Start of Eryxias in the Codex Parisinus graecus 1807 from around AD 900. This dialogue was regarded as spurious even in antiquity, but was included in the standard collection of Plato's works.

Those works which have been falsely attributed to Plato, whether through error or forgery, are collectively known as Pseudo-Platonica. There are two main groups of such works.

The first is those Greek works which were attributed to Plato in antiquity and circulated alongside his authentic writings. These can be subdivided into two groups: the spuria, which were considered spurious already in antiquity, and the dubia, the authenticity of which has been doubted only since the rise of modern scholarship. While there is broad agreement regarding some dubia, others are more disputed.

The second major group is the Arabic Pseudo-Platonica of the Middle Ages. These range from false quotations of Plato in the wisdom literature and works of theology based on Plotinus and Proclus to whole works attributed to Plato on morality, economics and occult science. The last category—works on the occult, magic, alchemy, etc.—is the most remote from the historical Plato.

Ancient pseudepigrapha

The Platonic corpus, the ancient canon of Plato's works compiled by Thrasyllus of Mendes, contains 36 writings grouped into nine tetralogies: 35 dialogues and one set of 13 letters. Thrasyllus also included in his collection six works he regarded as spurious, not being by Plato, plus a seventh, the Definitions, which, while not by Plato personally, was a product of his Academy.[1][2] To this corpus may be added 18 epigrams attributed to Plato from antiquity. Their authenticity is uncertain.[3]

The six dialogues designated spurious in the corpus are all accepted as such by modern scholars.[2] Usually called the Appendix Platonica, they are Eryxias, Axiochus, On Justice, On Virtue, Sisyphus and Demodocus.[4] The Appendix was added to the tetralogies by the middle of the 1st century BC.[5] The dialogue Halcyon, sometimes attributed to Plato in antiquity and since medieval times also to Lucian, has generally been excluded from the Platonic corpus in modern printed editions.[6]

Questions were raised in antiquity over the authenticity of four of the dialogues accepted as authentic by Thrasyllus: Epinomis, Second Alcibiades, Hipparchus and Amatores.[7] Modern scholars are generally agreed that these works are not by Plato.[8] Since the early 19th century, doubts have been expressed about several other works in the corpus, which are now often labeled dubia.[7] All of the letters are now generally regarded as spurious, although the Seventh Letter has defenders.[2] The dialogues Theages and Minos are generally regarded spurious and serious doubts have been expressed about First Alcibiades, Greater Hippias and Clitophon.[2][7][8] Less serious doubt has also been expressed about Lesser Hippias and Menexenus.[2] All of the dubia have defenders, but almost no scholars defend the spuria.[9]

For all of the ancient pseudo-Platonic dialogues, it is impossible to say if they were originally published under Plato's name or if they were only attributed to him later. The concept of pseudepigrapha does not entail that they were forgeries. Some works may have circulated anonymously or under other names before being attributed to Plato to enhance their authority or commercial value or else to resolve uncertainty.[10]

In addition to the surviving works of the Appendix Platonica, Diogenes Laertius in his Lives of the Eminent Philosophers cites five other works attributed to Plato as spurious: Midon (or Horsebreeder), Phaeacians, Chelidon, Seventh Day and Epimenides. These works have not survived.[11]

Arabic pseudepigrapha

An 18th-century copy of the Testament to Aristotle

No complete translation of any authentic work of Plato is known to have been made into Arabic in the Middle Ages. Contact with the genuine Platonic corpus came through commentaries, paraphrases and the translation of Galen's Synopsis of the dialogues. More influential than the actual Plato was the pseudepigrapha composed in or travelling under his name.[12]

Rüdiger Arnzen [de] identifies three main groups of Arabic Pseudo-Platonica. The one most detached from the historical Plato concerns occult, hermetic, alchemical, astrological and magical through and practice. These include the dialogues Summa Platonis and Kitāb al-rawābīʿ (Book of Tetralogies).[12] Another work, the Kitāb muṣaḥḥaḥāt Aflāṭūn (Book of the Rectifications to Plato), presents pseudepigraphal Platonic material through the equally pseudepigraphal Pseudo-Jābir.[12][13] The Kitāb al-nawāmīs (Book of Laws) is a collection of magical experiments purporting to be a translation of Plato's Laws.[14][15] Much of the occult Pseudo-Platonic was translated into Latin in the Middle Ages.[12]

Another group consists of practical pedagogical works on morality, politics and economics.[12] This includes the so-called "Platonic testaments", which are Neo-Pythagorean in outlook, such as the Waṣīya fī taʾdīb al-aḥdāth (Testament on the Education of the Young).[16][17] Both the Waṣīya and the Testament to Aristotle were included in the Ḥikma of Miskawayh.[16] The Testament to Aristotle was translated into Persian by Naṣīr al-Dīn Ṭūsī.[16][18]

Arnzen's third group of Pseudo-Platonica consists of quotations and excerpts attributed to Plato in the Neoplatonic Plotiniana Arabica (such as the Theology of Aristotle) and Procliana Arabica (such as the Liber de causis). These excerpts inspired the Platonism of Suhrawardī and his followers.[12]

In addition, Plato was a popular authority in Arabic gnomologies and doxographies. These contain both authentic and spurious Platonic quotations.[12][19] Taqwīm al-siyāsa al-mulûkīya ('The Correct Policy for Kings'), a gnomology dedicated strictly to Plato from around AD 1000, contains both authentic and inauthentic material, all placed under Plato's name seemingly to enhance its authority and value. The Arabic gnomological sources were influential in the West, transmitting Pseudo-Platonic sayings to the De vita et moribus philosophorum and the Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers.[20] Arnzen distinguishes "the vulgarized Plato of gnomological and doxographical anthologies and popular wisdom literature" from "the pseudepigraphic Plato of gnostic, occult, and Neoplatonic writings". All the Arabic traditions of Plato were combined in the 12th and 13th centuries, although Plato himself was a relatively minor figure in late Islamic Platonism.[21]

Pseudo-Platonica in Syriac

No complete translation of any genuine work of Plato into Syriac is known, but several Pseudo-Platonica were translated. There is a version of the Definitions different from the Greek version that is known from a 7th-century Syriac manuscript. Three manuscripts of the 7th through 9th centuries preserve the Instruction of Plato to His Disciple, not known in any Greek version.[22] On the Subsistence of Soul's Virtues, another Pseudo-Platonic work originally written in Greek, was translated into Syriac in the 9th century. It is quoted extensively by John of Dara in his Treatise on the Soul. Neither the Greek nor the Syriac text survives, but an Arabic translation is known under the title Maqāla fī ithbāt faḍāʾil al-nafs. The Greek original probably dates to the "late Hellenistic" period while the Arabic was translated from the Syriac before 950.[23]

Pseudo-Platonic quotations can be found in Antony of Tagrit's Rhetoric.[22] Pseudo-Plato is well represented in Syriac gnomologies, where he usually offers ethical advice from an ascetic perspective. These are mostly derived from Greek gnomologies, although Bar Hebraeus' Laughable Stories also used Arabic sources.[24] According to Bar Hebraeus,

Plato said, "The fool is known by two things: by his much speaking about that which benefiteth him not, and by his giving answers about subjects concerning which men ask him not."[25]


  1. ^ Cooper 1997, pp. viii–ix.
  2. ^ a b c d e Irwin 2019, p. 70.
  3. ^ Cooper 1997, p. 1742.
  4. ^ Joyal 2019, pp. 213–214.
  5. ^ Irwin 2019, p. 85.
  6. ^ Hutchinson 1997, p. 1714.
  7. ^ a b c Joyal 2019, pp. 212–213.
  8. ^ a b Cooper 1997, pp. v–vi.
  9. ^ Joyal 2019, pp. 212–214.
  10. ^ Joosse 2023, pp. 112–114.
  11. ^ Smith 1998, p. xv, citing Diog. Laert. 3.1.62.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g Arnzen 2011, p. 1014.
  13. ^ Raggetti 2023, p. 355.
  14. ^ Raggetti 2023, p. 356.
  15. ^ Hasse 2002, p. 54.
  16. ^ a b c Gutas 1994, p. 4964.
  17. ^ Arnzen 2011, p. 1014, translates the title Exhortation Concerning the Education of Young Men.
  18. ^ Arberry 1971, p. 475.
  19. ^ Hasse 2002, pp. 47–48.
  20. ^ Hasse 2002, pp. 49–52.
  21. ^ Arnzen 2011, p. 1012.
  22. ^ a b Pietruschka 2019, p. 520.
  23. ^ Zonta 2015, pp. 131–134. Edition in Daiber 1971.
  24. ^ Pietruschka 2014.
  25. ^ Budge 1897, p. 11.


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Further reading