Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Last Days of Socrates

We are gearing up for a run through the Last Days of Socrates, which will consist of nine dialogues total, eight of them by Plato, so it makes sense to rough out a dramatic timeline for Socrates' last days.


Socrates talks with Theodorus, Theaetetus, and Socrates the Younger about knowledge. At the end of the dialogue he heads out to the stoa of the king archon, for his pretrial hearing, because Meletus is laying an indictment against him for impiety and corrupting the youth.

At the stoa of the king archon, Socrates runs into Euthyphro, who is prosecuting his own father for murder, and they talk about what piety is.

The placement of the Cratylus is controversial, which I'll talk about a bit when we get to it, but in the course of discussion, Socrates mentions that he was talking with Euthyphro early that morning. Socrates discusses the meaning of words with Hermogenes and Cratylus.


Socrates continues his discussion with Theaetetus, Theodorus, Young Socrates; a new person is introduced to the conversation, the Eleatic Stranger.

The discussion between Socrates, Theaetetus, Theodorus, Young Socrates, and the Eleatic Stranger continues.

We do not know how long this period is, but it was probably at least a month.

Socrates' discussion with Hermogenes recorded in Xenophon's Memorabilia 4.8 would occur somewhere in this period.


Plato's Apology
Xenophon's Apology
Plato gives only a defense speech and the dialogue with Meletus during it, but Xenophon also gives some comments afterward. Plato puts himself at the trial, but Xenophon attributes his knowledge of this day to Hermogenes.

Socrates happened to be condemned to death during a religious period in which the Athenians sent a ship to Delos, and by law no one could be executed before it returned. Xenophon sets this period at about thirty days. During this period Socrates regularly has visitors.

Crito has had reliable word that the ship is a day away (but Socrates says he has had a dream that it will take two more days), so this occurs as the period draws to a close. Socrates and Crito discuss the laws of Athens as Crito tries to get Socrates to leave prison.


A large crowd of Socrates' students are with Socrates on his last day. He talks about death and the immortality of the soul with them. It ends with Socrates' death, and Crito closes his eyes and mouth.

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