For someone whose influence has been so profound on Western thinking remarkably little is known of the Greek philosopher and thinker Plato. Due to the means and social status of his family Plato was most probably educated by some of Athens' finest teachers. The curriculum would have been rich and varied and include the doctrines of Cratylus and Pythagoras as well as Parmenides. Two major events shaped Plato’s life whilst he was a young man. The first was a meeting with the great philosopher Socrates. Socrates's methods of debate impressed Plato and he soon became a devoted follower. From here would flow Plato’s career as one of the finest minds civilization has produced. Major event number two was the on-going rivalry between Athens and Sparta which erupted into the Peloponnesian War. This was, in fact, several ‘stop-start’ wars fought during the period 431–404 BCE. Plato served in the cause of Athens and its Allies between 409 and 404 B.C.E. The comprehensive defeat of Athens by Sparta ended the Athenian democracy, although after a brief oligarchy it was restored. Plato traveled for a dozen years throughout the Mediterranean, studying mathematics with the Pythagoreans in Italy, as well as geometry, geology, astronomy and religion in Egypt. It was during this time that Plato began his writings, a remarkable number of which survive to this day. The writings themselves are usually classified into three distinct periods although there is some uncertainty as to the exact order in which they were written. Having now returned to Athens Plato embarked upon an extraordinary undertaking. In around 385 B.C.E., he established a school of learning, known as the Academy. The extensive curriculum included astronomy, biology, mathematics, political theory and philosophy. Plato hoped that those who studied there would be future leaders who would be better equipped thorough its teachings to understand how to build a better government. Plato would preside over its teachings until his death in Athens around 348 B.C.E.