About Plato’s Apology of Socrates
All the works of Plato are dated as composed after the death of his teacher, Socrates, in 399 BCE. The first one is the “Apology,” which was probably written about 397 BCE. Plato mentions himself as present at the event, thus reinforcing the historical character of the work.
The charge against Socrates concerns introducing new deities and the corruption of the youth. Socrates used to mention his “Deamon”, an inner voice which prevented him from various acts. Despite the tolerance to other religions at that time, his accusers, Anytos, Meletos and Lykon, try to ascribe to Socrates disrespect to traditional values and accuse him of trying to introduce or impose his own deities on the city. The second charge against Socrates, concerning the corruption of young people, perhaps arises from Socrates’ relationship with people who had joined his circle and greatly harmed the city, such as Alcibiades, Charmides and Critias. It is worth noting that the systematic avoidance of formally addressing the court as “Judges” (Gr: ἄνδρες δικασταί), using instead “men of Athens” (Gr: ἄνδρες Ἀθηναῖοι) throughout almost the entire extent of the discourse, shows Socrates’ view of the inability of these judges to judge this kind of matters, without, however, questioning the general institution of the court.
Also in this “Apology”, by Plato one here and there does realise a boastful manner of speaking to the jury (Gr: μεγαληγορία), in which Socrates expressed himself. Seemingly on purpose…
Plato, (Gr: Πλάτων) the great philosopher of antiquity, is the best known disciple of Socrates and teacher of Aristotle. He was born in Athens in 427 BCE and descended from an aristocratic family. His father descended from King Codrus, (Gr: Κόδρος) while his mother was related to Solon. Thanks to the financial situation of his family he received a wide education and aspired to engage in politics. However, he gave up this desire, as his uncles Charmides (Gr: Χαρμίδης) and Critias (Gr: Κριτίας) were among the Thirty Tyrants. What, however, marked Plato’s life was his acquaintance with Socrates, at the age of 20. He remained by him for 9 years, and after the death of his master in 399 BCE he fled to the city of Megara.
He then made several voyages, to Egypt, Cyrene, Magna Grecia, and Sicily, where he came in contact with the Pythagoreans. Despite the relationship he developed with the tyrants of Syracuse Dionysius I, Dionysius II and Dion, he did not manage to turn them into Philosopher-Kings. On his return from the first voyage his life was in danger and he was sold as a slave. The 387 BCE he founded the “Academy”, where he taught for many years.
Plato’s surviving work is especially rich. 35 dialogues and 13 letters came down to us. The works considered genuine include 26 dialogues, the Apology of Socrates and the 7th Epistle, which is seems autobiographical. His works, besides the Apology and the Letters, are written in dialogue form. The central figure in the dialogues, except in the “Laws”, is Socrates. In no dialogue, however, does Plato himself appear. His dialogues are titled by the name of one of the participants, e.g. Timaeus, Gorgias, etc. Only six dialogues, the Symposium, the Republic, the Sophist, the Statesman, the Laws, and the Epinomis, were titled from their subject of inquiry.
Content & structure of Socrates’ Apology
Socrates gives three speeches in the “Apology”, refuting the accusations, especially making his points and addressing the jury after his condemnation is definitive.
The work starts after the accusers have spoken, with an introductory Prologue, where Socrates sets the tone and presents himself. Existing old prejudices are to be handled first, which form the root of the accusations against him. They stem from a Delphic oracle, claiming he’s the wisest of men, which he tried to prove wrong, since he considered himself a very ignorant man. Trying to find a wiser man, he started questioning various people, among them strong and famous ones, who proved not to possess deep understanding of their own matters. Finally, he concludes that the oracle implied that being aware of one’s own ignorance is (human) wisdom. This testing process creates resentment from people and consequently a bad reputation.
Specific charges made presently by his accusers, (demanding his death), of corruption of youth and impiety, are answered in the dialogue between Socrates and Meletus (Gr: Μέλητος), which shows how absurd the accusation is.
Among other things, Socrates says that his young followers imitating his example, do it willingly and not because he claimed to be a teacher, nor did he teach for money, but willing to help everyone seeking the truth.
Regarding the accusation of impiety, Socrates wonders how is it possible to be an atheist, when he -as the accusers claim- venerates and tries to introduce his own, new deities?
After the epilogue of the first speech, a vote is taken and Socrates is found guilty by a small margin.
The second speech goes about the proposed penalty. The accusers demand the death penalty and Socrates can propose an alternative one. As he finds himself not guilty of anything, but on the contrary, a benefactor of the city, he thinks that free meals by the city for the rest of his life is proper, according to value.
The third part is Socrates’ reaction to the condemning vote of the court. He declares that he is not afraid of death, since he considers that he has ever done the right things and certainly hasn’t caused any of the evils for which he is been accused. He refrains from the usual dramatic calling of friends and relatives to his defence, as he stands out from the crowd.
He then addresses the jurors who voted against him and finally the ones who voted in his favour.
He closes his discourse spectacularly and masterfully, one could say, with the phrase: “but now it is time to go, I to die and ye to live; which of us go to a better lot is unknown to all but God…»
About the audiobook
The recording contains the complete Ancient Greek text of the Apology of Socrates by Plato. The I. Burnet edition of the Greek text has been used, with a few minor deviations, that is, alternative readings included in the a.c. of Burnet, which made more sense in context.
After purchase you will be able to download the zip file, containing the audiobook in mp3 format.
A short sample
You can listen to the first chapter of the Apology, the “Prologue” as an audio sample of the present audiobook. Please, click on the play-button bellow and, if you wish, follow the Ancient Greek text lower on the page, or alternatively watch the video. Thank you!
ΑΠΟΛΟΓΙΑ ΣΩΚΡΑΤΟΥΣ (ch. 01, the Prologue)
Ὅ τι μὲν ὑμεῖς, ὦ ἄνδρες Ἀθηναῖοι, πεπόνθατε ὑπὸ τῶν ἐμῶν κατηγόρων, οὐκ οἶδα. ἐγὼ δ᾽ οὖν καὶ αὐτὸς ὑπ᾽ αὐτῶν ὀλίγου ἐμαυτοῦ ἐπελαθόμην· οὕτω πιθανῶς ἔλεγον. καίτοι ἀληθές γε, ὡς ἔπος εἰπεῖν, οὐδὲν εἰρήκασιν. μάλιστα δὲ αὐτῶν ἓν ἐθαύμασα τῶν πολλῶν ὧν ἐψεύσαντο: τοῦτο ἐν ᾧ ἔλεγον ὡς χρῆν ὑμᾶς εὐλαβεῖσθαι, μὴ ὑπ᾽ ἐμοῦ ἐξαπατηθῆτε ὡς δεινοῦ ὄντος λέγειν. τὸ γὰρ μὴ αἰσχυνθῆναι, ὅτι αὐτίκα ὑπ᾽ ἐμοῦ ἐξελεγχθήσονται ἔργῳ ἐπειδὰν μηδ᾽ ὁπωστιοῦν φαίνωμαι δεινὸς λέγειν, τοῦτό μοι ἔδοξεν αὐτῶν ἀναισχυντότατον εἶναι, εἰ μὴ ἄρα δεινὸν καλοῦσιν οὗτοι λέγειν τὸν τἀληθῆ λέγοντα· εἰ μὲν γὰρ τοῦτο λέγουσιν, ὁμολογοίην ἂν ἔγωγε, οὐ κατὰ τούτους, εἶναι ῥήτωρ. οὗτοι μὲν οὖν, ὥσπερ ἐγὼ λέγω, ἤ τι ἢ οὐδὲν ἀληθὲς εἰρήκασιν, ὑμεῖς δέ μου ἀκούσεσθε πᾶσαν τὴν ἀλήθειαν – οὐ μέντοι μὰ Δία, ὦ ἄνδρες Ἀθηναῖοι, κεκαλλιεπημένους γε λόγους, ὥσπερ οἱ τούτων, ῥήμασί τε καὶ ὀνόμασιν οὐδὲ κεκοσμημένους, ἀλλ᾽ ἀκούσεσθε εἰκῇ λεγόμενα τοῖς ἐπιτυχοῦσιν ὀνόμασιν· πιστεύω γὰρ δίκαια εἶναι ἃ λέγω· καὶ μηδεὶς ὑμῶν προσδοκησάτω ἄλλως· οὐδὲ γὰρ ἂν δήπου πρέποι, ὦ ἄνδρες, τῇδε τῇ ἡλικίᾳ ὥσπερ μειρακίῳ πλάττοντι λόγους εἰς ὑμᾶς εἰσιέναι. καὶ μέντοι καὶ πάνυ, ὦ ἄνδρες Ἀθηναῖοι, τοῦτο ὑμῶν δέομαι καὶ παρίεμαι: ἐὰν διὰ τῶν αὐτῶν λόγων ἀκούητέ μου ἀπολογουμένου, δι᾽ ὧνπερ εἴωθα λέγειν καὶ ἐν ἀγορᾷ ἐπὶ τῶν τραπεζῶν, ἵνα ὑμῶν πολλοὶ ἀκηκόασι, καὶ ἄλλοθι, μήτε θαυμάζειν μήτε θορυβεῖν τούτου ἕνεκα. ἔχει γὰρ οὑτωσί: νῦν ἐγὼ πρῶτον ἐπὶ δικαστήριον ἀναβέβηκα, ἔτη γεγονὼς ἑβδομήκοντα· ἀτεχνῶς οὖν ξένως ἔχω τῆς ἐνθάδε λέξεως· ὥσπερ οὖν ἄν, εἰ τῷ ὄντι ξένος ἐτύγχανον ὤν, συνεγιγνώσκετε δήπου ἄν μοι, εἰ ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ φωνῇ τε καὶ τῷ τρόπῳ ἔλεγον ἐν οἷσπερ ἐτεθράμμην, καὶ δὴ καὶ νῦν τοῦτο ὑμῶν δέομαι δίκαιον, ὥς γέ μοι δοκῶ, τὸν μὲν τρόπον τῆς λέξεως ἐᾶν – ἴσως μὲν γὰρ χείρων, ἴσως δὲ βελτίων ἂν εἴη – αὐτὸ δὲ τοῦτο σκοπεῖν καὶ τούτῳ τὸν νοῦν προσέχειν, εἰ δίκαια λέγω ἢ μή· δικαστοῦ μὲν γὰρ αὕτη ἀρετή, ῥήτορος δὲ τἀληθῆ λέγειν.