Why Socrates Died - Robin Waterfield

Review :

Waterfield builds a strong case for the logical inevitability of Socrates trial and execution. Set against a backdrop of civil war, loss of empire, and the murderous but blessedly brief reign of the 30 tyrants, Socrates' lack of love for democracy, and close association with the oligarchs, left him looking like the enemy of a threatened people.

In the course of a gallop through the Peloponnesian Wars, Waterfield shines a light on areas not covered by Thucydides, filling in many gaps for the reader's general knowledge.

For those who know Plato's dialogues (especially Alcibiades, Gorgias and Symposium) better than they know Attic history, Alcibiades' may be the chief interest here. Socrates as teacher was trying to influence key people in Athenian society to build his ideal moral and political system - and we see in this work that Athens didn't react kindly to the results of his efforts.

Also fascinating (to me) is the explanation of Athens' legal system in all its democratic glory. Seems the very model of Rebekah Wade's tabloid lynch mob ideal [1:].

The useful bibliography at the end saddened me a little, as all of the Socratic translations & editions [2:] are published after I last bought one, so it looks like I need to get new editions before my next re-read & re-evaluation of Plato. So sad to have to buy more books, eh ;^)


[1:] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rebekah_...
[2:] Of course it's just possible that Mr Waterfield wants us to buy his editions for purely selfish reasons - but I think I'll give him the benefit of the doubt ;)


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