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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 18

   The story of Plato’s adventures in Sicily has often been told, and Ι had intended only to summarize it briefly. It seemed, however, on a re-reading of the sources to throw more light on his character than has appeared from previous accounts, and sometimes a different light. All this may be worth bearing in mind when we go on to consider his writings. A second reason for re-telling it in this volume is that in attempts to date the dialogues they are frequently referred to as earlier, or later, than Plato’s first, second or third visit to Sicily; and the significance of such statements cannot be understood without some knowledge of the purpose and outcome of the visits them­selves.

   Little is known of the remaining thirteen years of his life. Both the Seventh and Eighth Letters were written after the death of Dion, and show him, though no longer an active participator, willing to advise the Dionian party provided, as he says, that they sincerely wish to carry out Dion’s intentϊon, namely, not to enslave Syracuse any longer to autocrats but to ‘adorn and clothe her with the garment of freedom’ (336a) - freedom under the rule οf law. Let the victors select the best men from all Hellas and appoint them a commission to draw υp laws impartially. Let them also (for here lies the only hope of an end to civil strife) refrain from all acts of vengeance and show that they themselves are willing and able to be the servants of the laws. In the Eighth Letter, professing to speak in Dion’s name, he goes so far as to name a triumvirate whom he would like to see established as joint constitutional monarchs. Τwο other letters, believed by a majority of scholars to be genuine, testify to his continued concern for Dion until Dion’s death, and his sensitiveness to opinion about his own actions in Syracuse. In the Fourth he congratulates Dion on his early successes, asks for more news, and reminds him that one in his position is under a particular obligation to act with justice, truth and magnanimity. The Third, nominally addressed to Dionysius, accuses him of misrepresentation and recapitulates past events in the form of an apologia for Plato’s own conduct.

   All in all, however, he was as he says (Εp. 7.350d) ‘sick of his wanderings and misfortunes in Sicily’, and once safely in Athens he presumably turned back with relief to philosophy and worked peace­fully in the Academy with his pupils and colleagues. With Aristotle there, no longer a pupil but a member of seven years’ standing, not to mention Eudoxus, Speusippus and other leading and independent intellects, there was no lack of lively argument. Much time must have been spent too on writing the twelve books of the Laws, which had not received their finishing touches when he died.

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Reference address : https://www.ellopos.net/elpenor/greek-texts/ancient-greece/guthrie-plato.asp?pg=18