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Plato (c.427-c.347 BC) – Athenian philosopher
Plato was the celebrated pupil of Socrates (p. 19). He had been born into an aristocratic family and had served in the army against the Spartans. He studied under Socrates and wrote down accounts of their discussions, which was as well, for Socrates left no works himself. When the Master, whom he loved so greatly, was put to death, Plato left Athens in disgust and travelled to many parts of the Near East, probably visiting schools of philosophy. Then he came back in 387 and founded his own school, known as the Academy, which was to develop into a university – possibly the first ever in world history.
During this time he produced a number of learned books. Perhaps the best known was The Republic, a dialogue (or discussion) in which his great master was represented as the leader. This book was an attempt to outline an ideal state, how best to run a government, how individuals should behave towards one another. It was not unlike the Analects of Confucius (p. 14) although it is very unlikely that Plato would have been aware of the existence of the Chinese thinker. Plato died at the age of about 80.