|The Story of the Greeks|
|by Helene A. Guerber|
| Elementary history of Greece, made up principally of stories about persons, giving at the same time a clear idea of the most important events in the ancient world and calculated to enforce the lessons of perseverance, courage, patriotism, and virtue that are taught by the noble lives described. Beginning with the legends of Jason, Theseus, and events surrounding the Trojan War, the narrative moves on to present the contrasting city-states of Sparta and Athens, the war against Persia, their conflicts with each other, the feats of Alexander the Great, and annexation by Rome. Ages 10-14 |
DEATH OF SOCRATES
THE false accusation made against Socrates by his enemies
soon had the desired effect, for the Tribunal gave
orders for his arrest and trial. The philosopher, sure
of his innocence, came before his judges, and calmly
answered their questions.
He told them he had never turned the gods into
ridicule, as he knew it was wrong to make fun of
anything which others deemed sacred. Then, as they
 pressed him to explain his views, he
confessed that he believed there was a God greater and
better than any they worshiped.
As to teaching the young men anything which could do
them harm, he said it was quite impossible; for he had
ever told them that they should be as good, virtuous,
and helpful as they could, which was surely not wrong.
Socrates gave noble answers to all their questions; but
the judges, blinded with prejudice, believed the lying
charges of his enemies, which Socrates scorned to
contradict. The philosopher's friends begged him to use
his eloquence to defend himself and confound his
accusers; but he calmly refused, saying, "My whole life
and teaching is the only contradiction, and the best
defense I can offer."
Socrates, as you have seen, was really one of the best men that
ever lived, and, without having ever heard of the true
God, he still believed in him. Nearly four centuries
before the coming of Christ, when people believed in
revenge, he preached the doctrine of "Love one another" and
"Do good to them that hate you."
But, in spite of all his goodness and constant
uprightness, Socrates the philosopher was condemned to
the shameful death of a base criminal.
Greece, criminals were forced to drink a cup of a
deadly poison at sunset on the day of their
condemnation, and there was generally but a few hours'
delay between the sentence and its execution. But the
law said that during one month in the year no such
punishment should be inflicted. This was while an
 was away on voyage to the island of
Delos to bear the annual offerings to Apollo's shrine.
As Socrates was tried and condemned at this season, the
people were forced to await the return of the vessel
before they could kill him: so they put him in prison.
Here he was chained fast, yet his friends were allowed
to visit him and talk with him.
Day after day the small
band of his pupils gathered around him in prison; and,
as some of them were very rich, they bribed the jailer,
and arranged everything for their beloved master's
When the time came, and Socrates was told that he could
leave the prison unseen, and be taken to a place of
safety, he refused to go, saying that it would be against
the law, which he had never yet disobeyed.
In vain his friends and disciples begged him to save
his life: he would not consent. Then Crito, one of his
pupils, began to weep, in his distress, and exclaimed
indignantly, "Master, will you then remain here and die
"Of course," replied Socrates, gravely. "Would you
rather I should die guilty?"
Then, gathering his disciples around him, he began to
talk to them in the most beautiful and solemn way about
life and death, and especially about the immortality of
This last conversation of Socrates was so attentively
listened to by his disciple Plato, the wisest among
them all, that he afterward wrote it down from memory
almost word for word, and thus kept it so that we can
still read it.
As the sun was slowly setting on that last day, the
 sacred vessel came back from Delos. The time of waiting
was ended, and now the prisoner must die. The jailer
interrupted this beautiful last talk, and entered the
cell, bringing the cup of poison.
Socrates took the cup from his hand and drained it,
unmoved, telling his disciples that he felt sure that
death was only birth into another and better world.
Then he bade them all farewell.
As he was a good and scrupulous man, very careful about
paying his debts and keeping his promises, he now told
Crito to remember that he had promised to sacrifice a
cock to Æsculapius, the god of medicine, and bade
him do it in his stead.
He then lay down upon his hard prison bed, and while he
felt the chill of death slowly creeping upward toward
his heart, he continued to teach and exhort his pupils
to love virtue and do right.
All his last sayings were carefully treasured by Plato,
who wrote them down, and who concludes the story of his
death in these beautiful words: "Thus died the man who,
of all with whom we are acquainted, was in death the
noblest, and in life the wisest and best."
Some time after the death of Socrates, the Athenians
found out their mistake. Filled with remorse, they
recalled the sentence which had condemned him, but they
could not bring him back to life. In token of their
sorrow, however, they set up a statue of him in the
heart of their city.
This statue, although made of bronze, has long ceased
to exist; but the remembrance of Socrates' virtues is
still held dear, and all who know his name both love
and honor him.
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