The Republic of Plato (1921) PDF book

The Republic of Plato

The Republic of Plato
The Republic of Plato (1921) PDF book 


From the introduction:

The Dialogue commonly called the Republic is the acknowledged masterpiece of the large collection of similar compositions which have come down to us as the works of Plato. These works have made the name of Plato one of the most familiar names in history. But we know little about Plato himself; astonishingly little, compared with what we might have expected to know. 

When we consider that he lived in a peculiarly historical period, concerning the events and personages of which we have an unusual amount of information; that he had an illustrious reputation during his lifetime, which was prolonged to an advanced old age; and that his writings were very numerous, and have reached us in so perfect; a condition as to show that their text was reverently watched over from the first: it cannot but seem strange that the record of his life is so meagre, and that the mutual relations of his writings are involved in so much obscurity. 

In this absence of materials for a biography, we may doubtless find one token of the fastidious reserve, the suppression of his own personality, which is eminently characteristic of Plato. According to the generally received opinion, the facts which may be considered as certain in the life of Plate suffice for little more than an outline, and even this cannot be quite firmly drawn. His dialogues, although the scene of them is laid in his own time, and the inter- locators, by singular liberty, are often well known and living persons, including his own brothers, hardly contribute a single incident or fact to a biographical sketch, 

There are however certain Letters professing to be Plato's, which give much information as to his acts and his motives, especially with reference to the active political portions of his career. These Letters have of late years been generally believed to be spurious, the most important of them is supposed to be written by disciples of Plato and to contain more or less what is true. But Mr Grote contends strenuously for the genuineness of these, as well as of other writings, included in the traditional canon or list of Plato's works, which modern critics have rejected as spurious. M

r Grote, in his zeal to take Plato down from his superhuman pedestal, maybe somewhat too ready to attribute to him the compositions which have been judged unworthy of so divine a philosopher; but his masterly discussion will certainly reopen the question, and probably persuade many to adopt his conclusion. There would then be less hesitation in adding the interesting particulars contained in the Epistles to what we otherwise know of Plato's life; whilst the more sceptical critics, as has been said, are already willing to admit that those particulars may in great part be authentic. 

The date of Plato's birth is variously given as B.C. 430, 428, and 427; the place of it as either Athens or another city.. 

He is said to have died in B.c. 347. He lived therefore to the age of 80 or perhaps of 83. If we take the latest date of his birth, he was born about four years after the commencement of the Peloponnesian War. The history of Thucydides includes the first 16 or 17 years of his life; where Thucydides ends, Xenophon takes up the narrative of Grecian affairs, and carries it on for 48 years, up to the battle of Mantinea in B.c. 362. It was the lot of Plato to grow up to manhood in the midst of a long national struggle, marked by various fortunes and splendid efforts, which was brought to a close at last by the complete prostration of his country. 

The conquest of Athens in B.C. 403 was followed by the short rule of the  Thirty, headed by Critias (who was Plato's uncle,) and Theramenes. The arbitrary government of the Thirty was overthrown by Thrasybulus, and the old democracy reestablished. In B.C. 399 occurred the terrible disgrace of the trial and death of Socrates.

 For the next half-century, Athens does not occupy the most conspicuous place in Grecian history but bears a creditable part in the movements of the time under the guidance of able commanders such as Iphicrates, Chabrias, and Timotheus. Agesilaus the King of Lacedaemon, and Epaminondas of Thebes, were the most illustrious and most prominent rulers of this period, leading on either side in the vigorous contest which is best known by the battles of Leuctra (B.C. 371) and Mantinca (B.C. 362). After the battle of Mantinea, the most important feature in Grecian history is the gradual and steady rise of the power of Philip of Macedon. Before Plato died, Demosthenes had become famous through his orations against Philip; and within a year after his death Philip, by the destruction of the Phocians at the end of the Sacred War, had secured his supremacy in Greece. 

By the side of the main current of Grecian affairs, the history of Sicily acquired interest and importance during this same half-century under the rule of the two Dionysii and Dion. The elder Dionysius, having governed with vigour at Syracuse for a quarter of a century, died in B.C. 367. His son held a similar authority for 12 years when he was expelled by Dion, who after four years of rule was in his turn attacked and put to death. Living in such an age, Plato was a witness of a singular variety of political developments, and some of the richness of illustration in the Republic is no doubt due to his peculiar opportunities of observation. But he himself was not suited for the life of practical politics. 

He had every advantage of training, being the son of rich parents, robust in health, and educated in all the accomplishments of the time; and he must have been compelled to discharge the ordinary duties of an Athenian citizen, including some military service. But \ve hear of no more decided to attempt to enter the arena of Athenian politics than that for which the jth Epistle is an authority. It is there stated that he was invited by his relations and connexions amongst the Thirty to take some part in public affairs and that he was desirous of doing so; but when he saw what iniquities the Thirty were perpetrating, and especially when he saw them once trying, but vainly, to force Socrates to do an injury to a citizen, he felt himself driven back into private life. He had the same desire of mixing in public affairs after the restoration of the democracy, but then again he saw harsh things done, and at last, the iniquitous condemnation of Socrates entirely repelled him from politics.

book details :
  • Author: Plato
  • Translator and notes by John Llewelyn Davies, M.a. And David James Vaughan
  • Publication date:1921
  • Company:London: Macmillan and Co.

  • Download 21 MB- PDF ebook

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