The Aeneid

Virgil, Corruptor of Youth College

While constructing his “just city” in Plato’s Republic, Socrates argues against the incorporation of poetry into guardians’ education on several different grounds, including those of epistemology, psychology, and morality (Rep. Books II-IV, X). In this city, known as Kallipolis, only those things which contribute to a good upbringing for guardianship are allowed. In detailing the purposes and specificities of this censorship, Socrates mentions Homer often as an example and ultimately condemns him, refusing to allow the Homeric epics into the city (Rep. 606e-607a). Plato had no knowledge of Virgil’s Aeneid, as it was written centuries later. The question then follows: would Socrates have allowed the Aeneid to be taught in Kallipolis? By looking at how the Aeneid lines up with Plato’s arguments that most poetry corrupts the youth by portraying a bad image of gods and heroes, failing to portray humans and the world in an efficiently wholesome manner, and distorting truth and the Good through imitation, it is clear that Socrates would not allow Virgil’s Aeneid to be taught in Kallipolis.

Censorship plays an important role in Socrates’s Kallipolis. In Book II, Socrates argues that from a young age, a guardian child must not be...

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