Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …


A Journal for Ancient Philosophy and Science

Ed. by Wildberg, Christian / Morison, Benjamin

See all formats and pricing
More options …
Ahead of print


The Myth of Cronus in Plato’s Statesman: Cosmic Rotation and Earthly Correspondence

Corinne Gartner / Claudia Yau
Published Online: 2017-09-15 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/apeiron-2017-0047


The cosmological myth in Plato’s Statesman has generated several longstanding scholarly disputes, among them a controversy concerning the number and nature of the cosmic rotation cycles that it depicts. According to the standard interpretation, there are two cycles of rotation: west-to-east rotation occurs during the age of Cronus, and east-to-west rotation occurs during the age of Zeus, which is also our present era. Recent readings have challenged this two-cycle interpretation, arguing that the period of rotation opposed to our own is governed neither by Cronus nor by Zeus, but is instead a separate rotational cycle during which chaos reigns before a divine ruler reestablishes control. We introduce a new constraint on any plausible interpretation of the myth. According to the Correspondence Principle, changes in fundamental cyclical processes that shape the way of life on earth (mode of generation, growth, aging, and mode of death) occur if and only if there is a change in the direction of cosmic rotation. We use the Correspondence Principle to defend a version of the standard two-cycle interpretation.

Keywords: Statesman; Plato; Myth of Cronus; cosmology

We are grateful to Emily Austin, Rachel Parsons and an anonymous referee for their helpful comments. This paper originates from our discussions of the myth with Beba Cibralic and Priyanka Fouda.


  • Austin, E. 2016. “Legislating Immortality in Plato’s Republic.” Ancient Philosophy 36:133–150.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Brisson, L. 1974. Le Même Et l’Autre Dans La Structure Ontologique Du Timée De Platon: Un Commentaire Systématique Du Timée De Platon. Paris: Academia Verlag.Google Scholar

  • Brisson, L. 1995. “Interprétation Du Mythe Du Politique.” In Reading the Statesman: Proceedings of the III Symposium Platonicum, edited by C.J. Rowe, 349–363. Sankt Augustin: Academia Verlag.Google Scholar

  • Carone, G.R. 2005. Plato’s Cosmology and Its Ethical Dimensions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

  • Cooper, J., and D. Hutchinson (eds.). 1997. Plato: Complete Works. Indianapolis: Hackett.Google Scholar

  • Cornford, F.M. 1937. Plato’s Cosmology. London: Routledge.Google Scholar

  • Diès, A. 1935. Platon: Le Politique. Paris: Les Belles Lettres.Google Scholar

  • Duke, E.A., W.F. Hicken, W.S.M. Nicoll, D.B. Robinson, and J.C.G. Strachan (eds.). 1995. Platonis Opera I. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

  • Ferrari, G.R.F. 1995. “Myth and Conservatism in Plato’s Statesman.” In Reading the Statesman: Proceedings of the III Symposium Platonicum, edited by C.J. Rowe, 389–397. Sankt Augustin: Academia Verlag.Google Scholar

  • Fowler, H.N., and W.R.M. Lamb. 1975. Plato VIII: Statesman, Philebus, Ion. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar

  • Kahn, C. 2009. “The Myth of the Statesman.” In Plato’s Myths edited by C. Partenie, 148–166. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

  • Lane, M. 1998. Method and Politics in Plato’s Statesman. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

  • Marquez, X. 2012. A Stranger’s Knowledge: Statesmanship, Philosophy, and Law in Plato’s Statesman. Las Vegas/Zurich/Athens: Parmenides Publishing.Google Scholar

  • McCabe, M.M. 1997. “Chaos and Control: Reading Plato’s Politicus.” Phronesis 42:94–117.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • McCabe, M.M. 2000. Plato and His Predecessors. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

  • Rowe, C. 1995. Plato: Statesman. Warminster: Aris and Phillips, LTD.Google Scholar

  • Rowe, C. 1996. “The Politicus: Structure and Form.” In Form and Argument in Late Plato edited by C. Gill and M.M. McCabe, 153–178. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar

  • Rowe, C. 2005. “The Politicus and Other Dialogues.” In The Cambridge History of Greek and Roman Political Thought edited by C. Rowe and M. Schofield, 233–257. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

  • Scodel, H.R. 1987. Diaeresis and Myth in Plato’s Statesman. Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.Google Scholar

  • Skemp, J.B. 1952. Plato’s Statesman, 2nd ed. Bristol: Bristol Classical Press.Google Scholar

  • Van Harten, A. 2003. “Creating Happiness: The Moral of the Myth of Kronos in Plato’s Laws (Laws 4, 713b-714a).” In Plato’s Laws from Theory into Practice: Proceedings of the VI Symposium Platonicum edited by S. Scolnicov and L. Brisson, 128–138. Sankt Augustin: Academia Verlag.Google Scholar

  • Van Noorden, H. 2014. Playing Hesiod: The ‘Myth of the Races’ in Classical Antiquity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

  • Vidal-Naquet, P. 1978. “Plato’s Myth of the Statesman: The Ambiguities of the Golden Age and of History.” Journal of Hellenic Studies 98:132–141.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

About the article

Published Online: 2017-09-15

Citation Information: Apeiron, ISSN (Online) 2156-7093, ISSN (Print) 0003-6390, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/apeiron-2017-0047.

Export Citation

© 2017 Walter de Gruyter Inc., Boston/Berlin.Get Permission

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in