The Republic

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The Republic Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Plato's The Republic. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Plato

Plato's father Ariston descended from Codrus, the last King of Athens, and his mother Perictione had ties to Solon, one of the creators of the Athenian Constitution. Plato's brothers Glaucon and Adeimantus briefly appear in the Republic. Plato planned a political career until 404 BC, when Athens became controlled by an Oligarchy of wealthy men. After Athens was restored to democracy in 403 BC, Plato again considered politics until Socrates, Plato's mentor, was accused of heresy and put to death in 399 BC. Plato subsequently abandoned politics for philosophy. He eventually founded the Academy, a philosophy school.
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Historical Context of The Republic

The Peloponnesian war between Sparta and Athens took place from 431–408 BC. Plato probably saw military service during the course of the war. Athens lost, and the war had a profound affect on politics and philosophy. The rise of democracy as a form of government made the ability to speak and debate more important. The Sophists, nomadic teachers who taught the arts of rhetoric to anyone who could pay them, became influential. The Sophists were particularly popular during Athens' brief democracy when the ability to persuade large groups of people became more important than speaking the truth.

Other Books Related to The Republic

Plato wrote a number of other works in the form of dialogues, including The Symposium, Phaedrus, and Crito. The Republic is from the latter part of Plato's career. Plato's ideas regarding the ideal city influenced More's Utopia, in which More describes the mythical "perfect place," (Utopia literally means "no place") based on the recollections of a traveler. Utopia's customs and government were partly inspired by Plato's ideal city in the Republic.
Key Facts about The Republic
  • Full Title: Republic
  • When Published: First transcribed circa fourth century BC.
  • Literary Period: Classical
  • Genre: Philosophical dialogues
  • Setting: The house of Cephalus, in the Piraeus, or port section of Athens, Greece, around the 5th century BC.
  • Antagonist: Thrasymachus and other debaters
  • Point of View: First Person (Socrates is the narrator)

Extra Credit for The Republic

The Socratic Method. The method Plato has Socrates use in Republic, that is, asking leading questions that provoke discussion and encourage his audience to follow his train of thought until they arrive at the solution he favors, is called in Greek elenchus, and in English the "Socratic method." You can see the Socratic method particularly clearly in Book I of Republic, but Plato also uses it in many of his earlier works.

Aristotle's Teacher. Just as Plato is the most famous follower of Socrates, Aristotle is the most famous of Plato's students. Other followers include the Neo-Platonists, philosophers like Plotinus and Proclus who took Plato's ideas about the nature of reality and his theory of forms and developed them even further. The Neo-Platonists influenced Saint Augustine, one of the fathers of the early Christian Church.