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  • Diego Ratti

The first translation in Latin of Plato's Critias

The scholar Marsilio Ficino (1433 –1499 AD ) was a very influential and important humanist philosopher of the early Italian Renaissance in Florence. With the support of Cosimo de Medici a Neoplatonic Academy was founded in 1445 in Florence to promote the study and knowledge of Plato's philosopy and works which risked to be lost durinmg the dark years of the Middle Age.

Cosimo de Medici chose Marsilio Ficino to head Plato's Academy at Florence and in 1462 he supplied Ficino with the few suriving Greek manuscripts of Plato's work that he managed to collect.

Marsilio Ficino started translating the entire corpus from ancient Greek to Latin and he completed his task by 1469 in 7 years. Marsilio Ficino's was the first translation into Latin of Plato's work, it was made in manuscript form and for several years it circulated in manuscript form among few scholars. In1482 Ficino's "Platonica Theologica" was published: it was the most important Renaissance interpretation and commentary on Plato's work. Two years later Marsilio Ficino's "Platonis Opera Omnia" with the translations of Plato's writing was finally published in 1484.


Marsilio Ficino


Ficino's translations of Plato's Dialogues were based on several Greek manuscripts as he belonged to a circle of scholars who copied, compared and shared various manuscripts. For Plato's "Critias" Ficino seem to have relied to a manuscript of the F family. The manuscript F is the Vindobonensis Suppl. Graecus 39 [F] , the secondary manuscript belonginf to the F family are Amb., x, v, M, o, Pal, Vat...

"Omnia Platonis Opera" by MArsilio Ficino edition of 1571, Venice


A very good edition of Ficino's "Omnia Platonis opera" in Latin is that by Girolamo Scotto published in Venice in 1571. I have used this edition to review the Latin translation of Critias made by Marsilio Ficino, I consider this a very useful excercise: Marsilio Ficino translated directly from Greek manuscript and he had no modern biases when dealing with "Critias" and the Atlantis story, if his translation from Greek to Latin is similar to my translation from Greek then I can tentatively prove that some of the key passages related to the location fo Atlantis have been miss-translated and miss-understood by modern translators because of their modern bias which make them place Atlantis in the Atlantic Ocean. In the next few weeks I will publish on this blog some translation from Latin to English of Ficino's Latin version of "Critias".