Plato was born c. 427 B.C. in Athens, Greece, to an aristocratic family very much involved in political government. Pericles, famous ruler of Athens during its golden age, was Plato's stepfather. Plato was well educated and studied under Socrates, with whom he developed a close friendship. When Socrates was publically executed in 399 B.C., Plato finally distanced himself from a career in Athenian politics, instead becoming one of the greatest philosophers of Western civilization. Plato extended Socrates's inquiries to his students, one of the most famous being Aristotle. Plato's The Republic is an enduring work, discussing justice, the importance of education, and the qualities needed for rulers to succeed. Plato felt governors must be philosophers so they may govern wisely and effectively. Plato founded the Academy, an educational institution dedicated to pursuing philosophic truth. The Academy lasted well into the 6th century A.D., and is the model for all western universities. Its formation is along the lines Plato laid out in The Republic. Many of Plato's essays and writings survive to this day. Plato died in 347 B.C. at the age of 80.
Plato's account of Socrates' trial and death (399 BC) is a significant moment in Classical literature and the life of Classical Athens. In these four dialogues, Plato develops the Socratic belief in responsibility for one's self and shows Socrates living and dying under his philosophy. In Euthyphro, Socrates debates goodness outside the courthouse; Apology sees him in court, rebutting all charges of impiety; in Crito, he refuses an entreaty to escape from prison; and in Phaedo, Socrates faces his impending death with calmness and skilful discussion of immortality.
Christopher Rowe's introduction to his powerful new translation examines the book's themes of identity and confrontation, and explores how its content is less historical fact than a promotion of Plato's Socratic philosophy.