Ancient History & Civilisation

Further Reading

Compiled by Rachana Kamtekar


Plato, vol. IV of the Oxford Classical Texts, ed. J. Burnet (Oxford, 1902).

J. Adam, The Republic of Plato, 2nd edn (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1963), 2 vols., with critical notes, commentary and appendices; introduction by D. A. Rees.


Of the many introductions and companions to Plato’s Republic, the best remains J. Annas, An Introduction to Plato’s Republic (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981). Each chapter concludes with suggestions for further readings.

Other companions to the Republic that are of interest:

N. P. White, A Companion to Plato’s Republic (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1979) is the closest to a traditional commentary, offering a summary and comments on each piece of Plato’s text. Students puzzling over a particular passage can find here a starting point for interpretation and references to other related passages. White argues against the view (held by a number of the commentators mentioned below) that Plato’s concern with justice is of reconciling duty versus interest.

R. Nettleship, Lectures on the Republic of Plato, 2nd edn (London: Macmillan, 1958), reconstructed from lecture notes by Nettleship’s Oxford students in 1885 and 1887–8, approaches the Republic as a discussion of the role of morality in the good human life.

R. C. Cross and A. D. Woozley, Plato’s Republic : A Philosophical Commentary (London: Macmillan, 1964) discusses the Republic using the tools of linguistic philosophy; this commentary often refers to the Lee translation (Penguin, 1955).

N. R. Murphy, The Interpretation of Plato’s Republic (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1951)is addressed to students of philosophy with at least some knowledge of Greek and helpfully compares positions taken in the Republic and in other works in the history of philosophy.

B. Bosanquet, A Companion to Plato’s Republic for English Readers (London: Rivingtons, 1906) is a line-by-line commentary on the 1866 English translation of the Republic by J. L. Davies and D. J. Vaughan (New York: A. L. Burt); it gives an interpretation of Plato on Hegelian lines. The introduction quotes long excerpts from other Greek thinkers for comparison and contrast.

Of the introductions produced since Annas’s, one that is particularly interesting on political topics is S. Sayers, Plato’s Republic : An Introduction (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1999).

In a class by itself is C. D. C. Reeve, Philosopher-Kings: the argument of Plato’s Republic (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988), a book-length philosophical discussion which is neither introduction nor companion, but still manages to stay close to the text while providing a unified, bold and original interpretation of the Republic.


D. M. Lewis, J. Boardman, S. Hornblower and M. Ostwald (eds.), The Cambridge Ancient History (2nd edn), Vol. VI: The Fourth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995) is a tremendous resource; the essays most relevant to Plato’s immediate context are by M.M. Austinon society and economy, P. J. Rhodes on political arrangements, M. Ostwald and J. P. Lynch on the rise of programmes of higher education, and H. D. Westlake on Plato’s political involvement with Dion in Sicily. Since Plato stages his dialogues in an earlier generation, the essays in Vol. V: The Fifth Century (1992) provide important background as well.

Alternatively, M. I. Finley, The Ancient Greeks (Penguin, 1963) provides a concise introduction that can be held in one hand.


There are a number of good philosophical introductions to Plato’s work as a whole. W. K. C. Guthrie’s very readable A History of Greek Philosophy to Plato (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1962) treats Plato’s early and middle period works in vol. 4 and his later works and the Academy in vol. 5.

A reliable, readily available, and concise topical introduction to Plato is G. M. A. Grube, Plato’s Thought (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1980).

Much more dense, but very valuable, is I. Crombie, An Examination of Plato’s Doctrines (2 vols., published simultaneously in London by Routledge & Kegan Paul and in New York by Humanities Press, 1962, 1963).

By a sociologist rather than a philosopher, A. W. Gouldner’s Enter Plato (New York: Basic Books, 1965) takes a fresh and illuminating approach by focusing on Plato’s contributions to social theory.


R. Kraut (ed.), Plato’s Republic : Critical Essays (Lanham: Row-man & Littlefield, 1997) is an excellent collection, including most of the individual pieces recommended below.

G. Fine (ed.), Plato (2 vols.), in the Oxford Readings in Philosophy series (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), is a collection of philosophical essays, many on or pertinent to the Republic, which have become classics. Especially useful for a student of theRepublic are the articles by J. Cooper and B. Williams on psychology; J. Annas, M. F. Burnyeat, R. Kraut, and C. C. W. Taylor on politics; T. Irwin and A. Nehamas on the theory of the Forms; G. Fine on knowledge and belief.

R. Kraut (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Plato (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992) has excellent topical essays to orient readers of Plato; particularly relevant to the Republic are the articles by R. Kraut (on the goodness of justice), I. Mueller (on the place of mathematics in education), and N. White (on the Forms). The volume also has an extensive bibliography.

G. Vlastos (ed.), Plato: A collection of critical essays (2 vols.) (New York: Doubleday, 1971) contains classics by an earlier generation. The most influential of these are D. Sachs’s challenge to the success of the central argument of the Republic, ‘A Fallacy in Plato’s Republic’, and responses by R. Demos, J. D. Mabbott, and G. Vlastos. The volumes present alternative viewpoints on other topics as well.

O. Hoffe (ed.), Platon, Politeia (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1997) is a volume of commissioned essays each on one substantial portion of the Republic ; although prepared for German students, this volume has a number of important essays in English.

N. D. Smith (ed.), Plato: Critical Assessments (London: Rout-ledge, 1998), in four volumes, is a (pricey) collection of influential pieces of Anglo-American Platonic scholarship of the second half of the twentieth century. Vol. 1 is on methods of interpretation; the three subsequent volumes are devoted, respectively, to early, middle and late dialogues.


(NB: These topics overlap a great deal in the Republic and in discussions of it.)

(i) Ethics

Two excellent overviews of the ethics of fifth- and fourth-century BC Greece to contextualize the Republic are:

A. W. H. Adkins, Merit and Responsibility: A Study in Greek Values (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1960) and

K. J. Dover, Greek Popular Morality in the Time of Plato and Aristotle (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1974, and Indianapolis: Hackett, 1994).

The best direct discussion of the variety of ethical topics in the Republic is T. Irwin, Plato’s Ethics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), which devotes nearly half its chapters to the Republic.

(ii) Psychology

Useful for background are:

D. B. Claus, Towards the Soul (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1981; Yale Classical Monographs Series 2) and

J. Bremmer, The Early Greek Concept of the Soul (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983).

An excellent article for explaining the mechanics and the point of the Republic’s account of the tri-partite soul is J. Cooper, ‘Plato’s Theory of Human Motivation’ in History of Philosophy Quarterly ; 1(1), pp. 321. (reprinted in G. Fine (1999), vol. 2).

C. Kahn, ‘Plato’s theory of desire’, Review of Metaphysics 41 (1987), pp. 77–103, brings out important differences between Plato’s psychology and contemporary belief-desire psychology.

Three very fine works on Plato’s city–soul analogy are:

B. Williams, ‘The Analogy of City and Soul in Plato’s Republic’ in E. N. Lee, A. P. D. Mourelatos and R. M. Rorty (eds.), Exegesis and Argument: Studies in Greek Philosophy Presented to Gregory Vlastos, pp. 196206 (Assen, Netherlands: van Gorcum & Co., 1973). This essay is reprinted in G. Fine (1999), vol. 2;

J. Lear, ‘Inside and Outside the Republic’, Phronesis 38 (1992), pp. 184215; and

G. R. F. Ferrari, City and Soul in Plato’s Republic [Lecturae Platonis, 3] (Sankt Augustin: Academia Verlag, 2002).

Any student of Plato will want to consult C. Bobonich, Plato’s Utopia Recast: His Later Ethics and Politics (Oxford, 2002), which explains the development of Plato’s moral psychology and political philosophy from the Republic to the Laws ; chapter 1 makes a compelling case for the view that the Republic’s moral psychology makes it impossible for ordinary citizens to be genuinely virtuous or happy.

(iii) Metaphysics and Epistemology

The best beginning for the Republic’s compressed and incomplete account of the theory of Forms is N. White, Plato on Knowledge and Reality (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1976), chapter 4.

Two more difficult, but also richly rewarding, studies are:

R. Patterson, Image and Reality in Plato’s Metaphysics (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1985) and

T. Penner, The Ascent from Nominalism: Some Existence Arguments in Plato’s Middle Dialogues (Dordrecht: Reidel, 1987).

An explanation of Plato’s (notorious) belief that Forms are superior to sensibles is given in A. Nehamas, ‘Plato on the Imperfection of the Sensible World’, American Philosophical Quarterly 12 (1975), pp. 105–17, reprinted in his Virtues of Authenticity(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999), pp. 138–58.

J. Moline, Plato’s Theory of Understanding (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1981) has an especially illuminating discussion of the relationship between the epistemology and psychology of the Republic (in chapter 3).

(iv) Politics

For background, M. Gagarin and P. Woodruff (tr.), Early Greek Political Thought from Homer to the Sophists (Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought, Cambridge, 1995) has an excellent selection of early political texts.

D. Dawson, Cities of the Gods: Communist Utopias in Greek Thought (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992) discusses the Republic in the tradition of Greek depictions of imaginary ideal societies from Hesiod to the Stoics.

Two books by classical historians that describe and explain the political specificities of the democratic Athens in which the Republic was written are:

W.R. Connor, New Politicians of Fifth-Century Athens (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1971) and

J. Ober, Mass and Elite in Democratic Athens: Rhetoric, Ideology, and the Power of the People (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989).

Ober’s later Political Dissent in Democratic Athens: Intellectual Critics of Popular Rule (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999) discusses Plato in great detail.

A useful overview of political topics in Plato’s dialogues is provided in G. Klosko, The Development of Plato’s Political Thought (New York: Methuen, 1986).

The work that has most influenced twentieth-century opinion about the politics of the Republic is K. R. Popper’s passionate attack on Plato, The Open Society and Its Enemies, vol. I: The Spell of Plato (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 5th edn, 1966).

Highlights of the debate around Popper’s Plato are collected in R. Bambrough, Plato, Popper, and Politics (Cambridge: Heffer, 1967).

A sober discussion of the issues in this debate is to be found in C. C. W. Taylor, ‘Plato’s Totalitarianism’, Polis 5 (1986), pp. 4–29, reprinted in G. Fine (1999), vol. 2, pp. 280–96.

Moving away from the debate generated by Popper, there are a number of articles that can help to deepen one’s understanding of the political thought of the Republic.

M. Schofield’s collected papers on ancient political thought, Saving the City (London: Routledge, 1999), includes an essay, ‘Platoon the Economy’, which shows the importance the Republic places on economic activity, both for the city and for justice and injustice.

On social justice, see G. Vlastos’s pieces, ‘The Theory of Social Justice in the Polis in Plato’s Republic’ in H. North (ed.), Interpretations of Plato: A Swarthmore Symposium (Mnemosyne Bibliotheca Classica Batava Supplementum, Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1977),pp. 1–40 and ‘The Rights of Persons in Plato’s Conception of the Foundations of Justice’ in H. Tristram Engle-hardt Jr. and Daniel Callahan (eds.), Morals, Science and Society (Hastings-on-Hudson, NY: The Hastings Center, 1978), pp. 172–201. For an alternative to Vlastos that brings out the utilitarian features of theRepublic’s conception of social justice, see R. Kamtekar, ‘Social Justice and Happiness in the Republic: Plato’s Two Principles’, History of Political Thought (vol. 22, 2001).

The Republic’s proposals for reforming the social roles of women and the family have received a great deal of attention since the 1970s. Excellent discussions include:

D. Wender, ‘Plato: Misogynist, Paedophile, and Feminist’ in Arethusa 6, no. 1 (1973), pp. 75–90;

J. Annas, ‘Plato’s Republic and Feminism’, Philosophy 51, (1976), pp. 307–21, reprinted in Ward (ed.), Feminism and Ancient Philosophy (New York and London, 1996), pp. 3– 12, as well as in G. Fine (1999), vol. 2, pp. 265–79;

E. Spelman, ‘Hairy Cobblers and Philosopher-Queens’ in her Inessential Woman: Problems of Exclusion in Feminist Thought (Boston: Beacon Press, 1988), pp. 19–36. Reprinted in N. Tuana (ed.), Feminist Interpretations of Plato (Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994), pp. 87–107;

S. M. Okin, ‘Philosopher Queens and Private Wives: Plato on Women and the Family’, Philosophy and Public Affairs 6 (1977), pp. 345–69;

H. Lesser, ‘Plato’s Feminism’ in Philosophy 54 (1979), pp. 113– 17; and

G. Vlastos, ‘Was Plato a Feminist?’, Times Literary Supplement issue 4485 (17–23 March 1989), pp. 276, 288–9, reprinted in N. Tuana (ed.), Feminist Interpretations of Plato (Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994), pp. 11–23.

There is a question taken by many commentators to be crucial for an internal evaluation of the Republic’s political philosophy: why should those whom Plato believes to be qualified to rule – the philosophers – agree to rule? A compelling response to this question is to be found in R. Kraut, ‘Return to the Cave: Republic 519–521’ in Proceedings of the Boston Area Colloquium in Ancient Philosophy, vol. 7 (1991), reprinted in G. Fine (1999), vol. 2.

Finally, the question of whether the Republic presents political proposals that Plato intended to be put into practice, or whether he only intended to put forward a psychological ideal, is discussed in M. F. Burnyeat, ‘Utopia and fantasy: the practicability of Plato’s ideally just city’ in J. Hopkins and A. Savile (eds.), Psychoanalysis, Mind and Art (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1992); this is reprinted in G. Fine (1999), vol. 2.

(v) Education, Culture, Art

For background, H. I. Marrou, The History of Education in Antiquity (tr. G. Lamb, New York: Sheed and Ward, 1956) is useful.

Brilliantly linking together the themes of education, culture and art across the Republic is M. F. Burnyeat, ‘Culture and Society in Plato’s Republic’, The Tanner Lectures in Human Values, 20 (1999), pp. 215–324.

Further articles on the education of the Guardians are:

C. Gill, ‘Plato and the Education of Character’, in Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 67 (1985), pp. 1–26 and

R. Kamtekar, ‘Imperfect Virtue’, Ancient Philosophy 18 (Fall 1998), pp. 315–37, which explains how, given the Guardians’ distinctive moral-psychological capacities, their education results in their possessing a type of virtue that is imperfect but genuine.

There is a small but useful collection of essays on Plato on topics in the arts in J. Moravcsik (ed.), Plato on Beauty, Wisdom and the Arts (a publication of the American Philosophical Quarterly, Totowa, New Jersey: Rowman and Littlefield, 1982).

Also of interest is A. Nehamas, ‘Plato and the Mass Media’, Monist 71 (1988), pp. 214–34, reprinted in his Virtues of Authenticity (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999), pp. 279–99.

I. Murdoch, The Fire and the Sun: Why Plato Banished the Artists (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977) is a beautifully written book by a novelist and philosopher grappling with Plato’s attitude towards the arts.

(vi) Higher education

On the role of mathematics in higher education, the best place to begin is I. Mueller, ‘Mathematical Method and Philosophic Truth’ in The Cambridge Companion to Plato, pp. 170–99.

Also well worth reading is M. F. Burnyeat, ‘Plato on Why Mathematics is Good for the Soul’ in T. Smiley (ed.), Mathematics and Necessity in the History of Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000).

T. Heath, A History of Greek Mathematics, in vol. 1 (Thales to Euclid), chapter 9, looks at all the mathematical passages and comments about mathematics in the Republic .

R. Robinson, Plato’s Earlier Dialectic (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1953) is an important discussion of philosophical method in Plato, including Socratic cross-examination, definition, hypothesis, analogy; three chapters are devoted to the Republic.

(vii) Alternative Interpretive Approaches

The readings suggested above are largely by scholars trained in the Anglo-American ‘analytic’ tradition. Readings in a ‘Straussian’ tradition include:

L. Strauss, The City and the Man (Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press, 1964), chapter 2, pp. 50–138;

A. Bloom, The Republic of Plato (New York: Basic Books, 1968), which contains an interpretive essay;

S. Bernadete, Socrates’ Second Sailing (Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press, 1989), which has a commentary;

and from the ‘Tubingen School’, T. Szlezak, Reading Plato (London: Routledge, 1999).

Note on the Translation

The translation is made from the Oxford text, except when noted. I have constantly consulted Adam’s edition (The Republic of Plato, CUP, second edition, 1965).

It is customary to refer to Plato’s works by reference to the pages of an early edition (that of Stephanus, 1578), each page being subdivided into approximately equal segments, designated a–e. These numbers and letters are printed in the margin of this translation, and in the Table of Contents the first number occurring in each Part is printed in brackets after the title.

This revision of the Penguin Republic owes much to the readers and critics of the previous version. To its readers who have bought enough copies to require a resetting of the type; to its critics for suggesting the lines which the revision should follow. Criticism can be summed up in the comment of a student who said to me – in effect, but she did not use the words – ‘I can’t use it as a crib’. It was not, of course, intended to be so used. Dr Rieu’s instructions to me were to aim at the ‘general reader’. Though this is not a very definite description, it clearly relegates to the background any use for more strictly academic purposes. As things have turned out, however, many of the readers of the translation have been students or others engaged in academic work, and for them the earlier version, with its many abbreviations and its lapses into paraphrase, was not entirely suitable. In this revision I have tried to bring the English more severely close to the Greek, though still aiming to produce what one critic called ‘a swift, natural version’; I have also tried to give the reader further help by expanding and revising notes and section headings. I cannot hope to have succeeded completely, and perhaps the main impression which the revision has left on me is that of the extreme difficulty of transferring the thought of even so lucid a writer as Plato from one language to another without some damage in the process. All too often I have been conscious of the alternatives open, and unsure whether I have chosen the most suitable.

Translator’s Acknowledgements

My thanks are particularly due to a number of individuals. To Dr T. J. Saunders for a long and helpful criticism; to Mr Thomas Gould for both criticism and correspondence; to Professor W.K.C. Guthrie for comments on a number of particular points and for help with the bibliography. But I owe a particular debt to Professor H. D. Rankin, then Professor of Classics at Monash University, who arranged a seminar on translating the Republic which was attended by members of the Classics and Philosophy Departments of Melbourne and Monash Universities. This brought home to me very clearly the difficulties of those who use the Republic for teaching pupils who have no Greek, and it led me in particular to further discussion and correspondence with Dr John Howes of the Department of Philosophy at Melbourne. Dr Howes not only gave me a copy of his duplicated notes on the Republic, which contained many useful emendations of my version, but has also been kind enough to correspond with me about the more difficult philosophical passages, as well as to discuss them in galley proof. These passages owe much to his acute critical sense, and to a cooperation from which we have both learned.

To all those named I owe my grateful thanks for help generously given.

March 1974


The Republic


SOCRATES, narrator.

GLAUCON and ADEIMANTUS, sole respondents in the dialogue after Book 1. Elder brothers of Plato.

POLEMARCHUS, a resident in Piraeus, the port of Athens: the dialogue takes place at his house.

CEPHALUS, a Syracusan by birth, Polemarchus’ father and apparently resident with him. Respondent in the early part of the dialogue until his place is taken by Polemarchus.

THRASYMACHUS OF CHALCEDON, sophist and orator, the main respondent in Book 1.

LYSIAS and EUTHYDEMUS, Polemarchus’ brothers. Lysias became an orator and speech-writer, noted for the purity of his style; a number of his speeches are still extant (e.g. ‘Against Eratosthenes’ in Greek Political Oratory , trans. A. N. W. Saunders: Penguin, 1970). NICERATUS, son of Nicias the Athenian statesman and general. CHARMANTIDES and CLEITOPHON, of whom we otherwise know nothing. The only one of this last group to speak in the dialogue is Cleitophon, and his is the briefest interjection (340).

The dramatic date of the dialogue is commonly supposed to be just before 420 BC, when Socrates would be about fifty.

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