“Of course,” replied Socrates, gravely. “Would you rather I should die guilty?”

Then, gathering his disciples around him, he began to talk to them in the most beautiful and solemn way about life and death, and especially about the immortality of the soul.

This last conversation of Socrates was so attentively listened to by his disciple Plato, the wisest among them all, that he afterward wrote it down from memory almost word for word, and thus kept it so that we can still read it.

As the sun was slowly setting on that last day, the sacred vessel came back from Delos. The time of waiting was ended, and now the prisoner must die. The jailer interrupted this beautiful last talk, and entered the cell, bringing the cup of poison.

Socrates took the cup from his hand and drained it, unmoved, telling his disciples that he felt sure that death was only birth into another and better world. Then he bade them all farewell.

As he was a good and scrupulous man, very careful about paying his debts and keeping his promises, he now told Crito to remember that he had promised to sacrifice a cock to Aesculapius, the god of medicine, and bade him do it in his stead.

He then lay down upon his hard prison bed, and, while he felt the chill of death slowly creeping upward toward his heart, he continued to teach and exhort his pupils to love virtue and do right.

All his last sayings were carefully treasured by Plato, who wrote them down, and who concludes the story of his death in these beautiful words: “Thus died the man who, of all with whom we are acquainted, was in death the noblest, and in life the wisest and best.”

Some time after the death of Socrates, the Athenians found out their mistake. Filled with remorse, they recalled the sentence which had condemned him, but they could not bring him back to life. In token of their sorrow, however, they set up a statue of him in the heart of their city.

This statue, although made of bronze, has long ceased to exist; but the remembrance of Socrates’ virtues is still held dear, and all who know his name both love and honor him.

From: H. A. Guerber, The Story of the Greeks; edited for this online publication, by ELLOPOS BLOG