Apology by Plato

Socrates Apology

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[2]       How you, O Athenians, have been affected by my accusers, I cannot tell; but
[3]       I know that they almost made me forget who I was--so persuasively did they
[4]       speak; and yet they have hardly uttered a word of truth. But of the many
[5]       falsehoods told by them, there was one which quite amazed me;--I mean when
[6]       they said that you should be upon your guard and not allow yourselves to be
[7]       deceived by the force of my eloquence. To say this, when they were certain
[8]       to be detected as soon as I opened my lips and proved myself to be anything
[9]       but a great speaker, did indeed appear to me most shameless--unless by the
[10]      force of eloquence they mean the force of truth; for is such is their
[11]      meaning, I admit that I am eloquent. But in how different a way from
[12]      theirs! Well, as I was saying, they have scarcely spoken the truth at all;
[13]      but from me you shall hear the whole truth: not, however, delivered after
[14]      their manner in a set oration duly ornamented with words and phrases. No,
[15]      by heaven! but I shall use the words and arguments which occur to me at the
[16]      moment; for I am confident in the justice of my cause (Or, I am certain
[17]      that I am right in taking this course.): at my time of life I ought not to
[18]      be appearing before you, O men of Athens, in the character of a juvenile
[19]      orator--let no one expect it of me. And I must beg of you to grant me a
[20]      favour:--If I defend myself in my accustomed manner, and you hear me using
[21]      the words which I have been in the habit of using in the agora, at the
[22]      tables of the money-changers, or anywhere else, I would ask you not to be
[23]      surprised, and not to interrupt me on this account. For I am more than
[24]      seventy years of age, and appearing now for the first time in a court of
[25]      law, I am quite a stranger to the language of the place; and therefore I
[26]      would have you regard me as if I were really a stranger, whom you would
[27]      excuse if he spoke in his native tongue, and after the fashion of his
[28]      country:--Am I making an unfair request of you? Never mind the manner,
[29]      which may or may not be good; but think only of the truth of my words, and
[30]      give heed to that: let the speaker speak truly and the judge decide
[31]      justly.
[33]      And first, I have to reply to the older charges and to my first accusers,
[34]      and then I will go on to the later ones. For of old I have had many
[35]      accusers, who have accused me falsely to you during many years; and I am
[36]      more afraid of them than of Anytus and his associates, who are dangerous,
[37]      too, in their own way. But far more dangerous are the others, who began
[38]      when you were children, and took possession of your minds with their
[39]      falsehoods, telling of one Socrates, a wise man, who speculated about the
[40]      heaven above, and searched into the earth beneath, and made the worse
[41]      appear the better cause. The disseminators of this tale are the accusers
[42]      whom I dread; for their hearers are apt to fancy that such enquirers do not
[43]      believe in the existence of the gods. And they are many, and their charges
[44]      against me are of ancient date, and they were made by them in the days when
[45]      you were more impressible than you are now--in childhood, or it may have
[46]      been in youth--and the cause when heard went by default, for there was none
[47]      to answer. And hardest of all, I do not know and cannot tell the names of
[48]      my accusers; unless in the chance case of a Comic poet. All who from envy
[49]      and malice have persuaded you--some of them having first convinced
[50]      themselves--all this class of men are most difficult to deal with; for I
[51]      cannot have them up here, and cross-examine them, and therefore I must
[52]      simply fight with shadows in my own defence, and argue when there is no one
[53]      who answers. I will ask you then to assume with me, as I was saying, that
[54]      my opponents are of two kinds; one recent, the other ancient: and I hope
[55]      that you will see the propriety of my answering the latter first, for these
[56]      accusations you heard long before the others, and much oftener.
[58]      Well, then, I must make my defence, and endeavour to clear away in a short
[59]      time, a slander which has lasted a long time. May I succeed, if to succeed
[60]      be for my good and yours, or likely to avail me in my cause! The task is
[61]      not an easy one; I quite understand the nature of it. And so leaving the
[62]      event with God, in obedience to the law I will now make my defence.
[64]      I will begin at the beginning, and ask what is the accusation which has
[65]      given rise to the slander of me, and in fact has encouraged Meletus to
[66]      proof this charge against me. Well, what do the slanderers say? They
[67]      shall be my prosecutors, and I will sum up their words in an affidavit:
[68]      'Socrates is an evil-doer, and a curious person, who searches into things
[69]      under the earth and in heaven, and he makes the worse appear the better
[70]      cause; and he teaches the aforesaid doctrines to others.' Such is the
[71]      nature of the accusation: it is just what you have yourselves seen in the
[72]      comedy of Aristophanes (Aristoph., Clouds.), who has introduced a man whom
[73]      he calls Socrates, going about and saying that he walks in air, and talking
[74]      a deal of nonsense concerning matters of which I do not pretend to know
[75]      either much or little--not that I mean to speak disparagingly of any one
[76]      who is a student of natural philosophy. I should be very sorry if Meletus
[77]      could bring so grave a charge against me. But the simple truth is, O
[78]      Athenians, that I have nothing to do with physical speculations. Very many
[79]      of those here present are witnesses to the truth of this, and to them I
[80]      appeal. Speak then, you who have heard me, and tell your neighbours
[81]      whether any of you have ever known me hold forth in few words or in many
[82]      upon such matters...You hear their answer. And from what they say of this
[83]      part of the charge you will be able to judge of the truth of the rest.
[85]      As little foundation is there for the report that I am a teacher, and take
[86]      money; this accusation has no more truth in it than the other. Although,
[87]      if a man were really able to instruct mankind, to receive money for giving
[88]      instruction would, in my opinion, be an honour to him. There is Gorgias of
[89]      Leontium, and Prodicus of Ceos, and Hippias of Elis, who go the round of
[90]      the cities, and are able to persuade the young men to leave their own
[91]      citizens by whom they might be taught for nothing, and come to them whom
[92]      they not only pay, but are thankful if they may be allowed to pay them.
[93]      There is at this time a Parian philosopher residing in Athens, of whom I
[94]      have heard; and I came to hear of him in this way:--I came across a man who
[95]      has spent a world of money on the Sophists, Callias, the son of Hipponicus,
[96]      and knowing that he had sons, I asked him: 'Callias,' I said, 'if your two
[97]      sons were foals or calves, there would be no difficulty in finding some one
[98]      to put over them; we should hire a trainer of horses, or a farmer probably,
[99]      who would improve and perfect them in their own proper virtue and
[100]     excellence; but as they are human beings, whom are you thinking of placing
[101]     over them? Is there any one who understands human and political virtue?
[102]     You must have thought about the matter, for you have sons; is there any
[103]     one?' 'There is,' he said. 'Who is he?' said I; 'and of what country? and
[104]     what does he charge?' 'Evenus the Parian,' he replied; 'he is the man, and
[105]     his charge is five minae.' Happy is Evenus, I said to myself, if he really
[106]     has this wisdom, and teaches at such a moderate charge. Had I the same, I
[107]     should have been very proud and conceited; but the truth is that I have no
[108]     knowledge of the kind.
[110]     I dare say, Athenians, that some one among you will reply, 'Yes, Socrates,
[111]     but what is the origin of these accusations which are brought against you;
[112]     there must have been something strange which you have been doing? All
[113]     these rumours and this talk about you would never have arisen if you had
[114]     been like other men: tell us, then, what is the cause of them, for we
[115]     should be sorry to judge hastily of you.' Now I regard this as a fair
[116]     challenge, and I will endeavour to explain to you the reason why I am
[117]     called wise and have such an evil fame. Please to attend then. And
[118]     although some of you may think that I am joking, I declare that I will tell
[119]     you the entire truth. Men of Athens, this reputation of mine has come of a
[120]     certain sort of wisdom which I possess. If you ask me what kind of wisdom,
[121]     I reply, wisdom such as may perhaps be attained by man, for to that extent
[122]     I am inclined to believe that I am wise; whereas the persons of whom I was
[123]     speaking have a superhuman wisdom which I may fail to describe, because I
[124]     have it not myself; and he who says that I have, speaks falsely, and is
[125]     taking away my character. And here, O men of Athens, I must beg you not to
[126]     interrupt me, even if I seem to say something extravagant. For the word
[127]     which I will speak is not mine. I will refer you to a witness who is
[128]     worthy of credit; that witness shall be the God of Delphi--he will tell you
[129]     about my wisdom, if I have any, and of what sort it is. You must have
[130]     known Chaerephon; he was early a friend of mine, and also a friend of
[131]     yours, for he shared in the recent exile of the people, and returned with
[132]     you. Well, Chaerephon, as you know, was very impetuous in all his doings,
[133]     and he went to Delphi and boldly asked the oracle to tell him whether--as I
[134]     was saying, I must beg you not to interrupt--he asked the oracle to tell
[135]     him whether anyone was wiser than I was, and the Pythian prophetess
[136]     answered, that there was no man wiser. Chaerephon is dead himself; but his
[137]     brother, who is in court, will confirm the truth of what I am saying.
[139]     Why do I mention this? Because I am going to explain to you why I have
[140]     such an evil name. When I heard the answer, I said to myself, What can the
[141]     god mean? and what is the interpretation of his riddle? for I know that I
[142]     have no wisdom, small or great. What then can he mean when he says that I
[143]     am the wisest of men? And yet he is a god, and cannot lie; that would be
[144]     against his nature. After long consideration, I thought of a method of
[145]     trying the question. I reflected that if I could only find a man wiser
[146]     than myself, then I might go to the god with a refutation in my hand. I
[147]     should say to him, 'Here is a man who is wiser than I am; but you said that
[148]     I was the wisest.' Accordingly I went to one who had the reputation of
[149]     wisdom, and observed him--his name I need not mention; he was a politician
[150]     whom I selected for examination--and the result was as follows: When I
[151]     began to talk with him, I could not help thinking that he was not really
[152]     wise, although he was thought wise by many, and still wiser by himself; and
[153]     thereupon I tried to explain to him that he thought himself wise, but was
[154]     not really wise; and the consequence was that he hated me, and his enmity
[155]     was shared by several who were present and heard me. So I left him, saying
[156]     to myself, as I went away: Well, although I do not suppose that either of
[157]     us knows anything really beautiful and good, I am better off than he is,--
[158]     for he knows nothing, and thinks that he knows; I neither know nor think
[159]     that I know. In this latter particular, then, I seem to have slightly the
[160]     advantage of him. Then I went to another who had still higher pretensions
[161]     to wisdom, and my conclusion was exactly the same. Whereupon I made
[162]     another enemy of him, and of many others besides him.
[164]     Then I went to one man after another, being not unconscious of the enmity
[165]     which I provoked, and I lamented and feared this: but necessity was laid
[166]     upon me,--the word of God, I thought, ought to be considered first. And I
[167]     said to myself, Go I must to all who appear to know, and find out the
[168]     meaning of the oracle. And I swear to you, Athenians, by the dog I swear!
[169]     --for I must tell you the truth--the result of my mission was just this: I
[170]     found that the men most in repute were all but the most foolish; and that
[171]     others less esteemed were really wiser and better. I will tell you the
[172]     tale of my wanderings and of the 'Herculean' labours, as I may call them,
[173]     which I endured only to find at last the oracle irrefutable. After the
[174]     politicians, I went to the poets; tragic, dithyrambic, and all sorts. And
[175]     there, I said to myself, you will be instantly detected; now you will find
[176]     out that you are more ignorant than they are. Accordingly, I took them
[177]     some of the most elaborate passages in their own writings, and asked what
[178]     was the meaning of them--thinking that they would teach me something. Will
[179]     you believe me? I am almost ashamed to confess the truth, but I must say
[180]     that there is hardly a person present who would not have talked better
[181]     about their poetry than they did themselves. Then I knew that not by
[182]     wisdom do poets write poetry, but by a sort of genius and inspiration; they
[183]     are like diviners or soothsayers who also say many fine things, but do not
[184]     understand the meaning of them. The poets appeared to me to be much in the
[185]     same case; and I further observed that upon the strength of their poetry
[186]     they believed themselves to be the wisest of men in other things in which
[187]     they were not wise. So I departed, conceiving myself to be superior to
[188]     them for the same reason that I was superior to the politicians.
[190]     At last I went to the artisans. I was conscious that I knew nothing at
[191]     all, as I may say, and I was sure that they knew many fine things; and here
[192]     I was not mistaken, for they did know many things of which I was ignorant,
[193]     and in this they certainly were wiser than I was. But I observed that even
[194]     the good artisans fell into the same error as the poets;--because they were
[195]     good workmen they thought that they also knew all sorts of high matters,
[196]     and this defect in them overshadowed their wisdom; and therefore I asked
[197]     myself on behalf of the oracle, whether I would like to be as I was,
[198]     neither having their knowledge nor their ignorance, or like them in both;
[199]     and I made answer to myself and to the oracle that I was better off as I
[200]     was.
[202]     This inquisition has led to my having many enemies of the worst and most
[203]     dangerous kind, and has given occasion also to many calumnies. And I am
[204]     called wise, for my hearers always imagine that I myself possess the wisdom
[205]     which I find wanting in others: but the truth is, O men of Athens, that
[206]     God only is wise; and by his answer he intends to show that the wisdom of
[207]     men is worth little or nothing; he is not speaking of Socrates, he is only
[208]     using my name by way of illustration, as if he said, He, O men, is the
[209]     wisest, who, like Socrates, knows that his wisdom is in truth worth
[210]     nothing. And so I go about the world, obedient to the god, and search and
[211]     make enquiry into the wisdom of any one, whether citizen or stranger, who
[212]     appears to be wise; and if he is not wise, then in vindication of the
[213]     oracle I show him that he is not wise; and my occupation quite absorbs me,
[214]     and I have no time to give either to any public matter of interest or to
[215]     any concern of my own, but I am in utter poverty by reason of my devotion
[216]     to the god.
[218]     There is another thing:--young men of the richer classes, who have not much
[219]     to do, come about me of their own accord; they like to hear the pretenders
[220]     examined, and they often imitate me, and proceed to examine others; there
[221]     are plenty of persons, as they quickly discover, who think that they know
[222]     something, but really know little or nothing; and then those who are
[223]     examined by them instead of being angry with themselves are angry with me:
[224]     This confounded Socrates, they say; this villainous misleader of youth!--
[225]     and then if somebody asks them, Why, what evil does he practise or teach?
[226]     they do not know, and cannot tell; but in order that they may not appear to
[227]     be at a loss, they repeat the ready-made charges which are used against all
[228]     philosophers about teaching things up in the clouds and under the earth,
[229]     and having no gods, and making the worse appear the better cause; for they
[230]     do not like to confess that their pretence of knowledge has been detected--
[231]     which is the truth; and as they are numerous and ambitious and energetic,
[232]     and are drawn up in battle array and have persuasive tongues, they have
[233]     filled your ears with their loud and inveterate calumnies. And this is the
[234]     reason why my three accusers, Meletus and Anytus and Lycon, have set upon
[235]     me; Meletus, who has a quarrel with me on behalf of the poets; Anytus, on
[236]     behalf of the craftsmen and politicians; Lycon, on behalf of the
[237]     rhetoricians: and as I said at the beginning, I cannot expect to get rid
[238]     of such a mass of calumny all in a moment. And this, O men of Athens, is
[239]     the truth and the whole truth; I have concealed nothing, I have dissembled
[240]     nothing. And yet, I know that my plainness of speech makes them hate me,
[241]     and what is their hatred but a proof that I am speaking the truth?--Hence
[242]     has arisen the prejudice against me; and this is the reason of it, as you
[243]     will find out either in this or in any future enquiry.
[245]     I have said enough in my defence against the first class of my accusers; I
[246]     turn to the second class. They are headed by Meletus, that good man and
[247]     true lover of his country, as he calls himself. Against these, too, I must
[248]     try to make a defence:--Let their affidavit be read: it contains something
[249]     of this kind: It says that Socrates is a doer of evil, who corrupts the
[250]     youth; and who does not believe in the gods of the state, but has other new
[251]     divinities of his own. Such is the charge; and now let us examine the
[252]     particular counts. He says that I am a doer of evil, and corrupt the
[253]     youth; but I say, O men of Athens, that Meletus is a doer of evil, in that
[254]     he pretends to be in earnest when he is only in jest, and is so eager to
[255]     bring men to trial from a pretended zeal and interest about matters in
[256]     which he really never had the smallest interest. And the truth of this I
[257]     will endeavour to prove to you.
[259]     Come hither, Meletus, and let me ask a question of you. You think a great
[260]     deal about the improvement of youth?
[262]     Yes, I do.
[264]     Tell the judges, then, who is their improver; for you must know, as you
[265]     have taken the pains to discover their corrupter, and are citing and
[266]     accusing me before them. Speak, then, and tell the judges who their
[267]     improver is.--Observe, Meletus, that you are silent, and have nothing to
[268]     say. But is not this rather disgraceful, and a very considerable proof of
[269]     what I was saying, that you have no interest in the matter? Speak up,
[270]     friend, and tell us who their improver is.
[272]     The laws.
[274]     But that, my good sir, is not my meaning. I want to know who the person
[275]     is, who, in the first place, knows the laws.
[277]     The judges, Socrates, who are present in court.
[279]     What, do you mean to say, Meletus, that they are able to instruct and
[280]     improve youth?
[282]     Certainly they are.
[284]     What, all of them, or some only and not others?
[286]     All of them.
[288]     By the goddess Here, that is good news! There are plenty of improvers,
[289]     then. And what do you say of the audience,--do they improve them?
[291]     Yes, they do.
[293]     And the senators?
[295]     Yes, the senators improve them.
[297]     But perhaps the members of the assembly corrupt them?--or do they too
[298]     improve them?
[300]     They improve them.
[302]     Then every Athenian improves and elevates them; all with the exception of
[303]     myself; and I alone am their corrupter? Is that what you affirm?
[305]     That is what I stoutly affirm.
[307]     I am very unfortunate if you are right. But suppose I ask you a question:
[308]     How about horses? Does one man do them harm and all the world good? Is
[309]     not the exact opposite the truth? One man is able to do them good, or at
[310]     least not many;--the trainer of horses, that is to say, does them good, and
[311]     others who have to do with them rather injure them? Is not that true,
[312]     Meletus, of horses, or of any other animals? Most assuredly it is; whether
[313]     you and Anytus say yes or no. Happy indeed would be the condition of youth
[314]     if they had one corrupter only, and all the rest of the world were their
[315]     improvers. But you, Meletus, have sufficiently shown that you never had a
[316]     thought about the young: your carelessness is seen in your not caring
[317]     about the very things which you bring against me.
[319]     And now, Meletus, I will ask you another question--by Zeus I will: Which
[320]     is better, to live among bad citizens, or among good ones? Answer, friend,
[321]     I say; the question is one which may be easily answered. Do not the good
[322]     do their neighbours good, and the bad do them evil?
[324]     Certainly.
[326]     And is there anyone who would rather be injured than benefited by those who
[327]     live with him? Answer, my good friend, the law requires you to answer--
[328]     does any one like to be injured?
[330]     Certainly not.
[332]     And when you accuse me of corrupting and deteriorating the youth, do you
[333]     allege that I corrupt them intentionally or unintentionally?
[335]     Intentionally, I say.
[337]     But you have just admitted that the good do their neighbours good, and the
[338]     evil do them evil. Now, is that a truth which your superior wisdom has
[339]     recognized thus early in life, and am I, at my age, in such darkness and
[340]     ignorance as not to know that if a man with whom I have to live is
[341]     corrupted by me, I am very likely to be harmed by him; and yet I corrupt
[342]     him, and intentionally, too--so you say, although neither I nor any other
[343]     human being is ever likely to be convinced by you. But either I do not
[344]     corrupt them, or I corrupt them unintentionally; and on either view of the
[345]     case you lie. If my offence is unintentional, the law has no cognizance of
[346]     unintentional offences: you ought to have taken me privately, and warned
[347]     and admonished me; for if I had been better advised, I should have left off
[348]     doing what I only did unintentionally--no doubt I should; but you would
[349]     have nothing to say to me and refused to teach me. And now you bring me up
[350]     in this court, which is a place not of instruction, but of punishment.
[352]     It will be very clear to you, Athenians, as I was saying, that Meletus has
[353]     no care at all, great or small, about the matter. But still I should like
[354]     to know, Meletus, in what I am affirmed to corrupt the young. I suppose
[355]     you mean, as I infer from your indictment, that I teach them not to
[356]     acknowledge the gods which the state acknowledges, but some other new
[357]     divinities or spiritual agencies in their stead. These are the lessons by
[358]     which I corrupt the youth, as you say.
[360]     Yes, that I say emphatically.
[362]     Then, by the gods, Meletus, of whom we are speaking, tell me and the court,
[363]     in somewhat plainer terms, what you mean! for I do not as yet understand
[364]     whether you affirm that I teach other men to acknowledge some gods, and
[365]     therefore that I do believe in gods, and am not an entire atheist--this you
[366]     do not lay to my charge,--but only you say that they are not the same gods
[367]     which the city recognizes--the charge is that they are different gods. Or,
[368]     do you mean that I am an atheist simply, and a teacher of atheism?
[370]     I mean the latter--that you are a complete atheist.
[372]     What an extraordinary statement! Why do you think so, Meletus? Do you
[373]     mean that I do not believe in the godhead of the sun or moon, like other
[374]     men?
[376]     I assure you, judges, that he does not: for he says that the sun is stone,
[377]     and the moon earth.
[379]     Friend Meletus, you think that you are accusing Anaxagoras: and you have
[380]     but a bad opinion of the judges, if you fancy them illiterate to such a
[381]     degree as not to know that these doctrines are found in the books of
[382]     Anaxagoras the Clazomenian, which are full of them. And so, forsooth, the
[383]     youth are said to be taught them by Socrates, when there are not
[384]     unfrequently exhibitions of them at the theatre (Probably in allusion to
[385]     Aristophanes who caricatured, and to Euripides who borrowed the notions of
[386]     Anaxagoras, as well as to other dramatic poets.) (price of admission one
[387]     drachma at the most); and they might pay their money, and laugh at Socrates
[388]     if he pretends to father these extraordinary views. And so, Meletus, you
[389]     really think that I do not believe in any god?
[391]     I swear by Zeus that you believe absolutely in none at all.
[393]     Nobody will believe you, Meletus, and I am pretty sure that you do not
[394]     believe yourself. I cannot help thinking, men of Athens, that Meletus is
[395]     reckless and impudent, and that he has written this indictment in a spirit
[396]     of mere wantonness and youthful bravado. Has he not compounded a riddle,
[397]     thinking to try me? He said to himself:--I shall see whether the wise
[398]     Socrates will discover my facetious contradiction, or whether I shall be
[399]     able to deceive him and the rest of them. For he certainly does appear to
[400]     me to contradict himself in the indictment as much as if he said that
[401]     Socrates is guilty of not believing in the gods, and yet of believing in
[402]     them--but this is not like a person who is in earnest.
[404]     I should like you, O men of Athens, to join me in examining what I conceive
[405]     to be his inconsistency; and do you, Meletus, answer. And I must remind
[406]     the audience of my request that they would not make a disturbance if I
[407]     speak in my accustomed manner:
[409]     Did ever man, Meletus, believe in the existence of human things, and not of
[410]     human beings?...I wish, men of Athens, that he would answer, and not be
[411]     always trying to get up an interruption. Did ever any man believe in
[412]     horsemanship, and not in horses? or in flute-playing, and not in flute-
[413]     players? No, my friend; I will answer to you and to the court, as you
[414]     refuse to answer for yourself. There is no man who ever did. But now
[415]     please to answer the next question: Can a man believe in spiritual and
[416]     divine agencies, and not in spirits or demigods?
[418]     He cannot.
[420]     How lucky I am to have extracted that answer, by the assistance of the
[421]     court! But then you swear in the indictment that I teach and believe in
[422]     divine or spiritual agencies (new or old, no matter for that); at any rate,
[423]     I believe in spiritual agencies,--so you say and swear in the affidavit;
[424]     and yet if I believe in divine beings, how can I help believing in spirits
[425]     or demigods;--must I not? To be sure I must; and therefore I may assume
[426]     that your silence gives consent. Now what are spirits or demigods? Are
[427]     they not either gods or the sons of gods?
[429]     Certainly they are.
[431]     But this is what I call the facetious riddle invented by you: the demigods
[432]     or spirits are gods, and you say first that I do not believe in gods, and
[433]     then again that I do believe in gods; that is, if I believe in demigods.
[434]     For if the demigods are the illegitimate sons of gods, whether by the
[435]     nymphs or by any other mothers, of whom they are said to be the sons--what
[436]     human being will ever believe that there are no gods if they are the sons
[437]     of gods? You might as well affirm the existence of mules, and deny that of
[438]     horses and asses. Such nonsense, Meletus, could only have been intended by
[439]     you to make trial of me. You have put this into the indictment because you
[440]     had nothing real of which to accuse me. But no one who has a particle of
[441]     understanding will ever be convinced by you that the same men can believe
[442]     in divine and superhuman things, and yet not believe that there are gods
[443]     and demigods and heroes.
[445]     I have said enough in answer to the charge of Meletus: any elaborate
[446]     defence is unnecessary, but I know only too well how many are the enmities
[447]     which I have incurred, and this is what will be my destruction if I am
[448]     destroyed;--not Meletus, nor yet Anytus, but the envy and detraction of the
[449]     world, which has been the death of many good men, and will probably be the
[450]     death of many more; there is no danger of my being the last of them.
[452]     Some one will say: And are you not ashamed, Socrates, of a course of life
[453]     which is likely to bring you to an untimely end? To him I may fairly
[454]     answer: There you are mistaken: a man who is good for anything ought not
[455]     to calculate the chance of living or dying; he ought only to consider
[456]     whether in doing anything he is doing right or wrong--acting the part of a
[457]     good man or of a bad. Whereas, upon your view, the heroes who fell at Troy
[458]     were not good for much, and the son of Thetis above all, who altogether
[459]     despised danger in comparison with disgrace; and when he was so eager to
[460]     slay Hector, his goddess mother said to him, that if he avenged his
[461]     companion Patroclus, and slew Hector, he would die himself--'Fate,' she
[462]     said, in these or the like words, 'waits for you next after Hector;' he,
[463]     receiving this warning, utterly despised danger and death, and instead of
[464]     fearing them, feared rather to live in dishonour, and not to avenge his
[465]     friend. 'Let me die forthwith,' he replies, 'and be avenged of my enemy,
[466]     rather than abide here by the beaked ships, a laughing-stock and a burden
[467]     of the earth.' Had Achilles any thought of death and danger? For wherever
[468]     a man's place is, whether the place which he has chosen or that in which he
[469]     has been placed by a commander, there he ought to remain in the hour of
[470]     danger; he should not think of death or of anything but of disgrace. And
[471]     this, O men of Athens, is a true saying.
[473]     Strange, indeed, would be my conduct, O men of Athens, if I who, when I was
[474]     ordered by the generals whom you chose to command me at Potidaea and
[475]     Amphipolis and Delium, remained where they placed me, like any other man,
[476]     facing death--if now, when, as I conceive and imagine, God orders me to
[477]     fulfil the philosopher's mission of searching into myself and other men, I
[478]     were to desert my post through fear of death, or any other fear; that would
[479]     indeed be strange, and I might justly be arraigned in court for denying the
[480]     existence of the gods, if I disobeyed the oracle because I was afraid of
[481]     death, fancying that I was wise when I was not wise. For the fear of death
[482]     is indeed the pretence of wisdom, and not real wisdom, being a pretence of
[483]     knowing the unknown; and no one knows whether death, which men in their
[484]     fear apprehend to be the greatest evil, may not be the greatest good. Is
[485]     not this ignorance of a disgraceful sort, the ignorance which is the
[486]     conceit that a man knows what he does not know? And in this respect only I
[487]     believe myself to differ from men in general, and may perhaps claim to be
[488]     wiser than they are:--that whereas I know but little of the world below, I
[489]     do not suppose that I know: but I do know that injustice and disobedience
[490]     to a better, whether God or man, is evil and dishonourable, and I will
[491]     never fear or avoid a possible good rather than a certain evil. And
[492]     therefore if you let me go now, and are not convinced by Anytus, who said
[493]     that since I had been prosecuted I must be put to death; (or if not that I
[494]     ought never to have been prosecuted at all); and that if I escape now, your
[495]     sons will all be utterly ruined by listening to my words--if you say to me,
[496]     Socrates, this time we will not mind Anytus, and you shall be let off, but
[497]     upon one condition, that you are not to enquire and speculate in this way
[498]     any more, and that if you are caught doing so again you shall die;--if this
[499]     was the condition on which you let me go, I should reply: Men of Athens, I
[500]     honour and love you; but I shall obey God rather than you, and while I have
[501]     life and strength I shall never cease from the practice and teaching of
[502]     philosophy, exhorting any one whom I meet and saying to him after my
[503]     manner: You, my friend,--a citizen of the great and mighty and wise city
[504]     of Athens,--are you not ashamed of heaping up the greatest amount of money
[505]     and honour and reputation, and caring so little about wisdom and truth and
[506]     the greatest improvement of the soul, which you never regard or heed at
[507]     all? And if the person with whom I am arguing, says: Yes, but I do care;
[508]     then I do not leave him or let him go at once; but I proceed to interrogate
[509]     and examine and cross-examine him, and if I think that he has no virtue in
[510]     him, but only says that he has, I reproach him with undervaluing the
[511]     greater, and overvaluing the less. And I shall repeat the same words to
[512]     every one whom I meet, young and old, citizen and alien, but especially to
[513]     the citizens, inasmuch as they are my brethren. For know that this is the
[514]     command of God; and I believe that no greater good has ever happened in the
[515]     state than my service to the God. For I do nothing but go about persuading
[516]     you all, old and young alike, not to take thought for your persons or your
[517]     properties, but first and chiefly to care about the greatest improvement of
[518]     the soul. I tell you that virtue is not given by money, but that from
[519]     virtue comes money and every other good of man, public as well as private.
[520]     This is my teaching, and if this is the doctrine which corrupts the youth,
[521]     I am a mischievous person. But if any one says that this is not my
[522]     teaching, he is speaking an untruth. Wherefore, O men of Athens, I say to
[523]     you, do as Anytus bids or not as Anytus bids, and either acquit me or not;
[524]     but whichever you do, understand that I shall never alter my ways, not even
[525]     if I have to die many times.
[527]     Men of Athens, do not interrupt, but hear me; there was an understanding
[528]     between us that you should hear me to the end: I have something more to
[529]     say, at which you may be inclined to cry out; but I believe that to hear me
[530]     will be good for you, and therefore I beg that you will not cry out. I
[531]     would have you know, that if you kill such an one as I am, you will injure
[532]     yourselves more than you will injure me. Nothing will injure me, not
[533]     Meletus nor yet Anytus--they cannot, for a bad man is not permitted to
[534]     injure a better than himself. I do not deny that Anytus may, perhaps, kill
[535]     him, or drive him into exile, or deprive him of civil rights; and he may
[536]     imagine, and others may imagine, that he is inflicting a great injury upon
[537]     him: but there I do not agree. For the evil of doing as he is doing--the
[538]     evil of unjustly taking away the life of another--is greater far.
[540]     And now, Athenians, I am not going to argue for my own sake, as you may
[541]     think, but for yours, that you may not sin against the God by condemning
[542]     me, who am his gift to you. For if you kill me you will not easily find a
[543]     successor to me, who, if I may use such a ludicrous figure of speech, am a
[544]     sort of gadfly, given to the state by God; and the state is a great and
[545]     noble steed who is tardy in his motions owing to his very size, and
[546]     requires to be stirred into life. I am that gadfly which God has attached
[547]     to the state, and all day long and in all places am always fastening upon
[548]     you, arousing and persuading and reproaching you. You will not easily find
[549]     another like me, and therefore I would advise you to spare me. I dare say
[550]     that you may feel out of temper (like a person who is suddenly awakened
[551]     from sleep), and you think that you might easily strike me dead as Anytus
[552]     advises, and then you would sleep on for the remainder of your lives,
[553]     unless God in his care of you sent you another gadfly. When I say that I
[554]     am given to you by God, the proof of my mission is this:--if I had been
[555]     like other men, I should not have neglected all my own concerns or
[556]     patiently seen the neglect of them during all these years, and have been
[557]     doing yours, coming to you individually like a father or elder brother,
[558]     exhorting you to regard virtue; such conduct, I say, would be unlike human
[559]     nature. If I had gained anything, or if my exhortations had been paid,
[560]     there would have been some sense in my doing so; but now, as you will
[561]     perceive, not even the impudence of my accusers dares to say that I have
[562]     ever exacted or sought pay of any one; of that they have no witness. And I
[563]     have a sufficient witness to the truth of what I say--my poverty.
[565]     Some one may wonder why I go about in private giving advice and busying
[566]     myself with the concerns of others, but do not venture to come forward in
[567]     public and advise the state. I will tell you why. You have heard me speak
[568]     at sundry times and in divers places of an oracle or sign which comes to
[569]     me, and is the divinity which Meletus ridicules in the indictment. This
[570]     sign, which is a kind of voice, first began to come to me when I was a
[571]     child; it always forbids but never commands me to do anything which I am
[572]     going to do. This is what deters me from being a politician. And rightly,
[573]     as I think. For I am certain, O men of Athens, that if I had engaged in
[574]     politics, I should have perished long ago, and done no good either to you
[575]     or to myself. And do not be offended at my telling you the truth: for the
[576]     truth is, that no man who goes to war with you or any other multitude,
[577]     honestly striving against the many lawless and unrighteous deeds which are
[578]     done in a state, will save his life; he who will fight for the right, if he
[579]     would live even for a brief space, must have a private station and not a
[580]     public one.
[582]     I can give you convincing evidence of what I say, not words only, but what
[583]     you value far more--actions. Let me relate to you a passage of my own life
[584]     which will prove to you that I should never have yielded to injustice from
[585]     any fear of death, and that 'as I should have refused to yield' I must have
[586]     died at once. I will tell you a tale of the courts, not very interesting
[587]     perhaps, but nevertheless true. The only office of state which I ever
[588]     held, O men of Athens, was that of senator: the tribe Antiochis, which is
[589]     my tribe, had the presidency at the trial of the generals who had not taken
[590]     up the bodies of the slain after the battle of Arginusae; and you proposed
[591]     to try them in a body, contrary to law, as you all thought afterwards; but
[592]     at the time I was the only one of the Prytanes who was opposed to the
[593]     illegality, and I gave my vote against you; and when the orators threatened
[594]     to impeach and arrest me, and you called and shouted, I made up my mind
[595]     that I would run the risk, having law and justice with me, rather than take
[596]     part in your injustice because I feared imprisonment and death. This
[597]     happened in the days of the democracy. But when the oligarchy of the
[598]     Thirty was in power, they sent for me and four others into the rotunda, and
[599]     bade us bring Leon the Salaminian from Salamis, as they wanted to put him
[600]     to death. This was a specimen of the sort of commands which they were
[601]     always giving with the view of implicating as many as possible in their
[602]     crimes; and then I showed, not in word only but in deed, that, if I may be
[603]     allowed to use such an expression, I cared not a straw for death, and that
[604]     my great and only care was lest I should do an unrighteous or unholy thing.
[605]     For the strong arm of that oppressive power did not frighten me into doing
[606]     wrong; and when we came out of the rotunda the other four went to Salamis
[607]     and fetched Leon, but I went quietly home. For which I might have lost my
[608]     life, had not the power of the Thirty shortly afterwards come to an end.
[609]     And many will witness to my words.
[611]     Now do you really imagine that I could have survived all these years, if I
[612]     had led a public life, supposing that like a good man I had always
[613]     maintained the right and had made justice, as I ought, the first thing? No
[614]     indeed, men of Athens, neither I nor any other man. But I have been always
[615]     the same in all my actions, public as well as private, and never have I
[616]     yielded any base compliance to those who are slanderously termed my
[617]     disciples, or to any other. Not that I have any regular disciples. But if
[618]     any one likes to come and hear me while I am pursuing my mission, whether
[619]     he be young or old, he is not excluded. Nor do I converse only with those
[620]     who pay; but any one, whether he be rich or poor, may ask and answer me and
[621]     listen to my words; and whether he turns out to be a bad man or a good one,
[622]     neither result can be justly imputed to me; for I never taught or professed
[623]     to teach him anything. And if any one says that he has ever learned or
[624]     heard anything from me in private which all the world has not heard, let me
[625]     tell you that he is lying.
[627]     But I shall be asked, Why do people delight in continually conversing with
[628]     you? I have told you already, Athenians, the whole truth about this
[629]     matter: they like to hear the cross-examination of the pretenders to
[630]     wisdom; there is amusement in it. Now this duty of cross-examining other
[631]     men has been imposed upon me by God; and has been signified to me by
[632]     oracles, visions, and in every way in which the will of divine power was
[633]     ever intimated to any one. This is true, O Athenians, or, if not true,
[634]     would be soon refuted. If I am or have been corrupting the youth, those of
[635]     them who are now grown up and have become sensible that I gave them bad
[636]     advice in the days of their youth should come forward as accusers, and take
[637]     their revenge; or if they do not like to come themselves, some of their
[638]     relatives, fathers, brothers, or other kinsmen, should say what evil their
[639]     families have suffered at my hands. Now is their time. Many of them I see
[640]     in the court. There is Crito, who is of the same age and of the same deme
[641]     with myself, and there is Critobulus his son, whom I also see. Then again
[642]     there is Lysanias of Sphettus, who is the father of Aeschines--he is
[643]     present; and also there is Antiphon of Cephisus, who is the father of
[644]     Epigenes; and there are the brothers of several who have associated with
[645]     me. There is Nicostratus the son of Theosdotides, and the brother of
[646]     Theodotus (now Theodotus himself is dead, and therefore he, at any rate,
[647]     will not seek to stop him); and there is Paralus the son of Demodocus, who
[648]     had a brother Theages; and Adeimantus the son of Ariston, whose brother
[649]     Plato is present; and Aeantodorus, who is the brother of Apollodorus, whom
[650]     I also see. I might mention a great many others, some of whom Meletus
[651]     should have produced as witnesses in the course of his speech; and let him
[652]     still produce them, if he has forgotten--I will make way for him. And let
[653]     him say, if he has any testimony of the sort which he can produce. Nay,
[654]     Athenians, the very opposite is the truth. For all these are ready to
[655]     witness on behalf of the corrupter, of the injurer of their kindred, as
[656]     Meletus and Anytus call me; not the corrupted youth only--there might have
[657]     been a motive for that--but their uncorrupted elder relatives. Why should
[658]     they too support me with their testimony? Why, indeed, except for the sake
[659]     of truth and justice, and because they know that I am speaking the truth,
[660]     and that Meletus is a liar.
[662]     Well, Athenians, this and the like of this is all the defence which I have
[663]     to offer. Yet a word more. Perhaps there may be some one who is offended
[664]     at me, when he calls to mind how he himself on a similar, or even a less
[665]     serious occasion, prayed and entreated the judges with many tears, and how
[666]     he produced his children in court, which was a moving spectacle, together
[667]     with a host of relations and friends; whereas I, who am probably in danger
[668]     of my life, will do none of these things. The contrast may occur to his
[669]     mind, and he may be set against me, and vote in anger because he is
[670]     displeased at me on this account. Now if there be such a person among
[671]     you,--mind, I do not say that there is,--to him I may fairly reply: My
[672]     friend, I am a man, and like other men, a creature of flesh and blood, and
[673]     not 'of wood or stone,' as Homer says; and I have a family, yes, and sons,
[674]     O Athenians, three in number, one almost a man, and two others who are
[675]     still young; and yet I will not bring any of them hither in order to
[676]     petition you for an acquittal. And why not? Not from any self-assertion
[677]     or want of respect for you. Whether I am or am not afraid of death is
[678]     another question, of which I will not now speak. But, having regard to
[679]     public opinion, I feel that such conduct would be discreditable to myself,
[680]     and to you, and to the whole state. One who has reached my years, and who
[681]     has a name for wisdom, ought not to demean himself. Whether this opinion
[682]     of me be deserved or not, at any rate the world has decided that Socrates
[683]     is in some way superior to other men. And if those among you who are said
[684]     to be superior in wisdom and courage, and any other virtue, demean
[685]     themselves in this way, how shameful is their conduct! I have seen men of
[686]     reputation, when they have been condemned, behaving in the strangest
[687]     manner: they seemed to fancy that they were going to suffer something
[688]     dreadful if they died, and that they could be immortal if you only allowed
[689]     them to live; and I think that such are a dishonour to the state, and that
[690]     any stranger coming in would have said of them that the most eminent men of
[691]     Athens, to whom the Athenians themselves give honour and command, are no
[692]     better than women. And I say that these things ought not to be done by
[693]     those of us who have a reputation; and if they are done, you ought not to
[694]     permit them; you ought rather to show that you are far more disposed to
[695]     condemn the man who gets up a doleful scene and makes the city ridiculous,
[696]     than him who holds his peace.
[698]     But, setting aside the question of public opinion, there seems to be
[699]     something wrong in asking a favour of a judge, and thus procuring an
[700]     acquittal, instead of informing and convincing him. For his duty is, not
[701]     to make a present of justice, but to give judgment; and he has sworn that
[702]     he will judge according to the laws, and not according to his own good
[703]     pleasure; and we ought not to encourage you, nor should you allow
[704]     yourselves to be encouraged, in this habit of perjury--there can be no
[705]     piety in that. Do not then require me to do what I consider dishonourable
[706]     and impious and wrong, especially now, when I am being tried for impiety on
[707]     the indictment of Meletus. For if, O men of Athens, by force of persuasion
[708]     and entreaty I could overpower your oaths, then I should be teaching you to
[709]     believe that there are no gods, and in defending should simply convict
[710]     myself of the charge of not believing in them. But that is not so--far
[711]     otherwise. For I do believe that there are gods, and in a sense higher
[712]     than that in which any of my accusers believe in them. And to you and to
[713]     God I commit my cause, to be determined by you as is best for you and me.
[717]     There are many reasons why I am not grieved, O men of Athens, at the vote
[718]     of condemnation. I expected it, and am only surprised that the votes are
[719]     so nearly equal; for I had thought that the majority against me would have
[720]     been far larger; but now, had thirty votes gone over to the other side, I
[721]     should have been acquitted. And I may say, I think, that I have escaped
[722]     Meletus. I may say more; for without the assistance of Anytus and Lycon,
[723]     any one may see that he would not have had a fifth part of the votes, as
[724]     the law requires, in which case he would have incurred a fine of a thousand
[725]     drachmae.
[727]     And so he proposes death as the penalty. And what shall I propose on my
[728]     part, O men of Athens? Clearly that which is my due. And what is my due?
[729]     What return shall be made to the man who has never had the wit to be idle
[730]     during his whole life; but has been careless of what the many care for--
[731]     wealth, and family interests, and military offices, and speaking in the
[732]     assembly, and magistracies, and plots, and parties. Reflecting that I was
[733]     really too honest a man to be a politician and live, I did not go where I
[734]     could do no good to you or to myself; but where I could do the greatest
[735]     good privately to every one of you, thither I went, and sought to persuade
[736]     every man among you that he must look to himself, and seek virtue and
[737]     wisdom before he looks to his private interests, and look to the state
[738]     before he looks to the interests of the state; and that this should be the
[739]     order which he observes in all his actions. What shall be done to such an
[740]     one? Doubtless some good thing, O men of Athens, if he has his reward; and
[741]     the good should be of a kind suitable to him. What would be a reward
[742]     suitable to a poor man who is your benefactor, and who desires leisure that
[743]     he may instruct you? There can be no reward so fitting as maintenance in
[744]     the Prytaneum, O men of Athens, a reward which he deserves far more than
[745]     the citizen who has won the prize at Olympia in the horse or chariot race,
[746]     whether the chariots were drawn by two horses or by many. For I am in
[747]     want, and he has enough; and he only gives you the appearance of happiness,
[748]     and I give you the reality. And if I am to estimate the penalty fairly, I
[749]     should say that maintenance in the Prytaneum is the just return.
[751]     Perhaps you think that I am braving you in what I am saying now, as in what
[752]     I said before about the tears and prayers. But this is not so. I speak
[753]     rather because I am convinced that I never intentionally wronged any one,
[754]     although I cannot convince you--the time has been too short; if there were
[755]     a law at Athens, as there is in other cities, that a capital cause should
[756]     not be decided in one day, then I believe that I should have convinced you.
[757]     But I cannot in a moment refute great slanders; and, as I am convinced that
[758]     I never wronged another, I will assuredly not wrong myself. I will not say
[759]     of myself that I deserve any evil, or propose any penalty. Why should I?
[760]     because I am afraid of the penalty of death which Meletus proposes? When I
[761]     do not know whether death is a good or an evil, why should I propose a
[762]     penalty which would certainly be an evil? Shall I say imprisonment? And
[763]     why should I live in prison, and be the slave of the magistrates of the
[764]     year--of the Eleven? Or shall the penalty be a fine, and imprisonment
[765]     until the fine is paid? There is the same objection. I should have to lie
[766]     in prison, for money I have none, and cannot pay. And if I say exile (and
[767]     this may possibly be the penalty which you will affix), I must indeed be
[768]     blinded by the love of life, if I am so irrational as to expect that when
[769]     you, who are my own citizens, cannot endure my discourses and words, and
[770]     have found them so grievous and odious that you will have no more of them,
[771]     others are likely to endure me. No indeed, men of Athens, that is not very
[772]     likely. And what a life should I lead, at my age, wandering from city to
[773]     city, ever changing my place of exile, and always being driven out! For I
[774]     am quite sure that wherever I go, there, as here, the young men will flock
[775]     to me; and if I drive them away, their elders will drive me out at their
[776]     request; and if I let them come, their fathers and friends will drive me
[777]     out for their sakes.
[779]     Some one will say: Yes, Socrates, but cannot you hold your tongue, and
[780]     then you may go into a foreign city, and no one will interfere with you?
[781]     Now I have great difficulty in making you understand my answer to this.
[782]     For if I tell you that to do as you say would be a disobedience to the God,
[783]     and therefore that I cannot hold my tongue, you will not believe that I am
[784]     serious; and if I say again that daily to discourse about virtue, and of
[785]     those other things about which you hear me examining myself and others, is
[786]     the greatest good of man, and that the unexamined life is not worth living,
[787]     you are still less likely to believe me. Yet I say what is true, although
[788]     a thing of which it is hard for me to persuade you. Also, I have never
[789]     been accustomed to think that I deserve to suffer any harm. Had I money I
[790]     might have estimated the offence at what I was able to pay, and not have
[791]     been much the worse. But I have none, and therefore I must ask you to
[792]     proportion the fine to my means. Well, perhaps I could afford a mina, and
[793]     therefore I propose that penalty: Plato, Crito, Critobulus, and
[794]     Apollodorus, my friends here, bid me say thirty minae, and they will be the
[795]     sureties. Let thirty minae be the penalty; for which sum they will be
[796]     ample security to you.
[800]     Not much time will be gained, O Athenians, in return for the evil name
[801]     which you will get from the detractors of the city, who will say that you
[802]     killed Socrates, a wise man; for they will call me wise, even although I am
[803]     not wise, when they want to reproach you. If you had waited a little
[804]     while, your desire would have been fulfilled in the course of nature. For
[805]     I am far advanced in years, as you may perceive, and not far from death. I
[806]     am speaking now not to all of you, but only to those who have condemned me
[807]     to death. And I have another thing to say to them: you think that I was
[808]     convicted because I had no words of the sort which would have procured my
[809]     acquittal--I mean, if I had thought fit to leave nothing undone or unsaid.
[810]     Not so; the deficiency which led to my conviction was not of words--
[811]     certainly not. But I had not the boldness or impudence or inclination to
[812]     address you as you would have liked me to do, weeping and wailing and
[813]     lamenting, and saying and doing many things which you have been accustomed
[814]     to hear from others, and which, as I maintain, are unworthy of me. I
[815]     thought at the time that I ought not to do anything common or mean when in
[816]     danger: nor do I now repent of the style of my defence; I would rather die
[817]     having spoken after my manner, than speak in your manner and live. For
[818]     neither in war nor yet at law ought I or any man to use every way of
[819]     escaping death. Often in battle there can be no doubt that if a man will
[820]     throw away his arms, and fall on his knees before his pursuers, he may
[821]     escape death; and in other dangers there are other ways of escaping death,
[822]     if a man is willing to say and do anything. The difficulty, my friends, is
[823]     not to avoid death, but to avoid unrighteousness; for that runs faster than
[824]     death. I am old and move