By Robin Waterfield
A revisionist account of the main recognized trial and execution in Western civilization—one with nice resonance for American society today.
Socrates’ trial and demise jointly shape an iconic second in Western civilization. In 399 BCE, the nice thinker stood sooner than an Athenian jury on critical fees: impiety and “subverting the younger males of the city.” the image now we have of it—created by means of his instant fans, Plato and Xenophon, and perpetuated in numerous works of literature and artwork ever since—is of a noble guy placing his lips to the toxic cup of hemlock, sentenced to dying in a healthy of folly by way of an old Athenian democracy already combating for its personal existence. yet an icon, a picture, isn't really truth, and time has transmuted such a lot of of the proof into old fable.
conscious of those myths, Robin Waterfield has tested the particular Greek resources and provides right here a brand new Socrates, within which he separates the legend from the guy himself. As Waterfield recounts the tale, the fees of impiety and corrupting the formative years of Athens have been already sufficient for a loss of life sentence, however the prosecutors accused him of extra. They asserted that Socrates was once not only an atheist and the guru of a peculiar sect but in addition an elitist who surrounded himself with politically bad characters and had mentored these liable for defeat within the Peloponnesian battle. Their claims weren't with no substance, for Plato and Xenophon, between Socrates’ closest partners, had idolized him as scholars, whereas Alcibiades, the hawkish and notoriously self-serving normal, had introduced Athens to the edge of army catastrophe. in reality, as Waterfield perceptively indicates via an engrossing old narrative, there has been loads of fact, from an Athenian viewpoint, in those charges.
The trial used to be, partially, a reaction to distressed times—Athens used to be reeling from a catastrophic battle and present process turbulent social changes—and Socrates’ partners have been regrettably direct representatives of those problems. Their phrases and activities, judiciously sifted and put in right context, not just serve to painting Socrates as a flesh-and-blood historic determine but additionally supply an exceptional lens during which to discover either the trial and the overall background of the period.
eventually, the research of those occasions and imperative figures permits us to eventually strip away the veneer that has for thus lengthy denied us glimpses of the true Socrates. Why Socrates Died is an illuminating, authoritative account of not just one of many defining sessions of Western civilization but in addition of 1 of its so much defining figures. four pages of illustrations