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Plato – “Apology” (c. 400 BC)

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The Apology (Greek: Ἀπολογία Σωκράτους; Apologia Socratis) is Plato’s version of the speech given by Socrates as he defended himself in 399 BC against the charges of “corrupting the young, and by not believing in the gods in whom the city believes, but in other daimonia that are novel” (24b). “Apology” here has its earlier meaning (now usually expressed by the word “apologia”) of speaking in defense of a cause or of one’s beliefs or actions (from the Greek ἀπολογία). The general term apology, in context to literature, defends a world from attack (opposite of satire–which attacks the world).

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.

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