Crito is a dialogue written by Plato that was probably published around 399 BCE. It depicts Socrates in prison a month after his trial and conviction, which Plato had described in The Apology. A difficulty Plato faced in composing the dialogue was justifying Socrates' decision to stay in prison rather than to escape after his wrongful condemnation. To do so, Plato had to draw a distinction between the just Laws, which Socrates must obey by staying in prison, and the unjust behavior of Socrates' accusers. The distinguished reputation of Crito rests largely on the idea of the social contract that Socrates introduces. It is the first suggestion in Western civilization that a legal system exists because of a kind of contract between the individual and the state, and this idea has had a tremendous impact on the modern world.

Crito—along with The ApologyEuthyphro, and Phaedo—comprise the quartet of  Plato’s works that are sometimes collectively called The Trial and Death of Socrates.

Read the free full text of the work, the overall summary, the overall analysis, and three Question & Answers about key ideas in Crito. Or, learn more by studying SparkNotes guides to other works by Plato.

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