The Ancient Library

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On this page: Piscina – Pistor – Pithoegia – Pithos – Pittheus – Pityocamptes – Planipes – Plato



ally found in Cicero, Ad Atticum xv 166, and its opposite, mggalogrdphta, in Vitru-vius, vii 4 § 4.]

Piscina (fish-pond). A pool or basin of water in Roman bath-rooms. (See baths.)

Pistor. The Roman baker. (See bakers and baking.)

Plthffigla. The first day of the festival of the Anthesteria. (See dionysia.)

FIthos (Greek). A Greek wine-jar of earthenware, with a wide mouth and a close-fitting lid. (See vessels.)

Pittheus. King of Trcezen, father of jEthra, the mother of Theseus (q.v.).

PItyocamptes (Greek, " pine-bender "), a name applied to the robber Sims (q.v.).

Planlpes. See mime.

Plato (Or. Platun), who shares with Aristotle the first place among the philo­sophers of antiquity, was born at Athens 428 b.c. (according to the story, on the 21st of May, the birthday of Apollo). His father, Ariston, traced his descent from king Codrus; his mother, Perictione, belonged to the same family as Solon. Originally called after his grandfather AristScles, he afterwards


(Gem, Paris.)

obtained the name of Plato (said to have been given by Socrates) either from the breadth of his shoulders or from the ample flow of his speech. His youth falls in the time of the Peloponnesian War, when Athens, though already entering on the decline of its political greatness, was still distinguished by the greatest activity in all intellectual paths. He had an education befitting his rank and including, according to Athenian custom, both gymnastic and musical cul­ture ; but from the first he consistently held aloof from public life, in spite of the nume­rous advantages which his birth and con­nexions would have insured him in such a career. Critias, for instance, who was afterwards the leader of the Thirty, was his mother's cousin. After at first devoting

himself to poetical studies, and himself com­posing poetry, he soon took up philosophy. In this subject he is said to have received the instructions of Cratylus, a follower of Heraclitus. At the age of twenty he entered the circle of Socrates' disciples, and soon

j took a prominent position among them. In 399, after Socrates' death (at which he was prevented by illness from being present), he went to Megara, to his old fellow disciple Eucltdes, and thence is said to have travelled to Gyrene and Egypt. He certainly spent some time in Magna Grsecia with the Pythagoreans, Archytas of Tarentum and Timseus of Locri, and thence visited Syra­cuse on the invitation of the elder Diony-sius. His strong independence, however, and his intimate friendship with Dionysius' brother-in-law, the noble Dion, soon drew upon him the mistrust of the tyrant. The story relates that he was sold as a slave into ^Egina by order of Dionysius, and ransomed by a friend. Returning to Athens about 388, he established in a garden near the Academy (a gymnasium so named after the hero Academus), in the north-west part of the city, a philosophical school, over which he presided for forty years. Here he lived unmarried, taking no part in the affairs of State, but devoting his energies exclusively to the pursuit of knowledge, interrupted only by two journeys to Sicily. The first of these he undertook in 367, on the accession of the younger Dionysius, in order, in conjunction with Dion, to win the young ruler to the cause of philosophy and induce him to convert the tyranny into a constitutionally organized monarchy. This attempt completely failed; and the only result was the banishment of Dion. His second journey was in 362. His object was to reconcile Dionysius with Dion, but in this he was equally unsuccessful; in fact, his own life was in danger, and he was only saved by the intercession of Archytas of Tarentum. However, the accounts of these last two journeys are little to be depended upon.

Besides the narrower circle of his imme­diate pupils—among whom the most cele­brated are Aristotle, Speusippus, his sister's

i son, and Xenocrates,—the Academy was also frequented by a large number of educated men, and even women. It is said that Plato's advice in political matters was asked, not only by statesmen at home, but even by foreign States. His teaching was given partly in the shape of informal conversation,

! partly in consecutive and systematic lec­tures on philosophical subjects. Even to

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All non-public domain material, including introductions, markup, and OCR © 2005 Tim Spalding.