Category Archives: Afterlife


from Letters
  • July 10, 1946
  • July 25, 1946
  • Oct. 13, 1951
  • Nov. 10, 1955


Carl Gustav Jung, born Karl Gustav II Jung, is regarded as the founder of analytical psychology. He was born in Kesswil, Switzerland, the son of a poor Protestant clergyman and philologist who taught him Latin at an early age. Although at first pressured to become a minister like many in his family, Jung eventually decided to become a psychiatrist, receiving his M.D. degree from the University of Zurich in 1902. Despite his focus on scientific topics, Jung integrated many religious, philosophical, and archeological works into his studies. Working with asylum patients under Eugen Bleuler, a pioneer in mental illness research, Jung studied patients’ responses to stimulus words, and termed the group of associations they avoided a “complex.” Between 1907 and 1912, Jung collaborated closely with Sigmund Freud, whose theories were supported by Jung’s results and who for a while regarded Jung as his outstanding disciple; however, the pair split in disagreement over the role of sexuality in neurosis and the development of children. Jung’s subsequent publications, Psychology of the Unconscious (1912) and Psychological Types (1921), ran counter to Freud’s arguments and established Jung’s unique views in psychology. In the 1930s and early 1940s, Jung served as professor of psychology at the Federal Polytechnic University in Zurich. He was appointed professor of medical psychology at the University of Basel in 1943, but was forced to resign almost immediately because of his poor health. He continued to write prolifically until well into his 80s.

Among the many concepts that Jung originated were those of “extroverted” and “introverted” personalities (into which two classes he divided most men), the “collective unconscious,” and the theory of “archetypes.” Jung’s ideas have influenced not only psychiatry, but also the fields of religion, literature, and parapsychology. Jung interpreted Christianity as an essential step in the historical development of consciousness and argued that heretical movements were archetypal constituents of religion not fully contained in Christianity. Jung pioneered therapy for older patients who had lost their faith in life. Individuation, or the ingrained capacity to reconcile complementary oppositions in one’s personality, including one’s basic bisexuality, and thus undergo the process of full human development, is at the core of Jung’s teachings. Neuroses are merely impulses to broaden one’s consciousness toward self-realization and totality. Jung conceived of therapy as an active and analytic process, steering away from Freud’s free associations into a form of directed associations. Various societies around the world serve as centers for the development of Jung’s teachings and provide training for new Jungian analysts.

In these selections from Jung’s collected Letters—some originally in English, some in German—Jung communicates with acquaintances who are dealing with suicide. Jung frequently used letters as a way of communicating his views to the outside world (he sent copies to people whose judgment he trusted) and correcting misinterpretations of and expanding on his views. In the three letters addressed to people who have evidently written to him because of his fame, he appears to argue that suicide is a denial of full self-realization, as is clearly evident in the letter of July 10, 1946, addressed to an elderly resident of Germany and the letters of October 13, 1951, and November 10, 1955, to two different “Mrs. N”s. In the more reflective letter of July 25, 1946, addressed to his acquaintance Dr. Eleanor Bertine, however, he appears to adopt an almost fatalistic attitude toward suicide—“I’m convinced that if anybody has it in himself to commit suicide, then practically the whole of his being is going that way”—and arguing against interference or prevention.

Carl Gustav Jung, Letterseds. Gerhard Adler with Aniela Jaffé, tr. R. F. C. Hull. (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1953, 1975), Vol. 1, pp. 434-37, Vol. 2, pp. 25-26, 278-279.




Dear Sir,                                                                                        10 July 1946

By parental power is usually understood the influence exerted by any person in authority.  If this influence occurs in childhood and in an unjustified way, as happened in your case, it is apt to take root in the unconscious.  Even if the influence is discontinued outwardly, it still goes on working in the unconscious and then one treats oneself as badly as one was treated earlier.  If your work now gives you some joy and satisfaction you must cultivate it, just as you should cultivate everything that gives you some joy in being alive.  The idea of suicide, understandable as it is, does not seem commendable to me.  We live in order to attain the greatest possible amount of spiritual development and self-awareness.  As long as life is possible, even if only in a minimal degree, you should hang on to it, in order to scoop it up for the purpose of conscious development.  To interrupt life before its time is to bring to a standstill an experiment which we have not set up.  We have found ourselves in the midst of it and must carry it through to the end.  That it is extraordinarily difficult for you, with your blood pressure at 80, is quite understandable, but I believe you will not regret it if you cling on even to such a life to the very last.  If, aside from your work, you read a good book, as one reads the Bible, it can become a bridge for you leading inwards, along which good things may flow to you such as you perhaps cannot now imagine.

You have no need to worry about the question of a fee.  With best wishes,

Yours sincerely, C. G. JUNG



Dear Dr. Eleanor Bertine,                                                          25 July 1946

I’m just spending a most agreeable time of rest in my tower and enjoy sailing as the only sport which is still available to me.  I have just finished two lectures for the Eranos meeting of this summer.  It is about the general problem of the psychology of the unconscious and its philosophical implications.

And now I have finally rest and peace enough to be able to read your former letters and to answer them.  I should have thanked you for your careful reports about Kristine Mann’s illness and death long ago,[i] but I never found time enough to do so.  There have been so many urgent things to be done that all my time was eaten up and I cannot work so quickly any longer as I used to do.

It is really a question whether a person affected by such a terrible illness should or may end her life.  It is my attitude in such cases not to interfere.  I would let things happen if they were so, because I’m convinced that if anybody has it in himself to commit suicide, then practically the whole of his being is going that way.  I have seen cases where it would have been something short of criminal to hinder the people because according to all rules it was in accordance with the tendency of their unconscious and thus the basic thing.  So I think nothing is really gained by interfering with such an issue.  It is presumably to be left to the free choice of the individual.  Anything that seems to be wrong to us can be right under certain circumstances over which we have no control and the end of which we do not understand.  If Kristine Mann had committed suicide under the stress of unbearable pain, I should have thought that this was the right thing.  As it was not the case, I think it was in her stars to undergo such a cruel agony for reasons that escape our understanding.  Our life is not made entirely by ourselves.  The main bulk of it is brought into existence out of sources that are hidden to us.  Even complexes can start a century or more before a man is born.  There is something like karma.

Kristine’s experience you mention is truly of a transcendent nature.  If it were the effect of morphine it would occur regularly, but it doesn’t.  On the other hand it bears all the characteristics of an ekstasis.  Such a thing is possible only when there is a detachment of the soul from the body.  When that takes place and the patient lives on, one can almost with certainty expect a certain deterioration of the character inasmuch as the superior and most essential part of the soul has already left.  Such an experience denotes a partial death.  It is of course a most aggravating experience for the environment, as a person whose personality is so well known seems to lose it so completely and shows nothing more than demoralization or the disagreeable symptoms of a drug addict.  But it is the lower man that keeps on living with the body and who is nothing else but the life of the body.  With old people or persons seriously ill, it often happens that they have peculiar states of withdrawal or absent-mindedness, which they themselves cannot explain, but which are presumably conditions in which the detachment takes place.  It is sometimes a process that lasts very long.  What is happening in such conditions one rarely has a chance to explore, but it seems to me that it is as if such conditions had an inner consciousness which is so remote from our matter-of-fact consciousness that it is almost impossible to retranslate its contents into the terms of our actual consciousness.  I must say that I have had some experiences along that line.  They have given me a very different idea about what death means.

I hope you will forgive me that I’m so late in answering your previous letters.  As I said, there has been so much in between that I needed a peaceful time when I could risk entering into the contents of your letter.

My best wishes!

Yours sincerely, C. G. JUNG



Dear Mrs. N.,                                                                                    13 October 1951

It isn’t easy or simple to answer your question, because much depends upon your faculty of understanding.  Your understanding on the other hand depends upon the development and maturity of your personal character.

It isn’t possible to kill part of your “self” unless you kill yourself first.  If you ruin your conscious personality, the so-called ego-personality, you deprive the self of its real goal, namely to become real itself.  The goal of life is the realization of the self.  If you kill yourself you abolish that will of the self that guides you through life to that eventual goal.  An attempt at suicide doesn’t affect the intention of the self to become real, but it may arrest your personal development inasmuch as it is not explained.  You ought to realize that suicide is murder, since after suicide there remains a corpse exactly as with any ordinary murder.  Only it is yourself that has been killed.  That is the reason why the Common Law punishes a man that tries to commit suicide, and it is psychologically true too.  Therefore suicide certainly is not the proper answer.

As long as you don’t realize the nature of this very dangerous impulse you block the way to further development, just as a man who intends to commit a theft, without knowing what he is intending and without realizing the ethical implication of such a deed, cannot develop any further unless he takes into account that he has a criminal tendency.  Such tendencies are very frequent, only they don’t always succeed and there is hardly anybody who must not realize in this or any other way that he has a dark shadow following him.  That is the human lot.  If it were not so, we might get perfect one day which might be pretty awful too.  We shouldn’t be naïve about ourselves and in order not to be we have to climb down to a more modest level of self-appreciation.

Hoping I have answered your question, I remain,

Yours sincerely, C. G. JUNG

Thank you for the fee.
Nothing more is needed.



Dear Mrs. N.,                                                                                19 November 1955

I am glad that you do understand the difficulty of your request.  How can anybody be expected to be competent enough to give such advice?  I feel utterly incompetent—yet I cannot deny the justification of your wish and I have no heart to refuse it.  If your case were my own, I don’t know what could happen to me, but I am rather certain that I would not plan a suicide ahead.  I should rather hang on as long as I can stand my fate or until sheer despair forces my hand.  The reason for such an “unreasonable” attitude with me is that I am not at all sure what will happen to me after death.  I have good reasons to assume that things are not finished with death.  Life seems to be an interlude in a long story.  It has been long before I was, and it will most probably continue after the conscious interval in a three-dimensional existence.  I shall therefore hang on as long as it is humanly possible and I try to avoid all forgone conclusions, considering seriously the hints I got as to the post mortem events.

Therefore I cannot advise you to commit suicide for so-called reasonable considerations.  It is murder and a corpse is left behind, no matter who has killed whom.  Rightly the English Common Law punishes the perpetrator of the deed.  Be sure first, whether it is really the will of God to kill yourself or merely your reason.  The latter is positively not good enough.  If it should be the act of sheer despair, it will not count against you, but a willfully planned act might weigh heavily against you.

This is my incompetent opinion.  I have learned caution with the “perverse.”  I do not underestimate your truly terrible ordeal.  In deepest sympathy,

 Yours cordially, C. G. JUNG


[i]  Kristine Mann had died on 12 Nov. 45.  About 3 or 4 months before her death, while in hospital with a good deal of pain, depressed and unhappy, Dr. Mann saw one morning an ineffable light glowing in her room. It lasted for about an hour and a half and left her with a deep sense of peace and joy. The recollection of it remained indelible, although after that experience her state of health worsened steadily and her mind deteriorated. Jung felt that at the time of the experience her spirit had left her body.


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from The Book of Divine Consolation of the Blessed Angela of Foligno


Little is known about the life of the Italian mystic Angela de Foligno. Tradition reports that she was born to a wealthy family but lost her father while still young. She married at an early age and had several sons. She had no formal education, but possessed an open mind and vigorous intelligence. She was beautiful, impetuous, and vain. After living a worldly early life—including, in the words of one of her biographers, “washing, combing . . . dressing in luxurious clothes, indulging in fancy foods . . . maligning others . . . letting loose with fits of anger and pride”—she converted to a life of contrition by confessing her guilt and shame, selling her land and possessions, and joining the Third Order of St. Francis as a Tertiary hermit. Despite the joy she found in her new life, Angela faced opposition from family and clergy. The remainder of her life was passed in seclusion (the members of her immediate family had all died by about 1288) in the area of the Church of the Friars Minor at Foligno, except for a pilgrimage to Assisi in 1291 at age 43, during which she received a vision “of God’s love for her.”

Angela confessed her doctrinal revelations, visions, and consolations, some of which occurred while she slept, to her scribe, Brother Arnoldo; some parts she may have recorded herself. These works were collected in The Book of Divine Consolation of the Blessed Angela of Foligno, which includes a detailed account of her inner journey toward purification. The first Italian edition (translated from Latin), 1510, became one of the most popular religious works printed in the Italian vernacular and is an important specimen of medieval psychology. Her mystical writings have influenced many writers and philosophers, even to the present day.

In the first of the two visions excerpted here, Angela vividly describes the intensity of her desire to die, much as St. Paul [q.v., New Testament: Philippians: “Paul on the Desire to Die”] had earlier written of his desire to die and be with Christ. In her second vision, which expresses a desire not unlike St. Ignatius’s [q.v.] eagerness to become “God’s wheat”—a martyr ground in the teeth of wild beasts—Angela wishes fervently for a slow and agonizing death. For Angela, as for Paul and Ignatius, however, suicide is not in question and is not explicitly discussed. These writings are crucial for examining the distinctions between voluntary martyrdom and suicide in early and medieval Christianity, emphasizing as this tradition does both the martyr’s promise of a personal, beatific afterlife and a thoroughgoing prohibition of suicide. One may desire intensely to die, but one must not deliberately end one’s life.


Angela de Foligno, The Book of Divine Consolation of the Blessed Angela of Foligno. Treatise III, First and Tenth Visions, tr. Mary G. Steegmann, New York: Cooper Square Publishers, Inc., 1966, pp. 157-161, 163-168, 196-200.  Text also online from the Internet Archive. Quotations in introduction from Paul Lachance, Angela of Foligno: Complete Works, New York, Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1993, pp. 16-17, and Elizabeth Alvil Petroff, The Mystics.



Of the Many Visions and Consolations Received by Angela of Foligno: First Vision and Consolation

Blessed God and Father of my Lord Jesus Christ, who comforteth us in all our tribulations, Thou hast verily deigned to console me, a sinner, in every tribulation.  For during the time of my conversion and after the enlightenment miraculously granted unto me as I was repeating the Paternoster, I did feel great consolation and sweetness in this manner.

I was inspired and drawn unto the contemplation of the blessed union of the divinity and humanity of Christ, and in this contemplation did I feel an exceeding great delight, the which was greater than any I had ever felt heretofore.  For this reason did I remain for a great part of that day standing in the cell where I was praying, astonished, locked in and alone.  My heart was all wrapped up in that joy and I became as one dumb and did lose my speech.  Wherefore did it happen that when my companion came she believed that I was about to die; but she did only weary me and was an hindrance unto me.

Once, before that I had finished giving all I possessed unto the poor (albeit but little then remained for me to give), when I was persevering in these matters, it chanced that one evening when I was at prayer methought I did feel nothing whatsoever of God.  Wherefore I lamented and prayed unto God, saying:

“Lord, that which I do, I do only that I may find Thee; wherefore, having done it, do Thou grant me the grace that I may find Thee.”

And many other similar things did I say in my prayer, and this answer was vouchsafed unto me, “What desirest thou?”

Then I said: “I desire neither gold nor silver; yea, if Thou wouldst give me the whole world I would not accept it, seeing that I desire Thee only.”

Then did He say unto me, “Strive diligently and make thyself ready, for when thou hast accomplished that which thou art now doing, the whole Trinity will descend unto thee.”

Many other things were also promised unto me, which did ease me of my tribulation and fill me with divine sweetness.  And from that hour I did await that the thing which had been told me should be immediately fulfilled.

After this I went unto the church of Saint Francis, near untoAssisi, and the promise was fulfilled by the way as I went thither.  Nevertheless, I had not yet finished giving all things unto the poor, but there was little yet remaining.

As I went unto Saint Francis, therefore, I prayed by the way.  And amongst other prayers, I did ask the Blessed Francis that he would implore God for me, that I might serve well his Order, unto which I had but lately renewed my promises, and that he would obtain for me the grace that I might feel somewhat of Christ, but above all, that He would make me become poor and end my days in poverty.  For this cause (namely, to have the liberty of poverty) had I journeyed unto Rome, to pray the Blessed Peter that he would obtain for me the grace of true poverty.  And thus, through the merits of the Blessed Peter and the Blessed Francis the gift of true poverty was vouchsafed unto me by divine mercy, even as I was asking for them in prayer as I walked by the way.

Now when I was come to that place which lieth between Spello and the narrow road which leadeth upward unto Assisi, and is beyond Spello, it was said unto me:

“Thou hast prayed unto My servant Francis, and I have not willed to send thee another messenger.  I am the Holy Spirit, who am come unto thee to bring thee such consolation as thou hast never before tasted.  And I will go with thee even unto Saint Francis; I shall be within thee and but few of those who are with thee will perceive it.  I will bear thee company and will speak with thee all the way; I will make no end to my speaking and thou wilt not be able to attend unto any save unto Me, for I have bound thee and will not depart from thee until thou comest for the second time unto Saint Francis.  Then will I depart from thee in so far as this present consolation is concerned, but in no other manner will I ever leave thee, and thou shalt love Me.”

Then began He to speak the following words unto me, which did persuade me to love after this manner:

“My daughter who art sweet unto Me, my daughter who art My temple; My beloved daughter, do thou love Me, for I do greatly love thee and much more than thou lovest Me.”  And very often did He say unto me: “Bride and daughter, sweet art thou unto Me, I love thee better than any other who is in the valley of Spolero.  Forasmuch as I have rested and reposed in thee, do thou also rest thyself and repose in Me.  I have been with the apostles, who did behold Me with their bodily eyes, but they did not feel Me as thou feelest Me.  When thou shalt be come unto thine house thou shalt feel another sweetness, such as thou hast never yet experienced.  I shall not speak unto thee as I now speak, but thou wilt only feel Me.  Thou hast prayed unto My servant Francis, hoping with him and through him to obtain the things thou desirest, seeing that as my servant Francis hath greatly loved Me, I have done many things for him.  If there were to-day any person who loved Me more, much more would I do for him.”

Then said He unto me that there are few good persons in these days and but little faith, for which cause He did lament, saying, “So great is the love of the soul who loveth Me without sin, that, if there were any one who loved Me perfectly, I would show him greater mercy than I have ever shown hitherto, and Thou knowest that many great things are recorded which I have done unto divers persons in times past.”

None can excuse themselves for not having this love, because it is possible for all persons to love God, and He asketh nothing save that the soul shall love and seek Him.  He is the love of the soul.  But these are deep sayings.

In the meantime I had remembered all my sins, and on my side I beheld nothing save sins and wrong-doing, so that I did feel greater humility than I had ever felt before.  Then did He tell me that I was beloved, that the Son of God and of the Virgin Mary had inclined Himself unto me and was come to speak with me.  Wherefore Christ said unto me:―

“If all the world came now unto thee, thou couldst not speak with others; for when I come unto thee, there cometh more than all the world.”  But in order to calm my doubts He said: “I am He who was crucified for thee, and for thy sake did I endure hunger and thirst, and so greatly have I loved thee that I did shed My blood for thee,” and He expounded unto me all His Passion and said: “Ask mercy for thyself and for thy companions and for all whom thou wilt, for I am much more ready to give than thou art to receive.”

Then did my soul cry aloud, saying, “I will not ask, for I am not worthy and I remember all my sins!”  And it said further, “If Thou who hast spoken with me from the beginning wert truly the Holy Spirit, Thou wouldst not have told me such great things; and if Thou wert verily within me, then my joy would be so great that I could not bear it and live.”

I can never describe the joy and sweetness which I felt, especially when He said, “I am the Holy Spirit who am entering into thee;” but briefly, great was the sweetness which I received at each one of His sayings.

In this manner, therefore, I did arrive at Saint Francis’, as He had foretold. And He departed not from me, but remained with me, even when I sat down to meat, until I went unto Saint Francis’ for the second time.

When I did bend my knees upon entering in at the door of the church, I immediately beheld a picture of Saint Francis lying in Christ’s bosom.  Then said Christ unto me:―

“Thus closely will I hold thee, and so much closer that bodily eyes can neither perceive nor comprehend it.  But now, My beloved daughter and temple of My delight, the hour is come when I must fill thee with My spirit and must leave thee.  I have told thee that because of this consolation I must leave thee; nevertheless, if thou lovest Me, I will not leave thee.”

Albeit the words were bitter, yet were they full of joy.  Then looked I, that I might behold with the eyes of both body and mind.  And I beheld; and if thou seekest to know what I beheld, truly I can only say that it was a thing full of great majesty; and more than this can I not say, save that it seemed unto me to be full of all goodness.  Then He departed with great gentleness; not suddenly, but slowly and gradually.  Of the words which He spake unto me, the greatest are these:―

“Oh my daughter, who art sweeter unto Me than I am unto thee, temple of My delight, thou dost possess the ring of My love and art promised unto Me, so that henceforth thou shalt never leave Me.  The blessing of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be upon thee and thine understanding.”

Then cried my soul, “If only Thou wilt not leave me, I will commit no mortal sin!”

And He answered me, “That say I not unto thee.”  Then as He was departing, I did ask a blessing for my companion, and He replied, “Unto her will I give another blessing,” and so He departed.  And at His departure He would not that I should prostrate myself before Him, but that I should stand upon my feet.  But after that He was gone I fell down upon a seat and began to cry with a loud voice, clamouring and calling without any shame and uttering these words, “Oh Love, heretofore have I never known Thee, why leavest Thou me in this manner?”  And more than this I could not Say, for my voice was so suffocated with crying that scarce could I pronounce even this, wherefore was it not heard by the persons around me.

This clamouring and crying did come upon me as I entered into the door of the church of Saint Francis.  Here was I overwhelmed again and began to make a noise and call aloud in the presence of all the people, that those who were come with me and did know me did stand afar off and were ashamed, believing that I did it for another reason.  So was I left with the certainty that it was God who had spoken with me; and because of His sweetness and the grief of His departure did I cry aloud, desiring to die.  And seeing that I did not die, the grief of being separated from Him was so great that all the joints of my limbs did fall asunder.

When I was returned I stayed within the house, and I felt a sweetness so peaceful, quiet, and great that I know not how to describe it.  Wherefore did I long for death, and because of the aforesaid peace and sweet joyfulness was life a greater grief unto me than I can say.  I longed for death that I might attain unto that delight of the which I now felt something, and because of this did I wish to depart from this world.  Life was a greater grief unto me than had been the deaths of my mother and my children, more heavy than any other grief of which I can bethink me.

Thus did I remain eight days within the house, all feeble.  And I cried, “Lord, have mercy upon me and grant that I may remain no longer in this world.”  From this time forth I was often aware of indescribable odours; but these and other things can I not explain, so great was the sweetness and joy which I did feel in them.  The voice spake unto me many other times, but never at any great length, nor with so much sweetness or deep meaning.


Tenth Vision and Consolation

Upon another occasion whilst I was at prayer, exceeding pleasant words were spoken unto me after this manner:

“Oh my daughter, who art far sweeter unto Me than I am unto thee; thou art the temple of My delight, and the heart of the Omnipotent God resteth upon thy heart.”

Together with these words there came upon me a feeling of the utmost joy, such as I had never before experienced, inasmuch as all the members of my body felt it.  And as I did prostrate myself at these words, it was further told me:

“The Omnipotent God loveth thee more dearly than any other woman of this city.  He rejoiceth in thee and in thy companion.  De ye both strive, therefore, that your lives be as a light unto all who desire to follow your example; but unto those who follow you not, shall your lives be as a judgment strict and hard.”

Albeit I had great joy of this matter, yet did I remember my sins and I did esteem that neither now or at any time had there been in me any good which might be pleasing unto God.  Wherefore began I to doubt, seeing that great things had been spoken unto me; and I said:

“If Thou who speakest unto me wert truly the Son of Almighty God, my soul would feel a joy higher and greater than this, and I should not be able to bear it, feeling that Thou wert in me, who am so unworthy.”

Then I besought Him that He would give me some tangible sign, something which I could see; such as putting a candle into my hand, or a precious stone, or some other thing, or that He would give me any sign He pleased, promising Him that I would show it unto no person save unto whom He should desire.  Then He replied:

“This sign that thou seekest is one that would only give thee great joy when thou didst behold or touch it, but it would not free thee from doubt, and thou mightest be deceived by that sign.  Therefore will I give thee another sign, better than the one thou seekest, and which will be for ever with thee, and in thy soul thou shalt always feel it.  The sign shall be this: thou shalt be ever fervent in love, and the love and the enlightened knowledge of God shall be ever with thee and in thee.  This shall be a certain sign unto thee that I am He, because none save I can do this.  And this is a sign which I will leave in thy soul, the which is better for thee than that which thou didst ask of Me.  My love do I leave in thee, so that for love of Me thou wilt endure tribulations, and if any person speak or do evil unto thee thou wilt be grateful, declaring thyself unworthy of so much mercy.  Such is the love which I bare unto you all, for whose sake I patiently and humbly endured all things.  Thus thou shalt know whether or not I am in thee if, when any person shall speak or do evil unto thee, thou art not only patient, but even desirous that they should hurt thee and be grateful unto them.  And this is a certain sign of the grace of God.  And behold, I do now anoint thee with an ointment wherewith a saint called Siricus and many other saints were anointed.”

Then did I immediately feel that ointment, and so sweet was it that I longed for death, and that I might die with all manner of bodily torments.  The torments suffered by the martyrs who had died for Christ did I esteem as naught, and I desired that for love of Him my torments should be more terrible than theirs, and that the world should cry out upon me with insults and revilings.

Moreover, I rejoiced greatly in praying for those who might work me these evils, and I marveled not at the saints who prayed for their murderers and prosecutors; for not only ought we to pray unto God for them, but we should beseech Him to grant them especial grace.  Therefore was I ready to pray for those who did me evil, to love them with a great love, and to take compassion upon them.  In that anointing I did feel such sweetness both within and without that I never felt the like before, and I have no words wherewith I can show forth the least part of it.

This consolation was different, and of a nature unlike the others.  For in the others I had desired immediately to quit this world, but in this my desire was that my death should be grievous and prolonged, with all manner of torments, and that my members should suffer all the tortures of the world.  Yet all this seemed but a small thing unto me, for my soul knew well that every torment was but a small thing in comparison with the blessings promised in the life eternal.  My soul knew of a certainty that it was thus, and if all the wise men of the world had told me the contrary, I should not have believed them.  And if I should swear that all who walked upon the aforesaid way would be saved, I should believe that I spake the truth.

This sign did God leave so firmly implanted in my soul, with so bright and clear a light, that me thinketh I could endure any martyrdom.  This sign, moreover, leadeth continually upon the straight way of salvation, that is to say, it leadeth unto love and the desire to suffer for love of God.

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Filed under Afterlife, Angela of Foligno, Christianity, Europe, Martyrdom, Middle Ages, Selections

(c. 240–c. 320)

from The Divine Institutes


Born sometime between 230 and 260 in proconsular North Africa to a non-Christian family who lived at Carthage, Lucius Caecilius Firmianus Lactantius became a rhetorician and professor of oratory in Nicomedia, in northwest Asia Minor. Known for his Latin prose style, he was sometimes called the “Christian Cicero” by Renaissance scholars. He had been appointed (c. 290) to his professorship at Nicomedia by the Roman emperor Diocletian, but when Diocletian began to initiate what came to be known as the Great Persecution, Lactantius, who had converted to Christianity by this time, resigned his professorship (c. 305) and began to write defenses of Christian theology for both Christians and non-Christian academics. He sought to refute polytheism and to show the falsity of pagan philosophy while demonstrating the truth of Christian tenets. After Constantine became emperor, he lifted Lactantius out of poverty and invited him to Trier to tutor his son, Crispus.

In The Divine Institutes (303–310), the first systematic summary in Latin of Christian teaching, Lactantius attacks Greek and Roman views of suicide. He addresses Plato’s view of the immortality of the soul and Cicero’s view that death will be better than life, or at least no worse. Lactantius replies, on the contrary, that death cannot be assumed to be good, but relative to a good or bad life lived. Lactantius also claims that the venerated Stoic examples of suicide, including such notable instances as that of Cato, were actually homicide victims of Stoic philosophy. Lactantius derides what he sees as an erroneous pagan “balance-sheet” mentality weighing pleasure against pain. Lactantius is the first writer in the Christian tradition to argue, as he does in this work, that killing oneself is worse than killing another person, a view that gains considerable currency in later Christian thought.

The dates of Lactantius’ life are not known. Estimates of his lifespan generally range between the years 240 and 330.


Lactantius, The Divine Institutes, Book III, chs. 18–19. Trans. Rev. William Fletcher. In The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 7. Buffalo: 1886; New York 1899–1900. Available online at Christian Classic Ethereal Library.



The Pythagoreans and Stoics, While They Hold the Immortality of the Soul, Foolishly Persuade a Voluntary Death

Others, again, discuss things contrary to these, namely, that the soul survives after death; and these are chiefly the Pythagoreans and Stoics. And although they are to be treated with indulgence because they perceive the truth, yet I cannot but blame them, because they fell upon the truth not by their opinion, but by accident. And thus they erred in some degree even in that very matter which they rightly perceived. For, since they feared the argument by which it is inferred that the soul must necessarily die with the body, because it is born with the body, they asserted that the soul is not born with the body, but rather introduced into it, and that it migrates from one body to another. They did not consider that it was possible for the soul to survive the body, unless it should appear to have existed previously to the body. There is therefore an equal and almost similar error on each side. But the one side are deceived with respect to the past, the other with respect to the future. For no one saw that which is most true, that the soul is both created and does not die, because they were ignorant why that came to pass, or what was the nature of man. Many therefore of them, because they suspected that the soul is immortal, laid violent hands upon themselves, as though they were about to depart to heaven. Thus it was with Cleanthes and Chrysippus, with Zeno, and Empedocles, who in the dead of night cast himself into a cavity of the burning Ætna, that when he had suddenly disappeared it might be believed that he had departed to the gods; and thus also of the Romans Cato died, who through the whole of his life was an imitator of Socratic ostentation. For Democritus was of another persuasion. But, however, “By his own spontaneous act he offered up his head to death”; and nothing can be more wicked than this. For if a homicide is guilty because he is a destroyer of man, he who puts himself to death is under the same guilt, because he puts to death a man. Yea, that crime may be considered to be greater, the punishment of which belongs to God alone. For as we did not come into this life of our own accord; so, on the other hand, we can only withdraw from this habitation of the body which has been appointed for us to keep, by the command of Him who placed us in this body that we may inhabit it, until He orders us to depart from it; and if any violence is offered to us, we must endure it with equanimity, since the death of an innocent person cannot be unavenged, and since we have a great Judge who alone always has the power of taking vengeance in His hands.

All these philosophers, therefore, were homicides; and Cato himself, the chief of Roman wisdom, who, before he put himself to death, is said to have read through the treatise of Plato which he wrote on the immortality of the soul, and was led by the authority of the philosopher to the commission of this great crime; yet he, however, appears to have had some cause for death in his hatred of slavery. Why should I speak of the Ambraciot [Theombrotus]who, having read the same treatise, threw himself into the sea, for no other cause than that he believed Plato?—a doctrine altogether detestable and to be avoided, if it drives men from life. But if Plato had known and taught by whom, and how, and to whom, and on account of what actions, and at what time, immortality is given, he would neither have driven Cleombrotus [Theombrotus] nor Cato to a voluntary death, but he would have trained them to live with justice. For it appears to me that Cato sought a cause for death, not so much that he might escape from Cæsar, as that he might obey the decrees of the Stoics, whom he followed, and might make his name distinguished by some great action; and I do not see what evil could have happened to him if he had lived. For Caius Cæsar, such was his clemency, had no other object, even in the very heat of civil war, than to appear to deserve well of the state, by preserving two excellent citizens, Cicero and Cato. But let us return to those who praise death as a benefit. You complain of life as though you had lived, or had ever settled with yourself why you were born at all. May not therefore the true and common Father of all justly find fault with that saying of Terence:—

“First, learn in what life consists; then, if you shall be dissatisfied with life, have recourse to death.”

You are indignant that you are exposed to evils; as though you deserved anything good, who are ignorant of your Father, Lord, and King; who, although you behold with your eyes the bright light, are nevertheless blind in mind, and lie in the depths of the darkness of….

…[T]hose who assert the advantage of death, because they know nothing of the truth, thus reason: If there is nothing after death, death is not an evil; for it takes away the perception of evil. But if the soul survives, death is even an advantage; because immortality follows. And this sentiment is thus set forth by Cicero concerning the Laws: “We may congratulate ourselves, since death is about to bring either a better state than that which exists in life, or at any rate not a worse. For if the soul is in a state of vigour without the body, it is a divine life; and if it is without perception, assuredly there is no evil.” Cleverly argued, as it appeared to himself, as though there could be no other state. But each conclusion is false. For the sacred writings teach that the soul is not annihilated; but that it is either rewarded according to its righteousness, or eternally punished according to its crimes. For neither is it right, that he who has lived a life of wickedness in prosperity should escape the punishment which he deserves; nor that he who has been wretched on account of his righteousness, should be deprived of his reward. And this is so true, that Tully also, in his Consolation, declared that the righteous and the wicked do not inhabit the same abodes. For those same wise men, he says, did not judge that the same course was open for all into the heaven; for they taught that those who were contaminated by vices and crimes were thrust down into darkness, and lay in the mire; but that, on the other hand, souls that were chaste, pure, upright, and uncontaminated, being also refined by the study and practice of virtue, by a light and easy course take their flight to the gods, that is, to a nature resembling their own. But this sentiment is opposed to the former argument. For that is based on the assumption that every man at his birth is presented with immortality. What distinction, therefore, will there be between virtue and guilt, if it makes no difference whether a man be Aristides or Phalaris, whether he be Cato or Catiline? But a man does not perceive this opposition between sentiments and actions, unless he is in possession of the truth. If any one, therefore, should ask me whether death is a good or an evil, I shall reply that its character depends upon the course of the life. For as life itself is a good if it is passed virtuously, but an evil if it is spent viciously, so also death is to be weighed in accordance with the past actions of life. And so it comes to pass, that if life has been passed in the service of God, death is not an evil, for it is a translation to immortality. But if not so, death must necessarily be an evil, since it transfers men, as I have said, to everlasting punishment….

…What, then, shall we say, but that they are in error who either desire death as a good, or flee from life as an evil? unless they are most unjust, who do not weigh the fewer evils against the greater number of blessings. For when they pass all their lives in a variety of the choicest gratifications, if any bitterness has chanced to succeed to these, they desire to die; and they so regard it as to appear never to have fared well, if at any time they happen to fare ill. Therefore they condemn the whole of life, and consider it as nothing else than filled with evils. Hence arose that foolish sentiment, that this state which we imagine to be life is death, and that that which we fear as death is life; and so that the first good is not to be born, that the second is an early death….

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Filed under Africa, Afterlife, Ancient History, Christianity, Europe, Lactantius, Selections

(c. 55-c. 135)

from Discourses:
   How from the Doctrine of Our       Relationship to God We Are to       Deduce Its Consequences
   How We Should Bear Illness
   Of Freedom


Born in Hierapolis, Phrygia (modern Turkey) to a slave woman, Epictetus was himself a slave during his childhood and adolescence. He was lame, according to Origen’s account, from injuries caused by his master Epaphroditus’s twisting his leg until he broke it, although others accounts describe Epaphroditus as a good master. Epaphroditus, himself a freedman of Nero, sent Epictetus to study with the most influential Stoic teacher and theoretician of the time, Gaius Musonius Rufus, and Epictetus was freed by his master, or on the death of his master, sometime after Nero’s death in 68. Epictetus traveled to Rome and began instructing students in Stoicism. In the year 90, he was expelled, along with other Stoic philosophers, by the Roman emperor Domitian, and then moved to Epirus, where he led a large, thriving school of Stoic physics, logic, and ethics. He did not marry, but in his old age, with the help of a nurse, he took in an orphaned child who would otherwise have been exposed. Epictetus’ teachings were collected in two volumes by his pupil Lucius Flavius Arrian: the Discourses, written about 108, of which four of eight books survive, and the Encheiridion (also called the Manual or Handbook), made up of fragments from the Discourses. Arrian explains their informal expression by saying he did not intend to write a book, but to keep notes of what he used to hear Epictetus say “word for word in the very language he used, as far as possible, to capture the directness of his speech.”

Epictetus espoused the Stoic view of the ideal condition for a human being—to be aware of, yet immune to, the bruisings of fortune—to lack all dissatisfaction with anything about the world, to be disappointed by nothing, and to achieve an impersonal point of view. Yet Epictetus also held that if you can help people adjust their desires and attitudes to more realistic levels, you can help them improve their lives. To live in accordance with virtue is to live in accordance with nature, but in giving practical advice, Epictetus clearly realized that lowered expectations were less likely to be disappointed.

A number of Stoic thinkers, especially Seneca, celebrated suicide as the act of the wise man: it was the guarantee of freedom. Epictetus stressed a component of the Stoic view that suicide ought not to be undertaken too quickly to avoid suffering, since people can live best by accepting their powerlessness over circumstances through their capacity for control of the will and by refusing to allow the vicissitudes of life, even illness, to affect them. One need not in general kill oneself to avoid the sufferings of life, and to do so without good reason would be inappropriate. Epictetus used the Platonic (and originally Pythagorean) argument that traded on the metaphor of the person as guard or sentinel, stationed by God at a post, to discourage suicide in response to painful circumstances: “Friends, wait for God, till he give the signal and dismiss you from this service; then depart to him. For the present, endure to remain at this post where he has placed you.” Strategies like analysis, delay, detachment, and so on may minimize fortune’s blows. Yet suicide is the most drastic method of escaping pain, and it can certainly be used when all else has failed: The door, to use the frequent Stoic metaphor, is always open.


Epictetus, Discourses,  Book 1, ch.  9; Book III, ch. 10; Book IV, ch. 1, tr. Thomas Wentworth Higginson (1865), Roslyn, New York: Walter J. Black, Inc., 1944, pp. 27-28, 198-199, 281-282.


How From the Doctrine of Our Relationship to God We Are to Deduce Its Consequences

I think that your old teacher ought not to have to be working to keep you from thinking or speaking too meanly or ignobly of yourselves, but should rather be working to keep young men of spirit who, knowing their affinity to the gods and how we are, as it were, fettered by the body and its possessions, and by the many other things that thus are needful for the daily pursuits of life, from resolving to throw them all off, as troublesome and vexatious and useless, and depart to their divine kindred.

This is the work that ought to employ your master and teacher, if you had one.   You would come to him and say: “Epictetus, we can no longer bear being tied down to this poor body-feeding, and resting, and cleaning it, and vexed with so many low cares on its account. Are not these things indifferent and nothing to us and death no evil?  Are we not kindred to God; and did we not come from him?  Suffer us to go back whence we came.  Suffer us to be released at last from these fetters that bind and weigh us down. Here thieves and robbers, courts and tyrants, claim power over us, through the body and its possessions. Suffer us to show them that they have no power.”

In which case it would be my part to answer: “Friends, wait for God, till he give the signal and dismiss you from this service; then depart to him.  For the present, endure to remain at this post where he has placed you.  The time of your abode here is short and easy for men like you; for what tyrant, what thief, or what court can be formidable to those who count as nothing the body and its possessions?  Wait, do not foolishly depart.”


How We Should Bear Illness

Now is your time for a fever. Bear it well. For thirst; bear it well. For hunger; bear it well. Is it not in your power? Who shall restrain you? A physician may restrain you from drinking, but he cannot restrain you from bearing your thirst well. He may restrain you from eating, but he cannot restrain you from bearing hunger well. “But I cannot follow my studies.” And for what end do you follow them, slave? Is it not that you may think and act in conformity with nature? What restrains you, but that, in a fever, you may keep your reason in harmony with nature?

Here is the test of the matter.  Here is the trial of the philosopher; for a fever is a part of life, as is a walk, a voyage, or a journey.  Do you read when you are walking?  No, nor in a fever.  But when you walk well, you attend to what belongs to a walker; so, if you bear a fever well, you have everything belonging to one in a fever.  What is it to bear a fever well?  Not to blame either God or man, not to be afflicted at what happens, to await death bravely, and to do what is to be done.  When the physician enters, not to dread what he may say; nor, if he should tell you that you are doing well to be too much rejoiced; for what good has he told you?  When you were in health, what good did it do you?  Not to be dejected when he tells you that you are very ill; for what is it to be very ill?  To be near the separation of soul and body.  What harm is there in this, then?  If you are not near it now, will you not be near it hereafter?  What, will the world be quite overturned when you die?  Why, then, do you flatter your physician?  Why do you say, “If you please, sir, I shall do well”?  Why do you give him occasion to put on airs?  Why not give him what is his due (with regard to an insignificant body—which is not yours, but by nature mortal) as you do a shoemaker about your foot, or a carpenter about a house?  It is the season for these things, to one in a fever.  If he fulfills these, he has what belongs to him.  For it is not the business of a philosopher to take care of these mere externals—of his wine, his oil, or his body—but of his reason.  And how with regard to externals?  Not to behave inconsiderately about them.

What occasion is there, then for fear; what occasion for anger, for desire, about things that belong to others, or are of no value?  For two rules we should always have ready—that there is nothing good or evil save in the will; and that we are not to lead events, but to follow them.


Of Freedom

[Socrates] did not even deliberate about it; though he knew that, perhaps, he might die for it.  But what did that signify to him?  For it was something else that he wanted to preserve, not his flesh; but his fidelity, his honor, free from attack or subjection.  And afterwards, when he was to make a defense for his life, does he behave like one having children, or a wife?  No, but like a man alone in the world.  And how does he behave, when required to drink the poison?  When he might escape, and Crito would have him escape from prison for the sake of his children, what did he say?  Does he think it a fortune opportunity?  How should he?  But he considers what is becoming, and neither sees nor regards anything else.  “For I am not desirous,” he says, “to preserve this pitiful body; but that part which is improved and preserved by justice, and impaired and destroyed by injustice.”  Socrates is not to be basely preserved.  He who refused to vote for what the Athenians commanded; he who despised the thirty tyrants; he who held such discourses on virtue and mortal beauty—such a man is not to be preserved by a base action, but is preserved by dying, instead of running away.  For a good actor is saved when he stops when he should stop, rather than acting beyond his time.

“What then will become of your children?”  “If I had gone away into Thessaly, you would have taken care of them; and will there be no one to take care of them when I am departed to Hades?”1  You see how he ridicules and plays with death.  But if it had been you or I, we should presently have proved by philosophical arguments that those who act unjustly are to be repaid in their own way; and should have added, “If I escape I shall be of use to many; if I die, to none.”  Nay, if it had been necessary, we should have crept through a mouse hole to get away.  But how should we have been of use to anybody?  Where could we be of use?  If we were useful alive, should we not be of still more use to mankind by dying when we ought and as we ought?  And now the remembrance of the death of Socrates is not less, but even more useful to the world than that of the things which he did and said when alive.

Study these points, these principles, these discourses; contemplate these examples if you would be free, if you desire the thing in proportion to its value.  And where is the wonder that you should purchase so good a thing at the price of other things, be they never so many and so great?  Some hang themselves, others break their necks, and sometimes even whole cities have been destroyed for that which is reputed freedom; and will not you for the sake of the true and secure and inviolable freedom, repay God what he has given when he demands it?  Will you study not only, as Plato says, how to die, but how to be tortured and banished and scourged; and, in short, how to give up all that belongs to others?

If not, you will be a slave among slaves, though you were ten thousand times a consul; and even though you should rise to the palace, you will be a slave none the less.

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(c. 100 B.C.)

On Suicide


The Milindapañha, or The Questions of King Milinda, sometimes assigned to one of the “three baskets” of the Pali canon of early Buddhist texts by the Burmese edition, is usually understood as a paracanonical text of Theravada Buddhism, the earlier, more conservative of the two principal branches of Buddhism. Theravada, closer to the teachings of the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama  (c. 563–483 B.C.), emphasizes the ideal of the arhat, the enlightened individual in his progress towards nirvana. Mahayana in contrast stresses the ideal of the boddhisattva, dedicated to helping others achieve enlightenment.

The Questions of King Milinda consist of a dialogue between the Indo-Greek king Menander I, who reigned about 155–130 B.C. and was one of the Bactrian kings to invade farthest into India, and the Buddhist monk Mahathera Nagasena, believed to have been a historical figure who was sent to the kingdoms of Bactria as a Buddhist missionary at the time of Menander’s rule. Menander (known as Milinda in Buddhist traditions), who was arrogant and impatient because he could not find an intellect sufficiently keen to explain the teachings of Buddhism, found his match in Nagasena. The dating of the text is difficult, but it could not have originated earlier than the reign of Menander in the 2nd century B.C., and it is known that the book was translated into Chinese sometime between 317 and 420 A.D.. Most scholars place the composition of the Questions around 100 B.C. or a century later, possibly as late as the end of the 2nd century A.D.. According to legend, the Questions were compiled by the same monk who speaks in the dialogue, Nagasena.

The Questions of King Milinda is a significant and valuable work for many reasons. It records one of the earliest meetings between Buddhist and Hellenistic cultures; it gives a historical view of the 2nd-century Bactrian milieu; and it provides a nearly comprehensive understanding of Theravada Buddhist thought. Some of the important topics raised in the dialogue are the nature of truth, the problem of evil, why philosophical inquiry is unavailing in these issues, and how the process of rebirth occurs. In one portion of the text, King Menander asks how the Buddha can teach the need to overcome “old age, disease, and death” while proscribing suicide as a means to avoid these evils; he points out an apparent contradiction in Buddhist teaching, since it both prohibits suicide but also encourages the putting of an end to life in its doctrine of escape from suffering and rebirth. Nagasena then explains why the Buddha forbade self-killing, citing the reason that a person who is truly good, who is “full of benefit to all beings” should not “be done away with.” According to The Questions and to Buddhist legend, although not historically confirmed, Menander abdicated his throne as a result of his encounter with Nagasena and joined the Buddhist sangha.


Milindapañha. The Questions of King Milinda, Part I, sections 13-15, tr. T. W. Rhys Davids, in The Sacred Books of the East, Vol. 35, ed. F. Max Müller, Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1890. Dover reprint, 1963, pp. 273-278, available online at, from the Internet Sacred Texts Archive.



‘Venerable Nâgasena, it has been said by the Blessed One: “A brother is not, O Bhikkhus, to commit suicide. Whosoever does so shall be dealt with according to the law.” And on the other hand you (members of the Order) say: “On whatsoever subject the Blessed One was addressing the disciples, he always, and with various similes, preached to them in order to bring about the destruction of birth, of old age, of disease, and of death. And whosoever overcame birth, old age, disease, and death, him did he honour with the highest praise.” Now if the Blessed One forbade suicide that saying of yours must be wrong, but if not then the prohibition of suicide must be wrong. This too is a double-edged problem now put to you, and you have to solve it.’

‘The regulation you quote, O king, was laid down by the Blessed One, and yet is our saying you refer to true. And there is a reason for this, a reason for which the Blessed One both prohibited (the destruction of life), and also (in another sense) instigated us to it.’

‘What, Nâgasena, may that reason be?’

‘The good man, O king, perfect in uprightness, is like a medicine to men 1 in being an antidote to the poison of evil, he is like water to men in laying the dust and the impurities of evil dispositions, he is like a jewel treasure to men in bestowing upon them all attainments in righteousness, he is like a boat to men inasmuch as he conveys them to the further shore of the four flooded streams (of lust, individuality, delusion, and ignorance) 2, he is like a caravan owner to men in that he brings them beyond the sandy desert of rebirths, he is like a mighty rain cloud to men in that he fills their hearts with satisfaction, he is like a teacher to men in that he trains them in all good, he is like a good guide to men in that he points out to them the path of peace. It was in order that so good a man as that, one whose good qualities are so many, so various, so immeasurable, in order that so great a treasure mine of good things, so full of benefit to all beings, might not be done away with, that the Blessed One, O king, out of his mercy towards all beings, laid down that injunction, when he said: “A brother is not, O Bhikkhus, to commit suicide. Whosoever does so shall be dealt with according to the law.” This is the reason for which the Blessed One prohibited (self-slaughter). And it was said, O king, by the Elder Kumâra Kassapa, the eloquent, when he was describing to Pâyâsi the Râganya the other world: “So long as Samanas and Brahmans of uprightness of life, and beauty of character, continue to exist–however long that time may be–just so long do they conduct themselves to the advantage and happiness of the great masses of the people, to the good and the gain and the weal of gods and men!”‘

‘And what is the reason for which the Blessed One instigated us (to put an end to life)? Birth, O king, is full of pain, and so is old age, and disease, and death. Sorrow is painful, and so is lamentation, and pain, and grief, and despair. Association with the unpleasant is painful, and separation from the pleasant.  The death of a mother is painful, or of a father, or a brother, or a sister, or a son, or a wife, or of any relative. Painful is the ruin of one’s family, and the suffering of disease, and the loss of wealth, and decline in goodness, and the loss of insight. Painful is the fear produced by despots, or by robbers, or by enemies, or by famine, or by fire, or by flood, or by the tidal wave, or by earthquake, or by crocodiles or alligators. Painful is the fear of possible blame attaching to oneself, or to others, the fear of punishment, the fear of misfortune. Painful is the fear arising from shyness in the presence of assemblies of one’s fellows, painful is anxiety as to one’s means of livelihood, painful the foreboding of death.  Painful are (the punishments inflicted on criminals), such as being flogged with whips, or with sticks, or with split rods, having one’s hands cut off, or one’s feet, or one’s hands and feet, or one’s ears, or one’s nose, or one’s ears and nose. Painful are (the tortures inflicted on traitors)–being subjected to the Gruel Pot (that is, having boiling gruel poured into one’s head from the top of which the skull bone has been removed)–or to the Chank Crown  (that is, having the scalp rubbed with gravel till it becomes smooth like a polished shell)–or to the Râhu’s Mouth (that is, having one’s mouth held open by iron pins, and oil put in it, and a wick lighted therein)–or to the Fire Garland  or to the Hand Torch, (that is, being made a living torch, the whole body, or the arms only, being wrapped up in oily cloths, and set on fire)–or to the Snake Strips  (that is, being skinned in strips from the neck to the hips, so that the skin falls in strips round the legs)or to the Bark Dress  (that is, being skinned alive from the neck downwards, and having each strip of skin as soon as removed tied to the hair, so that these strips form a veil around one)–or to the Spotted Antelope (that is, having one’s knees and elbows tied together, and being made to squat on a plate of iron under which a fire is lit)–or to the Flesh-hooks  (that is, being hung up on a row of iron hooks)–or to the Pennies  (that is, having bits cut out of the flesh, all over the body, of the size of pennies)–or to the Brine Slits  (that is, having cuts made all over one’s body by means of knives or sharp points, and then having salt and caustic liquids poured over the wounds)–or to the Bar Turn  (that is, being transfixed to the ground by a bar of iron passing through the root of the ear, and then being dragged round and round by the leg)–or to the Straw Seat  (that is, being so beaten with clubs that the bones are broken, and the body becomes like a heap of straw)–or to be anointed with boiling oil, or to be eaten by dogs, or to be impaled alive, or to be beheaded. Such and such, O king, are the manifold and various pains which a being caught in the whirlpool of births and rebirths has to endure. just, O king, as the water rained down upon the Himâlaya mountain flows, in its course along the Ganges, through and over rocks and pebbles and gravel, whirlpools and eddies and rapids, and the stumps and branches of trees which obstruct and oppose its passage,–just so has each being caught in the succession of births and rebirths to endure such and such manifold and various pains. Full of pain, then, is the continual succession of rebirths, a joy is it when that succession ends. And it was in pointing out the advantage of that end, the disaster involved in that succession, that the Blessed One, great king, instigated us to get beyond birth, and old age, and disease, and death by the realisation of the final end of that succession of rebirths. This is the sense, O king, which led the Blessed One to instigate us (to put an end to life).’

‘Very good, Nâgasena! Well solved is the puzzle (I put), well set forth are the reasons (you alleged). That is so, and I accept it as you say.’

[Here ends the problem as to suicide.]

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(c. 424-c. 348 B.C.)

Apology: Socrates On Being    Condemned to Death
Phaedo: The Death of Socrates
Republic: On Medicine
Laws: Recidivist Criminals and    Penalties for Suicide


Plato was born in Athens into an aristocratic family during the Peloponnesian War, in the waning years of Greece’s golden age, when Athens was in decline after having been the cultural, political, and military center of Greece. According to an ancient story, his original name was Aristocles; he was given the surname Plato (Greek for “broad” or “wide”) because of his broad shoulders, or, in other versions, broad forehead or wide range of knowledge. Plato’s principal teacher, Socrates, to whom he later gave the role of philosophical protagonist in his early and middle-period Dialogues, was unjustly convicted and sentenced to death by a democratic government in 399 B.C.; this would later be of central influence in Plato’s Dialogues, especially the Apology and Crito, and the monumental philosophical work The Republic. In the years after Socrates’ death, Plato traveled widely. In about 387, after returning to Athens, he founded the Academy, a center of philosophical and mathematical learning; Aristotle [q.v.], Plato’s student, was one of the Academy’s many pupils. Plato also traveled on several occasions to Syracuse, where he sought to persuade Dion, the son-in-law of the tyrant Dionysus I, and later Dionysus II, of the importance of the idea of the philosopher-king. Plato died in Athens.

Plato’s well-known Theory of Ideas, or Forms, is the foundation of his dualistic metaphysics. It recognizes two domains, the realm of material objects perceived by the senses and the realm of unchanging, transcendent entities (Ideas, or Forms) that are the eternal truths. Only Ideas are true objects of knowledge; material existence, known by sense-perception, is illusory and can be the subject of opinion only. The philosopher, by reason and contemplation, can come to know the Ideas and thereby achieve true knowledge.

The first two selections are taken from the Apology and Phaedo. When in 399 Socrates was convicted on charges of “not believing in the Gods the State believes in” and “corrupting the youth” by encouraging them to challenge conventional wisdom, he was offered the chance to set his own penalty, but he chose one calculated to irritate the court and so was not set free. In the Apology, Plato offers Socrates’ defense of this choice: “the difficulty is not to avoid death, but to avoid unrighteousness.” Then, in the month intervening between trial and execution, Socrates could have escaped from jail and again could have saved his own life; he chose not to do so. Describing Socrates’ life—and death—in these and other dialogues, Plato portrays Socrates as arguing that there is no contradiction in his submitting freely to death and holding the belief that suicide is forbidden. Plato portrays Socrates’ final conversation as taking place on the day he is to be executed, just before the jailor brings the lethal bowl of hemlock. The section presented here opens as Socrates sends a message to Evenus to “come after me as quickly as he can,” that is, as Cebes interprets it, to die as soon as possible. The resultant conversation explores the distinctions between “engaging in philosophy,” or, as Socrates puts it, “practising nothing other than dying and being dead.” In this passage and the subsequent discussion of death and immortality, of inestimable influence in later religious and philosophical thought in the West, Plato is exploring his view that death will bring independence from sense-perception, the body, the material world, and thus will be welcome to the philosopher in search of fully abstract truth. After this discussion, the selection presented resumes with Plato’s description of Socrates’ final actions as he asks for the cup of hemlock and drinks it. Whether this act itself is a suicide or not has been widely discussed in later literature.

In The Republic Plato explores issues of justice and the ideal form of state. He envisions a utopia where wise philosopher-kings rule and where the balance of faculties in the just individual, where the appetites and emotions are regulated by the intellect, is mirrored in the structure of the state, where the workers and the military are governed by the philosophically just and principled guardians. Against this background, The Republic depicts Socrates conversing with Glaucon about the appropriate role of the physician in the ideal state. The physician, Socrates holds, should treat only acute illness and wounds from which the patient can recover fully enough to return to his work, but there should be no coddling of chronic disease. The man who is sickly or who destroys his own health should recognize that he is “of no use either to himself or the state”; he is not to be given treatment, but allowed to die. Significantly, the obligation is on the patient to decline treatment, rather than on the physician to refrain from providing it; in this indirect sense, the patient is to bring about his own death if he can no longer work.

Plato continued to explore issues of individual responsibility and utility to society in his second treatise attempting to depict a just state, The Laws. In the first passage from The Laws presented here, the Laws themselves appear to recommend suicide, or voluntary subjection to capital punishment, for the recidivist criminal unable to control his behavior: here, having one’s life end is seen as obligatory, though it is not clear whether this is to be brought about by the person himself or by some other party, or whether this is a matter of indifference. In the second passage, Plato asks what penalties should be imposed by the just state for homicide and suicide. He recommends separate burial for the suicide, as was the case in Greek custom, but he also identifies circumstances in which penalties are not to be imposed: judicial execution, disgrace, and the “stress of cruel and inevitable calamity.” Sloth—he may mean what is now understood as depression—and “want of manliness” or cowardice are identified as conditions in which burial penalties for suicide are to be imposed, though even here the penalties are much less severe than those for murder. Some commentators have seen in Plato’s discussion a nascent distinction between rational and irrational suicide, or suicide with and without good reason.


The Dialogues of Plato. Apology, 38C-42A; Phaedo 61B-69E, 116A-118A; Republic III 405A-410A; Laws IX 853A-854D, 862D-863A, 872D-873E, tr. Benjamin Jowett, New York: Random House, 1892, 1920, Vol. I,  pp. 444-453 and 499-501; 669-674; Vol. II, pp. 599-600, 608, 617-618, available online from Project Gutenberg; from the Constitution Society; from the Internet Classics Archive, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.



…Not much time will be gained, O Athenians, in return for the evil name which you will get from the detractors of the city, who will say that you killed Socrates, a wise man; for they will call me wise, even although I am not wise, when they want to reproach you.  If you had waited a little while, your desire would have been fulfilled in the course of nature.  For I am far advanced in years, as you may perceive, and not far from death.  I am speaking now not to all of you, but only to those who have condemned me to death.  And I have another thing to say to them:  you think that I was convicted because I had no words of the sort which would have procured my acquittal–I mean, if I had thought fit to leave nothing undone or unsaid. Not so; the deficiency which led to my conviction was not of words– certainly not.  But I had not the boldness or impudence or inclination to address you as you would have liked me to do, weeping and wailing and lamenting, and saying and doing many things which you have been accustomed to hear from others, and which, as I maintain, are unworthy of me.  I thought at the time that I ought not to do anything common or mean when in danger:  nor do I now repent of the style of my defence; I would rather die having spoken after my manner, than speak in your manner and live.  For neither in war nor yet at law ought I or any man to use every way of escaping death.  Often in battle there can be no doubt that if a man will throw away his arms, and fall on his knees before his pursuers, he may escape death; and in other dangers there are other ways of escaping death, if a man is willing to say and do anything.  The difficulty, my friends, is not to avoid death, but to avoid unrighteousness; for that runs faster than death.  I am old and move slowly, and the slower runner has overtaken me, and my accusers are keen and quick, and the faster runner, who is unrighteousness, has overtaken them.  And now I depart hence condemned by you to suffer the penalty of death,–they too go their ways condemned by the truth to suffer the penalty of villainy and wrong; and I must abide by my award–let them abide by theirs.  I suppose that these things may be regarded as fated,–and I think that they are well.

And now, O men who have condemned me, I would fain prophesy to you; for I am about to die, and in the hour of death men are gifted with prophetic power.  And I prophesy to you who are my murderers, that immediately after my departure punishment far heavier than you have inflicted on me will surely await you.  Me you have killed because you wanted to escape the accuser, and not to give an account of your lives.  But that will not be as you suppose:  far otherwise.  For I say that there will be more accusers of you than there are now; accusers whom hitherto I have restrained:  and as they are younger they will be more inconsiderate with you, and you will be more offended at them.  If you think that by killing men you can prevent some one from censuring your evil lives, you are mistaken; that is not a way of escape which is either possible or honourable; the easiest and the noblest way is not to be disabling others, but to be improving yourselves.  This is the prophecy which I utter before my departure to the judges who have condemned me.

Friends, who would have acquitted me, I would like also to talk with you about the thing which has come to pass, while the magistrates are busy, and before I go to the place at which I must die.  Stay then a little, for we may as well talk with one another while there is time.  You are my friends, and I should like to show you the meaning of this event which has happened to me.  O my judges–for you I may truly call judges–I should like to tell you of a wonderful circumstance.  Hitherto the divine faculty of which the internal oracle is the source has constantly been in the habit of opposing me even about trifles, if I was going to make a slip or error in any matter; and now as you see there has come upon me that which may be thought, and is generally believed to be, the last and worst evil.  But the oracle made no sign of opposition, either when I was leaving my house in the morning, or when I was on my way to the court, or while I was speaking, at anything which I was going to say; and yet I have often been stopped in the middle of a speech, but now in nothing I either said or did touching the matter in hand has the oracle opposed me.  What do I take to be the explanation of this silence?  I will tell you.  It is an intimation that what has happened to me is a good, and that those of us who think that death is an evil are in error.  For the customary sign would surely have opposed me had I been going to evil and not to good.

Let us reflect in another way, and we shall see that there is great reason to hope that death is a good; for one of two things–either death is a state of nothingness and utter unconsciousness, or, as men say, there is a change and migration of the soul from this world to another.  Now if you suppose that there is no consciousness, but a sleep like the sleep of him who is undisturbed even by dreams, death will be an unspeakable gain.  For if a person were to select the night in which his sleep was undisturbed even by dreams, and were to compare with this the other days and nights of his life, and then were to tell us how many days and nights he had passed in the course of his life better and more pleasantly than this one, I think that any man, I will not say a private man, but even the great king will not find many such days or nights, when compared with the others.  Now if death be of such a nature, I say that to die is gain; for eternity is then only a single night.  But if death is the journey to another place, and there, as men say, all the dead abide, what good, O my friends and judges, can be greater than this?  If indeed when the pilgrim arrives in the world below, he is delivered from the professors of justice in this world, and finds the true judges who are said to give judgment there, Minos and Rhadamanthus and Aeacus and Triptolemus, and other sons of God who were righteous in their own life, that pilgrimage will be worth making.  What would not a man give if he might converse with Orpheus and Musaeus and Hesiod and Homer?  Nay, if this be true, let me die again and again.  I myself, too, shall have a wonderful interest in there meeting and conversing with Palamedes, and Ajax the son of Telamon, and any other ancient hero who has suffered death through an unjust judgment; and there will be no small pleasure, as I think, in comparing my own sufferings with theirs.  Above all, I shall then be able to continue my search into true and false knowledge; as in this world, so also in the next; and I shall find out who is wise, and who pretends to be wise, and is not.  What would not a man give, O judges, to be able to examine the leader of the great Trojan expedition; or Odysseus or Sisyphus, or numberless others, men and women too!  What infinite delight would there be in conversing with them and asking them questions!  In another world they do not put a man to death for asking questions:  assuredly not.  For besides being happier than we are, they will be immortal, if what is said is true.

Wherefore, O judges, be of good cheer about death, and know of a certainty, that no evil can happen to a good man, either in life or after death.  He and his are not neglected by the gods; nor has my own approaching end happened by mere chance.  But I see clearly that the time had arrived when it was better for me to die and be released from trouble; wherefore the oracle gave no sign.  For which reason, also, I am not angry with my condemners, or with my accusers; they have done me no harm, although they did not mean to do me any good; and for this I may gently blame them.

Still I have a favour to ask of them.  When my sons are grown up, I would ask you, O my friends, to punish them; and I would have you trouble them, as I have troubled you, if they seem to care about riches, or anything, more than about virtue; or if they pretend to be something when they are really nothing,–then reprove them, as I have reproved you, for not caring about that for which they ought to care, and thinking that they are something when they are really nothing.  And if you do this, both I and my sons will have received justice at your hands.

The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our ways–I to die, and you to live.  Which is better God only knows.


…Tell this to Evenus, Cebes, and bid him be of good cheer; say that I would have him come after me if he be a wise man, and not tarry; and that to-day I am likely to be going, for the Athenians say that I must.

Simmias said:  What a message for such a man! having been a frequent companion of his I should say that, as far as I know him, he will never take your advice unless he is obliged.

Why, said Socrates,–is not Evenus a philosopher?

I think that he is, said Simmias.

Then he, or any man who has the spirit of philosophy, will be willing to die, but he will not take his own life, for that is held to be unlawful.

Here he changed his position, and put his legs off the couch on to the ground, and during the rest of the conversation he remained sitting.

Why do you say, enquired Cebes, that a man ought not to take his own life, but that the philosopher will be ready to follow the dying?

Socrates replied:  And have you, Cebes and Simmias, who are the disciples of Philolaus, never heard him speak of this?

Yes, but his language was obscure, Socrates.

My words, too, are only an echo; but there is no reason why I should not repeat what I have heard:  and indeed, as I am going to another place, it is very meet for me to be thinking and talking of the nature of the pilgrimage which I am about to make.  What can I do better in the interval between this and the setting of the sun?

Then tell me, Socrates, why is suicide held to be unlawful? as I have certainly heard Philolaus, about whom you were just now asking, affirm when he was staying with us at Thebes:  and there are others who say the same, although I have never understood what was meant by any of them.

Do not lose heart, replied Socrates, and the day may come when you will understand.  I suppose that you wonder why, when other things which are evil may be good at certain times and to certain persons, death is to be the only exception, and why, when a man is better dead, he is not permitted to be his own benefactor, but must wait for the hand of another.

Very true, said Cebes, laughing gently and speaking in his native Boeotian.

I admit the appearance of inconsistency in what I am saying; but there may not be any real inconsistency after all.  There is a doctrine whispered in secret that man is a prisoner who has no right to open the door and run away; this is a great mystery which I do not quite understand.  Yet I too believe that the gods are our guardians, and that we are a possession of theirs.  Do you not agree?

Yes, I quite agree, said Cebes.

And if one of your own possessions, an ox or an ass, for example, took the liberty of putting himself out of the way when you had given no intimation of your wish that he should die, would you not be angry with him, and would you not punish him if you could?

Certainly, replied Cebes.

Then, if we look at the matter thus, there may be reason in saying that a man should wait, and not take his own life until God summons him, as he is now summoning me.

Yes, Socrates, said Cebes, there seems to be truth in what you say.  And yet how can you reconcile this seemingly true belief that God is our guardian and we his possessions, with the willingness to die which we were just now attributing to the philosopher?  That the wisest of men should be willing to leave a service in which they are ruled by the gods who are the best of rulers, is not reasonable; for surely no wise man thinks that when set at liberty he can take better care of himself than the gods take of him.  A fool may perhaps think so–he may argue that he had better run away from his master, not considering that his duty is to remain to the end, and not to run away from the good, and that there would be no sense in his running away.  The wise man will want to be ever with him who is better than himself.  Now this, Socrates, is the reverse of what was just now said; for upon this view the wise man should sorrow and the fool rejoice at passing out of life.

The earnestness of Cebes seemed to please Socrates.  Here, said he, turning to us, is a man who is always inquiring, and is not so easily convinced by the first thing which he hears.

And certainly, added Simmias, the objection which he is now making does appear to me to have some force.  For what can be the meaning of a truly wise man wanting to fly away and lightly leave a master who is better than himself?  And I rather imagine that Cebes is referring to you; he thinks that you are too ready to leave us, and too ready to leave the gods whom you acknowledge to be our good masters.

Yes, replied Socrates; there is reason in what you say.  And so you think that I ought to answer your indictment as if I were in a court?

We should like you to do so, said Simmias.

Then I must try to make a more successful defence before you than I did when before the judges.  For I am quite ready to admit, Simmias and Cebes, that I ought to be grieved at death, if I were not persuaded in the first place that I am going to other gods who are wise and good (of which I am as certain as I can be of any such matters), and secondly (though I am not so sure of this last) to men departed, better than those whom I leave behind; and therefore I do not grieve as I might have done, for I have good hope that there is yet something remaining for the dead, and as has been said of old, some far better thing for the good than for the evil.

But do you mean to take away your thoughts with you, Socrates? said Simmias.  Will you not impart them to us?–for they are a benefit in which we too are entitled to share.  Moreover, if you succeed in convincing us, that will be an answer to the charge against yourself.

I will do my best, replied Socrates.  But you must first let me hear what Crito wants; he has long been wishing to say something to me.

Only this, Socrates, replied Crito:–the attendant who is to give you the poison has been telling me, and he wants me to tell you, that you are not to talk much, talking, he says, increases heat, and this is apt to interfere with the action of the poison; persons who excite themselves are sometimes obliged to take a second or even a third dose.

Then, said Socrates, let him mind his business and be prepared to give the poison twice or even thrice if necessary; that is all.

I knew quite well what you would say, replied Crito; but I was obliged to satisfy him.

Never mind him, he said.

And now, O my judges, I desire to prove to you that the real philosopher has reason to be of good cheer when he is about to die, and that after death he may hope to obtain the greatest good in the other world.  And how this may be, Simmias and Cebes, I will endeavour to explain.  For I deem that the true votary of philosophy is likely to be misunderstood by other men; they do not perceive that he is always pursuing death and dying; and if this be so, and he has had the desire of death all his life long, why when his time comes should he repine at that which he has been always pursuing and desiring?

Simmias said laughingly:  Though not in a laughing humour, you have made me laugh, Socrates; for I cannot help thinking that the many when they hear your words will say how truly you have described philosophers, and our people at home will likewise say that the life which philosophers desire is in reality death, and that they have found them out to be deserving of the death which they desire.

And they are right, Simmias, in thinking so, with the exception of the words ‘they have found them out’; for they have not found out either what is the nature of that death which the true philosopher deserves, or how he deserves or desires death.  But enough of them:–let us discuss the matter among ourselves:  Do we believe that there is such a thing as death?

To be sure, replied Simmias.

Is it not the separation of soul and body?  And to be dead is the completion of this; when the soul exists in herself, and is released from the body and the body is released from the soul, what is this but death?

Just so, he replied.

There is another question, which will probably throw light on our present inquiry if you and I can agree about it:–Ought the philosopher to care about the pleasures–if they are to be called pleasures–of eating and drinking?

Certainly not, answered Simmias.

And what about the pleasures of love–should he care for them?

By no means.

And will he think much of the other ways of indulging the body, for example, the acquisition of costly raiment, or sandals, or other adornments of the body?  Instead of caring about them, does he not rather despise anything more than nature needs?  What do you say?

I should say that the true philosopher would despise them.

Would you not say that he is entirely concerned with the soul and not with the body?  He would like, as far as he can, to get away from the body and to turn to the soul.

Quite true.

In matters of this sort philosophers, above all other men, may be observed in every sort of way to dissever the soul from the communion of the body.

Very true.

Whereas, Simmias, the rest of the world are of opinion that to him who has no sense of pleasure and no part in bodily pleasure, life is not worth having; and that he who is indifferent about them is as good as dead.

That is also true.

What again shall we say of the actual acquirement of knowledge?–is the body, if invited to share in the enquiry, a hinderer or a helper?  I mean to say, have sight and hearing any truth in them?  Are they not, as the poets are always telling us, inaccurate witnesses? and yet, if even they are inaccurate and indistinct, what is to be said of the other senses?–for you will allow that they are the best of them?

Certainly, he replied.

Then when does the soul attain truth?–for in attempting to consider anything in company with the body she is obviously deceived.


Then must not true existence be revealed to her in thought, if at all?


And thought is best when the mind is gathered into herself and none of these things trouble her–neither sounds nor sights nor pain nor any pleasure,–when she takes leave of the body, and has as little as possible to do with it, when she has no bodily sense or desire, but is aspiring after true being?


And in this the philosopher dishonours the body; his soul runs away from his body and desires to be alone and by herself?

That is true.

Well, but there is another thing, Simmias:  Is there or is there not an absolute justice?

Assuredly there is.

And an absolute beauty and absolute good?

Of course.

But did you ever behold any of them with your eyes?

Certainly not.

Or did you ever reach them with any other bodily sense?–and I speak not of these alone, but of absolute greatness, and health, and strength, and of the essence or true nature of everything.  Has the reality of them ever been perceived by you through the bodily organs? or rather, is not the nearest approach to the knowledge of their several natures made by him who so orders his intellectual vision as to have the most exact conception of the essence of each thing which he considers?


And he attains to the purest knowledge of them who goes to each with the mind alone, not introducing or intruding in the act of thought sight or any other sense together with reason, but with the very light of the mind in her own clearness searches into the very truth of each; he who has got rid, as far as he can, of eyes and ears and, so to speak, of the whole body, these being in his opinion distracting elements which when they infect the soul hinder her from acquiring truth and knowledge–who, if not he, is likely to attain the knowledge of true being?

What you say has a wonderful truth in it, Socrates, replied Simmias.

And when real philosophers consider all these things, will they not be led to make a reflection which they will express in words something like the following?  ‘Have we not found,’ they will say, ‘a path of thought which seems to bring us and our argument to the conclusion, that while we are in the body, and while the soul is infected with the evils of the body, our desire will not be satisfied? and our desire is of the truth.  For the body is a source of endless trouble to us by reason of the mere requirement of food; and is liable also to diseases which overtake and impede us in the search after true being:  it fills us full of loves, and lusts, and fears, and fancies of all kinds, and endless foolery, and in fact, as men say, takes away from us the power of thinking at all.  Whence come wars, and fightings, and factions? whence but from the body and the lusts of the body?  wars are occasioned by the love of money, and money has to be acquired for the sake and in the service of the body; and by reason of all these impediments we have no time to give to philosophy; and, last and worst of all, even if we are at leisure and betake ourselves to some speculation, the body is always breaking in upon us, causing turmoil and confusion in our enquiries, and so amazing us that we are prevented from seeing the truth.  It has been proved to us by experience that if we would have pure knowledge of anything we must be quit of the body–the soul in herself must behold things in themselves:  and then we shall attain the wisdom which we desire, and of which we say that we are lovers, not while we live, but after death; for if while in company with the body, the soul cannot have pure knowledge, one of two things follows–either knowledge is not to be attained at all, or, if at all, after death.  For then, and not till then, the soul will be parted from the body and exist in herself alone.  In this present life, I reckon that we make the nearest approach to knowledge when we have the least possible intercourse or communion with the body, and are not surfeited with the bodily nature, but keep ourselves pure until the hour when God himself is pleased to release us.  And thus having got rid of the foolishness of the body we shall be pure and hold converse with the pure, and know of ourselves the clear light everywhere, which is no other than the light of truth.’  For the impure are not permitted to approach the pure.  These are the sort of words, Simmias, which the true lovers of knowledge cannot help saying to one another, and thinking.  You would agree; would you not?

Undoubtedly, Socrates.

But, O my friend, if this is true, there is great reason to hope that, going whither I go, when I have come to the end of my journey, I shall attain that which has been the pursuit of my life.  And therefore I go on my way rejoicing, and not I only, but every other man who believes that his mind has been made ready and that he is in a manner purified.

Certainly, replied Simmias.

And what is purification but the separation of the soul from the body, as I was saying before; the habit of the soul gathering and collecting herself into herself from all sides out of the body; the dwelling in her own place alone, as in another life, so also in this, as far as she can;–the release of the soul from the chains of the body?

Very true, he said.

And this separation and release of the soul from the body is termed death?

To be sure, he said.

And the true philosophers, and they only, are ever seeking to release the soul.  Is not the separation and release of the soul from the body their especial study?

That is true.

And, as I was saying at first, there would be a ridiculous contradiction in men studying to live as nearly as they can in a state of death, and yet repining when it comes upon them.


And the true philosophers, Simmias, are always occupied in the practice of dying, wherefore also to them least of all men is death terrible.  Look at the matter thus:–if they have been in every way the enemies of the body, and are wanting to be alone with the soul, when this desire of theirs is granted, how inconsistent would they be if they trembled and repined, instead of rejoicing at their departure to that place where, when they arrive, they hope to gain that which in life they desired–and this was wisdom–and at the same time to be rid of the company of their enemy.  Many a man has been willing to go to the world below animated by the hope of seeing there an earthly love, or wife, or son, and conversing with them.  And will he who is a true lover of wisdom, and is strongly persuaded in like manner that only in the world below he can worthily enjoy her, still repine at death?  Will he not depart with joy?  Surely he will, O my friend, if he be a true philosopher.  For he will have a firm conviction that there and there only, he can find wisdom in her purity.  And if this be true, he would be very absurd, as I was saying, if he were afraid of death.

He would, indeed, replied Simmias.

And when you see a man who is repining at the approach of death, is not his reluctance a sufficient proof that he is not a lover of wisdom, but a lover of the body, and probably at the same time a lover of either money or power, or both?

Quite so, he replied.

And is not courage, Simmias, a quality which is specially characteristic of the philosopher?


There is temperance again, which even by the vulgar is supposed to consist in the control and regulation of the passions, and in the sense of superiority to them–is not temperance a virtue belonging to those only who despise the body, and who pass their lives in philosophy?

Most assuredly.

For the courage and temperance of other men, if you will consider them, are really a contradiction.

How so?

Well, he said, you are aware that death is regarded by men in general as a great evil.

Very true, he said.

And do not courageous men face death because they are afraid of yet greater evils?

That is quite true.

Then all but the philosophers are courageous only from fear, and because they are afraid; and yet that a man should be courageous from fear, and because he is a coward, is surely a strange thing.

Very true.

And are not the temperate exactly in the same case?  They are temperate because they are intemperate–which might seem to be a contradiction, but is nevertheless the sort of thing which happens with this foolish temperance.  For there are pleasures which they are afraid of losing; and in their desire to keep them, they abstain from some pleasures, because they are overcome by others; and although to be conquered by pleasure is called by men intemperance, to them the conquest of pleasure consists in being conquered by pleasure.  And that is what I mean by saying that, in a sense, they are made temperate through intemperance.

Such appears to be the case.

Yet the exchange of one fear or pleasure or pain for another fear or pleasure or pain, and of the greater for the less, as if they were coins, is not the exchange of virtue.  O my blessed Simmias, is there not one true coin for which all things ought to be exchanged?–and that is wisdom; and only in exchange for this, and in company with this, is anything truly bought or sold, whether courage or temperance or justice.  And is not all true virtue the companion of wisdom, no matter what fears or pleasures or other similar goods or evils may or may not attend her?  But the virtue which is made up of these goods, when they are severed from wisdom and exchanged with one another, is a shadow of virtue only, nor is there any freedom or health or truth in her; but in the true exchange there is a purging away of all these things, and temperance, and justice, and courage, and wisdom herself are the purgation of them.  The founders of the mysteries would appear to have had a real meaning, and were not talking nonsense when they intimated in a figure long ago that he who passes unsanctified and uninitiated into the world below will lie in a slough, but that he who arrives there after initiation and purification will dwell with the gods.  For ‘many,’ as they say in the mysteries, ‘are the thyrsus- bearers, but few are the mystics,’–meaning, as I interpret the words, ‘the true philosophers.’  In the number of whom, during my whole life, I have been seeking, according to my ability, to find a place;–whether I have sought in a right way or not, and whether I have succeeded or not, I shall truly know in a little while, if God will, when I myself arrive in the other world–such is my belief.  And therefore I maintain that I am right, Simmias and Cebes, in not grieving or repining at parting from you and my masters in this world, for I believe that I shall equally find good masters and friends in another world.  But most men do not believe this saying; if then I succeed in convincing you by my defence better than I did the Athenian judges, it will be well.

…A man of sense ought not to say, nor will I be very confident, that the description which I have given of the soul and her mansions is exactly true.  But I do say that, inasmuch as the soul is shown to be immortal, he may venture to think, not improperly or unworthily, that something of the kind is true.  The venture is a glorious one, and he ought to comfort himself with words like these, which is the reason why I lengthen out the tale.  Wherefore, I say, let a man be of good cheer about his soul, who having cast away the pleasures and ornaments of the body as alien to him and working harm rather than good, has sought after the pleasures of knowledge; and has arrayed the soul, not in some foreign attire, but in her own proper jewels, temperance, and justice, and courage, and nobility, and truth–in these adorned she is ready to go on her journey to the world below, when her hour comes.  You, Simmias and Cebes, and all other men, will depart at some time or other.  Me already, as the tragic poet would say, the voice of fate calls.  Soon I must drink the poison; and I think that I had better repair to the bath first, in order that the women may not have the trouble of washing my body after I am dead.

When he had done speaking, Crito said:  And have you any commands for us, Socrates–anything to say about your children, or any other matter in which we can serve you?

Nothing particular, Crito, he replied:  only, as I have always told you, take care of yourselves; that is a service which you may be ever rendering to me and mine and to all of us, whether you promise to do so or not. But if you have no thought for yourselves, and care not to walk according to the rule which I have prescribed for you, not now for the first time, however much you may profess or promise at the moment, it will be of no avail.

We will do our best, said Crito:  And in what way shall we bury you?

In any way that you like; but you must get hold of me, and take care that I do not run away from you.  Then he turned to us, and added with a smile:–I cannot make Crito believe that I am the same Socrates who have been talking and conducting the argument; he fancies that I am the other Socrates whom he will soon see, a dead body–and he asks, How shall he bury me?  And though I have spoken many words in the endeavour to show that when I have drunk the poison I shall leave you and go to the joys of the blessed,– these words of mine, with which I was comforting you and myself, have had, as I perceive, no effect upon Crito.  And therefore I want you to be surety for me to him now, as at the trial he was surety to the judges for me:  but let the promise be of another sort; for he was surety for me to the judges that I would remain, and you must be my surety to him that I shall not remain, but go away and depart; and then he will suffer less at my death, and not be grieved when he sees my body being burned or buried.  I would not have him sorrow at my hard lot, or say at the burial, Thus we lay out Socrates, or, Thus we follow him to the grave or bury him; for false words are not only evil in themselves, but they infect the soul with evil.  Be of good cheer, then, my dear Crito, and say that you are burying my body only, and do with that whatever is usual, and what you think best.

When he had spoken these words, he arose and went into a chamber to bathe; Crito followed him and told us to wait.  So we remained behind, talking and thinking of the subject of discourse, and also of the greatness of our sorrow; he was like a father of whom we were being bereaved, and we were about to pass the rest of our lives as orphans.  When he had taken the bath his children were brought to him–(he had two young sons and an elder one); and the women of his family also came, and he talked to them and gave them a few directions in the presence of Crito; then he dismissed them and returned to us.

Now the hour of sunset was near, for a good deal of time had passed while he was within.  When he came out, he sat down with us again after his bath, but not much was said.  Soon the jailer, who was the servant of the Eleven, entered and stood by him, saying:–To you, Socrates, whom I know to be the noblest and gentlest and best of all who ever came to this place, I will not impute the angry feelings of other men, who rage and swear at me, when, in obedience to the authorities, I bid them drink the poison–indeed, I am sure that you will not be angry with me; for others, as you are aware, and not I, are to blame.  And so fare you well, and try to bear lightly what must needs be–you know my errand.  Then bursting into tears he turned away and went out.

Socrates looked at him and said:  I return your good wishes, and will do as you bid.  Then turning to us, he said, How charming the man is:  since I have been in prison he has always been coming to see me, and at times he would talk to me, and was as good to me as could be, and now see how generously he sorrows on my account.  We must do as he says, Crito; and therefore let the cup be brought, if the poison is prepared:  if not, let the attendant prepare some.

Yet, said Crito, the sun is still upon the hill-tops, and I know that many a one has taken the draught late, and after the announcement has been made to him, he has eaten and drunk, and enjoyed the society of his beloved; do not hurry–there is time enough.

Socrates said:  Yes, Crito, and they of whom you speak are right in so acting, for they think that they will be gainers by the delay; but I am right in not following their example, for I do not think that I should gain anything by drinking the poison a little later; I should only be ridiculous in my own eyes for sparing and saving a life which is already forfeit.  Please then to do as I say, and not to refuse me.

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 colour 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:  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.  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.

Such was the end, Echecrates, of our friend; concerning whom I may truly say, that of all the men of his time whom I have known, he was the wisest and justest and best.


…when intemperance and disease multiply in a State, halls of justice and medicine are always being opened; and the arts of the doctor and the lawyer give themselves airs, finding how keen is the interest which not only the slaves but the freemen of a city take about them.

Of course.

And yet what greater proof can there be of a bad and disgraceful state of education than this, that not only artisans and the meaner sort of people need the skill of first-rate physicians and judges, but also those who would profess to have had a liberal education? Is it not disgraceful, and a great sign of want of good-breeding, that a man should have to go abroad for his law and physic because he has none of his own at home, and must therefore surrender himself into the hands of other men whom he makes lords and judges over him? Of all things, he said, the most disgraceful. Would you say “most,” I replied, when you consider that there is a further stage of the evil in which a man is not only a life-long litigant, passing all his days in the courts, either as plaintiff or defendant, but is actually led by his bad taste to pride himself on his litigiousness; he imagines that he is a master in dishonesty; able to take every crooked turn, and wriggle into and out of every hole, bending like a withy and getting out of the way of justice: and all for what? ù in order to gain small points not worth mentioning, he not knowing that so to order his life as to be able to do without a napping judge is a far higher and nobler sort of thing. Is not that still more disgraceful? Yes, he said, that is still more disgraceful. Well, I said, and to require the help of medicine, not when a wound has to be cured, or on occasion of an epidemic, but just because, by indolence and a habit of life such as we have been describing, men fill themselves with waters and winds, as if their bodies were a marsh, compelling the ingenious sons of Asclepius to find more names for diseases, such as flatulence and catarrh; is not this, too, a disgrace? Yes, he said, they do certainly give very strange and newfangled names to diseases. Yes, I said, and I do not believe that there were any such diseases in the days of Asclepius; and this I infer from the circumstance that the hero Eurypylus, after he has been wounded in Homer, drinks a posset of Pramnian wine well besprinkled with barley-meal and grated cheese, which are certainly inflammatory, and yet the sons of Asclepius who were at the Trojan war do not blame the damsel who gives him the drink, or rebuke Patroclus, who is treating his case.

Well, he said, that was surely an extraordinary drink to be given to a person in his condition.

Not so extraordinary, I replied, if you bear in mind that in former days, as is commonly said, before the time of Herodicus, the guild of Asclepius did not practise our present system of medicine, which may be said to educate diseases. But Herodicus, being a trainer, and himself of a sickly constitution, by a combination of training and doctoring found out a way of torturing first and chiefly himself, and secondly the rest of the world.

How was that? he said.

By the invention of lingering death; for he had a mortal disease which he perpetually tended, and as recovery was out of the question, he passed his entire life as a valetudinarian; he could do nothing but attend upon himself, and he was in constant torment whenever he departed in anything from his usual regimen, and so dying hard, by the help of science he struggled on to old age. A rare reward of his skill!

Yes, I said; a reward which a man might fairly expect who never understood that, if Asclepius did not instruct his descendants in valetudinarian arts, the omission arose, not from ignorance or inexperience of such a branch of medicine, but because he knew that in all well-ordered states every individual has an occupation to which he must attend, and has therefore no leisure to spend in continually being ill. This we remark in the case of the artisan, but, ludicrously enough, do not apply the same rule to people of the richer sort. How do you mean? he said.

I mean this: When a carpenter is ill he asks the physician for a rough and ready cure; an emetic or a purge or a cautery or the knife, these are his remedies. And if some one prescribes for him a course of dietetics, and tells him that he must swathe and swaddle his head, and all that sort of thing, he replies at once that he has no time to be ill, and that he sees no good in a life which is spent in nursing his disease to the neglect of his customary employment; and therefore bidding good-bye to this sort of physician, he resumes his ordinary habits, and either gets well and lives and does his business, or, if his constitution falls, he dies and has no more trouble.

Yes, he said, and a man in his condition of life ought to use the art of medicine thus far only.

Has he not, I said, an occupation; and what profit would there be in his life if he were deprived of his occupation?

Quite true, he said.

But with the rich man this is otherwise; of him we do not say that he has any specially appointed work which he must perform, if he would live. He is generally supposed to have nothing to do. Then you never heard of the saying of Phocylides, that as soon as a man has a livelihood he should practise virtue?

Nay, he said, I think that he had better begin somewhat sooner.

Let us not have a dispute with him about this, I said; but rather ask ourselves: Is the practice of virtue obligatory on the rich man, or can he live without it? And if obligatory on him, then let us raise a further question, whether this dieting of disorders which is an impediment to the application of the mind t in carpentering and the mechanical arts, does not equally stand in the way of the sentiment of Phocylides?

Of that, he replied, there can be no doubt; such excessive care of the body, when carried beyond the rules of gymnastic, is most inimical to the practice of virtue.

Yes, indeed, I replied, and equally incompatible with the management of a house, an army, or an office of state; and, what is most important of all, irreconcilable with any kind of study or thought or self-reflection ù there is a constant suspicion that headache and giddiness are to be ascribed to philosophy, and hence all practising or making trial of virtue in the higher sense is absolutely stopped; for a man is always fancying that he is being made ill, and is in constant anxiety about the state of his body.

Yes, likely enough.

And therefore our politic Asclepius may be supposed to have exhibited the power of his art only to persons who, being generally of healthy constitution and habits of life, had a definite ailment; such as these he cured by purges and operations, and bade them live as usual, herein consulting the interests of the State; but bodies which disease had penetrated through and through he would not have attempted to cure by gradual processes of evacuation and infusion: he did not want to lengthen out good-for-nothing lives, or to have weak fathers begetting weaker sons; ù if a man was not able to live in the ordinary way he had no business to cure him; for such a cure would have been of no use either to himself, or to the State.

Then, he said, you regard Asclepius as a statesman.

Clearly; and his character is further illustrated by his sons. Note that they were heroes in the days of old and practised the medicines of which I am speaking at the siege of Troy: You will remember how, when Pandarus wounded Menelaus, they Sucked the blood out of the wound, and sprinkled soothing remedies,35 but they never prescribed what the patient was afterwards to eat or drink in the case of Menelaus, any more than in the case of Eurypylus; the remedies, as they conceived, were enough to heal any man who before he was wounded was healthy and regular in habits; and even though he did happen to drink a posset of Pramnian wine, he might get well all the same. But they would have nothing to do with unhealthy and intemperate subjects, whose lives were of no use either to themselves or others; the art of medicine was not designed for their good, and though they were as rich as Midas, the sons of Asclepius would have declined to attend them.

They were very acute persons, those sons of Asclepius.

Naturally so, I replied. Nevertheless, the tragedians and Pindar disobeying our behests, although they acknowledge that Asclepius was the son of Apollo, say also that he was bribed into healing a rich man who was at the point of death, and for this reason he was struck by lightning. But we, in accordance with the principle already affirmed by us, will not believe them when they tell us both; ù if he was the son of a god, we maintain that hd was not avaricious; or, if he was avaricious he was not the son of a god.

All that, Socrates, is excellent; but I should like to put a question to you: Ought there not to be good physicians in a State, and are not the best those who have treated the greatest number of constitutions good and bad? and are not the best judges in like manner those who are acquainted with all sorts of moral natures?

Yes, I said, I too would have good judges and good physicians. But do you know whom I think good?

Will you tell me?

I will, if I can. Let me however note that in the same question you join two things which are not the same.

How so? he asked.

Why, I said, you join physicians and judges. Now the most skillful physicians are those who, from their youth upwards, have combined with the knowledge of their art the greatest experience of disease; they had better not be robust in health, and should have had all manner of diseases in their own persons. For the body, as I conceive, is not the instrument with which they cure the body; in that case we could not allow them ever to be or to have been sickly; but they cure the body with the mind, and the mind which has become and is sick can cure nothing.

That is very true, he said.

But with the judge it is otherwise; since he governs mind by mind; he ought not therefore to have been trained among vicious minds, and to have associated with them from youth upwards, and to have gone through the whole calendar of crime, only in order that he may quickly infer the crimes of others as he might their bodily diseases from his own self-consciousness; the honourable mind which is to form a healthy judgment should have had no experience or contamination of evil habits when young. And this is the reason why in youth good men often appear to be simple, and are easily practised upon by the dishonest, because they have no examples of what evil is in their own souls.

Yes, he said, they are far too apt to be deceived.

Therefore, I said, the judge should not be young; he should have learned to know evil, not from his own soul, but from late and long observation of the nature of evil in others: knowledge should be his guide, not personal experience.

Yes, he said, that is the ideal of a judge.

Yes, I replied, and he will be a good man (which is my answer to your question); for he is good who has a good soul. But the cunning and suspicious nature of which we spoke, ù he who has committed many crimes, and fancies himself to be a master in wickedness, when he is amongst his fellows, is wonderful in the precautions which he takes, because he judges of them by himself: but when he gets into the company of men of virtue, who have the experience of age, he appears to be a fool again, owing to his unseasonable suspicions; he cannot recognise an honest man, because he has no pattern of honesty in himself; at the same time, as the bad are more numerous than the good, and he meets with them oftener, he thinks himself, and is by others thought to be, rather wise than foolish.

Most true, he said.

Then the good and wise judge whom we are seeking is not this man, but the other; for vice cannot know virtue too, but a virtuous nature, educated by time, will acquire a knowledge both of virtue and vice: the virtuous, and not the vicious, man has wisdom ù in my opinion.

And in mine also.

This is the sort of medicine, and this is the sort of law, which you sanction in your State. They will minister to better natures, giving health both of soul and of body; but those who are diseased in their bodies they will leave to die, and the corrupt and incurable souls they will put an end to themselves. That is clearly the best thing both for the patients and for the State.

from LAWS

…Athenian Stranger. There is a sense of disgrace in legislating, as we are about to do, for all the details of crime in a state which, as we say, is to be well regulated and will be perfectly adapted to the practice of virtue. To assume that in such a state there will arise someone who will be guilty of crimes as heinous as any which are ever perpetrated in other states, and that we must legislate for him by anticipation, and threaten and make laws against him if he should arise, in order to deter him, and punish his acts, under the idea that he will arise-this, as I was saying, is in a manner disgraceful. Yet seeing that we are not like the ancient legislators, who gave laws to heroes and sons of gods, being, according to the popular belief, themselves the offspring of the gods, and legislating for others, who were also the children of divine parents, but that we are only men who are legislating for the sons of men, there is no uncharitableness in apprehending that some one of our citizens may be like a seed which has touched the ox’s horn, having a heart so hard that it cannot be softened any more than those seeds can be softened by fire. Among our citizens there may be those who cannot be subdued by all the strength of the laws; and for their sake, though an ungracious task, I will proclaim my first law about the robbing of temples, in case anyone should dare to commit such a crime. I do not expect or imagine that any well-brought-up citizen will ever take the infection, but their servants, and strangers, and strangers’ servants may be guilty of many impieties. And with a view to them especially, and yet not without a provident eye to the weakness of human nature generally, I will proclaim the law about robbers of temples and similar incurable, or almost incurable, criminals. Having already agreed that such enactments ought always to have a short prelude, we may speak to the criminal, whom some tormenting desire by night and by day tempts to go and rob a temple, the fewest possible words of admonition and exhortation:-O sir, we will say to him, the impulse which moves you to rob temples is not an ordinary human malady, nor yet a visitation of heaven, but a madness which is begotten in a man from ancient and unexpiated crimes of his race, an ever-recurring curse;-against this you must guard with all your might, and how you are to guard we will explain to you. When any such thought comes into your mind, go and perform expiations, go as a suppliant to the temples of the Gods who avert evils, go to the society of those who are called good men among you; hear them tell and yourself try to repeat after them, that every man should honour the noble and the just. Fly from the company of the wicked-fly and turn not back; and if your disorder is lightened by these remedies, well and good, but if not, then acknowledge death to be nobler than life, and depart hence.

Such are the preludes which we sing to all who have thoughts of unholy and treasonable actions…

…Ath. When any one commits any injustice, small or great, the law will admonish and compel him either never at all to do the like again, or never voluntarily, or at any rate in a far less degree; and he must in addition pay for the hurt. Whether the end is to be attained by word or action, with pleasure or pain, by giving or taking away privileges, by means of fines or gifts, or in whatsoever way the law shall proceed to make a man hate injustice, and love or not hate the nature of the just-this is quite the noblest work of law. But if the legislator sees anyone who is incurable, for him he will appoint a law and a penalty. He knows quite well that to such men themselves there is no profit in the continuance of their lives, and that they would do a double good to the rest of mankind if they would take their departure, inasmuch as they would be an example to other men not to offend, and they would relieve the city of bad citizens. In such cases, and in such cases only, the legislator ought to inflict death as the punishment of offences…

…There are things about which it is terrible and unpleasant to legislate, but impossible not to legislate. If, for example, there should be murders of kinsmen, either perpetrated by the hands of kinsmen, or by their contrivance, voluntary and purely malicious, which most often happen in ill-regulated and ill-educated states, and may perhaps occur even in a country where a man would not expect to find them, we must repeat once more the tale which we narrated a little while ago, in the hope that he who hears us will be the more disposed to abstain voluntarily on these grounds from murders which are utterly abominable. For the myth, or saying, or whatever we ought to call it, has been plainly set forth by priests of old; they have pronounced that the justice which guards and avenges the blood of kindred, follows the law of retaliation, and ordains that he who has done any murderous act should of necessity suffer that which he has done. He who has slain a father shall himself be slain at some time or other by his children-if a mother, he shall of necessity take a woman’s nature, and lose his life at the hands of his offspring in after ages; for where the blood of a family has been polluted there is no other purification, nor can the pollution be washed out until the homicidal soul which the deed has given life for life, and has propitiated and laid to sleep the wrath of the whole family. These are the retributions of Heaven, and by such punishments men should be deterred. But if they are not deterred, and any one should be incited by some fatality to deprive his father or mother, or brethren, or children, of life voluntarily and of purpose, for him the earthly lawgiver legislates as follows:-There shall be the same proclamations about outlawry, and there shall be the same sureties which have been enacted in the former cases. But in his case, if he be convicted, the servants of the judges and the magistrates shall slay him at an appointed place without the city where three ways meet, and there expose his body naked, and each of the magistrates on behalf of the whole city shall take a stone and cast it upon the head of the dead man, and so deliver the city from pollution; after that, they shall bear him to the borders of the land, and cast him forth unburied, according to law. And what shall he suffer who slays him who of all men, as they say, is his own best friend? I mean the suicide, who deprives himself by violence of his appointed share of life, not because the law of the state requires him, nor yet under the compulsion of some painful and inevitable misfortune which has come upon him, nor because he has had to suffer from irremediable and intolerable shame, but who from sloth or want of manliness imposes upon himself an unjust penalty. For him, what ceremonies there are to be of purification and burial God knows, and about these the next of kin should enquire of the interpreters and of the laws thereto relating, and do according to their injunctions. They who meet their death in this way shall be buried alone, and none shall be laid by their side; they shall be buried ingloriously in the borders of the twelve portions the land, in such places as are uncultivated and nameless, and no column or inscription shall mark the place of their interment.

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