Plato quotes :-
The good is the beautiful.
That man is wisest who, like Socrates, realises that his
wisdom is worthless.
Every king springs from a race of slaves, and every slave
has had kings among his ancestors.
What is wholly real is wholly knowable, and what is
utterly non-existent is completely unknowable.
I wonder if we could contrive... some magnificent myth
that would itself carry conviction to our whole
Our object in the construction of the state is the
greatest happiness of the whole, and not that of any one
There will be no end to the troubles of states, or
indeed, my dear Glaucon, of humanity itself, till philosophers
become kings in this world, or till those we now call kings and
rulers really and truly become philosophers.
An outline biography
Plato was born around 427 B.C. into a most influential family
and, as he grew into manhood, he became deeply involved in the
study of poetry. He also had a limited early grounding in
philosophy including the ideas of Pythagoras and the
Plato probably knew of Socrates from early in his life but
was probably only really introduced to Socrates' ideas when he
was into his own early years of manhood, he was informally taught
by Socrates and was greatly influenced by Socrates' own interest
in questions about virtue and the foremost necessity of
attempting to cultivate a noble character. Under this influence
he seems to have adopted views which were respectful of the
serene contemplation of truth by philosophers who were committed
to the public good.
Given Plato's family background of service to the state he
might well have been destined for a political career. At the time
when he might have attempted to enter into a political life
Athens had suffered severe reverses in the Peloponnesian Wars,
this left her political life diminished. Plato was also greatly
alienated from politics by the way in which his friend and mentor
Socrates had been sentenced to death by those involved in
After Socrates trial and death in 399 B.C. Plato and some
other friends of Socrates, in disillusionment and fears for their
own safety, spent some time abroad and probably visited schools
of philosophy in these years.
These times abroad included time spent in Megara (then a
powerful city state neighbouring Athens), Cyrene on the North
African coast, Tarentum in the south of the Italian peninsula,
Egypt, and Syracuse in Sicily. Having fled from Syracuse after
falling foul of its ruler Dionysius Plato was captured by a
rival of Athens and only released on the payment of a ransom by a
merchant from Cyrene.
Plato wrote extensively during these years of exile, returning
to to Athens in 387 B.C. and soon thereafter establishing a
school that was known as the Academy which developed into a much
frequented institution of higher learning. The Academy was
located about two kilometres outside the city walls and was named
after the Attic hero Academus. The Academy was intended to
provide its students with an education suitable for legislators
and administrators trained in the search for truth for its own
sake. Pure Mathematics and Jurisprudence featured as a central
elements of the curriculum.
At the Academy it became something of a habit for the students
to walk about whilst in discussion. This led to students becoming
known as Peripatetic School from the Greek word for such walking
Eudoxus of Cnidus, one of the foremost mathematicians of the
day, moved his school from Cyzicus to Athens to join in
co-operation with the Academy.
Prior to the establishment of the Academy, and the slightly
earlier school of Isocrates, the youth of Athens in search of
education had had to resort to the services of freelance Sophists
of variable quality who offered their services as would-be
In 367 B.C. Dionysius I of Syracuse expired and was
succeeded by his thirty year old son who was installed as
Dionysius II. This Dionysius was not that well educated and the
challenges faced by any ruler of Syracuse, particularly from an
expansionary Carthage, were immense. In these circumstances Dion,
a brother in law to Dionysius, strongly urged that Plato should
undertake the task of personally tutoring Dionysius II.
With great personal reluctance Plato, who had been living a
life devoted to philosophy at his Academy, decided that he would
have to leave behind his important and satisfying role there in
the hope that he could be of help to Dionysius II.
Plato returned to Athens in 365 B.C. after Syracuse became
involved in an outbreak of conflict. It was in this year that a
young man with Macedonian connections, by the name of Aristotle,
entered the Academy.
Plato was again called to Syracuse but, as before, Dionysius
II did not prove to be a ready student. Plato was able to
extricate himself from Syracuse and, as a tangle of events
unfolded over the next few years, Dion usurped the throne only to
be murdered in 354 B.C.
Plato died around 347 B.C. and was buried in the grounds of
Aristotle is credited with holding a very high opinion of
Plato's character describing him as a man:-
"Whom it blasphemy in the base even to praise".
At his death Plato left behind him a body of works that was
unprecedented in bulk, let alone quality of original content.
The Academy in the short term passed to Speussipus, a
nephew of its' illustrious founder, and in the longer term
survived in name at least for more almost one thousand years
until, in 529 A.D., it was closed by order of the Byzantine
Emperor Justinian as being inimical to the Christian faith.