Phaedo: The death of Socrates

trans. Venina Kalistratova (TCD)

καὶ ὁ Κρίτων, ἀλλ ̓ οἶμαι, ἔφη, ἔγωγε, ὦ Σώκρατες, ἔτι ἥλιον εἶναι ἐπὶ τοῖς ὄρεσιν καὶ οὔπω δεδυκέναι. καὶ ἅμα ἐγὼ οἶδα καὶ ἄλλους πάνυ ὀψὲ πίνοντας, ἐπειδὰν παραγγελθῇ αὐτοῖς, δειπνήσαντάς τε καὶ πιόντας εὖ μάλα, καὶ συγγενομένους γ ̓ ἐνίους ὧν ἂν τύχωσιν ἐπιθυμοῦντες. ἀλλὰ μηδὲν ἐπείγου: ἔτι γὰρ ἐγχωρεῖ.

καὶ ὁ Σωκράτης, εἰκότως γε, ἔφη, ὦ Κρίτων, ἐκεῖνοί τε ταῦτα ποιοῦσιν, οὓς σὺ λέγεις—οἴονται γὰρ κερδαίνειν ταῦτα ποιήσαντες—καὶ ἔγωγε ταῦτα εἰκότως οὐ ποιήσω: οὐδὲν γὰρ οἶμαι κερδανεῖν ὀλίγον ὕστερον πιὼν ἄλλο γε ἢ γέλωτα ὀφλήσειν παρ ̓ ἐμαυτῷ, γλιχόμενος τοῦ ζῆν καὶ φειδόμενος οὐδενὸς ἔτι ἐνόντος. ἀλλ ̓ ἴθι, ἔφη, πείθου καὶ μὴ ἄλλως ποίει.

καὶ ὁ Κρίτων ἀκούσας ἔνευσε τῷ παιδὶ πλησίον ἑστῶτι. καὶ ὁ παῖς ἐξελθὼν καὶ συχνὸν χρόνον διατρίψας ἧκεν ἄγων τὸν μέλλοντα δώσειν τὸ φάρμακον, ἐν κύλικι φέροντα τετριμμένον. ἰδὼν δὲ ὁ Σωκράτης τὸν ἄνθρωπον, εἶεν, ἔφη, ὦ βέλτιστε, σὺ γὰρ τούτων ἐπιστήμων, τί χρὴ ποιεῖν; οὐδὲν ἄλλο, ἔφη, ἢ πιόντα περιιέναι, ἕως ἄν σου βάρος ἐν τοῖς σκέλεσι γένηται, ἔπειτα κατακεῖσθαι: καὶ οὕτως αὐτὸ ποιήσει. καὶ ἅμα ὤρεξε τὴν κύλικα τῷ Σωκράτει.

καὶ ὃς λαβὼν καὶ μάλα ἵλεως, ὦ Ἐχέκρατες, οὐδὲν τρέσας οὐδὲ διαφθείρας οὔτε τοῦ χρώματος οὔτε τοῦ προσώπου, ἀλλ ̓ ὥσπερ εἰώθει ταυρηδὸν ὑποβλέψας πρὸς τὸν ἄνθρωπον, τί λέγεις, ἔφη, περὶ τοῦδε τοῦ πώματος πρὸς τὸ ἀποσπεῖσαί τινι; ἔξεστιν ἢ οὔ;τοσοῦτον, ἔφη, ὦ Σώκρατες, τρίβομεν ὅσον οἰόμεθα μέτριον εἶναι πιεῖν.

μανθάνω, ἦ δ ̓ ὅς: ἀλλ ̓ εὔχεσθαί γέ που τοῖς θεοῖς ἔξεστί τε καὶ χρή, τὴν μετοίκησιν τὴν ἐνθένδε ἐκεῖσε εὐτυχῆ γενέσθαι: ἃ δὴ καὶ ἐγὼ εὔχομαί τε καὶ γένοιτο ταύτῃ. καὶ ἅμ ̓ εἰπὼν ταῦτα ἐπισχόμενος καὶ μάλα εὐχερῶς καὶ εὐκόλως ἐξέπιεν. καὶ ἡμῶν οἱ πολλοὶ τέως μὲν ἐπιεικῶς οἷοί τε ἦσαν κατέχειν τὸ μὴ δακρύειν, ὡς δὲ εἴδομεν πίνοντά τε καὶ πεπωκότα, οὐκέτι, ἀλλ ̓ ἐμοῦ γε βίᾳ καὶ αὐτοῦ ἀστακτὶ ἐχώρει τὰ δάκρυα, ὥστε ἐγκαλυψάμενος ἀπέκλαον ἐμαυτόν—οὐ γὰρ δὴ ἐκεῖνόν γε, ἀλλὰ τὴν ἐμαυτοῦ τύχην, οἵου ἀνδρὸς ἑταίρου ἐστερημένος εἴην. ὁ δὲ Κρίτων ἔτι πρότερος ἐμοῦ, ἐπειδὴ οὐχ οἷός τ ̓ ἦν κατέχειν τὰ δάκρυα, ἐξανέστη. Ἀπολλόδωρος δὲ καὶ ἐν τῷ ἔμπροσθεν χρόνῳ οὐδὲν ἐπαύετο δακρύων, καὶ δὴ καὶ τότε ἀναβρυχησάμενος κλάων καὶ ἀγανακτῶν οὐδένα ὅντινα οὐ κατέκλασε τῶν παρόντων πλήν γε αὐτοῦ Σωκράτους.

ἐκεῖνος δέ, ‘οἷα, ἔφη, ποιεῖτε, ὦ θαυμάσιοι. ἐγὼ μέντοι οὐχ ἥκιστα τούτου ἕνεκα τὰς γυναῖκας ἀπέπεμψα, ἵνα μὴ ’τοιαῦτα πλημμελοῖεν: καὶ γὰρ ἀκήκοα ὅτι ἐν εὐφημίᾳ χρὴ τελευτᾶν. ἀλλ ̓ ἡσυχίαν τε ἄγετε καὶ καρτερεῖτε.’ καὶ ἡμεῖς ἀκούσαντες ᾐσχύνθημέν τε καὶ ἐπέσχομεν τοῦ δακρύειν. ὁ δὲ περιελθών, ἐπειδή οἱ βαρύνεσθαι ἔφη τὰ σκέλη, κατεκλίνη ὕπτιος—οὕτω γὰρ ἐκέλευεν ὁ ἄνθρωπος— καὶ ἅμα ἐφαπτόμενος αὐτοῦ οὗτος ὁ δοὺς τὸ φάρμακον, διαλιπὼν χρόνον ἐπεσκόπει τοὺς πόδας καὶ τὰ σκέλη, κἄπειτα σφόδρα πιέσας αὐτοῦ τὸν πόδα ἤρετο εἰ αἰσθάνοιτο, ὁ δ ̓ οὐκ ἔφη. καὶ μετὰ τοῦτο αὖθις τὰς κνήμας: καὶ ἐπανιὼν οὕτως ἡμῖν ἐπεδείκνυτο ὅτι ψύχοιτό τε καὶ πήγνυτο. καὶ αὐτὸς ἥπτετο καὶ εἶπεν ὅτι, ἐπειδὰν πρὸς τῇ καρδίᾳ γένηται αὐτῷ, τότε οἰχήσεται.

ἤδη οὖν σχεδόν τι αὐτοῦ ἦν τὰ περὶ τὸ ἦτρον ψυχόμενα, καὶ ἐκκαλυψάμενος—ἐνεκεκάλυπτο γάρ—εἶπεν—ὃ δὴ τελευταῖον ἐφθέγξατο—‘ὦ Κρίτων, ἔφη, τῷ Ἀσκληπιῷ ὀφείλομεν ἀλεκτρυόνα: ἀλλὰ ἀπόδοτε καὶ μὴ ἀμελήσητε.’ἀλλὰ ταῦτα, ἔφη, ἔσται, ὁ Κρίτων: ἀλλ ̓ ὅρα εἴ τι ἄλλο λέγεις.

ταῦτα ἐρομένου αὐτοῦ οὐδὲν ἔτι ἀπεκρίνατο, ἀλλ ̓ ὀλίγον χρόνον διαλιπὼν ἐκινήθη τε καὶ ὁ ἄνθρωπος ἐξεκάλυψεν αὐτόν, καὶ ὃς τὰ ὄμματα ἔστησεν: ἰδὼν δὲ ὁ Κρίτων συνέλαβε τὸ στόμα καὶ τοὺς ὀφθαλμούς. ἥδε ἡ τελευτή, ὦ Ἐχέκρατες, τοῦ ἑταίρου ἡμῖν ἐγένετο, ἀνδρός, ὡς ἡμεῖς φαῖμεν ἄν, τῶν τότε ὧν ἐπειράθημεν ἀρίστου καὶ ἄλλως φρονιμωτάτου καὶ δικαιοτάτου.

(Original text taken from Perseus Digital Library)

And Crito said: “Socrates, I think the sun still raises above the mountains and has not yet set. I have heard of many who have drank the poison rather late, after they were ordered to, and rightly so, after having dined well and having enjoyed the company of their beloved ones. Do not hurry, there is still time.”

Socrates said in turn: “Crito, I can see why the men you mention would do that, for they think that it benefits them in some way, however I am not prone to such deeds: for I do not think that it profits me in any way to drink the poison a little bit later: I would become a laughing stock for my own self, clutching desperately on to life and being stingy with it when there is not much left. But let it be, do not persuade me to do otherwise.”

After hearing this, Crito nodded to a slave nearby, the latter left and wasting no time led in the man in charge of administering the poison, who was carrying it dissolved in a cup. When Socrates saw him he said: “Well, my good fellow, you are the expert here, what do I have to do now?” “Nothing more”, answered the executioner, “but to walk around for a bit after drinking it, until you feel some languor in your legs, after that just lie down: do this as I said” And he handed the bowl to Socrates.

He took it rather cheerfully, Echecrates, steady, with no change of colour nor expression but with his customary headstrong frown said to the man: “To which deity do you say I should offer this drink as a libation? Would it be alright if I did?” He answered: “We only mix as much as we think is enough to drink.”

““I see”, added Socrates: but one has the right to pray to the gods, in fact one ought to, so that the journey to the other world would henceforth become propitious: this I pray for and may it happen as I wish.” Having said that he took the cup and drank calmly and at ease. And all of us who had so far managed to keep our tears at bay, as we saw him drinking and even when he downed it, strength failed us, but I hardly managed to suppress the tears rolling down in streams, so I covered my face and wept, not for the man himself but on account of my own tragedy: to be deprived of such a friend. Crito left even before I had started to mourn (since he was unable to restrain his emotions). Apollodorus, who could not stop sobbing for a good while before, suddenly let out a dirge and moved us all to tears, all those who were present at the scene cried, except for Socrates himself.

He uttered: “What are you doing, you strange people, I did not send the women away so you could embarrass yourselves like this: for one should die in blessed silence.” We hearkened his words, kept silent and contained our tears. He walked around and when he said that his legs were failing, he lay down on his back, after a while he called on the man who had provided the poison to inspect his feet and legs. Pressing hard his feet the man asked whether he felt anything. Socrates denied. After that (the man checked) also his calves and going over his body he corroborated the cold and stiffness. Socrates reached out and feeling his body said that he would depart when the cold had taken over his heart.

As his chest was cooling down he uncovered and then covered himself up again uttering: “Crito, we owe a rooster to Asclepius: make sure you dedicate one, do not forget!” Then Crito said in response: “It shall be done. What else would you have us do?”

Socrates did not answer his question, shortly after he stopped moving. The executioner uncovered the body, his features were motionless: at this sight Crito covered his mouth and his eyes. This, Echecrates, was the end of our friend, the most noble, thoughtful and just man amongst our contemporaries.