Ancient History & Civilisation


1. Karl Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies, vol. I: The Spell of Plato (London: Routledge, 2003 [1945]), p.145, quoting the nineteenth-century British historian Lord Acton.

2. Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, trans. Rex Warner, with introduction and appendices by M. I. Finley (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972).

3. By contrast, the English title Republic derives from the Latin translation, which called the work Respublica, limiting its subject to a specific sort of ‘republican’ constitution only. For the significance of the Greek title and genre as discussed here and below, I draw on Malcolm Schofield,Plato: Political Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), pp. 31–43.

4. Plato wrote only dialogues and, possibly, letters; the authenticity of the latter and some of the former is disputed. A useful source for the whole of his works is John M. Cooper (ed.), Plato: Complete Works (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1997).

5. The Greek word sophrosunē is difficult to translate: it is mainly translated here as ‘self-discipline’ but is often also translated as ‘temperance’ or ‘moderation’; each of these terms captures some of its facets.

6. On pleonexia, see Ryan K. Balot, Greed and Injustice in Classical Athens (Princeton; Princeton University Press, 2001).

7. On tyranny, see Kathryn A. Morgan (ed.), Popular Tyranny: Sovereignty and Its Discontents in Ancient Greece (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2003).

8. In fact, most of the text focuses on censoring them rather than exiling them, so long as they can turn their craft to the production of models of virtue rather than vice. On poetry, see M. F. Burnyeat, ‘Culture and Society in Plato’s Republic’, in The Tanner Lectures on Human Values, vol. 20, ed. Grethe B. Peterson (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1999), pp. 217–324.

9. On anger and Athenian political emotion more generally, see Danielle S. Allen, The World of Prometheus: The Politics of Punishing in Ancient Athens (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001).

10. On the nature of the philosophers, see Melissa Lane, ‘Virtue as the Love of Knowledge in the Symposium and Republic’, in Dominic Scott (ed.), Maieusis: Essays in Ancient Philosophy in Honour of Myles Burnyeat (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).

11. For an ‘ethics’ over ‘politics’ reading, see Julia Annas, Platonic Ethics, Old and New (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1999).

12. See Josiah Ober, Political Dissent in Democratic Athens (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998).

13. On the way Plato shaped subsequent perceptions of ancient Athens, see Jennifer Tolbert Roberts, Athens on Trial: The Antidemocratic Tradition in Western Thought (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996).

14. On the influence of Plato’s Republic on the subsequent tradition of Greek republicanism, see Eric Nelson, The Greek Tradition in Republican Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004).

15. See Melissa Lane, Plato’s Progeny: How Plato and Socrates Still Captivate the Modern Mind (London: Duckworth, 2001).


1. See note 4.

2. The festival was in honour of Bendis, the Thracian equivalent of Artemis.

3. The precise meaning of the Greek phrase is uncertain, but it must refer to the approach of death.

4. The Greek word translated as ‘doing right’ is dikaiosunē , commonly translated as ‘justice’, which is the main theme of the Republic , whose subtitle is ‘about dikaiosunē. But ‘justice’ is, as Cross and Woozley say (p. VI), ‘a thoroughly unsuitable word to use as a translation of the Greek word’. Dikaiosunē has a less legal and more moral meaning than ‘justice’; it is in fact the most general Greek word for ‘morality’, both as a personal quality and as issuing in right action. So Liddell and Scott translates the corresponding epithet dikaios as ‘observant of duty to god and man, righteous’. Normally in this translation the two words are rendered by ‘justice’, ‘right action’, and ‘just’, ‘right’. But the Greek meaning is uncomfortably wide and occasional variants are used, indicated when appropriate by footnotes. Similar remarks apply to words of opposite meaning -adikia ‘injustice’, ‘wrongdoing’, adikos ‘unjust’, ‘wrong’. But here there is the further complication of a verb adikein , ‘to do wrong’ or ‘injustice’ (intrans.) or to ‘wrong’ or ‘injure’ (trans.).

5. Seventh-century lyric poet: notice the appeal to a poet on an issue of this kind, and cf. opening notes to Part III and section 1.

6. Technē: see closing note to section 2.

7. Odyssey , XIX, 395.

8. Or ‘unjust… just’: adikos… dikaios , see note 4.

9. Socrates is taking Polemarchus’ point which is about injuring or damaging one’s enemies. He is not thinking of punishment; though the later part of this argument anticipates the penal reformers.

10. Aretē: see note 35. The Greek has simply ‘by reference to the excellence of…’. The judgement is a comparative one between two states of the horse, and it is interesting that Plato speaks of it as being made in the light of what we think a horse ought to be, its‘excellence’; hence the use of the word ‘standard’ here, though aretē is also a quality of character.

11. Aretē.

12. The Seven Wise Men.

13. The first three of them were tyrants, the typical bad men of Greek tradition: the last took bribes from Persia, the traditional enemy.

14. For section 3 (Thrasymachus) and the following section 4 (Glaucon and Adeimantus) see Guthrie, History of Greek Philosophy , vol. III, pp. 88–99.

15. A reference to the provision in Athenian law whereby a defendant, if found guilty, could propose an alternative penalty to that demanded by the prosecution.

16. The Sophists charged for their instruction: Introduction, p. XVII.

17. Dikaiosunē.

18. Dikaion.

19. Doctor and patient, captain and crew.

20. Technē.

21. Technē.

22. Lit: ‘any further arete’ (note 35). Each technē is a self-contained activity, operating in a particular field, and needing nothing to supplement it.

23. Technē.

24. The Greek word is episteme , indicating knowledge or any organized body of knowledge.

25. Or ‘render an account of.’

26. Cf. 342 ac .

27. Technē.

28. Technē.

29. Cross and Woozley, p. 22.

30. See 344 c.

31. Aretē: see note 35.

32. Kakia , the opposite of aretē: a strong word for radical defect or wickedness.

33. In the following passage Plato makes considerable use of a word (pleonektein) that means ‘get the better of’, ‘outdo’, ‘do better than’, which is difficult to reproduce in translation. The English ‘compete’, used several times here, has something of the same flavour in that competition aims at getting the better of someone else or outdoing him. But no single English word will really serve.

Plato’s argument is that in all skilled activity (technē) which involves knowledge (epistēmē , note 24) the practitioners aim at getting the right result and not at outdoing each other. The musician must get his instrument in tune and does not in the process try to do better than other musicians. There is no competition but only a right result. The argument is then transferred by analogy to justice and injustice. In the Gorgias (483, 508) Plato similarly argues that pleonexia is the basic fault of the unjust man.

34. Epistēmē cf. note 33.

35. Greek aretē , traditionally translated ‘virtue’. But the Greek word has a wider connotation than the rather moralistic sense in which ‘virtue’ is today used in English. It and the corresponding epithet agatbos are ‘the most powerful’ words of commendation used of a man’ (A. W. H. Adkins,Merit and Responsibility , p. 31). They convey a meaning of excellence, effectiveness irrespective of the sphere in which it is exercised. So to call the just man ‘wise and good’ (above) is to imply that he has both the knowledge and the effectiveness to arrange his life to the best advantage (whatever that may be). The English ‘good’ has many of the ambiguities of the corresponding Greek agatbos (though not all) in that you can have a good tool or horse as well as a good man, and things can be ‘good’ in a moral or material sense. In this translation ‘good’ normally translatesagatbos and ‘excellence’ aretē. Here ‘goodness’ is used for aretē because it is the characteristic attribute of the good (agatbos) man.

36. See Guthrie, A History of Greek Philosophy , III, p. 90, note 4. T. is here disclaiming responsibility for the argument since S. will not allow him to conduct it in his own way.

37. Book I, 343 ce, 347e, H 348ad.

38. Aretē.

39. Lit: ‘is’: because the just man has just been shown to be ‘wise and good’ (cf. 350 c).

40. See note 39.

41. Aretē: the ambiguity excellence/virtue - goodness should be remembered here (see note 35).

42. Greek psuchē. The Greek word is used to cover, as appears from this passage, both the principle of life (its original meaning was the breath of life) and the seat of mental functions, like those listed in the next words. So it sometimes means personality or character. But it can also carry the religious and moral connotation of the English word ‘soul’: it is the immortality of the psuchē which is dealt with in Book X (Part XI, section 1 ff.).

43. See above, 350 c.

44. Perhaps a reference to Socrates’ customary profession of ignorance.

45. Adikein: see note 4.

46. This paragraph has been seen as a form, or anticipation, of the Social Contract theories of the 17th/18th centuries. But there are differences as well as similarities. Both have a historical element (not perhaps to be taken too seriously): in both the basis of social arrangements is a contract, explicit or implicit (though this contractual element is not much stressed by Glaucon). But whereas the 17th/18th centuries were interested in the problem of sovereignty - why should I obey the political authorities? - Glaucon is concerned to find a basis for moral (rather than political) obligation, which he founds on mutual agreement.

47. Adikein - dikaiosunē.

48. See note 47.

49. Septem contra Thebas , 1. 592.

50. These two lines follow immediately that quoted above from the Septem: ll. 593–4.

51. In the Greek, ‘brother should stand by brother’.

52. Works and Days , 232.

53. Odyssey , XIX, 109.

54. Possibly Eumolpus. Musaeus and Eumolpus were both authors of poems which expounded Orphic beliefs.

55. Works and Days , 287.

56. Iliad , IX, 497.

57. Frag. 213.

58. Frag. 86–9.

59. Psuchē: see note 42. ‘Character’ might be a better rendering here.


1. See G. Vlastos in Classical Philology , 1968, pp. 291 ff.

2. Possibly in 409 BC- in which case it is one of Plato’s anachronisms: but possibly in 424 BC.

3. Greek polis , ‘city-state’, translated in this version as ‘community’, ‘state’ or ‘society’.

4. Technē: see closing note to Part 1, section 2.

5. The Greeks reclined so at meals.

6. I.e. acquisitiveness.

7. Technē.

8. Lit: ‘well-born’: the Greek word has the ambiguity of the English ‘noble’ in earlier usage, i.e. ‘well-born’ or ‘of high quality’.

9. Psuchē: the mental qualities corresponding to the physical.

10. There is a play on words here in the Greek. The two words used, philosophos and philomathés , both indicate love of learning or knowledge. So the dog who knows his master becomes a philosopher.


1. Greek mousikē. There is no English equivalent. The word covers the secondary or literary education referred to in the opening heading to Part III. Paul Shorey, in the Loeb translation (Heinemann, 1930–35), comments that the word covers ‘playing the lyre, music, poetry, letters, culture, philosophy according to the context’. Throughout this Part it is translated as ‘education’ or ‘stage of education’ (to distinguish it from the further stage described in Part VIII) because it is with its educational aspect that Plato is concerned. But the reader should remember the wider overtones behind the Greek word so translated. Mousike is the sphere of the Muses, of whom there were nine, presiding between them over all the arts, literary, plastic, graphic, musical, and even (in philosophy) intellectual. ‘Mind and character’ in this passage translates psuchē.

2. The Greek word pseudos and its corresponding verb meant not only ‘fiction’ - stories, tales - but also ‘what is not true’ and so, in suitable contexts, ‘lies’: and this ambiguity should be borne in mind.

3. There is a Greek proverb, ‘The beginning is everything’.

4. Lit: ‘rather than their bodies with their hands’. A rather obscure phrase, but the intention seems to be to emphasize the importance of training mind and character (psuchē) as against body (sōma).

5. Ouranos (the sky), the original supreme god, was castrated by his son Cronos to separate him from Gaia (mother earth). Cronos was in turn deposed by Zeus in a struggle in which Zeus was helped by the Titans.

6. Such a robe was woven by Athenian maidens for presentation to Athene.

7. Hephaestos, who (according to a late source) is said by Pindar to have bound her to her throne.

8. Iliad , I, 586–94.

9. Iliad , XX, 1–74; XXI, 385–513.

10. Plato tends to use ‘gods’ (plural) or ‘god’ (singular) indifferently. When he speaks of ‘god’ we must not interpret him in terms of simple monotheism. He thought that the myths of Greek polytheism were crude and misleading, as he says in this section. He does seem to have believed (like most Greeks) in a supreme god, but he would not have regarded that belief as precluding the existence of a multiplicity of spiritual powers of whom many could rank as (subordinate) gods. This is the sort of theology we meet in theTimaeus and Laws .

11. The reader of the following passage should bear the following ambiguities in mind: (1) the Greek word for good (agathos) can mean (a) morally good, (b) beneficial or advantageous; (2) the Greek word for evil (kakos) can also mean harm or injury; (3) the adverb of agathos (eu – well) can imply either morally right or prosperous. The word translated ‘cause of’ could equally well be rendered ‘responsible for’.

12. Iliad , XXIV, 527. Quotations from Homer are generally taken from the translations by Dr Rieu in the Penguin series. At times (as here) the version quoted by Plato differs slightly from the accepted text.

13. Source unknown.

14. Iliad , IV, 69 ff. and XX, 1–74.

15. Frag. 160.

16. Psuchē .

17. Odyssey , XVII, 485.

18. A minor sea-god capable of transforming himself into all sorts of shapes.

19. Mother, by Peleus, of Achilles. She was a sea-nymph and to win her in marriage Peleus had to wrestle with her while she assumed all kinds of shapes to avoid him.

20. The quotation is from a lost play of Aeschylus.

21. See note 2: pseudos can mean both ‘falsehood’ and ‘fiction’. English cannot keep the ambiguity, but the reader should remember that a single Greek word lies behind the two words used in this passage.

22. Iliad , II, 1–34: a dream promising, untruthfully, the early capture of Troy.

23. Frag. 350.

24. Odyssey , XI, 489.

25. Iliad , XX, 64.

26. Iliad , XXIII, 103.

27. Odyssey , X, 495.

28. Iliad , XVI, 856.

29. Iliad , XXIII, 100.

30. Odyssey , XXIV, 6.

31. Iliad , XXIV, 10.

32. Iliad , XVIII, 23.

33. Iliad , XXII, 414.

34. Iliad , XVIII, 54.

35. Iliad , XXII, 168.

36. Iliad , XVI, 433.

37. Iliad , 1, 599.

38. See above, 382 ae , 383 ab .

39. Odyssey , XVII, 383.

40. Iliad , IV, 412.

41. Iliad , III, 8; and IV, 431.

42. Iliad , 1, 225.

43. Odyssey , IX, 8.

44. Odyssey , XII, 342.

45. Iliad , XIV, 294 ff.

46. Odyssey , VIII, 266 ff.

47. Odyssey , XX, 17.

48. Proverbial.

49. Iliad ,, IX, 515; XIX, 278.

50. Iliad , XXII, 15, 20.

51. Iliad ,, XXI, 130; XXIII, 140.

52. Iliad , XXIV, 14 XXIII, 175.

53. These us carried off Helen, who was rescued by her brothers, the Dioscuri. Theseus and Peirithous together tried to abduct Persephone, goddess of the underworld.

54. Aeschylus, Niobe.

55. Perhaps ‘the inherent advantages it brings’ would make the meaning more explicit: cf. 367e.

56. The Greek word (mimēsis) covers both ‘imitation’ or ‘copying’ and dramatic and artistic representation in the widest sense. Plato will play on this ambiguity in the opening note to Part X ff.

57. Cornford, op. cit., p. 78.

58. Apollo: see 394 a.

59. Iliad ,1 , 15.

60. Lit: ‘good at representation’ (mimēsis).

61. Lit: ‘represent many things’.

62. Plato argues as if the principle of ‘one man one job’ which he has laid down (370 c) implied that a man should not ‘give many representations’ (mimēsis) in the dramatic or literary sense.

63. ‘Rhapsodes’, who gave public recitations of poetic works, particularly of Homer.

64. The reader should remember (a) the ‘dramatic’ nature of the recitations required of the Greek schoolboy (cf. Part III, section heading 1 (c)); (b) that Plato assumes rather than proves that one is liable to become like the characters one acts (he will say more about this in Part X) and that it is therefore bad for his Guardians to act, as we might say, out of their true character; (c) that in Part X he will argue that even watching drama (and presumably hearing or reading poetry) can have the same effects as acting in it.

65. Mimēsis.

66. The Guardians - their military function is still to the fore. The paragraph makes it clear that, though he is dealing primarily with education, Plato would have excluded from his state all poetry of the type to which he objects.

67. Lit: ‘and in the same way’.

68. Marsyas, a Phrygian, challenged Apollo to a musical contest. His instrument was the flute, Apollo’s the lyre. Apollo won and Marsyas was flayed alive.

69. Glaucon swears ‘By Zeus’, the chief Olympian god; Socrates, who always avoided such oaths, swears the oath traditionally ascribed to him, ‘By the dog’.

70. A well-known fifth-century musician.

71. Cf. 397.

72. The Greek word translated ‘goodness of character’ can equally mean ‘good nature’, or as we might say ‘goodness of heart’. But the Greek word also commonly means ‘silly’, ‘naïve’. The word translated ‘lack of awareness of the world’ means more literally ‘silliness’, ‘lack of wit’. Plato is trying to ground aesthetic judgements on moral judgements, and is guarding himself against the charge that people of good character are often, in a rather simple-minded way, unaware of the realities of life.

73. Lit: ‘damage in their psuchē’.

74. There may be a reference here to Plato’s ‘Theory of Forms’. The word translated ‘qualities’ is eidos , one of the words used by Plato for the forms: cf. opening note to Part VII, section 2.

75. See above, 398e.

76. Son of Apollo and god of healing: patron of doctors.

77. Sixth-century lyric poet.

78. Iliad , IV, 218.

79. The story occurs in Aeschylus and Euripides as well as in Pindar (Agamemnon 1022, Alcestis 3).

80. Greek dikastēs. The Athenian dikastai , sitting in panels, acted both as judge and jury.

81. Cf. note 72.

82. Lit: ‘the man whose psuchē is good is a good one’.

83. Thēmos: see note to Part II, section 3.

84. Mousicē: see note 1.

85. Mousike.

86. ‘the one… the other’: Plato uses the terms mousicē and gumnasticē (physical training) which he has used throughout this Part. ‘Energy and initiative’: thumoeides.

87 . Mousikē.


1. Polis.

2. See note 3.

3. The Greek word means to ‘cast a spell on’, ‘to bewitch’ (goēteuō). ‘Propaganda’ would be a somewhat free translation - but its means of operation are very much those described in this passage, and the operations of the ad-man and the mass-media are not a bad modern parallel. They are the spell-binders of the modern world.

4. Lit: to support and help the Rulers in their decisions. ‘To enforce the decisions of the Rulers’ (Cornford). See opening note to Part IV, section 1.

5. Cf. the whole treatment of fiction, 377 ff. The myth or story he proceeds to tell follows the principles which he has laid down for myth and fiction generally.

6. i.e. the Auxiliaries.

7. ‘We shall tell our people in mythical language’, J. L. Davies and D. J. Vaughan, The Republic of Plato , 3rd edn (Macmillan, 1866).

8. Polis.

9. On promotion and demotion between classes, see note in Part VI, section 2.

10. The Myth was addressed to all three classes, and the previous sentence appears, again, to refer to all three. In this sentence there is no change of subject in the Greek, yet in it and in all that follows Plato is clearly speaking of the Guardians (or Rulers) only, who are as we have seen (opening note to Part II, section 3) his main concern.

11. See Part IX, opening notes.

12. Reading imageIII 421 b 2.

13. Cornford, op. cit., p. 109.

14. More literally: ‘the individual will be not many but one, and the state grow to be one, not many’.

15. The first mention of the so-called ‘community of wives and children’ in the Republic; see opening note to Part VI, section 2.

16. Politeia: a derivation of polis , meaning system of government, constitution under which a state operates.

17. Lit: growth, but the context shows that the process is one of improvement.

18. Cf. Odyssey , I, 351.

19. Mousikē .

20. There is a play on words in the Greek. The Guardians must build their guard house here because it is the most important point to defend.

21. In the next few sentences Plato uses a number of derivations of the Greek word nomos which are very difficult to reproduce in English. Nomos has meanings which cover positive law, convention, custom, social order in the widest sense: breaches of nomosmay be illegal, against custom or convention, immoral, or, more generally, socially disruptive to a greater or lesser extent. The group of Greek derivations are here rendered by disorder, disorderly, better regulated, respect for order, orderly. Davies and Vaughan use ‘loyal’ instead of ‘respect for order’, so bringing out anothernuance of the Greek.

22. A play in Greek on paidia , play, amusement, and paideia , education. Both concern children, paides .

23. Proverbial: like our ‘birds of a feather’.

24. In what follows Plato has Athens in mind.

25. As we might say, neither the ordinary doctor nor the quack can help them.


1. See 368 bc.

2. ‘This is apparently the first passage in Greek literature where the doctrine of four cardinal virtues… is expressly enunciated’ (see Adam, The Republic of Plato ). It is a fairly large assumption that this quartet covers the field to be surveyed. Justice is the quality to be defined; but cf. Part i,note 4. Wisdom covers the virtues and qualities of the mind (understanding, intelligence, etc.). Courage has much the same meaning in English as the Greek original: but for Plato there are overtones from thuūmos , cf. Part II, note tosection 3 and Part V, note to section 2. The word translated ‘self-discipline’ means in origin ‘sound sense’, and has two main meanings in ordinary Greek usage: (a) ‘prudence’, good sense; (b) ‘temperance’, moderation, or, in the words of H. G. Liddell and R. L. Scott, A Greek–English Lexicon (Clarendon Press), ‘control over the sensual desires’. The older translations ‘prudence’ and ‘temperance’ are hardly suitable today, and in view of Plato’s insistence on the element of control (being master of oneself, 430 d ff.), self-control, self-restraint, or self-discipline seem the best alternatives.

3. Cf. 429 c.

4. Strictly speaking, only the Rulers can have true courage, because true courage must be based on full knowledge, which only they have. This will appear more fully later.

5. Psuchē.

6. The reference is to ordinary conversation, and not to any earlier passage in the dialogue. The Greek phrase, here given the conventional translation ‘mind your own business’, is almost exactly translated by the current (1974) catch-phrase ‘doing your own thing’. It has a positive content - ‘getting on with and doing your own job’ - as well as the more negative meaning so often attached to the English phrase ‘not interfering with other people’. A strictly literal translation would be ‘doing the things that belong to(possessive genitive) oneself'. At 441e the translation ‘performing its proper function’ is used: cf. Cross and Woozley, p. no. 110

7. Reading image with Adam.

8. Cf. Field, The Philosophy of Plato , p. 96; for Butler see A. Duncan-Jones, Butler’s Moral Philosophy (Pelican).

9. Psuchē.

10. Plato refers to this longer treatment again in Book VI (504 a), and, in fact, gives it in Books VI–VII.

11. Psuchē.

12. This argument is, to us, rather oddly expressed. We should more naturally say (what Plato in any case means) ‘if you are hot you want a cold drink’ and so on. But Plato wants to make the point that when thirsty we simply want to drink, and that the quality of the drink (hot or cold, long or short) is a kind of addition to the simple basic desire (see note 13, below). This way of thinking of qualities as separate entities is not without relevance to the theory of Forms (see Part VII, section 2).

13. Cornford puts the same point in different words when he says that Plato’s object here is ‘to distinguish thirst as a mere blind craving for drink, from a more complex desire whose object includes the pleasure or health expected to result from drinking’ (Cornford, p. 131). In particular, there is the Socratic argument, referred to in this passage, that all desire is directed towards ‘the good’. ‘It is necessary to insist that we do experience blind cravings which can be isolated from any judgement about the goodness of their object’ (Cornford, loc. cit.).

14. Technē.

15. Thūmos.

16. As it stands this sentence overstates the case. A few sentences below Plato makes the proviso that the second element is reason’s ‘natural auxiliary, unless corrupted by bad upbringing’. It is an essential feature of his moral theory that different elements predominate to different degrees in different types of character (see Books VIII–IX), and that the control of reason is not always perfect. Reason’s ‘natural auxiliary’ may be ‘corrupted’, and the three elements in the mind may ‘interfere with each other’ and try to ‘do each other’s business’. Perhaps in such cases reason is ‘corrupted’ too; it is not easy to define Plato’s meaning precisely. But this should not prevent us from seeing the simple facts of the conflict of motives that he is trying to describe.

17. See 390 d Odyssey , XX, 17.

18. Thūmos.

19. See note 6. I have used ‘perform its function’ here because the context seems to require a more positive description than ‘minding one’s own business’.

20. Cf. 434 e435 b.

21. Aretē: excellence or virtue, kakia: wickedness or defect. See opening note to Part v and Part I, note 35.


1. See above, 423 e424 a.

2. Lit: ‘gold-smelting’, proverbial of those who ‘fail in any speculation’ (Liddell and Scott).

3. Notice the recurrent animal analogy throughout this part of the argument.

4. The Greeks always exercised naked, and the nakedness is merely a consequence of the proposal that women should take part in athletics at all. Women took part in physical training at Sparta; see Introduction, p. XXI.

5. Aristophanes in the Ecclesiazusae (‘Women in Parliament’) had already made fun of ideas similar to those which Plato expresses in this section, and Plato probably had him in mind.

6. ‘The musician Arion, to escape the treachery of Corinthian sailors, leapt into the sea and was carried ashore at Taenarum by a dolphin. Herodotus, 1, 24’ (Cornford).

7. The technique of debate or argument was given much attention in the discussions started by the Sophists, and Plato often accuses his opponents of using it to score points rather than as an instrument of serious discussion.

8. Genos: natural kind.

9. Lit: occupation connected with the administration of the state (or society: polis).

10. More literally: the things (faculties, powers) of the body adequately serve the mind… are in conflict with it.

11. Lit: occupation of those who administer the state (society: polis ).

12. See Part II, section 3.

13. Aretē , see Part i, note 35.

14. With Adam and Shorey. Pindar, Frag . 209.

15. Kalon – aischron .

16. See note 15 above.

17. Compare the Laws , 804 d, where Plato says that children ‘belong to the state rather than to their parents’.

18. See 382 bd , 389 b.

19. The words used (‘the best possible flock’, ‘the Guardian herd’) seem deliberately to recall the analogy with stock breeding. And the word translated ‘nursery’ at 460 c means literally a pen or fold for rearing young animals.

20. This phrase and others on the following pages raise the question whether and how far Plato sanctioned infanticide. See note on Promotion, Demotion and Infanticide in Part VI, section 2.

21. Lit: ‘number of men’, i.e., presumably the number of the Guardian class.

22. I.e. at the marriage festivals.

23. See note on Promotion, Demotion and Infanticide in Part VI, section 2.

24. Perhaps a quotation from a victory ode, referring to a racehorse put to stud after its racing career was over.

25. I.e. the alternatives are abortion (not uncommon in the ancient world) or infanticide: see note on Promotion, Demotion and Infanticide in Part VI, section 2.

26. ‘The majority of ancient writers… denied that children were born in the eighth month of pregnancy’ (Adam). Plato’s months here are, of course, lunar months.

27. The details of these sentences are a little difficult to disentangle. Plato is dealing with the unions of the over-age; but the rules he lays down for them will, a fortiori , apply to the Guardians generally, and the last sentence has this wider application.

He first explains what is meant by father, mother, son, daughter, etc., under his system. What he does is to substitute relationships between groups for those between individuals; the basic group comprises all those mated at a particular marriage festival, who will be related collectively as fathers and mothers to all children born as a result of that festival. (We must suppose these festivals to take place at regular intervals and to last for a definite time, say a week or fortnight.) Other relationships are worked out on the same principle and Plato adds, for completeness, a definition of brother and sister. Granted these definitions, it should, as he points out, be easy enough to avoid the relationships he wishes to prevent.

It will be noticed that it is the father–daughter, son–mother type of relationship which he forbids. It was this type of incest about which the Greeks felt particularly strongly. Brother–sister unions were, they knew, practised in Egypt, and their own custom allowed marriage between uncle and niece, aunt and nephew, and half-brother and half-sister. In the last sentence, as the reference to the lot makes clear, Plato is thinking of his marriage festivals, and ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ are probably used in his special sense. It would, indeed, restrict the possibilities of mating unduly if brothers and sisters in that sense could not marry – parents are producing children for thirty (men) and twenty (women) years. But he has not precluded unions between brother and sister in the normal sense, and here probably allows them as a special case of brother and sister in his own sense. Children of the same parents would not, in his state, know that they were blood relations, as he has explained above, and such relationship would in any event, under his scheme, have no significance. The reference to Delphi has no special importance. The sanction of Delphi is needed because marriage is a religious institution; it might be asked ‘once for all to approve the whole scheme of marriage laws, or it might be formally invoked at each festival’ (Cornford, Republic , p. 159).

28. The Greek word is the normal one for a master of slaves or an absolute ruler or owner.

29. There is an ambiguity here in the Greek which cannot be reproduced in English. The Greek word archon means ‘ruler’ in a general sense, but is also used of the constitutionally appointed magistrates at Athens, and so here of the ‘authorities’ in a democratic form of government.

30. Proverbial, of making the best of what you have.

31. More fully, ‘nothing against the nature of woman as compared with man’.

32. Plato seems to have forgotten that under his arrangements there will be young women as well, though he remembers them again a few sentences below.

33. Iliad , VIII, 311.

34. Iliad , VIII, 162.

35. Cf. Hesiod, Works and Days , 122.

36. The Greek ‘daimon’ was a spirit intermediate between gods and men.

37. This is a plain indication, if one is needed, that there will be slaves in Plato’s state, though they will not be Greeks.

38. Greek custom allowed the recovery and burial of his dead by an enemy after a battle.


1. Plato here uses, whether deliberately or not, language that recalls his Theory of Forms (see section 2, Definition of the Philosopher). Particular things ‘share in’ or ‘partake of’ (metechein) the forms which they exemplify; and the form is a pattern (paradeigma)to which particulars approximate. Paradeigma is here represented by the English ‘ideal pattern’, ‘ideally’, ‘ideal’, as the emphasis is on the way in which example falls short of pattern, the actual fails to reproduce the perfection of the ideal.

2. See closing note to Part i, section 3.

3. More precisely, ‘the human race’ (or ‘species’). While it is no doubt improper, as it is unnecessary, to read a wider humanitarianism into these words, there is no reason to suppose Plato to mean anything other than what he says, which is that the principle he is laying down applies to allhuman beings wherever they are: cf. note 38 below.

4. Cf. closing note to Part i, section 3.

5. Eidos; see opening note for section 2 above, p. 192. This passage is commonly taken as referring to the ‘forms’. I have used a noncommittal word in the translation to bring out the point that the word Plato uses has in itself no special connotation.

6. Metechein; see opening note to section 2 above, p. 195.

7. Einai: see opening note to section 2 above, p. 196. In this sub-section (VII, 2.1) einai (in its verbal or participial use) is translated by is or being , in order to avoid commitment to any more definite English interpretation and to retain the ambiguity of the Greek in what is a key passage.

8. ‘Something that wasn’t there’ would bring out a further implication of the Greek: cf. opening note to section 2 above, p. 196.

9. Greek, dunamis: power, capacity, capability, potentiality. A few lines later it is used with a meaning which seems best expressed by ‘faculty’, and accordingly is so translated here. But ‘faculty’ must not be interpreted to imply the many technical and semi-technical meanings the word has acquired, but in its basic sense, ‘aptitude for any special kind of action’ (OED).

10. The Greek word (gignōskō) has a suggestion of knowledge by direct personal acquaintance.

11. Gignōskō.

12. For consistency ‘opinion’ is here used to translate doxa (and its verbal form doxazein). But in these sentences some prefer ‘belief’ (‘believe’). They then read literally: ‘Someone who believes relates his belief to something. Or is it possible to believe, but believe nothing?’ Knowledge and opinion (belief) each have, in their own field, a grasp of reality, knowledge a certain grasp, opinion an uncertain. The standing of ‘ignorance’ (agnoia) is less clear (see Crombie, II, pp. 56–66).

13. See 477 b.

14. See 477a, b.

15. A man who was not a man (a eunuch) threw a stone that was not a stone (a pumice-stone) at a bird that was not a bird (a bat) sitting on a twig that was not a twig (a reed).

16. Paradeigma.

17. See 474 a475 e.

18. Idea.

19. The god of criticism and mockery.

20. Polis.

21. The Greek naukleros meant, more strictly, ‘ship-owner’. But here he is clearly in charge, and as Professor Guthrie has pointed out to me ‘ship-owner’, with its suggestion of Mr Onassis, could be more misleading.

22. Or ‘science’, technē.

23. Simonides, ‘being asked on one occasion… whether it was better to be a man of genius or rich, replied “Rich, for men of genius are found at the court of the rich”’ (Adam).

24. More literally ‘control’, ‘government’.

25. See 485a487a.

26. I.e. the forms, beauty itself, etc.

27. Psuchē.

28. Greek sophia , traditionally translated ‘wisdom’. It also means ‘cleverness’ or ‘skill’. The word translated ‘system’ (493 b) is technē.

29. The Greek uses a proverbial expression, ‘the necessity of Diomede’, but its precise meaning is uncertain.

30. Lit: ‘the barbarians’.

31. Plato is commonly supposed to have Alcibiades in mind in this passage but he must have felt these temptations himself: cf. Introduction, pp. XV–XVI.

32. If Plato is thinking of Alcibiades above, he must be thinking of Socrates here.

33. Mentioned in the Apology , 33e. ‘Handicapped’, lit: ‘the bridle of Theages’, which became proverbial.

34. ‘A kind of voice’ (Apology , 31 c) which sometimes forbade him to do things.

35. See 412 a above.

36. Heraclitus said there was ‘a new sun every day.’

37. Cf. Part VII, section 3 heading.

38. Lit: ‘barbarian’: cf. note 3 above.

39. Lit: ‘the just in nature’, or ‘the naturally just’: a reference to the forms.

40. See 474 a above.

41. Greek politeia , translated ‘social system’ above. The word refers to social and constitutional arrangements, polis to city, state, or society more generally.

42. Or ‘akin to the best’; ‘allied to perfection’ (Cornford, and Davies and Vaughan).

43. Politeia .

44. See 412 b ff.

45. See 484 a487 a.

46. Part V, section 2 ff.

47. See Part V, note 10.

48. Lit: ‘borrow’.

49. Kalos : ‘beautiful’, ‘fair’, ‘fine’, ‘valuable’.

50. The Greek for ‘interest’ (the ‘offspring’ of a loan) is the same as for ‘child’.

51. See 476 d.

52. This is a difficult sentence of which variant translations are given. The version above follows Adam and adopts his emendation image for image . For the last phrase the modern philosopher might well say ‘what x really is’.

53. Plato says ‘gods’; he believed the heavenly bodies were divine.

54. Idea .

55. Kalos .

56. J. E. Raven, Classical Quarterly (Jan.–April 1953), p. 18.

57. The form of the good and the sun.

58. The Greek words for ‘visible’ and for ‘physical universe’ (or more literally ‘heaven’) bear some resemblance to each other, and it has been suggested that there was some connection between them.

59. Eidos : a good example of Plato’s non-technical use of the term, to mean ‘kind’, ‘sort’, ‘type’ (as also at 511 a, ‘type of thing’). The technical (theory of ‘forms’) use is a natural sequel because things of a particular kind have a particular form .

60. See diagram in the opening note to section 6.

61. Lit: true.

62. Greek hypothesis , of which the English ‘hypothesis’ is a transliteration. But the English word means ‘something that may be true but needs testing’: the Greek word ‘something assumed for the purpose of argument.’

63. 510 b6, omit image.

64. Eidos , non-technical again.

65. The translation is intended to bring out the strong visual metaphor. More literally, ‘seeking to see those very things that one cannot see except with the reason’. The word translated ‘reason’ (dianoia) will be appropriated later in the passage as a quasi-technical term to designate the mathematical reasoning of sub-section B. ‘As images’: as we might say ‘as illustrations’.

66. Technē: see note 68.

67. Epistēmē: see Part i, note 24.

68. Lit: ‘the so-called technai’. The wide range of meaning of technē was noted in the closing note to Part i, section 2. Here the reference is to sub-section B of the line, and technē has already (note 66) been used in the phrase ‘geometry and kindred techna’, which describes its contents. Plato certainly does not mean the arts or practical skills (cf. 522 b ff.), and Adam’s ‘mathematical sciences’ gets the reference right. For more detail see Part VIII, section 2, where cf. note 19.

69. Dianoia.

70. A strongly visual word - ‘gazing at’. So also the word translated ‘studied’ has a basic meaning ‘looked at’, ‘contemplated’.

71. Plato uses ‘intelligible’ to describe the whole section A + B, which is the ‘intelligible order’ or ‘region’. But here he seems to be referring to sub-section A only and to be indicating the deficiency of subsection B, which is none the less dealing with material which if rightly handled is ‘intelligible’ in the full (A) sense. The meaning of the phrase is, however, uncertain. It reads literally ‘it is intelligible (noēton) with (with the aid of? in conjunction with?) a (first) principle’ or ‘and has a first principle’. The interpretation here suggested gives a particular meaning to this more general wording: cf. again Part VIII, note 19.

It is worth adding that, at 511 a and 511e, Plato emphasizes degrees of clarity , linked at 511 e with truth; and that his four ‘states’ or ‘habits’ of mind are said to entail different degrees of clarity and truthfulness of apprehension, which need not correspond to a difference of object. Both shadow and object throwing it are in a sense physical things; it is our fault if we confuse them. If we speak of shadow and reflection as less true or genuine than their original this is really a comment on our own tendency to misapprehend them. Similarly, here, the mathematician has, compared to the philosopher, a defective apprehension of the same realities (the forms).

72. The words used for ‘belief’ and ‘illusion’ do not (with the possible exception of a use of pistis in Book x; see 601e) occur elsewhere in Plato in the sense in which they are used here. Pistis , ‘belief’, conveys overtones of assurance and trustworthiness: ‘commonsense assurance (Cross and Woozley, p. 226). Eikasia , ‘illusion’, is a rare word whose few occurrences elsewhere in Greek literature give us little guidance. It can mean ‘conjecture’, ‘guesswork’, and some prefer so to translate it here. But ‘illusion’ is perhaps more appropriate for a ‘state of mind’.

73. Lit: ‘like us’. How ‘like’ has been a matter of controversy. Plato can hardly have meant that the ordinary man cannot distinguish between shadows and real things. But he does seem to be saying, with a touch of caricature (we must not take him too solemnly), that the ordinary man is often very uncritical in his beliefs, which are little more than a ‘careless acceptance of appearances’ (Crombie, An Examination of Plato’s Doctrines).

74. Lit: ‘regard nothing else as true but the shadows’. The Greek word alēthēs (true) carries an implication of genuineness, and some translators render it here as ‘real’.

75. Or ‘more real’.

76. Or ‘true’, ‘genuine’.

77. Odyssey , XI, 489.

78. I.e. the similes of the Sun and the Line (though 474c480 a must surely also be referred to). The detailed relations between the three similes have been much disputed, as has the meaning of the word here translated ‘connected’. Some interpret it to mean a detailed correspondence (‘every feature ... is meant to fit’ - Cornford), others to mean, more loosely, ‘attached’ or ‘linked to’. That Plato intended some degree of ‘connection’ between the three similes cannot be in doubt in view of the sentences which follow. But we should remember that they are similes, not scientific descriptions, and it would be a mistake to try to find too much detailed precision. Plato has just spoken of the prisoners ‘getting their hands’ on their returned fellow and killing him. How could they do that if fettered as described at the opening of the simile (514 a)? But Socrates was executed, so of course they must.

This translation assumes the following main correspondences:

Tied prisoner in the cave


Freed prisoner in the cave


Looking at shadows and
reflections in the world outside
the cave and the ascent thereto


Looking at real things in the
world outside the cave


Looking at the sun

Vision of the form of the good.

79. Cf. Part III, note 10.

80. Cf. 514 bc above.

81. Technē.

82. Aretē.

83. Cf. 420 b and 466 a above.

84. Socrates takes up here a point made to Thrasymachus at 347 b.


1. The reference is to a children’s game in which a shell was spun to decide which side ran away and which gave chase.

2. In Part III. ‘Literature and music’ translates mousikē.

3. Tecbnai: here used to refer to the practical crafts and skills.

4. Noēsis. There may be a reference to sub-section A of the Line: mathematical studies (sub-section B) ‘lead on’ to dialectic or noēsis. But the reference back to the Line at note 6 suggests that the word is here being used of intellectual operations more generally (A + B: noēton) , as opposed to those of opinion (C + D: doxaston). Throughout this section ‘thought’ is used to translate noēsis (or its corresponding verb).

5. Or ‘calculation’.

6. Cf. diagram, in opening note to Part VII, section 6.

7. Dianoia.

8. The Greek word can mean both ‘reason’ and ‘calculate arithmetically’. Plato likes to use it in the wider sense of philosophical reasoning, yet without entirely losing its mathematical flavour.

9. The language of the previous paragraph (‘numbers themselves’, ‘the unit itself’) is that of the theory of forms. It is less clear what are the numbers referred to in this sentence. Some have supposed them to be entities intermediate between forms and particulars; see opening note to Part VII,section 6. But though Plato did hold some such view later in his life, this sentence is very slender evidence for it in the Republic.

10. Dianoia: Line sub-section B.

11. ‘blinking downwards’: the word is commonly taken in this context to refer to the eyes, but more usually refers to the mouth. Perhaps ‘whether by looking up with his mouth open or down with it shut.’

12. Epistēmē.

13. A very difficult phrase to translate, and I have no great confidence in the version here given. I have translated phorai as ‘orbits’ as it is used of the movements of the heavenly bodies, and Plato here seems to be speaking of some ideal mathematical relationships between these orbits. ‘What they carry’; i.e. probably the heavenly bodies themselves, frequently thought of as carried round in the orbit, like the stone in a ring. (The sun, moon and planets are carried on rings in the Timaeus.)

    But if the detail is obscure, what Plato is trying to convey is perhaps clearer. In his day the data of observational astronomy were still very imperfect, and the problem of the astronomer was to find some mathematical way of accounting for them. What Plato is saying is that the solution of this mathematical problem is the important thing rather than observational detail. And in any case for Plato, as Shorey (Loeb II, p. 183, note f) says, ‘no material object perfectly embodies the ideal and abstract mathematical relation’. Plato goes on to elaborate the point in the next two sentences, and in the then state of observational astronomy the mathematical emphasis was the right one.

14. The Pythagoreans were the first to discover that the notes in the scale could be expressed as numerical ratios.

15. Greek law allowed the torture of slaves for the purpose of extracting evidence from them.

16. Lit: ‘give and take a rational account’ (logos). Dialectic for Plato always worked by argument, and typically by question and answer - ‘give and take’.

17. Intellectual realm’: noēton , here A + B. ‘What each thing is in itself, i.e. the forms. ‘Pure thought’: noēsis , Line sub-section A.

18. I prefer Ast’s image to the O.C.T. image, but if Adam’s explanation of image is correct (a ‘half-technical Platonic phrase for reflections of natural objects produced by natural lights’), the meaning is not substantially different.

19. There is a clear parallel here between the climb up the ‘steep and rugged ascent’ out of the Cave plus the looking at shadows and reflections in the world outside which follows, and the study of the branches of mathematics described immediately above in section 2. Plato calls these mathematical studies ‘sciences’ again (technai: see Part VII, note 68). The same parallel occurs again on the following page.

20. I.e. the forms, e.g. beauty in itself, etc.

21. Technai. The passage brings out well the ambivalence of technē between purely practical and intellectual skills. Cf. Adam’s note.

22. Cf. 51 1b: ‘the first principle of everything’.

23. Plato, as we have seen, never developed a rigid technical terminology; and at 533 e has in effect said that he has no wish to do so. But his use of words in this paragraph is none the less confusing. Epistēmē is twice used for sub-section A of the Line (instead ofnoēsis): it is here translated ‘pure knowledge (A)’ to mark the particular use. Noēsis , earlier used of sub-section A, is then used of the whole section A + B, perhaps because this whole section can also be called noēton , the ‘intelligible realm’ (Part VII, section 6, opening note): it is here translated ‘knowledge (A + B)’. Thus


    In spite of this confusing use of terms the passage is of some importance. It firmly connects the educational course to be followed by the philosopher with the Line and Sun (see the reference to the good-in-itself, 534 c) and, surely, makes it clear that the whole of these two Parts (VII and VIII) were conceived as a unity. Though Plato proceeds by stages, we are therefore justified in interpreting earlier in the light of later, especially when, as here, Plato makes an explicit connection.

    What we learn from this passage, his final summary, is the following. He is still mainly concerned with the relative reliability of different methods of perception and argument. The main contrast (as it was on 474 c ff.) is between knowledge, dealing with the intelligible realm (epistēmē-noēton) , and opinion (doxa) dealing with what is here called the realm of change (genesis) , i.e. the physical world (it has been called earlier at 532 d the material world). Within each of these two realms there are two sub-divisions, whose relation in terms of reliability is again referred to here. Too much significance should not be attached to the proportions, taken from the Line, A + B:C + D::A:C and B:D. Plato probably means simply to draw attention to the sub-divisions, and point out that A in the one realm has the same degree of greater reliability than C in the other, as has B than D. He is careful not to work out correspondences between the different modes of perception and their ‘objects’. This has always been a difficult point of interpretation, and he is perhaps indicating that we should not go beyond what he actually says. The attempt to do so has certainly led commentators into a ‘multiplicity of arguments’, as Plato warns us.

24. ‘Reality’ (ousia, einai) with its overtones of truth, ‘opinion’ (doxa) with its overtones of appearance, seeming, unreliability.

25. A reference to ‘irrational’ numbers, commonly illustrated by the incommensurability of the diagonal and side of a square (hence ‘lines’ here). The Greeks regarded such in commensurabilities as something of a mathematical scandal, and Plato here suggests that it is similarly scandalous that anyone who is ‘irrational’, in the sense ‘unable to reason’, should hold positions of responsibility.

26. See 375 a ff., 484 a ff.

27. See 495 a ff.

28. This goes a little beyond the Greek, which says ‘involuntary falsehood’. What must be meant is the kind of misapprehension which we absorb ‘involuntarily’, i.e. without thinking. Compare Crombie’s ‘careless acceptance of appearances’, describing sub-section D of the Line.

29. See 412 c.

30. Solon said ‘I go on learning many things as I grow old’; more colloquially, ‘One learns a lot as one grows older.’

31. This, in effect, adds elementary mathematics to the curriculum of Part III.

32. The Greek word suggests an element of fraud, the child having in some way been palmed off on the parents; ‘supposititious’.

33. Socrates was blamed because the young followed his example in this way: Apology , 23 c .

34. The Greek heaven.


1. Lit: ‘their kings should be’: the philosopher kings.

2. The interpretation of this obscure passage has a long history, reviewed by A. Diès, ‘Le nombre de Plato’ in Mémoires présentés à l’Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres , XIV, 1940. Much turns on whether the sentence ending ‘commensurate and rational’ defines a different number from that defined in the remainder of the passage. Adam (Vol. II, commentary pp. 204 ff. and Appendix 1 to Book VIII) thought that it did. He supposed the number to be 33 + 43 + 53 = 216, the period of the ‘mortal creature’, 216 days being considered by the Greeks to be the minimum period of gestation. He then supposed that the rest of the passage refers to the ‘divine creature’, whose number is 36002, the number of days in a ‘Great Year’ (the time it takes the heavenly bodies to return to the same relative positions). He thus gave the passage a certain cosmic significance, the microcosm (man) being linked in some way (not very clear) with the macrocosm of the cosmos. But the run of the Greek is rather against this interpretation. The passage appears to be devoted entirely to the ‘human creature’ after a brief sentence in which the divine creature is merely referred to and then not mentioned again. And Diès has shown that the passage can be interpreted without introducing a second number. For details the reader should consult his article. Briefly, the numbers 3, 4 and 5 were considered important because they defined the smallest right-angled triangle with sides of rational number; and the calculations are, for the first sentence, (3 × 4 × 5)1 (3 × 4 × 5)22 (3 × 4 × 5)3–3 (3 × 4 × 5)4 = 12,960,000 (Adam’s 36002). Here then are three steps (‘distances’) between the brackets (‘terms’), and the fourth bracket gives the ‘final result’. The various combinations in the second sentence all again give the same figure [362 × 1002, and 4800 (arrived at in two ways) × 2700]. Diès, relying no doubt on what Plato says about the Muses (545e), believes that the passage is a ‘plaisanterie de matbematicierC (loc. cit., p. 10), and if he is right no very elaborate cosmic significance, like that suggested by Adam, should be read into it. What the passage as a whole is saying is that no mortal institutions can last for ever, and that the process of decline from the ideal is started by a generation of Guardians wrongly bred because of failure to observe the appropriate procedure, a failure whose occurrence is in some way controlled by an elaborate mathematical formula.

3. We are concerned at this stage with a dissension between two elements in the governing class, i.e. the Guardians (Rulers plus Auxiliaries), who have become corrupted and into the gold and silver of whose composition (cf. the allegory at 415a–d) iron and bronze have entered, with the result that they no longer maintain their former way of life or relation to the third class.

4. Tbumoeides.

5. Mousicē.

6. Tbumoeides.

7. As Shorey notes, the words here used, logos and mousikē , are untranslatable; on mousicē , see Part III, note 1. It is not easy to give an informative rendering. Jowett’s ‘philosophy (“reason”, 1970 edn) tempered with music’ is quaintly obscure, but Cornford’s ‘thoughtful and cultivated mind’ hardly suggests a telling phrase. The reader should remember that the education outlined in Part VIII was a largely intellectual one, training the reason, while that outlined in Part III operated mainly through the arts. Both elements, Plato is here saying, are necessary.

8. The three ‘parts’ of the mind, see opening note to Part V, section 2.

9. More strictly ‘property qualification’. A property qualification for office was a common feature of Greek oligarchies: cf. 551 b.

10. A play on words in the Greek. Oligarchy is the ‘rule of the few’ (oligoi ), and if they try to fight their own battles their fewness is shown up.

11. Greek cavalry and infantry (hoplites) normally had to provide and pay for their own weapons.

12. Throughout this passage Plato is still speaking in terms of the three elements distinguished in Part V, section 2 ff.: reason, the thumoeides which includes courage and ambition, and appetite comprising the instinctive desires and including the desire for money.

13. Wealth was proverbially a blind god to the Greeks.

14. Aristotle (Politics , 1317 b 21) notes as a characteristic of democracy ‘election by lot either to all magistracies or to all that do not need experience and skill’.

15. Or ‘uncultivated’.

16. Odyssey , IX, 82 ff. Proverbial of those who abandon home and family ties.

17. Plato uses language which recalls the mystery religions, in particular the procession from Athens to Eleusis. ‘Splendid’: the root meaning is ‘clear’ or ‘bright’ and there may be a reference to the fact that the procession, being an evening one, was torchlit.

18. There is a reference in the Greek to the appointment to office by lot.

19. Lit: ‘getting drunk to the sound of the flute’. The justification for the rather corny translation is that at drinking parties the flutes were commonly played by girls: Alcibiades in the Symposium arrives rather drunk and leaning on a flute-girl. A more contemporary version might be ‘pot and pop’.

20. I have used the traditional ‘tyrant’ and ‘tyranny’ to translate the Greek words of which they are, in fact, transliterations. As Cornford points out, the essential feature of the Greek ‘tyrant’ was that he was an absolute and sole ruler, and he accordingly uses the more neutral word ‘despot’. But already in Plato’s day the use of the word implied a certain moral disapproval, and tyrant is therefore a suitable translation.

21. Frag. 351 (Nauk). ‘Let us say what comes to our lips, whatever it may be’: perhaps ‘Let’s say what’s on the tip of our tongue’.

22. Cf. ‘like mistress, like maid’.

23. Herodotus, i, 55.

24. Iliad , XVI, 776.

25. See Part III, note 69.

26. The quotation comes in fact from Sophocles, not Euripides (Adam: ad loc.). But Euripides was commonly regarded as sophos , ‘wise’, with its strong overtones in Greek of ‘clever’, and did end his days at the court of Archelaus of Macedon. The passage as a whole is evidence more of Plato’s distrust of poets than of anything else.

27. Reading image with Adam .

28. Cf. Henry Fielding, The Life of Mr Jonathan Wild the Great (1743).

29. Cf. 559 e560 e.

30. Plato on his first visit to Sicily had lived with Dionysius I.

31. Perhaps ‘and any one of the three may be in control’ (‘may govern the soul’: Cornford).

32. The Greek word is used of producing an illusion of depth, etc. by means of shading (or shadow: the same word as that used of the shadows in Line and Cave) in a picture, or more particularly in the painting of stage scenery (which is sham and, having nothing behind it, empty).

33. Or ‘motion’: cf. 585 a ff. on depletion and replenishment.

34. E.g. the pleasure of eating is preceded by the pain of hunger.

35. Both text and meaning of 585 c7–12 are disputed: see notes by Adam and Cornford.

36. See note 32 above.

37. In Euripides’ Helen , Helen tells how Hera gave Paris a phantom in place of the true Helen. While Greeks and Trojans fought for this phantom, she herself lived in Egypt, waiting for Menelaus. The story first appears in a fragment of the early-sixth-century poet Stesichorus.

38. M. Diès regards this passage as ‘plaisanterie de mathématicien’: cf. note 2 above.

39. Corresponding to the three elements in the mind and to the first three political types - philosopher king, timocrat, and oligarch.

40. Cf. 544 e.

41. The Greeks often represented numbers spatially, and a ‘plane’ number is one that can be represented by a plane figure the product of whose sides yields the number in question; here, 3×3 = 9.

42. We are given no reason why 9 should be cubed, but Adam notes ‘the calculations are inspired by a desire to reach the total 729’: see note 43 below. Nettleship (Lectures , p. 332) suggests that we must measure the difference in three dimensions.

43. The precise meaning is uncertain. But Philolaus, the Pythagorean, held that there were 364½ days in the year; there are presumably the same number of nights, and 364½ × 2 = 729. Philolaus also believed in a ‘great year’ of 729 months. Plato may not be entirely serious (note 38 above), but for him, as for many Greeks, this sort of numerical formula always had a certain fascination.

44. Cf. 360 e361 d.

45. Wife of Amphiaraus, bribed with a necklace by Polynices to send her husband on the fatal expedition of the Seven against Thebes.

46. In this paragraph Plato uses the Greek word both for slave, translated ‘subjected’, ‘subject’, and for political control, translated ‘governed’, ‘control’.

47. Mousikos: cf. Part III, note1.

48. The literal translation of this well-known phrase is ‘and seeing it, establish himself. The alternative translations commonly given are ‘establish himself as its citizen’, or ‘establish himself accordingly’, i.e. ‘establish it in himself’. The second alternative, here followed, seems to make better sense.


1. In visual terms what we should call an extreme photographic realism. Such extreme realism, both in theory and practice, was not uncommon in the early fourth century, and is effectively criticized by Aristotle in the Poetics.

2. See Part III, section IC.

3. I.e. the same name as we give to the form: see J. A. Smith, ‘General Relative Clauses in Greek’, Classical Review , 31: 3 (1917), pp. 68–71. Smith argues that this passage must not be interpreted to suggest that Plato thought that wherever there is a common name there is a single form. As Professor Guthrie has said, ‘For Plato the kinds or classes (eidē) into which particulars fall are objectively determined by their nature (eidē or phuseis) , and it is to them that the eternal Forms (also eide) correspond.’

4. Cf. 507 b, and opening note to Part VII, section 2.

5. Perhaps ‘all other essential natures’; the reference is to the forms which are said to exist ‘in nature’ because they are what is ultimately real.

6. Lit: ‘its appearance as it appears’.

7. The Greek word normally means an apparition or ghost.

8. Both numbered among the Seven Sages. Thales of Miletus was the first of the Greek philosophers: Anacharsis was credited with various practical inventions, and Thales had a reputation for practical skill as well as philosophy.

9. ‘Beefeater’ is perhaps the nearest rendering in English. He is said to have been an epic poet from Chios. Adam quotes ‘I am a great eater of beef, and I believe that does harm to my wits’ (Twelfth Night , 1. III.90).

10. Two of the best-known fifth-century Sophists.

11. Pistis , the word used of sub-section C of the Line. In the next sentence the wider form doxa , opinion, is used: see Part VII, note 71.

12. Cf. Part V, section 2 ff.

13. Cf. 387 de .

14. The sources of these quotations are unknown.

15. Ironical.


1. More literally the second half of this sentence reads, ‘we cannot suppose that the soul is destroyed by an alien evil without any flaw of its own, one thing by the evil of another thing’.

2. The latter part of this sentence reads more literally ‘… kill the soul , an evil appointed for the destruction of something else will hardly destroy the soul or anything else for which it is not appointed’. ‘Adapted’: ‘arranged’, ‘ordered’, ‘appointed’, express each in a different way the idea that each type of thing has its own appropriate evil linked with it, and can only be destroyed by that evil.

3. Cf. 602 e603 e, Part V, section 2.

4. In the Timaeus , 69 d the two lower ‘parts’ of the soul are said to be mortal.

5. See 366 be .

6. Lit: ‘the soul itself’.

7. I.e. She can reward the reputation for justice as well, as the argument has shown her reward the reality.

8. 352 ab .

9. The Greek has ‘with ears on shoulders’, of which, as Shorey notes, the English idiom is the equivalent.

10. See 362 ac .

11. Odyssey , IX–XII, where Odysseus tells his adventures to Alcinous, king of Phaeacia. Proverbial of a long story. But there is also a play on words: Alci-noos means ‘stout-hearted’, ‘brave’, as Er was.

12. Perhaps ‘across’: see Appendix II.

13. Probably of the heaven, but possibly of the light: the Greek is ambiguous.

14. See Appendix II, p. 377.

15. Singer and religious teacher, torn in pieces by Maenads, women followers of Dionysus.

16. Another singer, blinded because he challenged the Muses.

17. After the death of Achilles the Greeks adjudged his arms to Odysseus, in preference to Ajax. Ajax committed suicide in disappointment.

18. Victor of Troy, murdered by his wife Clytemnestra on his return.

19. Arcadian princess and huntress. Her suitors had to race with her and were killed if defeated.

20. Maker of the Trojan horse.

21. From the Iliad .

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