The times: 399 BCE
- When the Spartans defeated Athens and tore down
the long walls, a body of thirty oligarchic rulers,
called the 30 Tyrants, were appointed to administer the
city. They inaugurated an 8 month rule of terror, during
which they exiled or killed many of the democrats and
confiscated their property.
- Socrates did not cooperate with the 30, but he
also was not exiled.
- Moreover, his most (in)famous follower,
ALCIBIADES, was staunchly anti-democratic.
- No one could be brought up on charges of
association with the 30 because the city had declared a
general amnesty; nonetheless suspicion about Socrates,
and others, abounded.
- Charges were not brought by a public prosecutor in
democratic Athens, but by individuals. The men who
brought charges against Socrates were Anytus (who was
exiled by the 30 Tyrants), Meletus, and Lycon.
- Socrates' was charged with corrupting the youth,
with not believing in the gods of the city but in new
spiritual beings (24 b-c).
- There was not a judge to instruct the jury, but
501 jurors, selected by lot, heard the trial; the jury
did not deliberate, but simply voted after hearing both
- The prosecution and the defendant both delivered
their own speeches; when the two speeches, timed by a
water-clock (see above) were finished, the jury decided
the verdict by a simple majority vote. The trial had to
be completed in one day.
- If the verdict was guilty and there was no fixed
penalty, the prosecution and defendant both proposed a
penalty, and the jury chose one, again by simple majority
- Socrates was condemned by a majority of 61 votes,
but sentenced to death by a majority of 141 votes.
- One month elapsed between the trial and death of
Socrates. It was the time of a great annual festival on
Delos to which Athens sent a sacred ship; no capital
punishment could be carried out during the absence of the
- The Phaedo of Plato recounts the final
hours of Socrates' life.
- [18a] How do Socrates' comments about speech
reflect on sophistic rhetoric and his own relationship to
- Socrates identifies two groups of accusers and
defends himself against both in the course of the
- [18b-c; 19b-c; 19e] Who are the earlier accusers,
what did they accuse him of, and why does he fear them
more than the present accusers?
- note the allusion to Aristophanes'
- be sure you can discuss how Socrates defends
himself from the earlier accusers [19d-e; 20a-b, note
Socratic method; 20d-24b, Socrates' account of the
nature of his "wisdom" and how he came to be so
- [24b] Who are the recent accusers and what is
- you should be able to discuss how Socrates
defends himself against the accusations for which he
has been brought to trial [24b-25b, analogy, note use
of ridicule; 25c-26a, argument based on what is
likely; 26b, the charges are self-contradictory, use
- [28-35] Socrates on his occupation
- Why does he not give up out of fear of death;
how does this relate to his kind of wisdom?
- How is he the god's gift to the city?
- Whom does he invite to rise as witnesses?
- [35d] What is the relation between Socrates'
manner of speech, his injunction to the jurors, and
- If the jury awards Socrates the penalty he
deserves, they will_________________
- If they assign him the penalty he could pay, it
would be ___________________
- If he pays what his friends have collected for
him, it would be ________________
- Socrates' last words to the
- Why he was convicted
- If you kill me, more like me will follow
- Why death may be a good thing
- What to do for his sons
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