Sophroniscus, (Greek Σωφρονίσκος) husband of Phaenarete, was the father of the philosopher Socrates.


Little is known about Sophroniscus, and his relationship with his son Socrates. According to tradition, Sophroniscus was by trade a stonemason (a "stone-cutter" or a "stone-polisher"), and enjoyed some margin of success; but neither Plato nor any author before Timon of Phlius (3rd century BC) mentions the nature of the family's profession. (Clement of Alexandria, Sextus Empiricus, and Diogenes Laertius all quote the same passage from Timon, where Socrates is termed a laxoos or lithoxoos in ancient Greek.) A passage in Plato's Euthyphro seems to confirm the tradition: Socrates is there made to say that Daedalus is his ancestor. Daedalus was the mythical founder of Greek sculpture, but Daedalus' media were metal and wood, not stone. The simple fact that Socrates in the Apology claims (22c-d) to be unfamiliar with the knowledge of craftsmen and manual artisans suggests that Plato knew nothing of statuary as the family's trade. Xenophon also has Socrates speak with craftsmen and statuaries, but never has him point out that he's the son of a stonemason himself. So skepticism concerning the tradition is prudent.

Family Connections

According to Plato (in the dialogue Laches), Sophroniscus was a close friend of Lysimachus, son of the illustrious Aristides the Just, which (presumeably) allowed Socrates to become familiar with members of the circle of Pericles. (Since Plato has Lysimachus refer to Sophroniscus in the past tense, and since the dialogue's dramatic date is not long after the battle of Delium, we may safely infer that Sophroniscus was dead by 424.) The fact that Socrates' eldest son Lamprocles was not named after Sophroniscus suggests that Sophroniscus was the less illustrious of the two grandfathers (John Burnet 1911, Plato: Phaedo, p. 12). All this suggests that Socrates' social standing was in fact much higher than is traditionally recognized.

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