his release by writing against the Latins—in such a way, however, that some, as Cardinal Bessarion, believe he was insincere. He left a life of Æsop full of absurd stories, and a collection of fables in Æsop's name, but probably written by himself. He is best known for his edition of the Anthology, a collection of Greek epigrams, made originally by Constantinus Cephalas, and first printed at Florence in 1494. He translated Ovid's Metamorphoses into Greek prose, and Cæsar's Commentaries, although this last is doubtful He also wrote a letter to the Emperor Johannes Palæologus, and some other works. He has no merit as a writer. It is unknown where he died, but Vossius says he was living in 1370.—B. H. C.
PLATINA, Bartolommeo (family name, Sacchi), born in 1421 in Piadena (Latin, Platina), a village between Cremona and Mantua; died of the plague 21st September, 1481. Of obscure family, Sacchi served as a soldier in his youth under Francesco Sforza. Afterwards taking a turn to letters he came to Rome towards 1460, under the patronage of Cardinal Francesco Gonzaga, entered holy orders, and was enrolled by Pope Pius II. in his new college of Abbreviators. The accession of the next pope, Paul II. (1464), was calamitous to Platina. His office was abolished in 1465, and himself imprisoned for four months for a somewhat seditious remonstrance; and in 1468, being a member of the Roman Academy of Pomponius Lætus, he shared the ruin of that body and again suffered imprisonment, lasting for a year, and torture, upon charges apparently very trumpery, of heresy and conspiracy. Sixtus IV., succeeding in 1471, made Platina librarian of the Vatican, and he ranked among the foremost men of letters of his age, bearing also a high moral character. His numerous works, all in Latin, are treatises, moral, sanitary, &c., and histories, the chief being the "Lives of the Popes, from St. Peter to Paul II.," inclusive, 1479, written on the whole with laudable force and elegance, critical acumen, and often merited severity.—W. M. R.
PLATO, the most celebrated philosopher of antiquity, was born at Athens, or, by some accounts, in the neighbouring island of Ægina, in 429 B.C., the year in which the great Athenian statesman Pericles died. His lineage was ancient and illustrious, ascending on his father's side to Codrus, and on his mother's to Solon. His original name, Aristocles, was changed into Plato (πλατύς, broad) either on account of the breadth of his chest or the comprehensiveness of his genius. Fable threw her marvels around his infancy. While his father and mother were sacrificing to the nymphs and graces on Mount Hymettus, and their child was sleeping in a bower of myrtles, a swarm of bees are said to have alighted harmlessly on his lips—an ingenious fancy suggested, we may suppose, by the murmuring sweetness of his style. His youth and early manhood were coincident with his country's decline. The unfortunate expedition of the Athenians against Sicily took place in 415 B.C., and Athens never recovered her position as the head of the Greek states after this misdirected enterprise. Its disastrous effects, combined with the unprosperous issue of the Peloponnesian war, seems to have given Plato a strong distaste for public life, to the highest offices of which his rank and talents might have entitled him to aspire. He saw his country now reaping the fruits sown by the rule of an unbridled democracy, and the self-seeking morality of the sophists; and turning away from political strife he devoted himself to philosophy, and to the construction of that ideal city which is not made by the private passions of men, but "is founded in reason, although it exists nowhere on the earth" (Republic, p. 692). This, however, was the work of his later years.
At the age of twenty Plato made the acquaintance of Socrates, an event too remarkable not to be embellished by marvellous accompaniments. Socrates dreamt that a young swan came flying towards him from an altar in the groves of Academus, and after resting on his bosom soared up into the clouds, pouring forth strains which ravished the souls both of gods and men. The next day Plato was introduced to him, when he immediately recognized in him the young swan of his dream. Thus did fiction, with a fine feeling of the truth, seek to give expression to the wonderful affinity which drew together these two gifted natures: for never were two minds connected by closer intellectual and moral sympathies. Each gave completion and symmetry to the other: without the magical influence of Socrates, Plato might have lived in vain; and without the penetrating insight of Plato, Socrates would have come down to us the excellent and sensible, but rather common-place moral preceptor depicted in the Memorabilia of Xenophon. His profounder lessons would not have found their way to posterity.
Plato passed about ten years in close companionship with Socrates. In 399 B.C. his great master had to drink the fatal cup, a catastrophe caused, not, as is usually said, by the machinations of the sophists, but rather by the intolerance of the conservative and orthodox party at Athens, which clung with unquestioning servility to the traditional beliefs, and were offended by the freedom of inquiry which the Socratic method of discussion had done so much to promote and extend. By the death of Socrates his disciples were dispersed. Plato sought refuge at Megara, a town situated about twenty-five miles from Athens. Here he was hospitably entertained by his friend Euclides, who had also been a disciple of Socrates, and who had founded a philosophical school at this place. It is probable that Plato composed several of his "Dialogues" at Megara.
How long Plato remained at Megara is uncertain. It is also doubtful whether he revisited Athens, and taught there for some time before setting out on his travels. All that is known with certainty is, that during the ten years subsequent to the death of Socrates, he visited Egypt and Cyrene, where he studied geometry under the celebrated mathematician Theodorus; that he travelled into Southern Italy, attracted thither by the fame of the Pythagorean philosophy; and that he spent some time at the court of the Sicilian tyrant Dionysius. His moral and political counsels are said to have so much offended this despot's pride, that he shipped him off to be sold as a slave in the market at Ægina. He was bought by a Cyrenaic philosopher, Anniceris, who gave him his liberty, and generously restored him to Athens. Plato was about forty years of age when he returned to his native city. He established a philosophical school in the groves of Academus, an ancient hero to whom the ground formerly belonged, and who had presented it to the public for a gymnasium. Here he lived, and wrote, and lectured during a period of more than forty years, interrupted only by two short visits to Sicily. What again drew him thither after the bad treatment he had received, was probably the hope of being permitted by the younger Dionysius to attempt the realization of his ideal republic in the city of Syracuse. If so, his hopes were disappointed. Plato died at Athens in the eighty-second year of his age, 347 B.C.
The philosophy of Plato is usually and conveniently divided into Dialectic (or metaphysics). Physics, and Ethics. Dialectic is his peculiar contribution to science. In ethics he followed out the principles of Socrates; in physics he borrowed much from the older cosmogonies; but in dialectic he is eminently original, although here too the Socratic influences are discernible. Dialectic is the science of ideas. What then are ideas? These will be best understood if we first state the opinion which the theory of ideas was designed to correct or supplement; for it may be assumed as a general rule in philosophy, that every new doctrine has for its object the correction either of some antecedent scientific error, or of some natural oversight incident to ordinary thinking; from which it follows that to understand a new doctrine we must first understand the old opinion to which it is opposed. In this case the old opinion was the system which is aptly described by the one word "sensationalism." This scheme, which resolves all thought and knowledge into sensation, and represents man as essentially a sensational creature, has, in one form or another, found zealous advocates in every period of philosophy, and its plausibility recommends it to the natural sentiments of mankind. But if true, it levels all the higher pretensions of our nature, by leaving no essential distinction between human beings and animals. It robs man of reason as his peculiar endowment, and removes the foundations of morality. Hence, if this doctrine has been strongly supported, it has been no less strenuously impugned. And pre-eminent among its earliest opponents stands the philosopher whose opinions are the subject of this sketch. The purport of the Platonic theory is that, in the constitution of knowledge, sensation so far from being the whole is, in truth, a very insignificant part. Ideas, not sensations, are the light of our knowledge, as may perhaps be understood from the following plain illustration. I have, let me suppose, a sensation of red and a sensation of blue. I observe further, that the red and the blue resemble each other in being colours, and differ from each other in being different colours. But I have no sensation of this resemblance or of this difference. I have only sensations of the red and the blue; I have not the slightest sensation of their similarity or dissimilarity. These are pure ideas. But