This brings us to the spring and summer of 399, to Socrates’s trialand execution. Twice in Plato’s dialogues (Symposium 173b,Theaetetus 142c–143a), fact-checking with Socrates took placeas his friends sought to commit his conversations to writing before hewas executed. [spring 399 Theaetetus] Prior to theaction in the Theaetetus, a young poet named Meletus hadcomposed a document charging Socrates with the capital crime ofirreverence (asebeia): failure to show due piety toward thegods of Athens. This he delivered to Socrates in the presence ofwitnesses, instructing Socrates to present himself before the kingarchon within four days for a preliminary hearing (the same magistratewould later preside at the pre-trial examination and the trial). Atthe end of theTheaetetus, Socrates was on his way to that preliminaryhearing. As a citizen, he had the right to countersue, the right toforgo the hearing, allowing the suit to proceed uncontested, and theright to exile himself voluntarily, as the personified laws laterremind him (Crito 52c). Socrates availed himself of none ofthese rights of citizenship. Rather, he set out to enter a plea andstopped at a gymnasium to talk to some youngsters about mathematicsand knowledge.


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