Today with my Latin students I read Cicero’s translation of Socrates’ trial defense.* Plato had recorded it in his Apology (Gk.: Defense). These are his final words to the jury after they condemned him to death:
“nec enim cuiquam bono mali quicquam evenire potest nec vivo nec mortuo, nec umquam eius res a dis inmortalibus neglegentur, nec mihi ipsi hoc accidit fortuito. nec vero ego iis, a quibus accusatus aut a quibus condemnatus sum, habeo quod suscenseam, nisi quod mihi nocere se crediderunt.” et haec quidem hoc modo; nihil autem melius extremo: “sed tempus est,” inquit, “iam hinc abire, me, ut moriar, vos, ut vitam agatis. utrum autem sit melius, dii inmortales sciunt, hominem quidem scire arbitror neminem.”
“…[F]or it is not even possible that any evil befall someone good, be he alive or dead, nor that his affairs ever be neglected by the immortal gods; nor has this happened to me by chance. Nor indeed do I have any reason to be angry with those by whom I have been accused or condemned, unless because they believed that they were harming me.” And that[, Cicero tells us,] is how he said this part; but nothing is finer than the last: “but it is time,” he said, “now to be gone hence, me to die, you to live your lives. Whichever one, however, is better, the immortal gods know, but I think that no man does.”
*Found in what may be his finest philosophical treatise, the Tusculan Disputations, written about two years before he was murdered, in which he treats the problems of pain, self-sufficiency, and the fear of death, finally prescribing philosophy as the cure for all life’s ills.
If I keep this up, I’ll end up converting back to Stoicism. But honestly, I am grateful to have the opportunity to teach this class. I would teach it once a year for the rest of my life if I could. I may yet.
Thanks, dear reader, should you ever find me, for reading with me tonight.