Excerpt from Barefoot in Athens
Socrates was put to death in Athens m 399 b.c. Nothing had been written about him during his life except The Clouds, a caricature for the comic stage, but after his death a whole school of writing grew up around him. Socratic dialogues were wrltten by at least seven men whose names we know, and probably by many others. It was all the rage to write these question-and answer scenes with Socrates as the central character, much as the sonnet sequence was all the rage in the England of I 590.
Some of the men who wrote the dialogues had been students or companions of Socrates. No doubt they tried to give a fairly accurate account of their dead master. Knowing, however, that there was no shorthand system in those days, we can be sure that neither the exact words of Socrates nor the exact order of events was ever recorded. It was probably not considered important that the record be exact. Each man, writlng a dialogue, was turning out his own work of art and taking cer tain liberties with his recollection, even when he was not con structing an imaginary conversation which he thought Socrates might have had. It is instructive that the two accounts of Socrates' trial that remain agree in only one passage, the word ing of the indictment. Socrates is quoted at length in both, but there are few even roughly parallel arguments, and none identical.
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