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November 13, 2005

The Trial of Socrates

I. F. Stone – ISBN 0385260326

This is another reprint of a book originally written in 1988 by an auto-didact, of sorts (self-taught historian and Greek academic), who was otherwise a prolific WWII era correspondent and commentarian.

He explores the life, times and trial of Socrates with an unusual take, challenged by some and agreed upon by others. It is a very detailed discussion of the subject, bringing up varietal important historical aspects usually overlooked in the “average” study of the ancients, and always overlooked in recent times (see my review of Who Killed Homer?)

It complements the works by Hanson, which I have reviewed, reinforcing—historically—the fact that citizen armies differ from professional and/or slave armies in that they “stand and fight.” Socrates was, of course, a citizen soldier, and important founder and explicator of Greek wisdom. He was an irresponsible gadfly of sorts, but seriously considered what he thought, shared those thoughts, said exactly what he believed and got into big trouble because of it.

“Unfortunately, Socrates [in his defense] never invoked the principle of free speech. Perhaps one reason he held back from that line of defense is because his victory would also have been a victory for the democratic principles he scorned. An acquittal would have vindicated Athens.” Socrates, you’ll recall, was more attuned to the governmental style of Sparta, and [later] Rome, wherein only certain Elders and Magistrates could register opinions, speak to the assemblies, bypassing “ordinary voters.”

Socrates disliked democracy, would not demean himself to treat its principles seriously, would not defend himself in the only way that Athens might—indeed likely would have—freed him based upon its honored traditions.

He was the most famous victim in a wave of persecutions aimed at irreligious philosophers.

Posted by respeto at November 13, 2005 3:34 PM