The Apology

Etext prepared by John Bickers,

The Apology

By Xenophon

Translation by H. G. Dakyns

Xenophon the Athenian was born 431 B.C. He was a
pupil of Socrates. He marched with the Spartans,
and was exiled from Athens. Sparta gave him land
and property in Scillus, where he lived for many
years before having to move once more, to settle
in Corinth. He died in 354 B.C.

The Apology describes Socrates' state of mind at
his trial and execution, and especially his view
that it was better to die before senility set in
than to escape execution by humbling himself be-
fore an unjust persecution. Xenophon was away at
the time, involved in the events of the march of
the ten thousand.


This was typed from Dakyns' series, "The Works of Xenophon," a
four-volume set. The complete list of Xenophon's works (though
there is doubt about some of these) is:

Work Number of books

The Anabasis 7
The Hellenica 7
The Cyropaedia 8
The Memorabilia 4
The Symposium 1
The Economist 1
On Horsemanship 1
The Sportsman 1
The Cavalry General 1
The Apology 1
On Revenues 1
The Hiero 1
The Agesilaus 1
The Polity of the Athenians and the Lacedaemonians 2

Text in brackets "{}" is my transliteration of Greek text into
English using an Oxford English Dictionary alphabet table. The
diacritical marks have been lost.

The Apology

By Xenophon

Translation by H. G. Dakyns


Among the reminiscences of Socrates, none, as it seems to me, is more
deserving of record than the counsel he took with himself[2] (after
being cited to appear before the court), not only with regard to his
defence, but also as to the ending of his life. Others have written on
this theme, and all without exception have touched upon[3] the lofty
style of the philosopher,[4] which may be taken as a proof that the
language used by Socrates was really of that type. But none of these
writers has brought out clearly the fact that Socrates had come to
regard death as for himself preferable to life; and consequently there
is just a suspicion of foolhardiness in the arrogancy of his
address.[5] We have, however, from the lips of one of his intimate
acquaintances, Hermogenes,[6] the son of Hipponicus, an account of him
which shows the high demeanour in question to have been altogether in
keeping with the master's rational purpose.[7] Hermogenes says that,
seeing Socrates discoursing on every topic rather than that of his
impending trial, he roundly put it to him whether he ought not to be
debating the line of his defence, to which Socrates in the first
instance answered: "What! do I not seem to you to have spent my whole
life in meditating my defence?" And when Hermogenes asked him, "How?"
he added: "By a lifelong persistence in doing nothing wrong, and that
I take to be the finest practice for his defence which a man could
devise." Presently reverting to the topic, Hermogenes demanded: "Do
you not see, SOcrates, how often Athenian juries[8] are constrained by
arguments to put quite innocent people to death, and not less often to
acquit the guilty, either through some touch of pity excited by the
pleadings, or that the defendant had skill to turn some charming
phrase?" Thus appealed to, Socrates replied: "Nay, solemnly I tell
you, twice already I have essayed to consider my defence, and twice
the divinity[9] hinders me"; and to the remark of Hermogenes, "That is
strange!" he answered again: "Strange, do you call it, that to God it
should seem better for me to die at once? Do you not know that up to
this moment I will not concede to any man to have lived a better life
than I have; since what can exceed the pleasure, which has been mine,
of knowing[10] that my whole life has been spent holily and justly?
And indeed this verdict of self-approval I found re-echoed in the
opinion which my friends and intimates have formed concerning me.[11]
And now if my age is still to be prolonged,[12] I know that I cannot
escape paying[13] the penalty of old age, in increasing dimness of
sight and dulness of hearing. I shall find myself slower to learn new
lessons, and apter to forget the lessons I have learnt. And if to
these be added the consciousness of failing powers, the sting of self-
reproach, what prospect have I of any further joy in living? It may
be, you know," he added, "that God out of his great kindness is
intervening in my behalf[14] to suffer me to close my life in the
ripeness of age, and by the gentlest of deaths. For if at this time
sentence of death be passed upon me, it is plain I shall be allowed to
meet an end which, in the opinion of those who have studied the
matter, is not only the easiest in itself, but one which will cause
the least trouble to one's friends,[15] while engendering the deepest
longing for the departed. For of necessity he will only be thought of
with regret and longing who leaves nothing behind unseemly or
discomfortable to haunt the imagination of those beside him, but,
sound of body, and his soul still capable of friendly repose, fades
tranquilly away."

[1] Or, "Socrates' Defence before the Dicasts." For the title of the
work see Grote, "H. G." viii. 641; Schneid. ap. L. Dindorf's note
{pros tous dikastas}, ed. Ox. 1862, and Dindorf's own note; L.
Schmitz, "On the Apology of Socrates, commonly attributed to
Xenophon," "Class. Mus." v. 222 foll.; G. Sauppe, "Praef." vol.
iii. p. 117, ed. ster.; J. J. Hartman, "An. Xen." p. 111 foll.; E.
Richter, "Xen. Stud." pp. 61-96; M. Schanz, "Platos Apologia."

[2] Or possibly, "his deliberate behaviour."

[3] Or, "have succeeded in hitting off"; "done full justice to."

[4] Or, "the magniloquence of the master."

[5] Or, "so that according to them his lofty speech seems rather

[6] See "Mem." IV. viii. 4 foll.), a passage of which this is either
an "ebauchement" or a "rechauffe."

[7] Or, "the philosopher's cast of thought."

[8] Dikasteries.

[9] {to daimonion}.

[10] {edein}, i.e. at any moment.

[11] For the phrase {iskhuros agamenos emauton}, cf. "Mem." II. i. 19.

[12] L. Dindorf cf. Dio Chrys. "Or." 28, {anagke gar auto en
probainonti anti men kallistou aiskhrotero gignesthai k.t.l.}

[13] {apoteleisthai}. In "Mem." IV. viii. 8, {epiteleisthai}.

[14] Or, "God of his good favour vouchsafes as my protector that I
should," etc. For {proxenei} cf. "Anab." VI. v. 14; Soph. "O. C."
465, and "O. T." 1483; and Prof. Jebb's notes ad loc. "the god's
kindly offices grant to me that I should lose my life."

[15] Cf. Plat. "Phaed." 66.

"No doubt," he added, "the gods were right in opposing me at that time
(touching the inquiry, what I was to say in my defence),[16] when you
all thought the great thing was to discover some means of
acquittal;[17] since, had I effected that, it is clear I should have
prepared for myself, not that surcease from life which is in store for
me anon, but to end my days wasted by disease, or by old age, on which
a confluent stream of evil things most alien to joyousness

[16] {te tou logou episkepsei}. Cf. Plat. "Rep." 456 C.

[17] Or, if {emin}, transl. "we all were for thinking that the main
thing was."

[18] Or, "that sink into which a confluent stream of evil humours
discharge most incompatible with gaiety of mind." Schneid. conj.
{eremon} sc. {geras}.

"No," he added, "God knows I shall display no ardent zeal to bring
that about.[19] On the contrary, if by proclaiming all the blessings
which I owe to god and men; if, by blazoning forth the opinion which I
entertain with regard to myself, I end by wearying the court, even so
will I choose death rather than supplicate in servile sort for leave
to live a little longer merely to gain a life impoverished in place of

[19] Or, "I will give no helping hand to that."

It was in this determination, Hermogenes states, that, when the
prosecution accused him of not recognising the gods recognised by the
state, but introducing novel divinities and corrupting the young,
Socrates stepped forward and said: "In the first place, sirs, I am at
a loss to imagine on what ground[20] Meletus asserts that I do not
recognise the gods which are recognised by the state, since, as far as
sacrificing goes, the rest of the world who have chanced to be present
have been in the habit of seeing me so engaged at common festivals,
and on the public altars; and so might Meletus himself, if he had
wished. And as to novel divinities, how, pray, am I supposed to
introduce them by stating that I have a voice[21] from God which
clearly signifies to me what I ought do do? Why, what else do those
who make use of the cries of birds or utterences of men draw their
conclusions from if not from voices? Who will deny that the thunder
has a voice and is a very mighty omen;[22] and the priestess on her
tripod at Pytho,[23] does not she also proclaim by voice the messages
from the god? The god, at any rate, has foreknowledge, and premonishes
those whom he will of what is about to be. That is a thing which all
the world believes and asserts even as I do. Only, when they describe
these premonitions under the name of birds and utterances, tokens[24]
and soothsayers, I speak of a divinity, and in using that designation
I claim to speak at once more exactly and more reverentially than they
do who ascribe the power of the gods to birds. And that I am not lying
against the Godhead I have this as a proof: although I have reported
to numbers of friends the counsels of heaven, I have never at any time
been shown to be a deceiver or deceived."

[20] Cf. "Mem." I. i. 2.

[21] Cf. Plat. "Apol." 19.

[22] Cf. "Anab." III. ii. 11; Aristoph. "Birds," 720.

[23] Delphi.

[24] Or, "the objects that meet us." See Prof. Jebb ad Theophr. "Ch."
xxviii. 5.

As they listened to these words the judges murmured their dissent,
some as disbelieving what was said, and others out of simple envy that
Socrates should actually receive from heaven more than they
themselves; whereupon Socrates returned to the charge. "Come," he
said, "lend me your ears while I tell you something more, so that
those of you who choose may go to a still greater length in refusing
to believe that I am thus highly honoured by the divine powers.
Chaerephon[25] once, in the presence of many witnesses, put a question
at Delhi concerning me, and Apollo answered that there was no human
being more liberal, or more upright, or more temperate than myself."
And when once more on hearing these words the judges gave vent, as was
only natural, to a fiercer murmur of dissent, Socrates once again
spoke: "Yet, sirs, they were still greater words which the god spake
in oracle concerning Lycurgus,[26] the great lawgiver of Lacedaemon,
than those concerning me. It is said that as he entered the temple the
god addressed him with the words: 'I am considering whether to call
thee god or man.' Me he likened not indeed to a god, but in
excellence[27] preferred me far beyond other men."

[25] L. Dindorf cf. Athen. v. 218 E; Hermesianax ap. Athen. xiii. 599
A; Liban. vol. iii. pp. 34, 35; Plat. "Apol." 21 A; Paus. i. 22.
8; Schol. ad Aristoph. "Clouds," 144; Grote, "H. G." viii. 567

[26] See Herod. i. 65:

{ekeis, o Lukoorge, emon pori piona neon,
Zeni philos kai pasin 'Olumpia domat' ekhousi
dizo e se theon manteusomai e anthropon.
all' eti kai mallon theon elpomai, o Lukoorge.}

Cf. Plut. "Lyc." 5 (Clough, i. 89).

[27] Or, "gave judgment beforehand that I far excelled."

"Still I would not have you accept this even on the faith of the god
too rashly; rather I would have you investigate, point by point, what
the god has said. I ask you, is there any one[28] else, you know of,
less enslaved than myself to the appetites[29] of the body? Can you
name another man of more independent spirit than myself, seeing that I
accept from no one either gifts or pay? Whom have you any right to
believe to be more just[30] than one so suited with what he has, that
the things of others excite no craving in him?[31] Whom would one
reasonably deem wise, rather than such a one as myself, who, from the
moment I began to understand things spoken,[32] have never omitted to
inquire into and learn every good thing in my power? And that I
laboured not in vain, what more conclusive evidence than the fact that
so many of my fellow-citizens who make virtue their pursuit, and many
strangers also, choose my society in preference to that of others?[33]
And how are we to explain the fact that though all know well enough
that I am wholly unable to repay them in money, so many are eager to
present me with some gift?[34] And what do you make of this--while no
one dreams of dunning me for benefits conferred, hosts of people
acknowledge debts of gratitude to myself? And what of this, that
during the siege,[35] while others were pitying themselves[36] I lived
in no greater straits than when the city was at the height of her
prosperity? and of this, that while others provide themselves with
delicacies[37] of the market at great cost, mine are the dainties of
the soul more sweet than theirs,[38] procured without expense? If in
all I have said about myself no one can convict me of lying, is it not
obvious that the praise I get from gods and men is justly earned? And
yet in spite of all, Meletus, you will have it that by such habits I
corrupt the young. We know, I fancy, what such corrupting influences
are; and perhaps you will tell us if you know of any one who, under my
influence, has been changed from a religous into an irreligious man;
who, from being sober-minded, has become prodigal; from being a
moderate drinker has become a wine-bibber and a drunkard; from being a
lover of healthy honest toil has become effeminate, or under the
thrall of some other wicked pleasure."

[28] Lit. "whom do you know," and so throughout.

[29] Cf. Plat. "Phaed." 66 C.

[30] Or, "so attempered and adjusted." The phrase savours of "cynic."

[31] Or, "present no temptation to him"; lit. "that he stands in no
further need of what belongs to his neighbours."

[32] {ta legomena}, "the meaning of words and the force of argument."

[33] {ek panton}. Cf. Thuc. i. 120, {osper kai en allois ek panton
protimontai (oi egemones)}, "as they (leaders) are first in
honour, they should be first in the fulfilment of their duties"

[34] The commentators quote Libanius, "Apol." vol. iii. p. 39, {kai
dia touto ekalei men Eurulokhos o Kharistios, ekalei de Skopas k
Kranonios, oukh ekista lontes, upiskhnoumenoi}. Cf. Diog. Laert.
ii. 31, {Kharmidou oiketas auto didontos, in' ap' auton
prosodeuoito, oukh eileto}. Cf. id. 65, 74.

[35] See "Hell." II. ii. 10.

[36] {oikteirein eautous}. See L. Dind. ad loc. For an incident in
point see "Mem." II. vii.

[37] Plat. "Rep." iii. 404 D, "refinements of Attic confectionery."

[38] {ek tes psukhes}, possibly "by a healthy appetite." Cf. "Symp."
iv. 41. The same sentiment "ex ore Antisthenis." See Joel, op.
cit. i. 382; Schanz, Plat. "Apol." p. 88, S. 26.

"Nay, bless my soul," exclaimed Meletus, "I know those whom you
persuaded to obey yourself rather than the fathers who begat

[39] Cf. "Mem." I. ii. 49.

"I admit it," Socrates replied, "in the case of education, for they
know that I have made the matter a study; and with regard to health a
man prefers to obey his doctor rather than his parents; in the public
assembly the citizens of Athens, I presume, obey those whose arguments
exhibit the soundest wisdom rather than their own relations. And is it
not the case that, in your choice of generals, you set your fathers
and brothers, and, bless me! your own selves aside, by comparison with
those whom you believe to be the wisest authorities on military

"No doubt, Socrates," replied Meletus, "because it is expedient and
customary so to do."

"Well then," rejoined Socrates, "does it not strike even you, Meletus,
as wonderful when in all ordinary concerns the best people should
obtain, I do not say only an equal share, but an exclusive preference;
but in my case, simply because I am selected by certain people as an
adept in respect of the greatest treasure men possess--education, I am
on that account to be prosecuted by you, sir, on the capital charge?"

Much more than this, it stands to reason, was urged, whether by
himself or by the friends who advocated his cause.[40] But my object
has not been to mention everything that arose out of the suit. It
suffices me to have shown on the one hand that Socrates, beyond
everything, desired not to display impiety to heaven,[41] and
injustice to men; and on the other, that escape from death was not a
thing, in his opinion, to be clamoured for importunately--on the
contrary, he believed that the time was already come for him to die.
That such was the conclusion to which he had come was made still more
evident later when the case had been decided against him. In the first
place, when called upon to suggest a counter-penalty,[42] he would
neither do so himself nor suffer his friends to do so for him, but
went so far as to say that to propose a counter-penalty was like a
confession of guilt. And afterwards, when his companions wished to
steal him out of prison,[43] he would not follow their lead, but would
seem to have treated the idea as a jest, by asking "whether they
happened to know of some place outside Attica where death was
forbidden to set foot?"

[40] {sunagoreuein}, L. and S. cf Thuc. vi. 6, "partisans," viii. 84,
"pleaded the case of" (Jowett).

[41] Or, "laid the greatest stress of not being guilty of impiety";
"attached the greatest importance to the fact that he was never
guilty of impiety."

[42] {upotimasthai}. See L. Dind. cf. Cic. "Orat." i. 54; the
technical word is {antitimasthai}. Cf. Plat. "Apol." 36 D; Diog.
Laert. ii. 41. These authorities tell a different story. Why
should these stories, if true, as no doubt they were, be omitted?

[43] Cf. Plat. "Crit." 44 B.

When the trial drew to an end, we are told, the master said:[44]
"Sirs, those who instructed the witnesses that they ought to perjure
themselves and bear false witness against me, alike with those who
listened to their instruction, must be conscious to themselves of a
deep impiety and injustice.[45] But for myself, what reason have I at
the present time to hold my head less high than I did before sentence
was passed against me, if I have not been convicted of having done any
of those things whereof my accusers accused me? It has not been proved
against me that I have sacrificed to novel divinities in place of Zeus
and Hera and the gods who form their company. I have not taken oath by
any other gods, nor named their name.

[44] {eipein auton [autos(?)]}, i.e. "according to Hermiogenes."

[45] Or, "must have a heavy load on their minds in the consciousness
of their impiety and injustice."

"And then the young--how could I corrupt them by habituating them to
manliness and frugality? since not even my accusers themselves allege
against me that I have committed any of those deeds[46] of which death
is the penalty, such as robbery of temples,[47] breaking into houses,
selling freemen into slavery, or betrayal of the state; so that I must
still ask myself in wonderment how it has been proved to you that I
have done a deed worthy of death. Nor yet again because I die
innocently is that a reason why I should lower my crest, for that is a
blot not upon me but upon those who condemned me.

[46] Cf. "Mem." I. ii. 62.

[47] See Plat. "Rep." iii. 413 A.

"For me, I find a certain consolation in the case of Palamedes,[48]
whose end was not unlike my own; who still even to-day furnishes a far
nobler theme of song than Odysseus who unjustly slew him; and I know
that testimony will be borne to me also by time future and time past
that I never wronged another at any time or ever made a worse man of
him,[49] but ever tried to benefit those who practised discussion with
me, teaching them gratuitously every good thing in my power."

[48] Cf. "Mem." IV. viii. 9, 10; ib. IV. ii. 3. See Plat. "Rep." v.
476 D, {exomen ti paramutheisthai auton}; and "Hunting," i. 11.
The story of Palamedes is told by Ovid, "Met." xiii. 5.

[49] Cf. Plat. "Apol." 25 D, {poteron eme eisageis deuro os
diaphtheironta tous neous kai poneroterous poiounta ekonta e

Having so said he turned and went in a manner quite in conformity[50]
with the words which he had spoken--so bright an air was discernible
alike in the glance of his eye, his gesture, and his step.

[50] {omologoumenos}. For the use of the word L. Dind. cf. Diog.
Laert. vii. 87, {dioper protos o Zenon en to peri anthropou
phuseos telos eipe to omologoumenos te phusei zen} (Cicero's
"naturae convenienter vivere," L. and S.), whereas the regular
Attic use is different. Cf. "Oec." i. 11, {kai omologoumenos ge o
logos emin khorei} = "consentanea ratione." "Our argument runs on
all-fours." Plat. "Symp." 186 B, {to nasoun omologoumenos eteron
te kai anomoion esti}, "ut inter omnes convenit."

And when he perceived those who followed by his side in tears, "What
is this?" he asked. "Why do you weep now?[51] Do you not know that for
many a long day, ever since I was born, sentence of death was passed
upon me by nature? If so be I perish prematurely while the tide of
life's blessings flows free and fast, certainly I and my well-wishers
should feel pained; but if it be that I am bringing my life to a close
on the eve of troubles, for my part I think you ought all of you to
take heart of grace and rejoice in my good fortune."

[51] "Why precisely now?"

Now there was a certain Apollodorus,[52] who was an enthusiastic lover
of the master, but for the rest a simple-minded man. He exclaimed very
innocently, "But the hardest thing of all to bear, Socrates, is to see
you put to death unjustly."[53]

[52] Cf. "Mem." III. xi. 17; Plut. "Cato min." 46 (Clough, iv. 417).
See Cobet, "Pros. Xen." s.n.; cf. Plat. "Symp." 173; "Phaed." 54
A, 117 D; Aelian, "V. H." i. 16; Heges. "Delph." ap. Athen. xi.

[53] Diog. Laert. ii. 5. 35, ascribes the remark to Xanthippe, and so
Val. Max. 7. 2, Ext. 1.

Whereupon Socrates, it is said, gently stroked the young man's head:
"Would you have been better pleased, my dear one, to see me put to
death for some just reason rather than unjustly?" and as he spoke he
smiled tenderly.[54]

[54] See Plat. "Phaed." 89 B, where a similar action is attributed to
Socrates in the case of Phaedo (his beloved disciple). "He stroked
my head and pressed the hair upon my neck--he had a way of playing
with my air; and then he said: 'To-morrow, Phaedo, I suppose that
these fair locks of yours will be severed.'"

It is also said that, seeing Anytus[55] pass by, Socrates remarked:
"How proudly the great man steps; he thinks, no doubt, he has
performed some great and noble deed in putting me to death, and all
because, seeing him deemed worthy of the highest honours of the state,
I told him it ill became him to bring up his so in a tan-yard.[56]
What a scamp the fellow is! he appears not to know that of us two
whichever has achieved what is best and noblest for all future time is
the real victor in this suit. Well! well!" he added, "Homer[57] has
ascribed to some at the point of death a power of forecasting things
to be, and I too am minded to utter a prophecy. Once, for a brief
space, I associated with the son of Anytus, and he seemed to me not
lacking in strength of soul; and what I say is, he will not adhere
long to the slavish employment which his father has prepared for him,
but, in the absence of any earnest friend and guardian, he is like to
be led into some base passion and go to great lengths in depravity."

[55] Son of Anthemion. See Plat. "Men." 90 B, {airountai goun auton
epi tas megistas arkhas}, Plut. "Alc." 4; id. "Coriol." 14;
Aristot. "Ath. Pol." 27, 25, re {to dekazein}; 34, 23. A moderate
oligarch; cf. Xen. "Hell." II. iii. 42, 44; Schol. Cod. Clarkiani
ad Plat. "Apol." 18 B ap. L. Dind. ad loc.; cf. Diod. xiii. 64.

[56] Cf. Plat. "Apol." 23 E.

[57] e.g. Patroclus dying predicts the death of Hector who had slain
him, "Il." xvi. 851 foll.; and Hector that of Achilles, "Il."
xxii. 358 foll. Cf. Cic. "de Div." 1, 30. Plato, "Apol." 39 C,
making Socrates thus address his judges: {to de de meta touto
epithumo umin khresmodesai, o katapsephisamenoi mou' kai gar eimi
ede entautha, en o malist' anthropoi khresmodousin, otan mellosin
apothaneisthai}. "And now, O men who have condemned me, I would
fain prophesy to you, for I am about to die, and that is the hour
at which all men are gifted with prophetic power" (Jowett).

The prophecy proved true. The young man fell a victim to the pleasures
of wine; night and day he never ceased drinking, and at last became a
mere good-for-nothing, worthless alike to his city, his friends, and
himself. As to Anytus, even though the grave has closed upon him, his
evil reputation still survives him, due alike to his son's base
bringing-up and his own want of human feeling.

Socrates did, it is true, by his self-laudation draw down upon him the
jealousy of the court and caused his judges all the more to record
their votes against him. Yet even so I look upon the lot of destiny
which he obtained as providential,[58] chancing as he did upon the
easiest amidst the many shapes of death,[59] and escaping as he did
the one grievous portion of existence. And what a glorious chance,
moreover, he had to display the full strength of his soul, for when
once he had decided that death was better for him than life, just as
in the old days he had never harshly opposed himself to the good
things of life morosely,[60] so even in face of death he showed no
touch of weakness, but with gaiety welcomed death's embrace, and
discharged life's debt.

[58] Lit. "dear to the gods"; "highly favoured."

[59] Cf. Hom. "Od." xii. 341, {pantes men stugeroi thanatoi deiloisi

[60] {prosantes}, i.e. "he faced death boldly as he had encountered
life's blessings blandly." "As he had been no stoic to repudiate
life's blessings, so he was no coward to," etc.

For myself indeed, as I lay to mind the wisdom of the man and his
nobility, I can neither forget him nor, remembering him, forbear to
praise him. But if any of those who make virtue their pursuit have
ever met a more helpful friend than Socrates, I tender such an one my
congratulations as a most enviable man.


Back to Full Books