HIST 308 08 Plato and the Ancient Wisdom old

Plato and related writings: our example of ancient texts (and more) recovered and built upon

define, trace history of “Platonic thought” in west through the Renaissance

“ancient theology”

Pico, Ficino

   “Platonic tradition”

Plato’s  followers vs Plato

“modern” scholarship (after 1800)

Plato ca 420-347 BCE (Socrates 469-399)

Some tools and terms

    1. interpretation of texts: authorial intent; hermeneutics
      2. survival (or not) of texts and how: fortuna
      3. Who read them and how: reception
      4. Who used this text (and contents) to produce something new: appropriation

Plato’s own works: unique in written preservation


rebirth and learning

“The Academy” after Plato

ca 1 CE: “Middle Platonism” ex: Cicero


Hermetics: Alexandria  “Hermes Trismegistus”

Bible and the Greeks

Neoplatonists: 3rd c C.E.+

Plotinus;  Proclus (Athens);  Pseudo-Dionysius; Augustine (Christians)


post-classical traditions: Byzantines

Greek (Byzantine) scholars

Michael Psellus (11th c): Chaldaic Oracles (attrib. Zoroaster),  Hermetic writings

Michael Psellos & Michael VII (by Unknown Artist, Public Domain)

Michael Psellos with his student Emperor Michael VII

Gemistus Pletho (1355-1452) revival based on Proclus, Psellus

Greek gods as allegories

prisca theologia

Council of Florence 1438-39 with Emperor John VIII

Basilios Cardinal Bessarion (1403-72)

Justus van Gent and Pedro Berruguete


   Latin West

Cicero, Seneca

Chalcidius: commentary on Timaeus. Timaeus, Vatican manuscript



  Medieval and Renaissance Traditions in the Latin West

Medieval thought, including universities: Platonic influence

religious writing

Quadrivium: Boethius

Petrarch’s influence: read Plato!

Humanists after Petrarch: editing, translating Plato’s works

Republic, Laws, Gorgias, part of Phaedrus

Leonardo Bruni


Ficino and Florence’s Platonic Academy


Ficino, portrait bust by Andrea Ferrucci. Florence, Duomo

Medicean patronage

Council of Florence

Marsilio Ficino 1433-1499


Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1486-1490: Zachariah in the Temple [detail]: Marsilio Ficino, Cristoforo Landino, Angelo Poliziano and Demetrios Chalkondyles. Santa Maria Novella, Tornabuoni Chapel

1456: began study of Greek

1462: Cosimo de’ Medici: house at Careggi: translations

1463 translation of Hermetic corpus


1468 finished trans of Plato (ms only; pub 1484)

1473 ordained priest

1482 published Platonic Theology (begun 1469)


Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463-94)

canon law at Bologna, philosophy at Ferrara, Padua

Florence 1484

Paris 1485: Back to Florence 1486

900 Conclusiones; Oration is the introduction. Pub. Rome, 1486

Florence, writing, Ficino’s circle, Savonarola


Ficino Lettere 1563

Plato trans Ficino 1517 ed.

Ficino Epistola veritatis 1519 ed.