Name: Plato (aka Aristokles)
From: Kollytus, Athens
Son of: Ariston and Potone or Periktione
Occupation: Farmer? Nothing is known about his father except that he was an Athenian citizen, son of Aristokles, after whom Plato was named (Plato is an acquired nickname reflecting his 'breadth' in one respect or another; his torso, his style, or his forehead are the suggestions in DL; another possibility is his feet, as platupous means flatfoot). If his mother was Potone, then we know nothing about her either. If Ariston's wife was Periktione, then he was probably comfortably off (though he is not known to have performed a liturgy) for Periktione is said to have been a niece of Kritias, who led the 30 tyrants in 404. Periktioneís brother Kharmides was also with the 30 tyrants. Periktione is Plato's link to Solon, for Solon was said to have been the brother of her great great grandfather. Through the same family line Plato is said to be a descendant of Poseidon. Since Plato was named after his grandfather, and his sister was called Potone, I think his mother was probably Potone, and the Periktione connection is a fabrication to try to raise his status.
Dates: 427-348/7 BC
Brief biography: Plato left Athens after the execution of Sokrates (399); went to Megara. He was still liable for military call-up and may have returned to Athens to serve in expedition to Korinthia in 394. c. 390 he went to Italy (met Arkhytas of Tarentum) and Sicily (Syrakuse, met Dion, younger brother-in-law of Dionysios the elder, tyrant). Plato returned to Athens after 2 years in 388. Founded the Academy c. 380? May have taught in the public gym in the Akademos first, then bought a plot of land nearby and erected buildings on it; school can really be said to be established from now. We donít know where he lived. He was the butt of many jokes on the Athenian comic stage, some concerned with quibbling over pay, expensive clothes, and concern with personal appearance. In 366 he went back to Sicily, invited by Dion to teach Dionysios the younger. Left in 365. In 362, aged 65, he went back to Sicily, invited by Dionysios. The same Dionysios is reputed to have said that 'he gave bed and board to many learned men, not because he felt any admiration for them, but because he wished through them to gain admiration for himself' (Plutarch Sayings of Kings 176c); a statement which is open to various interpretations! Plato left in 361. He died aged 80.
References: D.L. 3.1-45 for his life. D J Allen DSB 11.22-31. Ephippos fr. 14. Antiphanes fr. 33.
T E Rihll
Last modified: 11 April 2007