[Socrates was] a citizen performing the duties required of him as the state directed and bravely refusing to act illegally in spite of the vehement demands of an angry Ecclesia. It so happened that at the trial of the generals in 406 B. C. Socrates was one of the presidents of the assembly. When it was demanded that generals be judged and condemned together, contrary to established procedure, Socrates refused to put the motion.
That this was characteristic of him is shown by other acts in his life. He served as a hoplite in the army, and was commended for valour at the Battle of Delium in 424 B. C. Athens was for eighteen months ruled by an oligarchy called the Thirty Tyrants, whose actions in many ways resembled those of certain totalitarian government of our time. They forbade intellectual and philosophical teaching, a decree with which Socrates refused to comply. And in a wave of indiscriminate arrests of their opponents, they insisted on blameless citizens carrying out these arrests in order to implicate them in their enormities. On one occasion five Athenians were ordered to arrest a certain Leon. Four of them carried out the order; the fifth, Socrates, refused. Such was the man who faced trial and condemnation in 399 B. C. and lives in the pages of Plato and Xenophon.
The Fall of Athens. Selections form Xenophon's Hellenica. Introduction, pp. xxv-xxvi.