The trial and execution of Socrates is in some ways the most famous unsolved murder mystery in history, because the prosecution's case was not recorded. The Shadows of Socrates solves the mystery, revealing for the first time how he was set up, who did it, and why. This is a real-life whodunit, a thriller intertwined with a long-running war, rivalry, sex addiction, betrayal, sedition, starvation, epic bravery, and pure intellectual clarity.
At age 70, Socrates was charged with impiety (lack of reverence for the gods) and leading the youth astray. The key to understanding the first part of the charge is the powerful religious rituals at the heart of Athenian culture, the hallowed Mysteries of Eleusis. (Trying to explain what happens to Socrates without discussing the Mysteries is like trying to explain what happened to Galileo without mentioning the Catholic Church.) Socrates triggers an epic clash between philosophy and religion.
To explain the second part of the charges, Gatton delves into Socrates' impact on two important youths in particular: the aristocratic and psychopathic Alcibiades, and the rich and equally manipulative Callias. They were 'half' brothers—and mortal enemies. Alcibiades studied under Socrates and grew up to become an Athenian General, the embodiment of the Peloponnesian War, and Callias an official of the Mysteries of Eleusis, the personification of religion. Alcibiades outfoxes Callias by taking down Athenian democracy with an outrageous lie, which sets off a civil war.
Ultimately, there is a battle, fought on many fronts, between Alcibiades and Callias for control of Athens. Their feud contributes, in no small way, to the eventual fall of Athens…and the death of Socrates.
Strap in; this is a wild ride.