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The Peloponnese War and the threat to democracy
Between 431 and 404 to. C. Athens fought one of his most bloody and prolonged conflicts with neighboring Sparta, the war we now know as the Peloponnese war. Apart from the fact that Socrates fought in the conflict, it is important for a story of his life and judgment because many of those with whom Socrates spent his time became supporters of the Spartan cause at least or traitors to Athens in the worst. This is particularly the case of those of the most aristocratic Athenian families, which tended to favor the rigid and restricted hierarchy of power in Sparta instead of the most generalized democratic distribution of power and freedom of expression to all citizens who obtained in Athens. Plato more than once puts Socrates for Sparta in his character (Protágoras 342b, Crito 53a; CF. Republic 544C in which most people think that the Spartan Constitution is the best). The political regime of the Republic is marked by a small group of ruling elites that preside over the citizens of the ideal city.
There are a number of important historical moments throughout the war that led the judgment of Socrates that appear in his perception as a traitor. Seven years after the battle of Anfipolis, the Athenian Navy prepared to invade the island of Sicily, when a series of statues in the city called ‘Herms’, dedicated to the god Hermes, protector of travelers, were destroyed. Nicknamed the ‘Mutilation of the Herm’ (415 A. C.), this event generated not only the fear of those who could try to undermine democracy, but also those who did not respect the gods. In conjunction with these crimes, Athens witnessed the desecration of the eleusine mysteries, religious rituals that should be carried out only in the presence of priests but that in this case were carried out in private homes without official authorization or recognition of any kind. Among the defendants and persecuted for suspected being involved in the crimes were several associates of Socrates, including Alcibiades, who was withdrawn from his position at the head of the expedition in Sicily. Instead of being prosecuted for crime, Alcibiades escaped and sought asylum in Sparta.
Although Alcibiades was not the only one of Socrates associates involved in sacrilegious crimes (Charmides and Critias was also suspected), it is undoubtedly the most important. Socrates had been in love with Alcibiades for many reasons and Plato describes him chasing or talking about his love for him in many dialogues (Symposium 213C-D, Protágoras 309a, Gorgias 481d, Alcibíades I 103a-104c, 131e-132a). Alcibiades is typically portrayed as a wandering soul (Alcibiades i 117c-d), not committed to any consistent form of life or definition of justice. Instead, it was a kind of flattering -like flatter who could change and mold himself to please the crowds and win the political favor (Gorgias482A). In 411 a. C., A group of citizens opposed to Athenian democracy directed a coup against the government in the hope of establishing an oligarchy. Although the Democrats stifled the coup later that year and called Alcibiades to direct the Athenian fleet in the Helespo, helped the oligarchs assuring them an alliance with the Persian satraps. Therefore, Alcibiades not only helped the Spartan cause, but also allied with Persian interests. His association with the two main enemies of Athens was badly reflected in Socrates, and Jenophon tells us that the repeated association and love of Socrates by Alcibiades contributed decisively to the suspicion that he was a Spartan apologist.
Sparta finally defeated Athens in 404 to. C., only five years before the judgment and execution of Socrates. Instead of a democracy, they installed as rulers a small group of Athenians who were loyal to Spartan interests. Known as ‘The Thirty’ or, sometimes, as the ‘Thirty Tyrans’, they were directed by Critias, an associate of Socrates and a member of his circle. Charmides, Critias’s nephew, on whom we have a Platonic dialogue of the same name, was also a member. Although Critias proposed a law that prohibited Socrates for discussions with young people under 30, the previous association of Socrates with him, as well as his willingness to remain in Athens and endure the government of the thirty instead of fleeing, contributed even more toThe growing suspicion that Socrates opposed the democratic ideals of his city.
The thirty ruled tyranically, executing several wealthy Athenians, confiscating their properties, arbitrarily arresting those with democratic sympathies and exiling many others, until they were overthrown in 403 to 403. C. by a group of democratic exiles who returned to the city. Both Critias and Charmides were killed and, after a peace agreement sponsored by Spartans, democracy was restored. The Democrats proclaimed a general amnesty in the city and thus prevented political prosecutors from politically designed to repair the terrible losses suffered during the reign of the thirty. His hope was to maintain unity during the restoration of his democracy.
One of Socrates’ accusers, Anytus, was one of the democratic exiles who returned to the city to help the overthrow of the thirty. From Plato Meno, established in the year 402 AC, he imagines a conversation between Socrates and Anito in which he states that any citizen of Athens can teach virtue, a special democratic view to the extent that he involves knowledge of how to liveIt is not the restricted domain of the esoteric elite or a few privileged. In the discussion, Socrates argues that if one wants to know about virtue, he must consult an expert by virtue (Menón91B-94E). The political agitation of the city, rebuilding as democracy after almost thirty years of destruction and spilling of blood, constituted a context in which many citizens especially feared the threats to their democracy that did not come from abroad, but from their own city.
Although many of their fellow citizens found considerable evidence against Socrates, there was also historical evidence in addition to their military service in the event that it was not only a passive supporter but active of democracy. On the one hand, just as they had partners who were known oligarchs, he also had partners who were supporters of democracy, including Cephalus’s meticulous family and Socrates Chaerephon’s friend, the man who reported that the Oracle of Delphi had proclaimed that noneman was wiser than Socrates. In addition, when the thirty ordered him to help recover the Democratic General León from the island of Salamina for his execution, he refused to do so. Its refusal could be understood not as a challenge to a legitimately established government, but rather as its loyalty to the ideals of due process that were in force under previously instituted democracy. In fact, in Plato Critón, Socrates refuses to escape the prison on the grounds that he lived his entire life with an implicit agreement with the laws of democracy (Critón 50A-54D). Despite these facts, there was a deep suspicion that Socrates was a threat to democracy in the years after the end of the Peloponnese war. But due to amnesty, Anytus and his fellow accusters Meletus and Lycon could not file a lawsuit against Socrates for political reasons. Instead, they opted for religious reasons.