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(2) Euthyphro's Lawsuit


Socrates. And what is your suit, Euthyphro? are you the

Jowett's Notes

pursuer or the defendant?  

Euthyphro. I am the pursuer.  

Soc. Of whom?  

4a Euth. You will think me mad when I tell you.  

Soc. Why, has the fugitive wings?  

Euth. Nay, he is not very volatile at his time of life.  

Soc. Who is he?  

Euth. My father.  

Soc. Your father! my good man?  

Euth. Yes.  

Soc. And of what is he accused?  

Euth. Of murder, Socrates.  

Soc. By the powers, Euthyphro! how little does the common The irony of Socrates.
herd know of the nature of right and truth. A man must be an  
extraordinary man, and have made great strides in wisdom,  
before he could have seen his way to bring such an action.  

4b Euth. Indeed, Socrates, he must.  

Soc. I suppose that the man whom your father murdered was Euthyphro is under a sacred obligation to prosecute a homicide, even if he be his own father.
one of your relatives -- clearly he was; for if he had been a
stranger you would never have thought of prosecuting him.

Euth. I am amused, Socrates, at your making a distinction for  
between one who is a relation and one who is not a relation;  
surely the pollution is the same in either case, if you knowingly  
associate with the murderer when you ought to clear yourself  
4c and him by proceeding against him. The real question is  
whether the murdered man has been justly slain. If justly, then  
your duty is to let the matter alone; but if unjustly, then, even  
if the murderer lives under the same roof with you and eats at  
Greece_x.JPG (15198 bytes) the same table, proceed  
against him. Now the  
man who is dead was  
a poor dependent of  
mine who worked for  
us as a field labourer on  Bar175.GIF (857 bytes)  
our farm in Naxos, and one day in a fit of drunken passion he  
got into a quarrel with one of our domestic servants and slew  
him. My father bound him hand and foot and threw him into a   
ditch, and then sent to Athens to ask of a diviner what he should  
4d do with him. Meanwhile he never attended to him and took no  
care about him, for he regarded him as a murderer; and  
thought that no great harm would be done even if he did  
die. Now this was just what happened. For such was  
the effect of cold and hunger and chains upon him, that  
before the messenger returned from the diviner, he was  
dead. And my father and family are angry with me for  
taking the part of the murderer and prosecuting my father.  
4e They say that he did not kill him, and that if he did, the dead  
man was but a murderer, and I ought not to take any notice,  
for that a son is impious who prosecutes a father. Which  

nxs_1_prx.JPG (6574 bytes)Temple of Apollo on Naxos
Photo: Thomas Martin & Ivy S. Sun
The Perseus Project

shows, Socrates, how  
little they know what the  
gods think about piety and  

Soc. Good heavens, Euthyphro! and is your knowledge of  
religion and of things pious and impious so very exact, that,  
supposing the circumstances to be as you state them, you are  
not afraid lest you too may be doing an impious thing in  
bringing an action against your father?  

Euth. The best of Euthyphro, and that which distinguishes  
5a him, Socrates, from other men, is his exact knowledge of all  
such matters. What should I be good for without it?  

Soc. Rare friend! I think that I cannot do better than be your Socrates, who is accused of false theology, thinks that he cannot do better than become the disciple of so great a theologian as Euthyphro.
disciple. Then before the trial with Meletus comes on I shall
challenge him, and say that I have always had a great interest
in religious questions, and now, as he charges me with rash
imaginations and innovations in religion, I have become your
5b disciple. You, Meletus, as I shall say to him, acknowledge
Euthyphro to be a great theologian, and sound in his opinions;  
and if you approve of him you ought to approve of me, and  
not have me into court; but if you disapprove, you should  
begin by indicting him who is my teacher, and who will be the  
ruin, not of the young, but of the old; that is to say, of myself  
whom he instructs, and of his old father whom he admonishes  
and chastises. And if Meletus refuses to listen to me, but  
will go on, and will not shift the indictment from me to you, I  
cannot do better than repeat this challenge in the court.  

Euth. Yes, indeed, Socrates; and if he attempts to indict me I  
5c am mistaken if I do not find a flaw in him; the court shall have  
a great deal more to say to him than to me.  

Soc. And I, my dear friend, knowing this, am desirous of He asks, `What is piety?'
becoming your disciple. For I observe that no one appears to
notice you -- not even this Meletus; but his sharp eyes have  
found me out at once, and he has indicted me for impiety.  
And therefore, I adjure you to tell me the nature of  
piety and impiety, which you said that you knew so well, and  
of murder, and of other offences against the gods. What are  
5d they? Is not piety in every action always the same? and  
impiety, again -- is it not always the opposite of piety, and also  
the same with itself, having, as impiety, one notion which  
includes whatever is impious?  

Euth. To be sure, Socrates.  

Soc. And what is piety, and what is impiety?  
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