Why Socrates Died

Robin Waterfield’s historic analysis revolves around the plot of Socrates, who was accused of teaching his protégés subversive ideas. Critias, Alciabiades and host of new age promising youngsters were his students.  Meletus, Lycon and Anytus were the political accusers who framed formal charges and proposed death penalty in the Athenian court. Lycon might have brought these charges as his son was killed by the Thirty, group of oligarchs that took power out of democratic Athens for a brief period. Anytus, was the ominous accuser with considerable political weight and participated in the democratic resistance movement to overthrow the Thirty. The Thirty were trying to introduce Spartan styled democracy of better represented intellectuals rather than a democracy, where people are illiterates and swayed by emotion.

The basic tactic of a prosecution speech in Athenian courts was to admit personal involvement, attempt to convert private to public anger by claiming to be acting in the public interest and point out the defendant’s criminal record and depraved but anti-democratic character, and argue that the preservation of the city depended on a guilty verdict.

There’s a wonderful prosecution speech as conceived by the author, purportedly delivered by Anytus. Now I’m certainly interested to read the defendant’s argument from Socrates himself, as said by Plato and Xenophon.


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