Plato, Apology, second, third, speech
[Apology, speech]
last days, trial, death

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The last days of Socrates

Plato - Apology
the second speech

  Towards the end of the first speech of the Apology Plato relates that the five hundred or so strong jury before which Socrates was standing trial found him guilty by a narrow majority of sixty. Meletus moved that the sentence should be death, in reply Socrates had the right to propose a sentence that the court might select as an alternative.

  This is the subject of the second speech:-

  Although now an officially guilty man Socrates, true to his own estimation of his past actions, suggested that he has actually done great good to the state and that he deserved reward rather than punishment!!!

  The trial jury was asked to entertain the idea that he, Socrates, should be maintained at public expense, such as was awarded to famous Olympian charioteers, so that he would have leisure to impart beneficial instruction.
  Socrates then backtracked a little from this suggestion, reminded the court that no one actually knew if death was a disaster or a release, and said that he was reluctant to suggest a real penalty in preference to death which might be a blessing. He had no money to pay any fine, he did not feel he deserved imprisonment, exile would bring great uncertainties for a man who even in a foreign city was bound to continue to instuct towards the "improvement of the soul".

  Socrates openly suggested that he could himself pay a small fine of one Mina but that his friends were prepared to pay, on his behalf, a fine of thirty Minae.

  In the event the trial jury thought that Socrates proposed alternative - the fine of thirty minae - was significantly too lenient and voted for the sentence of death rather than the fine being imposed and voted that way by an increased majority.

Plato - Apology
the third speech

  Socrates asked those who had voted in favour of his being guilty to bear in mind that, even though he did not consider himself to be wise, the rivals of Athens would say that the Athenians had ordered the death of a wise man who lived among them. He also reminded those who had condemned him that although he was not to be around much longer as a Gadfly other, younger, and possibly less considerate, people might well fulfil the same role in the future.
  To those who had voted in favour of his being declared innocent Socrates gave assurances that he was not afraid of death, his sure guide - the inner Oracle or sign, - had not made its presence felt in ways that would have led him to believe he was on a wrong path.
  Whether death led to a state of utter unconciousness or else to a transmigration of the soul Socrates foresaw something that would be not completely unwelcome.
  To go into an eternity of a single, quiet, night or else to have the opportunity as a transmigrated soul to converse with, and to question, the heroes in Hades.
  Amongst his closing remarks Socrates asked his friends there present to visit punishments and troubles on his three sons if they seemed to care more about riches than about virtue, or if they seemed to be pretentious.

  Socrates' closing words in this third speech of Plato's Apology being:-

The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our ways - I to die, and you to live. Which is better God only knows.

  In most circumstances Socrates would have been obliged to submit to execution by drinking the deadly poison Hemlock within twenty four hours of his sentence. It happened however that executions were traditionally suspended whilst a certain sacred ship made an annual voyage to the Island of Delos. This ship was presently on the seas and this allowed a certain stay of execution.
  The ensuing events are related by Plato in his Euthyphro and Crito. More details can be accessed by following this link:-

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Socrates trial, last days, and death

Ancient Greece
The last days
of Socrates


Start of
Plato - Apology
second and third speech