Twelfth Letter

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The Twelfth Letter of Plato, also known as Epistle XII or Letter XII, is an epistle that tradition has ascribed to Plato, though it is almost certainly a literary forgery. Of all the Epistles, it is the only one that is followed by an explicit denial of its authenticity in the manuscripts. In the Stephanus pagination, it spans 359c–e of Vol. III.

Like the Ninth Letter, the Twelfth Letter is purportedly addressed to Archytas. It thanks him for sending Plato some treatises, which it then goes on to praise effusively, declaring its author worthy of his ancestors and including in their number Myrians, colonists from Troy during the reign of Laomedon. It then promises to send to Archytas some of Plato's unfinished treatises.

Diogenes Laertius preserves this letter in his Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, as well as a letter from Archytas which presumably occasioned the Twelfth Letter;[1] This letter points to the treatises having been those of Ocellos of Lucania, a Pythagorean. Because the writings which are attributes to Ocellos are forgeries from the First Century BC, the Twelfth Letter is probably also a forgery, and by the same forger, intended to stamp the treatises with Plato's authority.[2] There is no other mention of a Trojan colony in Italy from the reign of Laomedon, let alone of Lucania or the Lucani having been descended from the otherwise unknown "Myrians."[3] R. G. Bury also notes that the Twelfth Letter, along with the Ninth, spell Archytas with an α, whereas Plato spells it in more authoritative epistles with an η (Αρχύτης).[4]

Text[edit]

PLATO TO ARCHYTAS OF TARENTUM, WELFARE.
I am overjoyed at receiving the treatises that have come from you and am filled with admiration for their author, who seemed to me a man worthy of his ancient ancestors. These ancestors are said to have been Myrians, and to have been among the Trojans who emigrated under Laomedon. Good men they were, according to the accepted legend. As to the writings of mine about which you wrote, they are not yet completed, but I am sending them to you as they are. We are agreed that they ought to be guarded, so I need not admonish you on that point. (Some have contended that this letter is not Plato's.)

— Twelfth Letter, traditionally attributed to Plato[5]

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Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Diogenes Laertius, Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, Life of Archytus, iv
  2. ^ Bury, Epistle XII, 607.
  3. ^ Bury, Epistle XII, 608.
  4. ^ Bury, Epistle XII, 607; cf. Seventh Letter 338c, 339b, 339d, 350a, Thirteenth Letter 360c.
  5. ^ Cooper, John M.; Hutchinson, D.S. (1997). Plato: Complete Works. Indianapolis: Hackett. p. 1673. ISBN 9780872203495.

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