Socrates Philosopher: The dialogues of Plato and Xenophon (both devotees of Socrates), and the plays of Aristophanes. He has been depicted by some scholars, including Eric Havelock and Walter Ong, as a champion of oral modes of communication, standing up at the dawn of writing against its haphazard diffusion.
Details about Socrates Philosopher can be derived from three contemporary sources:
Aristophanes’ play The Clouds portrays Socrates as a clown who teaches his students how to bamboozle their way out of debt. Most of Aristophanes’ works, however, function as parodies. Thus, it is presumed this characterization was also not literal.
According to Plato, Socrates’ father was Sophroniscus and his mother Phaenarete, a midwife. Though characterized as unattractive in appearance and short in stature, Socrates married Xanthippe, who was much younger than him.
She bore for him three sons, Lamprocles, Sophroniscus, and Menexenus. His friend Crito of Alopece criticized him for abandoning his sons when he refused to try to escape before his execution.
It is unclear how Socrates earned a living. Ancient texts seem to indicate that Socrates did not work. In Xenophon’s Symposium, Socrates is reported as saying he devotes himself only to what he regards as the most important art or occupation: discussing philosophy.
In The Clouds, Aristophanes portrays Socrates as accepting payment for teaching and running a sophist school with Chaerephon, while in Plato’s Apology and Symposium and in Xenophon’s accounts, Socrates explicitly denies accepting payment for teaching.
More specifically, in the Apology Socrates cites his poverty as proof he is not a teacher. According to Timon of Phlius and later sources, Socrates took over the profession of stonemasonry from his father.
There was a tradition in antiquity, not credited by modern scholarship, that Socrates crafted the statues of the Three Graces, which stood near the Acropolis until the 2nd century AD.
Several of Plato’s dialogues refer to Socrates’ military service. Socrates says he served in the Athenian army during three campaigns: at Potidaea, Amphipolis, and Delium. In the Symposium Alcibiades describes Socrates’ valor in the battles of Potidaea and Delium, recounting how Socrates saved his life in the former battle (219e-221b).
Socrates’ exceptional service at Delium is also mentioned in the Laches by the General after whom the dialogue is named (181b). In the Apology, Socrates compares his military service to his courtroom troubles and says anyone on the jury who thinks he ought to retreat from philosophy must also think soldiers should retreat when it looks like they will be killed in battle.
In 404 the Thirty Tyrants sought to ensure the loyalty of those opposed to them by making them complicit in their activities. Socrates Philosopher and four others were ordered to bring a certain Leon of Salamis from his home for unjust execution. Socrates quietly refused, his death averted only by the overthrow of the Tyrants soon afterward.
What did Socrates believe in
According to Xenophon’s story, Socrates purposefully gave a defiant defense to the jury because “he believed he would be better off dead”. Xenophon goes on to describe a defense by Socrates that explains the rigors of old age, and how Socrates would be glad to circumvent them by being sentenced to death. It is also understood that Socrates also wished to die because he “actually believed the right time had come for him to die.”
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