The trial and death of Socrates (469-399 BCE) have almost as central a
place in Western consciousness as the trial and death of Jesus. In four
superb dialogues, Plato provides the classic account. Euthyphro finds
Socrates outside the court-house, debating the nature of piety, while
the Apology is his robust rebuttal of the charges of impiety and a
defense of the philosopher's life. In the Crito, while awaiting
execution in prison, Socrates counters the arguments of friends urging
him to escape. Finally, in the Phaedo, he is shown calmly confident in
the face of death, skillfully arguing the case for the immortality of
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Plato (c.427-347 BC) stands with Socrates and
Aristotle as one of the sharpers of the whole intellectual tradition of
the West. He founded the Academy in Athens, the first permanent
institution devoted to philosophical research and teaching, and the
prototype of all Western universities.
Harold Tarrant is Senior Lecturer in Classics at the University of Sydney.
Hugh Tredennick was Dean of the Faculty of Arts at London University.