Socrates: An Ugly Face, A Beautiful Soul

Socrates invented the art of cultivating a beautiful soul, perhaps because he was been born with such a famously ugly face.

There was a Socratic style of life (which the Cynics were to imitate), and the Socratic dialogue was an exercise which brought Socrates’ interlocutor to put himself in question, to take care of himself, and to make his soul as beautiful and wise as possible.

—Pierre Hadot

In the Platonic dialogues, Alcibiades appears as a beautiful aristocratic youth, in striking contrast to ‘frightfully common’ Socrates.

Alcibades_being_taught_by_Socrates_François-Andre_Vincent
Alcibiades Being Taught by Socrates by François-André Vincent (1776)| Wikimedia Commons

Alcibiades loves Socrates despite his ignoble appearance. Socrates. Beautiful . . . on the inside. Socrates is an aristocrat of the soul.

In drawings, paintings, engravings and sculpture, the theme is repeated: a noble soul, an ugly face.

Rubens_Socrates_DP802376
Alcibiades Interrupting the Symposium by Peter Paul Rubens | The Met
socrates-sculpture-life-magazine
Ancient sculpture of Socrates | LIFE
RP-P-1999-1660
Portrait of Socrates the Philosopher | Rijksmuseum
herford-s-swinburne-1200
From An Alphabet of Celebrities by Oliver Herford (1899)
RP-P-OB-64.025
Medallion with the portrait of the philosopher Socrates, Reinier Vinkeles (I) (1800) | Rijksmuseum