Socrates the Gadfly Socrates spent his time questioning people about things like virtue, justice, piety and truth. The people Socrates questioned are the people that condemned him to death. Socrates was sentenced to death because people did not like him and they wanted to shut him up for good. There was not any real evidence against Socrates to prove the accusations against him. Socrates was condemned for three major reasons: he told important people exactly what he thought of them, he questioned ideas that had long been the norm, the youth copied his style of questioning for fun, making Athenians think Socrates was teaching the youth to be rebellious. But these reasons were not the charges against him, he was charged with being an atheist and with corrupting the youth. The charge of being impious was completely absurd because Socrates talked about the gods quite frequently and never stated to anyone that he was an atheist so it would be impossible for him to be an atheist.
The charge of corrupting the youth is unjust because Socrates did not tell the youth to copy him and he is not responsible for their actions. The charges against Socrates were merely excuses by his enemies to murder him in a legal way. Socrates made his enemies by going on a search to find someone wiser than he was. Socrates went on this search because the Oracle at Delphi said he was the wisest man there was but Socrates believed that to be false (5). This lead to a futile search for a person who did have wisdom so Socrates could prove the oracle wrong. Socrates went to people who had a reputation of wisdom and then he would question and talk to them to find out if they in fact were wise.
When he met someone who thought they were wise, Socrates would come “to the assistance of the god” and show him that he is not (6). When he found out that they were not wise he would tell them that to their face and by doing that make another enemy. Socrates traveled from one group to another visiting wise politicians, poets, and craftsmen, making enemies out of each group.
After talking to the wise men Socrates realized they were all arrogant for thinking themselves wise. Because Socrates knew he was not wise he believed he was better off then them. In the end it was a representative from each group that charged Socrates with the crimes that got him condemned to death. This “occupation” consumed his leisure as well as his finances. Socrates told the court at his trail: “I live in great poverty because of my service to the god”(6). Socrates compared himself to a gadfly, and the city of Athens a steed he was just trying to stir into life (11). When a horsefly bites me I squash it, and that is exactly what the city of Athens did to Socrates. Instead of squashing him they made him drink poison, a little bit less messy.
Socrates was a gadfly by questioning Athenians on subjects they rarely talked about, making them think about something they normally wouldnt. He did his questioning out in the open where Athenians congregated so the public could observe and hopefully think on whatever subject that was being talked about. Socrates would question respectable Athenians making them look stupid too a crowd, because they would not know what to say. Making the person being questioned very angry towards Socrates for putting them in such a position.
Socrates made himself many enemies by going around embarrassing people in front of a crowd. Socrates believed he did what he did because of the gods and a divine sign inside of his head. Socrates had a divine sign that kept him from leaving Athens, and made him face his trail.
The divine sign was a voice, not unlike a conscience. Socrates told the court that “whenever it speaks it turns me away from something I am about to do, but it never encourages me to do anything.” Socrates was saying that even though his speech and demeanor antagonized the jury and aggravated their anger towards him, making the chances of them convicting him even greater. The divine sign remained silent throughout the entire process of the trial meaning that he was doing exactly what he was supposed to be doing. There was no opposition when Socrates left his home at dawn, when he entered the court, and none whatsoever during any part of his speech (15). Showing, in Socrates opinion that the gods wanted him to be doing exactly what he was doing. Socrates did not let his age become a factor in the trail, because he wanted to stick to the facts of the case.
At the time of his trial, Socrates was seventy years old. Why did his prosecutors wait until then to bring up charges if he had always been an atheist and been corrupting the youth for quite some time. The reason was that he had only recently made enemies of groups in charge of prosecuting him and the trail was their revenge for his belittling them. His age was not emphasized until he received the death penalty though, because Socrates did not want to use it as an excuse. Then Socrates scolded his condemners, reminding them that he is “advanced in years and close to death.” “If you had waited but a little while, this would have happened of its own accord”(14).
Why did Socrates not flee, to avoid this penalty that he himself had predicted, and live out what remaining years he had in peace. He did it to show the point of what kind of man he was. Socrates embarrassed people, he made people think, he spoke his mind to people and he might have been even rude to people. But was that any reason to try him on bogus charges and to condemn him to death. Socrates was like a rebel for his times because he did not keep quiet he spoke his mind and asked others to do the same, without thinking of the consequences. Socrates death should have been expected because most people who advocate change are murdered.
But his death definitely was not deserved. Bibliography: