Socrates’ most famous student is undoubtedly Plato, but such was likely not the
case during Socrates’ lifetime, or at least in the time around his death. His most
famous students then – or rather his most infamous students – were likely those with
unpopular, even criminal, political careers, namely, Critias and Alcibiades. Critias
was a member of the hirty Tyrants who ruled oligarchically ater the overthrow
of the democracy, while Alcibiades was an Athenian general who turned traitor to
Athens’ two principal enemies during the Peloponnesian War, Sparta and Persia 1.
Alcibiades’ treacherous counsel to Sparta was instrumental in defeating Athens’
Sicilian expedition, and was consequentially a major blow to Athens’ eforts in the
Peloponnesian War generally 2. Socrates’ relationship to both men was no doubt
responsible for his besmirched reputation as well as the accusations that ultimately
led to his trial and execution. Since these nefarious characters were undeniably
prominent students of Socrates, both Plato and Xenophon sought to defend Socrates’
association with these men in their writings. While Plato and Xenophon ofer similar
accounts of Critias’ connection with Socrates, they curiously ofer diferent, not to
say contradictory, accounts of Alcibiades’ relationship with him. Plato, to begin
with, acknowledges that Socrates had some sort of pedagogical relationship with
Alcibiades, and he even “emphasizes [the relationship’s] length and intimacy” 3.