1. Socrates’ constant desire to analyze traditional human concepts, to achieve their clarity, to preserve the best and eliminate the worst led to confusion or fear among many of his contemporaries, and some of them were even horrified by such unprecedented criticism. Socrates was accused of impiety, of corrupting the youth, undermining the existing political system and even introduction of some new gods. There were three main accusers – Meletus, Anutus, and Lycon. Meletus was a mediocre poet and tragedian, ridiculed by his contemporaries for lack of talent. During the rule of the 30 Tyrants he participated in the persecution of undesirable persons. Socrates – usually temperate in his assessments of even hostile people – characterized Meletus with rather strong expressions. Lycon was an orator or rhetorician (probably one of the numerous demagogues of his time) of about the same caliber as Meletus, hungry for glory. Anutus was a statesman, the apostle of democracy of the type that established after the dictatorship of the 30 Tyrants.
The confrontation between Socrates and the accusers, their approach to life and individual freedom in the conditions of the crisis and collapse of Athenian society, when citizens had to adapt to newly obtained democracy, is the leading motive of the process. With his ideas of education contrasting the reality and public dogmas, Socrates was a stranger for all regimes of the Athens State; the autocracy of Pericles in the 30s of the 5th century; in the period after the terrible plague and the death of Pericles; the oligarchy known as The Four Hundred; the oligarchy of the 30 Tyrants. Nevertheless, none of these regimes directly harmed the thinker, but democracy did, which was declared as the traditional government that resurrected the ancestral democratic values. Insecure and economically weak democracy was seeking favor with the public, was afraid of people and unable to cope with the collapse of society. The state was on the brink of extinction. In these sad circumstances the fathers of renewed democracy, who remembered the days of prosperity, suspected Socrates of being the cause of all perils because he was “advocating the leadership of “the one who knows” over the many who are ignorant” (Grippe). The state nature of religion and education predetermined close inner connection of various charges against philosopher. Therefore, for the traditionalist Athenians the position of his accusers, associating Socrates’ religious innovations with his corrupting influence on young people, sounded pretty convincing. From the point of view of the accusers, his ideas of the gods and related judgments of justice and virtue were corrupting the youth. Activity of Socrates, thus, contradicted the whole style of the Athenian polis life, including religion, morals, politics, and education.
In Socrates’ case, abstractly speaking, the prosecution and the defense could find a lot of arguments in support of their position, for those positions in the case were radically different and irreconcilable. A politically motivated trial against the prominent personality as the carrier and promoter of anti-democratic views predetermined the bias of the interpretation by the accusers of real or imaginary Socrates’ actions and sayings.
Each of the parties succeeded in its goal: for Socrates, the fact of his death sentence just confirmed his opinion of the rejection by the Athenians and the Athenian polis of virtue and justice, and the judges clearly showed who actually managed the affairs and fate of the state. By means of the sentence to Socrates the Athenian Demos impressively demonstrated the practical advantage of the political power over the philosophical truth. The claim of both parties to justice was resolved in practice: the truth of power prevailed over the power of truth.
2. Socrates seems to be pleased with the outcome of the trial. Though it condemned him, morally it brought his enemies to shame. He did everything that a man of his reputation and fortune had to do. Being an old man he was already close to death. His accusers and judges, implicated in fraud, would gain the reputation of people who had killed a wise man. After his passing away, there will be new accusers. In order to defend himself spiritually and morally, he sacrificed himself physically, bodily. He defended himself for the sake of the truth with a sincere willingness to death, which frees the person. In this manner, he lost his cause prudently and wisely, thus winning the deal of his life.
In the desire to persuade Socrates, “Crito” referred to the unjust sentence, recalled the responsibility for the family and children who were in need and without support. Socrates denied the proposal and arguments of “Crito” because the escape from prison was totally unacceptable for him. It would be, in his opinion, a dishonest and criminal act, injustice, and evil. Although the majority in the state can kill us – Socrates argues – in the question of the good, just and beautiful one should not be guided by the majority’s opinion, but by the opinion of intelligent people and the truth itself. The goal, even a high and fair one, does not justify, according to the Ancient Greek philosopher, low and criminal means. In addition, he considered it as impossible to answer by injustice and evil to the same actions of someone else. Socrates repeatedly expressed the idea that it was better to suffer from the injustice of others, than to commit this injustice.
The laws offer Socrates an alternative: if he dies in accordance with the judgment, he will end his life abused by people, not the Law, but if he escapes from prison, disgracefully paying with the insult for the insult and the evil for the evil, it will violate his obligations of a citizen to the state and the Law and cause them harm. This offense will bring upon him the wrath of not only the earthly but also the divine laws, for the laws of Hades, where comes everyone after death, are the brothers of local, earthly laws. Therefore, escape from prison for him would be a betrayal of himself and his work, as well as the position in the court conciliatory towards the accusers and judges. Acceptance of death is a necessary and essential condition in the struggle for justice, unless, of course, this struggle is serious and principled. Devotion to his native polis and its laws was for Socrates the highest ethical standard of the relationship between the citizen and the state.