Plato's Missing Grave

But there is another sort of old age too: the tranquil and serene evening of a life spent in peaceful, blameless, enlightened pursuits. Such, we are told, were the last years of Plato, who died in his eighty-first year while still actively engaged in writing.”
                                                                                        – Cicero

Plato was the world's greatest philosopher and responsible for whistleblowing Atlantis, one of the world’s oldest conspiracy theories. He came from a wealthy Athenian family and established the greatest learned center of the ancient world - the Academy. Unlike his teacher Socrates, who was murdered by poison, Plato got to live a long life before dying of old age sometime in his 80's. After attending the wedding feast of one of his students and being serenaded by the tender flute playing of a young Thracian girl, Plato supposedly died in his sleep. According to Diogenes, Plato was given a lavish funerary procession by his students and then buried on the grounds of the school he founded. His grave, however, has not yet been discovered by archeological investigations. Furthermore his beloved Academy has also gone missing. One of the most sought after archaeological sites in Athens today is Plato’s 4th-century BC “Academy” of Plato. The Classical Greek thinker’s school of philosophy and learning was one of the earliest organized schools of higher education in the Western world. Founded by Plato around 387 BC the Academy’s demise came in 85 BC after a series of wars with ancient Rome. Throughout the next few centuries various rulers tried resurrecting it but Justinian I, emperor of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire closed it forever in AD 529 as part of his campaign to eradicate paganism. As the years passed the exact location of the Academy was forgotten. In fact, the Academy wasn’t one particular building but a district of sorts about one mile outside the northern city gates of Athens. The English word “Academy” comes from Hekademos, an ancient Greek hero from Hekademeia. This district of Hekademeia was a fabled lot located outside of Athens and made a perfect location for Plato to establish his Academy on the same hollowed grounds. Although in Plato’s time the Academy grounds were dried up and harsh, one hundred years prior, Athenian statesman and fabled general Cimon ordered the building of a vast pipeline that diverted water from the Kifissos and Iridanos Rivers down into the city centers and throughout the district of Hekademeia providing the areas outside of Athens with blossoming brightly colored vegetation. Athens had to be rebuilt after surviving a failed invasion from the Persian army. Cimon’s rebuilding and recoloring of Athens was in stark contrast to the usual dried pathways of ancient Greece. Cimon’s decorating of the Academy was later described by Plutarch: 

He was the first to beautify the city with the so-called ‘liberal’ and elegant resorts which were so excessively popular a little later, by planting the marketplace with plane trees, and by converting the Academy from a waterless and arid spot into a well-watered grove, which he provided with clear running-tracks and shady walks. So respected was this district of ancient Athens and its namesake Hecademos that the Spartans during the Peloponnesian War never touched the place called the Akademia (Plutarch, Theseus 32).

Most of the time Plato met with his followers in his own house and gardens, on the estate inherited from his wealthy Athenian grandparents. But the whereabouts of this location are also unknown. Archaeologists have been professionally seeking the location of Plato’s Academy since 1929 and while many important discoveries have been made including the finding of wall sections of an unknown 4th-century BC peristyle building nothing substantial that can be linked to Plato’s Academy has been discovered. Neither has any significant gains been made in discovering Plato’s grave which is said to be located somewhere on the grounds of the Academy, which of course hasn’t been found either. Plato joins other Greek philosophers like Aristotle and Socrates whose burials and tombs have also gone missing. What’s left of the Academy’s archaeological remains are mostly neglected save for the occasional gardener helping out. The one time ancient center for learning is now home to eroding walls, rusty barbed fences, chaotic assemblies of ancient stones, and lack of explanatory signs letting you know just how important the grounds that you’re standing on are. But times are tough in Greece, skyrocketing unemployment and a financial crisis has forced the home of western democracy into ruin and despair. It’s become so bad that even "Plato's Tree" a 3,000 year old olive tree, in whose shade Plato is said to have lectured his pupils was uprooted for firewood. Amongst the tax hikes the Greek people have suffered the 40% increase on heating oil has hurt the most as the winters have become increasingly colder over the years. But that’s not the only issues Greece is facing as an ongoing banking crisis and immigration woes have all but crippled the ancient nation. Not to mention that Greece, once the forefathers of democracy have put into place some of the most severe anti free speech legislations and restrictions in the world. To put it plainly, freedom of expression in Greece is now a thing of the past as anything deemed “hate speech” could land you in prison for decades. Plato would be spinning in his grave. If he had one.

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