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Socrates is often considered
the first great philosopher of the ancient world. He was born sometime around
470 B.C. in Athens and lived through the Peloponnesian War. During his lifetime
Athens went from a position of international supremacy to utter defeat. After
serving the polis as a hoplite in the land campaigns against Sparta, he married,
had three sons, and entered a long period of philosophical inquiry that involved
a persistent and, for some, annoying pursuit of the truths of human nature
and politics. Military defeat had made Athenians highly sensitive to criticism,
and Socrates' constant questioning of the established order caused him to fall
into disfavor with some of the more powerful elements of his society. In 399,
Socrates was charged with corrupting the youth of Athens and violating the
city's religious practices and condemned to death. Presented with the opportunity
to flee the polis, he chose suicide instead. His student Plato recorded a famous
account of his death in Phaedo.
Although Socrates never wrote, he influenced later philosophy by his relentless
application of closely reasoned questions to the moral and political dogmas
of his day. The Socratic dialogue, carried forward by his many students, is
an essential part of the Western philosophical tradition.
Works by the Author
The Collected Dialogues of Plato Including the Letters. 2 vols. New
Haven: Yale University Press, 1989.
Works about the Author
Lutz, Mark J. Socrates' Education to Virtue: Learning the Love of the Noble.
Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998.
McPherron, Mark L. The Religion of Socrates. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania
State University Press, 1996
Nehamas, Alexander. The Art of Living: Socratic Reflections from Plato
to Foucault. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998.
Nichols, Mary P. Socrates and the Political Community: An Ancient Debate.
Albany: State University of New York Press, 1987.
Plato. The Roots of Political Philosophy: Ten Forgotten Socratic Dialogues
Translated, with Interpretive Studies. Ithaca: Cornell University Press,
Plato. The Last Days of Socrates. London, England, New York: Penguin
Stone, Isidor F. The Trial of Socrates. New York, Anchor Books, 1989.
Strauss, Leo. Xenophon's Socrates. South Bend, Ind.: St. Augustine
Taylor, Alfred Edward. Socrates. Boston, Beacon Press, 1951.
West, Thomas G. Plato's Apology of Socrates: An Interpretation. Ithaca,
New York: Cornell University Press, 1979.
The biographical material about the author originally appeared on The
Goodrich Room: Interactive Tour website.