The Life and Death of Socrates

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• Part 2: The Case Against Him
• Part 3: His Trial and His Death

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Part 1: His Life and His Influence

Socrates was a famous philosopher in ancient Greece. We know more about him from what other people said and wrote than from what he himself recorded. It was not the custom in those days to write much of anything, and Socrates himself didn't write down much at all. He didn't talk about himself much, either.

The best source for the thoughts and deeds of Socrates is probably the Dialogues of Plato, a student of the great teacher. From other writings as well, the following summary of Socrates' life can be built:

He was born in 470. Extremely little is known about his early life. As an adult, he was a stone-cutter. He was married and had three sons. His wife was named Xanthippe; his sons were Lamprocles, Sophroniscus, and Menexenus.

He was a hoplite in the Athenian army. These soldiers had to buy their own armor, so Socrates must have had some money, although he certainly wasn't rich. He also fought in several major battles in the Peloponnesian War, in one case saving the life of Alcibiades, who would later be one of the leaders of the Athens military machine.

When he grew older, however, he came to hate money and what it did to people.

He seems to have spent most of his time in the agora, or marketplace, discussing all sorts of things. (This could partly explain why he was poor: He wasn't earning a living.) The thing he liked to do most was to ask people (those he knew and those he didn't) fundamental questions, like "What is justice?" or "What is truth?" To the answers the people gave, Socrates would add more questions, until a logical case could be made that the people knew far less than they thought they did about things. This emphasis on questions as means of making an argument is now called the Socratic Method.

Next page > Part 2: The Case Against Him > Page 1, 2, 3 

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