Numerous Roman marble portraits of Sokrates have survived, but none can match this bust in terms of quality, presence, and condition. A couple of these likenesses are inscribed thus assuring the identification of this portrait type with the influential Athenian philosopher, who lived from 469 to 399 BC. We are also fortunate to know many specifics about Sokrates’ life and thoughts thanks to the writings of his famous pupils Plato and Xenophon, both of whom describe his physical appearance as resembling a silenus (satyr). Our particular portrait type has been attributed to the prolific late Classical Greek sculptor Lysippos who is known to have created a bronze statue of Sokrates that was set up in the Pompeion at Athens around the year 320 BC. Portraits of Sokrates were especially popular during the later years of the Roman Empire when the philosopher was revered not only as a thinker but also as one of the fabled Wise Men. The exuberant style and technique of our striking Roman portrait suggests that it was carved in the late second century of our era.
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For the portraiture of Sokrates, see especially:
G.M.A. Richter, The Portraits of the Greeks Vol. 1 (London 1965) 109-119, figs. 456-573.
G.M.A. Richter, The Portraits of the Greeks. Abridged and Revised by R.R.R. Smith (Phaidon, Oxford 1984) 198-204.
B.S. Ridgway, Hellenistic Sculpture I: The Styles of ca. 331-200 B.C. (Madison, Wisconsin 1990) 79-80 and pl. 39.
M. Bieber. The Sculpture of the Hellenistic Age. (New York, Columbia 1955) 45-46, and pl. 128, 129.
Wace and C. Brown, Rupert Wace Ancient Art12 (London 2012) no.