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Portrait statuette of Socrates


Height: 27.500 cm

Purchased with the assistance of the National Art Collections Fund

GR 1925.11-18.1

Room 22: Alexander the Great

    Portrait statuette of Socrates

    Greek, about 200 BC - AD 100
    Said to be from Alexandria, Egypt

    Socrates (469-399 BC) is considered to be the intellectual father of modern Western philosophy. His method of enquiry was to enter into a penetrating discussion with his companions, questioning the nature of knowledge itself in pursuit of absolute truths. Socrates himself wrote nothing, but versions of his conversations are recorded in the written works of his pupils Plato and Xenophon.

    Socrates' pursuit of true knowledge brought him into conflict with the piety laws of his native Athens, where his eventual prosecution led to enforced suicide.

    According to both Plato and Xenophon, Socrates' physical appearance - portly, pug-nosed, fleshy-lipped - was like that of a satyr and belied the inner beauty of his spirit. The portraits that survive must all have been produced after his death. Some of the images appear to be painfully true-to-life. This statuette presents an idealized, later version of the philosopher's appearance.

    P. Zanker, The mask of Socrates (University of California Press, 1995)

    G.M.A. Richter, The portraits of the Greeks (London, Phaidon, 1965)


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    On display: Room 22: Alexander the Great

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