The death of Socrates analysis summary




The death of Socrates analysis summary


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The death of Socrates analysis summary


In 399 B.C. the Athenian courts found Socrates guilty of “neglect of the gods” and “corruption of the young.” He was sentenced to die by drinking poison. In the excerpt below from Phaedo, Plato describes the last hours of Socrates life. Although Plato was not present at his teachers death, he was in close contact with those who ere. As you read the excerpt, consider how Socrates death resembles a Greek tragedy.

Socrates got up and went into another room to bathe; and Crito went after him, but told us to wait. So we waited, discussing… The greatness of the calamity which had befallen us; for we felt just as though we were losing a father and should be orphans for the rest of our lives. Meanwhile, when Socrates had taken a bath, his children were brought to see him- he had two little sons and one big boy- and the women of the household… arrived. He talked to them in Critos presence and gave them directions about carrying out his wishes; then he told the women and children to go away, and came back himself to join us.

It was now nearly sunset, because he had spent a long time inside. He came and sat down, fresh from the bath; and he had only been talking for a few minutes when the prison officer came in, and walked up to him. “Socrates,” he said, “at any rate I shall not have to find fault with you, as I do with others, for getting angry with me and cursing when I tell them to drink the poison-carrying out Government orders. I have come to know during this time that you are the noblest and gentlest and the bravest of all men that have ever come here, and know especially I am sure that you are not angry with me, but with them; because you know who are responsible. So now- you know what I have come to say- goodbye, and try to bear what must be easily as you can. “As he spoke he burst into tears, and turning around, went away.
Socrates looked up at him and said, “goodbye to you, too; we will do as you say.” Then addressing us he went on “what a charming person! All the time I have been here he has visited me, and sometimes had discussions with me, and shown me the greatest, kindness; and how generous of him now to shed tears for me at parting! But come crito and let us do as he says. Someone had better bring the poison….”
“But surely, Socrates,” said crito, “this sun is still upon the mountains; it has not gone down yet. Besides, I know that in other cases people have dinner and enjoy there wine, and sometimes the company of those whom they love, o long after they receive the warnings; and only drink the poison late at night. No need to hurry; there is still plenty of time.”   “It is natural that these people whom you speak of should act in that way, crito,” said Socrates, “because they think that they gain by it. And it is also natural that I should not; because I believe that I should gain nothing by drinking the poison a little later- I should only make myself nature, we are still willing to encounter danger, we have the double advantage of escaping the experience of hardships in anticipation and of facing them in the hour of need as fearlessly as those who are never free of them.
Nor are these the only points in which are city is worthy of admiration. We cultivate refinement without extravagance and knowledge without effeminacy; wealth we employ more for use then for show, and place the real disgrace of poverty not in owning to the fact but in declining the struggle against it. Our public men have, besides politics, there private affairs to attend to, and our ordinary citizens, though occupied with the pursuits of industry, are still fair judges of public matters; for, unlike any other nation, regarding him who takes no part in these duties not as un-ambitious but as useless, we Athenians are able to judge at all events if we cannot originate, and instead of looking on discussion as a stumbling block in the way of action, we think it an indispensible preliminary to any wise action at all. Again, in our enterprises we present the singular spectacle of daring and deliberation, each carried to the highest point, and both united in the same persons; although usually decision is the fruit of ignorance, hesitation of reflection. But the palm of courage will surely be adjudged most justly to those, who best know the difference between hardship and pleasure and yet are never tempted to shrink from danger. In generosity we are equally singular, acquiring our friends by conferring by receiving favors…. And it is only the Athenian who, fearless of consequence, confer there benefits not from calculations of expediency, but in the confidence of liberality
In short, I say that as a city we are the school of Hellas, while I doubt if the world can produce a man, who where he has only himself to depend on, is equal to so many emergencies, and graced by so happy a versatility as the Athenian. And that this is no mere boast thrown out for the occasion, but plain matter of fact, the power of this state acquired by these habits proves. For Athens alone of her contemporaries is found when tested to be greater than her reputation, and alone gives no occasion to her assailants to blush at the antagonist by whom they have been worsted, or to her subjects to question her title by merit to rule. Rather, the admiration of the present and succeeding ages will be ours, since we have no left our power without witness, but have shown it by mighty proofs….we have forced every sea and land to be the highway of our daring, and everywhere, whether for good or for evil or for good, have left imperishable monuments behind us.

Reading Review

  • What is the nature of Socrates in relation to the drinking of the poison?
  • How do Athenians look at discussion?
  • What does Socrates say about the Athenian in relation to the school of Hellas?  Explain what he means.


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