The Historicity of Plato’s Apology

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Scholars who seek in Plato’s early dialogues an accurate account of the philosophy of the historical Socrates place special weight on the Apology as a source of historical information about him. Even scholars like Charles Kahn, who generally reject this historicist approach to the early dialogues, accept the Apology as a ‘quasi-historical’ document. In this paper I attempt to raise doubts about the historical reliability of the Apology. I argue that the claims used to support the historicity of the Apology (that it was composed close to the trial, that Plato was an eyewitness, and that the large audience at the trial would have inhibited Platonic invention) fall far short of establishing the Apology as an historically accurate record of the trial, and that this conclusion is affirmed even in the words of those scholars who defend the historicity of the dialogue. I urge an interpretation that treats the Apology primarily as a philosophical, not as an historical, document.