Plato - Would he have been a GM?


Just curious of your opinions and analysis for what we know of the man.

Of course, chess was not in Plato's "neighborhood" at the time of his life, but I'm sure he must have engaged in some other intellectual game-playing on a board and not just with words.

Can anyone share any theories and/or facts known about the more "casual" side of this philosopher and his recreational distractions? Even if its just what is known of his contemporary culture and what games were at his disposal.


I did a quick google search.



Plato does not "discuss" board games. He uses them sometimes to illustrate
a certain aspect in his discussion.
Look at:
Laws 739a, 820c, 903d; Politeia II 374c, 487b; Eryxias 395 A-B; Hipparchus

He doesn't devaluate them, on the cotrary, he speaks of skilful players.


> Where does Plato discuss board games and how does he
value them? Does he devaluate them like he does with the fine

> Mats

SO, Writch, maybe this is not what we were looking for, but at least it is something. Let me know if you find any more information on Plato and board games.


Writch/I would look to the Egyptians to find  the zeitgeist  when Plato was there for 13 years



Here is something


Well, sort of, rolef, thanks. This says that the Egyptians had a draughts/chess-like game - but it doesn't say if Plato was familiar with the game or played games.

While interesting as an ancient gaming topic, it's not the direction I wanted on this topic. I wanted to explore how this Founding Father of Reason and paragon of intellect would have fared in a game that is today almost synonymous with reason & intellect.

The first link from bomtrown provided some info (quotes attributed to Plato in his works) that at least have him alluding to games or game players. I need to hunt them down. (Laws 739a, 820c, 903d; Politeia II 374c, 487b; Eryxias 395 A-B; Hipparchus 220e)


I owe you an apology, rolef - that Google-books link was from Plato (indirectly).

I chased down more of those links and actually found a good site for searching Plato's texts. After rading most of them in context, it's true that the closest reference to a board games is what is being translated as "draughts" - an ancient predecessor of 'checkers':

So, looking up "draughts" from Wikipedia (and digging for 'History'):

Ancient games

A similar game has been played for thousands of years. A board resembling a draughts board was found in Ur dating from 3000 B.C.E.[4] In the British Museum are specimens of ancient Egyptian checkerboards, found with their pieces in burial chambers.[5]Plato mentioned a game, πεττεια or petteia, as being of Egyptian origin,[5]and Homer also mentions it.[5]The method of capture was placing two pieces either side of the opponent's piece. It was said to have been played during the Trojan War.[6][7] The Romans played a derivation of petteia called latrunculi.[5][8]

My humble conclusion is that while Plato was aware of Draughts - and may have even played it - it was just a recreational diversion with no intellectual value for pursuit in "getting good" at it. (most of the refrences are to that effect).

But Draughts seem to be more like Checkers and I suspect not many GMs would be interested in becoming Checkers' GMs, wouldn't you agree?

I also suspect that Plato might have been interested in the game of Chess more so due to its variety of pieces and pawns and the interplay - strategy and tactical.  He certainly thought that full-time warriors were better than part-time warriors and that soldiering was respectable as a profession. So I suppose that if he could not master chess itself, he would certainly endorse it as a profession must like an (Olympian) athelete.


Given that there is nothing new under the sun I would say Plato would play a very good game of chess.  Understanding the Zeitgeist can be challenging as we tend to think we are evolving but not devolving at the same time. Plato where are you when we need you. Plato could still think with his heart as he learned that from the Egyptians. Oh the Brain has let us down. Now we play with trinkets and move our men on the 64 with a click.


For Plato the concept of constant creation, where no object retains its qualities or characteristics from one moment to the next, seemed  to be a slight misunderstanding of Heraclitus's teachings. according to Plato, and object could persist despite continual change. Together change and permance coexist. One may step in a different waters. but the river is the same river. only its composition changes, of which the Logos is the acting principle...