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Los Grandes Filósofos

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Plato was probably born in 427 BC, and died around 347 BC, aged about 80. But the earlier extant biographies of him we may read have been written hundreds of years after his death: that of Apuleius, sometime during the second century AD, and that of Diogenes Lærtius, in his Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, no earlier than the third century AD. And these bear very little resemblance with what we expect from a biography nowadays. To make things worse, Plato almost never talks about himself in his dialogues (he does so only twice, once in the Apology and once in the Phædo, each time in connection with the trial and death of Socrates). But, if we accept the authenticity of the VIIth Letter (which I do), we have there the closest thing to an autobiography we can dream of owing to the scarcity of our sources, though quite limited in scope despite its late date in Plato's life (it could not have been written before Dion's assassination in 354 BC, to which it refers, that is, at a time Plato was over 70). Accordingly, we must bear in mind that most of what we read on Plato's life and chronology is plain guess, hypotheses built on top of hypotheses by generations of scholars, starting with those ancient writers whose extant works constitute our primary sources. Things being so, what can be said about Plato's life? We may be pretty confident that he was born shortly after Pericles' death, in one of the noblest families of Athens. He (supposedly) descended from Codrus, the last legendary king of Athens by his father, and was related to Solon by his mother. Among his close relatives were Critias and Charmides, famed for their infamous participation in the government of the Thirty Tyrants in 404 BC. One of the most important events in his life was no doubt his encounter, sometime in his youth, with Socrates, of which he became a "follower" until Socrates' trial and death in 399 BC. Whether he had other teachers during his youth, who they were and what he learned from them, we don't know for sure. But we can see from his dialogues that he knew quite well the doctrines of most of the


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