Sending Off Socrates

Plato, Phaedo 58e-59a. 

Phaedo to Echecrates regarding the death of Socrates:

“It was strange to be at his side. A dear friend was dying, and I felt no pity. Instead, Echecrates, he appeared blessed. Judging from his manner and his words, he was coming to the end of his life without fear and with nobility.  

It seemed to me he was inspired–he was not going to Hades without a divine appointment. He arrived there happy, if in fact anyone of any stripe ever has. This is actually why I felt no pity, though the present circumstance would appear to warrant pity. 

It was an uncanny experience. There was a mixture of pleasure and pain, simultaneously, when I reflected that he was to die shortly. Everyone on hand was similarly disposed, laughing from time to time, and every so often crying . . .” 

καὶ μὴν ἔγωγε θαυμάσια ἔπαθον παραγενόμενος. οὔτε γὰρ ὡς θανάτῳ παρόντα με ἀνδρὸς ἐπιτηδείου ἔλεος εἰσῄει· εὐδαίμων γάρ μοι ἁνὴρ ἐφαίνετο, ὦ Ἐχέκρατες, καὶ τοῦ τρόπου καὶ τῶν λόγων, ὡς ἀδεῶς καὶ γενναίως ἐτελεύτα, ὥστε μοι ἐκεῖνον παρίστασθαι μηδ’ εἰς Ἅιδου ἰόντα ἄνευ θείας μοίρας ἰέναι, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐκεῖσε ἀφικόμενον εὖ πράξειν εἴπερ τις πώποτε καὶ ἄλλος: διὰ δὴ ταῦτα οὐδὲν πάνυ μοι ἐλεινὸν εἰσῄει, ὡς εἰκὸς ἂν δόξειεν εἶναι παρόντι πένθει . . .ἀλλ ἀτεχνῶς ἄτοπόν τί μοι πάθος παρῆν καί τις ἀήθης κρᾶσις ἀπό τε τῆς ἡδονῆς συγκεκραμένη ὁμοῦ καὶ ἀπὸ τῆς λύπης, ἐνθυμουμένῳ ὅτι αὐτίκα ἐκεῖνος ἔμελλε τελευτᾶν. καὶ πάντες οἱ παρόντες σχεδόν τι οὕτω διεκείμεθα, τοτὲ μὲν γελῶντες, ἐνίοτε δὲδακρύοντες . . .

A screen shot of a red figure vase showing someone playing a pipe while riding on a sheep
Detail of red-figure ceramic vessel.
ca.470 BCE. Athens.

Larry Benn has a B.A. in English Literature from Harvard College, an M.Phil in English Literature from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Making amends for a working life misspent in finance, he’s now a hobbyist in ancient languages and blogs at

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