Socrates (469399 B.C.)

Socrates, Athenian philosopher, pronounced by the Delphic oracle the wisest of men; was the son of Sophroniscus, a statuary, and Phænarete, a midwife; was brought up to his father's profession, in which it would seem he gave promise of success; he lived all his days in Athens, and gathered about him as his pupils all the ingenuous youth of the city; he wrote no book, propounded no system, and founded no school, but was ever abroad in the thoroughfares in all weather talking to whoso would listen, and instilling into all and sundry a love of justice and truth; of quacks and pretenders he was the sworn foe, and he cared not what enmity he provoked if he could persuade one and another to think and do what was right; “he was so pious,” says Xenophon in his “Memorabilia,” “that he did nothing without the sanction of the gods; so just, that he never wronged any one, even in the least degree; so much master of himself, that he never preferred the agreeable to the good; so wise, that in deciding on the better and the worse he never faltered; in short, he was the best and happiest man that could possibly exist;” he failed not to incur enmity, and his enemies persecuted him to death; he was charged with not believing in the State religion, with introducing new gods, and corrupting the youth, convicted by a majority of his judges and condemned to die; thirty days elapsed between the passing of the sentence and its execution, during which period he held converse with his friends and talked of the immortality of the soul; to an offer of escape he turned a deaf ear, drank the hemlock potion prepared for him with perfect composure, and died; “the difference between Socrates and Jesus Christ,” notes Carlyle in his “Journal,” “the great Conscious, the immeasurably great Unconscious; the one cunningly manufactured, the other created, living and life-giving; the epitome this of a grand and fundamental diversity among men; but did any truly great man ever,” he asks, “go through the world without offence, all rounded in, so that the current moral systems could find no fault in him? most likely never” (469399 B.C.).

Definition taken from The Nuttall Encyclopædia, edited by the Reverend James Wood (1907)

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Nearby

Socrates in Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase & Fable