Apology by Plato. - HTML preview

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And first, I have to reply to the older charges and to my with; for I cannot have them up here, and examine them, first accusers, and then I will go to the later ones. For I have and therefore I must simply fight with shadows in my own had many accusers, who accused me of old, and their false defence, and examine when there is no one who answers. I charges have continued during many years; and I am more will ask you then to assume with me, as I was saying, that afraid of them than of Anytus and his associates, who are my opponents are of two kinds - one recent, the other an-dangerous, too, in their own way. But far more dangerous cient; and I hope that you will see the propriety of my an-are these, who began when you were children, and took swering the latter first, for these accusations you heard long possession of your minds with their falsehoods, telling of before the others, and much oftener.

Well, then, I will make my defence, and I will endeavor in one Socrates, a wise man, who speculated about the heaven the short time which is allowed to do away with this evil above, and searched into the earth beneath, and made the opinion of me which you have held for such a long time; and worse appear the better cause. These are the accusers whom I hope I may succeed, if this be well for you and me, and I dread; for they are the circulators of this rumor, and their that my words may find favor with you. But I know that to hearers are too apt to fancy that speculators of this sort do accomplish this is not easy - I quite see the nature of the not believe in the gods. And they are many, and their charges task. Let the event be as God wills: in obedience to the law against me are of ancient date, and they made them in days I make my defence.

when you were impressible - in childhood, or perhaps in youth - and the cause when heard went by default, for there I will begin at the beginning, and ask what the accusa-was none to answer. And, hardest of all, their names I do tion is which has given rise to this slander of me, and which not know and cannot tell; unless in the chance of a comic has encouraged Meletus to proceed against me. What do the poet. But the main body of these slanderers who from envy slanderers say? They shall be my prosecutors, and I will sum and malice have wrought upon you - and there are some of up their words in an affidavit. “Socrates is an evil-doer, and them who are convinced themselves, and impart their con-a curious person, who searches into things under the earth victions to others - all these, I say, are most difficult to deal and in heaven, and he makes the worse appear the better 4


cause; and he teaches the aforesaid doctrines to others.” zens, by whom they might be taught for nothing, and come That is the nature of the accusation, and that is what you to them, whom they not only pay, but are thankful if they have seen yourselves in the comedy of Aristophanes; who may be allowed to pay them. There is actually a Parian phi-has introduced a man whom he calls Socrates, going about losopher residing in Athens, of whom I have heard; and I and saying that he can walk in the air, and talking a deal of came to hear of him in this way: - I met a man who has nonsense concerning matters of which I do not pretend to spent a world of money on the Sophists, Callias the son of know either much or little - not that I mean to say anything Hipponicus, and knowing that he had sons, I asked him: disparaging of anyone who is a student of natural philoso-

“Callias,” I said, “if your two sons were foals or calves, there phy. I should be very sorry if Meletus could lay that to my would be no difficulty in finding someone to put over them; charge. But the simple truth is, O Athenians, that I have we should hire a trainer of horses or a farmer probably who nothing to do with these studies. Very many of those here would improve and perfect them in their own proper virtue present are witnesses to the truth of this, and to them I and excellence; but as they are human beings, whom are appeal. Speak then, you who have heard me, and tell your you thinking of placing over them? Is there anyone who neighbors whether any of you have ever known me hold understands human and political virtue? You must have forth in few words or in many upon matters of this sort. ...

thought about this as you have sons; is there anyone?” “There You hear their answer. And from what they say of this you is,” he said. “Who is he?” said I, “and of what country? and will be able to judge of the truth of the rest.

what does he charge?” “Evenus the Parian,” he replied; “he As little foundation is there for the report that I am a is the man, and his charge is five minae.” Happy is Evenus, teacher, and take money; that is no more true than the I said to myself, if he really has this wisdom, and teaches at other. Although, if a man is able to teach, I honor him for such a modest charge. Had I the same, I should have been being paid. There is Gorgias of Leontium, and Prodicus of very proud and conceited; but the truth is that I have no Ceos, and Hippias of Elis, who go the round of the cities, and knowledge of the kind.

are able to persuade the young men to leave their own citi-I dare say, Athenians, that someone among you will reply, 5


“Why is this, Socrates, and what is the origin of these accu-Chaerephon; he was early a friend of mine, and also a friend sations of you: for there must have been something strange of yours, for he shared in the exile of the people, and re-which you have been doing? All this great fame and talk turned with you. Well, Chaerephon, as you know, was very about you would never have arisen if you had been like impetuous in all his doings, and he went to Delphi and boldly other men: tell us, then, why this is, as we should be sorry asked the oracle to tell him whether - as I was saying, I must to judge hastily of you.” Now I regard this as a fair chal-beg you not to interrupt - he asked the oracle to tell him lenge, and I will endeavor to explain to you the origin of whether there was anyone wiser than I was, and the Pythian this name of “wise,” and of this evil fame. Please to attend prophetess answered that there was no man wiser. Chaerephon then. And although some of you may think I am joking, I is dead himself, but his brother, who is in court, will con-declare that I will tell you the entire truth. Men of Athens, firm the truth of this story.

this reputation of mine has come of a certain sort of wisdom Why do I mention this? Because I am going to explain to which I possess. If you ask me what kind of wisdom, I reply, you why I have such an evil name. When I heard the answer, such wisdom as is attainable by man, for to that extent I am I said to myself, What can the god mean? and what is the inclined to believe that I am wise; whereas the persons of interpretation of this riddle? for I know that I have no wis-whom I was speaking have a superhuman wisdom, which I dom, small or great. What can he mean when he says that I may fail to describe, because I have it not myself; and he am the wisest of men? And yet he is a god and cannot lie; who says that I have, speaks falsely, and is taking away my that would be against his nature. After a long consideration, character. And here, O men of Athens, I must beg you not to I at last thought of a method of trying the question. I re-interrupt me, even if I seem to say something extravagant.

flected that if I could only find a man wiser than myself, For the word which I will speak is not mine. I will refer you then I might go to the god with a refutation in my hand. I to a witness who is worthy of credit, and will tell you about should say to him, “Here is a man who is wiser than I am; my wisdom - whether I have any, and of what sort - and that but you said that I was the wisest.” Accordingly I went to witness shall be the god of Delphi. You must have known one who had the reputation of wisdom, and observed to him 6


- his name I need not mention; he was a politician whom I by the dog I swear! - for I must tell you the truth - the result selected for examination - and the result was as follows: of my mission was just this: I found that the men most in When I began to talk with him, I could not help thinking repute were all but the most foolish; and that some inferior that he was not really wise, although he was thought wise men were really wiser and better. I will tell you the tale of by many, and wiser still by himself; and I went and tried to my wanderings and of the “Herculean” labors, as I may call explain to him that he thought himself wise, but was not them, which I endured only to find at last the oracle irrefut-really wise; and the consequence was that he hated me, and able. When I left the politicians, I went to the poets; tragic, his enmity was shared by several who were present and heard dithyrambic, and all sorts. And there, I said to myself, you me. So I left him, saying to myself, as I went away: Well, will be detected; now you will find out that you are more although I do not suppose that either of us knows anything ignorant than they are. Accordingly, I took them some of really beautiful and good, I am better off than he is - for he the most elaborate passages in their own writings, and asked knows nothing, and thinks that he knows. I neither know what was the meaning of them - thinking that they would nor think that I know. In this latter particular, then, I seem teach me something. Will you believe me? I am almost to have slightly the advantage of him. Then I went to an-ashamed to speak of this, but still I must say that there is other, who had still higher philosophical pretensions, and hardly a person present who would not have talked better my conclusion was exactly the same. I made another enemy about their poetry than they did themselves. That showed of him, and of many others besides him.

me in an instant that not by wisdom do poets write poetry, After this I went to one man after another, being not but by a sort of genius and inspiration; they are like diviners unconscious of the enmity which I provoked, and I lamented or soothsayers who also say many fine things, but do not and feared this: but necessity was laid upon me - the word understand the meaning of them. And the poets appeared to of God, I thought, ought to be considered first. And I said to me to be much in the same case; and I further observed that myself, Go I must to all who appear to know, and find out upon the strength of their poetry they believed themselves the meaning of the oracle. And I swear to you, Athenians, to be the wisest of men in other things in which they were 7


not wise. So I departed, conceiving myself to be superior to ing of Socrates, he is only using my name as an illustration, them for the same reason that I was superior to the politi-as if he said, He, O men, is the wisest, who, like Socrates, cians.

knows that his wisdom is in truth worth nothing. And so I At last I went to the artisans, for I was conscious that I go my way, obedient to the god, and make inquisition into knew nothing at all, as I may say, and I was sure that they the wisdom of anyone, whether citizen or stranger, who ap-knew many fine things; and in this I was not mistaken, for pears to be wise; and if he is not wise, then in vindication of they did know many things of which I was ignorant, and in the oracle I show him that he is not wise; and this occupa-this they certainly were wiser than I was. But I observed tion quite absorbs me, and I have no time to give either to that even the good artisans fell into the same error as the any public matter of interest or to any concern of my own, poets; because they were good workmen they thought that but I am in utter poverty by reason of my devotion to the they also knew all sorts of high matters, and this defect in god.

them overshadowed their wisdom - therefore I asked myself There is another thing: - young men of the richer classes, on behalf of the oracle, whether I would like to be as I was, who have not much to do, come about me of their own neither having their knowledge nor their ignorance, or like accord; they like to hear the pretenders examined, and they them in both; and I made answer to myself and the oracle often imitate me, and examine others themselves; there are that I was better off as I was.

plenty of persons, as they soon enough discover, who think This investigation has led to my having many enemies of that they know something, but really know little or noth-the worst and most dangerous kind, and has given occasion ing: and then those who are examined by them instead of also to many calumnies, and I am called wise, for my hearers being angry with themselves are angry with me: This con-always imagine that I myself possess the wisdom which I founded Socrates, they say; this villainous misleader of youth!

find wanting in others: but the truth is, O men of Athens,

- and then if somebody asks them, Why, what evil does he that God only is wise; and in this oracle he means to say practise or teach? they do not know, and cannot tell; but in that the wisdom of men is little or nothing; he is not speak-order that they may not appear to be at a loss, they repeat 8


the ready-made charges which are used against all philoso-And now I will try to defend myself against them: these new phers about teaching things up in the clouds and under the accusers must also have their affidavit read. What do they earth, and having no gods, and making the worse appear say? Something of this sort: - That Socrates is a doer of evil, the better cause; for they do not like to confess that their and corrupter of the youth, and he does not believe in the pretence of knowledge has been detected - which is the gods of the state, and has other new divinities of his own.

truth: and as they are numerous and ambitious and ener-That is the sort of charge; and now let us examine the par-getic, and are all in battle array and have persuasive tongues, ticular counts. He says that I am a doer of evil, who corrupt they have filled your ears with their loud and inveterate the youth; but I say, O men of Athens, that Meletus is a doer calumnies. And this is the reason why my three accusers, of evil, and the evil is that he makes a joke of a serious Meletus and Anytus and Lycon, have set upon me; Meletus, matter, and is too ready at bringing other men to trial from who has a quarrel with me on behalf of the poets; Anytus, a pretended zeal and interest about matters in which he on behalf of the craftsmen; Lycon, on behalf of the rhetori-really never had the smallest interest. And the truth of this cians: and as I said at the beginning, I cannot expect to get I will endeavor to prove.

rid of this mass of calumny all in a moment. And this, O men Come hither, Meletus, and let me ask a question of you.

of Athens, is the truth and the whole truth; I have con-You think a great deal about the improvement of youth?

cealed nothing, I have dissembled nothing. And yet I know Yes, I do.

that this plainness of speech makes them hate me, and what Tell the judges, then, who is their improver; for you must is their hatred but a proof that I am speaking the truth? -

know, as you have taken the pains to discover their cor-this is the occasion and reason of their slander of me, as you rupter, and are citing and accusing me before them. Speak, will find out either in this or in any future inquiry.

then, and tell the judges who their improver is. Observe, I have said enough in my defence against the first class of Meletus, that you are silent, and have nothing to say. But is my accusers; I turn to the second class, who are headed by not this rather disgraceful, and a very considerable proof of Meletus, that good and patriotic man, as he calls himself.

what I was saying, that you have no interest in the matter?