Socrates spent a lot of time criticizing Athenian society. His aim was to improve it. The guy was pretty annoying. Here they were, a great empire, doing all that they could to be even greater, and this philosopher guy kept pointing out all their faults.
Greece was the world’s first democracy, with all its glories and all its faults. One big problem with a democracy is the possibility of things degenerating to mob rule. Politicians pander to the the mob, playing to their prejudices and fears in an attempt to gain power.
After a disastrous war with Sparta, the Greeks were looking for a scapegoat. They zeroed in on Socrates. After all, wasn’t this the guy will all the negativity about Athens and the war effort? After a speedy trial, Socrates was condemned to death and forced to drink poisonous hemlock.
The lesson here is that if you warn your people about flaws in their society and things really do turn out badly, they’ll turn on you. The squeaky wheel does not get the grease. It gets discarded. I guess the lesson here is that I should shut up.
Then again, Socrates kinda pissed me off too. The Athenians just wanted him to go away. The old boy had plenty of opportunity to go into exile. That wasn’t acceptable to him. He’d rather go to his death. Now if he’d quietly gone off into exile, we’d probably heard a lot less about him over the years. His death might have immortalized him.
I’m no Socrates. I want to be immortalized by living forever. If exile will stretch out my days, then exile it is. Diogenes is more my type of philosopher anyway.