chapter  XIV
15 Pages

Socrates and the early Church

ByMark Edwards

Christians of the fourth century, who had witnessed persecution under the tetrarchs, showed a pardonable hostility towards many Greek philosophers. The scepticism of Socrates was easily turned into a logical pillory. Greek authors give more proof of having read the works of Socrates' disciples. Augustine and his Neoplatonic tutors ensured that the questing, diffident Socrates of the Sceptics would pass out of the Christian memory for a millennium. The Cynics were occasionally admired, but the man from whom they claimed descent disappeared behind Plato, or, more often, behind the periphrasts of Plato. If it was not the pagan commentators but Ficino who rediscovered the portrait of Socrates in the Eros of the Symposium, people need not doubt that Proclus had conspired with Augustine to quicken his understanding. By contrast, the humanists of the sixteenth century made a clear choice for the Bible over Plato, and in Erasmus's Praise of Folly the strategy of the Symposium is reversed.