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Socates V. Perpetua Essay

1812 words - 8 pages

The Death of Socrates vs. The Death of Perpetua
Civil disobedience has been a common element in human behavior. From the time of antiquity to the present, people lash out in various ways against standards that society has placed upon citizens. Two ancient examples of disobedient actions come from different ages revered for standards that hold today and provide a basis for modern law; the Greek and ancient Roman empires. From the Greeks, we have come to know the story of Socrates as memorialized by Plato, and the Roman age was the time of Perpetua, an early Christian woman. The fate of those individuals is the same – a death sentence handed down by the society they lived in. Although the ...view middle of the document...

For Socrates, his reasons are founded on principles and logic. Though religions have little impact on his actions, it is not a complete non-factor for Socrates. As the anecdote preceding Crito implies, no death sentence can be carried out during the religious mission to Delos. Essentially, the state religion provided a moment in which Socrates could have fled imprisonment, potentially saving his life. However, escape meant compromising and demeaning the laws that protects the society Socrates greatly admired and respected. The state provided the foundation upon which his convictions were built.
More importantly, Socrates’s relationship to the state is made clear during the dialogue with his friend Crito, when speaking as if Socrates is the state himself. When asking how important the state is, the law asks; “Is your…country to be honored more than…all your ancestors…that it counts for more among the gods and sensible men, that you must worship it…?” Rather than a statement, Socrates makes his point that the law must be upheld, even in his case of a death sentence. It is important to note that Socrates accepted his fate, even though he felt the accusations against him were false. Yet, as if speaking on behalf of the law, recognized that escaping would only turn those untruthful indictments into the truth, and as a destroyer of laws; “You will strengthen the conviction of the jury that they passed the right sentence on you.” By the definition of the word martyr, as one who dies for a cause, in this instance the laws of the state, Socrates is justifiably fitting of that label. The narrative of the Roman woman Perpetua is a tale of martyrdom, but the cause is from a higher power beyond the Roman Empire.
Throughout the narrative of Perpetua, it is very evident she is Christian. Her reverences for Christian notions of God are her reasons for being in prison. Those beliefs are her solace while in confinement with her death pending and they are the standards that she lives her life by as well. Especially after Perpetua had her first vision, where she stepped on an enormous dragon and climbed upwards through a ladder full of weapons alongside leading to a marvelous garden that she realized “it was to be a passion, and we ceased henceforth to have any hope in this world”. It is clearly indicated that there is no other way to live in true happiness but to sacrifice human life to reunite with God in the spiritual world. At no point in the Passion does she exhort the state like Socrates. To Perpetua, the state is merely a physical imprisonment that sentenced her because the only authority she answers to is God. Aspects of her confinement parallel that of Socrates. Mainly in that of a loved one, Perpetua’s father pleaded for her to leave the prison by begging her repeatedly to “have pity on your father”…“have regard to your brothers…Lay aside your courage and do not bring us all to destruction”, much like Crito’s attempts to have Socrates escape. However,...

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