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translated by Benjamin Jowett
Persons of the Dialogue:
Scene: The house of Callicles.
[Callicles] The wise man, as the proverb says, is late for a
fray, but not for a feast.
[Socrates] And are we late for a feast?
[Cal.] Yes, and a delightful feast; for Gorgias has just been
exhibiting to us many fine things.
[Soc.] It is not my fault, Callicles; our friend Chaerephon is
to blame; for he would keep us loitering in the Agora.
[Chaerephon] Never mind, Socrates; the misfortune of which I
have been the cause I will also repair; for Gorgias is a friend
of mine, and I will make him give the exhibition again either
now, or, if you prefer, at some other time.
[Cal.] What is the matter, Chaerephon-does Socrates want to
[Chaer.] Yes, that was our intention in coming.
[Cal.] Come into my house, then; for Gorgias is staying with
me, and he shall exhibit to you.
[Soc.] Very good, Callicles; but will he answer our questions?
for I want to hear from him what is the nature of his art, and
what it is which he professes and teaches; he may, as you [Chaerephon]
suggest, defer the exhibition to some other time.
[Cal.] There is nothing like asking him, Socrates; and indeed
to answer questions is a part of his exhibition, for he was
saying only just now, that any one in my house might put any
question to him, and that he would answer.
[Soc.] How fortunate! will you ask him, Chaerephon-?
[Chaer.] What shall I ask him?
[Soc.] Ask him who he is.
[Chaer.] What do you mean?
[Soc.] I mean such a question as would elicit from him, if he
had been a maker of shoes, the answer that he is a cobbler. Do
[Chaer.] I understand, and will ask him: Tell me, Gorgias, is
our friend Callicles right in saying that you undertake to answer
any questions which you are asked?
[Gorgias] Quite right, Chaerephon: I was saying as much only
just now; and I may add, that many years have elapsed since any
one has asked me a new one.
[Chaer.] Then you must be very ready, Gorgias.
[Gor.] Of that, Chaerephon, you can make trial.
[Polus] Yes, indeed, and if you like, Chaerephon, you may make
trial of me too, for I think that Gorgias, who has been talking a
long time, is tired.
[Chaer.] And do you, Polus, think that you can answer better
[Pol.] What does that matter if I answer well enough for you?
[Chaer.] Not at all:-and you shall answer if you like.
[Chaer.] My question is this: If Gorgias had the skill of his
brother Herodicus, what ought we to call him? Ought he not to
have the name which is given to his brother?
[Chaer.] Then we should be right in calling him a physician?
[Chaer.] And if he had the skill of Aristophon the son of
Aglaophon, or of his brother Polygnotus, what ought we to call
[Pol.] Clearly, a painter.
[Chaer.] But now what shall we call him-what is the art in
which he is skilled.
[Pol.] O Chaerephon, there are many arts among mankind which
are experimental, and have their origin in experience, for
experience makes the days of men to proceed according to art, and
inexperience according to chance, and different persons in
different ways are proficient in different arts, and the best
persons in the best arts. And our friend Gorgias is one of the
best, and the art in which he is a proficient is the noblest.
[Soc.] Polus has been taught how to make a capital speech,
Gorgias; but he is not fulfilling the promise which he made to
[Gor.] What do you mean, Socrates?
[Soc.] I mean that he has not exactly answered the question
which he was asked.
[Gor.] Then why not ask him yourself?
[Soc.] But I would much rather ask you, if you are disposed to
answer: for I see, from the few words which Polus has uttered,
that he has attended more to the art which is called rhetoric
than to dialectic.
[Pol.] What makes you say so, Socrates?
[Soc.] Because, Polus, when Chaerephon asked you what was the
art which Gorgias knows, you praised it as if you were answering
some one who found fault with it, but you never said what the art
[Pol.] Why, did I not say that it was the noblest of arts?
[Soc.] Yes, indeed, but that was no answer to the question:
nobody asked what was the quality, but what was the nature, of
the art, and by what name we were to describe Gorgias. And I
would still beg you briefly and clearly, as you answered
Chaerephon when he asked you at first, to say what this art is,
and what we ought to call Gorgias: Or rather, Gorgias, let me
turn to you, and ask the same question what are we to call you,
and what is the art which you profess?
[Gor.] Rhetoric, Socrates, is my art.
[Soc.] Then I am to call you a rhetorician?
[Gor.] Yes, Socrates, and a good one too, if you would call me
that which, in Homeric language, "I boast myself to be."
[Soc.] I should wish to do so.
[Gor.] Then pray do.
[Soc.] And are we to say that you are able to make other men
[Gor.] Yes, that is exactly what I profess to make them, not
only at Athens, but in all places.
[Soc.] And will you continue to ask and answer questions,
Gorgias, as we are at present doing and reserve for another
occasion the longer mode of speech which Polus was attempting?
Will you keep your promise, and answer shortly the questions
which are asked of you?
[Gor.] Some answers, Socrates, are of necessity longer; but I
will do my best to make them as short as possible; for a part of
my profession is that I can be as short as any one.
[Soc.] That is what is wanted, Gorgias; exhibit the shorter
method now, and the longer one at some other time.
[Gor.] Well, I will; and you will certainly say, that you
never heard a man use fewer words.
[Soc.] Very good then; as you profess to be a rhetorician, and
a maker of rhetoricians, let me ask you, with what is rhetoric
concerned: I might ask with what is weaving concerned, and you
would reply (would you not?), with the making of garments?
[Soc.] And music is concerned with the composition of
[Gor.] It is.
[Soc.] By Here, Gorgias, I admire the surpassing brevity of
[Gor.] Yes, Socrates, I do think myself good at that.
[Soc.] I am glad to hear it; answer me in like manner about
rhetoric: with what is rhetoric concerned?
[Gor.] With discourse.
[Soc.] What sort of discourse, Gorgias?-such discourse as
would teach the sick under what treatment they might get well?
[Soc.] Then rhetoric does not treat of all kinds of discourse?
[Gor.] Certainly not.
[Soc.] And yet rhetoric makes men able to speak?
[Soc.] And to understand that about which they speak?
[Gor.] Of course.
[Soc.] But does not the art of medicine, which we were just
now mentioning, also make men able to understand and speak about
[Soc.] Then medicine also treats of discourse?
[Soc.] Of discourse concerning diseases?
[Gor.] Just so.
[Soc.] And does not gymnastic also treat of discourse
concerning the good or evil condition of the body?
[Gor.] Very true.
[Soc.] And the same, Gorgias, is true of the other arts:-all
of them treat of discourse concerning the subjects with which
they severally have to do.
[Soc.] Then why, if you call rhetoric the art which treats of
discourse, and all the other arts treat of discourse, do you not
call them arts of rhetoric?
[Gor.] Because, Socrates, the knowledge of the other arts has
only to do with some sort of external action, as of the hand; but
there is no such action of the hand in rhetoric which works and
takes effect only through the medium of discourse. And therefore
I am justified in saying that rhetoric treats of discourse.
[Soc.] I am not sure whether I entirely understand you, but I
dare say I shall soon know better; please to answer me a question:-you
would allow that there are arts?
[Soc.] As to the arts generally, they are for the most part
concerned with doing, and require little or no speaking; in
painting, and statuary, and many other arts, the work may proceed
in silence; and of such arts I suppose you would say that they do
not come within the province of rhetoric.
[Gor.] You perfectly conceive my meaning, Socrates.
[Soc.] But there are other arts which work wholly through the
medium of language, and require either no action or very little,
as, for example, the arts of arithmetic, of calculation, of
geometry, and of playing draughts; in some of these speech is
pretty nearly co-extensive with action, but in most of them the
verbal element is greater-they depend wholly on words for their
efficacy and power: and I take your meaning to be that rhetoric
is an art of this latter sort?
[Soc.] And yet I do not believe that you really mean to call
any of these arts rhetoric; although the precise expression which
you used was, that rhetoric is an art which works and takes
effect only through the medium of discourse; and an adversary who
wished to be captious might say, "And so, Gorgias, you call
arithmetic rhetoric." But I do not think that you really
call arithmetic rhetoric any more than geometry would be so
called by you.
[Gor.] You are quite right, Socrates, in your apprehension of
[Soc.] Well, then, let me now have the rest of my answer:-seeing
that rhetoric is one of those arts which works mainly by the use
of words, and there are other arts which also use words, tell me
what is that quality in words with which rhetoric is concerned:-Suppose
that a person asks me about some of the arts which I was
mentioning just now; he might say, "Socrates, what is
arithmetic?" and I should reply to him, as you replied to
me, that arithmetic is one of those arts which take effect
through words. And then he would proceed to ask: "Words
about what?" and I should reply, Words about and even
numbers, and how many there are of each. And if he asked again:
"What is the art of calculation?" I should say, That
also is one of the arts which is concerned wholly with words. And
if he further said, "Concerned with what?" I should
say, like the clerks in the assembly, "as aforesaid" of
arithmetic, but with a difference, the difference being that the
art of calculation considers not only the quantities of odd and
even numbers, but also their numerical relations to themselves
and to one another. And suppose, again, I were to say that
astronomy is only word-he would ask, "Words about what,
Socrates?" and I should answer, that astronomy tells us
about the motions of the stars and sun and moon, and their
[Gor.] You would be quite right, Socrates.
[Soc.] And now let us have from you, Gorgias, the truth about
rhetoric: which you would admit (would you not?) to be one of
those arts which act always and fulfil all their ends through the
medium of words?
[Soc.] Words which do what? I should ask. To what class of
things do the words which rhetoric uses relate?
[Gor.] To the greatest, Socrates, and the best of human things.
[Soc.] That again, Gorgias is ambiguous; I am still in the
dark: for which are the greatest and best of human things? I dare
say that you have heard men singing at feasts the old drinking
song, in which the singers enumerate the goods of life, first
health, beauty next, thirdly, as the writer of the song says,
wealth honesty obtained.
[Gor.] Yes, I know the song; but what is your drift?
[Soc.] I mean to say, that the producers of those things which
the author of the song praises, that is to say, the physician,
the trainer, the money-maker, will at once come to you, and first
the physician will say: "O Socrates, Gorgias is deceiving
you, for my art is concerned with the greatest good of men and
not his." And when I ask, Who are you? he will reply, "I
am a physician." What do you mean? I shall say. Do you mean
that your art produces the greatest good? "Certainly,"
he will answer, "for is not health the greatest good? What
greater good can men have, Socrates?" And after him the
trainer will come and say, "I too, Socrates, shall be
greatly surprised if Gorgias can show more good of his art than I
can show of mine." To him again I shall say, Who are you,
honest friend, and what is your business? "I am a trainer,"
he will reply, "and my business is to make men beautiful and
strong in body." When I have done with the trainer, there
arrives the money-maker, and he, as I expect, utterly despise
them all. "Consider Socrates," he will say, "whether
Gorgias or any one-else can produce any greater good than wealth."
Well, you and I say to him, and are you a creator of wealth?
"Yes," he replies. And who are you? "A money-maker."
And do you consider wealth to be the greatest good of man? "Of
course," will be his reply. And we shall rejoin: Yes; but
our friend Gorgias contends that his art produces a greater good
than yours. And then he will be sure to go on and ask, "What
good? Let Gorgias answer." Now I want you, Gorgias, to
imagine that this question is asked of you by them and by me;
What is that which, as you say, is the greatest good of man, and
of which you are the creator? Answer us.
[Gor.] That good, Socrates, which is truly the greatest, being
that which gives to men freedom in their own persons, and to
individuals the power of ruling over others in their several
[Soc.] And what would you consider this to be?
[Gor.] What is there greater than the word which persuades the
judges in the courts, or the senators in the council, or the
citizens in the assembly, or at any other political meeting?-if
you have the power of uttering this word, you will have the
physician your slave, and the trainer your slave, and the money-maker
of whom you talk will be found to gather treasures, not for
himself, but for you who are able to speak and to persuade the
[Soc.] Now I think, Gorgias, that you have very accurately
explained what you conceive to be the art of rhetoric; and you
mean to say, if I am not mistaken, that rhetoric is the artificer
of persuasion, having this and no other business, and that this
is her crown and end. Do you know any other effect of rhetoric
over and above that of producing persuasion?
[Gor.] No: the definition seems to me very fair, Socrates; for
persuasion is the chief end of rhetoric.
[Soc.] Then hear me, Gorgias, for I am quite sure that if
there ever was a man who-entered on the discussion of a matter
from a pure love of knowing the truth, I am such a one, and I
should say the same of you.
[Gor.] What is coming, Socrates?
[Soc.] I will tell you: I am very well aware that do not know
what, according to you, is the exact nature, or what are the
topics of that persuasion of which you speak, and which is given
by rhetoric; although I have a suspicion about both the one and
the other. And I am going to ask-what is this power of persuasion
which is given by rhetoric, and about what? But why, if I have a
suspicion, do I ask instead of telling you? Not for your sake,
but in order that the argument may proceed in such a manner as is
most likely to set forth the truth. And I would have you observe,
that I am right in asking this further question: If I asked,
"What sort of a painter is Zeuxis?" and you said,
"The painter of figures," should I not be right in
asking, What kind of figures, and where do you find them?"
[Soc.] And the reason for asking this second question would
be, that there are other painters besides, who paint many other
[Soc.] But if there had been no one but Zeuxis who painted
them, then you would have answered very well?
[Gor.] Quite so.
[Soc.] Now I was it to know about rhetoric in the same way;-is
rhetoric the only art which brings persuasion, or do other arts
have the same effect? I mean to say-Does he who teaches anything
persuade men of that which he teaches or not?
[Gor.] He persuades, Socrates,-there can be no mistake about
[Soc.] Again, if we take the arts of which we were just now
speaking:-do not arithmetic and the arithmeticians teach us the
properties of number?
[Soc.] And therefore persuade us of them?
[Soc.] Then arithmetic as well as rhetoric is an artificer of
[Soc.] And if any one asks us what sort of persuasion, and
about what,-we shall answer, persuasion which teaches the
quantity of odd and even; and we shall be able to show that all
the other arts of which we were just now speaking are artificers
of persuasion, and of what sort, and about what.
[Gor.] Very true.
[Soc.] Then rhetoric is not the only artificer of persuasion?
[Soc.] Seeing, then, that not only rhetoric works by
persuasion, but that other arts do the same, as in the case of
the painter, a question has arisen which is a very fair one: Of
what persuasion is rhetoric the artificer, and about what?-is not
that a fair way of putting the question?
[Gor.] I think so.
[Soc.] Then, if you approve the question, Gorgias, what is the
[Gor.] I answer, Socrates, that rhetoric is the art of
persuasion in courts of law and other assemblies, as I was just
now saying, and about the just and unjust.
[Soc.] And that, Gorgias, was what I was suspecting to be your
notion; yet I would not have you wonder if by-and-by I am found
repeating a seemingly plain question; for I ask not in order to
confute you, but as I was saying that the argument may proceed
consecutively, and that we may not get the habit of anticipating
and suspecting the meaning of one another's words; I would have
you develop your own views in your own way, whatever may be your
[Gor.] I think that you are quite right, Socrates.
[Soc.] Then let me raise another question; there is such a
thing as "having learned"?
[Soc.] And there is also "having believed"?
[Soc.] And is the "having learned" the same "having
believed," and are learning and belief the same things?
[Gor.] In my judgment, Socrates, they are not the same.
[Soc.] And your judgment is right, as you may ascertain in
this way:-If a person were to say to you, "Is there,
Gorgias, a false belief as well as a true?" -you would
reply, if I am not mistaken, that there is.
[Soc.] Well, but is there a false knowledge as well as a true?
[Soc.] No, indeed; and this again proves that knowledge and
[Gor.] Very true.
[Soc.] And yet those who have learned as well as those who
have believed are persuaded?
[Gor.] Just so.
[Soc.] Shall we then assume two sorts of persuasion,-one which
is the source of belief without knowledge, as the other is of
[Gor.] By all means.
[Soc.] And which sort of persuasion does rhetoric create in
courts of law and other assemblies about the just and unjust, the
sort of persuasion which gives belief without knowledge, or that
which gives knowledge?
[Gor.] Clearly, Socrates, that which only gives belief.
[Soc.] Then rhetoric, as would appear, is the artificer of a
persuasion which creates belief about the just and unjust, but
gives no instruction about them?
[Soc.] And the rhetorician does not instruct the courts of law
or other assemblies about things just and unjust, but he creates
belief about them; for no one can be supposed to instruct such a
vast multitude about such high matters in a short time?
[Gor.] Certainly not.
[Soc.] Come, then, and let us see what we really mean about
rhetoric; for I do not know what my own meaning is as yet. When
the assembly meets to elect a physician or a shipwright or any
other craftsman, will the rhetorician be taken into counsel?
Surely not. For at every election he ought to be chosen who is
most skilled; and, again, when walls have to be built or harbours
or docks to be constructed, not the rhetorician but the master
workman will advise; or when generals have to be chosen and an
order of battle arranged, or a proposition taken, then the
military will advise and not the rhetoricians: what do you say,
Gorgias? Since you profess to be a rhetorician and a maker of
rhetoricians, I cannot do better than learn the nature of your
art from you. And here let me assure you that I have your
interest in view as well as my own. For likely enough some one or
other of the young men present might desire to become your pupil,
and in fact I see some, and a good many too, who have this wish,
but they would be too modest to question you. And therefore when
you are interrogated by me, I would have you imagine that you are
interrogated by them. "What is the use of coming to you,
Gorgias? they will say about what will you teach us to advise the
state?-about the just and unjust only, or about those other
things also which Socrates has just mentioned? How will you
[Gor.] I like your way of leading us on, Socrates, and I will
endeavour to reveal to you the whole nature of rhetoric. You must
have heard, I think, that the docks and the walls of the
Athenians and the plan of the harbour were devised in accordance
with the counsels, partly of Themistocles, and partly of
Pericles, and not at the suggestion of the builders.
[Soc.] Such is the tradition, Gorgias, about Themistocles; and
I myself heard the speech of Pericles when he advised us about
the middle wall.
[Gor.] And you will observe, Socrates, that when a decision
has to be given in such matters the rhetoricians are the
advisers; they are the men who win their point.
[Soc.] I had that in my admiring mind, Gorgias, when I asked
what is the nature of rhetoric, which always appears to me, when
I look at the matter in this way, to be a marvel of greatness.
[Gor.] A marvel, indeed, Socrates, if you only knew how
rhetoric comprehends and holds under her sway all the inferior
arts. Let me offer you a striking example of this. On several
occasions I have been with my brother Herodicus or some other
physician to see one of his patients, who would not allow the
physician to give him medicine, or apply a knife or hot iron to
him; and I have persuaded him to do for me what he would not do
for the physician just by the use of rhetoric. And I say that if
a rhetorician and a physician were to go to any city, and had
there to argue in the Ecclesia or any other assembly as to which
of them should be elected state-physician, the physician would
have no chance; but he who could speak would be chosen if he
wished; and in a contest with a man of any other profession the
rhetorician more than any one would have the power of getting
himself chosen, for he can speak more persuasively to the
multitude than any of them, and on any subject. Such is the
nature and power of the art of rhetoric And yet, Socrates,
rhetoric should be used like any other competitive art, not
against everybody-the rhetorician ought not to abuse his strength
any more than a pugilist or pancratiast or other master of fence;
because he has powers which are more than a match either for
friend or enemy, he ought not therefore to strike, stab, or slay
his friends. Suppose a man to have been trained in the palestra
and to be a skilful boxer-he in the fulness of his strength goes
and strikes his father or mother or one of his familiars or
friends; but that is no reason why the trainers or fencing-masters
should be held in detestation or banished from the city-surely
not. For they taught their art for a good purpose, to be used
against enemies and evil-doers, in self-defence not in
aggression, and others have perverted their instructions, and
turned to a bad use their own strength and skill. But not on this
account are the teachers bad, neither is the art in fault, or bad
in itself; I should rather say that those who make a bad use of
the art are to blame. And the same argument holds good of
rhetoric; for the rhetorician can speak against all men and upon
any subject-in short, he can persuade the multitude better than
any other man of anything which he pleases, but he should not
therefore seek to defraud the physician or any other artist of
his reputation merely because he has the power; he ought to use
rhetoric fairly, as he would also use his athletic powers. And if
after having become a rhetorician he makes a bad use of his
strength and skill, his instructor surely ought not on that
account to be held in detestation or banished. For he was
intended by his teacher to make a good use of his instructions,
but he abuses them. And therefore he is the person who ought to
be held in detestation, banished, and put to death, and not his
[Soc.] You, Gorgias, like myself, have had great experience of
disputations, and you must have observed, I think, that they do
not always terminate in mutual edification, or in the definition
by either party of the subjects which they are discussing; but
disagreements are apt to arise-somebody says that another has not
spoken truly or clearly; and then they get into a passion and
begin to quarrel, both parties conceiving that their opponents
are arguing from personal feeling only and jealousy of
themselves, not from any interest in the question at issue. And
sometimes they will go on abusing one another until the company
at last are quite vexed at themselves for ever listening to such
fellows. Why do I say this? Why, because I cannot help feeling
that you are now saying what is not quite consistent or accordant
with what you were saying at first about rhetoric. And I am
afraid to point this out to you, lest you should think that I
have some animosity against you, and that I speak, not for the
sake of discovering the truth, but from jealousy of you. Now if
you are one of my sort, I should like to cross-examine you, but
if not I will let you alone. And what is my sort? you will ask. I
am one of those who are very willing to be refuted if I say
anything which is not true, and very willing to refute any one
else who says what is not true, and quite as ready to be refuted
as to refute-I for I hold that this is the greater gain of the
two, just as the gain is greater of being cured of a very great
evil than of curing another. For I imagine that there is no evil
which a man can endure so great as an erroneous opinion about the
matters of which we are speaking and if you claim to be one of my
sort, let us have the discussion out, but if you would rather
have done, no matter-let us make an end of it.
[Gor.] I should say, Socrates, that I am quite the man whom
you indicate; but, perhaps, we ought to consider the audience,
for, before you came, I had already given a long exhibition, and
if we proceed the argument may run on to a great length. And
therefore I think that we should consider whether we, may not be
detaining some part of the company when they are wanting to do
[Chaer.] You hear the audience cheering, Gorgias and Socrates,
which shows their desire to listen to you; and for myself, Heaven
forbid that I should have any business on hand which would take
me Away from a discussion so interesting and so ably maintained.
[Cal.] By the gods, Chaerephon, although I have been present
at many discussions, I doubt whether I was ever so much delighted
before, and therefore if you go on discoursing all day I shall be
the better pleased.
[Soc.] I may truly say, Callicles, that I am willing, if
[Gor.] After all this, Socrates, I should be disgraced if I
refused, especially as I have promised to answer all comers; in
accordance with the wishes of the company, them, do you begin.
and ask of me any question which you like.
[Soc.] Let me tell you then, Gorgias, what surprises me in
your words; though I dare say that you may be right, and I may
have understood your meaning. You say that you can make any man,
who will learn of you, a rhetorician?
[Soc.] Do you mean that you will teach him to gain the ears of
the multitude on any subject, and this not by instruction but by
[Gor.] Quite so.
[Soc.] You were saying, in fact, that the rhetorician will
have, greater powers of persuasion than the physician even in a
matter of health?
[Gor.] Yes, with the multitude-that is.
[Soc.] You mean to say, with the ignorant; for with those who
know he cannot be supposed to have greater powers of persuasion.
[Gor.] Very true.
[Soc.] But if he is to have more power of persuasion than the
physician, he will have greater power than he who knows?
[Soc.] Although he is not a physician:-is he?
[Soc.] And he who is not a physician must, obviously, be
ignorant of what the physician knows.
[Soc.] Then, when the rhetorician is more persuasive than the
physician, the ignorant is more persuasive with the ignorant than
he who has knowledge?-is not that the inference?
[Gor.] In the case supposed:-Yes.
[Soc.] And the same holds of the relation of rhetoric to all
the other arts; the rhetorician need not know the truth about
things; he has only to discover some way of persuading the
ignorant that he has more knowledge than those who know?
[Gor.] Yes, Socrates, and is not this a great comfort?-not to
have learned the other arts, but the art of rhetoric only, and
yet to be in no way inferior to the professors of them?
[Soc.] Whether the rhetorician is or not inferior on this
account is a question which we will hereafter examine if the
enquiry is likely to be of any service to us; but I would rather
begin by asking, whether he is as ignorant of the just and
unjust, base and honourable, good and evil, as he is of medicine
and the other arts; I mean to say, does he really know anything
of what is good and evil, base or honourable, just or unjust in
them; or has he only a way with the ignorant of persuading them
that he not knowing is to be esteemed to know more about these
things than some. one else who knows? Or must the pupil know
these things and come to you knowing them before he can acquire
the art of rhetoric? If he is ignorant, you who are the teacher
of rhetoric will not teach him-it is not your business; but you
will make him seem to the multitude to know them, when he does
not know them; and seem to be a good man, when he is not. Or will
you be unable to teach him rhetoric at all, unless he knows the
truth of these things first? What is to be said about all this?
By heavens, Gorgias, I wish that you would reveal to me the power
of rhetoric, as you were saying that you would.
[Gor.] Well, Socrates, I suppose that if the pupil does chance
not to know them, he will have to learn of me these things as
[Soc.] Say no more, for there you are right; and so he whom
you make a rhetorician must either know the nature of the just
and unjust already, or he must be taught by you.
[Soc.] Well, and is not he who has learned carpentering a
[Soc.] And he who has learned music a musician?
[Soc.] And he who has learned medicine is a physician, in like
manner? He who has learned anything whatever is that which his
knowledge makes him.
[Soc.] And in the same way, he who has learned what is just is
[Gor.] To be sure.
[Soc.] And he who is just may be supposed to do what is just?
[Soc.] And must not the just man always desire to do what is
[Gor.] That is clearly the inference.
[Soc.] Surely, then, the just man will never consent to do
[Gor.] Certainly not.
[Soc.] And according to the argument the rhetorician must be a
[Soc.] And will therefore never be willing to do injustice?
[Gor.] Clearly not.
[Soc.] But do you remember saying just now that the trainer is
not to be accused or banished if the pugilist makes a wrong use
of his pugilistic art; and in like manner, if the rhetorician
makes a bad and unjust use of rhetoric, that is not to be laid to
the charge of his teacher, who is not to be banished, but the
wrong-doer himself who made a bad use of his rhetoric-he is to be
banished-was not that said?
[Gor.] Yes, it was.
[Soc.] But now we are affirming that the aforesaid rhetorician
will never have done injustice at all?
[Soc.] And at the very outset, Gorgias, it was said that
rhetoric treated of discourse, not [like arithmetic] about odd
and even, but about just and unjust? Was not this said?
[Soc.] I was thinking at the time, when I heard you saying so,
that rhetoric, which is always discoursing about justice, could
not possibly be an unjust thing. But when you added, shortly
afterwards, that the rhetorician might make a bad use of rhetoric
I noted with surprise the inconsistency into which you had
fallen; and I said, that if you thought, as I did, that there was
a gain in being refuted, there would be an advantage in going on
with the question, but if not, I would leave off. And in the
course of our investigations, as you will see yourself, the
rhetorician has been acknowledged to be incapable of making an
unjust use of rhetoric, or of willingness to do injustice. By the
dog, Gorgias, there will be a great deal of discussion, before we
get at the truth of all this.
[Polus] And do even you, Socrates, seriously believe what you
are now saying about rhetoric? What! because Gorgias was ashamed
to deny that the rhetorician knew the just and the honourable and
the good, and admitted that to any one who came to him ignorant
of them he could teach them, and then out of this admission there
arose a contradiction-the thing which you dearly love, and to
which not he, but you, brought the argument by your captious
questions-[do you seriously believe that there is any truth in
all this?] For will any one ever acknowledge that he does not
know, or cannot teach, the nature of justice? The truth is, that
there is great want of manners in bringing the argument to such a
[Soc.] Illustrious Polus, the reason why we provide ourselves
with friends and children is, that when we get old and stumble, a
younger generation may be at hand to set us on our legs again in
our words and in our actions: and now, if I and Gorgias are
stumbling, here are you who should raise us up; and I for my part
engage to retract any error into which you may think that I have
fallen-upon one condition:
[Pol.] What condition?
[Soc.] That you contract, Polus, the prolixity of speech in
which you indulged at first.
[Pol.] What! do you mean that I may not use as many words as I
[Soc.] Only to think, my friend, that having come on a visit
to Athens, which is the most free-spoken state in Hellas, you
when you got there, and you alone, should be deprived of the
power of speech-that would be hard indeed. But then consider my
case:-shall not I be very hardly used, if, when you are making a
long oration, and refusing to answer what you are asked, I am
compelled to stay and listen to you, and may not go away? I say
rather, if you have a real interest in the argument, or, to
repeat my former expression, have any desire to set it on its
legs, take back any statement which you please; and in your turn
ask and answer, like myself and Gorgias-refute and be refuted:
for I suppose that you would claim to know what Gorgias knows-would
[Soc.] And you, like him, invite any one to ask you about
anything which he pleases, and you will know how to answer him?
[Pol.] To be sure.
[Soc.] And now, which will you do, ask or answer?
[Pol.] I will ask; and do you answer me, Socrates, the same
question which Gorgias, as you suppose, is unable to answer: What
[Soc.] Do you mean what sort of an art?
[Soc.] To say the truth, Polus, it is not an art at all, in my
[Pol.] Then what, in your opinion, is rhetoric?
[Soc.] A thing which, as I was lately reading in a book of
yours, you say that you have made an art.
[Pol.] What thing?
[Soc.] I should say a sort of experience.
[Pol.] Does rhetoric seem to you to be an experience?
[Soc.] That is my view, but you may be of another mind.
[Pol.] An experience in what?
[Soc.] An experience in producing a sort of delight and
[Pol.] And if able to gratify others, must not rhetoric be a
[Soc.] What are you saying, Polus? Why do you ask me whether
rhetoric is a fine thing or not, when I have not as yet told you
what rhetoric is?
[Pol.] Did I not hear you say that rhetoric was a sort of
[Soc.] Will you, who are so desirous to gratify others, afford
a slight gratification to me?
[Pol.] I will.
[Soc.] Will you ask me, what sort of an art is cookery?
[Pol.] What sort of an art is cookery?
[Soc.] Not an art at all, Polus.
[Pol.] What then?
[Soc.] I should say an experience.
[Pol.] In what? I wish that you would explain to me.
[Soc.] An experience in producing a sort of delight and
[Pol.] Then are cookery and rhetoric the same?
[Soc.] No, they are only different parts of the same
[Pol.] Of what profession?
[Soc.] I am afraid that the truth may seem discourteous; and I
hesitate to answer, lest Gorgias should imagine that I am making
fun of his own profession. For whether or no this is that art of
rhetoric which Gorgias practises I really cannot tell:-from what
he was just now saying, nothing appeared of what he thought of
his art, but the rhetoric which I mean is a part of a not very
[Gor.] A part of what, Socrates? Say what you mean, and never
[Soc.] In my opinion then, Gorgias, the whole of which
rhetoric is a part is not an art at all, but the habit of a bold
and ready wit, which knows how to manage mankind: this habit I
sum up under the word "flattery"; and it appears to me
to have many other parts, one of which is cookery, which may seem
to be an art, but, as I maintain, is only an experience or
routine and not an art:-another part is rhetoric, and the art of
attiring and sophistry are two others: thus there are four
branches, and four different things answering to them. And Polus
may ask, if he likes, for he has not as yet been informed, what
part of flattery is rhetoric: he did not see that I had not yet
answered him when he proceeded to ask a further question: Whether
I do not think rhetoric a fine thing? But I shall not tell him
whether rhetoric is a fine thing or not, until I have first
answered, "What is rhetoric?" For that would not be
right, Polus; but I shall be happy to answer, if you will ask me,
What part of flattery is rhetoric?
[Pol.] I will ask and do you answer? What part of flattery is
[Soc.] Will you understand my answer? Rhetoric, according to
my view, is the ghost or counterfeit of a part of politics.
[Pol.] And noble or ignoble?
[Soc.] Ignoble, I should say, if I am compelled to answer, for
I call what is bad ignoble: though I doubt whether you understand
what I was saying before.
[Gor.] Indeed, Socrates, I cannot say that I understand myself.
[Soc.] I do not wonder, Gorgias; for I have not as yet
explained myself, and our friend Polus, colt by name and colt by
nature, is apt to run away.
[Gor.] Never mind him, but explain to me what you mean by
saying that rhetoric is the counterfeit of a part of politics.
[Soc.] I will try, then, to explain my notion of rhetoric, and
if I am mistaken, my friend Polus shall refute me. We may assume
the existence of bodies and of souls?
[Gor.] Of course.
[Soc.] You would further admit that there is a good condition
of either of them?
[Soc.] Which condition may not be really good, but good only
in appearance? I mean to say, that there are many persons who
appear to be in good health, and whom only a physician or trainer
will discern at first sight not to be in good health.
[Soc.] And this applies not only to the body, but also to the
soul: in either there may be that which gives the appearance of
health and not the reality?
[Gor.] Yes, certainly.
[Soc.] And now I will endeavour to explain to you more clearly
what I mean: The soul and body being two, have two arts
corresponding to them: there is the art of politics attending on
the soul; and another art attending on the body, of which I know
no single name, but which may be described as having two
divisions, one of them gymnastic, and the other medicine. And in
politics there is a legislative part, which answers to gymnastic,
as justice does to medicine; and the two parts run into one
another, justice having to do with the same subject as
legislation, and medicine with the same subject as gymnastic, but
with a difference. Now, seeing that there are these four arts,
two attending on the body and two on the soul for their highest
good; flattery knowing, or rather guessing their natures, has
distributed herself into four shams or simulations of them; she
puts on the likeness of some one or other of them, and pretends
to be that which she simulates, and having no regard for men's
highest interests, is ever making pleasure the bait of the
unwary, and deceiving them into the belief that she is of the
highest value to them. Cookery simulates the disguise of
medicine, and pretends to know what food is the best for the
body; and if the physician and the cook had to enter into a
competition in which children were the judges, or men who had no
more sense than children, as to which of them best understands
the goodness or badness of food, the physician would be starved
to death. A flattery I deem this to be and of an ignoble sort,
Polus, for to you I am now addressing myself, because it aims at
pleasure without any thought of the best. An art I do not call
it, but only an experience, because it is unable to explain or to
give a reason of the nature of its own applications. And I do not
call any irrational thing an art; but if you dispute my words, I
am prepared to argue in defence of them.
Cookery, then, I maintain to be a flattery which takes the
form of medicine; and tiring, in like manner, is a flattery which
takes the form of gymnastic, and is knavish, false, ignoble,
illiberal, working deceitfully by the help of lines, and colours,
and enamels, and garments, and making men affect a spurious
beauty to the neglect of the true beauty which is given by
I would rather not be tedious, and therefore I will only say,
after the manner of the geometricians (for I think that by this
time you will be able to follow) as tiring : gymnastic :: cookery
: medicine; or rather, as tiring : gymnastic :: sophistry :
legislation; and as cookery : medicine :: rhetoric : justice. And
this, I say, is the natural difference between the rhetorician
and the sophist, but by reason of their near connection, they are
apt to be jumbled up together; neither do they know what to make
of themselves, nor do other men know what to make of them. For if
the body presided over itself, and were not under the guidance of
the soul, and the soul did not discern and discriminate between
cookery and medicine, but the body was made the judge of them,
and the rule of judgment was the bodily delight which was given
by them, then the word of Anaxagoras, that word with which you,
friend Polus, are so well acquainted, would prevail far and wide:
"Chaos" would come again, and cookery, health, and
medicine would mingle in an indiscriminate mass. And now I have
told you my notion of rhetoric, which is, in relation to the
soul, what cookery is to the body. I may have been inconsistent
in making a long speech, when I would not allow you to discourse
at length. But I think that I may be excused, because you did not
understand me, and could make no use of my answer when I spoke
shortly, and therefore I had to enter into explanation. And if I
show an equal inability to make use of yours, I hope that you
will speak at equal length; but if I am able to understand you,
let me have the benefit of your brevity, as is only fair: And now
you may do what you please with my answer.
[Pol.] What do you mean? do you think that rhetoric is
[Soc.] Nay, I said a part of flattery-if at your age, Polus,
you cannot remember, what will you do by-and-by, when you get
[Pol.] And are the good rhetoricians meanly regarded in
states, under the idea that they are flatterers?
[Soc.] Is that a question or the beginning of a speech?
[Pol.] I am asking a question.
[Soc.] Then my answer is, that they are not regarded at all.
[Pol.] How not regarded? Have they not very great power in
[Soc.] Not if you mean to say that power is a good to the
[Pol.] And that is what I do mean to say.
[Soc.] Then, if so, I think that they have the least power of
all the citizens.
[Pol.] What! Are they not like tyrants? They kill and despoil
and exile any one whom they please.
[Soc.] By the dog, Polus, I cannot make out at each
deliverance of yours, whether you are giving an opinion of your
own, or asking a question of me.
[Pol.] I am asking a question of you.
[Soc.] Yes, my friend, but you ask two questions at once.
[Pol.] How two questions?
[Soc.] Why, did you not say just now that the rhetoricians are
like tyrants, and that they kill and despoil or exile any one
whom they please?
[Pol.] I did.
[Soc.] Well then, I say to you that here are two questions in
one, and I will answer both of them. And I tell you, Polus, that
rhetoricians and tyrants have the least possible power in states,
as I was just now saying; for they do literally nothing which
they will, but only what they think best.
[Pol.] And is not that a great power?
[Soc.] Polus has already said the reverse.
[Soc.] No, by the great-what do you call him?-not you, for you
say that power is a good to him who has the power.
[Pol.] I do.
[Soc.] And would you maintain that if a fool does what he
think best, this is a good, and would you call this great power?
[Pol.] I should not.
[Soc.] Then you must prove that the rhetorician is not a fool,
and that rhetoric is an art and not a flattery-and so you will
have refuted me; but if you leave me unrefuted, why, the
rhetoricians who do what they think best in states, and the
tyrants, will have nothing upon which to congratulate themselves,
if as you say, power be indeed a good, admitting at the same time
that what is done without sense is an evil.
[Pol.] Yes; I admit that.
[Soc.] How then can the rhetoricians or the tyrants have great
power in states, unless Polus can refute Socrates, and prove to
him that they do as they will?
[Pol.] This fellow-
[Soc.] I say that they do not do as they will-now refute me.
[Pol.] Why, have you not already said that they do as they
[Soc.] And I say so still.
[Pol.] Then surely they do as they will?
[Soc.] I deny it.
[Pol.] But they do what they think best?
[Pol.] That, Socrates, is monstrous and absurd.
[Soc.] Good words, good Polus, as I may say in your own
peculiar style; but if you have any questions to ask of me,
either prove that I am in error or give the answer yourself.
[Pol.] Very well, I am willing to answer that I may know what
[Soc.] Do men appear to you to will that which they do, or to
will that further end for the sake of which they do a thing? when
they take medicine, for example, at the bidding of a physician,
do they will the drinking of the medicine which is painful, or
the health for the sake of which they drink?
[Pol.] Clearly, the health.
[Soc.] And when men go on a voyage or engage in business, they
do not will that which they are doing at the time; for who would
desire to take the risk of a voyage or the trouble of business?-But
they will, to have the wealth for the sake of which they go on a
[Soc.] And is not this universally true? If a man does
something for the sake of something else, he wills not that which
he does, but that for the sake of which he does it.
[Soc.] And are not all things either good or evil, or
intermediate and indifferent?
[Pol.] To be sure, Socrates.
[Soc.] Wisdom and health and wealth and the like you would
call goods, and their opposites evils?
[Pol.] I should.
[Soc.] And the things which are neither good nor evil, and
which partake sometimes of the nature of good and at other times
of evil, or of neither, are such as sitting, walking, running,
sailing; or, again, wood, stones, and the like:-these are the
things which you call neither good nor evil?
[Pol.] Exactly so.
[Soc.] Are these indifferent things done for the sake of the
good, or the good for the sake of the indifferent?
[Pol.] Clearly, the indifferent for the sake of the good.
[Soc.] When we walk we walk for the sake of the good, and
under the idea that it is better to walk, and when we stand we
stand equally for the sake of the good?
[Soc.] And when we kill a man we kill him or exile him or
despoil him of his goods, because, as we think, it will conduce
to our good?
[Soc.] Men who do any of these things do them for the sake of
[Soc.] And did we not admit that in doing something for the
sake of something else, we do not will those things which we do,
but that other thing for the sake of which we do them?
[Pol.] Most true.
[Soc.] Then we do not will simply to kill a man or to exile
him or to despoil him of his goods, but we will to do that which
conduces to our good, and if the act is not conducive to our good
we do not will it; for we will, as you say, that which is our
good, but that which is neither good nor evil, or simply evil, we
do not will. Why are you silent, Polus? Am I not right?
[Pol.] You are right.
[Soc.] Hence we may infer, that if any one, whether he be a
tyrant or a rhetorician, kills another or exiles another or
deprives him of his property, under the idea that the act is for
his own interests when really not for his own interests, he may
be said to do what seems best to him?
[Soc.] But does he do what he wills if he does what is evil?
Why do you not answer?
[Pol.] Well, I suppose not.
[Soc.] Then if great power is a good as you allow, will such a
one have great power in a state?
[Pol.] He will not.
[Soc.] Then I was right in saying that a man may do what seems
good to him in a state, and not have great power, and not do what
[Pol.] As though you, Socrates, would not like to have the
power of doing what seemed good to you in the state, rather than
not; you would not be jealous when you saw any one killing or
despoiling or imprisoning whom he pleased, Oh, no!
[Soc.] Justly or unjustly, do you mean?
[Pol.] In either case is he not equally to be envied?
[Soc.] Forbear, Polus!
[Pol.] Why "forbear"?
[Soc.] Because you ought not to envy wretches who are not to
be envied, but only to pity them.
[Pol.] And are those of whom spoke wretches?
[Soc.] Yes, certainly they are.
[Pol.] And so you think that he who slays any one whom he
pleases, and justly slays him, is pitiable and wretched?
[Soc.] No, I do not say that of him: but neither do I think
that he is to be envied.
[Pol.] Were you not saying just now that he is wretched?
[Soc.] Yes, my friend, if he killed another unjustly, in which
case he is also to be pitied; and he is not to be envied if he
killed him justly.
[Pol.] At any rate you will allow that he who is unjustly put
to death is wretched, and to be pitied?
[Soc.] Not so much, Polus, as he who kills him, and not so
much as he who is justly killed.
[Pol.] How can that be, Socrates?
[Soc.] That may very well be, inasmuch as doing injustice is
the greatest of evils.
[Pol.] But is it the greatest? Is not suffering injustice a
[Soc.] Certainly not.
[Pol.] Then would you rather suffer than do injustice?
[Soc.] I should not like either, but if I must choose between
them, I would rather suffer than do.
[Pol.] Then you would not wish to be a tyrant?
[Soc.] Not if you mean by tyranny what I mean.
[Pol.] I mean, as I said before, the power of doing whatever
seems good to you in a state, killing, banishing, doing in all
things as you like.
[Soc.] Well then, illustrious friend, when I have said my say,
do you reply to me. Suppose that I go into a crowded Agora, and
take a dagger under my arm. Polus, I say to you, I have just
acquired rare power, and become a tyrant; for if I think that any
of these men whom you see ought to be put to death, the man whom
I have a mind to kill is as good as dead; and if I am disposed to
break his head or tear his garment, he will have his head broken
or his garment torn in an instant. Such is my great power in this
city. And if you do not believe me, and I show you the dagger,
you would probably reply: Socrates, in that sort of way any one
may have great power-he may burn any house which he pleases, and
the docks and triremes of the Athenians, and all their other
vessels, whether public or private-but can you believe that this
mere doing as you think best is great power?
[Pol.] Certainly not such doing as this.
[Soc.] But can you tell me why you disapprove of such a power?
[Pol.] I can.
[Soc.] Why then?
[Pol.] Why, because he who did as you say would be certain to
[Soc.] And punishment is an evil?
[Soc.] And you would admit once more, my good sir, that great
power is a benefit to a man if his actions turn out to his
advantage, and that this is the meaning of great power; and if
not, then his power is an evil and is no power. But let us look
at the matter in another way do we not acknowledge that the
things of which we were speaking, the infliction of death, and
exile, and the deprivation of property are sometimes a good and
sometimes not a good?
[Soc.] About that you and I may be supposed to agree?
[Soc.] Tell me, then, when do you say that they are good and
when that they are evil-what principle do you lay down?
[Pol.] I would rather, Socrates, that you should answer as
well as ask that question.
[Soc.] Well, Polus, since you would rather have the answer
from me, I say that they are good when they are just, and evil
when they are unjust.
[Pol.] You are hard of refutation, Socrates, but might not a
child refute that statement?
[Soc.] Then I shall be very grateful to the child, and equally
grateful to you if you will refute me and deliver me from my
foolishness. And I hope that refute me you will, and not weary of
doing good to a friend.
[Pol.] Yes, Socrates, and I need not go far or appeal to
antiquity; events which happened only a few days ago are enough
to refute you, and to prove that many men who do wrong are happy.
[Soc.] What events?
[Pol.] You see, I presume, that Archelaus the son of Perdiccas
is now the ruler of Macedonia?
[Soc.] At any rate I hear that he is.
[Pol.] And do you think that he is happy or miserable?
[Soc.] I cannot say, Polus, for I have never had any
acquaintance with him.
[Pol.] And cannot you tell at once, and without having an
acquaintance with him, whether a man is happy?
[Soc.] Most certainly not.
[Pol.] Then clearly, Socrates, you would say that you did not
even know whether the great king was a happy man?
[Soc.] And I should speak the truth; for I do not know how he
stands in the matter of education and justice.
[Pol.] What! and does all happiness consist in this?
[Soc.] Yes, indeed, Polus, that is my doctrine; the men and
women who are gentle and good are also happy, as I maintain, and
the unjust and evil are miserable.
[Pol.] Then, according to your doctrine, the said Archelaus is
[Soc.] Yes, my friend, if he is wicked.
[Pol.] That he is wicked I cannot deny; for he had no title at
all to the throne which he now occupies, he being only the son of
a woman who was the slave of Alcetas the brother of Perdiccas; he
himself therefore in strict right was the slave of Alcetas; and
if he had meant to do rightly he would have remained his slave,
and then, according to your doctrine, he would have been happy.
But now he is unspeakably miserable, for he has been guilty of
the greatest crimes: in the first place he invited his uncle and
master, Alcetas, to come to him, under the pretence that he would
restore to him the throne which Perdiccas has usurped, and after
entertaining him and his son Alexander, who was his own cousin,
and nearly of an age with him, and making them drunk, he threw
them into a waggon and carried them off by night, and slew them,
and got both of them out of the way; and when he had done all
this wickedness he never discovered that he was the most
miserable of all men, was very far from repenting: shall I tell
you how he showed his remorse? he had a younger brother, a child
of seven years old, who was the legitimate son of Perdiccas, and
to him of right the kingdom belonged; Archelaus, however, had no
mind to bring him up as he ought and restore the kingdom to him;
that was not his notion of happiness; but not long afterwards he
threw him into a well and drowned him, and declared to his mother
Cleopatra that he had fallen in while running after a goose, and
had been killed. And now as he is the greatest criminal of all
the Macedonians, he may be supposed to be the most miserable and
not the happiest of them, and I dare say that there are many
Athenians, and you would be at the head of them, who would rather
be any other Macedonian than Archelaus!
[Soc.] I praised you at first, Polus, for being a rhetorician
rather than a reasoner. And this, as I suppose, is the sort of
argument with which you fancy that a child might refute me, and
by which I stand refuted when I say that the unjust man is not
happy. But, my good friend, where is the refutation? I cannot
admit a word which you have been saying.
[Pol.] That is because you will not; for you surely must think
as I do.
[Soc.] Not so, my simple friend, but because you will refute
me after the manner which rhetoricians practise in courts of law.
For there the one party think that they refute the other when
they bring forward a number of witnesses of good repute in proof
of their allegations, and their adversary has only a single one
or none at all. But this kind of proof is of no value where truth
is the aim; a man may often be sworn down by a multitude of false
witnesses who have a great air of respectability. And in this
argument nearly every one, Athenian and stranger alike, would be
on your side, if you should bring witnesses in disproof of my
statement-you may, if you will, summon Nicias the son of
Niceratus, and let his brothers, who gave the row of tripods
which stand in the precincts of Dionysus, come with him; or you
may summon Aristocrates, the son of Scellius, who is the giver of
that famous offering which is at Delphi; summon, if you will, the
whole house of Pericles, or any other great Athenian family whom
you choose-they will all agree with you: I only am left alone and
cannot agree, for you do not convince me; although you produce
many false witnesses against me, in the hope of depriving me of
my inheritance, which is the truth. But I consider that nothing
worth speaking of will have been effected by me unless I make you
the one witness of my words; nor by you, unless you make me the
one witness of yours; no matter about the rest of the world. For
there are two ways of refutation, one which is yours and that of
the world in general; but mine is of another sort-let us compare
them, and see in what they differ. For, indeed, we are at issue
about matters which to know is honourable and not to know
disgraceful; to know or not to know happiness and misery-that is
the chief of them. And what knowledge can be nobler? or what
ignorance more disgraceful than this? And therefore I will begin
by asking you whether you do not think that a man who is unjust
and doing injustice can be happy, seeing that you think Archelaus
unjust, and yet happy? May I assume this to be your opinion?
[Soc.] But I say that this is an impossibility-here is one
point about which we are at issue:-very good. And do you mean to
say also that if he meets with retribution and punishment he will
still be happy?
[Pol.] Certainly not; in that case he will be most miserable.
[Soc.] On the other hand, if the unjust be not punished, then,
according to you, he will be happy?
[Soc.] But in my opinion, Polus, the unjust or doer of unjust
actions is miserable in any case,-more miserable, however, if he
be not punished and does not meet with retribution, and less
miserable if he be punished and meets with retribution at the
hands of gods and men.
[Pol.] You are maintaining a strange doctrine, Socrates.
[Soc.] I shall try to make you agree with me, O my friend, for
as a friend I regard you. Then these are the points at issue
between us-are they not? I was saying that to do is worse than to
[Pol.] Exactly so.
[Soc.] And you said the opposite?
[Soc.] I said also that the wicked are miserable, and you
[Pol.] By Zeus, I did.
[Soc.] In your own opinion, Polus.
[Pol.] Yes, and I rather suspect that I was in the right.
[Soc.] You further said that the wrong-doer is happy if he be
[Soc.] And I affirm that he is most miserable, and that those
who are punished are less miserable-are you going to refute this
[Pol.] A proposition which is harder of refutation than the
[Soc.] Say rather, Polus, impossible; for who can refute the
[Pol.] What do you mean? If a man is detected in an unjust
attempt to make himself a tyrant, and when detected is racked,
mutilated, has his eyes burned out, and after having had all
sorts of great injuries inflicted on him, and having seen his
wife and children suffer the like, is at last impaled or tarred
and burned alive, will he be happier than if he escape and become
a tyrant, and continue all through life doing what he likes and
holding the reins of government, the envy and admiration both of
citizens and strangers? Is that the paradox which, as you say,
cannot be refuted?
[Soc.] There again, noble Polus, you are raising hobgoblins
instead of refuting me; just now you were calling witnesses
against me. But please to refresh my memory a little; did you say-"in
an unjust attempt to make himself a tyrant"?
[Pol.] Yes, I did.
[Soc.] Then I say that neither of them will be happier than
the other-neither he who unjustly acquires a tyranny, nor he who
suffers in the attempt, for of two miserables one cannot be the
happier, but that he who escapes and becomes a tyrant is the more
miserable of the two. Do you laugh, Polus? Well, this is a new
kind of refutation-when any one says anything, instead of
refuting him to laugh at him.
[Pol.] But do you not think, Socrates, that you have been
sufficiently refuted, when you say that which no human being will
allow? Ask the company.
[Soc.] O Polus, I am not a public man, and only last year,
when my tribe were serving as Prytanes, and it became my duty as
their president to take the votes, there was a laugh at me,
because I was unable to take them. And as I failed then, you must
not ask me to count the suffrages of the company now; but if, as
I was saying, you have no better argument than numbers, let me
have a turn, and do you make trial of the sort of proof which, as
I think, is required; for I shall produce one witness only of the
truth of my words, and he is the person with whom I am arguing;
his suffrage I know how to take; but with the many I have nothing
to do, and do not even address myself to them. May I ask then
whether you will answer in turn and have your words put to the
proof? For I certainly think that I and you and every man do
really believe, that to do is a greater evil than to suffer
injustice: and not to be punished than to be punished.
[Pol.] And I should say neither I, nor any man: would you
yourself, for example, suffer rather than do injustice?
[Soc.] Yes, and you, too; I or any man would.
[Pol.] Quite the reverse; neither you, nor I, nor any man.
[Soc.] But will you answer?
[Pol.] To be sure, I will-for I am curious to hear what you
can have to say.
[Soc.] Tell me, then, and you will know, and let us suppose
that I am beginning at the beginning: which of the two, Polus, in
your opinion, is the worst?-to do injustice or to suffer?
[Pol.] I should say that suffering was worst.
[Soc.] And which is the greater disgrace?-Answer.
[Pol.] To do.
[Soc.] And the greater disgrace is the greater evil?
[Pol.] Certainly not.
[Soc.] I understand you to say, if I am not mistaken, that the
honourable is not the same as the good, or the disgraceful as the
[Pol.] Certainly not.
[Soc.] Let me ask a question of you: When you speak of
beautiful things, such as bodies, colours, figures, sounds,
institutions, do you not call them beautiful in reference to some
standard: bodies, for example, are beautiful in proportion as
they are useful, or as the sight of them gives pleasure to the
spectators; can you give any other account of personal beauty?
[Pol.] I cannot.
[Soc.] And you would say of figures or colours generally that
they were beautiful, either by reason of the pleasure which they
give, or of their use, or both?
[Pol.] Yes, I should.
[Soc.] And you would call sounds and music beautiful for the
[Pol.] I should.
[Soc.] Laws and institutions also have no beauty in them
except in so far as they are useful or pleasant or both?
[Pol.] I think not.
[Soc.] And may not the same be said of the beauty of
[Pol.] To be sure, Socrates; and I very much approve of your
measuring beauty by the standard of pleasure and utility.
[Soc.] And deformity or disgrace may be equally measured by
the opposite standard of pain and evil?
[Soc.] Then when of two beautiful things one exceeds in
beauty, the measure of the excess is to be taken in one or both
of these; that is to say, in pleasure or utility or both?
[Pol.] Very true.
[Soc.] And of two deformed things, that which exceeds in
deformity or disgrace, exceeds either in pain or evil-must it not
[Soc.] But then again, what was the observation which you just
now made, about doing and suffering wrong? Did you not say, that
suffering wrong was more evil, and doing wrong more disgraceful?
[Pol.] I did.
[Soc.] Then, if doing wrong is more disgraceful than
suffering, the more disgraceful must be more painful and must
exceed in pain or in evil or both: does not that also follow?
[Pol.] Of course.
[Soc.] First, then, let us consider whether the doing of
injustice exceeds the suffering in the consequent pain: Do the
injurers suffer more than the injured?
[Pol.] No, Socrates; certainly not.
[Soc.] Then they do not exceed in pain?
[Soc.] But if not in pain, then not in both?
[Pol.] Certainly not.
[Soc.] Then they can only exceed in the other?
[Soc.] That is to say, in evil?
[Soc.] Then doing injustice will have an excess of evil, and
will therefore be a greater evil than suffering injustice?
[Soc.] But have not you and the world already agreed that to
do injustice is more disgraceful than to suffer?
[Soc.] And that is now discovered to be more evil?
[Soc.] And would you prefer a greater evil or a greater
dishonour to a less one? Answer, Polus, and fear not; for you
will come to no harm if you nobly resign yourself into the
healing hand of the argument as to a physician without shrinking,
and either say "Yes" or "No" to me.
[Pol.] I should say "No."
[Soc.] Would any other man prefer a greater to a less evil?
[Pol.] No, not according to this way of putting the case,
[Soc.] Then I said truly, Polus that neither you, nor I, nor
any man, would rather, do than suffer injustice; for to do
injustice is the greater evil of the two.
[Pol.] That is the conclusion.
[Soc.] You see, Polus, when you compare the two kinds of
refutations, how unlike they are. All men, with the exception of
myself, are of your way of thinking; but your single assent and
witness are enough for me-I have no need of any other, I take
your suffrage, and am regardless of the rest. Enough of this, and
now let us proceed to the next question; which is, Whether the
greatest of evils to a guilty man is to suffer punishment, as you
supposed, or whether to escape punishment is not a greater evil,
as I supposed. Consider:-You would say that to suffer punishment
is another name for being justly corrected when you do wrong?
[Pol.] I should.
[Soc.] And would you not allow that all just things are
honourable in so far as they are just? Please to reflect, and,
tell me your opinion.
[Pol.] Yes, Socrates, I think that they are.
[Soc.] Consider again:-Where there is an agent, must there not
also be a patient?
[Pol.] I should say so.
[Soc.] And will not the patient suffer that which the agent
does, and will not the suffering have the quality of the action?
I mean, for example, that if a man strikes, there must be
something which is stricken?
[Soc.] And if the striker strikes violently or quickly, that
which is struck will he struck violently or quickly?
[Soc.] And the suffering to him who is stricken is of the same
nature as the act of him who strikes?
[Soc.] And if a man burns, there is something which is burned?
[Soc.] And if he burns in excess or so as to cause pain, the
thing burned will be burned in the same way?
[Soc.] And if he cuts, the same argument holds-there will be
[Soc.] And if the cutting be great or deep or such as will
cause pain, the cut will be of the same nature?
[Pol.] That is evident.
[Soc.] Then you would agree generally to the universal
proposition which I was just now asserting: that the affection of
the patient answers to the affection of the agent?
[Pol.] I agree.
[Soc.] Then, as this is admitted, let me ask whether being
punished is suffering or acting?
[Pol.] Suffering, Socrates; there can be no doubt of that.
[Soc.] And suffering implies an agent?
[Pol.] Certainly, Socrates; and he is the punisher.
[Soc.] And he who punishes rightly, punishes justly?
[Soc.] And therefore he acts justly?
[Soc.] Then he who is punished and suffers retribution,
[Pol.] That is evident.
[Soc.] And that which is just has been admitted to be
[Soc.] Then the punisher does what is honourable, and the
punished suffers what is honourable?
[Soc.] And if what is honourable, then what is good, for the
honourable is either pleasant or useful?
[Soc.] Then he who is punished suffers what is good?
[Pol.] That is true.
[Soc.] Then he is benefited?
[Soc.] Do I understand you to mean what I mean by the term
"benefited"? I mean, that if he be justly punished his
soul is improved.
[Soc.] Then he who is punished is delivered from the evil of
[Soc.] And is he not then delivered from the greatest evil?
Look at the matter in this way:-In respect of a man's estate, do
you see any greater evil than poverty?
[Pol.] There is no greater evil.
[Soc.] Again, in a man's bodily frame, you would say that the
evil is weakness and disease and deformity?
[Pol.] I should.
[Soc.] And do you not imagine that the soul likewise has some
evil of her own?
[Pol.] Of course.
[Soc.] And this you would call injustice and ignorance and
cowardice, and the like?
[Soc.] So then, in mind, body, and estate, which are three,
you have pointed out three corresponding evils-injustice,
[Soc.] And which of the evils is the most disgraceful?-Is not
the most disgraceful of them injustice, and in general the evil
of the soul?
[Pol.] By far the most.
[Soc.] And if the most disgraceful, then also the worst?
[Pol.] What do you mean, Socrates?
[Soc.] I mean to say, that is most disgraceful has been
already admitted to be most painful or hurtful, or both.
[Soc.] And now injustice and all evil in the soul has been
admitted by to be most disgraceful?
[Pol.] It has been admitted.
[Soc.] And most disgraceful either because most painful and
causing excessive pain, or most hurtful, or both?
[Soc.] And therefore to be unjust and intemperate, and
cowardly and ignorant, is more painful than to be poor and sick?
[Pol.] Nay, Socrates; the painfulness does not appear to me to
follow from your premises.
[Soc.] Then, if, as you would argue, not more painful, the
evil of the soul is of all evils the most disgraceful; and the
excess of disgrace must be caused by some preternatural
greatness, or extraordinary hurtfulness of the evil.
[Soc.] And that which exceeds most in hurtfulness will be the
greatest of evils?
[Soc.] Then injustice and intemperance, and in general the
depravity of the soul, are the greatest of evils!
[Pol.] That is evident.
[Soc.] Now, what art is there which delivers us from poverty?
Does not the art of making money?
[Soc.] And what art frees us from disease? Does not the art of
[Pol.] Very true.
[Soc.] And what from vice and injustice? If you are not able
to answer at once, ask yourself whither we go with the sick, and
to whom we take them.
[Pol.] To the physicians, Socrates.
[Soc.] And to whom do we go with the unjust and intemperate?
[Pol.] To the judges, you mean.
[Soc.] -Who are to punish them?
[Soc.] And do not those who rightly punish others, punish them
in accordance with a certain rule of justice?
[Soc.] Then the art of money-making frees a man from poverty;
medicine from disease; and justice from intemperance and
[Pol.] That is evident.
[Soc.] Which, then, is the best of these three?
[Pol.] Will you enumerate them?
[Soc.] Money-making, medicine, and justice.
[Pol.] Justice, Socrates, far excels the two others.
[Soc.] And justice, if the best, gives the greatest pleasure
or advantage or both?
[Soc.] But is the being healed a pleasant thing, and are those
who are being healed pleased?
[Pol.] I think not.
[Soc.] A useful thing, then?
[Soc.] Yes, because the patient is delivered from a great
evil; and this is the advantage of enduring the pain-that you get
[Soc.] And would he be the happier man in his bodily
condition, who is healed, or who never was out of health?
[Pol.] Clearly he who was never out of health.
[Soc.] Yes; for happiness surely does not consist in being
delivered from evils, but in never having had them.
[Soc.] And suppose the case of two persons who have some evil
in their bodies, and that one of them is healed and delivered
from evil, and another is not healed, but retains the evil-which
of them is the most miserable?
[Pol.] Clearly he who is not healed.
[Soc.] And was not punishment said by us to be a deliverance
from the greatest of evils, which is vice?
[Soc.] And justice punishes us, and makes us more just, and is
the medicine of our vice?
[Soc.] He, then, has the first place in the scale of happiness
who has never had vice in his soul; for this has been shown to be
the greatest of evils.
[Soc.] And he has the second place, who is delivered from
[Soc.] That is to say, he who receives admonition and rebuke
[Soc.] Then he lives worst, who, having been unjust, has no
deliverance from injustice?
[Soc.] That is, he lives worst who commits the greatest
crimes, and who, being the most unjust of men, succeeds in
escaping rebuke or correction or punishment; and this, as you
say, has been accomplished by Archelaus and other tyrants and
rhetoricians and potentates?
[Soc.] May not their way of proceeding, my friend, be compared
to the conduct of a person who is afflicted with the worst of
diseases and yet contrives not to pay the penalty to the
physician for his sins against his constitution, and will not be
cured, because, like a child, he is afraid of the pain of being
burned or cut:-Is not that a parallel case?
[Pol.] Yes, truly.
[Soc.] He would seem as if he did not know the nature of
health and bodily vigour; and if we are right, Polus, in our
previous conclusions, they are in a like case who strive to evade
justice, which they see to be painful, but are blind to the
advantage which ensues from it, not knowing how far more
miserable a companion a diseased soul is than a diseased body; a
soul, I say, which is corrupt and unrighteous and unholy. And
hence they do all that they can to avoid punishment and to avoid
being released from the greatest of evils; they provide
themselves with money and friends, and cultivate to the utmost
their powers of persuasion. But if we, Polus, are right, do you
see what follows, or shall we draw out the consequences in form?
[Pol.] If you please.
[Soc.] Is it not a fact that injustice, and the doing of
injustice, is the greatest of evils?
[Pol.] That is quite clear.
[Soc.] And further, that to suffer punishment is the way to be
released from this evil?
[Soc.] And not to suffer, is to perpetuate the evil?
[Soc.] To do wrong, then, is second only in the scale of
evils; but to do wrong and not to be punished, is first and
greatest of all?
[Pol.] That is true.
[Soc.] Well, and was not this the point in dispute, my friend?
You deemed Archelaus happy, because he was a very great criminal
and unpunished: I, on the other hand, maintained that he or any
other who like him has done wrong and has not been punished, is,
and ought to be, the most miserable of all men; and that the doer
of injustice is more miserable than the sufferer; and he who
escapes punishment, more miserable than he who suffers.-Was not
that what I said?
[Soc.] And it has been proved to be true?
[Soc.] Well, Polus, but if this is true, where is the great
use of rhetoric? If we admit what has been just now said, every
man ought in every way to guard himself against doing wrong, for
he will thereby suffer great evil?
[Soc.] And if he, or any one about whom he cares, does wrong,
he ought of his own accord to go where he will be immediately
punished; he will run to the judge, as he would to the physician,
in order that the disease of injustice may not be rendered
chronic and become the incurable cancer of the soul; must we not
allow this consequence, Polus, if our former admissions are to
stand:-is any other inference consistent with them?
[Pol.] To that, Socrates, there can be but one answer.
[Soc.] Then rhetoric is of no use to us, Polus, in helping a
man to excuse his own injustice, that of his parents or friends,
or children or country; but may be of use to any one who holds
that instead of excusing he ought to accuse-himself above all,
and in the next degree his family or any of his friends who may
be doing wrong; he should bring to light the iniquity and not
conceal it, that so the wrong-doer may suffer and be made whole;
and he should even force himself and others not to shrink, but
with closed eyes like brave men to let the physician operate with
knife or searing iron, not regarding the pain, in the hope of
attaining the good and the honourable; let him who has done
things worthy of stripes, allow himself to be scourged, if of
bonds, to be bound, if of a fine, to be fined, if of exile, to be
exiled, if of death, to die, himself being the first to accuse
himself and his relations, and using rhetoric to this end, that
his and their unjust actions may be made manifest, and that they
themselves may be delivered from injustice, which is the greatest
evil. Then, Polus, rhetoric would indeed be useful. Do you say
"Yes" or "No" to that?
[Pol.] To me, Socrates, what you are saying appears very
strange, though probably in agreement with your premises.
[Soc.] Is not this the conclusion, if the premises are not
[Pol.] Yes; it certainly is.
[Soc.] And from the opposite point of view, if indeed it be
our duty to harm another, whether an enemy or not-I except the
case of self-defence-then I have to be upon my guard-but if my
enemy injures a third person, then in every sort of way, by word
as well as deed, I should try to prevent his being punished, or
appearing before the judge; and if he appears, I should contrive
that he should escape, and not suffer punishment: if he has
stolen a sum of money, let him keep what he has stolen and spend
it on him and his, regardless of religion and justice; and if he
has done things worthy of death, let him not die, but rather be
immortal in his wickedness; or, if this is not possible, let him
at any rate be allowed to live as long as he can. For such
purposes, Polus, rhetoric may be useful, but is of small if of
any use to him who is not intending to commit injustice; at
least, there was no such use discovered by us in the previous
[Cal.] Tell me, Chaerephon, is Socrates in earnest, or is he
[Chaer.] I should say, Callicles, that he is in most profound
earnest; but you may well ask him
[Cal.] By the gods, and I will. Tell me, Socrates, are you in
earnest, or only in jest? For if you are in earnest, and what you
say is true, is not the whole of human life turned upside down;
and are we not doing, as would appear, in everything the opposite
of what we ought to be doing?
[Soc.] O Callicles, if there were not some community of
feelings among mankind, however varying in different persons-I
mean to say, if every man's feelings were peculiar to himself and
were not shared by the rest of his species-I do not see how we
could ever communicate our impressions to one another. I make
this remark because I perceive that you and I have a common
feeling. For we are lovers both, and both of us have two loves
apiece:-I am the lover of Alcibiades, the son of Cleinias-I and
of philosophy; and you of the Athenian Demus, and of Demus the
son of Pyrilampes. Now, I observe that you, with all your
cleverness, do not venture to contradict your favourite in any
word or opinion of his; but as he changes you change, backwards
and forwards. When the Athenian Demus denies anything that you
are saying in the assembly, you go over to his opinion; and you
do the same with Demus, the fair young son of Pyrilampes. For you
have not the power to resist the words and ideas of your loves;
and is a person were to express surprise at the strangeness of
what you say from time to time when under their influence, you
would probably reply to him, if you were honest, that you cannot
help saying what your loves say unless they are prevented; and
that you can only be silent when they are. Now you must
understand that my words are an echo too, and therefore you need
not wonder at me; but if you want to silence me, silence
philosophy, who is my love, for she is always telling me what I
am telling you, my friend; neither is she capricious like my
other love, for the son of Cleinias says one thing to-day and
another thing to-morrow, but philosophy is always true. She is
the teacher at whose words you are. now wondering, and you have
heard her yourself. Her you must refute, and either show, as I
was saying, that to do injustice and to escape punishment is not
the worst of all evils; or, if you leave her word unrefuted, by
the dog the god of Egypt, I declare, O Callicles, that Callicles
will never be at one with himself, but that his whole life, will
be a discord. And yet, my friend, I would rather that my lyre
should be inharmonious, and that there should be no music in the
chorus which I provided; aye, or that the whole world should be
at odds with me, and oppose me, rather than that I myself should
be at odds with myself, and contradict myself.
[Cal.] O Socrates, you are a regular declaimer, and seem to be
running riot in the argument. And now you are declaiming in this
way because Polus has fallen into the same error himself of which
he accused Gorgias:-for he said that when Gorgias was asked by
you, whether, if some one came to him who wanted to learn
rhetoric, and did not know justice, he would teach him justice,
Gorgias in his modesty replied that he would, because he thought
that mankind in general would be displeased if he answered "No";
and then in consequence of this admission, Gorgias was compelled
to contradict himself, that being just the sort of thing in which
you delight. Whereupon Polus laughed at you deservedly, as I
think; but now he has himself fallen into the same trap. I cannot
say very much for his wit when he conceded to you that to do is
more dishonourable than to suffer injustice, for this was the
admission which led to his being entangled by you; and because he
was too modest to say what he thought, he had his mouth stopped.
For the truth is, Socrates, that you, who pretend to be engaged
in the pursuit of truth, are appealing now to the popular and
vulgar notions of right, which are not natural, but only
conventional. Convention and nature are generally at variance
with one another: and hence, if a person is too modest to say
what he thinks, he is compelled to contradict himself; and you,
in your ingenuity perceiving the advantage to be thereby gained,
slyly ask of him who is arguing conventionally a question which
is to be determined by the rule of nature; and if he is talking
of the rule of nature, you slip away to custom: as, for instance,
you did in this very discussion about doing and suffering
injustice. When Polus was speaking of the conventionally
dishonourable, you assailed him from the point of view of nature;
for by the rule of nature, to suffer injustice is the greater
disgrace because the greater evil; but conventionally, to do evil
is the more disgraceful. For the suffering of injustice is hot
the part of a man, but of a slave, who indeed had better die than
live; since when he is wronged and trampled upon, he is unable to
help himself, or any other about whom he cares. The reason, as I
conceive, is that the makers of laws are the majority who are
weak; and they, make laws and distribute praises and censures
with a view to themselves and to their own interests; and they:
terrify the stronger sort of men, and those who are able to get
the better of them in order that they may not get the better of
them; and they say, that dishonesty is shameful and unjust;
meaning, by the word injustice, the desire of a man to have more
than his neighbours; for knowing their own inferiority, I suspect
that they are too glad of equality. And therefore the endeavour
to have more than the many, is conventionally said to be shameful
and unjust, and is called injustice, whereas nature herself
intimates that it is just for the better to have more than the
worse, the more powerful than the weaker; and in many ways she
shows, among men as well as among animals, and indeed among whole
cities and races, that justice consists in the superior ruling
over and having more than the inferior. For on what principle of
justice did Xerxes invade Hellas, or his father the Scythians? (not
to speak of numberless other examples). Nay, but these are the
men who act according to nature; yes, by Heaven, and according to
the law of nature: not, perhaps, according to that artificial
law, which we invent and impose upon our fellows, of whom we take
the best and strongest from their youth upwards, and tame them
like young lions, -charming them with the sound of the voice, and
saying to them, that with equality they must be content, and that
the equal is the honourable and the just. But if there were a man
who had sufficient force, he would shake off and break through,
and escape from all this; he would trample under foot all our
formulas and spells and charms, and all our laws which are
against nature: the slave would rise in rebellion and be lord
over us, and the light of natural justice would shine forth. And
this I take to be the sentiment of Pindar, when he says in his
poem, that Law is the king of all, of mortals as well as of
immortals; this, as he says, Makes might to be right, doing
violence with highest hand; as I infer from the deeds of
Heracles, for without buying them- -I do not remember the exact
words, but the meaning is, that without buying them, and without
their being given to him, he carried off the oxen of Geryon,
according to the law of natural right, and that the oxen and
other possessions of the weaker and inferior properly belong to
the stronger and superior. And this is true, as you may
ascertain, if you will leave philosophy and go on to higher
things: for philosophy, Socrates, if pursued in moderation and at
the proper age, is an elegant accomplishment, but too much
philosophy is the ruin of human life. Even if a man has good
parts, still, if he carries philosophy into later life, he is
necessarily ignorant of all those things which a gentleman and a
person of honour ought to know; he is inexperienced in the laws
of the State, and in the language which ought to be used in the
dealings of man with man, whether private or public, and utterly
ignorant of the pleasures and desires of mankind and of human
character in general. And people of this sort, when they betake
themselves to politics or business, are as ridiculous as I
imagine the politicians to be, when they make their appearance in
the arena of philosophy. For, as Euripides says, Every man shines
in that and pursues that, and devotes the greatest portion of the
day to that in which he most excels, but anything in which he is
inferior, he avoids and depreciates, and praises the opposite
partiality to himself, and because he from that he will thus
praise himself. The true principle is to unite them. Philosophy,
as a part of education, is an excellent thing, and there is no
disgrace to a man while he is young in pursuing such a study; but
when he is more advanced in years, the thing becomes ridiculous,
and I feel towards philosophers as I do towards those who lisp
and imitate children. For I love to see a little child, who is
not of an age to speak plainly, lisping at his play; there is an
appearance of grace and freedom in his utterance, which is
natural to his childish years. But when I hear some small
creature carefully articulating its words, I am offended; the
sound is disagreeable, and has to my ears the twang of slavery.
So when I hear a man lisping, or see him playing like a child,
his behaviour appears to me ridiculous and unmanly and worthy of
stripes. And I have the same feeling about students of
philosophy; when I see a youth thus engaged-the study appears to
me to be in character, and becoming a man of liberal education,
and him who neglects philosophy I regard as an inferior man, who
will never aspire to anything great or noble. But if I see him
continuing the study in later life, and not leaving off, I should
like to beat him, Socrates; for, as I was saying, such a one,
even though he have good natural parts, becomes effeminate. He
flies from the busy centre and the market-place, in which, as the
poet says, men become distinguished; he creeps into a corner for
the rest of his life, and talks in a whisper with three or four
admiring you, but never speaks out like a freeman in a
satisfactory manner. Now I, Socrates, am very well inclined
towards you, and my feeling may be compared with that of Zethus
towards Amphion, in the play of Euripides, whom I was mentioning
just now: for I am disposed to say to you much what Zethus said
to his brother, that you, Socrates, are careless about the things
of which you ought to be careful; and that you Who have a soul so
noble, are remarkable for a puerile exterior; Neither in a court
of justice could you state a case, or give any reason or proof,
offer valiant counsel on another's behalf. And you must not be
offended, my dear Socrates, for I am speaking out of good-will
towards you, if I ask whether you are not ashamed of being thus
defenceless; which I affirm to be the condition not of you only
but of all those who will carry the study of philosophy too far.
For suppose that some one were to take you, or any one of your
sort, off to prison, declaring that you had done wrong when you
had done no wrong, you must allow that you would not know what to
do:-there you would stand giddy and gaping, and not having a word
to say; and when you went up before the Court, even if the
accuser were a poor creature and not good for much, you would die
if he were disposed to claim the penalty of death. And yet,
Socrates, what is the value of An art which converts a man of
sense into a fool, who is helpless, and has no power to save
either himself or others, when he is in the greatest danger and
is going to be despoiled by his enemies of all his goods, and has
to live, simply deprived of his rights of citizenship?-he being a
man who, if I may use the expression, may be boxed on the ears
with impunity. Then, my good friend, take my advice, and refute
no more: Learn the philosophy of business, and acquire the
reputation of wisdom. But leave to others these niceties, whether
they are to be described as follies or absurdities: For they will
only Give you poverty for the inmate of your dwelling. Cease,
then, emulating these paltry splitters of words, and emulate only
the man of substance and honour, who is well to do.
[Soc.] If my soul, Callicles, were made of gold, should I not
rejoice to discover one of those stones with which they test
gold, and the very best possible one to which I might bring my
soul; and if the stone and I agreed in approving of her training,
then I should know that I was in a satisfactory state, and that
no other test was needed by me.
[Cal.] What is your meaning, Socrates?
[Soc.] I will tell you; I think that I have found in you the
[Soc.] Because I am sure that if you agree with me in any of
the opinions which my soul forms, I have at last found the truth
indeed. For I consider that if a man is to make a complete trial
of the good or evil of the soul, he ought to have three qualities-knowledge,
good-will, outspokenness, which are all possessed by you. Many
whom I meet are unable to make trial of me, because they are not
wise as you are; others are wise, but they will not tell me the
truth, because they have not the same interest in me which you
have; and these two strangers, Gorgias and Polus, are undoubtedly
wise men and my very good friends, but they are not outspoken
enough, and they are too modest. Why, their modesty is so great
that they are driven to contradict themselves, first one and then
the other of them, in the face of a large company, on matters of
the highest moment. But you have all the qualities in which these
others are deficient, having received an excellent education; to
this many Athenians can testify. And are my friend. Shall I tell
you why I think so? I know that you, Callicles, and Tisander of
Aphidnae, and Andron the son of Androtion, and Nausicydes of the
deme of Cholarges, studied together: there were four of you, and
I once heard you advising with one another as to the extent to
which the pursuit of philosophy should be carried, and, as I
know, you came to the conclusion that the study should not be
pushed too much into detail. You were cautioning one another not
to be overwise; you were afraid that too much wisdom might
unconsciously to yourselves be the ruin of you. And now when I
hear you giving the same advice to me which you then gave to your
most intimate friends, I have a sufficient evidence of your real
goodwill to me. And of the frankness of your nature and freedom
from modesty I am assured by yourself, and the assurance is
confirmed by your last speech. Well then, the inference in the
present case clearly is, that if you agree with me in an argument
about any point, that point will have been sufficiently tested by
us, and will not require to be submitted to any further test. For
you could not have agreed with me, either from lack of knowledge
or from superfluity of modesty, nor yet from a desire to deceive
me, for you are my friend, as you tell me yourself. And therefore
when you and I are agreed, the result will be the attainment of
perfect truth. Now there is no nobler enquiry, Callicles, than
that which you censure me for making,-What ought the character of
a man to be, and what his pursuits, and how far is he to go, both
in maturer years and in youth? For be assured that if I err in my
own conduct I do not err intentionally, but from ignorance. Do
not then desist from advising me, now that you have begun, until
I have learned clearly what this is which I am to practise, and
how I may acquire it. And if you find me assenting to your words,
and hereafter not doing that to which I assented, call me "dolt,"
and deem me unworthy of receiving further instruction. Once more,
then, tell me what you and Pindar mean by natural justice: Do you
not mean that the superior should take the property of the
inferior by force; that the better should rule the worse, the
noble have more than the mean? Am I not right in my recollection?
[Cal.] Yes; that is what I was saying, and so I still aver.
[Soc.] And do you mean by the better the same as the superior?
for I could not make out what you were saying at the time-whether
you meant by the superior the stronger, and that the weaker must
obey the stronger, as you seemed to imply when you said that
great cities attack small ones in accordance with-natural right,
because they are superior and stronger, as though the superior
and stronger and better were the same; or whether the better may
be also the inferior and weaker, and the superior the worse, or
whether better is to be defined in the same way as superior: this
is the point which I want to have cleared up. Are the superior
and better and stronger the same or different?
[Cal.] I say unequivocally that they are the same.
[Soc.] Then the many are by nature to the one, against whom,
as you were saying, they make the laws?
[Soc.] Then the laws of the many are the laws of the superior?
[Cal.] Very true.
[Soc.] Then they are the laws of the better; for the superior
class are far better, as you were saying?
[Soc.] And since they are superior, the laws which are made by
them are by nature good?
[Soc.] And are not the many of opinion, as you were lately
saying, that justice is equality, and that to do is more
disgraceful than to suffer injustice?-is that so or not? Answer,
Callicles, and let no modesty be: found to come in the way; do
the many think, or do they not think thus?-I must beg of you to
answer, in order that if you agree with me I may fortify myself
by the assent of so competent an authority.
[Cal.] Yes; the opinion of the many is what you say.
[Soc.] Then not only custom but nature also affirms that to do
is more disgraceful than to suffer injustice, and that justice is
equality; so that you seem to have been wrong in your former
assertion, when accusing me you said that nature and custom are
opposed, and that I, knowing this, was dishonestly playing
between them, appealing to custom when the argument is about
nature, and to nature when the argument is about custom?
[Cal.] This man will never cease talking nonsense. At your
age, Socrates, are you not ashamed to be catching at words and
chuckling over some verbal slip? do you not see-have I not told
you already, that by superior I mean better: do you imagine me to
say, that if a rabble of slaves and nondescripts, who are of no
use except perhaps for their physical strength, get together
their ipsissima verba are laws?
[Soc.] Ho! my philosopher, is that your line?
[Soc.] I was thinking, Callicles, that something of the kind
must have been in your mind, and that is why I repeated the
question-What is the superior? I wanted to know clearly what you
meant; for you surely do not think that two men are better than
one, or that your slaves are better than you because they are
stronger? Then please to begin again, and tell me who the better
are, if they are not the stronger; and I will ask you, great Sir,
to be a little milder in your instructions, or I shall have to
run away from you.
[Cal.] You are ironical.
[Soc.] No, by the hero Zethus, Callicles, by whose aid you
were just now saying many ironical things against me, I am not:-tell
me, then, whom you mean, by the better?
[Cal.] I mean the more excellent.
[Soc.] Do you not see that you are yourself using words which
have no meaning and that you are explaining nothing?-will you
tell me whether you mean by the better and superior the wiser, or
if not, whom?
[Cal.] Most assuredly, I do mean the wiser.
[Soc.] Then according to you, one wise man may often be
superior to ten thousand fools, and he ought them, and they ought
to be his subjects, and he ought to have more than they should.
This is what I believe that you mean (and you must not suppose
that I am word-catching), if you allow that the one is superior
to the ten thousand?
[Cal.] Yes; that is what I mean, and that is what I conceive
to be natural justice-that the better and wiser should rule have
more than the inferior.
[Soc.] Stop there, and let me ask you what you would say in
this case: Let us suppose that we are all together as we are now;
there are several of us, and we have a large common store of
meats and drinks, and there are all sorts of persons in our
company having various degrees of strength and weakness, and one
of us, being physician, is wiser in the matter of food than all
the rest, and he is probably stronger than some and not so strong
as others of us-will he not, being wiser, be also better than we
are, and our superior in this matter of food?
[Soc.] Either, then, he will have a larger share of the meats
and drinks, because he is better, or he will have the
distribution of all of them by reason of his authority, but he
will not expend or make use of a larger share of them on his own
person, or if he does, he will be punished-his share will exceed
that of some, and be less than that of others, and if he be the
weakest of all, he being the best of all will have the smallest
share of all, Callicles:-am I not right, my friend?
[Cal.] You talk about meats and drinks and physicians and
other nonsense; I am not speaking of them.
[Soc.] Well, but do you admit that the wiser is the better?
Answer "Yes" or "No."
[Soc.] And ought not the better to have a larger share?
[Cal.] Not of meats and drinks.
[Soc.] I understand: then, perhaps, of coats -the skilfullest
weaver ought to have the largest coat, and the greatest number of
them, and go about clothed in the best and finest of them?
[Cal.] Fudge about coats!
[Soc.] Then the skilfullest and best in making shoes ought to
have the advantage in shoes; the shoemaker, clearly, should walk
about in the largest shoes, and have the greatest number of them?
[Cal.] Fudge about shoes! What nonsense are you talking?
[Soc.] Or, if this is not your meaning, perhaps you would say
that the wise and good and true husbandman should actually have a
larger share of seeds, and have as much seed as possible for his
[Cal.] How you go on, always talking in the same way, Socrates!
[Soc.] Yes, Callicles, and also about the same things.
[Cal.] Yes, by the Gods, you are literally always talking of
cobblers and fullers and cooks and doctors, as if this had to do
with our argument.
[Soc.] But why will you not tell me in what a man must be
superior and wiser in order to claim a larger share; will you
neither accept a suggestion, nor offer one?
[Cal.] I have already told you. In the first place, I mean by
superiors not cobblers or cooks, but wise politicians who
understand the administration of a state, and who are not only
wise, but also valiant and able to carry. out their designs, and
not the men to faint from want of soul.
[Soc.] See now, most excellent Callicles, how different my
charge against you is from that which you bring against me, for
you reproach me with always saying the same; but I reproach you
with never saying the same about the same things, for at one time
you were defining the better and the superior to be the stronger,
then again as the wiser, and now you bring forward a new notion;
the superior and the better are now declared by you to be the
more courageous: I wish, my good friend, that you would tell me
once for all, whom you affirm to be the better and superior, and
in what they are better?
[Cal.] I have already told you that I mean those who are wise
and courageous in the administration of a state-they ought to be
the rulers of their states, and justice consists in their having
more than their subjects.
[Soc.] But whether rulers or subjects will they or will they
not have more than themselves, my friend?
[Cal.] What do you mean?
[Soc.] I mean that every man is his own ruler; but perhaps you
think that there is no necessity for him to rule himself; he is
only required to rule others?
[Cal.] What do you mean by his "ruling over himself"?
[Soc.] A simple thing enough; just what is commonly said, that
a man should be temperate and master of himself, and ruler of his
own pleasures and passions.
[Cal.] What innocence! you mean those fools-the temperate?
[Soc.] Certainly:-any one may know that to be my meaning.
[Cal.] Quite so, Socrates; and they are really fools, for how
can a man be happy who is the servant of anything? On the
contrary, I plainly assert, that he who would truly live ought to
allow his desires to wax to the uttermost, and not to chastise
them; but when they have grown to their greatest he should have
courage and intelligence to minister to them and to satisfy all
his longings. And this I affirm to be natural justice and
nobility. To this however the many cannot attain; and they blame
the strong man because they are ashamed of their own weakness,
which they desire to conceal, and hence they say that
intemperance is base. As I have remarked already, they enslave
the nobler natures, and being unable to satisfy their pleasures,
they praise temperance and justice out of their own cowardice.
For if a man had been originally the son of a king, or had a
nature capable of acquiring an empire or a tyranny or
sovereignty, what could be more truly base or evil than
temperance--to a man like him, I say, who might freely be
enjoying every good, and has no one to stand in his way, and yet
has admitted custom and reason and the opinion of other men to be
lords over him?-must not he be in a miserable plight whom the
reputation of justice and temperance hinders from giving more to
his friends than to his enemies, even though he be a ruler in his
city? Nay, Socrates, for you profess to be a votary of the truth,
and the truth is this:-that luxury and intemperance and licence,
if they be provided with means, are virtue and happiness-all the
rest is a mere bauble, agreements contrary to nature, foolish
talk of men, nothing worth.
[Soc.] There is a noble freedom, Callicles, in your way of
approaching the argument; for what you say is what the rest of
the world think, but do not like to say. And I must beg of you to
persevere, that the true rule of human life may become manifest.
Tell me, then:-you say, do you not, that in the rightly-developed
man the passions ought not to be controlled, but that we should
let them grow to the utmost and somehow or other satisfy them,
and that this is virtue?
[Cal.] Yes; I do.
[Soc.] Then those who want nothing are not truly said to be
[Cal.] No indeed, for then stones and dead men would be the
happiest of all.
[Soc.] But surely life according to your view is an awful
thing; and indeed I think that Euripides may have been right in
saying, Who knows if life be not death and death life; and that
we are very likely dead; I have heard a philosopher say that at
this moment we are actually dead, and that the body (soma) is our
tomb (sema), and that the part of the soul which is the seat of
the desires is liable to be tossed about by words and blown up
and down; and some ingenious person, probably a Sicilian or an
Italian, playing with the word, invented a tale in which he
called the soul-because of its believing and make-believe nature-a
vessel, and the ignorant he called the uninitiated or leaky, and
the place in the souls of the uninitiated in which the desires
are seated, being the intemperate and incontinent part, he
compared to a vessel full of holes, because it can never be
satisfied. He is not of your way of thinking, Callicles, for he
declares, that of all the souls in Hades, meaning the invisible
world these uninitiated or leaky persons are the most miserable,
and that they pour water into a vessel which is full of holes out
of a colander which is similarly perforated. The colander, as my
informer assures me, is the soul, and the soul which he compares
to a colander is the soul of the ignorant, which is likewise full
of holes, and therefore incontinent, owing to a bad memory and
want of faith. These notions are strange enough, but they show
the principle which, if I can, I would fain prove to you; that
you should change your mind, and, instead of the intemperate and
insatiate life, choose that which is orderly and sufficient and
has a due provision for daily needs. Do I make any impression on
you, and are you coming over to the opinion that the orderly are
happier than the intemperate? Or do I fail to persuade you, and,
however many tales I rehearse to you, do you continue of the same
[Cal.] The latter, Socrates, is more like the truth.
[Soc.] Well, I will tell you another image, which comes out of
the same school:-Let me request you to consider how far you would
accept this as an account of the two lives of the temperate and
intemperate in a figure:-There are two men, both of whom have a
number of casks; the one man has his casks sound and full, one of
wine, another of honey, and a third of milk, besides others
filled with other liquids, and the streams which fill them are
few and scanty, and he can only obtain them with a great deal of
toil and difficulty; but when his casks are once filled he has
need to feed them anymore, and has no further trouble with them
or care about them. The other, in like manner, can procure
streams, though not without difficulty; but his vessels are leaky
and unsound, and night and day he is compelled to be filling
them, and if he pauses for a moment, he is in an agony of pain.
Such are their respective lives:-And now would you say that the
life of the intemperate is happier than that of the temperate? Do
I not convince you that the opposite is the truth?
[Cal.] You do not convince me, Socrates, for the one who has
filled himself has no longer any pleasure left; and this, as I
was just now saying, is the life of a stone: he has neither joy
nor sorrow after he is once filled; but the pleasure depends on
the superabundance of the influx.
[Soc.] But the more you pour in, the greater the waste; and
the holes must be large for the liquid to escape.
[Soc.] The life which you are now depicting is not that of a
dead man, or of a stone, but of a cormorant; you mean that he is
to be hungering and eating?
[Soc.] And he is to be thirsting and drinking?
[Cal.] Yes, that is what I mean; he is to have all his desires
about him, and to be able to live happily in the gratification of
[Soc.] Capital, excellent; go on as you have begun, and have
no shame; I, too, must disencumber myself of shame: and first,
will you tell me whether you include itching and scratching,
provided you have enough of them and pass your life in
scratching, in your notion of happiness?
[Cal.] What a strange being you are, Socrates! a regular mob-orator.
[Soc.] That was the reason, Callicles, why I scared Polus and
Gorgias, until they were too modest to say what they thought; but
you will not be too modest and will not be scared, for you are a
brave man. And now, answer my question.
[Cal.] I answer, that even the scratcher would live pleasantly.
[Soc.] And if pleasantly, then also happily?
[Cal.] To be sure.
[Soc.] But what if the itching is not confined to the head?
Shall I pursue the question? And here, Callicles, I would have
you consider how you would reply if consequences are pressed upon
you, especially if in the last resort you are asked, whether the
life of a catamite is not terrible, foul, miserable? Or would you
venture to say, that they too are happy, if they only get enough
of what they want?
[Cal.] Are you not ashamed, Socrates, of introducing such
topics into the argument?
[Soc.] Well, my fine friend, but am I the introducer of these
topics, or he who says without any qualification that all who
feel pleasure in whatever manner are happy, and who admits of no
distinction between good and bad pleasures? And I would still
ask, whether you say that pleasure and good are the same, or
whether there is some pleasure which is not a good?
[Cal.] Well, then, for the sake of consistency, I will say
that they are the same.
[Soc.] You are breaking the original agreement, Callicles, and
will no longer be a satisfactory companion in the search after
truth, if you say what is contrary to your real opinion.
[Cal.] Why, that is what you are doing too, Socrates.
[Soc.] Then we are both doing wrong. Still, my dear friend, I
would ask you to consider whether pleasure, from whatever source
derived, is the good; for, if this be true, then the disagreeable
consequences which have been darkly intimated must follow, and
[Cal.] That, Socrates, is only your opinion.
[Soc.] And do you, Callicles, seriously maintain what you are
[Cal.] Indeed I do.
[Soc.] Then, as you are in earnest, shall we proceed with the
[Cal.] By all means.
[Soc.] Well, if you are willing to proceed, determine this
question for me:-There is something, I presume, which you would
[Cal.] There is.
[Soc.] And were you not saying just now, that some courage
[Cal.] I was.
[Soc.] And you were speaking of courage and knowledge as two
things different from one another?
[Cal.] Certainly I was.
[Soc.] And would you say that pleasure and knowledge are the
same, or not the same?
[Cal.] Not the same, O man of wisdom.
[Soc.] And would you say that courage differed from pleasure?
[Soc.] Well, then, let us remember that Callicles, the
Acharnian, says that pleasure and good are the same; but that
knowledge and courage are not the same, either with one another,
or with the good.
[Cal.] And what does our friend Socrates, of Foxton, say -does
he assent to this, or not?
[Soc.] He does not assent; neither will Callicles, when he
sees himself truly. You will admit, I suppose, that good and evil
fortune are opposed to each other?
[Soc.] And if they are opposed to each other, then, like
health and disease, they exclude one another; a man cannot have
them both, or be without them both, at the same time?
[Cal.] What do you mean?
[Soc.] Take the case of any bodily affection:-a man may have
the complaint in his eyes which is called ophthalmia?
[Cal.] To be sure.
[Soc.] But he surely cannot have the same eyes well and sound
at the same time?
[Cal.] Certainly not.
[Soc.] And when he has got rid of his ophthalmia, has he got
rid of the health of his eyes too? Is the final result, that he
gets rid of them both together?
[Cal.] Certainly not.
[Soc.] That would surely be marvellous and absurd?
[Soc.] I suppose that he is affected by them, and gets rid of
them in turns?
[Soc.] And he may have strength and weakness in the same way,
[Soc.] Or swiftness and slowness?
[Soc.] And does he have and not have good and happiness, and
their opposites, evil and misery, in a similar alternation?
[Cal.] Certainly he has.
[Soc.] If then there be anything which a man has and has not
at the same time, clearly that cannot be good and evil-do we
agree? Please not to answer without consideration.
[Cal.] I entirely agree.
[Soc.] Go back now to our former admissions.-Did you say that
to hunger, I mean the mere state of hunger, was pleasant or
[Cal.] I said painful, but that to eat when you are hungry is
[Soc.] I know; but still the actual hunger is painful: am I
[Soc.] And thirst, too, is painful?
[Cal.] Yes, very.
[Soc.] Need I adduce any more instances, or would you agree
that all wants or desires are painful?
[Cal.] I agree, and therefore you need not adduce any more
[Soc.] Very good. And you would admit that to drink, when you
are thirsty, is pleasant?
[Soc.] And in the sentence which you have just uttered, the
word "thirsty" implies pain?
[Soc.] And the word "drinking" is expressive of
pleasure, and of the satisfaction of the want?
[Soc.] There is pleasure in drinking?
[Soc.] When you are thirsty?
[Soc.] And in pain?
[Soc.] Do you see the inference:-that pleasure and pain are
simultaneous, when you say that being thirsty, you drink? For are
they not simultaneous, and do they not affect at the same time
the same part, whether of the soul or the body?-which of them is
affected cannot be supposed to be of any consequence: Is not this
[Cal.] It is.
[Soc.] You said also, that no man could have good and evil
fortune at the same time?
[Cal.] Yes, I did.
[Soc.] But, you admitted that when in pain a man might also
[Soc.] Then pleasure is not the same as good fortune, or pain
the same as evil fortune, and therefore the good is not the same
as the pleasant?
[Cal.] I wish I knew, Socrates, what your quibbling means.
[Soc.] You know, Callicles, but you affect not to know.
[Cal.] Well, get on, and don't keep fooling: then you will
know what a wiseacre you are in your admonition of me.
[Soc.] Does not a man cease from his thirst and from his
pleasure in drinking at the same time?
[Cal.] I do not understand what you are saying.
[Gor.] Nay, Callicles, answer, if only for our sakes;-we
should like to hear the argument out.
[Cal.] Yes, Gorgias, but I must complain of the habitual
trifling of Socrates; he is always arguing about little and
[Gor.] What matter? Your reputation, Callicles, is not at
stake. Let Socrates argue in his own fashion.
[Cal.] Well, then, Socrates, you shall ask these little
peddling questions, since Gorgias wishes to have them.
[Soc.] I envy you, Callicles, for having been initiated into
the great mysteries before you were initiated into the lesser. I
thought that this was not allowable, But to return to our
argument:-Does not a man cease from thirsting and from pleasure
of drinking at the same moment?
[Soc.] And if he is hungry, or has any other desire, does he
not cease from the desire and the pleasure at the same moment?
[Cal.] Very true.
[Soc.] Then he ceases from pain and pleasure at the same
[Soc.] But he does not cease from good and evil at the same
moment, as you have admitted: do you still adhere to what you
[Cal.] Yes, I do; but what is the inference?
[Soc.] Why, my friend, the inference is that the good is not
the same as the pleasant, or the evil the same as the painful;
there is a cessation of pleasure and pain at the same moment; but
not of good and evil, for they are different. How then can
pleasure be the same as good, or pain as evil? And I would have
you look at the matter in another light, which could hardly, I
think, have been considered by you identified them: Are not the
good they have good present with them, as the beautiful are those
who have beauty present with them?
[Soc.] And do you call the fools and cowards good men? For you
were saying just now that the courageous and the wise are the
good would you not say so?
[Soc.] And did you never see a foolish child rejoicing?
[Cal.] Yes, I have.
[Soc.] And a foolish man too?
[Cal.] Yes, certainly; but what is your drift?
[Soc.] Nothing particular, if you will only answer.
[Cal.] Yes, I have.
[Soc.] And did you ever see a sensible man rejoicing or
[Soc.] Which rejoice and sorrow most-the wise or the foolish?
[Cal.] They are much upon a par, I think, in that respect.
[Soc.] Enough: And did you ever see a coward in battle?
[Cal.] To be sure.
[Soc.] And which rejoiced most at the departure of the enemy,
the coward or the brave?
[Cal.] I should say "most" of both; or at any rate,
they rejoiced about equally.
[Soc.] No matter; then the cowards, and not only the brave,
[Soc.] And the foolish; so it would seem?
[Soc.] And are only the cowards pained at the approach of
their enemies, or are the brave also pained?
[Cal.] Both are pained.
[Soc.] And are they equally pained?
[Cal.] I should imagine that the cowards are more pained.
[Soc.] And are they better pleased at the enemy's departure?
[Cal.] I dare say.
[Soc.] Then are the foolish and the wise and the cowards and
the brave all pleased and pained, as you were saying, in nearly
equal degree; but are the cowards more pleased and pained than
[Soc.] But surely the wise and brave are the good, and the
foolish and the cowardly are the bad?
[Soc.] Then the good and the bad are pleased and pained in a
nearly equal degree?
[Soc.] Then are the good and bad good and bad in a nearly
equal degree, or have the bad the advantage both in good and
evil? [i.e. in having more pleasure and more pain.]
[Cal.] I really do not know what you mean.
[Soc.] Why, do you not remember saying that the good were good
because good was present with them, and the evil because evil;
and that pleasures were goods and pains evils?
[Cal.] Yes, I remember.
[Soc.] And are not these pleasures or goods present to those
who rejoice-if they do rejoice?
[Soc.] Then those who rejoice are good when goods are present
[Soc.] And those who are in pain have evil or sorrow present
[Soc.] And would you still say that the evil are evil by
reason of the presence of evil?
[Cal.] I should.
[Soc.] Then those who rejoice are good, and those who are in
[Soc.] The degrees of good and evil vary with the degrees of
pleasure and of pain?
[Soc.] Have the wise man and the fool, the brave and the
coward, joy and pain in nearly equal degrees? or would you say
that the coward has more?
[Cal.] I should say that he has.
[Soc.] Help me then to draw out the conclusion which follows
from our admissions; for it is good to repeat and review what is
good twice and thrice over, as they say. Both the wise man and
the brave man we allow to be good?
[Soc.] And the foolish man and the coward to be evil?
[Soc.] And he who has joy is good?
[Soc.] And he who is in pain is evil?
[Soc.] The good and evil both have joy and pain, but, perhaps,
the evil has more of them?
[Soc.] Then must we not infer, that the bad man is as good and
bad as the good, or, perhaps, even better?-is not this a further
inference which follows equally with the preceding from the
assertion that the good and the pleasant are the same:-can this
be denied, Callicles?
[Cal.] I have been listening and making admissions to you,
Socrates; and I remark that if a person grants you anything in
play, you, like a child, want to keep hold and will not give it
back. But do you really suppose that I or any other human being
denies that some pleasures are good and others bad?
[Soc.] Alas, Callicles, how unfair you are! you certainly
treat me as if I were a child, sometimes saying one thing, and
then another, as if you were meaning to deceive me. And yet I
thought at first that you were my friend, and would not have
deceived me if you could have helped. But I see that I was
mistaken; and now I suppose that I must make the best of a bad
business, as they said of old, and take what I can get out of you.-Well,
then, as I understand you to say, I may assume that some
pleasures are good and others evil?
[Soc.] The beneficial are good, and the hurtful are evil?
[Cal.] To be sure.
[Soc.] And the beneficial are those which do some good, and
the hurtful are those which do some evil?
[Soc.] Take, for example, the bodily pleasures of eating and
drinking, which were just now mentioning-you mean to say that
those which promote health, or any other bodily excellence, are
good, and their opposites evil?
[Soc.] And in the same way there are good pains and there are
[Cal.] To be sure.
[Soc.] And ought we not to choose and use the good pleasures
[Soc.] But not the evil?
[Soc.] Because, if you remember, Polus and I have agreed that
all our actions are to be done for the sake of the good-and will
you agree with us in saying, that the good is the end of all our
actions, and that all our actions are to be done for the sake of
the good, and not the good, for of them?-will you add a third
vote to our two?
[Cal.] I will.
[Soc.] Then pleasure, like everything else, is to be sought
for the sake of that which is good, and not that which is good
for the sake of pleasure?
[Cal.] To be sure.
[Soc.] But can every man choose what pleasures are good and
what are evil, or must he have art or knowledge of them in
[Cal.] He must have art.
[Soc.] Let me now remind you of what I was saying to Gorgias
and Polus; I was saying, as you will not have forgotten, that
there were some processes which aim only at pleasure, and know
nothing of a better and worse, and there are other processes
which know good and evil. And I considered that cookery, which I
do not call an art, but only an experience, was of the former
class, which is concerned with pleasure, and that the art of
medicine was of the class which is concerned with the good. And
now, by the god of friendship, I must beg you, Callicles, not to
jest, or to imagine that I am jesting with you; do not answer at
random and contrary to your real opinion-for you will observe
that we are arguing about the way of human life; and to a man who
has any sense at all, what question can be more serious than
this?-whether he should follow after that way of life to which
you exhort me, and act what you call the manly part of speaking
in the assembly, and cultivating rhetoric, and engaging in public
affairs, according to the principles now in vogue; or whether he
should pursue the life of philosophy-and in what the latter way
differs from the former. But perhaps we had better first try to
distinguish them, as I did before, and when we have come to an
agreement that they are distinct, we may proceed to consider in
what they differ from one another, and which of them we should
choose. Perhaps, however, you do not even now understand what I
[Cal.] No, I do not.
[Soc.] Then I will explain myself more clearly: seeing that
you and I have agreed that there is such a thing as good, and
that there is such a thing as pleasure, and that pleasure is not
the same as good, and that the pursuit and process of acquisition
of the one, that is pleasure, is different from the pursuit and
process of acquisition of the other, which is good-I wish that
you would tell me whether you agree with me thus far or not-do
[Cal.] I do.
[Soc.] Then I will proceed, and ask whether you also agree
with me, and whether you think that I spoke the truth when I
further said to Gorgias and Polus that cookery in my opinion is
only an experience, and not an art at all; and that whereas
medicine is an art, and attends to the nature and constitution of
the patient, and has principles of action and reason in each
case, cookery in attending upon pleasure never regards either the
nature or reason of that pleasure to which she devotes herself,
but goes straight to her end, nor ever considers or calculates
anything, but works by experience and routine, and just preserves
the recollection of what she has usually done when producing
pleasure. And first, I would have you consider whether I have
proved what I was saying, and then whether there are not other
similar processes which have to do with the soul-some of them
processes of art, making a provision for the soul's highest
interest-others despising the interest, and, as in the previous
case, considering only the pleasure of the soul, and how this may
be acquired, but not considering what pleasures are good or bad,
and having no other aim but to afford gratification, whether good
or bad. In my opinion, Callicles, there are such processes, and
this is the sort of thing which I term flattery, whether
concerned with the body or the soul, or whenever employed with a
view to pleasure and without any consideration of good and evil.
And now I wish that you would tell me whether you agree with us
in this notion, or whether you differ.
[Cal.] I do not differ; on the contrary, I agree; for in that
way I shall soonest bring the argument to an end, and shall
oblige my friend Gorgias.
[Soc.] And is this notion true of one soul, or of two or more?
[Cal.] Equally true of two or more.
[Soc.] Then a man may delight a whole assembly, and yet have
no regard for their true interests?
[Soc.] Can you tell me the pursuits which delight mankind-or
rather, if you would prefer, let me ask, and do you answer, which
of them belong to the pleasurable class, and which of them not?
In the first place, what say you of flute-playing? Does not that
appear to be an art which seeks only pleasure, Callicles, and
thinks of nothing else?
[Cal.] I assent.
[Soc.] And is not the same true of all similar arts, as, for
example, the art of playing the lyre at festivals?
[Soc.] And what do you say of the choral art and of
dithyrambic poetry?-are not they of the same nature? Do you
imagine that Cinesias the son of Meles cares about what will tend
to the moral improvement of his hearers, or about what will give
pleasure to the multitude?
[Cal.] There can be no mistake about Cinesias, Socrates.
[Soc.] And what do you say of his father, Meles the harp-player?
Did he perform with any view to the good of his hearers? Could he
be said to regard even their pleasure? For his singing was an
infliction to his audience. And of harp playing and dithyrambic
poetry in general, what would you say? Have they not been
invented wholly for the sake of pleasure?
[Cal.] That is my notion of them.
[Soc.] And as for the Muse of Tragedy, that solemn and august
personage-what are her aspirations? Is all her aim and desire
only to give pleasure to the spectators, or does she fight
against them and refuse to speak of their pleasant vices, and
willingly proclaim in word and song truths welcome and unwelcome?-which
in your judgment is her character?
[Cal.] There can be no doubt, Socrates, that Tragedy has her
face turned towards pleasure and the gratification of the
[Soc.] And is not that the sort of thing, Callicles, which we
were just now describing as flattery?
[Cal.] Quite true.
[Soc.] Well now, suppose that we strip all poetry of song and
rhythm and metre, there will remain speech?
[Cal.] To be sure.
[Soc.] And this speech is addressed to a crowd of people?
[Soc.] Then, poetry is a sort of rhetoric?
[Soc.] And do not the poets in the theatres seem to you to be
[Soc.] Then now we have discovered a sort of rhetoric which is
addressed to a crowd of men, women, and children, freemen and
slaves. And this is not much to our taste, for we have described
it as having the nature of flattery.
[Cal.] Quite true.
[Soc.] Very good. And what do you say of that other rhetoric
which addresses the Athenian assembly and the assemblies of
freemen in other states? Do the rhetoricians appear to you always
to aim at what is best, and do they seek to improve the citizens
by their speeches, or are they too, like the rest of mankind,
bent upon giving them pleasure, forgetting the public good in the
thought of their own interest, playing with the people as with
children, and trying to amuse them, but never considering whether
they are better or worse for this?
[Cal.] I must distinguish. There are some who have a real care
of the public in what they say, while others are such as you
[Soc.] I am contented with the admission that rhetoric is of
two sorts; one, which is mere flattery and disgraceful
declamation; the other, which is noble and aims at the training
and improvement of the souls of the citizens, and strives to say
what is best, whether welcome or unwelcome, to the audience; but
have you ever known such a rhetoric; or if you have, and can
point out any rhetorician who is of this stamp, who is he?
[Cal.] But, indeed, I am afraid that I cannot tell you of any
such among the orators who are at present living.
[Soc.] Well, then, can you mention any one of a former
generation, who may be said to have improved the Athenians, who
found them worse and made them better, from the day that he began
to make speeches? for, indeed, I do not know of such a man.
[Cal.] What! did you never hear that Themistocles was a good
man, and Cimon and Miltiades and Pericles, who is just lately
dead, and whom you heard yourself?
[Soc.] Yes, Callicles, they were good men, if, as you said at
first, true virtue consists only in the satisfaction of our own
desires and those of others; but if not, and if, as we were
afterwards compelled to acknowledge, the satisfaction of some
desires makes us better, and of others, worse, and we ought to
gratify the one and not the other, and there is an art in
distinguishing them-can you tell me of any of these statesmen who
did distinguish them?
[Cal.] No, indeed, I cannot.
[Soc.] Yet, surely, Callicles, if you look you will find such
a one. Suppose that we just calmly consider whether any of these
was such as I have described. Will not the good man, who says
whatever he says with a view to the best, speak with a reference
to some standard and not at random; just as all other artists,
whether the painter, the builder, the shipwright, or any other
look all of them to their own work, and do not select and apply
at random what they apply, but strive to give a definite form to
it? The artist disposes all things in order, and compels the one
part to harmonize and accord with the other part, until he has
constructed a regular and systematic whole; and this is true of
all artists, and in the same way the trainers and physicians, of
whom we spoke before, give order and regularity to the body: do
you deny this?
[Cal.] No; I am ready to admit it.
[Soc.] Then the house in which order and regularity prevail is
good, that in which there is disorder, evil?
[Soc.] And the same is true of a ship?
[Soc.] And the same may be said of the human body?
[Soc.] And what would you say of the soul? Will the good soul
be that in which disorder is prevalent, or that in which there is
harmony and order?
[Cal.] The latter follows from our previous admissions.
[Soc.] What is the name which is given to the effect of
harmony and order in the body?
[Cal.] I suppose that you mean health and strength?
[Soc.] Yes, I do; and what is the name which you would give to
the effect of harmony and order in the soul? Try and discover a
name for this as well as for the other.
[Cal.] Why not give the name yourself, Socrates?
[Soc.] Well, if you had rather that I should, I will; and you
shall say whether you agree with me, and if not, you shall refute
and answer me. "Healthy," as I conceive, is the name
which is given to the regular order of the body, whence comes
health and every other bodily excellence: is that true or not?
[Soc.] And "lawful" and "law" are the
names which are given to the regular order and action of the
soul, and these make men lawful and orderly:-and so we have
temperance and justice: have we not?
[Soc.] And will not the true rhetorician who is honest and
understands his art have his eye fixed upon these, in all the
words which he addresses to the souls of men, and in all his
actions, both in what he gives and in what he takes away? Will
not his aim be to implant justice in the souls of his citizens
mind take away injustice, to implant temperance and take away
intemperance, to implant every virtue and take away every vice?
Do you not agree?
[Cal.] I agree.
[Soc.] For what use is there, Callicles, in giving to the body
of a sick man who is in a bad state of health a quantity of the
most delightful food or drink or any other pleasant thing, which
may be really as bad for him as if you gave him nothing, or even
worse if rightly estimated. Is not that true?
[Cal.] I will not say No to it.
[Soc.] For in my opinion there is no profit in a man's life if
his body is in an evil plight-in that case his life also is evil:
am I not right?
[Soc.] When a man is in health the physicians will generally
allow him to eat when he is hungry and drink when he is thirsty,
and to satisfy his desires as he likes, but when he is sick they
hardly suffer him to satisfy his desires at all: even you will
[Soc.] And does not the same argument hold of the soul, my
good sir? While she is in a bad state and is senseless and
intemperate and unjust and unholy, her desires ought to be
controlled, and she ought to be prevented from doing anything
which does not tend to her own improvement.
[Soc.] Such treatment will be better for the soul herself?
[Cal.] To be sure.
[Soc.] And to restrain her from her appetites is to chastise
[Soc.] Then restraint or chastisement is better for the soul
than intemperance or the-absence of control, which you were just
[Cal.] I do not understand you, Socrates, and I wish that you
would ask some one who does.
[Soc.] Here is a gentleman who cannot endure to be improved or:
to subject himself to that very chastisement of which the
[Cal.] I do not heed a word of what you are saying, and have
only answered hitherto out of civility to Gorgias.
[Soc.] What are we to do, then? Shall we break off in the
[Cal.] You shall judge for yourself.
[Soc.] Well, but people say that "a tale should have a
head and not break off in the middle," and I should not like
to have the argument going about without a head; please then to
go on a little longer, and put the head on.
[Cal.] How tyrannical you are, Socrates! I wish that you and
your argument would rest, or that you would get some one else to
argue with you.
[Soc.] But who else is willing?-I want to finish the argument.
[Cal.] Cannot you finish without my help, either talking
straight: on, or questioning and answering yourself?
[Soc.] Must I then say with Epicharmus, "Two men spoke
before, but now one shall be enough"? I suppose that there
is absolutely no help. And if I am to carry on the enquiry by
myself, I will first of all remark that not only, but all of us
should have an ambition to know what is true and what is false in
this matter, for the discovery of the truth is common good. And
now I will proceed to argue according to my own notion. But if
any of you think that I arrive at conclusions which are untrue
you must interpose and refute me, for I do not speak from any
knowledge of what I am saying; I am an enquirer like yourselves,
and therefore, if my opponent says anything which is of force, I
shall be the first to agree with him. I am speaking on the
supposition that the argument ought to be completed; but if you
think otherwise let us leave off and go our ways.
[Gor.] I think, Socrates, that we should not go our ways until
you have completed the argument; and this appears to me to be the
wish of the rest of the company; I myself should very much like
to hear what more you have to say.
[Soc.] I too, Gorgias, should have liked to continue the
argument with Callicles, and then I might have given him an
"Amphion" in return for his "Zethus"; but
since you, Callicles, are unwilling to continue, I hope that you
will listen, and interrupt me if I seem to you to be in error.
And if you refute me, I shall not be angry with you as you are
with me, but I shall inscribe you as the greatest of benefactors
on the tablets of my soul.
[Cal.] My good fellow, never mind me, but get on.
[Soc.] Listen to me, then, while I recapitulate the argument:-Is
the pleasant the same as the good? Not the same. Callicles and I
are agreed about that. And is the pleasant to be pursued for the
sake of the good? or the good for the sake of the pleasant? The
pleasant is to be pursued for the sake of the good. And that is
pleasant at the presence of which we are pleased, and that is
good at the presence of which we are good? To be sure. And we-good,
and all good things whatever are good when some virtue is present
in us or them? That, Callicles, is my conviction. But the virtue
of each thing, whether body or soul, instrument or creature, when
given to them in the best way comes to them not by chance but as
the result of the order and truth and art which are imparted to
them: Am I not right? I maintain that I am. And is not the virtue
of each thing dependent on order or arrangement? Yes, I say. And
that which makes a thing good is the proper order inhering in
each thing? Such is my view. And is not the soul which has an
order of her own better than that which has no order? Certainly.
And the soul which has order is orderly? Of course. And that
which is orderly is temperate? Assuredly. And the temperate soul
is good? No other answer can I give, Callicles dear; have you
[Cal.] Go on, my good fellow.
[Soc.] Then I shall proceed to add, that if the, temperate
soul is the good soul, the soul which is in the opposite
condition, that is, the foolish and intemperate, is the bad soul.
And will not the temperate man do what is proper, both in
relation to the gods and to men; -for he would not be temperate
if he did not? Certainly he will do what is proper. In his
relation to other men he will do what is just; See and in his
relation to the gods he will do what is holy; and he who does
what is just and holy must be just and holy? Very true. And must
he not be courageous? for the duty of a temperate man is not to
follow or to avoid what he ought not, but what he ought, whether
things or men or pleasures or pains, and patiently to endure when
he ought; and therefore, Callicles, the temperate man, being, as
we have described, also just and courageous and holy, cannot be
other than a perfectly good man, nor can the good man do
otherwise than well and perfectly whatever he does; and he who
does well must of necessity be happy and blessed, and the evil
man who does evil, miserable: now this latter is he whom you were
applauding-the intemperate who is the opposite of the temperate.
Such is my position, and these things I affirm to be true. And if
they are true, then I further affirm that he who desires to be
happy must pursue and practise temperance and run away from
intemperance as fast as his legs will carry him: he had better
order his life so as not to need punishment; but if either he or
any of his friends, whether private individual or city, are in
need of punishment, then justice must be done and he must suffer
punishment, if he would be happy. This appears to me to be the
aim which a man ought to have, and towards which he ought to
direct all the energies both of himself and of the state, acting
so that he may have temperance and justice present with him and
be happy, not suffering his lusts to be unrestrained, and in the
never-ending desire satisfy them leading a robber's life. Such;
one is the friend neither of God nor man, for he is incapable of
communion, and he who is incapable of communion is also incapable
of friendship. And philosophers tell us, Callicles, that
communion and friendship and orderliness and temperance and
justice bind together heaven and earth and gods and men, and that
this universe is therefore called Cosmos or order, not disorder
or misrule, my friend. But although you are a philosopher you
seem to me never to have observed that geometrical equality is
mighty, both among gods and men; you think that you ought to
cultivate inequality or excess, and do not care about geometry.-Well,
then, either the principle that the happy are made happy by the
possession of justice and temperance, and the miserable the
possession of vice, must be refuted, or, if it is granted, what
will be the consequences? All the consequences which I drew
before, Callicles, and about which you asked me whether I was in
earnest when I said that a man ought to accuse himself and his
son and his friend if he did anything wrong, and that to this end
he should use his rhetoric-all those consequences are true. And
that which you thought that Polus was led to admit out of modesty
is true, viz., that, to do injustice, if more disgraceful than to
suffer, is in that degree worse; and the other position, which,
according to Polus, Gorgias admitted out of modesty, that he who
would truly be a rhetorician ought to be just and have a
knowledge of justice, has also turned out to be true.
And now, these things being as we have said, let us proceed in
the next place to consider whether you are right in throwing in
my teeth that I am unable to help myself or any of my friends or
kinsmen, or to save them in the extremity of danger, and that I
am in the power of another like an outlaw to whom anyone may do
what he likes-he may box my ears, which was a brave saying of
yours; or take away my goods or banish me, or even do his worst
and kill me; a condition which, as you say, is the height of
disgrace. My answer to you is one which has been already often
repeated, but may as well be repeated once more. I tell you,
Callicles, that to be boxed on the ears wrongfully is not the
worst evil which can befall a man, nor to have my purse or my
body cut open, but that to smite and slay me and mine wrongfully
is far more disgraceful and more evil; aye, and to despoil and
enslave and pillage, or in any way at all to wrong me and mine,
is far more disgraceful and evil to the doer of the wrong than to
me who am the sufferer. These truths, which have been already set
forth as I state them in the previous discussion, would seem now
to have been fixed and riveted by us, if I may use an expression
which is certainly bold, in words which are like bonds of iron
and adamant; and unless you or some other still more enterprising
hero shall break them, there is no possibility of denying what I
say. For my position has always been, that I myself am ignorant
how these things are, but that I have never met any one who could
say otherwise, any more than you can, and not appear ridiculous.
This is my position still, and if what I am saying is true, and
injustice is the greatest of evils to the doer of injustice, and
yet there is if possible a greater than this greatest of evils,
in an unjust man not suffering retribution, what is that defence
of which the want will make a man truly ridiculous? Must not the
defence be one which will avert the greatest of human evils? And
will not worst of all defences be that with which a man is unable
to defend himself or his family or his friends?-and next will
come that which is unable to avert the next greatest evil;
thirdly that which is unable to avert the third greatest evil;
and so of other evils. As is the greatness of evil so is the
honour of being able to avert them in their several degrees, and
the disgrace of not being able to avert them. Am I not right
[Cal.] Yes, quite right.
[Soc.] Seeing then that there are these two evils, the doing
injustice and the suffering injustice-and we affirm that to do
injustice is a greater, and to suffer injustice a lesser evil-by
what devices can a man succeed in obtaining the two advantages,
the one of not doing and the other of not suffering injustice?
must he have the power, or only the will to obtain them? I mean
to ask whether a man will escape injustice if he has only the
will to escape, or must he have provided himself with the power?
[Cal.] He must have provided himself with the power; that is
[Soc.] And what do you say of doing injustice? Is the will
only sufficient, and will that prevent him from doing injustice,
or must he have provided himself with power and art; and if he
has not studied and practised, will he be unjust still? Surely
you might say, Callicles, whether you think that Polus and I were
right in admitting the conclusion that no one does wrong
voluntarily, but that all do wrong against their will?
[Cal.] Granted, Socrates, if you will only have done.
[Soc.] Then, as would appear, power and art have to be
provided in order that we may do no injustice?
[Soc.] And what art will protect us from suffering injustice,
if not wholly, yet as far as possible? I want to know whether you
agree with me; for I think that such an art is the art of one who
is either a ruler or even tyrant himself, or the equal and
companion of the ruling power.
[Cal.] Well said, Socrates; and please to observe how ready I
am to praise you when you talk sense.
[Soc.] Think and tell me whether you would approve of another
view of mine: To me every man appears to be most the friend of
him who is most like to him-like to like, as ancient sages say:
Would you not agree to this?
[Cal.] I should.
[Soc.] But when the tyrant is rude and uneducated, he may be
expected to fear any one who is his superior in virtue, and will
never be able to be perfectly friendly with him.
[Cal.] That is true.
[Soc.] Neither will he be the friend of any one who greatly
his inferior, for the tyrant will despise him, and will never
seriously regard him as a friend.
[Cal.] That again is true.
[Soc.] Then the only friend worth mentioning, whom the tyrant
can have, will be one who is of the same character, and has the
same likes and dislikes, and is at the same time willing to be
subject and subservient to him; he is the man who will have power
in the state, and no one will injure him with impunity:-is not
[Soc.] And if a young man begins to ask how he may become
great and formidable, this would seem to be the way-he will
accustom himself, from his youth upward, to feel sorrow and joy
on, the same occasions as his master, and will contrive to be as
like him as possible?
[Soc.] And in this way he will have accomplished, as you and
your friends would. say, the end of becoming a great man and not
[Cal.] Very true.
[Soc.] But will he also escape from doing injury? Must not the
very opposite be true,-if he is to be like the tyrant in his
injustice, and to have influence with him? Will he not rather
contrive to do as much wrong as possible, and not be punished?
[Soc.] And by the imitation of his master and by the power
which he thus acquires will not his soul become bad and
corrupted, and will not this be the greatest evil to him?
[Cal.] You always contrive somehow or other, Socrates, to
invert everything: do you not know that he who imitates the
tyrant will, if he has a mind, kill him who does not imitate him
and take away his goods?
[Soc.] Excellent Callicles, I am not deaf, and I have heard
that a great many times from you and from Polus and from nearly
every man in the city, but I wish that you would hear me too. I
dare say that he will kill him if he has a mind-the bad man will
kill the good and true.
[Cal.] And is not that just the provoking thing?
[Soc.] Nay, not to a man of sense, as the argument shows: do
you think that all our cares should be directed to prolonging
life to the uttermost, and to the study of those arts which
secure us from danger always; like that art of rhetoric which
saves men in courts of law, and which you advise me to cultivate?
[Cal.] Yes, truly, and very good advice too.
[Soc.] Well, my friend, but what do you think of swimming; is
that an art of any great pretensions?
[Cal.] No, indeed.
[Soc.] And yet surely swimming saves a man from death, there
are occasions on which he must know how to swim. And if you
despise the swimmers, I will tell you of another and greater art,
the art of the pilot, who not only saves the souls of men, but
also their bodies and properties from the extremity of danger,
just like rhetoric. Yet his art is modest and unpresuming: it has
no airs or pretences of doing anything extraordinary, and, in
return for the same salvation which is given by the pleader,
demands only two obols, if he brings us from Aegina to Athens, or
for the longer voyage from Pontus or Egypt, at the utmost two
drachmae, when he has saved, as I was just now saying, the
passenger and his wife and children and goods, and safely
disembarked them at the Piraeus -this is the payment which he
asks in return for so great a boon; and he who is the master of
the art, and has done all this, gets out and walks about on the
sea-shore by his ship in an unassuming way. For he is able to
reflect and is aware that he cannot tell which of his fellow-passengers
he has benefited, and which of them he has injured in not
allowing them to be drowned. He knows that they are just the same
when he has disembarked them as when they embarked, and not a
whit better either in their bodies or in their souls; and he
considers that if a man who is afflicted by great and incurable
bodily diseases is only to be pitied for having escaped, and is
in no way benefited by him in having been saved from drowning,
much less he who has great and incurable diseases, not of the
body, but of the soul, which is the more valuable part of him;
neither is life worth having nor of any profit to the bad man,
whether he be delivered from the sea, or the law-courts, or any
other devourer-and so he reflects that such a one had better not
live, for he cannot live well.
And this is the reason why the pilot, although he is our
saviour, is not usually conceited, any more than the engineer,
who is not at all behind either the general, or the pilot, or any
one else, in his saving power, for he sometimes saves whole
cities. Is there any comparison between him and the pleader? And
if he were to talk, Callicles, in your grandiose style, he would
bury you under a mountain of words, declaring and insisting that
we ought all of us to be engine-makers, and that no other
profession is worth thinking about; he would have plenty to say.
Nevertheless you despise him and his art, and sneeringly call him
an engine-maker, and you will not allow your daughters to marry
his son, or marry your son to his daughters. And yet, on your
principle, what justice or reason is there in your refusal? What
right have you to despise the engine-maker, and the others whom I
was just now mentioning? I know that you will say, "I am
better, better born." But if the better is not what I say,
and virtue consists only in a man saving himself and his,
whatever may be his character, then your censure of the engine-maker,
and of the physician, and of the other arts of salvation, is
ridiculous. O my friend! I want you to see that the noble and the
good may possibly be something different from saving and being
saved:-May not he who is truly a man cease to care about living a
certain time?-he knows, as women say, that no man can escape
fate, and therefore he is not fond of life; he leaves all that
with God, and considers in what way he can best spend his
appointed term-whether by assimilating himself to the
constitution under which he lives, as you at this moment have to
consider how you may become as like as possible to the Athenian
people, if you mean to be in their good graces, and to have power
in the state; whereas I want you to think and see whether this is
for the interest of either of us-I would not have us risk that
which is dearest on the acquisition of this power, like the
Thessalian enchantresses, who, as they say, bring down the moon
from heaven at the risk of their own perdition. But if you
suppose that any man will show you the art of becoming great in
the city, and yet not conforming yourself to the ways of the
city, whether for better or worse, then I can only say that you
are mistaken, Callides; for he who would deserve to be the true
natural friend of the Athenian Demus, aye, or of Pyrilampes'
darling who is called after them, must be by nature like them,
and not an imitator only. He, then, who will make you most like
them, will make you as you desire, a statesman and orator: for
every man is pleased when he is spoken to in his own language and
spirit, and dislikes any other. But perhaps you, sweet Callicles,
may be of another mind. What do you say?
[Cal.] Somehow or other your words, Socrates, always appear to
me to be good words; and yet, like the rest of the world, I am
not quite convinced by them.
[Soc.] The reason is, Callicles, that the love of Demus which
abides in your soul is an adversary to me; but I dare say that if
we recur to these same matters, and consider them more
thoroughly, you may be convinced for all that. Please, then, to
remember that there are two processes of training all things,
including body and soul; in the one, as we said, we treat them
with a view to pleasure, and in the other with a view to the
highest good, and then we do not indulge but resist them: was not
that the distinction which we drew?
[Cal.] Very true.
[Soc.] And the one which had pleasure in view was just a
vulgar flattery:-was not that another of our conclusions?
[Cal.] Be it so, if you will have it.
[Soc.] And the other had in view the greatest improvement of
that which was ministered to, whether body or soul?
[Cal.] Quite true.
[Soc.] And must we not have the same end in view in the
treatment of our city and citizens? Must we not try and make-them
as good as possible? For we have already discovered that there is
no use in imparting to them any other good, unless the mind of
those who are to have the good, whether money, or office, or any
other sort of power, be gentle and good. Shall we say that?
[Cal.] Yes, certainly, if you like.
[Soc.] Well, then, if you and I, Callicles, were intending to
set about some public business, and were advising one another to
undertake buildings, such as walls, docks or temples of the
largest size, ought we not to examine ourselves, first, as to
whether we know or do not know the art of building, and who
taught us?-would not that be necessary, Callicles?
[Soc.] In the second place, we should have to consider whether
we had ever constructed any private house, either of our own or
for our friends, and whether this building of ours was a success
or not; and if upon consideration we found that we had had good
and eminent masters, and had been successful in constructing many
fine buildings, not only with their assistance, but without them,
by our own unaided skill-in that case prudence would not dissuade
us from proceeding to the construction of public works. But if we
had no master to show, and only a number of worthless buildings
or none at all, then, surely, it would be ridiculous in us to
attempt public works, or to advise one another to undertake them.
Is not this true?
[Soc.] And does not the same hold in all other cases? If you
and I were physicians, and were advising one another that we were
competent to practise as state-physicians, should I not ask about
you, and would you not ask about me, Well, but how about Socrates
himself, has he good health? and was any one else ever known to
be cured by him, whether slave or freeman? And I should make the
same enquiries about you. And if we arrived at the conclusion
that no one, whether citizen or stranger, man or woman, had ever
been any the better for the medical skill of either of us, then,
by Heaven, Callicles, what an absurdity to think that we or any
human being should be so silly as to set up as state-physicians
and advise others like ourselves to do the same, without having
first practised in private, whether successfully or not, and
acquired experience of the art! Is not this, as they say, to
begin with the big jar when you are learning the potter's art;
which is a foolish thing?
[Soc.] And now, my friend, as you are already beginning to be
a public character, and are admonishing and reproaching me for
not being one, suppose that we ask a few questions of one another.
Tell me, then, Callicles, how about making any of the citizens
better? Was there ever a man who was once vicious, or unjust, or
intemperate, or foolish, and became by the help of Callicles good
and noble? Was there ever such a man, whether citizen or
stranger, slave or freeman? Tell me, Callicles, if a person were
to ask these questions of you, what would you answer? Whom would
you say that-you had improved by your conversation? There may
have been good deeds of this sort which were done by you as a
private person, before you came forward in public. Why will you
[Cal.] You are contentious, Socrates.
[Soc.] Nay, I ask you, not from a love of contention, but
because I really want to know in what way you think that affairs
should be administered among us-whether, when you come to the
administration of them, you have any other aim but the
improvement of the citizens? Have we not already admitted many
times over that such is the duty of a public man? Nay, we have
surely said so; for if you will not answer for yourself I must
answer for you. But if this is what the good man ought to effect
for the benefit of his own state, allow me to recall to you the
names of those whom you were just now mentioning, Pericles, and
Cimon, and Miltiades, and Themistocles, and ask whether you still
think that they were good citizens.
[Cal.] I do.
[Soc.] But if they were good, then clearly each of them must
have made the citizens better instead of worse?
[Soc.] And, therefore, when Pericles first began to speak in
the assembly, the Athenians were not so good as when he spoke
[Cal.] Very likely.
[Soc.] Nay, my friend, "likely" is not the word; for
if he was a good citizen, the inference is certain.
[Cal.] And what difference does that make?
[Soc.] None; only I should like further to know whether the
Athenians are supposed to have been made better by Pericles, or,
on the contrary, to have been corrupted by him; for I hear that
he was the first who gave the people pay, and made them idle and
cowardly, and encouraged them in the love of talk and money.
[Cal.] You heard that, Socrates, from the laconising set who
bruise their ears.
[Soc.] But what I am going to tell you now is not mere
hearsay, but well known both to you and me: that at first,
Pericles was glorious and his character unimpeached by any
verdict of the Athenians-this was during the time when they were
not so good-yet afterwards, when they had been made good and
gentle by him, at the very end of his life they convicted him of
theft, and almost put him to death, clearly under the notion that
he was a malefactor.
[Cal.] Well, but how does that prove Pericles' badness?
[Soc.] Why, surely you would say that he was a bad manager of
asses or horses or oxen, who had received them originally neither
kicking nor butting nor biting him, and implanted in them all
these savage tricks? Would he not be a bad manager of any animals
who received them gentle, and made them fiercer than they were
when he received them? What do you say?
[Cal.] I will do you the favour of saying "yes."
[Soc.] And will you also do me the favour of saying whether
man is an animal?
[Cal.] Certainly he is.
[Soc.] And was not Pericles a shepherd of men?
[Soc.] And if he was a good political shepherd, ought not the
animals who were his subjects, as we were just now acknowledging,
to have become more just, and not more unjust?
[Cal.] Quite true.
[Soc.] And are not just men gentle, as Homer says?-or are you
of another mind?
[Cal.] I agree.
[Soc.] And yet he really did make them more savage than he
received them, and their savageness was shown towards himself;
which he must have been very far from desiring.
[Cal.] Do you want me to agree with you?
[Soc.] Yes, if I seem to you to speak the truth.
[Cal.] Granted then.
[Soc.] And if they were more savage, must they not have been
more unjust and inferior?
[Cal.] Granted again.
[Soc.] Then upon this view, Pericles was not a good statesman?
[Cal.] That is, upon your view.
[Soc.] Nay, the view is yours, after what you have admitted.
Take the case of Cimon again. Did not the very persons whom he
was serving ostracize him, in order that they might not hear his
voice for ten years? and they did just the same to Themistocles,
adding the penalty of exile; and they voted that Miltiades, the
hero of Marathon, should be thrown into the pit of death, and he
was only saved by the Prytanis. And yet, if they had been really
good men, as you say, these things would never have happened to
them. For the good charioteers are not those who at first keep
their place, and then, when they have broken-in their horses, and
themselves become better charioteers, are thrown out-that is not
the way either in charioteering or in any profession-What do you
[Cal.] I should think not.
[Soc.] Well, but if so, the truth is as I have said already,
that in the Athenian State no one has ever shown himself to be a
good statesman-you admitted that this was true of our present
statesmen, but not true of former ones, and you preferred them to
the others; yet they have turned out to be no better than our
present ones; and therefore, if they were rhetoricians, they did
not use the true art of rhetoric or of flattery, or they would
not have fallen out of favour.
[Cal.] But surely, Socrates, no living man ever came near any
one of them in his performances.
[Soc.] O, my dear friend, I say nothing against them regarded
as the serving-men of the State; and I do think that they were
certainly more serviceable than those who are living now, and
better able to gratify the wishes of the State; but as to
transforming those desires and not allowing them to have their
way, and using the powers which they had, whether of persuasion
or of force, in the improvement of their fellow citizens, which
is the prime object of the truly good citizen, I do not see that
in these respects they were a whit superior to our present
statesmen, although I do admit that they were more clever at
providing ships and walls and docks, and all that. You and I have
a ridiculous way, for during the whole time that we are arguing,
we are always going round and round to the same point, and
constantly misunderstanding one another. If I am not mistaken,
you have admitted and acknowledged more than once, that there are
two kinds of operations which have to do with the body, and two
which have to do with the soul: one of the two is ministerial,
and if our bodies are hungry provides food for them, and if they
are thirsty gives them drink, or if they are cold supplies them
with garments, blankets, shoes, and all that they crave. I use
the same images as before intentionally, in order that you may
understand me the better. The purveyor of the articles may
provide them either wholesale or retail, or he may be the maker
of any of them,-the baker, or the cook, or the weaver, or the
shoemaker, or the currier; and in so doing, being such as he is,
he is naturally supposed by himself and every one to minister to
the body. For none of them know that there is another art-an art
of gymnastic and medicine which is the true minister of the body,
and ought to be the mistress of all the rest, and to use their
results according to the knowledge which she has and they have
not, of the real good or bad effects of meats and drinks on the
body. All other arts which have to do with the body are servile
and menial and illiberal; and gymnastic and medicine are, as they
ought to be, their mistresses.
Now, when I say that all this is equally true of the soul, you
seem at first to know and understand and assent to my words, and
then a little while afterwards you come repeating, Has not the
State had good and noble citizens? and when I ask you who they
are, you reply, seemingly quite in earnest as if I had asked, Who
are or have been good trainers?-and you had replied, Thearion,
the baker, Mithoecus, who wrote the Sicilian cookery-book,
Sarambus, the vintner: these are ministers of the body, first-rate
in their art; for the first makes admirable loaves, the second
excellent dishes, and the third capital wine-to me these appear
to be the exact parallel of the statesmen whom you mention. Now
you would not be altogether pleased if I said to you, My friend,
you know nothing of gymnastics; those of whom you are speaking to
me are only the ministers and purveyors of luxury, who have no
good or noble notions of their art, and may very likely be
filling and fattening men's bodies and gaining their approval,
although the result is that they lose their original flesh in the
long run, and become thinner than they were before; and yet they,
in their simplicity, will not attribute their diseases and loss
of flesh to their entertainers; but when in after years the
unhealthy surfeit brings the attendant penalty of disease, he who
happens to be near them at the time, and offers them advice, is
accused and blamed by them, and if they could they would do him
some harm; while they proceed to eulogize the men who have been
the real authors of the mischief.
And that, Callicles, is just what you are now doing. You
praise the men who feasted the citizens and satisfied their
desires, and people say that they have made the city great, not
seeing that the swollen And ulcerated condition of the State is
to be attributed to these elder statesmen; for they have filled
the city full of harbours and docks and walls and revenues and
all that, and have left no room for justice and temperance. And
when the crisis of the disorder comes, the people will blame the
advisers of the hour, and applaud Themistocles and Cimon and
Pericles, who are the real authors of their calamities; and if
you are not careful they may assail you and my friend Alcibiades,
when they are losing not only their new acquisitions, but also
their original possessions; not that you are the authors of these
misfortunes of theirs, although you may perhaps be accessories to
them. A great piece of work is always being made, as I see and am
told, now as of old; about our statesmen. When the State treats
any of them as malefactors, I observe that there is a great
uproar and indignation at the supposed wrong which is done to
them; "after all their many services to the State, that they
should unjustly perish"-so the tale runs. But the cry is all
a lie; for no statesman ever could be unjustly put to death by
the city of which he is the head. The case of the professed
statesman is, I believe, very much like that of the professed
sophist; for the sophists, although they are wise men, are
nevertheless guilty of a strange piece of folly; professing to be
teachers of virtue, they will often accuse their disciples of
wronging them, and defrauding them of their pay, and showing no
gratitude for their services. Yet what can be more absurd than
that men who have become just and good, and whose injustice has
been taken away from them, and who have had justice implanted in
them by their teachers, should act unjustly by reason of the
injustice which is not in them? Can anything be more irrational,
my friends, than this? You, Callicles, compel me to be a mob-orator,
because you will not answer.
[Cal.] And you are the man who cannot speak unless there is
some one to answer?
[Soc.] I suppose that I can; just now, at any rate, the
speeches which I am making are long enough because you refuse to
answer me. But I adjure you by the god of friendship, my good
sir, do tell me whether there does not appear to you to be a
great inconsistency in saying that you have made a man good, and
then blaming him for being bad?
[Cal.] Yes, it appears so to me.
[Soc.] Do you never hear our professors of education speaking
in this inconsistent manner?
[Cal.] Yes, but why talk of men who are good for nothing?
[Soc.] I would rather say, why talk of men who profess to be
rulers, and declare that they are devoted to the improvement of
the city, and nevertheless upon occasion declaim against the
utter vileness of the city:-do you think that there is any
difference between one and the other? My good friend, the sophist
and the rhetorician, as I was saying to Polus, are the same, or
nearly the same; but you ignorantly fancy that rhetoric is a
perfect thing, sophistry a thing to be despised; whereas the
truth is, that sophistry is as much superior to rhetoric as
legislation is to the practice of law, or gymnastic to medicine.
The orators and sophists, as I am inclined to think, are the only
class who cannot complain of the mischief ensuing to themselves
from that which they teach others, without in the same breath
accusing themselves of having done no good to those whom they
profess to benefit. Is not this a fact?
[Cal.] Certainly it is.
[Soc.] If they were right in saying that they make men better,
then they are the only class who can afford to leave their
remuneration to those who have been benefited by them. Whereas if
a man has been benefited in any other way, if, for example, he
has been taught to run by a trainer, he might possibly defraud
him of his pay, if the trainer left the matter to him, and made
no agreement with him that he should receive money as soon as he
had given him the utmost speed; for not because of any deficiency
of speed do men act unjustly, but by reason of injustice.
[Cal.] Very true.
[Soc.] And he who removes injustice can be in no danger of
being treated unjustly: he alone can safely leave the honorarium
to his pupils, if he be really able to make them good-am I not
[Soc.] Then we have found the reason why there is no dishonour
in a man receiving pay who is called in to advise about building
or any other art?
[Cal.] Yes, we have found the reason.
[Soc.] But when the point is, how a man may become best
himself, and best govern his family and state, then to say that
you will give no advice gratis is held to be dishonourable?
[Soc.] And why? Because only such benefits call forth a desire
to requite them, and there is evidence that a benefit has been
conferred when the benefactor receives a return; otherwise not.
Is this true?
[Cal.] It is.
[Soc.] Then to which service of the State do you invite me?
determine for me. Am I to be the physician of the State who will
strive and struggle to make the Athenians as good as possible; or
am I to be the servant and flatterer of the State? Speak out, my
good friend, freely and fairly as you did at first and ought to
do again, and tell me your entire mind.
[Cal.] I say then that you should be the servant of the State.
[Soc.] The flatterer? well, sir, that is a noble invitation.
[Cal.] The Mysian, Socrates, or what you please. For if you
refuse, the consequences will be-
[Soc.] Do not repeat the old story-that he who likes will kill
me and get my money; for then I shall have to repeat the old
answer, that he will be a bad man and will kill the good, and
that the money will be of no use to him, but that he will wrongly
use that which he wrongly took, and if wrongly, basely, and if
[Cal.] How confident you are, Socrates, that you will never
come to harm! you seem to think that you are living in another
country, and can never be brought into a court of justice, as you
very likely may be brought by some miserable and mean person.
[Soc.] Then I must indeed be a fool, Callicles, if I do not
know that in the Athenian State any man may suffer anything. And
if I am brought to trial and incur the dangers of which you
speak, he will be a villain who brings me to trial-of that I am
very sure, for no good man would accuse the innocent. Nor shall I
be surprised if I am put to death. Shall I tell you why I
[Cal.] By all means.
[Soc.] I think that I am the only or almost the only Athenian
living who practises the true art of politics; I am the only
politician of my time. Now, seeing that when I speak my words are
not uttered with any view of gaining favour, and that I look to
what is best and not to what is most pleasant, having no mind to
use those arts and graces which you recommend, I shall have
nothing to say in the justice court. And you might argue with me,
as I was arguing with Polus: -I shall be tried just as a
physician would be tried in a court of little boys at the
indictment of the cook. What Would he reply under such
circumstances, if some one were to accuse him, saying, "O my
boys, many evil things has this man done to you: he is the death
of you, especially of the younger ones among you, cutting and
burning and starving and suffocating you, until you know not what
to do; he gives you the bitterest potions, and compels you to
hunger and thirst. How unlike the variety of meats and sweets on
which I feasted you!" What do you suppose that the physician
would be able to reply when he found himself in such a
predicament? If he told the truth he could only say, "All
these evil things, my boys, I did for your health," and then
would there not just be a clamour among a jury like that? How
they would cry out!
[Cal.] I dare say.
[Soc.] Would he not be utterly at a loss for a reply?
[Cal.] He certainly would.
[Soc.] And I too shall be treated in the same way, as I well
know, if I am brought before the court. For I shall not be able
to rehearse to the people the pleasures which I have procured for
them, and which, although I am not disposed to envy either the
procurers or enjoyers of them, are deemed by them to be benefits
and advantages. And if any one says that I corrupt young men, and
perplex their minds, or that I speak evil of old men, and use
bitter words towards them, whether in private or public, it is
useless for me to reply, as I truly might:-"All this I do
for the sake of justice, and with a view to your interest, my
judges, and to nothing else." And therefore there is no
saying what may happen to me.
[Cal.] And do you think, Socrates, that a man who is thus
defenceless is in a good position?
[Soc.] Yes, Callicles, if he have that defence, which as you
have often acknowledged he should have-if he be his own defence,
and have never said or done anything wrong, either in respect of
gods or men; and this has been repeatedly acknowledged by us to
be the best sort of defence. And if anyone could convict me of
inability to defend myself or others after this sort, I should
blush for shame, whether I was convicted before many, or before a
few, or by myself alone; and if I died from want of ability to do
so, that would indeed grieve me. But if I died because I have no
powers of flattery or rhetoric, I am very sure that you would not
find me repining at death. For no man who is not an utter fool
and coward is afraid of death itself, but he is afraid of doing
wrong. For to go to the world below having one's soul full of
injustice is the last and worst of all evils. And in proof of
what I say, if you have no objection, I should like to tell you a
[Cal.] Very well, proceed; and then we shall have done.
[Soc.] Listen, then, as story-tellers say, to a very pretty
tale, which I dare say that you may be disposed to regard as a
fable only, but which, as I believe, is a true tale, for I mean
to speak the truth. Homer tells us, how Zeus and Poseidon and
Pluto divided the empire which they inherited from their father.
Now in the days of Cronos there existed a law respecting the
destiny of man, which has always been, and still continues to be
in Heaven-that he who has lived all his life in justice and
holiness shall go, when he is dead, to the Islands of the
Blessed, and dwell there in perfect happiness out of the reach of
evil; but that he who has lived unjustly and impiously shall go
to the house of vengeance and punishment, which is called
Tartarus. And in the time of Cronos, and even quite lately in the
reign of Zeus, the judgment was given on the very day on which
the men were to die; the judges were alive, and the men were
alive; and the consequence was that the judgments were not well
given. Then Pluto and the authorities from the Islands of the
Blessed came to Zeus, and said that the souls found their way to
the wrong places. Zeus said: "I shall put a stop to this;
the judgments are not well given, because the persons who are
judged have their clothes on, for they are alive; and there are
many who, having evil souls, are apparelled in fair bodies, or
encased in wealth or rank, and, when the day of judgment arrives,
numerous witnesses come forward and testify on their behalf that
they have lived righteously. The judges are awed by them, and
they themselves too have their clothes on when judging; their
eyes and ears and their whole bodies are interposed as a well
before their own souls. All this is a hindrance to them; there
are the clothes of the judges and the clothes of the judged-What
is to be done? I will tell you:-In the first place, I will
deprive men of the foreknowledge of death, which they possess at
present: this power which they have Prometheus has already
received my orders to take from them: in the second place, they
shall be entirely stripped before they are judged, for they shall
be judged when they are dead; and the judge too shall be naked,
that is to say, dead-he with his naked soul shall pierce into the
other naked souls; and they shall die suddenly and be deprived of
all their kindred, and leave their brave attire strewn upon the
earth-conducted in this manner, the judgment will be just. I knew
all about the matter before any of you, and therefore I have made
my sons judges; two from Asia, Minos and Rhadamanthus, and one
from Europe, Aeacus. And these, when they are dead, shall give
judgment in the meadow at the parting of the ways, whence the two
roads lead, one to the Islands of the Blessed, and the other to
Tartarus. Rhadamanthus shall judge those who come from Asia, and
Aeacus those who come from Europe. And to Minos I shall give the
primacy, and he shall hold a court of appeal, in case either of
the two others are in any doubt:-then the judgment respecting the
last journey of men will be as just as possible."
From this tale, Callicles, which I have heard and believe, I
draw the following inferences:-Death, if I am right, is in the
first place the separation from one another of two things, soul
and body; nothing else. And after they are separated they retain
their several natures, as in life; the body keeps the same habit,
and the results of treatment or accident are distinctly visible
in it: for example, he who by nature or training or both, was a
tall man while he was alive, will remain as he was, after he is
dead; and the fat man will remain fat; and so on; and the dead
man, who in life had a fancy to have flowing hair, will have
flowing hair. And if he was marked with the whip and had the
prints of the scourge, or of wounds in him when he was alive, you
might see the same in the dead body; and if his limbs were broken
or misshapen when he was alive, the same appearance would be
visible in the dead. And in a word, whatever was the habit of the
body during life would be distinguishable after death, either
perfectly, or in a great measure and for a certain time. And I
should imagine that this is equally true of the soul, Callicles;
when a man is stripped of the body, all the natural or acquired
affections of the soul are laid open to view. And when they come
to the judge, as those from Asia come to Rhadamanthus, he places
them near him and inspects them quite impartially, not knowing
whose the soul is: perhaps he may lay hands on the soul of the
great king, or of some other king or potentate, who has no
soundness in him, but his soul is marked with the whip, and is
full of the prints and scars of perjuries and crimes with which
each action has stained him, and he is all crooked with falsehood
and imposture, and has no straightness, because he has lived
without truth. Him Rhadamanthus beholds, full of all deformity
and disproportion, which is caused by licence and luxury and
insolence and incontinence, and despatches him ignominiously to
his prison, and there he undergoes the punishment which he
Now the proper office of punishment is twofold: he who is
rightly punished ought either to become better and profit by it,
or he ought to be made an example to his fellows, that they may
see what he suffers, and fear and become better. Those who are
improved when they are punished by gods and men, are those whose
sins are curable; and they are improved, as in this world so also
in another, by pain and suffering; for there is no other way in
which they can be delivered from their evil. But they who have
been guilty of the worst crimes, and are incurable by reason of
their crimes, are made examples; for, as they are incurable, the
time has passed at which they can receive any benefit. They get
no good themselves, but others get good when they behold them
enduring for ever the most terrible and painful and fearful
sufferings as the penalty of their sins-there they are, hanging
up as examples, in the prison-house of the world below, a
spectacle and a warning to all unrighteous men who come thither.
And among them, as I confidently affirm, will be found Archelaus,
if Polus truly reports of him, and any other tyrant who is like
him. Of these fearful examples, most, as I believe, are taken
from the class of tyrants and kings and potentates and public
men, for they are the authors of the greatest and most impious
crimes, because they have the power. And Homer witnesses to the
truth of this; for they are always kings and potentates whom he
has described as suffering everlasting punishment in the world
below: such were Tantalus and Sisyphus and Tityus. But no one
ever described Thersites, or any private person who was a
villain, as suffering everlasting punishment, or as incurable.
For to commit the worst crimes, as I am inclined to think, was
not in his power, and he was happier than those who had the power.
No, Callicles, the very bad men come from the class of those who
have power. And yet in that very class there may arise good men,
and worthy of all admiration they are, for where there is great
power to do wrong, to live and to die justly is a hard thing, and
greatly to be praised, and few there are who attain to this. Such
good and true men, however, there have been, and will be again,
at Athens and in other states, who have fulfilled their trust
righteously; and there is one who is quite famous all over
Hellas, Aristeides, the son of Lysimachus. But, in general, great
men are also bad, my friend.
As I was saying, Rhadamanthus, when he gets a soul of the bad
kind, knows nothing about him, neither who he is, nor who his
parents are; he knows only that he has got hold of a villain; and
seeing this, he stamps him as curable or incurable, and sends him
away to Tartarus, whither he goes and receives his proper
recompense. Or, again, he looks with admiration on the soul of
some just one who has lived in holiness and truth; he may have
been a private man or not; and I should say, Callicles, that he
is most likely to have been a philosopher who has done his own
work, and not troubled himself with the doings of other in his
lifetime; him Rhadamanthus sends to the Islands of the Blessed.
Aeacus does the same; and they both have sceptres, and judge; but
Minos alone has a golden sceptre and is seated looking on, as
Odysseus in Homer declares that he saw him: Holding a sceptre of
gold, and giving laws to the dead. Now I, Callicles, am persuaded
of the truth of these things, and I consider how I shall present
my soul whole and undefiled before the judge in that day.
Renouncing the honours at which the world aims, I desire only to
know the truth, and to live as well as I can, and, when I die, to
die as well as I can. And, to the utmost of my power, I exhort
all other men to do the same. And, in return for your exhortation
of me, I exhort you also to take part in the great combat, which
is the combat of life, and greater than every other earthly
conflict. And I retort your reproach of me, and say, that you
will not be able to help yourself when the day of trial and
judgment, of which I was speaking, comes upon you; you will go
before the judge, the son of Aegina, and, when he has got you in
his grip and is carrying you off, you will gape and your head
will swim round, just as mine would in the courts of this world,
and very likely some one will shamefully box you on the ears, and
put upon you any sort of insult.
Perhaps this may appear to you to be only an old wife's tale,
which you will contemn. And there might be reason in your
contemning such tales, if by searching we could find out anything
better or truer: but now you see that you and Polus and Gorgias,
who are the three wisest of the Greeks of our day, are not able
to show that we ought to live any life which does not profit in
another world as well as in this. And of all that has been said,
nothing remains unshaken but the saying, that to do injustice is
more to be avoided than to suffer injustice, and that the reality
and not the appearance of virtue is to be followed above all
things, as well in public as in private life; and that when any
one has been wrong in anything, he is to be chastised, and that
the next best thing to a man being just is that he should become
just, and be chastised and punished; also that he should avoid
all flattery of himself as well as of others, of the few or of
the many: and rhetoric and any other art should be used by him,
and all his actions should be done always, with a view to justice.
Follow me then, and I will lead you where you will be happy in
life and after death, as the argument shows. And never mind if
some one despises you as a fool, and insults you, if he has a
mind; let him strike you, by Zeus, and do you be of good cheer,
and do not mind the insulting blow, for you will never come to
any harm in the practise of virtue, if you are a really good and
true man. When we have practised virtue together, we will apply
ourselves to politics, if that seems desirable, or we will advise
about whatever else may seem good to us, for we shall be better
able to judge then. In our present condition we ought not to give
ourselves airs, for even on the most important subjects we are
always changing our minds; so utterly stupid are we! Let us,
then, take the argument as our guide, which has revealed to us
that the best way of life is to practise justice and every virtue
in life and death. This way let us go; and in this exhort all men
to follow, not in the way to which you trust and in which you
exhort me to follow you; for that way, Callicles, is nothing
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