Plato. The Last Days of Socrates. London: Penguin Books Ltd., 1993
Imagine the time just after the death of Socrates. The people of Athens were filled with questions about the final judgment of this well-known, long-time citizen of Athens. Socrates was accused at the end of his life of impiety and corruption of youth. Rumors, prejudices, and questions flew about the town. Plato experienced this situation when Socrates, his teacher and friend, accepted the ruling of death from an Athenian court. In The Last Days of Socrates, Plato uses Socrates' own voice to explain the reasons that Socrates, though innocent in Plato's view, was convicted and why Socrates did not escape his punishment as offered by the court. The writings, "Euthyphro," "The Apology," "Crito," and "Pheado" not only helped the general population of Athens and the friends and followers of Socrates understand his death, but also showed Socrates in the best possible light. They are connected by their common theme of a memoriam to Socrates and the discussion of virtues. By studying these texts, researchers can see into the culture of Athens, but most important are the discussions about relationships in the book. The relationships between the religion and state and individual and society have impacted the past and are still concerns that are with us today. While Plato is writing to prove Socrates a good or respectable person, he allows the modern reader a glimpse into Athenian culture. We see that religion is held in very high regard and failing to serve a religion is punishable by death, no matter what one's social or political stature. In "Euthyphro," the reader learns that sometimes an Interpreter is consulted when dealing with certain criminal behavior. Also, we realize that the Athenians regard a son accusing a father of a crime, no matter what the charge, as very odd and of great annoyance to the family. I believe this is still true today. Family loyalty is considered, in some cases, more important than the laws of the country. One example is the crime families that operate in the country. These families are known to be patriotic, but their patriotism stops when family and money are involved. In "The Apology," the reader sees some of the Athenian court system in action. Researchers can guess that prosecution and defense are allowed only certain amounts of time by Socrates' reference to staying within his time allotted during testimony. The fact that the convicted can offer money instead of punishment and that friends of the convicted may offer money on their security are directly discussed. At first, I was shocked to read this because it would seem that the rich could go unpunished for crimes. But then when I considered our court system in America, I discovered that we are not too much different even though we try to be totally fair. The wealthy, such as O.J. Simpson, can afford many lawyers at astronomical cost and, whether guilty or not, can almost ensure an acquittal. In his writings, Plato wants to explain why Socrates accepted the penalty of death from the Athenian court. This is very important because Plato wanted Socrates to be seen in a positive, glorified light. In the public eye, why would Socrates be convicted if he were not guilty of failing to serve the gods and of swaying the youth? Also, why would he submit to the court's ruling unless he thought he deserved the punishment? Not only the general public, but also Socrates' followers and friends were concerned and wanted to know the answers to these questions. Thus, Plato writes about Socrates' confusion about the charges about impiety, his defense, and his sense of duty to his city's laws in a way that is designed to make Socrates seem appealing to the Athenian people. While accomplishing this goal, Plato almost defines the relationship between the individual and the society and the relation of state and religion. The first topic discussed is Socrates'...
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