|Bust of Socrates (Roman?)
“For my own part I bear no grudge at all against those who condemned me and accused me, although it was not with this kind intention that they did so, but because they thought that they were hurting me; and that is culpable of them.
However, I ask them to grant me one favor. When my sons grow up, gentlemen, if you think that they are putting money or anything else before goodness, take your revenge by plaguing them as I plagued you; and if they fancy themselves for no reason, you must scold them just as I scolded you, for neglecting the important things and thinking that they are good for something when they are good for nothing. If you do this, I shall have had justice at your hands, both I myself and my children.
Now it is time that we were going, I to die and you to live, but which of us has the happier prospect is unknown to anyone but God”
“Crito made a sign to the servant, who was standing by; and he went out, and having been absent for some time, returned with the jailer carrying the cup of poison. Socrates said: ‘You, my good friend, who are experienced in these matters, shall give me directions how I am to proceed.’The man answered: ‘You have only to walk about until your legs are heavy, and then to lie down, and the poison will act.’At the same time he handed the cup to Socrates, who in the easiest and gentlest manner, without the least fear or change of color or feature, looking at the man with all his eyes, Echecrates, as his manner was, took the cup and said: ‘What do you say about making a libation out of this cup to any god?’‘May I, or not?’ The man answered: ‘We only prepare, Socrates, just so much as we deem enough.’‘I understand,’ he said: ‘but I may and must ask the gods to prosper my journey from this to the other world—even so—and so be it according to my prayer.’
Then raising the cup to his lips, quite readily and cheerfully he drank off the poison. And hitherto most of us had been able to control our sorrow; but now when we saw him drinking, and saw too that he had finished the draught, we could no longer forbear, and in spite of myself my own tears were flowing fast; so that I covered my face and wept, not for him, but at the thought of my own calamity in having to part from such a friend. Nor was I the first; for Crito, when he found himself unable to restrain his tears, had got up, and I followed; and at that moment, Apollodorus, who had been weeping all the time, broke out in a loud and passionate cry which made cowards of us all. Socrates alone retained his calmness:
Socrates drinks Hemlock (from 1907 Edwardian engraving)
‘What is this strange outcry?’ he said. ‘I sent away the women mainly in order that they might not misbehave in this way, for I have been told that a man should die in peace. Be quiet then, and have patience.’
When we heard his words we were ashamed, and refrained our tears; and he walked about until, as he said, his legs began to fail, and then he lay on his back, according to the directions, and the man who gave him the poison now and then looked at his feet and legs; and after a while he pressed his foot hard, and asked him if he could feel; and he said, ‘No;’ and then his leg, and so upwards and upwards, and showed us that he was cold and stiff. And he felt them himself, and said: ‘When the poison reaches the heart, that will be the end.’
(See: Plato’s Phaedo, pp. 173-174).He was beginning to grow cold about the groin, when he uncovered his face, for he had covered himself up, and said—they were his last words—he said:‘Crito, I owe a cock to Asclepius; will you remember to pay the debt?’‘The debt shall be paid,’ said Crito; ‘is there anything else?’There was no answer to this question; but in a minute or two a movement was heard, and the attendants uncovered him; his eyes were set, and Crito closed his eyes and mouth.
Giambettino Cignaroli’s The Death of Socrates (c. 1759?)
It is interesting to note that when Socrates said that he owed a debt (a cock) to Asclepius and that Asclepius was the Greek god of medicine and healing. Socrates last words would then seem to imply that death is the cure to life.
See: Plato's Apology, Crito, and Phaedo