), one of the chief Athenian comic poets of the Old Comedy, was contemporary with Aristophanes, Phrynichus, Eupolis, and Pherecrates. (Suid. s. v.
) He is erroneously placed by Eusebius (Chron.
) and Syncellus (p. 247d.) as contemporary with Cratinus, at Ol. 81. 3, B. C. 454 ; whereas, his first exhibition was in Ol. 88, B. C. 427, as we learn from Cyril (ad v. Julian.
i. p. 13b.), whose testimony is confirmed by the above statement of Suidas, and by the fact that the comedies of Plato evidently partook somewhat of the character of the Middle Comedy, to which, in fact, some of the grammarians assign him.
He is mentioned by Marcellinus (Vit. Thuc.
p. xi. Bekker) as contemporary with Thucydides, who died in Ol. 97. 2, B. C. 391; but Plato must have lived a few years longer, as Plutarch quotes from him a passage which evidently refers to the appointment of the demagogue Agyrrhius as general of the army of Lesbos in Ol. 97. 3. (Plut. de Repub. gerend.
The period, therefore, during which Plato flourished was from B. C. 428 to at least B. C. 389.
Of the personal history of Plato nothing more is known, except that Suidas tells a story of his being so poor that he was obliged to write comedies for other persons (s. v. Ἀρκάδας μιμούμενοι
). Suidas founds this statement on a passage of the Peisander
of Plato, in which the poet alludes to his labouring for others : but the story of his poverty is plainly nothing more than an arbitrary conjecture, made to explain the passage, the true meaning of which, no doubt, is that Plato, like Aristophanes, exhibited some of his plays in the names of other persons, but was naturally anxious to claim the merit of them for himself when they had succeeded, and that he did so in the Parabasis of the Peisander,
as Aristophanes does in the Parabasis of the Clouds.
(See the full discussion of this subject uiider PHILONIDES.) The form in which the article Ἀρκάδας μιμούμενος
is given by Arsenius (Violet.
ed. Walz, p. 76), completely confirms this interpretation.
Plato ranked among the very best poets of the Old Comedy. From the expressions of the grammarians, and from the large number of fragments which are preserved, it is evident that his plays were only second in popularity to those of Aristophanes. Suidas and other grammarians speak of him as λαμπρὸς τὸν χαρακτῆρα.
Purity of language, refined sharpness of wit, and a combination of the vigour of the Old Comedy with the greater elegance of the Middle and the New, were his chief characteristics. Though many of his plays had no political reference at all, yet it is evident that he kept up to the spirit of the Old Comedy in his attacks on the corruptions and corrupt persons of his age; for he is charged by Dio Chrysostom with vituperation (Orat.
xxxiii. p. 4, Reiske), a curious charge truly to bring against a professed satirist ! Among the chief objects of his attacks were the demagogues Cleon, Hyperbolus, Cleophon, and Agyrrhius, the dithyrambic poet Cinesias, the general Leagrus, and the orators Cephalus and Archinus; for, like Aristophanes, he esteemed the art of rhetoric one of the worst sources of mischief to the commonwealth.
The mutual attacks of Plato and Aristophanes must be taken as a proof of the real respect which they felt for each other's talents.
As an example of one of these attacks, Plato, like Eupolis, east great ridicule upon Aristophanel's colossal image of Peace. (Schol. Plat.
p. 331, Bekker.)
Plato seems to have been one of the most diligent of the old comic poets.
The number of his dramas is stated at 28 by the anonymous writer on Comedy (p. xxxiv.), and by Suidas, who, however, proceeds to enumerate 30 titles. Of these, the Λάκωνες
were only editions of the same play, which reduces the number to 29.
There is, however, one to be added, which is not mentioned by Suidas, the Ἀμφιάρεως
The following is the list of Suidas, as corrected by Meineke:
The following dates of his plays are known : the Cleophon
gained the third prize in Ol. 93. 4, B. C. 405, when Aristophanes was first with the Frogs,
and Phrynichus second with the Muses ;
was exhibited in Ol. 97. 2, B. C. 391 (Schol. in Aristoph. Plut.
179); the Peisander
about Ol. 89, B. C. 423; the Perialges
a little later; the Hyperbolus
about Ol. 91, B. C. 415; the Presbeis
about Ol. 97, B. C. 392. The Laius
seems to have been one of the latest of his plays.
It has been already stated that some grammarians assign Plato to the Middle Comedy; and it is evident that several of the above titles belong to that species. Some even mention Plato as a poet of the New Comedy. (Atlen. iii. p. 103c., vii. p. 279a.) Hence a few modern scholars have supposed a second Plato, a poet of the New Comedy, who lived after Epicuruis. But Diogenes Laertius only mentions one comic poet of the name, and there is no good evidence that there was any other.
The ancient grammarians also frequently make a confusion, in their references, between Plato, the comlic poet, and Plato the philosopher.
Meineke, Frag. Com. Graec. vol. i. pp. 160-196, vol. ii. pp 615-697
; Editio Minor, 1847, 1 vol. in 2 pts. 8vo., pp. 357-401.
Bergk, Comment. de Reliq. Com. Alt. Ant.
lib. 2. c.6, pp. 381, &c.; C. G. Cobet, Observations Crilicae
in Platonis Comici Reliquias,
Amst. 1840, 8vo.)
Other literary figures named Plato
Several other literary persons of this name are mentioned by Fabricius (Bibl. Graec.
vol. iii. p. 57, note), but none of them are of sufficient importance to require mention here.