Armand D’Angour’s Socrates in Love is a terrific read. Part novelistic fantasy biography, part deeply serious, source-based reconstruction, it will appeal in varying ways and measures to readers of different tastes and personal predilections. At one level it is an – I think probably doomed – attempt at Sherlock Holmes-style detection. At another level it is a bid to fill in intelligently the yawning gap in our knowledge of Socrates’s life between his birth in 470 or 469 BC and his bursting onto the Athenian public military-political scene – or at least his appearance in the papyrus rolls of his disciples Plato and Xenophon and their later (sometimes much later) followers – in the 430s and 420s. The book’s overarching theme is a love story, a story that – in the best conspiracy-theory tradition – Socrates’s later advocates allegedly did their best to cover up, so successfully indeed that no one (or almost no one) before D’Angour got wind of it.
D’Angour is a man of many parts. He studied Classics at Oxford after leaving a well-known institution not far from Slough. After a stint as a cellist and a business career he returned with a bang to classical scholarship, in 2011 publishing a sophisticated, sociologically informed monograph (based on his