Plato, Roman herm probably copied from a Greek original, 4th century BCE; in the Staatliche —Courtesy of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
(born 428/427, Athens, Greecedied 348/347 BC, Athens) Greek philosopher, who with his teacher Socrates and his student Aristotle laid the philosophical foundations of Western culture. His family was highly distinguished; his father claimed descent from the last king of Athens, and his mother was related to Critias and Charmides, extremist leaders of the oligarchic terror of 404. Plato (whose acquired name refers to his broad forehead, and thus his range of knowledge) must have known Socrates from boyhood. After Socrates was put to death in 399, Plato fled Athens for Megara, then spent the next 12 years in travel. Upon his return, he founded the Academy, an institute of scientific and philosophical research, where Aristotle was one of his students. Building on but also departing from Socrates' thought, he developed a profound and wide-ranging philosophical system, subsequently known as Platonism. His thought has logical, epistemological, and metaphysical aspects, but much of its underlying motivation is ethical. It is presented in his many dialogues, in most of which Socrates plays a leading role. See alsoNeoplatonism.