The central problem to any work of literature or philosophy is that of contextualization. Authors do not write in a cultural vacuum by rather in a complex socio-cultural milieu. The further we are removed in time from the author the more out of context the work appears. Plato wrote the Phaedrus for a fifth century BC audience but we as modern readers are no longer familiar with the culture, language, mores, religion, and values of that period.
Scully’s version of the Phaedrus is a masterpiece of modern scholarship. His lucid introduction sets the stage and background for the dialogue. He clearly articulates the practice of pederasty that would have been easily recognizable to Plato’s contemporaries but is completely foreign to us. His footnotes combined are probably longer than the text itself. They include clarification of cultural practices, ancient Greek technological innovations, religious practices, politics, historical figures, problems with translations, and much more.
Scully says, “the two main themes of the Phaedrus are rhetoric and love, and therein lies the difficulty.” He takes each major section of the dialogue and puts in back into context and in doing so he clearly demonstrates the relationship between the two thereby putting an end to the critics of the Phaedrus who claim that the dialogue is disjointed, or is “ruptured”. Scully’s brilliant scholarship puts Plato’s masterpiece into context so that as modern readers we can appreciate Plato’s brilliance.