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

by Bettany Hughes

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Review: The Hemlock Cup by Bettany Hughes.

This book was time consuming but I’m glad I took the time to read it to the very last page. I read it in sections between other books. The writing was excellent and I could tell a lot of research went into this book. The book doesn’t just present the facts; it gives a full historical context of Socrates’ life, trial and execution. The events did jump around a bit but I found it easy to place most of the major events chronologically in my mind so I had no problem keeping up with the writer. Plus, with all the history noted it was like taking a stroll through Athens over the years and found myself locked into that timeframe and it felt like I was there.

The author did a wonderful job embracing the subject for homoerotic situations throughout the book. Bettany Hughes also creatively weaves knowledge throughout the book on different subject matters as; archaeology, Greek drama, comedies, geography, data from Plato’s books and descriptive details of Athens, the sights, the smells, the strange religious rituals and the people. She is an exceptional writer of resources, educational standards that held my interest and I enjoyed every last word.

Socrates was born around 469 B.C. and matured into a marketplace philosopher talking about the founding of philosophy which later got him into trouble and cost him his life. Another one of his roles was becoming a soldier. He fought in the Peloponnesian War during his thirties and well into his forties. Sparta (a City in Greece) was their enemy. They were only a three day walk from Athens which kept the military endeavors high on alert and they were a constant worry during Socrates’ life.

It might be an ostensibly biography of Socrates’ however; I thought it was a book about Athens 400-500 B.C. looking through the eyes of Socrates’ and his contemporaries to the world’s first democracy in Athens falling into a harsh domination of power that was ultimately damaged by its pride. By what I read, Athens was powerful, creatively built and left us with all types of basic philosophy concepts such as truth, existence, reality, causality, and freedom….
( )
  Juan-banjo | May 31, 2016 |
One of the best books I have ever read and I want to re-read and make notes. Kept wondering if the similarities to our world were deliberately drawn. ( )
  Cyss | Apr 4, 2015 |
BHS Library
  jtck121166 | Jul 16, 2013 |
Though the copious details are at times overwhelming, Hughes does a beautiful job depicting the ancient Athens of Socrates and renders a superb portrait of the philosopher. Vivid and fascinating. ( )
  Sullywriter | Apr 3, 2013 |
Washington Post likes this; while I'm not direly in need of another Socrates bio, having read the excellent [b:Why Socrates Died|6321023|Why Socrates Died|Robin Waterfield|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1266637140s/6321023.jpg|6506375] a couple years back, I find him - and the necessity of his execution - wicked interesting.

Check out her other books, too. She wrote a bio of Helen of Troy?! I had no idea she was a reliably real person.

NY Times also likes this: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/20/books/review/Isaacson-t.html?pagewanted=2&...
  AlCracka | Apr 2, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
There can't be, from my point of view, too many books about Socrates, so I am not complaining at the appearance of this one. It is less than 18 months, however, since I reviewed in these pages an excellent book by Robin Waterfield, Why Socrates Died, on very much this topic. To be fair to Bettany Hughes, though, she was at work on her equally fine version of the theme for at least 10 years, long before Waterfield’s book appeared.
added by Donogh | editThe Irish Times, John Dillon (Dec 11, 2010)
 
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0224071785, Hardcover)

A riveting, lively and brilliantly researched biography of Socrates by the author of the acclaimed bestseller Helen of Troy.

We think the way we do because Socrates thought the way he did. His aphorism 'The unexamined life is not worth living' may have originated twenty-five centuries ago, but it is a founding principle of modern life. Socrates lived and contributed to a city that nurtured key ingredients of contemporary civilisation -- democracy, liberty, science, drama, rational thought -- yet, as he wrote nothing in his lifetime, he himself is an enigmatic figure.

The Hemlock Cup gives Socrates the biography he deserves, setting him in the context of the Eastern Mediterranean that was his home, and dealing with him as he himself dealt with the world. Socrates was a soldier, a lover, a man of the people. He philosophised neither in grand educational establishments nor the courts of kings but in the squares and public arenas of Golden Age Athens. He lived through an age of extraordinary materialism, in which a democratic culture turned to the glorification of its own city; when war was declared under the banner of democracy; and when tolerance turned into intimidation on streets once populated by the likes of Euripides, Sophocles and Pericles. For seventy years he was a vigorous citizen of one of the greatest capitals on earth, but then his beloved Athens turned on him, condemning him to death by poison. Socrates' pursuit of personal liberty is a vibrant story that Athens did not want us to hear, but which must be told.

Bettany Hughes has painstakingly pieced together Socrates' life, following in his footsteps across Greece and Asia Minor, and examining the new archaeological discoveries that shed light on his world. In The Hemlock Cup she reveals the human heart of the man, and relates a story that is as relevant now as it has ever been.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:14 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

In his unwavering commitment to truth and in the example of his own life, Socrates 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 historian Bettany Hughes gives us a 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 to illuminate the streets where Socrates walked, to place him there and to show us the world as he experienced it.--From publisher description.… (more)

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