“The Character of Socrates” by Xenophon

“The Character of Socrates” by Xenophon

  • Socrates always said what was on his mind to friends
    • Also made sure that they were independent enough to pursue the avenues they were suited for
    • He knew all his friends very well – often probing their minds w/ questions
  • He taught his friends w/ all his heart the things a person ought to know, & at least be familiar w/ any subject
    • Geometry – Good for surveying & owning property, & being able make use of the land. Going too far into it excluded research into other subjects
    • Astronomy – helped plan journeys by land or sea. It helped hunters & pilots measure distances & directions. But trying to know why the gods made the heavens that way wasn’t possible to understand & trying to do so would drive you crazy
    • Arithmetic – good for business & geometry – but don’t get carried away!
    • Health – you should learn all you can from those who know what to eat, drink & how to exercise
  • He was often forewarned by a deity of what to do & what not to do. Some thought he was crazy for this – he wasn’t.
  • He lived w/ a death sentence hanging over him for 30 days. It was so long b/c it was during the month when it was illegal to execute prisoners
    • But during this period, he lived exactly how he lived before
    • When he had been indicted, he wouldn’t even discuss the case.
      • When pressed on trying to build his defense, he replied:
        • “Don’t you think I have been preparing for it all my life?”
    • He refused to stop his way of life because his life had been growing in goodness
      • If he were to live on, he would have died of old age soon anyway
  • He felt if he were to die unjustly, let those who killed him bear the shame of killing him
    • Posterity judges the dead based on the injustice they did much more than the injustice they had to bear
    • He said he’d be remembered fondly, much more than those who took his life because he lived his life to make others better & to corrupt or wrong nobody.
  • Anyone who knew Socrates knew what sort of a man he was & they searched for virtue & helped out anyone in their own quest
    • He was so religious that he did nothing without consulting the gods
    • He was so just that he did no injury to anyone
    • He was so self-controlled that he never chose the pleasanter over the better course
    • He was so wife that he need no counselor & never erred in his judgment of good & bad
      • He suggested that everyone follow virtue & gentleness
        • Seemed to be a truly good & happy man.

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