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Why Was Socrates Found Guilty? Was He Fairly Tried and Condemned?

  • Date Submitted: 01/28/2010 08:28 AM
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At the time of Socrates' trial in 399 BC, Athens was still badly shaken by it's unstable political and military past. The surrender at the Battle of Aegospotami marked the loss of the Peloponnesian war to Sparta, a long and hard fought war which waged from 432-404 BC. Earlier in 411 BC a group of discontent Athenians led by Antiphon, Critias and Charmides briefly overthrew Athens’ democracy and established an oligarchy. While it only lasted until 410 BC, it was still fresh in the memory of Athenian citizens when it occurred again with Sparta's victory. Sparta established a government of oligarchs known as the Thirty Tyrants in 404 BC. Critias and Charmides were both involved again, Critias as one of the Thirty and Charmides as one of their deputies. This was again short-lived however, with the government being overthrown in 403 BC, eight months later. An amnesty was declared to forget past offenses of all but the Thirty Tyrants and their officials.

All of these events played an important part in Socrates' trial. There were three main factors that led to his poor public image. Firstly was his students and associates. Alciabides was a student of Socrates, and was regarded by most with suspicion. An Athenian leader, he was first exiled during the disastrous Sicilian Expedition. Rather than return and face the charges, he defected to Sparta. Later he was re-accepted into Athens, but it was short-lived; after a few naval defeats under his command he was again exiled. Another of his associates, Chaerophon, was nicknamed 'The Bat' due to his thin, pale appearance. He was ridiculed by comic poets as a thief, an informer and a parasite. But perhaps the most important associates to consider are the now notorious Critias and Charmides. Such associations did not reflect well on Socrates, especially considering some were his students. This only furthered the already growing suspicion and hostility towards him.

Another important factor came...


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