Plato, Byzantium and the Italian Renaissance

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The ideas of Plato (429-347 BC) have exerted such an abiding influence on western philosophy and political thought that it is easy to forget that for many centuries, between about 500 and 1400, his works were almost unknown in western Europe. This was partly because very few people in Medieval Europe knew enough Greek to read Plato and even if they had, copies of the Dialogues were almost impossible to obtain, with only the Timaeus available in Latin translation. Scholars were therefore largely dependent on earlier Latin authors such as Cicero and St Augustine for a second-hand knowledge of Plato's ideas. It was the rediscovery of the Dialogues in the original during the Italian Renaissance of the fifteenth century that set western thought off on new paths, a rediscovery that was made possible by the preservation and transmission of Plato's work by scholars in Byzantium.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-16
JournalScottish Association of Teachers of History: History Teaching Review Year Book
Publication statusPublished - 2005


  • Plato
  • Byzantium
  • philosophy
  • Italy
  • fifteenth century
  • Greek

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