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The Hellenic Museum of History in Chicago hosted a gala fundraiser on Thursday February first at a local Hilton hotel and Socrates was the guest of honour in a way. In a mock trial of the ancient Athenian philosopher for corrupting the youth of Athens as well as being impious towards the gods, a jury of 1000 local people using clay disks placed on the scale of justice held by the blind goddess Themis narrowly convicted the old wordsmith and blasphemer (a victimless crime). Tickets were priced in a three tier fashion starting at $1500 USD and then $100 USD and finally for students only $50 USD.
The prosecution was by a former US Attorney and Socrates in this trial had a defence lawyer unlike his original trial in 399 BCE. There was also a panel of judges led by Judge Richard Pozner who upon hearing the verdict of the jury informed the audience of jurors that as the Sate of Illinois does not have the death penalty he could not repeat the deadly hemlock poison sentence from the ancient trial. Said the presiding judge, “I can’t sentence to death a seventy year old loudmouth.” Instead Socrates was given a 3,000 silver drachma fine. A drachma from the 4th century BCE would be worth about $25 USD or $75,000 for the whole fine in today’s value. As a point of reference an average workers wage for that period would be about $1 USD per day. As Socrates was a man without great wealth he would have to declare bankruptcy if he were alive today or perhaps his legion of supporters could have chipped in and paid the absurd amount on his behalf. Another judge on the panel said he would have fined Socrates only a symbolic amount of, “two bucks” but his advice was ignored by the presiding judge.
Some jurors were polled upon leaving and a majority polled agreed with the sentence including some who wished that a death penalty could have been imposed because he was most probably an atheist. “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love. Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love,” as the old bible thumping hymn goes.