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While Greece struggles to form government amidst a burgeoning national debt, it has decided to host a retrial of proceedings which led to Socrates’ death over 2,400 years ago.
The retrial, which many have labelled a ‘desperate debacle’, was held at the Onassis Foundation in Athens last Friday and was attended by Greece’s top lawyers.
The lawyers represented Socrates (who spoke for himself during his trial), while a panel of 10 US and European judges heard their pleas.
Billed as “a lesson for modern times of revolution and crisis”, the trial aimed to highlight the issues of democracy and free speech (raised by Socrates at the time) in light of recent events.
In 399 BC, Socrates was made to drink poisonous hemlock after being found guilty of “evil-doing, impiety and corrupting the young”. The verdict was reached by a jury of hundreds of Athenians, even though Socrates defiantly protested his innocence to the last.
Socrates’ methods of sceptical inquiry had earned him powerful enemies, as they clashed with the Athenian ideals of politics and society. Plato referred to him as the “gadfly” (which stings a horse into action) of the state, as he irritated Athenians by questioning their ideals on justice and ‘goodness’.
In refinding the verdict, the judges were evenly split, with five voting guilty and five not guilty, which meant under Athenian law he was acquitted. Socrates’ death was found needless.
One New York judge who voted against him, Loretta Preska, said “Socrates comes before us feigning humility, yet demonstrating arrogance”.. “He is a dangerous subversive”.
French lawyer Patrick Simon, who pleaded for his acquittal, said “my client has one fault: he likes to poke fun and is fiercely ironic. By acquitting him, you will show how solid and reliable democracy is.”
However, Timothy Trombane, analyst at the Department of Enterprising Bailout Tactics (DEBT), says scrutinising the events surrounding Socrates’ death merely highlights that Greek democracy is about as solid as a glass of cordial.
He says not only are Greeks presently unable to agree on anything, they’re spending what little money they have on dead philosophers and French lawyers when they could be expanding the country’s highly-regarded cooking shows.