Socrates on Trial Redux Redux

Speaking of courts, we probably should catch up with that retrial of Socrates we mentioned as being about to happen earlier this week (Socrates Going on Trial Again). The retrial received rather scant  media coverage and, as usually happens in these things, Socrates was found not guilty. Here’s the incipit of the AFP coverage:

Judges narrowly acquitted Socrates, the philosopher whose teachings earned him a death sentence in ancient Athens, in a retrial Friday billed as a lesson for modern times of revolution and crisis.

Socrates spoke himself at his trial in the fourth century BC, but this time in his absence, a panel of 10 US and European judges heard pleas by top Greek and foreign lawyers at the event at the Onassis Foundation in Athens.

Judges then voted on whether he was guilty on the ancient charges of evil-doing, impiety and corrupting the young.

In 399 BC, Socrates was made to die by drinking hemlock poison after being convicted by a jury of hundreds of Athenians. Unrepentant, he had insulted the judges at his trial and cheekily asked to be rewarded for his actions.

The modern judges spared him that dishonour this time, with an even vote — five guilty and five not guilty, meaning that under ancient Athenian law he was not convicted.

Socrates’ method of sceptical inquiry, preserved by his disciple Plato and other ancient authors, questioned conventional wisdom on sensitive notions of politics, religion and morality and earned him powerful enemies.

He was branded an enemy of democracy, accused of treason in favour of the Spartan enemy, and of influencing a violent uprising against the Athenian republic by a group of oligarchs that included some of his pupils.

“Socrates comes before us feigning humility, yet demonstrating arrogance,” said Loretta Preska, a New York district judge who presided at Friday’s trial and voted to convict him.

“He is a dangerous subversive.”

Pleading earlier in Socrates’ defence, prominent French lawyer Patrick Simon said: “An opinion is not a crime. Socrates was searching for the truth.

He added: “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.”

Versed in Socratic literature, the legal brains came from Britain, France, Germany, Greece, Switzerland and the United States.

“In order not to complicate this trial unnecessarily, penalty will not be decided,” Preska said. The prosecution and judges who voted to convict said they did not favour the death penalty.

At an earlier enactment of the trial in New York last year, Socrates was likewise acquitted. […]

via: Socrates acquitted in ancient trial re-run (AFP via Google)

Derivatives of AFP’s coverage:

The link on the Onassis Cultural Center’s page for the event seems to suggest the trial took six hours, but it doesn’t appear they actually recorded it (alas). There is a list there of the folks involved and the vote tallies … If you’re interested in last year’s version (also an Onassis Foundation thing): Socrates Retried Redux … In case you haven’t watched it yet, Andrew Irvine’s production of a reenactment is still definitely worth a look (Socrates on Trial) as is UM-KC’s page on the ‘famous trial’, although in the latter’s case, the heavily-I.F. Stone -dependent-view should probably be tempered with that of Paul Cartledge (Socrates Had it Coming).

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