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Speech I: Socrates' Defense

(1) Opening Remarks
17a - 18a

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17a How you, O Athenians, have been affected by my accusers, I

Jowett's Notes

cannot tell; but I know that they almost made me forget who I


was so persuasively did they speak; and yet they have hardly    
uttered a word of truth. But of the many falsehoods told by    
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Law Court in Athens whereSocrates would have given this speech.
Full View of Athens (207K)
Artist: Ru Dien-Jen

them, there was one    
which quite amazed    
me; I mean when they    
said that you should be    
upon your guard and    
not allow yourselves to      
be deceived by the force  
of my eloquence. To say this, when they were certain to be detected Socrates begs to be allowed to speak in his accustomed manner.
as soon as I opened my lips and proved myself to be anything but


a great speaker, did indeed appear to me most shameless unless  
by the force of eloquence they mean the force of truth; for if such    
their meaning, I admit that I am eloquent. But in how different    
a way from theirs! Well, as I was saying, they have scarcely    
spoken the truth at all; but from me you shall hear the whole    
truth: not, however, delivered after their manner in a set  
oration duly ornamented with words and phrases. No, by    
heaven! but I shall use the words and arguments which occur    
to me at the moment; for I am confident in the justice of my    
cause: at my time of life I ought not to be appearing before    
you, O men of Athens, in the character of a juvenile orator -    


let no one expect it of me. And I must beg of you to grant me    
favor: If I defend myself in my accustomed manner, and you    
hear me using the words which I have been in the habit of    
using in the agora, at the tables of the money-changers, or    
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Ruins of the Agora
Photo: Kevin T. Glowacki and Nancy Klein
The Ancient City of Athens

anywhere else, I  
would ask you not to  
be surprised, and not   
to interrupt me on this  
account. For I am  
more than seventy years  
of age, and appearing    
now for the first time in a court of law, I am quite a stranger to    


the language of the place; and therefore I would have you regard    
me as if I were really a stranger, whom you would excuse if he    
spoke in his native tongue, and after the fashion of his country:    


- Am I making an unfair request of you? Never mind the manner, The judges must excuse Socrates if he defends himself in his own fashion.
which may or may not be good; but think only of thetruth of my
words, and give heed to that: let the speaker speak truly and
the judge decide justly.

April 18, 2000