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

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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Feb 8, 2011 - History - 528 pages
24 Reviews
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 no written legacy and about whom everything we know is hearsay, gleaned from the writings of Plato, Xenophon and Aristophanes. Now Bettany Hughes gives us an unprecedented, brilliantly vivid portrait of Socrates and of his homeland, Athens in its Golden Age.

His life spanned “seventy of the busiest, most wonderful and tragic years in Athenian history.” It was a city devastated by war, but, at the same time, transformed by the burgeoning process of democracy, and Hughes re-creates this fifth-century B.C. city, drawing on the latest sources—archaeological, topographical and textual—to illuminate the streets where Socrates walked, to place him there and to show us the world as he experienced it.

She takes us through the great, teeming Agora—the massive marketplace, the heart of ancient Athens—where Socrates engaged in philosophical dialogue and where he would be condemned to death. We visit the battlefields where he fought, the red-light district and gymnasia he frequented and the religious festivals he attended. We meet the men and the few women—including his wife, Xanthippe, and his “inspiration” and confidante, Aspasia—who were central to his life. We travel to where he was born and where he died. And we come to understand the profound influences of time and place in the evolution of his eternally provocative philosophy.

Deeply informed and vibrantly written, combining historical inquiry and storytelling Úlan, The Hemlock Cup gives us the most substantial, fascinating, humane depiction we have ever had of one of the most influential thinkers of all time.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Brilliant overview about the time of Socrates. - Goodreads
But at times Hughes's writing style annoyed me. - Goodreads
Her prose floats through voluminous details. - Goodreads
Bethany Hughes writing is unlike other academics. - Goodreads

Review: The Hemlock Cup: Socrates, Athens and the Search for the Good Life

User Review  - Mac - Goodreads

I read this book at the perfect time, while I was traveling in Athens. Bettany Hughes has written a biography of Socrates, but since the known facts of his life are few, she compensates by detailing ... Read full review

Review: The Hemlock Cup: Socrates, Athens and the Search for the Good Life

User Review  - Yong Lee - Goodreads

One of the best books I've read in a long time. Bethany Hughes writing is unlike other academics. It is descriptive but narrative without being melodramatic. Story of Socrates is the story of Athens, and the city features prominently as the great man himself. Read full review

About the author (2011)

Bettany Hughes is an award-winning historian, author and broadcaster. Her first book, Helen of Troy, has been translated into ten languages. She has written and presented numerous documentaries for the BBC, PBS, the Discovery Channel, the History Channel and National Geographic, which have been seen by more than 100 million viewers worldwide. She received her degrees in ancient and medieval history from Oxford University and holds a Research Fellowship at King’s College, London. She lives in the United Kingdom and abroad with her husband and their two daughters.

From the Hardcover edition.

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