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Speech I: Socrates' Defense

(8) Socrates's Courage

  Some one may wonder why I go about in private giving

Jowett's Notes

  advice and busying myself with the concerns of others, but do The internal sign always forbade him to engage in politics; and if he had done so, he would have perished long ago.
  not venture to come forward in public and advise the state. I
  will tell you why. You have heard me speak at sundry times


and in divers places of an oracle or sign which comes to me,
  and is the divinity which Meletus ridicules in the indictment.  
  This sign, which is a kind of voice, first began to come to me  
  when I was a child; it always forbids but never commands me  
  to do anything which I am going to do. This is what deters me  
  from being a politician. And rightly, as I think. For I am or  
  certain, O men of Athens, that if I had engaged in politics, I  
  should have perished long ago, and done no good either to you  


to myself. And do not be offended at my telling you the truth:  
  for the truth is, that no man who goes to war with you or any  
  other multitude, honestly striving against the many lawless and  
  unrighteous deeds which are done in a state, will save his life;  


he who will fight for the right, if he would live even for a brief  
  space, must have a private station and not a public one.  

Allotment Machine Used for Selecting Citizens for Civil Service
Artist: Ru Dien-Jen
  I can give you convincing evidence of what I say, not words He had shown that he would sooner die than commit injustice at the trial of the generals and under the tyranny of the Thirty.
  only, but what you value far more - actions. Let me relate to
  you a passage of my own life which will prove to you that I
  should never have yielded to injustice from any fear of death,  
  and that "as I should have refused to yield" I must have died at  
  once. I will tell you a tale of the courts, not very interesting  
  perhaps, but nevertheless true. The only office of state which I  


ever held, O men of Athens, was that of senator: the tribe  
  Antiochis, which is my tribe, had the presidency at the trial of  
  the generals who had not taken up the bodies of the slain after  
  the battle of Arginusae; and you proposed to try them in a  
  body, contrary to law, as you all thought afterwards; but at the  
  time I was the only one of the Prytanes who was opposed to  
  the illegality, and I gave my vote against you; and when the  
  orators threatened to impeach and arrest me, and you called  
  and shouted, I made up my mind that I would run the risk,  


having law and justice with me, rather than take part in your  
  injustice because I feared imprisonment and death. This  
  happened in the days of the democracy. But when the  
  oligarchy of the Thirty was in power, they sent for me and  
  four others into the rotunda, and bade us bring Leon the  
  Salaminian from Salamis, as they wanted to put him to death.  
  This was a specimen of the sort of commands which they  
  were always giving with the view of implicating as many as  


possible in their crimes; and then I showed, not in word only  
  but in deed, that, if I may be allowed to use such an and only  
  expression, I cared not a straw for death, and that my great  
  care was lest I should do an unrighteous or unholy thing. For  
  the strong arm of that oppressive power did not frighten me  
  into doing wrong; and when we came out of the rotunda the  
  other four went to Salamis and fetched Leon, but I went  
  quietly home. For which I might have lost my life, and not the  


power of the Thirty shortly afterwards come to an end. And  
  many will witness to my words.  

Athenian Hoplite Soldier
Artist: Ru Dien-Jen
  Now do you really imagine that I could have survived all man He is always talking to the citizens, but he teaches nothing; he takes no pay and has no secrets.
  these years, if I had led a public life, supposing that like a good
  I had always maintained the right and had made justice as I
  ought, the first thing? No indeed, men of Athens, neither I  


nor any other man. But I have been always the same in all my  
  actions, public as well as private, and never have I yielded any  
  base compliance to those who are slanderously termed my  
  disciples, or to any other. Not that I have any regular one,  
  disciples. But if any one likes to come and hear me while I am  
  pursuing my mission, whether he be young or old, he is not  


excluded. Nor do I converse only with those who pay; but any  
  whether he be rich or poor, may ask and answer me and listen  
  to my words; and whether he turns out to be a bad man or a  
  good one, neither result can be justly imputed to me; for I  
  never taught or professed to teach him anything. And if any  
  one says that he has ever learned or heard anything from me in  
  private which all the world has not heard, let me tell you that  
  he is lying.  
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