Why Socrates deserved to die.

Supposing you are watching a film at the cinema or a play in the theatre; the curtain has gone up or the credits have rolled; the whole auditorium is hushed as the actor begins their first lines and then someone’s cell phone goes off or the people behind you start talking or someone audibly unwraps a toffee. You have every right to feel annoyed and demand that the culprit be cast out into the outer darkness.

Now go back to ancient times; it’s the premier of Euripides’ Orestes. Electra comes on and begins to speak.

Οὐκ ἔστιν οὐδὲν δεινὸν ὧδ᾽ εἰπεῖν ἔπος
οὐδὲ πάθος οὐδὲ ξυμφορὰ θεήλατος,
ἧς οὐκ ἂν ἄραιτ᾽ ἄχθος ἀνθρώπου φύσις.

There is no word so terrible to speak,
Nor suffering nor God-sent disaster,
The burden of which man’s nature may not endure.

Euripides Orestes 1

And then some bearded shoeless oddity starts shouting out Encore. You look around and it’s only Socrates up to his usual tricks.

As Cicero reports
Itaque non sine causa, cum Orestem fabulam doceret Euripides, primos tris versus revocasse dicitur Socrates:

So not without reason, when Euripides was putting on Orestes, Socrates is said to have asked for the first three lines to be repeated.
Tuscan 4.29.63

At this point you would naturally ask that Socrates took the hemlock straight away so you could watch the rest of the play without interruption.

Actually personally I doubt whether Socrates did actual call for an encore. The lines fit his reputation for extreme endurance and it is a short step from someone saying they were the sort of lines he would have encored to saying that he actually did. And possibly it was acceptable to act like that in a Greek theatre.

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One Response to Why Socrates deserved to die.

  1. Ah, I love anything on Socrates. With that attitude though, I do imagine why his peers decided to take him down.

    Liked by 1 person

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