The Timaeus Critias' tale + The Critias Atlantis described

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This page features translations of the relevant passages from the Timaeus and Critias of Plato.
The translation is that of W.R.M. Lamb, and appears in volume 9 of Plato in Twelve Volumes, published in 1925 by Harvard University Press and William Heinemann Ltd.


Sir Desmond Lee, in his translation of the Timaeus and Critias, furnishes a helpful breakdown of the contents of the former. This breakdown is included here to provide more information on this dialogue, particularly with reference to the cosmogony furnished by its title character. All terminology is Sir Desmond's, and appears in the index to the dialogue provided in his 1973 translation.

  • Introductory Conversation (a) [17a-20c]
  • Introductory Conversation (b): The Atlantis Myth [20c-27b]
  • Prelude: Physical science a 'likely story' [27c-29d]

Main Section I. The work of reason

  • The motive for creation: copy and model [29d-31b]
  • The body of the world: earth, air, fire and water [31b-34b]
  • The soul of the world: the circles of the Same and the Different - stars and planets [34b-37c]
  • Time and its measurement [37c-39e]
  • Living creatures: (a) the gods [39e-41a]
  • Living creatures: (b) the human soul and body [41a-d]
  • Composition and destiny of the human soul [41d-42e]
  • The confusion consequent on the human soul's embodiment [42e-44d]
  • The human body: head and limbs [44d-45a]
  • The eyes and vision: sleep, dreams and mirror-images [45b-46c]
  • Subordinate causes and intelligent purpose [46c-47e]

Main Section II. The work of necessity

  • Reason and necessity [47e-48e]
  • The receptacle of becoming [48e-49a]
  • The names fire, air, water, earth indicate differences of quality not substance [49a-50a]
  • The receptacle in itself characterless [50a-51b]
  • The forms and the difference between opinion and knowledge [51b-e]
  • Form, Copy, and Receptacle or Space [51e-52d]
  • The primitive chaos [52d-53a]
  • The four elements and the regular solids - Construction of the solids [53a-55d]
  • Assignment of the solids to the elements: the elementary particles [55d-56c]
  • The process of transformation [56c-57c]
  • The basic triangles of more than one size [57c-d]
  • The process of transformation unceasing [57d-58c]
  • Varieties and compounds of the four elements [58c-61c]
    • (a) Fire and air [58c-d]
    • (b) Water [58d-59e]
    • (c) Mixtures of water [59e-60b]
    • (d) Varieties and mixtures of earth [60b-61c]
  • The physical basis of sensation [61c-64a]
    • (a) Tactile qualities [61c-64a]
  • Pleasure and pain [64a-65b]
    • (b) Tastes [65b-66c]
    • (c) Smells [66d-67a]
    • (d) Sounds [67a-c]
    • (e) Colours [67c-68d]

Main Section III. Reason and necessity working together

  • The work of the subordinate gods [68e-69d]
  • The mortal parts of the soul, and the bodily organs associated with them [69d-73a]
  • The main structure of the human frame - The marrow [73a-73e]
  • Bone, sinew, flesh; skin, hair, nails [73e-76e]
  • Plants [76e-77c]
  • Digestion and respiration [77c-e]
    • (a) The fish-trap [77e-79a]
    • (b) Circular thrust [79a-81b]
  • Normal growth and decay [81b-e]
  • Diseases of the body [81e-86c]
    • (a) Due to lack of balance between the elements [81e-82b]
    • (b) Diseases of 'secondary formations' [82c-84c]
    • (c) Diseases caused by breath, phlegm and bile [84c-86c]
    • (d) Note on fevers [86c]
  • Diseases of the mind [86d-87b]
  • The balance of mind and body [87c-88c]
  • Physical fitness [88c-89d]
  • Fitness of mind [89d-90d]
  • The sexes: women, birds, animals, reptiles and fish [90e-92c]
  • Conclusion [92c]

17aSocrates: One, two, three,—but where, my dear Timaeus, is the fourth of our guests of yesterday, our hosts of today?

Timaeus: Some sickness has befallen him, Socrates; for he would never have stayed away from our gathering of his own free will.

Socrates: Then the task of filling the place of the absent one falls upon you and our friends here, does it not?

Timaeus: Undoubtedly, and we shall do our best not to come short; bfor indeed it would not be at all right, after the splendid hospitality we received from you yesterday, if we - that is, those who are left of us - failed to entertain you cordially in return.

Socrates: Well, then, do you remember the extent and character of the subjects which I proposed for your discussion?

Timaeus: In part we do remember them; and of what we have forgotten you are present to remind us. Or rather, if it is not a trouble, recount them again briefly from the beginning, so as to fix them more firmly in our minds.

cSocrates: It shall be done. The main part of the discourse I delivered yesterday was concerned with the kind of constitution which seemed to me likely to prove the best, and the character of its citizens.

Timaeus: And in truth, Socrates, the polity you described was highly approved by us all.

Socrates: Did we not begin by dividing off the class of land-workers in it, and all other crafts, from the class of its defenders?

Timaeus: Yes.

Socrates: And when, in accordance with Nature, we had assigned to each citizen dhis one proper and peculiar occupation, we declared that those whose duty it is to fight in defence of all must act solely as guardians of the State, in case anyone from without or any of those within should go about to molest it; and that they should judge leniently such as are under their authority and their natural friends, 18abut show themselves stern in battle towards all the enemies they encounter.

Timaeus: Very true.

Socrates: For we said, as I think, that the soul of the Guardians ought to be of a nature at once spirited and philosophic in a superlative degree, so that they might be able to treat their friends rightly with leniency and their foes with sternness.

Timaeus: Yes.

Socrates: And what of their training? Did we not say that they were trained in gymnastic, in music, and in all the studies proper for such men?

Timaeus: Certainly.

bSocrates: And it was said, I believe, that the men thus trained should never regard silver or gold or anything else as their own private property; but as auxiliaries, who in return for their guard-work receive from those whom they protect such a moderate wage as suffices temperate men, they should spend their wage in common and live together in fellowship one with another, devoting themselves unceasingly to virtue, but keeping free from all other pursuits.

Timaeus: That too was stated as you say.

cSocrates: Moreover, we went on to say about women that their natures must be attuned into accord with the men, and that the occupations assigned to them, both in war and in all other activities of life, should in every case be the same for all alike.

Timaeus: This matter also was stated exactly so.

Socrates: And what about the matter of child-production? Or was this a thing easy to recollect because of the strangeness of our proposals? For we ordained that as regards marriages and children all should have all in common, so that no one should ever recognize his own particular offspring, but all should regard all das their actual kinsmen—as brothers and sisters, if of a suitable age; as parents and grandparents, if more advanced in age; and as children and children's children, if junior in age.

Timaeus: Yes, this also, as you say, is easy to recollect.

Socrates: And in order that, to the best of our power, they might at once become as good as possible in their natural characters, do we not recollect how we said that the rulers, male and female, in dealing with marriage-unions must contrive to secure, by some secret method of allotment, ethat the two classes of bad men and good shall each be mated by lot with women of a like nature, and that no enmity shall occur amongst them because of this, seeing that they will ascribe the allotment to chance?

Timaeus: We recollect.

19aSocrates: And do you recollect further how we said that the offspring of the good were to be reared, but those of the bad were to be sent privily to various other parts of the State; and as these grew up the rulers should keep constantly on the watch for the deserving amongst them and bring them back again, and into the place of those thus restored transplant the undeserving among themselves?

Timaeus: So we said.

Socrates: May we say then that we have now gone through our discourse of yesterday, so far as is requisite in a summary review; or is there any point omitted, my dear, which we should like to see added?

bTimaeus: Certainly not: this is precisely what was said, Socrates.

Socrates: And now, in the next place, listen to what my feeling is with regard to the polity we have described. I may compare my feeling to something of this kind: suppose, for instance, that on seeing beautiful creatures, whether works of art or actually alive but in repose, a man should be moved with desire to behold them in motion and vigorously engaged in some such exercise as seemed suitable to their physique; cwell, that is the very feeling I have regarding the State we have described. Gladly would I listen to anyone who should depict in words our State contending against others in those struggles which States wage; in how proper a spirit it enters upon war, and how in its warring it exhibits qualities such as befit its education and training in its dealings with each several State whether in respect of military actions or in respect of verbal negotiations. And herein, Critias and Hermocrates, dI am conscious of my own inability ever to magnify sufficiently our citizens and our State. Now in this inability of mine there is nothing surprising; but I have formed the same opinion about the poets also, those of the present as well as those of the past; not that I disparage in any way the poetic clan, but it is plain to all that the imitative tribe will imitate with most ease and success the things amidst which it has been reared, whereas it is hard for any man to imitate well in action what lies outside the range of his rearing, eand still harder in speech. Again, as to the class of Sophists, although I esteem them highly versed in many fine discourses of other kinds, yet I fear lest haply, seeing they are a class which roams from city to city and has no settled habitations of its own, they may go wide of the mark in regard to men who are at once philosophers and statesmen, and what they would be likely to do and say, in their several dealings with foemen in war and battle, both by word and deed. Thus there remains only that class which is of your complexion - 20aa class which, alike by nature and nurture, shares the qualities of both the others. For our friend is a native of a most well-governed State, Italian Locris, and inferior to none of its citizens either in property or in rank; and not only has he occupied the highest offices and posts of honor in his State, but he has also attained, in my opinion, the very summit of eminence in all branches of philosophy. As to Critias, all of us here know that he is no novice in any of the subjects we are discussing. As regards Hermocrates, we must believe the many witnesses who assert that both by nature and by nurture bhe is competent for all these inquiries. So, with this in my mind, when you requested me yesterday to expound my views of the polity I gratified you most willingly, since I knew that none could deal more adequately than you (if you were willing) with the next subject of discourse; for you alone, of men now living, could show our State engaged in a suitable war and exhibiting all the qualities which belong to it. Accordingly, when I had spoken upon my prescribed theme, I in turn prescribed for you this theme which I am now explaining. And you, after consulting together among yourselves, cagreed to pay me back today with a feast of words; so here I am, ready for that feast in festal garb, and eager above all men to begin.

Hermocrates: Of a truth, Socrates, as our friend has said, we will show no lack of zeal, nor have we any excuse for refusing to do as you say. Yesterday, in fact, immediately after our return from you to the guest-chamber at Critias where we are lodging - aye, and earlier still, on our way there - we were considering these very subjects. dCritias here mentioned to us a story derived from ancient tradition; and now, Critias, pray tell it again to our friend here, so that he may help us to decide whether or not it is pertinent to our prescribed theme.

Critias: That I must certainly do, if our third partner, also approves.

Timaeus: Assuredly I approve.


Critias: Listen then, Socrates, to a tale which, though passing strange, is yet wholly true, as Solon, ethe wisest of the Seven, once upon a time declared. Now Solon - as indeed he often says himself in his poems - was a relative and very dear friend of our great-grandfather Dropides; and Dropides told our grandfather Critias as the old man himself, in turn, related to us - that the exploits of this city in olden days, the record of which had perished through time and the destruction of its inhabitants, were great and marvellous, the greatest of all being one which it would be proper 21afor us now to relate both as a payment of our debt of thanks to you and also as a tribute of praise, chanted as it were duly and truly, in honor of the Goddess on this her day of Festival.

Socrates: Excellent! But come now, what was this exploit described by Critias, following Solon's report, as a thing not verbally recorded, although actually performed by this city long ago?

Critias: I will tell you: it is an old tale, and I heard it from a man not young. For indeed at that time, as he said himself, bCritias was already close upon ninety years of age, while I was somewhere about ten; and it chanced to be that day of the Apaturia which is called "Cureotis." The ceremony for boys which was always customary at the feast was held also on that occasion, our fathers arranging contests in recitation. So while many poems of many poets were declaimed, since the poems of Solon were at that time new, many of us children chanted them. And one of our fellow tribesmen - whether he really thought so at the time or whether he was paying a compliment cto Critias - declared that in his opinion Solon was not only the wisest of men in all else, but in poetry also he was of all poets the noblest. Whereat the old man (I remember the scene well) was highly pleased and said with a smile, "If only, Amynander, he had not taken up poetry as a by-play but had worked hard at it like others, and if he had completed the story he brought here from Egypt, instead of being forced to lay it aside owing to the seditions and all the other evils he found here on his return, - dwhy then, I say, neither Hesiod nor Homer nor any other poet would ever have proved more famous than he." "And what was the story, Critias?" said the other. "Its subject," replied Critias, "was a very great exploit, worthy indeed to be accounted the most notable of all exploits, which was performed by this city, although the record of it has not endured until now owing to lapse of time and the destruction of those who wrought it." "Tell us from the beginning," said Amynander, "what Solon related and how, and who were the informants who vouched for its truth."

e"In the Delta of Egypt," said Critias, "where, at its head, the stream of the Nile parts in two, there is a certain district called the Saitic. The chief city in this district is Sais - the home of King Amasis, - the founder of which, they say, is a goddess whose Egyptian name is Neith, and in Greek, as they assert, Athena. These people profess to be great lovers of Athens and in a measure akin to our people here. And Solon said that when he travelled there he was held in great esteem amongst them; moreover, when he was questioning such of their priests 22aas were most versed in ancient lore about their early history, he discovered that neither he himself nor any other Greek knew anything at all, one might say, about such matters. And on one occasion, when he wished to draw them on to discourse on ancient history, he attempted to tell them the most ancient of our traditions, concerning Phoroneus, who was said to be the first man, and Niobe; and he went on to tell the legend about Deucalion and Pyrrha after the Flood, and how they survived it, and to give the geneology of their descendants; band by recounting the number of years occupied by the events mentioned he tried to calculate the periods of time. Whereupon one of the priests, a prodigiously old man, said, "O Solon, Solon, you Greeks are always children: there is not such a thing as an old Greek." And on hearing this he asked, "What mean you by this saying?" And the priest replied, "You are young in soul, every one of you. For therein you possess not a single belief that is ancient and derived from old tradition, nor yet one science that is hoary with age. cAnd this is the cause thereof: There have been and there will be many and divers destructions of mankind, of which the greatest are by fire and water, and lesser ones by countless other means. For in truth the story that is told in your country as well as ours, how once upon a time Phaethon, son of Helios, yoked his father's chariot, and, because he was unable to drive it along the course taken by his father, burnt up all that was upon the earth and himself perished by a thunderbolt, - that story, as it is told, has the fashion of a legend, but the truth of it lies in dthe occurrence of a shifting of the bodies in the heavens which move round the earth, and a destruction of the things on the earth by fierce fire, which recurs at long intervals. At such times all they that dwell on the mountains and in high and dry places suffer destruction more than those who dwell near to rivers or the sea; and in our case the Nile, our Saviour in other ways, saves us also at such times from this calamity by rising high. And when, on the other hand, the Gods purge the earth with a flood of waters, all the herdsmen and shepherds that are in the mountains are saved, ebut those in the cities of your land are swept into the sea by the streams; whereas In our country neither then nor at any other time does the water pour down over our fields from above, on the contrary it all tends naturally to well up from below. Hence it is, for these reasons, that what is here preserved is reckoned to be most ancient; the truth being that in every place where there is no excessive heat or cold to prevent it there always exists some human stock, now more, now less in number. 23aAnd if any event has occurred that is noble or great or in any way conspicuous, whether it be in your country or in ours or in some other place of which we know by report, all such events are recorded from of old and preserved here in our temples; whereas your people and the others are but newly equipped, every time, with letters and all such arts as civilized States require and when, after the usual interval of years, like a plague, the flood from heaven comes sweeping down afresh upon your people, bit leaves none of you but the unlettered and uncultured, so that you become young as ever, with no knowledge of all that happened in old times in this land or in your own. Certainly the genealogies which you related just now, Solon, concerning the people of your country, are little better than children's tales; for, in the first place, you remember but one deluge, though many had occurred previously; and next, you are ignorant of the fact that the noblest and most perfect race amongst men were born in the land where you now dwell, and from them both you yourself are sprung and the whole cof your existing city, out of some little seed that chanced to be left over; but this has escaped your notice because for many generations the survivors died with no power to express themselves in writing. For verily at one time, Solon, before the greatest destruction by water, what is now the Athenian State was the bravest in war and supremely well organized also in all other respects. It is said that it possessed the most splendid works of art and the noblest polity of any nation under heaven of which we have heard tell."

dUpon hearing this, Solon said that he marvelled, and with the utmost eagerness requested the priest to recount for him in order and exactly all the facts about those citizens of old. The priest then said: "I begrudge you not the story, Solon; nay, I will tell it, both for your own sake and that of your city, and most of all for the sake of the Goddess who has adopted for her own both your land and this of ours, and has nurtured and trained them, - yours first by the space of a thousand years, when she had received the seed of you from Ge eand Hephaestus, and after that ours. And the duration of our civilization as set down in our sacred writings is 8000 years. Of the citizens, then, who lived 9000 years ago, I will declare to you briefly certain of their laws and the noblest of the deeds they performed: 24athe full account in precise order and detail we shall go through later at our leisure, taking the actual writings. To get a view of their laws, look at the laws here; for you will find existing here at the present time many examples of the laws which then existed in your city. You see, first, how the priestly class is separated off from the rest; next, the class of craftsmen, of which each sort works by itself without mixing with any other; then the classes of shepherds, hunters, and farmers, each distinct and separate. Moreover, the military class here, bas no doubt you have noticed, is kept apart from all the other classes, being enjoined by the law to devote itself solely to the work of training for war. A further feature is the character of their equipment with shields and spears; for we were the first of the peoples of Asia to adopt these weapons, it being the Goddess who instructed us, even as she instructed you first of all the dwellers in yonder lands. Again, with regard to wisdom, you perceive, no doubt, the law here - how much attention cit has devoted from the very beginning to the Cosmic Order, by discovering all the effects which the divine causes produce upon human life, down to divination and the art of medicine which aims at health, and by its mastery also of all the other subsidiary studies. So when, at that time, the Goddess had furnished you, before all others, with all this orderly and regular system, she established your State, choosing the spot wherein you were born since she perceived therein a climate duly blended, and how that it would bring forth men of supreme wisdom. dSo it was that the Goddess, being herself both a lover of war and a lover of wisdom, chose the spot which was likely to bring forth men most like unto herself, and this first she established. Wherefore you lived under the rule of such laws as these, - yea, and laws still better, - and you surpassed all men in every virtue, as became those who were the offspring and nurslings of gods. Many, in truth, and great are the achievements of your State, which are a marvel to men as they are here recorded; but there is one which stands out above all eboth for magnitude and for nobleness. For it is related in our records how once upon a time your State stayed the course of a mighty host, which, starting from a distant point in the Atlantic ocean, was insolently advancing to attack the whole of Europe, and Asia to boot. For the ocean there was at that time navigable; for in front of the mouth which you Greeks call, as you say, 'the pillars of Heracles,' there lay an island which was larger than Libya and Asia together; and it was possible for the travellers of that time to cross from it to the other islands, and from the islands to the whole of the continent 25aover against them which encompasses that veritable ocean. For all that we have here, lying within the mouth of which we speak, is evidently a haven having a narrow entrance; but that yonder is a real ocean, and the land surrounding it may most rightly be called, in the fullest and truest sense, a continent. Now in this island of Atlantis there existed a confederation of kings, of great and marvellous power, which held sway over all the island, and over many other islands also and parts of the continent; and, moreover, bof the lands here within the Straits they ruled over Libya as far as Egypt, and over Europe as far as Tuscany. So this host, being all gathered together, made an attempt one time to enslave by one single onslaught both your country and ours and the whole of the territory within the Straits. And then it was, Solon, that the manhood of your State showed itself conspicuous for valor and might in the sight of all the world. For it stood pre-eminent above all cin gallantry and all warlike arts, and acting partly as leader of the Greeks, and partly standing alone by itself when deserted by all others, after encountering the deadliest perils, it defeated the invaders and reared a trophy; whereby it saved from slavery such as were not as yet enslaved, and all the rest of us who dwell within the bounds of Heracles it ungrudgingly set free. But at a later time there occurred portentous earthquakes and floods, dand one grievous day and night befell them, when the whole body of your warriors was swallowed up by the earth, and the island of Atlantis in like manner was swallowed up by the sea and vanished; wherefore also the ocean at that spot has now become impassable and unsearchable, being blocked up by the shoal mud which the island created as it settled down."

You have now heard, Socrates, in brief outline, the account given by the elder Critias of what he heard from Solon; eand when you were speaking yesterday about the State and the citizens you were describing, I marvelled as I called to mind the facts I am now relating, reflecting what a strange piece of fortune it was that your description coincided so exactly for the most part with Solon's account. I was loth, however, 26ato speak on the instant; for owing to lapse of time my recollection of his account was not sufficiently clear. So I decided that I ought not to relate it until I had first gone over it all carefully in my own mind. Consequently, I readily consented to the theme you proposed yesterday, since I thought that we should be reasonably well provided for the task of furnishing a satisfactory discourse - which in all such cases is the greatest task. So it was that, as Hermocrates has said, the moment I left your place yesterday I began to relate to them the story as I recollected it, band after I parted from them I pondered it over during the night and recovered, as I may say, the whole story. Marvellous, indeed, is the way in which the lessons of one's childhood "grip the mind," as the saying is. For myself, I know not whether I could recall to mind all that I heard yesterday; but as to the account I heard such a great time ago, I should be immensely surprised if a single detail of it has escaped me. I had then the greatest pleasure and amusement in hearing it, cand the old man was eager to tell me, since I kept questioning him repeatedly, so that the story is stamped firmly on my mind like the encaustic designs of an indelible painting. Moreover, immediately after daybreak I related this same story to our friends here, so that they might share in my rich provision of discourse.

Now, therefore, - and this is the purpose of all that I have been saying, - I am ready to tell my tale, not in summary outline only but in full detail just as I heard it. And the city with its citizens which you described to us yesterday, as it were in a fable, dwe will now transport hither into the realm of fact; for we will assume that the city is that ancient city of ours, and declare that the citizens you conceived are in truth those actual progenitors of ours, of whom the priest told. In all ways they will correspond, nor shall we be out of tune if we affirm that those citizens of yours are the very men who lived in that age. Thus, with united effort, each taking his part, we will endeavor to the best of our powers to do justice to the theme you have prescribed. Wherefore, Socrates, we must consider whether this story is to our mind, or ewe have still to look for some other to take its place.

Socrates: What story should we adopt, Critias, in preference to this? For this story will be admirably suited to the festival of the Goddess which is now being held, because of its connection with her; and the fact that it is no invented fable but genuine history is all-important. How, indeed, and where shall we discover other stories if we let these slip? Nay, it is impossible. You, therefore, must now deliver your discourse (and may Good Fortune attend you!), while I, in requital for my speech of yesterday, must now 27akeep silence in my turn and hearken.

Critias: Consider now, Socrates, the order of the feast as we have arranged it. Seeing that Timaeus is our best astronomer and has made it his special task to learn about the nature of the Universe, it seemed good to us that he should speak first, beginning with the origin of the Cosmos and ending with the generation of mankind. After him I am to follow, taking over from him mankind, already as it were created by his speech, and taking over from you ba select number of men superlatively well trained. Then, in accordance with the word and law of Solon, I am to bring these before ourselves, as before a court of judges, and make them citizens of this State of ours, regarding them as Athenians of that bygone age whose existence, so long forgotten, has been revealed to us by the record of the sacred writings; and thenceforward I am to proceed with my discourse as if I were speaking of men who already are citizens and men of Athens.

Socrates: Bounteous and magnificent, methinks, is the feast of speech with which I am to be requited. So then, it will be your task, it seems, to speak next, when you have duly invoked the gods.


29bTimaeus: Again, if these premisses be granted, it is wholly necessary that this Cosmos should be a Copy of something. Now in regard to every matter it is most important to begin at the natural beginning. Accordingly, in dealing with a copy and its model, we must affirm that the accounts given will themselves be akin to the diverse objects which they serve to explain; those which deal with what is abiding and firm and discernible by the aid of thought will be abiding and unshakable; and in so far as it is possible and fitting for statements to be irrefutable and invincible, cthey must in no wise fall short thereof; whereas the accounts of that which is copied after the likeness of that Model, and is itself a likeness, will be analogous thereto and possess likelihood; for I as Being is to Becoming, so is Truth to Belief. Wherefore, Socrates, if in our treatment of a great host of matters regarding the Gods and the generation of the Universe we prove unable to give accounts that are always in all respects self-consistent and perfectly exact, be not thou surprised; rather we should be content if we can furnish accounts that are inferior to none in likelihood, remembering that both I who speak dand you who judge are but human creatures, so that it becomes us to accept the likely account of these matters and forbear to search beyond it.

Timaeus: Let us now state the Cause wherefore He that constructed it econstructed Becoming and the All. He was good, and in him that is good no envy ariseth ever concerning anything; and being devoid of envy He desired that all should be, so far as possible, like unto Himself. This principle, then, we shall be wholly right in accepting from men of wisdom as being above all the supreme originating principle of Becoming and the Cosmos. 30aFor God desired that, so far as possible, all things should be good and nothing evil; wherefore, when He took over all that was visible, seeing that it was not in a state of rest but in a state of discordant and disorderly motion, He brought it into order out of disorder, deeming that the former state is in all ways better than the latter. For Him who is most good it neither was nor is permissible to perform any action save what is most fair. As He reflected, therefore, He perceived that of such creatures as are by nature visible, bnone that is irrational will be fairer, comparing wholes with wholes, than the rational; and further, that reason cannot possibly belong to any apart from Soul. So because of this reflection He constructed reason within soul and soul within body as He fashioned the All, that so the work He was executing might be of its nature most fair and most good. Thus, then, in accordance with the likely account, we must declare that this Cosmos has verily come into existence as a Living Creature endowed with soul and reason owing to the providence of God.

39cIn this wise and for these reasons were generated Night and Day, which are the revolution of the one and most intelligent circuit; and Month, every time that the Moon having completed her own orbit overtakes the Sun; and Year, as often as the Sun has completed his own orbit. Of the other stars the revolutions have not been discovered by men (save for a few out of the many); wherefore they have no names for them, nor do they compute and compare their relative measurements, so that they are not aware, as a rule, dthat the "wanderings" of these bodies, which are hard to calculate and of wondrous complexity, constitute Time. Nevertheless, it is still quite possible to perceive that the complete number of Time fulfils the Complete Year when all the eight circuits, with their relative speeds, finish together and come to a head, when measured by the revolution of the Same and Similarly-moving. In this wise and for these reasons were generated all those stars which turn themselves about as they travel through Heaven, to the end that this Universe might be as similar as possible to the perfect and intelligible Living Creature in respect of its imitation of the Eternal eNature thereof.

48cYou, therefore, ought not to suppose that I should expound them, while as for me - I should never be able to convince myself that I should be right in attempting to undertake so great a task. Strictly adhering, then, dto what we previously affirmed, the import of the "likely" account, I will essay (as I did before) to give as "likely" an exposition as any other (nay, more so), regarding both particular things and the totality of things from the very beginning. And as before, so now, at the commencement of our account, we must call upon God the Saviour to bring us safe through a novel and unwonted exposition 48eto a conclusion based on likelihood, and thus begin our account once more.

53dNow all triangles derive their origin from two triangles, each having one angle right and the others acute89; and the one of these triangles has on each side half a right angle marked off by equal sides, while the other has the right angle divided into unequal parts by unequal sides. These we lay down as the principles of fire and all the other bodies, proceeding according to a method in which the probable is combined with the necessary; but the principles which are still higher than these are known only to God and the man who is dear to God.

55dNow our view declares the Universe to be essentially one, in accordance with the probable account; but another man, considering other facts, will hold a different opinion. Him, however, we must let pass.

58dThe kinds of water are, primarily, two, the one being the liquid, the other the fusible kind. Now the liquid kind, inasmuch as it partakes of those small particles of water which are unequal, is mobile both in itself and by external force owing to its non-uniformity and the shape of its figure. But the other kind, which is composed of large eand uniform particles, is more stable than the first and is heavy, being solidified by its uniformity; but when fire enters and dissolves it, this causes it to abandon its uniformity, and this being lost it partakes more largely in motion; and when it has become mobile it is pushed by the adjacent air and extended upon the earth; and for each of these modifications it has received a descriptive name - "melting" for the disintegration of its masses, and for its extension over the earth "fluidity." Again, since the fire on issuing from the water 59adoes not pass into a void but presses on the adjacent air, this in turn compresses the liquid mass which is still mobile into the abodes of the fire and combines it with itself; and the mass, being this, is compressed and recovering again its uniformity, because of the departure of the fire, the author of its non-uniformity, returns to its state of self-identity. And this cessation of the fire is termed "cooling," and the combination which follows on its departure "solidification."

Of all the kinds of water which we have termed "fusible," the densest is produced from the finest and most uniform particles: this is a kind of unique form, tinged with a glittering and yellow hue, even that most precious of possessions, "gold," which has been strained through stones and solidified. And the off-shoot of gold, which is very hard because of its density and black in color, is called "adamant." And the kind which closely resembles gold in its particles but has more forms than one, and in density is more dense than gold, and partakes of small and fine portions of earth so that it is harder, while it is also lighter 59cowing to its having large interstices within it, - this particular kind of the bright and solid waters, being compounded thus, is termed "bronze." And the portion of earth that is mixed therewith becomes distinct by itself, when both grow old and separate again-each from the other; and then it is named "rust."

67dConcerning colors, then, the following explanation will be the most probable and worthy of a judicious account. Of the particles which fly off from the rest and strike into the visual stream some are smaller, some larger, and some equal to the particles of the stream itself; those, then, that are equal are imperceptible, and we term them "transparent"; while the larger and smaller particles - of which the one kind contracts, the other dilates the visual stream - are akin to the particles of heat and cold which affect the flesh, eand to the astringent particles which affect the tongue, and to all the heating particles which we call "bitter" with these "white" and "black" are really identical affections, occurring in a separate class of sensation, although they appear different for the causes stated. These, therefore, are the names we must assign to them: that which dilates the visual stream is "white" and the opposite thereof "black"; and the more rapid motion, being that of a different species of fire, which strikes upon the visual stream and dilates it as far as to the eyes, and penetrating 68aand dissolving the very passages of the eyes causes a volume of fire and water to pour from them, which we call "tears." And this moving body, being itself fire, meets fire from the opposite direction; and as the one firestream is leaping out like a flash, and the other passing in and being quenched in the moisture, in the resultant mixture colors of all kinds are produced. This sensation we term "dazzling" and the object which causes it "bright" or "brilliant." Again, when the kind of fire bwhich is midway between these reaches to the liquid of the eyes and is mingled therewith, it is not brilliant but, owing to the blending of the fire's ray through the moisture, it gives off a sanguine color, and we give it the name of "red." And "bright" color when blended with red and white becomes "yellow." But in what proportions the colors are blended it were foolish to declare, even if one knew, seeing that in such matters one could not properly adduce any necessary ground or probable reason. Red blended with black and white makes "purple"; cbut when these colors are mixed and more completely burned, and black is blended therewith, the result is "violet." "Chestnut" comes from the blending of yellow and grey; and "grey" from white and black; and "ochre" from white mixed with yellow. And when white is combined with "bright" and is steeped in deep black it turns into a "dark blue" color; and dark blue mixed with white becomes "light blue"; and chestnut with black becomes "green." As to the rest, it is fairly clear from these examples dwhat are the mixtures with which we ought to identify them if we would preserve probability in our account.

90eAccording to the probable account, all those creatures generated as men who proved themselves cowardly and spent their lives in wrong-doing were transformed, 91aat their second incarnation, into women. And it was for this reason that the gods at that time contrived the love of sexual intercourse by constructing an animate creature of one kind in us men, and of another kind in women; and they made these severally in the following fashion. From the passage of egress for the drink, where it receives and joins in discharging the fluid which has come through the lungs beneath the kidneys into the bladder and has been compressed by the air, they bored a hole into the condensed marrow which comes from the head down by the neck and along the spine bwhich marrow, in our previous account, we termed "seed." And the marrow, inasmuch as it is animate and has been granted an outlet, has endowed the part where its outlet lies with a love for generating by implanting therein a lively desire for emission. Wherefore in men the nature of the genital organs is disobedient and self-willed, like a creature that is deaf to reason, and it attempts to dominate all because of its frenzied lusts. cAnd in women again, owing to the same causes, whenever the matrix or womb, as it is called, - which is an indwelling creature desirous of child-bearing, - remains without fruit long beyond the due season, it is vexed and takes it ill; and by straying all ways through the body and blocking up the passages of the breath and preventing respiration it casts the body into the uttermost distress, and causes, moreover, all kinds of maladies; until the desire and love of the two sexes unite them. Then, culling as it were the fruit from trees, dthey sow upon the womb, as upon ploughed soil, animalcules that are invisible for smallness and unshapen; and these, again, they mold into shape and nourish to a great size within the body; after which they bring them forth into the light and thus complete the generation of the living creature.

In this fashion, then, women and the whole female sex have come into existence.

And the tribe of birds are derived by transformation, growing feathers in place of hair, from men who are harmless but light-minded - men, too, who, being students of the worlds above, suppose in their simplicity that the most solid proofs about such matters are obtained by the sense of sight. eAnd the wild species of animal that goes on foot is derived from those men who have paid no attention at all to philosophy nor studied at all the nature of the heavens, because they ceased to make use of the revolutions within the head and followed the lead of those parts of the soul which are in the breast. Owing to these practices they have dragged their front limbs and their head down to the earth, and there planted them, because of their kinship therewith; and they have acquired elongated heads of every shape, according as their several revolutions have been distorted by disuse. 92aOn this account also their race was made four-footed and many-footed, since God set more supports under the more foolish ones, so that they might be dragged down still more to the earth. And inasmuch as there was no longer any need of feet for the most foolish of these same creatures, which stretched with their whole body along the earth, the gods generated these footless and wriggling upon the earth. bAnd the fourth kind, which lives in the water, came from the most utterly thoughtless and stupid of men, whom those that remolded them deemed no longer worthy even of pure respiration, seeing that they were unclean of soul through utter wickedness; wherefore in place of air, for refined and pure respiring, they thrust them into water, there to respire its turbid depths. Thence have come into being the tribe of fishes and of shellfish and all creatures of the waters, which have for their portion the extremest of all abodes in requital for the extremity of their witlessness. Thus, both then and now, living creatures keep passing cinto one another in all these ways, as they undergo transformation by the loss or by the gain of reason and unreason.


106aTimaeus: How gladly do I now welcome my release, Socrates, from my protracted discourse, even as a traveller who takes his rest after a long journey! And I make my prayer to that God who has recently been created by our speech (although in reality created of old), that he will grant to us the conservation of all our sayings that have been rightly said, band, if unwittingly we have spoken aught discordantly, that he will impose the fitting penalty. And the correct penalty is to bring into tune him that is out of tune. In order, then, that for the future we may declare the story of the birth of the gods aright, we pray that he will grant to us that medicine which of all medicines is the most perfect and most good, even knowledge; and having made our prayer, we deliver over to Critias, in accordance with our compact, the task of speaking next in order.

Critias: And I accept the task, Timaeus; but the request which you yourself made at the beginning, cwhen you asked for indulgence on the ground of the magnitude of the theme you were about to expound, that same request I also make now on my own behalf, and I claim indeed to be granted a still larger measure of indulgence 107ain respect of the discourse I am about to deliver. I am sufficiently aware that the request I am about to make is decidedly presumptuous and less civil than is proper, but none the less it must be uttered. For as regards the exposition you gave, what man in his senses would attempt to deny its excellence? But what I must somehow endeavor to show is that the discourse now to be delivered calls for greater indulgence because of its greater difficulty. For it is easier, Timaeus, to appear to speak satisfactorily to men about the gods, bthan to us about mortals. For when the listeners are in a state of inexperience and complete ignorance about a matter, such a state of mind affords great opportunities to the person who is going to discourse on that matter; and we know what our state is concerning knowledge of the gods. But in order that I may explain my meaning more clearly, pray follow me further. The accounts given by us all must be, of course, of the nature of imitations and representations; and if we look at the portraiture of divine and of human bodies as executed by painters, cin respect of the ease or difficulty with which they succeed in imitating their subjects in the opinion of onlookers, we shall notice in the first place that as regards the earth and mountains and rivers and woods and the whole of heaven, with the things that exist and move therein, we are content if a man is able to represent them with even a small degree of likeness; and further, that, inasmuch as we have no exact knowledge about such objects, we do not examine closely or criticize the paintings, but tolerate, in such cases, an inexact dand deceptive sketch. On the other hand, whenever a painter tries to render a likeness of our own bodies, we quickly perceive what is defective because of our constant familiar acquaintance with them, and become severe critics of him who fails to bring out to the full all the points of similarity. And precisely the same thing happens, as we should notice, in the case of discourses: in respect of what is celestial and divine we are satisfied if the account pocesses even a small degree of likelihood, but we examine with precision ewhat is mortal and human. To an account given now on the spur of the moment indulgence must be granted, should we fail to make it a wholly fitting representation; for one must conceive of mortal objects as being difficult, and not easy, to represent satisfactorily. It is because I wish to remind you of these facts, 108aand crave a greater rather than a less measure of indulgence for what I am about to say, that I have made all these observations, Socrates. If, therefore, I seem justified in craving this boon, pray grant it willingly.

Socrates: And why should we hesitate to grant it, Critias? Nay, what is more,the same boon shall be granted by us to a third, Hermocrates. For it is plain that later on, before long, when it is his duty to speak, he will make the same request as you. bSo, in order that he may provide a different prelude and not be compelled to repeat the same one, let him assume, when he comes to speak, that he already has our indulgence. I forewarn you, however, my dear Critias, of the mind of your audience, - how that the former poet won marvellous applause from it, so that you will require an extraordinary measure of indulgence if you are to prove capable of following in his steps.

Hermocrates: And in truth, Socrates, you are giving me the same warning as Critias. cBut men of faint heart never yet set up a trophy, Critias; wherefore you must go forward to your discoursing manfully, and, invoking the aid of Paion and the Muses, exhibit and celebrate the excellence of your ancient citizens.

Critias: You, my dear Hermocrates, are posted in the last rank, with another man before you, so you are still courageous. But experience of our task will of itself speedily enlighten you as to its character. However, I must trust to your consolation dand encouragement, and in addition to the gods you mentioned I must call upon all the rest and especially upon Mnemosyne. For practically all the most important part of our speech depends upon this goddess; for if I can sufficiently remember and report the tale once told by the priests and brought hither by Solon, I am wellnigh convinced that I shall appear to the present audience to have fulfilled my task adequately. This, then, I must at once proceed to do, and procrastinate no longer. eNow first of all we must recall the fact that 9000 is the sum of years since the war occurred, as is recorded, between the dwellers beyond the pillars of Heracles and all that dwelt within them; which war we have now to relate in detail. It was stated that this city of ours was in command of the one side and fought through the whole of the war, and in command of the other side were the kings of the island of Atlantis, which we said was an island larger than Libya and Asia once upon a time, but now lies sunk by earthquakes and has created a barrier of impassable mud 109awhich prevents those who are sailing out from here to the ocean beyond from proceeding further. Now as regards the numerous barbaric tribes and all the Hellenic nations that then existed, the sequel of our story, when it is, as it were, unrolled, will disclose what happened in each locality; but the facts about the Athenians of that age and the enemies with whom they fought we must necessarily describe first, at the outset, - the military power, that is to say, of each and their forms of government. And of these two we must give the priority in our account to the state of Athens. bOnce upon a time the gods were taking over by lot the whole earth according to its regions, - not according to the results of strife: for it would not be reasonable to suppose that the gods were ignorant of their own several rights, nor yet that they attempted to obtain for themselves by means of strife a possession to which others, as they knew, had a better claim. So by just allotments they received each one his own, and they settled their countries; and when they had thus settled them, they reared us up, even as herdsmen crear their flocks, to be their cattle and nurslings; only it was not our bodies that they constrained by bodily force, like shepherds guiding their flocks with stroke of staff, but they directed from the stern where the living creature is easiest to turn about, laying hold on the soul by persuasion, as by a rudder, according to their own disposition; and thus they drove and steered all the mortal kind. Now in other regions others of the gods had their allotments and ordered the affairs, but inasmuch as Hephaestus and Athena were of a like nature, being born of the same father, and agreeing, moreover, in their love of wisdom and of craftsmanship, they both took for their joint portion this land of ours as being naturally congenial and adapted for virtue dand for wisdom, and therein they planted as native to the soil men of virtue and ordained to their mind the mode of government. And of these citizens the names are preserved, but their works have vanished owing to the repeated destruction of their successors and the length of the intervening periods. For, as was said before, the stock that survived on each occasion was a remnant of unlettered mountaineers which had heard the names only of the rulers, and but little besides of their works. So though they gladly passed on these names eto their descendants, concerning the mighty deeds and the laws of their predecessors they had no knowledge, save for some invariably obscure reports; and since, moreover, they and their children for many generations were themselves in want of the necessaries of life, their attention was given to their own needs 110aand all their talk was about them; and in consequence they paid no regard to the happenings of bygone ages. For legendary lore and the investigation of antiquity are visitants that come to cities in company with leisure, when they see that men are already furnished with the necessaries of life, and not before.

In this way, then, the names of the ancients, without their works, have been preserved. And for evidence of what I say I point to the statement of Solon, that the Egyptian priests, in describing the war of that period, mentioned most of those names - such as those of Cecrops and Erechtheus and Erichthonius and Erysichthon and most of the other names bwhich are recorded of the various heroes before Theseus - and in like manner also the names of the women. Moreover, the habit and figure of the goddess indicate that in the case of all animals, cmale and female, that herd together, every species is naturally capable of practising as a whole and in common its own proper excellence.

Now at that time there dwelt in this country not only the other classes of the citizens who were occupied in the handicrafts and in the raising of food from the soil, but also the military class, which had been separated off at the commencement by divine heroes and dwelt apart. It was supplied with all that was required for its sustenance and training, and none of its members possessed any private property, but they regarded all they had das the common property of all; and from the rest of the citizens they claimed to receive nothing beyond a sufficiency of sustenance; and they practised all those pursuits which were mentioned yesterday, in the description of our proposed "Guardians." Moreover, what was related about our country was plausible and true, namely, that, in the first place, it had its boundaries at that time marked off by the Isthmus, and on the inland side reaching to the heights of Cithaeron and Parnes; eand that the boundaries ran down with Oropia on the right, and on the seaward side they shut off the Asopus on the left; and that all other lands were surpassed by ours in goodness of soil, so that it was actually able at that period to support a large host which was exempt from the labors of husbandry. And of its goodness a strong proof is this: what is now left of our soil rivals any other in being all-productive and abundant in crops and rich in pasturage for all kinds of cattle; 111aand at that period, in addition to their fine quality it produced these things in vast quantity. How, then, is this statement plausible, and what residue of the land then existing serves to confirm its truth? The whole of the land lies like a promontory jutting out from the rest of the continent far into the sea and all the cup of the sea; round about it is, as it happens, of a great depth. Consequently, since many great convulsions took place during the 9000 years - for such was the number of years bfrom that time to this - the soil which has kept breaking away from the high lands during these ages and these disasters, forms no pile of sediment worth mentioning, as in other regions, but keeps sliding away ceaselessly and disappearing in the deep. And, just as happens in small islands, what now remains compared with what then existed is like the skeleton of a sick man, all the fat and soft earth having wasted away, and only the bare framework of the land being left. But at that epoch the country was unimpaired, and for its mountains it had chigh arable hills, and in place of the "moorlands," as they are now called, it contained plains full of rich soil; and it had much forestland in its mountains, of which there are visible signs even to this day; for there are some mountains which now have nothing but food for bees, but they had trees no very long time ago, and the rafters from those felled there to roof the largest buildings are still sound. And besides, there were many lofty trees of cultivated species; and it produced boundless pasturage for flocks. Moreover, it was enriched by the yearly rains from Zeus, dwhich were not lost to it, as now, by flowing from the bare land into the sea; but the soil; it had was deep, and therein it received the water, storing it up in the retentive loamy soil and by drawing off into the hollows from the heights the water that was there absorbed, it provided all the various districts with abundant supplies of springwaters and streams, whereof the shrines which still remain even now, at the spots where the fountains formerly existed, are signs which testify that our present description of the land is true. eSuch, then, was the natural condition of the rest of the country, and it was ornamented as you would expect from genuine husbandmen who made husbandry their sole task, and who were also men of taste and of native talent, and possessed of most excellent land and a great abundance of water, and also, above the land, a climate of most happily tempered seasons. And as to the city, this is the way in which it was laid out at that time. In the first place, the acropolis, as it existed then, was different from 112awhat it is now. For as it is now, the action of a single night of extraordinary rain has crumbled it away and made it bare of soil, when earthquakes occurred simultaneously with the third of the disastrous floods which preceded the destructive deluge in the time of Deucalion. But in its former extent, at an earlier period, it went down towards the Eridanus and the Ilissus, and embraced within it the Pnyx; and had the Lycabettus as its boundary over against the Pnyx; and it was all rich in soil and, save for a small space, level on the top. bAnd its outer parts, under its slopes, were inhabited by the craftsmen and by such of the husbandmen as had their farms close by; but on the topmost part only the military class by itself had its dwellings round about the temple of Athene and Hephaestus, surrounding themselves with a single ring-fence, which formed, as it were, the enclosure of a single dwelling. On the northward side of it they had established their public dwellings and winter mess-rooms, and all the arrangements in the way of buildings which were required for the community life cof themselves and the priests; but all was devoid of gold or silver, of which they made no use anywhere; on the contrary, they aimed at the mean between luxurious display and meanness, and built themselves tasteful houses, wherein they and their children's children grew old and handed them on in succession unaltered to others like themselves. As for the southward parts, when they vacated their gardens and gymnasia and mess-rooms as was natural in summer, they used them for these purposes. And near the place of the present Acropolis dthere was one spring - which was choked up by the earthquakes so that but small tricklings of it are now left round about; but to the men of that time it afforded a plentiful stream for them all, being well tempered both for winter and summer. In this fashion, then, they dwelt, acting as guardians of their own citizens and as leaders, by their own consent, of the rest of the Greeks and they watched carefully that their own numbers, of both men and women, who were neither too young nor too old to fight, should remain for all time as nearly as possible the same, namely, about 20,000. eSo it was that these men, being themselves of the character described and always justly administering in some such fashion both their own land and Hellas, were famous throughout all Europe and Asia both for their bodily beauty and for the perfection of their moral excellence, and were of all men then living the most renowned. And now, if we have not lost recollection of what we heard when we were still children, we will frankly impart to you all, as friends, our story of the men who warred against our Athenians, what their state was and how it originally came about.


113aCritias: But before I begin my account, there is still a small point which I ought to explain, lest you should be surprised at frequently hearing Greek names given to barbarians. The reason of this you shall now learn. Since Solon was planning to make use of the story for his own poetry, he had found, on investigating the meaning of the names, that those Egyptians who had first written them down had translated them into their own tongue. So he himself in turn recovered the original sense of each name and, rendering it into our tongue, bwrote it down so. And these very writings were in the possession of my grandfather and are actually now in mine, and when I was a child I learnt them all by heart. Therefore if the names you hear are just like our local names, do not be at all astonished; for now you know the reason for them. The story then told was a long one, and it began something like this.

Like as we previously stated concerning the allotments of the Gods, that they portioned out the whole earth, here into larger allotments and there into smaller, and provided for themselves cshrines and sacrifices, even so Poseidon took for his allotment the island of Atlantis and settled therein the children whom he had begotten of a mortal woman in a region of the island of the following description. Bordering on the sea and extending through the center of the whole island there was a plain, which is said to have been the fairest of all plains and highly fertile; and, moreover, near the plain, over against its center, at a distance of about 50 stades, there stood a mountain that was low on all sides. Thereon dwelt one of the natives originally sprung from the earth, Evenor by name, dwith his wife Leucippe; and they had for offspring an only-begotten daughter, Cleito. And when this damsel was now come to marriageable age, her mother died and also her father; and Poseidon, being smitten with desire for her, wedded her; and to make the hill whereon she dwelt impregnable he broke it off all round about; and he made circular belts of sea and land enclosing one another alternately, some greater, some smaller, two being of land and three of sea, which he carved as it were out of the midst of the island; and these belts were at even distances on all sides, so as to be impassable for man; efor at that time neither ships nor sailing were as yet in existence. And Poseidon himself set in order with ease, as a god would, the central island, bringing up from beneath the earth two springs of waters, the one flowing warm from its source, the other cold, and producing out of the earth all kinds of food in plenty. And he begat five pairs of twin sons and reared them up; and when he had divided all the island of Atlantis into ten portions, he assigned to the first-born of the eldest sons 114ahis mother's dwelling and the allotment surrounding it, which was the largest and best; and him he appointed to be king over the rest, and the others to be rulers, granting to each the rule over many men and a large tract of country. And to all of them he gave names, giving to him that was eldest and king the name after which the whole island was called and the sea spoken of as the Atlantic, because the first king who then reigned had the name of Atlas. And the name of his younger twin-brother, bwho had for his portion the extremity of the island near the pillars of Heracles up to the part of the country now called Gadeira after the name of that region, was Eumelus in Greek, but in the native tongue Gadeirus, - which fact may have given its title to the country. And of the pair that were born next he called the one Ampheres and the other Evaemon; and of the third pair the elder was named Mneseus cand the younger Autochthon; and of the fourth pair, he called the first Elasippus and the second Mestor; and of the fifth pair, Azaes was the name given to the elder, and Diaprepes to the second. So all these, themselves and their descendants, dwelt for many generations bearing rule over many other islands throughout the sea, and holding sway besides, as was previously stated, over the Mediterranean peoples as far as Egypt and Tuscany.

Now a large family of distinguished sons sprang from Atlas; dbut it was the eldest, who, as king, always passed on the scepter to the eldest of his sons, and thus they preserved the sovereignty for many generations; and the wealth they possessed was so immense that the like had never been seen before in any royal house nor will ever easily be seen again; and they were provided with everything of which provision was needed either in the city or throughout the rest of the country. For because of their headship they had a large supply of imports from abroad, eand the island itself furnished most of the requirements of daily life, - metals, to begin with, both the hard kind and the fusible kind, which are extracted by mining, and also that kind which is now known only by name but was more than a name then, there being mines of it in many places of the island, - I mean "orichalcum," which was the most precious of the metals then known, except gold. It brought forth also in abundance all the timbers that a forest provides for the labors of carpenters; and of animals it produced a sufficiency, both of tame and wild. Moreover, it contained a very large stock of elephants; for there was an ample food-supply not only for all the other animals which haunt the marshes and lakes and rivers, 115aor the mountains or the plains, but likewise also for this animal, which of its nature is the largest and most voracious. And in addition to all this, it produced and brought to perfection all those sweet-scented stuffs which the earth produces now, whether made of roots or herbs or trees, or of liquid gums derived from flowers or fruits. The cultivated fruit also, and the dry, which serves us for nutriment, and all the other kinds that we use for our meals - the various species of which are comprehended under the name "vegetables" - band all the produce of trees which affords liquid and solid food and unguents, and the fruit of the orchard-trees, so hard to store, which is grown for the sake of amusement and pleasure, and all the after-dinner fruits that we serve up as welcome remedies for the sufferer from repletion, - all these that hallowed island, as it lay then beneath the sun, produced in marvellous beauty and endless abundance. And thus, receiving from the earth all these products, they furnished forth ctheir temples and royal dwellings, their harbors and their docks, and all the rest of their country, ordering all in the fashion following.

First of all they bridged over the circles of sea which surrounded the ancient metropolis, making thereby a road towards and from the royal palace. And they had built the palace at the very beginning where the settlement was first made by their God and their ancestors; and as each king received it from his predecessor, he added to its adornment dand did all he could to surpass the king before him, until finally they made of it an abode amazing to behold for the magnitude and beauty of its workmanship. For, beginning at the sea, they bored a channel right through to the outermost circle, which was three plethra in breadth, one hundred feet in depth, and fifty stades in length; and thus they made the entrance to it from the sea like that to a harbor by opening out a mouth large enough for the greatest ships to sail through. Moreover, through the circles of land, ewhich divided those of sea, over against the bridges they opened out a channel leading from circle to circle, large enough to give passage to a single trireme; and this they roofed over above so that the sea-way was subterranean; for the lips of the landcircles were raised a sufficient height above the level of the sea. The greatest of the circles into which a boring was made for the sea was three stades in breadth, and the circle of land next to it was of equal breadth; and of the second pair of circles that of water was two stades in breadth and that of dry land equal again to the preceding one of water; and the circle which ran round the central island itself was of a stade's breadth. And this island, 116awherein stood the royal palace, was of five stades in diameter. Now the island and the circles and the bridge, which was a plethrum in breadth, they encompassed round about, on this side and on that, with a wall of stone; and upon the bridges on each side, over against the passages for the sea, they erected towers and gates. And the stone they quarried beneath the central island all round, and from beneath the outer and inner circles, some of it being white, some black band some red; and while quarrying it they constructed two inner docks, hollowed out and roofed over by the native rock. And of the buildings some they framed of one simple color, in others they wove a pattern of many colors by blending the stones for the sake of ornament so as to confer upon the buildings a natural charm. And they covered with brass, as though with plaster, all the circumference of the wall which surrounded the outermost circle; and that of the inner one they coated with tin; and that which encompassed the acropolis itself cwith orichalcum which sparkled like fire.

The royal palace within the acropolis was arranged in this manner. In the center there stood a temple sacred to Cleito and Poseidon, which was reserved as holy ground, and encircled with a wall of gold; this being the very spot where at the beginning they had generated and brought to birth the family of the ten royal lines. Thither also they brought year by year from all the ten allotments their seasonable offerings to do sacrifice to each of those princes. dAnd the temple of Poseidon himself was a stade in length, three plethra in breadth, and of a height which appeared symmetrical therewith; and there was something of the barbaric in its appearance. All the exterior of the temple they coated with silver, save only the pinnacles, and these they coated with gold. As to the interior, they made the roof all of ivory in appearance, variegated with gold and silver and orichalcum, and all the rest of the walls and pillars and floors they covered with orichalcum. And they placed therein golden statues, one being that of the God standing on a chariot and driving six ewinged steeds, his own figure so tall as to touch the ridge of the roof, and round about him a hundred Nereids on dolphins (for that was the number of them as men then believed); and it contained also many other images, the votive offerings of private men. And outside, round about the temple, there stood images in gold of all the princes, both themselves and their wives, as many as were descended from the ten kings, together with many other votive offerings both of the kings and of private persons not only from the State itself but also from all the foreign peoples over whom they ruled. And the altar, 117ain respect of its size and its workmanship, harmonized with its surroundings; and the royal palace likewise was such as befitted the greatness of the kingdom, and equally befitted the splendor of the temples.

The springs they made use of, one kind being of cold, another of warm water, were of abundant volume, and each kind was wonderfully well adapted for use because of the natural taste and excellence of its waters; and these they surrounded with buildings and with plantations of trees such as suited the waters; band, moreover, they set reservoirs round about, some under the open sky, and others under cover to supply hot baths in the winter; they put separate baths for the kings and for the private citizens, besides others for women, and others again for horses and all other beasts of burden, fitting out each in an appropriate manner. And the outflowing water they conducted to the sacred grove of Poseidon, which contained trees of all kinds that were of marvellous beauty and height because of the richness of the soil; and by means of channels they led the water to the outer circles over against the bridges. cAnd there they had constructed many temples for gods, and many gardens and many exercising grounds, some for men and some set apart for horses, in each of the circular belts of island; and besides the rest they had in the center of the large island a racecourse laid out for horses, which was a stade in width, while as to length, a strip which ran round the whole circumference was reserved for equestrian contests. And round about it, on this side and on that, were barracks for the greater part of the spearmen; but the guard-house of the more trusty dof them was posted in the smaller circle, which was nearer the acropolis; while those who were the most trustworthy of all had dwellings granted to them within the acropolis round about the persons of the kings.

And the shipyards were full of triremes and all the tackling that belongs to triremes, and they were all amply equipped.

Such then was the state of things round about the abode of the kings. And after crossing the three outer harbors, eone found a wall which began at the sea and ran round in a circle, at a uniform distance of fifty stades from the largest circle and harbor, and its ends converged at the seaward mouth of the channel. The whole of this wall had numerous houses built on to it, set close together; while the sea-way and the largest harbor were filled with ships and merchants coming from all quarters, which by reason of their multitude caused clamor and tumult of every description and an unceasing din night and day.

Now as regards the city and the environs of the ancient dwelling we have now wellnigh completed the description as it was originally given. We must endeavor next to repeat the account of the rest of the country, 118awhat its natural character was, and in what fashion it was ordered. In the first place, then, according to the account, the whole region rose sheer out of the sea to a great height, but the part about the city was all a smooth plain, enclosing it round about, and being itself encircled by mountains which stretched as far as to the sea; and this plain had a level surface and was as a whole rectangular in shape, being 3000 stades long on either side and 2000 stades wide at its center, reckoning upwards from the sea. And this region, ball along the island, faced towards the South and was sheltered from the Northern blasts. And the mountains which surrounded it were at that time celebrated as surpassing all that now exist in number, magnitude and beauty; for they had upon them many rich villages of country folk, and streams and lakes and meadows which furnished ample nutriment to all the animals both tame and wild, and timber of various sizes and descriptions, abundantly sufficient for the needs of all and every craft. cNow as a result of natural forces, together with the labors of many kings which extended over many ages, the condition of the plain was this. It was originally a quadrangle, rectilinear for the most part, and elongated; and what it lacked of this shape they made right by means of a trench dug round about it. Now, as regards the depth of this trench and its breadth and length, it seems incredible that it should be so large as the account states, considering that it was made by hand, and in addition to all the other operations, but none the less we must report what we heard: it was dug out to the depth of a plethrum and to a uniform breadth of a stade, and since it was dug round the whole plain dits consequent length was 10,000 stades. It received the streams which came down from the mountains and after circling round the plain, and coming towards the city on this side and on that, it discharged them thereabouts into the sea. And on the inland side of the city channels were cut in straight lines, of about 100 feet in width, across the plain, and these discharged themselves into the trench on the seaward side, the distance between each being 100 stades. It was in this way that they conveyed to the city ethe timber from the mountains and transported also on boats the seasons' products, by cutting transverse passages from one channel to the next and also to the city. And they cropped the land twice a year, making use of the rains from Heaven in the winter, and the waters that issue from the earth in summer, by conducting the streams from the trenches.

As regards their manpower, it was ordained that each allotment should furnish one man as leader of all the men in the plain who were fit to bear arms; 119aand the size of the allotment was about ten times ten stades, and the total number of all the allotments was 60,000; and the number of the men in the mountains and in the rest of the country was countless, according to the report, and according to their districts and villages they were all assigned to these allotments under their leaders. So it was ordained that each such leader should provide for war the sixth part of a war-chariots equipment, so as to make up 10,000 chariots in all, together with two horses and mounted men; balso a pair of horses without a car, and attached thereto a combatant with a small shield and for charioteer the rider who springs from horse to horse; and two hoplites; and archers and slingers, two of each; and light-armed slingers and javelin-men, three of each; and four sailors towards the manning of twelve hundred ships. Such then were the military dispositions of the royal City; and those of the other nine varied in various ways, which it would take a long time to tell. cOf the magistracies and posts of honor the disposition, ever since the beginning, was this. Each of the ten kings ruled over the men and most of the laws in his own particular portion and throughout his own city, punishing and putting to death whomsoever he willed. But their authority over one another and their mutual relations were governed by the precepts of Poseidon, as handed down to them by the law and by the records inscribed by the first princes on a pillar of orichalcum, which was placed within the temple of Poseidon in the center of the island; dand thither they assembled every fifth year, and then alternately every sixth year - giving equal honor to both the even and the odd - and when thus assembled they took counsel about public affairs and inquired if any had in any way transgressed and gave judgement. And when they were about to give judgement they first gave pledges one to another of the following description. In the sacred precincts of Poseidon there were bulls at large; and the ten princes, being alone by themselves, after praying to the God that they might capture a victim well-pleasing unto him, ehunted after the bulls with staves and nooses but with no weapon of iron; and whatsoever bull they captured they led up to the pillar and cut its throat over the top of the pillar, raining down blood on the inscription. And inscribed upon the pillar, besides the laws, was an oath which invoked mighty curses upon them that disobeyed. When, then, they had done sacrifice according to their laws and were consecrating 120aall the limbs of the bull, they mixed a bowl of wine and poured in on behalf of each one a gout of blood, and the rest they carried to the fire, when they had first purged the pillars round about. And after this they drew out from the bowl with golden ladles, and making libation over the fire swore to give judgement according to the laws upon the pillar and to punish whosoever had committed any previous transgression; and, moreover, that henceforth they would not transgress any of the writings willingly, nor govern nor submit to any governor's edict bsave in accordance with their father's laws. And when each of them had made this invocation both for himself and for his seed after him, he drank of the cup and offered it up as a gift in the temple of the God; and after spending the interval in supping and necessary business, when darkness came on and the sacrificial fire had died down, all the princes robed themselves in most beautiful sable vestments, and sate on the ground beside the cinders of the sacramental victims throughout the night, extinguishing all the fire that was round about the sanctuary; cand there they gave and received judgement, if any of them accused any of committing any transgression. And when they had given judgement, they wrote the judgements, when it was light, upon a golden tablet, and dedicated them together with their robes as memorials. And there were many other special laws concerning the peculiar rights of the several princes, whereof the most important were these: that they should never take up arms against one another, and that, should anyone attempt to overthrow in any city their royal house, they should all lend aid, taking counsel in common, like their forerunners, dconcerning their policy in war and other matters, while conceding the leadership to the royal branch of Atlas; and that the king had no authority to put to death any of his brother-princes save with the consent of more than half of the ten.

Such was the magnitude and character of the power which existed in those regions at that time; and this power the God set in array and brought against these regions of ours on some such pretext as the following, according to the story. For many generations, eso long as the inherited nature of the God remained strong in them, they were submissive to the laws and kindly disposed to their divine kindred. For the intents of their hearts were true and in all ways noble, and they showed gentleness joined with wisdom in dealing with the changes and chances of life and in their dealings one with another. Consequently they thought scorn of everything save virtue and lightly esteemed their rich possessions, bearing with ease 121athe burden, as it were, of the vast volume of their gold and other goods; and thus their wealth did not make them drunk with pride so that they lost control of themselves and went to ruin; rather, in their soberness of mind they clearly saw that all these good things are increased by general amity combined with virtue, whereas the eager pursuit and worship of these goods not only causes the goods themselves to diminish but makes virtue also to perish with them. As a result, then, of such reasoning and of the continuance of their divine nature all their wealth had grown to such a greatness as we previously described. But when the portion of divinity within them was now becoming faint and weak through being ofttimes blended with a large measure of mortality, bwhereas the human temper was becoming dominant, then at length they lost their comeliness, through being unable to bear the burden of their possessions, and became ugly to look upon, in the eyes of him who has the gift of sight; for they had lost the fairest of their goods from the most precious of their parts; but in the eyes of those who have no gift of perceiving what is the truly happy life, it was then above all that they appeared to be superlatively fair and blessed, filled as they were with lawless ambition and power. And Zeus, the God of gods, who reigns by Law, inasmuch as he has the gift of perceiving such things, marked how this righteous race was in evil plight, and desired to inflict punishment upon them, to the end that when chastised they might strike a truer note. cWherefore he assembled together all the gods into that abode which they honor most, standing as it does at the center of all the Universe, and beholding all things that partake of generation and when he had assembled them, he spake thus: ...

Sir Graham