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Conversations of Socrates (Penguin Classics) Paperback – July 3, 1990


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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Revised edition (July 3, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014044517X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140445176
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #74,354 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Greek

About the Author

Xenophon was an Athenian country gentleman born about 430 BC. He may have helped to publish Thucydides’ History, and certainly wrote his own Hellenica as a continuation of it. By his own (probably reliable) account he was a fine officer and outstanding leader, but his admiration for Sparta and devotion to Socrates, among other causes, led to his banishment. He was given an estate at Scillus and settled down to enjoy the life of a landed aristocrat, and it was during this period that he began to write histories, biographies, memoirs and specialist treatises. The defeat of Sparta in 371 forced him to move to Corinth where he probably lived for the rest of his life.

Hugh Tredennick was professor of classics at Royal Holloway College and Dean of the Faculty of Arts at London University.


Robin Waterfield is a graduate of Manchester University and studied Greek philosphy at King's College, Cambridge. He is currently writing a major biography of Kahlil Gibran.
Robin Waterfield is a graduate of Manchester University and studied Greek philosphy at King's College, Cambridge. He is currently writing a major biography of Kahlil Gibran.

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Customer Reviews

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68 of 69 people found the following review helpful By Frank T. Klus on June 27, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Very few extant works remain on the life of Socrates: mainly the works of Xenophon and Plato. In "Conversations of Socrates" Xenophon writes extensively on the philosophical thought of the master in a forthright and simple manner. Xenophon has not always been praised for his writing style but he covers the Socratic principles thoroughly. The subjects aren't organized particularly well with examples of Socrates' views on certain virtues scattered throughout the text. Nevertheless, since Socrates didn't write his own thoughts we are very fortunate that we have these works.
Xenophon divided his works into four books: Socrates' Defense; Memoirs of Socrates; the Dinner-Party; and the Estate-Manager. Xenophon writes in the second and third person so that we "hear" the Socratic Method throughout the text. We see how Socrates used questions of his followers to teach them to think. His method thoroughly flushed out the truth and often revealed the flaws in the arguments his opponents and followers made.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Xenophon. One could almost imagine being right there with the master as he shredded the weaknesses in faulty arguments and uncovered hidden truths. His opinions on virtues may be dated to Twentieth Century people but one must remember that it was largely his teachings that had such a great influence on Western thought and ideas.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 29, 1999
Format: Paperback
More on Socrates, especially for those who wish to know more after having exhausted Plato (which is no simple task). Only gets four stars because it comes across as being slightly less powerful than Plato, although, contrary to the translators opinion, appears to portray the historical Socrates more accurately (except for the final dialogue). Socrates' Defense presents the only other complete account of his trial, Memoirs of Socrates is a collection, The Dinner Party is about the notion of love, and Estate Manager is a dialogue about managing an estate. I have always find the presentation of dialogue preferable to essay (as in Plutarch).
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 24, 2004
Format: Paperback
While not as competent a writer as Plato, Xenophon's 'Socrates' is the historically more accurate (I refer to the chapter of Memoirs in this book.)The Dinner-Party was my favorite dialogue, there are also several brilliant vignettes throughout the memoir chapter. This is not to say that it doesn't 'drag' in parts, it does. The Estate-Manager, which is the last dialogue, terribly weighs down this volume; there Socrates is more a bystander than participant.
But I give this 5 stars, as its an indespensible volume for the Socratic enthusiast.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Richard P. Cember on October 3, 2010
Format: Paperback
This is a very, very different portrait of Socrates from the one painted by Plato. Probably, if you are considering buying this book, you have studied Plato at least somewhat. Plato's and Xenophon's accounts of Socrates are views of the man from totally different angles. I very much enjoyed Xenophon's representation of Socrates as a character. There are some extremely funny stories. I especially loved the story of Socrates' "philosophical" encounter with the courtesan Theodote. I confess, though, that after reading this book I understand the role of homosexuality in Greek culture even less than I did before. But that bafflement, too, is part of the interest of the book.

Like others writing here, I like Xenophon as a writer much better than Robin Waterfield does -- or at least, I like Tredennick's and Waterfield's Xenophon much better than Waterfield himself likes Xenophon in Greek.

I thought Waterfield's introductions were excellent, but I recommend reading them after you read the original material, not before.

I don't know Greek, so I can't vouch for the accuracy of the translations by Tredennick and Waterfield, but I found them to be graceful and a pleasure to read. They always felt stylistically just right.

Like others writing here, I was frustrated by the lack of precise line numbering, and the lack of a note on the text.

Physically: the paper is cheap, but the font is large and clear. The book is relatively comfortable to hold open (always an issue with paperbacks).

This book definitely makes me want to read more of Xenophon.

[Disclaimer: I did not buy this book from Amazon, but I buy plenty of other books from Amazon.]
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 11, 1997
Format: Paperback
Xenophon relates an easy-to-understand text of who Socrates was and what he taught. It includes his defence, memoirs, dinner party, and estate-manager. Truly fine reading.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By G. Stucco on September 23, 2009
Format: Paperback
I have always admired Xenophon. As a high school student I was in awe at his courage and extraordinary life. He was one tough "hombre." A warrior, a thinker, and a practical man who also knew farming and the equestrian art, he had been a student of Socrates'; in this book he allows us to get an additional glimpse of Socrates, beyond the well known Platonic accounts. The Socratic virtues Xenophon highlights are self-control, self-knowledge, and purity of life. Anyone who is attracted to those virtues will find much inspiration in Xenophon's "Conversations." I did not enjoy very much "The Dinner Party": call me homophobic, but I was never impressed with the Greek fascination for handsome boys. I also found "The Estate Manager" a bit too technical as a sub-urban, middle-class man of the XXI century. All in all, the translator ensured a smooth reading of the texts, for which he should be commended.
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