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Ancient Philosophy – Dialogues of Plato – "Apology"
Posted In: Ancient Civilizations  4/30/12
By: Yona Williams

As one of the founders of Western philosophy, Socrates is known as one of the best classical Greek philosopher in history. His writings are still taught in modern-day philosophy classes, as students attempt to decipher the great mind. 'Apology' is Plato's version of a speech given by Socrates as he defended himself in 399 BC for charges that he corrupted the youths and turning his back on the worshipped gods of the city. In this article, you will learn the primary theme, characters and details of the work.


The characters in Apology include:

•    Socrates as the narrator of the book

•    Glaucon is the son of Ariston (and brother of Plato, who does not make an appearance). He gives the view that justice is something the weak try to force upon the strong.

•    Adeimantus is the brother of Glaucon, and he gives the description of justice in relation to the practical benefits it possesses. Along with Glaucon, these two characters are the only people who give a response to the questions that Socrates asks after Book I.

•    Polemarchus plays host to the gathering that gives Socrates a chance to speak. He says that justice is a way to give people what they deserve.

•    Cephalus is Polemarchus’ father and an elderly gentleman that gives his own description of justice.

The Beginning

The start of Apology introduces Socrates saying that he does not know if the men of Athens (his jury) have been persuaded by his accusers. He basically calls them young and impressionable. The entire speech is built upon this first sentence, as it sets the stage for the theme to unfold. Subjects, such as the ignorance that some show when it comes to philosophy and those acting with no knowledge, are touched upon. Throughout the speech, Socrates imitates, parodies and even amends the Orators. This is done when he asks the jury to judge him by the truth, and not by his oratorical skills. Socrates abandons the elaborate words and phrases that one could carefully string together to make a good impression.

Following the Dialogue

The Apology is typically seen as three different parts. The first deals with is Socrates' own defense of himself. It is here that a reader encounters some of the most well-known parts of the text, such as his recounting of the Oracle at Delphi. One of the points that Socrates makes while trying to defend his life include accusing one of his accusers. He charges Meletus of not caring about the things that he claims to have compassion for. Meletus is also the only accuser to speak during Socrates' defense.

In the end, the speech does not gain an acquittal for the great thinker, and Socrates is sentenced to death. The second part addresses the verdict, while the sentencing of Socrates is discussed in the third section.


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