Historical Parallels of the trial and death of Socrates death of Socrates, a suicide

Fashion and hairstyle repeats itself, why not history What happened in Ancient Greece may also occur in Renaissance Italy or take place during the reign of King Henry VIII in England. Unfortunately, it was not the toga that was in vogue during such subsequent periods but persecution due to ones beliefs and principles. Socrates, Galileo and Sir Thomas More may live in different places and times but each experienced their own kind of inquisition.

Around 399 B.C., Socrates was widely accepted as the wisest man, but such popularity was not shared by all. Although the Athenian government was democratic at the time, it was severely traditionalist and reactionary in its religious views that Socrates, as a teacher of different views of morality and justice was unpopular. Socrates deeply offended the men in power by showing them their shortcomings Ultimately, Socrates was accused of impiety and neglect of the Gods whom the city worships and the practice of religious novelties and the corruption of the young. This led to a trial by jury and the execution of Socrates by drinking hemlock-based liquid.

Like Socrates, Galileo Galilei was also misunderstood. He was an Italian physicist and astronomer in the late Renaissance period. He lived in an era where the influential arm of the Church censored publication, even schools. During such time, the Church, laid down the ruling of 1616 that Catholics could only use Copernicanism (Copernicanism is a theory by Copernicus that the Earth and other planets orbit around the sun instead of the Earth) merely as a calculating device but could not say that it was the true system of the universe. Galileo violated the specific rule of the Church and declared himself as pro Copernicanism by publishing a book Dialogues on the Tides. Despite the official licenses of the book, Galileo was summoned before the Inquisition to stand trial for grave suspicion of heresy.

In 16th Century England, a different kind of conflict occurred involving Sir Thomas More an English statesman and writer known for his religious stand against King Henry VIII. At first, More, was one of the favorites of the king who even came to him for philosophical advice. The winds changed when he refused King Henrys request to divorce Catherine of Aragon. The king was offended and had Sir Thomas More imprisoned. During his trial, he refused to take an oath of supremacy, asserting that Parliament did not have the right to usurp papal authority in favor of the king. Condemned for his stand, More was decapitated in 1535.

The similarities between Socrates, Galileo and More can be distinctly noticed. Each had stood for their own beliefs and principles and was persecuted because of it. Each had defied a powerful body in which case, either died or was forced to recant. All of them also faced a trial that had already prejudged. Socrates faced a jury of enraged farmers. Galileo tackled with the Inquisition. Sir Thomas More challenged an unreasonable king. In all cases, it was always about religion.

Another parallel between the three are that they were men before their time. They believed in ideas that were novel or less accepted during such period. The only problem was people hated change. People do not want to be shown their weaknesses.

Socrates and Sir Thomas Mores deaths may be more dramatic than Galileo. Nevertheless, Galileo would always represent the struggle for individual freedom and civil liberties against religious oppression. Sometimes, Galileo symbolizes the conflict between Science and Religion.

Socrates death as Suicide
There are commentators that view Socrates death as suicide. Suicide is defined as the intentional killing of oneself. Reasons for suicide are varied. It may be for religion, culture, honor or a mental disorder to mention a few. It may be argued that Socrates death was suicide as a form of protest. This was illustrated when Socrates was given the opportunity to suggest his own punishment instead of suggesting exile, he answered sarcastically that he be rewarded for his actions. When asked for a realistic punishment, he suggested a fine. Between death or a fine, the jury chose the former. What is apparent here is that Socrates could have avoided death if he only behaved himself and recommended exile.

Another reason why Socrates death could be regarded as suicide is its clear definition to kill oneself intentionally. Socrates drank that cup of hemlock willingly and cheerfully with knowledge that it would kill him. No one had to force it down his throat. He even sought the advice of his executioner on the best way to drink it. Thus, his actions show that he indeed killed himself intentionally, hence, suicide.

Lastly, Socrates believed in a souls immortality that there is an afterlife in which the soul will dwell following death. In his conversations with his students, Socrates stated that while death is the ideal home of the soul, man should not commit suicide unless it becomes necessary. Hence, Socrates was not really opposed to the idea of suicide, but only regard it as a last resort. In Socrates standpoint, he prefers death in his own pace and in his own hands than that of an executioner.


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