How to Cite Aristotle and Plato Correctly (with Examples)

Aristotle and Plato are usually considered two of the most prominent ancient Greek philosophers. Plato was Aristotle’s teacher at Athens Academy. The Academy was founded by Plato for scientific mathematical and philosophical research.

These two philosophers left a valuable legacy, they wrote a lot of works and are often cited in research papers. There are special rules for citing sources when you write academic papers. But if you think that you know all the rules of formatting, you are mistaken. If there are rules, there are exceptions. For example, when we cite classical books. It happens when there are lots of editions of some books by prominent authors.

Citing Plato and Aristotle is one such exception to the rules of academic writing. In this article, we’ll mention very important tips on how to cite the classical works of these authors. We hope that this guide will help you in your research work when you have to look through different resources and then cite them in your papers.

How to Cite Aristotle?

The works of Aristotle are nowadays cited using Bekker numbers. This referencing system includes the following information: the title, the number of a book and chapter, a special number to point out the cited part of the text.

This referencing system is named after August Immanuel Bekker, who used one of the editions of Aristotle’s writing. If you know how to cite Aristotle correctly, it will help you in formatting your research papers.

When we cite Aristotle we usually include the title of work, book/chapter, Bekker number (more often than the number of the page). Bekker numbers are used in almost all printed editions, citing them can allow tracking down your citation in any edition. So, to cite Aristotle correctly, you should find the text that interests you in any edition, then use the Bekker number.

Example 1: Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 3.1 1172b2–9

Example 2: Metaphysics, VIII.6,1052c3 – 12

VIII.6 means book VIII and chapter 6

1052c3 – 12 means the quantity of the column and the amount of the lines in the text.

Bekker numbers are included in the margins of the overwhelming majority of contemporary editions of Aristiotle’s writing. Nevertheless, several modifications of this referencing system exist. For example, making use of letters instead of Roman numerals. That approach differs from a usual marking of the pages where we nowadays always use numbers. Another characteristic feature of this system is making use of the abbreviations of the title of the works.

How to Cite Plato?

In Plato’s writing Stepahnus numbers are used. Citing Plato you write the title, the section number, the letter. Stephanus’s numbers are based on the edition of all of Plato’s works called Renaissance. His works were published in three volumes. Every page in this edition was divided into equal columns, the inner column contained the text in Greek and the outer – its Latin translation. Letters from A to E were printed between the two columns and divided the column into five equal sections. This edition was historical of great importance that is why many many other later editions placed Stephanus numbers on their margins as well.

For example, to cite Plato, we should include the title of the dialogue, the number of the page followed by the letter of the section and the first word of the citation. You don’t need to compose any volume number needs because a dialogue doesn’t split over two volumes, so the dialogue name suffices to make the reference definite and clear.

In every text by Plato there are numerals and letters on the margins. Such a reference style is called ‘Stephanus pagination’ or ‘Stephanus numbers’. In 1578 Henricus Stephanus published a well-known collection of Plato’s books.

You should remember how to cite Plato if you want to format your papers correctly. Since that time we have a standard style of publishing Plato’s texts including special numbering from that edition. If people read various editions of the same text they can use the same numbers and it is an advantage. For example, if you need to cite Plato’s dialogue, you will have to mention the title, the number of the section and the letter.

Sophist 31b-c

The number denotes the number of the page (Stephanus edition). If we analyze the example we see the citation from page 31 columns b-c in the Stephanus edition. In all contemporary editions of the Phaedrus this passage will be labeled in the same way.

How do you quote Plato writing an essay? If your book of Plato’s dialogues has Stephanus numbers, this is how to reference a citation from the dialogues.

  • Write the title of the dialogue and italicize it.


  • Cite the Stephanus number that begins the quote without italics

 Symposium 114b

  • Cite the Stephanus number that ends the citation.

 Symposium 114a-114b, or Symposium 114a-b.

If the Stephanus number at the beginning of the quote and at the end is the same then just write the Stephanus number once.

 Symposium 101a  

What About Reference Lists?

There are reference systems that use particular rules to add to a reference list texts by Aristotle and Plato and other ‘classical’ texts.

No official list of classical works exists or has ever existed. But generally speaking, some of these works are more than a thousand years old. They are like a cultural heritage already. That is why APA, for example, doesn’t recommend to mention ancient Greek texts, including those of Plato and Aristotle, in the reference list, only if you clearly define the version of the edition that is used when you cite it for the first time. APA recommends to use only in-text citations for main Roman and Greek works and a full reference in your reference list is not required.

When you use an in-text citation of Aristotle or Plato, you include just name and the date of the translation.

Example: (Aristotle, trans. 1952)

You should bear in mind, though, that the majority of reference systems demand to include detailed publication information for the works of Aristotle and Plato. In case you write an essay, for example, this approach is more preferable, even if Bekker or Stephanus numbers are used.

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