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Starred Review. Socrates and Alcibiades were an unlikely couple: an ugly old philosopher and a charming, intelligent, ambitious and arrogant aristocrat. The fallout from this relationship and an unpopular war toppled the world's most significant philosophical figure. By placing the execution of Socrates against the context of the Peloponnesian War, classicist Waterfield (Xenophon's Retreat) argues that a guilty verdict against the philosopher, charged with impiety and corrupting Athens's youth, was a rational outcome. Athens of the last third of the fifth century B.C. was affected by a striking list of stress factors. Old certainties were being undermined by prolonged warfare, morally subversive ideas, population displacement and other forms of social upheaval. Sitting atop a solid foundation of scholarship, this valuable survey of an important period of ancient history is especially useful as a prelude to texts by Plato, Xenophon and Thucydides. Of the many introductory studies on the Athenian judicial system, the trial of Socrates, the conflict between Athens and Sparta and the reasons that democracy gave way to oligarchy in Athens, this is among the clearest, most well-organized and most concise. 4 pages of illus., maps. (May)
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*Starred Review* In The Death of Socrates (2007), Emily Wilson illuminated the mythmaking process that converted the execution of a famous ancient philosopher into a symbolic tableau incorporated into a wide range of religious and political ideologies. In this much-needed complementary study, Waterfield deflates that mythmaking by probing the historical dynamics surrounding the trial itself. The analysis will surprise readers accustomed to viewing Socrates’ accusers as paranoid defenders of religious superstitions. For a careful parsing of the evidence reveals that when Athenian judges condemned Socrates, they were defending principles still cherished by most twenty-first-century readers: namely, the principles of democracy. Waterfield convincingly establishes that Socrates fell under hostile suspicion largely because of his close ties to young students of deeply anti-democratic sympathies. One of these arrogant young men joined other oligarchs in conspiring against Athens during its bitter war against Sparta; another scripted the atrocities committed by the Thirty Tyrants when they temporarily overthrew Athens’ democratic government. Waterfield shows that even Socrates’ own belief in an ideal government by experts legitimated, elitist, not democratic governance. Such a belief, readers soon realize, would have appeared particularly menacing to Athenian democrats traumatized by the twin shocks of external assault and internal discord. Impressive scholarship redefining an iconic event. --Bryce ChristensenSee all Editorial Reviews
Often we look back into the past, whether a century or many millennia, and expect it to be primitive relative to our oh, so sophisticated modern times. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Donnie
Just so you know, there is very little in this book about Socrates directly, so the title my be slightly misleading. Read more
This was a fun read. A well-written, engaging book. Waterfield goes to great lengths to describe the context and background of Socrates's execution in 399 BC. Read morePublished 12 months ago by John Melithoniotes
Robin Waterfield has provided immense historical detail to show why Socrates' trial and execution for impiety and corruption of the youth were justified in the eyes of his... Read morePublished 21 months ago by L. Carrier
Very disappointing; tossed in trash after reading through (hoping for something worthwhile). One expected a bringing together of materials on Socrates, with citations, along with... Read morePublished 23 months ago by M. White
In this book, Robin Waterfield reconstructs the final days of Socrates' life as well as describe the social, political, and cultural atmosphere of Ancient Greece, which had... Read morePublished on May 23, 2013 by Nøkkenbuer
Robin Waterfield does a great job of getting past the typical Philosophy 101 views on Socrates and attempts to take a serious look at what really drove the people of Athens to... Read morePublished on March 11, 2011 by Gary W. Pearson
This book is highly recommended for anyone who, like me, has always questioned what the real story was behind Socates' trial and death. Read morePublished on January 30, 2010 by Robin H