Philosophers & Scientists of the Classical Period , Socrates and Archytas

Between the 5th and 4th centuries BC, the Classical Period brought a time period where Athens was top dog in the ancient days , something that Pericles is often given credit for. The Classical Period also saw the construction of the Parthenon (built on the Acropolis), the birth of philosophical schools associated with Socrates and Plato (better known as the Academy), and the tragedies of Sophocles, Aeschylus and Euripides. In this article, we pay homage to the philosophers and scientists of this time period.

Socrates (469 or 470-399 BC)

Socrates’ achievements and influence is one of the most recognized of all philosophers of Athens. He was a man respected as a gifted thinker and instrumental in creating the foundation of western philosophy. Over the years, his methods and concepts influenced a great number of thinkers after him. In the end, he refused to compromise his beliefs and for that, he received a death sentence.

Born in Athens in 469 BC, he was executed in 399 BC, following a trial that found him guilty of spreading ‘dangerous’ ideas. Can you imagine a man spending one month on an ancient death row, just for the way he thought? In the end, he was given the poison of the hemlock plant, which was the typical method of capital punishment that ancient Athens followed.

3 Facts About Socrates

1) Socrates was short and considered quite an unattractive man in the face.

2) Walking about town without wearing any footgear, he was dressed in a simple garment (much like a robe) that was wrapped around his body.

3) Socrates was a regular at symposiums about town, which were drinking parties that took place after dinner , commonplace for the elite of Athens. During these get-togethers , men gathered to enjoy games, music, gossip, as well as the exchanges of ideas.

Archytas of Tarentum (420-350 BC)

As an influential Greek mathematician, astronomer and engineer, Archytas is considered the last of the Pythagorians, eventually guiding the likes of Plato and Eudoxus, who were his pupils at one time. At the Pythagorean School, he was a scientist that became well known for his work in mathematical mechanics , many giving him the title as the founder of such.

Archytas gained a reputation for constructing an assortment of toys that included a mechanical pigeon that was propelled by a steam jet. When reading the words of Aulus Gellius (a Latin author and grammarian who mentioned Archytas nearly five centuries after his passing), Archytas designed and then built the first artificial, self-propelled flying device with the alleged capacity of flying around 200 meters. During its flight, the bird is said to have been suspended on a wire or pivot while it took to flight. He is also credited with developing the theory for the pulley.

3 Facts About Archytas

1) Archytas was a good friend of Plato.

2) It is said that Archytus drowned when his ship was wrecked in the sea of Mattinata. His body was discovered unburied on the shore until a sailor came along and covered it with sand.

3) There is a crater on the Moon that is named after Archytas.