Remember when I told you about a re-trial of the Socrates case as a fundraiser by the National Hellenic Museum in Chicago? Dan Webb and Robert A. Clifford, who represented Socrates, were unable to successfully defend their long deceased client, but had Socrated had these men by his side 2412 years ago, he would have gotten off with a fine--then again, if Socrates had kept his mouth shut at his actual trial, he would have gotten off with a fine as well.

“May it please the court, members of the jury, make no mistake about it: Socrates is guilty. Socrates is guilty of disrespecting the Gods, by doing so he has endangered the people of Athens. Socrates is guilty of corrupting the youth, and by doing so he has endangered the existence of Athens. Socrates is guilty, period.

History got it wrong. History has been unfair to my client, Athens, the dialogue he [Plato] wrote was really a monologue; he only quoted his friend. Put aside what history tells you, to be fair to the Athenians... a just culture, the first democracy, egalitarian. When you don’t have a full transcript, give them the benefit of the doubt.

You had the right to speak, you had no right to disrespect God. We have to put ourselves back in Athens in 399 [B.C.] when the world was different... If any one person in society disrespected God, the wrath came down on everybody. They believed if somebody in society wronged God, they all paid the price. The price was not a lightning bolt. It was a plague. If you’re an Athenian, you’ve seen the plague wiping out your city state. You lost a war because of this plague. Your vaunted navy is reduced to mere nothing. The walls of the city are torn down. In the last ten years before the trial, democracy has been overthrown twice by oligarchs and tyrants, people that Socrates taught.”

This quote was part of the opening speech of former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who prosecuted the case--alongside Patrick M. Collins--as representatives of the city state of ancient Athens. It set the stage well for the gathered public, who would ultimately cast their votes in true ancient Athenian democratic fashion. It's also very much in line with the views of the ancient Athenians--this is how they viewed wrongdoings against the Theoi, and because of this view, it was very important Socrates was punished for his blasphemous vision.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports how the voting eventually went down:

"The dozen official jurors split. The audience voted by dropping colored discs in bags for Guilty or Not Guilty. When the discs were poured onto literal scales of justice, they tipped toward guilt. Add to Patrick Fitzgerald’s resume of success, of putting away mobsters and terrorists, that he could convince most Chicagoans at a Greek museum function to condemn the greatest Greek ever. During the penalty phase, several dozen audience members even called for death, but Socrates got off with a fine."

The entire article is a great read: to my great surprise it shows that several of the visitors were visibly upset about Socrates' renewed sentencing. The writer doesn't go into detail why these visitors were so upset, but I get the feeling it has to do with a discrepancy between the modern views on ancient Hellas, and the views of ancient Hellas itself. As a Hellenist, I have found that it's difficult for non-Hellenists and those without a keen interest in ancient Hellenic history to fully grasp the ancient hellenic mindset. Heck, sometimes I even struggle with that. Not even a passionate statement of one of Chicago's top litigators can change that.

Another very interesting fact is that the--apparently--slightly astounded Hellenic Museum sold 900 tickets at $100, and had to move the trial from their building to the Palmer House ballroom. The overflow crowd spilled into the upper balconies, and hundreds more had to be turned away. This is, of course, in large part because of the famous and very capable lawyers, as well as the presiding judge, who took on the trial, but a little part of me hopes this event was visited so well because those who were interested in Socrates, ancient Hellas and the Theoi, saw an opportunity to visit the event of a lifetime and took it without reservation.

Personally, I'm glad Socrates was still found guilty. As Fitzgerald said, Socrates endangered not only himself but the whole of Hellas with his impious sermons. While stifling the voice of the subversive is not a very modern thing to do, in ancient Hellas it was the most social thing to do, and I think this case reflected that wonderfully.

Image: Patrick J. Fitzgerald, left, and Patrick M. Collins, acting as counsel for the City of Athens, participate in a mock trial of Socrates, with federal judge Richard A. Posner presiding at the Palmer House Hilton on Thursday, January 31, 2013. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times