Bard Professor James Romm Receives $50,000 NEH Public Scholar Grant in Support of His Project Plato and the Tyrant
“The Public Scholar program helps situate the humanities just where they ought to be—in the large world of public discourse, rather than behind university walls,” Prof. Romm said. “I’m honored to be recognized for making the ancient Greeks a part of that discourse. Never have the lessons they taught about tyranny, rule of law, and the meaning of citizenship been more relevant to our lives than they are at this moment.”
Plato is regarded as one of the world’s most influential thinkers, yet his life and personality remain opaque, partially because he did not include himself in his dialogues but used the mask of Socrates to develop his ideas. Plato and the Tyrant will bring his first-person voice to the forefront through quotes from the Platonic letters, documents sometimes regarded as forgeries but, as the book will argue, almost certainly genuine writings of Plato. The five Syracusan letters, addressed by Plato to Dionysius or to other political leaders of Syacuse, help tell the story of Plato’s interventions in that city. In addition, large segments of the Republic, especially the doctrine of the philosopher-king, can best be understood as reflections of Plato’s encounters with Dionysius, the foremost autocrat in the Greek world of his day.
Plato and the Tyrant follows not only the final two decades of Plato's life (367-347 BC) but the rise and fall, during that period, of a ruler who was at times Plato's student and at other times his nemesis, Dionysius the Younger, who at age 30 came to power in Syracuse in 367 as the sheltered heir of his father, also named Dionysius. The uncle of the younger Dionysius, Dion—a zealous adherent, and possibly lover, of Plato— wished to reshape his nephew’s character through philosophic instruction in the hope of setting Syracuse's regime on a healthier path. At Dion's urging, Plato journeyed to Syracuse just after the Younger's accession, a visit that set in motion a series of disasters for Dion, Dionysius, Plato, and the entire city. Plato and the Tyrant will ultimately examine the question of Plato's relationship to autocracy, a question that resonates strongly with current concerns in global and domestic politics.
Post Date: 08-18-2023