Log in

No account? Create an account

Daily · Dreamtime

After listening to I.F. Stone I learned about the term "Socratified"

Recent Entries · Archive · Friends · Profile

* * *
After listening to I.F. Stone I learned about the term "Socratified"

The second charge against Socrates, that he had corrupted the youth of Athens, was even more damning. The foremost examples of the gilded youth he led astray was Alcibiades and Critias, although Socrates' effect on the rich young aristocratic fops was already mentioned in Aristophanes' "The Birds," written in 414 B.C., fifteen years before he was called to account:



Why, till ye built this city in the air, _____ line 1280
All men had gone Laconian-mad; they went __ [Spartan-mad]
Long-haired, half-starved, unwashed, Socratified,
With scytales in their hands; but Oh the change!
They are all bird-mad now, and imitate ____ line 1284

Aristophanes made fun of the dandies with their Spartan habits, dress, and even carrying their little Spartan secret police short clubs about town, but this was before the rich kids turned mean. When he mentions the intellectual beliefs of the Athenian "Spur Posse" as being "Socratified" he refers to their instilled beliefs that they were better than everyone else and that the poor and middle class were disposable human beings they could use with impunity.

One rich kid named Alcibiades was a relative of Pericles and raised in Pericles' own household. Brilliant, handsome, rich, and of noble birth, Alcibiades had it all, except for a good character. As a general, he betrayed Athens, fled to Sparta, knocked up a Spartan king's wife and was kicked out of Sparta as a troublemaker, ran back to Athens, got elected general again, betrayed Athens again and was kicked out, then fled to Persia where he was killed upon the orders of another Athenian rich kid named Critias who set up a dictatorship backed by the Spartans. The Athenians loved Alcibiades, but nobody could trust him.

Alcibiades was Socrates' favorite pupil. Socrates saved his life on a battlefield. But the lesson Alcibiades learned from Socrates was that the rulers have no duty to their country; that their ambitions and desires come ahead of the common herd's well-being and lives. Alcibiades was a Socratified "superman."

The other pupil of Socrates mentioned in this indictment was Critias. Critias was Plato's uncle and Plato wrote a dialogue about him. In 411, an aristocratic over-throw of the Athenian democracy occurred and Athens lived in a state of terror for four months until they were able to restore a democracy. In 404, Athens lost the Peloponnesian war and the Spartans installed a puppet government of the aristocratic "Socratified" element.

The leader of The Thirty, Critias, was the Athenian Robespierre. He killed and murdered as many Athenians from the middle and poor classes as the Spartans had killed in battle over the last ten years of the war. The democratic element fled Athens and waged a civil war and retook the city the next year. To have it said that you had stayed in the city was thereafter a mark of reproach.

But a mark of reproach was all it was, because Athens did one thing not done before or since -- it forgave. An amnesty was offered. Even the aristocrats were offered amnesty without an acre of their lands being confiscated or a copper obol of their money seized. They were not loved, they were not respected, but they were allowed to live in peace.

Critias and another leader of The Thirty, Plato's uncle Charmides, a man Socrates urged to go into government, didn't live to see the armistice. Before they were overthrown, like Nazis seeking refuge in South America, the Thirty carved out a temporary refuge in the small village Eleusis, where they murdered 300 of the male citizens under color of law, having forced an Athenian assembly to vote in a death sentence without trial. Soon afterwards, Critias and Charmides were killed in battle and the amnesty declared.

The aristocrats left for Eleusis and used their money to buy mercenaries to attack Athens. The alarmed Athenians executed the ringleaders, but still extended the amnesty to the rest. Finally, in 401 B.C., two years before Socrates' trial and death, a weary, tired peace came to Athens, who had lost a war, her empire, and many of her citizens.

Socrates remained in Athens and kept his mouth shut when mildly threatened by his Socratified pupils of The Thirty.

Plato does not allude to these matters for some reason. He was 25 years old, military age, and was urged to share in his uncle's and first cousin's government, but like so many "intellectuals," he wussed out. He preferred government by "philosopher-kings" in a book, but never did anything to actually attain it.

So now Athens is as whupped as a cut dog. Her walls have been torn down by order of the victorious Spartans and she has no navy. A civil war between rich and poor has weakened her social cohesion and confidence among her populace. And here comes Socrates, an intellectual Bourbon having remembered everything and learning nothing, preaching the gospel and glories of Spartan style despotism and wanting to teach a new generation of rich kids to despise their elders and their social order.

Athens had had enough.

Athens put Socrates on trial in 399 B.C. when he was 70, a ripe old age considering the times. If Socrates had put on a defense of demanding that Athens live up to its high ideals, perhaps he might have only been ostracized for ten years, a fate that had happened to both good and bad men before him. But instead, in accordance with his wanting to destroy the moral legitimacy of a free government by using its judicial system to fulfill his death wish, he baited both the jury to find him guilty and to punish him with death.

Socrates, who always said that he knew nothing while he asked his destructively critical questions boasted about how the Oracle at Delphi declared that Socrates was the wisest, most free, just, and prudent man in the world. In other words, "I am a fool, but I know I'm a fool and that makes me smarter than you." The jury convicted him on both counts. Then Socrates asked that his penalty be that he be declared a civic hero and fed at the public table for life! That did not go over too well. The jury, incensed, gave out the death penalty.

One of Socrates' disciples suggested a jailbreak and escape, with the tacit connivance of the authorities who just wanted him gone, but Socrates refused. So he drank the hemlock while he put on the airs of a martyr. After all that he had done for democratic Athens, this is the thanks he got! Christ wept over Jerusalem, but Socrates shed not a tear for Athens.

Socrates' most famous pupil, Plato, figured out the heat was on, so he traveled abroad for 12 years, living on his inherited money. Then when the stink cleared, he gave up his notions of becoming a playwright and instead wrote up numerous books about his leading man, Socrates. He formed an academy, wherein his most gifted student, Aristotle, studied. Of course, Aristotle formed his own conclusions, most of which differed from Plato's.No philosopher kings for Aristotle! Aristotle's royal pupil was Alexander the Great.

Read Plato, Aristotle, Xenophon, Aristophanes yourself to judge how a man like Socrates acted upon the Athenian stage. Fifth century Athens was possibly the brightest and most beautiful civilization that ever graced this planet. Fourth century Athens did not shine as brightly, and afterwards Athens did not produce any more great men or institutions. Athenians became like the Mayans, living in stone huts outside the splendid ruins of their ancestors. Socrates should bear some of the blame for this.

* * *