SOCRATES

Athens
470 - 399 B.C.





BIOGRAPHY

One of the wisest men of the ancient times, he was born in Athens in 470 BC, son of Sofroniskos, a sculptor and midwife Fainarete from Alopece. After trying to follow his fathers profession, he devoted himself to philosophy, teaching in the streets by talking with people of every class and profession, about ethical, religious, social and political matters.

His conversational ability, elegance and spiritual originality, combined with a perfectly ethical character, attracted young aristocrats. Contrary to his contemporary sophists, Socrates did not accept money for his lessons. During the Peloponnesian war he fought with greatest bravery in Potidaia, Delium, and Amphipolis, honoring his hometown and saving the life of Alkiviades. He opposed the illegal voting ending to the death of the nine generals of Athens who after winning in Arginouses, left their dead to the sea due to a bad storm. After Athens was defeated he refused to obey the order of the thirty tyrants to bring Leon of Salamis to Athens in order to be executed.

Socrates had many enemies because he opposed the theories of several sophists, and he criticized the faults of the Athenian democracy, especially the random selection of the state heads. Aristophanes being one of them, he thought of him as a sophist, responsible for the misdeeds of the town. As a result he was accused of disrespect to the laws and the gods by Anytus, a politician, poet Mellitus and orator Lycon, as well as corrupting the youth. Although he could escape conviction by commiting to an apology or begging the judges mercy, not only did he refuse, but even when he was found guilty of the charges he courageously declared unable to stop teaching young people, as it was the gods will. This proud stance of Socrates made the judges even more angry, and even those who had found him innocent at start, voted for his death.

Socrates due to the delay of the execution, stayed 30 days imprisoned, where his friends and students visited him, begging him to save himself by escaping, an act he refused considering it as unethical, Thus he drank the conium in extraordinary peace and divine ecstacy, not ceasing to discuss philosophy even the day he eventually died. It was not long before the Athenians felt sorry for the death of the wise man, and honored his memory in many ways. It is said that in a tragedy of Euripides, everyone burst in tears upon listening to lyrics speaking of the death of the wisest, the best of Greeks.

Everyone agrees of the character of the philosopher. Far from being the perfect example of Greek beauty, he was ugly and of poor appearance, however special for his kindness, wits, originality, humor and according to Plato, he was the wisest, the fairest and most perfect of Greeks.

He did not leave written documents, and it is by writings of Plato, Xenophon and Aristotle that all the info about Socrates come from. Xenophon characterizes Socrates as a great society reformer, and Plato as a great ethics teacher. His philosophy, based on dialectics, is human centered and as Cicero quotes, he brought philosophy from the Heavens to Earth.