... I mean the people who took hold of many of you when you were children and
tried to fill your minds with untrue accusation against me, saying, There is a
wise man called Socrates who has theories about the heavens and has investigated everything below the earth, and can make the weaker argument defeat the stronger.
18b, p 4-5
It is these people, gentlemen, the disseminators of these rumors, who are my
dangerous accusers, because those who hear them suppose that anyone who
inquires into such matters must be an atheist. ...
Very well, then, I must begin my defense, gentlemen, and I must try, in the short time that I have, to rid your minds of a false impression which is the work of many years. ... However, let that turn out as God wills. I must obey the law and make my defense.
Let us go back to the beginning and consider what the charge is that has made me so unpopular, and has encouraged Meletus to draw up this indictment. Very well, what did my critics say in attacking my character? I must read the affidavit, so to speak, as though they were my legal accusers: Socrates is guilty of criminal meddling, in that he inquires into things below the earth and in the sky, and makes the weaker argument defeat the stronger, and teaches others to follow his example. It runs something like that.
Let us consider their deposition again, as though it represented a fresh
prosecution. It runs something like this:
Socrates is guilty ofcorrupting the minds of the young,
and of believing in deities of his own invention instead of the gods
recognized by the state. Such is the charge.
Let us examine its points one by one. ...
It is quite clear by now, gentlemen, that Meletus, as I said before, has never
shown any degree of interest in this subject. However, I invite you to tell us,
Meletus, in what sense you make out that I corrupt the minds of the young. Surely the terms of your indictment make it clear that you accuse me of teaching them to believe in new deities instead of the gods recognized by the state. Is not that the teaching of mine which you say has this demoralizing effect?
That is precisely what I maintain.
Then I appeal to you, Meletus, in the name of these same gods about whom we are
speaking, to explain yourself a little more clearly to myself and to the jury,
because I cannot make out what your point is. Is it that I teach people to
believe in gods, and am not a complete atheist, so that I am not guilty on that score--but in different gods from those recognized by the state, so that your accusation rests upon the fact that they are different? Or do you assert that I believe in no gods at all, and teach others to do the same? ...
Yes, I say that you disbelieve in gods altogether.
You surprise me, Meletus. What is your object in saying that? Do you suggest that I do not believe that the sun and moon are gods, as is the general belief of all mankind?
He certainly does not, gentlemen of the jury, since he says that the
sun is a stone and the moon a mass of earth.
... Tell me honestly, Meletus, is that your opinion of me? Do I believe in no god?
No, none at all, not in the slightest degree.
You are not at all
convincing, Meletus--not even to yourself, I suspect. ...
26, p 12-13
Plato, "Socrates' defense" (Apology) in
Plato: the collected dialogues,
Edith Hamilton and Huntington Cairns, editors
(Bollingen, Princeton University: Princeton 1961)
Diogenes Laertius' short version