Available Online l Painting, Ethics, and Ontology in Plato’s Republic 5 by Zacharoula Petraki

The Center For Hellenic Studies is pleased to announce the online publication of spring fellow Zacharoula Petraki’s paper, “Painting, Ethics, and Ontology in Plato’s Republic 5,” which was presented at the 2015 Fellows Research Symposium. See the abstract below. To read the full article, visit the Center for Hellenic Studies Research Bulletin.


In this paper I examine Plato’s use of the art of painting in the Republic, Book 5 as a metaphor for the integration of citizens in the harmonious society of the ideal city. In the Republic, Plato presents Socrates as a verbal painter who constructs a wide and diverse range of verbal images (eikones). The majority of these images are highly colorful, ornate and intricate. Yet, the Socratic images which depict the ideal city are always very simple. The harmonious city is consistently presented as an individual: a statue, or an andreikelon. In this paper I take the view that Plato’s metaphors of the ideal city as a single man in the Republic Plato help us raise a number of complex philosophic problems with regard to a) the inculcation of virtues in the inhabitants of the ideal city, b) the attainment of civic unity and harmony, and c) the ‘participation’ of his ideal city (which along with the other sensible particulars belongs to the sphere of Becoming) to the transcendent realm of the Forms.

Zacharoula Petraki (PhD University of Birmingham) is a Lecturer in Classics at the University of Crete and an Adjunct Lecturer at the Open University of Cyprus. Her research interests lie in ancient Greek Philosophy, Greek lyric poetry, ancient aesthetics, the performance of ancient Greek poetry, the interface between literature and philosophy and the Philosophy of language. In the Poetics of Philosophical Language (De Gruyter 2011), Zacharoula investigated the diverse literary styles of the Platonic Republic and examined the philosophic reasons behind Plato’s remolding of tropes and techniques from poetry and the Presocratics. During her stay at the CHS, she plans to finish her second monograph on Plato’s use of pictorial arts as metaphors for philosophic discourse and method in the middle and late dialogues.

Image credit: Plato’s Republic from year 1713, Source: Columbia University, Wikimedia Commons, published before 1923 and public domain in the US.