Plato (427 BC - 347 BC)
He was born in 427 BC in Athens or Aegina, to a prominent and wealthy Athenian family. Plato met Socrates when he was 20 years old and remained at his side until Socrates’ death in 399 BC. After the execution of Socrates, Plato remained in Athens for three years, and then went to Megara. Afterwards, he returned to Athens and committed himself to writing philosophical texts for the following ten years. It is also said that he then visited Egypt and Cyrene, and it is certain that he traveled to Sicily and Southern Italy. He went to Taranto in 387 BC, where he was introduced to the Pythagoreans and their philosophical thoughts which marked him deeply.
After returning to Athens, he founded his famous philosophical school, the Academy, around 387 BC. Twenty years later, the new king of Syracuse invited him to his court, which he accepted. However, in 366 BC, he had a dispute with the other advisors of the king. He eventually left Syracuse in 361 BC and returned to Athens, where he wrote philosophical texts till the end of his life.
All of his works but for two have been written in the form of dialogue. Central figure in all of the dialogues (except one) is Socrates, while Plato never mentions himself. All dialogues are also named after historical figures. The history of philosophy up to Cicero is definitely influenced by Plato’s works, either supporting or condemning his teachings. His student, Aristotle, also highly influential, eventually made part of his work a response to the Platonic ideas. The Academy of Plato, which was erected in 387 BC, continued to flourish up to the first century BC, but during the Hellenistic period, it had turned into a school of Skeptics. During the Roman period, there was a revival of the platonic philosophy, and eventually became the new movement of Neo – Platonism, having a rather idealistic and mystic character. Moreover, due to the religious unrest within the Roman Empire and the gradual spread of Christianity in the Mediterranean, all supporters of the Greco – Roman religion and the Greek Mysticism were brought together under Neo – Platonism. Neo – Platonism survived throughout the Middle Ages in underground places and mystic movements, until it was once again brought to light during the Renaissance.