Another ‘coincidence’ arised today. After writing the article about Alan Turing’s ‘pardon’ initiative yesterday, I find today another attempt to put right what was done wrong but this time to Socrates. One convicted of gross indecency and the other for corrupting the youth. See any pattern here? Socrates was forced to drink a cup of cicuta infusion as the method of execution. The cause of death of Turing was cyanide poisoning (suicide), arguably from an apple found half-eaten beside his bed at the time.
In the spring of 399 B.C., Socrates confronted 500 Athenians, citizens, judges and jurors, in his trial initiated by the charges leveled at him by Meletus, Anytos and Lycon. The trial began with a reading of the formal charges: “Socrates is a doer of evil, and corrupter of the youth, and he does not believe in the gods of the state, and he believes in other new divinities of his own.”
Last Friday the Onassis Cultural Centre in Athens gave Socrates a new trial, assembling a panel of distinguished jurists from Europe and America to reopen the case. This time the verdict was different. The vote by the jury was a 5–5 tie, which meant Socrates was acquitted. The audience’s vote was more decisive: 5 to convict, 584 to acquit. Of course, it was a little late for Socrates.
This brings to mind a very revealing paragraph I once read and have not been able to ever forget and it goes as follows:
Plato painted a very remarkable picture of his teacher Socrates, who is shown –in Plato’s own words– as boy crazy. When Socrates was in the company of beautiful boys, he lost his senses. Some sort of mania (divine madness) took possession of him and he was almost unable to resist it. He often complained about the fact that he was helpless towards adolescents, and said that he could only cope with the situation by asking difficult questions to these beautiful boys and teaching them philosophy. So, according to Plato, Socrates sublimated his passion.
The video of the trial is available and it lasts a little over four hours, if you want to see it, follow this link. Or stay with us and watch this documentary inspired and hosted by Alain de Botton, based on his book The Consolations of Philosophy.