Socrates represented a reality that Athens, after the Peloponnesian debacle, did not want to see or remember. The return to democracy following the brief period of dictatorship was accompanied by an amnesty law, which quickly became an amnesia law. To bring up past quarrels was forbidden. Mentioning the disorder that had divided the city, or even the military defeat itself, became taboo. Thus Socrates’s outspokenness, which made Athens famous, proved profoundly troubling to the war-sick Athenians themselves. But by making free speech a capital crime, Athens acted against its own past. The city, already worn out, eliminated itself, its own genius, along with Socrates.
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