The World's Famous Orations/Volume 1/On Being Declared Guilty



(399 B.C.)

That I should not be grieved, Athenians, at what has happened, namely, that you have condemned me, as well as many other circumstances concur in bringing to pass, and moreover this, that what has happened has not happened contrary to my expectations; but I much rather wonder at the number of votes on either side. For I did not expect that I should be condemned by so small a number, but by a large majority; but now, as it seems, if only three more votes had changed sides I should have been acquitted. As far as Miletus is concerned, as it appears to me, I have been already acquitted, and not only have I been acquitted, but it is clear to every one that had not Anytus and Lycon come forward to accuse me, he would have been fined a thousand drachmas, for not having obtained a fifth part of the votes.

The man then awards me the penalty of death. Well. But what shall I, on my part, O Athenians, award myself? Is it not clear that it will be such as I deserve? What then is that? Do I deserve to suffer or to pay a fine, for that I have purposely during my life not remained quiet, but, neglecting what most men seek after,—money-making, domestic concerns, military command, popular oratory, all moreover all the magistracies, conspiracies and cabals that are met with in the city,—thinking that I was in reality too upright a man to be safe if I took part in such things, I therefore did not apply myself to those pursuits, by attending to which I should have been of no service either to you or to myself; but in order to confer the greatest benefit on each of you privately, as I affirm, I thereupon applied myself to that object, endeavoring to persuade every one of you not to take any care of his own affairs, before he had taken care of himself, in what way he may become the best and wisest, nor of the affairs of the city before he took care of the city itself, and that he should attend to other things in the same manner.

What treatment then do I deserve, seeing I am such a man? Some reward, O Athenians, if at least I am to be estimated according to my real deserts; and moreover such a reward as would be suitable to me. What then is suitable to a poor man, a benefactor, and who has need of leisure in order to give you good advice? There is nothing so suitable, O Athenians, as that such a man should be maintained in the Prytaneum. and this much more than if one of you had been victorious at the Olympic games in a horse race, or in the two or four-horsed chariot race: for such a one makes you appear to be happy, but I, to be so: and he does not need support, but I do. If, therefore, I must award a sentence according to my just deserts, I award this, maintenance in the Prytaneum.

Perhaps, however, in speaking to you thus, I appear to you to speak in the same presumptuous manner as I did respecting commiseration and entreaties: but such is not the case, O Athenians, it is rather this. I am persuaded that I never designedly injured any man, tho I can not persuade you of this, for we have conversed with each other but for a short time. For if there was the same law with you as with other men, that in capital cases the trial should last not only one day but many, I think you would be persuaded: but it is not easy in a short time to do away with great calumnies.

Being persuaded then that I have injured no one, I am far from intending to injure myself, and of pronouncing against myself that I am deserving of punishment, and from awarding myself anything of the kind. Through fear of what? lest I should suffer that which Miletus awards me, of which I say I know not whether it be good or evil? instead of this, shall I choose what I well know to be evil, and award that? Shall I choose imprisonment? And why should I live in prison, a slave to the established magistracy, the Eleven? Shall I choose a fine, and to be imprisoned until I have paid it? But this is the same as that which I just now mentioned, for I have not money to pay it. Shall I then award myself exile? For perhaps you would consent to this award. I should indeed be very fond of life, O Athenians, if I were so devoid of reason as not to be able to reflect that you, who are my fellow citizens, have been unable to endure my manner of life and discourses, but they have become so burdensome and odious to you, that you now seek to be rid of them; others, however, will easily bear them; far from it, O Athenians. A fine life it would be for me at my age to go out wandering and driven from city to city, and so to live. For I well know that, wherever I may go, the youth will listen to me when I speak, as they do here. And if I repulse them they will themselves drive me out, persuading the elders; and if I do not repulse them, their fathers and kindred will banish me on their account.

Perhaps, however, some one will say, Can you not, Socrates, when you have gone from us, live a silent and quiet life? This is the most difficult thing of all to persuade some of you. For if I say that that would be to disobey the deity, and that therefore it is impossible for me to live quietly, you would not believe me, thinking I spoke ironically. If, on the other hand, I say that this is the greatest good to man, to discourse daily on virtue, and other things which you have heard me discussing, examining both myself and others, but that a life without investigation is not worth living for, still less would you believe me if I said this. Such, however, is the case, as I affirm, O Athenians, tho it is not easy to persuade you. And at the same time I am not accustomed to think myself deserving of any ill.

If, indeed I were rich, I would amerce myself in such a sum as I should be able to pay; for then I should have suffered no harm, but now—for I can not, unless you are willing to amerce me in such a sum as I am able to pay. But perhaps I could pay you a mina of silver; in that sum then I amerce myself. But Plato here, O Athenians, and Crito, Critobulus, and Apollodorus bid me amerce myself in thirty minæ, and they offer to be sureties. I amerce myself then to you in that sum; and they will be sufficient sureties for the money.

  1. After a majority of voices had declared him guilty, Socrates resumed his address as reported by Plato in the 'Apology.'