The Shadows of Socrates: THe Heresy, War, and Treachery behind the Trial of Socrates.
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. The penalty for speaking about them was death. And yet from the few surviving testimonials, author Matt Gatton used reconstruction archeology to recreate the light-borne appearance of the Goddess Persephone at the climax of the rites. This groundbreaking experiment ‘solves’ the Mysteries but also exposes Socrates’ Allegory of the Cave as a thinly veiled critique of the Mysteries. The Allegory was a blatant act of heresy and it triggered the first great battle between philosophy and religion.
Trying to explain what happened to Socrates without discussing the Mysteries is like trying to explain what happened to Galileo without mentioning the Catholic Church.
To understand 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, students of Socrates—and mortal enemies. Alcibiades grew up to become an Athenian General, the embodiment of the Peloponnesian War, and Callias a High Priest of the Mysteries of Eleusis, the personification of religion. Alcibiades outfoxes Callias by taking down Athenian democracy with an outrageous lie, which triggers a civil war.
Ultimately, there was a battle, fought on many fronts, between Alcibiades and Callias for control of Athens. Their feud would contribute, in no small way, to the eventual fall of Athens…and the death of Socrates.
Strap in; this is a wild ride.
“This is history writing at its best—fascinating, vivid, and shocking.”
— Douglas Preston, New York Times bestselling author