Socrates – a man for our times | Books | The Guardian   Leave a comment

Death of Socrates, 1875

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Socrates – a man for our times | Books | The Guardian.

via Socrates – a man for our times | Books | The Guardian.

The Death of Socrates, 1787, by Jacques Louis David. Photograph: World History Archive/Alamy

Two thousand four hundred years ago, one man tried to discover the meaning of life. His search was so radical, charismatic and counterintuitive that he become famous throughout the Mediterranean. Men – particularly young men – flocked to hear him speak. Some were inspired to imitate his ascetic habits. They wore their hair long, their feet bare, their cloaks torn. He charmed a city; soldiers, prostitutes, merchants, aristocrats – all would come to listen. As Cicero eloquently put it, “He brought philosophy down from the skies.”

For close on half a century this man was allowed to philosophise unhindered on the streets of his hometown. But then things started to turn ugly. His glittering city-state suffered horribly in foreign and civil wars. The economy crashed; year in, year out, men came home dead; the population starved; the political landscape was turned upside down. And suddenly the philosopher’s bright ideas, his eternal questions, his eccentric ways, started to jar. And so, on a spring morning in 399BC, the first democratic court in the story of mankind summoned the 70-year-old philosopher to the dock on two charges: disrespecting the city’s traditional gods and corrupting the young. The accused was found guilty. His punishment: state-sponsored suicide, courtesy of a measure of hemlock poison in his prison cell.

 

Posted October 18, 2010 by dmacc502 in history, photography

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