This article argues we can better interpret key aspects of Plato's Phaedo, including Socrates' cryptic final words, if we read the dialogue against the background of Greek manumission. I first discuss modes of manumission in ancient Greece, showing that the frequent participation of healing gods (Apollo, Asklepios, and Sarapis) reveals a conception of manumission as “healing.” I next examine Plato's use of manumission and slavery as metaphors, arguing that Plato uses the language of slavery in two main ways: like real slavery, metaphorical slavery could be good, if it reflected a natural hierarchy, or bad, if it entailed an inversion thereof. Accordingly, metaphorical manumission from good and bad “slavery” are shown to be bad and good, respectively. Finally, I reread Plato's Phaedo, showing that Socrates, a willing “slave” of the gods, seeks the “manumission”/healing of his soul. It is in exchange for his complete “manumission,” attainable only through the death of his body, that Socrates offers a cock to the healing/manumission god Asklepios.

This content is only available via PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.