During Socrates’s life, the city of Athens was enamored with beauty, especially in relation toward men. Manifestations of their infatuations were reflected in stone statues of gods and male humans. Often the statues were chiseled to represent a well-formed muscular image, which portrayed the standard for male development. Unfortunately for Socrates, he fell far from the glory of the Athenian standard of physique. Socrates was considered an exophthalmic, meaning that he his eyeballs bulged past the orbit and often appeared to look to the sides. To enhance the lack of beauty, he was gifted with a pot belly and snub nose that curved up, which unpleasantly depicted the image of a pig.

Regardless of looks, fortunately for him according to Plato, Socrates was married and had three children (Phaedo). Other sources give additional information such as, assistant professor at Kings College James Amburry, who adds that Socrates had two wives; Xanthippe and Myrto. Some claim that Socrates may have had the two wives simultaneously to balance the ratio between men and woman in Athens since there was more woman than men at the time. It is believed that Xanthippe gave Socrates his first son, Lamprocles; followed by Myrto who bore the second and third, Sophroniscus and Menexenus (IEP).

In the time of Socrates, it was the required for all males at the age of 18 to contribute to military service. Socrates was no exception, he fought in three battles of the Peloponnesian War (431 to 404 B.C.); Amphipolis, Delium, and Potidaea as a Hoplite (Monoson). Hoplites were mostly citizen soldiers who fought with a spear and shield and often lacked specialized equipment and training. There were a few specialized Hoplite units in Athens, but it is uncertain which unit Socrates may have been a member of. Socrates contributed to the win of the Athenian victorious battle of Amphipolis, where he also saved the life an Athenian General, Alcibiades. On account of General Alcibiades, Plato writes;

I will also tell if you please, and indeed I am bound to tell of his (Socrates) courage in battle; for who but he saved my life? Now this was the engagement in which I received the prize of valour: for I was wounded and he would not leave me, but he rescued me and my arms, and he ought to have received the prize of valour which the Generals wanted to confer to be partly on account of my rank, and I told them so, (this again Socrates will impeach or deny), but he was more eager than the generals that I and not he should have the prize.

Plato continues to write on account of General Alcibiades of other heroic virtues he noticed from Socrates. Evidently, Socrates was a courageous warrior with virtue and integrity in his time in the Peloponnesian War.

A focal moment in Socrates’s philosophical life is written in Plato’s Apology; where an associate of Socrates named Chaerephon, enquired if there was anyone wiser than Socrates. Chaerephon reported to Socrates that the Oracle of the god of Delphi decreed there was no one wiser than Socrates. Socrates was skeptical of the oracle’s judgment and thought of it as a riddle worth searching out. Socrates, of course, recognized he was not an idiot; nevertheless, he certainly did not consider himself the wisest of any group. Reflecting on the situation, Socrates thought of a method to test the prophecy of the god. His method was to walk around the city and question people on relevant fundamental topics of life, which eventually lead to a method of discourse known as the Socratic Method.

The Socratic Method can also be known as a Socratic debate between persons. It is Socratic in its title because it is named after Socrates. Socrates would daily question and challenge the beliefs of the alleged wisest men of Athens. The method involves a dialogue between persons by asking questions intended to stimulate critical thinking about the topic being discussed. The advantage of using the Socratic Method in argument or debate is that,

  1. The one asking the questions may quickly take the lead in the dialogue.
  2. By analyzing the opponents’ responses, the analyzer can recognize particular false presumptions, presuppositions, inconsistencies, and contradictions.
  3. The one leading by way of questioning, if astute enough can lead or manipulate his opponent into contradicting himself and accepting a concept he under normal discourse may not have accepted.
  4. The Socratic Method can serve to draw out what someone believes and why they believe it, and ultimately test their beliefs according to logic.

In this method, Socrates realized that those who many believed to be wise were actually not wise but foolish; Plato writes, “the result of my mission was just this: I found that the men most in repute were all but the most foolish; and that others less esteemed were really wiser and better” (Apology). Socrates’s answer to the riddle was that he was wisest than the rest because unlike them, he was able to acknowledge how little he actually knew.

This customary practice by Socrates was not favored by those he argued with. His opponents often left angry and they viewed Socrates as an antagonizer, which contributed to the nickname Plato gave to Socrates as the gadfly because of the irritations he would cause the men of Athens; a name according to Plato even Socrates used as reference to himself being a gift from god to the state of Athens not easily replaced, (p30).

Socrates inspired many followers, but he also made enemies with several important people. Many of Socrates’ followers were known to have betrayed the city of Athens when the city fell to Sparta. This perhaps left a negative perception of Socrates at his trial. Several of Socrates’s companions were prosecuted for sacrilegious crimes against the gods of the state to include General Alcibiades whose life was saved by Socrates in battle.  Five years before the trial of Socrates, 30 Athenian men loyal to Sparta were chosen to rule the city of Athens after it fell to Sparta. The 30 Athenians were led by Critias who was an associate of Socrates. General Alcibiades became a supporter of Sparta and allied himself with Persia; the two worst enemies of Athens. Socrates still remained a close friend of the General which reflected poorly on himself at his trial (IEP). At the trial of Socrates, he was already a political target under grave preconceptions; but the condemnation of death was a consequence of a religious reason.

Many great thinkers have come and gone. Some influence people to think negatively, and some influence people in positive ways. As a result of the major philosophical influence attributed to Socrates, he will remain one of the most studied philosophers throughout the existence of thinking beings. As long as people remain unbiased and open to examining the worldviews and concepts of others; applying the techniques of Socrates, and examine their own lives as Socrates examined his all the way to his death; one may find not only a reason worth living for but also find a reason worth dying for.


Work Cited

Ambury, M. James. Socrates (469 – 399 B.C.E). Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Web. 23 Apr. 2017. [http://www.iep.utm.edu/socrates/#H1].

Plato. Phaedo. 116b. Persues Digital Library. Tufts University. [ http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0170%3A ext%3DPhaedo%3Asection%3D116b].

Ambury, M. James. Socrates (469 – 399 B.C.E). Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Web. 23 Apr. 2017. [http://www.iep.utm.edu/socrates/#H1].

Monoson, S.S. Meineck, P., Konstan, D. Combat Trauma and the Ancient Greeks. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. Print.

Plato. Symposium. ProQuest Ebook Central. Informations, inc. 2000, Web. 23 Apr. 2017. [http://ebookcentral.proquest.com.ezproxy1.apus.edu/lib/apus/reader.action?docID=3314 729&ppg=31]

Plato and Benjamin Jowett. Apology. Project Gutenberg. EBSCOhost. (p13). Web. 23 Apr. 2017

Plato and Benjamin Jowett. Apology. Project Gutenberg. EBSCOhost. (p30). Web. 23 Apr. 2017

Ambury, M. James. Socrates (469 – 399 B.C.E). Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Web. 23 Apr. 2017. [http://www.iep.utm.edu/socrates/#H1].

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