Socrates - An insight into the Life of the Philosopher #5
In his defense speech, he makes no attempt to be gracious to the judges; on the contrary, in the first part of the trial in which he is guilty or not guilty, he reiterates his criticism of complacency and lack of self-knowledge of his fellow citizens. He compares the city of Athens with a great noble ross who, because of his size, is rather sluggish and needs a spur to cheer him up. Of course he is referring to himself with the spur. He acts on behalf of the god Apollo and he adds: "The god of the city seems to me to have joined me as one who does not cease to wake up every single one of you, to talk, to scold.
With 281 against 220 votes the verdict is made. Guilty. The second part of the court hearing is about the punishment. The indictment demands a death sentence. The Athenian procedural law grants Socrates, as accused, the right to petition. Given the small majority in the conviction, there are good prospects of averting a death sentence, but Socrates does not want compromise or indulgence.
No gracious punishment, he claims for himself, no, the highest award the city of Athens has to be offer to deserving citizens. The free lifelong dining in the city hall. The indignation of the judge over this provocation is so enormous that Socrates is condemned to death by a far greater majority of the judges than he was previously found guilty of.
His friends urge him to use the next best opportunity to escape. Socrates refuses. The spoken right should not be undermined, otherwise no more judgment would have existed. He prefers to die as he lived, true to his beliefs and the laws of the city.
The day he is supposed to empty the hemlock cup he spends with his closest friends. Until late into the night, the men discuss the immortality of the soul
Finally, Socrates takes the mug and drinks the poison. He does so calmly and thoughtfully in the spirit that he summoned at the end of his defense speech.
Now is the time to go away,
to die for me, to live for you,
who of us is going to the better is unknown to all of us,
only God knows.