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Headword: *pla/twn
Adler number: pi,1707
Translated headword: Plato
Vetting Status: high
The son of Ariston (the son of Aristocles) and of Perictione or Potone, who traced her descent from Solon;[1] for she was the sixth [generation] from him, being the daughter of Dropides the poet, the brother of Solon.[2] Now Solon traced his descent from Neleus.[3] And Ariston, Plato's father, descended from the family of Codrus,[4] the son of Melanthus. The story is told that Plato's mother became pregnant from a divine vision, for Apollo appeared to her, and when she had given birth to Plato, only then did her husband lie with her.[5] He was born in Aegina in the 88th Olympiad[6] amid the preliminaries of the Peloponnesian war, and he lived 82 years. He died in the 108th Olympiad,[7] having allowed himself neither any marriage nor physical liaison even to try it once.[8] He feasted on a holiday and died in his sleep. After him other children were born to Ariston: Adeimantos and Glaucon and a daughter Potone. Furthermore he learned the first elements of literacy with a certain Dionysius, but he continued his education at the palaestra level[9] with Ariston the Argive. Then, having learned the art of poetry, he wrote dithyrambs[10] and tragedies. Giving up on this, he studied philosophy with Socrates for 20 years. And there is a story that Socrates,[11] on the day Plato was entrusted to him, saw [in a dream] a swan sitting on his knees. His name was Aristocles, but because his chest was broad, he was called Plato.[12] Others, that because he was broad in speech, he was called Plato. Three times Plato went to the tyrants named Dionysius[13] in Sicily. And he was sold by the tyrant. A certain Libyan named Anniceris bought him and released him. He passed his time teaching in the Academy, and the successive heads of his School were these: Speusippus, Xenocrates, Polemon, Crantor, Crates. The others [were] Socratides, Arcesilaus, Lacydes, Evander, Phocaeus, Damon, Leonteus, Moschion, Evander 'the Athenian', Hegesinous, Carneades, Harmadas.[14] His authentic dialogues number 56 in all; some are physiological, some ethical, some dialectic [= logical]. And the Republic is divided into 10 books, the Laws into 12. The remaining tetralogies number 9.[15]
Greek Original:
*pla/twn, *)ari/stwnos tou= *)aristokle/ous kai\ *periktio/nhs h)\ *potw/nhs, to\ ge/nos e(lkou/shs a)po\ *so/lwnos: e(/kth ga\r h)=n a)p' e)kei/nou, pai=s genome/nh *drwpi/dou poihtou=, tou= a)delfou= *so/lwnos. o( de\ *so/lwn ei)s *nhle/a a)nafe/rei to\ ge/nos. kai\ *)ari/stwn de\ o( *pla/twnos path\r e)k tou= *ko/drou ge/nous kath/geto, tou= *mela/nqou ui(ou=. i(sto/rhtai de/, w(s e)/k tinos qei/as o)/yews h( mh/thr *pla/twnos e)/gkuos e)ge/neto, e)pifane/ntos au)th=| tou= *)apo/llwnos. kai\ h(ni/ka e)/teke to\n *pla/twna, to/te au)th=| o( a)nh\r sunege/neto. e)te/xqh d' e)n *ai)gi/nh| e)n th=| ph# o)lumpia/di meta\ ta\ prooi/mia tou= *peloponnhsiakou= pole/mou, kai\ e)bi/w e)/th b# kai\ p#. teleuta=| de\ e)pi\ th=s rh# o)lumpia/dos, ou)de\ ga/mon tina\ ou)de\ o(mili/an kaqa/pac sw/matos ei)s pei=ran deca/menos: eu)wxh/qh d' e)n e(orth=| kai\ u(pnw=n a)pebi/w. kai\ e(/teroi de\ e)ge/nonto met' au)to\n ui(oi\ tw=| *)ari/stwni *)adei/mantos kai\ *glau/kwn kai\ *potw/nh quga/thr. kai\ ta\ me\n prw=ta gra/mmata dida/sketai para/ tini *dionusi/w|, e)gumna/sqh de\ ta\ ei)s palai/stran par' *)ari/stwni tw=| *)argei/w|: ei)=ta maqw\n poihtikh\n gra/fei diqura/mbous kai\ tragw|di/as: a)pognou\s de\ tou/twn e)filoso/fhse para\ *swkra/tei e)pi\ e)/th k#. kai\ lo/gos, i)dei=n *swkra/thn, kaq' h(\n h(me/ran au)tw=| paredo/qh *pla/twn, ku/knon au)tou= toi=s go/nasin e)pikaqh/menon. proshgoreu/eto de\ *)aristoklh=s, dia\ de\ to\ platu\s ei)=nai to\ ste/rnon *pla/twn e)pwnoma/sqh, a)/lloi de\ w(s platu\n e)n lo/gois *pla/twna klhqh=nai. tri\s de\ e)n *sikeli/a| *pla/twn h)=lqe pro\s tou\s tura/nnous *dionusi/ous: kai\ e)pra/qh u(po\ tou= tura/nnou. e)pri/ato de\ au)to\n *)anni/keri/s tis *li/bus kai\ a)fh=ke. die/tribe de\ e)n th=| *)akadhmi/a| paideu/wn: kai\ diede/canto th\n sxolh\n au)tou= kaq' e(/na oi(/de: *speu/sippos, *cenokra/ths, *pole/mwn, *kra/ntwr, *kra/ths. oi( de\ *swkrati/des, *)arkesi/laos, *laku/dhs, *eu)/andros *fwkaeu/s, *da/mwn, *leonteu/s, *mosxi/wn, *eu)/andros *)aqhnai=os, *(hghsi/nous, *karnea/dhs, *(arma/das. ei)si\ de\ oi( gnh/sioi au)tou= dia/logoi pa/ntes n#2#, w(=n oi( me/n ei)si fusiologikoi/, oi( de\ h)qikoi/, oi( de\ dialektikoi/. kai\ h( me\n *politei/a diairei=tai ei)s bibli/a i#, oi( de\ *no/moi ei)s ib#. tetralogi/ai de\ loipai\ q#.
c.429-347 BC; see generally Julia Annas in OCD4 s.v. Plato(1).
[1] sigma 776; OCD4 s.v. Solon. For the material covered by this note and the next two see J.K. Davies, Athenian Propertied Families 600-300 BC (Oxford 1971) 322-326. See also web address 1 below for Plutarch's Life of Solon.
[2] RE 5, 1720, #2. Perictione of course could not have been in the sixth generation from Dropides and also his daughter. Adler notes that Hemsterhius posited a lacuna between 'being the daughter' and 'of Dropides the poet'. For a less muddled account of her descent see Diogenes Laertius 3.1 (where Plato, not Perictione, is in the sixth generation) and the scholia to Plato, Timaeus 20E, where another generation is added.
[3] Odysseus sees the shade of Neleus among the dead and gives his story: Homer, Odyssey 11.281-297; see web address 2 below.
[4] Codrus was a king of Athens known only from legend and of ambiguous date. See OCD4 s.v.
[5] Riginos (below) 9-15 discusses the story of Plato's virgin birth.
[6] 428-425 BCE. Modern scholars prefer 427. See Turolla (below) 359.
[7] 348-345 BCE. Modern scholars place his death in 347, at age 80.
[8] Diogenes Laertius assigns him a mistress, Archeanassa, but this may be an extrapolation from an epigram (Greek Anthology 7.217) assigned by Diogenes to Plato but by the Anthology itself to Asclepiades.
[9] A palaestra would normally have been a wrestling-school (and Plato was a wrestler), but the encyclopedist here seems to regard it as an upper-level academic institution. Some of Plato's dialogues, for example the Charmides, are set in palaestras, but these are not part of the formal instruction of the place. See pi 67 and OCD4 s.v. palaestra.
[10] A form of choral lyric. See delta 1030 (note) and OCD4 s.v. dithyramb.
[11] sigma 829. The story of Socrates calling him a swan is discussed by Riginos (below) 21-24.
[12] The reasons for the various interpretations of the name are given in the ancient biographers. For an analysis of them see Riginos (below) 35-38.
[13] Two Syracusan tyrants were named Dionysius; Plato ran afoul of the younger in the period 367-357, if the story is authentic. See OCD4 s.v. Dionysius(2).
[14] For Speusippus see sigma 925; for Xenocrates, xi 42; for Polemon, pi 1887. After these heads (and other luminaries) of the "Old" Academy, down to c.270/269 BCE, the list turns to the "New" (a.k.a. "Middle") Academy which succeeded it, and 'in which the school, initially under Arcesilaus, interpreted true Platonism as scepticism' (OCD4 s.v. Academy; and cf. web address 3 below). Here in the Suda the transmitted *swkrati/des, whether a vocative singular or an adjective in the feminine nominative plural, cannot stand, and the simplest emendation is to *swkrati/dhs (which produces the shortlived predecessor of Arcesilaus mentioned by Diog.Laert. 4.32).
[15] Diogenes Laertius 3.57 gives the total as 56, and this includes counting the ten books of the Republic as ten dialogues and the twelve of the Laws as twelve. The list of authors cited in LSJ counts 44 (including some doubtful works), but counts the two long dialogues as one each.
Alice Swift Riginos, Platonica: The Anecdotes Concerning the Life and Writings of Plato. Leiden, 1976.
Enrico Turolla, Vita di Platone. Milan, 1939.
Associated internet addresses:
Web address 1,
Web address 2,
Web address 3
Keywords: athletics; biography; chronology; dialects, grammar, and etymology; dreams; epic; ethics; food; gender and sexuality; geography; history; military affairs; mythology; philosophy; poetry; religion; tragedy; women
Translated by: Oliver Phillips ✝ on 3 February 2003@22:31:08.
Vetted by:
David Whitehead (augmented notes and keywords; cosmetics) on 4 February 2003@06:40:28.
Catharine Roth (cosmetics) on 6 February 2003@10:53:42.
William Hutton (Modified chronoligical references on the suggestion of Andrew Hill.) on 27 September 2004@01:10:38.
David Whitehead (augmented note 14, on a problem noticed, again, by Prof Andrew Smith (sic); associated modifications) on 27 September 2004@06:00:55.
David Whitehead (another keyword) on 20 November 2005@09:34:12.
Catharine Roth (tweaks courtesy of Dr. Euree Song) on 5 August 2008@10:40:17.
Catharine Roth (cosmetics) on 7 August 2008@22:46:39.
David Whitehead (more keywords; tweaks and cosmetics) on 6 October 2013@06:00:02.
David Whitehead (expanded n.2) on 10 April 2014@06:23:20.
David Whitehead on 10 August 2014@05:37:47.
Catharine Roth (coding) on 19 December 2014@01:56:48.
Catharine Roth (upgraded link) on 4 January 2015@00:51:27.


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