Plato: “Allegory of the Cave”

(ca. 380 BCE)

Context

The “Allegory of the Cave” of Plato's Republic was written during a dynamic and important time in Greek political and cultural history as well as in Plato's own life. Plato wrote The Republic, along with his other middle dialogues, sometime between 380 and 360 BCE. By this time his mentor, Socrates, had been dead for at least nineteen years, and Plato had established his own school, the Academy (383 BCE), and had traveled over a large extent of the Mediterranean world, encountering the ideas of the Pythagoreans and various other philosophical schools.

Politically and militarily, Athens for most of Plato's life was in a state of turmoil and decline. Athenians had enjoyed wealth and influence following the Greco-Persian Wars (497–479 BCE) as heads of the Delian League, which was established in about 477 BCE, a half century before Plato's birth. By Plato's twenties, Athens was at last defeated by Sparta in the Peloponnesian War (431–404 BCE). According to the terms of...

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Bust of Socrates (Yale University Art Gallery)

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