Greek philosopher

Born: Athens, about 427 B.C.

Died: Athens, 347 B.C.


Plato was born an Athenian aristocrat. He was nicknamed Platon(meaning "broad") at school because of his wide shoulders. He served as a soldier in early life. He was a follower of Socrates and the execution of the philosopher by the democrats in 399 BC, caused him to leave Athens, saying that until "kings were philosophers or philosophers were kings" things would not go well in the world.

He travelled for several years in Africa and Italy before returning to Athens in 387 BC where founded a school on ground that once belonged to a Greek named Academus. The school came to be called the Academy, and is considered to be the first ever university.

Plato was chiefly interested in philosophy and mathematics, and in a dialogue called Timaeus, he presented his scheme of the universe, based chiefly upon Pythagorean geometry. He decided that the heavens were based on perfection and that the perfectly round celestial spheres moved in perfect circles, a belief that persisted until the time of Kepler, and Galileo, some 2000 years later.

The philosophy of Plato extended well beyond his own lifetime, maintaining a strong influence on the thinking of the Christian Church throughout the Middle Ages. It was not until the thirteenth century that the views of Aristotle gained dominance.

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