The Platoneia

(A) the Spring Platoneia 2017 ∼ sunset of May 2nd to the evening of May 4th!
(B) the Autumn Platoneia 2017 ∼ November 7th!

∼ Significance ∼

The Platoneia is the traditional celebration of the divine Plato, his philosophy, and of all those great men and women who studied and enriched his perennial tradition. In Antiquity, this celebration honoured the birthdays of Socrates and of Plato on the 6th and on the 7th of the Greek lunar month of Thargelion, respectively. For Plato, it is said that it is also the day of his death.

Both the days of the 6th and 7th of Thargelion are auspicious for other reasons as well:

The 6th is also the birthday of the reclusive goddess Artemis. Both Artemis and Socrates are "midwives", Artemis helps women in labour to deliver souls into the realm of generation, and likewise, Socrates assists souls to deliver divine intellection through the art of dialectics.

The 7th of Thargelion is also the birthday of Artemis' twin brother, Apollo, the Lord of Reason and the Leader of the Muses. And like Apollo, Plato teaches the soul to listen to the music of the spheres, the choir of divine Beings, and his muses are the golden chain of Platonic sages.

The Dual Platoneia

During the Renaissance, the Platonic Academy of Florence, inspired by Marsilio Ficino, celebrated the Platoneia on the 7th of November. This date was also used by a number of Platonic circles since, such as that of Thomas Moore Johnson's group (an account of their Platoneia is presented below).

In ancient times, some major festivals were celebrated twice a year. There were two Eleusian Mysteries: the "Greater Mysteries" in late summer and "Lesser Mysteries" in late winter. There were two Dionysian Mysteries: the "Country Dionysia" held near the time of the winter solstice, and and the "City Dionysia" held hear the time of the vernal equinox.

Because two dates have been used before to celebrate the Platoneia in the past, in Antiquity and in the Renaissance, it is highly recommended for those interested to have two Platonic Celebrations during the year: a Spring Platoneia during the 6th and 7th of the Greek month of Thargelion and an Autumn Platoneia on the 7th (and even on through the 8th) of the modern (Gregorian) month of November.

Because the Attic Greek festival calendar is lunar, the corresponding dates on the modern Gregorian calendar vary year to year. So, for a mathematical prediction of future dates needed to schedule the Spring Platoneia, it is helpful to consult HMERA: Hellenic Months Established Per Athens. Also remember that Attic days started at sunset, not midnight.

∼ Activities ∼

The activities included prayers and offerings to the divine, followed by a feast (vegetarian for traditionalists).

The Platonists would honour these the two founding philosophers (Socrates and Plato) and offer prayers and offerings to the gods on these days. Speakers would stand and recite the hagiographies of Socrates and Plato and of other esteemed Platonists, biographies which combine the life stories and praises of their virtues and piety. Poetry, inspirational pieces, exhortations to holy living, and selections from Plato's dialogues were especially prepared by individuals and dramatically read.

For instance, in the Roman school of Plotinos (as in elsewhere), the students would be encouraged to read short orations designed to inspire those listening to increase their devotion and practice of divine Philosophy. For example, during one of these celebrations, Porphyry of Tyre expounded mystic concepts in a poem called the "Sacred Marriage".

~ An Example ~

For an example of what a modern Platoneia might be like, the following account is available (with omissions) from the notes from one that was actually held in Bloomington, Illinois, in 1889. This Platonic Celebration was recorded by the group of the esteemed American Platonist, Thomas Moore Johnson, in his short-lived periodical, Platonic Bibliotheca: An Exponent of the Platonic Philosophy, Vol 1, No 2., pp. 118-126:

We note with great pleasure that the holding of an annual Symposion or festival in celebration on the "birthday" (mundane descent) of the Divine Plato, revived by the Editor of this journal in 1888, will probably become a permanent custom. We hope to see the time when the birthday of Plato will not only be made a national holiday, but will also be celebrated throughout the civilized world by Platonists and all others who love Wisdom and worship in the temple of Truth.

We are indebted to Mrs. Julia P. Stevens for the following report of the Symposion held at Bloomington, Ills., under the auspices of the Plato Club of that city. In justice to Mrs. Stevens it should be said that much of the success of this celebration is due to her indefatigable work and enthusiasm.

In imitation of the nine Muses, nine persons are accustomed to assemble at stated times for the purpose of making a study of the works of Plato. Their names are:

  • Miss Sarah E. Raymond,
  • Miss Nellie Fitzgerald,
  • Miss Effie Henderson,
  • Miss Clara Ewing,
  • Dr. E. W. Gray,
  • Prof. A. S. McCoy,
  • Mrs. Mary A. Marmon,
  • Mrs. Emelie S. Maddox,
  • Mrs. Julia P. Stevens.

This Club gave a Festival on November the 7th in commemoration of the Terrestrial Descent of Plato.

They met in a Symposium, with about fifty guests, among whom were the most cultivated people in the city. Three daily newspapers kindly lent their aid in presenting to the public the object of the meeting, viz. to attempt to awaken an interest in the Platonic Philosophy.

Music of a very high order was rendered by resident musicians, Prof. Benter, Miss Carrie Crane, Mrs. Eva Mayers Shirely, Mrs. Lydia Sherman.

Miss Raymond welcomed with cordial greeting, not only the Philosophers who appeared in response to the invitation, but those from suburban towns, distant cities, and our own home friends.

She gave likewise a short sketch of the Life of Plato. Mrs. Stevens stated briefly the reasons for fixing the Celebration of the 7th of November, rather than in May, November corresponding to Thargelion the eleven month of the Attic year, and the time observed by the Florentine Platonists.

Several letters expressive of sympathy and an appreciation of the movement were read from friends deprived of the pleasure of attendance. One says: "Your invitation is both beautiful and original. I like the idea of celebrating Plato's birthday in Illinois."

[...]

Rev. George Stevens read a paper by Alexander Wilder M. D., of New York City, entitled, "Philosophic Morality." Then an anonymous essay was presented, on "Euthyphron or Holiness."

Both these papers provoked discussion. Many insisted upon concisely formulated definitions of the two qualities, morality and holiness; and some murmured at not having them shaped into jewels, to be borne away as keepsakes.

Mrs. South, of Jacksonville, Ills., recited a little poem, "Looking Backward," contrasting the socialistic scheme of Edward Bellamy, with Plato's Republic.

At the evening session, although the rain fell in torrents, there were about sixty souls present. The session opened with the following poetical tribute to Plato, which was read by Mrs. Julia P. Stevens:

I.
"Immortal Plato! Justly named divine!
What depth of thought, what energy is thine!
Whose God-like soul, an ample mirror seems,
Strongly reflecting mind's celestial beams,
Whose periods too redundant roll along,
Grand as the ocean! as the torrent strong."
* * * * *
A few are always found in every age,
"To unfold the wisdom of thy mystic page."

II.
And now, though hoary centuries have fled,
We wish to honor still, the illustrious dead,
Dead! Did I say? Ah no! He yet inspires
All lofty souls, with heavenly desires
To mount on Reason's wing, beyond the sky,
Where truly beauteous forms can never die,
Where prophet, saint, and sage in bright array,
Behold the splendors of eternal day.

[...]

Mr Johnson, Editor of the Bibliotheca Platonica, read a paper entitled, "Plato and His Writings." Much interest was manifested by various questions, at the conclusion of the reading.

Dr. Hiram K. Jones, of Jacksonville, Illinois, who declared that his "lucid interval" was in the morning, rather than in the evening, delivered a most eloquent extemporaneous discourse on the "Symposion of Plato." Dr. Jones began by saying that it was very significant that such a meeting should be held in the presence of such a company, assembled in the interest of the higher thought; that Mr. Emerson had asserted that Plato had never been read by ten persons in any generation; that Plato is not discoursing on the trifling and mutable, but of the eternal principles, of which these varying, changing things, are but the image; that Paul also says that the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal; that Plato was not the Light of the world; he was a witness of that Light. The Doctor continued: And now we are gathered here to celebrate in a Symposion, his descent into these terrestrial planes, and I am invited to speak more particularly on his Banquet; which some suppose to be a mere feast in connection with drunken debaucheries, or a senseless carousal. But it is the feast of life; and the persons present are representative of principles or ideas.

[...]

It is almost impossible to represent Dr. Jones fairly; like Socrates, his discourses make our eyes stream with tears, hold us spell-bound and make us feel like crying, "what shall we do?" while the sublimity and grandeur of his expressions and the steady sweep of his thought are like the solemn roar of the ocean. My enthusiasm has induced me to attempt to faithfully portray the manner and style of this masterly teacher of Plato. How poorly I have succeeded will of course appear to those who have themselves heard his lofty discourse. The audience after joining in the song, "Auld Lang Syne," dispersed.

The next day, November 8th, was almost entirely occupied in conversations and discussions on Platonic topics; and I hold in grateful remembrance all the good things uttered both by Mr. Johnson and Dr. Jones.

The success of the Symposion was mainly due to the energy of Miss Raymond, who, gifted with appreciation, is the embodiment of generosity, and ever seeks to bring the very best of everything to the citizens of Bloomington.

The next Celebration will be held on the 7th day of November, 1890, at Jacksonville, Ills.




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