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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

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













Page 26

[8] For full ancient references to members of Ρlato’s family, see Leisegang in RE, XI. Halbb. 2347f. or Zeller 2.1.392 n. 1. On Critias and his relations with ΡΙato, νοΙ. III, 298ff. Genealogical tables are in Burnet Τ. to Ρ. 351, and Witte, Wiss. v. G. u. B. 53.

[9] See νol. III, 38 n. 1. Pyrilampes went so far as to call his son Demos. The note in νol. III, 102 n. 3, is inappropriate and will, Ι hope, be deleted from any future editions.

[10] This may serve to remind us οf the unimportant question οf his name, which according to some authorities was a nickname bestowed on account of his broad, stocky build (or alternatively the breadth of his forehead - or his style! See D.L. 3.4.); originally he was named Aristocles after his grandfather. But ΡΙato was a common name, of which 31 instances are known at Athens alone. See the arguments of J. A. Notopoulos in CP 1939.

[11] Diehl, Anth. Lyr. 1, 87ff. Most sceptical perhaps was Reitzenstein in RE VI, 90, but even he retained six, ‘not because, but in spite of the tradition’.

[12] For readers of German it has been done most fully and vividly by Wilamowitz (Ρl. I, 41 ff.). Much of our information on family life and education also comes from Ρlato's dialogues, e.g. Lysis 207d ff, and Ρrοt. 325c ff.

[13] Not much reliance can be placed on D.L.’s statement (3.8) that according to Aristoxenus Plato went on three campaigns, to Tanagra, Corinth and Delium. If it goes back to Aristoxenus it has been distorted in transit, probably through some confusion with Socrates. See Field, Ρ. and Contemps. 6 n. 1 (though Bluck indeed thought differently, PLT 25). These details are not very much more historical than the taunt of the malicious parasite in Lucian (Paras. 43), who claims that all philosophers are cowards and includes Plato in a list of those who ‘never saw a battlefield’.

[14] Olympiodorus (V.Ρ. 4), and the Prol. in Plat. Ρhil. following him, also put Plato’s instruction by Cratylus after the death of Socrates. Νο doubt these statements go back to the same source. (See the quotations in Allan, AJP 1954, 277.)

[15] On the relationship between Plato and Cratylus see D. J. Allan in AJP 1954, 272ff., and the reply by Cherniss, AJP 1955, 184-6. In the dialogue called after him Plato does not seem to regard him as a master mind.

[16] D.L. 3.6, 2.106. The sequence of events as given by Diog. is not very convincing. He says, on no express authority, that when Socrates was gone Plato attached himself to Cratylus and Hermogenes a Parmenidean, and in the next sentence, now citing Hermodotus, that afrer thar (ἔπειτα) he went to Megara at the age οf 28. Since Plato was either 27 or 28 at Socrates’s death, this does not give him much time to cultivate the other twο philosophers. (Hermogenes, the disciple of Socrates for whom see νοl. III, index, looks like a mistake fοt Hermippus, as Allan pointed ουt. See the passage from ΡroΙ. in ΡΙat. phi1. 6.199 Hermann, which he quotes l.c. 277.)

[17] For the philosophy of Euclides and the Megarian school, see νοl. III, 499-507, 185.

[18] Egyptian matter in ΡΙato is listed by Kerschensteiner, Ρ. u. d. 0rient 48, 49.

[19] Strabo speaks of being shown the houses (οἶκοι) οf the priests and the διατριβαὶ of Plato and Eudoxus, which if earlier usage is a guide means not the houses where they lived but their customary places of resort. Cf. Plato, Euthyphro 2a and Charm. 153a. It has to be added that Strabo spoils his story by the gratuitous and impossible addition that the stay in Egypt lasted 13 years.

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