Did democracy kill Socrates?

2 min read


Socrates could have proposed exile instead of the death penalty to save his life. However, the court ultimately had only a choice between the death penalty and an insignificant fine, so they voted for the former. Assuming a jury of 501, this would imply that he was convicted by a majority of 280 against 221.

The actual grounds for Socrates' accusation and subsequent execution are somewhat unclear. The charges are very vague, but it is unlikely that they had anything to do with religion, as claimed. The philosopher and his anti-democratic teachings were seen more as a threat to the rulers of Athens.

The city-state had just recovered from a period of great instability in which a rebellious organization called "The Thirty Tyrants" had overthrown the democratic government. A brutal regime of terror that exiled and executed thousands of innocent citizens was attempting to establish oligarchic rule. The leader of the Thirty Tyrants, Kritias, was one of Socrates' students. This connection probably led to the teacher being sentenced to death. Socrates, then, was probably condemned because of his proximity to autocratic sentiment-makers. Ironically, the trial is received as a historical example of a failed democratic official act.

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1 comment

Democracy is for the mentally liberated. it is for the highly educated. it is for those in a position to sift through junks of ideas and come up with clearly articulated one. therefore, I trust that what Socrates tried to do was that democracy cannot be executed by the general masses both the learned and the laity. He proved it right that democratic decision albeit very few majority of votes was against him, he was sentenced to death. I do not think democracy is workable for just the masses. Democracy must be left for the elites.


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