Plato and Cicero: Classics brought to life

Lower Sixth Classicists have had a busy few weeks with a trip to see the play Imperium in Stratford-upon-Avon, and a talk to the Lyne Society from Dr Stephen Kershaw on Atlantis and Plato’s vision of the “Ideal State”. Below, Sophia Majzub writes about Dr Kershaw’s talk and Seva Khusid reports on Imperium.

Dr Stephen Kershaw’s most recent visit to Teddies for a Lyne Society talk was a lecture on his newly published book A Brief History of Atlantis: Plato’s Ideal State.

Atlantis, a mythical island that has captivated people for centuries, first came about in Plato’s dialogues Timaeus and Critias, and is a story exploring many important philosophical and political concepts, helping us to answer the question that to this day has not been answered: “what is the ideal state?”

Like many myths, elements of the Atlantis tale are true, and there are even people still searching for the real Atlantis today. But Dr. Kershaw, along with many other scholars, consider this to be a waste of time.

Plato tells us that Atlantis, an unparalleled and luxurious island, once flourished but was suddenly destroyed. But Dr. Kershaw explained that Atlantis, in a way, was never destroyed, because it never really existed – it was a constructed place that lived in the minds of Ancient Greeks and it has continued to live on in ours, thousands of years later. The idea of Atlantis has influenced and been interpreted by many – even Hitler used the image to back up his notion of ‘Aryan Supremacy’ – and its message to the leaders of today is still as relevant as ever. 

 

We were taken to the Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon to watch the play Imperium, which describes a particular part of the life of the famous orator and perhaps greatest ever lawyer, Cicero. The play focused on Cicero’s time as Consul, including his great speech to Catiline that led to his exile.

From a historical perspective, there were several minor controversies, but in general the portrayal of Ancient Rome and its citizens was brilliant. Cicero himself was captured very well, with an occasional irony towards his self-praise, and although the court and his speeches were not the main focus of the play, perhaps his most famous line “Quo usque tandem abutere, Catilina, patientia nostra?” – “For how much more, Catiline, will you abuse our patience?” was delivered perfectly.

I felt that the theatre trip was an important and useful experience, as it gave us a chance to visualise the lives of the people we’ve read so much about.

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