What led to the Death Sentence of Socrates?


Socrates was a strong-minded individual who made enemies very soon. He is also remembered as the model of courage and wisdom. He was born in 470 BC in Athens, Greece and remained surrounded by artists of the highest level and philosophical thinkers. He grew up in a limited type of democracy. He was an extremely humorous person and his philosophical method was also highly influenced by this. But his wife Xanthippe often complained that he spent more time annoying people rather than being with her or the family. Socrates loved companionship and cared very little about material possessions. He felt every aspect of life was open for discussions. Some of the modern thinkers feel he is too earthly to be a saint and yet he is the perfect model of a well balanced individual.

 

Socrates loved debates

Though modern day scholars cannot stop heaping praises about Socrates, but the 70 year old Athenian philosopher had to stand in front of a jury. The jury consisted of 500 Athenian citizens who were seated in the wooden benches in the centre of Rome. He was accused by a little known person named Melatus. Melatus charged Socrates with corrupting the youth and not recognising or acknowledging Gods accepted by the state. When Socrates got this news he termed them as “wonderful charges”. He felt this serve as an ideal platform to preach his thoughts and bring his philosophy to the forefront.

 

Socrates stood before a jury of 500 people

Vote was conducted by the jury. The jury voted 280 for guilty as against 220 for innocent. After the voting ended Socrates was asked what type of punishment he would like. His answer made him very famous in history. He could have easily gone into exile and escaped death sentence, but he chose to die by drinking poison. He drank that famous cup of hemlock and died instantly.

 

Socrates drank a cup of hemlock and died instantly

But the mystery is how could such a popular figure be given a death sentence for such a trivial task? Why was he subjected to the trial in the first place? Most modern day scholars feel that Athens was changing in Socrates’ time. The basics of democracy were declining. The powerful people did not like free thoughts, which were often against their interests, talked about by Socrates. They wanted to do away with Socrates by hook or crook. Melatus was just a weapon used by the elites to prey upon Socrates.

 

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