Abstract and Keywords
Most evidence for impiety in ancient Greece comes from Athens, and relates to trials under the graphe asebeias (a public prosecution for impiety). The evidence is not straightforward, and there is debate in modern scholarship about what the term asebeia referred to. Inscriptions from outside Athens suggest that asebeia was seen as a condition rather than an offence, as was the case with atimia (loss of civic rights) in Athens. The trial of Andocides in 400 BCE can be read in this way: the issue was Andocides’ involvement in Athenian politics while he was (supposedly) in a state of asebeia. Accusations of atheism were closely related to notions of asebeia: Athenians did not distinguish clearly between thought and action, and assumed someone who did not believe in the gods was likely to act impiously, and thus endanger the city. The charges brought against Sokrates can be understood in this light.
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