“I Went Down to Piraeus Yesterday”: Routes, Roads, and Plato’s Republic

by Geoffrey Bakewell

Hesperia, Volume 89, Issue 4
Page(s): 725-755
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2972/hesperia.89.4.0725
Year: 2020


The first four words of Plato's Republic, κατέβην χθὲς εἰς Πειραιᾶ, refer to a journey commonplace in antiquity: “I went down to Piraeus yesterday.” Countless Athenians regularly made this three-hour trek from the upper city to the harbor, and Plato, his interlocutors, and his Athenian readers were all familiar with the route. We, however, have largely forgotten what it was like to travel on foot in ancient Athens and have ignored Plato's topographical framing. This article retraces the first stage of Sokrates and Glaukon's journey, from the Dipylon Gate through the Kerameikos, and argues that the road network, shrines, and tombs they would have encountered have significant links with the philosophical content of the Republic.