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A month and two days had elapsed since the judges, amid the loud acclaim of the Athenian people, had pronounced the death sentence against the philosopher Socrates because he had sought to destroy faith in the gods. What the gadfly is to the horse Socrates was to Athens. The gadfly stings the horse in order to prevent it from dozing off and to keep it moving briskly on its course. The philosopher said to the people of Athens: "I am your gadfly. My sting pricks your conscience and arouses you when you are caught napping. Sleep not, sleep not, people of Athens; awake and seek the truth!" The people arose in their exasperation and cruelly demanded to be rid of their gadfly. "Perchance both of his accusers, Meletus and Anytus, are wrong," said the citizens, on leaving the court after sentence had been pronounced. "But after all whither do his doctrines tend? What would he do? He has wrought confusion, he overthrows, beliefs that have existed since the beginning, he speaks of new virtues which must be recognised and sought for, he speaks of a Divinity hitherto unknown to us. The blasphemer, he deems himself wiser than the gods! No, 'twere better we remain true to the old gods whom we know. They may not always be just, sometimes they may flare up in unjust wrath, and they may also be seized with a wanton lust for the wives of mortals; but did not our ancestors live with them in the peace of their souls, did not our forefathers accomplish their heroic deeds with the help of these very gods? And now the faces of the Olympians have paled and the old virtue is out of joint. What does it all lead to? Should not an end be put to this impious wisdom once for all?" Thus the citizens of Athens spoke to one another as they left the place, and the blue twilight was falling. They had determined to kill the restless gadfly in the hope that the countenances of the gods would shine again. And yetbefore their souls arose the mild figure of the singular philosopher. There were some citizens who recalled how courageously he had shared their troubles and dangers at Potidæa; how he alone had prevented them from committing the sin of unjustly executing the generals after the victory over the Arginusæe; how he alone had dared to raise his voice against the tyrants who had had fifteen hundred people put to death, speaking to the people on the market-place concerning shepherds and their sheep. "Is not he a good shepherd," he asked, "who guards his flock and watches over its increase? Or is it the work of the good shepherd to reduce the number of his sheep and disperse them, and of the good ruler to do the same with his people? Men of Athens, let us investigate this question!" And at this question of the solitary, undefended philosopher, the faces of the tyrants paled, while the eyes of the youths kindled with the fire of just wrath and indignation. Thus, when on dispersing after the sentence the Athenians recalled all these things of Socrates, their hearts were oppressed with heavy doubt. "Have we not done a cruel wrong to the son of Sophroniscus?" But then the good Athenians looked upon the harbour and the sea, and in the red glow of the dying day they saw the purple sails of the sharp-keeled ship, sent to the Delian festival, shimmering in the distance on the blue Pontus. The ship would not return until the expiration of a month, and the Athenians recollected that during this time no blood might be shed in Athens, whether the blood of the innocent or the guilty. A month, moreover, has many days and still more hours. Supposing the son of Sophroniscus had been unjustly condemned, who would hinder his escaping from the prison, especially since he had numerous friends to help him? Was it so difficult for the rich Plato, for Æschines and others to bribe the guards? Then the restless gadfly would flee from Athens to the barbarians in Thessaly, or to the Peloponnesus, or, still farther, to Egypt; Athens would no longer hear his blasphemous speeches; his death would not weigh upon the conscience of the worthy citizens, and so everything would end for the best of all. Thus said many to themselves that evening, while aloud they praised the wisdom of the demos and the heliasts. In secret, however, they cherished the hope that the restless philosopher would leave Athens, fly from the hemlock to the barbarians, and so free the Athenians of his troublesome presence and of the pangs of consciences that smote them for inflicting death upon an innocent man. Two and thirty times since that evening had the sun risen from the ocean and dipped down into it again. The ship had returned from Delos and lay in the harbour with sadly drooping sails, as if ashamed of its native city. The moon did not shine in the heavens, the sea heaved under a heavy fog, and, on the, hills lights peered through the obscurity like the eyes of men gripped by a sense of guilt. The stubborn Socrates did, not spare the conscience of the good Athenians. "We part! You go home and I go to death," he said, to the judges after the sentence had been pronounced. "I know not, my friends, which of us chooses the better lot!" As the time had approached for the return of the ship, many of the citizens had begun to feel uneasy. Must that obstinate fellow really die? And they began to appeal to the consciences of Æschines, Phædo, and other pupils of Socrates, trying to urge them on to further efforts for their master. "Will you permit your teacher to die?" they asked reproachfully in biting tones. "Or do you grudge the few coins it would take to bribe the guard?" In vain Crito besought Socrates to take to flight, and complained that the public, was upbraiding his disciples with lack of friendship and with avarice. The self-willed philosopher refused to gratify his pupils or the good people of Athens. "Let us investigate." he said. "If it turns out that I must flee, I will flee; but if I must die, I will die. Let us remember what we once saidthe wise man need not fear death, he need fear nothing but falsehood. Is it right to abide by the laws we ourselves have made so long as they are agreeable to us, and refuse to obey those which are disagreeable? If my memory does not deceive me I believe we once spoke of these things, did we not?" "Yes, we did," answered his pupil. "And I think all were agreed as to the answer?" "Yes." "But perhaps what is true for others is not true for us?" "No, truth is alike for all, including ourselves." "But perhaps when we must die and not some one else, truth becomes untruth?" "No, Socrates, truth remains the truth under all circumstances." After his pupil had thus agreed to each premise of Socrates in turn, he smiled and drew his conclusion. "If that is so, my friend, mustn't I die? Or has my head already become so weak that I am no longer in a condition to draw a logical conclusion? Then correct me, my friend and show my erring brain the right way." His pupil covered, his face with his mantle and turned aside. "Yes," he said, "now I see you must die." And on that evening when the sea tossed hither, and thither and roared dully under the load of fog, and the whimsical wind in mournful astonishment gently stirred the sails of the ships; when the citizens meeting on the streets asked, one another: "Is, he dead?" and their voices timidly betrayed the hope that he was not dead; when the first breath of awakened conscience, touched the hearts of the Athenians like the first messenger of the storm; and when, it seemed the very faces of the gods were darkened with shameon that evening at the sinking of the sun the self-willed man drank the cup of death! The wind increased in violence and shrouded the city more closely in the veil of mist, angrily tugging at the sails of the vessels delayed in the harbour. And the Erinyes sang their gloomy songs to the hearts of the citizens and whipped up in their breasts that tempest which was later, to overwhelm the denouncers of Socrates. But in that hour the first stirrings of regret were still uncertain and confused. The citizens found more fault with Socrates than ever because he had not given them the satisfaction of fleeing to Thessaly; they were annoyed with his pupils because in the last days they had walked about in sombre mourning attire, a living reproach to the Athenians; they were vexed with the judges because they had not had the sense and the courage to resist the blind rage of the excited people; they bore even the gods resentment. "To you, ye gods, have we brought this sacrifice," spoke many. "Rejoice, ye unsatiable!" "I know not which of us chooses the better lot!" Those words of Socrates came back to their memory, those his last words to the judges and to the people gathered in the court. Now he lay in the prison quiet and motionless under his cloak, while over the city hovered mourning, horror, and shame. Again he became the tormentor of the city, he who was himself no longer accessible to torment. The gadfly had been killed, but it stung the people more sharply than eversleep not, sleep not this night, O men of Athens! Sleep not! You have committed an injustice, a cruel injustice, which can never be erased!