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Plato - a Greek Philosopher

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Plato was a Greek philosopher during the 4th century BCE. He was born in 427BCE, during the "Golden Age of Athens." His birth was three years after the Peloponnesian War began and one year after Pericles died from the plague. Plato was the son of Ariston, a descendant from the last king of Athens and Perictone, a descendant of Solon. Solon was an aristocratic reformer who wrote the constitution that established Athenian democracy. Plato's family supported Pericles as leader of Athens.

Elected annually as the first citizen of aristocracy , Pericles ruled from 450 BCE until his death in 429 BCE. At the start of the 5th century BCE Athens had become a corrupt democracy. The Aristocratic families who owned the land were fighting the larger majority who were poor. The latter demanded for equal rights and representation. Pericles dominated Greek politics and expanded the Athenian Empire. He assisted in developing building projects that gave jobs to the poor, these building projects included the chief temple to Athena, the Goddess of wisdom.

He also supported the strengthening of a political doctrine that was for egalitarianism, equal rights of speech, political equality and material prosperity in trading and industry.

The Peloponnesian War pitted the Athenian democracy against the militaristic, authoritarian Spartans. In 404BCE after many years at war, the Athenian government surrendered. The rule of the thirty, a oligarchy of ancient Athens created by Lysander under Spartan auspices, took over the government. The aristocratic leaders conducted a vicious reign of terror. Among these leaders were Charmides (Plato's uncle) and Critias (Plato's cousin). The Rule of the thirty was overthrown at Piraeus (now PiraiÐ"©vs) by Thrasybulus in 403BCE. After democracy was being restored and the rule of the thirty brought to an end, the Philosopher Socrates was charged with crimes against the government. His charges included impiety which is speaking against the gods, Athens felt that Socrates was starting a strange cult. He was also charged with corrupting the youth, Socrates was trying to teach morality and ethics to the youth of Athens for he felt that Athenians lost their ethics in the war, but the government interpreted his teaching differently. The Council of 500 served as Socrates' judge and as his jury. Two hundred and eighty-one members of the council voted to convict. They give Socrates a choice between exile and death. Socrates decides death by poison. Socrates read his "Apology" at his trial which was his defense. After months in jail, he drank hemlock and died. A few of his friends had been trying to persuade Socrates to escape. They failed at every attempt. Socrates could left Athens before his trial began, which was expected at the time if an acquittal seemed unlikely. Socrates believed that if he escaped or proposed any penalty or fine, that action would be admitting his guilt. It was for the truth of his Philosophy that he was willing to die.

Plato had served as a student of Socrates for eight years. After Socrates' death Plato was afraid that the democratic government of Athens would soon be after him. Plato left Athens and traveled to Syracuse. There he met the brother-in-law of the king of Syracuse, Dion. Over time Dion came to trust Plato and became very interested in his philosophy. Socrates influence on Dion infuriated the Syracuse king. The King eventually sold Plato into slavery. He finally returned to Athens after being auctioned to one of his friends. Plato started a school on some property he bought outside Athens' city walls. He taught and wrote at his Academy for the remaining forty years of his life. At the age of sixty, Plato visited Syracuse at the request of the king. Plato made two other visits to Syracuse in 367 and in 361, to attempt to renew the idea of a Philosopher-king, a Platonic political idea of the philosopher who becomes king or the king who learns philosophy. Both of these attempts failed. At the age of eighty, after returning to Athens and his writing at the Academy, Plato



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