Not guilty: Socrates narrowly acquitted 2,400 years after death

Crisis-enduring Greece received a bit of hope for belated justice. A re-trial of Ancient Greek philosopher Socrates in Athens, the very city that sentenced him to death in 399 BC, ended with his acquittal.

A panel of ten judges from Britain, France, Germany, Greece, Switzerland and the United States was hearing the case at the event at the Onassis Foundation. Five of them cast their votes for “guilty” verdict while five other said “not guilty”.

Unlike the historical proceedings, the judges did not choose the form of punishment, since organizers felt it would unnecessarily complicate the process.

In the original trial Socrates was charged with failing to acknowledge gods worshiped by the city and a separate charge of corrupting the young. His teachings of skepticism challenged conventional moral, political and religious notions, which won him powerful enemies.

Ancient Athens accused him of conspiring with their enemy, the Spartans, to inspire a violent uprising of the Thirty Tyrants, a group of oligarchs, the leader of which was a pupil of Socrates.

The philosopher spoke for himself in the trial before more than 500 jurors. The result was his sentencing to either death by drinking a hemlock-based liquid or permanent exile from the polis. Socrates opted for the former punishment.

The most comprehensive account of the trial is that written by his friend and student Plato.

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0 replies

  1. ‘acquitted’ with a five votes for and five votes against? Am I reading this correctly? I would have called it a ‘mistrial’ and therefore a repeat trial is needed. May be after another 2400 years?

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