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W.K.C. Guthrie, Life of Plato and philosophical influences

From, A History of Greek Philosophy, vol. IV, Plato: the man and his dialogues, earlier period,
Cambridge University Press, 19896, pp. 8-38. 

(Ι) LIFE  |||  (a) Sources  |||  (b) Birth and family connexions  |||  (c) Early years  |||  (d) Sicily and the Academy  |||  (2) PHILOSOPHICAL INFLUENCES  \ Greek Fonts \ Plato Home Page

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Page 30

[46] On Ryle’s chronological argument that Dionysius Ι must have been still alive to send the invitation, so that Εpp. 3, 7 and 13 are wrong and therefore spurious, see Crombie in PhR 1969, 367-9.

[47] So Hammond, Ηist. 517. See pp. 517-20 for the historical background to these events and a historian’s assessment οf Ρ1ato’s part in their tragic outcome.

[48] Dion himself emphasized τὴν νεότητα καὶ τὴν ἐπιθυμίαν οf Dionysius as a point in favour οf success (Εp. 7.328a), as well as the educability of his other nephews. When therefore Plato goes on immediately (328b) to express his fears about οἱ νέοι and their ἐπιθυμίαι this must include Dionysius. He is believed to have been over 25 at the time (Bluck, Letters VΙΙ aπd VΙΙ1 p. 85), and some have supposed him rather old to start on a course οf study with ΡΙato. (So Burnet, Τ. to Ρ. 296, Bluck, PLT 36.) But it is clear that in both intellect and character he was backward and unformed. Εp. 3.316c speaks οfhim as ὄντος σφόδρα νέου at this time.

[49] ἦν γὰρ τότε πόλεμος ἐν Σικελία, Εp. 7.338α ; πολέμου τινὸς ἐμπεσόντος, Plut. Diοn. 16. Field (o.c. 21) speaks of this as ‘a new war with Carthage’; Ed. Meyer, and later Leisegang (RE 2354), refer it to the Lucanian war which broke out in 365; Harward (Εpp. 209, n. 73;) thinks our material for the history of Sicily toο meagre to allow anything but conjecture. If it was the Lucanian War, this would confirm the accepted date οf 365 for Plato’s departure.

[50] This is the generally accepted date. ‘When the sun was eclipsed on 12 Μay 361, Plato already had a lodging in the palace garden’ (Wilamowitz, Ρl. I, 550, presumably referring to Ρlut. Diοn 19.

[51] One of these was Aristippus (Plut. Dion 19), whose hedonistic philosophy would certainly now have been approved by ΡΙato. For Aristippus see νοl. III, 490 ff. (At 490 n. 3 Ι followed Grote who, relying on D.L. alone, associated Aristippus’s stay in Sicily with the elder Dionysius, but Plutarch certainly has him at the court οf the younger.)

[52] According to Athenaeus (Arist. fr. 588 Rose) Aristotle said that he ‘sometimes’ spent three months drunk. When Dionysius suddenly became his own master at his father’s death he very likely did plunge into excesses, in which there were many at his court to abet him. But we need not believe in the literal truth of a story like Plutarch’s.

[53] Cf. Εp. 4.321b-c.

[54] Meraph. A, 987a 29ff. Ι put ‘causes’ between quotes because Aristotle’s term αἰτίαι is much wider, though there is no other convenient translation. When he repeats the accοunt of the genesis οf the theory of Forms in book Μ (1078b12ff.) there is no mention of the Pythagoreans.

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