Plato laid the foundations for modern Western Culture. He was a great man who studied mathematics and wrote philosophical dialogs, he was a student of Socrates and a mentor to Aristotle. He was also the founder of the academy of Athens, which was the very first institution of higher learning. He was quite a personality and his merits are significant. One can see Plato's brilliance by reading some of his Socratic dialogs; even though it is not known how much they were used during his time, these days his written works are used to teach philosophy, logic, and a variety of other subjects.
Birth and Early Life
Although his exact birth date is not known, many people think that Plato was born in Athens somewhere around 424 BC, his father Ariston supposedly traced his descent down from the King of Athens; His mother's name was Perictione, they had three other children, two sons and a daughter.
There are stories about how Plato's mother came to be pregnant by a virginal conception. Ariston had attempted to force his intention on Perictione and failed, it was then when the Greek god Apollo appeared to him and Ariston decided to leave the woman alone. There is another legend that states that bees came to Plato when he was an infant and rested there, supposedly giving him the sweet style that he had in philosophy.
His father, Ariston, died when Plato was just a child; even though the exact date of his death is not known, it was then that his mother married her mother's brother (her uncle)...this man had served in the Persian court and was a friend to the leader of the democratic faction in Athens, the result of this marriage was a son by the name of Antiphon.
Education and Contributions
You can find Plato's family in his dialogs as he was very proud of his family and often named characters after them. This not only helps to reconstruct his family tree, but to also get a look at what he really felt about them. As a boy, he was a very modest but intelligent child. He was hardworking and on top of that, he loved to study. He was taught grammar, music, and gymnastics by the best teachers of the time. He had the highest that education could offer.
During his lifetime, he traveled to Italy, Egypt, and Cyrene, it was when he was around the age of forty that he returned to Athens and started one of the earliest organized schools in the western civilization; this school went on for many years and taught many people (including Aristotle), but in 529 AD it was closed down by Justinian I who saw it as a threat to Christianity. Throughout his later life Plato was involved in the politics of Syracuse.
Plato is best known for his dialogs, but the one event that brings all of his many dialogs together is the trial of Socrates. Socrates was accused of not believing in the gods and of corrupting the youth so he defended himself saying that slander will be the cause of his demise and that it was the oracle at Delphi that sent him on a quest. It was Socrates on this quest attempting to solve the riddle that put him at odds with his fellow man, Socrates went on to say that the legal charges were false.
Plato used his dialog to teach people and to let the world know what his views were and for the most part he succeeded in that respect.