Socrates’ Dream-Bird

From Diogenes Laertius’ Lives of the Philosophers 3.5-7

“[Plato] learned his basic grammar at Dionysius’ school, which he also recalls in his dialogue the Lovers. He exercised at the wrestling school of Ariston the Argive which is where he was nicknamed ‘Platôn’ because of his fine body. Before, he was called Aristokles after his grandfather, according to Alexandros in his Diadokhai. There are some who claim he was named this because of the breadth [platutêta] of his interpretive ability or that it was because of the width of his forehead, as Neanthes claims. There are also those who say that he wrestled at the Isthmus, according to Dikaiarkhos too in the first book of his Lives. He is also said to have pursued a passion for painting; he wrote poetry, first dithyrambs, then lyric, and tragedy.

Plato had a strong voice, they claim, as Timotheus attests too in his book on Lives. It is reported that Socrates had a dream of holding a swan chick in his lap: after it grew wings it immediately flew away, uttering a sweet cry. On the next day, Plato joined him; and Socrates said that he was the bird.

Plato began philosophizing in the Akademia and then moved into a garden at Colonos, as Alexander records in his Successions, according to Herakleitos. When he was going to compete in tragedy, once he had heard Socrates in front of the Dionysian theater, he burned all his poems, saying “Hephaestos, come here, Plato needs you now…”


Καὶ ἐπαιδεύθη μὲν γράμματα παρὰ Διονυσίῳ, οὗ καὶ μνημονεύει ἐν τοῖς ᾿Αντερασταῖς (Amat. 132a). ἐγυμνάσατο δὲ παρὰ ᾿Αρίστωνι τῷ ᾿Αργείῳ παλαιστῇ· ἀφ’ οὗ καὶ Πλάτων διὰ τὴν εὐεξίαν μετωνομάσθη, πρότερον ᾿Αριστοκλῆς ἀπὸ τοῦ πάππου καλούμενος [ὄνομα], καθά φησιν ᾿Αλέξανδρος ἐν Διαδοχαῖς (FGrH

273 F 88). ἔνιοι δὲ διὰ τὴν πλατύτητα τῆς ἑρμηνείας οὕτως ὀνομασθῆναι· ἢ ὅτι πλατὺς ἦν τὸ μέτωπον, ὥς φησι Νεάνθης (FGrH 84 F 21). εἰσὶ δ’ οἳ καὶ παλαῖσαί φασιν αὐτὸν ᾿Ισθμοῖ, καθὰ καὶ Δικαίαρχος ἐν πρώτῳ Περὶ βίων (Wehrli i, fg. 40), καὶ

γραφικῆς ἐπιμεληθῆναι καὶ ποιήματα γράψαι, πρῶτον μὲν διθυράμβους, ἔπειτα καὶ μέλη καὶ τραγῳδίας. ἰσχνόφωνός τε, φασίν, ἦν, ὡς καὶ Τιμόθεός φησιν ὁ ᾿Αθηναῖος ἐν τῷ Περὶ βίων (FHG iv. 523). λέγεται δ’ ὅτι Σωκράτης ὄναρ εἶδε κύκνου νεοττὸν ἐν

τοῖς γόνασιν ἔχειν, ὃν καὶ παραχρῆμα πτεροφυήσαντα ἀναπτῆναι ἡδὺ κλάγξαντα· καὶ μεθ’ ἡμέραν Πλάτωνα αὐτῷ συστῆναι, τὸν δὲ τοῦτον εἰπεῖν εἶναι τὸν ὄρνιν.

᾿Εφιλοσόφει δὲ τὴν ἀρχὴν ἐν ᾿Ακαδημείᾳ, εἶτα ἐν τῷ κήπῳ τῷ παρὰ τὸν Κολωνόν, ὥς φησιν ᾿Αλέξανδρος ἐν Διαδοχαῖς (FGrH 273 F 89), καθ’ ῾Ηράκλειτον. ἔπειτα μέντοι μέλλων ἀγωνιεῖσθαι τραγῳδίᾳ πρὸ τοῦ Διονυσιακοῦ θεάτρου Σωκράτους ἀκούσας κατέφλεξε τὰ ποιήματα εἰπών·

῞Ηφαιστε, πρόμολ’ ὧδε· Πλάτων νύ τι σεῖο χατίζει.

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