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The Apology of Socrates

The Apology of Socrates

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Published by Christy Armstrong

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Published by: Christy Armstrong on Dec 14, 2011
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Christy ArmstrongHUMN-201-05C. NorwoodNovember 22, 2009
Socrates’ Unapologetic Apology
 In 399 B.C., Plato wrote a dialogue called
The Apology
that chronicled the trial andde
fense of Socrates. While the court’s ultimate decision to sentence him to
death is not anunheard of conce
 pt in today’s American society because
America practices capital punishment,the c
ause for Socrates’
sentence can be. While America believes in a separation of church andstate, church and the state were one and the same in ancient Greece because its citizens allowedreligion to permeate every part of their lives.The main charges against Socrates were of corrupting the youth, not recognizing theexistence of gods that were recognized by the government, and introducing new deities. Theseaccusations carried more weight than just those of moral rights and wrongs. These were mattersof the heart and mind, and the gods were more than just deities to worship occasionally.Worshipping gods was a part of everyday life in ancient Greece.Ancient Greeks generally held the belief of Polytheism, the belief that there are multiplegods. Through making sacrifices, saying prayers, dancing and processions they showed theirappreciations for many gods at once during the course of an average day.Like the other Mediterranean religions, Greek religion was formal, ritualistic, andcommunal, not private and meditative (Pomeroy 63).
Unlike Christianity’s emphasis on
having a personal relationship with one God, they feared andtried to appease multiple gods through their actions. Any dissention about the existence of one ora few gods would have spurred on a major disagreement, as the very worship of them wasingrained in their culture.
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Socrates had beliefs that did not mesh with the culture of the time, and he taught thembecause those were his beliefs. His apology, or defense, begins with him acknowledging all thepeople he knows are against him. He separates them into two groups: those who have had aproblem with him for a long time and those who have more recently been caught up in rumorsabout him more recently.However, Socrates does deny that he is a teacher, pointing out that he does not receiveany money for sharing his knowledge.As little foundation is there for the report that I am a teacher, and take money; that is nomore true than the other. Although, if a man is able to teach, I honor him for being paid(Plato 21).While that is a denial of the fact that he is a teacher, it is a flimsy one because, at this point in hisspeech, the only evidence that he is not a teacher is that he does not make an income from hisideas.One major thing Meletus, one of his accusers, believes of Socrates is that he is an atheist.In one exchange, Socrates calls Meletus out on that insinuation, and Meletus quickly turns thatinsinuation into an accusation.And so, Meletus, you really think that I do not believe in any god?I swear by Zeus that you believe absolutely in none at all (Plato 28).That has major implications. That accusation, if true, would not only be considered heresy bythose who are accusing him, but it would be a downright scandalous cause for a guilty verdict.To not believe in gods at all in ancient Greece is to deny everything Greece was built upon, howGreeks believe everything came into being.
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The main cause for the trial is likely not religious at all. While religion has played a verylarge part in the ancient Greek way of life, politics has nearly just as much prominence duringthe time Socrates is being tried. It is very likely that his previous political ties and positions hetook during and after the Peloponnesian War carried just as much or more than his religiousbeliefs. Because of his teachings in Athens and the fact that its youth admired him for them, thepeople of Athens tried him. Socrates had also spoken out against democracy and had been ateacher to Critias and Alcibiades, two men who were not viewed favorably by those putting himon trial (Pomeroy 323). Socrates was a man with dangerous ideas.The accusation placed upon Socrates was uncommon even in ancient Athens because of its vague nature, having three major parts to it. Socrates was brought to trial on charges onimpiety saying that he did not believe in state-recognized gods, had been inventing new gods,and had been corrupting the youth. The charge was vague because prosecutors had the right tointerpret the law against impiety however they wanted because the law itself was vague(Brickhouse 79).
However, the basis for Socrates’
charges was founded because Athens did not have anyseparation of church and state. Church often found its way into state matters, and vice versa. Thelaw against impiety was to keep Athenians from angering the gods and bringing their wrath uponthem all. The people of Athens were of the belief that they could do things that would seriouslyoffend the gods and cause the city to be condemned for those offenses
with the gods’ wrath
(Brickhouse 79). This law was made to protect the citizens, and it was a serious crime wheneversomeone would break it because it could potentially impact all citizens.Despite any religious reasoning or laws of impiety, Socrates trial was still a politicallycharged event.
While the charges of not recognizing Athen’s gods and inventing new

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