Socrates’ trial was legally just, says Cambridge classicistJune 8th, 2009 - 4:55 pm ICT by ANI
London, July 8 (ANI): A Cambridge University classicist says that the trial and execution of Athenian philosopher Socrates was justified by the law of the time.
Professor Paul Cartledge says that Socrates was guilty of the charges levelled against him.
It has always been claimed that Socrates’ open criticism of prominent Athenian politicians had made him many enemies, who used the trial to get rid of him.
It is also said that the philosopher was made a scapegoat for a series of disasters to strike Athens, including a plague and major military defeat.
He was found guilty of “impiety” and “corrupting the young”, sentenced to death, and required to carry out his own execution by consuming a deadly potion of the poisonous plant hemlock.
Historians often suggest that Socrates was forced to face charges invented by his ignorant fellow citizens.
Professor Cartledge, however, insists that Socrates’ trial was legally just.
“Everyone knows that the Greeks invented democracy, but it was not democracy as we know it, and we have misread history as a result. The charges Socrates faced seem ridiculous to us, but in Ancient Athens they were genuinely felt to serve the communal good,” the Telegraph quoted him as saying.
He argued that many people would have seen a series of disasters that struck Athens as a sign that their gods had been offended by undesirable elements, and Socrates, who had questioned the legitimacy and authority of many deities, fitted that description.
He further said that with the gods clearly furious and more disasters perhaps just around the corner, a charge of impiety was seen not only as appropriate, but in the public interest.
According to Professor Cartledge’s study, Socrates essentially invited his own death.
He pointed out that a defendant under the Athenian system could suggest his own penalty.
The researcher said that Socrates first joked that he should be rewarded, and eventually suggested a small fine.
However, his jurors did not see the funny side and passed the death sentence.
“By removing him, society had in, Athenians’ eyes, been cleansed and reaffirmed,” he said.
Professor Cartledge has included his study in his new book, Ancient Greek Political Thought in Practice. (ANI)
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