A Good Man Has Nothing to Fear, Even When Faced With Death

Socrates's last oration

"The Death of Socrates," 1787, by Jacques Louis David. Oil on canvas, 51 inches by 77 1/4 inches. Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Collection, Wolfe Fund, 1931. (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

It’s 399 B.C. Having been judged and condemned to death, Socrates, the ancient Greek philosopher, reflects on his predicament. Rather than bemoan his fate, he relishes an opportunity for discourse, continuing to uphold his values as he had throughout his life.

While waiting to be taken to his death, rather than make a last-ditch appeal, Socrates makes a speech. Socrates’s student Plato recorded this last oration in his “Apology,” as cited in “The World’s Famous Orations, Volume 1: Greece.” 

Socrates speaks first to his oppressors: As an old man, he knows that death is naturally upon him. All his enemies need do is wait. Yet, here he faces an early death.