His most important contribution to Western thought is his method of enquiry, known as the method of elenchos, which is a foundation for much of later Western philosophy. This method usually involves questions about the definitions or logoi (singular logos) of key moral concepts. Socrates was particularly interested in what are often called the five cardinal virtues (held to be such by Socrates' Greek contemporaries), namely, piety, wisdom, temperance, courage, and justice. Such questions challenged implicit moral beliefs of the interlocutors, who, in answering such questions, were often led to realize inadequacies and inconsistencies in their beliefs. Socrates himself professed to be ignorant on such matters--but made wise by the keen awareness of his ignorance.
Socrates left no writings; we know him only from the writings of his contemporary Xenophon, references to his military career in Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War though he was also presented as a caricature of a generic sophist by his contemporary Aristophanes in his play The Clouds. The icon though, is that which Plato and his dialogues evoked, albeit they did also refer to biographical details that co-eval readers would have recognized. Beyond those, there is a plethora of minor notes in Aristotle, Diogenes Laertius and Arabic anecdotal collections which more often than not considered the name of the particular philosopher less important than the fact that it was a name the audience knew.
In the early stages of his life Socrates was a sculptor like his father Sophroniscus. Phaenarete, his mother, was a midwife. He was married to Xanthippe. By the cultural standards of the time, she was considered a shrew. Whether that means that she was what we today would call an independent minded woman, or a nagging housewife, is purely a matter of speculation. On the other expressible aspects, Socrates himself attested that he enjoyed being married to a woman whose taming would prepare him for taming the youth of the city.
Socrates lived during a time of transition from the height of Athenian Empire to her defeat by Sparta and its coalition. Socrates himself fought in Potidea, Delium and Amphipolis. We know from Symposium that Socrates was decorated for bravery. In one instance he stayed with the wounded Alcibiades, and probably saved his life. It is from his own anecdotes about the war that we learn about his legendary indifference to external circumstances. Even during the winter campaign in Thrace, the frost was unable to force Socrates to strap sandals to his feet.
Socrates' practice was often resented by influential figures of his day, whose reputations for wisdom and virtue were debunked by his questions. At a time when Athens was seeking to recover from humiliating defeat, upon the instigation of three leading figures at the time, an Athenian public court tried Socrates for impiety and for corrupting the young, found him guilty as charged, and executed him by ordering him to drink hemlock - see the Trial of Socrates.
The trial of Socrates took place against the backdrop of Athens' defeat in the Peloponnesian war. Although Athens would rebound, no one knew that at the time. Most scholars agree that Socrates was just scapegoated. However, even though Socrates himself fought for Athens and supported the democracy, Alcibiades the faithless plotter, was a member of Socrates' circle, as was Critias, though they were to clash later while Critias was a leader of the 30 tyrants (the pro-Spartan oligarcy that ruled Athens for a few years after the defeat.) Socrates may have believed in the gods, but Alcibiades certainly did not. Socrates' own philosophical circle was cultish, one can imagine parents being annoyed by their children using elenchos on them.
Also, Socrates did have unusual views on religion. He would meditate on his personal spirit, or daimon, sometimes halting for an entire day, oblivious to his surroundings leading some medical experts to speculate that he may have suffered from schizophrenia, and others suggesting epilepsy. He said that his daimon never asked him to do anything, but only prevented him from instigating folly. He also denied that goodness could be defined as just doing what the gods wanted.
The annoying nature of elenchos earned Socrates the moniker "gadfly of Athens."