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English search this work George A. English search this work Curtius Rufus, Quintus. Historiae Alexandri Magni. Edmund Hedicke. Latin [Curt. Overview of Greek Syntax. English search this work Sallust. Catilina, Iugurtha, Orationes Et Epistulae. Axel W. Latin search this work Catilinae Coniuratio [Sal. Latin [Sal. John Selby Watson, Rev. John Selby Watson, M. English [Sal. Faced with the fundamental problem of power and justice, Plato proposes as a solution the restoration of harmony between the City as a political entity and the citizens who compose it.
This philosophical approach is complemented by polemical hostility towards the democracy that was, according to him, responsible for the decadence of Athens. When searching for the distant origins of population doctrines, after the inevitable reference to the Bible "increase and multiply" , most books on the history of demographic thought and a number of textbooks devote a few lines or at most a few pages to ancient China Confucius, Lao-tzu and to the ancient Greek thinkers.
In the case of Plato B. In Laws, his last dialogue, Plato specifies the size of the City and more precisely the number of its citizens: it should be equal to 5, and remain constant.
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To this end, Plato suggests various ways of ensuring sta- tionarity. Population-E , 57 2 , Does the City lend itself to demographic analysis? Or does it rather represent a political model proposed by Plato at a time when classical Greece was inventing democracy? Is it merely a philosophical Utopia?
The demography of the City. A constant size. In Laws, Plato's concerns are twofold. The number 5, is justified by the fact that it allows a large number of divisors he specifies fifty-nine. It is divisible by all the numbers between one and twelve, eleven excluded, and thus permits multiple combinations. Moreover, Plato is looking for an acceptable number also and above all in terms of the available land. Let us remind the reader that Laws is a dialogue between some Cretans and an Athenian who is consulted on the best way of founding a colony in Crete.
Space is therefore a very important variable in Plato's mind. For example, the 5, plots will consist of two parts: one close to the centre of the City, the other near its periphery. And in his concern for equity, Plato describes at great length the manner of distribution of plots located in the intermediary zone. What measures does he suggest? Logically, only one child should inherit the plot.
More generally, "where the fertility is great, there are methods of inhibition, and contrariwise there are methods of encouraging and stimulating the birth-rate, by means of honours and dishonours, and by admonitions [ The Platonic City: History and Utopia Moreover, marriage should be regulated.
For women, the marriage age would be between sixteen and twenty years, and for men between thirty and thirty-five years Laws, b.
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A man still unmarried at thirty- five would incur a fine Laws, a , for "it is a duty to lay hold on the ever-living reality by providing servants for God in our own stead" Laws, a. A spouse must be chosen "in a manner that is suitable and well- matched", in other words, by conforming to a degree of social endogamy Laws, a-b. Yet, it is worth noting that Plato insists that the legislator would incur ridicule and anger if he intervened on the latter point Laws c-e.
Even migration is taken into account. The founding of a colony can take two forms: assembling settlers of diverse origins, Greek or non- Greek; or bringing in members of the same people, on the condition that they be united, so that former dissensions will not be perpetuated in the new city Laws, a-d. The pages devoted to the settlement of the City reflect a consistent feeling of ambivalence towards what is foreign. For example, because a Greek people without internal quarrels is not to be found, it will be necessary to recruit individuals of different origins after a selection Laws, ac; the same idea had been expressed in Politicus, ca , and to be sure not to gather too many slaves originating from the same country or speaking the same language Laws, lllc-d.
Finally, the City must be set up far from the sea in order to avoid too many external influences Laws, da. In general, mixing — cross-breeding as we would say today — incurs Plato's distrust. Inversely, Plato engages in lengthy discussions of borrowings from foreign cultures and from foreign forms of social or political organisation. Trips abroad will be organised to gather examples of legal codes on which the City could draw Laws, ae.
Rules on the treatment of foreigners are very explicit, and they distinguish between seasonal workers who ought to be closely controlled, tourists who come for "entertainment for the eyes [ In any case, Plato condemns the barbarous practice of "banishing the foreigners": they must benefit from the protection of the law Laws, b. Why this ambivalence towards what is foreign? Not because of a fundamental hostility to everything that is not Greek, or to the Barbarians, but because the successful establishment of the City is at stake, and the modalities of the settlement must be carefully thought out as well as the potential advantages and drawbacks of each practical detail of the migratory settlement.
Thus, we appear to be in the presence of a precursor of demographic thought. On the one hand, the object is the population of a well-defined territorial unit: population is clearly identified as a variable with specified links with the environment. On the other hand, in an apparently very modern fashion, Plato defines with great precision the magnitude of some key demographic variables such as age at marriage or length of reproductive life. Finally, he appears to sketch a true demographic policy: measures to encourage or restrain fertility, recourse to emigration or immigration, all for the purpose of regulating the total size of the population.
Plato and his commentators. Starting with Malthus, these indications and especially the number 5, have inspired students of demographic thought, who have interpreted them as components of a Platonic doctrine of population. Malthus first quotes the rules decreed by Plato regarding choice of a partner, age at marriage, and duration of the period of reproduction. He also expresses his disapproval of infanticide.
He concludes that the specificity of these measures demonstrates Plato's intuitive understanding of the principle of population: " Malthus is wrong when he attributes the concept of population dynamics to Plato. We will see that Plato links population size explicitly to the expanse of territory, but the balance between population and subsistence — defined in a static manner — is only one constraint among others. The City must be limited in numbers in such a way that its members will be able to recognize one another, but it must be large enough to ensure its defence and assist allied cities Laws, d, e, e.
Charles Stangeland, an American historian of the end of the nineteenth century, also refers to the rules concerning age at marriage, the eugenic measures and the number 5, He insists on the fact that the number of citizens must remain equal to 5,, with the resulting recourse to infanticide, abortion, emigration or immigration as the circumstances warrant. But Stangeland rejects Malthus's argument and writes:. The influence of nineteenth-century conservative doctrines on Stangeland is obvious. He falls back on one of the arguments developed in France and Great Britain against various forms of socialism.
At the core of Stange- land's thought lies the idea that the citizens of the City would reproduce themselves in much the same way as the nineteenth-century proletariat,. The Platonic City: History and Utopia 21 1. Finally, Stangeland rightly underlines the difference between Republic and Laws. While the first of these two works describes a Utopia, Laws substitutes "a system more in accordance with the practical needs of the time and the possibilities of Greek life". From the start, Stangeland had pointed out that "a great thinker [ In a classic work, E. Hutchinson also quotes the number of 5, citizens and the means of maintaining it, and speculates on the reasons behind the choice of this number.
Like Stangeland, he recalls that Plato regarded this number as sufficient for the defence of the State and not too large for the efficient government of an area of moderate size. Hutchinson then asks himself why Plato wanted this number to remain constant. He rejects Malthus' and Stangeland's interpretations, however. The latter is an "over-elaborate interpretation " that goes beyond the original text. According to him "Plato emphasized the equal division of all property among the citizens and the subsequent preservation of each holding intact, with the prohibition of either alienation of or addition to holdings and with one son inheriting the entire holding.
This equality was a basic principle of Plato's state, and a decrease or increase in the number of citizens would have upset the equality. Here again, a narrow interpretation of Plato's thought holds sway. First, the statement that Plato was concerned with "equality" is debatable and, at the very least, should not be understood in the sense of democratic equality, for Plato was profoundly hostile to that form of government.
For him, Sparta, not Athenian democracy, represented the most accomplished political model. Moreover, the demographers' concept of stationarity in the sense of a population with unchanging numbers is a total anachronism. For Plato, who was influenced by Heraclitus, stationarity means stopping the long trend towards decadence from a mythical ancient order. It is above all a concept that harks back to a philosophical and political vision of the City-State.
Here again, Sparta and not Athens knew best how to stop this trend towards decadence. Hutchinson goes beyond Plato's thought when he emphasizes the impact of population dynamics on the social system. How could demography, a discipline that did not exist at the time, have shaped Plato's thought? Kammeyer distinguish two trends in the "history of the study of population".
The first seeks to construct a science of population dynamics. The second asks how population affects the well-being or survival of the group and is especially concerned with demographic growth or decline. According to Daugherty and Kammeyer, both Plato and Aristotle were little concerned with the empirical validation of their ideas, but focused on a specific question: how could the size of a population affect the political functioning of the City? Both philosophers would have answered that the ideal size was the one that ensured the greatest security and well- being of the citizens as well as the most efficient administration of the CityW.
Thus this reading focuses on the concept of optimum but evades some of its consequences. Assuming that the concept is relevant for an understanding of Plato, it is necessary to explain how he deals with eventual conflicts between different definitions of the optimum: well-being, power, administrative efficiency. Daugherty and Kammeyer note correctly that Plato affirms the necessity of a fixed number of 5, citizens while considering the possibility that it will vary as a function of the available land or the relationship with neighbouring populations.
But they fail to consider the significance of such a contradiction in a thinker whom they describe as being above all preoccupied with "logical deduction". At the very least, they should have concluded that the concept of optimum is not appropriate, or asked whether the two terms of the contradiction do not belong to different levels of reasoning. An article published in by Eric Vilquin is by far the most thorough study — from a demographic perspective — , Vilquin being also alone in taking the other works of Plato into account. Even if the major part of Plato's contribution to demographic thought is found in Republic and Laws, Vilquin rightly quotes the Symposium, Politicus, and even Timaeus, Gorgias and Critias.
The Symposium is particularly important because it casts some light on certain discussions of love in Laws or Republic: perfect love is detached from its carnal dimension, it is spiritual "Platonic". From this perspective, fertility may also consist in leaving spiritual heirs. Like Stangeland, Vilquin starts by stating that "while being Utopian in the fullest sense of the word, Plato's demographic thought is closely linked to the socio-political conditions and currents of thought in his country and time". What does that mean? Around the fifth century B.
Hence the first outlines of interventionist demographic legal codes, even before Plato. Moreover, the elite "begins to subject its fertility to a Malthusian calculus where the system of land ownership plays a big role. The distribution of the City's limited territory and of the products of slave labour to a growing number of families threatens either to impoverish everyone or.
The Platonic City: History and Utopia 2 1 3. But Vilquin does not, anymore than Stangeland, demonstrate how Plato's thought is a product of his time. The only specific element is limited to a few lines:. Plato wanted to nip this source of disorder in the bud, and therefore he chose to provide for the strict limitation of private wealth and exchanges as well as for the equal and stable distribution of land. This last point provides the strongest justification for a stationary population". This socio-economic interpretation is plausible but we propose another one later that seems to echo more central and fundamental elements in Platonic thought.
Whatever the case may be, Vilquin then abandons this line of interpretation, and favours personal psychological factors instead. For example, Plato "often expressed a deep contempt of carnal love". Or again, "Plato was eighty years old when he wrote [about procreation in the couple]. It is fair to ask whether this is not an instance of belated return to the traditional religious argument". Or finally, concerning the number 5, and its numerous divisors, "this mysticism of the number assumed an obsessive character in the aging Plato" 9.
These are the main analyses elicited by Plato's "demographic" discussions, at least from specialists who place themselves in the perspective of the history of ideas on population. Some propose interpretations that conform to their own ideology Malthus, Stangeland , and others use demographic concepts stationarity, optimum without questioning their relevance and even less their anachronism. So far we have criticized specific points, as if we assumed that a demographic reading of Plato was acceptable. We must issue a more fundamental challenge: Plato cannot be seen as a precursor of demography, because the suggestions contained in Laws and in Republic belong to another logical order.
Let us start with the impossible Platonic demography. Inconsistencies and contradictions. Why choose 5, rather than 5,, a round figure that seems simpler and certainly more pedagogical, and as such better suited to the dialectical approach of the Socratic protagonist who is at the heart of the dialogues? More fundamentally, why this fondness for quantifying the number of citizens in such a precise way, when Plato considers that population size must be related to the available land area?
Several scholars have used the concept of optimum, but nothing warrants the claim that it makes sense in Plato's thought. If, for example, he had reasoned in terms of the balance between population and resources, he should have accounted for the number of slaves and foreigners and considered how to control it.
What was the population of Athens anyway? In B. Slaves were responsible for the largest share of economic activity, including domestic labour. Plato, however, never refers to the latter from this angle. He doesn't even consider the role of slaves in the production of food resources for the benefit of the entire City, or their unequal distribution among the citizens. And in Republic, when he distinguishes between war against barbarians and internal dissensions against Greeks of other cities , he is content to specify that Greeks must not be reduced to slavery and that their houses must not be burnt or razed bc.
Plato, in other words, is mostly concerned with the political functioning of the City. Similarly, when Politicus describes in great detail the different activities in which City members engage crafts, construction, entertainment, food production, etc. With the exception of Stangeland and Vilquin, no one has paid attention to the fact that there are not one, but two Platonic "demographic thoughts". The steps suggested are sometimes completely at odds with those recommended in Laws. Or again, whereas marriage as an institution is carefully described in Laws, Republic openly recommends the community of women and children:.
The Platonic City: History and Utopia 2 1 5. Marriage is celebrated and marks the beginning of the period of procreation, but it is in no way the founding act of the family. In one fell swoop, the principles of descent are reconsidered:. And similarly, he will call their offspring his grandchildren and they will call his group grandfathers and grandmothers" Republic, d. The contradiction with the principles laid down in Laws is complete.
How would it be possible to choose a single heir among all these sons to inherit the property of a plot? The differences and contradictions between Laws and Republic may be explained from a demographic point of view. The ideal City described in Republic is a radical Utopia, the one described in Laws is much less perfect: "[the real City] took it as a model and tries to resemble it as far as possible" Laws, d-e 12X Under these conditions, the transition from "the community of women and children" to a more traditional conception of marriage and the family and the omission of the eugenic measures advocated in Republic for example a are understandable.
But why all the quantitative indications, which are unusually precise for the time? Is Vilquin's suggestion acceptable, that numbers had assumed an obsessive dimension in the mind of the aging philosopher? To accept this would dismiss the problem far too quickly; we believe that the true explanation must focus on the two cities.
In addition to the two dialogues, Politicus, Ti- maeus and Critias must also be examined, because they include important discussions about the City during the mythical period Critias, Timaeus or about its implementation Politicus. For example, ancient Athens as described in Critias strove to keep "the number of both sexes already qualified and still qualified to bear arms as nearly as possible always the same, roughly some twenty thousand" Critias, d. In Critias, this number is opposed to the far greater population of Atlantis that Athens of the mythical period confronted victoriously.
What then is the meaning of this other numerical reference? We will see later how the legendary narrative and the philosophical reflections on the City are linked, but first it is essential to evoke the place of mathematics in Platonic thought in order to account for the importance given to the number 5, Religion and politics. Mathematics and religion. For Plato, mathematics is a precious instrument of knowledge because its formal beauty proves that it is close to the truth' In this, he was influenced by the Pythagoreans who had applied their research on numbers to very different fields: astronomy, music, even politics.
They influenced political life particularly in Croton and Tarentum at the end of the sixth century B. As early as the fifth century, writes Vernant, "political thought had elaborated a hierarchical model of the City and sought to justify it by considerations borrowed from astronomy and mathematics"' The number 5, adopted by Plato presents a special dimension. It fits into a religious perspective that is clearly articulated in Laws and has been neglected by the demographers quoted above:. Thus, for Plato, the tribe is one twelfth of the population allotted to each god before it is a civic division of the City.
The religious dimension of this division is confirmed later. Thus, what inspired Plato in his choice of 5, is above all the fact that it is divisible by twelve, a number with a decisive sacred dimension:. God, conformed to the months and to the revolution of the universe". Each month, twelve meetings of sections will take place to conciliate the twelve gods of the Pantheon Laws 77 Id.
It has been shown that the Platonic construct is radically opposed to the reform of Athens realised by Clisthenes in B. The agora thus became a central public space where the Boule or Council of the Five Hundred assembled, representing the ten tribes. In addition, time was redefined according to a civil prytanic calendar of days ten prytanies of thirty six days. Plato reverts to the Ionian tradition and models civic space, in contrast to Clisthenes, on the basis of religious time. This difference in conceiving space and time is not simply interesting for the history of the way of conceiving public space.
For Plato's readers, it had social and political implications that must not be underestimated: religious and political functions were the privilege of wealthy citizens and more generally, a small number of aristocratic families shared real power, even if they had to compromise with the people because of direct democracy. Thus, while Solon's. We still have to account for the differences between Laws and Republic and to try to underline the profound unity existing between these texts. Indeed, a clear reference is made in Laws to the ideal model proposed in Republic because they constitute two complementary avenues in Platonic thought.
Stationarity and political order. Let us revisit stationarity, so poorly understood by demographic readers. The reason why the City must not change is that all evolution is decadence: Plato, like Aristotle, was profoundly influenced by the pre- Socratic philosopher Heraclitus c. The theme of political decadence since the golden age or in relation to ancient Athens, or again since the Dorian Confederation, runs through books VIII and IX of Republic, and is found in Politicus da , Timaeus 20dd , and finally Laws ea, c But Plato goes further and suggests abandoning the Lydian and Ionian melodic forms as too effeminate and "lax" in favour of the Dorian and Phrygian forms that imitate "the utterances and the accents of a brave man who is engaged in warfare or in any enforced business [ The reference to Sparta, where the.
The Platonic City: History and Utopia 2 1 9. Dorian order prevails is essential here: Sparta, not Athens, is the City that knew best how to stop the movement of decadence and was closest to incarnating Plato's political convictions. The second best is oligarchy, and democracy comes last because it risks degenerating into tyranny Republic, a. Here the political context of Athens and Plato's personal experience are relevant.
Against democracy. Plato belonged to the Athenian nobility and his family claimed descent on the paternal side from the last king of Attica, Codrus. His own political destiny cannot be dissociated from the second Peloponnesian war B. His maternal uncle, Critias, was the leader of the Thirty Tyrants who seized power and carried out the second of the two oligarchic revolutions , the first having taken place in These two brief attempts to abolish democracy deserve to be mentioned, for they clearly demonstrate the entangling of internal conflicts and foreign policy objectives.
The opponents of the democratic party held him responsible and took advantage of the situation through a constitutional reform to limit the influence of the people and the pernicious role of orators like Alcibiades who had dragged Athens into the Sicilian adventure. Under the new constitution, only three thousand people could participate in political life: democracy was abolished. The oligarchic revolution, however, did not last: the army and the navy left behind at Samos threatened to come back to Athens and overturn the government, and democracy was restored during the summer of The second act took place in After Sparta's victory at Aigos Potamos marked the end of the Peloponnesian war, the walls of Athens came tumbling down, and Spartan troops camped in Athens.
In April , the assembly voted to entrust the writing of a new constitution to thirty citizens. These were the Thirty Tyrants, whose leader was Critias, Plato's maternal uncle, with Plato's second uncle, Charmides, as lieutenant. Terror soon prevailed: numerous democrats and metics were assassinated or exiled, and their goods were confiscated. Once again, a movement.
An amnesty was proclaimed in The Academy founded by Plato in B. Plato's political mishaps continued when in he went to Sicily at the invitation of the tyrant Dionysius. Things went badly, and Plato had to flee and return to Athens. He went back to Sicily in , this time as counsellor to the young Dionysius, son of the aforementioned, but he was suspected of plotting and once again had to go back to Athens. Showing Rating details. All Languages. More filters. Sort order. Jennifer marked it as to-read May 06, Kaki added it Jul 16, Betty Macy marked it as to-read Sep 24, Kajola marked it as to-read Jan 20, Dee added it Feb 09, Jim Dreer-lumley marked it as to-read Mar 18, Stephen Robertson marked it as to-read Mar 20, Alva marked it as to-read May 30, Chuck marked it as to-read Nov 29, Eric Lommasson is currently reading it Aug 25, Nicholas Alexander marked it as to-read Nov 12, There are no discussion topics on this book yet.