Socrates Going on Trial Again

I first read about this in Greek Reporter a few days ago, but it wasn’t sufficiently detailed for my liking … now ANSA comes through, however:

Have you ever dreamed of having a time machine to travel as you wish into the past and personally witness an historical event? Today, in some ways, this is possible. As a matter of fact the aficionados of great trials will be able to witness online and live the replica of one of the most famous trials in history, the one against the Greek philosopher Socrates which took place about 2500 years ago and ended with the death penalty for the defendant charged with hemlock poisoning. This time there will be new judges in the case and there is the possibility that the final verdict might even be different.

The initiative of repeating the trial, as Kathimerini newspaper reported, came from the Onassis foundation and will take place on May 25 in the prestigious headquarters of the foundation’s cultural centre in Athens. Famous European and American jurists were invited to re-examine the social and legal claims which were taken against Socrates, whereas the final decision will be up to the members of the public which will follow the trial in the courtroom and online.

Socrates had been accused of heresy towards the locals, wanting to introduce new gods and to corrupt the young. He was put on trial by 500 citizens of Athens as jurors and judges and the philosopher was found guilty with a majority of 280 votes and was condemned to death. Historical accounts have told us that Socrates remained tranquil and composed during the whole trial and also after hearing his sentence.

Today, many centuries after his death in 399 BC, the great philosopher is back in the dock. Presenting extensive discussions and talks from both parts, the event is aimed to re-examine the trial based on historical and contemporary accounts, trying to adapt the court case to the modern day standards of public ethics and current perception of justice.

This exchange of judicial arguments also proposes a new approach to Socrates as a Philosopher and to his contribution to the public life of ancient Athens.

A similar virtual trial against Socrates was organised by the Onassis Foundation last May at the Federal Court in New York and ended with his acquittal. Will this year’s verdict be different? Those in defence of Socrates this year will be the British lawyer Michael Beloff and his French colleague Patrick Simon, whereas the lawyers called to represent the Public Ministry and the interests of the city of Athens will be Ilias Anagnostopoulos, lawyer at the Supreme Court and professor at Athens University and the lawyer Anthony Papadimitriou who is also Chairman of the Onassis Foundation.

Taking part in the jury are Sir Richard Aikens and Sir Stephen Sedley, both members of the Court of Appeal of England and Wales; Sophie-Caroline De Margerie, judge of the French State Council; Pierre Delvolve and Francois Terre, both members of the French Academy of Moral and Political Sciences; Stephan Gass, vice-president of the Swiss Court of Appeal; Giuseppe Nay, former president of the Swiss Federal Court; Loretta Preska, Head judge of New York City’s south district; Anna Psarouda-Benaki, professor of criminal law and former president of the Greek Parliament; Vasilleios Rigas, vice-president of the Supreme Court of Athens and Peter Westermann, professor of law at Tubingen University.

The new Socrates virtual trial will be shown live on the website:

Interestingly, last year — almost to the day — they did a similar thing in New York: Socrates Retried Redux; I don’t think that one was generally available like this one seems to be. If the link up there doesn’t work for you, try this one (I think the above is the actual broadcast and isn’t live yet; the latter link is the Greek homepage for the event). Not sure if this is going to be an English thing or subtitled or what.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s