Sculpture of the head of the ancient Athenian philosopher Socrates

Classical. Cast of the original in the Vatican Museum, Rome. Roman copy of a Greek original, marble, ca. 350-330 BCE.

Historical Context:

The Athenian philosopher Socrates (496-399 BCE) lived during the Periclean Age, a period referred to as the “Golden Age of Greece”. Although he is credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, Socrates reputedly never wrote. He is an enigmatic figure known chiefly through the accounts of later classical writers, especially the writings of his student Plato, who became a teacher of Aristotle who, in turn, was one of the teachers of Alexander the Great. He is also known through the writings of Xenophon and through the plays of his contemporary, Aristophanes.

Through his portrayal in Plato’s dialogues, Socrates has become renowned for his contribution to the field of ethics. It is this Platonic Socrates who also lends his name to the concepts of Socratic irony and the Socratic method, or elenchus. The latter remains a commonly used tool in a wide range of discussions and is a type of pedagogy in which a series of questions are asked not only to draw individual answers but also to encourage fundamental insight into the issue at hand. It is Plato’s Socrates that also made important and lasting contributions to the fields of epistemology and logic, and the influence of his ideas and approach remains strong in providing a foundation for much western philosophy that followed.

Original Statue

Artist: Unknown
Material: Marble
Culture: ClassicalGreek
Century: 4th century BCE
Current Location: ItalyRome
Museum: Vatican Museum

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  • classical
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  • philosopher
  • philosophy
  • portrait
  • sculpture