see it clearly

Why was Socrates sentenced to death? Socrates questioned many things: religion, governments, and ethics, to name a few. He asked questions to further his understanding and that of others. His well-known opinions ultimately lead to his death sentence.


Socrates was formally accused of corrupting youth and piety. The two acts of piety he was accused of were “not acknowledging the gods of the city” and “introducing new gods”.

In addition to the two formal charges, many Athenians though Socrates was against democracy. He did say that he thought the most intelligent people should make decisions for everybody. However, he could not be charged for these opinions. After the Peloponnesian War, the government promised not to take revenge on people who opposed democracy. Many people believe this is the real answer to the question, “Why was Socrates sentenced to death?”

The jury in his trial was chosen by lottery from male citizen volunteers. After the jury decided he was guilty, his punishment was also voted on. It was decided by the majority that he would be given hemlock to drink. After the sentence was heard, he addressed the court. His last words in that speech were, “The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our ways--I to die and you to live. Which is the better, only God knows.” He died in the company of students and friends.

The Life and Philosophy of Socrates

Socrates lived from 469 B. C. to 399 B. C. As a young man, he served in the Peloponnesian War and later found work as a stone mason to support his wife and three children. When he inherited money from his father, he was able to devote much of his time investigating the concepts that govern our lives, like justice, piety, and morality.

Socrates believed life was nothing if you did not spend your time reflecting on who you are, what you will become, and trying to understand your values and motivations. He felt it was imperative to pursue knowledge all of your life. He often said he was wise because he admitted he was ignorant. He also believed a person had to do what he thought was right, no matter what.

He talked often about the soul and thought it was the central core, what you really are. To be happy and fulfilled, a person had to keep his soul healthy. This was done by always learning, self-examination, and gaining wisdom. He knew many people never realized their true potential.

Words to Live By

Socrates had many young men who listened to him and participated in dialogues with him. It was through this dialogue that he guided them to see things in a different way and delve into the true nature of things. As is true of teachers, he learned from his students as well. Through the exchange, he would help the students think for themselves and figure out the basic meaning of concepts like friendship, democracy, and truth. This method later became the Socratic Method and is sometimes called “guided questioning.”

The philosophy of Socrates lives on through his sayings that were written down by Plato and other students. Now that you know the answer to the question, “Why was Socrates sentenced to death?” you need to decide if the sentence of death was a just one. You should read the following quotes of Socrates to help you make that decision.

“It is not living that matters, but living rightly.”

“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.”

“All men's souls are immortal, but the souls of the righteous are immortal and divine.”

“False words are not only evil in themselves, but they infect the soul with evil.”

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”