One of the problems of this age is the abundance of books we want to read and the limited time available for them. Since the 1980s I have had a chance to read Antonio Tovar’s Life of Socrates, which I bought after being told it was a great book. And when I finally started reading it last week, I was warned that the author is a supporter of General Franco. I have no doubt that it rises to the ranks of masterpieces, although it tells facts that took place twenty-five centuries ago, in which there are many lessons for this world that is on the verge of explosion after the Russian invasion in the Ukraine, which may cause the outbreak of the Third World War, just as the two world wars broke out. The second and the first, without anyone planning for it, or expecting its results, which claimed the lives of millions of people .
No one knows what happened and why Athens, a democracy since the time of Solon, decided to try Socrates for misleading the youth and insulting the gods, accusations unbecoming of such a philosopher, or saint, who roamed the streets. barefoot and inciting people to debate and polemic without offending anyone except the envious, who were angry at his popularity and tried to eliminate it. Tovar says that Socrates was unsuccessful in defending himself during the trial, as he presented a weak argument that left the judges who oversaw his trial no choice but to convict him. He seemed not to care for death, but wanted to be found guilty of that fierce and ridiculous accusation. As for Plato, who after his death raised the banner of fame and glory, he was unable to defend himself at the trial because of an illness that prevented him from doing so, while confusion and disappointment reigned among his students at the hearing their teacher’s plea. in front of the court arch.
His pupil Creighton, who was well off like most of the students who followed him, offered him help to escape, but he refused, insisting on appearing before the court and serving his sentence. His love for Athens was great, and he fought in its defense in the Peloponnesian wars against the Goni, before wandering the streets repeating among the people that the laws of the city were sacred and must be respected. Moreover, he was convinced that judgments must be carried out, however absurd they may be, because it is the will of the gods. Socrates drank poison in peace and calm to the end, obeying the swordsman’s instructions, bathing and then stretching to let the poison pass quickly through his body until death.
What is subsequently known of him is obscure and the result of speculation, and there is no reliable information as to what happened in that city in which he was born and lived, and which after his death entered a period of rapid decline which it did not enable his natural enemies, the sons of Sparta, to conquer it.
The credit for preserving the intellectual heritage of Socrates from extinction goes back to Plato, to the historian Genophon, and to his students who preserved his teachings and were eager to spread them. Socrates was not inclined to books, and even hated them, because they were so solitary and prevented from having direct communication with others. That is why he preferred the spoken word to the written. For this reason, although it is indisputable that he was a great and distinguished thinker, we do not know exactly what ideas he defended and what he attacked, and there is such a dense ambiguity about his philosophy that Plato, who combined his teachings. so careful, did not agree with his opinion of the There are many things, and it is not inconceivable that these teachings may be distorted or unintentional.
But this is not of great importance, because the most important thing that remains of Socrates is the example. And his death was far more important than his life, as we have received. His wife, Shanteppa, seems to have had no companion, so much as an obstacle, and according to his students, he rarely mentioned her or his children, preferring the company of his family to the company of his followers, all of whom were male. From the little we know of him, that he was skilled in debate and skilled in argument, provocative, prone to defiance and arguments against the opponent, and that he lectured his followers in small circles, avoiding the large gatherings of which he moved away .
Socrates was an advocate of respect and worship of the gods, and he constantly strived to know himself and explore its depths, and did not hesitate to reveal his flaws to others, and he was often open and boastful with them. Thanks to the public debates he organized, he became increasingly popular, although some of the Athenians considered him mad. Moreover, he was very self-assured, and had little confidence in his talent, so that he would always renew and contradict his teachings from time to time. The most important example he left us was in his death rather than his life.
How many contemporaries imitated him? A small handful. Or that some of them were unlucky, like Hitler, who committed suicide after all the outlets were closed in his face, and were exposed to a harder and longer end to suicide. Even Stalin and other thugs did not follow his example. In the long history of military coups that devastated Peru and plundered its wealth, as in the rest of Latin America, there are no suicides. Batista, Somoza, Perón and other petty tyrants amassed huge fortunes awaiting their release from prison to ensure a comfortable old age. The same situation is also found in Western Europe, which, despite the abundance of disasters it has experienced throughout history, has not known suicides among its leaders. Those who commit suicide are usually bankrupt, desperate businessmen fleeing poverty and hunger.
Socrates did not suffer from financial problems, but his students covered his expenses, knowing that he was poor in food and rarely drank alcohol. He loved Athena, the city in which he saw the light, and believed that, like the important cities of the world, there was a parallel life far more important than the ordinary life in it, and that it was therefore the duty of its citizens to owe it their total loyalty. It is probable that most of his ideas would not find many followers among our contemporaries today, but all bow before the way of his death, submissive and subject to an authority he may have despised, to set an example in obedience and adherence to legitimacy to be an example to those young men who gave up everything to walk in his passengers. What is the example he wanted to give to his disciples? It is that sometimes death is more precious than life, especially when it comes to the will of the higher hand that directs human destinies. Most important of all, he made his death an example of respect for laws he did not believe were correct, because of his belief that the world, or at least Athens, needed a system that managed and organized people’s affairs , and institutions that are respected. by citizens, even if it goes against their personal interests, because that is the way. The only one is for civilization to prevail instead of barbarism, and for mankind to rise to the moral status that makes us great.
But all this is not true today, because a handful of countries possessing nuclear weapons are capable of wiping us all out and destroying the planet we live on. Socrates, when he drank poison on that rainy and cloudy morning, could not imagine that a day would come when the world would be weaker and more fragile than what was called civilization twenty-five centuries ago.