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4 Extra Debut. In May 399BC, the philosopher Socrates faced trial. His beloved Athens had turned on him. Read by Bettany Hughes.

Written by Bettany Hughes. We think the way we do because Socrates thought the way he did. His aphorism 'The unexamined life is not worth living' may have originated twenty-five centuries ago, but it is a founding principle of modern life.

Socrates lived in a city that nurtured the key ingredients of contemporary civilisation - democracy, liberty, science, drama, rational thought- yet, as he wrote nothing in his lifetime, he himself is an enigmatic figure. "The Hemlock Cup" tells his story, setting him in the context of the Eastern Mediterranean that was his home, and dealing with him as he himself dealt with the world.

Socrates was a soldier, a lover, a man of the people. He philosophised neither in grand educational establishments nor the courts of kings but in the squares and public arenas of Golden Age Athens. He lived through an age of extraordinary materialism, in which a democratic culture turned to the glorification of its own city; when war was declared under the banner of democracy; and, when tolerance turned into intimidation on streets once populated by the likes of Euripides, Sophocles and Pericles.

For seventy years he was a vigorous citizen of one of the greatest capitals on earth, but then his beloved Athens turned on him, condemning him to death by poison. Socrates' pursuit of personal liberty is a vibrant story that Athens did not want us to hear. But Bettany Hughes has painstakingly pieced together Socrates' life, following in his footsteps across Greece and Asia Minor, and examining the new archaeological discoveries that shed light on his world. "The Hemlock Cup" relates a story that is as relevant now as it has ever been.

Abridged by Libby Spurrier
Reader: Bettany Hughes

Producer: Joanna Green
A Pier production for BBC Radio 4.

15 minutes

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