Andrew Carnegie


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Socrates’s Trial and Death:

As told in Plato’s Apology, Socrates was sentenced to death by a jury of his Athenian peers for “corrupting the young” and “not recognizing the gods which the city recognizes.” Usually execution was carried out shortly after a person had been sentenced, but in Socrates’s case, he was imprisoned for a month between the end of his trial and his execution. This is because his trial coincided with a sacred ritual where an embassy was sent to the island of Delos. In order to maintain purity among Athenians, no executions were to be carried out during the ritual. Therefore, Socrates had to wait a month until his death.

Socrates’s friends had plenty of access to him during this month, and Plato suggests in the Crito that Socrates had the opportunity to escape, but he decided to comply with the law and die for his cause. In the Phaedo, Plato describes the last moments of Socrates’s life before he was forced to kill himself. The method of execution was self-administration of ground-up hemlock dissolved in a drink. This was designed to be less horrifying than the normal method – crucifixion. However, modern medical science has discovered that the effects of the poison were in fact much more harrowing than the gentle and dignified end Plato depicts.

Plato says that Socrates’s last words were, “Crito, we owe a cock to Asclepius; pay it and don’t forget.” Asclepius was the god of healthy, and the sacrifice of a cock was a normal offering of thanks for recovery from illness. Socrates believed he was cured of the disease of life, and was not frightened by his death.

Family Life:

Socrates was married to Xanthippe, a woman noted by Xenophon and others (although not Plato) for her bad temper. The couple had three sons together, two of them small children at the time of Socrates’s death. (Evidently Xenophon’s temper did not harm their marital relations during Socrates’s old age.) Later writings, incorrectly attributed to Aristotle, mention a second wife named Myrto. This marriage supposedly preceded, followed, or bigamously coincided with Socrates’s marriage to Xanthippe.


Most Athenian citizens pictured Socrates to be indifferent to physical hardship, remarkably able to hold his liquor, and possessing a strongly passionate temperament, where anger and sexual desire were kept under restraint by reason. He was described physically as portly, pug-nosed with wide nostrils, and having protruding eyes and thick lips.

Taylor, C.C.M. Socrates.
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998, pg. 8-9, 12-13, 15-16
Greek Philosophers composite volume: 1999
call number: B317.G74 1999