The Last Days of Socrates: Euthyphro; The Apology; Crito; Phaedo (Penguin Classics)

ISBN: 014044582X
ISBN 13: 9780140445824
By: Plato Harold Tarrant Hugh Tredennick

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About this book

The third edition of The Trial and Death of Socrates presents G. M. A. Grube's distinguished translations, as revised by John Cooper for Plato, Complete Works. A number of new or expanded footnotes are also included along with a Select Bibliography.

Reader's Thoughts


There are some books that are beyond "liking" or "not liking." They exist on a completely different plain than the rest of literature. This is one of those books. You don't read "The Trial and Death of Socrates" to be entertained; whether you like it or not is completely immaterial. By reading it, you gain an appreciation for one of the greatest thinkers of all time, and a valuable window into the soul of humankind.How can one possibly quanitfy and encapsulate that into three, four, or five stars?

Erik Simon

(It seems odd to be allowed to give Plato a star rating.)I'm not a scholar. I don't say that derisively. I have the highest admiration for scholars, their tireless and dogged pursuit, and any criticism I would level would be at their penchant to become rather narrow in their focus. But again, I'm not a scholar, I'm just a reader, and I have to say that as just a reader, I tend to surprise myself by the books I'll go ahead and read. To wit, this one. Why, at the age of forty-four, with no real reason to read Plato, do I pick this book up? Who knows, but I'm a better chap for it.Not a classicist, I can offer no worthwhile comments on these books or the translation, but I will say this: I love, LOVE, that Socrates claimed he was only doing the gods a favor by running around and pointing out to people just how ignorant they were. And I was moved, quite moved, by his death in PHAEDO, his stoic greeting of it, and the actual event after the long discussion on the immortality of the soul.


I absolutely love this little booklet. It is the third time I've read it and each time I find something new to contemplate. I whole heartedly agree with Socrates, "I say that it is the greatest good for a man to discuss virtue every day and those other things about which you hear me conversing and testing myself and others, for the unexamined life is not worth living" (39)

Tan Yi Han

I'm still on the last chapter (Phaedo), but I've run out of time. Have to return the book. So let me review based on the first 3 chapters.This book uses a very original style of writing to give readers an inside look into the life and wisdom of Socrates in his last days.Socrates liked to examine people. But he wasn't concerned about their appearance. He liked to examine people who thought themselves wise/clever and see if they really are. His tool? A method of argument called the elenchus. Unlike a normal argument where both parties simply try to outwit/ outshout each other, Socrates starts with a simple mutually agreeable statement. Then, via a logical progression, in which the other party remains in agreement, Socrates would eventually be able to come to a conclusion that cast insights into the other party's original belief. Often, it would expose inconsistencies or contradictions in their beliefs.Because Socrates exposed the ignorance in people who thought themselves as wise and clever, they became angry with Socrates. Eventually, he was put to trial and sentenced to death. While in prison, one of his followers, Crito, bribed his way into Socrates' prison cell and suggested that Socrates should escape. Knowing that Socrates had no fear of death, Crito tried to convince Socrates that he should escape because otherwise, the public would deem Socrates' friends as cowards for not saving him. True to form, Socrates decided to examine that statement with Crito's agreement.Socrates: Is it good enough to say that we should not value all the opinions that people hold, but only some and not others? Isn't that a fair statement?Crito: Fair enough.Socrates: In other words, one should regard the sound ones, and not the flawed?Crito: Yes.Socrates: When a man is in training, and taking it seriously, does he pay attention to all praise and criticism and opinion indiscriminately, or only when it comes from the one qualified person, the actual doctor or trainer?Crito: Only when it comes from the one qualified person.Socrates: Does this apply as a general rule, and above all, to the issues we are trying to resolve: just and unjust, honourable and dishonourable, good and bad? Ought we to be guided and intimidated by the opinion of the many or by that of the one - assuming that there is someone with expert knowledge?Crito: I think it is true, Socrates.At this point, Socrates gives Crito a reminder, that I feel we should all bear in mind. The really important thing is not to live, but to live well. To live honourably and justly.Socrates points out that by the fact that he has chosen to stay in Athens, it means that he is satisfied with the laws of Athens and the benefits these laws provide. Therefore, he must accept the law even when it turns against him.Respect!When the prison officer told Socrates that the poison was ready, Socrates cheerfully asked for the poison to be brought to him.Crito hurriedly urged Socrates to delay drinking the poison. After all, in other cases, people have dinner and enjoy the company of those whom they love and drink the poison quite late at night.Socrates brushed it aside, and declared that "I should only make myself ridiculous in my own eyes if I clung to life and hugged it when it has no more to offer."As he took the poison, his friends sobbed uncontrollably, but Socrates urged them to calm themselves and be brave, because 'I am told that one should make one's end in a reverent silence.And so ended the life of the bravest, wisest and most just man of his time.But, his story continues to inspire. As Socrates said himself, "nothing can harm a good man either in life or after death."To be able to live life honourably and justly, without fear, even of death and of unfavourable public opinion... isn't that a life worth living?


You know, Socrates was kindof a dick.


When he was tried, convicted and ordered to death in 399 B.C.E., Socrates was already seventy years old: he had lived through the imperialistic spread of Athenian democracy and culture under Pericles, twenty-five years of first cold and then heated war with Sparta, the defeat of Athens in 404 B.C.E., the short-lived oligarchy imposed on that city by the Spartans, and finally the reestablishment of democracy in his homeland. During all of that time, the former bricklayer was known for practicing philosophy in the public spaces of Athens using his inimitable style of questioning those in authority who feigned virtue and wisdom while in reality lacking it. This technique gradually garnered him many powerful enemies who did their best to poison public opinion against him. Socrates was often confused with the Sophists, traveling teachers who sought to satisfy the public need for higher education generated by a democracy in which any male citizen could be called upon to serve in courts or assemblies. But Socrates was ostensibly not interested in teaching per se: his aim was to uncover the lack of virtue, honesty and wisdom in those around him and to encourage them to learn, as virtue is knowledge, and once one knows what is right, truly knows it, one is no longer capable of doing wrong. He often obliquely criticized democratic systems, and indeed, the power consolidation democracy afford the majority was exactly what did him in.While Plato has only reported Socrates’ words (and a few said by Meletus, one of his accusers), we do get a filtered idea of the sort of argument the prosecution was making: democracy had only recently been restored in Athens, and certain elements of the population, probably motivated, as Socrates claims, by years of resentment toward the philosopher, wanted to brand his sort of “teaching” (for despite his claims to the contrary, he was indeed teaching by example, at the very least) as destructive to the democratic institutions that Socrates himself often seemed to oppose (as evidenced in his Dialogues, which Plato also transcribed). But the prosecution is largely silent, and we can more clearly analyze what Socrates does. Throughout his defense he employs a disingenuousness that likely irked his opponents: he begins by assuming a humble excuse-my-illiteracy sort of stance, and gradually abdicates all responsibility for the message he is putting across (i.e., authority figures are hypocritical boobs), by appealing to a deus ex machina device (the oracle’s decree and god’s voice in his ear). However, there is considerable nobility and courage in his refusal to kowtow to the Assembly’s expectations that he’ll beg for mercy, and his dissection of the trumped-up charges is perfectly executed. The shift in tone after he’s been found guilty is interesting: no longer is the prosecution the brunt of his surgical, nearly sarcastic grandstanding: those voting against him catch it full on as he with great guts demands to be rewarded for “corrupting” the youth of Athens the way winners in the Olympics were. His withering prophecies to all of Athens after he’s been sentenced to death indicate a third tone shift, short-lived as it is. He finally becomes introspective with his friends as the document closes, and his inspiring advice and requests serve as telling indicators of his real personality (as opposed to his philosopher persona): someone who loved his family and neighbors so much that he was willing to risk his life to make them good people.


The Last Days of Socrates consists of four dialogues that, while discussing different philosophical issues, cover the end of Socrates' life from just before his trial to his condemnation and death of poison by drinking hemlock. In the end, the philosopher's pupil Crito says, "Such, Echecrates, was the end of our comrade, who was, we may fairly say, of all those whom we knew in our time, the bravest and also the wisest and most upright man."Euthyphro and Crito are the lesser of the four dialogues. The Apology consists of Socrates' own defense to the accusation that he was teaching impiety to the youth of Athens and one of the greatest moments in all of Western Thought. The final dialogue, Phaedo, attempts to prove the immortality of the soul and the existence of an afterlife, though tends to become lost in some far-fetched arguments relating to absolute ideals such as Truth, Beauty, and Justice. Then it winds up in sheer beauty as Socrates describes the earth and its waters and how the souls of the dead might be consigned to punishment or purification before being reborn in some other form.When I previously read another edition of these four dialogues, I was a much younger and more impatient reader. This time, I enjoyed the play of mind as Socrates (and by extension Plato) matched wits with the intelligentsia of Athens. I sincerely hope that I may read it again, still more deeply.As Alfred North Whitehead once said, all of Western Philosophy is in effect a series of footnotes to Plato. I think he was right.

Regina Lindsey

The Last Days of Socrates by Plato4 StarsLittle historical evidence survives regarding Socrates. The most well-known source is from his pupil, Plato. Through four dialogues, Plato describes the circumstances surrounding Socrates’ indictment, his trial, his imprisonment, and his death. At the age of seventy, Socrates was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death on two charges – encouraging the worship of gods not recognized by the state and corrupting the youth of Athens. Socrates argued his own case, pleading for intellectual freedom and the promotion of ethics. When he is convicted he is allowed visits by his friend, Crito. Crito has prepared plans for Socrates’ escape; however, Socrates argues the ultimate responsibility of a citizen is to the State and its laws. On the day the poison arrives for Socrates to drink he is surrounded by students and friends, and Plato records that day’s events. I read this on my Nook and, while the translations seemed to be a good one, the formatting was awkward. But, I’m really glad I read it. As Socrates defends himself the reader gets a first hand glimpse at his use of logic and use of questioning to break down an issue. Socrates asserts that the crux of the charges comes down him offending the people in power when he questioned their wisdom. In the portrayal of Socrates, Plato does bring Socrates across as arrogant. I can see how he would easily make enemies. But, for me the most fascinating part of the book was Socrates use of logic and physical examples to argue in favor of man’s immortal soul. It is a fascinating read, a nice translation, and a fascinating look at Athens during a pivotal moment of transition in its history.


This book was a fantastic example of owning up to your beliefs, values, and standards. I really should give it a re-visit... I wish I could remember where I put it... =PFurther- people who read about Socrates' death will be either of these two types: (a) those who believe Socrates accepted the death penalty to ease the pain of his old age; a "quick and painless death" so to speak... or (b) those who believe he saw a life of exile to be insignificant and cowardly; and agreeing to the false charges in exchange for his life would be dishonerable... I believe that the latter person has actually grasped the power of Plato's words, and has transgressed the pessimistic mindset of most Americans.

Ken Moten

Since I have individually reviewed each dialogue concerning their content I will be personal here. I obviously enjoyed reading these dialogues. I was not only enlightened by them but moved as well in certain parts, more by Socrates' friends than the man himself. This really should be the jumping off point for anyone interested in philosophy because it sets the tone and you can compare every strand of philosophy after it against it. Plato did not create [western] philosophy obviously but he sure did make it into something amazing and it would be worth anyones time to check him out. I will always admire the Socratic method even though I am in no way able to pull it off (trust me I've tried) but it is poetry to read. We could all benefit from a revival of Plato in society but since I won't hold my breath those who have read him can be thankful for the opportunity. (I read these dialogues as apart of the Classics of Western Philosophy anthology)

Patrick Neylan

Tredennick's translation is getting a little old-fashioned now (it was published in 1954 and last revised in 1969), but this remains one of the more accessible of Plato's works for the non-academic reader. It comprises four short works: Socrates' discussion with a friend before his trial; his speeches at the trial itself; a conversation after his conviction; and his last conversation and death. What surprises the modern reader is the depth of humour and humanity on show. We expect classical texts to be dry, complicated and formal, but Socrates comes across as a real human being, mixing razor-sharp logic with gentle humour and even teasing. This is largely because his talent was not thinking but forcing others to think. He can also be frustratingly tactless, especially in the Apology (his speeches at the trial), almost goading the jury to condemn him. After his death sentence, he spurns the chance to escape, arguing with infuriating logic that he is innocent because he has always been a loyal subject of Athens. If he ran away he would become guilty of subverting the laws of Athens and would thereby earn the death sentence he has already been given. His argument falls somewhere between Joseph Heller's Catch-22 and Immanuel Kant's Categorical Imperative. Phaedo: the final piece and longer than all the others combined; is the report of his final conversations with his followers and ends with him taking the prescribed poison and dying. It's also the least satisfactory. Partly this is because Socrates' arguments seem too formally structured, giving the impression that this is really Plato's philosophy, and partly because the 'unassailable' logic about the soul and the afterlife is so obviously flawed. Several times he asks his audience whether they have any objections to his reasoning. "None, Socrates," they reply, while I'm jumping up and down saying, "Me, me! I've got one! Your theory is based on a huge assumption that you've said nothing to justify."Still, if Socrates had all the answers then the next 2,500 years of philosophy would have been pointless. But the genesis of Western thought and critical reasoning is here.

Lucy Phelan

The portrayal of Socrates is so insightful, you can imagine being in Ancient Greece and having that terribly repetitive conversation with him. Plato has really captured the essence of his mentor and I find that absolutely astounding, more so, I feel compelled to read up about Socrates every time. To my amazement, his portrayal hasn't only bought Socrates to life but it has made him immortal, for thousands of years he has been living in this fantastically written piece of literature spreading his philosophy and beliefs through the words of Plato. For a man who was present during the dawn of civilisation, he has portrayed such a sophisticated and abstract outlook for the era and more so, his teachings have been imprinted in Plato's life so much, that he can portray a man with such amazing detail. It's almost as though Plato has carved a sculpture with words, although his dialog is simplistic in nature; it has created a complex character with complex ideals, making Plato a true scholar.


Ok, classic texts with amazing and mind boggling philosophical discussions...But I couldn't help but notice how much Sherlock Holmes was based on Socrates. The more I read, the more I concluded that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was at least somewhat inspired by the great, but annoying philosopher who sarcastically proved that everyone around him was an idiot and his best friend who recorded all the stories. Further evidence, Doyle paraphrases Plato.After Socrates' forced suicide: "Such was the end of our friend, Socrates, a man who, we would say, was the best of all those we've experienced and, generally speaking, the wisest and the most just"After Sherlock's faked suicide, John writes of the end of "him whom I shall ever regard as the best and the wisest man whom I have ever known."


THE TRIAL AND EXECUTION OF SOCRATES. (this ed. 1972) Plato. ****. This work, although in a different version, was required reading for my first humanities course in college in 1957. Yes, there were colleges back then, and Plato was not one of my classmates. At the time, I’m not sure that I fully understood what I was reading, but made sure that I understood enough to pass any quiz – announced or unannounced. On re-reading it, I came to the realization that Socrates was not a philosopher. He was not a teacher, either. He had nothing to teach. His role in life was to share with his followers the technique of asking the right questions, and once learned, getting to the right answer. Plato, along with Xenophon and many others, was one of his followers, and the three sets of dialogs in this work covers the trial, the meeting of Socrates with his friends afterwards, and the manner of his death. This is another of those must-reads of classic literature. The specific edition I read this time was a publication by The Folio Society in 1973. The translator and author of the introduction was Peter George, and illustrations were provided by Michael Ayrton. Recommended.

Anom Astika

Aku sedang membaca buku ini dan sedang menerjemahkannya. Ada empat teks Plato di sana yaitu Euthyphro, Apology, Crito dan Phaedo. Semuanya teks teks yang luar biasa, dan jika direnung-renungkan ada banyak hal yang tetap relevan hingga saat ini. Lebih lebih jika kita kini sedang sibuk sibuk punya perhatian terhadap kekerasan berbasis agama, maka teks Euthyphro sangat menarik untuk dibaca. Pada teks ini Socrates berdebat dengan Euthyphro, salah seorang jaksa pemeriksa untuk Pengadilan Socrates. Inti debatnya cuma berpangkal pada satu frasa/kata, yaitu tentang yang suci. "Apakah yang suci adalah yang benar benar disetujui oleh dewa dewa, ataukah ia dibuat untuk menjadi disetujui oleh dewa dewa?" Itu satu pertanyaan yang penting diperhatikan, baik secara gramatik (is holly being approved of or gets approved by gods), maupun dalam kerangka hubungan sebab akibat. Baru satu hal ini yang menarik bagiku yang bisa kusampaikan. Aku masih terus menerjemahkannya.

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