Xenophon tells us that Socrates always went where he could meet the most
people; that in workshop and marketplace, at the festive board or in the palaestra, he conversed with all men alike, whatever their class or
But while no opportunity was neglected of mingling with and, as it were,
sensing the heart of his fellow-citizens, the companions most truly congenial
to him were not men of his own age, but a later generation, -- the youth of
This, at all events, is what we gather from our chief source of information
concerning Socrates, the works of Plato.
In nearly all the so-called dramatic dialogues, where not only Socrates the
thinker but Socrates the man is revealed to us, it is these charming youths
who lend life and animation to the scene and who inspire the master's noblest
And indeed these fresh young minds, filled with eager questionings and
unsatisfied longings, may well have called forth the best powers of one whose
mission it was to turn the eye of the soul towards the Truth.
For to Socrates education meant not crowding the mind with "knowledge from
without," allowing no room for the play of independent thought or the growth
of individual character, but the building up of character by the charm of good
words and by examples of high thoughts and noble lives, and the awakening to
life and activity of that intuitive knowledge of realities which, as he
believed, exists in every human soul.*
*Talks with Athenian Youths, translations from the Charmides, Lysis, Laches,
Euthydemus, and Theatetus of Plato, (New York, Charles Scribner's Sons,
1891), Preface, p. v.