Bringing Ancient Greek Philosophy Back to Life

One of the goals of the Plato’s Academy Centre is to bring ancient Greek philosophy and literature to a wider audience by making it more relevant to modern life. This Prada advert directed by Ridley Scott shows one creative way that an ancient text can be brought to life:

The words are from Thunder, the Perfect Mind, a 3rd century Gnostic mystical text, discovered in Egypt and written in the Coptic language, but believed to have originally been composed in Greek.

In the video below, Akira the Don, has put the words of the Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius, from the Meditations, to music.

I think that there’s plenty of opportunity for other ancient Greek texts to be utilized creatively in ways that potentially introduce them to a new audience.

The lord whose is the oracle at Delphi neither reveals nor conceals his meaning, but shows it by a sign.


Translators can play a crucial role in this, though, by working with artists to create new translations, or even paraphrases, of ancient texts, which are both faithful to the original but also complemented by the music. There are many ways we can, and should, continue to work with ancient texts to keep them alive by making them more accessible and relevant to a wider modern audience.

Aphorisms like the sayings of Heraclitus or poems like Empedocles’ On Nature or the work of the same name by Parmenides, perhaps lend themselves to creative modern presentations like those above.

It is all one to me where I begin; for I shall come back again there.


Street Art

Another interesting opportunity for keeping Greek philosophy alive and reaching a new audience is through street art, such as the large portrait of Solon, one of the Seven Sages, found in Metaxourgeio in Athens.

Images of Greek thinkers are great but it would be nice to combine these with some of their words. There’s a backstreet in Kypseli, Athens, where artists have covered the walls with quotes from ancient Greek literature.

The Plato’s Academy Centre could, for instance, organize events to raise funds for street art projects to celebrate Greek philosophy.

Feel free to comment below if you have any suggestions for ways in which music or artwork could be used to bring Greek philosophy to a wider audience. You may also want to check out our forthcoming virtual event: Ancient Philosophy Comes Alive!

10 Replies to “Bringing Ancient Greek Philosophy Back to Life”

  1. Thanks for the great content – I’m loving listening to Akira the don for the first time.

    I love storytelling especially the ancient stuff when it’s done well. One of my 1st exposures to Donald was his Choice of Hercules video on youtube – there’s something about a bearded man with a Scottish accent that makes it captivating for me.

    My idea is to make these kind of story videos but higher quality and with a better visuals, maybe a crackling fire. Black and white videos seem to get more plays for some reason. I would recommend listening to MrBeast on the Joe Rogan podcast. He’s the most successful youtuber of all-time and has done it against all odds through obsession, analysis and perseverance. I’m not a fan of his content particularly but he’s very willing to share what makes a video go viral, it’s all about the small details which can make an exponential difference. Pacing, thumbnails, colors, visuals, angles and closeups, length…

    I think the appetite is there without having to do too much to the content, it’s just the delivery. Another good example is the sea shanty song (wellerman) that went viral. Nosstalgic/classic content recycled and done well and it explodes.

    Let me know what you think!

    1. Yes, I think we also have the potential to get celebrities to narrate videos using Greek philosophical content.

  2. Spreading philo idea through art is great, of course. But it would also be nice to have workshops on Plato’s dialogues, where we read them as a group — one dialogue per workshop. That, after all, was what was being done 2500 yrs ago at Plato’s Academy. 🙂

    1. I agree with Chryssa. Since 2000, I have been in Greece, mostly Athens, during the summer about 16 years. I attended professional conferences run by Greek scholars in two organizations, the Olympic Center for Greek Philosophy and Culture and the International Association for Greek Philosophy and spent most of the summer alone writing about “The Legacy of Ancient Greek Civilization in the Era of Globalization,” which ties together many aspects of Ancient Greek culture. I know the Olympic Center has died and I don’t hear from the IAGP, so I hope the Plato’s Academy Center will step us and bring back some of those scholars as well as appeal to the next generation. I would like people from all walks of life to come and talk about Plato’s dialogues with professionals. Socrates was not a “professional” and used language anyone could understand. Plato and Aristotle taught the future leaders in all sectors of society. We need to bring all the academic disciplines back into the public square, getting everyone engaged in deliberation about how to be a responsible citizen in a society that wants to preserve free intellectual inquiry, free artistic expression, freedom of speech and association and citizen participation in public life. The world is losing it. Where else but Greece to try and remember the legacy they left behind and learn what they wanted to teach us about how to set up a society that tries to cultivate citizenship consciousness and then how to corrupt it and lose it.

      1. Thanks, Martha, we will look into the organizations you mention. We have many connections with individuals and organizations in Greece already, and internationally. Yes, we are already committed to helping people from different (inc. nonacademic) backgrounds to engage with Greek philosophy. See our Ancient Philosophy Comes Alive! event if you want to support these endeavours. We are already planning a follow-up event with speakers from more varied backgrounds.

    2. That’s a possibility, Chryssa, although initially the Centre is committed to running conferences where experts from different backgrounds discuss Plato’s dialogues and other aspects of Greek philosophy, including opportunities for Q&A – something similar that we’re already doing. See our “Ancient Philosophy Comes Alive!” event on 21st May if you’re interested in supporting these sort of initiatives.

      1. Thank you and looking forward to the May 21 event. Would be nice to organize academic conferences (with invited papers) in the future as well in Greece, that also include a workshop involving reading Greek philosophy (esp a Platonic dialogue), open to the general public. I mean, these workshops can form part of the conference. I haven’t see this done elsewhere and think it would be a great way to celebrate Plato’s life and teachings.

        1. We have two Greek professors speaking at the conference in May but we will also be running conferences on location in Greece in the future, as the situation with the pandemic improves. All of these events (with few exceptions) are open to the general public. We will, at some point, feature reading of Plato’s dialogues, although the feedback we’ve had so far indicates that the wider audience prefer presentations which summarize or explain the content for them, as they often find Plato difficult to read.

What do you think?