It can be regarded as certain that Socrates was born in Athens as the son of the sculptor Sophronikos and his midwife Phainarete. He was married to Xanthippe. The widespread view that she was contentious woman through and through cannot be proven from the sources. From this marriage came three sons. Socrates had inherited a small fortune from his parents that allowed him and his family a modest but independent life.
He was a soldier in the battles of Potidaea (431-429), Delium (424) and Amphipolis (422). His bravery and courage are mentioned by Plato and Xenophon.

According to his student Xenophon Socrates found the true voice of God in himself very early and told his disciples about the spirit of Pythagoras’ “right thinking and right action.” He lived simply and is said to always have been in contact with spiritual beings. He radiated optimism and a realistic affirmation of life. By immersion in meditation he could also find answers to his questions in the present. There are stories from situations when he stopped taking in mid-conversation with his friends to listen to the voice inside him (“the daimon”). On one expedition he suddenly stopped and remained motionless for a whole day and a whole night – Then he thanked the morning and went on past his astonished companions.

According to Socrates the voice of God can be heard by everyone who owns an unspoiled mind and genuine piety. For him, every person is a carrier of the divine spark and life in general is blessed by God. “A good person will neither in his life nor in death experience evil,” he would say – knowing quite well that only our view gives rise to bad living conditions. His only prayer was: “Give me what’s good for my soul.”

Socrates did not write a single word during his life. Neither did he hold any official position. On the contrary, he spoke out against those that did not act from their own inner voice and picked them apart by constantly questioning the presumed knowledge of his opponent. This, his open display of worn faith in the Greek gods and the suspicion to stand under the influence of Pythagoras brought him the accusation of heresy.
Socrates could have saved his life if he would have been willing to recognize  the charges as legitimate or to leave Athens. He did not, however, as his daimon gave him no reason to escape and he would have regarded the act as political injustice against counsel of the Athenian citizens. Socrates held the truth more important than his own life. The trial and death of Socrates are described in Plato’s writings Apology, Crito and Phaedo.

Even beyond his death, many have of Socrates Quotes survived: The best known are probably “know thyself” and “Man is bad, if he does not know what is good”. But the best known of his quotes is “I know that I know nothing” (Greek: ouk oida eido). Many famous people emerged from his “school” that have gone down in history. These include, among others, Plato, Euclid, Antisthenes, Aristippus, Xenophon, Alcibiades and Critias.

His last word to the court was: “The difficulty in life is not how to avoid death, but how to avoid evil, because it runs faster than death. At the announcement of your judgment my inner voice did not tell me that evil will come upon me. It shows that those who regard death as an tragedy err. For the wise death is merely the continuation of life – in communion with the souls of those awakening to reality ”

He died calmly in his cell surrounded by his pupils that he taught until the very end to have positive faith – believing strongly that he would “come into a community of good and wise gods.”

From and K.O. Schmidt: “In you is the light”

This post is also available in: German