Category: Plato in 80 entries

Plato in ancient art

The image of Plato is reflected in a number of Roman copies of sculptures, that their prototype is dated in the mid- 4th century B.C. From 3rd century A.D. historian Diogenes Laertius we are informed that Mithridates the Persian set up a statue of Plato in the Academy and inscribed on it: "Mithridates the Persian, son of Orontobates, dedicated to the Muses this portrait of Plato, made by Silanion". (3.25 and 3.28)

The image we have today for this work of Silanion is perhaps best reflected in the Roman copy of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, which is exposed in the Glyptothek of Munich. The portrait is distinguished by its characteristic broad forehead, eyes-close to one another- and the serious contemplative expression. The philosopher is represented in mature age, but not old. His hair is rather short, tufts are arranged symmetrically above and around the forehead and the beard is quite long for a man of his age. Ephippos (4th-century B.C. contemporary of Alexander the Great), as quoted by Athenaios (11.509 c-d), had stated that one of Plato's pupils had "well-trimmed hair and a long beard," a hairstyle that is consistent with portraits of Plato.

The portrait of Plato lacks the typical conventions of philosophers’ portraits- as the type was formed in the 3rd century. B.C., but rather reflects the image of a noble Athenian citizen.

About the same impression for the image of Plato we shape from other Roman copies as well, as the inscribed herm in the Berlin Museum with the very pronounced beard arranged in long strands, also in the herm (erroneously inscribed as Zeno) in Museum Pio-Clemente in the Vatican, and in a bronze bust in State Art Collections of Kassel.

Author: Konstantinos Lazaridis
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