The Life of Socrates

Yahsuh! Hello, I am Socrates’ cousin, Agatha. Socrates’ mom, Phaenarete, and my mom , Alexandra, were sisters. I am here to tell everyone about Socrates’ tragic and triumphant life. Socrates was successful as a moralist and a philosopher. A philosopher is someone who studies basic truths and ideas about the universe. Socrates formed the Socratic Method. Before Socrates, philosophy was centered on how the universe was created and about nature. When Socrates came, he changed philosophy by teaching people to look inward and not outward. Also, Socrates taught his students to look for wisdom and truth.

Socrates was born in 470 B.C. near Athens, Greece. He and I played together as children. I remember that Socrates would ask me a million questions like: “What is truth?”, “What is life?” He annoyed me when he asked me so many questions.

When Socrates grew up he married a woman named Xanthippe (Zan thip e). She had a very bad temper. One day I heard her yell, “You never charge your students. You need to bring home some money, clothes, and food, for me and our three sons.” Socrates didn’t seem to be listening. Socrates was very poor because he never charged his students. Most teachers in Athens charged their students. My cousin didn’t care about fine food, clothes, or money. But Xanthippe did.

Socrates’ moms’ name was Phaenarete. She was a midwife. His dad was Sophroniscus (Su fron is cus) a sculptor or stonemason.

You people don’t really know what Socrates looked like because you have no paintings or sculptures from our time period. But you do have my description and Plato’s description of Socrates. Socrates was not handsome. I’m not the only one who thought Socrates was ugly. Plato did too. Plato, Socrates’ student, said Socrates had a flat nose, thick lips, and bulging eyes. He became bald early in life and had an awkward walk. He loved to walk everywhere.

Socrates left no writings for you modern day people. All the information that you have comes from Plato, Xenophon (Zeh nufun), Aeschines (u sky knees) , Aristotle, and a comedy by Aristophanes (Air iI stof ah knees).

Socrates didn’t stay home very much. Xanthippe did not like it. I remember her saying *, “I wish Socrates would come home on time. He’s always at the market place or the workshops talking to people. Anybody who passes by. He’ll speak with the old, the young, the rich, the poor, the men, the women, and anyone who’ll listen to him. Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk….that’s all I hear.* “I don’t think it was right for Xanthippe to yell her head off at Socrates.

Socrates taught people by conversations. My cousin taught what he believed was truth by questioning the person he was talking to. I know this because one day I saw Socrates in the market place talking with Jonas. Jonas told Socrates that he knew the answer to the question “What is love?” (but he really didn’t) Socrates said “ I don’t know the answer.” ( But he really did). Socrates asked Jonas some questions about love until Jonas found out the right answer. This tactic that Socrates used on Jonas is called the Socratic Method. You still use this questioning method today.

My cousin had plenty of friends and enemies. He had lots of enemies because he asked them questions they couldn’t answer which made them look foolish. Those enemies complained to the government workers that Socrates did not believe in the gods the state believes in, introduced different divine powers, and corrupted the young. I remember the night when Socrates was arrested. I was eating dinner with Socrates and his family. Socrates was talking to me about the days’ events in the marketplace. Someone knocked on the door and said “Let us in, let us in, we need to arrest Socrated.” Xanthippe went to the door and opened it. Two soldiers burst in, grabbed Socrates by the arms, and took him to jail. Socrates calmly walked with the soldiers out the door. Socrates was brought to trial for the enemies’ charges and was sentenced to death in 399 B.C. by drinking hemlock made from the hemlock plant.

Socrates could have avoided the death sentence. He could have proposed a substitute punishment, or we could have appealed the sentence. He could have escaped from the prison with our help. He could have admitted he was wrong. But he said he was right and didn’t do anything wrong. He felt it was the right choice to follow the court’s decision by drinking hemlock even if it was unjust. Normally my cousin would’ve died the next day but he received thirty extra days before drinking the hemlock. He got thirty days extra because there was a holy boat carrying offerings from the Greeks to Apollo that had just left Athens which was sailing to De’Los. The Athenian law said that no one could be put to death when the boat was sailing to and from De’Los.

The authorities allowed us to visit Socrates in prison during the thirty days. When the thirty days were over the family and I stayed with Socrates during the time he died. Socrates talked about death and a better life coming to him. I was very anxious and sad he had to die. His friends were there crying. Socrates was happy when the jailer came to his room to give him the cup of poisonous hemlock. Socrates joyfully drank it. The jailer told Socrates to walk around. Socrates walked around the room and started to feel sleepy. He laid down on the bed and died.

The tragedy of Socrates’ life is that he did not get to live on to tell more about his beliefs and philosophies. For Socrates dying for his belief was good, but for his family and friends it was tragic. His enemies felt triumphant by his death. Socrates is respected highly by everyone for dying for his beliefs.
Topic revision: r1 - 2007/01/15, RickMach
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