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Apology :Plato (2)

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Translated by Benjamin Jowett

  

How you, O Athenians, have been affected by my accusers, I cannot tell; but

I know that they almost made me forget who I was–so persuasively did they

speak; and yet they have hardly uttered a word of truth.  But of the many

falsehoods told by them, there was one which quite amazed me;–I mean when

they said that you should be upon your guard and not allow yourselves to be

deceived by the force of my eloquence.  To say this, when they were certain

to be detected as soon as I opened my lips and proved myself to be anything

but a great speaker, did indeed appear to me most shameless–unless by the

force of eloquence they mean the force of truth; for is such is their

meaning, I admit that I am eloquent.  But in how different a way from

theirs!  Well, as I was saying, they have scarcely spoken the truth at all;

but from me you shall hear the whole truth:  not, however, delivered after

their manner in a set oration duly ornamented with words and phrases. No,

by heaven! but I shall use the words and arguments which occur to me at the

moment; for I am confident in the justice of my cause (Or, I am certain

that I am right in taking this course.):  at my time of life I ought not to

be appearing before you, O men of Athens, in the character of a juvenile

orator–let no one expect it of me.  And I must beg of you to grant me a

favour:–If I defend myself in my accustomed manner, and you hear me using

the words which I have been in the habit of using in the agora, at the

tables of the money-changers, or anywhere else, I would ask you not to be

surprised, and not to interrupt me on this account.  For I am more than

seventy years of age, and appearing now for the first time in a court of

law, I am quite a stranger to the language of the place; and therefore I

would have you regard me as if I were really a stranger, whom you would

excuse if he spoke in his native tongue, and after the fashion of his

country:–Am I making an unfair request of you?  Never mind the manner,

which may or may not be good; but think only of the truth of my words, and

give heed to that:  let the speaker speak truly and the judge decide

justly.

 

And first, I have to reply to the older charges and to my first accusers,

and then I will go on to the later ones.  For of old I have had many

accusers, who have accused me falsely to you during many years; and I am

more afraid of them than of Anytus and his associates, who are dangerous,

too, in their own way.  But far more dangerous are the others, who began

when you were children, and took possession of your minds with their

falsehoods, telling of one Socrates, a wise man, who speculated about the

heaven above, and searched into the earth beneath, and made the worse

appear the better cause.  The disseminators of this tale are the accusers

whom I dread; for their hearers are apt to fancy that such enquirers do not

believe in the existence of the gods.  And they are many, and their charges

against me are of ancient date, and they were made by them in the days when

you were more impressible than you are now–in childhood, or it may have

been in youth–and the cause when heard went by default, for there was none

to answer.  And hardest of all, I do not know and cannot tell the names of

my accusers; unless in the chance case of a Comic poet.  All who from envy

and malice have persuaded you–some of them having first convinced

themselves–all this class of men are most difficult to deal with; for I

cannot have them up here, and cross-examine them, and therefore I must

simply fight with shadows in my own defence, and argue when there is no one

who answers.  I will ask you then to assume with me, as I was saying, that

my opponents are of two kinds; one recent, the other ancient:  and I hope

that you will see the propriety of my answering the latter first, for these

accusations you heard long before the others, and much oftener.

 

Well, then, I must make my defence, and endeavour to clear away in a short

time, a slander which has lasted a long time.  May I succeed, if to succeed

be for my good and yours, or likely to avail me in my cause!  The task is

not an easy one; I quite understand the nature of it.  And so leaving the

event with God, in obedience to the law I will now make my defence.

 

I will begin at the beginning, and ask what is the accusation which has

given rise to the slander of me, and in fact has encouraged Meletus to

proof this charge against me.  Well, what do the slanderers say?  They

shall be my prosecutors, and I will sum up their words in an affidavit:

‘Socrates is an evil-doer, and a curious person, who searches into things

under the earth and in heaven, and he makes the worse appear the better

cause; and he teaches the aforesaid doctrines to others.’  Such is the

nature of the accusation:  it is just what you have yourselves seen in the

comedy of Aristophanes (Aristoph., Clouds.), who has introduced a man whom

he calls Socrates, going about and saying that he walks in air, and talking

a deal of nonsense concerning matters of which I do not pretend to know

either much or little–not that I mean to speak disparagingly of any one

who is a student of natural philosophy.  I should be very sorry if Meletus

could bring so grave a charge against me.  But the simple truth is, O

Athenians, that I have nothing to do with physical speculations.  Very many

of those here present are witnesses to the truth of this, and to them I

appeal.  Speak then, you who have heard me, and tell your neighbours

whether any of you have ever known me hold forth in few words or in many

upon such matters…You hear their answer.  And from what they say of this

part of the charge you will be able to judge of the truth of the rest.

 

As little foundation is there for the report that I am a teacher, and take

money; this accusation has no more truth in it than the other.  Although,

if a man were really able to instruct mankind, to receive money for giving

instruction would, in my opinion, be an honour to him.  There is Gorgias of

Leontium, and Prodicus of Ceos, and Hippias of Elis, who go the round of

the cities, and are able to persuade the young men to leave their own

citizens by whom they might be taught for nothing, and come to them whom

they not only pay, but are thankful if they may be allowed to pay them.

There is at this time a Parian philosopher residing in Athens, of whom I

have heard; and I came to hear of him in this way:–I came across a man who

has spent a world of money on the Sophists, Callias, the son of Hipponicus,

and knowing that he had sons, I asked him:  ‘Callias,’ I said, ‘if your two

sons were foals or calves, there would be no difficulty in finding some one

to put over them; we should hire a trainer of horses, or a farmer probably,

who would improve and perfect them in their own proper virtue and

excellence; but as they are human beings, whom are you thinking of placing

over them?  Is there any one who understands human and political virtue?

You must have thought about the matter, for you have sons; is there any

one?’  ‘There is,’ he said.  ‘Who is he?’ said I; ‘and of what country? and

what does he charge?’  ‘Evenus the Parian,’ he replied; ‘he is the man, and

his charge is five minae.’  Happy is Evenus, I said to myself, if he really

has this wisdom, and teaches at such a moderate charge.  Had I the same, I

should have been very proud and conceited; but the truth is that I have no

knowledge of the kind.

 

I dare say, Athenians, that some one among you will reply, ‘Yes, Socrates,

but what is the origin of these accusations which are brought against you;

there must have been something strange which you have been doing?  All

these rumours and this talk about you would never have arisen if you had

been like other men:  tell us, then, what is the cause of them, for we

should be sorry to judge hastily of you.’  Now I regard this as a fair

challenge, and I will endeavour to explain to you the reason why I am

called wise and have such an evil fame.  Please to attend then.  And

although some of you may think that I am joking, I declare that I will tell

you the entire truth.  Men of Athens, this reputation of mine has come of a

certain sort of wisdom which I possess.  If you ask me what kind of wisdom,

I reply, wisdom such as may perhaps be attained by man, for to that extent

I am inclined to believe that I am wise; whereas the persons of whom I was

speaking have a superhuman wisdom which I may fail to describe, because I

have it not myself; and he who says that I have, speaks falsely, and is

taking away my character.  And here, O men of Athens, I must beg you not to

interrupt me, even if I seem to say something extravagant.  For the word

which I will speak is not mine.  I will refer you to a witness who is

worthy of credit; that witness shall be the God of Delphi–he will tell you

about my wisdom, if I have any, and of what sort it is.  You must have

known Chaerephon; he was early a friend of mine, and also a friend of

yours, for he shared in the recent exile of the people, and returned with

you.  Well, Chaerephon, as you know, was very impetuous in all his doings,

and he went to Delphi and boldly asked the oracle to tell him whether–as I

was saying, I must beg you not to interrupt–he asked the oracle to tell

him whether anyone was wiser than I was, and the Pythian prophetess

answered, that there was no man wiser.  Chaerephon is dead himself; but his

brother, who is in court, will confirm the truth of what I am saying.

 

Why do I mention this?  Because I am going to explain to you why I have

such an evil name.  When I heard the answer, I said to myself, What can the

god mean? and what is the interpretation of his riddle? for I know that I

have no wisdom, small or great.  What then can he mean when he says that I

am the wisest of men?  And yet he is a god, and cannot lie; that would be

against his nature.  After long consideration, I thought of a method of

trying the question.  I reflected that if I could only find a man wiser

than myself, then I might go to the god with a refutation in my hand.  I

should say to him, ‘Here is a man who is wiser than I am; but you said that

I was the wisest.’  Accordingly I went to one who had the reputation of

wisdom, and observed him–his name I need not mention; he was a politician

whom I selected for examination–and the result was as follows:  When I

began to talk with him, I could not help thinking that he was not really

wise, although he was thought wise by many, and still wiser by himself; and

thereupon I tried to explain to him that he thought himself wise, but was

not really wise; and the consequence was that he hated me, and his enmity

was shared by several who were present and heard me.  So I left him, saying

to myself, as I went away:  Well, although I do not suppose that either of

us knows anything really beautiful and good, I am better off than he is,–

for he knows nothing, and thinks that he knows; I neither know nor think

that I know.  In this latter particular, then, I seem to have slightly the

advantage of him.  Then I went to another who had still higher pretensions

to wisdom, and my conclusion was exactly the same.  Whereupon I made

another enemy of him, and of many others besides him.

 

Then I went to one man after another, being not unconscious of the enmity

which I provoked, and I lamented and feared this:  but necessity was laid

upon me,–the word of God, I thought, ought to be considered first.  And I

said to myself, Go I must to all who appear to know, and find out the

meaning of the oracle.  And I swear to you, Athenians, by the dog I swear!

–for I must tell you the truth–the result of my mission was just this:  I

found that the men most in repute were all but the most foolish; and that

others less esteemed were really wiser and better.  I will tell you the

tale of my wanderings and of the ‘Herculean’ labours, as I may call them,

which I endured only to find at last the oracle irrefutable.  After the

politicians, I went to the poets; tragic, dithyrambic, and all sorts.  And

there, I said to myself, you will be instantly detected; now you will find

out that you are more ignorant than they are.  Accordingly, I took them

some of the most elaborate passages in their own writings, and asked what

was the meaning of them–thinking that they would teach me something.  Will

you believe me?  I am almost ashamed to confess the truth, but I must say

that there is hardly a person present who would not have talked better

about their poetry than they did themselves.  Then I knew that not by

wisdom do poets write poetry, but by a sort of genius and inspiration; they

are like diviners or soothsayers who also say many fine things, but do not

understand the meaning of them.  The poets appeared to me to be much in the

same case; and I further observed that upon the strength of their poetry

they believed themselves to be the wisest of men in other things in which

they were not wise.  So I departed, conceiving myself to be superior to

them for the same reason that I was superior to the politicians.

 

At last I went to the artisans.  I was conscious that I knew nothing at

all, as I may say, and I was sure that they knew many fine things; and here

I was not mistaken, for they did know many things of which I was ignorant,

and in this they certainly were wiser than I was.  But I observed that even

the good artisans fell into the same error as the poets;–because they were

good workmen they thought that they also knew all sorts of high matters,

and this defect in them overshadowed their wisdom; and therefore I asked

myself on behalf of the oracle, whether I would like to be as I was,

neither having their knowledge nor their ignorance, or like them in both;

and I made answer to myself and to the oracle that I was better off as I

was.

 

This inquisition has led to my having many enemies of the worst and most

dangerous kind, and has given occasion also to many calumnies.  And I am

called wise, for my hearers always imagine that I myself possess the wisdom

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

God only is wise; and by his answer he intends to show that the wisdom of

men is worth little or nothing; he is not speaking of Socrates, he is only

using my name by way of illustration, as if he said, He, O men, is the

wisest, who, like Socrates, knows that his wisdom is in truth worth

nothing.  And so I go about the world, obedient to the god, and search and

make enquiry into the wisdom of any one, whether citizen or stranger, who

appears to be wise; and if he is not wise, then in vindication of the

oracle I show him that he is not wise; and my occupation quite absorbs me,

and I have no time to give either to any public matter of interest or to

any concern of my own, but I am in utter poverty by reason of my devotion

to the god.

 

There is another thing:–young men of the richer classes, who have not much

to do, come about me of their own accord; they like to hear the pretenders

examined, and they often imitate me, and proceed to examine others; there

are plenty of persons, as they quickly discover, who think that they know

something, but really know little or nothing; and then those who are

examined by them instead of being angry with themselves are angry with me:

This confounded Socrates, they say; this villainous misleader of youth!–

and then if somebody asks them, Why, what evil does he practise or teach?

they do not know, and cannot tell; but in order that they may not appear to

be at a loss, they repeat the ready-made charges which are used against all

philosophers about teaching things up in the clouds and under the earth,

and having no gods, and making the worse appear the better cause; for they

do not like to confess that their pretence of knowledge has been detected–

which is the truth; and as they are numerous and ambitious and energetic,

and are drawn up in battle array and have persuasive tongues, they have

filled your ears with their loud and inveterate calumnies.  And this is the

reason why my three accusers, Meletus and Anytus and Lycon, have set upon

me; Meletus, who has a quarrel with me on behalf of the poets; Anytus, on

behalf of the craftsmen and politicians; Lycon, on behalf of the

rhetoricians:  and as I said at the beginning, I cannot expect to get rid

of such a mass of calumny all in a moment.  And this, O men of Athens, is

the truth and the whole truth; I have concealed nothing, I have dissembled

nothing.  And yet, I know that my plainness of speech makes them hate me,

and what is their hatred but a proof that I am speaking the truth?–Hence

has arisen the prejudice against me; and this is the reason of it, as you

will find out either in this or in any future enquiry.

 

I have said enough in my defence against the first class of my accusers; I

turn to the second class.  They are headed by Meletus, that good man and

true lover of his country, as he calls himself.  Against these, too, I must

try to make a defence:–Let their affidavit be read:  it contains something

of this kind:  It says that Socrates is a doer of evil, who corrupts the

youth; and who does not believe in the gods of the state, but has other new

divinities of his own.  Such is the charge; and now let us examine the

particular counts.  He says that I am a doer of evil, and corrupt the

youth; but I say, O men of Athens, that Meletus is a doer of evil, in that

he pretends to be in earnest when he is only in jest, and is so eager to

bring men to trial from a pretended zeal and interest about matters in

which he really never had the smallest interest.  And the truth of this I

will endeavour to prove to you.

 

Come hither, Meletus, and let me ask a question of you.  You think a great

deal about the improvement of youth?

 

Yes, I do.

 

Tell the judges, then, who is their improver; for you must know, as you

have taken the pains to discover their corrupter, and are citing and

accusing me before them.  Speak, then, and tell the judges who their

improver is.–Observe, Meletus, that you are silent, and have nothing to

say.  But is not this rather disgraceful, and a very considerable proof of

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

friend, and tell us who their improver is.

 

The laws.

 

But that, my good sir, is not my meaning.  I want to know who the person

is, who, in the first place, knows the laws.

 

The judges, Socrates, who are present in court.

 

What, do you mean to say, Meletus, that they are able to instruct and

improve youth?

 

Certainly they are.

 

What, all of them, or some only and not others?

 

All of them.

 

By the goddess Here, that is good news!  There are plenty of improvers,

then.  And what do you say of the audience,–do they improve them?

 

Yes, they do.

 

And the senators?

 

Yes, the senators improve them.

 

But perhaps the members of the assembly corrupt them?–or do they too

improve them?

 

They improve them.

 

Then every Athenian improves and elevates them; all with the exception of

myself; and I alone am their corrupter?  Is that what you affirm?

 

That is what I stoutly affirm.

 

I am very unfortunate if you are right.  But suppose I ask you a question:

How about horses?  Does one man do them harm and all the world good?  Is

not the exact opposite the truth?  One man is able to do them good, or at

least not many;–the trainer of horses, that is to say, does them good, and

others who have to do with them rather injure them?  Is not that true,

Meletus, of horses, or of any other animals?  Most assuredly it is; whether

you and Anytus say yes or no.  Happy indeed would be the condition of youth

if they had one corrupter only, and all the rest of the world were their

improvers.  But you, Meletus, have sufficiently shown that you never had a

thought about the young:  your carelessness is seen in your not caring

about the very things which you bring against me.

 

And now, Meletus, I will ask you another question–by Zeus I will:  Which

is better, to live among bad citizens, or among good ones?  Answer, friend,

I say; the question is one which may be easily answered.  Do not the good

do their neighbours good, and the bad do them evil?

 

Certainly.

 

And is there anyone who would rather be injured than benefited by those who

live with him?  Answer, my good friend, the law requires you to answer–

does any one like to be injured?

 

Certainly not.

 

And when you accuse me of corrupting and deteriorating the youth, do you

allege that I corrupt them intentionally or unintentionally?

 

Intentionally, I say.

 

But you have just admitted that the good do their neighbours good, and the

evil do them evil.  Now, is that a truth which your superior wisdom has

recognized thus early in life, and am I, at my age, in such darkness and

ignorance as not to know that if a man with whom I have to live is

corrupted by me, I am very likely to be harmed by him; and yet I corrupt

him, and intentionally, too–so you say, although neither I nor any other

human being is ever likely to be convinced by you.  But either I do not

corrupt them, or I corrupt them unintentionally; and on either view of the

case you lie.  If my offence is unintentional, the law has no cognizance of

unintentional offences: you ought to have taken me privately, and warned

and admonished me; for if I had been better advised, I should have left off

doing what I only did unintentionally–no doubt I should; but you would

have nothing to say to me and refused to teach me.  And now you bring me up

in this court, which is a place not of instruction, but of punishment.

 

It will be very clear to you, Athenians, as I was saying, that Meletus has

no care at all, great or small, about the matter.  But still I should like

to know, Meletus, in what I am affirmed to corrupt the young.  I suppose

you mean, as I infer from your indictment, that I teach them not to

acknowledge the gods which the state acknowledges, but some other new

divinities or spiritual agencies in their stead.  These are the lessons by

which I corrupt the youth, as you say.

 

Yes, that I say emphatically.

 

Then, by the gods, Meletus, of whom we are speaking, tell me and the court,

in somewhat plainer terms, what you mean! for I do not as yet understand

whether you affirm that I teach other men to acknowledge some gods, and

therefore that I do believe in gods, and am not an entire atheist–this you

do not lay to my charge,–but only you say that they are not the same gods

which the city recognizes–the charge is that they are different gods.  Or,

do you mean that I am an atheist simply, and a teacher of atheism?

 

I mean the latter–that you are a complete atheist.

 

What an extraordinary statement!  Why do you think so, Meletus?  Do you

mean that I do not believe in the godhead of the sun or moon, like other

men?

 

I assure you, judges, that he does not:  for he says that the sun is stone,

and the moon earth.

 

Friend Meletus, you think that you are accusing Anaxagoras:  and you have

but a bad opinion of the judges, if you fancy them illiterate to such a

degree as not to know that these doctrines are found in the books of

Anaxagoras the Clazomenian, which are full of them.  And so, forsooth, the

youth are said to be taught them by Socrates, when there are not

unfrequently exhibitions of them at the theatre (Probably in allusion to

Aristophanes who caricatured, and to Euripides who borrowed the notions of

Anaxagoras, as well as to other dramatic poets.) (price of admission one

drachma at the most); and they might pay their money, and laugh at Socrates

if he pretends to father these extraordinary views.  And so, Meletus, you

really think that I do not believe in any god?

 

I swear by Zeus that you believe absolutely in none at all.

 

Nobody will believe you, Meletus, and I am pretty sure that you do not

believe yourself.  I cannot help thinking, men of Athens, that Meletus is

reckless and impudent, and that he has written this indictment in a spirit

of mere wantonness and youthful bravado.  Has he not compounded a riddle,

thinking to try me?  He said to himself:–I shall see whether the wise

Socrates will discover my facetious contradiction, or whether I shall be

able to deceive him and the rest of them.  For he certainly does appear to

me to contradict himself in the indictment as much as if he said that

Socrates is guilty of not believing in the gods, and yet of believing in

them–but this is not like a person who is in earnest.

 

I should like you, O men of Athens, to join me in examining what I conceive

to be his inconsistency; and do you, Meletus, answer.  And I must remind

the audience of my request that they would not make a disturbance if I

speak in my accustomed manner:

 

Did ever man, Meletus, believe in the existence of human things, and not of

human beings?…I wish, men of Athens, that he would answer, and not be

always trying to get up an interruption.  Did ever any man believe in

horsemanship, and not in horses? or in flute-playing, and not in flute-

players?  No, my friend; I will answer to you and to the court, as you

refuse to answer for yourself.  There is no man who ever did.  But now

please to answer the next question:  Can a man believe in spiritual and

divine agencies, and not in spirits or demigods?

 

He cannot.

 

How lucky I am to have extracted that answer, by the assistance of the

court!  But then you swear in the indictment that I teach and believe in

divine or spiritual agencies (new or old, no matter for that); at any rate,

I believe in spiritual agencies,–so you say and swear in the affidavit;

and yet if I believe in divine beings, how can I help believing in spirits

or demigods;–must I not?  To be sure I must; and therefore I may assume

that your silence gives consent.  Now what are spirits or demigods?  Are

they not either gods or the sons of gods?

 

Certainly they are.

 

But this is what I call the facetious riddle invented by you:  the demigods

or spirits are gods, and you say first that I do not believe in gods, and

then again that I do believe in gods; that is, if I believe in demigods.

For if the demigods are the illegitimate sons of gods, whether by the

nymphs or by any other mothers, of whom they are said to be the sons–what

human being will ever believe that there are no gods if they are the sons

of gods?  You might as well affirm the existence of mules, and deny that of

horses and asses.  Such nonsense, Meletus, could only have been intended by

you to make trial of me.  You have put this into the indictment because you

had nothing real of which to accuse me.  But no one who has a particle of

understanding will ever be convinced by you that the same men can believe

in divine and superhuman things, and yet not believe that there are gods

and demigods and heroes.

 

I have said enough in answer to the charge of Meletus:  any elaborate

defence is unnecessary, but I know only too well how many are the enmities

which I have incurred, and this is what will be my destruction if I am

destroyed;–not Meletus, nor yet Anytus, but the envy and detraction of the

world, which has been the death of many good men, and will probably be the

death of many more; there is no danger of my being the last of them.

 

Some one will say:  And are you not ashamed, Socrates, of a course of life

which is likely to bring you to an untimely end?  To him I may fairly

answer:  There you are mistaken:  a man who is good for anything ought not

to calculate the chance of living or dying; he ought only to consider

whether in doing anything he is doing right or wrong–acting the part of a

good man or of a bad.  Whereas, upon your view, the heroes who fell at Troy

were not good for much, and the son of Thetis above all, who altogether

despised danger in comparison with disgrace; and when he was so eager to

slay Hector, his goddess mother said to him, that if he avenged his

companion Patroclus, and slew Hector, he would die himself–‘Fate,’ she

said, in these or the like words, ‘waits for you next after Hector;’ he,

receiving this warning, utterly despised danger and death, and instead of

fearing them, feared rather to live in dishonour, and not to avenge his

friend.  ‘Let me die forthwith,’ he replies, ‘and be avenged of my enemy,

rather than abide here by the beaked ships, a laughing-stock and a burden

of the earth.’  Had Achilles any thought of death and danger?  For wherever

a man’s place is, whether the place which he has chosen or that in which he

has been placed by a commander, there he ought to remain in the hour of

danger; he should not think of death or of anything but of disgrace.  And

this, O men of Athens, is a true saying.

 

Strange, indeed, would be my conduct, O men of Athens, if I who, when I was

ordered by the generals whom you chose to command me at Potidaea and

Amphipolis and Delium, remained where they placed me, like any other man,

facing death–if now, when, as I conceive and imagine, God orders me to

fulfil the philosopher’s mission of searching into myself and other men, I

were to desert my post through fear of death, or any other fear; that would

indeed be strange, and I might justly be arraigned in court for denying the

existence of the gods, if I disobeyed the oracle because I was afraid of

death, fancying that I was wise when I was not wise.  For the fear of death

is indeed the pretence of wisdom, and not real wisdom, being a pretence of

knowing the unknown; and no one knows whether death, which men in their

fear apprehend to be the greatest evil, may not be the greatest good.  Is

not this ignorance of a disgraceful sort, the ignorance which is the

conceit that a man knows what he does not know?  And in this respect only I

believe myself to differ from men in general, and may perhaps claim to be

wiser than they are:–that whereas I know but little of the world below, I

do not suppose that I know:  but I do know that injustice and disobedience

to a better, whether God or man, is evil and dishonourable, and I will

never fear or avoid a possible good rather than a certain evil.  And

therefore if you let me go now, and are not convinced by Anytus, who said

that since I had been prosecuted I must be put to death; (or if not that I

ought never to have been prosecuted at all); and that if I escape now, your

sons will all be utterly ruined by listening to my words–if you say to me,

Socrates, this time we will not mind Anytus, and you shall be let off, but

upon one condition, that you are not to enquire and speculate in this way

any more, and that if you are caught doing so again you shall die;–if this

was the condition on which you let me go, I should reply:  Men of Athens, I

honour and love you; but I shall obey God rather than you, and while I have

life and strength I shall never cease from the practice and teaching of

philosophy, exhorting any one whom I meet and saying to him after my

manner:  You, my friend,–a citizen of the great and mighty and wise city

of Athens,–are you not ashamed of heaping up the greatest amount of money

and honour and reputation, and caring so little about wisdom and truth and

the greatest improvement of the soul, which you never regard or heed at

all?  And if the person with whom I am arguing, says:  Yes, but I do care;

then I do not leave him or let him go at once; but I proceed to interrogate

and examine and cross-examine him, and if I think that he has no virtue in

him, but only says that he has, I reproach him with undervaluing the

greater, and overvaluing the less.  And I shall repeat the same words to

every one whom I meet, young and old, citizen and alien, but especially to

the citizens, inasmuch as they are my brethren.  For know that this is the

command of God; and I believe that no greater good has ever happened in the

state than my service to the God.  For I do nothing but go about persuading

you all, old and young alike, not to take thought for your persons or your

properties, but first and chiefly to care about the greatest improvement of

the soul.  I tell you that virtue is not given by money, but that from

virtue comes money and every other good of man, public as well as private.

This is my teaching, and if this is the doctrine which corrupts the youth,

I am a mischievous person.  But if any one says that this is not my

teaching, he is speaking an untruth.  Wherefore, O men of Athens, I say to

you, do as Anytus bids or not as Anytus bids, and either acquit me or not;

but whichever you do, understand that I shall never alter my ways, not even

if I have to die many times.

 

Men of Athens, do not interrupt, but hear me; there was an understanding

between us that you should hear me to the end:  I have something more to

say, at which you may be inclined to cry out; but I believe that to hear me

will be good for you, and therefore I beg that you will not cry out.  I

would have you know, that if you kill such an one as I am, you will injure

yourselves more than you will injure me.  Nothing will injure me, not

Meletus nor yet Anytus–they cannot, for a bad man is not permitted to

injure a better than himself.  I do not deny that Anytus may, perhaps, kill

him, or drive him into exile, or deprive him of civil rights; and he may

imagine, and others may imagine, that he is inflicting a great injury upon

him:  but there I do not agree.  For the evil of doing as he is doing–the

evil of unjustly taking away the life of another–is greater far.

 

And now, Athenians, I am not going to argue for my own sake, as you may

think, but for yours, that you may not sin against the God by condemning

me, who am his gift to you.  For if you kill me you will not easily find a

successor to me, who, if I may use such a ludicrous figure of speech, am a

sort of gadfly, given to the state by God; and the state is a great and

noble steed who is tardy in his motions owing to his very size, and

requires to be stirred into life.  I am that gadfly which God has attached

to the state, and all day long and in all places am always fastening upon

you, arousing and persuading and reproaching you.  You will not easily find

another like me, and therefore I would advise you to spare me.  I dare say

that you may feel out of temper (like a person who is suddenly awakened

from sleep), and you think that you might easily strike me dead as Anytus

advises, and then you would sleep on for the remainder of your lives,

unless God in his care of you sent you another gadfly.  When I say that I

am given to you by God, the proof of my mission is this:–if I had been

like other men, I should not have neglected all my own concerns or

patiently seen the neglect of them during all these years, and have been

doing yours, coming to you individually like a father or elder brother,

exhorting you to regard virtue; such conduct, I say, would be unlike human

nature.  If I had gained anything, or if my exhortations had been paid,

there would have been some sense in my doing so; but now, as you will

perceive, not even the impudence of my accusers dares to say that I have

ever exacted or sought pay of any one; of that they have no witness.  And I

have a sufficient witness to the truth of what I say–my poverty.

 

Some one may wonder why I go about in private giving advice and busying

myself with the concerns of others, but do not venture to come forward in

public and advise the state.  I will tell you why.  You have heard me speak

at sundry times and in divers places of an oracle or sign which comes to

me, and is the divinity which Meletus ridicules in the indictment.  This

sign, which is a kind of voice, first began to come to me when I was a

child; it always forbids but never commands me to do anything which I am

going to do.  This is what deters me from being a politician.  And rightly,

as I think.  For I am certain, O men of Athens, that if I had engaged in

politics, I should have perished long ago, and done no good either to you

or to myself.  And do not be offended at my telling you the truth:  for the

truth is, that no man who goes to war with you or any other multitude,

honestly striving against the many lawless and unrighteous deeds which are

done in a state, will save his life; he who will fight for the right, if he

would live even for a brief space, must have a private station and not a

public one.

 

I can give you convincing evidence of what I say, not words only, but what

you value far more–actions.  Let me relate to you a passage of my own life

which will prove to you that I should never have yielded to injustice from

any fear of death, and that ‘as I should have refused to yield’ I must have

died at once.  I will tell you a tale of the courts, not very interesting

perhaps, but nevertheless true.  The only office of state which I ever

held, O men of Athens, was that of senator:  the tribe Antiochis, which is

my tribe, had the presidency at the trial of the generals who had not taken

up the bodies of the slain after the battle of Arginusae; and you proposed

to try them in a body, contrary to law, as you all thought afterwards; but

at the time I was the only one of the Prytanes who was opposed to the

illegality, and I gave my vote against you; and when the orators threatened

to impeach and arrest me, and you called and shouted, I made up my mind

that I would run the risk, having law and justice with me, rather than take

part in your injustice because I feared imprisonment and death.  This

happened in the days of the democracy.  But when the oligarchy of the

Thirty was in power, they sent for me and four others into the rotunda, and

bade us bring Leon the Salaminian from Salamis, as they wanted to put him

to death.  This was a specimen of the sort of commands which they were

always giving with the view of implicating as many as possible in their

crimes; and then I showed, not in word only but in deed, that, if I may be

allowed to use such an expression, I cared not a straw for death, and that

my great and only care was lest I should do an unrighteous or unholy thing.

For the strong arm of that oppressive power did not frighten me into doing

wrong; and when we came out of the rotunda the other four went to Salamis

and fetched Leon, but I went quietly home.  For which I might have lost my

life, had not the power of the Thirty shortly afterwards come to an end.

And many will witness to my words.

 

Now do you really imagine that I could have survived all these years, if I

had led a public life, supposing that like a good man I had always

maintained the right and had made justice, as I ought, the first thing?  No

indeed, men of Athens, neither I nor any other man.  But I have been always

the same in all my actions, public as well as private, and never have I

yielded any base compliance to those who are slanderously termed my

disciples, or to any other.  Not that I have any regular disciples.  But if

any one likes to come and hear me while I am pursuing my mission, whether

he be young or old, he is not excluded.  Nor do I converse only with those

who pay; but any one, whether he be rich or poor, may ask and answer me and

listen to my words; and whether he turns out to be a bad man or a good one,

neither result can be justly imputed to me; for I never taught or professed

to teach him anything.  And if any one says that he has ever learned or

heard anything from me in private which all the world has not heard, let me

tell you that he is lying.

 

But I shall be asked, Why do people delight in continually conversing with

you?  I have told you already, Athenians, the whole truth about this

matter:  they like to hear the cross-examination of the pretenders to

wisdom; there is amusement in it.  Now this duty of cross-examining other

men has been imposed upon me by God; and has been signified to me by

oracles, visions, and in every way in which the will of divine power was

ever intimated to any one.  This is true, O Athenians, or, if not true,

would be soon refuted.  If I am or have been corrupting the youth, those of

them who are now grown up and have become sensible that I gave them bad

advice in the days of their youth should come forward as accusers, and take

their revenge; or if they do not like to come themselves, some of their

relatives, fathers, brothers, or other kinsmen, should say what evil their

families have suffered at my hands.  Now is their time.  Many of them I see

in the court.  There is Crito, who is of the same age and of the same deme

with myself, and there is Critobulus his son, whom I also see.  Then again

there is Lysanias of Sphettus, who is the father of Aeschines–he is

present; and also there is Antiphon of Cephisus, who is the father of

Epigenes; and there are the brothers of several who have associated with

me.  There is Nicostratus the son of Theosdotides, and the brother of

Theodotus (now Theodotus himself is dead, and therefore he, at any rate,

will not seek to stop him); and there is Paralus the son of Demodocus, who

had a brother Theages; and Adeimantus the son of Ariston, whose brother

Plato is present; and Aeantodorus, who is the brother of Apollodorus, whom

I also see.  I might mention a great many others, some of whom Meletus

should have produced as witnesses in the course of his speech; and let him

still produce them, if he has forgotten–I will make way for him.  And let

him say, if he has any testimony of the sort which he can produce.  Nay,

Athenians, the very opposite is the truth.  For all these are ready to

witness on behalf of the corrupter, of the injurer of their kindred, as

Meletus and Anytus call me; not the corrupted youth only–there might have

been a motive for that–but their uncorrupted elder relatives.  Why should

they too support me with their testimony?  Why, indeed, except for the sake

of truth and justice, and because they know that I am speaking the truth,

and that Meletus is a liar.

 

Well, Athenians, this and the like of this is all the defence which I have

to offer.  Yet a word more.  Perhaps there may be some one who is offended

at me, when he calls to mind how he himself on a similar, or even a less

serious occasion, prayed and entreated the judges with many tears, and how

he produced his children in court, which was a moving spectacle, together

with a host of relations and friends; whereas I, who am probably in danger

of my life, will do none of these things.  The contrast may occur to his

mind, and he may be set against me, and vote in anger because he is

displeased at me on this account.  Now if there be such a person among

you,–mind, I do not say that there is,–to him I may fairly reply:  My

friend, I am a man, and like other men, a creature of flesh and blood, and

not ‘of wood or stone,’ as Homer says; and I have a family, yes, and sons,

O Athenians, three in number, one almost a man, and two others who are

still young; and yet I will not bring any of them hither in order to

petition you for an acquittal.  And why not?  Not from any self-assertion

or want of respect for you.  Whether I am or am not afraid of death is

another question, of which I will not now speak.  But, having regard to

public opinion, I feel that such conduct would be discreditable to myself,

and to you, and to the whole state.  One who has reached my years, and who

has a name for wisdom, ought not to demean himself.  Whether this opinion

of me be deserved or not, at any rate the world has decided that Socrates

is in some way superior to other men.  And if those among you who are said

to be superior in wisdom and courage, and any other virtue, demean

themselves in this way, how shameful is their conduct!  I have seen men of

reputation, when they have been condemned, behaving in the strangest

manner:  they seemed to fancy that they were going to suffer something

dreadful if they died, and that they could be immortal if you only allowed

them to live; and I think that such are a dishonour to the state, and that

any stranger coming in would have said of them that the most eminent men of

Athens, to whom the Athenians themselves give honour and command, are no

better than women.  And I say that these things ought not to be done by

those of us who have a reputation; and if they are done, you ought not to

permit them; you ought rather to show that you are far more disposed to

condemn the man who gets up a doleful scene and makes the city ridiculous,

than him who holds his peace.

 

But, setting aside the question of public opinion, there seems to be

something wrong in asking a favour of a judge, and thus procuring an

acquittal, instead of informing and convincing him.  For his duty is, not

to make a present of justice, but to give judgment; and he has sworn that

he will judge according to the laws, and not according to his own good

pleasure; and we ought not to encourage you, nor should you allow

yourselves to be encouraged, in this habit of perjury–there can be no

piety in that.  Do not then require me to do what I consider dishonourable

and impious and wrong, especially now, when I am being tried for impiety on

the indictment of Meletus.  For if, O men of Athens, by force of persuasion

and entreaty I could overpower your oaths, then I should be teaching you to

believe that there are no gods, and in defending should simply convict

myself of the charge of not believing in them.  But that is not so–far

otherwise.  For I do believe that there are gods, and in a sense higher

than that in which any of my accusers believe in them.  And to you and to

God I commit my cause, to be determined by you as is best for you and me.

 

 

There are many reasons why I am not grieved, O men of Athens, at the vote

of condemnation.  I expected it, and am only surprised that the votes are

so nearly equal; for I had thought that the majority against me would have

been far larger; but now, had thirty votes gone over to the other side, I

should have been acquitted.  And I may say, I think, that I have escaped

Meletus.  I may say more; for without the assistance of Anytus and Lycon,

any one may see that he would not have had a fifth part of the votes, as

the law requires, in which case he would have incurred a fine of a thousand

drachmae.

 

And so he proposes death as the penalty.  And what shall I propose on my

part, O men of Athens?  Clearly that which is my due.  And what is my due?

What return shall be made to the man who has never had the wit to be idle

during his whole life; but has been careless of what the many care for–

wealth, and family interests, and military offices, and speaking in the

assembly, and magistracies, and plots, and parties.  Reflecting that I was

really too honest a man to be a politician and live, I did not go where I

could do no good to you or to myself; but where I could do the greatest

good privately to every one of you, thither I went, and sought to persuade

every man among you that he must look to himself, and seek virtue and

wisdom before he looks to his private interests, and look to the state

before he looks to the interests of the state; and that this should be the

order which he observes in all his actions.  What shall be done to such an

one?  Doubtless some good thing, O men of Athens, if he has his reward; and

the good should be of a kind suitable to him.  What would be a reward

suitable to a poor man who is your benefactor, and who desires leisure that

he may instruct you?  There can be no reward so fitting as maintenance in

the Prytaneum, O men of Athens, a reward which he deserves far more than

the citizen who has won the prize at Olympia in the horse or chariot race,

whether the chariots were drawn by two horses or by many.  For I am in

want, and he has enough; and he only gives you the appearance of happiness,

and I give you the reality.  And if I am to estimate the penalty fairly, I

should say that maintenance in the Prytaneum is the just return.

 

Perhaps you think that I am braving you in what I am saying now, as in what

I said before about the tears and prayers.  But this is not so.  I speak

rather because I am convinced that I never intentionally wronged any one,

although I cannot convince you–the time has been too short; if there were

a law at Athens, as there is in other cities, that a capital cause should

not be decided in one day, then I believe that I should have convinced you.

But I cannot in a moment refute great slanders; and, as I am convinced that

I never wronged another, I will assuredly not wrong myself.  I will not say

of myself that I deserve any evil, or propose any penalty.  Why should I?

because I am afraid of the penalty of death which Meletus proposes?  When I

do not know whether death is a good or an evil, why should I propose a

penalty which would certainly be an evil?  Shall I say imprisonment?  And

why should I live in prison, and be the slave of the magistrates of the

year–of the Eleven?  Or shall the penalty be a fine, and imprisonment

until the fine is paid?  There is the same objection.  I should have to lie

in prison, for money I have none, and cannot pay.  And if I say exile (and

this may possibly be the penalty which you will affix), I must indeed be

blinded by the love of life, if I am so irrational as to expect that when

you, who are my own citizens, cannot endure my discourses and words, and

have found them so grievous and odious that you will have no more of them,

others are likely to endure me.  No indeed, men of Athens, that is not very

likely.  And what a life should I lead, at my age, wandering from city to

city, ever changing my place of exile, and always being driven out!  For I

am quite sure that wherever I go, there, as here, the young men will flock

to me; and if I drive them away, their elders will drive me out at their

request; and if I let them come, their fathers and friends will drive me

out for their sakes.

 

Some one will say:  Yes, Socrates, but cannot you hold your tongue, and

then you may go into a foreign city, and no one will interfere with you?

Now I have great difficulty in making you understand my answer to this.

For if I tell you that to do as you say would be a disobedience to the God,

and therefore that I cannot hold my tongue, you will not believe that I am

serious; and if I say again that daily to discourse about virtue, and of

those other things about which you hear me examining myself and others, is

the greatest good of man, and that the unexamined life is not worth living,

you are still less likely to believe me.  Yet I say what is true, although

a thing of which it is hard for me to persuade you.  Also, I have never

been accustomed to think that I deserve to suffer any harm.  Had I money I

might have estimated the offence at what I was able to pay, and not have

been much the worse.  But I have none, and therefore I must ask you to

proportion the fine to my means.  Well, perhaps I could afford a mina, and

therefore I propose that penalty:  Plato, Crito, Critobulus, and

Apollodorus, my friends here, bid me say thirty minae, and they will be the

sureties.  Let thirty minae be the penalty; for which sum they will be

ample security to you.

 

 

Not much time will be gained, O Athenians, in return for the evil name

which you will get from the detractors of the city, who will say that you

killed Socrates, a wise man; for they will call me wise, even although I am

not wise, when they want to reproach you.  If you had waited a little

while, your desire would have been fulfilled in the course of nature.  For

I am far advanced in years, as you may perceive, and not far from death.  I

am speaking now not to all of you, but only to those who have condemned me

to death.  And I have another thing to say to them:  you think that I was

convicted because I had no words of the sort which would have procured my

acquittal–I mean, if I had thought fit to leave nothing undone or unsaid.

Not so; the deficiency which led to my conviction was not of words–

certainly not.  But I had not the boldness or impudence or inclination to

address you as you would have liked me to do, weeping and wailing and

lamenting, and saying and doing many things which you have been accustomed

to hear from others, and which, as I maintain, are unworthy of me.  I

thought at the time that I ought not to do anything common or mean when in

danger:  nor do I now repent of the style of my defence; I would rather die

having spoken after my manner, than speak in your manner and live.  For

neither in war nor yet at law ought I or any man to use every way of

escaping death.  Often in battle there can be no doubt that if a man will

throw away his arms, and fall on his knees before his pursuers, he may

escape death; and in other dangers there are other ways of escaping death,

if a man is willing to say and do anything.  The difficulty, my friends, is

not to avoid death, but to avoid unrighteousness; for that runs faster than

death.  I am old and move slowly, and the slower runner has overtaken me,

and my accusers are keen and quick, and the faster runner, who is

unrighteousness, has overtaken them.  And now I depart hence condemned by

you to suffer the penalty of death,–they too go their ways condemned by

the truth to suffer the penalty of villainy and wrong; and I must abide by

my award–let them abide by theirs.  I suppose that these things may be

regarded as fated,–and I think that they are well.

 

And now, O men who have condemned me, I would fain prophesy to you; for I

am about to die, and in the hour of death men are gifted with prophetic

power.  And I prophesy to you who are my murderers, that immediately after

my departure punishment far heavier than you have inflicted on me will

surely await you.  Me you have killed because you wanted to escape the

accuser, and not to give an account of your lives.  But that will not be as

you suppose:  far otherwise.  For I say that there will be more accusers of

you than there are now; accusers whom hitherto I have restrained:  and as

they are younger they will be more inconsiderate with you, and you will be

more offended at them.  If you think that by killing men you can prevent

some one from censuring your evil lives, you are mistaken; that is not a

way of escape which is either possible or honourable; the easiest and the

noblest way is not to be disabling others, but to be improving yourselves.

This is the prophecy which I utter before my departure to the judges who

have condemned me.

 

Friends, who would have acquitted me, I would like also to talk with you

about the thing which has come to pass, while the magistrates are busy, and

before I go to the place at which I must die.  Stay then a little, for we

may as well talk with one another while there is time.  You are my friends,

and I should like to show you the meaning of this event which has happened

to me.  O my judges–for you I may truly call judges–I should like to tell

you of a wonderful circumstance.  Hitherto the divine faculty of which the

internal oracle is the source has constantly been in the habit of opposing

me even about trifles, if I was going to make a slip or error in any

matter; and now as you see there has come upon me that which may be

thought, and is generally believed to be, the last and worst evil.  But the

oracle made no sign of opposition, either when I was leaving my house in

the morning, or when I was on my way to the court, or while I was speaking,

at anything which I was going to say; and yet I have often been stopped in

the middle of a speech, but now in nothing I either said or did touching

the matter in hand has the oracle opposed me.  What do I take to be the

explanation of this silence?  I will tell you.  It is an intimation that

what has happened to me is a good, and that those of us who think that

death is an evil are in error.  For the customary sign would surely have

opposed me had I been going to evil and not to good.

 

Let us reflect in another way, and we shall see that there is great reason

to hope that death is a good; for one of two things–either death is a

state of nothingness and utter unconsciousness, or, as men say, there is a

change and migration of the soul from this world to another.  Now if you

suppose that there is no consciousness, but a sleep like the sleep of him

who is undisturbed even by dreams, death will be an unspeakable gain.  For

if a person were to select the night in which his sleep was undisturbed

even by dreams, and were to compare with this the other days and nights of

his life, and then were to tell us how many days and nights he had passed

in the course of his life better and more pleasantly than this one, I think

that any man, I will not say a private man, but even the great king will

not find many such days or nights, when compared with the others.  Now if

death be of such a nature, I say that to die is gain; for eternity is then

only a single night.  But if death is the journey to another place, and

there, as men say, all the dead abide, what good, O my friends and judges,

can be greater than this?  If indeed when the pilgrim arrives in the world

below, he is delivered from the professors of justice in this world, and

finds the true judges who are said to give judgment there, Minos and

Rhadamanthus and Aeacus and Triptolemus, and other sons of God who were

righteous in their own life, that pilgrimage will be worth making.  What

would not a man give if he might converse with Orpheus and Musaeus and

Hesiod and Homer?  Nay, if this be true, let me die again and again.  I

myself, too, shall have a wonderful interest in there meeting and

conversing with Palamedes, and Ajax the son of Telamon, and any other

ancient hero who has suffered death through an unjust judgment; and there

will be no small pleasure, as I think, in comparing my own sufferings with

theirs.  Above all, I shall then be able to continue my search into true

and false knowledge; as in this world, so also in the next; and I shall

find out who is wise, and who pretends to be wise, and is not.  What would

not a man give, O judges, to be able to examine the leader of the great

Trojan expedition; or Odysseus or Sisyphus, or numberless others, men and

women too!  What infinite delight would there be in conversing with them

and asking them questions!  In another world they do not put a man to death

for asking questions:  assuredly not.  For besides being happier than we

are, they will be immortal, if what is said is true.

 

Wherefore, O judges, be of good cheer about death, and know of a certainty,

that no evil can happen to a good man, either in life or after death.  He

and his are not neglected by the gods; nor has my own approaching end

happened by mere chance.  But I see clearly that the time had arrived when

it was better for me to die and be released from trouble; wherefore the

oracle gave no sign.  For which reason, also, I am not angry with my

condemners, or with my accusers; they have done me no harm, although they

did not mean to do me any good; and for this I may gently blame them.

 

Still I have a favour to ask of them.  When my sons are grown up, I would

ask you, O my friends, to punish them; and I would have you trouble them,

as I have troubled you, if they seem to care about riches, or anything,

more than about virtue; or if they pretend to be something when they are

really nothing,–then reprove them, as I have reproved you, for not caring

about that for which they ought to care, and thinking that they are

something when they are really nothing.  And if you do this, both I and my

sons will have received justice at your hands.

 

The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our ways–I to die, and you to

live.  Which is better God only knows.

 

End of this Project Gutenberg Etext of Apology, by Plato

December 11, 2007 - Posted by | KAJIAN

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