Black-figure Chariot
Greek 123 :  Plato: Phaedrus
308C Doe Library
G.R.F. Ferrari

In this course we will read and discuss Plato's Phaedrus, widely acknowledged as a tour de force of Platonic writing.  NOTE:  the text will be studied in ancient Greek, not in translation. 

In this unusually vivid dialogue, Socrates leaves Athens for a walk in the countryside with a younger friend, Phaedrus.  They sit and read together a piece of flashy rhetoric by the speechwriter Lysias, the theme of which is love.  This eventually prompts Socrates to outdo Lysias’ speech with a dazzlingly poetic speech of his own that praises true love as a kind of divine madness.  The remainder of the dialogue then analyzes the rhetoric of the speeches, and makes recommendations for how to achieve something worthwhile with one’s rhetoric and one’s writing.  Thus, the dialogue keeps its feet rooted in the practice of public discourse at Athens while stretching its gaze to a philosophic vision of the divine — a contrast offering plenty of food for thought.


Prerequisites:  Knowledge of Ancient Greek, with course experience in the language equivalent to three semesters of study.  (Specifically:  (1) Greek 1 and Greek 2; or Greek 10; or Greek 15; plus (2) Greek 100.  Similar courses taken elsewhere may also count.)

Requirements: Regular participation in class; two translation and grammar exams, one at the midpoint and one at the end of the semester; one six-page (1800 word) term-paper.