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The Sources
by Terry Barlow
08/26/13
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"Go to the sources!" Our professor told us, don't trust the second hand accounts. Yet when I saw Rosellini's movie on the life of Socrates I thought I heard Socrates say to his followers suddenly these last words from his deathbed: "Don't forget to return Gaius' rooster." In fact I told others of that ironic scene. But in reality, as I checked Plato's eyewitness account of that same scene in Phaedo, I found that what Socrates actually said was something more like: "We owe a rooster to Asclepius," meaning as a sacrifice to the god of healing out of gratitude for what Socrates considered his ultimate healing, his death.(My own wife, a retired nurse, also sees death as ultimate healing for the believer.) Either version, and the latter is the authentic one, indicates the calm matter-of-factness of the mindset of Socrates in the face of finality, which was such a marvel to Plato, his prize student. He seemed to have an assurance of his place in heaven even then, even there. (Despite the name "Hemlock Society" adopted later by supporters of suicide, Socrates did not commit suicide, he was simply ordered, through the means of drinking hemlock, to be his own executioner. There is a serious difference.)

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Ben Sizemore 16 Sep 2013
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