see it clearly

Have you ever wondered, “How did Socrates die?” Before you read about the details of his death, you should explore his life and teachings.


The Great Philosopher Socrates

Socrates lived in Greece from 469 B.C. to 399 B.C. His father was a sculptor and his mother was a midwife. He had a great curiosity about many things as a young man and this curiosity lead him to a life of pursuing knowledge. He had a wife and three children, and lived to be 71 years old.

As time went by, many young men listened to Socrates and participated in his dialogues. Through these exchanges, Socrates helped the students discover the truth to concepts, like piety, justice, and morality. He helped them expand their minds to see the underlying relationships between many things and see things in new ways.

Basic to his beliefs was that life is not worth living if you just let it happen to you. You need to reflect inwardly to recognize your true self and your motivations for your actions. He felt you needed to examine your values to see that they are good and worthy. He believed you nourish your soul as you gain knowledge and insight about yourself and the world.

Socrates said, “True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing.” He taught that everyone needed to gain knowledge throughout his or her lives and that was the way to recognize your potential. He also said a person should do what they feel is right, no matter the consequences or what someone else believes.

This style of teaching or guiding developed into the Socratic Method and is sometimes called “guided questioning”. Rather than just telling students a fact, you help them unravel the truth through mental exercises. This kind of learning is more lasting and improves critical thinking.

How Did Socrates Die?

Socrates was accused of piety and corrupting youth and was brought to trial. It was said he did not recognize the gods of the city (Athens) and introduced new ones. A trial was held and a jury, chosen at random from male citizens who had volunteered, found him guilty. They voted on his punishment and it was decided his sentence would be death. The manner chosen was to drink a liquid that contained hemlock.

That answers the question, “How did Socrates die?” but does not fully explain the reason. Many believe it came down to an issue of free speech. He voiced his opinions, like the one about government that said smart people should make the decisions for everyone. His explanations were more detailed, but that was a criticism of democracy. He may have been tried and executed because he was vocal about his beliefs, well known, and popular. It was supposed to be illegal to arrest someone for opposing views, so most people think the other charges were a cover for the real reason.

Quotes of Socrates

You now know the answer to the question, “How did Socrates die?” and can delve a bit deeper into his beliefs. Socrates never wrote any of his teachings down, espousing the belief that knowledge is fluid and ever changing. His students, however, wrote down some of the things he said. Most of them were written down by Plato. His words have endured for centuries and will probably last for many more. Many apply to human ideals and attitudes that will never change.

Here are a few for you to read and ponder:

  • “The unexamined life is not worth living.”
  • “It is not living that matters, but living rightly.”
  • “Be slow to fall into friendship; but when thou art in, continue firm and constant.”
  • “One who is injured ought not to return the injury, for on no account can it be right to do an injustice; and it is not right to return an injury, or to do evil to any man, however much we have suffered from him.”
  • “By all means, marry. If you get a good wife, you'll become happy; if you get a bad one, you'll become a philosopher.”