Lysipp, von Sikyon (ca. 400 v. Chr.-) attributed to | Copied Artist
Socrates (469 v. Chr. - 399 v. Chr.) | Person(s) shown
The philosopher Socrates lived from 469-399 BC and is said to have been extraordinarily ugly. His physiognomy was compared to that of a Silens, meaning a half-animal, bald-headed and bulbous-nosed man of nature.
Echoes of this pointed comparison can also be found in this portrait, which goes back to a statue of honour by the bronze sculptor Lysipp that was erected in the Pompeion (festival building behind the Dipylon Gate in Athens).
Born around 470 BC in Athens, Socrates spent his entire life in that city. His passion was philosophy and debate, and educating young people. The heart of his philosophy was the concept of the ‘good’ – and how a ‘good life’ can be achieved. In Socrates’s view, the answer lay in striving for knowledge and insight. Yet although he believed people committed evil acts largely due to a lack of knowledge, he was only too aware of the limits to the human acquisition of knowledge. His renowned saying “I know that I know nothing” is still commonly quoted today. In this saying, he was expressing a core idea in his thought – even if he was extremely well educated, and so knew a lot, there was always an infinite amount he did not know. Moreover, he argued, the best way to understand this seeming paradox is by constantly seeking to acquire new knowledge.
Socrates’s life ended in tragedy. When he was 70 years old, he was accused of political intrigue and sentenced to death. His brilliant speech in his defence in front of the court has become a key part of his philosophical legacy.
- Material & Technique
- First third of the 3rd century CE
- Inventory number
- Hm 205