Socrates the Gadfly

The philosopher Socrates was a great nuisance to the powerful people in Athens long ago. So much so that he called himself the “gadfly”. Why was he a nuisance and why did he call himself a gadfly?

As you may know, a gadfly is flying insect with an extremely painful sting.

Socrates was a nuisance because he kept pestering and stinging the powerful leaders in Athens with difficult questions which showed up their ignorance and their failure to know what they were talking about. He kept stinging them like a gadfly. And Socrates did this in public debate – to the delight of the youth in Athens who no doubt then started questioning the wisdom of their elders.

This was too much for the exposed elite. Like Joseph’s brothers they decided that “the dreamer has to go”. In this case it was Socrates who had to go.

Like a gadfly!

So, the exposed and stung elite trumped up a charge against Socrates: “Corrupting the youth of Athens” (code for: “He persuaded the youth to think for themselves”).

We all know the result. Trial, death sentence and the hemlock.

And another result: Socrates became one of the most respected philosophers and seekers after truth, of all time.

A word of caution: Think twice before you decide to become a gadfly.

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