© 2001 Bernard SUZANNE Last updated March 23rd, 2015
Plato and his dialogues : Home - Biography - Works and links to them - History of interpretation - New hypotheses - Map of dialogues : table version or non tabular version. Tools : Index of persons and locations - Detailed and synoptic chronologies - Maps of Ancient Greek World. Site information : About the author.

List of Plato's works

To complement the page listing Plato's works and some of its editions in English, this page suggests a number of works, studies on Plato, commentaries on dialogues and noteworthy works by classical authors whose reading may help better understand the dialogues.

Biographies of Plato

Around Plato : Greek Classics

In order to put Plato in context and better understand him, it is important to have an idea of the authors and thinkers he could read and meet, and to know a little about the history of the Greek World in his time.The following list includes a number of works whose reading may help provide such light. The Greek text of most of them in available onnline at the perseus site, along with an English translation, usually taken from the Loeb Classical Library (site at the perseus site the list of available texts).


All educated Greeks of the time of Socrate and Plato learn to read in Homer's works, and knew by heart large sections of his works. Besides, raphsodes, such as the one Plato stages in the Ion, would give public performances where they would declaim, and probably mime, entire sections of the Iliad and Odyssey. Hence the importance of knowing these texts to better understand Plato. Homer is by far the most quoted author inthe dialoges: of the 296 quotations listed by L Brandwood in his "Word Index to Plato" for the 28 dialogues I include in my tetralogies, 131 come from Homer, 93 of which come from the Iliad, and 38 come from the Odyssey (explicit quotations as well as obviously homeric expressions); far behind, we find, aside from Protagoras whose statement on "man-measure" is quoted or alluded to 19 times, Hesiod and Euripides, with 16 quotations each, then Pindar, with 13 quotations and Aeschylus with 12 quotations; the remaining quotations come from a multitude of known and unknown authors, only a few of whom are quoted more than once. Aside from explicit quotations and use of homeric expressions, the name of Homer appears 164 times in the dialogues. A comprehensive list of quotations from Homer and references to his name by dailogue is available on another page of this site accessible by clicking here.


Less popular than Homer, Hesiod, a Boeotian poet who lived toward the end of the VIIIth and the beginning of the VIIth century B. C., was nonetheless another cornerstone of Greek education in classical times. His Theogony is a genealogy of the gods of Greek mythology from primeval chaos onward.


Pindar is a more recent poet who lived during the late VI century and early Vth century B. C., that is, about one century before Socrates and Plato. A Boeotian like Hesiod, he was regarded by the ancients as the master of lyrical poetry. Most of his poems were written for official circumstances, especially to celebrate winners at various panhellenic games, often at the request of the winners, who would pay him for the work. Most of the extant works of Pindar consists in four cycles of odes, each bearing the name of one of the four panhellenic games : Olympian, Pythian, Nemean, Isthmian.

Tragic Poets : Æschylus, Sophocles, Euripides

Æschylus, the first writer of tragedies, a member of an aristocratic family of Eleusis, lived from about 525 to 456 B. C.; Sophocles, a native from Colonus in Attica, lived from 495 till 406 B. C.; Euripides was born in the island of Salamis in 480 B. C. and died in 406, the same year as Sophocles. Extant works of these poets include, from Æschylus, 7 tragedies, including a complete trilogy (Persians, Seven Against Thebes, Suppliant Maidens, the Orestia: Agamemnon, Libation-Bearers and Eumenides, and Prometheus Bound); from Sophocles, also 7 tragedies (Ajax, Antigone, The Women of Trachis, OEdipus-Tyrranus, Electra, Philoctetes, OEdipus at Colonus), plus fragments of several other plays; from Euripides, 19 tragedies plus fragments of a few others (Alcestis, Medea, Children of Heracles, Hippolytus, Andromache, Hecuba, Suppliants, Electra, The Daughters of Troy, Madness of Heracles, Iphigeneia, in Taurica, Ion, Helen, Phoenician Maidens, Orestes, Bacchanals, Iphigeneia at Aulis, Rhesus, Cyclops).

Comedy : Aristophanes

Aristophanes, the greatest Greek comic poet, was born in Athens in 445 B. C. and died in 380. He was a contemporary of Socrates, and Plato mentions him in the Apology, and stages him in the Symposium. Aristophanes, on the other hand, stages Socrates in his comedy The Clouds, in which he gives a picture of him quite different from the one drawn by Plato in his dialogues, to say the least. He also offers, in The Wasps, a caricature of the judicial system of his time which help imagin what the judges who sat at Socrates' trial could have looked like. His 11 extant comedies (Acharnians, Knights, Clouds, Wasps, Peace, Birds, Lysistrata, Thesmosphoriazusae, Frogs, Ecclesiazusae, Plutus) give us a vivid picture of what daily life could look like in Socrates' time.

Historians : Herodotus and Thucydides

Herodotus was born in Halicarnassus, in Asia Minor, around 480 B. C. and died in 425. He is considered the father of History. His Histories, in 9 books named after the 9 Muses, tells the story of the Persian Wars, using them as a starting point to deal with many other topics of the past in trying to explain their causes and put them in perspective. Thucydides, the son of an aristocratic family of Athens, lived in the Vth century B. C. and took part in the Peloponnesian War, between Athens and Sparta, which raged from 431 to 404 B. C., and whose story he tells in his History of the Peloponnesian War (till about 411).

Presocratic philosophers and sophists

It is customary to call "presocratic" the philosophers prior to Socrates and their pupils, including those who lived in Socrates' time, and possibly later: the Seven Wisemen, among whom was Thales, Pythagoras and the Pythagoreans, Heraclitus, Parmenides and the Elean philosophers, Empedocles, Anaxagoras, Democritus and a few others. The sophists, on the other hand, such as Protagoras, Gorgias, Hippias, Prodicus, were contemporaries of Socrates whom Plato staged in several dialogues, some of which bear the name of one or another of them. Only fragments of works of these thinkers are extant. Those fragments have been edited by Herman Diels in Germany in a work called Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, in 1903, later improved in a new edition by W. Kranz. A complete translation of Diels fragments is available in:

Other English translations of all or part of these fragments include:

Editions of fragments for individual philosophers include:

Some of these fragments are available online at the Philoctetes site, in Greek along with French and English translations (English translation by John Burnet) :

Orators : Lysias, Isocrates, etc.

The distinction between sophists and orators is not always obvious, as most sophists asked their pupils huge amounts of money to teach them how to successfully speak in the assembly and defend themselves in courts. The authors here considered are some of those whose political and court speeches have come down to us. Though some of those speeches were written for the writer's own defense in court, many of them were written in order to be delivered in court by somebody else who would pay for the speech. Indeed, in Athens at that time, the defendant in a trial, as well as the accuser, had to make his own case in person in front of the court, but he was allowed to request the services of what was called a "logographer" (etymologically, a "speech writer") to write the speech he would deliver.

Lysias, one of the sons of Cephalus, a Syracusan arm dealer who had settled in Piraeus at the request of Pericles, was active in the democratic movement, and barely escaped the death penalty that killed his brother Polemarchus during the reign of the Thirty Tyrants, saving his life only by running away from Athens, as he himself tells us in his speech Against Eratosthenes (#12). Plato stages him as a mute spectator in the Republic, which takes place in his father Cephalus' home with the active participation of his brother Polemarchus, and mimics him in the Phaedrus, which begins with Phaedrus reading a speech suppoded to have been written by him. The speeches that have come down to us as his range from a Funeral Oration (#2, interesting to compare with Plato's Menexenus, which is a parody of such speeches) to speeches for trials dealing with problems of everyday's life, which afford us a lively glimpse of daily life in Athens in the time of Socrates and Plato. For instance, the speech On the murder of Eratosthenes (#1) is a speech in defense of a husband who killed his wife's lover caught in the act of adultery, and it is worth all the novels written since then on such a topic, showing that, in matters of love, things have not much changed since those remote times.

Isocrates, who is mentioned at the end of the Phaedrus, is almost contemporary of Plato, and headed in Athens a school competing with Plato's Academy, and whose teachings was centered more on rhetorics. Some of his speeches show that he more or less equated the kind of "philosophy" taught by Plato (whom he never mentions by name) and sophistry. Toward the end of his life, he wrote speeches that were sort of "open letters" in which he would take side on the main political issues of the time, especially regarding the stance he thought Athens should take in the face of the rising power of Philip of Macedonia, a matter of concern for the Greeks by then.

The speeches of Andocides are interesting because they are one of the few sources still extant, along with mentions in Thucydides' Histories, for our knowledge of the affairs of the Herms and of the parody of the Mysteries, in which Alcibiades was implicated at the very time he was taking, with Nicias, the lead of the Sicilian expedition he had convinced Athens to undertake. And Alcibiades is the character who, after Socrates, is most often staged in the dialogues.

Medicine : the Hippocratic school

The "scientific" (for the time) approach to medicine that developed most prominently among the Asclepiades, the most famous representative of whom is Hippocrates of Cos (460-around 370 B. C.), a contemporary of Socrates, influenced Plato, who often takes the example of medicine in his dialogues, and mentions several times the name of Hippocrates himself (Protagoras, Phaedrus). A huge body of works ascribed to Hippocrates has come down to us, but it is likely that not all of these works are from him. Reading some of these works helps get a feel for what was that medicine Plato so often talks about.


Mathematics, and especially geometry, made important advances in the time of Socrates and Plato, in part due to the work of Plato's colleagues at the Academy, such as Eudoxus of Cnidus, whose works, now lost, may have been at the root of several books of Euclid's Elements. Most of the works of the mathematicians of the time are now lost and known only through references in later works. Some of these are collected in:


Xenophon is a contemporary of Plato who also associated with Socrates in his youth, before leaving Athens for Asia Minor with the expedition of the Ten-Thousands, whose story he tells us in his Anabasis (an expedition during which he met with Meno, staged by Plato in the dialogue named after him). Xenophon wrote several works in which he stages Socrates: the Memorabilia, along with the Economics, which complement them, and, as Plato, a Symposium and an Apology of Socrates. He also wrote a follow-up to Thucydides' Histories, named Hellenica.


Aristotle is Plato's most famous pupil. Reading his criticism of what he presents as Plato's opinions, or those of the ones he calls platonists, is interesting, provided one doesn' take at face value everything he attributes to other thinkers, Plato included. Indeed, contrary to Plato, who was a master at criticizing other thinkers' opinions from the inside and within their own (in)consistency, Aristotle has an unfortunate tendency to drag everything toward his own system, and to try and criticise other thinkers as if they were but precursors of his own truth, that they obviously had not mastered yet. I am convinced that several dialogues of Plato criticize without saying so opinions that Aristotle ascribes to Plato, starting with the Parmenides, where Plato's choice of a character also named Aristotle (a historical character that would end up as one of the Thirty Tyrants) to serve as a pale respondant to Parmenides in his "tedious game" is far from being pure coincidence!... Aristotle, born in a family of physicians, was unable to follow Plato all the way outside the cave and up to the top of the hill (see the allegory of the cave, Republic, VII, 514a, sq), but, above all, he never understood what Plato had himself understood and which led him to write dialogues rather than dogmatic treatises, namely that it is more important to help readers ask themselves the right questions and make them think by themselves so that they may come up with their own answers on topics on which it is impossible to "scientifically demonstrate" anything, than to serve them ready-made answers and "demonstrations" that demonstrate nothing... This being said, for a first encounter, it might be worthwhile to read the Metaphysics, to see what Aristotle has to say about "ideas", the Nicomachean Ethics, to get a feel for Aristotle,'s ethics, his Politics to learn what his thoughts were in political matters, and his De Anima, to be aware of the foundations of his psychology.

The people of Plato's dialogues

A useful book about the people in Plato's dialogues is The People of Plato, A Prosopography of Plato and Other Socratics, by Debra Nails, Hackett, Indianapolis/Cambridge, 2002, in which one can find almost all that is known about all the persons mentionned in the dialogues, with sources and critical analysis of them, plus various other data on Greece and Athens in Plato's time.

Commentaries on Plato's dialogues

A. N. Whitehead once wrote that "the safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato" (Process and Reality, 1929). If that's the case, one is never too far away from Plato when reading the work of any philosopher, whomever that is. If we also remember that, to me, Plato didn't write dialogues to tell us what he thought, but to induce us to think by ourselves, then we can safely say that it is more important to read his dialogues and to let ourselves be questioned by them than to read secondary litterature and comments on the dialogues from those who pretend to tell us what his answers were, when he carefully avoided to give us those answers of his!

This being said, one may wish to confront one's own understanding (or misunderstanding) of the dialogues to that of other thinkers. But, if that's the case, it is better not to limit oneself to recent commentaries. "Commentaries" on Plato begin with Aristotle and continue all through the occidental philosophic tradition. Only fragments are still extant from the works of the philosophers of the Old and New Academy, the successors of Plato as head of the school he created. But one may wish to read works from Cicero (such as his Republic, inspired from that of Plato, which he also translated in Latin along with several other dialogues), or from the Stoics, or Epicurus and his school, or from the Cynics or Sceptics, all of whom considered Socrates as the model of the "sophos", the wise man, each dragging him toward his own viewpoint from images of him given by his immediate "followers", and first among them, Plato. We are in a better situation with the Neoplatonists, beginning with Plotinus, whose Enneads are still extant in full. But the first Fathers of the Church were also deeply influenced by Plato, as can be seen by reading the extant works of Saint Justin (probably the first one to try and reconcile Greek philosophy, especially Plato's, with Christian theology in the making), Eusebius of Caesarea (in those works he wrote in order to try and convert to the Christian faith educated people starting from the secular culture of his time, nourished with Greek philosophy), Origen (who was condemend for having tried too hard to "rationalise" Christian theology in light of Plato), and many others. And it is through a detour via Plotinus' platonism that Saint Augustine came back from Manichaeism to Christianity (it is worth reading the pages he wrote on this in his Confessions). We should also mention the Arab philosophers of the Middle Ages, who wrote commentaries on Plato's dialogues along with commentaries on Aristotle's treatises in a time when most of those where lost to the Christian world, and the rediscovery of Plato in the Renaissance. Closer to us, one may think of Nietzsche and his "affair" with Socrates and Plato, or of Heidegger, who tranlated in German and commented several texts from Plato. And even with philosophers who don't mention him by name, it is interesting to see how they have been influenced by the problems he set.

In short, a bibliography of commentaries on Plato which withstood the test of time and would confront us to great thinkers would amount to a list of the philosophical works available in any serious library!... That is the reason why I leave each one make one's own choices according to one's taste.

Links toward other bibliographies

A complete bibliography of publications relating to Plato since 1992, by Luc Brisson, is available online on the CNRS site. It continues those published by Lustrum: #4-5 (Plato, 1950-1957), #20 (Plato, 1958-1975), #25 (Plato 1975-1980), #30 (Plato 1980-1985), et issue on Plato 1985-1990, and the one Luc Brisson published for years 1990-95 at Vrin Edition, Paris, 2000.

A French counterpart of this bibliography is available in the French section of this site.

Plato and his dialogues : Home - Biography - Works and links to them - History of interpretation - New hypotheses - Map of dialogues : table version or non tabular version. Tools : Index of persons and locations - Detailed and synoptic chronologies - Maps of Ancient Greek World. Site information : About the author.

First published December 14, 2001 - Last updated March 23rd, 2015
© 2001 Bernard SUZANNE (click on name to send your comments via e-mail)
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