Greek fatalism and Socrates
The life, trial, apology and death of Socrates have received numerous criticisms from various critics. Having been executed without writing his own biography, his memoirs have been written by various authors and historians after him. They all depict distinguished, though similar, perceptions of him as a significant historical figure to the history and education in Greece. His trial and death, however, have received both positive and negative analysis from different historians. This is as to whether he really was punished fairly or unfairly. He is presumed by others to have died an innocent man, while others believe that from his own words in the apology, he victimized himself showing he was guilty of the crime accused. Socrates’ evident and highly opinionated character did not make everyone happy thus contributing to his untimely death, a factor, which in addition to his unhidden passion for democracy was used against him leading to his execution.
Socrates was widely recognized for his wisdom and openly challenging those considered as being wise. He was the only one who knew he was uninformed, thus making him the wise one, as all considered him knowledgeable. Using his influence, he sensitized the youth and other people of Greece on what he perceived to be true rather than what the authorities made them believe. This did not go down well with the authorities who claimed he was guilty and incited the youth. According to Ahbel-Rappe, and Kamtekar, (2009), “… which his accusers- Meletus, Anytus and Lycon- had said was corrupting influence on the young men who kept company with Socrates and imitated his behavior.” (Pg 5).
With reference to his apology, Socrates was not guilty and did not deserve to be executed. ‘The Apology’ did not mean that he was accepting the accusations, but rather, giving an explanation in account of his accusations. Jowett, (1892), stated “… when they said that you should be upon your guard and not allow yourselves to be deceived by the force of my eloquence.” From the apology, Socrates was clearly innocent. The accusers were not valid and justified in accusing him for being influential. They were more afraid of the influence he had over the youth, thus, posed a threat of exposure of their evil and undemocratic deeds. The fearless explanation showed his clear conscience and innocence.
Socrates fearlessly said that the accusers would hear the reality from him in a different way as opposed to that which they used against him in the court. He also clearly pointed out that he was shocked by their claims of his articulacy, (Jowett, and Plato, 2008). This is a clear indication of the baseless accusations that the accusers had against him since they were right that he was eloquent and his manner of speech was attractive to the youth. His innocence is evident as the only fear of the accusers was that he would expose them, explaining their claims that the youth were not to allow themselves deception by his articulacy. Jowett, and Plato, (2008), “They ought to have been ashamed of saying this, because they were sure to be detected as soon as I opened my lips and displayed my deficiency…” (Pg 11).
Jowett, and Plato, (2008), stated that, “that I think is not an unfair request … but think only of the justice of my cause, and give heed to that: let the judge decide justly and the speaker speak truly.” (Pg 8). Clearly, theses are the words of an innocent man. Socrates was sure that he had done nothing wrong and whatever he had done was for the truth he believed in. It was also as a way of exercising his freedom of speech and expression, which was a constitutional right in Greece. He believed in the justice system and being innocent, he was ready to let the judge decide his fate.
Jowett, and Plato, (2008), “As little foundation is there for the report that I am a teacher, and take money; that is no more true than the other. Although, if a man is able to teach, I honor him for being paid … whom they not only pay, but are thankful if they may be allowed to pay.” (Pg 13). There is a clear indication in the life of Socrates that he was not a rich man and that there would be no way he earned money falsely. This shows that the accusation that he took money from people in exchange of knowledge were baseless. Otherwise, he would be rich considering his following and he number of people who trusted him.
Considering that he was accused of being a teacher who took money in order to give information, this was an honorable thing to do. He agreed to that himself and any normal man would agree to the same. It was a noble thing and just right to pay a teacher for his/her services. The accusers therefore, had no right to accuse him based on teaching for money. Despite being innocent, the court went ahead to declare him guilty and pronounce his sentence.
Jowett, and Plato, (2008) stated that, “I dare to say that someone will ask this question, why is this, Socrates, and what is the origin of these accusations of you: for there … all this great fame and talk about you would never have risen if you had been like other men:” (Pg 14). Clearly, from his apology, there was no case against him. Through out his statement he kept on emphasizing that the accusers had drafted the case against him for fear of exposure. They probably had brainwashed the public so that they could not realize their unlawful and unconstitutional acts. Socrates on the other hand was critical and analyzed their moves where he said the truth as he saw it. However, it was as simple as exercising his freedom of expression, the accusers felt threatened and perceived it as incitement to the youth.
Effects to the Morality of Greece
Violation of Constitutional Rights
Greece was a country that believed highly on the ‘Freedom of Speech’ and ‘Freedom of Expression.’ This concept was debased when Socrates was executed because of speaking and expressing himself fearlessly. Saxonhouse, (2006) argued/stated that, “The trial of Socrates has served for many generations as a symbol of the violation of freedom of expression, the case that sets the individual committed to the examined life against a city that can find in this examination impiety and the corruption of the young. It is the incident that speaks to all who fear oppression for the expressions of one’s beliefs and thoughts.” (Pg 100). It was clearly a show of political unfairness, as one would be punished for expressing his own opinion.
Loss of Trust in Justice System
The trust in the justice system of Greece was no longer upheld with utmost importance, as was the case before the judgment and the sentence of Socrates. It was demeaning for the court, despite all the evidence of innocence, to deem guilty an innocent man and execute him. This was evidence that the justice system was influenced by the political class and not by an independent body as should have been. Therefore, the people could not rely on it to defend their rights and protect them, especially when the authorities are involved.
Socrates was undisputedly innocent of all the crimes he had been accused of. It was evident the accusers had no case against him and were threatened by his massive influence. They were also threatened by his expressiveness since he did not shy away from expressing his opinion in the public. It was fear that the political class would be exposed for their incompetent and operations that led to the accusation of the innocent man falsely. This further led to his execution without enough evidence in order to ensure he would no longer be a threat.
Jowett, Benjamin, and Plato. Dialogues of Plato: Containing the Apology of Socrates, Crito, Phaedo, and Protagoras World’s greatest literature. New York, NY: Read Books, 2008. Print.
Jowett, Benjamin. Apology from the Dialogues of Plato, Volume 2. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1892. Web. 4 May 2009
Kamtekar, Rachana, and Sara Ahbel-Rappe. Companion to Socrates. Oxford. John Wiley and Sons, 2009. Print.
Saxonhouse, Arlene. Free speech and democracy in ancient Athens. New York. Cambridge University Press, 2006. Print.