It is 399 BC, and having performed their annual self-congratulation for abolishing human sacrifice, the Athenian authorities are now ready to make a public example of Socrates for criticising their government.
WEEKS later, with Socrates in prison awaiting his execution, and amusing himself by composing his own ‘Aesop’s Fables’, the ship returned.
His tearful wife Xanthippe was taken gently home, and his friends gathered for one last time in his cell to talk about life and death.
At length, Socrates took a bath, and then spent some time with his three sons. Then evening came, and a prison officer entered with a draught of hemlock, which was drained in one breath.
Presently, he lost the use of his legs, so he stretched himself out on his bed with his face covered. Suddenly, he twitched the cover aside. “We should offer a cock to Asclepius” he said to Crito, “see you don’t forget”.* He did not speak again.
The Athenians had solemnly kept the festival of Theseus while waiting impatiently to sacrifice their greatest man to their own ‘minotaur’, a populist government in a maze of rhetoric and vested interests.
It was the final Socratic irony.
* Asclepius was the god of healing. Socrates perhaps implied that death should be regarded as the ‘cure’ for life in this world.