Plato’s Apology of Socrates, the speech Plato put in Socrates’s mouth when he was on trial for his life in 399 BC, begins with Socrates professing ignorance (as usual) about the right way to make a defence speech (apologia means ‘defence’ in ancient Greek). He begins:
‘I don’t know what you felt, gentlemen of the jury, as you listened to the prosecution speech, but I must tell you I was completely bowled over. So persuasive! Mind you, not a word of it was true. Of the many false charges, one in particular surprised me: that you must be on your guard when you listen to me, in case, master orator that I am, I pull the wool over your eyes. This is a disgraceful assertion, gentlemen, since I am, in fact, a hopeless orator unless by ‘master orator’, of course, they mean an orator who tells the truth…’
And off he goes into what is by any account one of the most powerful, moving and persuasive speeches to come down to us from the ancient world.
Since a large number of Socratic defences survive from the ancient world, all different,