Socrates & The Dirty Thirty

Seneca, de Tranquillitate Animi (5):

Could you find a city more miserable than Athens when the Thirty Tyrants were tearing it apart? They slaughtered 1,300 citizens, each one a noble person, and they didn’t come to the end of it, but rather, the savagery was a goad to itself. In that city there was the Areopagus, the most religious counsel, in which a senate and a people similar to a senate came together every day like a miserable college of butchers, an ill-starred court for the reverence of tyrants. Could that city catch a break, when there were within it as many tyrants as there were attendants? Not even the slightest hope of recovering their liberty was offered to their minds, nor did there appear a place for any remedy against such an onslaught of suffering. From where did so many a Harmodius come for that wretched city?

Yet Socrates was in the middle of it all. He consoled grieving fathers, exhorted those who despaired of their state, reproached the wealthy fearing for their riches with their late repentance of dangerous avarice, and circulated himself as a great exemplar for those who wished to imitate him by strutting around freely among his thirty masters.

Nevertheless, Athens itself killed him in prison. Liberty itself could not bear the liberty of the man who safely insulted the crowd of tyrants. Thus you may see that there is a chance for a wise man to rise to his own worth in an afflicted state, and yet in a flourishing and blessed one petulance, envy, and a thousand other idle vices may reign.

Giambettino Cignaroli: The Death of Socrates

Numquid potes inuenire urbem miseriorem quam Atheniensium fuit, cum illam triginta tyranni diuellerent? Mille trecentos ciues, optimum quemque, occiderant, nec finem ideo faciebant, sed irritabat se ipsa saeuitia. In qua ciuitate erat Areos pagos, religiosissimum iudicium, in qua senatus populusque senatui similis, coibat cotidie carnificum triste collegium et infelix curia tyrannis augusta. Poteratne illa ciuitas conquiescere, in qua tot tyranni erant quot satellites essent? Ne spes quidem ulla recipiendae libertatis animis poterat offerri, nec ulli remedio locus apparebat contra tantam uim malorum: unde enim miserae ciuitati tot Harmodios?

Socrates tamen in medio erat, et lugentes patres consolabatur, et desperantes de re publica exhortabatur, et diuitibus opes suas metuentibus exprobrabat seram periculosae auaritiae paenitentiam, et imitari uolentibus magnum circumferebat exemplar, cum inter triginta dominos liber incederet.

Hunc tamen Athenae ipsae in carcere occiderunt, et qui tuto insultauerat agmini tyrannorum, eius libertatem libertas non tulit: ut scias et in afflicta re publica esse occasionem sapienti uiro ad se proferendum, et in florenti ae beata petulantium, inuidiam, mille alia inertia uitia regnare.

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