The nature of power embodies a concept crucial both in Gorgias as well as to Plato's larger philosophical beliefs. For Socrates's contemporaries, the rampant view of power is as the ability to rule over others and to satisfy one's own desires. This position is best expressed by Polus (466–69) and Callicles (490–492).

Plato takes great care to debunk this formulation. On the one hand, Socrates argues, those who rule others often must perform actions they do not will in order to benefit the state of which they are in charge. In this sense then, apparently powerful tyrants are often unable to act as they will, and true power is shown to consist of something other than ruling over others. At the same time, those who repeatedly satisfy their desires do not possess real power because this gratification further fuels rather than extinguishes the appetites. A person capable of always satisfying desire is in constant need of more satisfaction, and as such possesses no true power. This point is illustrated in 493b by the metaphor of the leaky jar.

Instead, Socrates argues that true power comes with the control and order of one's body and soul—the discipline to act justly, live virtuously, and not need anything. This treatment of power becomes all the more significant in light of the events surrounding Socrates's actual trial and death. The philosopher was accused of corrupting through false instruction and treason, and convicted and executed because of his refusal to admit having acted wrongly. In light of this event and its close proximity to the creation of Gorgias, then, the nature of power for Plato takes on crucial importance in that he must prove his teacher died in strength rather than weakness.