Pindar in Plato

Patrick Miller
1. Introduction
While assessing Pindar’s legacy for Greek literature, W. H. Race claims that “Plato shows admiration for Pindar’s works and quotes him a number of times.”1 Plato certainly does quote Pindar a number of times. Although the exact number is disputed, it is at least eleven, since Plato quotes him exactly or paraphrases and cites him this many times, mentioning his name one more time without either quoting or paraphrasing him.2 This number, twelve, marks Pindar as the fifth most often cited poet in the Platonic corpus, behind Euripides, and ahead of Aeschylus.3
Whether or not Plato shows admiration for Pindar’s works – or for the works of any poet – is, however, controversial. On one side of this controversy is W. J. Verdenius, who claimed generally that “Socrate ni Platon n’ont pu avoir l’intention d’emprunter à leurs citations poétiques la moindre force de démonstration.”4 This negative claim would seem to follow from Plato’s notorious discussion of art in the tenth book of the Republic, which banishes poets from the ideal city.5 After all, poets are there scorned as mere imitators of a sensible world that is itself already one remove from the true world of Forms. But Plato’s attitude to poetry is considerably more complex than Republic 10 alone would allow. Even in the earlier books of the Republic, Socrates made room for τὸν τοῦ ἐπιεικοῦς μιμητὴν ἄκρατον. free ebook