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.

Socrates was a great Greek philosopher, possibly the wisest sage of all. He is famous for pithy sayings, his method of discussion or dialogue, and “Socratic irony”.

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.

Plato and Xenophon wrote down the philosophy of their teacher Socrates. The comic playwright Aristophanes wrote about a very different aspect of Socrates in the Clouds.

Although we have many details about his death, we know little about the life of Socrates. Plato provides us the names of some of his family members: Socrates’ father was Sophroniscus (thought to have been a stonemason), his mother was Phaenarete, and his wife, Xanthippe (a proverbial shrew). Socrates had 3 sons, Lamprocles, Sophroniscus, and Menexenus. The oldest, Lamprocles, was about 15 at the time his father died.

The Council of 500 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.


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