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Phaenarete (Greek Φαιναρέτη), wife of Sophroniscus, was the mother of the Greek philosopher Socrates and his half-brother, Patrocles. (Since Sophroniscus had died before 424 BC, he was probably Phaenarete's first husband, while Chaeredemus, father of Patrocles, was her second.)[1] The name Phaenarete means "She who brings virtue to light".[2] And it is, according to A.E. Taylor, "suggestive of good family connexions", based on its appearance in the genealogy of the immortal Amphitheus in Aristophanes' Acharnians.[3]

Very little is known of the life of Phaenarete. In Plato's Theaetetus, Socrates compares his own work as a philosopher with hers as a maia (midwife).[4] According to John Burnet, the role of maia was "performed by women of good family, and the translation 'midwife' is quite misleading."[5]


  1. ^ p. 235, Debra Nails, The People of Plato, Hackett, 2002.
  2. ^ Plato. Theaetetus. Indianapolis, Indiana: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 1992. Print. ISBN 0-87220-158-9
  3. ^ p. 102, "Plato's Biography of Socrates", Proceedings of the British Academy vol. 8 (1917).
  4. ^ Theaetetus 149a.
  5. ^ Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, s.v., "Socrates", 1919.