The Hemlock Cup

By Bettany Hughes,

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

Book 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…

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Why read it?

2 authors picked The Hemlock Cup as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

I have collaborated with Bettany over many years—in her scholarly documentary filmmaking, including programmes on Socrates of Athens (469-399). Socrates never wrote or published in written form a word of his philosophy, yet through his immediate and succeeding disciples (above all Plato and Aristotle) has been hugely influential. But was he a democrat, as his fellow Athenians understood that term? In 399 a jury of 501 of his peers, chosen randomly by lot, delivered their resoundingnegativeverdict, and condemned him to death by hemlock poison for being undemocratically irreligious and for teaching his pupils undemocratic values. Plato…

Bettany Hughes creates an imaginative and readable biography of Socrates, filling in the contemporary background of fifth-century Athens and raising many of the questions about his earlier life, answers to which have eluded biographers.

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