Copyright Michael D. Robbins 2005


Astro-Rayological Interpretation & Charts
Images and Physiognomic Interpretation

to Volume 3 Table of Contents


Socrates—Greek Philosopher, Teacher of Plato

May 20, 467 BC, birth place unknown, but proposed as Athens. There is insufficient data given to do anything but cast a chart for around noon. (Source: Maurice Wemyss who references the ancient records that Socrates was born on the 6th Thargelion in the 4th year of the 77th Olympiad—according to Stanley's History of Philosophy, equated with May 20, 467 BC O.S.). Using approximately that time, the Ascendant could be either late Leo or early Virgo; MC, either Taurus or Gemini; Sun conjunct Jupiter in Taurus with both near the MC; Venus, retrograde, conjunct Mercury in Gemini; Mars in Aries; Saturn in Leo; Uranus in Virgo rising close to Ascendant; Neptune in Capricorn; Pluto in Scorpio near the IC).     

There are good reasons for thinking that either a Leo or Virgo Ascendant is justified. If  Virgo, however, it is unlikely that the birth would be any later the 12:33 PM, LMT, due to the manner of Socrates’ historically renowned death—he was made to drink the poison, Hemlock, which would fit well with Pisces (ruled by drug-related Neptune and deadly Pluto—the orthodox Jupiter rulership of Pisces, with Jupiter on or near the MC relating to the fact that his is one of the most significant and inspiring deaths in all history). On the other hand, and improbably, the Aries eighth house cusp would relate to a sudden, violent death—especially since Mars in natally placed in Aries—a death very unrelated to death by relatively painless poison.. It is also unlikely that the birth occurred before 11:50 AM, LMT, as a birth prior to this time would remove the Sun from the ninth house of philosophy, and emphasize instead a more public career or office. Socrates is thought by many to have neglected his civic duties, since, though qualified, he never sought public office, and, instead, used every occasion to discuss issues of philosophy whenever and wherever his fellow citizens congregated      .

Socrates was one of the greatest of all philosophers and a modern man in many respects. He could be regarded as the ‘Father of Western Philosophy’, and was, according to Plato in his Apology, pronounced by the Oracle of Delphi to be the wisest man in all Greece, even before his fortieth year.    

The “Acute Energy of Divine Mental Perception”, the energy of the third ray, was fully manifest through Socrates, as was the power to illumine conferred by Taurus. As well, because he was a great teacher to many (and especially to Plato, found according to the Tibetan upon the second ray) and a lover of wisdom (which is what the word “philosophy”—philo sophia—means) his relation to the second ray of Love-Wisdom (and especially to wisdom) is more than reasonable.           

“Such Avatars were Plato, the first Patanjali and Sankaracharya; they emerge upon the second ray line of energy, in the department of the Christ and are expressions of hierarchical force.” (EXH 298)
As Socrates was a major “light bearer” intimately related to the world of “ideas” or “forms” (as Plato called his archetypes), his major rays may be presumed to be similar to those of Plato—namely the second and the third.

Because his philosophical method was critical, sharp, logical, syllogistic and endlessly inquisitive, there is evidence for the presence of the fifth ray in the mind, but Mercury in oscillatory Gemini would surely provide ample fourth ray facility—he was always in discussion and dialogue. His mind was unclouded by emotion (as his serene and noble behavior through his death process clearly indicates). This may speak of the second ray in the emotional nature. Perhaps not much can be said of his physical nature (other than to cite his proverbial ‘ugliness’ or crudeness of form, and to infer that he was physically strong, as stories of his courage in war suggest). He did not seem to be a person of regular habits (seven ray, in the physical nature) but rather a peripatetic—always walking and talking his great love, philosophy. This seems more related to the third ray in the outer, physical-etheric nature.       

Socrates’ major precept was “know thyself”. This illuminating dictum has resounded resonantly down the ages as the keynote of Socratic philosophy. All students of esoteric astrology recognize the relation of this injunction to the sign, Leo, the sign of self-knowledge. It is no wonder that the Oracle of Delphi considered him the wisest of men, for “know thyself” was the keynote of the Oracle as well.          

Socrates (though some dispute his actual physical existence, just as some dispute the actuality of Jesus) was a great light, and yet a humble person. In all humility (not just a Virgoan trait, but one achieved by the advanced Leo individual) he wondered in puzzlement why the Oracle had declared him the wisest, but then concluded (a little humorously yet aptly) that, while others professed knowledge without realizing their ignorance, he at least was aware of his own ignorance. The issues of pride and humility (especially, when the third ray is involved—mental pride and humility) is pivotal to the Leo experience of the initiate (and certainly Socrates was an initiate of some degree, perhaps the third).    

We must also remember the two keynotes of Leo—the “Will to Rule” and the “Will to Illumine”. It is the latter to which Socrates, obviously, related. Perhaps his connection to the first keynote manifested in his determination to master or rule over ignorance. His position with respect to ignorance was very much like that of the Buddha, Who considered ignorance the greatest sin. For Socrates, virtue and knowledge were identical; thus, no person (who knew better) would willingly do the wrong. Is this an optimistic second ray attitude, finding, through overestimation, too much “good” in human nature? According to the Tibetan, the second ray type often has this attitude towards “loved ones”. Socrates held it for all human beings. 

A few other characteristics point to the reasonableness of Leo as an Ascendant. Socrates was, reputedly, a man of great physical courage, who fought nobly and powerfully in war. With a late Leo Ascendant, the zodiacal decanate ruler would be Aries, with its ruler Mars already placed in courageous Aries; Mars would trine a late Leo Ascendant. (Of course, Jupiter as the ruler of the third decanate of Leo—as proposed by the Tibetan—would contribute to the quality and scope of the illuminative power which Socrates carried.)           

As well, Socrates did more than just talk—although he did that quite well, with his Mercury and Venus conjunction in Gemini. He lived his convictions. There were probably ways in which he could have avoided his death sentence for religious heresy (Uranus rising, Sun in ninth house), and corrupting Athenian youth (Neptune in the fifth house), but, instead, he accepted the judgment with great serenity, humility and courage, and set an historically inspiring example of the philosophical and
 noble death. To the author’s judgment, this relates more to the sign Leo (the sign of “coeur-age”) than to Virgo (though, significantly, the veiled hierarchical ruler of Leo, Uranus, is placed in Virgo and is rising).        

The sculpted images we have of Socrates also suggest the more hearty and vigorous Leo rather than the Virgo of slighter frame. As well, were Virgo the Ascendant, the ruling planet, Mercury, for which sign placement is so physiognomically and physically revealing when one of the Mercurial signs (Gemini or Virgo) is the Sun or Ascendant, would be placed in Gemini (another sign giving height, slenderness and spareness). The image of Socrates much more suggests his Taurus Sun, which would be physiognomically accented were Leo (ruled by the Sun) the Ascendant. Socrates’ reputed strength and fortitude in battle also suggest Leo. The Moon would be in Cancer in any case, and is surely reflected physiognomically in the images of him which claim to represent him.            

One other interesting matter is of moment. Socrates would, legend tells, suddenly become wrapped in deep communion with his “Daimon”—his  “Inner Genius” or “Inner God”. He is reputed to have stood still for three whole days in deep meditative  process with this “god”, whom esotericists will recognize as the soul or Solar Angel. Apart from the tremendous fortitude and fixity (Leo and Taurus) required for such a physical feat (if the story is true, he certainly did not observe seventh ray rhythms), the “Daimon”, or Solar Angel, is directly connected with the solar sign, Leo. This Solar Angel is a far higher form of identity than the customary ego or personality, and Socrates, so it seems, was deeply impressed by the need to understand the scope and nature of identity.          

Virgo, as an Ascendant, is not without its justifications. The keen mental discrimination of Virgo would be strongly in evidence, along with the Virgoan traits of modesty, piety and humility, and critique (he was the “gad-fly”—often more than unappreciated—to Athenian society).  Socrates was, we know, deeply interested in ethics—a sometime Virgo preoccupation.  With a Virgo Ascendant, his Mercurial characteristics (already very powerful through the Mercury/Venus conjunction in Mercurial Gemini) would be even more strongly accented.  

We must ask whether the Venus/Mercury conjunction (both orthodox and esoteric ruler of Gemini in Gemini) plus a strong fifth ray, would be sufficient to give him his critical (and ironic) method of inquiry. Very possibly. Mental, revolutionary Uranus (veiled hierarchical ruler of Leo) also cannot be ignored in Socrates’ case, as he may well have been an illumined initiate of the third degree; certainly his survival as a great philosophical influence warrants that he was no ordinary individual, and possessed an encompassing mountain-top perspective (though he surely would have denied it).  In a way, Socrates was responsible for a philosophical revolution (at least in terms of technique—Virgo). He emphasized the method of the “dialectic” a logical method which consisted in examining statements by pursuing their implications, on the assumption that if a statement were true it could not lead to false consequences.  This approach was intellectually revolutionary for his time. Socrates’ contributions to philosophy were a new method of approaching knowledge, a conception of the soul as the seat both of normal waking consciousness and of moral character, and a sense of the universe as purposively mind-ordered.
 Interestingly, Einstein, another mental revolutionary, had a prominent Uranus in Virgo.        

Tradition has it that Socrates not only neglected his civic and social ‘duties” (though not his military duties—Mars in Aries) in favor of philosophical discussion, but his home duties as well. His wife, Xanthippe, has become legendary as a shrew. Perhaps it is no easy thing to be married to a philosopher! One wonders if, with a Virgo Ascendant, Socrates might have paid a bit more attention to his domestic responsibilities (he already had the Moon in Cancer, tying him, at least unconsciously, to the “Mother Force”). Rather, it would seem, he exemplified a Leo Ascendant (following his individual and deeper soul calling, ignoring the more mundane considerations to which Virgo would have related him). If this interpretation has merit, his Virgoan expression related more to innovations (Uranus) of new philosophical techniques (Virgo) and these he carefully cultivated (Virgo).      

The power for philosophy of a conjunction between the radiant Sun and philosophical, second-ray Jupiter in luminous Taurus, with the Sun in the house of higher mind (the ninth) and Jupiter just into the tenth (reputation and vocation) speaks for itself. Socrates’ mind was ever dwelling upon the ;great thoughts, though his Geminian intellect (fourth ray Mercury and fifth ray Venus, retrograde, in second ray Gemini) gave him the versatility and adaptability to be intellectually sharp on the level of concrete mind as well. Dedicated Vesta, conjunct first Venus and then, by translation of light, Mercury, adds great focus to the intellectual, Geminian preoccupation. The Sun and Jupiter (both of them on the second ray) are (using this approximate chart) either conjunct or very close to the MC. Thus the light which Socrates’ stimulated has already lasted nearly 2500 years. The MC in Taurus seems correct, rather than in more versatile, mobile, Gemini, for Socrates, like the Taurean Buddha, was a great light-bearer and light-bestower.           

A few declinations are interesting and important. Venus and Mercury (already powerful by longitudinal conjunction) are closely parallel in the same degree of declination, adding to Socrates’ versatile, mental brilliance. Saturn and Moon, only very widely conjunct by longitude, are parallel within twenty minutes of arc by declination, giving him his ‘home karma’ (his challenges and domestic sorrows, even as he shone brilliantly among his philosophical colleagues and the social elite), and also, the later rejection by the state of Athens (Saturn representing the law and the Moon, one’s community). Socrates’ intellectually nonconformist nature is accented by the close parallel between revolutionary Uranus, assertive Mars and ingenious Pallas Athene; clearly, he went his own way and broke through traditional boundaries of thought (Mars/Uranus), even in that relatively free-minded society.          

A few stars tell a supportive story. Mars (battles and initiatives in the ninth house of philosophy—part of the “gadfly” character theme) is parallel one of the stars in the constellation Aries—Hamal, which means, “to go one’s own way”. Mars is also conjunct Mirfak which is interpreted as “challenge-oriented”. With an Ascendant in the last degree of Leo, both Betelgeuse (“uninterrupted success”) and Polaris (the power to “show the way” or direct) would, significantly, be on the MC.    

The position of Pluto cannot be ignored as a the planet of death (and esoteric ruler of the house of death—the eighth, placed, as well, in Scorpio, the sign of death). Pluto is positioned  in the house of the home or “city state” (Athens), quite closely conjuncted to the IC. Exoterically, Pluto may have contributed to his unhappy home life; perhaps he was thrown out of the house (exiled) more than once. He was also rejected and, even, killed by those in authority in Athens. The charges against him were unfair, politically motivated, of murky origin and surrounded by obscurity. Clearly, under-handed, ‘subterranean’ forces were at work, and the result was the imposed yet sacrificial death of a great exponent of the Light. Pluto is, characteristically (and significantly), the planet of poison. As well, from an esoteric perspective, the death was a service to the Ashram (fourth house), and served as a model of exemplary, philosophical serenity for two millennia and more. This Pluto (darkness) opposes the brilliant, revelatory, Sun/Jupiter  conjunction. This can easily be seen as the inevitable opposition of darkness to the Light of Wisdom. Interestingly, the star, Diadem (“to sacrifice oneself”), is conjunct the rising Uranus, which, itself, is closely parallel to Hamal (again—“to go one’s own way”).    

Socrates became convinced that his calling was to search for wisdom (Leo, Taurus, and the second ray) concerning right conduct (Earth signs) by which he might guide the intellectual and moral improvement of the Athenians (transformative Uranus in improvement-oriented Virgo). He made many enemies in the process (unforgiving Saturn in Leo, the sign of pride, in the twelfth house of “hidden enemies”). Their conspiracy against his person, only fanned the flames of the great philosophical quest. We might say that Socrates was a martyr for the spirit of philosophy, though there was in his martyrdom none of the fanatical sixth ray.      

As a synthetic thinker, Socrates displayed the union of the second and third rays, as did Plato. Perhaps the monad was upon the third, the soul upon the second and the personality upon the third. According to the Tibetan,          

“Plato endeavoured to picture forth the completeness of the Whole and the intricacy of the ideas which have come forth as an expression of that Whole.” (EP II 399)        

Here we have an example of entirety (second ray) and intricacy (third ray). It is likely that Plato gathered much of his original inspiration from Socrates, who, reasonably, shared the same soul and monadic rays, but with very different personality equipment.

Constellationally, the third ray would have its entry points into the chart through the Cancerian Moon and the Capricornian Neptune. As well, the conjunction of sometime third ray Mercury and luminous Venus in the third sign, Gemini, gives another important conduit for this acutely mental force. The second ray also can enter through the Gemini conjunction, as Gemini (during this world period) is primarily a second ray sign, and Venus (orthodox ruler of his Taurus Sun) has a strong second ray component. The conjunction between the second ray Sun and second ray Jupiter in the second sign, Taurus, gives a potent entry point for the ray of Love-Wisdom—especially, wisdom. Through this conjunction the “Greatest Light” associated with the second ray is accessible.         

Neptune would be an esoteric veiled esoteric ruler whether the Ascendant were Leo or Virgo. It is an intuitive planet (with much second and sixth ray) and it is placed in the Leo house (the fifth) in either case. Esoterically, this has to do with inspired creative expression drawing from the realm of accumulated quality—the casual body. What this position says about Socrates’ children (if he had any) or his early artistic life (apparently he practiced the art of his father, Sophroniscus, who was a sculptor) we cannot say. Buddhic Neptune was trine the atmic/manasic planet, Uranus, showing a balance between these factors within the Spiritual Triad. Socrates’ communion with his “Daimon” might also be, in part, reflected here, as Neptune gives impressionability in a field or house (the fifth) where the Solar Angel is strong.        

First ray factors are also to be acknowledged, with sometime first ray Uranus rising, and first ray Pluto, angular. If Leo is hypothesized as the Ascendant, then all first ray signs are tenanted, with Mars in Aries being very strong. These factors would strengthen Socrates’ ability to stand on principle, and give his life for his philosophical conviction.      

The synthesis of Socrates’ principal third and second rays are reflected in his doctrine of the central importance of the soul leading him to the belief that all virtues converge into one, which is “the Good”, or knowledge of one’s true self and purposes through the course of a lifetime. Knowledge in turn depends on the nature or essence of things as they really are, for the underlying “forms” or archetypes of things are more real than their experienced exemplifications (clearly a second ray perspective)  This conception leads to a teleological view of the world that all the forms participate in and lead to the highest “form”—the “form” or archetype of “the Good”. Here we see synthesized the “Greatest Light” and the Wisdom of the second ray and Taurus, as well  the brilliant unity-in-light of Leo—the “light of the soul”.
(EA 293, 329)          

It is unlikely that we will every be entirely certain of the chart of Socrates, or even, in every particular, of his rays, but enough has been suggested to bring forward the major energy pattern of this seminal, revolutionary thinker who, certainly in death,  proved himself to be a noble example of his highest thought.



All men's souls are immortal, but the souls of the righteous are immortal and divine.

As to marriage or celibacy, let a man take which course he will, he will be sure to repent.

Be slow to fall into friendship; but when thou art in, continue firm and constant.

Beauty is a short-lived tyranny.

Beware the barrenness of a busy life.

By all means, marry. If you get a good wife, you'll become happy; if you get a bad one, you'll become a philosopher.

Employ your time in improving yourself by other men's writings, so that you shall gain easily what others have labored hard for.

Let him that would move the world first move himself.

Serenity, regularity, absence of vanity,Sincerity, simplicity, veracity, equanimity, Fixity, non-irritability, adaptability, Humility, tenacity, integrity, nobility, magnanimity, charity, generosity, purity. Practise daily these eighteen "ities" You will soon attain immortality.

The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.

The unexamined life is not worth living.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is a habit.

Wisdom begins in wonder.


His most important contribution to Western thought is his method of enquiry, known as the method of elenchos, which he largely applied to the examination of key moral concepts. For this, is customarily regarded as the father and fountainhead for ethics or moral philosophy, and hence philosophy in general.

method of elenchos consists of questions and answers about the definitions or logoi (singular logos), seeking to characterise the general characteristics shared by various particular instances. To the extent to which this method is designed to bring out definitions implicit in the interlocutors beliefs, or to help them further their understanding, it was called the method of ''maieutics'\'. Aristotle attributed to the discovery of the method of definition and induction, which he regarded as the essence of the scientific method. Oddly, however, Aristotle also claimed that this method is not suitable for ethics.

Socrates applied his method to the examination of the key moral concepts at the time, the virtues of piety, wisdom, temperance, courage, and justice. Such an examination challenged the implicit moral beliefs of the interlocutors, bringing out inadequacies and inconsistencies in their beliefs, and usually resulting in puzzlement known as aporia. In view of such inadequacies, himself professed his ignorance, but others still maintained their knowledge claim, whereby claimed that he being aware of his ignorance is wiser than those who, though ignorant, still claimed knowledge -- a claim which seems paradoxical at first glance. This claim was known by the anecdote of the Delphic oracular pronouncement that was the wisest of all men.

He used this claim of wisdom as the basis of his moral exhortation. Accordingly, he claimed that the chief goodness consists in the caring of the soul concerned with truth and understanding, that "wealth does not bring goodness, but goodness brings wealth and every other blessing, both to the individual and to the state", and that "life without examination is not worth living". also argued that to be wronged is better than to do wrong.

left no writings; references to military duty may be found in Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War. He was prominently lampooned in Aristophanes's comedic play The Clouds produced when was in his mid-forties. appeared in other plays by Aristophanes such as The Birds because of his being a philodorian, and also in plays by Callias, Eupolis and Telecleides, in all of which and the Sophists were criticised for "the moral dangers inherent in contemporary thought and literature". The main source of the historical , however, is the writings of his two disciples, Xenophon, and Plato. Another important source is various references to him in Aristotle's writings.

' father was Sophroniscus, a sculptor, and his mother Phaenarete, a midwife. He was married to Xanthippe, who bore him three sons. By the cultural standards of the time, she was considered a shrew. himself attested that he having learned to live with Xantippe would be able to cope with any other human being, just as a horse trainer trained on wilder horses could be more competent. enjoyed going to Symposia, drink-talking sessions. He was a legendary drinker, remaining sober, even after everyone else in the party became senselessly drunk. He fought at the Battle of Potidaea, the Battle of Delium and the Battle of Amphipolis. We know from Symposium that was decorated for bravery. In one instance he stayed with the wounded Alcibiades, and probably saved his life. During such campaigns, he also showed his extraordinary hardiness, walking without shoes and coat in winter.

lived during the time of transition from the height of Athenian Empire to her defeat by Sparta and its coalition in the Peloponnesian War. At a time when Athens was seeking to recover from humiliating defeat, upon the instigation of three leading figures at the time, the Athenian public court tried for impiety and for corrupting the young, found him guilty as charged, and executed him by ordering him to drink hemlock.

The trial of gave rise to a great deal of debate, giving rise to a whole genre of literature, known as the Socratic logoi. It is generally believed that although was one of the noblest men, the Athenians were not totally unjust in condemning him. ' elenctic examination was resented by influential figures of his day, whose reputations for wisdom and virtue were debunked by his questions. The annoying nature of elenchos earned the moniker "gadfly of Athens." ' elenctic method was often imitated by the young men of Athens, which greatly upset the established moral values and order. It is known that there was also a political motive for the indictment of , despite that three years earlier a general amnesty on all political crimes was decreed. Indeed, even though himself fought for Athens and argued for obedience to law, at the same time he criticised democracy, especially, the Athenian practice of election by lot, ridiculing that in no other craft, the craftsman would be elected in such a fashion. Such a criticism gave rise to suspicion by the democrats, especially when his close associates were found to be enemies of democracy. Alcibiades betrayed Athens in favour of Sparta, and Critias, his sometime disciple, was a leader of the 30 tyrants, (the pro-Spartan oligarcy that ruled Athens for a few years after the defeat), though there is also a record of their falling out.

In addition, held unusual views on religion. He made several references to his personal spirit, or daimonion, although he explicitly claimed that it never urged him on, but only warned him against various prospective events. Many of his contemporary were suspicious of ' daimonion as a rejection of the state religion. It is generally understood that ' daimonion is akin to intuition. Moreover, claimed that the concept of goodness, instead of being determined by what the gods wanted, actually precedes it.

Socrates, the celebrated Greek philosopher and moralist, was born at Athens in the year 469 B.C. His father, Sophroniskus, was a sculptor and he followed the same profession in the early part of his life. His family was respectable in descent, but humble in point of means. He had the usual education of the Athenian citizen, which included not only a knowledge of the mother tongue, and readings in the Greek poets, but also the elements of arithmetic, geometry and astronomy as then known. Excepting in connection with his philosophical career, few circumstances of his life are known. He served as a hoplite, or heavy-armed foot-soldier, at the siege of Potidaea, at the battle of Deliurn, and at Amphipolis, and his bravery and endurance were greatly extolled by his friends.

Somewhere about the middle period of his life, he relinquished his profession as statuary, and gave himself up to the career that made him famous. Deservedly styled a philosopher, he neither secluded himself for study, nor opened a school for the regular instruction of pupils. He disclaimed the appellation of teacher; his practice was to talk or converse, "to prattle without end," as his enemies said. Early in the morning he frequented the public walks, the gymnasia for bodily training, and the school where youths were receiving instruction; he was to be seen at the market-place at the hour when it was most crowded, among the booths and tables where goods were exposed for sale. His whole day was usually spent in this public manner. He talked with any one, young or old, rich or poor, who sought to address him, and in the hearing of all who stood by. As it was engaging, curious, and instrutive to hear, certain persons made it their habit to attend him in public as companions and listeners.

Another peculiarity of was his persuasion of a special religious mission, of which he believed that he had received oracular intimation. About the time when he began to have repute as a wise man, an admirer and friend, Chaerephon, consulted the oracle at Delphi, as to whether any man was wiser than . The priestess replied "none." The answer, he said, perplexed him very much; for he was conscious to himself that he possessed no wisdom, on any subject, great or small. At length he resolved to put the matter to the test, by taking measure of the wisdom of other persons as compared with his own. Seleting a leading politician, accounted wise by himself and others, he put a series of questions to him, and found his supposed wisdom was no wisdom at all. He next tried to demonstrate to the politician himself how much he was deficient; but he refused to be convinced. He then saw a meaning in the oracle, to the effect that his superiority to others lay not in his wisdom, but in his being fully conscious of his ignorance. He tried the same experiment on other politicians, then on poets, and lastly on artists and artisans, and with the same result. Thereupon, he considered it as a duty imposed on him by the Delphian god, to cross-question men of all degrees, as to their knowledge, to make them conscious of their ignorance, and so put them in the way of becoming wise. According to Xenophon, he would pass from his severe cross-questioning method, and address to his hearers plain and homely precepts, inculcating self-control, temperance, piety, duty to parents, brotherly love, fidehty in friendship, diligelice, etc.

Cicero said that "brought down philosophy from the the heavens to the earth." The previous philosophies consisted of vast and vague speculations on nature as a whole, blending together Cosmogony, Astronomy, Geometry, Physics, Metaphysics, etc. had studied these systems, and they had left on his mind a feeling of emptiness and unsuitability for any human purpose. It seemed to him that men's endeavors after knowledge would be better directed to human relationships, as involving men's practical concerns. Accordingly he was the first to proclaim that "the proper study of mankind is man;" human nature, human duties and human happiness make up a field of really urgent and profitable inquiry.

In the year 400 B.C., an indictment was laid against , in the following terms; "Socates is guilty of crime; first, for not worshipping the gods whom the city worships, and for introducing new divinities of his own; next for corrupting the youth. The penalty due is death." The trial took place before a court composed of citizen-judges, like our juries, but far more numerous; the number present seems to have been 557. His defense is preserved by Plato, under the title Apology of . He dwelt on his mission to convit men of their ignorance for their ultimate benefit; pronounced himself a public blessing to the Athenians; declared that if his life was preserved he would continue in the same course; and regarded the prospect of death with utter indifference. By a majority of five or six he was adjudged guilty and sentenced to death by poison. The last day of his life he passed in conversation with his friends on the Immortality of the soul. He then drank the hemlock, and passed away with the dignity and calmness becoming his past career.

The biography of Socrates, son of the statuary Sophroniscus and of the midwife Phaenarete, starts when he was born at Athens, not earlier than 471 B.C. nor later than May or June 469 B.C. As a youth he received the customary instruction in gymnastics and music; and in after years he made himself acquainted with geometry and astronomy and studied the methods and the doctrines of the leaders of Greek thought and culture. He began life as a sculptor; and in the 2nd century A.D. a group of the Graces, supposed to be his work, was still to be seen on the road to the Acropolis. But he soon abandoned art and gave himself to what may best be called education, conceiving that he had a divine commission, witnessed by oracles, dreams and signs, not indeed to teach any positive doctrine, but to convict men of ignorance mistaking itself for knowledge, and by so doing to promote their intellectual and moral improvement. 

He was on terms of intimacy with some of the most distinguished of his Athenian contemporaries, and, at any rate in later life, was personally known to very many of his fellow citizens. His domestic relations were, it is said unhappy. The shrewishness of his wife Xanthippe became proverbial with the ancients, as it still is with ourselves. Aristotle, in his remarks upon genius and its degeneracy speaks of ' sons as dull and fatuous; and in Xenophon’s Memorabilia, one of them, Lamprocles, receives a formal rebuke for undutiful behavior towards his mother.

served as a hoplite at Potidaea (432 - 429 B.C.), where on one occasion he saved the life of Alcibiades, at Delium (424), and at Amphipolis (422). In these campaigns his bravery and endurance were conspicuous. But while he thus performed the ordinary duties of a Greek citizen with credit, he neither attained nor sought political position. His “divine voice,” he said, had warned him to refrain from politics, presumably because office would have entailed the sacrifice of his principles and the abandonment of his proper vocation. Yet in 406 he was a member of the senate; and on the first day of the trial of the victors of Arginusae, being president of the prytanis, he resisted: first, in conjunction with his colleagues, afterwards, when they yielded, alone, the illegal and unconstitutional proposal of Callixenus, that the fate of the eight generals should be decided by a single vote of the assembly.

Not less courageous than this opposition to the civium ardor prava jubentium was his disregard of the vultus instantis tyranni two years later. During the reign of terror of 404 the Thirty, anxious to implicate in their crimes men of repute who might otherwise have opposed their plans, ordered five citizens, one of whom was , to go to Salamis and bring thence their destined victim Leon. alone disobeyed. But though he was exceptionally obnoxious to the Thirty as appears not only in this incident, but also in their threat of punishment under a special ordinance forbidding “the teaching of the art of argument,” it was reserved for the reconstituted democracy to bring him to trial and to put him to death. 

In 399, four years after the restoration and the amnesty, he was indicted as an offender against public morality. His accusers were Meletus the poet, Anytus the tanner and Lycon the orator, all of them members of the democratic or patriot party who had returned from Phyle with Thrasybulus. The accusation ran thus: “is guilty, firstly, of denying the gods recognized by the state and introducing new divinities, and, secondly, of corrupting the young.” 

In his unpremeditated defense, so far from seeking to conciliate his judges, defied them. He was found guilty by 280 votes, it is supposed, against 220. Meletus having called for capital punishment, it now rested with the accused to make a counter-proposition; and there can be little doubt that had without further remark suggested some smaller but yet substantial penalty, the proposal would have been accepted. But to the amazement of the judges and the distress of his friends, proudly declared that for the services which he had rendered to the city he deserved, not punishment, but the reward of a public benefactor - maintenance in the Prytaneum at the cost of the state; and although at the close of his speech he professed himself willing to pay a fine of one mina, and upon the urgent entreaties of his friends raised the amount of his offer to thirty minas, he made no attempt to disguise his indifference to the result. His attitude exasperated the judges, and the penalty of death was decreed by an increased majority. 

Then in a short address declared his contentment with his own conduct and with the sentence. Whether death was a dreamless sleep, or a new life in Hades, where he would have opportunities of testing the wisdom of the heroes and the sages of antiquity, in either case he esteemed it a gain to die.  In the same spirit he refused to take advantage of a scheme arranged by his friend Crito for an escape from prison. 

Under ordinary circumstances the condemned criminal drank the cup of hemlock on the day after the trial; but in the case of the rule that during the absence of the sacred ship sent annually to Delos no one should be put to death caused an exceptional delay. For thirty days he remained in imprisonment, receiving his intimates and conversing with them in his accustomed manner. How in his last conversation be argued that the wise man will regard approaching death with a cheerful confidence Plato relates in the Phaedo; and, while the central argument which rests the doctrine of the soul’s immortality upon the theory of ideas must be accounted Platonic, in all other respects the narrative, though not that of an eye witness, has the air of accuracy and truth.




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