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Open Access Eros Tyrannos: Alcibiades as the Model of the Tyrant in Book IX of the Republic

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Eros Tyrannos: Alcibiades as the Model of the Tyrant in Book IX of the Republic

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Abstract The aim of this article is to make use of recent research on ‘political eros’ in order to clarify the connection that Plato establishes between eros and tyranny in Republic IX, specifically by elucidating the intertextuality between Plato’s work and the various historical accounts of Alcibiades. An examination of the lexicon used in these accounts will allow us to resolve certain interpretive difficulties that, to my knowledge, no other commentator has elucidated: why does Socrates blame eros for the decline from democracy into tyranny? What does he mean by ‘eros’ here, and what link existed between eros and tyranny in the minds of his contemporaries? And finally, who are the mysterious ‘tyrant-makers’ (turannopoioí, 572e5-6) who, according to Socrates, introduce a destructive eros in the soul of the future tyrant? After a careful examination of the passage from book IX on the genesis of the tyrannical man (focused on the last stage of the metamorphosis, which is concerned with éros túrannos, 572d-573b), I will offer answers to these questions by turning to the writings of Thucydides, Aristophanes and Plutarch while examining the portrait of Alcibiades that Plato paints in the Alcibiades I and Symposium.

Affiliations: 1: Carleton University Ottawa, Ontario Canada annie_larivee@carleton.ca

Abstract The aim of this article is to make use of recent research on ‘political eros’ in order to clarify the connection that Plato establishes between eros and tyranny in Republic IX, specifically by elucidating the intertextuality between Plato’s work and the various historical accounts of Alcibiades. An examination of the lexicon used in these accounts will allow us to resolve certain interpretive difficulties that, to my knowledge, no other commentator has elucidated: why does Socrates blame eros for the decline from democracy into tyranny? What does he mean by ‘eros’ here, and what link existed between eros and tyranny in the minds of his contemporaries? And finally, who are the mysterious ‘tyrant-makers’ (turannopoioí, 572e5-6) who, according to Socrates, introduce a destructive eros in the soul of the future tyrant? After a careful examination of the passage from book IX on the genesis of the tyrannical man (focused on the last stage of the metamorphosis, which is concerned with éros túrannos, 572d-573b), I will offer answers to these questions by turning to the writings of Thucydides, Aristophanes and Plutarch while examining the portrait of Alcibiades that Plato paints in the Alcibiades I and Symposium.

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2012-01-01
2016-12-08

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