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SCENE: The Prison of Socrates


Echecrates. Were you yourself, Phaedo, in the prison with Socrates

on the day when he drank the poison?

Phaedo. Yes, Echecrates, I was.

Ech. I wish that you would tell me about his death. What did he

say in his last hours? We were informed that he died by taking poison,

but no one knew anything more; for no Phliasian ever goes to Athens

now, and a long time has elapsed since any Athenian found his way to

Phlius, and therefore we had no clear account.

Phaed. Did you not hear of the proceedings at the trial?

Ech. Yes; someone told us about the trial, and we could not

understand why, having been condemned, he was put to death, as

appeared, not at the time, but long afterwards. What was the reason of


Phaed. An accident, Echecrates. The reason was that the stern of the

ship which the Athenians send to Delos happened to have been crowned

on the day before he was tried.

Ech. What is this ship?

Phaed. This is the ship in which, as the Athenians say, Theseus went

to Crete when he took with him the fourteen youths, and was the

saviour of them and of himself. And they were said to have vowed to

Apollo at the time, that if they were saved they would make an

annual pilgrimage to Delos. Now this custom still continues, and the

whole period of the voyage to and from Delos, beginning when the

priest of Apollo crowns the stern of the ship, is a holy season,

during which the city is not allowed to be polluted by public

executions; and often, when the vessel is detained by adverse winds,

there may be a very considerable delay. As I was saying, the ship

was crowned on the day before the trial, and this was the reason why

Socrates lay in prison and was not put to death until long after he

was condemned.

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