previous next

The Execution of Socrates

After the jury narrowly voted to convict, standard Athenian legal procedure required the jurors to decide between alternative penalties proposed by the prosecutors and the defendant. Anytus and his associates proposed death. In such instances the defendant was then expected to offer exile as the alternative, which the jury would then usually accept. Socrates, however, replied that he deserved a reward rather than a punishment1, until his friends at the trial prevailed upon him to propose a fine as his penalty. The jury2 chose death. Socrates accepted his sentence with equanimity because, as he put it in a famous paradox, “no evil can befall a good man either in life or in death.”3 In other words, nothing can take away the knowledge that is virtue, and only the loss of that wisdom could ever count as a true evil. He was executed in the normal Athenian way4, by being given a poisonous drink concocted from powdered hemlock. The silencing of Socrates did nothing, however, to restore Athenian confidence to the level of the fifth century B.C., and a later source reports that the Athenians soon came to regret the condemnation of Socrates5 as a tragic mistake that left a blot on their reputation.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide References (1 total)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: