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The Hemlock Cup: Socrates, Athens and the Search for the Good Life

The Hemlock Cup: Socrates, Athens and the Search for the Good Life

Hardback

By (author) Bettany Hughes

List price $35.00

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  • Publisher: Random House Inc
  • Format: Hardback | 484 pages
  • Dimensions: 169mm x 240mm x 42mm | 925g
  • Publication date: 8 February 2011
  • Publication City/Country: New York
  • ISBN 10: 1400041791
  • ISBN 13: 9781400041794
  • Illustrations note: 5 MAPS,33 ILL/TXT; 16 PP COLOR
  • Sales rank: 498,717

Product description

We think the way we do because Socrates thought the way he did; in his unwavering commitment to truth and in the example of his own life, he set the standard for all subsequent Western philosophy. And yet, for twenty-five centuries, he has remained an enigma: a man who left no written legacy and about whom everything we know is hearsay, gleaned from the writings of Plato, Xenophon and Aristophanes. Now Bettany Hughes gives us an unprecedented, brilliantly vivid portrait of Socrates and of his homeland, Athens in its Golden Age. His life spanned "seventy of the busiest, most wonderful and tragic years in Athenian history." It was a city devastated by war, but, at the same time, transformed by the burgeoning process of democracy, and Hughes re-creates this fifth-century B.C. city, drawing on the latest sources--archaeological, topographical and textual--to illuminate the streets where Socrates walked, to place him there and to show us the world as he experienced it. She takes us through the great, teeming Agora--the massive marketplace, the heart of ancient Athens--where Socrates engaged in philosophical dialogue and where he would be condemned to death. We visit the battlefields where he fought, the red-light district and gymnasia he frequented and the religious festivals he attended. We meet the men and the few women--including his wife, Xanthippe, and his "inspiration" and confidante, Aspasia--who were central to his life. We travel to where he was born and where he died. And we come to understand the profound influences of time and place in the evolution of his eternally provocative philosophy. Deeply informed and vibrantly written, combining historical inquiry and storytelling elan, "The Hemlock Cup" gives us the most substantial, fascinating, humane depiction we have ever had of one of the most influential thinkers of all time.

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Author information

Bettany Hughes is an award-winning historian, author and broadcaster. Her first book, Helen of Troy, has been translated into ten languages. She has written and presented numerous documentaries for the BBC, PBS, the Discovery Channel, the History Channel and National Geographic, which have been seen by more than 100 million viewers worldwide. She received her degrees in ancient and medieval history from Oxford University and holds a Research Fellowship at King’s College, London. She lives in the United Kingdom and abroad with her husband and their two daughters.

Review quote

"Fascinating . . . What Bettany Hughes provides is something vital: a life and times of Socrates that is so richly textured, flavorful and atmospheric that it makes human this most enigmatic of all philosophers. By the end of her book, we can almost see and smell the man, with all of his quirks and foibles and questioning brilliance." --Walter Isaacson, "The New York Times Book Review" " " "Bettany Hughes's terrifically readable life of Socrates is more than just a life; it is also an evocation and explanation of the world that created him, and over which he would come to have such influence . . . "The Hemlock Cup" makes a vivid and persuasive case for the study of Socrates as a valuable means to understanding how our way of thinking about our own world came to be, and a guide to how we might understand it better." --"The Independent on Sunday" (UK) "A beguiling book . . . Hughes triumphs again. This is history, and historical reconstruction, exactly as it should be written . . . The Socrates Hughes creates is ultimately a towering yet intensely human figure. He lives and speaks again in these pages: It's a singular accomplishment." --"The Washington Post" "Delightful . . . Hughes presents a high-octane account of Socrates and his age . . . "Do "read this book, both because of its marvelous storytelling and because it will stimulate a desire to learn more about the ancient world." --"The Wall Street Journal" "Bettany Hughes has done it again; she brings to life not only Socrates himself but the whole of Periclean Athens. Here is a work of dazzling erudition which remains hugely readable--what more can one ask?" --John Julius Norwich, author of "Byzantium" "No one before Bettany Hughes, a highly accomplished communicator, has thought to weave Socrates's examined life into quite so rich and dense a tapestry of democratic Athens's teeming high-cultural and mundane experience . . . Hughes's enormous energy and enthusi