This situation is somewhat like that of scholars trying to discover something about the real Socrates. The famous fifth-century Greek philosopher didn't write anything down, or at least none of his writings has survived. Almost everything we know about Socrates comes from three writers: Plato, Xenophon, and Aristophanes. The first two were disciples of Socrates who, after the death of their master, wrote dialogues in which Socrates played a major role. Aristophanes, on the other hand, was a Greek comic playwright who, in his drama The Clouds, made Socrates out to be a buffoon. Most scholars consider Plato and Xenophon to be more reliable sources than Aristophanes for information about the historical Socrates, though their tendency to idolize their master may be balanced by Aristophanes' more critical albeit exaggerated picture.


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