Why Socrates Died - Robin Waterfield

Review :

I was unaware that the Socrates I looked up to was actually a creation of Plato. The guy who with a few questions could make it apparent that the most learned humans don't actually know a thing. The guy who always seemed to be the face of the people on the street calling out the powerful. The guy who said he heard the voice of Apollo as a metaphor for the faculty for rationality that humans seem to posses. The guy who refused to pay the fine of 30 pieces of silver to save his own life: the guy martyred for his beliefs. Martyred for trying to awaken the youth.
Yeah that guy is just Plato's story.
I didn't really know much about Xenophon's Socrates which did a nice job of unseating my previous assumptions about the historical figure, setting the stage for an understanding of the historical Socrates.

Socrates was an oligarch. He fought against the democracy and for the aristocracy/oligarchy throughout his life. It didn't seem he did it for any serious material reasons, being a smallholding farmer (land he apparently gained from his service as a soldier).

The book covers a wide breadth of treatment of Socrates, but focuses a lot on Socrates relationship with Alcibiades and the infamous 'desecration of the herms' after a symposium which Alcibiades was blamed for. This event led to the exile of Alcibiades and a whole chain of happenings which came close to asphyxiating democracy in its cradle. Every step of the way Socrates supported the push towards a Spartanesque oligarchy to be installed in Athens.
In fact Socrates execution may have been the result of efforts to liquidate the oligarchic counter-revolution after their attempt to turn Athens in to a new Sparta fell through.


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