The Apology: The Trial of Socrates
Background on Text
• Socrates: Greek philosopher
• Narrated by Plato (student of Socrates)
• gave most of the accounts of Socrates
Historical Context and the Political Challenge/Crisis of the Era/Rise and Fall of Athenian
◦ 469-430 BC: Socrates born after Persian Wars. The "Golden Age" under
Pericles's leadership. Sparta declares war on Athens (Peloponnesian War).
Pericles dies, political structure in shambles
• 427-206 BC: Plato born. Aristophanes' plays satirize Socrates, he fights for Athens in
the Peloponnesian War. 1st overthrow of Athenian democracy by Alcibiades, Socrates'
pupil/associate. This is then overthrown and democracy is restored.
• 404-401 BC: Athens falls to Sparta. 2nd overthrow of democracy by "30 Tyrants" led
by Critias, Socrates' former pupil (also Plato's great-uncle); reduced rights and political
power of Athenians. Tyrants order Socrates and others supposed to arrest Leon of
Salamis (a democrat); Socrates refuses and simply "goes home." Tyrants are
overthrown, democracy is restored. Amnesty laws are passed to prevents prosecution
for actions during or before the reign of tyranny. 3rd attempt to overthrow democracy is
unsuccessful by other young men associated with Socrates (3rd time in 30 years).
• 399 BC: Socrates' trial, conviction, and death sentence by a jury of 500 citizens
representing laws of Athenian democracy
• Athenian Democracy
◦ Citizen: take turns ruling and being ruled