Timaeus by Plato

Plato Timaeus

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Timaeus by Plato.
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[2]        PERSONS OF THE DIALOGUE: Socrates, Critias, Timaeus, Hermocrates.
[5]        SOCRATES: One, two, three; but where, my dear Timaeus, is the fourth of
[6]        those who were yesterday my guests and are to be my entertainers to-day?
[8]        TIMAEUS: He has been taken ill, Socrates; for he would not willingly have
[9]        been absent from this gathering.
[11]       SOCRATES: Then, if he is not coming, you and the two others must supply
[12]       his place.
[14]       TIMAEUS: Certainly, and we will do all that we can; having been handsomely
[15]       entertained by you yesterday, those of us who remain should be only too
[16]       glad to return your hospitality.
[18]       SOCRATES: Do you remember what were the points of which I required you to
[19]       speak?
[21]       TIMAEUS: We remember some of them, and you will be here to remind us of
[22]       anything which we have forgotten: or rather, if we are not troubling you,
[23]       will you briefly recapitulate the whole, and then the particulars will be
[24]       more firmly fixed in our memories?
[26]       SOCRATES: To be sure I will: the chief theme of my yesterday's discourse
[27]       was the State--how constituted and of what citizens composed it would seem
[28]       likely to be most perfect.
[30]       TIMAEUS: Yes, Socrates; and what you said of it was very much to our mind.
[32]       SOCRATES: Did we not begin by separating the husbandmen and the artisans
[33]       from the class of defenders of the State?
[35]       TIMAEUS: Yes.
[37]       SOCRATES: And when we had given to each one that single employment and
[38]       particular art which was suited to his nature, we spoke of those who were
[39]       intended to be our warriors, and said that they were to be guardians of the
[40]       city against attacks from within as well as from without, and to have no
[41]       other employment; they were to be merciful in judging their subjects, of
[42]       whom they were by nature friends, but fierce to their enemies, when they
[43]       came across them in battle.
[45]       TIMAEUS: Exactly.
[47]       SOCRATES: We said, if I am not mistaken, that the guardians should be
[48]       gifted with a temperament in a high degree both passionate and
[49]       philosophical; and that then they would be as they ought to be, gentle to
[50]       their friends and fierce with their enemies.
[52]       TIMAEUS: Certainly.
[54]       SOCRATES: And what did we say of their education? Were they not to be
[55]       trained in gymnastic, and music, and all other sorts of knowledge which
[56]       were proper for them?
[58]       TIMAEUS: Very true.
[60]       SOCRATES: And being thus trained they were not to consider gold or silver
[61]       or anything else to be their own private property; they were to be like
[62]       hired troops, receiving pay for keeping guard from those who were protected
[63]       by them--the pay was to be no more than would suffice for men of simple
[64]       life; and they were to spend in common, and to live together in the
[65]       continual practice of virtue, which was to be their sole pursuit.
[67]       TIMAEUS: That was also said.
[69]       SOCRATES: Neither did we forget the women; of whom we declared, that their
[70]       natures should be assimilated and brought into harmony with those of the
[71]       men, and that common pursuits should be assigned to them both in time of
[72]       war and in their ordinary life.
[74]       TIMAEUS: That, again, was as you say.
[76]       SOCRATES: And what about the procreation of children? Or rather was not
[77]       the proposal too singular to be forgotten? for all wives and children were
[78]       to be in common, to the intent that no one should ever know his own child,
[79]       but they were to imagine that they were all one family; those who were
[80]       within a suitable limit of age were to be brothers and sisters, those who
[81]       were of an elder generation parents and grandparents, and those of a
[82]       younger, children and grandchildren.
[84]       TIMAEUS: Yes, and the proposal is easy to remember, as you say.
[86]       SOCRATES: And do you also remember how, with a view of securing as far as
[87]       we could the best breed, we said that the chief magistrates, male and
[88]       female, should contrive secretly, by the use of certain lots, so to arrange
[89]       the nuptial meeting, that the bad of either sex and the good of either sex
[90]       might pair with their like; and there was to be no quarrelling on this
[91]       account, for they would imagine that the union was a mere accident, and was
[92]       to be attributed to the lot?
[94]       TIMAEUS: I remember.
[96]       SOCRATES: And you remember how we said that the children of the good
[97]       parents were to be educated, and the children of the bad secretly dispersed
[98]       among the inferior citizens; and while they were all growing up the rulers
[99]       were to be on the look-out, and to bring up from below in their turn those
[100]      who were worthy, and those among themselves who were unworthy were to take
[101]      the places of those who came up?
[103]      TIMAEUS: True.
[105]      SOCRATES: Then have I now given you all the heads of our yesterday's
[106]      discussion? Or is there anything more, my dear Timaeus, which has been
[107]      omitted?
[109]      TIMAEUS: Nothing, Socrates; it was just as you have said.
[111]      SOCRATES: I should like, before proceeding further, to tell you how I feel
[112]      about the State which we have described. I might compare myself to a
[113]      person who, on beholding beautiful animals either created by the painter's
[114]      art, or, better still, alive but at rest, is seized with a desire of seeing
[115]      them in motion or engaged in some struggle or conflict to which their forms
[116]      appear suited; this is my feeling about the State which we have been
[117]      describing. There are conflicts which all cities undergo, and I should
[118]      like to hear some one tell of our own city carrying on a struggle against
[119]      her neighbours, and how she went out to war in a becoming manner, and when
[120]      at war showed by the greatness of her actions and the magnanimity of her
[121]      words in dealing with other cities a result worthy of her training and
[122]      education. Now I, Critias and Hermocrates, am conscious that I myself
[123]      should never be able to celebrate the city and her citizens in a befitting
[124]      manner, and I am not surprised at my own incapacity; to me the wonder is
[125]      rather that the poets present as well as past are no better--not that I
[126]      mean to depreciate them; but every one can see that they are a tribe of
[127]      imitators, and will imitate best and most easily the life in which they
[128]      have been brought up; while that which is beyond the range of a man's
[129]      education he finds hard to carry out in action, and still harder adequately
[130]      to represent in language. I am aware that the Sophists have plenty of
[131]      brave words and fair conceits, but I am afraid that being only wanderers
[132]      from one city to another, and having never had habitations of their own,
[133]      they may fail in their conception of philosophers and statesmen, and may
[134]      not know what they do and say in time of war, when they are fighting or
[135]      holding parley with their enemies. And thus people of your class are the
[136]      only ones remaining who are fitted by nature and education to take part at
[137]      once both in politics and philosophy. Here is Timaeus, of Locris in Italy,
[138]      a city which has admirable laws, and who is himself in wealth and rank the
[139]      equal of any of his fellow-citizens; he has held the most important and
[140]      honourable offices in his own state, and, as I believe, has scaled the
[141]      heights of all philosophy; and here is Critias, whom every Athenian knows
[142]      to be no novice in the matters of which we are speaking; and as to
[143]      Hermocrates, I am assured by many witnesses that his genius and education
[144]      qualify him to take part in any speculation of the kind. And therefore
[145]      yesterday when I saw that you wanted me to describe the formation of the
[146]      State, I readily assented, being very well aware, that, if you only would,
[147]      none were better qualified to carry the discussion further, and that when
[148]      you had engaged our city in a suitable war, you of all men living could
[149]      best exhibit her playing a fitting part. When I had completed my task, I
[150]      in return imposed this other task upon you. You conferred together and
[151]      agreed to entertain me to-day, as I had entertained you, with a feast of
[152]      discourse. Here am I in festive array, and no man can be more ready for
[153]      the promised banquet.
[155]      HERMOCRATES: And we too, Socrates, as Timaeus says, will not be wanting in
[156]      enthusiasm; and there is no excuse for not complying with your request. As
[157]      soon as we arrived yesterday at the guest-chamber of Critias, with whom we
[158]      are staying, or rather on our way thither, we talked the matter over, and
[159]      he told us an ancient tradition, which I wish, Critias, that you would
[160]      repeat to Socrates, so that he may help us to judge whether it will satisfy
[161]      his requirements or not.
[163]      CRITIAS: I will, if Timaeus, who is our other partner, approves.
[165]      TIMAEUS: I quite approve.
[167]      CRITIAS: Then listen, Socrates, to a tale which, though strange, is
[168]      certainly true, having been attested by Solon, who was the wisest of the
[169]      seven sages. He was a relative and a dear friend of my great-grandfather,
[170]      Dropides, as he himself says in many passages of his poems; and he told the
[171]      story to Critias, my grandfather, who remembered and repeated it to us.
[172]      There were of old, he said, great and marvellous actions of the Athenian
[173]      city, which have passed into oblivion through lapse of time and the
[174]      destruction of mankind, and one in particular, greater than all the rest.
[175]      This we will now rehearse. It will be a fitting monument of our gratitude
[176]      to you, and a hymn of praise true and worthy of the goddess, on this her
[177]      day of festival.
[179]      SOCRATES: Very good. And what is this ancient famous action of the
[180]      Athenians, which Critias declared, on the authority of Solon, to be not a
[181]      mere legend, but an actual fact?
[183]      CRITIAS: I will tell an old-world story which I heard from an aged man;
[184]      for Critias, at the time of telling it, was, as he said, nearly ninety
[185]      years of age, and I was about ten. Now the day was that day of the
[186]      Apaturia which is called the Registration of Youth, at which, according to
[187]      custom, our parents gave prizes for recitations, and the poems of several
[188]      poets were recited by us boys, and many of us sang the poems of Solon,
[189]      which at that time had not gone out of fashion. One of our tribe, either
[190]      because he thought so or to please Critias, said that in his judgment Solon
[191]      was not only the wisest of men, but also the noblest of poets. The old
[192]      man, as I very well remember, brightened up at hearing this and said,
[193]      smiling: Yes, Amynander, if Solon had only, like other poets, made poetry
[194]      the business of his life, and had completed the tale which he brought with
[195]      him from Egypt, and had not been compelled, by reason of the factions and
[196]      troubles which he found stirring in his own country when he came home, to
[197]      attend to other matters, in my opinion he would have been as famous as
[198]      Homer or Hesiod, or any poet.
[200]      And what was the tale about, Critias? said Amynander.
[202]      About the greatest action which the Athenians ever did, and which ought to
[203]      have been the most famous, but, through the lapse of time and the
[204]      destruction of the actors, it has not come down to us.
[206]      Tell us, said the other, the whole story, and how and from whom Solon heard
[207]      this veritable tradition.
[209]      He replied:--In the Egyptian Delta, at the head of which the river Nile
[210]      divides, there is a certain district which is called the district of Sais,
[211]      and the great city of the district is also called Sais, and is the city
[212]      from which King Amasis came. The citizens have a deity for their
[213]      foundress; she is called in the Egyptian tongue Neith, and is asserted by
[214]      them to be the same whom the Hellenes call Athene; they are great lovers of
[215]      the Athenians, and say that they are in some way related to them. To this
[216]      city came Solon, and was received there with great honour; he asked the
[217]      priests who were most skilful in such matters, about antiquity, and made
[218]      the discovery that neither he nor any other Hellene knew anything worth
[219]      mentioning about the times of old. On one occasion, wishing to draw them
[220]      on to speak of antiquity, he began to tell about the most ancient things in
[221]      our part of the world--about Phoroneus, who is called 'the first man,' and
[222]      about Niobe; and after the Deluge, of the survival of Deucalion and Pyrrha;
[223]      and he traced the genealogy of their descendants, and reckoning up the
[224]      dates, tried to compute how many years ago the events of which he was
[225]      speaking happened. Thereupon one of the priests, who was of a very great
[226]      age, said: O Solon, Solon, you Hellenes are never anything but children,
[227]      and there is not an old man among you. Solon in return asked him what he
[228]      meant. I mean to say, he replied, that in mind you are all young; there is
[229]      no old opinion handed down among you by ancient tradition, nor any science
[230]      which is hoary with age. And I will tell you why. There have been, and
[231]      will be again, many destructions of mankind arising out of many causes; the
[232]      greatest have been brought about by the agencies of fire and water, and
[233]      other lesser ones by innumerable other causes. There is a story, which
[234]      even you have preserved, that once upon a time Paethon, the son of Helios,
[235]      having yoked the steeds in his father's chariot, because he was not able to
[236]      drive them in the path of his father, burnt up all that was upon the earth,
[237]      and was himself destroyed by a thunderbolt. Now this has the form of a
[238]      myth, but really signifies a declination of the bodies moving in the
[239]      heavens around the earth, and a great conflagration of things upon the
[240]      earth, which recurs after long intervals; at such times those who live upon
[241]      the mountains and in dry and lofty places are more liable to destruction
[242]      than those who dwell by rivers or on the seashore. And from this calamity
[243]      the Nile, who is our never-failing saviour, delivers and preserves us.
[244]      When, on the other hand, the gods purge the earth with a deluge of water,
[245]      the survivors in your country are herdsmen and shepherds who dwell on the
[246]      mountains, but those who, like you, live in cities are carried by the
[247]      rivers into the sea. Whereas in this land, neither then nor at any other
[248]      time, does the water come down from above on the fields, having always a
[249]      tendency to come up from below; for which reason the traditions preserved
[250]      here are the most ancient. The fact is, that wherever the extremity of
[251]      winter frost or of summer sun does not prevent, mankind exist, sometimes in
[252]      greater, sometimes in lesser numbers. And whatever happened either in your
[253]      country or in ours, or in any other region of which we are informed--if
[254]      there were any actions noble or great or in any other way remarkable, they
[255]      have all been written down by us of old, and are preserved in our temples.
[256]      Whereas just when you and other nations are beginning to be provided with
[257]      letters and the other requisites of civilized life, after the usual
[258]      interval, the stream from heaven, like a pestilence, comes pouring down,
[259]      and leaves only those of you who are destitute of letters and education;
[260]      and so you have to begin all over again like children, and know nothing of
[261]      what happened in ancient times, either among us or among yourselves. As
[262]      for those genealogies of yours which you just now recounted to us, Solon,
[263]      they are no better than the tales of children. In the first place you
[264]      remember a single deluge only, but there were many previous ones; in the
[265]      next place, you do not know that there formerly dwelt in your land the
[266]      fairest and noblest race of men which ever lived, and that you and your
[267]      whole city are descended from a small seed or remnant of them which
[268]      survived. And this was unknown to you, because, for many generations, the
[269]      survivors of that destruction died, leaving no written word. For there was
[270]      a time, Solon, before the great deluge of all, when the city which now is
[271]      Athens was first in war and in every way the best governed of all cities,
[272]      is said to have performed the noblest deeds and to have had the fairest
[273]      constitution of any of which tradition tells, under the face of heaven.
[274]      Solon marvelled at his words, and earnestly requested the priests to inform
[275]      him exactly and in order about these former citizens. You are welcome to
[276]      hear about them, Solon, said the priest, both for your own sake and for
[277]      that of your city, and above all, for the sake of the goddess who is the
[278]      common patron and parent and educator of both our cities. She founded your
[279]      city a thousand years before ours (Observe that Plato gives the same date
[280]      (9000 years ago) for the foundation of Athens and for the repulse of the
[281]      invasion from Atlantis (Crit.).), receiving from the Earth and Hephaestus
[282]      the seed of your race, and afterwards she founded ours, of which the
[283]      constitution is recorded in our sacred registers to be 8000 years old. As
[284]      touching your citizens of 9000 years ago, I will briefly inform you of
[285]      their laws and of their most famous action; the exact particulars of the
[286]      whole we will hereafter go through at our leisure in the sacred registers
[287]      themselves. If you compare these very laws with ours you will find that
[288]      many of ours are the counterpart of yours as they were in the olden time.
[289]      In the first place, there is the caste of priests, which is separated from
[290]      all the others; next, there are the artificers, who ply their several
[291]      crafts by themselves and do not intermix; and also there is the class of
[292]      shepherds and of hunters, as well as that of husbandmen; and you will
[293]      observe, too, that the warriors in Egypt are distinct from all the other
[294]      classes, and are commanded by the law to devote themselves solely to
[295]      military pursuits; moreover, the weapons which they carry are shields and
[296]      spears, a style of equipment which the goddess taught of Asiatics first to
[297]      us, as in your part of the world first to you. Then as to wisdom, do you
[298]      observe how our law from the very first made a study of the whole order of
[299]      things, extending even to prophecy and medicine which gives health, out of
[300]      these divine elements deriving what was needful for human life, and adding
[301]      every sort of knowledge which was akin to them. All this order and
[302]      arrangement the goddess first imparted to you when establishing your city;
[303]      and she chose the spot of earth in which you were born, because she saw
[304]      that the happy temperament of the seasons in that land would produce the
[305]      wisest of men. Wherefore the goddess, who was a lover both of war and of
[306]      wisdom, selected and first of all settled that spot which was the most
[307]      likely to produce men likest herself. And there you dwelt, having such
[308]      laws as these and still better ones, and excelled all mankind in all
[309]      virtue, as became the children and disciples of the gods.
[311]      Many great and wonderful deeds are recorded of your state in our histories.
[312]      But one of them exceeds all the rest in greatness and valour. For these
[313]      histories tell of a mighty power which unprovoked made an expedition
[314]      against the whole of Europe and Asia, and to which your city put an end.
[315]      This power came forth out of the Atlantic Ocean, for in those days the
[316]      Atlantic was navigable; and there was an island situated in front of the
[317]      straits which are by you called the Pillars of Heracles; the island was
[318]      larger than Libya and Asia put together, and was the way to other islands,
[319]      and from these you might pass to the whole of the opposite continent which
[320]      surrounded the true ocean; for this sea which is within the Straits of
[321]      Heracles is only a harbour, having a narrow entrance, but that other is a
[322]      real sea, and the surrounding land may be most truly called a boundless
[323]      continent. Now in this island of Atlantis there was a great and wonderful
[324]      empire which had rule over the whole island and several others, and over
[325]      parts of the continent, and, furthermore, the men of Atlantis had subjected
[326]      the parts of Libya within the columns of Heracles as far as Egypt, and of
[327]      Europe as far as Tyrrhenia. This vast power, gathered into one,
[328]      endeavoured to subdue at a blow our country and yours and the whole of the
[329]      region within the straits; and then, Solon, your country shone forth, in
[330]      the excellence of her virtue and strength, among all mankind. She was
[331]      pre-eminent in courage and military skill, and was the leader of the
[332]      Hellenes. And when the rest fell off from her, being compelled to stand
[333]      alone, after having undergone the very extremity of danger, she defeated
[334]      and triumphed over the invaders, and preserved from slavery those who were
[335]      not yet subjugated, and generously liberated all the rest of us who dwell
[336]      within the pillars. But afterwards there occurred violent earthquakes and
[337]      floods; and in a single day and night of misfortune all your warlike men in
[338]      a body sank into the earth, and the island of Atlantis in like manner
[339]      disappeared in the depths of the sea. For which reason the sea in those
[340]      parts is impassable and impenetrable, because there is a shoal of mud in
[341]      the way; and this was caused by the subsidence of the island.
[343]      I have told you briefly, Socrates, what the aged Critias heard from Solon
[344]      and related to us. And when you were speaking yesterday about your city
[345]      and citizens, the tale which I have just been repeating to you came into my
[346]      mind, and I remarked with astonishment how, by some mysterious coincidence,
[347]      you agreed in almost every particular with the narrative of Solon; but I
[348]      did not like to speak at the moment. For a long time had elapsed, and I
[349]      had forgotten too much; I thought that I must first of all run over the
[350]      narrative in my own mind, and then I would speak. And so I readily
[351]      assented to your request yesterday, considering that in all such cases the
[352]      chief difficulty is to find a tale suitable to our purpose, and that with
[353]      such a tale we should be fairly well provided.
[355]      And therefore, as Hermocrates has told you, on my way home yesterday I at
[356]      once communicated the tale to my companions as I remembered it; and after I
[357]      left them, during the night by thinking I recovered nearly the whole of it.
[358]      Truly, as is often said, the lessons of our childhood make a wonderful
[359]      impression on our memories; for I am not sure that I could remember all the
[360]      discourse of yesterday, but I should be much surprised if I forgot any of
[361]      these things which I have heard very long ago. I listened at the time with
[362]      childlike interest to the old man's narrative; he was very ready to teach
[363]      me, and I asked him again and again to repeat his words, so that like an
[364]      indelible picture they were branded into my mind. As soon as the day
[365]      broke, I rehearsed them as he spoke them to my companions, that they, as
[366]      well as myself, might have something to say. And now, Socrates, to make an
[367]      end of my preface, I am ready to tell you the whole tale. I will give you
[368]      not only the general heads, but the particulars, as they were told to me.
[369]      The city and citizens, which you yesterday described to us in fiction, we
[370]      will now transfer to the world of reality. It shall be the ancient city of
[371]      Athens, and we will suppose that the citizens whom you imagined, were our
[372]      veritable ancestors, of whom the priest spoke; they will perfectly
[373]      harmonize, and there will be no inconsistency in saying that the citizens
[374]      of your republic are these ancient Athenians. Let us divide the subject
[375]      among us, and all endeavour according to our ability gracefully to execute
[376]      the task which you have imposed upon us. Consider then, Socrates, if this
[377]      narrative is suited to the purpose, or whether we should seek for some
[378]      other instead.
[380]      SOCRATES: And what other, Critias, can we find that will be better than
[381]      this, which is natural and suitable to the festival of the goddess, and has
[382]      the very great advantage of being a fact and not a fiction? How or where
[383]      shall we find another if we abandon this? We cannot, and therefore you
[384]      must tell the tale, and good luck to you; and I in return for my
[385]      yesterday's discourse will now rest and be a listener.
[387]      CRITIAS: Let me proceed to explain to you, Socrates, the order in which we
[388]      have arranged our entertainment. Our intention is, that Timaeus, who is
[389]      the most of an astronomer amongst us, and has made the nature of the
[390]      universe his special study, should speak first, beginning with the
[391]      generation of the world and going down to the creation of man; next, I am
[392]      to receive the men whom he has created, and of whom some will have profited
[393]      by the excellent education which you have given them; and then, in
[394]      accordance with the tale of Solon, and equally with his law, we will bring
[395]      them into court and make them citizens, as if they were those very
[396]      Athenians whom the sacred Egyptian record has recovered from oblivion, and
[397]      thenceforward we will speak of them as Athenians and fellow-citizens.
[399]      SOCRATES: I see that I shall receive in my turn a perfect and splendid
[400]      feast of reason. And now, Timaeus, you, I suppose, should speak next,
[401]      after duly calling upon the Gods.
[403]      TIMAEUS: All men, Socrates, who have any degree of right feeling, at the
[404]      beginning of every enterprise, whether small or great, always call upon
[405]      God. And we, too, who are going to discourse of the nature of the
[406]      universe, how created or how existing without creation, if we be not
[407]      altogether out of our wits, must invoke the aid of Gods and Goddesses and
[408]      pray that our words may be acceptable to them and consistent with
[409]      themselves. Let this, then, be our invocation of the Gods, to which I add
[410]      an exhortation of myself to speak in such manner as will be most
[411]      intelligible to you, and will most accord with my own intent.
[413]      First then, in my judgment, we must make a distinction and ask, What is
[414]      that which always is and has no becoming; and what is that which is always
[415]      becoming and never is? That which is apprehended by intelligence and
[416]      reason is always in the same state; but that which is conceived by opinion
[417]      with the help of sensation and without reason, is always in a process of
[418]      becoming and perishing and never really is. Now everything that becomes or
[419]      is created must of necessity be created by some cause, for without a cause
[420]      nothing can be created. The work of the creator, whenever he looks to the
[421]      unchangeable and fashions the form and nature of his work after an
[422]      unchangeable pattern, must necessarily be made fair and perfect; but when
[423]      he looks to the created only, and uses a created pattern, it is not fair or
[424]      perfect. Was the heaven then or the world, whether called by this or by
[425]      any other more appropriate name--assuming the name, I am asking a question
[426]      which has to be asked at the beginning of an enquiry about anything--was
[427]      the world, I say, always in existence and without beginning? or created,
[428]      and had it a beginning? Created, I reply, being visible and tangible and
[429]      having a body, and therefore sensible; and all sensible things are
[430]      apprehended by opinion and sense and are in a process of creation and
[431]      created. Now that which is created must, as we affirm, of necessity be
[432]      created by a cause. But the father and maker of all this universe is past
[433]      finding out; and even if we found him, to tell of him to all men would be
[434]      impossible. And there is still a question to be asked about him: Which of
[435]      the patterns had the artificer in view when he made the world--the pattern
[436]      of the unchangeable, or of that which is created? If the world be indeed
[437]      fair and the artificer good, it is manifest that he must have looked to
[438]      that which is eternal; but if what cannot be said without blasphemy is
[439]      true, then to the created pattern. Every one will see that he must have
[440]      looked to the eternal; for the world is the fairest of creations and he is
[441]      the best of causes. And having been created in this way, the world has
[442]      been framed in the likeness of that which is apprehended by reason and mind
[443]      and is unchangeable, and must therefore of necessity, if this is admitted,
[444]      be a copy of something. Now it is all-important that the beginning of
[445]      everything should be according to nature. And in speaking of the copy and
[446]      the original we may assume that words are akin to the matter which they
[447]      describe; when they relate to the lasting and permanent and intelligible,
[448]      they ought to be lasting and unalterable, and, as far as their nature
[449]      allows, irrefutable and immovable--nothing less. But when they express
[450]      only the copy or likeness and not the eternal things themselves, they need
[451]      only be likely and analogous to the real words. As being is to becoming,
[452]      so is truth to belief. If then, Socrates, amid the many opinions about the
[453]      gods and the generation of the universe, we are not able to give notions
[454]      which are altogether and in every respect exact and consistent with one
[455]      another, do not be surprised. Enough, if we adduce probabilities as likely
[456]      as any others; for we must remember that I who am the speaker, and you who
[457]      are the judges, are only mortal men, and we ought to accept the tale which
[458]      is probable and enquire no further.
[460]      SOCRATES: Excellent, Timaeus; and we will do precisely as you bid us. The
[461]      prelude is charming, and is already accepted by us--may we beg of you to
[462]      proceed to the strain?
[464]      TIMAEUS: Let me tell you then why the creator made this world of
[465]      generation. He was good, and the good can never have any jealousy of
[466]      anything. And being free from jealousy, he desired that all things should
[467]      be as like himself as they could be. This is in the truest sense the
[468]      origin of creation and of the world, as we shall do well in believing on
[469]      the testimony of wise men: God desired that all things should be good and
[470]      nothing bad, so far as this was attainable. Wherefore also finding the
[471]      whole visible sphere not at rest, but moving in an irregular and disorderly
[472]      fashion, out of disorder he brought order, considering that this was in
[473]      every way better than the other. Now the deeds of the best could never be
[474]      or have been other than the fairest; and the creator, reflecting on the
[475]      things which are by nature visible, found that no unintelligent creature
[476]      taken as a whole was fairer than the intelligent taken as a whole; and that
[477]      intelligence could not be present in anything which was devoid of soul.
[478]      For which reason, when he was framing the universe, he put intelligence in
[479]      soul, and soul in body, that he might be the creator of a work which was by
[480]      nature fairest and best. Wherefore, using the language of probability, we
[481]      may say that the world became a living creature truly endowed with soul and
[482]      intelligence by the providence of God.
[484]      This being supposed, let us proceed to the next stage: In the likeness of
[485]      what animal did the Creator make the world? It would be an unworthy thing
[486]      to liken it to any nature which exists as a part only; for nothing can be
[487]      beautiful which is like any imperfect thing; but let us suppose the world
[488]      to be the very image of that whole of which all other animals both
[489]      individually and in their tribes are portions. For the original of the
[490]      universe contains in itself all intelligible beings, just as this world
[491]      comprehends us and all other visible creatures. For the Deity, intending
[492]      to make this world like the fairest and most perfect of intelligible
[493]      beings, framed one visible animal comprehending within itself all other
[494]      animals of a kindred nature. Are we right in saying that there is one
[495]      world, or that they are many and infinite? There must be one only, if the
[496]      created copy is to accord with the original. For that which includes all
[497]      other intelligible creatures cannot have a second or companion; in that
[498]      case there would be need of another living being which would include both,
[499]      and of which they would be parts, and the likeness would be more truly said
[500]      to resemble not them, but that other which included them. In order then
[501]      that the world might be solitary, like the perfect animal, the creator made
[502]      not two worlds or an infinite number of them; but there is and ever will be
[503]      one only-begotten and created heaven.
[505]      Now that which is created is of necessity corporeal, and also visible and
[506]      tangible. And nothing is visible where there is no fire, or tangible which
[507]      has no solidity, and nothing is solid without earth. Wherefore also God in
[508]      the beginning of creation made the body of the universe to consist of fire
[509]      and earth. But two things cannot be rightly put together without a third;
[510]      there must be some bond of union between them. And the fairest bond is
[511]      that which makes the most complete fusion of itself and the things which it
[512]      combines; and proportion is best adapted to effect such a union. For
[513]      whenever in any three numbers, whether cube or square, there is a mean,
[514]      which is to the last term what the first term is to it; and again, when the
[515]      mean is to the first term as the last term is to the mean--then the mean
[516]      becoming first and last, and the first and last both becoming means, they
[517]      will all of them of necessity come to be the same, and having become the
[518]      same with one another will be all one. If the universal frame had been
[519]      created a surface only and having no depth, a single mean would have
[520]      sufficed to bind together itself and the other terms; but now, as the world
[521]      must be solid, and solid bodies are always compacted not by one mean but by
[522]      two, God placed water and air in the mean between fire and earth, and made
[523]      them to have the same proportion so far as was possible (as fire is to air
[524]      so is air to water, and as air is to water so is water to earth); and thus
[525]      he bound and put together a visible and tangible heaven. And for these
[526]      reasons, and out of such elements which are in number four, the body of the
[527]      world was created, and it was harmonized by proportion, and therefore has
[528]      the spirit of friendship; and having been reconciled to itself, it was
[529]      indissoluble by the hand of any other than the framer.
[531]      Now the creation took up the whole of each of the four elements; for the
[532]      Creator compounded the world out of all the fire and all the water and all
[533]      the air and all the earth, leaving no part of any of them nor any power of
[534]      them outside. His intention was, in the first place, that the animal
[535]      should be as far as possible a perfect whole and of perfect parts:
[536]      secondly, that it should be one, leaving no remnants out of which another
[537]      such world might be created: and also that it should be free from old age
[538]      and unaffected by disease. Considering that if heat and cold and other
[539]      powerful forces which unite bodies surround and attack them from without
[540]      when they are unprepared, they decompose them, and by bringing diseases and
[541]      old age upon them, make them waste away--for this cause and on these
[542]      grounds he made the world one whole, having every part entire, and being
[543]      therefore perfect and not liable to old age and disease. And he gave to
[544]      the world the figure which was suitable and also natural. Now to the
[545]      animal which was to comprehend all animals, that figure was suitable which
[546]      comprehends within itself all other figures. Wherefore he made the world
[547]      in the form of a globe, round as from a lathe, having its extremes in every
[548]      direction equidistant from the centre, the most perfect and the most like
[549]      itself of all figures; for he considered that the like is infinitely fairer
[550]      than the unlike. This he finished off, making the surface smooth all round
[551]      for many reasons; in the first place, because the living being had no need
[552]      of eyes when there was nothing remaining outside him to be seen; nor of
[553]      ears when there was nothing to be heard; and there was no surrounding
[554]      atmosphere to be breathed; nor would there have been any use of organs by
[555]      the help of which he might receive his food or get rid of what he had
[556]      already digested, since there was nothing which went from him or came into
[557]      him: for there was nothing beside him. Of design he was created thus, his
[558]      own waste providing his own food, and all that he did or suffered taking
[559]      place in and by himself. For the Creator conceived that a being which was
[560]      self-sufficient would be far more excellent than one which lacked anything;
[561]      and, as he had no need to take anything or defend himself against any one,
[562]      the Creator did not think it necessary to bestow upon him hands: nor had
[563]      he any need of feet, nor of the whole apparatus of walking; but the
[564]      movement suited to his spherical form was assigned to him, being of all the
[565]      seven that which is most appropriate to mind and intelligence; and he was
[566]      made to move in the same manner and on the same spot, within his own limits
[567]      revolving in a circle. All the other six motions were taken away from him,
[568]      and he was made not to partake of their deviations. And as this circular
[569]      movement required no feet, the universe was created without legs and
[570]      without feet.
[572]      Such was the whole plan of the eternal God about the god that was to be, to
[573]      whom for this reason he gave a body, smooth and even, having a surface in
[574]      every direction equidistant from the centre, a body entire and perfect, and
[575]      formed out of perfect bodies. And in the centre he put the soul, which he
[576]      diffused throughout the body, making it also to be the exterior environment
[577]      of it; and he made the universe a circle moving in a circle, one and
[578]      solitary, yet by reason of its excellence able to converse with itself, and
[579]      needing no other friendship or acquaintance. Having these purposes in view
[580]      he created the world a blessed god.
[582]      Now God did not make the soul after the body, although we are speaking of
[583]      them in this order; for having brought them together he would never have
[584]      allowed that the elder should be ruled by the younger; but this is a random
[585]      manner of speaking which we have, because somehow we ourselves too are very
[586]      much under the dominion of chance. Whereas he made the soul in origin and
[587]      excellence prior to and older than the body, to be the ruler and mistress,
[588]      of whom the body was to be the subject. And he made her out of the
[589]      following elements and on this wise: Out of the indivisible and
[590]      unchangeable, and also out of that which is divisible and has to do with
[591]      material bodies, he compounded a third and intermediate kind of essence,
[592]      partaking of the nature of the same and of the other, and this compound he
[593]      placed accordingly in a mean between the indivisible, and the divisible and
[594]      material. He took the three elements of the same, the other, and the
[595]      essence, and mingled them into one form, compressing by force the reluctant
[596]      and unsociable nature of the other into the same. When he had mingled them
[597]      with the essence and out of three made one, he again divided this whole
[598]      into as many portions as was fitting, each portion being a compound of the
[599]      same, the other, and the essence. And he proceeded to divide after this
[600]      manner:--First of all, he took away one part of the whole (1), and then he
[601]      separated a second part which was double the first (2), and then he took
[602]      away a third part which was half as much again as the second and three
[603]      times as much as the first (3), and then he took a fourth part which was
[604]      twice as much as the second (4), and a fifth part which was three times the
[605]      third (9), and a sixth part which was eight times the first (8), and a
[606]      seventh part which was twenty-seven times the first (27). After this he
[607]      filled up the double intervals (i.e. between 1, 2, 4, 8) and the triple
[608]      (i.e. between 1, 3, 9, 27) cutting off yet other portions from the mixture
[609]      and placing them in the intervals, so that in each interval there were two
[610]      kinds of means, the one exceeding and exceeded by equal parts of its
[611]      extremes (as for example 1, 4/3, 2, in which the mean 4/3 is one-third of 1
[612]      more than 1, and one-third of 2 less than 2), the other being that kind of
[613]      mean which exceeds and is exceeded by an equal number (e.g.
[615]      - over 1, 4/3, 3/2, - over 2, 8/3, 3, - over 4, 16/3, 6, - over 8: and
[616]      - over 1, 3/2, 2, - over 3, 9/2, 6, - over 9, 27/2, 18, - over 27.).
[618]      Where there were intervals of 3/2 and of 4/3 and of 9/8, made by the
[619]      connecting terms in the former intervals, he filled up all the intervals of
[620]      4/3 with the interval of 9/8, leaving a fraction over; and the interval
[621]      which this fraction expressed was in the ratio of 256 to 243 (e.g.
[623]      243:256::81/64:4/3::243/128:2::81/32:8/3::243/64:4::81/16:16/3::242/32:8.).
[625]      And thus the whole mixture out of which he cut these portions was all
[626]      exhausted by him. This entire compound he divided lengthways into two
[627]      parts, which he joined to one another at the centre like the letter X, and
[628]      bent them into a circular form, connecting them with themselves and each
[629]      other at the point opposite to their original meeting-point; and,
[630]      comprehending them in a uniform revolution upon the same axis, he made the
[631]      one the outer and the other the inner circle. Now the motion of the outer
[632]      circle he called the motion of the same, and the motion of the inner circle
[633]      the motion of the other or diverse. The motion of the same he carried
[634]      round by the side (i.e. of the rectangular figure supposed to be inscribed
[635]      in the circle of the Same) to the right, and the motion of the diverse
[636]      diagonally (i.e. across the rectangular figure from corner to corner) to
[637]      the left. And he gave dominion to the motion of the same and like, for
[638]      that he left single and undivided; but the inner motion he divided in
[639]      six places and made seven unequal circles having their intervals in
[640]      ratios of two and three, three of each, and bade the orbits proceed in a
[641]      direction opposite to one another; and three (Sun, Mercury, Venus) he made
[642]      to move with equal swiftness, and the remaining four (Moon, Saturn, Mars,
[643]      Jupiter) to move with unequal swiftness to the three and to one another,
[644]      but in due proportion.
[646]      Now when the Creator had framed the soul according to his will, he formed
[647]      within her the corporeal universe, and brought the two together, and united
[648]      them centre to centre. The soul, interfused everywhere from the centre to
[649]      the circumference of heaven, of which also she is the external envelopment,
[650]      herself turning in herself, began a divine beginning of never-ceasing and
[651]      rational life enduring throughout all time. The body of heaven is visible,
[652]      but the soul is invisible, and partakes of reason and harmony, and being
[653]      made by the best of intellectual and everlasting natures, is the best of
[654]      things created. And because she is composed of the same and of the other
[655]      and of the essence, these three, and is divided and united in due
[656]      proportion, and in her revolutions returns upon herself, the soul, when
[657]      touching anything which has essence, whether dispersed in parts or
[658]      undivided, is stirred through all her powers, to declare the sameness or
[659]      difference of that thing and some other; and to what individuals are
[660]      related, and by what affected, and in what way and how and when, both in
[661]      the world of generation and in the world of immutable being. And when
[662]      reason, which works with equal truth, whether she be in the circle of the
[663]      diverse or of the same--in voiceless silence holding her onward course in
[664]      the sphere of the self-moved--when reason, I say, is hovering around the
[665]      sensible world and when the circle of the diverse also moving truly imparts
[666]      the intimations of sense to the whole soul, then arise opinions and beliefs
[667]      sure and certain. But when reason is concerned with the rational, and the
[668]      circle of the same moving smoothly declares it, then intelligence and
[669]      knowledge are necessarily perfected. And if any one affirms that in which
[670]      these two are found to be other than the soul, he will say the very
[671]      opposite of the truth.
[673]      When the father and creator saw the creature which he had made moving and
[674]      living, the created image of the eternal gods, he rejoiced, and in his joy
[675]      determined to make the copy still more like the original; and as this was
[676]      eternal, he sought to make the universe eternal, so far as might be. Now
[677]      the nature of the ideal being was everlasting, but to bestow this attribute
[678]      in its fulness upon a creature was impossible. Wherefore he resolved to
[679]      have a moving image of eternity, and when he set in order the heaven, he
[680]      made this image eternal but moving according to number, while eternity
[681]      itself rests in unity; and this image we call time. For there were no days
[682]      and nights and months and years before the heaven was created, but when he
[683]      constructed the heaven he created them also. They are all parts of time,
[684]      and the past and future are created species of time, which we unconsciously
[685]      but wrongly transfer to the eternal essence; for we say that he 'was,' he
[686]      'is,' he 'will be,' but the truth is that 'is' alone is properly attributed
[687]      to him, and that 'was' and 'will be' are only to be spoken of becoming in
[688]      time, for they are motions, but that which is immovably the same cannot
[689]      become older or younger by time, nor ever did or has become, or hereafter
[690]      will be, older or younger, nor is subject at all to any of those states
[691]      which affect moving and sensible things and of which generation is the
[692]      cause. These are the forms of time, which imitates eternity and revolves
[693]      according to a law of number. Moreover, when we say that what has become
[694]      IS become and what becomes IS becoming, and that what will become IS about
[695]      to become and that the non-existent IS non-existent--all these are
[696]      inaccurate modes of expression (compare Parmen.). But perhaps this whole
[697]      subject will be more suitably discussed on some other occasion.
[699]      Time, then, and the heaven came into being at the same instant in order
[700]      that, having been created together, if ever there was to be a dissolution
[701]      of them, they might be dissolved together. It was framed after the pattern
[702]      of the eternal nature, that it might resemble this as far as was possible;
[703]      for the pattern exists from eternity, and the created heaven has been, and
[704]      is, and will be, in all time. Such was the mind and thought of God in the
[705]      creation of time. The sun and moon and five other stars, which are called
[706]      the planets, were created by him in order to distinguish and preserve the
[707]      numbers of time; and when he had made their several bodies, he placed them
[708]      in the orbits in which the circle of the other was revolving,--in seven
[709]      orbits seven stars. First, there was the moon in the orbit nearest the
[710]      earth, and next the sun, in the second orbit above the earth; then came the
[711]      morning star and the star sacred to Hermes, moving in orbits which have an
[712]      equal swiftness with the sun, but in an opposite direction; and this is the
[713]      reason why the sun and Hermes and Lucifer overtake and are overtaken by
[714]      each other. To enumerate the places which he assigned to the other stars,
[715]      and to give all the reasons why he assigned them, although a secondary
[716]      matter, would give more trouble than the primary. These things at some
[717]      future time, when we are at leisure, may have the consideration which they
[718]      deserve, but not at present.
[720]      Now, when all the stars which were necessary to the creation of time had
[721]      attained a motion suitable to them, and had become living creatures having
[722]      bodies fastened by vital chains, and learnt their appointed task, moving in
[723]      the motion of the diverse, which is diagonal, and passes through and is
[724]      governed by the motion of the same, they revolved, some in a larger and
[725]      some in a lesser orbit--those which had the lesser orbit revolving faster,
[726]      and those which had the larger more slowly. Now by reason of the motion of
[727]      the same, those which revolved fastest appeared to be overtaken by those
[728]      which moved slower although they really overtook them; for the motion of
[729]      the same made them all turn in a spiral, and, because some went one way and
[730]      some another, that which receded most slowly from the sphere of the same,
[731]      which was the swiftest, appeared to follow it most nearly. That there
[732]      might be some visible measure of their relative swiftness and slowness as
[733]      they proceeded in their eight courses, God lighted a fire, which we now
[734]      call the sun, in the second from the earth of these orbits, that it might
[735]      give light to the whole of heaven, and that the animals, as many as nature
[736]      intended, might participate in number, learning arithmetic from the
[737]      revolution of the same and the like. Thus then, and for this reason the
[738]      night and the day were created, being the period of the one most
[739]      intelligent revolution. And the month is accomplished when the moon has
[740]      completed her orbit and overtaken the sun, and the year when the sun has
[741]      completed his own orbit. Mankind, with hardly an exception, have not
[742]      remarked the periods of the other stars, and they have no name for them,
[743]      and do not measure them against one another by the help of number, and
[744]      hence they can scarcely be said to know that their wanderings, being
[745]      infinite in number and admirable for their variety, make up time. And yet
[746]      there is no difficulty in seeing that the perfect number of time fulfils
[747]      the perfect year when all the eight revolutions, having their relative
[748]      degrees of swiftness, are accomplished together and attain their completion
[749]      at the same time, measured by the rotation of the same and equally moving.
[750]      After this manner, and for these reasons, came into being such of the stars
[751]      as in their heavenly progress received reversals of motion, to the end that
[752]      the created heaven might imitate the eternal nature, and be as like as
[753]      possible to the perfect and intelligible animal.
[755]      Thus far and until the birth of time the created universe was made in the
[756]      likeness of the original, but inasmuch as all animals were not yet
[757]      comprehended therein, it was still unlike. What remained, the creator then
[758]      proceeded to fashion after the nature of the pattern. Now as in the ideal
[759]      animal the mind perceives ideas or species of a certain nature and number,
[760]      he thought that this created animal ought to have species of a like nature
[761]      and number. There are four such; one of them is the heavenly race of the
[762]      gods; another, the race of birds whose way is in the air; the third, the
[763]      watery species; and the fourth, the pedestrian and land creatures. Of the
[764]      heavenly and divine, he created the greater part out of fire, that they
[765]      might be the brightest of all things and fairest to behold, and he
[766]      fashioned them after the likeness of the universe in the figure of a
[767]      circle, and made them follow the intelligent motion of the supreme,
[768]      distributing them over the whole circumference of heaven, which was to be a
[769]      true cosmos or glorious world spangled with them all over. And he gave to
[770]      each of them two movements: the first, a movement on the same spot after
[771]      the same manner, whereby they ever continue to think consistently the same
[772]      thoughts about the same things; the second, a forward movement, in which
[773]      they are controlled by the revolution of the same and the like; but by the
[774]      other five motions they were unaffected, in order that each of them might
[775]      attain the highest perfection. And for this reason the fixed stars were
[776]      created, to be divine and eternal animals, ever-abiding and revolving after
[777]      the same manner and on the same spot; and the other stars which reverse
[778]      their motion and are subject to deviations of this kind, were created in
[779]      the manner already described. The earth, which is our nurse, clinging (or
[780]      'circling') around the pole which is extended through the universe, he
[781]      framed to be the guardian and artificer of night and day, first and eldest
[782]      of gods that are in the interior of heaven. Vain would be the attempt to
[783]      tell all the figures of them circling as in dance, and their
[784]      juxtapositions, and the return of them in their revolutions upon
[785]      themselves, and their approximations, and to say which of these deities in
[786]      their conjunctions meet, and which of them are in opposition, and in what
[787]      order they get behind and before one another, and when they are severally
[788]      eclipsed to our sight and again reappear, sending terrors and intimations
[789]      of the future to those who cannot calculate their movements--to attempt to
[790]      tell of all this without a visible representation of the heavenly system
[791]      would be labour in vain. Enough on this head; and now let what we have
[792]      said about the nature of the created and visible gods have an end.
[794]      To know or tell the origin of the other divinities is beyond us, and we
[795]      must accept the traditions of the men of old time who affirm themselves to
[796]      be the offspring of the gods--that is what they say--and they must surely
[797]      have known their own ancestors. How can we doubt the word of the children
[798]      of the gods? Although they give no probable or certain proofs, still, as
[799]      they declare that they are speaking of what took place in their own family,
[800]      we must conform to custom and believe them. In this manner, then,
[801]      according to them, the genealogy of these gods is to be received and set
[802]      forth.
[804]      Oceanus and Tethys were the children of Earth and Heaven, and from these
[805]      sprang Phorcys and Cronos and Rhea, and all that generation; and from
[806]      Cronos and Rhea sprang Zeus and Here, and all those who are said to be
[807]      their brethren, and others who were the children of these.
[809]      Now, when all of them, both those who visibly appear in their revolutions
[810]      as well as those other gods who are of a more retiring nature, had come
[811]      into being, the creator of the universe addressed them in these words:
[812]      'Gods, children of gods, who are my works, and of whom I am the artificer
[813]      and father, my creations are indissoluble, if so I will. All that is bound
[814]      may be undone, but only an evil being would wish to undo that which is
[815]      harmonious and happy. Wherefore, since ye are but creatures, ye are not
[816]      altogether immortal and indissoluble, but ye shall certainly not be
[817]      dissolved, nor be liable to the fate of death, having in my will a greater
[818]      and mightier bond than those with which ye were bound at the time of your
[819]      birth. And now listen to my instructions:--Three tribes of mortal beings
[820]      remain to be created--without them the universe will be incomplete, for it
[821]      will not contain every kind of animal which it ought to contain, if it is
[822]      to be perfect. On the other hand, if they were created by me and received
[823]      life at my hands, they would be on an equality with the gods. In order
[824]      then that they may be mortal, and that this universe may be truly
[825]      universal, do ye, according to your natures, betake yourselves to the
[826]      formation of animals, imitating the power which was shown by me in creating
[827]      you. The part of them worthy of the name immortal, which is called divine
[828]      and is the guiding principle of those who are willing to follow justice and
[829]      you--of that divine part I will myself sow the seed, and having made a
[830]      beginning, I will hand the work over to you. And do ye then interweave the
[831]      mortal with the immortal, and make and beget living creatures, and give
[832]      them food, and make them to grow, and receive them again in death.'
[834]      Thus he spake, and once more into the cup in which he had previously
[835]      mingled the soul of the universe he poured the remains of the elements, and
[836]      mingled them in much the same manner; they were not, however, pure as
[837]      before, but diluted to the second and third degree. And having made it he
[838]      divided the whole mixture into souls equal in number to the stars, and
[839]      assigned each soul to a star; and having there placed them as in a chariot,
[840]      he showed them the nature of the universe, and declared to them the laws of
[841]      destiny, according to which their first birth would be one and the same for
[842]      all,--no one should suffer a disadvantage at his hands; they were to be
[843]      sown in the instruments of time severally adapted to them, and to come
[844]      forth the most religious of animals; and as human nature was of two kinds,
[845]      the superior race would hereafter be called man. Now, when they should be
[846]      implanted in bodies by necessity, and be always gaining or losing some part
[847]      of their bodily substance, then in the first place it would be necessary
[848]      that they should all have in them one and the same faculty of