Of all the great “trials of the century” in history, the first–and maybe most influential–was the one that sentenced a grumpy philosopher to death. But we can’t understand the trial of Socrates without understanding the context. Athens had recently lost a long war to its bitter rival, Sparta, and was looking to take its anger out on someone. But Socrates wasn’t having it: he turned the accusations around and put Athens on trial. Was it a case of free speech, or Athenian vengeance on the most annoying person in the city—and what are its implications for whistleblowers today?
The Hemlock Cup: Socrates, Athens, and the Search for the Good Life, by Bettany Hughes
Plato: The Trial and Death of Socrates, 3rd ed.; translated by G.M.A. Grube and revised by John M. Cooper
The Last Days of Socrates, by Plato; translated by Harold Tarrant and Hugh Tredennick
- What do you think is the legacy of Socrates for today?
- How would you have voted?
- What do you think of Socrates’ decision to flip the narrative and put Athens on trial?
- Do you think Socrates’ advanced age had anything to do with his decision to put his life on the line?