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Classics & Ancient History   >   Socrates and the Sophists

Pre-Socratic Philosophy

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Socrates and the Sophists

In this course, Dr Armand D’Angour (University of Oxford) explores the intellectual figures active in 5th- and 4th-century BC Athens known as the Sophists, as well as the figure of Socrates, who may or may not be considered one of their number. In the first lecture, we think about the philosophy in the Greek world before the fifth century BC, including the figures of Thales, Anaximander and Anaximenes. After that, in the second lecture, we think about the movement known as the Sophists itself – who were the Sophists? In the third lecture, we think about whether Socrates should be considered a Sophist, before turning in the fourth and fifth lectures to think about the Sophists’ involvement in two issues of great importance in fifth-century Athens: the art of rhetoric and religion. In the sixth lecture, we look more closely at the figure of Socrates before turning in the seventh and final lecture to consider Socrates’ trial and execution in 399 BC. We know what Socrates was officially charged with, but was he really brought to trial for another reason?

Pre-Socratic Philosophy

In this lecture, we think about the development of philosophy before Socrates and the Sophists, who came to dominate the discipline from the mid-5th century onwards. As we move through the lecture, we consider: (i) the arrival of the first philosophers in Athens in the mid-5th century BC, particularly the figure of Protagoras of Abdera (c. 490-20 BC); (ii) the importance of the Greek victory in the Greco-Persian Wars (490-79 BC) in transforming cultural life at Athens; (iii) the important centres of philosophy prior to the Persian Wars, particularly the city of Miletus in Asia Minor; (iv) the figures of Thales (c. 626/3 – 548/5), Anaximander (c. 610-545) and Anaximenes (c. 586/5 – 526/5), all of whom came from Miletus, and the kind of philosophical questions they were most interested in; (v) the figures of Heraclitus (fl. c. 500 BC) and Xenophanes (c. 570-478 BC) and the kind of philosophical questions they were most interested in; and (vi) the limited influence of these philosophers on the intellectual climate in 6th-century Athens.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

D'Angour, A. (2023, May 30). Socrates and the Sophists - Pre-Socratic Philosophy [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

D'Angour, A. "Socrates and the Sophists – Pre-Socratic Philosophy." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 30 May 2023,


Prof. Armand D'Angour

Prof. Armand D'Angour

University of Oxford