The Ancient Library

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On this page: Plaustrum – Plautus



his old age his activity was unwearied ; and he was carried off by an easy death (it is said, while actually engaged in composition), in the eighty-first year of his life (348)! He was buried in the neighbourhood of the Academy, where his tomb still existed in the 2nd century a.d. His plot of land re­mained nearly a thousand years in the possession of the Platonic school.

As works of Plato, thirty-six writings in fifty-six books (the thirteen letters being reckoned as one), have been handed down to us. These were divided by Thrasyllus, a Neo-Pythagoreau of the time of Tiberius, into nine tetralogies, as follows : (1) Euthy-phro, Apology of Socrates, Onto, Phcedo. (2) Cratylus, Thea'tetus, SSphistes, POll-tlcus. (3) ParmenldSs, PMlebus, Sym-pOsnim, Phcedrus. (4) AlclbladSs I and II, Hipparchiis, Antfrastte. (5) Thlagfs, Charmldes, Laches, Lysis. (6) Euthy-demus, Protagoras, Gorgias, Mlno. (7) HippUs I and II, Ion, Afgnexlnus. (8) Clltopho, Republic (ten books), Tlmceus, Crttias. (9) Minos, Laws (twelve books), Eptnomis, Letters. Besides these, eight other writings bear his name ; but these were marked as spurious even in ancient times. Of the genuine writings of Plato none have been lost, owing to the fact that the study of them was kept up without a break through all the intervening centuries; but a number of the above-mentioned are of more or less doubtful authenticity, though there is not in all cases sufficient evidence to prove their spuriousness. Besides the Letters and the Epinomis (an appendix to the Laws composed by Plato's pupil, Phi-lippus of Opus), the writings of the fourth tetralogy as well as the Theages, the Minos, and the Clltopho, are reckoned as undoubt­edly spurious. Of questionable genuineness also is a series of epigrams which has been handed down under Plato's name.

Manyattempts have been made to arrange the Platonic writings in the order of time, hut unanimity on the subject has never been attained. An old, though disputed, tradi­tion reckons the Phcedrus as the first, while the Laws, which is said to have been pub­lished by the aforesaid Philippus after the author's death, are generally acknowledged to be the last; the Republic also belongs, at any rate, to the later writings.

The writings of Plato are among the greatest productions, not only of Greek literature, but of the literature of the world. They are equally admirable in matter and i in form, combining, as they do, fulness and

depth of thought with the highest mastery of style, while at the same time they are penetrated by the noblest spirit. The form is throughout that of dialogue ; and in the dialogues Plato himself never appears as a speaker, but he makes his master, Socrates, the interpreter of his views. The dramatic setting and execution, the delineation of the characters, the language, perfectly adjusted to the personality of the speakers and to the circumstances supposed, — now faithfully reproducing the simple manner of expression usual in conversation, now giving clear expression to the thought with all the incision of dialectics, now rising to poetic elevation,—all show the most consummate art and make it doubtful, whether in Plato we should rather admire the artist and the poet, or the philosopher. On his teaching and his school, see philosophy. Plaustrum. A wagon. (See chariots.) Plautns (Titus Maccius). The greatest of the Roman comic poets, born 254 b.c. at Sarsina in Umbria, of humble extraction. Having earned some money by finding em­ployment at Rome among workmen engaged by persons who gave theatrical representa­tions, he set up a business outside the city; but in this undertaking he lost his property. Returning to Rome, he fell into such poverty that he was obliged to take service with a miller, and earn wages by turning a hand-mill. It was here that he began to write comedies in verse, and in later times three pieces were still known, which he was said to have composed while thus employed. He continued actively writing to an extreme old age, and died in 184 b.c.

His productivity must have been alto­gether extraordinary, even if a considerable portion of the 130 pieces which were known by the ancients under his name, were not really his work; for not only were the pieces of a certain Plautius reckoned as his, on ac­count of the similarity of name, but numerous comedies by forgotten poets, who worked in his style, were generally ascribed to him as the most popular of poets. Not only was he a favourite with the public and long remained so (even in Cicero's time pieces by him were put upon the stage), but he also early attracted the interest of scholars, to whom he offered a rich material for study in the departments of philology, criticism, and the history of literature. Special and peculiar attention was paid to him by Varro, who composed several works about him and established the claims of 21 come­dies as undisputedly genuine. Of these

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