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

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


By (author) Bettany Hughes

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  • Publisher: Vintage Books
  • Format: Paperback | 484 pages
  • Dimensions: 132mm x 201mm x 28mm | 522g
  • Publication date: 14 February 2012
  • ISBN 10: 1400076013
  • ISBN 13: 9781400076017
  • Edition statement: Reprint
  • Illustrations note: black & white illustrations, colour illustrations, maps
  • Sales rank: 191,822

Product description

From the celebrated British author and historian: a brilliant new book combining historical inquiry and storytelling elan to paint an unprecedentedly vivid portrait of Socrates and the Golden Age of classical Athens. 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. His life spanned "seventy of the busiest, most wonderful and tragic years in Athenian history." Athens in the fifth century B.C. was a city devastated by war, but, at the same time, transformed by the burgeoning process of democracy. Drawing on the latest sources--archaeological, topographical, and textual--Hughes re-creates the streets where Socrates walked, to place him there, and to illuminate for 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.

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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 was awarded the 2012 Norton Medlicott Medal for Services to History by the Historical Association. She was awarded the 2012 Norton Medlicott Medal for Services to History by the Historical Association. 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