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Choose One(1) QuestionPrimary TextsDISCUSSION QUESTION CHOICE #1Ethics: Examining the Life of SocratesApologia

 to write on, answer the question fully in all its parts. Be mindful of the Discussion Question Expectations and Grading Rubric. You are making a claim about something, making an argument, using examples from the  you have read, and your own experiences as evidence. Take your time and edit carefully for grammar and clarity before posting. Write for your reader.

. In the , Socrates describes himself as a gadfly, as a person who is only concerned with the truth, and as modest.

Answer the questionWhat does it mean to lead a good life by the example of Socrates?

In other words, what do you believe the actions and words of Socrates teach you about your own life? Use examples from the Apologia and your own reasoning in your argument. 

DISCUSSION QUESTION CHOICE #2Political TheoryA Just Death?  In Socrates' Trial in the Apologia, Socrates is found guilty of treason by the Athenians and sentenced to die by drinking hemlock. Examine the idea of justice in Socrates death.

Answer the questionWas it just or unjust for the Athenians to sentence Socrates to death?

Use examples from the Apologia and your own reasoning in your argument. 

DISCUSSION QUESTION OPTION #3Aesthetics: Inspirational Art. There are many great quotes by Socrates in the Apologia. For example, "I know only one thing, and that is that I know nothing" or "The unexamined life is not worth living". Choose a quote by Socrates that you found appealing in the Apologia and develop Inspirational Artwork by placing the quote together with an image of Greek art (a sculpture, building, pottery etc.)

Answer the questionWhat makes this Inspirational Artwork valuable to me and why should others accept my definition of its value?


Answer the question: Did Socrates Commit Suicide?

Note that folks have offered arguments on both sides of this issue. Make sure you carefully craft an argument to support your position, making use of the text in your argument.


The Project Gutenberg EBook of Apology, by Plato

 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 it

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


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


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


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


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



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


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


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


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.

Step-by-step answer

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