Vase showing Hoplite Battle c.600, Louvre, Paris
Vase showing Hoplite Battle c.600, Louvre, Paris

In 431 BC war broke out between Athens and Sparta - the two superpowers of the Greek world. Socrates was enlisted as a hoplite, a wealthy and well-equipped infantryman. Shunning personal comfort and able to endure great personal hardship without complaint, he was to make quite a name for himself.

One story, in Plato's 'Symposium', describes how Socrates remained oblivious to harm even in retreat. After one disastrous battle, this total lack of concern is said to have intimidated the pursuing enemy so much that he was left completely untouched while hundreds of his fellows were picked off and slaughtered.

Plato also recounts that when Socrates returned to Athens after a long tour of duty, he refused to answer his friends' questions about the war. Instead he insisted they first tell him the more important news about how the search of truth was going.

The Pelopennesian War - 431: The Beginning of the Great War