The Apology of Socrates

SUCH is my answer to the charges which have been poured into your ears for a long time. Now let me defend myself against these later accusations of Meletus and the rest--the virtuous patriot Meletus. I am an evildoer, a corrupter of youth, who pays no reverence to the gods whom the city reveres, but to strange daemons. Not I, but Meletus is the evil-doer, who makes accusations so frivolous, pretending much concern for matters about which he has never troubled himself. Answer me, Meletus. You think it of the utmost importance that our youth should be made as excellent as possible?

Meletus: Certainly.

Socrates: Tell us, then, who is it that makes them better; for of course, you know. You are silent? The laws, you say? The question was, 'Who?'

Mel.: The judges; all the judges.

Soc.: In other words, all the Athenian people--everyone but me? And I alone corrupt them? Truly, I am in ill plight! But in the case of all other animals, horses, for instance, there are only a few people who are able to improve them. Your answer shows that you have never bestowed attention on the care of young people. Next, tell me is it better for a man to dwell among good citizens or bad? The good, since the bad will injure him. I cannot, then, set about making bad citizens designedly. My friend, no man designedly brings injury upon himself. If I corrupt them, it must be undesignedly--reason good for admonishing and instructing me, which you have not done; but not for bringing me into court, which you have done! However, I corrupt them by teaching them not to believe in the gods in whom the city believes, but in strange deities? Do I teach that there are some gods, or that there are no gods at all? Mel.: I say that you believe in no gods. You say the sun is a stone, and the moon earth. Soc.: Most excellent Meletus, everyone knows that Anaxagoras says so: you can buy that information for a drachma! Do I really appear to you to revere no gods? Mel.: No, no gods at all. Soc.: Now, that is incredible! You must have manufactured this riddle out of sheer wantonness, for in the indictment you charge me with reverencing gods! Can anyone believe that there are human affairs, or equine affairs, or instrumental affairs without believing that there are men or horses or instruments? You say expressly that I believe in daemonic affairs, therefore in daemons; but daemons are a sort of gods, or the offspring of gods. Therefore, you cannot possibly believe that I do not believe in gods. Really, I have sufficiently answered the indictment. If I am condemned, it will not be on the indictment of Meletus, but on popular calumnies; which have condemned good men before me, and assuredly I shall not be the last.

IT may be suggested that I ought to be ashamed of practices which have brought me into danger of death. Risk of death is not to be taken into account in any action which really matters at all. If it ought to be, the heroes before Troy were bad characters! Every man should stand to his post, come life, come death. Should I have stood to my post and faced death when on service at Potidaea, but have failed through fear of death when the deity imposed on me a certain course of action?

Whether to die be evil or good, I know not, though many think they know it to be evil. But to disobey authority, human or divine, I know to be evil; and I will not do what I know to be evil to avoid what may in fact be good. Insomuch that if you now offer to set me free on condition that I should cease from these pursuits on pain of death, I should reply: 'Men of Athens, I love and honour you, but I will obey god rather than you; and while I breathe and have the power I will not cease from the pursuit of philosophy, or from exhorting and warning you, as I have done hitherto, against caring much for riches and nothing for the perfecting of your souls. This is the bidding of god. If to speak thus be to corrupt youth, then I corrupt youth. But he who says I speak other things than this talks vanity; and this I will do, though the penalty were many deaths.'

Do not murmur, but listen, for you will profit. If you put me to death, you will harm yourselves more than me, for it is worse to do wrong than to suffer it. You will not easily find another to serve as the gadfly which rouses a noble horse--as I have done, being commissioned thereto by god. For that I have made no profit for myself from this course my poverty proves.

If it seems absurd that I should meddle thus with each man privately, but take no part in public affairs, that is because of the divine or daemonic influence of which I have spoken, named also in mockery by Meletus in the indictment. This is a voice which checks but never urges me on. Indeed, had I meddled with politics, I should have been dead long ago.

But I have never posed as an instructor or taken money for giving instruction. Anyone who chooses can question me and hear what I have to say. People take pleasure in my society, because they like to hear those exposed who deem themselves wise but are not; this duty god has laid on me by oracles and dreams and every mode of divine authority. If I am corrupting or have corrupted youth, why do none of these bear witness against me, or their fathers or brothers or other kinsman? Many I see around me who should do so if this charge were true; yet all are ready to assist me.

This, and the like, is what I have to say in my defence. Perhaps some of you, thinking how, in a like case with mine but less exigent, he has sought the compassion of the court with tears and pleadings of his children and kinsfolk, will be indignant that I do none of these things, though I have three boys of my own. That is not out of disrespect to you, but because I think it would be unbeseeming to me. Such displays, as though death were something altogether terrifying, are to me astonishing and degrading to our city in the sight of strangers, for persons reputed to excel in anything, as in some respects I am held to excel the generality.

But apart from credit, I count that we ought to inform and convince our judges, not seek to sway them by entreaties; that they may judge rightly according to the laws, and not by favour. For you are sworn. And how should I persuade you to break your oath, who am charged by Meletus with impiety? For by so doing, I should be persuading you to disbelief in the gods, and making that very charge against myself. To you and to the gods I leave it, that I may be judged as shall be best for you and for me.

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