Sixth Letter (Plato)

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The Sixth Letter, or Sixth Epistle, is one of thirteen letters which are traditionally attributed to Plato.

Text

PLATO TO HERMIAS AND ERASTUS AND CORISCUS, WELFARE.

It is evident to me that some god has graciously and generously prepared good luck for you, if you receive his gift properly. For you are living as neighbors to one another and each of you needs what the others can best supply. Hermias should know that his power for all purposes has its greatest support not in the number of his horses or other equipment of war, nor in the gold he adds to his treasury, but in steadfast friends of solid character. And to Erastus and Coriscus I say, "old as I am," that they need to supplement their knowledge of the Ideas—that noble doctrine—with the knowledge and capacity to protect themselves against wicked and unjust men. They are inexperienced, since they have spent a great part of their lives with us, among men of moderation and good will; this is why I said they need some power to protect them, that they may not be forced to neglect the true wisdom and concern themselves more than is fitting with that which is worldly and necessary. Now this power that they need Hermias apparently possesses, both as a natural gift (so far as one may judge without knowing him), and as an art perfected by experience.

What is the point of these remarks? To you, Hermias, since I have known Erastus and Coriscus longer than you have, I solemnly declare and bear witness that you will not easily find more trustworthy characters than these neighbors of yours, and I therefore advise you to make it a matter of central importance to attach yourself to them by every honorable means. Coriscus and Erastus in their turn I advise to hold fast to Hermias and to try to develop this mutual alliance into a bond of friendship. If ever any one of you should seem to be weakening this union (for nothing human is altogether secure), send a letter to me and my friends declaring the grievance; for unless the injury be very grave, I believe your sense of justice and your respect for us will make the words that we may send more efficacious than any incantation would be in binding up the wound and causing you to grow together again into friendship and fellowship as before. If all of us, you and we alike, according to our several abilities and opportunities, apply our wisdom to the preservation to the preservation of this bond, the prophecies I have just uttered will come true. What will happen if we do not, I will not say, for I am prophesying only what is good, and I declare that with God's help we shall bring all these things to a good issue.

Let this letter be read, if possible, by all three of you gathered together, otherwise by twos, and as often as you can in common. Adopt it as a just and binding law and covenant, taking a solemn oath—in gentlemanly earnest, but with the playfulness that is the sister of solemnity—in the name of the divine letter of all things present and to come, and in the name of the lordly father of this governor and cause, whom we shall all some day clearly know, in so far as the blessed are able to know him, if we truly live the life of philosophy.

— Sixth Letter, traditionally attributed to Plato[1]

Background

Unlike the large majority of Plato's major works, the Letters are not Socratic dialogues. Further, despite their traditional attribution to Plato, the Letters are variously held to be spurious or suspect by modern scholarship.

Collectively, the thirteen Letters are commonly grouped together as one larger item (called either Letters or Epistles). In turn, this larger collection of Letters is traditionally the last item in the Thrasyllan tetraologies, a traditional grouping of the major works of Plato which divides them into nine tetraologies of four works apiece.[2] In this arrangement, the Letters occupy the thirty-sixth and final place in the traditional Platonic corpus.

References

  1. ^ Cooper, John M.; Hutchinson, D.S. (1997). Plato: Complete Works. Indianapolis: Hackett. p. 1645-1646. ISBN 9780872203495.
  2. ^ "plato-dialogues.org".
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