In 399B.C. the philosopher Socrates was sentenced to death by a jury of 500 Athenian men.
Socrates held anti-democratic views which he saw as a “might is right” mentality.
There were 280 of 500 jurors returning with a guilty verdict. Next they were asked to determine his penalty. His accusers argued for the death penalty.
Socrates himself sarcastically recommended to be rewarded. He was then asked for a realistic penalty and his friends proceeded to argue for a modest sum of money as a fine.
The jury selected the death penalty! By drinking a cup of poison hemlock, he would be his own executioner. From there Plato tells us the rest of this story. Socrates took the cup quite cheerfully, with the instructions to walk around the cell until his legs felt heavy and then to lie down on the bed.
Many of Socrates friends were there and soon many began to weep. Socrates himself was unmoved by this and stated: ‘You are strange fellows; what is wrong with you? I sent the women away for this very purpose, to stop their creating such a scene. I have heard that one should die in silence. So please be quiet and keep control of yourselves.’
Socrates last words were: “Crito, we owe a cock to Asclepius. Do pay it. Don’t forget.” This is as related by Plato in a later work.
Asclepius was the god of medicine and healing. At this Socrates could have meant several things. Could he have been referring to himself and finally been rid of the world? Could he have seen that the world was so very different from his ideas and beliefs? Another interpretation was that Socrates was healing Athen’s ills by his voluntary death?
Created by R.S. (Fifth year Classical Studies student)