Critias by Plato
Critias

Plato Critias

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[1]       
[2]       PERSONS OF THE DIALOGUE: Critias, Hermocrates, Timaeus, Socrates.
[3]       
[4]       
[5]       TIMAEUS: How thankful I am, Socrates, that I have arrived at last, and,
[6]       like a weary traveller after a long journey, may be at rest! And I pray
[7]       the being who always was of old, and has now been by me revealed, to grant
[8]       that my words may endure in so far as they have been spoken truly and
[9]       acceptably to him; but if unintentionally I have said anything wrong, I
[10]      pray that he will impose upon me a just retribution, and the just
[11]      retribution of him who errs is that he should be set right. Wishing, then,
[12]      to speak truly in future concerning the generation of the gods, I pray him
[13]      to give me knowledge, which of all medicines is the most perfect and best.
[14]      And now having offered my prayer I deliver up the argument to Critias, who
[15]      is to speak next according to our agreement. (Tim.)
[16]      
[17]      CRITIAS: And I, Timaeus, accept the trust, and as you at first said that
[18]      you were going to speak of high matters, and begged that some forbearance
[19]      might be shown to you, I too ask the same or greater forbearance for what I
[20]      am about to say. And although I very well know that my request may appear
[21]      to be somewhat ambitious and discourteous, I must make it nevertheless.
[22]      For will any man of sense deny that you have spoken well? I can only
[23]      attempt to show that I ought to have more indulgence than you, because my
[24]      theme is more difficult; and I shall argue that to seem to speak well of
[25]      the gods to men is far easier than to speak well of men to men: for the
[26]      inexperience and utter ignorance of his hearers about any subject is a
[27]      great assistance to him who has to speak of it, and we know how ignorant we
[28]      are concerning the gods. But I should like to make my meaning clearer, if
[29]      you will follow me. All that is said by any of us can only be imitation
[30]      and representation. For if we consider the likenesses which painters make
[31]      of bodies divine and heavenly, and the different degrees of gratification
[32]      with which the eye of the spectator receives them, we shall see that we are
[33]      satisfied with the artist who is able in any degree to imitate the earth
[34]      and its mountains, and the rivers, and the woods, and the universe, and the
[35]      things that are and move therein, and further, that knowing nothing precise
[36]      about such matters, we do not examine or analyze the painting; all that is
[37]      required is a sort of indistinct and deceptive mode of shadowing them
[38]      forth. But when a person endeavours to paint the human form we are quick
[39]      at finding out defects, and our familiar knowledge makes us severe judges
[40]      of any one who does not render every point of similarity. And we may
[41]      observe the same thing to happen in discourse; we are satisfied with a
[42]      picture of divine and heavenly things which has very little likeness to
[43]      them; but we are more precise in our criticism of mortal and human things.
[44]      Wherefore if at the moment of speaking I cannot suitably express my
[45]      meaning, you must excuse me, considering that to form approved likenesses
[46]      of human things is the reverse of easy. This is what I want to suggest to
[47]      you, and at the same time to beg, Socrates, that I may have not less, but
[48]      more indulgence conceded to me in what I am about to say. Which favour, if
[49]      I am right in asking, I hope that you will be ready to grant.
[50]      
[51]      SOCRATES: Certainly, Critias, we will grant your request, and we will
[52]      grant the same by anticipation to Hermocrates, as well as to you and
[53]      Timaeus; for I have no doubt that when his turn comes a little while hence,
[54]      he will make the same request which you have made. In order, then, that he
[55]      may provide himself with a fresh beginning, and not be compelled to say the
[56]      same things over again, let him understand that the indulgence is already
[57]      extended by anticipation to him. And now, friend Critias, I will announce
[58]      to you the judgment of the theatre. They are of opinion that the last
[59]      performer was wonderfully successful, and that you will need a great deal
[60]      of indulgence before you will be able to take his place.
[61]      
[62]      HERMOCRATES: The warning, Socrates, which you have addressed to him, I
[63]      must also take to myself. But remember, Critias, that faint heart never
[64]      yet raised a trophy; and therefore you must go and attack the argument like
[65]      a man. First invoke Apollo and the Muses, and then let us hear you sound
[66]      the praises and show forth the virtues of your ancient citizens.
[67]      
[68]      CRITIAS: Friend Hermocrates, you, who are stationed last and have another
[69]      in front of you, have not lost heart as yet; the gravity of the situation
[70]      will soon be revealed to you; meanwhile I accept your exhortations and
[71]      encouragements. But besides the gods and goddesses whom you have
[72]      mentioned, I would specially invoke Mnemosyne; for all the important part
[73]      of my discourse is dependent on her favour, and if I can recollect and
[74]      recite enough of what was said by the priests and brought hither by Solon,
[75]      I doubt not that I shall satisfy the requirements of this theatre. And
[76]      now, making no more excuses, I will proceed.
[77]      
[78]      Let me begin by observing first of all, that nine thousand was the sum of
[79]      years which had elapsed since the war which was said to have taken place
[80]      between those who dwelt outside the pillars of Heracles and all who dwelt
[81]      within them; this war I am going to describe. Of the combatants on the one
[82]      side, the city of Athens was reported to have been the leader and to have
[83]      fought out the war; the combatants on the other side were commanded by the
[84]      kings of Atlantis, which, as I was saying, was an island greater in extent
[85]      than Libya and Asia, and when afterwards sunk by an earthquake, became an
[86]      impassable barrier of mud to voyagers sailing from hence to any part of the
[87]      ocean. The progress of the history will unfold the various nations of
[88]      barbarians and families of Hellenes which then existed, as they
[89]      successively appear on the scene; but I must describe first of all the
[90]      Athenians of that day, and their enemies who fought with them, and then the
[91]      respective powers and governments of the two kingdoms. Let us give the
[92]      precedence to Athens.
[93]      
[94]      In the days of old, the gods had the whole earth distributed among them by
[95]      allotment (Cp. Polit.) There was no quarrelling; for you cannot rightly
[96]      suppose that the gods did not know what was proper for each of them to
[97]      have, or, knowing this, that they would seek to procure for themselves by
[98]      contention that which more properly belonged to others. They all of them
[99]      by just apportionment obtained what they wanted, and peopled their own
[100]     districts; and when they had peopled them they tended us, their nurselings
[101]     and possessions, as shepherds tend their flocks, excepting only that they
[102]     did not use blows or bodily force, as shepherds do, but governed us like
[103]     pilots from the stern of the vessel, which is an easy way of guiding
[104]     animals, holding our souls by the rudder of persuasion according to their
[105]     own pleasure;--thus did they guide all mortal creatures. Now different
[106]     gods had their allotments in different places which they set in order.
[107]     Hephaestus and Athene, who were brother and sister, and sprang from the
[108]     same father, having a common nature, and being united also in the love of
[109]     philosophy and art, both obtained as their common portion this land, which
[110]     was naturally adapted for wisdom and virtue; and there they implanted brave
[111]     children of the soil, and put into their minds the order of government;
[112]     their names are preserved, but their actions have disappeared by reason of
[113]     the destruction of those who received the tradition, and the lapse of ages.
[114]     For when there were any survivors, as I have already said, they were men
[115]     who dwelt in the mountains; and they were ignorant of the art of writing,
[116]     and had heard only the names of the chiefs of the land, but very little
[117]     about their actions. The names they were willing enough to give to their
[118]     children; but the virtues and the laws of their predecessors, they knew
[119]     only by obscure traditions; and as they themselves and their children
[120]     lacked for many generations the necessaries of life, they directed their
[121]     attention to the supply of their wants, and of them they conversed, to the
[122]     neglect of events that had happened in times long past; for mythology and
[123]     the enquiry into antiquity are first introduced into cities when they begin
[124]     to have leisure (Cp. Arist. Metaphys.), and when they see that the
[125]     necessaries of life have already been provided, but not before. And this
[126]     is the reason why the names of the ancients have been preserved to us and
[127]     not their actions. This I infer because Solon said that the priests in
[128]     their narrative of that war mentioned most of the names which are recorded
[129]     prior to the time of Theseus, such as Cecrops, and Erechtheus, and
[130]     Erichthonius, and Erysichthon, and the names of the women in like manner.
[131]     Moreover, since military pursuits were then common to men and women, the
[132]     men of those days in accordance with the custom of the time set up a figure
[133]     and image of the goddess in full armour, to be a testimony that all animals
[134]     which associate together, male as well as female, may, if they please,
[135]     practise in common the virtue which belongs to them without distinction of
[136]     sex.
[137]     
[138]     Now the country was inhabited in those days by various classes of
[139]     citizens;--there were artisans, and there were husbandmen, and there was
[140]     also a warrior class originally set apart by divine men. The latter dwelt
[141]     by themselves, and had all things suitable for nurture and education;
[142]     neither had any of them anything of their own, but they regarded all that
[143]     they had as common property; nor did they claim to receive of the other
[144]     citizens anything more than their necessary food. And they practised all
[145]     the pursuits which we yesterday described as those of our imaginary
[146]     guardians. Concerning the country the Egyptian priests said what is not
[147]     only probable but manifestly true, that the boundaries were in those days
[148]     fixed by the Isthmus, and that in the direction of the continent they
[149]     extended as far as the heights of Cithaeron and Parnes; the boundary line
[150]     came down in the direction of the sea, having the district of Oropus on the
[151]     right, and with the river Asopus as the limit on the left. The land was
[152]     the best in the world, and was therefore able in those days to support a
[153]     vast army, raised from the surrounding people. Even the remnant of Attica
[154]     which now exists may compare with any region in the world for the variety
[155]     and excellence of its fruits and the suitableness of its pastures to every
[156]     sort of animal, which proves what I am saying; but in those days the
[157]     country was fair as now and yielded far more abundant produce. How shall I
[158]     establish my words? and what part of it can be truly called a remnant of
[159]     the land that then was? The whole country is only a long promontory
[160]     extending far into the sea away from the rest of the continent, while the
[161]     surrounding basin of the sea is everywhere deep in the neighbourhood of the
[162]     shore. Many great deluges have taken place during the nine thousand years,
[163]     for that is the number of years which have elapsed since the time of which
[164]     I am speaking; and during all this time and through so many changes, there
[165]     has never been any considerable accumulation of the soil coming down from
[166]     the mountains, as in other places, but the earth has fallen away all round
[167]     and sunk out of sight. The consequence is, that in comparison of what then
[168]     was, there are remaining only the bones of the wasted body, as they may be
[169]     called, as in the case of small islands, all the richer and softer parts of
[170]     the soil having fallen away, and the mere skeleton of the land being left.
[171]     But in the primitive state of the country, its mountains were high hills
[172]     covered with soil, and the plains, as they are termed by us, of Phelleus
[173]     were full of rich earth, and there was abundance of wood in the mountains.
[174]     Of this last the traces still remain, for although some of the mountains
[175]     now only afford sustenance to bees, not so very long ago there were still
[176]     to be seen roofs of timber cut from trees growing there, which were of a
[177]     size sufficient to cover the largest houses; and there were many other high
[178]     trees, cultivated by man and bearing abundance of food for cattle.
[179]     Moreover, the land reaped the benefit of the annual rainfall, not as now
[180]     losing the water which flows off the bare earth into the sea, but, having
[181]     an abundant supply in all places, and receiving it into herself and
[182]     treasuring it up in the close clay soil, it let off into the hollows the
[183]     streams which it absorbed from the heights, providing everywhere abundant
[184]     fountains and rivers, of which there may still be observed sacred memorials
[185]     in places where fountains once existed; and this proves the truth of what I
[186]     am saying.
[187]     
[188]     Such was the natural state of the country, which was cultivated, as we may
[189]     well believe, by true husbandmen, who made husbandry their business, and
[190]     were lovers of honour, and of a noble nature, and had a soil the best in
[191]     the world, and abundance of water, and in the heaven above an excellently
[192]     attempered climate. Now the city in those days was arranged on this wise.
[193]     In the first place the Acropolis was not as now. For the fact is that a
[194]     single night of excessive rain washed away the earth and laid bare the
[195]     rock; at the same time there were earthquakes, and then occurred the
[196]     extraordinary inundation, which was the third before the great destruction
[197]     of Deucalion. But in primitive times the hill of the Acropolis extended to
[198]     the Eridanus and Ilissus, and included the Pnyx on one side, and the
[199]     Lycabettus as a boundary on the opposite side to the Pnyx, and was all well
[200]     covered with soil, and level at the top, except in one or two places.
[201]     Outside the Acropolis and under the sides of the hill there dwelt artisans,
[202]     and such of the husbandmen as were tilling the ground near; the warrior
[203]     class dwelt by themselves around the temples of Athene and Hephaestus at
[204]     the summit, which moreover they had enclosed with a single fence like the
[205]     garden of a single house. On the north side they had dwellings in common
[206]     and had erected halls for dining in winter, and had all the buildings which
[207]     they needed for their common life, besides temples, but there was no
[208]     adorning of them with gold and silver, for they made no use of these for
[209]     any purpose; they took a middle course between meanness and ostentation,
[210]     and built modest houses in which they and their children's children grew
[211]     old, and they handed them down to others who were like themselves, always
[212]     the same. But in summer-time they left their gardens and gymnasia and
[213]     dining halls, and then the southern side of the hill was made use of by
[214]     them for the same purpose. Where the Acropolis now is there was a
[215]     fountain, which was choked by the earthquake, and has left only the few
[216]     small streams which still exist in the vicinity, but in those days the
[217]     fountain gave an abundant supply of water for all and of suitable
[218]     temperature in summer and in winter. This is how they dwelt, being the
[219]     guardians of their own citizens and the leaders of the Hellenes, who were
[220]     their willing followers. And they took care to preserve the same number of
[221]     men and women through all time, being so many as were required for warlike
[222]     purposes, then as now--that is to say, about twenty thousand. Such were
[223]     the ancient Athenians, and after this manner they righteously administered
[224]     their own land and the rest of Hellas; they were renowned all over Europe
[225]     and Asia for the beauty of their persons and for the many virtues of their
[226]     souls, and of all men who lived in those days they were the most
[227]     illustrious. And next, if I have not forgotten what I heard when I was a
[228]     child, I will impart to you the character and origin of their adversaries.
[229]     For friends should not keep their stories to themselves, but have them in
[230]     common.
[231]     
[232]     Yet, before proceeding further in the narrative, I ought to warn you, that
[233]     you must not be surprised if you should perhaps hear Hellenic names given
[234]     to foreigners. I will tell you the reason of this: Solon, who was
[235]     intending to use the tale for his poem, enquired into the meaning of the
[236]     names, and found that the early Egyptians in writing them down had
[237]     translated them into their own language, and he recovered the meaning of
[238]     the several names and when copying them out again translated them into our
[239]     language. My great-grandfather, Dropides, had the original writing, which
[240]     is still in my possession, and was carefully studied by me when I was a
[241]     child. Therefore if you hear names such as are used in this country, you
[242]     must not be surprised, for I have told how they came to be introduced. The
[243]     tale, which was of great length, began as follows:--
[244]     
[245]     I have before remarked in speaking of the allotments of the gods, that they
[246]     distributed the whole earth into portions differing in extent, and made for
[247]     themselves temples and instituted sacrifices. And Poseidon, receiving for
[248]     his lot the island of Atlantis, begat children by a mortal woman, and
[249]     settled them in a part of the island, which I will describe. Looking
[250]     towards the sea, but in the centre of the whole island, there was a plain
[251]     which is said to have been the fairest of all plains and very fertile.
[252]     Near the plain again, and also in the centre of the island at a distance of
[253]     about fifty stadia, there was a mountain not very high on any side. In
[254]     this mountain there dwelt one of the earth-born primeval men of that
[255]     country, whose name was Evenor, and he had a wife named Leucippe, and they
[256]     had an only daughter who was called Cleito. The maiden had already reached
[257]     womanhood, when her father and mother died; Poseidon fell in love with her
[258]     and had intercourse with her, and breaking the ground, inclosed the hill in
[259]     which she dwelt all round, making alternate zones of sea and land larger
[260]     and smaller, encircling one another; there were two of land and three of
[261]     water, which he turned as with a lathe, each having its circumference
[262]     equidistant every way from the centre, so that no man could get to the
[263]     island, for ships and voyages were not as yet. He himself, being a god,
[264]     found no difficulty in making special arrangements for the centre island,
[265]     bringing up two springs of water from beneath the earth, one of warm water
[266]     and the other of cold, and making every variety of food to spring up
[267]     abundantly from the soil. He also begat and brought up five pairs of twin
[268]     male children; and dividing the island of Atlantis into ten portions, he
[269]     gave to the first-born of the eldest pair his mother's dwelling and the
[270]     surrounding allotment, which was the largest and best, and made him king
[271]     over the rest; the others he made princes, and gave them rule over many
[272]     men, and a large territory. And he named them all; the eldest, who was the
[273]     first king, he named Atlas, and after him the whole island and the ocean
[274]     were called Atlantic. To his twin brother, who was born after him, and
[275]     obtained as his lot the extremity of the island towards the pillars of
[276]     Heracles, facing the country which is now called the region of Gades in
[277]     that part of the world, he gave the name which in the Hellenic language is
[278]     Eumelus, in the language of the country which is named after him, Gadeirus.
[279]     Of the second pair of twins he called one Ampheres, and the other Evaemon.
[280]     To the elder of the third pair of twins he gave the name Mneseus, and
[281]     Autochthon to the one who followed him. Of the fourth pair of twins he
[282]     called the elder Elasippus, and the younger Mestor. And of the fifth pair
[283]     he gave to the elder the name of Azaes, and to the younger that of
[284]     Diaprepes. All these and their descendants for many generations were the
[285]     inhabitants and rulers of divers islands in the open sea; and also, as has
[286]     been already said, they held sway in our direction over the country within
[287]     the pillars as far as Egypt and Tyrrhenia. Now Atlas had a numerous and
[288]     honourable family, and they retained the kingdom, the eldest son handing it
[289]     on to his eldest for many generations; and they had such an amount of
[290]     wealth as was never before possessed by kings and potentates, and is not
[291]     likely ever to be again, and they were furnished with everything which they
[292]     needed, both in the city and country. For because of the greatness of
[293]     their empire many things were brought to them from foreign countries, and
[294]     the island itself provided most of what was required by them for the uses
[295]     of life. In the first place, they dug out of the earth whatever was to be
[296]     found there, solid as well as fusile, and that which is now only a name and
[297]     was then something more than a name, orichalcum, was dug out of the earth
[298]     in many parts of the island, being more precious in those days than
[299]     anything except gold. There was an abundance of wood for carpenter's work,
[300]     and sufficient maintenance for tame and wild animals. Moreover, there were
[301]     a great number of elephants in the island; for as there was provision for
[302]     all other sorts of animals, both for those which live in lakes and marshes
[303]     and rivers, and also for those which live in mountains and on plains, so
[304]     there was for the animal which is the largest and most voracious of all.
[305]     Also whatever fragrant things there now are in the earth, whether roots, or
[306]     herbage, or woods, or essences which distil from fruit and flower, grew and
[307]     thrived in that land; also the fruit which admits of cultivation, both the
[308]     dry sort, which is given us for nourishment and any other which we use for
[309]     food--we call them all by the common name of pulse, and the fruits having a
[310]     hard rind, affording drinks and meats and ointments, and good store of
[311]     chestnuts and the like, which furnish pleasure and amusement, and are
[312]     fruits which spoil with keeping, and the pleasant kinds of dessert, with
[313]     which we console ourselves after dinner, when we are tired of eating--all
[314]     these that sacred island which then beheld the light of the sun, brought
[315]     forth fair and wondrous and in infinite abundance. With such blessings the
[316]     earth freely furnished them; meanwhile they went on constructing their
[317]     temples and palaces and harbours and docks. And they arranged the whole
[318]     country in the following manner:--
[319]     
[320]     First of all they bridged over the zones of sea which surrounded the
[321]     ancient metropolis, making a road to and from the royal palace. And at the
[322]     very beginning they built the palace in the habitation of the god and of
[323]     their ancestors, which they continued to ornament in successive
[324]     generations, every king surpassing the one who went before him to the
[325]     utmost of his power, until they made the building a marvel to behold for
[326]     size and for beauty. And beginning from the sea they bored a canal of
[327]     three hundred feet in width and one hundred feet in depth and fifty stadia
[328]     in length, which they carried through to the outermost zone, making a
[329]     passage from the sea up to this, which became a harbour, and leaving an
[330]     opening sufficient to enable the largest vessels to find ingress.
[331]     Moreover, they divided at the bridges the zones of land which parted the
[332]     zones of sea, leaving room for a single trireme to pass out of one zone
[333]     into another, and they covered over the channels so as to leave a way
[334]     underneath for the ships; for the banks were raised considerably above the
[335]     water. Now the largest of the zones into which a passage was cut from the
[336]     sea was three stadia in breadth, and the zone of land which came next of
[337]     equal breadth; but the next two zones, the one of water, the other of land,
[338]     were two stadia, and the one which surrounded the central island was a
[339]     stadium only in width. The island in which the palace was situated had a
[340]     diameter of five stadia. All this including the zones and the bridge,
[341]     which was the sixth part of a stadium in width, they surrounded by a stone
[342]     wall on every side, placing towers and gates on the bridges where the sea
[343]     passed in. The stone which was used in the work they quarried from
[344]     underneath the centre island, and from underneath the zones, on the outer
[345]     as well as the inner side. One kind was white, another black, and a third
[346]     red, and as they quarried, they at the same time hollowed out double docks,
[347]     having roofs formed out of the native rock. Some of their buildings were
[348]     simple, but in others they put together different stones, varying the
[349]     colour to please the eye, and to be a natural source of delight. The
[350]     entire circuit of the wall, which went round the outermost zone, they
[351]     covered with a coating of brass, and the circuit of the next wall they
[352]     coated with tin, and the third, which encompassed the citadel, flashed with
[353]     the red light of orichalcum. The palaces in the interior of the citadel
[354]     were constructed on this wise:--In the centre was a holy temple dedicated
[355]     to Cleito and Poseidon, which remained inaccessible, and was surrounded by
[356]     an enclosure of gold; this was the spot where the family of the ten princes
[357]     first saw the light, and thither the people annually brought the fruits of
[358]     the earth in their season from all the ten portions, to be an offering to
[359]     each of the ten. Here was Poseidon's own temple which was a stadium in
[360]     length, and half a stadium in width, and of a proportionate height, having
[361]     a strange barbaric appearance. All the outside of the temple, with the
[362]     exception of the pinnacles, they covered with silver, and the pinnacles
[363]     with gold. In the interior of the temple the roof was of ivory, curiously
[364]     wrought everywhere with gold and silver and orichalcum; and all the other
[365]     parts, the walls and pillars and floor, they coated with orichalcum. In
[366]     the temple they placed statues of gold: there was the god himself standing
[367]     in a chariot--the charioteer of six winged horses--and of such a size that
[368]     he touched the roof of the building with his head; around him there were a
[369]     hundred Nereids riding on dolphins, for such was thought to be the number
[370]     of them by the men of those days. There were also in the interior of the
[371]     temple other images which had been dedicated by private persons. And
[372]     around the temple on the outside were placed statues of gold of all the
[373]     descendants of the ten kings and of their wives, and there were many other
[374]     great offerings of kings and of private persons, coming both from the city
[375]     itself and from the foreign cities over which they held sway. There was an
[376]     altar too, which in size and workmanship corresponded to this magnificence,
[377]     and the palaces, in like manner, answered to the greatness of the kingdom
[378]     and the glory of the temple.
[379]     
[380]     In the next place, they had fountains, one of cold and another of hot
[381]     water, in gracious plenty flowing; and they were wonderfully adapted for
[382]     use by reason of the pleasantness and excellence of their waters. They
[383]     constructed buildings about them and planted suitable trees, also they made
[384]     cisterns, some open to the heaven, others roofed over, to be used in winter
[385]     as warm baths; there were the kings' baths, and the baths of private
[386]     persons, which were kept apart; and there were separate baths for women,
[387]     and for horses and cattle, and to each of them they gave as much adornment
[388]     as was suitable. Of the water which ran off they carried some to the grove
[389]     of Poseidon, where were growing all manner of trees of wonderful height and
[390]     beauty, owing to the excellence of the soil, while the remainder was
[391]     conveyed by aqueducts along the bridges to the outer circles; and there
[392]     were many temples built and dedicated to many gods; also gardens and places
[393]     of exercise, some for men, and others for horses in both of the two islands
[394]     formed by the zones; and in the centre of the larger of the two there was
[395]     set apart a race-course of a stadium in width, and in length allowed to
[396]     extend all round the island, for horses to race in. Also there were guard-
[397]     houses at intervals for the guards, the more trusted of whom were appointed
[398]     to keep watch in the lesser zone, which was nearer the Acropolis; while the
[399]     most trusted of all had houses given them within the citadel, near the
[400]     persons of the kings. The docks were full of triremes and naval stores,
[401]     and all things were quite ready for use. Enough of the plan of the royal
[402]     palace.
[403]     
[404]     Leaving the palace and passing out across the three harbours, you came to a
[405]     wall which began at the sea and went all round: this was everywhere
[406]     distant fifty stadia from the largest zone or harbour, and enclosed the
[407]     whole, the ends meeting at the mouth of the channel which led to the sea.
[408]     The entire area was densely crowded with habitations; and the canal and the
[409]     largest of the harbours were full of vessels and merchants coming from all
[410]     parts, who, from their numbers, kept up a multitudinous sound of human
[411]     voices, and din and clatter of all sorts night and day.
[412]     
[413]     I have described the city and the environs of the ancient palace nearly in
[414]     the words of Solon, and now I must endeavour to represent to you the nature
[415]     and arrangement of the rest of the land. The whole country was said by him
[416]     to be very lofty and precipitous on the side of the sea, but the country
[417]     immediately about and surrounding the city was a level plain, itself
[418]     surrounded by mountains which descended towards the sea; it was smooth and
[419]     even, and of an oblong shape, extending in one direction three thousand
[420]     stadia, but across the centre inland it was two thousand stadia. This part
[421]     of the island looked towards the south, and was sheltered from the north.
[422]     The surrounding mountains were celebrated for their number and size and
[423]     beauty, far beyond any which still exist, having in them also many wealthy
[424]     villages of country folk, and rivers, and lakes, and meadows supplying food
[425]     enough for every animal, wild or tame, and much wood of various sorts,
[426]     abundant for each and every kind of work.
[427]     
[428]     I will now describe the plain, as it was fashioned by nature and by the
[429]     labours of many generations of kings through long ages. It was for the
[430]     most part rectangular and oblong, and where falling out of the straight
[431]     line followed the circular ditch. The depth, and width, and length of this
[432]     ditch were incredible, and gave the impression that a work of such extent,
[433]     in addition to so many others, could never have been artificial.
[434]     Nevertheless I must say what I was told. It was excavated to the depth of
[435]     a hundred feet, and its breadth was a stadium everywhere; it was carried
[436]     round the whole of the plain, and was ten thousand stadia in length. It
[437]     received the streams which came down from the mountains, and winding round
[438]     the plain and meeting at the city, was there let off into the sea. Further
[439]     inland, likewise, straight canals of a hundred feet in width were cut from
[440]     it through the plain, and again let off into the ditch leading to the sea:
[441]     these canals were at intervals of a hundred stadia, and by them they
[442]     brought down the wood from the mountains to the city, and conveyed the
[443]     fruits of the earth in ships, cutting transverse passages from one canal
[444]     into another, and to the city. Twice in the year they gathered the fruits
[445]     of the earth--in winter having the benefit of the rains of heaven, and in
[446]     summer the water which the land supplied by introducing streams from the
[447]     canals.
[448]     
[449]     As to the population, each of the lots in the plain had to find a leader
[450]     for the men who were fit for military service, and the size of a lot was a
[451]     square of ten stadia each way, and the total number of all the lots was
[452]     sixty thousand. And of the inhabitants of the mountains and of the rest of
[453]     the country there was also a vast multitude, which was distributed among
[454]     the lots and had leaders assigned to them according to their districts and
[455]     villages. The leader was required to furnish for the war the sixth portion
[456]     of a war-chariot, so as to make up a total of ten thousand chariots; also
[457]     two horses and riders for them, and a pair of chariot-horses without a
[458]     seat, accompanied by a horseman who could fight on foot carrying a small
[459]     shield, and having a charioteer who stood behind the man-at-arms to guide
[460]     the two horses; also, he was bound to furnish two heavy-armed soldiers, two
[461]     archers, two slingers, three stone-shooters and three javelin-men, who were
[462]     light-armed, and four sailors to make up the complement of twelve hundred
[463]     ships. Such was the military order of the royal city--the order of the
[464]     other nine governments varied, and it would be wearisome to recount their
[465]     several differences.
[466]     
[467]     As to offices and honours, the following was the arrangement from the
[468]     first. Each of the ten kings in his own division and in his own city had
[469]     the absolute control of the citizens, and, in most cases, of the laws,
[470]     punishing and slaying whomsoever he would. Now the order of precedence
[471]     among them and their mutual relations were regulated by the commands of
[472]     Poseidon which the law had handed down. These were inscribed by the first
[473]     kings on a pillar of orichalcum, which was situated in the middle of the
[474]     island, at the temple of Poseidon, whither the kings were gathered together
[475]     every fifth and every sixth year alternately, thus giving equal honour to
[476]     the odd and to the even number. And when they were gathered together they
[477]     consulted about their common interests, and enquired if any one had
[478]     transgressed in anything, and passed judgment, and before they passed
[479]     judgment they gave their pledges to one another on this wise:--There were
[480]     bulls who had the range of the temple of Poseidon; and the ten kings, being
[481]     left alone in the temple, after they had offered prayers to the god that
[482]     they might capture the victim which was acceptable to him, hunted the
[483]     bulls, without weapons, but with staves and nooses; and the bull which they
[484]     caught they led up to the pillar and cut its throat over the top of it so
[485]     that the blood fell upon the sacred inscription. Now on the pillar,
[486]     besides the laws, there was inscribed an oath invoking mighty curses on the
[487]     disobedient. When therefore, after slaying the bull in the accustomed
[488]     manner, they had burnt its limbs, they filled a bowl of wine and cast in a
[489]     clot of blood for each of them; the rest of the victim they put in the
[490]     fire, after having purified the column all round. Then they drew from the
[491]     bowl in golden cups, and pouring a libation on the fire, they swore that
[492]     they would judge according to the laws on the pillar, and would punish him
[493]     who in any point had already transgressed them, and that for the future
[494]     they would not, if they could help, offend against the writing on the
[495]     pillar, and would neither command others, nor obey any ruler who commanded
[496]     them, to act otherwise than according to the laws of their father Poseidon.
[497]     This was the prayer which each of them offered up for himself and for his
[498]     descendants, at the same time drinking and dedicating the cup out of which
[499]     he drank in the temple of the god; and after they had supped and satisfied
[500]     their needs, when darkness came on, and the fire about the sacrifice was
[501]     cool, all of them put on most beautiful azure robes, and, sitting on the
[502]     ground, at night, over the embers of the sacrifices by which they had
[503]     sworn, and extinguishing all the fire about the temple, they received and
[504]     gave judgment, if any of them had an accusation to bring against any one;
[505]     and when they had given judgment, at daybreak they wrote down their
[506]     sentences on a golden tablet, and dedicated it together with their robes to
[507]     be a memorial.
[508]     
[509]     There were many special laws affecting the several kings inscribed about
[510]     the temples, but the most important was the following: They were not to
[511]     take up arms against one another, and they were all to come to the rescue
[512]     if any one in any of their cities attempted to overthrow the royal house;
[513]     like their ancestors, they were to deliberate in common about war and other
[514]     matters, giving the supremacy to the descendants of Atlas. And the king
[515]     was not to have the power of life and death over any of his kinsmen unless
[516]     he had the assent of the majority of the ten.
[517]     
[518]     Such was the vast power which the god settled in the lost island of
[519]     Atlantis; and this he afterwards directed against our land for the
[520]     following reasons, as tradition tells: For many generations, as long as
[521]     the divine nature lasted in them, they were obedient to the laws, and
[522]     well-affectioned towards the god, whose seed they were; for they possessed
[523]     true and in every way great spirits, uniting gentleness with wisdom in the
[524]     various chances of life, and in their intercourse with one another. They
[525]     despised everything but virtue, caring little for their present state of
[526]     life, and thinking lightly of the possession of gold and other property,
[527]     which seemed only a burden to them; neither were they intoxicated by
[528]     luxury; nor did wealth deprive them of their self-control; but they were
[529]     sober, and saw clearly that all these goods are increased by virtue and
[530]     friendship with one another, whereas by too great regard and respect for
[531]     them, they are lost and friendship with them. By such reflections and by
[532]     the continuance in them of a divine nature, the qualities which we have
[533]     described grew and increased among them; but when the divine portion began
[534]     to fade away, and became diluted too often and too much with the mortal
[535]     admixture, and the human nature got the upper hand, they then, being unable
[536]     to bear their fortune, behaved unseemly, and to him who had an eye to see
[537]     grew visibly debased, for they were losing the fairest of their precious
[538]     gifts; but to those who had no eye to see the true happiness, they appeared
[539]     glorious and blessed at the very time when they were full of avarice and
[540]     unrighteous power. Zeus, the god of gods, who rules according to law, and
[541]     is able to see into such things, perceiving that an honourable race was in
[542]     a woeful plight, and wanting to inflict punishment on them, that they might
[543]     be chastened and improve, collected all the gods into their most holy
[544]     habitation, which, being placed in the centre of the world, beholds all
[545]     created things. And when he had called them together, he spake as
[546]     follows--*
[547]     
[548]     * The rest of the Dialogue of Critias has been lost.