Listen to The Apology by Plato
In 399 BC Socrates was put on trial for his life. The Apology by Plato, a student of Socrates, is an account of what happened at the trial.
The main character is Socrates, possibly saying the actual words he used at his trial. Accused of atheism (belief that no gods exist) and corrupting the youths of Athens, the 70 year old teacher and philosopher made a stirring appeal for acquittal .
You need to understand over a number of years the complaints against Socrates had accumulated; he was called “a criminal and a busybody,prying into things under the earth and up into the heavens”. His audience was a tough crowd; some had already made up their minds about Socrates and were for putting him to death. Socrates spoke to the court “either acquit me or not; but whatever you do, know that I shall never alter my ways, not even if I have to die many times.” The court was composed of 501 citizens. There was no judge or jury; the trial would be decided by a majority vote, 281 to 220 votes guilty.
When he was found guilty, Socrates rejected the options of prison or exile, insisting that if they let him live, they must let him live as he had always done. Thus, Socrates forced the hand of the Athenian jurors, putting them in a position where they must either execute him or let him go free.
Crito and some of Socrates students made plans for Socrates to escape from prison. Socrates rejected such a plan After a short imprisonment, Socrates died after drinking poisonous hemlock.
After Socrates’ death, Plato left Athens to travel to Italy and Egypt. When he returned to Athens he founded the Academy, the first university. Plato would spend the next 20 years teaching at the Academy.