First Letter (Plato)

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The First Letter of Plato, also called Epistle I or Letter I, is an epistle that tradition has ascribed to Plato, though it is almost universally considered a forgery.[1] In the Stephanus pagination, it spans III. 309a–310b.

The letter purports to have been written to Dionysius the Younger, the tyrant of Syracuse who was introduced to Plato by his uncle Dion in the hopes of turning him to philosophy. It complains of Dionysius' ingratitude for having rudely dismissed Plato after having received such great service from him in the administration of his government and returns the sum which he had provided for travelling expenses as insultingly insufficient. The letter concludes with a number of quotations from tragic poets suggesting that Dionysius will die alone and friendless.

Of the thirteen Epistles tradition ascribes to Plato, the First Letter is the only one whose authenticity has not had a significant defender in modern times.[2] R. G. Bury notes that, contrary to the letter's suggestion, Plato never kept watch over Syracuse as a dictator (αυτοκράτωρ),[3] and the account given in this letter of Plato's abrupt dismissal contradicts that given in the Seventh Letter, which has a far greater claim to authenticity. It is consequently valued mostly for preserving the tragic quotations which are hurled at Dionysius.[4]

See also


  1. Hamilton and Cairns, Collected Dialogues, 1516
  2. Hamilton and Cairns, Collected Dialogues, 1516
  3. Plato, Epistle I, 309b
  4. Bury, Epistle I, 393.


  • Bury, R. G., ed. (1942) Timaeus, Critias, Cleitophon, Menexenus, Epistles. Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Hamilton, Edith and Cairns, Huntington, ed. (1961 [1989]) The Collected Dialogues of Plato. Princeton: Princeton University Press.