It is a commonly cited fact that Plato was held prisoner and sold as a slave. Later in the tale, a friend recognised him and paid for his freedom.

My question is, did Plato ever work as a slave for anybody or was he rescued by a friend before any other master acquired him?

I would appreciate if you can cite the source of the information.

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    The question should address why the information on Wikipedia "Plato almost faced death, but he was sold into slavery.[g] Anniceris, a Cyrenaic philosopher, subsequently bought Plato's freedom for twenty minas,[60] and sent him home. " is inadequate.
    – MCW
    Aug 6, 2021 at 11:09

2 Answers 2


One source of the story of Plato being sold into slavery is Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers by Diogenes Laërtius. An English translation is available online on Project Perseus. You can find the full story in Book 3 that discusses the life of Plato.

According to Laërtius, Plato angered Dionysius, the tyrant of Sicily, when he suggested that "the interest of the ruler alone was not the best end". Dionysius was going to execute the philosopher but was convinced to spare his life and sell him into slavery instead by Dion, his brother in law and a student of Plato.

The philosopher was then taken to the island of Aegina to be sold. There, he was recognised by someone called Anniceris and was ransomed for twenty minas. We don't know for sure who this Anniceris was, one possibility is the Cyrenaic philosopher. Laërtius also mentions that Dion may have provided the money for the ransom to Anniceris.

Plutarch (Life of Dion, 5) and Diodorus Siculus (Library, 15) also mention the story.

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    Would it be too much to ask how a free citizen got put in that position in the first place? I don't think the answer needs it, but I'm curious (and perhaps I'm not the only one).
    – T.E.D.
    Apr 14, 2017 at 12:52
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    @T.E.D. Oh, the usual story, he angered someone in power. Updated the answer.
    – yannis
    Apr 14, 2017 at 13:07

Ancient world slavery was pretty well equal opportunity. People of any age/gender could get sold as war captives, as victims of piracy, for punitive reasons and in many cases for debt. Various societies legislated against the sale of their own citizens within their society, but that didn't protect citizens when they strayed abroad. Plato was an Athenian. In Syracuse, his Athenians citizenship wouldn't protect him from the anger of the tyrant, whose word was law.

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