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  • Details about the life of Socrates are derived from both contemporary sources, and later ancient period sources. Of the contemporary sources, the greater extent of information is taken from the dialogues of Plato and  Xenophon (both devotees of Socrates)
  • The year of birth of Socrates stated is an assumed date, or estimate. His date of birth is within the period of years ranging 470 to 469 BC, or within a range 469 to 468 BC. He wasn’t from a noble family.
  • Socrates was born in Alopeke, and belonged to the tribe Antiochis. His father was Sophroniscus, a sculptor, or stonemason. His mother was a midwife named Phaenarete. Socrates married Xanthippe, who is  especially remembered for having an undesirable temperament. She bore  for him three sons, Lamprocles, Sophroniscus and Menexenus.
  • Socrates first worked as a stonemason. As a youth, he showed an appetite for learning. is family apparently had the moderate wealth required to launch Socrates’ career as a hoplite (foot soldier).
  • Although he never outright rejected the standard Athenian view of religion, Socrates’ beliefs were nonconformist. He often referred to God rather than the gods, and reported being guided by an inner  divine voice.
  • For a time, Socrates fulfilled the role of hoplite, participating in the Peloponnesian War—a conflict which stretched intermittently over a period spanning 431 to 404 BC. Socrates states he was active for  Athens in the battles of Amphipolis, Delium, and Potidaea.
  • Friction between Athens and the Peloponnesian states, including Sparta, began. in the wake of the departure of the Persians from Greece, Sparta attempted to prevent the reconstruction of the walls  of Athens.
  • Fifteen-year conflict, commonly known as the First Peloponnesian War, ensued, in which Athens fought intermittently against Sparta, Corinth, Aegina, and a number of other states.
  • The war was officially ended by the Thirty Years’ Peace, signed in the winter of 446/5 BC.Hhowever this was brokedown eventually.
  • Peloponnesian War began in 431 bc and lasted until 404 BC.
  • Historians have traditionally divided the war into three phases. In the first phase, the Archidamian War, Sparta launched repeated invasions of Attica. This period of the war was concluded in 421 BC, with the  signing of the Peace of Nicias.
  • That treaty, however, was soon undermined by renewed fighting in the Peloponnese. In 415 BC, Athens dispatched a massive expeditionary force to attack Syracuse in Sicily the attack failed disastrously, with  the destruction of the entire force, in 413 BC.
  • This ushered in the final phase of the war, generally referred to either as the Decelean War, or the Ionian War. In this phase, Sparta, now receiving support from Persia, supported rebellions in Athens’ subject  states in the Aegean Sea and Ionia, undermining Athens’ empire, and,  eventually, depriving the city of naval supremacy.
  • The destruction of Athens’ fleet at Aegospotami effectively ended the war, and Athens surrendered in the following year.
  • He grew up during the golden age of Pericles’ AtSocrates is at once the most exemplary and the strangest of the Greek philosophers.hens, served with distinction as a soldier, but became best known as a  questioner of everything and everyone.
  • His style of  teaching—immortalized  as  the  Socratic Method—involved not conveying knowledge but rather asking  question after clarifying question until his students arrived at their  own understanding.
  • He wrote nothing himself, so all that is known about him is filtered through the writings of a few contemporaries and followers, most of all, his student Plato. He was accused of corrupting the youth of Athens and sentenced to  death.
  • Choosing not to flee, he spent his final days in the company of his friends before drinking the executioner’s cup of poisonous hemlock.
  • During 406BC, he participated as a member of the Boule. His tribe the Antiochis held the Prytany on the day it was debated what fate should befall the generals of the Battle of Arginusae, who abandoned the slain  and the survivors of foundered ships to pursue the defeated Spartan navy.
  • According to Xenophon, Socrates was the Epistates for the debate, The generals were seen by some to have failed to uphold the most basic of duties, and the people decided upon capital punishment.  However, when the prytany responded by refusing to vote on the issue,  the people reacted with threats of death directed at the prytany itself.
  • They relented, at which point Socrates alone as epistates blocked the vote, which had been proposed by The outcome of the trial was ultimately judged to be a miscarriage of justice, or illegal, but, actually, Socrates’s  decision had no support from written statutory law.


  • The jury was not swayed by Socrates’s defense and convicted him by a vote of 280 to 221. Possibly the defiant tone of his defense contributed to the verdict and he made things worse  during the deliberation over his punishment.
  • Athenian law allowed a convicted citizen to propose an alternative punishment to the one called for by the prosecution and the jury  would decide.
  • Instead of proposing he be exiled, Socrates suggested he be honored by the city for his contribution to their enlightenment and be paid for his services. The jury was not amused and sentenced  him to death by drinking a mixture of poison hemlock.
  • At a time when Athens sought to stabilize and recover from its defeat, the Athenian public may have been entertaining doubts about democracy as an efficient form of government. Socrates appears to have been a critic of  democracy.
  • Claiming loyalty to his city, Socrates clashed with the current course of Athenian politics and society.He praised Sparta, archrival to Athens, directly and indirectly in various dialogues. One of Socrates’s purported  offenses to the city was his position as a social and moral critic.
  • According to Plato’s Apology, Socrates’s life as the “gadfly” of Athens began when his friend Chaerephon asked the oracle at Delphi if anyone were wiser than Socrates; the Oracle responded that  no-one was wiser. Socrates believed the Oracle’s response was not  correct, because he believed he possessed no wisdom whatsoever.
  • Before Socrates’s execution, friends offered to bribe the guards and rescue him so he could flee into exile. He declined, stating he wasn’t afraid of death, felt he would be no better off if in exile and said he was still a loyal  citizen of Athens, willing to abide by its laws, even the ones that condemned  him to death.
  • Plato described Socrates’s execution in his Phaedo dialogue: Socrates drank the hemlock mixture without hesitation. Numbness slowly crept into his body until it reached his heart. Shortly before his final breath,  Socrates described his death as a release of the soul from the body.
  • Socrates speaks his last words to Crito (depending on the translation) ;

Please, don’t forget to pay the debt.  or

Pay it and do not neglect it.  or

make this offering to him and do not forget.

  • Socrates believed that philosophy should achieve practical results for the greater well-being of society. He attempted to establish an ethical system based on human reason rather than theological doctrine. He pointed  out that human choice was motivated by the desire for happiness. Ultimate  wisdom comes from knowing oneself.
  • The more a person knows, the greater his or her ability to reason and make choices that will bring true happiness. Socrates believed that this translated  into politics with the best form of government being neither a tyranny nor a  democracy. Instead, government worked best when ruled by individuals  who had the greatest ability, knowledge, and virtue and possessed a  complete understanding of themselves.
  • Socrates didn’t lecture about what he knew. In fact, he claimed to be ignorant because he had no ideas, but wise because he recognized his own ignorance. He asked questions of his fellow Athenians in a dialectic  method (the Socratic Method) which compelled the audience to think  through a problem to a logical conclusion.
  • Plato’s Symposium provides the best details of Socrates’s physical appearance. He was not the ideal of Athenian masculinity. Short and stocky, with a snub nose and bulging eyes, Socrates always seemed  to appear to be staring.
  • However, Plato pointed out that in the eyes of his students, Socrates possessed a different kind of attractiveness, not based on a physical ideal but on his brilliant debates and penetrating thought.
  • Socrates always emphasized the importance of the mind over the relative unimportance of the human body. This credo inspired Plato’s philosophy of dividing reality into two separate realms, the world of  the senses and the world of ideas, declaring that the latter was the  only important one.
  • It is argued that Socrates believed “ideals belong in a world only the wise man can understand”, making the philosopher the only type of person suitable to govern others. In Plato’s dialogue the Republic, Socrates openly  objected to the democracy that ran Athens during his adult life.
  • It was not only Athenian democracy: Socrates found short of ideal any government that did not conform to his presentation of a perfect regime led by  philosophers, and Athenian government was far from that.
  • Socrates’s opposition to democracy is often denied, and the question is one of the biggest philosophical debates when trying to determine exactly what Socrates believed.
  • Socrates refused to pursue conventional politics; he often stated he could not look into other’s matters or tell people how to live their lives when he did not yet understand how to live his own. He believed he was a philosopher  engaged in the pursuit of Truth, and did not claim to know it fully
  • Socrates believed the best way for people to live was to focus on the pursuit of virtue rather than the pursuit, for instance, of material wealth. He always invited others to try to concentrate more on friendships and a sense of true  community, for Socrates felt this was the best way for people to grow together  as a populace.
  • His actions lived up to this standard: in the end, Socrates accepted his death sentence when most thought he would simply leave Athens, as he felt he could not run away from or go against the will of his community; as mentioned  above, his reputation for valor on the battlefield was without reproach.
  • The idea that there are certain virtues formed a common thread in Socrates’s teachings. These virtues represented the most important qualities for a person to have, foremost of which were the philosophical or intellectual  virtues. Socrates stressed that “the unexamined life is not worth living and   ethical virtue is the only thing that matters”.