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Seminar Greek: Socrates: drama, philosophy, society


Admission requirements

This class can be taken in fulfilment of the requirements of both the MA and the Research MA program in Classics and Ancient Civilization (track Classics), with differential requirements.

Admission requirements for other students: a BA degree in Classics obtained from a university in the Netherlands, or a comparable qualification obtained from a university outside the Netherlands. Moreover, students with an international degree have to contact the coordinator of studies to check admissibility.


Most of our sources on Socrates were produced after his execution, with one exception: Aristophanes’ comedy Clouds. Starting from that anxiety-free text, and supplementing it with key passages from Plato and Xenophon, we will study the fifth- and fourth-century portrait of Socrates.

Central questions will be: how can we interpret Aristophanes’ caricature and its influence? To what extent did Socrates differ from the so-called sophists? How innovative was Socrates, and how did Plato in particular ‘anchor’ innovative Socratic practice to make his behavior understandable to his audience? We will also pay attention to typical Socratic discourse features.

Themes available for independent study include: Socratic conversation technique (the ‘Socratic method’); Socratic views on politics; Socrates and erôs. A full syllabus will be made available in the first session of class.

Course objectives

At the end of the course the students will:

  • Be familiar with recent scholarship and original source material, especially Aristophanes’ Clouds, on the figure of Socrates

  • Have the skill to read and assess these original sources, and understand them within their cultural context, as demonstrated in an oral examination

  • Possess knowledge of cultural-critical and literary-critical apparatus enabling the student to analyze the material studied in this class.

  • Possess knowledge of the history of scholarship on the figure of Socrates

  • Be capable of critical assessment of secondary literature.

  • Research MA students: Advanced research skills: independent formulation of complex research question, collecting materials (both primary texts and results of earlier research). Analyzing results, constructing arguments, formulating conclusions; MA students: Research skills as above, but with fewer materials and more help, as specified in the first session of class.

  • Oral presentation: presenting clearly and on the basis of arguments the results of the student’s research. Effective use of hand-out, illustrations and/or multi-media techniques.

  • Written presentation: setting out research results effectively, clearly and in a well-structured manner. The student will be capable to demonstrate in writing their grasp of critical issues in recent scholarship, and to test and assess recent scholarly contributions by confronting them with the original source material

This course also aims at active participation and preparation: the student demonstrates involvement in the topic by asking well-informed and constructive questions and making contributions to the collective progress, on the basis of antecedent independent preparation


See timetables Classics and Ancient Civilizations.

Mode of instruction



Students are required to register for this course via uSis, the course registration system of Leiden University. General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.


Prof. dr. Ineke Sluiter