The Apology of Socrates to the Jury, 22–34

Xenophon  translated by O. J. Todd

« Xen. Apol. 15–21 | Xen. Apol. 22–34 (end) | About This Work »

22More than this of course was said both by Socrates himself and by the friends who joined in his defence. But I have not made it a point to report the whole trial; rather I am satisfied to make it clear that while Socrates’ whole concern was to keep free from any act of impiety toward the gods or any appearance of wrong-doing toward man, he did not think it meet to beseech the jury to let him escape death; instead, he believed that the time had now come for him to die. 23This conviction of his became more evident than ever after the adverse issue of the trial. For, first of all, when he was bidden to name his penalty, he refused personally and forbade his friends to name one, but said that naming the penalty in itself implied an acknowledgment of guilt. Then, when his companions wished to remove him clandestinely from prison, he would not accompany them, but seemed actually to banter them, asking them whether they knew of any spot outside of Attica that was inaccessible to death.

24When the trial was over, Socrates (according to Hermogenes) remarked: “Well, gentlemen, those who instructed the witnesses that they must bear false witness against me, perjuring themselves to do so, and those who were won over to do this must feel in their hearts a guilty consciousness of great impiety and iniquity; but as for me, why should my spirit be any less exalted now than before my condemnation, since I have not been proved guilty of having done any of the acts mentioned in the indictment? For it has not been shown that I have sacrificed to new deities in the stead of Zeus and Hera and the gods of their company, or that I have invoked in oaths or mentioned other gods. 25And how could I be corrupting the young by habituating them to fortitude and frugality? Now of all the acts for which the laws have prescribed the death-penalty—temple robbery, burglary, enslavement, treason to the state—not even my adversaries themselves charge me with having committed any of these. And so it seems astonishing to me how you could ever have been convinced that I had committed an act meriting death. 26But further, my spirit need not be less exalted because I am to be executed unjustly; for the ignominy of that attaches not to me but to those who condemned me. And I get comfort from the case of Palamedes,[5] also, who died in circumstances similar to mine; for even yet he affords us far more noble themes for song than does Odysseus, the man who unjustly put him to death. And I know that time to come as well as time past will attest that I, too, far from ever doing any man a wrong or rendering him more wicked, have rather profited those who conversed with me by teaching them, without reward, every good thing that lay in my power.”

27With these words he departed, blithe in glance, in mien, in gait, as comported well indeed with the words he had just uttered. When he noticed that those who accompanied him were in tears, “What is this?” Hermogenes reports him as asking. “Are you just now beginning to weep? Have you not known all along that from the moment of my birth nature had condemned me to death? Verily, if I am being destroyed before my time while blessings are still pouring in upon me, clearly that should bring grief to me and to my well-wishers; but if I am ending my life when only troubles are in view, my own opinion is that you ought all to feel cheered, in the assurance that my state is happy.”

28A man named Apollodorus, who was there with him, a very ardent disciple of Socrates, but otherwise simple, exclaimed, “But, Socrates, what I find it hardest to bear is that I see you being put to death unjustly!” The other, stroking Apollodorus’ head, is said to have replied, “My beloved Apollodorus, was it your preference to see me put to death justly?” and smiled as he asked the question.

29It is said also that he remarked as he saw Anytus[6] passing by: “There goes a man who is filled with pride at the thought that he has accomplished some great and noble end in putting me to death, because, seeing him honoured by the state with the highest offices, I said that he ought not to confine his son’s education to hides.[7] What a vicious fellow,” he continued, “not to know, apparently, that whichever one of us has wrought the more beneficial and noble deeds for all time, he is the real victor. 30But,” he is reported to have added, “Homer has attributed to some of his heroes at the moment of dissolution the power to foresee the future; and so I too wish to utter a prophecy. At one time I had a brief association with the son of Anytus, and I thought him not lacking in firmness of spirit; and so I predict that he will not continue in the servile occupation that his father has provided for him; but through want of a worthy adviser he will fall into some disgraceful propensity and will surely go far in the career of vice.” 31In saying this he was not mistaken; the young man, delighting in wine, never left off drinking night or day, and at last turned out worth nothing to his city, his friends, or himself. So Anytus, even though dead, still enjoys an evil repute for his son’s mischievous education and for his own hard-heartedness. 32And as for Socrates, by exalting himself before the court, he brought ill-will upon himself and made his conviction by the jury all the more certain. Now to me he seems to have met a fate that the gods love; for he escaped the hardest part of life and met the easiest sort of death. 33And he displayed the stalwart nature of his heart; for having once decided that to die was better for him than to live longer, he did not weaken in the presence of death (just as he had never set his face against any other thing, either, that was for his good), but was cheerful not only in the expectation of death but in meeting it.

34And so, in contemplating the man’s wisdom and nobility of character, I find it beyond my power to forget him or, in remembering him, to refrain from praising him. And if among those who make virtue their aim any one has ever been brought into contact with a person more helpful than Socrates, I count that man worthy to be called most blessed.

« Xen. Apol. 15–21 | Xen. Apol. 22–34 (end) | About This Work »


  • [5] One of the Greek warriors at Troy; put to death on a charge of treason trumped up by Odysseus, or by Odysseus, Diomedes, and Agamemnon.

  • [6] One of the three plaintiffs in Socrates' trial.

  • [7] The tanning trade had been in the family from at least the time of the boy's grandfather.