Plato. The Last Days of Socrates. London: Penguin Books Ltd., 1993
Imagine the time just after the death of Socrates. The people of Athens were filled with questions about the final judgment of this well-known, long-time citizen of Athens. Socrates was accused at the end of his life of impiety and corruption of youth. Rumors, prejudices, and questions flew about the town. Plato experienced this situation when Socrates, his teacher and friend, accepted the ruling of death from an Athenian court. In The Last Days of Socrates, Plato uses Socrates’ own voice to explain the reasons that Socrates, though innocent in Plato’s view, was convicted and why Socrates did not escape his punishment as offered by the court. The writings, “Euthyphro,” “The Apology,” “Crito,” and “Pheado” not only helped the general population of Athens and the friends and followers of Socrates understand his death, but also showed Socrates in the best possible light. They are connected by their common theme of a memoriam to Socrates and the discussion of virtues. By studying these texts, researchers can see into the culture of Athens, but most important are the discussions about relationships in the book. The relationships between the religion and state and individual and society have impacted the past and are still concerns that are with us today.
While Plato is writing to prove Socrates a good or respectable person, he allows the modern reader a glimpse into Athenian culture. We see that religion is held in very high regard and failing to serve a religion is punishable by death, no matter what one’s social or political stature. In “Euthyphro,” the reader learns that sometimes an Interpreter is consulted when dealing with certain criminal behavior. Also, we realize that the Athenians regard a son accusing a father of a crime, no matter what the charge, as very odd and of great annoyance to the family. I believe this is still true today. Family loyalty is considered, in some cases, more important than the laws of the country. One example is the crime families that operate in the country. These families are known to be patriotic, but their patriotism stops when family and money are involved. In “The Apology,” the reader sees some of the Athenian court system in action. Researchers can guess that prosecution and defense are allowed only certain amounts of...
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...ribed happened and were recorded. The element of a man, falsely accused, dying for his beliefs is a crossover into an idea understood by all cultures. Even the way the works are presented, in the form of dialogue, make them stand out to history. Perhaps the first time in history are such deep thoughts written about and discussed in such a way. This also speaks of the times of the philosophers. If the inhabitants of Athens had time to think about such deep thoughts as “What is holiness?” they must have lead lives of ease compared with those of earlier people. These certain thoughts might be precedents in history, just because the Athenians cherished thought, rhetoric, and some had the time and willingness to practice these pursuits. Civilizations that followed the Greeks often imitated them. The Romans based many of their values, rules of citizenship, and even religion on the Greek system. Men and women of the Enlightenment could have read the same dialogues that we read today. Why would anyone continue to read these stories? I believe it is the dialogues discussion of individual verses state and state verses religion. These are the truly enduring issues that we will always face.
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