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Essay on Plato's Apology

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Plato's Apology

At the elderly age of seventy, Socrates found himself fighting against an indictment of impiety. He was unsuccessful at trial in the year 399 B.C. The charges were corrupting the youth of Athens, not believing in the traditional gods in whom the city believed, and finally, that he believed in other new divinities. In Plato's Apology, Socrates defends himself against these charges. He claims that the jurors' opinions are biased because they had probably all seen Aristophanes' comedy The Clouds. The Socrates portrayed in Aristophanes' Clouds is an altogether different character than that of the Apology. The two different impressions of Socrates lead to quite opposite opinions with regard to his guilt. In The Clouds,
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In response to his father questioning his actions he claims "Yes by God; what's more, I'll prove it's right to do so…with unbeatable arguments." He has obviously been extremely corrupted if he could talk in this manner to his father. Not believing in the traditional gods, which is the second charge fits the Aristophanic Socrates perfectly. Socrates explicitly frowns upon the gods when he exclaims, "what do you mean, 'the gods'? In the first place, gods aren't legal tender here" (lines 247-248). Later, when explaining the elements to Strepsiades, Socrates exclaims "Zeus you say? Don't kid me! There's no Zeus at all" (lines 368-369). He is undoubtedly saying that he does not believe in the traditional gods. The claim that Socrates believed in new divinities, the third charge, is clearly seen when he "enter (s) into communion with the clouds, who are our deities" (lines 253-254). Socrates proves methodically how it could not be Zeus who causes phenomena such as rain, thunder, and lightening, but rather is merely the work of the Clouds. For, if it were indeed the work of Zeus, then he would bring rain in absence of any clouds. The fact that the clouds are always present during precipitation attests to their power as opposed to that of Zeus. As the Clouds were not traditional gods, Socrates' guilt on this charge is rather evident. Even as Socrates is presented as a blabbering fool, full of hubris, in the Clouds, an entirely
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