The Path – July 1886

PORTRAIT OF PLATO IN CARNELIAN STONE — Fulvius Ursinus

plato

This portrait was taken from an old work by John Moretus, published in 1606 at Antwerp, containing 167 other portraits of ancient Greek and Latin philosophers, poets, orators, and scholars of renown. Accompanying each is a description in old Latin, and a literal translation of that which is given of the head of Plato is as follows:

"This likeness of Plato is represented on some precious stone, perhaps a Carnelian, very beautiful, of oval shape, and in the highest style of art, which one hundred years before, a Cardinal under Julius Caesar a Pontifican legate in the Florentine Council had brought from Greece. But it is long haired and bearded, as are the other likenesses of Plato, as the son of Ailius writes, that the first debate between Plato and Aristotle was about the hair and beard, because Aristotle, contrary to the fixed habit and style of Plato, was accustomed to have his hair cut and his face shaved.

"Very like to this portrait is that which is seen cut very artistically in Carnelian stone, and which was once in the possession of the first Cardinal of the Holy Cross, which in addition to the likeness of Plato, has also a likeness of the great teacher himself, Socrates.

"On the pillar of Hermes, which has the head broken off, these words are inscribed in Greek: 'Plato was a son of Ariston, an Athenian.'

"This also Laertius himself confirms, since he writes that he was born at Athens of his father Ariston, in the village Collyteum, eighteen years after the second year of the Olympiad, Aminia being chief ruler.

"Moreover there is extant in marble, by Fulvius, a portrait of this same Plato of the very highest artistic skill: and there is another very like to this by the same artist cut in a most beautiful Carnelian stone which represents Plato at that time an old man, as it would appear, about eighty-one years old, at which time, engaged in writing extensively he died, one hundred and eight years after the first year of the Olmypiad. In the same Carnelian portrait not only is the forehead of Plato represented very broad on account of which he was called by the name of Plato, prior to which he had been called Aristocles; but also his shoulders are very broad on which account some wished him to select a name from the Greek language.

"A statue of this same Plato was dedicated in the Academy, the work of a Silanian sculptor of the highest rank; and Cicero reminds us in his Brutus, of a statue which he had, in these words: 'Then we erected a statue of Plato on the public square, etc., etc.'"


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