translated by Benjamin Jowett
New York, C. Scribner's Sons, 
PERSONS OF THE DIALOGUE: CALLICLES; SOCRATES; CHAEREPHON; GORGIAS;
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 hear
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 you understand?
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 than
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 him?
Pol. Clearly, a painter.
Chaer. But now what shall we call him-what is the art in which he is
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 Chaerephon.
Gor. What do you mean, Socrates?
Soc. I mean that he has not exactly answered the question which he
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 was.
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 melodies?
Gor. It is.
Soc. By Here, Gorgias, I admire the surpassing brevity of your
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 the sick?
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
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 my
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 relative swiftness.
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
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 states.
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 multitude.
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
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
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 figures?
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 that.
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
Gor. I think so.
Soc. Then, if you approve the question, Gorgias, what is the answer?
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 hypothesis.
Gor. I think that you are quite right, Socrates.
Soc. Then let me raise another question; there is such a thing as
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 belief
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 knowledge?
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
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 answer them?
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
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 instructor.
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 something else.
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
Soc. I may truly say, Callicles, that I am willing, if Gorgias is.
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
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 well.
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 carpenter?
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
Soc. And in the same way, he who has learned what is just is just?
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 just?
Gor. That is clearly the inference.
Soc. Surely, then, the just man will never consent to do injustice?
Gor. Certainly not.
Soc. And according to the argument the rhetorician must be a just
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 pass.
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 please?
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 you not?
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 is rhetoric?
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 gratification.
Pol. And if able to gratify others, must not rhetoric be a fine
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 experience?
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 gratification,
Pol. Then are cookery and rhetoric the same?
Soc. No, they are only different parts of the same profession.
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 creditable
Gor. A part of what, Socrates? Say what you mean, and never mind me.
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
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 gymnastic.
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)
astiring : gymnastic :: cookery : medicine;
astiring : gymnastic :: sophistry : legislation;
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 flattery?
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 older?
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 states?
Soc. Not if you mean to say that power is a good to the possessor.
Pol. And that is what I do mean to say.
Soc. Then, if so, I think that they have the least power of all
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
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 think best?
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 you
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 voyage.
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
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 the
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 he wills?
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
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 greater
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
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 be
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
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
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
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
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
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 suffer injustice?
Pol. Exactly so.
Soc. And you said the opposite?
Soc. I said also that the wicked are miserable, and you refuted me?
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 other,
Soc. Say rather, Polus, impossible; for who can refute the truth?
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
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
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 same
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 knowledge?
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 be so?
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, Socrates.
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
Pol. Yes, Socrates, I think that they are.
Soc. Consider again:-Where there is an agent, must there not also be
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
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 something
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, suffers
Pol. That is evident.
Soc. And that which is just has been admitted to be honourable?
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
Soc. Then he who is punished is delivered from the evil of his soul?
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, disease, poverty?
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
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
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 injustice?
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 well?
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
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
Soc. And he has the second place, who is delivered from vice?
Soc. That is to say, he who receives admonition and rebuke and
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
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
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 disproven?
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 joking?
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
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
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
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 desired
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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 own land?
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
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 happy?
Cal. No indeed, for then stones and dead men would be the happiest
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 opinion still?
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
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
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 them.
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
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 many others.
Cal. That, Socrates, is only your opinion.
Soc. And do you, Callicles, seriously maintain what you are saying?
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 call knowledge?
Cal. There is.
Soc. And were you not saying just now, that some courage implied
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
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
Soc. And he may have strength and weakness in the same way, by fits?
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 painful?
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 not right?
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 instances.
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 true?
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 have
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
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 unworthy questions.
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
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 moment?
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 said?
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 sorrowing?
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
Soc. No matter; then the cowards, and not only the brave, rejoice?
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 the brave?
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
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 with
Soc. And those who are in pain have evil or sorrow present with
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 pain
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
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
Soc. And in the same way there are good pains and there are evil
Cal. To be sure.
Soc. And ought we not to choose and use the good pleasures and
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
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 detail?
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 mean?
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 you agree?
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
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
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
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 audience.
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
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 describe.
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
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
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 admit that?
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
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 her?
Soc. Then restraint or chastisement is better for the soul than
intemperance or the-absence of control, which you were just now
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 argument
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 middle?
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
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 any?
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. Very true.
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
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 clear.
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 that so?
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
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
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 not answer?
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 last?
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
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
Cal. I will do you the favour of saying "yes."
Soc. And will you also do me the favour of saying whether man is
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
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 think?
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 right?
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
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
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 basely, hurtfully.
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 anticipate this?
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 story.
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 deserves.
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
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