Timeline of Plato (427 - 347 BC)
The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato. A. N. Whitehead, Process and Reality, 1929
Not far from the Academy is the monument of Plato, to whom heaven foretold that he would be the prince of philosophers. The manner of the foretelling was this. On the night before Plato was to become his pupil Socrates in a dream saw a swan fly into his bosom. Now the swan is a bird with a reputation for music, because, they say, a musician of the name of Swan became king of the Ligyes on the other side of the Eridanus beyond the Celtic territory, and after his death by the will of Apollo he was changed into the bird. I am ready to believe that a musician became king of the Ligyes, but I cannot believe that a bird grew out of a man. Pausanias
(427BC) Plato was probably born at Athens. His real name was Aristocles. His family was wealthy; his father, Ariston, traced his ancestry to one of the kings of Athens (Codrus), and his mother, Perictione, was a descendent of Solon. Adiemantus and Glaucon, characters in the Republic were his brothers; Potone was his sister (her son, Speusippus, succeeded Plato as director of the Academy). Charmides and Critias, his uncles, were also characters in dialogues; Plato’s half-brother Antiphon (from a later marriage of his mother) was in Parmenides.
- "Plato" is a nickname meaning capacious, broad, abundance. There are several stories about how he acquired this nickname. One is that Ariston, the Argive wrestler, called him Plato because of his robust build. (Dionysius Laertius, 3.4). Another is that Plato refers to the breadth of his style; another to the shape of his forehead.
- (?) Aristotle says that Plato was initially a follower of the Heraclitean philosopher Cratylus (Metaphysics, A, 6)
- (407 BC)Plato’s initial reasons for associating with Socrates were undoubtedly political. He says that he once "cherished the hope &hellip of embracing a political career" (Letter VII). Like many young men who associated with Socrates and others (the Sophists), he was seeking a better preparation for a political career, which, because of his family, he could surely have.
Diogenes Laertius gives us this story (3.5): "It is stated that Socrates in a dream saw a swan on his knees, which all at once put forth plumage, and flew away after uttering a loud sweet note. (There is a version that the swan was flying towards him) And the next day Plato was introduced as a pupil, and thereupon he recognized in him the swan of his dreams."
- (404-403) Eventually Plato became disgusted with politics. He says in one of his letters that he became associated with Athenian politics when the aristocrats seized power. Two of his cousins (uncles), Charmides and Critias, were involved in the coup. He had first hand experience of much of the duplicitous dealings. He says:
…thirty came into power as supreme rulers of the whole state. … young as I was, I cherished the belief that they would lead the city from an unjust life.… I saw in a short time that these men made the former government look in comparison like an age of gold. Among other things they sent an elderly man, Socrates, a friend of mine, who I should hardly be ashamed to say was the justest [sic] man of his time … against one of the citizens to fetch him forcibly to be executed. Socrates … refused … to become their partner in wicked deeds…. When I observed all thisand some other matters of similar importanceI withdrew in disgust from the abuse of those days. [After the thirty lost power] some of those in control brought against this associate of mine, Socrates … a most sacrilegious charge, which he least of all men deserved. They put him on trial for impiety and the people condemned and put to death the man who had refused to take part in the wicked arrest of one their friends. (Letter VII)
- (399) Undoubtedly the final straw came when Socrates was put to death by the oligarchy. Eventually Plato came to believe that the only hope for politics was to found a school and create a new kind of political character.
- (400) According to Hermodorus, Plato initially fled to Megara with other Socratic followers, guests of the philosopher Euclid (not the geometer who lived in Alexandria but a disciple of Socrates). Nothing is known for certain about Plato’s life for the twelve years from the death of Socrates to when he was 40. It is said he traveled extensively, perhaps to Egypt and Cyrene (to see Theodorus the mathematician). Some say that he visited Persia and Babylonia, where he was initiated into the Chaldean Mysteries. Others say that he went as far as India. He eventually went to Italy (Sicily) to see the Pythagoreans Philolaus and Eurytus, making friends as well with Archytas, a ruler in Sicily.
- (388/6?) Plato’s trip to Sicily brought him to Syracuse, where he made friends with Dion, the brother-in-law and member of the court of Syracuse’s tyrant, Dionysius I. Dion was greatly enthused by philosophy, and his contact with Plato brought about a great change in his life. Plato seems to have hoped to set up a state led by philosophers, and attempted to train the tyrant, and later his son, Dionysius II, in philosophy. He seems rather to have been the dupe of these men.
- (385) Plato founded the Academy in Athens upon his return from his first voyage to Sicily. He rented a gymnasium in a park dedicated to the hero Accademus, modeling his project on other schools he had known and visited. The Academy was a group of Plato’s pupils and fellow students who united themselves in a "museum" or friendly society devoted to the Muses, interested in letters and music. People might stay at the Academy for twenty years, even life, taking part in the common studies, religious exercises, and meals. Mathematics became, after philosophy, the study most pursued by the society.
- (367) With Xenocrates, Plato makes a second trip to Syracuse, at the urging of Dion, to instruct Dionysius II in philosophy. Dionysius seems to have become attached to Plato and to philosophy, but due to his suspicions about Dion, he eventually expelled Dion on the grounds that he was plotting against him. Plato was forced by loyalty to support Dion and demand his recall, which only made things worse. Dionysius never let Dion return and wouldn’t let Plato leave for some time. Dion was enrolled as a pupil at the Academy.
- (361) Dionysius invites Plato again, making Plato’s acceptance a condition for restoring Dion. Plato traveled to Sicily with Speusippus. Once Plato arrived, however, Dionysius actually confiscated Dion’s property and Plato was again held prisoner, managing to leave only at the intervention of Archytas. In 357, Dion having despaired at persuading Dionysius of anything, returned home with an army and captured Syracuse. Three years later he was assassinated at the instigation of an Athenian companion, Calippus, who set himself up us tyrant.
- (347) Plato dies, age 80. He never married and had also no children.
- 529 AD. The Emperor Justinian suppresing by laws all non Christian religions also closes the academy of Plato after almost 900 years of operations, an excuse used often is that the school was not more important as it was in the past.
- Plato's complete body of work has come down to the present. No genuine writing was lost, though a number of false writings were passed along as his. All, except for the letters, are called dialogues because they are presented mostly in conversational style as discussions between two or more individuals. One of the masterpieces of world literature is the 'Republic'. Like the 'Laws'--Plato's last work--it is book length, while many others are much shorter. The earliest dialogues were those in which Socrates takes the lead in conversation. The shorter ones usually deal with one issue. The 'Lysis', for instance, examines the nature of friendship, while the 'Meno' is a discussion of virtue. The 'Apology' is the last statement of Socrates about his life and work through speeches at his trial for impiety. The 'Republic' discusses the nature of justice and the institutions of society. In some ways it is utopian in that it describes Plato's ideal society. But it also deals with the whole range of human knowledge, the purpose and content of education, and the nature of science. Much of it is a comprehensive ethical treatise in which three types of lives are distinguished. The philosopher is devoted to attaining wisdom, the hedonist seeks only pleasure and self-gratification, and the man of action desires recognition for his practical abilities.
Charmides 380 BC?
Crito 360 BC?
Euthydemus 390 BC?
Euthyphro 380 BC?
Gorgias 380 BC?
Laches 380 BC?
Lysis 380 BC?
Meno 380 BC?
Parmenides 370 BC?
Phaedo 360 BC?
Phaedrus 360 BC?
Protagoras 380 BC?
Republic 360 BC?
Sophist 360 BC?
Symposium 360 BC?
Theaetetus 360 BC?
* Not clear if written by Plato, some other publication could also be from Plato.
Plato's regular solids
Plato and his dialogues
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Perseus Lookup Text
Plato: The Republic, Analysis and Text (PDF File)
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Plato in “Alice's” Wonderland?
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