The philosopher Socrates (470/469 - 399 BC) was sensationally tried for ‘corrupting youth and for impiety’, code for challenging the government of Athens. Ironically, by law his execution had to be delayed while they commemorated the abolition of human sacrifice.
EACH year in May, a sacred ship would leave Athens for Delos, on a mission to the Temple of Apollo, where commemoration would be made of the abolition of human sacrifice.
The ship was said to be the very one in which Theseus sailed to Crete, ending the annual sacrifice of seven maidens and seven youths to the Minotaur in the famous Labyrinth.
During the time of the sacred pilgrimage, no punishment by death could be carried out in Athens.
Yet the very next day after the ship’s stern had been garlanded with the traditional laurel branches, ready to set sail from Athens for the sacred island, Socrates had been sentenced to death for criticising the Athenian government and its much-vaunted ‘democracy’.
The philosopher had warned that the will of the majority was not necessarily right; he had complained that government officials calling themselves ‘benefactors’ of Athens seemed to benefit only themselves; and he had questioned the state’s control over religion and morals.