Socrates trial

Trial of the great philosopher

There is a place in Athens, that few people know that it even exists, and that is the prison where Socrates was kept. You can get to his Prison while walking on Pikionis Pathway, going to Pnyx hill, so yo can feel a bit ancient Athenian.

The trial’s historic background

The Peloponnesian War brought radical changes to Classic Athens, especially after their defeat in Sicely (415-413 BC). Plato, originally Aristocles (his name means broad- having broad shoulders) was born in 428 BC. It is said from his mother side he was relative of Solon. Before meeting the great philosopher, Plato had first became acquainted with Cratylus (a disciple of Heraclitus, a prominent pre-Socratic philosopher) and the Heraclitean teachings, and was just 21 years old when he burnt his tragedies and decided to follow Socrates, that is 407 BC. The issue of Socrates and its era has many aspects, both ideological and social.

In order to come closer to Socrates’ life, he was serving his military duties during the Peloponnesian war, and was a mentor of Alcibiades, the person who led Athenians to the catastrophe in Sicily (415-413 BC). Nevertheless, Socrates first worked as a stonemason, and there was a tradition in antiquity, not credited by modern scholarship, that Socrates crafted the statues of the Charites, which stood near the Acropolis until the 2nd century AD.

Accordingly Alcibiades, was the son of Cleinias. He was the last famous member of his mother’s aristocratic family, the Alcmaeonidae, as Pericles. Alcibiades took part in the Battle of Potidaea in 432 BC, where Socrates was said to have saved his life and had a particularly close relationship. According to Plutarch, Alcibiades “feared and reverenced Socrates”.

Why Socrates was guilty for Athenians 
It was not only the relation with Alcibiades that made the great philosopher a political target for Athenians. Great comedian Aristophanes’ work “The Clouds” was produced on 423 BC and it was for Socrates and his ideology of.. ideas. It is mentioned in the Apology as a contributor to philosopher’s trial in 399.
Consequently, in order to understand more of the social environment of Athens at that period, someone must realize the political environment of chaos and violence after the Peloponnesian War.
Ordinarily Spartans established the Thirty Tyrants regime and its leader Critias, who was Critias was the first cousin of Plato’s mother Perictione. He also was an associate of the philosopher, a fact that did not endear him a lot to the Athenian public.
The Thirty tyrants stayed in power between 404-403 BC, until Athenian democrats regain power. Just four years later, Socrates was sent to tril and found guilty or corrupting the youth and of impiety. The path from democracy to radical democracy marked Athens’ history.

So as everybody knows today, Plato’s teacher was sentenced to death, by drinking hemlock, leaving a big legacy. If you want to see hemlock in Athens, you just have to visit Athens Botanical Garden.