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Chapter 2, The Gadfly
Four years have passed since the democratic exiles took the city back from Critias and the Thirty Tyrants. Athens is at peace for the first time in a generation.
Aristocles (Plato) has made a name for himself in the city, and he is set to run for political office. And Socrates continues to question his fellow citizens in the agora about their ideas an assumptions. But anger about the past and ambition for the future will soon overturn the lives of both men.
Early in this part of the historical comic, we learn that the young man Socrates rescued in the Piraeus battle has become a homeless wastrel. Demetrius’ father Anytus has never forgiven him for being part of the Thirty’s army. When Socrates attempts to mend the relationship between father and son, this further angers Anytus. And he is a man of considerable power in the city.
At the same time, a young upstart – Meletus – is running against Aristocles for archon of the city. When he finds he has no way to embarrass Aristocles with a frontal assault, he sets his sights on Socrates. Due to their close relationship, he figures a fall for the older man will be a fall for the younger.
Though Anytus despises Meletus, their common ends will eventually lead them to join forces and bring suit against Socrates for corruption of the city’s youth and impiety.
The Gadfly comes to a climax…
…when Socrates goes before the magistrate to show the ridiculousness of the charges against him.
More than in part one of the book, the reader who is well-versed in the Platonic dialogues will recognize many of Plato’s most memorable scenes, though each is tweaked to fit the overall narrative: Socrates’ debates about justice with Thrasymachus (The Republic) and Callicles (Gorgias), the discussion of love (The Symposium), and the set-up of the Euthyphro. At the same time, we will meet Socrates’ family and see a side of Plato that does not appear in the historical record.