Plato was infamous for his philosophical writings, and not all of his dialogues were lengthy. His points did not have to be encased in long writing to make an impression, as you will see in ‘Crito’ , a short dialogue that the ancient Greek philosopher wrote. Socrates, who has been sentenced to death, is given a chance to escape prison, but he refuses. In this article, you will learn more about the ancient Greek writing that explains his reasoning as to why he will not flee his execution.
The dialogue highlights ancient viewpoints regarding the social contract theory of government, which involves society and the authority that society has over an individual. The theme focuses on a conversation between Socrates and his wealthy friend Crito, as they discuss justice, injustice and the proper way to respond to injustice. Socrates believes that injustice should not be answered with injustice, and refuses to accept money from Crito, who has offered him monetary assistance so that he could escape from prison.
At the start of the dialogue, Socrates awakens in his jail cell to the presence of his friend Crito. He asks if it is early in the day to have such a visit. Crito states that it is early and that he chose to let him sleep in peace since in the coming days, his execution was to take place. Crito admires the peacefulness and calm of a man who is facing death. Socrates is surprised that the guard allowed Crito to visit at such an early hour, but his friend tells him that he knows the guard and that he made sure that the guard has benefitted for the favor.
Critos tells Socrates that people have seen the ship from Delos that signifies the execution of Socrates. However, he does not feed into the report , telling his friend that he had a dream that leaves him to believe that he has three days until his death. Crito does not want to hear more about the meaning of the dream and tells him that his intentions to arrive early are to save the ancient philosopher from death. Crito is afraid that Socrates’ execution will mean that he did not have enough money to finance an escape. He tells him that he knows who to pay off so that he is not revealed as the accomplice and that they can be cheaply bought. He also says that foreigners have come to town with money to help with the cause. He also tells Socrates that there are other cities that would gladly embrace him into exile without any negative consequences.
He believes if Socrates goes along with the execution, then he will be in agreement with his enemies. Crito continues to make his case filled with moral appeals. He even tells Socrates that not resisting the injustices of his trial and sentence is comparable to being a coward. Crito equates the execution with taking the ‘easiest path’ and denounces taking the honorable or virtuous approach.
Crito strengthens his argument by tugging at Socrates’ heartstrings and bringing up his obligation to raise and educate his children. As a father, he should concentrate on not leaving his offspring as orphans if he can help it. Crito believes that the trial should never have taken place and that others would have managed the outcome in a different manner. Crito is especially afraid that people will think that Socrates is not only a coward for accepting this fate, but that his friend (including he) will also be looked at in the same way.