Alcibiades and Socrates: A critical analysis of the socio-political atmosphere of Athens, and how it condemned them both

Lachlan Huck


This paper explores the complex conditions that surrounded the demise of the Socrates placing the Athenian philosopher firmly in the socio-political setting of 5th century BCE Athens. Alcibiades, one of Socrates' confidantes and a polarizing character, provides the backdrop for the picture of Athens presented, and typifies the forces that condemned Socrates to death. Political misfortune deprived Athenians of the means to greatness, while leaving intact the hubris that had characterized the populace since the defeat of the Persians in the Greco-Persian War. Alcibiades most perfectly epitomized this new mentality, combining irresponsible political ambition with absolute moral corruption. Both Socrates and Alcibiades, however, proved incompatible with the already strained public mentality. In executing one and exiling the other, the Athenians proved they were incapable of rationality, destroying their paragon of wisdom and exiling the one person who most perfectly characterized Athens at the time. At its heart, Athens was becoming something new, and neither of the actors discussed were to witness the change of Athens or the rise of the Hellenistic kingdoms.

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