Chapter

Socrates under the Severans <sup>1</sup>

C. C. W. Taylor

in Pleasure, Mind, and Soul

Published in print January 2008 | ISBN: 9780199226399
Published online May 2008 | e-ISBN: 9780191710209 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199226399.003.0019
 Socrates under the Severans 1

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This chapter compares the treatment of Socrates by Christian writers of the late 2nd and early 3rd centuries AD with that by pagan authors of the same period. The Christians divided between those who regarded Socrates as a forerunner of Christianity and those who saw him — in common with the pagan world as a whole — as subject to the powers of darkness. This division focused on one phenomenon in particular, Socrates' ‘divine sign’, which those favourable to him saw as a mark of divine favour, while those opposed regarded it as an evil familiar spirit. While those writers derived their contrasting views of Socrates from their religious ideology, the pagan writers were interested in him less as a figure of doctrinal significance than as a moral exemplar and source of improving and/or entertaining anecdote. While much of this material is favourable to Socrates, there are some traces of a hostility which is absent from the major Socratic writers, and which appears to derive from a tradition of hostility to philosophy in general.

Keywords: Christianity; paganism; divine sign; guardian angel; familiar spirit; monotheism; idolatry; Xanthippe; Alcibiades

Chapter.  5647 words. 

Subjects: Ancient Philosophy

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