|The Story of Greece|
|by Mary Macgregor|
| Stories from the history of ancient Greece beginning with mythical and legendary stories of gods and heroes and ending with the conquests of Alexander the Great. Gives short accounts of battles and sieges, and of the men who made Greece a great nation. Ages 10-14 |
SOCRATES THE PHILOSOPHER
 SOCRATES was born in 469 B.C. He was not a noble like
Alcibiades, but a man of humble birth. Nor was he
handsome as was his disciple, but plain, even ugly, the
people said. He was small, too, and dressed with
If anyone wished to find the philosopher, he knew that
he had only to go to the market-place or into the
streets. Here, from early morning until late at night,
Socrates was to be seen, and always he was talking,
talking to all who were willing to listen. And there
were ever many who were not only willing but eager to
hear what the teacher had to say, for his words were so
wise, his conversations so strange.
Socrates believed that the gods had sent him to teach
the Athenians. From his boyhood he had heard a voice
within him, bidding him to do this, not to do that. He
often spoke of this voice to those who became his
disciples. It became known as the dæmon of Socrates.
The philosopher was a soldier as well as a teacher, and
his philosophy taught him how to endure hardship as
well as or even better than could the ordinary
In heat or in cold he wore the same clothing, and in
all weathers he walked with bare feet. He ate little
and drank less whether he was in the camp or in the
Xanthippe, the wife of Socrates, had not a good temper,
and she would often scold the philosopher. That may
have been because while he was teaching wisdom in the
market-place, Xanthippe was at home wondering how to
 food for her husband and their children with the few
coins she possessed. Socrates was never paid by his
disciples, and so it often happened that Xanthippe
found it difficult to get food and clothing for her
The philosopher taught for many years, but at length,
in 399 B.C., his enemies accused him of speaking
against the gods of Athens. He had even dared, so they
said, to speak of new gods whom the people should
worship, and that was a crime worthy of death.
Socrates took little trouble to defend himself against
the accusations of his enemies. His dæmon, he said,
would not allow him to plead for his life. So he was
condemned to death, but only by a majority of five or
six votes out of six hundred.
For thirty days Socrates was in prison, and he spent
the time in talking to his friends just as he had been
used to do in the market-place.
One of his disciples, named Crito, bribed the jailer to
allow his prisoner to escape, but Socrates refused to
flee. He did not fear death, but faced it calmly as he
had faced life.
On the day before the sentence was carried out, he
talked quietly to his disciples of the life to which he
was going, for he believed that his soul, which was his
real self, would live after he had laid aside his body
as a garment.
When the cup of hemlock, a poisoned draught, was
brought to him, his friends wept, but he took the cup
in his hand, and drank the contents as though it were a
draught of wine.
He drank the contents as though it were a draught of wine
His last words to Crito were to remind him to pay a
debt. "Crito, we owe a cock to Asclepius," he said.
"Discharge the debt and by no means omit it."
Asclepius was the god of medicine, and in this way
Socrates showed his reverence for the religious customs
of his country.
This was the man who found in Alcibiades, despite his
wild ways, a noble mind and a kind heart. These he
deter-  mined to educate. And his pupil was quick to see that
Socrates spoke truth to him. He soon learned to
appreciate his kindness and to stand in awe of his
virtue. Sometimes, indeed, the words of his master
"overcame him so much as to draw tears from his eyes,
and to disturb his very soul."
So dear did the philosopher become to Alcibiades that
he often lived in the same tent with him and shared his
simple meals. Yet sometimes he was tempted by his
flatterers when they begged him to come to spend the
days in pleasure and the nights in feasting. Then he
would yield to their entreaties and for a while desert
and even avoid his master.
But the philosopher did not leave his pupil unchecked
to do as he wished. He "would pursue him as if he had
been a fugitive slave. . . . He reduced and corrected him by
his addresses, and made him humble and modest, by
showing him in how many things he was deficient, and
how very far from perfection in virtue."
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