The Trial of Socrates: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: David Wilson

David has taught college history and holds an MA in history.

The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates went to trial after being charged with putting the city of Athens and its youth in danger, and the trial resulted in his death. Learn about the lead-up to Socrates' trial and its importance in this lesson.

Law and Order

All your life you hear how important it is to follow the rules: your parents make rules, your teachers make rules, and even your coach makes rules. The good news is that you don't have to deal with as many rules as an adult, but the bad news is that as an adult, you have to follow the laws of a country, and the punishment for not following them is much worse than it is at school.

This has been true throughout history, and many people who've broken laws have become famous. One of the first examples was in ancient Greece, when a philosopher named Socrates had to argue for his life in a court over 2,400 years ago.

Drawing of Socrates, philosopher of ancient Greece
Socrates of Athens

Building a Case

Nobody becomes unpopular by saying popular things. Socrates, however, never wanted to be popular. His goal in life, and the aim of his philosophy, was discovering truth and wisdom. He put aside all of the things that people liked in his home city of ancient Athens, such as riches and beauty, in order to become wise. This made him unpopular, not only because he wasn't that great looking (he never bathed or cut his hair), but because he disagreed with the trends of the time.

Socrates did not follow the fashions of ancient Greece, speaking out against beauty and money
Drawing of Socrates

What's more, Socrates was a teacher, and spent lots of time with young people in Athens. Can you imagine what your parents would think if you started hanging out with someone who doesn't bath and tells you not to follow the rules? Some of his students, including a soldier named Alcibiades, even went so far as to try to take over the government.

Socrates also questioned the religion of Greece, asking whether the gods were good. This was considered blasphemy, meaning a serious insult to the gods. Socrates made so many enemies, even though all he wanted to do was find out the truth, that it came to the point where Athens wanted to get rid of him.

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