Reference > Fiction > Nonfiction > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Before the Trial
By Socrates (469–399 B.C.)
From Xenophon’s ‘Memorabilia’: Translation of John Selby Watson

HERMOGENES son of Hipponicus … said that after Meletus had laid the accusation against him, he heard him speaking on any subject rather than that of his trial, and remarked to him that he ought to consider what defense he should make; but that he said at first, “Do I not appear to you to have passed my whole life meditating on that subject?” and then, when he asked him “How so?” he said “he had gone through life doing nothing but considering what was just and what unjust, doing the just and abstaining from the unjust; which he conceived to be the best meditation for his defense.” Hermogenes said again, “But do you not see, Socrates, that the judges at Athens have already put to death many innocent persons, on account of being offended at their language, and have allowed many that were guilty to escape?” “But, by Jupiter, Hermogenes,” replied he, “when I was proceeding, awhile ago, to study my address to the judges, the dæmon testified disapprobation.” “You say what is strange,” rejoined Hermogenes. “And do you think it strange,” inquired Socrates, “that it should seem better to the divinity that I should now close my life? Do you not know that down to the present time, I would not admit to any man that he has lived either better or with more pleasure than myself? for I consider that those live best who study best to become as good as possible; and that those live with most pleasure who feel the most assurance that they are daily growing better and better. This assurance I have felt, to the present day, to be the case with respect to myself; and associating with other men, and comparing myself with others, I have always retained this opinion respecting myself: and not only I, but my friends also, maintain a similar feeling with regard to me; not because they love me (for those who love others may be thus affected towards the objects of their love), but because they think that while they associated with me they became greatly advanced in virtue. If I shall live a longer period, perhaps I shall be destined to sustain the evils of old age, to find my sight and hearing weakened, to feel my intellect impaired, to become less apt to learn and more forgetful, and in fine, to grow inferior to others in all those qualities in which I was once superior to them. If I should be insensible to this deterioration, life would not be worth retaining; and if I should feel it, how could I live otherwise than with less profit, and with less comfort? If I am to die unjustly, my death will be a disgrace to those who unjustly kill me; for if injustice is a disgrace, must it not be a disgrace to do anything unjustly? But what disgrace will it be to me, that others could not decide or act justly with regard to me? Of the men who have lived before me, I see that the estimation left among posterity with regard to such as have done wrong, and such as have suffered wrong, is by no means similar; and I know that I also, if I now die, shall obtain from mankind far different consideration from that which they will pay to those who take my life: for I know they will always bear witness to me that I have never wronged any man, or rendered any man less virtuous, but that I have always endeavored to make those better who conversed with me.”  1

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2015 · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors · World Lit.