Dates: c. 470-399 B.C.
Parents: Sophroniscus and Phaenarete
Occupation: Philosopher (Sophist)
The Greek philosopher Socrates was born c. 470/469 B.C., in Athens, and died in 399 B.C. To put this in the context of the other great men of his time, the sculptor Pheidias died c. 430; Sophocles and Euripides died c. 406; Pericles died in 429; Thucydides died c. 399; and the architect Ictinus completed the Parthenon in c. 438.
Athens was producing the extraordinary art and monuments for which she would be remembered. Beauty, including personal, was vital. It was linked with being good. However, Socrates was ugly, according to all accounts, a fact that made him a good target for Aristophanes in his comedies.
Who Was Socrates?:
Socrates was a great Greek philosopher, possibly the wisest sage of all time. He is famous for contributing to philosophy:
- pithy sayings,
- the Socratic method of discussion or dialogue, and
- “Socratic irony”.
A discussion of Greek democracy often focuses on a sadder aspect of his life: his state mandated execution.
And did not Socrates of old often say very fittingly, that if it were in any way possible one should go up to the loftiest part of the city and cry aloud, 'Men, whither is your course taking you, who give all possible attention to the acquiring of money but give small thought to your sons to whom ye are to leave it?'
Plutarch On the Education of Children
He Sought the Plain Life:
He could afford to despise those who scoffed at him. He prided himself on his plain living, and never asked for a fee from anyone. He used to say that he most enjoyed the food which was least in need of condiment, and the drink which made him feel the least hankering for some other drink; and that he was nearest to the gods in that he had the fewest wants.
Socrates from The Lives of Eminent Philosophers by Diogenes Laertius
Socrates actively participated in Athenian democracy, including military service during the Peloponnesian War. Following his ideals, he ended his life by ingesting poison hemlock, in fulfillment of his death sentence.
The Council of 500 [see Athenian Officials in the Time of Pericles] condemned Socrates to death for impiety for not believing in the gods of the city and for introducing new gods. He was offered an alternative to death, paying a fine, but refused it. Socrates fulfilled his sentence by drinking a cup of poison hemlock in front of friends.
Socrates as Citizen of Athens:
Socrates is remembered chiefly as a philosopher and the teacher of Plato, but he was also a citizen of Athens, and served the military as a hoplite during the Peloponnesian War, at Potidaea (432-429), where he saved Alcibiades‘ life in a skirmish, Delium (424), where he remained calm while most around him were in a panic, and Amphipolis (422). Socrates also participated in the Athenian democratic political organ, the Council of the 500.