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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.

About Diane Harris Cline

Diane Harris Cline is an associate professor of history at George Washington University, and an ancient Greek historian and classical archaeologist. In her cross-disciplinary research, she is a pioneer in the digital humanities, applying social network analysis to study the social ties in ancient Greece. With a BA in classics from Stanford and PhD in classical archaeology from Princeton, Cline has taught a wide range of courses on Greek and Roman history, archaeology, religion, mythology, literature, and culture. She has won teaching awards at GWU, including the Columbian Prize for teaching and mentoring advanced undergraduate students in 2017 and the university’s Morton A. Bender Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2018. Cline is the author of two books, The Treasures of the Parthenon and Erechtheion (Oxford) and The Greeks: An Illustrated History (National Geographic) . She has won two Fulbright awards for her research in Greece, where she also serves as an expert study leader for Smithsonian Journeys and National Geographic Expeditions. Diane Harris Cline was a Fellow in Hellenic Studies at the Harvard Center for Hellenic Studies in the fall of 2018, partnering with Eleni Hasaki on the Social Networks of Ancient Potters project. In the spring term 2019, she was a Fulbright Scholar in Greece at the University of Crete, Rethymno.

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