Socrates (~-470 - 399 BC)

Socrates Socrates was an Athenian philosopher and one of the most important figures of Greek culture, one of the founders of Western philosophy. A sign of his importance and contribution in Ancient Greek philosophy is the fact that all philosophers that preceded him are categorized as Pre – Socratic.

He was born in Athens in 470 or 469 BC. There is a lot of information about Socrates’ life, as many scholars have studied him since Antiquity. Socrates was initially occupied in sculpting, which was also his father’s occupation. However, when he was 17 years old, he met the philosopher Archelaus, who inspired him and transferred his passion for philosophy. During his philosophical speeches, there were many people who listened to him, especially young ones, and enjoyed listening to his ideas on social, political, ethical and religious matters. Thus, a group of people was gathered around him, but this cannot be characterized a school, as Socrates did not teach in a systematic way and was not paid for what he did.

He avoided politics and preferred to go on his own way except if Athens called for him. Thus, he participated in three campaigns during the Peloponnesian War, and the siege of Potidaia. In the Battle of Amphipolis, in 422 BC, he saved Alkiviades’ life and was incredibly resistant to hardship. In 399 BC, he was accused of being impious to the Gods and of corrupting the youth; he was trialed and sentenced to death. The pretense behind this accusation is that his teachings had a considerable effect on young people, and because of his liberal ideas, he was considered a disruptive element. However, the real reason was his rivalry with important people of his time. During the trial, Socrates was particularly calm and was not even startled when the verdict was announced. After the trial, Socrates was kept in prison for thirty days, because it was not allowed to execute someone before the holy ship had returned from the festivities in Delos island. Based on Plato’s dialogue, Kriton, Socrates could have escaped with the help of his students; however, he denied as a lawful citizen, and instead preferred to wait for the coming of death peacefully. He drank the conium as the law demanded.

Socrates, just like Pythagoras, did not write any texts, which is why it is difficult to pinpoint the exact nature of his philosophical teachings. So, any information comes from his students, as well as scholars who studied him. Important in his legacy is the so called Socratic Method. According to it, Socrates would feign complete ignorance on the subject he was talking about, and through questions, he tried to extract the truth from his interlocutor.

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