1. Introduction 
1One myth about the afterlife of the soul is to be found in Plato’s Gorgias 523a1-524a7. Immediately before the myth, Socrates motivates the myth through his concept of protection [boētheia] (522c7-e6: 522c8, 522d2, 522d4), in direct response to Callicles’ appeal to this concept (522c4-6: 522c6). After Socrates has related the myth, he comments on it by returning to precisely this concept (526d3-527a4: 526e5). Since Plato explicitly frames the myth by means of “protection”, one would expect scholarly discussions of the passage to give this concept a prominent role. However, this has not been the case so far. 
2Over the last decades, three studies have appeared that discuss the afterlife myth in Plato’s Gorgias, namely the ones by Julia Annas (1982), Charles B. Daniels (1992) and Daniel C. Russell (2011). These three commentators have premised their interpretation of the myth on the assumption that it deals with the question whether virtue in this life is rewarded, or vice punished, in the afterlife, understood in a literal or a non-literal manner. In this article I explain that this assumption is valuable, because it seeks to connect the myth to the philosophical argumentation in the dialogue, but also misleading, because it does not take Plato’s framing of the myth into consideration; it ignores that the myth picks up on the more general Socrates-Callicles debate about protection to which Socrates refers explicitly before and after the myth. Instead, I argue that the myth supports Socrates’ understanding of “protection” [boētheia], which frames the myth, and which is an ethical concept debated by Socrates and Callicles in the earlier part of the dialogue. I conclude that Socrates understands protection as willingness to subject oneself to correction or punishment [kolasis], and that his position in the myth is consistent with this understanding of protection stated elsewhere in the dialogue.
3I start out explaining the way in which the myth itself (i.e. 523a1-524a7) is framed by two passages where Socrates relates it to boētheia: First in 522c7-e6, where he motivates the myth, and then in 524a8-527e7, where he comments on the myth (Section 2). I then move on to the myth itself (523a1-524a7), highlighting the reform of a dysfunctional afterlife tribunal – a reform leading to a better exposure of the ethical state of the departed souls, which, in turn, allows the judges to give a more adequate judgment of them. The improved “exposure” of the souls in the reformed tribunal is ensured by stripping the souls naked of their external appearance in the social realm, their “clothing”, that may otherwise be used to deceive the judges and thereby to evade correction and punishment (Section 3). I then turn to Socrates’ comment to the myth (524a8-527e7), paying special attention to Socrates’s words about the function of punishment, namely to improve the soul (Section 4). Finally, I argue that the correction and punishment [kolasis] was central to Socrates’ understanding of boētheia, as expressed earlier in the dialogue: The best protection, Socrates argued, consists in the willingness to expose oneself to adequate correction and punishment [kolasis]. Callicles, on the other hand, had understood protection as protection of self-interest at the law courts. I conclude that the myth illustrates Socrates’ understanding of protection, and that exposure to correction and punishment is the real issue in the myth, not whether virtuous living is rewarded in the afterlife (Section 5).
2. Boētheia Framing the Myth in the Gorgias
4The myth runs from 523a1 to 524a7. It is briefly introduced by Socrates in 522c7-e6, and he comments upon it in 524a8-527e7. In the introduction to the myth, Socrates motivates the myth with a reference to boētheia with the following words:
Callicles: Do you think, Socrates, that a man in such a position in his city, a man who’s unable to protect himself [adynantos ōn heautō boēthein], is to be admired?
Socrates: Yes, Callicles, as long as he has that one thing that you’ve often agreed he should have: as long as he has protected himself [ei beboēthēkōs eiē hautō] against having spoken or done anything unjust relating to either men or gods. For this is the self-protection [hautē gar tēs boētheias heautō] that you and I often have agreed avails the most. Now if someone were to refute me and prove that I am unable to provide this protection for myself or for anyone else [tautēn tēn boētheian adynanton onta emautō kai allō boēthein; this charge was raised by Callicles in 483a8-b4], I would feel shame at being refuted, whether this happened in the presence of many or of a few or just between the two of us; and if I were to be put to death for lack of this ability [adynamian], I really would be upset. But if I came to my end because of a deficiency in flattering oratory (Callicles’ understanding of boētheia, e.g. 486a6-c3; see below), I know that you’d see me bear my death with ease. For no one who isn’t totally bereft of reason and courage is afraid to die; doing what’s unjust [adikein] is what he’s afraid of. For of all evils, the ultimate is that of arriving in Hades with one’s soul stuffed full of unjust actions. If you like, I’m willing to give you an account [logon] showing that this is so (522c4-e6).
6I should like to make four observations in regard to this passage. First, it is Callicles who brings in the notion of boētheia; Socrates returns to this term, in one form or another, four times in his answer (522c8, 522d2, 522d4, 522d4), and says explicitly that the following “account”, i.e. the myth, provides a fuller account of his understanding of boētheia. As indicated by me in the two brackets with Stephanus pages, Socrates picks up on specific assertions made by Callicles earlier in the dialogue. I turn to these two instances below.
7Second, in his reply to Callicles, Socrates distinguishes between two understandings of boētheia. He first describes the ability to protect oneself or someone else “against having spoken or done anything unjust relating to either men or gods”. This is clearly Socrates’ own understanding of boētheia. Socrates then turns to another understanding of boētheia; this other understanding is flagged by the words “deficiency in flattering oratory”, and it clearly refers to the ability to defend self-interest at a law court through rhetorical skills. The law court was mentioned by Socrates immediately before the above passage [dikaistērion, 522b4]; the ability to deploy “flattering oratory” practised at a law court in order to protect the interest of oneself, or anyone else, was precisely the ability favoured by Callicles earlier in the dialogue – an ability which philosophers like Socrates did not possess, according to Callicles. In the course of his long speech (482c-486d), Callicles thus defined boētheia as the ability to protect the interests of oneself or of others at the law court:
Callicles: … As it is, if someone got hold of you or of anyone else like you and took you off to prison on the charge that you’re doing something unjust when in fact you aren’t, you can know that you wouldn’t have any use of yourself. You’d get dizzy, your mouth would hang open and you wouldn’t know what to say. You’d come up for trial and face some no good wretch of an accuser and be put to death, if death is what he’d want to condemn you to. And yet, Socrates, “how can this be a wise thing, the craft which took a well-favoured man and made him worse”, able neither to protect [boēthein] himself nor to rescue [eksōsa] himself or anyone else from the gravest dangers, to be robbed of all of his property by his enemies, and to live a life with absolutely no rights in his city? Such a man one could knock on the jaw [epi korrēs typtonta] without paying what’s due for it, to put it rather crudely (486a6-c3).
9Here we have the pretext of Socrates’ introduction to the myth.
10Let me return to the first quotation in this section and bring my third observation. Callicles’ initial question (522c4-6) is stated in general terms (“a man in such a position”), but Socrates answers in the first person (522d3-e1), as if this issue were of personal concern to him. Socrates has good reasons for answering in this way, since Callicles himself had charged Socrates personally for his lack of rhetorical skills in 486a6-c3, cited above. Generally speaking, Callicles thinks that such a lack of rhetorical prowess is fatal, according to his notion of protection: “No, no man would put up with suffering what’s unjust; only a slave would do so, one who is better dead than alive, who when he’s treated unjustly and abused can’t protect himself or anyone else he cares about [autos hautō boēthein mēde allō]” (483a8-b4). The lack of this ability would be shameful and put one’s civic status at the level of the disenfranchised. Socrates’ motivation of the myth thus responds to a charge levelled earlier and which was both general (targeting philosophers) and personal (targeting Socrates).
11A final and fourth observation in regard to 522c4-e6. In 522c4-e6, Socrates is careful to address Callicles’ full charge against philosophers and Socrates himself, namely that a philosopher (including Socrates) is unable to protect himself or others at a law court. Callicles, in his original allegations (486a6-c3 and 483a8-b4) was careful to specify that the ability to provide protection regarded oneself as well as others; Socrates, in his reply in 522c4-e6 drops the “others” in 522c4-6, but he recalls this full extension in his reply in 522c7-e6. This element of altruism is a reminder that civic rights were largely managed by adult male citizens in classical Athens; it may also address Socrates’ alleged helpfulness towards his friends, as reported by Xenophon (Memorabilia II).
12So much for the cited passage, 522c4-e6, introducing the myth. After the myth, in 526e4-527a4, Socrates dramatically turns Callicles’ charges upside down, and he returns to Callicles’ warning about the “knock on the jaw” in 486c3, this time making the point that it is Callicles, not Socrates, who will suffer such a knock in the afterlife. Once again, “protection” is the point of reference. Socrates says:
And I take you to task, because you won’t be able to come to protect yourself [sautō boēthēsai] when you appear at the trial and judgement I was talking about just now. When you come before that judge, the son of Aegina, and he takes hold of you and brings you to trial, your mouth will hang open and you’ll get dizzy there just as much as I will here, and maybe somebody’ll give you a demeaning knock on the jaw [typtēsei tis [kai] epi korrēs] and throw all sorts of dirt at you (526e4-527a4).
14So, according to Socrates, Callicles, an aspiring political leader (515a1-2), will neither be able to protect the deeper interest of himself, nor that of others.
15As this section indicates, the myth itself is framed by Callicles and Socrates’ discussion of boētheia: We find explicit references to this discussion immediately before the myth (522c4) and immediately after the myth (526e4-527a4). Neither Gorgias nor Polus had referred to this concept in their discussion with Socrates – it was a unique discussion between Callicles and Socrates.
16As mentioned in my Introduction, Annas, Daniels and Russell discuss if and how Socrates’ view that virtue is its own reward, stated earlier in the dialogue, is consistent with the rendering of punishment and reward in the myth of the Gorgias. They have bypassed the framing of the myth itself. Since Annas’ article of 1982 largely shaped the discussions of Daniels and Russell, I shall take a brief look at her analysis.
17Annas refers to Socrates’ introduction of the myth in 522c7-e6,  to the myth itself in 523a1-524a7,  and to Socrates’ comment to it in 524a8-527e7.  However, she interprets these three passages collectively as an ad hominem account of Socrates’ trial and its rectification after his death, not as passages concluding the more general Socrates-Callicles debate about protection. Touching upon Socrates’ introduction to the myth, she says: “running through the whole dialogue has been the constant theme that Socrates will be tried for his life and, as things are in this world, will be condemned”.  Annas does not observe that Socrates’ introduction of the myth in 522c7-e6 is a direct response to Callicles’ claim about protection (522c4-6) and that Socrates returns to this theme after the myth (526d3-527a4: 526e5). Of course, Annas does refer to the myth itself (523a1-524a7), namely when she says that “bad judgements were made because the judges were misled by false appearances (523b4-d5); so Zeus reforms the system”.  She also refers to Socrates’ comment to the myth (i.e. 524a8-527e7), first citing 525b-d, where “the incurably wicked are punished in Tartarus”; later citing 526e1-527a4 to argue that the myth suggests that Socrates’ trial will be reversed in the afterlife.  Again, Annas ignores that in 526e1-527a4 we find the notion of protection (526e5).
18I hope this section has demonstrated that it is unsatisfying only to focus on the myth itself and to ignore Plato’s explicit contextualisation of it through the preamble 522c4-e6 and Socrates’ return to this preamble in 524a8-527e7. Section 3-4, discussing the myth itself and Socrates’ comment to it, will make it clear that the myth can be interpreted as a literary device supporting Socrates’ understanding of boētheia.
3. The Myth in the Gorgias 523a1-524a7
19In order to illustrate the truth of his understanding of protection, Socrates asks Callicles in 522e5-6 if he is willing to hear an “account” [logos] of the matter. Callicles accepts (522e7-8) and Socrates commences, although he admits that Callicles will probably think of his account not as an “account” [logos, 522e5, 523a1-2, 526d3], but as a “myth” [mythos, 523a2, 527a5]. In the literature, commentators typically label the passage 523a1-524a7 as a “myth”, but this is actually Callicles’ interpretation of the narrative, not Socrates’, and the classificatory ambiguity reflects their different understandings of protection.  Nevertheless, I shall refer to the narrative as a “myth” in the following, in accordance with convention.
20The myth is about reform, one might even say political reform, and the reform regards a key institution, namely the afterlife tribunal. The myth takes its point of departure in Homer, probably his Iliad 15.156-204 (523a3, but also 525d7, 526d1). However, Plato introduces notable inventions of his own.  In Plato’s version, Socrates distinguishes two phases of the afterlife tribunal, one before and one after the reform.
21Socrates first explains that there is a law [nomos] that has been respected amongst gods in both phases: If a human being has “lived a just [dikaiōs] and pious (hosiōs) life comes to his end, he goes to the Isles of the Blessed, to make his abode in complete happiness [eudaimonia]”; if a human being has “lived in an unjust [adikōs] and godless [atheōs] way dies, he goes to the prison of payment and retribution, the one they call Tartarus” (523a5-b4). We may assume that the “he” going in either of these directions is the soul of the departed, since death, according to Socrates, is nothing but separation of body and soul (524b2-4; see also the Phaedo 64c4-9 and 67d4-6 for a similar understanding of death).
22Before the reform, these human beings “faced living judges while they were still alive, who judged them on the day [tē hēmera] they were going to die” (Gorgias 523b4-6). These human beings had foreknowledge about their death (523d5-7), and they were judged “fully dressed” [ampechomenoi] while “still alive” [zōntes] (523c3-4). This implied that they were able to deceive the judges by their external appearances; even “wicked souls” were “dressed in handsome bodies, good stock and wealth” [psychas ponēras echontes ēmphiesmenoi eisi sōmata te kala kai genē kai ploutus] (523c4-6). In this account, clothing [ampechomenoi, ēmphiesmenoi] is of particular importance and serves as a means of manipulating one’s external appearance. The last use of terms related to clothing, ēmphiesmenoi (523c5) is employed in a wider sense, since here the “dressing” of those judged consists in “handsome bodies, good stock and wealth”.  Moreover, before the reform, these humans judged had “many witnesses [martyres] appear to testify that they have lived just lives [dikaiōs bebiōkasin]” (523c6-d1).
23To note in passing, witnesses [martyres] play a considerable role in the earlier part of the Gorgias. In 470c1-474b5, Socrates had articulated two kinds of demonstration: Polus’ rhetorical method, based on witnesses and applied at law courts, on the one hand, and Socrates’ method of cross-examination, on the other. We may assume that the function of witnesses in Polus’ method is to heighten the social status of the litigant by procuring favourable characterisations of his manners, which was the typical role of witnesses at the Athenian law court.  The Socratic method, however, only requires one witness, namely the interlocutor him- or herself, who “testifies” his or her beliefs and their eventual affirmation or rejection, as produced by critical cross-examination; the opinion of the majority [hoi polloi] Socrates disregards (474a5-476a6).
24Let me return to the myth itself. The judges, judging these humans, were also alive whilst judging [dikastai […] ēsan zōntōn] (523b4-5), and they were “awestruck” [ekplēttontai, 523d1] by the appearances of these “clothed” souls. Moreover, they pass their judgment at a time “when they themselves are fully dressed [ampechomenoi], too, having put their eyes and ears and their whole bodies up as screens [prokekalypmenoi] in front of their souls” (523d1-4). Once again, we see one term keyed to clothing – this time ampechomenoi (523d2) – being used in a wider sense. Socrates adds that all “these things, their own clothing [amphiesmata] and that of those being judged, have proved to be obstructive to them”, that is, to the judges (523d4-5).
25The outcome in this first phase was that the humans judged used “clothing” and witnesses to manipulate the external appearance of their souls, and that the judges passed imperfect judgments. All this implied that some souls went undeservedly in both directions, that is, to Isle of the Blessed and to Tartarus (523b6-c1). It was clearly an unjust procedure.
26At least five things changed through the reform of the afterlife tribunal. First, those judged were deprived foreknowledge of their death (523d5-e1), implying that they could not prepare for it. Second, they were “stripped naked of all these things, for they should be judged when they’re dead” [epeita gymnous kriteon hapantōn toutōn; tethneōtas gar dei krinesthai, 523e1-2].  By “all these things” Socrates refers to clothing, body, family lineage, wealth and witnesses; what is left is the soul itself. Third, “the judge, too, should be naked, and dead, and with his soul alone he should study the soul of each person immediately upon his death, when he’s isolated from all his kinsmen and has left behind on earth all that adornment [ton kosmon], so that the judgment may be a just one [hina dikaia hē krisis ē]” (523e2-6). Fourth, Zeus appoints his sons as judges after their death: Rhadamanthus should judge those coming from Asia, Aiacus those coming from Europe; Minos should pass a final judgment in cases where the two judges are perplexed, so that the judgment may be “as just as possible” [dikaiotatē, 524a6]. These three sons would judge the departed on the three-way crossing, from which one way leads to the Isles of the Blessed, another to Tartarus (523e6-524a7). This is the end of the myth as Socrates had “heard” it (524a8). It is an open question whether or not this reform should be interpreted literally in the sense of an afterlife tribunal being reformed over time, or in the abstract sense of two possible forms of judgment of which only one (where the judged and the judge are “naked”) leads to truth and justice, as the ancient commentator Olympiodorus thought. 
27The soul’s “clothing” plays a conspicuous role in Plato’s version of the myth. Plato has Socrates referring explicitly to Homer for this myth (523a3, but also 525d7, 526d1), but in Homer’s rendering of the myth, as we know it (Iliad 15.187-204), there is no reference to clothing, suggesting that this was Plato’s invention.  The reformed afterlife tribunal allows a much fuller exposure of the souls of the departed, allowing the judges to assess and judge their true ethical nature, free of deception. As we shall see in the next section, such an exposure is a precondition for protection, at least as Socrates understands the concept; his comment to the myth underlines the importance of one’s willingness to subject oneself to adequate correction and punishment.
4. Socrates’ Comment to the Myth in the Gorgias 524a8-527e7
28In the reformed afterlife tribunal, Zeus’ sons, Rhadamanthus and Aiacus, inspect and judge those dead human beings arriving. If Rhadamanthus and Aiacus only encounter individual, “naked” souls, stripped of their “clothing”, how do they recognise the true nature of these departed souls? The true ethical nature of these departed and “naked” souls is recognisable to Rhadamanthus and Aiacus, Socrates holds, because unjust actions stamp the soul of the wrongdoer – very much like the body of the deceased criminal, whose body is covered with scars from flogging (524c1-7). The soul of an unjust, departed human is thus “covered with scars” [oulōn mestēn, 524e5], resulting from its unjust actions while still alive, from its deception [pseudos] and pretence [alazoneia], and from the fact that it had not been nourished by truth [alatheia] (524d7-525a3). Truth-seeking makes the soul “straight”, lying makes it “warped” and covered with “scars” (524d7-525a7).  In ancient Greece, we find the heroic scars on warriors and athletes, but we also find socially stigmatising scars among slaves and criminals: Slaves were marked permanently by means of tattoos, and criminals were whipped for their crimes, leaving scars on their bodies.  Plato obviously alluded to this convention.
29To sum up, Rhadamanthus and Aiacus are able to recognise the true nature of the soul in the following way. Since the departed humans are judged “naked” after their death, that is, without “clothing”, and since unjust actions, deception, pretence and disinterest in truth are visible on the soul, the judges are able to recognise the true nature of the soul, and hence to make a fair judgment.
30Socrates is confident that his personal way of living – “practising truth” [tēn alētheian askōn, 526d6] and living “as a very good man”, able to reveal “a soul that’s as healthy as it can be” [hygiestatēn tēn psychēn, 526d3-5] because he has practised truth – will provide protection at the afterlife tribunal, and that Callicles’ way of life will not provide protection there (526d3-527a4). This is probably why Socrates does not understand the myth as a “myth” [mythos], but as a true account [logos], and why Callicles understands it precisely as a myth [mythos] (527a5): The “clothing”, dismissed by Socrates, represents Callicles’ understanding of protection as he had expressed it earlier in the dialogue, namely the skill to protect oneself and anyone else at the law court by means of rhetorical skills and other means of deception in the social realm (483a8-b4).
31In Socrates’ comment to the myth, there is more going on than simply a reform of a dysfunctional afterlife tribunal issuing unfair judgments; we also find reflections on punishment itself. Rhadamanthus, judging those coming from Asia, when seizing upon someone wicked, without knowing who he is or his family lineage, only that he is wicked [ponēros], “brands [episēmēnamenos] the man as either curable [iasimos] or incurable [aniastos], as he sees fit, and dismisses the man to Tartarus, and once the man has arrived there, he undergoes the appropriate sufferings” (526b4-8). This is the second modification of the soul – the first is caused by unjust actions of the individual while still alive; this second modification is caused by the judges Rhadamanthus and Aiacus, eventually aided by Minos. The implication being, if we read the myth literally, that moral improvement is possible to the individual after death; some wicked, departed souls are curable (525b1-c1). The myth, Dodds has argued, thus presupposes the idea of reincarnation – an interpretation which Annas has rejected. 
32Socrates explains that the point of punishment after a fair trial at the afterlife tribunal is either “to become better and profit from it” (i.e. the curable souls), or to be made “an example” for others, so that they “may be afraid and become better” (i.e. the incurable souls) (525b1-c8). Here Socrates’ idea of reformative punishment emerges: the purpose of punishment is not retributive, as in the Homeric age, but reformative, that is, to reform the souls of those judged. This view on punishment applies, he says, “here and in Hades” [enthade kai in Haidou] (525b8); by “here” he probably means the time before death. The interpretative discussions of the myth carried out by Daniels and Russell clearly belong to this context, where it is justified to discuss whether or not Socrates’ words in the myth, and in his comment to the myth, are consistent with his earlier claim that virtue carries its own reward and vice its own punishment, even if unjust actions pass undetected (472e4-7, 473b3-481b5). Still, it would be misleading to claim that this is the central issue in the myth, partly because this claim is not part of the framing of the myth, partly because this is actually not the claim held by Socrates to be defended successfully throughout the dialogue (including the myth), namely that it is worse to commit injustice than to suffer injustice (527b2-6). That is why I have characterised this reading as misleading in my Introduction.
33The myth itself (523a1-524a7) does not deploy the term boētheia – this term appears before and after the myth, as explained above, but not in the myth itself. In the final section I explain how the central theme of the myth, judgment, is related to boētheia.
5. “Correction” or “Punishment” [kolasis] as True “Protection” [boētheia]
34In Section 2, I cited the following words from Socrates’ motivation of the myth: “For of all evils, the ultimate is that of arriving in Hades with one’s soul stuffed full of unjust actions.” (522e3-4.) As explained above, Socrates holds that the best form of protection ensures that one’s soul arrives in Hades without having committed unjust actions; if it has committed unjust actions, the second-best option is to undergo proper correction or punishment, since that is the only way to purge one’s soul (525b1-c1). Socrates, in his comment to the myth, carries on this issue of arriving in Hades with a soul untainted by unjust actions:
But among so many arguments, this alone survives refutation and remains steady: that doing what’s unjust is more to be guarded than suffering it, and that it’s not seeming to be good [to dokein einai agathon] but being good [to einai] that a man should take care of more than anything, both in his public and private life; and that if a person proves to be bad in some respect, he’s to be disciplined [kolasteos], and that the second best thing after being just is to become just by paying one’s due, by being disciplined [kolazomenon]; and that every form of flattery [kolakeian], both the form concerned with oneself and that concerned with others, whether they’re few or many, is to be avoided, and that oratory and every other activity is always to be used in support of what’s just (527b2-c4).
36The first lines in this quote refer back to Plato’s introduction of clothing in the myth. As we have seen, to the soul facing the afterlife tribunal in the Gorgias 523a1-524a7, “clothing” can be understood concretely, as garments, and metaphorically, as social status achieved through bodily beauty, family lineage, wealth, and witnesses providing favourable statements at the law courts about the character of the indicted person. To be “naked”, in the language of the myth, is to be stripped of clothing in both senses of the word, and this is an undesirable state, according to Callicles, because it does not provide self-protection. Callicles is, in fact, all in favour of “clothing”, because it provides the kind of protection that he thinks is crucial, namely protection of self-interest in social, interpersonal agency at civic institutions like the law court, achieved thorough flattery and gratification of the audience [kolakeia].  According to Socrates, on the other hand, “clothing” is an obstacle to protection. Why? Because “clothing” may be used as a means to manipulate one’s appearance in the social world, and thereby to evade correction and punishment; the former allowing one to continue doing wrong without being detected, the latter to evade punishment that would otherwise purify the soul of the wrongdoer. As the above quotation makes clear, it is a way of appearing good without being good. Paradoxically, “clothing”, according to Socrates, does not provide the most important means of protection, whereas “nudity” does.
37The last lines in the above quotation latch on to correction or punishment [kolasis], and its reformative purpose, which is an integral part of the myth itself, as we have seen, but which is also an important theme earlier in the discussion between Callicles and Socrates. Earlier in the dialogue, Callicles defends the ethical value of the undisciplined life [akolasia], whereas Socrates defends the value of the disciplined life, i.e. correction or appropriate correction or punishment [kolasis] (491d-508a: for Callicles’ view, see 491d4-494a5; for Socrates’ view, see 503d5-508a8). At one point, Socrates even says to Callicles that “being corrected” [kolazomenos] is “what the discussion is about” [peri hou ho logos esti, 505c3-4]. One may reject correction and punishment [kolasis], as in the case of Callicles who breaks up from the cross-examination at 505c1-506c4 (returning, surprisingly, in 509c), in order to protect his social standing, but thereby acting against his deeper self-interest.
38The issue of correction or punishment [kolasis] is strictly related to that of protection [boētheia]. According to Socrates, the greatest protection [boētheia] consists in the ability to avoid doing what harms one most, namely to commit injustice (509b1-c3). This avoidance is not, however, a mere question of passivity and rule-following: There is a craft [technē], Socrates continues, procuring a power [dynamis] not to commit injustice (509b1-510a2). Not to commit injustice in regard to humans or gods is precisely how Socrates understands protection in his introduction to the myth (522c7-d2). So much for one of the two concepts, protection [boētheia].
39Socrates’ understanding of protection is related to correction and punishment [kolasis]: The person who can endure the pain of correction and punishment [i.e. kolasis], is the one characterised by self-control [sōphrōsynē], whereas the one who cannot endure this is the so-called undisciplined person, the akolastos (506c5-507e; for “pain”, lypē, see 507b7-8, and the Timaeus 41d4-42e4). The person possessing this power will act justly in regard to other human beings and piously in regard to the gods (507b1-3) – a statement which is repeated by Socrates in his introduction to the myth (522c7-d2).
40Correction, or punishment, is painful, Socrates points out, and it requires resourcefulness [dynamis] to subject oneself to it, whether it be in the form of cross-examination [elenchos] or in more corporeal forms. “Clothing” may appear as an attractive way of deflecting such a painful process, but, Socrates holds, the process of correction and punishment is a precondition for true protection and, ultimately, for happiness [eudaimonia, 507c9-d6]. True protection, and happiness, is hard work, but it is worth the pain. That is what the myth is about.
I should like to thank the anonymous reviewers at the Revue de métaphysique et de morale for their suggestions. I also owe thanks to Professor Marie Louise Bech Nosch for her guidance about the cultural role of clothing in ancient Greece.
This applies to E. R. Dodds, “Commentary”, inPlato, Gorgias, Greek text, introduction and commentary by E. R. Dodds, Oxford: Clarendon, 1959, p. 372-6; T. Irwin, “Notes”, inPlato, Gorgias, English translation and notes by T. Irwin, Oxford: Clarendon, 1979, p. 242-53; J. Annas, “Plato’s Myths of Judgement”, Phronesis, 1982, 27.1, p. 122-5; K. Alt, “Diesseits und Jenseits in Platons Mythen von der Seele I”, Hermes, 1982, 110.3, p. 278-99; G. K. Plochmann, F. E. Robinson, A Friendly Companion to Plato’s Gorgias, Carbondale and Edwardsvill: Southern Illinois University Press, 1987, p. 228-45; C. B. Daniels, “The Afterlife Myth in Plato’s Gorgias”, The Journal of Value Inquiry, 1992, 26.2, p. 271-9; A. Fussi, “The Myth of the Last Judgement in the Gorgias”, Review of Metaphysics, 2001, 54, p. 529-52; D. C. Russell, “Misunderstanding the Myth in the Gorgias”, Southern Journal of Philosophy, 2011, 39, p. 557-73; T. C. Brickhouse, N. D. Smith, “Incurable Souls in Socratic Psychology”, Ancient Philosophy, 2002, 22, p. 21-36; M. Inwood, “Plato’s Eschatological Myths”, in C. Partenie (ed.), Plato’s Myths, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009, p. 28-50; D. Sedley, “Myth, Punishment and Politics in the Gorgias”, in C. Partenie (ed.), Plato’s Myths. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009, p. 51-76; R. G. Edmonds III, “Whip Scars on the Naked Soul: Myth and Elenchos in Plato’s Gorgias”, in C. Collobert, P. Destrée, F. J. Gonzalez (eds), Plato and Myth: Studies on the Use and Status of Platonic Myths. Mnemosyne. Supplements, 337, Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2012, p. 165-86; C. Rowe, “The Status of the Myth of the Gorgias, or: Taking Plato Seriously”, in C. Collobert, P. Destrée, F. J. Gonzalez (eds), Plato and Myth: Studies on the Use and Status of Platonic Myths, Mnemosyne. Supplements, 337, Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2012, p. 187-98; J. C. Shaw, “Punishment and Psychology in Plato’s Gorgias”, Polis. The Journal for Ancient Greek, 2015, 32.1, p. 75-95; R. Kamtekar, “The Soul’s (After-) Life”, Ancient Philosophy, 2016, 36, p. 116-22. It has only recently been argued that the concept of boētheia is central in the argumentative structure of the Gorgias; see L. Catana, “The Ethical Discussion of Protection [boētheia] in Plato’s Gorgias”, Classical Quarterly, 2019, 68.2, p. 425-41.
J. Annas, “Plato’s Myths of Judgement”, p. 122 n. 18 (521a-522e).
Ibid., p. 123 (523b4-d5).
Ibid., p. 122 (526e1-527a4), p. 124 (525b-d).
Ibid., p. 122. P. 122 n. 18, Annas refers to Gorgias 452e-453a, 454e-455a-c, 508c-511c, 521a-522e; the last reference falls within Socrates’ introduction to the myth. This is the only time she refers to this introduction.
J. Annas, “Plato’s Myths of Judgement”, p. 123.
Ibid., p. 122, p. 124.
For discussion of the meanings of mythos and logos in this passage, see C. Rowe, “The Status of the Myth of the Gorgias, or: Taking Plato Seriously”. See also P. Murray, “What is a Muthos for Plato?”, in R. Buxton (ed.), From Myth to Reason? Studies in the Development of Greek Thought, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001, p. 251-62.
E. R. Dodds, “Commentary”, p. 375-6, points out that the afterlife myth cannot be Orphic, and that it comprises elements that transcend the mythological sources, especially Plato’s central idea that the soul must be judged naked.
For the uses of clothing in the ancient Greek world, see: A. G. Geddes, “Rags and Riches: The Costume of Athenian Men in the Fifth Century”, Classical Quarterly, 1937, 37, p. 307-31; D. Cairns, “The Meaning of the Veil in Ancient Greek Culture”, in L. Llewellyn-Jones (ed.), Women’s Dress in the Ancient Greek World, London and Swansea: Classical Press of Wales, 2002, p. 73-93; R. J. Gorman, V. B. Gorman, Corrupting Luxury in Ancient Greek Literature, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2014; M. Harlow, M.-L. Nosch (eds), Greek and Roman Textiles and Dress: An Interdisciplinary Anthology. Ancient textiles series, 19, Oxford and Philadelphia: Oxbow, 2014; M. M. Lee, Body, Dress, and Identity in Ancient Greece, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015; D. Cairns, “Clothed in Shamelessness, Shrouded in Grief: The Role of ‘Garment’ Metaphors in Ancient Greek Concepts of Emotion”, in G. Fanfani, M. Harlow, M.-L. Nosch (eds), Spinning Fates and the Song of the Loom: The Use of Textiles, Clothing and Cloth Production as Metaphor, Symbol, and Narrative, Oxford and Philadelphia: Oxbow, 2016, p. 25-41.
S. Humphreys, “Social Relations on Stage: Witnesses in Classical Athens”, History and Anthropology, 1985, 1.2, p. 313-69. See also S. Todd, “The Purpose of Evidence in Athenian Courts”, in P. Cartledge, P. Milett, S. Todd (eds), NOMOS: Essays in Athenian Law, Politics and Society, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990, p. 19-40.
The expression “naked soul stripped of the body” [hē psychē gymnē tou sōmatos] can be found in the Cratylus 403b5-6, used about the dead.
Olympiodorus, Commentary on Plato’s “Gorgias”, translation with notes by R. Jackson, K. Lycos and H. Tarrant, introduction by H. Tarrant, Leiden: Brill, 1998, 48.1, p. 304.
For the reference to Homer I follow E. R. Dodds, “Commentary”, p. 377 (523a3).
T. C. Brickhouse, N. D. Smith, “Incurable Souls in Socratic Psychology”, p. 34-5, refer to Plato, Republic I.353d5-6, in order to account for the idea about the “bent” soul mentioned in the Gorgias 525a: such a corrupt soul cannot fulfil its function properly.
M. M. Lee, Body, Dress, and Identity in Ancient Greece, p. 82 n. 233.
E. R. Dodds, “Commentary”, p. 380-1 (525b1-526d2). Compare with Annas, “Plato’s Myths of Judgement”, p. 124-5.
For this reformative view on punishment in Plato and his context, see T. J. Saunders, Plato’s Penal Code: Tradition, Controversy, and Reform in Greek Penology, Oxford and New York: Clarendon, 1991; M. M. Mackenzie, Plato on Punishment, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981. For retributive justice in the popular thought of the afterlife, see S. H. Svavarsson, “Justice and the Afterlife”, in D. Wolfsdorf (ed.), Early Greek Ethics, Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming.
For Socrates on kolakeia, see 464b2-465a7, 513d7-8. For Callicles, holding that the political leader should provide kolakeia, see 521a2-b1. For the flatterer [kolax] being honoured in tyrannies and democracies, see also Aristotle, Politics V.11 1313b39-1314a5. For Aristotle’s distinction between the areskos, who is pleasant to his companions for no ulterior motive, and the kolax, who is pleasant to his companions in order to achieve wealth or what comes from wealth, see his Nicomachean Ethics IV.6 1127a6-12.