Podcast episode

Episode 176: Plato Latinus

[Corrigendum: I got my Frankish kings conflated. Charles Martel and Charlemagne were not the same guy; forget Martel, it’s Charles the Great we are talking about.]

Things really were getting dicey in the late fourth century in the western Roman empire; the Germanic bands had crossed the Rhine en masse, they kept on crossing, and, although the Romans tried various expedients from annihilation in open battle to co-option and hiring them as mercenaries, these ‘barbarians’ would not go away and were rarely content with the niggardly plots of land the Romans tried to settle them on. They wanted to carve out fiefdoms, and carve they did throughout the fifth century, until the western Roman empire was no more.

In this episode we concentrate on a concomitant development: the gradual loss of fluency in Greek in the western realms, and the consequent loss of access to a number of key textual sources. If it wasn’t written in or translated into Latin, it wasn’t going to be read. And so most of the works of Plato, along with much of classical literature, were lost to the west ….

Recommended Reading:

Alexander J. B. Hampton and John Peter Kenney, editors. Christian Platonism: A History. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2020.

Sears Jayne. Plato in Medieval England: Pagan, Scientist, Alchemist, Theologian. Brepols, Turnhout, 2024.

Carlos Lévy and Jean-Baptiste Guillaumin, editors. Plato Latinus. Aspects de la transmission de Platon en latin dans l’Antiquité. Brepols, Turnhout, 2018 [a collection of essays].

Christina Hoenig. Plato’s Timaeus and the Latin Tradition. Cambridge Classical Studies. The University Press, Cambridge, 2018.

R. Klibansky. The Continuity of the Platonic Tradition During the Middle Ages: Outlines of a Corpus Platonicum Medii Aevi. Warburg Institute, London, 1939.

Dominic J. O’Meara, editor. Neoplatonism and Christian Thought. International Society for Neoplatonic Studies, Norfolk, VA, 1982 [a collection of essays, some very relevant to the survival of Platonist ideas in the western empire, some less-so but still generally interesting].


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