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Friday, December 16, 2016

Socrates: Has the Ship Come In ?

    

This was in 399 BC, when Socrates was seventy years old.
The court comprised 501 citizens and belonged to a larger court of six thousand citizens.
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By a margin of  30 votes, Socrates was declared guilty of undermining religion and leading young people the wrong way.

The penalty proposed was death by hemlock.

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According to law, he had to suggest his own penalty as an alternative to the death penalty.

Socrates argued that he had spent his life freely offering his service to the City and therefore deserves free meals for the rest of his life.

The court then had to choose, by a second vote, between the proposals of the accuser and the accused.

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At the time according to law in Athens an execution could only take place when the Sacred Ship was at harbour.

As the ship was not there,  Socrates was jailed.

His friends, many of them wealthy citizens, offered to help him flee by bribing the guards, but Socrates said he had to obey the law.

One day, early in the morning, Crito came to tell Socrates that the Sacred Ship was approaching.

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Below are Socrates and Crito talking early in the morning, in prison.

The conversation would have been invented or conjectured by Plato. It shows how lightly Socrates took the news of his own impending death.





Socrates: Why have you come at this time of day, Crito? Isn’t it early?
  C r i t o: Very early.
Socrates: About what time?
  C r i t o: Just before dawn. 
Socrates: I wonder how the guard was willing to answer the door for you.
  C r i t o: He is used to me now, Socrates.

Socrates: Have you just come? Been here long?
  C r i t o: A fairly long time.
Socrates: Then why didn’t you wake me up, instead of sitting here silent? 
  C r i t o: Oh, goodness, I couldn’t do that, Socrates; I wish I were not so sleepless and sad myself.
Socrates: Indeed, Crito, it would be quite out of tune to be vexed at my age if I must soon end.

  C r i t o: Many other people, Socrates, as old as you, are caught in troubles like this, but their age does not keep them from being vexed at their fortune. 
Socrates: Yes, that’s true. But tell me, why have you come so early? Has the ship come in from Delos?
  C r i t o : She has not come in yet, but I think she will today. 
Socrates: Well, my dear Crito, let good luck come with her!

From one of Plato's Dialogues called Crito
The complete text is freely available at http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/Crito.html 

If you read this little text, remember you are not reading a fairy tale, but philosophy of the great kind which must face questions that cannot be answered in any binding way. 

Notice that it is not similar to the merchandise usually peddled as philosophy now.
  
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Postscript

The ship in Dylan's lyrics of "The day that the ship comes in" comes with an entirely different meaning.
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I looked for the origin of that hemlock drawing via TinEye, a reverse image search program online, but there was only 1 result and it was not believable.
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The photo of the Acropolis is under CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. http://ie.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Athens_Acropolis.jpg