The Apology Author/Context
Plato was born in 427 BC. He came from a family played prominent in Athenian politics. However, he did not join politics, as he was outraged by its violence and corruption, and sickened by the execution of Socrates, his friend and teacher, in 399 BC. Inspired by Socrates, Plato dug deeper into the nature of ethics, knowledge and virtue, and came to the conclusion that no kingdom would be happy unless philosophers became kings, or kings became philosophers.
Late in the Fourth century, Plato founded the Academy in Athens, which was the first permanent institute devoted to philosophical research and teaching, and was used as a prototype for all western universities. He was well traveled, and was the political advisor to the ruler of Sicily. He died in 347 BC.
Plato was a student of Socrates, and went on to teach many famous people such as Aristotle, who wrote treatises on everything from poetry to biology, and Alexander the Great. Plato was also an advisor to the king of Syracuse, but this ended in drastic failure and he was eventually exiled from Sicily. His "influence throughout the history of philosophy has been monumental" (Ron Turner) and he is often considered the father of Western philosophy. However, his works also contain mathematics, history and moral and religious aspects. He wrote over twenty philosophical dialogues and thirteen letters. Although The Apology is considered a dialogue, it is truly more of a monologue. The reason for writing philosophy in conversational format is that it allowed Socrates to be depicted in action. Furthermore, Socratic philosophy can only be realized through question and answer, and thus the dialogue format of his works allows for this philosophical realization and understanding.
In this book, written after Socrates' death, Plato attempts to make the reader feel that Socrates is a person who is being treated unjustly. Also, he tries to bring across Socrates' claim that the only way in which his wisdom exceeds that of others is that he recognizes the state of his ignorance. Plato is giving us his version of what Socrates said at his trial, and trying to show us Socrates' defense and arguments, as well as his last words. Furthermore, he is trying to bring across the last messages, and words of wisdom, Socrates had to say, and is backing them up, as a philosopher himself.
Plato. The Last Days of Socrates: Euthyphro/Apology/Crito/Phaedo. Trans. Hugh Tredennick. Penguin Classics: 1993.