Abstract | The Social Network of Socrates


Social Network Analysis is a tool that can be applied when a data set has many relationships and one wants to see what is going on as a whole. It can be used for places (trade partnerships or theoroi and their voyages), things (distributions of pot sherds or stamped bricks, sculptors and their collaborations), or people. The sources can come from archaeology or epigraphy or texts, as in this experiment.  Using Plato’s dialogues and some letters, the resulting network maps allow us to see a model of the social world of Socrates all in one place. The network consists of 186 individuals, of whom 120 have direct relations with Socrates. All together, the 186 people have 481 ties between them; the average individual has five relationships, while the median is three. A tie is defined as any occurrence in the text where the two people are physically together in the same room, or meet each other on the road, or know each other. I also included cases where someone mentions another person in a way suggesting that they know each other.

The method for collecting the pairs of names is demonstrated by using the first few lines of Xenophon’s Symposium. The various images (sociograms) show which people are peripheral and which are central inside the network of Socrates. A discussion of SNA metrics points to the friends who were closest to him, and how this list compares to the inner circles described in ancient texts.