The Story of the Greeks
Page: 78Everybody talked about it, repeated the best jokes, and went again and again to see and laugh over it. We are told that Socrates went there himself one day; and, when asked why he had come, he quietly said, "I came to find out whether, among all the faults of which I am accused, there may not be some that I can correct."
You see, the philosopher knew that it was never too late to mend, and fully intended to be as perfect as possible. He knew, of course, that he could not straighten[Pg 175] his crooked nose or make his face good-looking, but he hoped to find some way of improving his character.
"The Clouds" amused the Athenians for about twenty years; and when Alcibiades turned traitor, and caused the ruin of his country, the people still went to see it. In their anger against Alcibiades, they began to think that perhaps Aristophanes was right, and that the youth they had once loved so dearly would never have turned out so badly had he not been influenced for evil.
As the teacher in the play was blamed for all the wrongdoing of his pupil, so Socrates was now accused by the Athenians of ruining Alcibiades. Little by little the philosopher's enemies became so bold that they finally made up their minds to get rid of him. As he was quite innocent, and as there was no other excuse for dragging him before the Tribunal, they finally charged him with giving bad advice to young men, and speaking ill of the gods.
The false accusation made against Socrates by his enemies soon had the desired effect, for the Tribunal gave orders for his arrest and trial. The philosopher, sure of his innocence, came before his judges, and calmly answered their questions.
He told them he had never turned the gods into ridicule, as he knew it was wrong to make fun of anything which others deemed sacred. Then, as they still further[Pg 176] pressed him to explain his views, he confessed that he believed there was a God greater and better than any they worshiped.
As to teaching the young men anything which could do them harm, he said it was quite impossible; for he had ever told them that they should be as good, virtuous, and helpful as they could, which was surely not wrong.
Socrates gave noble answers to all their questions; but the judges, blinded with prejudice, believed the lying charges of his enemies, which Socrates scorned to contradict. The philosopher's friends begged him to use his eloquence to defend himself and confound his accusers; but he calmly refused, saying, "My whole life and teaching is the only contradiction, and the best defense I can offer."
Socrates, as you have seen, was really one of the best men that ever lived, and, without having ever heard of the true God, he still believed in him. Nearly four centuries before the coming of Christ, when people believed in revenge, he preached the doctrine of "Love one another" and "Do good to them that hate you."