Socrates - Voltaire - ebook

Socrates ebook




Socrates is a 1759 French play in three acts written by Voltaire. It is set in Ancient Greece during the events just before the trial and death of Greek philosopher Socrates. It is heavy with satire specifically at government authority and organized religion. The main characters besides the titular role is that of the priest Anitus, his entourage, Socrates' wife Xantippe, several judges, and some children Socrates has adopted as his own. Like more historical accounts by Herodotus, Plato, and Xenophon, the playwright shows Socrates as a moral individual charged with baseless accusations by a conspiracy of corrupt Athenians or Athenian officials although Voltaire implies that the wrongdoers are a select few. Unlike the historical account, Socrates deals with several judges, whereas his real life counterpart receives his punishment of death by hemlock by a jury of 500 Athenians. The presence or mention of Socrates' best-known students such as Plato, Antisthenes, Zeno of Citium, and others are replaced by unnamed disciples, delivering only a few token lines at the end of the play. Socrates is also portrayed as a monotheist and a victim of religious persecution, an interpretation that is not generally shared by modern scholars and historians. Generally, this is not the most well-known of his works in comparison with Letters on the English which Voltaire published in 1778 or the Dictionnaire philosophique published earlier in 1764. However, hints of his contempt for government and religion are apparent here which later influenced the leaders of the American Revolution and the French Revolution.

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Copyright © 2017 by Voltaire.

All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations em- bodied in critical articles or reviews.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organiza- tions, places, events and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

For information contact :

Sheba Blake Publishing

[email protected]




Book and Cover design by Sheba Blake Publishing

First Edition: January 2017










MELITUS, Athenian Judge

XANTIPPE, Wife of Socrates

AGLAEA, a young Athenian girl raised by Socrates

SOPHRONINE, a young Athenian boy raised by Socrates

DRIXA, a merchant woman attached to Anitus

TERPANDRE, attached to Anitus

ACROS, attached to Anitus

JUDGES DISCIPLES OF SOCRATES NONOTI, a pedant protected by Anitus

BERTIOS, another

CHOMOS, another


ANITUS: My dear confidants, my dear agents, you know how much money I made you during the last festival of Ceres. I'm getting married and I hope you will do your duty on this grand occasion.

DRIXA: Yes, without doubt, Milord, since you are going to make us earn yet more.

ANITUS: Madame Drixa, I must have two beautiful Persian rugs. You, Terpandre, of you I only ask two large silver candelabra. And of you, Acros, a half dozen dresses of silk embroidered with gold.

TERPANDRE: That's a bit much; but Milord there's nothing I won't do to deserve your holy protection.

ANITUS: You will regain all that a hundred fold. It's the best way to deserve the favors of the gods and goddesses. Give much and you will receive much; and especially don't fail to arouse the people against all the people of quality who do not vow enough, and who do not present offerings.

ACROS: We will never fail in that; it's too sacred a duty not to be faithful to it.

ANITUS: Go, my dear friends. May the gods keep you in these sentiments, so pious and just! And count on prospering, yourselves, your children and your grandchildren.

TERPANDRE: We are sure of that because you said it.

(Exit Terpandre and Acros)

ANITUS: Well, my dear Madame Drixa, I think you don't find it ill that I am espousing Aglaea; but I don't love you any less. We will live together as usual.

DRIXA: Oh! Milord, I am not jealous; and since business is going so well I am very satisfied. Since I have the honor of being one of your mistresses, I have enjoyed great consideration in Athens. If you love Aglaea, I love the young Sophronine. And Xantippe, the wife of Socrates has promised to give him to me in marriage. You will still have the same rights over me. I am only annoyed that this young man may be raised by that villainous Socrates, and that Aglaea may yet be in his clutches. They must be gotten out of them as quickly as possible. Xantippe will be enchanted to be rid of them. The handsome Sophronine and the beautiful Aglaea are very ill in Socrates hands.

ANITUS: I really flatter myself, my dear Madame Drixa, that Melitus and I will ruin that dangerous man, who preaches nothing but virtue and divinity and who has dared to mock certain intrigues that happened at the Mysteries of Ceres. But Socrates is the tutor of Aglaea. Agathon, Aglaea's father, they say has left her great wealth. Aglaea is adorable. I idolize Aglaea. I must marry Aglaea and I must deal tactfully with Socrates while waiting to hang him.

DRIXA: Deal tactfully with Socrates in order that I may have my young man. But why did Agathon allow his daughter into the clutches of that old, flat nosed Socrates, that insufferable fault-finder who corrupts the young and prevents them from frequenting courtesans and the holy mysteries?

ANITUS: Agathon was infatuated with the same principles. He was one of those sober and serious types who have different morals from ours; who are from another country, and who are our sworn enemies, who think they've fulfilled all their duties when they've adored divinity, helped humanity, cultivated friendship and studied philosophy; one of those folks who insolently pretend that the gods have not inscribed the future in the liver of an ox; one of those pitiless dialecticians who find fault with priests for sacrificing their daughters or spending the night with them, as needs be. You feel they are monsters fit only to be choked. If there were only five or six sages in Athens who had as much credit as he, that would be enough to deprive me of most of my income and honors.

DRIXA: The Devil! Now that's really serious.

ANITUS: While waiting to strangle him, I am going to speak with him under the porticoes and conclude this business with him about my marriage.

DRIXA: Here he is: you do him too much honor. I am going to leave you and I am going to speak about my young man to Xantippe.

ANITUS: The gods accompany you, my darling Drixa. Serve them always and beware of believing in only one God, and don't forget my two beautiful Persian rugs.

(Enter Socrates)