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Seminar Ancient Philosophy: Plato's Myths


Admission requirements

BA students in Classics: Propaedeutic diploma Classics and Ancient Philosophy 2: from Aristotle to Neoplatonism.
BA students in Philosophy: Propaedeutic diploma Philosophy and basic reading knowledge of Ancient Greek.

Other students: Advanced knowledge in Ancient Philosophy. Please contact the study advisor of the Classics programme to check admissibility.


Plato explicitly opposes philosophical discourse to myth, which he considers incompatible with the methods and aims of dialectics. In practice, however, myths are inextricably linked with his philosophical thinking. Fundamental themes of Platonic philosophy such as eschatology, justice, recollection, cosmogony, and love are in fact the object of mythical constructions, thereby creating a productive tension with the dialectic argumentation. What is the function of myths within the philosophical discourse? How does Plato justify the use of myths in his dialogues? What are the claims to truth of Platonic myths? We will attempt to answer those questions drawing on the eschatological myth of the Phaedo, the central myth of the Phaedrus, the androgyne myth of the Symposium, and the Atlantis myth in the Timaeus and the Critias.

Course objectives

  • have the skill to assess the sources and understand them within their cultural context, as demonstrated in oral presentation and written exam (II.i, iii, iv; III.i, ii, oral skills);

  • critical assessment of secondary literature (, vii; III.i, research skills);

  • give and receive constructive criticism during oral presentations; active participation in discussions (II.iii, iv, oral skills).


The timetable is available on the Classics website.

Mode of instruction

Seminar. Regular assistance is compulsory.

Course Load

Total course load 5 ec x 28 hours = 140 hours

  • Seminars: 13 × 2 hours = 26 hours;

  • Preparation seminar: 30 hours;

  • Study of compulsory literature: 70 hours;

  • Preparation exam: 14 hours.

In consultation with the lecturer, Philsophy students can take this seminar for 10 ec. Basic level of Greek is required.

Assessment method

  • Oral presentation (20-30 minutes): 40%;

  • Written examination with essay questions: 50%;

  • Active participation in the debates: 10%.

Regular assistance is compulsory.


The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average.


If the final grade is insufficient, there is one opportunity to resit in the form of a written test: the result of this test determines the final mark.


Blackboard will be used to proivde students with secondary literature.

Reading list


  • Plato, Selected Myths, edited by Catalin Partenie, Oxford World Classics.
    Greek texts (OCT) will be distributed at the beginning of the seminar.

Selected secondary literature:

  • Brisson, L., Plato the mythmaker, Chicago, 1998;

  • Collobert, C. & Destrée, P. (eds.), Plato and Myth: studies on the use and status of Platonic myths, Leiden, 2012;

  • Morgan, K., Myth and Philosophy: from the Presocratics to Plato, Cambridge, 2000;

  • Partenie, C. (ed.), Plato’s Myths, Cambridge, 2009;

  • Reinhardt, K., Platons Mythen, Bonn, 1927.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.

Exchange and Study Abroad students: please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable




Dhr. Dr. L. (Leopoldo) Iribarren Baralt