Diogenes Laërtius tells us that when Plato was transported to Aegina to be sold as a slave, he was arrested and was going to be executed without a trial:

And Pollis took him to Aegina and there offered him for sale. And then Charmandrus, the son of Charmandrides, indicted him on a capital charge according to the law in force among the Aeginetans, to the effect that the first Athenian who set foot upon the island should be put to death without a trial. This law had been passed by the prosecutor himself, according to Favorinus in his Miscellaneous History. But when some one urged, though in jest, that the offender was a philosopher, the court acquitted him. There is another version to the effect that he was brought before the assembly and, being kept under close scrutiny, he maintained an absolute silence and awaited the issue with confidence. The assembly decided not to put him to death but to sell him just as if he were a prisoner of war.

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers. R.D. Hicks, Ed.

A law that calls for executing Athenians on sight doesn't make much sense, especially in times of peace. Aegina is very close to Athens, and although it had been antagonistic in the past its naval power had declined by Plato's lifetime. I don't see why the people of Aegina would risk retaliation by executing or even putting to trial Athenian citizens without proper cause.

Am I missing something? Is the story, as told by Laërtius, plausible at all?


Well, the story does contain an insurmountable logical contradiction: how can anyone be prosecuted according to a law which stipulates "death without a trial"?

However, I think that there is a large kernel of truth in the story, because the events described would have been taking place shortly after the Peloponessian War, in which the pre-existing very sour relations between Athens and Aegina reached new heights:

By the terms of the Thirty Years' Peace (445 BC) Athens promised to restore to Aegina her autonomy, but the clause remained ineffective. During the first winter of the Peloponnesian War (431 BC) Athens expelled the Aeginetans and established a cleruchy in their island. The exiles were settled by Sparta in Thyreatis, on the frontiers of Laconia and Argolis. Even in their new home they were not safe from Athenian rancour. A force commanded by Nicias landed in 424 BC, and killed most of them. At the end of the Peloponnesian War Lysander restored the scattered remnants of the old inhabitants to the island, which was used by the Spartans as a base for operations against Athens during the Corinthian War. Its greatness, however, was at an end. The part which it plays henceforward is insignificant.

So, yes, Aegina would have been a very dangerous place for an Athenian to find himself in.

  • 1
    I see. Pollis, who took Plato to Aegina, was a Spartan diplomat, which also alludes to Spartan influence.
    – yannis
    Apr 17 '17 at 10:55

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