Simon the Shoemaker

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For the 10th century Coptic saint, see Simon the Tanner.

Simon the Shoemaker (Greek: Σίμων Ἀθηναῖος, σκυτοτόμος) was an associate of the Athenian philosopher Socrates in the late 5th century BCE. He is known mostly from the account given in Diogenes Laërtius' Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers. He is also mentioned in passing by Plutarch[1] and Synesius;[2] and another pupil of Socrates, Phaedo of Elis, is known to have written a dialogue called Simon.[3]

Socrates was accustomed to visit Simon's shop, and converse with him on various subjects. These conversations Simon afterwards committed to writing, as far as he could remember them; and it was said by some that he was the first person to write Socratic dialogues. His writings attracted the notice of Pericles, who offered to provide for his maintenance, if he would come and reside with him; but Simon refused, on the grounds that he did not wish to surrender his independence. Diogenes Laërtius lists thirty-three conversations (dialogi) which were contained in one volume.

Some scholars have suggested that Simon was a purely fictional figure,[4][5] perhaps invented by Phaedo of Elis for his dialogue Simon. However, archaeological investigations have revealed the remains of a shop near the Tholos in the southwest corner of the Agora of Athens which has yielded quantities of hobnails and a pot base with the word "Simon's" (Greek: ΣΙΜΟΝΟΣ) inscribed on it.[6] It cannot, of course, be certain if this is Simon's shop.[4]

In later times Simon seems to have been idealised by the Cynics. Among the surviving Cynic epistles, there are some spurious Socratic letters, written in the 2nd or 3rd century, in which various pupils of Socrates, including Antisthenes, Aristippus, and Xenophon, debate philosophy from a Cynic point of view. Simon is described in these letters as an ideal Cynic-type figure. One of these letters purports to come from Simon himself, and is addressed to Aristippus:

I hear that you ridicule our wisdom in the presence of Dionysius. I admit that I am a shoemaker and that I do work of that nature, and in like manner I would, if it were necessary, cut straps once more for the purpose of admonishing foolish men who think that they are living in great luxury. Antisthenes shall be the chastiser of your foolish jests. For you are writing him letters which make fun of our way of life. But let what I have said to you in jest suffice. At any rate, remember hunger and thirst, for these are worth much to those who pursue self control.[7]


  1. ^ Plutarch, Maxime cum Principibus esse Disserendum, 776b
  2. ^ Synesius, Dion, 14
  3. ^ Diogenes Laërtius, ii. 105; Suda, Phaidon
  4. ^ a b Kahn, Charles H. (2000). Plato and the Socratic Dialogue : the Philosophical Use of a Literary Form. Cambridge University Press. p. 10. ISBN 9780521648301. 
  5. ^ E. Zeller, (1868), Socrates and the Socratic Schools, trans. O. J. Reichel. Longmans, Green & Co.
  6. ^ D. B. Thompson, (1960), The House of Simon the Shoemaker, Archeology 13, 234-240.
  7. ^ Socratic Epistle 12, in A. J. Malherbe, (1977) The Cynic Epistles, A Study Edition. SBL.


  • R. F. Hock, (1976), Simon the Shoemaker as an ideal Cynic, Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies 17. 41-53.
  • J. Sellars, (2003), Simon the Shoemaker and the Problem of Socrates. Classical Philology 98, 207-216.

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