Just Some Notes On Socrates And The Trial Of The Generals.

3406 words - 14 pages

406BC. At the battle of Arginousai, although the Athenians won, some of their ships were sunk. When the Peloponnesian fleet fled the remainder of the Athenian fleet left in pursuit, leaving the Athenian survivors in the water. Some managed to swim to shore; most drowned, and few bodies were recovered. The 8 generals in command of the fleet were tried by the assembly of citizens in an unconstitional manner: by law the generals should have been tried individually, not collectively, and the defendants should have had time to put their case, which they did not. The generals were collectively found guilty, and as a result all were sentenced to death, including Leon, who had been one of the survivors in the water and thus was one of the victims whom this case was purporting to avenge. Two were absent; the remaining 6 were executed forthwith. Sokrates happened to the president of the meeting on that day, so was responsible for seeing that legal procedures were followed, and failed so to do. The people later regretted their actions and the men who pushed through these proposals were prosecuted and found guilty of perverting the constitution and were themselves executed. Six years later Sokrates was prosecuted and executed on a charge of impiety and corrupting the young. See Xen Hell 1.7.1-35This occurred during the year that Socrates served on the Council, having had his name drawn by lot. Furthermore, it happened during that one tenth of the year that his tribe presided over the Council, putting him in a premier position of leadership as one of only fifty Prytanes. The trial grew out of the aftermath of the Battle of Arginousai. This naval battle occurred two years before the end of the Peloponnesian War in the waters between Lesbos and Asia Minor. It was Athens last victory against Sparta. Unfortunately, a storm beset the victorious ships just as the battle was ending and, in light of the rough seas, the generals ordered the fleet home without rescuing their lost and disabled sailors. Due to this decision, as many sailors died at sea as died in the battle itself (some say more).Back in Athens, the turbulent waters of a democratic government losing a war led to a focus on the abandonment of the sailors rather than the naval victory. Six generals (the others had fled) were called before the Council to testify. The Council, in turn, imprisoned them and referred them to the Assembly for trial. Such was the hysteria at the time that a proposal was made to try the accused jointly (apparently to hasten their execution) rather than separately as required by law.In the Council, the Presiding Committee (the Antiochis tribe, Socrates included) first opposed this illegal move. The angry Athenians then turned on council threatening to indict all fifty (upon penalty of death) unless they relented! All but Socrates did so for fear of their lives. The generals were tried as a unit, convicted, and executed (this included Pericles son). Having been the only one to stand...

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