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Plato's Apology of Socrates: A New Translation in the Style of a Cinematic Novella

A book by Plato translated by Steve Kostecke

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Extra! Extra! Athenian Jury Condemns Philosopher Socrates to Death. Vote is 280 - 220.

  • Apr 25, 2011

My guess is that half the people in the Western World who read a little or a lot of philosophy begin with Socrates. He was an Athenian who lived from 469 - 399 B.C. He had experienced Athens' greatest three decades (460 - 430), the age of Pericles. He was a friend of the great comic playwright Aristophanes, who parodied Socrates in THE CLOUDS (419 B.C.). He taught two biographers: the soldier Xenophon and the philosopher Plato (429 - 347 B.C.)


American writer Steve Kostecke (whose age I have not found but who took a degree in 1989; does that mean he was born around 1968?) drew on Aristophanes, Xenophon, Plato and various translators and scholars to issue in 2011 PLATO'S APOLOGY OF SOCRATES - A NEW TRANSLATION, IN THE STYLE OF A CINEMATIC NOVELLA.

The core text of Mr Kostecke's work is his own translation of Plato's APOLOGY OF SOCRATES. This is fleshed out by incorporations from  Xenophon and Aristophanes.


What is it that gives Kostecke's PLATO'S APOLOGY the flavor of a cinematic novella? The phrase "cinematic novella" is new to me and googling did not provide a usable definition. In a private communication the author wrote: "the notion behind the 'cinematic technique' is to make reading the book like watching a captivating movie."


And Kostecke's text does read like a full sketch of the shooting script of a movie or TV mini-series. Elsewhere (at the author or some other introducer says that the cinematic technique permits omitting footnotes. It also allows author Kostecke to invite the reader to imagine episodes in the life of Socrates other than those during the trial for his life: episodes both much earlier and a bit later (Socrates' execution by drinking hemlock).


Socrates's apologia (like John Henry Newman's) is a defense of his personal honor, honesty and life in service to the commands of a God, in Socrates' case Apollo of Delphi. Newman had better results, although he had just lost a suit for libel. For Newman destroyed Charles Kingsley's thesis that Newman, like all Catholic priests, had a little weakness for stretching the truth. After Newman's APOLOGIA PRO VITA SUA, the English Establishment never again dared not to take home-grown Roman Catholicism seriously.

Septuagenarian Socrates needed, however, to convince another 30 of the 500 Athenian jurors to change their votes if his life was to be spared. He failed. Kostecke's atmospherics give a vivid sense of the wounded vanity of the majority of the jurors and their dislike of Apollo's self-proclaimed gadfly tormenting them all around Athens from dawn to dusk.


Plato's APOLOGY OF SOCRATES is one of a half dozen shorter dialogs by Plato through which thousands of teenagers every year begin dipping their toes into academic philosophy. They follow Socrates around Athens doing linguistic analysis, stopping poets, politicians and artisans who think highly of themselves and their knowledge of facts and then benignly showing his interlocutors how weak are their intellectual, critical underpinnings. In his legal defense Socrates argues that he has never knowingly done harm to any human being. His is a pagan sort of humility far from Jesus's story of the sinful tax collector who beat his breast in the temple at Jerusalem and begged mercy for being a sinner. Socrates is more self-righteous, but that was a major difference between classical Athens and later Christian Athens, beginning with Saint Paul's speech on the Areopagus.


I found Steve Kostecke's English translation of Plato's text authentic, less literal than earlier ones, but not yet definitive. Kostecke moved to popularize THE APOLOGY OF SOCRATES by cleverly and convincingly framing Plato's text as a "cinematic novella." That frame advances Plato's text towards a new level of popularity with readers of English. But the hoped for (by me at least) movie version will need to paraphrase more and translate less to keep viewers' eyes from glazing over at times. "Men of Athens, keep your voices down" may have to morph into "Hey! Listen up!" to reach all those teen and young adult readers who invite Kostecke to go in their door in order for the teens to come out through Plato's door.


All in all, Steve Kostecke has produced a justifiable, notably helpful melding of scholarhip and imagination. Plato in 2011 had become a bit more readable than before. A future movie script writer has his work made much easier for him. I rate this book 3.8 stars, rounded upward to 4.0.



Extra! Extra! Athenian Jury Condemns Philosopher Socrates to Death. Vote is 280 - 220. Extra! Extra! Athenian Jury Condemns Philosopher Socrates to Death. Vote is 280 - 220.

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review by . March 23, 2011
   Plato's Apology is one of the most famous books on philosophy. Plato was not only a great philosopher, but a master writer. All of his books have humor and history, information and philosophy, and are easy and delightful to read. The Apology is the defense that Plato's teacher Socrates offered at his trial in Athens in 399 BCE before a jury of five hundred Athenians. He was charged with corrupting the young people of Athens with his ideas and with not believing in the gods. …
About the reviewer
(Thomas) Patrick Killough ()
Ranked #354
I am a retired American diplomat. Married for 47 years. My wife Mary (PhD in German and Linguistics) and I have two sons, six grandsons and two granddaughters. Our home is Highland Farms Retirement Community … more
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About this book


A new translation of the defense speech of Socrates in clear and contemporary English and presented in a cinematic style that makes the trial of Socrates come to life. The cinematic additions make Socrates' day in court as visual and audible as it is readable, while incorporating material that would otherwise be footnoted. The cinematic technique of the novella helps the reader to construct a movie in her or his head - a movie of one of the most renowned defense speeches in history. 

The cinematic additions are largely based on John Burnet's classic 1924 notes and commentary on "the Apology" and on the the testimonia of courtroom equipment and procedure in "The Lawcourts at Athens" (The American School of Classical Studies at Athens, 1995).
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Books, Plato


ISBN-10: 1456490613
ISBN-13: 978-1456490614
Author: Plato
Publisher: CreateSpace

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