Documents for the Study of the Gospels

By David R. Cartlidge; David L. Dungan | Go to book overview

BIRTH AND YOUTH
The Birth of Plato (1)

Introduction: This author, more a collector of opinions about the philosophical schools than a philosopher himself, lived during the first half of the third century A.D., possibly in Alexandria. His account of the life and teachings of Plato (c. 429–347 B.C.) reflects the enormous veneration felt toward this philosopher in Diogenes’ day, including this belief in Plato’s miraculous (but hardly virgin) birth, an account which can be found in many other writers from the Roman period.


Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers 3.1–2, 45

Plato, the son of Ariston and Periktione (or Potone), was an Athenian. His mother’s family went back to Solon. He was, moreover, a brother of Dropides, the father of Kritias, the father of Kallaischros, the father of Kritias (one of the Thirty) and Glaukon, the father of Charmides and Periktione, who with Ariston were the parents of Plato, the sixth generation from Solon. Solon, moreover, traced his ancestry back to Neleus and Poseidon. And they say his father’s ancestry goes back to Kodros the son of Melanthos, who, according to Thrasylos’ account, are descended from Poseidon.

Speusippos,1 in his writing “The Funeral Feast of Plato,” and Klearchos, in his “Encomium on Plato,” and Anaxilaides, in the second book “On the Philosophers,” all say that there was at Athens a story that when Periktione was ready (to bear children) Ariston was trying desperately but did not succeed (in making her pregnant). Then, after he had ceased his efforts, he saw a vision of Apollo. Therefore he abstained from any further marital relations until she brought forth a child (from Apollo).

And Plato was born, as Apollodoros says in his “Chronology” in the 88th Olympiad, on the seventh day of Thargelion, which was the day the Delians say Apollo was born …

Plato’s genealogy is here traced back to divine ancestors, through one of the
preeminent fathers of Athens. Note also the fixing of the date of birth according
to general Greek history (cf. Luke 3:1f.). To show that Diogenes Laertius fully

1. Plato’s nephew, and close friend.

-129-

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