One large and important area was certainly as prone to stasis in the fth century as in the fourth, namely Sicily and south Italy (for urii and Akragas cf. . 7. 33 and 7. 50). It is in the Sicily of the 420s that we rst hear of the agitation for redistribution of land (. 5. 4.2: Leontini). From this turbulent region the tyranny of Dionysius arose, a possibility envisaged in general terms by a speaker in ucydides, Athenagoras the Syracusan (6. 38. 3). is tyranny, for which see below, Chapter 15, was witnessed at rst hand by Plato, and the experience surely inuenced his presentation of tyranny in the Republic.8 His aim in the Republic was to ‘save the city’9 by constructing an ideal society immune from change – especially subversion and takeover from within – and strong enough to avoid being overwhelmed from outside. e reason is surely that Plato’s lifetime had seen extreme examples of both internal stasis, such as Athens in 411 or Argos in 370 (above), and external coercion, of which a sample is given by Diodorus a few chapters after the
Argos episode: Boiotian Orchomenos was destroyed by the ebans in 364/3; the male citizens were killed and the women and children sold into slavery (15. 79). Such enslavement was rare between Greeks in the fourth century, but practised occasionally by Philip, for instance at Olynthos in 348. Or we may think of the wholesale Athenian eviction of the Samians from their island in the mid-360s; the refugees, who were not restored for forty-four years, were taken in by Greek cities all over the Mediterranean, as we know from the post-restoration Samian decrees thanking those who had been their hosts in time of need (below p. 261). Such awesome reversals of fortune help to explain the changeless theoretical aspirations of Plato. It is signicant of his dislike of the violent present that his dialogues are so often set in the past: the Theaetetus, which discusses the concept of knowledge, starts with eaetetus dying of wounds and dysentery after the battle of Corinth in 369; the dialogue then leaps back in time. Such nostalgia should not, however, be pressed as evidence that things really were better in the lifetime of Socrates (who was executed in 399).