According to a document recently discovered at an obscure Italian monastery, when Socrates was a young boy he was expelled from school. The document was an ancient letter that had been preserved in a sealed urn, and dates from the fifth century B.C. The letter was written by a Greek teacher named Adynatos, and was apparently written after Socrates was an adult and had gained some notoriety.
The letter was found by two Italian boys who were visiting their uncle for the day at the monastery. The boys had been told to stay in the chapel and pray all day, but they soon tired of that. When no one was looking they snuck out and began exploring. In a room full of miscellaneous objects they found a sealed urn. When they were trying to open it they accidentally dropped it, and it smashed on the floor. The noise brought the abbot running into the room, and he saw the old document surrounded by the shards of pottery. He picked up the letter and recognized it for what it was. The boys did not get into trouble, but they did have to go back to the chapel and pray until their mother came to pick them up.
In an agreement with the Greek government, the letter will be returned to Greece. A translation of the letter follows:
“You asked if I had heard of this Socrates fellow, who has been stirring up the young men, and teaching that there is only one god.
“My friend, I have indeed heard of him. He was a pupil of mine in the school for young boys where I taught. He was not there long before I had to expel him from the school, and his parents were forced to educate him elsewhere. He was the most impudent student I ever had the misfortune to teach.
“This young scamp had the effrontery to answer every question I asked him with another question! It was maddening.
“‘Socrates, what is two plus two?’ I would ask.
“‘Oh honored teacher Adynatos,’ he would reply. ‘What is this thing called math that we do? What does it mean to put numbers together? Are they not separate? When we juxtapose them, are they still not separate, only closer? Is it just to consider them together without their consent? Must we not first know the meaning of justice to understand what it means to be just?’
“‘Socrates!’ I would yell, infuriated. ‘Answer the question! It’s a simple question! What is two plus two?!’
“‘A simple question, revered teacher Adynatos? And what does it mean that a question is simple? Must we not know the meaning of simplicity first? And knowing the meaning of simplicity, will that not lead us to a greater understanding of the nature of complexity?’
“My good friend Koutsompolis, that young boy made my head want to explode. I could only take a few days of that when I told his parents to take him away, and to never let him darken my door again.
‘My advice to you is to stay away from him. He’s nothing but trouble, and I predict that he will come to a bad end. You mark my words.
“The best of health and all good wishes to you, Koutsompolis, from your good friend, Adynatos.”