Apology

by

Plato

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Apology can help.

Meletus Character Analysis

Socrates’s most outspoken accuser. There is very little historical record concerning Meletus, other than what Socrates himself says in Plato’s writings. Given that Socrates says Meletus is “vexed” at him “on behalf of the poets,” it is reasonable to assume that he is a poet, though it’s worth noting that—despite what this profession might imply about his linguistic or intellectual abilities—Socrates easily uncovers his ineloquent command of language and reason. Although there is no document of the actual speech, Meletus delivers remarks in court outlining Socrates’s supposed offenses—remarks to which Socrates responds during his apologia. Accusing him of impiety and corruption of the youth, Meletus acts as the spokesperson for Anytus, Lycon, and a number of unnamed Athenians who dislike Socrates. In the end, it is Meletus who urges the jury to give Socrates the death sentence.

Meletus Quotes in Apology

The Apology quotes below are all either spoken by Meletus or refer to Meletus. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Wisdom, Piety, and Belief Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Hackett edition of Apology published in 2002.
Apology Quotes

What is the accusation from which arose the slander in which Meletus trusted when he wrote out the charge against me? What did they say when they slandered me? I must, as if they were my actual prosecutors, read the affidavit they would have sworn. It goes something like this: Socrates is guilty of wrongdoing in that he busies himself studying things in the sky and below the earth; he makes the worse into the stronger argument, and he teaches these same things to others. You have seen this yourself in the comedy of Aristophanes, a Socrates swinging about there, saying he was walking on air and talking a lot of other nonsense about things of which I know nothing at all.

Related Characters: Socrates (speaker), Meletus, Aristophanes
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:

One of you might perhaps interrupt me and say: “But Socrates, what is your occupation? From where have these slanders come? For surely if you did not busy yourself with something out of the common, all these rumors and talk would not have arisen unless you did something other than most people. Tell us what it is, that we may not speak inadvisedly about you.” Anyone who says that seems to be right, and I will try to show you what has caused this reputation and slander. Listen then. Perhaps some of you will think I am jesting, but be sure that all that I shall say is true. What has caused my reputation is none other than a certain kind of wisdom. What kind of wisdom? Human wisdom, perhaps.

Related Characters: Socrates (speaker), Meletus
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:

Either I do not corrupt the young or, if I do, it is unwillingly, and you are lying in either case. Now if I corrupt them unwillingly, the law does not require you to bring people to court for such unwilling wrong­ doings, but to get hold of them privately, to instruct them and exhort them; for clearly, if I learn better, I shall cease to do what I am doing unwillingly. You, however, have avoided my company and were unwill­ing to instruct me, but you bring me here, where the law requires one to bring those who are in need of punishment, not of instruction.

Related Characters: Socrates (speaker), Meletus
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:

Does any man, Meletus, believe in human activities who does not believe in humans? […] Does any man who does not believe in horses believe in horsemen’s activities? Or in flute-playing activities but not in flute-players? No, my good sir, no man could. If you are not willing to answer, I will tell you and these men. Answer the next question, however. Does any man believe in spiritual activities who does not believe in spirits? — No one.

Thank you for answering, if reluctantly, when these gentlemen made you. Now you say that I believe in spiritual things and teach about them, whether new or old, but at any rate spiritual things according to what you say, and to this you have sworn in your deposition. But if I believe in spiritual things I must quite inevitably believe in spirits. Is that not so? It is indeed. I shall assume that you agree, as you do not answer. Do we not believe spirits to be either gods or the children of gods? Yes or no? — Of course.

Then since I do believe in spirits, as you admit, if spirits are gods, this is what I mean when I say you speak in riddles and in jest, as you state that I do not believe in gods and then again that I do, since I do believe in spirits.

Related Characters: Socrates (speaker), Meletus (speaker)
Page Number: 32
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Apology LitChart as a printable PDF.
Apology PDF

Meletus Character Timeline in Apology

The timeline below shows where the character Meletus appears in Apology. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Apology
Wisdom, Piety, and Belief Theme Icon
Rhetoric, Persuasion, and the Truth Theme Icon
Democracy, Judgment, and Justice Theme Icon
...its beginning,” he says. “What is the accusation from which arose the slander in which Meletus trusted when he wrote out the charge against me? […] It goes something like this:... (full context)
Wisdom, Piety, and Belief Theme Icon
Rhetoric, Persuasion, and the Truth Theme Icon
...and ‘making the worse the stronger argument.’” These are the accusations that Anytus, Lycon, and Meletus have leveled against him on behalf of the politicians, the orators, and the poets, respectively.  (full context)
Moral Integrity Theme Icon
Rhetoric, Persuasion, and the Truth Theme Icon
Democracy, Judgment, and Justice Theme Icon
Turning his attention to the accusations presented to the jury by Meletus, Socrates restates the deposition, saying, “Socrates is guilty of corrupting the young and of not... (full context)
Rhetoric, Persuasion, and the Truth Theme Icon
Democracy, Judgment, and Justice Theme Icon
Eventually, Meletus posits that the jurors “improve” the Athenian youth. “All of them, or some but not... (full context)
Moral Integrity Theme Icon
...horse breeders, whereas the majority, if they have horses and use them, corrupt them?” When Meletus can’t deny that this is true, Socrates reapplies the idea to humans, saying it “would... (full context)
Moral Integrity Theme Icon
Rhetoric, Persuasion, and the Truth Theme Icon
Continuing his examination, Socrates asks Meletus if “wicked” people harm others while “good” people improve the people around them. “Certainly,” Meletus... (full context)
Moral Integrity Theme Icon
Rhetoric, Persuasion, and the Truth Theme Icon
Democracy, Judgment, and Justice Theme Icon
...“You, however, have avoided my company and were unwilling to instruct me,” Socrates says to Meletus, pointing out that “the law requires one to bring [to court] those who are in... (full context)
Wisdom, Piety, and Belief Theme Icon
Rhetoric, Persuasion, and the Truth Theme Icon
Focusing on the claim that he doesn’t believe in the gods, Socrates asks if Meletus thinks he (Socrates) is an atheist, or someone who believes in “other” gods. Meletus clarifies... (full context)
Wisdom, Piety, and Belief Theme Icon
Rhetoric, Persuasion, and the Truth Theme Icon
...believe spirits to be either gods or the children of gods?” Socrates asks. “Of course,” Meletus replies. In keeping with this, Socrates points out that Meletus has again contradicted himself. After... (full context)
Wisdom, Piety, and Belief Theme Icon
Moral Integrity Theme Icon
Rhetoric, Persuasion, and the Truth Theme Icon
Democracy, Judgment, and Justice Theme Icon
Addressing the jury, Socrates posits that he has sufficiently defended himself against Meletus’s charges, though he’s cognizant that his “undoing” will not be the result of Meletus or... (full context)
Wisdom, Piety, and Belief Theme Icon
Moral Integrity Theme Icon
Rhetoric, Persuasion, and the Truth Theme Icon
Democracy, Judgment, and Justice Theme Icon
Socrates reiterates that he isn’t afraid of death, saying that Meletus can’t possibly harm him. In fact, he believes Meletus only risks harming himself by “attempting... (full context)
Moral Integrity Theme Icon
Rhetoric, Persuasion, and the Truth Theme Icon
Democracy, Judgment, and Justice Theme Icon
After Socrates finishes his initial defense, the jury pronounces him guilty, and Meletus “asks for the penalty of death.” At this point, Socrates is given a chance to... (full context)