Dialogues of Plato | Study Guide


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Dialogues of Plato | Phaedo | Summary



Phaedo, a devoted follower of Socrates, recounts to Echecrates the discussions Socrates and his friends have had in the hours leading up to his execution. He explains that the long interval between Socrates's trial and his execution date was because the religious mission to Delos began on the day before his trial. It is said to be the same ship on which Theseus sailed with seven boys and girls. He saved their lives, and legend has it the people of Athens had vowed to Apollo to "send a solemn mission to Delos every year" if the youths' lives were saved. Because executions are forbidden until the mission returns, Socrates has had to wait.

Phaedo proceeds to explain that it never occurred to him while he was in the prison with Socrates "to feel sorry for him" because he "seemed quite happy." He lists the people who were there, mentioning that Plato was not in the company, as he was sick. Although they knew this day would be different because it was Socrates's last, it was typical of the other days after the trial. It was their "regular practice" to spend each day with him. The day before, they learned that the mission had returned from Delos, and decided to arrive at the prison earlier than usual. However, they had to wait as the authorities were removing Socrates's chains and informing him that today was his execution.


Readers of the Crito know that Socrates has been awaiting news of the return of the ship from its trip to Delos. In addition, Phaedo's account of Socrates's disposition is consistent with his previous attitude, which provides support for the view that Socrates was, through and through, committed to a philosophical life.

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