Essay about Life and Death of Socrates

Submitted By Gunnar84
Words: 2899
Pages: 12

Socrates was accused of corrupting the youth of Athens and sentenced to die for his beliefs. From the writings of his followers that were preserved, he was portrayed as accepting of this punishment because he truly thought what he believed was right. The trial of Socrates proved to be an important part in history, impacting the development of Western Philosophy and allowing the beliefs of Socrates to live on to this day. Socrates’ life, trial, and death are all important parts of history and coincide with one another. They have also had an impact in different areas of our society, almost 2,400 years after his death. Firstly, this essay will attempt to tell a little about the man who was Socrates and the time that he lived, in an effort to better understand his logic and also to examine the reasons he was put on trial. Secondly, this essay will attempt to show why Socrates is today considered a personal and political hero; that he had the courage to be different for good and noble reasons, and that he was confronted by the ultimate test of character by being faced with his own death, and in this, he showed courage and determination, where a great many others would have faltered. Lastly, it will attempt to show that his demeanor has often been interpreted as arrogance, and that this was not the case. Throughout this essay, there will be examples of various debates faced by societies today, which were originally brought up by Socrates. His death will also be briefly discussed.

When discussing the life, death and trial of Socrates, it is important to note that Socrates lived during a time of transition; a transition from the height of the Athenian hegemony to its decline with the defeat by Sparta and its allies in the Peloponnesian War. At a time when Athens would have sought to stabilize and recover from its humiliating defeat, and the Athenian public may have been entertaining doubts about democracy as an efficient form of government. Socrates, who appeared to have been a critic of democracy and some scholars at the time -one of the accusations leveled at him was his role as a moral and ethical critic- and rather than upholding the status quo and accepting what he perceived as the development of immorality within his region, Socrates questioned the collective notion of "might makes right" that he felt was common in Greece during this period. This, along with his attempts on improving the Athenians' sense of justice may have been one of the reasons for his execution. Wilson E.R, (The Death of Socrates, pg 3) states that Plato said that Socrates compared himself to a gadfly, whose stings are necessary to keep a sleepy horse awake, stings being a metaphor for his more direct and blunt form of teaching and manner, and the horse a metaphor for society, the community, and greater Athens. This statement is important, as it may have also been a reason that contributed to Socrates’ ultimate execution. Wilson goes on to point out that only by some, including Plato and Socrates himself, he was considered this gadfly, and a tiny gadfly could never seriously harm the horse it provokes, though the horse may clumsily squash the gadfly in its annoyance and clumsiness. Ultimately, this is a view that Socrates was harmless and a victim of intolerance and oppression, an individual who struggled and paid the ultimate price for civil liberties. This view, Plato’s view, has been held throughout history and has been widely accepted as the actual events that took place. However Wilson also points out that not everybody in Athens saw him as this harmless gadfly, but instead saw him as a harmful virus (Wilson E.R, The Death of Socrates, pg 4). The earliest book written on Socrates’ trial (which is now lost) was not a book paying homage by a friend, but a fictionalised version for the prosecution which was: Accusation of Socrates by Polycrates. This book was said to of been composed only six or seven years after the trial. For Polycrates, Socrates