The Apology is written by Plato of Socrates’ trial, at 70 years of age Socrates was accused of impiety and corrupting the youth of Athens. Plato’s account consists of three speeches that were given by Socrates during this trial. Socrates speaks before the men of Athens, his jury, in 399 BCE and confesses he has forgotten who he was, he then recollects who he is, and finally he proclaims who Socrates is. The trial began with the prosecutors presenting their case against the accused before the Athenian jury. In this trial Meletus argued that Socrates was guilty of corrupting the youth of Athens and committing acts of impiety.
It is possible that Anytus spoke as well. The charges arose because Socrates created doubts on the beliefs and values of the Athenians this may have caused anger and confusion among the Athenians and created a strong resentment against Socrates. After Meletus finished presenting his case against Socrates, the defense had the opportunity to answer to the charges. The Apology starts with the defense speech by Socrates. He observed that he really had two sets of accusers (old and new) and that he was more afraid of the old accusers so he approached that problem first.
He answered to the charges of the old accusers by relating a story about the oracle of Delphi. Socrates explains his true activity is misunderstood he only asked the oracle who was the most wise and she said “no man was wiser” than Socrates. He set out to dispute the oracle’s claim and realized after researching this claim that indeed he was the wisest because he was aware of his own ignorance and spheres of value are aware they are ignorant of their ignorance. He then focused on Meletus’ charge of corrupting the youth and impiety, he explained his important mission to Athens by comparing himself to a gadfly.
He ended his defense by discussing his integrity, his followers, and his family. Subsequently, Socrates is convicted by a slim margin and gives a second speech. The accusers asked for a certain penalty, typically death by hemlock, if the accused is convicted. Socrates argues for a more lenient penalty. Socrates’ second speech is an argument for a different penalty rather than death, but Socrates argues that he is doing a great service to the state of Athens, so that the suitable penalty would be to pay him an allowance for the rest of his life to support him in his censure of individual citizens of Athens.
This facetious retort does not go well with the senate and they sentence him to death. In his final speech Socrates tells the Athenians that they will be shamed in the future for their action and explains why he doesn’t fear death. He goes on to explain that he does not hold a grudge against his accusers and he does not fear death because if he goes to a better place he will be at eternal peace and without worries and if he migrates to the other place he will be able to continue his practice of Socratic dialogue. Either way he will get what he wants.
In summary, it appears that Socrates held the Athenian jury in contempt with implying facetious antidotes but may have considered his own fate before the trial began understanding at his age he may have already accepted death as a final outcome. He admits to no grudges held but proclaims that others will replace him and gives encouragement to those who voted to acquit him. His own acceptance of his fate is calm and logical and asks for help for his sons when he is gone. By his own admission he is the wisest because he knows he is Socrates.
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