Bergen Catholic Talisman

on-line edition of our literary magazine

Death of Socrates

Adam Flannery

February 6, 2010

The room was dark, lit only by the faint flickering of a single torch at the center of the table, surrounded by friends. The meal was ready to be eaten, as the teacher began to speak. “They’re coming to get me” he said, “There’s no way to stop it.”

“But Socrates” said Plato, “what crimes have you committed to make the authorities come after you?”

“None” he responded, “I have only opened the door of logical thought, the government we have in place sees this as a threat, and in response are seeking to take my life. Remember me, my friends; remember what I have taught you, my students.”

There was a silence in the room as the food was quickly becoming cold. As Aristotle, another student of Socrates stood and spoke out “If today is the last day we have to spend together, let us rejoice instead of sitting here solemnly” and they did, they feasted on the meal that had been prepared.

It was true what they had said that night, the government of Athens had heard of the teachings of Socrates. They feared that his theories of how government should operate would spark a revolt and that the democracy that they thought was so epic would be over thrown. Instead of risking this, the aristocrats decided that they must have him executed. However the only way in Athens to have a man executed was to have him tried and sentenced by the people. They conspired against Socrates and decided to have him tried for corrupting the youth and teaching of false gods. He was taken away by armed soldiers and thrown in jail.

After a brutal week in a crude jail cell Socrates was brought to trial. The crowd had been riled up by the government officials seeking to have Socrates put to death and by the time he had a chance to speak the people had all but made up their mind. Plato was in the crowd among the unruly citizens. Someone had recognized him as one of Socrates’ followers. The man began to yell out “He is one of the criminal’s disciples, throw him in jail, and put him on trial!” Plato responded “I do not know the man; I am not a student of his.”

The prosecution had spoken first in the trial. They outlined the harm they felt he had done to their society and that they felt the only solution for this problem was to put Socrates to death. When it was his turn to speak, Socrates stood before the jury of his peers and said simply “I have done nothing against the state, I simply opened the minds of it’s citizens.”

Afterwards, the jury decided he was guilty. They sentenced him to death by drinking the poison called hemlock. However, in Athens at the time convicted criminals were allowed to propose alternate punishments. Given the opportunity his student Aristotle begged him to ask for a fine from the state. Instead Socrates proposed that he be honored as a hero. His request was quickly dismissed. He was soon after executed for crimes he had not committed, while he was only trying to help the very city state that he was trying to improve.

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