619bfor this is the greatest happiness for man.
“And at that time also the messenger from that other world reported that the prophet spoke thus: ‘Even for him who comes forward last, if he make his choice wisely and live strenuously, there is reserved an acceptable life, no evil one. Let not the foremost in the choice be heedless nor the last be discouraged.’ When the prophet had thus spoken he said that the drawer of the first lot at once sprang to seize the greatest tyranny, [Note] and that in his folly and greed he chose it
619cwithout sufficient examination, and failed to observe that it involved the fate of eating his own children, and other horrors, and that when he inspected it at leisure he beat his breast and bewailed his choice, not abiding by the forewarning of the prophet. For he did not blame himself [Note] for his woes, but fortune and the gods and anything except himself. He was one of those who had come down from heaven, a man who had lived in a well-ordered polity in his former existence,
619dparticipating in virtue by habit [Note] and not by philosophy; and one may perhaps say that a majority of those who were thus caught were of the company that had come from heaven, inasmuch as they were unexercised in suffering. But the most of those who came up from the earth, since they had themselves suffered and seen the sufferings of others, did not make their choice precipitately. For which reason also there was an interchange of good and evil for most of the souls, as well as because of the chances of the lot. Yet if at each return to the life of this world
619ea man loved wisdom sanely, and the lot of his choice did not fall out among the last, we may venture to affirm, from what was reported thence, that not only will he be happy here but that the path of his journey thither and the return to this world will not be underground and rough but smooth and through the heavens. For he said that it was a sight worth seeing to observe how the several souls selected their lives.
620aHe said it was a strange, pitiful, and ridiculous spectacle, as the choice was determined for the most part by the habits of their former lives. [Note] He saw the soul that had been Orpheus’, he said, selecting the life of a swan, [Note] because from hatred of the tribe of women, owing to his death at their hands, it was unwilling to be conceived and born of a woman. He saw the soul of Thamyras [Note] choosing the life of a nightingale; and he saw a swan changing to the choice of the life of man, and similarly other musical animals.
620bThe soul that drew the twentieth lot chose the life of a lion; it was the soul of Ajax, the son of Telamon, which, because it remembered the adjudication of the arms of Achilles, was unwilling to become a man. The next, the soul of Agamemnon, likewise from hatred of the human race because of its sufferings, substituted the life of an eagle. [Note] Drawing one of the middle lots the soul of Atalanta caught sight of the great honors attached to an athlete's life and could not pass them by but snatched at them.
620cAfter her, he said, he saw the soul of Epeius, [Note] the son of Panopeus, entering into the nature of an arts and crafts woman. Far off in the rear he saw the soul of the buffoon Thersites [Note] clothing itself in the body of an ape. And it fell out that the soul of Odysseus drew the last lot of all and came to make its choice, and, from memory of its former toils having flung away ambition, went about for a long time in quest of the life of an ordinary citizen who minded his own business, [Note] and with difficulty found it lying in some corner disregarded by the others,
620dand upon seeing it said that it would have done the same had it drawn the first lot, and chose it gladly. And in like manner, of the other beasts some entered into men [Note] and into one another, the unjust into wild creatures, the just transformed to tame, and there was every kind of mixture and combination. But when, to conclude, all the souls had chosen their lives in the order of their lots, they were marshalled and went before Lachesis. And she sent with each,
620eas the guardian of his life and the fulfiller of his choice, the genius [Note] that he had chosen, and this divinity led the soul first to Clotho, under her hand and her turning [Note] of the spindle to ratify the destiny of his lot and choice; and after contact with her the genius again led the soul to the spinning of Atropos [Note] to make the web of its destiny [Note] irreversible, and then without a backward look it passed beneath the throne of Necessity.