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substantially identical with that which is now about to engage our attention, was actually delivered by Socrates at his trial; and that Plato, in this case, aimed only at being a faithful reporter of what his master had thought fit to say in his own vindication, when prosecuted for his life on the accusation of corrupting the youth, and of being an unbeliever in the gods of his country.
An abstract, such as those we gave of the three dialogues which have successively occupied our attention, would entirely fail to give any conception of this singular performance: and after some consideration, we have resolved upon attempting an exact translation. It would, however, require a Plato, so to translate Plato as to render the ideas intelligible to an English reader, in the exact shape in which they were presented by an Athenian speaker to an Athenian audience, preserving, at the same time, all the energy and beauty of the style. We have been obliged to confine ourselves to one or the other object: either to put something like the matter of this discourse into the best English we could command, sacrificing all that is characteristic of the manner of Socrates, and of the notions and feelings of the Athenian public; or else, to retain the very thoughts of Socrates, and his very mode of stating and illustrating those thoughts, but to exchange Plato's eloquent Greek for an English style at once bald and verbose. We have preferred the latter course, as more conducive to the objects we have in view in these papers. A.
Speech of Socrates before his Judges.
In what manner, O Athenians, you have been affected by my accusers, I know not; I myself, in listening to them, almost forgot that I was myself, so plausibly did they speak. Although, of what they said, not one word, I may say, was true. Among the many falsehoods which they told you, one in particular excited my astonishment; when they said that you should beware lest you be deceived by me, who am a powerful speaker. For, their not being ashamed to be immediately contradicted by the fact, when I am seen to be not at all a powerful speaker, appeared to me most shameless. Unless, indeed, they call him a powerful speaker who speaks the truth. If so, I admit myself to be an orator of a different kind from them. They, as I affirm, have spoken no truth; from me you will hear all the truth. Not, indeed, Ó Athenians, a speech like theirs, all tricked out with fine words and phrases: what I say, will be said unstudiedly, in such words as offer themselves. For I am convinced that all which I say is just; none of you need expect any thing else of me. Nor would it become these years, O Athenians, to appear before you spinning phrases like a stripling. And this, O Athenians, I especially solicit of you; that if you hear me make my defence in the very same style of language in which I am accustomed to speak in the streets and public places, where most of you have heard me, and elsewhere, you will neither be surprised nor clamorous. For the fact is this: At the age of seventy and more, I now for the first time appear in a court of justice; I am, therefore, a complete stranger to the ways
The sentiments both of Schleiermacher and of Mr. Thirlwall may be found at full length in the sixth number of the 'Philological Museum.'
of speaking in this place. As then, if I were really a stranger, you would have pardoned me for speaking in the language and style in which I was brought up, so I now ask of you this justice, as it appears to me, that you will disregard the manner of my speech-which perhaps may be better, perhaps worse-but consider and attend to this, whether what I say is just or not. For that is the excellence of a judge; an orator's is to speak the truth.
I have to defend myself first, O Athenians, from the first false accusations against me, and from my first accusers; and afterwards from the more recent ones. For I have had many accusers; who have spoken falsely of me now for many years: whom I fear more than Anytus and his associates, although these also are formidable; but those are still more so, O Athenians, who have begun with most of you from your childhood upwards, and poured into your ears false accusations of me, saying that there is one Socrates, a wise man, who has explored the things which are in the sky and under the earth, and who makes the worse appear the better reason. They, O Athenians, who have spread such a character of me, are my really dangerous accusers; for their hearers believe that those who are addicted to such inquiries do not even believe in gods. These accusers, too, are numerous; they have now spoken ill of me for a long time, and to many of you in the most credulous time of your lives, when you were children, or mere lads, and with all the advantage of an undefended cause, no one replying to them. And, what is hardest of all, one cannot so much as know the names of any of these people, except, perhaps, a play-writer or so.† Neither they who, by calumnies and invidious speaking, have wrought upon you, nor they who, being themselves persuaded, have persuaded others, can be cited to appear in this place. I cannot confute them, but must fight, as it were, with shadows, and refute when there is no one here to answer my questions. Consider, then, that I have to do with two sets of accusers, my present ones, and those ancient ones whom I have mentioned; and observe, that I must reply to the old accusers first, for you heard them first, and during a much longer time than these later
Be it so, then; I must defend myself, and endeavour to expel from your minds, in so short a time, the calumny which has had so long a time to fix itself there. I should be glad (if it be for your good and my own) that this were possible; but I think it is difficult; I do not conceal from myself the weightiness of the task. The event, however, must be as the god pleases. I must obey the law, and make my defence.
Let us go back, then, to the beginning, and see upon what accusation has been founded that prejudice against me, in reliance on which Melitus has brought the present impeachment. What, then, did my assailants allege? for we must consider them as accusers, and read the words of their indictment. 'Socrates is guilty of occupying himself with frivolous and criminal pursuits; exploring the things which are under the earth and in the sky; and making the worse appear the better reason; and teaching others to do the same.' Something of this sort is
This passage, and much other evidence, shows that physical speculation of a recondite kind was regarded by the Greeks as a sort of black art, like witchcraft and sorcery among the moderns: an attempt to know more than is permitted.' There is remarkable sameness in superstition, all over the world.
† πλὴν εἴ τις κωμῳδοποιὸς τυγχάνει ὤν. An allusion to Aristophanes, and his comedy of 'The Clouds, a gross and ignorant libel on Socrates.
what they impute to me; and you have yourselves seen, in the comedy of Aristophanes, a certain Socrates, who professes to walk the air, with much other trifling, about which I do not understand one jot. And I do not speak in disparagement of such knowledge, if there be any one who is wise in these matters; but I have no concern with them. And I call most of yourselves to witness, and beg you to inform and to ask each other, (those of you who have ever heard me converse,) and there are many of them among you: tell to one another, if any of you has ever heard in my conversation anything, great or small, on such subjects; and by this you will know, that all the other things which are vulgarly said about me are of the same value. Again, if you have heard any one say that I undertake to instruct people, and receive money for it, neither is this true. I think it a fine thing, no doubt, if any one is capable of instructing people, as Gorgias of Leontium does, and Prodicus of Ceos, and Hippias of Elis. Each of these, going to one city after another, is able to draw round him the young men, who, though they are at liberty to converse gratis with whomsoever they please of their own citizens, are persuaded to quit the society of these, and, resorting to the new-comers, converse with them, not only paying them money, but rendering gratitude to them besides. There is now in this very town a wise man from Paros, whose arrival I happened to hear of; for I was accidentally in company with a man who has paid more money to sophists than all other men put together, Callias, the son of Hipponicus. I said to him, (for he has two sons,) O Callias, if your sons had been colts or steers, we could have found and hired a proper superintendent of their education, who could have formed them to all the good qualities befitting their nature; but now, since they are men, what superintendent have you in view for them? Who is there that is knowing in the good qualities of a man and a citizen? for I suppose that you must have considered the matter, having sons to bring up. Is there such a person,' said I, or not? There is,' he answered. 'Who,' asked I, and of what country, and for what price does he teach?' Euenus of Paros,' replied he; and his price is five minæ.' And I felicitated Euenus, if he in reality possesses this art, and is so zealous in the practice of it. I, too, therefore, should be proud, and make much of myself, if I knew these matters; but I do not know them, O Athenians.
Some of you may, perhaps, answer, But, O Socrates, what, then, is your affair? and whence did these accusations arise? for you would not have been so much heard of or talked about, if you had done nothing strange, or different from other people: tell us, therefore, what it is, that we may not be left to conjecture.' This appears to me a very fair question; and I will try to explain to you what it is which has made me so talked about, and so calumniated. Listen, then and perhaps some of you may think I am in jest; be well persuaded, however, that I am telling you the whole truth. I, O Athenians, have acquired this reputation, from no other cause than a certain wisdom. What kind of wisdom? That which, perhaps, is the true human wisdom; and the fact seems to be that I possess this wisdom: they whom I have just spoken of have, perhaps, a wisdom greater than that of man; but I certainly do not possess it, and whoever says so speaks falsely, and wishes to slander me. And do not clamour, O Athenians, even if I
seem to speak boastfully; for what I am about to say does not come from myself, but from a source worthy of your attention. I shall produce the Delphic god as a witness to you respecting my wisdom, whether I have any, and of what sort. You knew Chærephon, doubtless. He was my associate from youth, and was also an associate of the Athenian many; he quitted his country with you, and returned with you.* And you know what kind of a man was Chærephon, how energetic in whatsoever he engaged in. He once, going to Delphos, had the boldness to put this question to the oracle; (do not clamour, O Athenians ;) he asked whether there existed any person wiser than I? And the oracle answered that there was no person wiser. And to this, since Chærephon himself is dead, his brother will bear witness before you.
Observe now why I mention this; for I am now going to show you how the prejudice against me arose. Hearing the response of the oracle, I considered with myself, What can it mean? what is its hidden significance? for I am not conscious to myself of being wise in any thing, great or small; what, then, can the god mean by calling me the wisest of men? for his words cannot be falsehoods. And for a long time I was puzzled, but at last, with much difficulty, I hit upon a way of examining the matter. I went to one of those who are esteemed wise, thinking that here, if anywhere, I should prove the oracle to be wrong, and be able to say to it, Here is a man wiser than I.' After examining this man, (I need not mention his name, but he was one of the politicians,) and conversing with him, it was my opinion that this man seemed to many others, and especially to himself, to be wise, but was not so. Thereupon I tried to convince him that he thought himself wise, and was not. By this means I offended him, and many of the bystanders. When I went away I said to myself, I am wiser than this man for neither of us, it would seem, knows any thing valuable; but he, not knowing, fancies he does know: I, as I really do not know, so I do not think I know. I seem, therefore, to be, in one small matter, wiser than he, viz. in not thinking that I know what in truth I know not. After this I went to another, who was esteemed still wiser than he, and came to the same result; and by this I affronted him too, and many others. I went on in the same manner, perceiving, with sorrow and fear, that I was making enemics; but it seemed necessary to postpone all other considerations to the service of the god ; and, therefore, to seek for the meaning of the oracle, by going to all who appeared to know any thing. And, O Athenians, (for I must speak the truth,) the impression made on me was this: The persons of most reputation seemed to me to be nearly the most deficient of all; other persons, of much smaller account, seemed much more rational people.
I must relate to you my wanderings, and the labours I underwent, that the truth of the oracle might be fairly tested. When I had done with the politicians, I went to the poets, tragic, dithyrambic, and others, thinking that I should surely find myself less knowing than they. Taking up those of their poems which appeared to me the most laboured, I asked them (that I might at the same time learn something from
*An allusion to the secession of the Athenian plebs from the dominion of the Thirty Tyrants, and their return under Thrasybulus.
them) what these poems meant? I am ashamed, O Athenians, to say the truth, but I must say it; there was scarcely a person present who could not have spoken better than they, concerning their own poems. I soon found, that what the poets do, they accomplish, not by wisdom, but by a kind of natural turn, and an enthusiasm like that of prophets and those who utter oracles; for these, too, speak many fine things, but do not know one particle of what they speak. The poets seemed to me to be in a similar case. And I perceived, at the same time, that, on account of their poetry, they fancied themselves the wisest of mankind in other things, in which they were not so. I left them, therefore, thinking myself to have the same superiority over them which I had over the politicians. Lastly, I resorted to the artificers; for I was conscious that I myself knew, in a manner, nothing at all, but I was aware that I should find them knowing many valuable things. And in this I was not mistaken; they knew things which I knew not, and were so far wiser than I. But they appeared to me to fall into the same error as the poets; each, because he was skilled in his own art, insisted upon being the wisest man in other and the greatest things; and this mistake of theirs overshadowed what they possessed of wisdom. So that when I asked myself, by way of verifying the oracle, whether I would rather be as I now am, equally without their wisdom and their ignorance, or take the one with the other, I answered that it was better for me to be as I am.
From this search, O Athenians, the consequences to me have been, on the one hand, many enmities, and of the most formidable kind, which have brought upon me many false imputations; but, on the other hand, the name and general repute of a wise man. For the bystanders, on each occasion, imagine that I myself am wise in those things in which I refute the false pretensions of others. The truth, however, O Athenians, is (I suspect) that the god alone is wise, and that his meaning in the oracle, was, that human wisdom is worth little or nothing: the name of Socrates seems to have been introduced, not for commendation, but for a mere example, as if it had been said, He, O men, is the wisest among you, who, like Socrates, knows that all his attainments in wisdom amount in reality to nothing. Meanwhile, I still, for the honour of the god, continue my search, and examine every one, whether a citizen or a stranger, whom I think likely to be a wise man: and when I find that he is not so, I prove that he is not, and so justify the oracle: and by reason of this occupation, I have no leisure to transact any business of moment, either for the state or for my own private benefit, but am in the depth of poverty from having devoted myself to the service of the god.
Besides this, the young men, those who have most leisure, the sons of the rich, take pleasure in following me, liking to hear the men probed and sifted; and they themselves often imitate me, and attempt to examine others; and they find, I imagine, great abundance of persons who fancy themselves knowing, but who really know either very little, or nothing. Those who are thus examined, are angry with me, not with themselves, and say that there is one Socrates, a wicked man, who corrupts the youth. And when any one asks them, by what practices, or by what instructions? they have nothing to say; for they do not know: but, not to seem at a loss, they are ready with the imputations