The ideas of Plato, Aristotle, Plutarch and Galen on the elderly

A. Diamandopoulos

EKPA, Louros Foundation, Greece

For the sake of brevity, we will deal here with a very small fraction of  the texts of ancient Greek writers on Old Age, in a period of roughly 600 years between the 5th century BC and the 2nd century AD. And geographically also, the area covered is but a negligent fraction of the globe.

Aim. To comment on a very small fraction of  the texts of ancient Greek writers on Old Age, in a period of roughly 600 years between the 5th century BC and the 2nd century AD.

Materials and methods. We used extracts from the writings of Plato (The Republic), Aristotle (De Anima), Plutarch (Vitae Parallelae, Moralia) and Galen (De Marcore Liber).

Results. Plato presents two sides of the stance of elderly, i.e. continuity (to continue to do what they were doing in their active years), and disengagement (describes the tendency after some age to go away from your previous straggles and to contemplate on the eternal values of spirituality). Aristotle explains why in old age death is painless, like the shutting out of a tiny feeble flame. Plutarch elaborates extensively on the need to accumulate physical and mental qualifications when we are young so that we can be able to consume them later, in our old age. He declares that “although old age has much to be shameful of, at least let us not to add the disgrace of wickedness”. Finally, the social role of each person shall not mutate with age. Even bees do not become drones when they age. Galen supports the view that ageing is inevitable, although this is only confirmed by experience and not by science.

Conclusions. According to the cited authors it could be said that it is the cordial acceptance by elders of the limitations of age the term that will ensure their cordial acceptance by individuals of all ages living in society.

Download PDF