Historical Background of Plato

One of the most inspired and dominant philosophers in Western philosophy is Plato, a protégé of Socrates. His footprints still stand prominently in the sand of philosophy today. Read on to know more about this eminent philosopher.

Early Life of Plato

Plato was born around 428 BC, during the final years of the Golden Age of Pericles’ Athens. His both parents are from the noble lineage of Athens. He lost his father, Ariston when was just a child. Perictione, his mother, remarried after his father’s death to a politician named Pyrilampes. He grew up during the Peloponnesian War (431 – 404 BC) and the final defeat of Athens by Sparta. Plato studied philosophy, poetry and gymnastic under notable Athenian instructors. As a young boy, he was an ardent devotee of Socrates.

Adult Life

Plato’s writings led to the understanding of who Socrates was, but he left Athens after Socrates was forced to commit suicide. He travelled for 12 years to southern Italy, Sicily and Egypt studying with other philosophers, including Pythagoras.

About 387 BC, Plato returned to Athens at 40 years old and founded his philosophical school. The great philosopher also delivered lectures to students in his open-air Academy. Socrates never established a school, but his protégé Plato founded the Academy. The Academy was where Aristotle was taught at the age of 17 and lectured much later. Plato died in Athens and was believed to have been buried on the Academy grounds.

Philosophical Beliefs

Plato’s ideas are shown below:

  • Paternal and Fraternal Relationships: Plato is of the opinion that how a son turns out is the function of his father’s interest in that son. He held the father-son relationship in high esteem.
  • Metaphysics: Plato believed in the material world. He is of the opinion that the invisible world is the most intelligible.
  • Theory of Forms: This is also known as the Theory of Ideas. This theory states that the material world is not the real world but just an image of the real one.
  • The State: He believed that the ideal state has three structure: productive (workers), protective (warriors or guardians), and governing “rulers or philosophical kings)
  • Ethical Theory: He said virtue is knowledge and can be taught.


In the history of Western philosophy, Plato’s influence is monumental. The Academy he established for teaching philosophy thrived for over three centuries after his death. His impact extends to Jewish, Islamic and Christian philosophers. It will interest you to know that his ideologies aided the development of Christian theology.

Famous Quotations of Plato

  • “The true creator is necessity, which is the mother of invention.”
  • “Democracy is a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder, and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequals alike.”

Bottom Line

Plato is part of history either as a student of Socrates or as a teacher of Aristotle. He is who we can fondly call a beacon in the history of philosophy.

Photo Credit: Biography