The Trial of Socrates: Fact, Fiction, Reality & Myth

Christopher M. Bellitto
Christopher M. Bellitto
Kean University

Dr. Christopher M. Bellitto is Professor of History at Kean University in New Jersey, where he teaches courses in ancient and medieval history. A specialist in church history and reform, he is the author of ten books, a Fulbright Specialist at the University of Canterbury, and a Visiting Scholar at Princeton Theological Seminary.


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?


Recommended Reading:

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


Discussion Questions:

  1. What do you think is the legacy of Socrates for today?
  2. How would you have voted?
  3. What do you think of Socrates’ decision to flip the narrative and put Athens on trial?
  4. Do you think Socrates’ advanced age had anything to do with his decision to put his life on the line?




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Teresa Rivera

Excellent presentation and explanation of the three Greek philosophers’s thinking

2 months ago

The Trial of Socrates: Fact, Fiction, Reality and Myth

A really excellent presentation that brought together bits and pieces of so many “factoids” and historical remnants of past education and times. It was a superb overview delivered by a passionate teacher who kept to the focus of Socrates and introduced Socrates’ place in history as he spoke. It would have been good to have more discussion of the implication of Socrates’ life and work in today’s thinking (and non-thinking) world.

2 months ago

Interesting thought points

4 days ago
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