May 24, 2024
Socrates

Socrates

Those of us who are at least somewhat familiar with the word philosophy must know of this man. He is a man whose whole life is as curious as a puzzle. Who never wrote any book on philosophy, yet he is one of the greatest wise men and philosophers in the history of the world. He is a star in the list of great men by whom the world was changed.

This wise man used to say during his lifetime , “all I know is that I know nothing.” Now he must have realized that he was none other than the Greek philosopher Socrates.

Socrates is taught in the basic education of philosophy in almost all educational institutions. Its influence extends beyond philosophy. In the course of development of the world, he has merged in every tradition, in every era.

This enigmatic life of Socrates was never so simple and beautiful, his entire life was spent in various controversies and misunderstandings. Today’s discussion is Socrates’ birth, early life, various accusations against him.

Birth

Socrates was born in 469 BC (alternatively 470 BC) in Athens, Greece.

Family

Socrates’ father was Sophroniscus and mother Phaenarete. Father Sanphroniscus was a mason and sculptor by profession. And mother Phaenarete was a midwife.

Socrates married a young woman named Xanthippe, who bore him three sons: Lamprocles, Sophroniscus, and Menexenus.

Childhood of Socrates

Although father Sophroniscus had a fairly good income, Socrates’ family was not wealthy. Socrates grew up in an area of Athens called Alopece. Polis was the political center of Greek politics, so Socrates was exposed to politics from childhood.

At that time there was a rule in Athens that all young men over the age of 18 had to serve in political office. Chief among these duties was joining the army. On the other hand, one had to be there to decide various aspects of military affairs and administer the judiciary. Socrates had no objection to these activities and joined them.

A surprising and interesting aspect is that in Athens there was not so much talk about women’s beauty as it is now, but men’s beauty was more practiced then. Handsome, gentle-looking men were especially prized.

Socrates
Socrates

But Socrates could not keep up with the times. Because he was very ugly. His eyes were completely pressed inside. The nose was completely stupid. Yet Socrates was not at all concerned about his appearance. Instead, he spent day after day wearing the same dirty clothes and sandals.

Socrates’ father wanted Socrates to be well educated. He provided Socrates with a higher education beyond the general compulsory education (that was common to all Athenian youth), especially in literature, music and sports. As a result, Socrates became proficient in poetry. At the same time, he excelled in music and physical education.

Also Socrates faithfully lived his obligatory warrior life. He fought with great valor in the battle of Plataea and helped in the victory of Athens. He also took part in the battles of Delium and Amphipolis. However, Athens lost the next two battles. Between 431-401 BC the Athenians engaged in one of the longest and bloodiest wars in their history. This war with the neighboring Spartans is known as the Peloponnesian War.

The Athenian elite sided with the Spartans in this war. Because they were dissatisfied with Athenian democracy and the freedom of expression of the people. Rather they favored Spartan society where the imperial system was prevalent and the lower classes of society had no say.

In the end, the Spartans won the battle. But the Spartans did not take power directly from Athens. Instead, their supporters chose 30 men from among the elite Athenians and placed them in power in Athens under the leadership of Critias. These 30 people are known as ‘The Thirty’ or ‘The Thirty Tyrants’.

Now come to all the charges brought against Socrates.

Enemies of Democracy

Due to various reasons, the ruling democrats began to think of Socrates as an enemy of democracy. Seven years after the Battle of Amphipolis, around 415 AD, when the Athenian navy was preparing to attack the island of Sicily, some statues of the god Hermes were broken in Athens.

Note that Deity Hermes is known as the god of safety while travelling. Within days of this event, a group of people debated the ‘Eleusinian ritual’. Because they perform ceremonies in their own homes without the presence of a priest, which is against the custom. Alcibiades is the one whose name is most frequently mentioned in these two works. As a result he was withdrawn from the Navy. Fearing punishment, he took refuge in Sparta.

Many were punished within a few days for their anti-religious activities. There were a lot of people who were close to Socrates. This made people question Socrates, but not as much as before. At the same time, in 411 BC, some people refused to participate in democracy and sat down. This treatment was backed by Alcibiades. Another thing is that Athens was at war with Persia.

Alcibiades took the side of Persia. Rather than aiding the Persians, he immediately took the side of the Spartans. In other words, Alcibiades became the major foe of the Athenians who supported democracy in Athens by befriending the city’s two biggest rivals.

Nevertheless, Socrates continues to communicate with Alcibiades and shows him his love despite their challenging circumstances. The Athenians concluded that Socrates was indirectly involved in Alcibiades’ conduct as a result.

During the reign of the Thirty Tyrants in 404 BC, their leader, Critias, forbade Socrates to have intercourse with any youth under the age of 30. On the one hand, Critias had a good relationship with Socrates long ago. Socrates, on the other hand, accepted Critias’ orders without hesitation. These two factors intensified the doubt.

Meanwhile ‘The Thirty’ began to persecute the democrats of Athens. They sent many Democrats into exile. Many have been killed on false charges. A group of exiles organized and returned to Athens in 403 BC and killed Critias.

Peace was established through the mediation of Sparta. Democracy returned to Athens and the democrats announced a ‘General Amnesty’. As a result, even though their suspicions about Socrates were strong, they could not imprison Socrates in the name of anti-democracy due to amnesty.

Charges of heresy

Religion in ancient Greece referred to the customs and rituals prescribed by priests and government officials for the people of a city. Purity was the name for literally holding on to the traditions of the ancestors. That is, religion was associated with political institutions. In that sense, doing something against religion means committing a crime against the state.

Socrates was accused of heresy. He was accused of directly and indirectly harming religion, disbelieving in God and apostatizing the youth.

Unfortunately for Socrates, his contemporaries were not as keenly intelligent as he. They were conservative and narrow minded. The people of that society believed in polytheism. It was more of that God did not create them but they created God! There were various myths about God then.

Where it was seen that the gods were not always on the side of the people. Rather, sometimes they becomes violent, sometimes blinded by the glory of power and harms mankind. But Socrates believed that the gods could not be like that.

They are always truthful, helpful and knowledgeable. He believed that rationalism is another name for divinity. Gods do not expect people to perform meaningless rituals! His theory completely ignored religious norms and was accused of trying to separate man from God. He faced trial because of his religious views.

Death Penalty of Socrates

In 399 BC, Socrates was tried in court. For this reason, a jury board consisting of 501 (instead of 500) jurors was formed. Socrates loses his argument in court. 280 acquits Socrates of 221 charges against him. Perhaps Socrates was stubborn in his argument. A guilty plea might have resulted in a different verdict. But he maintained his innocence and justified his actions.

He dazzled the judges with his extraordinary wit and sarcastic remarks. Far from admitting guilt, he instead claimed the reward. The judges were furious. As a result, the verdict inevitably goes against him. The death penalty was announced. He calmly accepted the verdict.

His execution was postponed for 30 days for the religious festival. At that time his friends and relatives arranged for him to escape but he refused. His disciple and famous philosopher Plato petitioned him to stay out on parole for at least 30 days. Jail authorities agreed to exchange three thousand drachmas. Here again Socrates mocks them and offers 100 drachmas.

Even in the last moments of his life, Socrates was cheerful and normal. It didn’t take long for him to drink his cup of poison (Hemlock). After drinking the poison, he would walk and talk slowly until he fell to the ground from the poisoning.

His friends and followers surrounded him. As the poison took effect, his legs went numb and he fell to the ground. His friends Crito, Apollodorus, Xenophon all burst into tears together. “Crito, we owe a cock to Asclepius” Socrates said with a trembling voice, “will you pay that debt and not neglect to do so?” Crito quickly replied in a tearful voice, “Sure, do you have any other wishes?” Socrates is no longer speaking.

After time The cries of the followers gradually subsided and the shadow of mourning subsided within a few days. But the farce that happened that day, even after a thousand years, the mind is filled with sorrow. The tragic death of the great sage/wise tore the heart again and again.

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