Rich in drama and humour, they include the controversial Ion, a debate on poetic inspiration; Laches, in which Socrates seeks to define bravery; and Euthydemus, which considers the relationship between philosophy and politics. Together, these dialogues provide a definitive portrait of the real Socrates and raise issues still keenly debated by philosophers, forming an incisive overview of Plato's philosophy.
As the father of Western philosophy, who transformed Greek thought with his questioning insights into life and ethics, Socrates (470-399 bc) was a powerful inspiration - and major irritant - to the Athenians of his day. After his trial and execution on charges of heresy and the corruption of young minds, his greatest pupil Plato (c. 427-347 bc) wrote these early dialogues as an act of homage. Chris Emlyn-Jones teaches in the department of Classical Studies at the Open University.