The trial and death of Socrates

YOUR condemnation does not grieve me, for various reasons, one of which is that I fully expected it. What surprises me is the small majority by which it was carried. Evidently, Meletus, if left to himself, would have failed to win the few votes needed to save him from the fine.

Well, the sentence he fixes is death, and I have to propose an alternative--presumably, the sentence I deserve. I have neglected all the ordinary pursuits and ambitions of men--which would have been no good either to me or to you--that I might benefit each man privately, by persuading him to give attention to himself first--how to attain his own best and wisest--and his mere affairs afterwards, and the city in like manner. The proper reward is that I should be maintained in the Prytaneum as a public benefactor.

You may think this merely a piece of insolence, but it is not so. I am not conscious of having wronged any man. Time does not permit me to prove my case, and I will not admit guilt by owning that I deserve punishment by a fine. What have I to fear? The penalty fixed by Meletus, as to which I do not know whether it is good or bad? Shall I, to escape this, choose something which is certainly bad? Imprisonment, to be the slave of the Eleven? A fine, to be a prisoner till I pay it?--which comes to the same thing, as I cannot pay. Exile? If my fellow citizens cannot put up with me, how can I expect strangers to do so?

Why cannot I go, and hold my tongue, you may ask. That is the one thing which I cannot do. That would be to disobey the god, and the life would not be worth living, though you do not believe me. I might undertake to pay a mina. However, as Plato and Crito and Appollodorus urge me to name thirty minae, for which they will be security, I propose thirty minae.

Your enemies will reproach you, Athenians, for having put to death that wise man Socrates. Yet you would have had but a short time to wait, for I am old. I speak to those of you who have condemned me. I am condemned, not for lack of argument, but because I have not chosen to plead after the methods that would have been pleasant and flattering to you, but degrading to me.

But to you, my true judges, who voted for my acquittal, I would speak while yet we may. I have to tell you that my warning daemon has in no way withstood the course I have taken, and the reason, assuredly, is that I have done what is best, gaining blessing, death being no evil at all. For death is either only to cease from sensations altogether as in a dreamless sleep, and that is no loss; or else it is a passing to another place where all the dead are--the heroes, the poets, the wise men of old. How priceless were it to hold converse with them and question them!

But be you hopeful with regard to death, for to the good man, neither in life nor in death is there anything that can harm him. And for me, I am confident that it is better to die than to live. Therefore I have no resentment against those who have caused my death. And now we go, I to death and you to life; but which of us to the better state, God alone knoweth.





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