Living from 470-399 BC, Socrates' only direct records are found in the works of Plato and Xenophon. Because Plato developed Socrates' character more than just his history, it is difficult to recognize how much of Socrates' character had been invented and how much of his character had been accurate. Assuredly, Apology, Crito, and Phaedo had been accurate records of Socrates life. While other works such as Republic and Timaeus might have expounded on Plato's artistic freedoms.
The basic story of Socrates is that one of his friends had asked oracle of Apollo in Delphi who the wisest man in Athens was, she responded with Socrates' name, and Socrates had started his never-ending quest to find someone wiser than himself. Socrates knew that he did not know a lot. He couldn't believe that he was the wises man in Athens. Obviously, it would have been easy for Socrates to find someone more knowledgeable than himself in many different trades or studies. But, as Socrates continued to ask different people questions about what they claimed to be experts in, they always come to the point of self-contradiction and made up lies for things they did not know. The reason Socrates found himself as the wisest in Athens was due to the fact that he knew he didn't know everything. He would admit when he had a lack of wisdom or knowledge.
He got into trouble with local Athenian politics. The people in charge didn't like being made to look like fools by Socrates. They wanted him to stop questioning everyone. But, Socrates couldn't stop his search for someone wiser. His spirit charged him to carry on. He was called to continue his quest.
Socrates' stubborn-mindedness and continual pursuit of someone wiser led to him being seen as an annoying and persistent "gnat fly." The Athenians charged him with introducing/worshiping a false god and corrupting the youth (he also held a tutor-like position known as being a sophist). At court, they gave him the option to either flee Athens or die. He knew his call by a god was to remain in Athens and he could not leave the city due to his strong nationalism (he had also been a hoplite in the Athenian army and would rather die than leave his city). He chose death.
Socrates' close friend, Crito, had visited him in prison and begged him to leave the city. Crito had many resources and could easily sneak Socrates out of town. Socrates also had many wealthy supporters who could provide for him if he chose to leave. Crito told Socrates to think of his wife and son. What kind of future would they have if he were dead?
But, Socrates still refused to leave. He would rather die a noble death than to flee. He saw flight as standing against the law because even though he was truly innocent, the law stated that he must follow through with his sentence. He would rather die than break the law because without the law no society could stand. He also would rather remain a noble man so that he could face judgment in the next life with no regret.
The last line of the dialogue reads, "Let it be, Crito, and let us do as I say, since the god is our guide."
At last, Socrates drinks hemlock, a poison, and dies.
Many of Plato's other works address Socrates' round-about questioning and thinking style. It seems as if the characters circle around a question like vultures circling their prey until either the subject is completely understood or dismissed all together.
The Symposium takes place at a symposium where Socrates drinks and stays up all night discussing philosophy. Although everyone else succumbs to the wine and passes out, Socrates remains sober-minded and when morning comes and he is still awake he just gets up and continues as if it were just another day.
Socrates had been known by Justin Martyr as a "proto-Christian" because he had been dedicated to a sort of spirit (a kin to the Holy Spirit) and had gotten in trouble for introducing a "new" god to Athens which Martyr speculated to be the Judeo-Christian God.