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Frequently Asked Questions
"Could you tell me what was Plato's real name ?"
According to Alexander of Miletus quoted by Diogenes Laertius in his "Lives and Doctrines of Eminent Philosophers" (probably written toward the beginning of the IIIrd century A. D.), book III (Life of Plato), chapter 4, his name was Aristocles, son of Ariston, of the deme Collytus (the same tradition is found in several other late sources). Aristocles was the name of his grandfather : it was indeed customary in that time to give a boy the name of his grandfather (one example of this is found in Plato's dialogue called Laches, in which two characters, Lysimachus and Melesias, worry about the kind of education they should give their sons, whom Lysimachus present as Thucydides, son of Melesias, and Aristides, his own son, both named after their grandfathers, see Laches, 179a).
His family, on his father's side, was said to trace his ancestry back to Codrus, the last "legendary" king of Athens. His mother was called Perictionè and was of the family of Critias, one of the leaders of the Thirty Tyrants who took power in Athens after its defeat in 404 B. C. in the Peloponnesian war, and also of Solon, one of the great legislators of Athens in the previous century, who was listed among the Seven Wise Men of Ancient Greece.
Diogenes goes on to say that the surname "Plato" was given him by one of his teachers in gymnastic, a certain Ariston of Argos, "because of his robust figure", adding "but others affirm that he got the name Plato from the breadth (platutèta) of his style, or from the breadth (platus) of his forehead" : indeed, platus in Greek means "wide, broad, broad-shouldered, widespread, etc.".
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