The Last Days of Socrates

ISBN: 0140440372
ISBN 13: 9780140440379
By: Plato Hugh Tredennick

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About this book

The trial and condemnation of Socrates on charges of heresy and corrupting young minds is a defining moment in the history of Classical Athens. In tracing these events through four dialogues, Plato also developed his own philosophy, based on Socrates' manifesto for a life guided by self-responsibility. Euthyphro finds Socrates outside the court-house, debating the nature of piety, while The Apology is his robust rebuttal of the charges of impiety and a defense of the philosopher's life. In the Crito, while awaiting execution in prison, Socrates counters the arguments of friends urging him to escape. Finally, in the Phaedo, he is shown calmly confident in the face of death, skilfully arguing the case for the immortality of the soul.

Reader's Thoughts

Ken Moten

Since I have individually reviewed each dialogue concerning their content I will be personal here. I obviously enjoyed reading these dialogues. I was not only enlightened by them but moved as well in certain parts, more by Socrates' friends than the man himself. This really should be the jumping off point for anyone interested in philosophy because it sets the tone and you can compare every strand of philosophy after it against it. Plato did not create [western] philosophy obviously but he sure did make it into something amazing and it would be worth anyones time to check him out. I will always admire the Socratic method even though I am in no way able to pull it off (trust me I've tried) but it is poetry to read. We could all benefit from a revival of Plato in society but since I won't hold my breath those who have read him can be thankful for the opportunity. (I read these dialogues as apart of the Classics of Western Philosophy anthology)

Steve Hemmeke

It was very jarring to read Plato, after 10 years or so of self-consciously affirming the goodness of God's physical world. The material and sensory is not something to flee as a hindrance to the soul, though it can be that.For all his careful argumentation, Socrates asserts some whoppers. How do you get from the essence of the soul being life, to the soul must be immortally alive? Faced with his own death, one would think it's possible to believe that a thing can be alive now, yet not be everlastingly so. Do all animals also have immortal souls, since they are alive and their bodies expire? I think they would by Socrates' logic.His is a stoic worldview. Send the family away and let's discuss philosophy for the last hour of my life. I don't want a nice dinner, just give me the poison and don't cry. Total detachment from the material world is the goal. It's almost Buddhist.There are some big questions put out for consideration, of course. Is something right because the gods like it, or do the gods like it because it is right? This dilemma from Euthyphro is false, and Socrates seems to do this a lot. Leading questions and false choices can lead you to some strange conclusions.

Ryan Kaufman

In my ignorance, I always thought of Plato and the other Ancient Greek philosophers as enemies to the Christian faith, even though they had some good ideas here and there. After reading this book (my first book by Plato or Aristotle) I realized how silly that was, as Socrates (Plato's mouthpiece), though a polytheist, very often has ideas that are very compatible with the true nature of reality, and both implicitly and explicitly expresses his beliefs about what sounds like a sovereign and single god above the others that is worthy of all our devotion. The book records the final days of Socrates, his court trial and dialogues with and among friends of Socrates. A good intro to Ancient Greek philosophy that is easily accessible and fun to read, especially The Apology, where Socrates is attacked and forced to defend his belief and work.


You know, Socrates was kindof a dick.


“Such was the end of our friend, Socrates, a man who, we would say, was the best of all those we've experienced and, generally speaking, the wisest and the most just."This book is a collection of four dialogues about the last days of the philosopher, Socrates. Through them readers get to know Socrates, his friends and the people who condemned him. The philosophical arguments presented are both straightforward and complex. They address issues of death, the immortality of the soul and the purpose of being a philosopher. This was one of my first major forays into Ancient Greek literature and I was very excited to delve into Plato.The first dialogue is called “Euthyphro” and I found it a challenge. Socrates debates the nature of holiness with Euthyphro and some of the abstractions used in his argument were difficult to picture. I had to turn them into examples just to try and visualize what Socrates was talking about. For example, one question asked whether something was holy because it was loved or was it loved because it was holy? I pictured Zeus and the oak tree. Is it holy because Zeus loves it or does he love it because it’s holy? This boggled my mind and gave me a lot to think about. It's here we learn that Socrates is accused of impiety and corrupting the young. He continually praises Euthyphro's wisdom and flatters his knowledge of religion, seemingly to the detriment of his own argument. I re-read sections several times to grasp their meaning and of all four dialogues it took the longest to finish.In “The Apology”, Socrates defends himself against his accusers. This is essentially the dialogue that takes place inside the ‘court room’. Here we witness Socrates' arrogance. Time and again he says he is a better man than everyone else yet, in the previous dialogue he spent so much time downplaying his intelligence and supposed superiority. This multi-dimensionality of character makes him real in my eyes. His memory only lives on in books and he isn't always likeable but that's what makes me like him so much. Real people are complex, layered individuals and Plato makes Socrates come alive on the page.It "Crito", Socrates is in prison with his friend Crito trying to convince him to escape. There are many people willing to help Socrates who could then live out the rest of his life in another city. Socrates resists, saying that fighting the will of the Athenian people would be wrong. He would rather accept death than exile. His argument seems backwards and contrary until you read the next dialogue.“Phaedo” is the longest and most convoluted of the dialogues. In it Plato summarily deconstructs his friends' arguments against his surrender to death and logically convinces them of the immortality of the soul and life after death despite the lack of hard proof. He asks mind-blowing questions such as "when does the soul attain truth?" This is also where we get the quote "the life which is unexamined is not worth living." It’s actually very impressive to read how Socrates sets up his argument and then manipulates the conversation for his own ends. He was clearly a master with words.The difficulty in reading these works is that they are conveying dialogue from a second-hand source. We aren’t hearing these words from Socrates himself. Instead they’re filtered through Plato to us. As such, there’s no real way to tell how much of the writing is truth, how much is embellishment or if it’s a full out lie. This is compounded by the fact that Socrates left no written record of his work. This may speak to his innocence of 'corrupting the youth of Athens' as he didn't seem interested in getting his works out into the public. 'I had a great time reading this book and despite its shortness, was challenged by the arguments within. I found it interesting that while the book was by Plato, it concerned itself with Socrates and his words. We learn more about him than we ever do about Plato and Socrates didn't seem like the nicest guy. He was arrogant and lorded it over people when it suited his argument and hid feelings of superiority when it didn't. Part of me felt that Socrates just seemed to give up and succumb to his sentence. In fact, by the time he was put on trial he was an old man and had lived a full life with a family. He even argues that no one, least of all he, should be upset at his passing. He convincingly argued and believed in life after death. Free from its earthly body, his soul would dwell amongst other true philosophers. I disagreed with his belief that a philosopher's main goal was the study of death though. I've always felt that philosophy was a study of learning how to live and why things are they way they are. The writer Xenophon also has an account of Socrates' trial. It would be interesting to see how the two contrast. It would serve to illustrate what I said about second-hand information. Truth gets obscured the further you are from the source. I would recommend this book but not for anyone looking for a quick read. This is not a work to skim. I would say it requires contemplation and introspection. If you're in for a challenge and want to understand the roots of philosophy, pick this up.


THE TRIAL AND EXECUTION OF SOCRATES. (this ed. 1972) Plato. ****. This work, although in a different version, was required reading for my first humanities course in college in 1957. Yes, there were colleges back then, and Plato was not one of my classmates. At the time, I’m not sure that I fully understood what I was reading, but made sure that I understood enough to pass any quiz – announced or unannounced. On re-reading it, I came to the realization that Socrates was not a philosopher. He was not a teacher, either. He had nothing to teach. His role in life was to share with his followers the technique of asking the right questions, and once learned, getting to the right answer. Plato, along with Xenophon and many others, was one of his followers, and the three sets of dialogs in this work covers the trial, the meeting of Socrates with his friends afterwards, and the manner of his death. This is another of those must-reads of classic literature. The specific edition I read this time was a publication by The Folio Society in 1973. The translator and author of the introduction was Peter George, and illustrations were provided by Michael Ayrton. Recommended.

Regina Lindsey

The Last Days of Socrates by Plato4 StarsLittle historical evidence survives regarding Socrates. The most well-known source is from his pupil, Plato. Through four dialogues, Plato describes the circumstances surrounding Socrates’ indictment, his trial, his imprisonment, and his death. At the age of seventy, Socrates was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death on two charges – encouraging the worship of gods not recognized by the state and corrupting the youth of Athens. Socrates argued his own case, pleading for intellectual freedom and the promotion of ethics. When he is convicted he is allowed visits by his friend, Crito. Crito has prepared plans for Socrates’ escape; however, Socrates argues the ultimate responsibility of a citizen is to the State and its laws. On the day the poison arrives for Socrates to drink he is surrounded by students and friends, and Plato records that day’s events. I read this on my Nook and, while the translations seemed to be a good one, the formatting was awkward. But, I’m really glad I read it. As Socrates defends himself the reader gets a first hand glimpse at his use of logic and use of questioning to break down an issue. Socrates asserts that the crux of the charges comes down him offending the people in power when he questioned their wisdom. In the portrayal of Socrates, Plato does bring Socrates across as arrogant. I can see how he would easily make enemies. But, for me the most fascinating part of the book was Socrates use of logic and physical examples to argue in favor of man’s immortal soul. It is a fascinating read, a nice translation, and a fascinating look at Athens during a pivotal moment of transition in its history.


This book was a fantastic example of owning up to your beliefs, values, and standards. I really should give it a re-visit... I wish I could remember where I put it... =PFurther- people who read about Socrates' death will be either of these two types: (a) those who believe Socrates accepted the death penalty to ease the pain of his old age; a "quick and painless death" so to speak... or (b) those who believe he saw a life of exile to be insignificant and cowardly; and agreeing to the false charges in exchange for his life would be dishonerable... I believe that the latter person has actually grasped the power of Plato's words, and has transgressed the pessimistic mindset of most Americans.

Alex Woods

I read the "Apology" portion of this work. My first reaction to Socrates' Apology was one of awe. I have yet to pinpoint exactly what gave me such a reaction, but the combination of Plato's writing and Socrates' ideas probably had something to do with it. On a basic level, I really enjoyed getting insights into the structure of the Ancient Greek political and social systems. For me, the genius of Socrates' Apology is that he is able to effectively apply pure logic in a world where a less logical polytheistic religion is still in place. He points out how his accusers' allegations are blatantly wrong; he takes each and every part and breaks it down logically, unpacking it and showing its flaws. The subject matter of Apology isn't very interesting, and it doesn't have much of a plot. However, I definitely found value in reading it for the sake of experiencing the powerful writing and ideas offered by Plato and Socrates. I'd recommend it to someone looking for a book that provides a stimulating intellectual experience.

Lucy Phelan

The portrayal of Socrates is so insightful, you can imagine being in Ancient Greece and having that terribly repetitive conversation with him. Plato has really captured the essence of his mentor and I find that absolutely astounding, more so, I feel compelled to read up about Socrates every time. To my amazement, his portrayal hasn't only bought Socrates to life but it has made him immortal, for thousands of years he has been living in this fantastically written piece of literature spreading his philosophy and beliefs through the words of Plato. For a man who was present during the dawn of civilisation, he has portrayed such a sophisticated and abstract outlook for the era and more so, his teachings have been imprinted in Plato's life so much, that he can portray a man with such amazing detail. It's almost as though Plato has carved a sculpture with words, although his dialog is simplistic in nature; it has created a complex character with complex ideals, making Plato a true scholar.

Fernando Álvarez

Dialogos I de Platón comprende la Apología de Sócrates y Fedón. La Apología de Sócrates narra el juicio de muerte que se le imputa al mencionado personaje por "penetrar en los misterios del cielo y de la tierra", y enseñarlos públicamente. Sócrates es acusado de corrupción de menores y de creer en los demonios, siendo condenando a muerte. Pero para él, morir así era la suprema sanción a su doctrina y el último acto necesario de su destino. Sócrates pensaba una de dos cosas: o la muerte es un anonadamiento absoluto y entonces es una ventaja escapar por la insensibilidad a todos los males de la vida, o es el tránsito de un lugar a otro, y en este caso, ¿no es la mayor felicidad verse transportado a la mansión de los justos?.Fedón es un relato vivaz del último día de vida y de la muerte de Sócrates. El libro narra la conversación que Sócrates tiene con sus discípulos, en su mayor parte Simmias y Cebes, y expone su argumento de dedicar la vida a la filosofía hasta el último momento, inició una conversación hasta el momento que debía beber la cicuta. En esta conversación, Sócrates habla de la esperanza de encontrar una vida mejor. El filósofo aspira a bienes invisibles como el alma misma e imposibles en este mundo, espera la muerte con alegría, como término del tiempo de prueba que le separa de esos mismos bienes,que han sido para él objeto de meditación durante toda su vida.


Ok, classic texts with amazing and mind boggling philosophical discussions...But I couldn't help but notice how much Sherlock Holmes was based on Socrates. The more I read, the more I concluded that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was at least somewhat inspired by the great, but annoying philosopher who sarcastically proved that everyone around him was an idiot and his best friend who recorded all the stories. Further evidence, Doyle paraphrases Plato.After Socrates' forced suicide: "Such was the end of our friend, Socrates, a man who, we would say, was the best of all those we've experienced and, generally speaking, the wisest and the most just"After Sherlock's faked suicide, John writes of the end of "him whom I shall ever regard as the best and the wisest man whom I have ever known."


When he was tried, convicted and ordered to death in 399 B.C.E., Socrates was already seventy years old: he had lived through the imperialistic spread of Athenian democracy and culture under Pericles, twenty-five years of first cold and then heated war with Sparta, the defeat of Athens in 404 B.C.E., the short-lived oligarchy imposed on that city by the Spartans, and finally the reestablishment of democracy in his homeland. During all of that time, the former bricklayer was known for practicing philosophy in the public spaces of Athens using his inimitable style of questioning those in authority who feigned virtue and wisdom while in reality lacking it. This technique gradually garnered him many powerful enemies who did their best to poison public opinion against him. Socrates was often confused with the Sophists, traveling teachers who sought to satisfy the public need for higher education generated by a democracy in which any male citizen could be called upon to serve in courts or assemblies. But Socrates was ostensibly not interested in teaching per se: his aim was to uncover the lack of virtue, honesty and wisdom in those around him and to encourage them to learn, as virtue is knowledge, and once one knows what is right, truly knows it, one is no longer capable of doing wrong. He often obliquely criticized democratic systems, and indeed, the power consolidation democracy afford the majority was exactly what did him in.While Plato has only reported Socrates’ words (and a few said by Meletus, one of his accusers), we do get a filtered idea of the sort of argument the prosecution was making: democracy had only recently been restored in Athens, and certain elements of the population, probably motivated, as Socrates claims, by years of resentment toward the philosopher, wanted to brand his sort of “teaching” (for despite his claims to the contrary, he was indeed teaching by example, at the very least) as destructive to the democratic institutions that Socrates himself often seemed to oppose (as evidenced in his Dialogues, which Plato also transcribed). But the prosecution is largely silent, and we can more clearly analyze what Socrates does. Throughout his defense he employs a disingenuousness that likely irked his opponents: he begins by assuming a humble excuse-my-illiteracy sort of stance, and gradually abdicates all responsibility for the message he is putting across (i.e., authority figures are hypocritical boobs), by appealing to a deus ex machina device (the oracle’s decree and god’s voice in his ear). However, there is considerable nobility and courage in his refusal to kowtow to the Assembly’s expectations that he’ll beg for mercy, and his dissection of the trumped-up charges is perfectly executed. The shift in tone after he’s been found guilty is interesting: no longer is the prosecution the brunt of his surgical, nearly sarcastic grandstanding: those voting against him catch it full on as he with great guts demands to be rewarded for “corrupting” the youth of Athens the way winners in the Olympics were. His withering prophecies to all of Athens after he’s been sentenced to death indicate a third tone shift, short-lived as it is. He finally becomes introspective with his friends as the document closes, and his inspiring advice and requests serve as telling indicators of his real personality (as opposed to his philosopher persona): someone who loved his family and neighbors so much that he was willing to risk his life to make them good people.

David Rush

In honor of Neil deGrasse Tyson saying philosophy should not only NOT be studied, but actually causes harm to people, I decided to read some Plato. And of course the easiest was The Last Days of Socrates.I read it like a novel and made no attempt to give myself context, so keep that in mind. Euthyphro seems like a lot of work for little return, and in fact it seem in that book Socrates is saying people should be able to take the law in their own hand. But in later books he says the opposite. Plus the arguments seem to go in circles.The apology is pretty entertaining and it convinced me that I don't want to go to trial in ancient Greece.In Crito Socrates do a good job of explaining why he feels obliged to carry through with his suicide, and not slip out of town like his friends want him to.Phaedo is the longest and hardest to get through, but it also lets you see what a different way of looking at the world people had back then. It is interesting to think of this time as the genesis of some much to come throughout history. Especially the obsession with seeing the mind as the source of knowledge and only by separating mind from body will true wisdom come.“we are in fact convinced that if we ever to have pure knowledge of anything, we must get rid of the body and contemplate things by themselves with the soul by itself.” Pg111I have to admit it is odd for a nobody like be to be able to see where all these philosopher were starting their arguments with presumptions, assumptions and premises. Most of them were really wacky things about the things they “knew” about the soul and what God or gods want. The end of Phaedo is really quite moving when he drinks the poison...well done Plato!All in all, it was good to read and it really does make you think, and even though I am not as bright as Neil deGrasse Tyson, I think that is a good thing. And who can argue with Socrates saying “..the really important thing is not to live, but to live well”?Some of the views are actually downright dangerous now...“are you not ashamed that you give your attention to acquiring as much money as possible, and similarly with reputation and honor, and give no attention or thought to truth and understanding and perfection of your soul?” Pg 61

Erik Simon

(It seems odd to be allowed to give Plato a star rating.)I'm not a scholar. I don't say that derisively. I have the highest admiration for scholars, their tireless and dogged pursuit, and any criticism I would level would be at their penchant to become rather narrow in their focus. But again, I'm not a scholar, I'm just a reader, and I have to say that as just a reader, I tend to surprise myself by the books I'll go ahead and read. To wit, this one. Why, at the age of forty-four, with no real reason to read Plato, do I pick this book up? Who knows, but I'm a better chap for it.Not a classicist, I can offer no worthwhile comments on these books or the translation, but I will say this: I love, LOVE, that Socrates claimed he was only doing the gods a favor by running around and pointing out to people just how ignorant they were. And I was moved, quite moved, by his death in PHAEDO, his stoic greeting of it, and the actual event after the long discussion on the immortality of the soul.

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