Join 76,352 users and earn money for participation

An Ugly Philosopher, a Nagging Wife, and an Illustrious Student

14 234 boost
Avatar for Mictorrani
Written by   384
1 week ago

More than 2000 years ago, a philosopher, known for his ugliness and his quarrelsome wife, was sentenced to death. His ideas were dangerous, they said. He committed suicide by drinking poisoned wine.

The philosopher was Socrates, and his wife was Xanthippe, a probably very competent woman who supported the whole family. Her name has becoming a word denoting an ill-tempered, quarrelsome and nagging wife, but I would imagine that she just kept the family in strict order. Socrates himself was an impractical man who lived in his own world of philosophy. Xanthippe just had to take the lead, and I think she did that very well.

Bust of Socrates. Marble, Roman copy after a Greek original from the 4th century BC. From the Quintili Villa on the Via Appia. (Public Domain)

The negative picture of her seems to stem from Xenophon (Symposion). Plato, who mentions her only in "Phaedo", describes her as a good mother and wife. As a matter of fact, she might have been of high birth. The couple's first son, Lamprocles, was named after her father, which indicates that her ancestry was more illustrious than her husband's.

Socrates' most famous student was Plato, perhaps the most influential human ever. We still live in his shadow, for good and bad. He is one of the main roots of Christian philosophy, he deeply influenced Islam, and he is the theoretical basis for the intrusive public politics we see almost everywhere today, statism. How much of his thoughts really originated with him is very difficult to determine. He built heavily on both preceding and contemporary thinkers, incorporating their ideas into his own framework in a way that makes every attempt to find the "original" Plato completely impossible.

The so-called "Socratic problem" is a never ending enigma of history. Socrates did not write anything, he is known only from what others wrote, most notably Plato (even if Xenophon, Aristophanes, and Aristotle contributed a little as well). This intellectual giant (Plato) was not only an influential thinker, he also was an excellent writer. As his student, he described Socrates, but the problem is that he also made him a literary character when he, in the favoured form of the times, the dialogue, expressed his own ideas. So where is the borderline between Socrates and Plato, or between Socrates the philosopher and Socrates the literary character created by Plato? An unanswerable question.

Socrates was sentenced to death by the Athenians, for corrupting the youth, and for impiety. His speech of defence is related by Plato in "Apology". The death sentence was to be executed by suicide; he drank wine containing Conium maculatum, hemlock. The poison, coniine, is a neurotoxin that affects the central nervous system, blocking motion centres and causing paralysis. In "Phaedo" Plato describes Socrates' death (Translation by Benjamin Jowett, 1892 - is in the public domain):

Crito made a sign to the servant, who was standing by; and he went out, and having been absent for some time, returned with the jailer carrying the cup of poison. Socrates said: "You, my good friend, who are experienced in these matters, shall give me directions how I am to proceed."

The man answered: "you have only to walk about until your legs are heavy, and then to lie down, and the poison will act."

At the same time he handed the cup to Socrates, who in the easiest and gentlest manner, without the least fear or change of color or feature, looking at the man with all his eyes, . . . as his manner was, took the cup and said "What do you say about making a libation out of this cup to any god? May I, or not?"

The man answered: "We only prepare, Socrates, just so much as we deem enough."

"I understand," he said; "but I may and must ask the gods to prosper my journey from this to the other world - even so - and so be it according to my prayer.

Then raising the cup to his lips, quite readily and cheerfully he drank off the poison. And hitherto most of us had been able to control our sorrow; but now when we saw him drinking, and saw too that he had finished the draught, we could not longer forbear, and in spite of myself my own tears were flowing fast; so that I covered my face and wept, not for him, but at the thought of my own calamity in having to part from such a friend. Nor was I the first; for Crito, when he found himself unable to restrain his tears, had got up, and I followed; and at that moment, Apollodorus, who had been weeping all the time, broke out in a loud and passionate cry which made cowards of us all.

Socrates alone retained his calmness: "What is this strange outcry?" he said. "I sent away the women mainly in order that they might not misbehave in this way, for I have been told that a man should die in peace. Be quiet then, and have patience."

When we heard his words we were ashamed, and refrained our tears; and he walked about until, as he said, his legs began to fail, and then he lay on his back, according to the directions, and the man who gave him the poison now and then looked at his feet and legs; and after a while he pressed his foot hard, and asked him if he could feel; and he said, "No;" and then his leg, and so upwards and upwards, and showed us that he was cold and stiff. And he felt them himself, and said: "When the poison reaches the heart, that will be the end."

He was beginning to grow cold about the groin, when he uncovered his face, for he had covered himself up, and said - they were his last words - he said: "Crito, I owe a cock to Asclepius; will you remember to pay the debt?

"The debt shall be paid," said Crito; "is there anything else?"

There was no answer to this question; but in a minute or two a movement was heard, and the attendants uncovered him; his eyes were set, and Crito closed his eyes and mouth.

Such was the end . . . of our friend; concerning whom I may truly say, that of all the men of his time whom I have known, he was the wisest and justest and best.

Finally, just a comment on the cock to Asclepius. What sort of debt was that?

Asclepius was the god of medicine and health. A sacrifice of a cock to Asclepius was a common procedure after having been cured from illness. Socrates seems to indicate that he considered death a cure, as healing.

Related articles:

Is Ignorance Better Than Knowledge?

The Most Influential Individuals – and What about Warlords?

Copyright © 2017, 2021 Meleonymica/Mictorrani. All Rights Reserved.

All my articles on Philosophy can be found here, and on History here.

Interested in history, legends and myths, join my community History, Myths, Legends & Mysteries (be45).

You find all my writings on Read.Cash, sorted by topic, here.

My 5 most recent articles:

Retrospection 10

Suggested Reading 5

The Green Man II: Al-Khidr, Teacher of Moses

The Green Man I: From the Celts to Old Egypt & Sumer

Colours IV: Colours of Animals


14
$ 12.51
$ 12.17 from @TheRandomRewarder
$ 0.22 from @Pantera
$ 0.05 from @gertu13
+ 4
Sponsors of Mictorrani
Avatar for Mictorrani
Written by   384
1 week ago
Enjoyed this article?  Earn Bitcoin Cash by sharing it! Explain
...and you will also help the author collect more tips.

Comments

I like the relationship between Socrates and his wife. The man is responsible for the spiritual world. Woman for the material. Everyone stands in their place. Now everything is turned upside down: a man is only a resource holder, and a woman was erected as a queen. The wrong hierarchy in society is the result of universal unhappiness.

$ 0.01
1 week ago

But if you look in another plane, his wife was elevated to a leadership position, and Socrates had to obey her on mundane everyday issues. This is a classic female led relationship. Is this hierarchy wrong in your opinion?

$ 0.00
1 week ago

In worldly matters, let him obey her. And in spiritual matters - she is to him.

$ 0.00
1 week ago

Then I think it would be fair to assume that the woman is the Queen of the material world, and the man is the King of the spiritual world. I like this hierarchy. :)

$ 0.00
1 week ago

That is how it is! Otherwise, God would not have created a woman capable of creating matter - children. And men capable of being a spiritual and intellectual preacher.

$ 0.01
1 week ago

I don't personally believe there should be a hierarchy, whether based upon race or sex, but I would say that there's a problem simply because no one, man or woman or child, is being brought up in a philosophical way. Even after the Church banned the study of ones such Socrates, Plato (despite the fact that many Christians were also practicing Neoplatonists), Aristotle, etc., that doesn't mean it wasn't following any philosophy. The Church largely followed a hybrid of Jesus' philosophy, Paul's philosophy (which itself is a hybrid of different schools of thought he'd been exposed to), and Plato's philosophy. There may have been some Stoic thought tossed in there as well, though for the purpose of keeping one's eyes on Heaven and remaining detached from the world.

Philosophy, in nearly all of its forms (not Hedonism), cultivates moderation, empathy, charity, and many other good qualities. Philosophers encouraged their students to keep a diary of sorts containing maxims, and even up until at least the 1940s there were books of such bits of wisdom being published within the United States. I had the joy of encountering one of these books, The Leaves of Gold 1948 Edition, in a thrift store. It was full of little sayings, bits of scripture, poetry, etc.

Kids today are being brought up to pass tests, which isn't good for their learning in general, but completely overlooking character. Sure, some districts try to teach character, but it comes in the form of woke "philosophy", not on teaching children to be decent, respectful, and open-minded in spite of whatever personal or political opinions they hold.

$ 0.02
1 week ago

I agree. Now the church has nothing to do with philosophy and God. It has long been captured by the world government in its own interests for the degradation of the population.

Also, I think that philosophy is not only about compassion and mercy. This is primarily about the perception of the world as it is, that is, about reality. The closer we stand to the truth, the easier it is to live. And philosophy, in my opinion, should lead us to peace, through the correct understanding of everything around.

And about raising children and teaching them in school, this is a separate issue. School has long ceased to be a part of education. Now the school is a concentration camp, where the future slaves and atheists with one-sided thinking, beneficial to Satanists, are raised.

$ 0.05
1 week ago

You (Blogika) is very clear-sighted. Both your comments here show that.

$ 0.00
1 week ago

I found in your articles a common worldview position with mine.

$ 0.00
1 week ago

Socrates had to drink poison because he was accused corrupting the youth. Well! Mark Zuckerberg has been accused of causing youths to commit suicide. I'll bet he's happy he doesn't live during the days of that philosopher. Since clearly Plato was his devoted student, I sometimes wonder why he didn't have to drink poison. After all, he put the philosophy of his teacher in writing.

I sometimes wonder if the people “in charge” during his time, had a “hidden agenda” and for some reason they felt like Socrates was a threat and he had to be removed. But of course, that's not recorded anywhere. So it is just a question mark that I puzzle over.

Great article!

$ 0.00
1 week ago

Somehow, someone probably saw Socrates as a threat. Why would they otherwise see it necessary to get rid of him? Perhaps he just threatened the order of society at that time by, as they said, corrupting the youth. He came with something new not suiting those who believed in the old order. But of course it could have been something more sinister behind it all.

$ 0.00
1 week ago

Very good reading about such an interesting character as Socrates. So was his death.

$ 0.00
1 week ago

I will just leave this here for future reference,
the original URL has died a quiet death
and the content has passed on to a better world:
https://web.archive.org/web/20170407220421/http://www3.nd.edu/~plato/bloch.htm

$ 0.00
1 week ago

Thank you for that addition.

$ 0.00
1 week ago