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The Hemlock Cup

Socrates, Athens, and the Search for the Good Life
The Hemlock Cup: Socrates, Athens, and the Search for the Good Life. Knopf. Feb. 2011. c.528p. illus. maps. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781400041794. $35. PHIL
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Hughes's (visiting research fellow, King's Coll., London; Helen of Troy) book isn't a biography of Socrates or a critique of his philosophy, but instead a look at what it was like to live in Athens during his lifetime. She uses the writings of Xenophon, Plato, and Aristophanes along with archaeological and historical discoveries to create a glimpse of the political and cultural life of Socrates' Athens. Socrates' life and philosophy are analyzed by looking at the lives of fellow Athenians such as Alcibiades and Diotima and at events he would have experienced as an adolescent in the gymnasium and as a soldier on the battlefield. His trial and death are covered at the beginning and end of the work, and Hughes examines, in detail, why Socrates' ideas were seen as so threatening for the younger citizens of Athens.
VERDICT Hughes does a wonderful job of offering the reader a new and insightful look into Socrates' life and philosophy. The writing is engaging and will appeal to academics and general readers who are interested in Socrates and life in ancient Greece.

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