Execution Of Socrates Essay

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The Execution of Socrates
The trial and execution of Socrates has become a symbol of the violation of freedom of expression and thus sullies this treasured concept of freedom in ancient Athens. Socrates has become commonly seen as a martyr for free speech and it seems inconceivable for this execution to be consistent with a democratic regime by modern standards. However, this tragic event is heavily steeped in its context and cannot be read at a glance as completely anti-democratic and stripping of freedom. Athens was a tolerant place in which to live and had ‘greater freedom as well of thought as of speech, than in any other city of Greece’ (Saxonhouse 2005: 102). The trial of Socrates can be understood in many ways. Socrates was charged with
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The forging of a common identity of the Athenians as a whole dates back to Cleisthenes reforms, which aimed at breaking down the power of the aristocratic families, replacing regional loyalties and factionalism with pan-Athenian solidarity (Blackwell 2003: 1). Also, the constitutions for the Greeks were much more than the outlining of a political system - they entailed a way of life and manufactured a common identity. Pericles boasts of the individual virtue of self-sufficiency and of tolerance towards others and Nicias also mentions that all in Athens ‘every man could live his life in unregimented liberty (Thucydides: Book VII, 69). Plato even believed that individuals were so excessively free in a democracy that the system would eventually degenerate to anarchy. ‘Where there is such licence, it is obvious that everyone would arrange a plan for leading his own life in the way that pleases him’ (Plato: Book VIII 557b). This delineates how free the Athenians believed themselves to be. When examining Athenian freedom one must also look at Athens key historical contrast, Sparta. The Athenians saw Sparta as a place of utter restriction upon individuals. Spartans experienced state interference on what they could say and do, whereas in Athens individual freedom was seen as the guarantee of self-realization that formed a great society (cf. Thucydides: II, 39). What this individual freedom actually meant in practical terms for Athenian citizens is not very clear but that Athenians believed their lifestyle to be one in which its citizens could fully achieve self-realization and happiness. Freedom in Athens was therefore more than just the collective and the political – it entailed a degree of individual freedom that was much valued by

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