fortune has come upon me, I cannot 

put away the reasons which I have before given: the principles which 

I have hitherto honored and revered I still honor, and unless we can 

find other and better principles on the instant, I am certain not 

to agree with you; no, not even if the power of the multitude could 

inflict many more imprisonments, confiscations, deaths, frightening 

us like children with hobgoblin terrors. But what will be the fairest 

way of considering the question? Shall I return to your old argument 

about the opinions of men, some of which are to be regarded, and others, 

as we were saying, are not to be regarded? Now were we right in maintaining 

this before I was condemned? And has the argument which was once good 

now proved to be talk for the sake of talking; in fact an amusement 

only, and altogether vanity? That is what I want to consider with 

your help, Crito: whether, under my present circumstances, the argument 

appears to be in any way different or not; and is to be allowed by 

me or disallowed. That argument, which, as I believe, is maintained 

by many who assume to be authorities, was to the effect, as I was 

saying, that the opinions of some men are to be regarded, and of other 

men not to be regarded. Now you, Crito, are a disinterested person 

who are not going to die to-morrow- at least, there is no human probability 

of this, and you are therefore not liable to be deceived by the circumstances 

in which you are placed. Tell me, then, whether I am right in saying 
that some opinions, and the opinions of some men only, are to be valued, 
and other opinions, and the opinions of other men, are not to be valued. 
I ask you whether I was right in maintaining this? 

Cr. Certainly. 

Soc. The good are to be regarded, and not the bad? 

Cr. Yes. 

Soc. And the opinions of the wise are good, and the opinions of the 
unwise are evil? 

Cr. Certainly. 

Soc. And what was said about another matter? Was the disciple in gymnastics 
supposed to attend to the praise and blame and opinion of every man, 
or of one man only- his physician or trainer, whoever that was? 

Cr. Of one man only. 

Soc. And he ought to fear the censure and welcome the praise of that 
one only, and not of the many? 

Cr. That is clear. 

Soc. And he ought to live and train, and eat and drink in the way 
which seems good to his single master who has understanding, rather 
than according to the opinion of all other men put together? 

Cr. True. 

Soc. And if he disobeys and disregards the opinion and approval of 

the one, and regards the opinion of the many who have no understanding, 

will he not suffer evil? 

Cr. Certainly he will. 

Soc. And what will the evil be, whither tending and what af feting, 
in the disobedient person? 

Cr. Clearly, affecting the body; that is what is destroyed by the 

evil . 

Soc. Very good; and is not this true, Crito, of other things which 
we need not separately enumerate? In the matter of just and unjust, 
fair and foul, good and evil, which are the subjects of our present 
consultation, ought we to follow the opinion of the many and to fear 
them; or the opinion of the one man who has understanding, and whom 
we ought to fear and reverence more than all the rest of the world: 
and whom deserting we shall destroy and injure that principle in us 
which may be assumed to be improved by justice and deteriorated by 
injustice; is there not such a principle? 

Cr. Certainly there is, Socrates. 

Soc. Take a parallel instance; if, acting under the advice of men 
who have no understanding, we destroy that which is improvable by 
health and deteriorated by disease- when that has been destroyed, 
I say, would life be worth having? And that is- the body? 

Cr. Yes. 

Soc. Could we live, having an evil and corrupted body? 

Cr. Certainly not. 

Soc. And will life be worth having, if that higher part of man be 
depraved, which is improved by justice and deteriorated by injustice? 
Do we suppose that principle, whatever it may be in man, which has 
to do with justice and injustice, to be inferior to the body? 

Cr. Certainly not. 

Soc. More honored, then? 

Cr. Far more honored. 

Soc. Then, my friend, we must not regard what the many say of us: 
but what he, the one man who has understanding of just and unjust, 
will say, and what the truth will say. And therefore you begin in 
error when you suggest that we should regard the opinion of the many 
about just and unjust, good and evil, honorable and dishonorable. 
Well, someone will say, "But the many can kill us." 

Cr. Yes, Socrates; that will clearly be the answer. 

Soc. That is true; but still I find with surprise that the old argument 
is, as I conceive, unshaken as ever. And I should like to know Whether 
I may say the same of another proposition- that not life, but a good 
life, is to be chiefly valued? 

Cr. Yes, that also remains. 

Soc. And a good life is equivalent to a just and honorable one- that 
holds also? 

Cr. Yes, that holds. 

Soc. From these premises I proceed to argue the question whether I 
ought or ought not to try to escape without the consent of the Athenians: 
and if I am clearly right in escaping, then I will make the attempt; 
but if not, I will abstain. The other considerations which you mention, 
of money and loss of character, and the duty of educating children, 
are, I fear, only the doctrines of the multitude, who would be as 
ready to call people to life, if they were able, as they are to put 
them to death- and with as little reason. But now, since the argument 
has thus far prevailed, the only question which remains to be considered 
is, whether we shall do rightly either in escaping or in suffering 
others to aid in our escape and paying them in money and thanks, or 
whether we shan not do rightly; and if the latter, then death or any 
other calamity which may ensue on my remaining here must not be allowed 
to enter into the calculation. 

Cr. I think that you are right, Socrates; how then shall we proceed? 

Soc. Let us consider the matter together, and do you either refute 
me if you can, and I will be convinced; or else cease, my dear friend, 
from repeating to me that I ought to escape against the wishes of 
the Athenians: for I am extremely desirous to be persuaded by you, 
but not against my own better judgment. And now please to consider 
my first position, and do your best to answer me. 

Cr. I will do my best. 

Soc. Are we to say that we are never intentionally to do wrong, or 
that in one way we ought and in another way we ought not to do wrong, 

or is doing wrong always evil and dishonorable, as I was just now 
saying, and as has been already acknowledged by us? Are all our former 
admissions which were made within a few days to be thrown away? And 
have we, at our age, been earnestly discoursing with one another all 
our life long only to discover that we are no better than children? 
Or are we to rest assured, in spite of the opinion of the many, and 
in spite of consequences whether better or worse, of the truth of 
what was then said, that injustice is always an evil and dishonor 
to him who acts unjustly? Shall we affirm that? 

Cr. Yes. 

Soc. Then we must do no wrong? 

Cr. Certainly not. 

Soc. Nor when injured injure in return, as the many imagine; for we 
must injure no one at all? 

Cr. Clearly not. 

Soc. Again, Crito, may we do evil? 

Cr. Surely not, Socrates. 

Soc. And what of doing evil in return for evil, which is the morality 
of the many-is that just or not? 

Cr. Not just. 

Soc. For doing evil to another is the same as injuring him? 

Cr. Very true. 

Soc. Then we ought not to retaliate or render evil for evil to anyone, 

whatever evil we may have suffered from him. But I would have you 

consider, Crito, whether you really mean what you are saying. For 

this opinion has never been held, and never will be held, by any considerable 

number of persons; and those who are agreed and those who are not 

agreed upon this point have no common ground, and can only despise 

one another, when they see how widely they differ. Tell me, then, 

whether you agree with and assent to my first principle, that neither 

injury nor retaliation nor warding off evil by evil is ever right. 

And shall that be the premise of our agreement? Or do you decline 

and dissent from this? For this has been of old and is still my opinion; 

but, if you are of another opinion, let me hear what you have to say. 

If, however, you remain of the same mind as formerly, I will proceed 

to the next step. 

Cr. You may proceed, for I have not changed my mind. 

Soc. Then I will proceed to the next step, which may be put in the 
form of a question: Ought a man to do what he admits to be right, 
or ought he to betray the right? 

Cr. He ought to do what he thinks right. 

Soc. But if this is true, what is the application? In leaving the 
prison against the will of the Athenians, do I wrong any? or rather 
do I not wrong those whom I ought least to wrong? Do I not desert 
the principles which were acknowledged by us to be just? What do you 

Cr. I cannot tell, Socrates, for I do not know. 


Soc. Then consider the matter in this way: Imagine that I am about 
to play truant (you may call the proceeding by any name which you 
like), and the laws and the government come and interrogate me: "Tell 
us, Socrates, " they say; "what are you about? are you going by an 
act of yours to overturn us- the laws and the whole State, as far 
as in you lies? Do you imagine that a State can subsist and not be 
overthrown, in which the decisions of law have no power, but are set 
aside and overthrown by individuals?" What will be our answer, Crito, 
to these and the like words? Anyone, and especially a clever rhetorician, 
will have a good deal to urge about the evil of setting aside the 
law which requires a sentence to be carried out; and we might reply, 
"Yes; but the State has injured us and given an unjust sentence." 
Suppose I say that? 

Cr. Very good, Socrates. 

Soc. "And was that our agreement with you?" the law would sar, "or 

were you to abide by the sentence of the State?" And if I were to 

express astonishment at their saying this, the law would probably 

add: "Answer, Socrates, instead of opening your eyes: you are in the 

habit of asking and answering questions. Tell us what complaint you 

have to make against us which justifies you in attempting to destroy 

us and the State? In the first place did we not bring you into existence? 

Your father married your mother by our aid and begat you. Say whether 

you have any objection to urge against those of us who regulate marriage?" 

None, I should reply. "Or against those of us who regulate the system 

of nurture and education of children in which you were trained? Were 

not the laws, who have the charge of this, right in commanding your 

father to train you in music and gymnastic?" Right, I should reply. 

"Well, then, since you were brought into the world and nurtured and 

educated by us, can you deny in the first place that you are our child 

and slave, as your fathers were before you? And if this is true you 

are not on equal terms with us; nor can you think that you have a 

right to do to us what we are doing to you. Would you have any right 

to strike or revile or do any other evil to a father or to your master, 

if you had one, when you have been struck or reviled by him, or received 

some other evil at his hands?- you would not say this? And because 

we think right to destroy you, do you think that you have any right 

to destroy us in return, and your country as far as in you lies? And 

will you, professor of true virtue, say that you are justified in 

this? Has a philosopher like you failed to discover that our country 

is more to be valued and higher and holier far than mother or father 

or any ancestor, and more to be regarded in the eyes of the gods and 

of men of understanding? also to be soothed, and gently and reverently 

entreated when angry, even more than a father, and if not persuaded, 

obeyed? And when we are punished by her, whether with imprisonment 

or stripes, the punishment is to be endured in silence; and if she 

leads us to wounds or death in battle, thither we follow as is right; 

neither may anyone yield or retreat or leave his rank, but whether 

in battle or in a court of law, or in any other place, he must do 

what his city and his country order him; or he must change their view 

of what is just: and if he may do no violence to his father or mother, 

much less may he do violence to his country." What answer shall we 

make to this, Crito? Do the laws speak truly, or do they not? 

Cr. I think that they do. 

Soc. Then the laws will say: "Consider, Socrates, if this is true, 
that in your present attempt you are going to do us wrong. For, after 
having brought you into the world, and nurtured and educated you, 
and given you and every other citizen a share in every good that we 
had to give, we further proclaim and give the right to every Athenian, 
that if he does not like us when he has come of age and has seen the 
ways of the city, and made our acquaintance, he may go where he pleases 

and take his goods with him; and none of us laws will forbid him or 
interfere with him. Any of you who does not like us and the city, 
and who wants to go to a colony or to any other city, may go where 
he likes, and take his goods with him. But he who has experience of 
the manner in which we order justice and administer the State, and 
still remains, has entered into an implied contract that he will do 
as we command him. And he who disobeys us is, as we maintain, thrice 
wrong: first, because in disobeying us he is disobeying his parents; 
secondly, because we are the authors of his education; thirdly, because 
he has made an agreement with us that he will duly obey our commands; 
and he neither obeys them nor convinces us that our commands are wrong; 
and we do not rudely impose them, but give him the alternative of 
obeying or convincing us; that is what we offer and he does neither. 
These are the sort of accusations to which, as we were saying, you, 
Socrates, will be exposed if you accomplish your intentions; you, 
above all other Athenians." Suppose I ask, why is this? they will 
justly retort upon me that I above all other men have acknowledged 
the agreement. "There is clear proof," they will say, "Socrates, that 
we and the city were not displeasing to you. Of all Athenians you 
have been the most constant resident in the city, which, as you never 
leave, you may be supposed to love. For you never went out of the 
city either to see the games, except once when you went to the Isthmus, 
or to any other place unless when you were on military service; nor 
did you travel as other men do. Nor had you any curiosity to know 
other States or their laws: your affections did not go beyond us and 
our State; we were your especial favorites, and you acquiesced in 
our government of you; and this is the State in which you begat your 
children, which is a proof of your satisfaction. Moreover, you might, 
if you had liked, have fixed the penalty at banishment in the course 
of the trial-the State which refuses to let you go now would have 
let you go then. But you pretended that you preferred death to exile, 
and that you were not grieved at death. And now you have forgotten 
these fine sentiments, and pay no respect to us, the laws, of whom 
you are the destroyer; and are doing what only a miserable slave would 
do, running away and turning your back upon the compacts and agreements 
which you made as a citizen. And first of all answer this very question: 
Are we right in saying that you agreed to be governed according to 
us in deed, and not in word only? Is that true or not?" How shall 
we answer that, Crito? Must we not agree? 

Cr. There is no help, Socrates. 

Soc. Then will they not say: "You, Socrates, are breaking the covenants 
and agreements which you made with us at your leisure, not in any 
haste or under any compulsion or deception, but having had seventy 
years to think of them, during which time you were at liberty to leave 
the city, if we were not to your mind, or if our covenants appeared 
to you to be unfair. You had your choice, and might have gone either 
to Lacedaemon or Crete, which you often praise for their good government, 
or to some other Hellenic or foreign State. Whereas you, above all 
other Athenians, seemed to be so fond of the State, or, in other words, 
of us her laws (for who would like a State that has no laws?), that 
you never stirred out of her: the halt, the blind, the maimed, were 
not more stationary in her than you were. And now you run away and 
forsake your agreements. Not so, Socrates, if you will take our advice; 
do not make yourself ridiculous by escaping out of the city. 

"For just consider, if you transgress and err in this sort of way, 
what good will you do, either to yourself or to your friends? That 
your friends will be driven into exile and deprived of citizenship, 
or will lose their property, is tolerably certain; and you yourself, 
if you fly to one of the neighboring cities, as, for example, Thebes 
or Megara, both of which are well-governed cities, will come to them 
as an enemy, Socrates, and their government will be against you, and 

all patriotic citizens will cast an evil eye upon you as a subverter 
of the laws, and you will confirm in the minds of the judges the justice 
of their own condemnation of you. For he who is a corrupter of the 
laws is more than likely to be corrupter of the young and foolish 
portion of mankind. Will you then flee from well-ordered cities and 
virtuous men? and is existence worth having on these terms? Or will 
you go to them without shame, and talk to them, Socrates? And what 
will you say to them? What you say here about virtue and justice and 
institutions and laws being the best things among men? Would that 
be decent of you? Surely not. But if you go away from well-governed 
States to Crito's friends in Thessaly, where there is great disorder 
and license, they will be charmed to have the tale of your escape 
from prison, set off with ludicrous particulars of the manner in which 
you were wrapped in a goatskin or some other disguise, and metamorphosed 
as the fashion of runaways is- that is very likely; but will there 
be no one to remind you that in your old age you violated the most 
sacred laws from a miserable desire of a little more life? Perhaps 
not, if you keep them in a good temper; but if they are out of temper 
you will hear many degrading things; you will live, but how?- as the 
flatterer of all men, and the servant of all men; and doing what?- 
eating and drinking in Thessaly, having gone abroad in order that 
you may get a dinner. And where will be your fine sentiments about 
justice and virtue then? Say that you wish to live for the sake of 
your children, that you may bring them up and educate them- will you 
take them into Thessaly and deprive them of Athenian citizenship? 
Is that the benefit which you would confer upon them? Or are you under 
the impression that they will be better cared for and educated here 
if you are still alive, although absent from them; for that your friends 
will take care of them? Do you fancy that if you are an inhabitant 
of Thessaly they will take care of them, and if you are an inhabitant 
of the other world they will not take care of them? Nay; but if they 
who call themselves friends are truly friends, they surely will. 

"Listen, then, Socrates, to us who have brought you up. Think not 

of life and children first, and of justice afterwards, but of justice 

first, that you may be justified before the princes of the world below. 

For neither will you nor any that belong to you be happier or holier 

or juster in this life, or happier in another, if you do as Crito 

bids. Now you depart in innocence, a sufferer and not a doer of evil; 

a victim, not of the laws, but of men. But if you go forth, returning 

evil for evil, and injury for injury, breaking the covenants and agreements 

which you have made with us, and wronging those whom you ought least 

to wrong, that is to say, yourself, your friends, your country, and 

us, we shall be angry with you while you live, and our brethren, the 

laws in the world below, will receive you as an enemy; for they will 

know that you have done your best to destroy us. Listen, then, to 

us and not to Crito." 

This is the voice which I seem to hear murmuring in my ears, like 
the sound of the flute in the ears of the mystic; that voice, I say, 
is humming in my ears, and prevents me from hearing any other. And 
I know that anything more which you will say will be in vain. Yet 
speak, if you have anything to say. 

Cr. I have nothing to say, Socrates. 

Soc. Then let me follow the intimations of the will of God.