Why Socrates Died: Dispelling the Myths
W. W. Norton & Company, 8.6.2009 - 288 sivua
A revisionist account of the most famous trial and execution in Western civilization—one with great resonance for American society today.Socrates’ trial and death together form an iconic moment in Western civilization. In 399 BCE, the great philosopher stood before an Athenian jury on serious charges: impiety and “subverting the young men of the city.” The picture we have of it—created by his immediate followers, Plato and Xenophon, and perpetuated in countless works of literature and art ever since—is of a noble man putting his lips to the poisonous cup of hemlock, sentenced to death in a fit of folly by an ancient Athenian democracy already fighting for its own life. But an icon, an image, is not reality, and time has transmuted so many of the facts into historical fable.
Aware of these myths, Robin Waterfield has examined the actual Greek sources and presents here a new Socrates, in which he separates the legend from the man himself. As Waterfield recounts the story, the charges of impiety and corrupting the youth of Athens were already enough for a death sentence, but the prosecutors accused him of more. They asserted that Socrates was not just an atheist and the guru of a weird sect but also an elitist who surrounded himself with politically undesirable characters and had mentored those responsible for defeat in the Peloponnesian War. Their claims were not without substance, for Plato and Xenophon, among Socrates’ closest companions, had idolized him as students, while Alcibiades, the hawkish and notoriously self-serving general, had brought Athens to the brink of military disaster. In fact, as Waterfield perceptively shows through an engrossing historical narrative, there was a great deal of truth, from an Athenian perspective, in these charges.
The trial was, in part, a response to troubled times—Athens was reeling from a catastrophic war and undergoing turbulent social changes—and Socrates’ companions were unfortunately direct representatives of these troubles. Their words and actions, judiciously sifted and placed in proper context, not only serve to portray Socrates as a flesh-and-blood historical figure but also provide a good lens through which to explore both the trial and the general history of the period.
Ultimately, the study of these events and principal figures allows us to finally strip away the veneer that has for so long denied us glimpses of the real Socrates. Why Socrates Died is an illuminating, authoritative account of not only one of the defining periods of Western civilization but also of one of its most defining figures.
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In fact, the two trials and executions often seem to meld in people's minds, so that
Socrates too becomes a kind of martyr – a good man unjustly killed for his views,
or for being an outstanding individual in a collectivist society, or something like ...
But despite these obstacles, I believe that the issues underlying and surrounding
Socrates' trial are recoverable with a good degree of certainty, even if in order to
achieve this recovery we have to take a somewhat roundabout route through ...
Different kinds of trial were allowed speeches of different lengths, but no trial
lasted longer than a day and many lasted considerably less, so that a court could
get through a number of cases in a single day. Socrates' trial lasted a full day, but
Socrates' trial, then, was one of a number known to us in which the fundamental
charge was impiety (asebeia), a prosecutable offence under Athenian law.
Meletus had demanded the death penalty, and he got his way; I will later outline
The King Archon's title was an odd residue of the long-gone era of kingship, and
he retained some of the prehistoric kings' powers in matters pertaining to religion,
so that he was responsible, among other things, for trials for impiety. Socrates' ...
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LibraryThing ReviewKäyttäjän arvio - JaneSteen - LibraryThing
Another book that fits into my summer project of Reading Outside The Box, i.e. trying new authors and new genres via a cross-section of newly published work. In a very manageable 204 pages, Waterfield ... Lue koko arvostelu
Why Socrates died: dispelling the mythsKäyttäjän arvio - Not Available - Book Verdict
Classicist Waterfield examines the trial and conviction of Socrates (c.470-399 B.C.E.) in the context of the fifth-century B.C.E. political upheavals in Athens that led to humiliating defeat by Sparta ... Lue koko arvostelu
The Charge of Impiety
Alcibiades Socrates and the
Pestilence and War
The Rise and Fall of Alcibiades
The End of the War
Critias and Civil War
Symptoms of Change
Reactions to Intellectuals
A Cock for Asclepius