Epigrams (Plato)


Eighteen Epigrams are attributed to Plato, most of them considered spurious. These are short poems suitable for dedicatory purposes written in the form of elegiac couplets.[1]


1 You gaze at the stars, my Star; would that I were Heaven, that I might look at you with many eyes!

2 Even as you shone once the Star of Morning among the living, so in death you shine now the Star of Evening among the dead.

3 The Fates decreed tears to Hecuba and the women of Troy right from their birth; but for you, Dion, the gods spilled your widespread hopes upon the ground after you had triumphed in the doing of noble deeds. And so in your spacious homeland you lie honored by your fellow citizens, O Dion, you who made my heart mad with love.

4 Now, when I have but whispered that Alexis is beautiful, he is the observed of all observers. O my heart, why show dogs a bone? You'll be sorry for it afterwards: was it not so that we lost Phaedrus?

5 My mistress is Archeanassa of Colophon, on whose very wrinkles there is bitter love. Hapless are all you who met such beauty on its first voyage; through what a burning did you pass!

6 When I kiss Agathon my soul is on my lips, where it comes, poor thing, hoping to cross over.

7 I throw the apple at you, and if you are willing to love me, take it and share your girlhood with me; but if your thoughts are what I pray they are not, even then take it, and consider how short-lived is beauty.

8 I am an apple; one who loves you throws me at you. Say yes, Xanthippe; we fade, both you and I.

9 We are Eretrians of Euboea, but we lie near Susa, alas, how far from home!

10 A man who found some gold left a noose, and the one who did not find the gold he had left tied on the noose he found.

11 I, Laïs, who laughed so disdainfully at Greece and once kept a swarm of young lovers at my door, dedicate this mirror to the Paphian—for I do not wish to see me as I am, and cannot see me as I was.

12 This man was pleasing to foreigners and dear to his fellow citizens—Pindar, servant of the melodious Muses.

13 We once left the sounding waves of the Aegean to lie here amidst the plains of Ecbatana. Fare thee well, renowned Eretria, our former country. Fare thee well, Athens, Euboea's neighbor. Fare thee well, dear Sea.

14 I am the tomb of a ship's captain; the tomb opposite is a farmer's: for beneath the land and beneath the sea is the same place of Death.

15 Sailors, be safe, by sea and on land; I would have you know that the tomb you pass is a shipwrecked man's.

16 Some say there are nine Muses. How thoughtless! Look at Sappho of Lesbos; she makes a tenth.

17 When Cypris saw Cypris at Cnidus, "Alas!" said she; "where did Praxiteles see me naked?"

18 The Graces, seeking for themselves a shrine that would not fall, found the soul of Aristophanes.

— The Eighteen Epigrams, traditionally attributed to Plato[2]

People, places and pantheonEdit

Typically of ancient Greek literature (and regardless of their Platonic authenticity), the Epigrams clearly refer to historical personalities, various places in and around ancient Greece, and specific characters of Greek mythology.


The Ludovisi Cnidan Aphrodite, a Roman marble copy of the original Aphrodite of Knidos, sculpted by Praxiteles and referred to in epigram 17
  • Hecuba: queen of Troy. The Trojan loss of the Trojan war, as described in the Iliad, explains the decree of tears for Hecuba and the women of Troy at the hands of the Fates, who represent the harsher inevitabilities of the human condition, such as death and destiny.
  • Dion: the political figure of Syracuse whose campaign is discussed at length in the Platonic Epistles, or Letters.
  • Alexis: possibly one of a number of already-named ancient personalities, or else a new personality of the same name altogether.
  • Phaedrus: Plato's contemporary; namesake of the Platonic dialogue of the same name.
  • Archeanassa: a possible historical romantic interest of Plato's.
  • Agathon: Athenian tragic poet, known for appearing in Plato's Symposium.
  • Xanthippe: Socrates' wife. The pertinent epigram may therefore represent Socrates' courtship of Xanthippe.
  • Laïs: A reference to either of the courtesans Lais of Corinth or Lais of Hyccara, the two being historically confused in ancient literature, and therefore inextricably linked.
  • Pindar: lyric poet, whose association with the muses is a compliment of his skill.
  • Sappho: female lyric poet, whose skill is likewise complimented by counting her as a tenth muse, a common appellation for Sappho in the ancient historical record.
  • Praxiteles: sculptor. The epigram is a poetic compliment of his skill, as in its telling, the (later often-copied) Aphrodite of Knidos is beheld by Aphrodite herself, and is judged by her to be a perfect likeness.
  • Aristophanes: comic playwright. As the Graces represent the happier elements of the human condition, it is fitting that they would be associated with Aristophanes in epigram 18.


Well-known place names mentioned in the Epigrams include Troy, Greece itself, the Aegean Sea, and Athens. More specific references include:

  • Colophon: a city of ancient Greece, present day western Turkey.
  • Euboea: a large island in central Greece, just off the mainland, near Athens.
  • Eretria: a city in Euboea.
  • Susa: a city of ancient Persia, present day western Iran.
  • Ecbatana: another city of ancient Persia, present day western Iran.
  • Lesbos: an island in Eastern Greece, near present-day Turkey, historical home of Sappho.
  • Cnidus (Knidos), then a Greek city in present-day southwestern Turkey, site of the aforementioned Aphrodite of Knidos sculpture.

Mythological figuresEdit

  • The Fates: in their capacity for terrible assignment of destiny to humans, the Fates are mentioned as decreeing tears to Trojan women.
  • The Muses: mentioned twice, the Muses are associated with the creative efforts of Pindar and Sappho.
  • The Graces: representing the happier elements of the human condition, the Graces are associated with Aristophanes.
  • "The Paphian" and "Cypris": both names refer to the goddess Aphrodite who, according to legend, rose from the sea at Paphos, southwestern Cyprus. The first "Cypris" of epigram 17 therefore refers to the goddess herself, while the second "Cypris" refers to the famous, lost (though often-copied) statue of her likeness, the Aphrodite of Knidos, which Aphrodite is acknowledging as a perfect likeness.


  1. ^ John Madison Cooper, D. S. Hutchinson, (1997), Plato, Complete works, page 1742. Hackett Publishing.
  2. ^ Cooper, John M.; Hutchinson, D.S. (1997). Plato: Complete Works. Indianapolis: Hackett. p. 1743-1745. ISBN 9780872203495.

External linksEdit

  •   Works related to Epigrams of Plato at Wikisource