In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Plato's Laws

  • Introduction
  • Editions of the Greek Text
  • Commentaries
  • Bibliographies
  • English Translations
  • Introductory Guides
  • The Laws’ Place within Plato’s Philosophy
  • Plato’s Project in the Laws
  • The Laws and the Laws of Athens
  • Collections of Papers

Classics Plato's Laws
Malcolm Schofield
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 September 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 September 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0214


The Laws was Plato’s last and longest dialogue. It can claim to be the first work of jurisprudence and likewise the first fully developed political theology ever written, offering a comprehensive view of how an entire society might be educated, organized, and governed. It covers a huge range of topics, of interest not just to philosophers and political theorists but also to students of ancient Greek culture and society, not all of which can be represented in this bibliography. There is not much scope for debate about choice of editions and Commentaries. But any selection of books, articles, and edited collections will inevitably be to a greater or lesser degree controversial. This bibliography attempts to be reasonably catholic in its choices. Many of the items listed will indicate further publications that it would be worthwhile to consult.

Editions of the Greek Text

Two editions of the Greek text of the Laws are accepted as standard. One is Burnet 1963, first issued in 1907; the other the Budé edition (Des Places and Diès 1951–1957), which is now the edition that commentators and translators regularly take as their basis. Bury 1926 is a convenient resource widely used, but prints many more conjectural emendations than are adopted in either the Oxford Classical Texts (OCT) or the Budé.

  • Burnet, John, ed. 1963. Platonis opera. Vol. 5. Oxford: Clarendon.

    A conservative text: the editor’s preface expresses the hope that he has never rashly abandoned the reading transmitted by the most authoritative manuscripts. The Greek of his text is often strained and obscure if seldom unintelligible, something encountered also in Plato’s other later writings.

  • Bury, R. G., ed. 1926. Plato with an English translation. Vols. 9 and 10, Laws. Loeb Classical Library. London and New York: Harvard Univ. Press.

    The Greek text presented in this edition adopts many conjectural emendations, often thanks to the influence of E. B. England’s linguistically oriented commentary of 1921. Available also online by subscription.

  • Des Places, É., ed. and A. Diès, eds. 1951–1957. Platon: Oeuvres complètes. Vols. 11 and 12, Les Lois. Paris: Les Belles Lettres.

    Offers a text (with French translation) very similar to Burnet’s, particularly in Books 1–6. Its superiority lies principally in its apparatus criticus, which contains fuller information about textual variants in the manuscript tradition and citations of the text in later Greek authors.

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