chapter  1
42 Pages

Plato and the Republic

The broad historical context to Plato’s life, which is also the context essential to understanding the Republic, includes the Athenian Golden Age, a fifty-year period of military power and cultural activity; democratic government, which was established in Athens around 508 BC and only rarely interrupted until after Plato’s death; the Sophists, and the philosopher Socrates who was sometimes mistaken for a Sophist, more often his activity in contradistinction to theirs; and the philosophical tradition that investigated the universe and reality in the centuries before Socrates. This chapter will sketch Plato’s Athens as the scene of

these phenomena and movements, then situate Plato in the Athenian context. Then it will be possible to say a few words about the Platonic art of writing in general and specifically about what modern readers consider his greatest work, the Republic.