Monday, January 11, 2016


A review of G.M. A. Grube's translation of Plato’s The Trial and Death of Socrates with John M. Copper revising (circa 390 BC, my copy 2000)

(Rating 4 of 5)

The Trial and Death of Socrates is a collection of works by Plato on Socrates that gives a narrative of Socrates's trial and execution.  Socrates had been going around Athens committing the horrible crimes of saying things that other people don’t like.  Unfortunately for Socrates, those “other people” were the ones who held power in Athens. That really is the long and short of it.  

            Socrates was living in a time where people believed in multiple gods that intervened in peoples’ lives.  Not believing in the gods had consequences, such as floods and plagues.  Socrates going around telling people to think for themselves meant people might question the existence of gods or worship new gods that were not of Athens.  Therefore Socrates was a threat to their safety and had to go. 

Death of Socrates by Jacques-Louis David
           Socrates, who chose not to escape his impending doom because of his own philosophy of obedience toward law (although also being past seventy might have made him a little more accepting of the end), became a martyr for free thought and expression.  Of course all of his work and sacrifice could have been lost considering Socrates never wrote anything down.  Fortunately his old pupil, Plato, would be sure to give witness with his writings to Socrates and his ideas.  In this respect we can say that Plato was just as, if not more, important. 

            On the technical side I found having the footnotes at the bottom of the page instead of the end of the book to be more effective in dealing with the text.  I didn’t have to keep going back to check the footnotes.  

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