Πολιτεία του Πλάτωνα [Plato’s Republic]


THURSDAYΠολιτείαWith this post I am plunging into Plato’s (c. 424-c. 347 B.C.) classic, The Republic (c. 380 B.C.), the Greek name of which is Πολιτεία (Politeia), a word which generally refers to those things pertaining to citizenship or government, but in Plato focuses more on “civil polity, the condition or constitution of a state,” or “a form of government” (from the Liddel-Scott-Jones [LSJ] intermediate lexicon, H.G. Liddell, R. Scott, H.S. Jones and R. McKenzie, eds., An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon, [Oxford, England, UK: At The Clarendon Press, 2001], 654). In Greek, Plato’s title is understood simply as “The State.” It came to be translated as “The Republic,” I am told, due to the influence of the Roman orator Cicero’s (106-43 B.C.) less influential Latin dialogue titled De re publica, in which he refers favorably to the “res publica” (“public affair”) of Plato and Socrates, apparently mistranslating the word πολιτεία (politeia). If he had instead used something like the more appropriate civitas (the “c” is hard in Latin) we would no doubt be calling this book by a different name. Plato’s preferred form of government, after all, was not the kind of representative democracy we refer to with the word “republic,” but a kind of nanny-state aristocracy headed by Solomonic philosopher-kings with souls of gold.

My copy of The Republic is the translation by W.H.D. Rouse, as found my old beat-up edition of The Great Dialogues of Plato, edited by Eric H. Warmington and Philip G. Rouse (New York, NY, USA and Scarborough, ON, Canada: A Mentor Book/New American Library, 1956). I will also happily avail myself of Paul Shorey’s translation as provided by the Perseus Digital Library (from volumes 5 and 6 of Plato in Twelve Volumes, [Cambridge, MA, USA and London, England, UK: Harvard University Press and William Heinemann Ltd., 1969]), as well as the Greek text and language helps from the same source.

While I have thus far not been able to locate a copy of the Perseus Digital Library’s Greek text (Platonis Opera,  John Burnet, ed., [Oxford, England, UK: Oxford University Press, 1903]) on Google Books, for those of you who may be interested, the 19th century three-volume edition edited by Benjamin Jowett and Lewis Campbell, Plato’s Republic: The Greek Text, (Oxford, England, UK: At the Clarendon Press, 1894), is available through the following links: Volume 1: Text, Volume 2: Essays, and Volume 3: Notes.

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