Imagine a nerd with projecting eyes that comfortably catch up with things sideways and ‘large fleshy lips like an ass’. That was our Socrates!!
You see, the problem with Socrates’ look often being described as ugly lies majorly in its repulsiveness; being different from the classical Greek definition of beauty.
As the saying goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But to say that Socrates was probably beautiful in the uniqueness of his creation will give off a message of personal interest in the figure, an impression I do not wish to create at any rate.
But come to think of it, what makes a person ugly? Their uniqueness or an aversion of their countenance from the ideals of society? Both being considerably the same makes another reason to think that speaking of Socrates as being ugly may not be rational enough.
In any case, we’re having this discussion because you and I have heard at some point that Socrates was ugly and we want to know all the accessible information around this. So, yes, in the words of insiders, Socrates was ugly. But how and why?
Socrates had a look that was “far from the ideals of classical Greek beauty” as Eric Kim puts it.
How did Socrates look?
We have obtained from several reliable sources that Socrates was bald, had a snub nose (yes, bulbous), bulging eyes (exophthalmic), a broad face, thick lips, and probably pot-bellied— since he was likened to Silenoi by Alcibiades— except that we should also consider that he was at a time a battle-ready hoplite.
How do we know Socrates was ugly?
Also, suggesting that Socrates is not the image we’re made to identify him with, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy in part has this to say, “Socrates was profoundly ugly… resembling not at all the statues that turned up later in ancient times and now grace internet sites and the covers of books”.
And you see, unlike philosophers like Seneca who according to some historical accounts didn’t really live by his own philosophy and teachings, Socrates’ unattractive appearance was perceived by many to be a sign that he was truly more concerned with the inner self than he was with the outer.
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For him, virtue was worth more than vanity, and isn’t this continually evident in the lives of many dedicated knowledge seekers today? It follows that the pursuit of virtue calls for eschewing a materialistic life, as much as we’re convinced that this idea contributed to Socrates’ unattractive and even sometimes unkempt look.
All of these, indeed, suggest that Socrates was ugly. How else should we have known about the truth of his ugliness!!
Why was Socrates said to be so ugly?
Scholars have suggested that Socrates may not be as ugly as he’s been said to be and thankfully, studies have also shown that his contemporaries may have hyperbolized Socrates’ ugliness for reasons that may include rehabilitating the philosopher’s reputation (that seemed to have been affected by several allegations).
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This exaggeration has a way of quite inconspicuously making Socrates more philosophical. Because, for instance, as Psychology Today sees it, there are chances that Plato made up the story of Alcibiades trying to seduce Socrates— where the latter elicited awareness of his physical repulsiveness compared to Alcibiades’ beauty, while also adding that appearance doesn’t equate to true beauty.Share