One of the greatest philosophers to have ever lived on Earth was Plato. His works have heavily influenced western culture.
All his writings focused on a wide range of subjects including philosophy of language, epistemology, cosmology, theology, discussions on aesthetics, beauty, justice, equality, and yes, political philosophy.
Whatever information we have today about this great philosopher comes from historians who somehow managed to come up with a detailed construction of his live from his works.
The problem was that of the lack of primary and dependable sources to provide an account of his life. We do not claim any authenticity about whatever we write here about him.
This information may very well be challenged by some historians who may have something different to tell about him. So, here are 25 interesting facts about him that you may find interesting just in case you happen to love reading about famous people.
Interesting Plato Facts: 1-5
1. He was an ancient Greek philosopher who and was born somewhere around 428 BCE.
2. He died somewhere around 348 BCE in the city of Athens.
3. Socrates (yet another great philosopher) was his teacher and he was in turn, teacher of another great philosopher named Aristotle.
4. As mentioned in opening paragraphs, everything about this great philosopher comes from classical historians and contemporary writes. So, there is actually a debate about his year of birth. Modern historians believe that he was born between 424 and 423 BCE.
5. Ariston was his father’s name. Ariston descended directly from kings of Messeina and Athens.
Interesting Plato Facts: 6-10
6. Even his mother, Perictione, is believed to be a descendant of an aristocrat named Solon. According to historians, Solon was a Greek statesman from 6th century BCE.
7. According to some historians, Plato was actually his nickname and that his real name was Aristocles.
8. Aristocles was Plato’s grandfather’s name and some historians suggest that Plato was the eldest grandson of Aristocles and that it was customary in Greece during Plato’s time to name family’s eldest son after his grandfather. Historians don’t really agree on this. Some argue that there is no definitive proof of Plato being the eldest son in his family.
9. If we incline towards believing that Plato was just a nickname, it makes some sense because ‘Platon’ actually meant someone who has a broad and strong physical build. Plato indeed had a very broad body structure.
10. Since he belonged from an aristocrat family, he received his education from some of the finest educators who were present in Athens at that time.
Interesting Facts about the Philosopher: 11-15
11. During his education, he was probably taught about doctrines of Parmenides, Pythagoras and Cratylus. These doctrines possibly molded him and laid down the foundations for his study of epistemology (which is actually ‘study of knowledge’) and metaphysics (‘study of nature’).
12. His mother married his uncle after his father’s death. Historians believe that he had one sister, two full brothers and one half brother but they are not sure whether he was the eldest son of the family or not.
13. When he was young, he met Socrates and was so much influenced by him that Plato quickly became a close associate of Socrates.
14. During Peloponnesian War in which Sparta defeated Athens, he served as a soldier between 409 and 404 BCE.
15. After the Peloponnesian War oligarchy was established in Athens but soon democracy was reestablished. It was then that he considered getting into politics but in 399 BCE, Socrates was executed and this left a very bad impression about politics on him. He then decided to drop the idea of joining politics and instead, he turned into philosophy.
Interesting Plato Facts: 16-27
16. He traveled across the Mediterranean region for 12 years after his teacher Socrates was executed. During these 12 years, he learned astronomy, geology, geometry, mathematics and religion.
17. It was during or just after his 12 years of travel, he started writing extensively, which is divided into three distinct period. In the early period, he attempted to spread the teachings of Socrates through his writing.
18. In the middle period he wrote about his own ideas of wisdom, courage, justice and ideas of moderating society and individuals.
19. In the late period, he took off major focus from Socrates and explored his own metaphysical ideas and even explored architecture, drama, music and dance.
20. In 385 BCE, he founded The Academy in Athens which became one of the first institutions in Western World to offer higher learning.
21. He presided over The Academy until he died but the institution continued to operate till 529 CE.
22. Roman Emperor named Justinian I considered The Academy to be a threat to Christianity and closed it completely.
23. The students of The Academy were taught philosophy, political theory, mathematics, biology and astronomy.
24. He died in Athens in his early 80s somewhere around 348 BCE.
25. According to some historians, he died peacefully in his sleep and some others believe that he died while he was attending a wedding.
26. He was known for writing dialogues. He strongly believed that dialogues help to understand an individual in better way. ‘The Republic’ is considered his best work which he wrote during the middle period (refer to point #17).
27. One of his famous students was Aristotle. It was Aristotle who gave a whole new direction to his thoughts. The Renaissance master Raphael painted a famous picture known as ‘The School of Athens’ in which he painted Plato and Aristotle.
Little Known Plato Facts (added: March 15, 2019)
This section is new – an addition to the 27 Plato facts already promised by the title of the article. This particular section on little known Plato facts is a response to multiple requests we have received to provide more facts on this classical Greek philosopher of ancient Greece. Let us begin.
Plato Facts: His uncle was a leader of Thirty Tyrants
1. It might be hard to believe but one of his uncles named Critias was a leader of a group named Thirty Tyrants. The group hailed from Athens and was a group of merciless rulers.
2. When Sparta defeated Athens in Peloponnesian War of 404 BCE, the Thirty Tyrants were given the power of ruling Athens.
3. The Thirty Tyrants were given the task of installing and maintaining the pro-Spartan Oligarchy in Athens.
4. In their 8-month rule the Thirty Tyrants executed 5% of the Athenian population. Not only that, they confiscated the property of the citizens. They also exiled those who supported democracy.
5. In 403 BCE, an uprising by the exiled supporters of democracy eventually overthrew the Thirty Tyrants and Plato’s uncle Critias was killed during the initial revolt.
6. In one of his books titled Apology of Socrates, he writes that Socrates (along with four other men) were asked by the Thirty Tyrants to capture and present a person named Leon of Salamis for execution.
7. Socrates did not follow the order neither did he warn Leon of Salamis. Because Socrates disobeyed a direct order, he was at a risk of facing execution. However, the Thirty Tyrants were overthrown soon after and Socrates was saved.
Plato Facts: He believe that Atlantis was real
8. Some people believe that the Lost City of Atlantis was a real place. This belief is not new! Plato was a strong believer of the same.
9. According to him, the place actually existed some 8,000 years before he was born.
10. He even hypothesized that Atlantis was located close to the Strait of Gibraltar.
11. He even believed that the city was lost in a single day! Three natural forces – rain, flooding and earthquake were responsible for the loss of the city.
Plato Facts: Earth is the center
13. Yes, he theorized that Earth was the center of the universe. He however did get it right that the Earth was round.
Plato Facts: He is 10th most famous person
14. Believe it or not, he is the 10th most famous person who lives or ever lived on Earth. Back in 1999, a total of 2,894 books were found about him.
15. All these books were found in Library of Congress alone. No one perhaps knows how many more can be found in rest of the world.
Plato Facts: He was a budding dramatist in his teens
16. He thought of entering politics but ended up choosing philosophy. This is a well-known fact. However, did you know that when he was in his teens, he used to write tragedies?
17. When he met Socrates at the age of 19, he was so influenced by Socrates that he gave up writing tragedies. Some even say that he burned all his manuscripts. Now, that’s a tragedy!
Plato Facts: He was so much into love
18. It may be hard to believe but he was very much interested in love. He, quite often, wrote about love!
19. Want to know what he wrote? He wrote that two lovers were never completely whole until they found each other. Until then, they would remain incomplete halves.
20. This idea of love that he perceived eventually became known as Platonic Love.
Plato Facts: He even tried to figure out the mystery of love
21. Plato in his book titled ‘Symposium’ wrote extensively about love. In fact, Symposium remains the oldest known book till date trying to unravel the mysteries of love.
Plato Facts: Son of Poseidon
22. Some people claim that he is actually a descendant of Poseidon. Yes, yes, Poseidon – the god of the sea. The authenticity of this particular fact is quite questionable though.
Plato Facts: No one found his remains
23. It is said that when he died, his body was buried somewhere in his school – The Academy.
24. Unfortunately, no archeologist has ever managed to find his remains.
Plato Facts: His works stood the test of time
25. Plato lived thousands of years ago. During his time, he was not the only philosopher. There were many more. However, the works of other philosophers simply vanished in thin air.
26. Only Plato’s work has managed to stand the test of time. Most of his work has survived through thousands of years.
Plato Facts: He went to teach a king
27. Plato was invited over to Syracuse (now Sicily) to teach the new king named Dionysius II.
28. Dion, the uncle of Dionysius II, strongly believed that one day Dionysius II would become a really great king and that Plato could play an instrumental role in that.
29. Plato was given the task of molding the young king into a philosopher king. Unfortunately, not everyone could be bright. He found Dionysius not to be a promising student.
Plato Facts: Plato in house arrest
30. Dionysius however developed a notion that his uncle Dion was involved in a conspiracy against him.
31. He also believed that Dion and Plato were both involved in the conspiracy.
32. Because of this notion, Dionysius put Plato in house arrest and at the same time, he also exiled his uncle Dion.
Plato Facts: The Academy was unlike any modern-day institutions
33. Anybody who had the willingness to learn was welcome to The Academy.
34. There was no tuition in The Academy.
35. There was no fee for studying there. The presents and donations that were offered by the parents of the students helped in running the institution.
36. Though not a stringent requirement, the students in The Academy were actively encouraged to maintain celibacy.
37. The students were also encouraged to live a very simple life.
38. The usual tenure for any student at The Academy was only 4 years.
39. There was one student who stayed there for 20 years. Can you guess the name? He was none other than Aristotle – the most famous disciple of Plato.
Plato Facts: Some famous dialogues he wrote
40. Earlier we said that he used to write dialogues. Some of his famous dialogues included Lysis, Laches, and Charmides.
41. Lysis was all about friendship.
42. Laches was about courage.
43. Charmides talked about common sense.
Plato Facts: Reincarnation and immortal souls
44. Plato came up with the idea that when we die it is not the end. He postulated that once a person dies, he or she reincarnates and have an immortal soul.
45. He hypothesized that the souls that were good during their human life and that were full of knowledge would eventually get access to a higher plane in the universe.
46. According to him, not only did the humans have souls but so did the constellations.
Plato Facts: A wrestler
47. Will you believe if we say that he was a wrestler too! Yes, he was a wrestler and that is what historians say. However, he used to wrestle only when he as in his youth. He later discontinued.
Plato Facts: The Republic
48. One of the finest works of Plato is “The Republic”. The work deals with several factors like courage, justice, government, virtue, and wisdom.
Plato Facts: The Phaedo
49. Yet another great work by him is The Phaedo. The book speaks about the ordeals of Socrates (Plato’s teacher) during his trial. Socrates was charged with several crimes.
50. The most important of those charges was that of corrupting the minds of young people of Greece.
51. Socrates was forced to drink hemlock poison during execution.
52. He wasn’t physically present during the trial and execution of Socrates but wrote about the ordeal in Phaedo.
Plato Facts: The Apology
53. He also wrote The Apology of Socrates. It is a Socratic dialogue that presents the self-defense that Socrates had put forward after he was charged with corrupting the young people as well as not believing in the gods that the rest of the country believed in.
Plato Facts: The influence of Pythagoras
54. His famous pupil Aristotle claimed that his philosophy was heavily influenced by the teachings of the followers of Pythagoras (generally known as Pythagoreans).
Plato Facts: He was a teacher of mathematics
55. He learned (maybe) mathematics from Theodorus of Cyrene. Though Plato himself was not a mathematician, he was considered as an accomplished teacher of mathematics.