ABSTRACT

The belief in human immortality, construed in a theological or philosophical sense, had at this time hardly penetrated to circles of ordinary lay folk. Socrates himself, when it came to such inquiries into the unknowable, never claimed to provide an answer that differed from that which would be given by the majority of his fellow citizens out of the accumulated wisdom of their ancestors. Where in the pages of Plato he is allowed to give undisguised expression to his natural and homely vigour—in the Apology—he shows little anticipation of an immortal life of the soul. Death, he thinks, either brings complete unconsciousness to men, like a dreamless sleep, or else it means the transition of the soul to another life in the realm of the Souls—a realm which, to judge by his allusions, has much more resemblance to the Homeric Hades than to any of the visionary countries imagined by theologians or theologically minded poets. 1 Both possibilities he accepts with complete equanimity, trusting in the righteousness of the controlling gods, 2 and he looks no further. How should he know with certainty where everyone was ignorant? 3