Phaedo

Phaedo

Phaedo

Phaedo

Synopsis

The Phaedo is acknowledged to be one of Plato's masterpieces, showing him both as a philosopher and as a dramatist at the height of his powers. For its moving account of the execution of Socrates, the Phaedo ranks among the supreme literary achievements of antiquity. It is also a document crucial to the understanding of many ideas deeply ingrained in western culture, and provides one of the best introductions to Plato's thought. This new edition is eminently suitable for readers new to Plato, offering a readable translation which is accessible without the aid of a commentary and assumes no prior knowledge of the ancient Greek world or language.

Excerpt

Plato's life spanned the last quarter of the fifth century bc and the first half of the fourth. His childhood and early youth coincided with the disastrous conflict in which Athens and her allies were pitted against Sparta and other city-states of the Peloponnese, and which embroiled the Greek world from 431 to 404. the events of the war are graphically recorded by two contemporary historians, Thucydides and Xenophon. It ended in humiliation for Athens and the overthrow of her democratic government. a period of turmoil ensued, during which the city was terrorized by a brutal oligarchy, the infamous 'Thirty Tyrants'. the democracy was restored in 403, and initially acted with moderation. Four years later, however, it perpetrated an abominable crime in the judicial murder of Plato's much-loved friend and master, Socrates. That momentous event, if we are to believe an account of Plato's early career preserved in his (possibly spurious) Seventh Letter, was a turning-point in his life. Disillusioned with practical politics, and despairing of all existing systems of government, he devoted himself thenceforth to philosophy, which alone seemed to hold out any hope for the betterment of the human condition. After visiting Italy and Sicily when he was about 40 (c.387), he returned to Athens, where he founded the Academy for the pursuit of philosophical and scientific inquiry, and for the education of would-be 'philosopher kings', intellectually enlightened statesmen whose special nature and training were described at length in his Republic.

Plato's dialogues are a testament to his master's inspiration and unique personal example. Most feature Socrates as a principal character, though in some he plays a subordinate role, and in a work of Plato's old age, the Laws, he has disappeared altogether. the Platonic dialogues are by far the most lifelike portrayals of Socrates to have come down to us, although valuable memoirs of him by Xenophon, as well as an entertaining lampoon in Aristophanes' comedy, the Clouds, are also extant. Since the real Socrates wrote nothing and . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.