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Plato

b. 428/427 BCE, Athens, Greece; d. 348/347 BCE, Athens, Greece.

Plato was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, writer, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the foundations of natural philosophy, science, and Western philosophy.

Plato was the son of Ariston and Perictione, both of Athenian noble backgrounds. Plato's birth name was Aristocles, but he gained the nickname Platon, meaning broad, because of his broad shoulders. Even up to the middle of the twentieth century it was still common in some Greek communities for individuals to be known exclusively by their nickname rather than their birth name.

Plato lived his whole life in Athens, although he traveled to Sicily and southern Italy on several occasions, and it is thought that he once traveled to Egypt.

Little is known of his early years from first hand accounts. What is known has been pieced together and deduced by scholars from Plato's wtiting. After a high status education, Plato turned both to politics and writing. His interactions with Socrates altered the course of his life, propelling him into philosophy.

Plato was in military service from 409 BCE to 404 BCE. When the Peloponnesian War ended in 404 BCE, which saw the defeat of Athens at the hands of the Spartans, the Thirty Tyrants were installed by the Spartans as proxy rulers, with Plato's relative Critias as their leader. The violence of this group forced Plato to turn his back on them, especially when we learn in Plato's Apology, that Socrates was ordered to arrest a man and bring him to Athens from Salamis for execution. When Socrates refused, his life was threatened. He was probably saved only by the overthrow of the Thirty Tyrants and the reestablishment of democracy. However, even under democratic rule, Socrates was placed on trial on false charges, found guilty, and executed. The whole affair caused Plato to all but abandon politics, although in his later life, Plato did become entangled with the politics of the city of Syracuse.

In light of all this, it is therefore unsurprising that Plato's best known work is The Republic, a Socratic dialogue written by Plato around 380 BCE, concerning the definition of justice, the order and character of the just city-state, and the just man. Timaeus and Critias, the works which introduce Atlantis, were written shortly thereafter, and in some respects are an extension of the themes found in The Republic.

A complete accounting of the life and work of Plato is far beyond the scope of this website. However, to fully understand the context in which the Atlantis tale was written, an understanding of Plato's work, and the political and cultural environment in which he lived, is vital.

Relevant Work

Plato. The Republic.

Further Reading

plato.txt ยท Last modified: 2016/04/17 18:20 (external edit)