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Plato was born in Athens in May or December around 427 BC. He was raised in a moderately well-to-do aristocratic family. His father was named Ariston, and his mother Perictione. His family claimed descent from the ancient Athenian kings, and he was related—though there is disagreement as to exactly how—to the prominent politician Critias. Plato's own real name was Aristocles; his nickname, Plato, originated from wrestling. Since Plato means broad, it probably refers either to his physical appearance or to his wrestling stance or style.
Plato became a pupil of Socrates in his youth, and—at least according to his own account—he attended his master's trial, though not his execution. He was deeply affected by the city's treatment of Socrates, and much of his early work records his memories of his teacher. It is suggested that much of his ethical writing is in pursuit of a society where similar injustices could not occur.
Plato was also deeply influenced by a number of prior philosophers, including: the Pythagoreans, whose notions of numerical harmony have clear echoes in Plato's notion of the Forms; Anaxagoras, who taught Socrates and who held that the mind, or reason, pervades everything; and Parmenides, who argued for the unity of all things and may have influenced Plato's concept of the soul.
When he was 40 years old, Plato founded one of the earliest known organized schools in Western civilization on a plot of land in the Grove of Academe. The Academy was "a large enclosure of ground which was once the property of a citizen at Athens named Academus... some, however, say that it received its name from an ancient hero" (Robinson, Arch. Graec. I i 16), and it operated until AD 529, when it was closed by Justinian I of Byzantium because he saw it as a threat to the propagation of Christianity. Many intellectuals were schooled in the Academy, the most prominent one being Aristotle.