Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Alexander, Thomas


Despite its wide and unfortunate neglect (if it is even noticed at all), the fact that the date of Socrates' trial coincided with Athens's annual sacrificial festival (Thargelia) is of paramount significance for an interpretation not only of Plato's Apology but also of the historical trial itself. The argument presented here is that Socrates' prosecution and execution was, quite so, an expression of a sacrificial logic, which holds, mistakenly, that a single individual can be held responsible for a social crisis. The sacrificial narrative, then--a narrative implicitly put into play by that ominous trial date--would have located Socrates as the single source of the concomitant Athenian crises at play in the devastating aftermath of the Peloponnesian war. In fact, Plato's Apology can be, and perhaps must be, read as an elaboration on this sacrificial narrative. Yet, Plato turns the narrative on its head; by casting Socrates not only as the archetypal, "polluted" pharmakos but also as the willing scapegoat, Plato has Socrates enact a deadly confrontation between Socratic and Athenian values. Socrates' trial, this thesis argues, was not simply about crime and punishment; this was a trial about communal crisis and communal redemption. We must consider, then, not simply the trial of Socrates, but the sacrifice of Socrates




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