Academic journal article Antichthon

The Origins and Shape of Plato's Six-Book Republic

Academic journal article Antichthon

The Origins and Shape of Plato's Six-Book Republic

Article excerpt


This paper argues that the six-book Republic used by the lexical author known as the Antiatticista is not, as hitherto conveniently assumed, our Republic arranged in fewer books, but a sub-final version lacking certain parts, most obviously VIII and most of IX, and possessing interesting variations. The argument rests on what would otherwise be a very high error-rate (38%) compared with the more reliable citations of other Platonic works, and with the citations of Herodotus and Thucydides. It demonstrates that VIII and most of IX belong stylistically to the opposite extreme from I, and may therefore be the last composed. It argues that the Platonic collection used by the Antiatticista antedates hiatus-avoiding dialogues, and belongs to a location other than Athens or Alexandria, and probably in Sicily or Italy. It concludes that one cannot trust any attempt to arrange our Republic by the notional six-book order.

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The recent revival of interest in a six-book version of Plato's Republic, the merits of which were recently introduced to the International Plato Society at Tokyo,1 along with the strong suspicion of a leading scholar that this version goes back to Plato himself,2 make it timely to revisit the principal source for such a version, the anonymous Antiatticista.3 Most Plato scholars, while they may well be familiar with Alline's summary of the findings of Hirmer,4 are unlikely to have consulted either Hirmer or the original text, which is most often studied by linguists with an interest in Atticism. Nothing in Alline had suggested that the six-book Republic was important,5 for he did not suppose that either the six-book or the ten-book division went back to Plato, and in the absence of better evidence one might have guessed that the ten-book division, like the twelve-book division of the Laws, went back to Philip of Opus, to whom the latter is attributed by the Suda.6 I was still not aware of its importance until late in 2010, when I conducted a routine search of the 'anonymous Antatticista' employing the TLG Disk E, where it is included under LexicaSegueriana. It soon became evident that many references to the Republic did not fit the structure proposed by Alline and Hirmer (as Hirmer acknowledged), some did not match anything in the present Republic, and there were some large gaps in the material covered. In brief, I could not assume that the six-book Republic was no more than a version of our Republic.

While there have been many theories of the separate 'publication' of early parts of the Republic, inspired either by the seemingly separable character of Book I,7 or by sundry evidence suggesting that the ideas concerning the ideal state were once available without the metaphysical and psychological underpinnings of our Republic,8 there is no doubt that parts of Books VI and VII, the close of IX, and parts of X were already present in the Antiatticist's text. Any doubts about the inclusion of whole episodes would be confined to VIII, the better part of IX, and other shorter passages. It also looks as if some words or ideas were found in this text that are absent from ours, and that some parts might have appeared in slightly different contexts.

The many problematic references to the Republic in the Antiatticist's text should not be entirely a surprise. Comparisons with the citations of Herodotus and Thucydides within the same work suggest that some errors were always likely to occur, usually in the course of transmission or abbreviation.9 They also suggest that the later books of works are less used than earlier ones.10 Hence one should exercise caution before claiming that the Antiatticist did or did not have a text identical with ours. His text of Plato may have contained corruptions, and his own text may have been corrupted in the course of transmission. The latter kind of transmission error has clearly occurred at one point (80. …

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