What point of view?
If you consider, I said, that when in misfortune we feel a natural hunger
and desire to relieve our sorrow by weeping and lamentation, and that this
feeling which is kept under control in our own calamities is satisfied and
delighted by the poets;--the better nature in each of us, not having been
sufficiently trained by reason or habit, allows the sympathetic element to
break loose because the sorrow is another's; and the spectator fancies that
there can be no disgrace to himself in praising and pitying any one who
comes telling him what a good man he is, and making a fuss about his
troubles; he thinks that the pleasure is a gain, and why should he be
supercilious and lose this and the poem too? Few persons ever reflect, as
I should imagine, that from the evil of other men something of evil is
communicated to themselves. And so the feeling of sorrow which has
gathered strength at the sight of the misfortunes of others is with
difficulty repressed in our own.
How very true!
And does not the same hold also of the ridiculous? There are jests which
you would be ashamed to make yourself, and yet on the comic stage, or
indeed in private, when you hear them, you are greatly amused by them, and
are not at all disgusted at their unseemliness;--the case of pity is
repeated;--there is a principle in human nature which is disposed to raise
a laugh, and this which you once restrained by reason, because you were
afraid of being thought a buffoon, is now let out again; and having
stimulated the risible faculty at the theatre, you are betrayed
unconsciously to yourself into playing the comic poet at home.
Quite true, he said.
And the same may be said of lust and anger and all the other affections, of
desire and pain and pleasure, which are held to be inseparable from every
action--in all of them poetry feeds and waters the passions instead of
drying them up; she lets them rule, although they ought to be controlled,
if mankind are ever to increase in happiness and virtue.
I cannot deny it.
Therefore, Glaucon, I said, whenever you meet with any of the eulogists of
Homer declaring that he has been the educator of Hellas, and that he is
profitable for education and for the ordering of human things, and that you
should take him up again and again and get to know him and regulate your
whole life according to him, we may love and honour those who say these
things--they are excellent people, as far as their lights extend; and we
are ready to acknowledge that Homer is the greatest of poets and first of
tragedy writers; but we must remain firm in our conviction that hymns to
the gods and praises of famous men are the only poetry which ought to be
admitted into our State. For if you go beyond this and allow the honeyed
muse to enter, either in epic or lyric verse, not law and the reason of
mankind, which by common consent have ever been deemed best, but pleasure
and pain will be the rulers in our State.
That is most true, he said.
And now since we have reverted to the subject of poetry, let this our
defence serve to show the reasonableness of our former judgment in sending
away out of our State an art having the tendencies which we have described;
for reason constrained us. But that she may not impute to us any harshness
or want of politeness, let us tell her that there is an ancient quarrel
between philosophy and poetry; of which there are many proofs, such as the
saying of 'the yelping hound howling at her lord,' or of one 'mighty in the
vain talk of fools,' and 'the mob of sages circumventing Zeus,' and the
'subtle thinkers who are beggars after all'; and there are innumerable
other signs of ancient enmity between them. Notwithstanding this, let us
assure our sweet friend and the sister arts of imitation, that if she will
only prove her title to exist in a well-ordered State we shall be delighted
to receive her--we are very conscious of her charms; but we may not on that
account betray the truth. I dare say, Glaucon, that you are as much
charmed by her as I am, especially when she appears in Homer?
Yes, indeed, I am greatly charmed.
Shall I propose, then, that she be allowed to return from exile, but upon
this condition only--that she make a defence of herself in lyrical or some
And we may further grant to those of her defenders who are lovers of poetry
and yet not poets the permission to speak in prose on her behalf: let them
show not only that she is pleasant but also useful to States and to human
life, and we will listen in a kindly spirit; for if this can be proved we
shall surely be the gainers--I mean, if there is a use in poetry as well as
Certainly, he said, we shall be the gainers.
If her defence fails, then, my dear friend, like other persons who are
enamoured of something, but put a restraint upon themselves when they think
their desires are opposed to their interests, so too must we after the
manner of lovers give her up, though not without a struggle. We too are
inspired by that love of poetry which the education of noble States has
implanted in us, and therefore we would have her appear at her best and
truest; but so long as she is unable to make good her defence, this
argument of ours shall be a charm to us, which we will repeat to ourselves
while we listen to her strains; that we may not fall away into the childish
love of her which captivates the many. At all events we are well aware
that poetry being such as we have described is not to be regarded seriously
as attaining to the truth; and he who listens to her, fearing for the
safety of the city which is within him, should be on his guard against her
seductions and make our words his law.
Yes, he said, I quite agree with you.
Yes, I said, my dear Glaucon, for great is the issue at stake, greater than
appears, whether a man is to be good or bad. And what will any one be
profited if under the influence of honour or money or power, aye, or under
the excitement of poetry, he neglect justice and virtue?
Yes, he said; I have been convinced by the argument, as I believe that any
one else would have been.
And yet no mention has been made of the greatest prizes and rewards which
What, are there any greater still? If there are, they must be of an
Why, I said, what was ever great in a short time? The whole period of
three score years and ten is surely but a little thing in comparison with
Say rather 'nothing,' he replied.
And should an immortal being seriously think of this little space rather
than of the whole?
Of the whole, certainly. But why do you ask?
Are you not aware, I said, that the soul of man is immortal and
He looked at me in astonishment, and said: No, by heaven: And are you
really prepared to maintain this?
Yes, I said, I ought to be, and you too--there is no difficulty in proving
I see a great difficulty; but I should like to hear you state this argument
of which you make so light.
I am attending.
There is a thing which you call good and another which you call evil?
Yes, he replied.
Would you agree with me in thinking that the corrupting and destroying
element is the evil, and the saving and improving element the good?
And you admit that every thing has a good and also an evil; as ophthalmia
is the evil of the eyes and disease of the whole body; as mildew is of
corn, and rot of timber, or rust of copper and iron: in everything, or in
almost everything, there is an inherent evil and disease?
Yes, he said.
And anything which is infected by any of these evils is made evil, and at
last wholly dissolves and dies?
The vice and evil which is inherent in each is the destruction of each; and
if this does not destroy them there is nothing else that will; for good
certainly will not destroy them, nor again, that which is neither good nor
If, then, we find any nature which having this inherent corruption cannot
be dissolved or destroyed, we may be certain that of such a nature there is
That may be assumed.
Well, I said, and is there no evil which corrupts the soul?
Yes, he said, there are all the evils which we were just now passing in
review: unrighteousness, intemperance, cowardice, ignorance.
But does any of these dissolve or destroy her?--and here do not let us fall
into the error of supposing that the unjust and foolish man, when he is
detected, perishes through his own injustice, which is an evil of the soul.
Take the analogy of the body: The evil of the body is a disease which
wastes and reduces and annihilates the body; and all the things of which we
were just now speaking come to annihilation through their own corruption
attaching to them and inhering in them and so destroying them. Is not this
Consider the soul in like manner. Does the injustice or other evil which
exists in the soul waste and consume her? Do they by attaching to the soul
and inhering in her at last bring her to death, and so separate her from
And yet, I said, it is unreasonable to suppose that anything can perish
from without through affection of external evil which could not be
destroyed from within by a corruption of its own?
It is, he replied.
Consider, I said, Glaucon, that even the badness of food, whether
staleness, decomposition, or any other bad quality, when confined to the
actual food, is not supposed to destroy the body; although, if the badness
of food communicates corruption to the body, then we should say that the
body has been destroyed by a corruption of itself, which is disease,
brought on by this; but that the body, being one thing, can be destroyed by
the badness of food, which is another, and which does not engender any
natural infection--this we shall absolutely deny?
And, on the same principle, unless some bodily evil can produce an evil of
the soul, we must not suppose that the soul, which is one thing, can be
dissolved by any merely external evil which belongs to another?
Yes, he said, there is reason in that.
Either, then, let us refute this conclusion, or, while it remains
unrefuted, let us never say that fever, or any other disease, or the knife
put to the throat, or even the cutting up of the whole body into the
minutest pieces, can destroy the soul, until she herself is proved to
become more unholy or unrighteous in consequence of these things being done
to the body; but that the soul, or anything else if not destroyed by an
internal evil, can be destroyed by an external one, is not to be affirmed
by any man.
And surely, he replied, no one will ever prove that the souls of men become
more unjust in consequence of death.
But if some one who would rather not admit the immortality of the soul
boldly denies this, and says that the dying do really become more evil and
unrighteous, then, if the speaker is right, I suppose that injustice, like
disease, must be assumed to be fatal to the unjust, and that those who take
this disorder die by the natural inherent power of destruction which evil
has, and which kills them sooner or later, but in quite another way from
that in which, at present, the wicked receive death at the hands of others
as the penalty of their deeds?
Nay, he said, in that case injustice, if fatal to the unjust, will not be
so very terrible to him, for he will be delivered from evil. But I rather
suspect the opposite to be the truth, and that injustice which, if it have
the power, will murder others, keeps the murderer alive--aye, and well
awake too; so far removed is her dwelling-place from being a house of
True, I said; if the inherent natural vice or evil of the soul is unable to
kill or destroy her, hardly will that which is appointed to be the
destruction of some other body, destroy a soul or anything else except that
of which it was appointed to be the destruction.
Yes, that can hardly be.
But the soul which cannot be destroyed by an evil, whether inherent or
external, must exist for ever, and if existing for ever, must be immortal?
That is the conclusion, I said; and, if a true conclusion, then the souls
must always be the same, for if none be destroyed they will not diminish in
number. Neither will they increase, for the increase of the immortal
natures must come from something mortal, and all things would thus end in
But this we cannot believe--reason will not allow us--any more than we can
believe the soul, in her truest nature, to be full of variety and
difference and dissimilarity.
What do you mean? he said.
The soul, I said, being, as is now proven, immortal, must be the fairest of
compositions and cannot be compounded of many elements?
Her immortality is demonstrated by the previous argument, and there are
many other proofs; but to see her as she really is, not as we now behold
her, marred by communion with the body and other miseries, you must
contemplate her with the eye of reason, in her original purity; and then
her beauty will be revealed, and justice and injustice and all the things
which we have described will be manifested more clearly. Thus far, we have
spoken the truth concerning her as she appears at present, but we must
remember also that we have seen her only in a condition which may be
compared to that of the sea-god Glaucus, whose original image can hardly be
discerned because his natural members are broken off and crushed and
damaged by the waves in all sorts of ways, and incrustations have grown
over them of seaweed and shells and stones, so that he is more like some
monster than he is to his own natural form. And the soul which we behold
is in a similar condition, disfigured by ten thousand ills. But not there,
Glaucon, not there must we look.
At her love of wisdom. Let us see whom she affects, and what society and
converse she seeks in virtue of her near kindred with the immortal and
eternal and divine; also how different she would become if wholly following
this superior principle, and borne by a divine impulse out of the ocean in
which she now is, and disengaged from the stones and shells and things of
earth and rock which in wild variety spring up around her because she feeds
upon earth, and is overgrown by the good things of this life as they are
termed: then you would see her as she is, and know whether she have one
shape only or many, or what her nature is. Of her affections and of the
forms which she takes in this present life I think that we have now said
True, he replied.
And thus, I said, we have fulfilled the conditions of the argument; we have
not introduced the rewards and glories of justice, which, as you were
saying, are to be found in Homer and Hesiod; but justice in her own nature
has been shown to be best for the soul in her own nature. Let a man do
what is just, whether he have the ring of Gyges or not, and even if in
addition to the ring of Gyges he put on the helmet of Hades.
And now, Glaucon, there will be no harm in further enumerating how many and
how great are the rewards which justice and the other virtues procure to
the soul from gods and men, both in life and after death.
Certainly not, he said.
Will you repay me, then, what you borrowed in the argument?
What did I borrow?
The assumption that the just man should appear unjust and the unjust just:
for you were of opinion that even if the true state of the case could not
possibly escape the eyes of gods and men, still this admission ought to be
made for the sake of the argument, in order that pure justice might be
weighed against pure injustice. Do you remember?
I should be much to blame if I had forgotten.
Then, as the cause is decided, I demand on behalf of justice that the
estimation in which she is held by gods and men and which we acknowledge to
be her due should now be restored to her by us; since she has been shown to
confer reality, and not to deceive those who truly possess her, let what
has been taken from her be given back, that so she may win that palm of
appearance which is hers also, and which she gives to her own.
The demand, he said, is just.
In the first place, I said--and this is the first thing which you will have
to give back--the nature both of the just and unjust is truly known to the
And if they are both known to them, one must be the friend and the other
the enemy of the gods, as we admitted from the beginning?
And the friend of the gods may be supposed to receive from them all things
at their best, excepting only such evil as is the necessary consequence of
Then this must be our notion of the just man, that even when he is in
poverty or sickness, or any other seeming misfortune, all things will in
the end work together for good to him in life and death: for the gods have
a care of any one whose desire is to become just and to be like God, as far
as man can attain the divine likeness, by the pursuit of virtue?
Yes, he said; if he is like God he will surely not be neglected by him.
And of the unjust may not the opposite be supposed?
Such, then, are the palms of victory which the gods give the just?
That is my conviction.
And what do they receive of men? Look at things as they really are, and
you will see that the clever unjust are in the case of runners, who run
well from the starting-place to the goal but not back again from the goal:
they go off at a great pace, but in the end only look foolish, slinking
away with their ears draggling on their shoulders, and without a crown; but
the true runner comes to the finish and receives the prize and is crowned.
And this is the way with the just; he who endures to the end of every
action and occasion of his entire life has a good report and carries off
the prize which men have to bestow.
And now you must allow me to repeat of the just the blessings which you
were attributing to the fortunate unjust. I shall say of them, what you
were saying of the others, that as they grow older, they become rulers in
their own city if they care to be; they marry whom they like and give in
marriage to whom they will; all that you said of the others I now say of
these. And, on the other hand, of the unjust I say that the greater
number, even though they escape in their youth, are found out at last and
look foolish at the end of their course, and when they come to be old and
miserable are flouted alike by stranger and citizen; they are beaten and
then come those things unfit for ears polite, as you truly term them; they
will be racked and have their eyes burned out, as you were saying. And you
may suppose that I have repeated the remainder of your tale of horrors.
But will you let me assume, without reciting them, that these things are
Certainly, he said, what you say is true.
These, then, are the prizes and rewards and gifts which are bestowed upon
the just by gods and men in this present life, in addition to the other
good things which justice of herself provides.
Yes, he said; and they are fair and lasting.
And yet, I said, all these are as nothing either in number or greatness in
comparison with those other recompenses which await both just and unjust
after death. And you ought to hear them, and then both just and unjust
will have received from us a full payment of the debt which the argument
owes to them.
Speak, he said; there are few things which I would more gladly hear.
Well, I said, I will tell you a tale; not one of the tales which Odysseus
tells to the hero Alcinous, yet this too is a tale of a hero, Er the son of
Armenius, a Pamphylian by birth. He was slain in battle, and ten days
afterwards, when the bodies of the dead were taken up already in a state of
corruption, his body was found unaffected by decay, and carried away home
to be buried. And on the twelfth day, as he was lying on the funeral pile,
he returned to life and told them what he had seen in the other world. He
said that when his soul left the body he went on a journey with a great
company, and that they came to a mysterious place at which there were two
openings in the earth; they were near together, and over against them were
two other openings in the heaven above. In the intermediate space there
were judges seated, who commanded the just, after they had given judgment
on them and had bound their sentences in front of them, to ascend by the
heavenly way on the right hand; and in like manner the unjust were bidden
by them to descend by the lower way on the left hand; these also bore the
symbols of their deeds, but fastened on their backs. He drew near, and
they told him that he was to be the messenger who would carry the report of
the other world to men, and they bade him hear and see all that was to be
heard and seen in that place. Then he beheld and saw on one side the souls
departing at either opening of heaven and earth when sentence had been
given on them; and at the two other openings other souls, some ascending
out of the earth dusty and worn with travel, some descending out of heaven
clean and bright. And arriving ever and anon they seemed to have come from
a long journey, and they went forth with gladness into the meadow, where
they encamped as at a festival; and those who knew one another embraced and
conversed, the souls which came from earth curiously enquiring about the
things above, and the souls which came from heaven about the things
beneath. And they told one another of what had happened by the way, those
from below weeping and sorrowing at the remembrance of the things which
they had endured and seen in their journey beneath the earth (now the
journey lasted a thousand years), while those from above were describing
heavenly delights and visions of inconceivable beauty. The story, Glaucon,
would take too long to tell; but the sum was this:--He said that for every
wrong which they had done to any one they suffered tenfold; or once in a
hundred years--such being reckoned to be the length of man's life, and the
penalty being thus paid ten times in a thousand years. If, for example,
there were any who had been the cause of many deaths, or had betrayed or
enslaved cities or armies, or been guilty of any other evil behaviour, for
each and all of their offences they received punishment ten times over, and
the rewards of beneficence and justice and holiness were in the same
proportion. I need hardly repeat what he said concerning young children
dying almost as soon as they were born. Of piety and impiety to gods and
parents, and of murderers, there were retributions other and greater far
which he described. He mentioned that he was present when one of the
spirits asked another, 'Where is Ardiaeus the Great?' (Now this Ardiaeus
lived a thousand years before the time of Er: he had been the tyrant of
some city of Pamphylia, and had murdered his aged father and his elder
brother, and was said to have committed many other abominable crimes.) The
answer of the other spirit was: 'He comes not hither and will never come.
And this,' said he, 'was one of the dreadful sights which we ourselves
witnessed. We were at the mouth of the cavern, and, having completed all
our experiences, were about to reascend, when of a sudden Ardiaeus appeared
and several others, most of whom were tyrants; and there were also besides
the tyrants private individuals who had been great criminals: they were
just, as they fancied, about to return into the upper world, but the mouth,
instead of admitting them, gave a roar, whenever any of these incurable
sinners or some one who had not been sufficiently punished tried to ascend;
and then wild men of fiery aspect, who were standing by and heard the
sound, seized and carried them off; and Ardiaeus and others they bound head
and foot and hand, and threw them down and flayed them with scourges, and
dragged them along the road at the side, carding them on thorns like wool,
and declaring to the passers-by what were their crimes, and that they were
being taken away to be cast into hell.' And of all the many terrors which
they had endured, he said that there was none like the terror which each of
them felt at that moment, lest they should hear the voice; and when there
was silence, one by one they ascended with exceeding joy. These, said Er,
were the penalties and retributions, and there were blessings as great.
Now when the spirits which were in the meadow had tarried seven days, on
the eighth they were obliged to proceed on their journey, and, on the
fourth day after, he said that they came to a place where they could see
from above a line of light, straight as a column, extending right through
the whole heaven and through the earth, in colour resembling the rainbow,
only brighter and purer; another day's journey brought them to the place,
and there, in the midst of the light, they saw the ends of the chains of
heaven let down from above: for this light is the belt of heaven, and
holds together the circle of the universe, like the under-girders of a
trireme. From these ends is extended the spindle of Necessity, on which
all the revolutions turn. The shaft and hook of this spindle are made of
steel, and the whorl is made partly of steel and also partly of other
materials. Now the whorl is in form like the whorl used on earth; and the
description of it implied that there is one large hollow whorl which is
quite scooped out, and into this is fitted another lesser one, and another,
and another, and four others, making eight in all, like vessels which fit
into one another; the whorls show their edges on the upper side, and on
their lower side all together form one continuous whorl. This is pierced
by the spindle, which is driven home through the centre of the eighth. The
first and outermost whorl has the rim broadest, and the seven inner whorls
are narrower, in the following proportions--the sixth is next to the first
in size, the fourth next to the sixth; then comes the eighth; the seventh
is fifth, the fifth is sixth, the third is seventh, last and eighth comes
the second. The largest (or fixed stars) is spangled, and the seventh (or
sun) is brightest; the eighth (or moon) coloured by the reflected light of
the seventh; the second and fifth (Saturn and Mercury) are in colour like
one another, and yellower than the preceding; the third (Venus) has the
whitest light; the fourth (Mars) is reddish; the sixth (Jupiter) is in
whiteness second. Now the whole spindle has the same motion; but, as the
whole revolves in one direction, the seven inner circles move slowly in the
other, and of these the swiftest is the eighth; next in swiftness are the
seventh, sixth, and fifth, which move together; third in swiftness appeared
to move according to the law of this reversed motion the fourth; the third
appeared fourth and the second fifth. The spindle turns on the knees of
Necessity; and on the upper surface of each circle is a siren, who goes
round with them, hymning a single tone or note. The eight together form
one harmony; and round about, at equal intervals, there is another band,
three in number, each sitting upon her throne: these are the Fates,
daughters of Necessity, who are clothed in white robes and have chaplets
upon their heads, Lachesis and Clotho and Atropos, who accompany with their
voices the harmony of the sirens--Lachesis singing of the past, Clotho of
the present, Atropos of the future; Clotho from time to time assisting with
a touch of her right hand the revolution of the outer circle of the whorl
or spindle, and Atropos with her left hand touching and guiding the inner
ones, and Lachesis laying hold of either in turn, first with one hand and
then with the other.
When Er and the spirits arrived, their duty was to go at once to Lachesis;
but first of all there came a prophet who arranged them in order; then he
took from the knees of Lachesis lots and samples of lives, and having
mounted a high pulpit, spoke as follows: 'Hear the word of Lachesis, the
daughter of Necessity. Mortal souls, behold a new cycle of life and
mortality. Your genius will not be allotted to you, but you will choose
your genius; and let him who draws the first lot have the first choice, and
the life which he chooses shall be his destiny. Virtue is free, and as a
man honours or dishonours her he will have more or less of her; the
responsibility is with the chooser--God is justified.' When the
Interpreter had thus spoken he scattered lots indifferently among them all,
and each of them took up the lot which fell near him, all but Er himself
(he was not allowed), and each as he took his lot perceived the number
which he had obtained. Then the Interpreter placed on the ground before
them the samples of lives; and there were many more lives than the souls
present, and they were of all sorts. There were lives of every animal and
of man in every condition. And there were tyrannies among them, some
lasting out the tyrant's life, others which broke off in the middle and
came to an end in poverty and exile and beggary; and there were lives of
famous men, some who were famous for their form and beauty as well as for
their strength and success in games, or, again, for their birth and the
qualities of their ancestors; and some who were the reverse of famous for
the opposite qualities. And of women likewise; there was not, however, any
definite character in them, because the soul, when choosing a new life,
must of necessity become different. But there was every other quality, and
the all mingled with one another, and also with elements of wealth and
poverty, and disease and health; and there were mean states also. And
here, my dear Glaucon, is the supreme peril of our human state; and
therefore the utmost care should be taken. Let each one of us leave every
other kind of knowledge and seek and follow one thing only, if peradventure
he may be able to learn and may find some one who will make him able to
learn and discern between good and evil, and so to choose always and
everywhere the better life as he has opportunity. He should consider the
bearing of all these things which have been mentioned severally and
collectively upon virtue; he should know what the effect of beauty is when
combined with poverty or wealth in a particular soul, and what are the good
and evil consequences of noble and humble birth, of private and public
station, of strength and weakness, of cleverness and dullness, and of all
the natural and acquired gifts of the soul, and the operation of them when
conjoined; he will then look at the nature of the soul, and from the
consideration of all these qualities he will be able to determine which is
the better and which is the worse; and so he will choose, giving the name
of evil to the life which will make his soul more unjust, and good to the
life which will make his soul more just; all else he will disregard. For
we have seen and know that this is the best choice both in life and after
death. A man must take with him into the world below an adamantine faith
in truth and right, that there too he may be undazzled by the desire of
wealth or the other allurements of evil, lest, coming upon tyrannies and
similar villainies, he do irremediable wrongs to others and suffer yet
worse himself; but let him know how to choose the mean and avoid the
extremes on either side, as far as possible, not only in this life but in
all that which is to come. For this is the way of happiness.
And according to the report of the messenger from the other world this was
what the prophet said at the time: 'Even for the last comer, if he chooses
wisely and will live diligently, there is appointed a happy and not
undesirable existence. Let not him who chooses first be careless, and let
not the last despair.' And when he had spoken, he who had the first choice
came forward and in a moment chose the greatest tyranny; his mind having
been darkened by folly and sensuality, he had not thought out the whole
matter before he chose, and did not at first sight perceive that he was
fated, among other evils, to devour his own children. But when he had time
to reflect, and saw what was in the lot, he began to beat his breast and
lament over his choice, forgetting the proclamation of the prophet; for,
instead of throwing the blame of his misfortune on himself, he accused
chance and the gods, and everything rather than himself. Now he was one of
those who came from heaven, and in a former life had dwelt in a
well-ordered State, but his virtue was a matter of habit only, and he had
no philosophy. And it was true of others who were similarly overtaken,
that the greater number of them came from heaven and therefore they had
never been schooled by trial, whereas the pilgrims who came from earth
having themselves suffered and seen others suffer, were not in a hurry to
choose. And owing to this inexperience of theirs, and also because the lot
was a chance, many of the souls exchanged a good destiny for an evil or an
evil for a good. For if a man had always on his arrival in this world
dedicated himself from the first to sound philosophy, and had been
moderately fortunate in the number of the lot, he might, as the messenger
reported, be happy here, and also his journey to another life and return to
this, instead of being rough and underground, would be smooth and heavenly.
Most curious, he said, was the spectacle--sad and laughable and strange;
for the choice of the souls was in most cases based on their experience of
a previous life. There he saw the soul which had once been Orpheus
choosing the life of a swan out of enmity to the race of women, hating to
be born of a woman because they had been his murderers; he beheld also the
soul of Thamyras choosing the life of a nightingale; birds, on the other
hand, like the swan and other musicians, wanting to be men. The soul which
obtained the twentieth lot chose the life of a lion, and this was the soul
of Ajax the son of Telamon, who would not be a man, remembering the
injustice which was done him in the judgment about the arms. The next was
Agamemnon, who took the life of an eagle, because, like Ajax, he hated
human nature by reason of his sufferings. About the middle came the lot of
Atalanta; she, seeing the great fame of an athlete, was unable to resist
the temptation: and after her there followed the soul of Epeus the son of
Panopeus passing into the nature of a woman cunning in the arts; and far
away among the last who chose, the soul of the jester Thersites was putting
on the form of a monkey. There came also the soul of Odysseus having yet
to make a choice, and his lot happened to be the last of them all. Now the
recollection of former toils had disenchanted him of ambition, and he went
about for a considerable time in search of the life of a private man who
had no cares; he had some difficulty in finding this, which was lying about
and had been neglected by everybody else; and when he saw it, he said that
he would have done the same had his lot been first instead of last, and
that he was delighted to have it. And not only did men pass into animals,
but I must also mention that there were animals tame and wild who changed
into one another and into corresponding human natures--the good into the
gentle and the evil into the savage, in all sorts of combinations.
All the souls had now chosen their lives, and they went in the order of
their choice to Lachesis, who sent with them the genius whom they had
severally chosen, to be the guardian of their lives and the fulfiller of
the choice: this genius led the souls first to Clotho, and drew them
within the revolution of the spindle impelled by her hand, thus ratifying
the destiny of each; and then, when they were fastened to this, carried
them to Atropos, who spun the threads and made them irreversible, whence
without turning round they passed beneath the throne of Necessity; and when
they had all passed, they marched on in a scorching heat to the plain of
Forgetfulness, which was a barren waste destitute of trees and verdure; and
then towards evening they encamped by the river of Unmindfulness, whose
water no vessel can hold; of this they were all obliged to drink a certain
quantity, and those who were not saved by wisdom drank more than was
necessary; and each one as he drank forgot all things. Now after they had
gone to rest, about the middle of the night there was a thunderstorm and
earthquake, and then in an instant they were driven upwards in all manner
of ways to their birth, like stars shooting. He himself was hindered from
drinking the water. But in what manner or by what means he returned to the
body he could not say; only, in the morning, awaking suddenly, he found
himself lying on the pyre.
And thus, Glaucon, the tale has been saved and has not perished, and will
save us if we are obedient to the word spoken; and we shall pass safely
over the river of Forgetfulness and our soul will not be defiled.
Wherefore my counsel is, that we hold fast ever to the heavenly way and
follow after justice and virtue always, considering that the soul is
immortal and able to endure every sort of good and every sort of evil.
Thus shall we live dear to one another and to the gods, both while
remaining here and when, like conquerors in the games who go round to
gather gifts, we receive our reward. And it shall be well with us both in
this life and in the pilgrimage of a thousand years which we have been
End Book X.