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by Plato

Translated by Benjamin Jowett

December, 1998 [Etext #1571]

********The Project Gutenberg Etext of Critias, by Plato********
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by Plato

Translated by Benjamin Jowett


The Critias is a fragment which breaks off in the middle of a sentence. It
was designed to be the second part of a trilogy, which, like the other
great Platonic trilogy of the Sophist, Statesman, Philosopher, was never
completed. Timaeus had brought down the origin of the world to the
creation of man, and the dawn of history was now to succeed the philosophy
of nature. The Critias is also connected with the Republic. Plato, as he
has already told us (Tim.), intended to represent the ideal state engaged
in a patriotic conflict. This mythical conflict is prophetic or symbolical
of the struggle of Athens and Persia, perhaps in some degree also of the
wars of the Greeks and Carthaginians, in the same way that the Persian is
prefigured by the Trojan war to the mind of Herodotus, or as the narrative
of the first part of the Aeneid is intended by Virgil to foreshadow the
wars of Carthage and Rome. The small number of the primitive Athenian
citizens (20,000), 'which is about their present number' (Crit.), is
evidently designed to contrast with the myriads and barbaric array of the
Atlantic hosts. The passing remark in the Timaeus that Athens was left
alone in the struggle, in which she conquered and became the liberator of
Greece, is also an allusion to the later history. Hence we may safely
conclude that the entire narrative is due to the imagination of Plato, who
has used the name of Solon and introduced the Egyptian priests to give
verisimilitude to his story. To the Greek such a tale, like that of the
earth-born men, would have seemed perfectly accordant with the character of
his mythology, and not more marvellous than the wonders of the East
narrated by Herodotus and others: he might have been deceived into
believing it. But it appears strange that later ages should have been
imposed upon by the fiction. As many attempts have been made to find the
great island of Atlantis, as to discover the country of the lost tribes.
Without regard to the description of Plato, and without a suspicion that
the whole narrative is a fabrication, interpreters have looked for the spot
in every part of the globe, America, Arabia Felix, Ceylon, Palestine,
Sardinia, Sweden.

Timaeus concludes with a prayer that his words may be acceptable to the God
whom he has revealed, and Critias, whose turn follows, begs that a larger
measure of indulgence may be conceded to him, because he has to speak of
men whom we know and not of gods whom we do not know. Socrates readily
grants his request, and anticipating that Hermocrates will make a similar
petition, extends by anticipation a like indulgence to him.

Critias returns to his story, professing only to repeat what Solon was told
by the priests. The war of which he was about to speak had occurred 9000
years ago. One of the combatants was the city of Athens, the other was the
great island of Atlantis. Critias proposes to speak of these rival powers
first of all, giving to Athens the precedence; the various tribes of Greeks
and barbarians who took part in the war will be dealt with as they
successively appear on the scene.

In the beginning the gods agreed to divide the earth by lot in a friendly
manner, and when they had made the allotment they settled their several
countries, and were the shepherds or rather the pilots of mankind, whom
they guided by persuasion, and not by force. Hephaestus and Athena,
brother and sister deities, in mind and art united, obtained as their lot
the land of Attica, a land suited to the growth of virtue and wisdom; and
there they settled a brave race of children of the soil, and taught them
how to order the state. Some of their names, such as Cecrops, Erechtheus,
Erichthonius, and Erysichthon, were preserved and adopted in later times,
but the memory of their deeds has passed away; for there have since been
many deluges, and the remnant who survived in the mountains were ignorant
of the art of writing, and during many generations were wholly devoted to
acquiring the means of life...And the armed image of the goddess which was
dedicated by the ancient Athenians is an evidence to other ages that men
and women had in those days, as they ought always to have, common virtues
and pursuits. There were various classes of citizens, including
handicraftsmen and husbandmen and a superior class of warriors who dwelt
apart, and were educated, and had all things in common, like our guardians.
Attica in those days extended southwards to the Isthmus, and inland to the
heights of Parnes and Cithaeron, and between them and the sea included the
district of Oropus. The country was then, as what remains of it still is,
the most fertile in the world, and abounded in rich plains and pastures.
But in the course of ages much of the soil was washed away and disappeared
in the deep sea. And the inhabitants of this fair land were endowed with
intelligence and the love of beauty.

The Acropolis of the ancient Athens extended to the Ilissus and Eridanus,
and included the Pnyx, and the Lycabettus on the opposite side to the Pnyx,
having a level surface and deep soil. The side of the hill was inhabited
by craftsmen and husbandmen; and the warriors dwelt by themselves on the
summit, around the temples of Hephaestus and Athene, in an enclosure which
was like the garden of a single house. In winter they retired into houses
on the north of the hill, in which they held their syssitia. These were
modest dwellings, which they bequeathed unaltered to their children's
children. In summer time the south side was inhabited by them, and then
they left their gardens and dining-halls. In the midst of the Acropolis
was a fountain, which gave an abundant supply of cool water in summer and
warm in winter; of this there are still some traces. They were careful to
preserve the number of fighting men and women at 20,000, which is equal to
that of the present military force. And so they passed their lives as
guardians of the citizens and leaders of the Hellenes. They were a just
and famous race, celebrated for their beauty and virtue all over Europe and

And now I will speak to you of their adversaries, but first I ought to
explain that the Greek names were given to Solon in an Egyptian form, and
he enquired their meaning and translated them. His manuscript was left
with my grandfather Dropides, and is now in my possession...In the division
of the earth Poseidon obtained as his portion the island of Atlantis, and
there he begat children whose mother was a mortal. Towards the sea and in
the centre of the island there was a very fair and fertile plain, and near
the centre, about fifty stadia from the plain, there was a low mountain in
which dwelt a man named Evenor and his wife Leucippe, and their daughter
Cleito, of whom Poseidon became enamoured. He to secure his love enclosed
the mountain with rings or zones varying in size, two of land and three of
sea, which his divine power readily enabled him to excavate and fashion,
and, as there was no shipping in those days, no man could get into the
place. To the interior island he conveyed under the earth springs of water
hot and cold, and supplied the land with all things needed for the life of
man. Here he begat a family consisting of five pairs of twin male
children. The eldest was Atlas, and him he made king of the centre island,
while to his twin brother, Eumelus, or Gadeirus, he assigned that part of
the country which was nearest the Straits. The other brothers he made
chiefs over the rest of the island. And their kingdom extended as far as
Egypt and Tyrrhenia. Now Atlas had a fair posterity, and great treasures
derived from mines--among them that precious metal orichalcum; and there
was abundance of wood, and herds of elephants, and pastures for animals of
all kinds, and fragrant herbs, and grasses, and trees bearing fruit. These
they used, and employed themselves in constructing their temples, and
palaces, and harbours, and docks, in the following manner:--First, they
bridged over the zones of sea, and made a way to and from the royal palace
which they built in the centre island. This ancient palace was ornamented
by successive generations; and they dug a canal which passed through the
zones of land from the island to the sea. The zones of earth were
surrounded by walls made of stone of divers colours, black and white and
red, which they sometimes intermingled for the sake of ornament; and as
they quarried they hollowed out beneath the edges of the zones double docks
having roofs of rock. The outermost of the walls was coated with brass,
the second with tin, and the third, which was the wall of the citadel,
flashed with the red light of orichalcum. In the interior of the citadel
was a holy temple, dedicated to Cleito and Poseidon, and surrounded by an
enclosure of gold, and there was Poseidon's own temple, which was covered
with silver, and the pinnacles with gold. The roof was of ivory, adorned
with gold and silver and orichalcum, and the rest of the interior was lined
with orichalcum. Within was an image of the god standing in a chariot
drawn by six winged horses, and touching the roof with his head; around him
were a hundred Nereids, riding on dolphins. Outside the temple were placed
golden statues of all the descendants of the ten kings and of their wives;
there was an altar too, and there were palaces, corresponding to the
greatness and glory both of the kingdom and of the temple.

Also there were fountains of hot and cold water, and suitable buildings
surrounding them, and trees, and there were baths both of the kings and of
private individuals, and separate baths for women, and also for cattle.
The water from the baths was carried to the grove of Poseidon, and by
aqueducts over the bridges to the outer circles. And there were temples in
the zones, and in the larger of the two there was a racecourse for horses,
which ran all round the island. The guards were distributed in the zones
according to the trust reposed in them; the most trusted of them were
stationed in the citadel. The docks were full of triremes and stores. The
land between the harbour and the sea was surrounded by a wall, and was
crowded with dwellings, and the harbour and canal resounded with the din of
human voices.

The plain around the city was highly cultivated and sheltered from the
north by mountains; it was oblong, and where falling out of the straight
line followed the circular ditch, which was of an incredible depth. This
depth received the streams which came down from the mountains, as well as
the canals of the interior, and found a way to the sea. The entire country
was divided into sixty thousand lots, each of which was a square of ten
stadia; and the owner of a lot was bound to furnish the sixth part of a
war-chariot, so as to make up ten thousand chariots, two horses and riders
upon them, a pair of chariot-horses without a seat, and an attendant and
charioteer, two hoplites, two archers, two slingers, three stone-shooters,
three javelin-men, and four sailors to make up the complement of twelve
hundred ships.

Each of the ten kings was absolute in his own city and kingdom. The
relations of the different governments to one another were determined by
the injunctions of Poseidon, which had been inscribed by the first kings on
a column of orichalcum in the temple of Poseidon, at which the kings and
princes gathered together and held a festival every fifth and every sixth
year alternately. Around the temple ranged the bulls of Poseidon, one of
which the ten kings caught and sacrificed, shedding the blood of the victim
over the inscription, and vowing not to transgress the laws of their father
Poseidon. When night came, they put on azure robes and gave judgment
against offenders. The most important of their laws related to their
dealings with one another. They were not to take up arms against one
another, and were to come to the rescue if any of their brethren were
attacked. They were to deliberate in common about war, and the king was
not to have the power of life and death over his kinsmen, unless he had the
assent of the majority.

For many generations, as tradition tells, the people of Atlantis were
obedient to the laws and to the gods, and practised gentleness and wisdom
in their intercourse with one another. They knew that they could only have
the true use of riches by not caring about them. But gradually the divine
portion of their souls became diluted with too much of the mortal
admixture, and they began to degenerate, though to the outward eye they
appeared glorious as ever at the very time when they were filled with all
iniquity. The all-seeing Zeus, wanting to punish them, held a council of
the gods, and when he had called them together, he spoke as follows:--

No one knew better than Plato how to invent 'a noble lie.' Observe (1) the
innocent declaration of Socrates, that the truth of the story is a great
advantage: (2) the manner in which traditional names and indications of
geography are intermingled ('Why, here be truths!'): (3) the extreme
minuteness with which the numbers are given, as in the Old Epic poetry:
(4) the ingenious reason assigned for the Greek names occurring in the
Egyptian tale: (5) the remark that the armed statue of Athena indicated
the common warrior life of men and women: (6) the particularity with which
the third deluge before that of Deucalion is affirmed to have been the
great destruction: (7) the happy guess that great geological changes have
been effected by water: (8) the indulgence of the prejudice against
sailing beyond the Columns, and the popular belief of the shallowness of
the ocean in that part: (9) the confession that the depth of the ditch in
the Island of Atlantis was not to be believed, and 'yet he could only
repeat what he had heard', compared with the statement made in an earlier
passage that Poseidon, being a God, found no difficulty in contriving the
water-supply of the centre island: (10) the mention of the old rivalry of
Poseidon and Athene, and the creation of the first inhabitants out of the
soil. Plato here, as elsewhere, ingeniously gives the impression that he
is telling the truth which mythology had corrupted.

The world, like a child, has readily, and for the most part unhesitatingly,
accepted the tale of the Island of Atlantis. In modern times we hardly
seek for traces of the submerged continent; but even Mr. Grote is inclined
to believe in the Egyptian poem of Solon of which there is no evidence in
antiquity; while others, like Martin, discuss the Egyptian origin of the
legend, or like M. de Humboldt, whom he quotes, are disposed to find in it
a vestige of a widely-spread tradition. Others, adopting a different vein
of reflection, regard the Island of Atlantis as the anticipation of a still
greater island--the Continent of America. 'The tale,' says M. Martin,
'rests upon the authority of the Egyptian priests; and the Egyptian priests
took a pleasure in deceiving the Greeks.' He never appears to suspect that
there is a greater deceiver or magician than the Egyptian priests, that is
to say, Plato himself, from the dominion of whose genius the critic and
natural philosopher of modern times are not wholly emancipated. Although
worthless in respect of any result which can be attained by them,
discussions like those of M. Martin (Timee) have an interest of their own,
and may be compared to the similar discussions regarding the Lost Tribes (2
Esdras), as showing how the chance word of some poet or philosopher has
given birth to endless religious or historical enquiries. (See
Introduction to the Timaeus.)

In contrasting the small Greek city numbering about twenty thousand
inhabitants with the barbaric greatness of the island of Atlantis, Plato
probably intended to show that a state, such as the ideal Athens, was
invincible, though matched against any number of opponents (cp. Rep.).
Even in a great empire there might be a degree of virtue and justice, such
as the Greeks believed to have existed under the sway of the first Persian
kings. But all such empires were liable to degenerate, and soon incurred
the anger of the gods. Their Oriental wealth, and splendour of gold and
silver, and variety of colours, seemed also to be at variance with the
simplicity of Greek notions. In the island of Atlantis, Plato is
describing a sort of Babylonian or Egyptian city, to which he opposes the
frugal life of the true Hellenic citizen. It is remarkable that in his
brief sketch of them, he idealizes the husbandmen 'who are lovers of honour
and true husbandmen,' as well as the warriors who are his sole concern in
the Republic; and that though he speaks of the common pursuits of men and
women, he says nothing of the community of wives and children.

It is singular that Plato should have prefixed the most detested of
Athenian names to this dialogue, and even more singular that he should have
put into the mouth of Socrates a panegyric on him (Tim.). Yet we know that
his character was accounted infamous by Xenophon, and that the mere
acquaintance with him was made a subject of accusation against Socrates.
We can only infer that in this, and perhaps in some other cases, Plato's
characters have no reference to the actual facts. The desire to do honour
to his own family, and the connection with Solon, may have suggested the
introduction of his name. Why the Critias was never completed, whether
from accident, or from advancing age, or from a sense of the artistic
difficulty of the design, cannot be determined.


PERSONS OF THE DIALOGUE: Critias, Hermocrates, Timaeus, Socrates.

TIMAEUS: How thankful I am, Socrates, that I have arrived at last, and,
like a weary traveller after a long journey, may be at rest! And I pray
the being who always was of old, and has now been by me revealed, to grant
that my words may endure in so far as they have been spoken truly and
acceptably to him; but if unintentionally I have said anything wrong, I
pray that he will impose upon me a just retribution, and the just
retribution of him who errs is that he should be set right. Wishing, then,
to speak truly in future concerning the generation of the gods, I pray him
to give me knowledge, which of all medicines is the most perfect and best.
And now having offered my prayer I deliver up the argument to Critias, who
is to speak next according to our agreement. (Tim.)

CRITIAS: And I, Timaeus, accept the trust, and as you at first said that
you were going to speak of high matters, and begged that some forbearance
might be shown to you, I too ask the same or greater forbearance for what I
am about to say. And although I very well know that my request may appear
to be somewhat ambitious and discourteous, I must make it nevertheless.
For will any man of sense deny that you have spoken well? I can only
attempt to show that I ought to have more indulgence than you, because my
theme is more difficult; and I shall argue that to seem to speak well of
the gods to men is far easier than to speak well of men to men: for the
inexperience and utter ignorance of his hearers about any subject is a
great assistance to him who has to speak of it, and we know how ignorant we
are concerning the gods. But I should like to make my meaning clearer, if
you will follow me. All that is said by any of us can only be imitation
and representation. For if we consider the likenesses which painters make
of bodies divine and heavenly, and the different degrees of gratification
with which the eye of the spectator receives them, we shall see that we are
satisfied with the artist who is able in any degree to imitate the earth
and its mountains, and the rivers, and the woods, and the universe, and the
things that are and move therein, and further, that knowing nothing precise
about such matters, we do not examine or analyze the painting; all that is
required is a sort of indistinct and deceptive mode of shadowing them
forth. But when a person endeavours to paint the human form we are quick
at finding out defects, and our familiar knowledge makes us severe judges
of any one who does not render every point of similarity. And we may
observe the same thing to happen in discourse; we are satisfied with a
picture of divine and heavenly things which has very little likeness to
them; but we are more precise in our criticism of mortal and human things.
Wherefore if at the moment of speaking I cannot suitably express my
meaning, you must excuse me, considering that to form approved likenesses
of human things is the reverse of easy. This is what I want to suggest to
you, and at the same time to beg, Socrates, that I may have not less, but
more indulgence conceded to me in what I am about to say. Which favour, if
I am right in asking, I hope that you will be ready to grant.

SOCRATES: Certainly, Critias, we will grant your request, and we will
grant the same by anticipation to Hermocrates, as well as to you and
Timaeus; for I have no doubt that when his turn comes a little while hence,
he will make the same request which you have made. In order, then, that he
may provide himself with a fresh beginning, and not be compelled to say the
same things over again, let him understand that the indulgence is already
extended by anticipation to him. And now, friend Critias, I will announce
to you the judgment of the theatre. They are of opinion that the last
performer was wonderfully successful, and that you will need a great deal
of indulgence before you will be able to take his place.

HERMOCRATES: The warning, Socrates, which you have addressed to him, I
must also take to myself. But remember, Critias, that faint heart never
yet raised a trophy; and therefore you must go and attack the argument like
a man. First invoke Apollo and the Muses, and then let us hear you sound
the praises and show forth the virtues of your ancient citizens.

CRITIAS: Friend Hermocrates, you, who are stationed last and have another
in front of you, have not lost heart as yet; the gravity of the situation
will soon be revealed to you; meanwhile I accept your exhortations and
encouragements. But besides the gods and goddesses whom you have
mentioned, I would specially invoke Mnemosyne; for all the important part
of my discourse is dependent on her favour, and if I can recollect and
recite enough of what was said by the priests and brought hither by Solon,
I doubt not that I shall satisfy the requirements of this theatre. And
now, making no more excuses, I will proceed.

Let me begin by observing first of all, that nine thousand was the sum of
years which had elapsed since the war which was said to have taken place
between those who dwelt outside the pillars of Heracles and all who dwelt
within them; this war I am going to describe. Of the combatants on the one
side, the city of Athens was reported to have been the leader and to have
fought out the war; the combatants on the other side were commanded by the
kings of Atlantis, which, as I was saying, was an island greater in extent
than Libya and Asia, and when afterwards sunk by an earthquake, became an
impassable barrier of mud to voyagers sailing from hence to any part of the
ocean. The progress of the history will unfold the various nations of
barbarians and families of Hellenes which then existed, as they
successively appear on the scene; but I must describe first of all the
Athenians of that day, and their enemies who fought with them, and then the
respective powers and governments of the two kingdoms. Let us give the
precedence to Athens.

In the days of old, the gods had the whole earth distributed among them by
allotment (Cp. Polit.) There was no quarrelling; for you cannot rightly
suppose that the gods did not know what was proper for each of them to
have, or, knowing this, that they would seek to procure for themselves by
contention that which more properly belonged to others. They all of them
by just apportionment obtained what they wanted, and peopled their own
districts; and when they had peopled them they tended us, their nurselings
and possessions, as shepherds tend their flocks, excepting only that they
did not use blows or bodily force, as shepherds do, but governed us like
pilots from the stern of the vessel, which is an easy way of guiding
animals, holding our souls by the rudder of persuasion according to their
own pleasure;--thus did they guide all mortal creatures. Now different
gods had their allotments in different places which they set in order.
Hephaestus and Athene, who were brother and sister, and sprang from the
same father, having a common nature, and being united also in the love of
philosophy and art, both obtained as their common portion this land, which
was naturally adapted for wisdom and virtue; and there they implanted brave
children of the soil, and put into their minds the order of government;
their names are preserved, but their actions have disappeared by reason of
the destruction of those who received the tradition, and the lapse of ages.
For when there were any survivors, as I have already said, they were men
who dwelt in the mountains; and they were ignorant of the art of writing,
and had heard only the names of the chiefs of the land, but very little
about their actions. The names they were willing enough to give to their
children; but the virtues and the laws of their predecessors, they knew
only by obscure traditions; and as they themselves and their children
lacked for many generations the necessaries of life, they directed their
attention to the supply of their wants, and of them they conversed, to the
neglect of events that had happened in times long past; for mythology and
the enquiry into antiquity are first introduced into cities when they begin
to have leisure (Cp. Arist. Metaphys.), and when they see that the
necessaries of life have already been provided, but not before. And this
is the reason why the names of the ancients have been preserved to us and
not their actions. This I infer because Solon said that the priests in
their narrative of that war mentioned most of the names which are recorded
prior to the time of Theseus, such as Cecrops, and Erechtheus, and
Erichthonius, and Erysichthon, and the names of the women in like manner.
Moreover, since military pursuits were then common to men and women, the
men of those days in accordance with the custom of the time set up a figure
and image of the goddess in full armour, to be a testimony that all animals
which associate together, male as well as female, may, if they please,
practise in common the virtue which belongs to them without distinction of

Now the country was inhabited in those days by various classes of
citizens;--there were artisans, and there were husbandmen, and there was
also a warrior class originally set apart by divine men. The latter dwelt
by themselves, and had all things suitable for nurture and education;
neither had any of them anything of their own, but they regarded all that
they had as common property; nor did they claim to receive of the other
citizens anything more than their necessary food. And they practised all
the pursuits which we yesterday described as those of our imaginary
guardians. Concerning the country the Egyptian priests said what is not
only probable but manifestly true, that the boundaries were in those days
fixed by the Isthmus, and that in the direction of the continent they
extended as far as the heights of Cithaeron and Parnes; the boundary line
came down in the direction of the sea, having the district of Oropus on the
right, and with the river Asopus as the limit on the left. The land was
the best in the world, and was therefore able in those days to support a
vast army, raised from the surrounding people. Even the remnant of Attica
which now exists may compare with any region in the world for the variety
and excellence of its fruits and the suitableness of its pastures to every
sort of animal, which proves what I am saying; but in those days the
country was fair as now and yielded far more abundant produce. How shall I
establish my words? and what part of it can be truly called a remnant of
the land that then was? The whole country is only a long promontory
extending far into the sea away from the rest of the continent, while the
surrounding basin of the sea is everywhere deep in the neighbourhood of the
shore. Many great deluges have taken place during the nine thousand years,
for that is the number of years which have elapsed since the time of which
I am speaking; and during all this time and through so many changes, there
has never been any considerable accumulation of the soil coming down from
the mountains, as in other places, but the earth has fallen away all round
and sunk out of sight. The consequence is, that in comparison of what then
was, there are remaining only the bones of the wasted body, as they may be
called, as in the case of small islands, all the richer and softer parts of
the soil having fallen away, and the mere skeleton of the land being left.
But in the primitive state of the country, its mountains were high hills
covered with soil, and the plains, as they are termed by us, of Phelleus
were full of rich earth, and there was abundance of wood in the mountains.
Of this last the traces still remain, for although some of the mountains
now only afford sustenance to bees, not so very long ago there were still
to be seen roofs of timber cut from trees growing there, which were of a
size sufficient to cover the largest houses; and there were many other high
trees, cultivated by man and bearing abundance of food for cattle.
Moreover, the land reaped the benefit of the annual rainfall, not as now
losing the water which flows off the bare earth into the sea, but, having
an abundant supply in all places, and receiving it into herself and
treasuring it up in the close clay soil, it let off into the hollows the
streams which it absorbed from the heights, providing everywhere abundant
fountains and rivers, of which there may still be observed sacred memorials
in places where fountains once existed; and this proves the truth of what I
am saying.

Such was the natural state of the country, which was cultivated, as we may
well believe, by true husbandmen, who made husbandry their business, and
were lovers of honour, and of a noble nature, and had a soil the best in
the world, and abundance of water, and in the heaven above an excellently
attempered climate. Now the city in those days was arranged on this wise.
In the first place the Acropolis was not as now. For the fact is that a
single night of excessive rain washed away the earth and laid bare the
rock; at the same time there were earthquakes, and then occurred the
extraordinary inundation, which was the third before the great destruction
of Deucalion. But in primitive times the hill of the Acropolis extended to
the Eridanus and Ilissus, and included the Pnyx on one side, and the
Lycabettus as a boundary on the opposite side to the Pnyx, and was all well
covered with soil, and level at the top, except in one or two places.
Outside the Acropolis and under the sides of the hill there dwelt artisans,
and such of the husbandmen as were tilling the ground near; the warrior
class dwelt by themselves around the temples of Athene and Hephaestus at
the summit, which moreover they had enclosed with a single fence like the
garden of a single house. On the north side they had dwellings in common
and had erected halls for dining in winter, and had all the buildings which
they needed for their common life, besides temples, but there was no
adorning of them with gold and silver, for they made no use of these for
any purpose; they took a middle course between meanness and ostentation,
and built modest houses in which they and their children's children grew
old, and they handed them down to others who were like themselves, always
the same. But in summer-time they left their gardens and gymnasia and
dining halls, and then the southern side of the hill was made use of by
them for the same purpose. Where the Acropolis now is there was a
fountain, which was choked by the earthquake, and has left only the few
small streams which still exist in the vicinity, but in those days the
fountain gave an abundant supply of water for all and of suitable
temperature in summer and in winter. This is how they dwelt, being the
guardians of their own citizens and the leaders of the Hellenes, who were
their willing followers. And they took care to preserve the same number of
men and women through all time, being so many as were required for warlike
purposes, then as now--that is to say, about twenty thousand. Such were
the ancient Athenians, and after this manner they righteously administered
their own land and the rest of Hellas; they were renowned all over Europe
and Asia for the beauty of their persons and for the many virtues of their
souls, and of all men who lived in those days they were the most
illustrious. And next, if I have not forgotten what I heard when I was a
child, I will impart to you the character and origin of their adversaries.
For friends should not keep their stories to themselves, but have them in

Yet, before proceeding further in the narrative, I ought to warn you, that
you must not be surprised if you should perhaps hear Hellenic names given
to foreigners. I will tell you the reason of this: Solon, who was
intending to use the tale for his poem, enquired into the meaning of the
names, and found that the early Egyptians in writing them down had
translated them into their own language, and he recovered the meaning of
the several names and when copying them out again translated them into our
language. My great-grandfather, Dropides, had the original writing, which
is still in my possession, and was carefully studied by me when I was a
child. Therefore if you hear names such as are used in this country, you
must not be surprised, for I have told how they came to be introduced. The
tale, which was of great length, began as follows:--

I have before remarked in speaking of the allotments of the gods, that they
distributed the whole earth into portions differing in extent, and made for
themselves temples and instituted sacrifices. And Poseidon, receiving for
his lot the island of Atlantis, begat children by a mortal woman, and
settled them in a part of the island, which I will describe. Looking
towards the sea, but in the centre of the whole island, there was a plain
which is said to have been the fairest of all plains and very fertile.
Near the plain again, and also in the centre of the island at a distance of
about fifty stadia, there was a mountain not very high on any side. In
this mountain there dwelt one of the earth-born primeval men of that
country, whose name was Evenor, and he had a wife named Leucippe, and they
had an only daughter who was called Cleito. The maiden had already reached
womanhood, when her father and mother died; Poseidon fell in love with her
and had intercourse with her, and breaking the ground, inclosed the hill in
which she dwelt all round, making alternate zones of sea and land larger
and smaller, encircling one another; there were two of land and three of
water, which he turned as with a lathe, each having its circumference
equidistant every way from the centre, so that no man could get to the
island, for ships and voyages were not as yet. He himself, being a god,
found no difficulty in making special arrangements for the centre island,
bringing up two springs of water from beneath the earth, one of warm water
and the other of cold, and making every variety of food to spring up
abundantly from the soil. He also begat and brought up five pairs of twin
male children; and dividing the island of Atlantis into ten portions, he
gave to the first-born of the eldest pair his mother's dwelling and the
surrounding allotment, which was the largest and best, and made him king
over the rest; the others he made princes, and gave them rule over many
men, and a large territory. And he named them all; the eldest, who was the
first king, he named Atlas, and after him the whole island and the ocean
were called Atlantic. To his twin brother, who was born after him, and
obtained as his lot the extremity of the island towards the pillars of
Heracles, facing the country which is now called the region of Gades in
that part of the world, he gave the name which in the Hellenic language is
Eumelus, in the language of the country which is named after him, Gadeirus.
Of the second pair of twins he called one Ampheres, and the other Evaemon.
To the elder of the third pair of twins he gave the name Mneseus, and
Autochthon to the one who followed him. Of the fourth pair of twins he
called the elder Elasippus, and the younger Mestor. And of the fifth pair
he gave to the elder the name of Azaes, and to the younger that of
Diaprepes. All these and their descendants for many generations were the
inhabitants and rulers of divers islands in the open sea; and also, as has
been already said, they held sway in our direction over the country within
the pillars as far as Egypt and Tyrrhenia. Now Atlas had a numerous and
honourable family, and they retained the kingdom, the eldest son handing it
on to his eldest for many generations; and they had such an amount of
wealth as was never before possessed by kings and potentates, and is not
likely ever to be again, and they were furnished with everything which they
needed, both in the city and country. For because of the greatness of
their empire many things were brought to them from foreign countries, and
the island itself provided most of what was required by them for the uses
of life. In the first place, they dug out of the earth whatever was to be
found there, solid as well as fusile, and that which is now only a name and
was then something more than a name, orichalcum, was dug out of the earth
in many parts of the island, being more precious in those days than
anything except gold. There was an abundance of wood for carpenter's work,
and sufficient maintenance for tame and wild animals. Moreover, there were
a great number of elephants in the island; for as there was provision for
all other sorts of animals, both for those which live in lakes and marshes
and rivers, and also for those which live in mountains and on plains, so
there was for the animal which is the largest and most voracious of all.
Also whatever fragrant things there now are in the earth, whether roots, or
herbage, or woods, or essences which distil from fruit and flower, grew and
thrived in that land; also the fruit which admits of cultivation, both the
dry sort, which is given us for nourishment and any other which we use for
food--we call them all by the common name of pulse, and the fruits having a
hard rind, affording drinks and meats and ointments, and good store of
chestnuts and the like, which furnish pleasure and amusement, and are
fruits which spoil with keeping, and the pleasant kinds of dessert, with
which we console ourselves after dinner, when we are tired of eating--all
these that sacred island which then beheld the light of the sun, brought
forth fair and wondrous and in infinite abundance. With such blessings the
earth freely furnished them; meanwhile they went on constructing their
temples and palaces and harbours and docks. And they arranged the whole
country in the following manner:--

First of all they bridged over the zones of sea which surrounded the
ancient metropolis, making a road to and from the royal palace. And at the
very beginning they built the palace in the habitation of the god and of
their ancestors, which they continued to ornament in successive
generations, every king surpassing the one who went before him to the
utmost of his power, until they made the building a marvel to behold for
size and for beauty. And beginning from the sea they bored a canal of
three hundred feet in width and one hundred feet in depth and fifty stadia
in length, which they carried through to the outermost zone, making a
passage from the sea up to this, which became a harbour, and leaving an
opening sufficient to enable the largest vessels to find ingress.
Moreover, they divided at the bridges the zones of land which parted the
zones of sea, leaving room for a single trireme to pass out of one zone
into another, and they covered over the channels so as to leave a way
underneath for the ships; for the banks were raised considerably above the
water. Now the largest of the zones into which a passage was cut from the
sea was three stadia in breadth, and the zone of land which came next of
equal breadth; but the next two zones, the one of water, the other of land,
were two stadia, and the one which surrounded the central island was a
stadium only in width. The island in which the palace was situated had a
diameter of five stadia. All this including the zones and the bridge,
which was the sixth part of a stadium in width, they surrounded by a stone
wall on every side, placing towers and gates on the bridges where the sea
passed in. The stone which was used in the work they quarried from
underneath the centre island, and from underneath the zones, on the outer
as well as the inner side. One kind was white, another black, and a third
red, and as they quarried, they at the same time hollowed out double docks,
having roofs formed out of the native rock. Some of their buildings were
simple, but in others they put together different stones, varying the
colour to please the eye, and to be a natural source of delight. The
entire circuit of the wall, which went round the outermost zone, they
covered with a coating of brass, and the circuit of the next wall they
coated with tin, and the third, which encompassed the citadel, flashed with
the red light of orichalcum. The palaces in the interior of the citadel
were constructed on this wise:--In the centre was a holy temple dedicated
to Cleito and Poseidon, which remained inaccessible, and was surrounded by
an enclosure of gold; this was the spot where the family of the ten princes
first saw the light, and thither the people annually brought the fruits of
the earth in their season from all the ten portions, to be an offering to
each of the ten. Here was Poseidon's own temple which was a stadium in
length, and half a stadium in width, and of a proportionate height, having
a strange barbaric appearance. All the outside of the temple, with the
exception of the pinnacles, they covered with silver, and the pinnacles
with gold. In the interior of the temple the roof was of ivory, curiously
wrought everywhere with gold and silver and orichalcum; and all the other
parts, the walls and pillars and floor, they coated with orichalcum. In
the temple they placed statues of gold: there was the god himself standing
in a chariot--the charioteer of six winged horses--and of such a size that
he touched the roof of the building with his head; around him there were a
hundred Nereids riding on dolphins, for such was thought to be the number
of them by the men of those days. There were also in the interior of the
temple other images which had been dedicated by private persons. And
around the temple on the outside were placed statues of gold of all the
descendants of the ten kings and of their wives, and there were many other
great offerings of kings and of private persons, coming both from the city
itself and from the foreign cities over which they held sway. There was an
altar too, which in size and workmanship corresponded to this magnificence,
and the palaces, in like manner, answered to the greatness of the kingdom
and the glory of the temple.

In the next place, they had fountains, one of cold and another of hot
water, in gracious plenty flowing; and they were wonderfully adapted for
use by reason of the pleasantness and excellence of their waters. They
constructed buildings about them and planted suitable trees, also they made
cisterns, some open to the heaven, others roofed over, to be used in winter
as warm baths; there were the kings' baths, and the baths of private
persons, which were kept apart; and there were separate baths for women,
and for horses and cattle, and to each of them they gave as much adornment
as was suitable. Of the water which ran off they carried some to the grove
of Poseidon, where were growing all manner of trees of wonderful height and
beauty, owing to the excellence of the soil, while the remainder was
conveyed by aqueducts along the bridges to the outer circles; and there
were many temples built and dedicated to many gods; also gardens and places
of exercise, some for men, and others for horses in both of the two islands
formed by the zones; and in the centre of the larger of the two there was
set apart a race-course of a stadium in width, and in length allowed to
extend all round the island, for horses to race in. Also there were guard-
houses at intervals for the guards, the more trusted of whom were appointed
to keep watch in the lesser zone, which was nearer the Acropolis; while the
most trusted of all had houses given them within the citadel, near the
persons of the kings. The docks were full of triremes and naval stores,
and all things were quite ready for use. Enough of the plan of the royal

Leaving the palace and passing out across the three harbours, you came to a
wall which began at the sea and went all round: this was everywhere
distant fifty stadia from the largest zone or harbour, and enclosed the
whole, the ends meeting at the mouth of the channel which led to the sea.
The entire area was densely crowded with habitations; and the canal and the
largest of the harbours were full of vessels and merchants coming from all
parts, who, from their numbers, kept up a multitudinous sound of human
voices, and din and clatter of all sorts night and day.

I have described the city and the environs of the ancient palace nearly in
the words of Solon, and now I must endeavour to represent to you the nature
and arrangement of the rest of the land. The whole country was said by him
to be very lofty and precipitous on the side of the sea, but the country
immediately about and surrounding the city was a level plain, itself
surrounded by mountains which descended towards the sea; it was smooth and
even, and of an oblong shape, extending in one direction three thousand
stadia, but across the centre inland it was two thousand stadia. This part
of the island looked towards the south, and was sheltered from the north.
The surrounding mountains were celebrated for their number and size and
beauty, far beyond any which still exist, having in them also many wealthy
villages of country folk, and rivers, and lakes, and meadows supplying food
enough for every animal, wild or tame, and much wood of various sorts,
abundant for each and every kind of work.

I will now describe the plain, as it was fashioned by nature and by the
labours of many generations of kings through long ages. It was for the
most part rectangular and oblong, and where falling out of the straight
line followed the circular ditch. The depth, and width, and length of this
ditch were incredible, and gave the impression that a work of such extent,
in addition to so many others, could never have been artificial.
Nevertheless I must say what I was told. It was excavated to the depth of
a hundred feet, and its breadth was a stadium everywhere; it was carried
round the whole of the plain, and was ten thousand stadia in length. It
received the streams which came down from the mountains, and winding round
the plain and meeting at the city, was there let off into the sea. Further
inland, likewise, straight canals of a hundred feet in width were cut from
it through the plain, and again let off into the ditch leading to the sea:
these canals were at intervals of a hundred stadia, and by them they
brought down the wood from the mountains to the city, and conveyed the
fruits of the earth in ships, cutting transverse passages from one canal
into another, and to the city. Twice in the year they gathered the fruits
of the earth--in winter having the benefit of the rains of heaven, and in
summer the water which the land supplied by introducing streams from the

As to the population, each of the lots in the plain had to find a leader
for the men who were fit for military service, and the size of a lot was a
square of ten stadia each way, and the total number of all the lots was
sixty thousand. And of the inhabitants of the mountains and of the rest of
the country there was also a vast multitude, which was distributed among
the lots and had leaders assigned to them according to their districts and
villages. The leader was required to furnish for the war the sixth portion
of a war-chariot, so as to make up a total of ten thousand chariots; also
two horses and riders for them, and a pair of chariot-horses without a
seat, accompanied by a horseman who could fight on foot carrying a small
shield, and having a charioteer who stood behind the man-at-arms to guide
the two horses; also, he was bound to furnish two heavy-armed soldiers, two
archers, two slingers, three stone-shooters and three javelin-men, who were
light-armed, and four sailors to make up the complement of twelve hundred
ships. Such was the military order of the royal city--the order of the
other nine governments varied, and it would be wearisome to recount their
several differences.

As to offices and honours, the following was the arrangement from the
first. Each of the ten kings in his own division and in his own city had
the absolute control of the citizens, and, in most cases, of the laws,
punishing and slaying whomsoever he would. Now the order of precedence
among them and their mutual relations were regulated by the commands of
Poseidon which the law had handed down. These were inscribed by the first
kings on a pillar of orichalcum, which was situated in the middle of the
island, at the temple of Poseidon, whither the kings were gathered together
every fifth and every sixth year alternately, thus giving equal honour to
the odd and to the even number. And when they were gathered together they
consulted about their common interests, and enquired if any one had
transgressed in anything, and passed judgment, and before they passed
judgment they gave their pledges to one another on this wise:--There were
bulls who had the range of the temple of Poseidon; and the ten kings, being
left alone in the temple, after they had offered prayers to the god that
they might capture the victim which was acceptable to him, hunted the
bulls, without weapons, but with staves and nooses; and the bull which they
caught they led up to the pillar and cut its throat over the top of it so
that the blood fell upon the sacred inscription. Now on the pillar,
besides the laws, there was inscribed an oath invoking mighty curses on the
disobedient. When therefore, after slaying the bull in the accustomed
manner, they had burnt its limbs, they filled a bowl of wine and cast in a
clot of blood for each of them; the rest of the victim they put in the
fire, after having purified the column all round. Then they drew from the
bowl in golden cups, and pouring a libation on the fire, they swore that
they would judge according to the laws on the pillar, and would punish him
who in any point had already transgressed them, and that for the future
they would not, if they could help, offend against the writing on the
pillar, and would neither command others, nor obey any ruler who commanded
them, to act otherwise than according to the laws of their father Poseidon.
This was the prayer which each of them offered up for himself and for his
descendants, at the same time drinking and dedicating the cup out of which
he drank in the temple of the god; and after they had supped and satisfied
their needs, when darkness came on, and the fire about the sacrifice was
cool, all of them put on most beautiful azure robes, and, sitting on the
ground, at night, over the embers of the sacrifices by which they had
sworn, and extinguishing all the fire about the temple, they received and
gave judgment, if any of them had an accusation to bring against any one;
and when they had given judgment, at daybreak they wrote down their
sentences on a golden tablet, and dedicated it together with their robes to
be a memorial.

There were many special laws affecting the several kings inscribed about
the temples, but the most important was the following: They were not to
take up arms against one another, and they were all to come to the rescue
if any one in any of their cities attempted to overthrow the royal house;
like their ancestors, they were to deliberate in common about war and other
matters, giving the supremacy to the descendants of Atlas. And the king
was not to have the power of life and death over any of his kinsmen unless
he had the assent of the majority of the ten.

Such was the vast power which the god settled in the lost island of
Atlantis; and this he afterwards directed against our land for the
following reasons, as tradition tells: For many generations, as long as
the divine nature lasted in them, they were obedient to the laws, and
well-affectioned towards the god, whose seed they were; for they possessed
true and in every way great spirits, uniting gentleness with wisdom in the
various chances of life, and in their intercourse with one another. They
despised everything but virtue, caring little for their present state of
life, and thinking lightly of the possession of gold and other property,
which seemed only a burden to them; neither were they intoxicated by
luxury; nor did wealth deprive them of their self-control; but they were
sober, and saw clearly that all these goods are increased by virtue and
friendship with one another, whereas by too great regard and respect for
them, they are lost and friendship with them. By such reflections and by
the continuance in them of a divine nature, the qualities which we have
described grew and increased among them; but when the divine portion began
to fade away, and became diluted too often and too much with the mortal
admixture, and the human nature got the upper hand, they then, being unable
to bear their fortune, behaved unseemly, and to him who had an eye to see
grew visibly debased, for they were losing the fairest of their precious
gifts; but to those who had no eye to see the true happiness, they appeared
glorious and blessed at the very time when they were full of avarice and
unrighteous power. Zeus, the god of gods, who rules according to law, and
is able to see into such things, perceiving that an honourable race was in
a woeful plight, and wanting to inflict punishment on them, that they might
be chastened and improve, collected all the gods into their most holy
habitation, which, being placed in the centre of the world, beholds all
created things. And when he had called them together, he spake as

* The rest of the Dialogue of Critias has been lost.

End of this Project Gutenberg Etext of Critias, by Plato

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Her introduceres dekonstruktionen som er en filosofi Jaques Derrida grundlagde.

Psykologi: Sigmund Freud og psykoanalysen
Her fremlægges psykoanalysen som er en af de væsentligeste psykologiske retninger.

Filosofi: Ludwig Wittgenstein: Fra logik til sprogspilsteori
Her skildres de to meget forskellige filosofiske sprogteorier som Wittgenstein beskæftigede sig med.

Sociologi og psykologi: Introduktion til Pierre Bourdieu
Om begreber og videnskabsteori hos Bourdieu, som i høj grad benyttes indenfor sociologien og psykologien.

Filosofi: Aristoteles logik og metafysik
En gennemgang af Aristoteles filosofi om logik og metafysik.