The Trial and Death of Socrates: Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Death Scene from Phaedo

By Plato; John M. Cooper et al. | Go to book overview

APOLOGY

The Apology1 professes to be a record of the actual speech that
Socrates delivered in his own defense at the trial. This makes the
question of its historicity more acute than in the dialogues in which
the conversations themselves are mostly fictional and the question of
historicity is concerned only with how far the theories that Socrates is
represented as expressing were those of the historical Socrates. Here,
however, we are dealing with a speech that Socrates made as a matter
of history. How far is Plato's account accurate? We should always
remember that the ancients did not expect historical accuracy in the
way we do. On the other hand, Plato makes it clear that he was
present at the trial (34a, 38b). Moreover, if, as is generally believed,
the
Apology was written not long after the event, many Athenians
would remember the actual speech, and it would be a poor way to
vindicate the Master, which is the obvious intent, to put a completely
different speech into his mouth. Some liberties could no doubt be
allowed, but the main arguments and the general tone of the defense
must surely be faithful to the original. The beauty of language and
style is certainly Plato's, but the serene spiritual and moral beauty of
character belongs to Socrates. It is a powerful combination.

Athenian juries were very large, in this case 501, and they
combined the duties of jury and judge as we know them by both
convicting and sentencing. Obviously, it would have been virtually
impossible for so large a body to discuss various penalties and decide
on one. The problem was resolved rather neatly, however, by having
the prosecutor, after conviction, assess the penalty he thought
appropriate, followed by a counter-assessment by the defendant. The
jury would then decide between the two. This procedure generally
made for moderation on both sides.

Thus the Apology is in three parts. The first and major part is the
main speech (17a–35d), followed by the counter-assessment (35e–38b),
and finally, last words to the jury (38c–42a), both to those who voted
for the death sentence and those who voted for acquittal.

I do not know, men of Athens,2 how my accusers affected you; as for17 me, I was almost carried away in spite of myself, so persuasively did

1. The word apology is a transliteration, not a translation, of the Greek apologia,
which means defense. There is certainly nothing apologetic about the speech.

2. Jurors were selected by lot from all the male citizens thirty years of age or
older who offered themselves on the given day for service. They thus functioned

-20-

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The Trial and Death of Socrates: Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Death Scene from Phaedo
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents iii
  • Preface to the Third Edition iv
  • Suggestions for Further Reading vi
  • Euthyphro 1
  • Apology 20
  • Crito 43
  • Phaedo 55
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