Trial of the great philosopher

There is a place in Athens, that few people know that it even exists, and that is the prison where Socrates was kept. You can get to his Prison while walking on Pikionis Pathway, going to Pnyx hill, so yo can feel a bit ancient Athenian.

The trial’s historic background

The Peloponnesian War brought radical changes to Classic Athens, especially after their defeat in Sicily (415-413 BC). Plato, originally Aristocles (his name means broad- having broad shoulders) was born in 428 BC. It is said from his mother side he was relative of Solon. Before meeting the great philosopher, Plato had first became acquainted with Cratylus (a disciple of Heraclitus, a prominent pre-Socratic philosopher) and the Heraclitean teachings, and was just 21 years old when he burnt his tragedies and decided to follow Socrates, that is 407 BC. The issue of Socrates and its era has many aspects, both ideological and social.

In order to come closer to Socrates’ life, he was serving his military duties during the Peloponnesian war, and was a mentor of Alcibiades, the person who led Athenians to the catastrophe in Sicily (415-413 BC). Nevertheless, Socrates first worked as a stonemason, and there was a tradition in antiquity, not credited by modern scholarship, that Socrates crafted the statues of the Charites, which stood near the Acropolis until the 2nd century AD.

Accordingly Alcibiades, was the son of Cleinias. He was the last famous member of his mother’s aristocratic family, the Alcmaeonidae, as Pericles. Alcibiades took part in the Battle of Potidaea in 432 BC, where Socrates was said to have saved his life and had a particularly close relationship. According to Plutarch, Alcibiades “feared and reverenced Socrates”.

Why Socrates was guilty for Athenians 
It was not only the relation with Alcibiades that made the great philosopher a political target for Athenians. Great comedian Aristophanes’ work “The Clouds” was produced on 423 BC and it was for Socrates and his ideology of.. ideas. It is mentioned in the Apology as a contributor to philosopher’s trial in 399.
Consequently, in order to understand more of the social environment of Athens at that period, someone must realize the political environment of chaos and violence after the Peloponnesian War.
Ordinarily Spartans established the Thirty Tyrants regime and its leader Critias, who was Critias was the first cousin of Plato’s mother Perictione. He also was an associate of the philosopher, a fact that did not endear him a lot to the Athenian public.
The Thirty tyrants stayed in power between 404-403 BC, until Athenian democrats regain power. Just four years later, Socrates was sent to tril and found guilty or corrupting the youth and of impiety. The path from democracy to radical democracy marked Athens’ history.

So as everybody knows today, Plato’s teacher was sentenced to death, by drinking hemlock, leaving a big legacy. If you want to see hemlock in Athens, you just have to visit Athens Botanical Garden.

Socratic legacy 
Socrates maybe was sentenced to death by his fellow citizens, but his way of thinking created logic and science. That came out mainly through two persons: his student Plato, his student, Aristotle, and Alexander the Great. 

Plato did not have easy times, as many may suppose so. After a trip to Sicily he was sold as a slave, and was bought by a philosopher named Anniceris, for the amount of 30 mnas. Plato gathered money from his friends to repay him, but Anniceris denied them, so it was the first capital to fund his Academy. Academy was the world’s first University and had famous students such as Aristotle. His method was dialogue, so there was not a teacher higher than his students, but all were equal. Of course mathematics were included in the academy’s program as well. Academy was operating as a legal, rhetorical and political sciences School, so Aristotle as a student he wrote laws for his homeland in Macedonia, Stageira. Plato’s competitors were orators and rhetorical schools, such as this of Isocrates.
Aristotle was born in 384 BC. At seventeen or eighteen years of age, he joined Plato’s Academy in Athens and remained there until the age of thirty-seven (c. 347 BC). After leaving Academy, since Plato’s successor was appointed his nephew Speusippus, Aristotle either go with his student Theofrastus to Lesvos for research or met him there.
His fame soon grew bigger and in 343 BC, Aristotle was invited while being to Lesvos by Philip II of Macedon to become the tutor to his son Alexander, between 343-340. His school was located in Mieza, near modern Naousa, Greece. Alexander the Great was 13 years old at that time and later he was given the regency of Macedonia in his father’s absence at age 16. He was tutored by Aristotle, and had some appreciation for Athens as a center of learning. After Athens revolt again, he decided to bring the city down, as he did with Thebes, but General Phocion changed his mind and made him to see Persia instead of Greece.

Lyceum and Aristotle 
Aristotle after few years returned to Athens in 334-335 BC, aged 50, funded by Alexander the Great to manage Lyceum, which was already had been used as a school before. It was the time that scientific method was born, since Aristotle made not only observations, but also experiments, since Alexander was providing him with plant and animals specimens from his conquest in various regions. So the first zoo and botanical garden was developed in Athens as well. A year after Alexander’s death, in 322 BCE, Aristotle was forced to flee Athens with his family. Athenians reacted against Macedonians and he was considered as a target. He passed on Lyceum to notable student Theophrastus and died later that year in Chalcis.
These two schools (Academy and Lyceum) marked the western civilization, during Enlightenment, since neoplatonism was spread across Italy.

Christianity and Neoplatonists 

In 529 AD all Athens philosophical schools were forced to close, because they were challenging the Christian doctrine of the so-called medieval Byzantine Empire, where the ancient religion collapsed.

Until 500 years ago, Socrates and Plato teachings were being taught by Christian researches, who are described as neoplatonists. Their work was transferred to the west after the Latin occupation of Constantinople, that bear Renaissance. Today Socrates is admired by the whole world.