And here he is, the great man, dying of the hemlock coursing through his veins. Throughout this thread on Socrates, we’ve been pondering all the ways in which he–his life, his thoughts, his arrogance, his eccentricity, his genius and humor–speaks to us today, timeless in his relevance. But of course we always knew what happened next, the full stop that ended the sentence of his life. His trial and martyrdom is rivaled, in notoriety and historical importance, only by that of Jesus.
It is more than just another fact in the text books: It is one of the greatest mysteries in all of history, and an eternal challenge and reprimand to democracies and freedom lovers everywhere. The question is:
Why did the Athenians, the most ardent freedom lovers of all time, turn against their gadfly when he was 70 years old? For his whole life they had tolerated, mocked, enjoyed, hated and loved him. But then something changed. One of their 500-man juries, the sort that they were so proud of, found him guilty of two silly–laughable, stupid, banal!–charges and gave him death.