Mary R. Lefkowitz
As the principal text in our second-year Greek course I prefer to use Plato's Apology, his account of the trial of Socrates. I stick with this traditional text, even though it is hard for students who have had time to learn only the bare essentials of Greek grammar, because it deals with so many matters that are central to our civilization. Should a man be condemned for his beliefs, if they differ from the majority's? Why did the majority make a judgment that is now universally regarded as unfair? How could Socrates think that no man would willingly commit an evil act? Important questions, all; but several years ago I had a student who seemed to regard virtually everything I said about Socrates with hostility. Before she graduated she explained why she had been suspicious of me and my classes: her instructor in another course had told her that Socrates (as suggested by the flat nose in some portrait sculptures) was black. The instructor had also taught that classicists universally refuse to mention the African origins of Socrates because they do not want their students to know that the so-called legacy of ancient Greece had been stolen from Egypt.
Further study persuaded this student that most of what she had heard in this other course could not have been strictly accurate. Because Socrates was an Athenian citizen, he must have had Athenian parents; and since foreigners couldn't become naturalized Athenian citizens, he must have come from the same ethnic background as every other Athenian. Even though Greeks in Socrates' day did not pay much attention to skin color or more generally to