Category: Works of Plato

Copies of Platonic works in Byzantium – manuscript tradition

The main features of the manuscript tradition of works by Plato (or works wrongly attributed to Plato) and by Plato’s commentators in Byzantium.

As is the case with almost all Ancient Greek writers, Plato’s work is known to us through Byzantine manuscript codices. The codices containing works of Plato, including codices of the 16th century, have been estimated at 263.

The oldest is the Parisinus gr. 1807, which is marked as A in the editions of Platonic texts. It is dated to the second half of the 9th century and contains the eighth and ninth tetralogies, as well as the spurious Platonic dialogues. The contents of the codex are numbered per book: the Clitophon carries the number 29 and the Axiochus – having meanwhile intervened, except works comprising of a single book, the ten books of the Republic and the twelve books of Laws – carries the number 64. This is therefore the second volume of a complete first Byzantine edition of Plato’s work, whose first volume is lost; the latter is nonetheless preserved indirectly, since it was, along with the Par. gr. 1807, the model of the codex Marcianus App. gr. IV 1 (marked as T) that Ephraim the Monk prepared during the second half of the 10th century; having copied the Menexenus which carries the number 28, Ephraim added the note “end of the 1st book”; he then began copying the Clitophon from the “2nd book”, i.e. from the Par. gr. 1807.

Through the handwriting and other codicological similarities the Par. gr. 1807 is linked to the manuscripts of the so-called ‘philosophical collection,’ which also includes manuscripts preserving works by Middle- and Neoplatonists: the Parisinus gr. 1962 (Alcinous, Didaskalikos), the Laurentianus plut. 80.9 and the Vaticanus gr. 2197 (Proclus, commentary on the Republic), the Parisinus Suppl. gr. 921 (Proclus, commentary on the Timaeus), the Parisinus gr. 2575 (scriptio inferior: Ammonius son of Hermias, commentary on Aristotle’s On interpretation), the Marcianus gr. 196 (Damascius, commentary on the Phaedo and commentary on the Philebus; Olympiodorus, commentary on the Gorgias, commentary on the Alcibiades I and commentary on the Phaedo), the Marcianus gr. 246 (Damascius, On the First Principles and commentary on the Parmenides) and the Marcianus gr. 226 (Simplicius, commentary on Aristotle’s Physics).

A different edition of Plato’s work is comprised by the codices Bodleianus Clarke 39 (marked as B), copied in 895 by John the Calligrapher for the scholar deacon Arethas (later Bishop of Caesarea), and Vaticanus gr. 1 (marked as O), which contains comments written in the margins probably by Arethas himself. The first codex includes tetralogies 1-6, while the second contains the ninth tetralogy with the exception of Minos, as well as the spurious dialogues; the second codex, however, is missing 23 quaternia, which contained probably the seventh and eighth tetralogies, as well as the Minos. An incomplete or poorly preserved copy of Arethas’ edition is also the codex Marcianus gr. 185 (marked as D; it contains tetralogies 1-4, the Clitophon and the Republic) of the 11th century.

Yet another edition of the 11th century is represented by the Vindobonensis Suppl. gr. 7 (marked as W; it contains tetralogies 1-7, but without keeping in all cases the usual order of the dialogues). The text of W is generally in accordance with the Platonic quotations of Michael Psellos.

From these first Byzantine versions derive, directly or indirectly, the numerous surviving Platonic manuscripts copied during the Palaeologian Period (1261-1453), which can sometimes be attributed to known Byzantine scholars. Worth mentioning here are the Marcianus gr. 194 (containing the Commentary on the Timaeus by Proclus), copied by George of Cyprus, later Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople under the name Gregory II (1283-1289), the Platonic codices Neapolitanus gr. 339 and Parisinus gr. 1810 by Byzantine philosopher George Pachymeres, the 14th century codices Laurentianus plut. 80.19 and Marciani gr. 188 and 189 bearing textual emendations and deletions by the hand of Pletho, the Marcianus gr. 184 which was copied by the calligrapher John Rosos at the behest of Cardinal Bessarion, and the Vaticanus gr. 1029 by John Argyropoulos. An exception is constituted by the important codex Vindobonensis Suppl. gr. 39 (marked as F), which is an apograph dated in the years 1280-1340 of a book of the 3rd or 4th century AD.

The platonic tetralogies

1sttetralogy

Euthyphro, Apology of Socrates, Crito, Phaedo

2ndtetralogy

Cratylus, Theaetetus, Sophist, Stateman

3rdtetralogy

Parmenides, Philebus, Symposium, Phaedrus

4thtetralogy

Alcibiades I, Alcibiades II, Hipparchus, Rival Lovers

5thtetralogy

Theages, Charmides, Laches, Lysis

6thtetralogy

Euthydemus, Protagoras, Gorgias, Meno

7thtetralogy

Hippias Major, Hippias Minor, Ion, Menexenus

8thtetralogy

Clitophon, Republic, Timaeus, Critias

9thtetralogy &

spurious dialogues

Μinos, Laws, Εpinomis, Letters

Definitions, On Justice, On Virtue, Demodocus, Sisyphus, Halcyon, Εryxias, Αxiochus

Author: Pantelis Golitsis
  • Brockmann, C. Die handschriftliche Überlieferung von Platons Symposion. Wiesbaden, 1992.
  • Irigoin, JIrigoin, J. ed. . Tradition et critique des textes grecs. Paris, 1997.
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