Plato: Critias - Atlantis, philosophers and aliens?
It's summertime, so why not take a breath and relax. While examining pseudo-scientific claims is important, it's good to remember to take a breath and relax. It is also essential to look at the source material for the claims we investigate. So we will combine these things and have a bit of summer reading.
This episode is different since we will spend time reading Plato's work "Critias" from start to finish. As you might know, this is the source for the Atlantis story, and you will get it uncensored in all its glory.
So take a break, have some coffee, and let's tune in to the ongoing lecture from Plato.
In Digging up Ancient Aliens, our host Fredrik uses his background in archaeology to discover what is genuine, fake, and somewhere in between in popular media, such as Ancient Aliens, Ancient Apocalypse, and many other places.
In this episode:
Introduction to the story 3:10
Initial dialogue 6:00
Atlantis Story - Part 1 12:17
Atlantis Story - Part 2 17:42
Atlantis Story - Part 3 37:24
Sources, resources and further reading suggestions
Hi, hello, and välkommen to Digging Up Ancient Aliens. This is the podcast where we examine strange claims about alternative history and ancient aliens in popular media. Do their claims hold water to an archeologist, or are there better explanations out there?
This is episode 40, and I'm your host, Fredrik. This will be a bit of a different episode. It will actually not be like anything we have done before. Exciting, isn’t it? As you might know, or not, I live in Sweden, and the summer is in full swing here. This, of course, means that it’s vacation time with travel and all of that. To keep the schedule, I needed to resort to this bank episode, but it will give you a lot of great insights for future and past episodes.
So from the title, I assume that you know this will be about Atlantis, but it will not be as usual. No, instead of talking about the text generally, we will bother to read it. Something I think Hancock, Coresetti, and Von Däniken have not done. So this episode will be a reading of Plato's book Critias. I’ve mainly used the 1892 release since it’s firmly within the public domain, translated by B. Jowett. But since this translation is over a hundred years old, I’ve rewritten some parts based on later translations. I’m not an expert in ancient Greek. I don’t speak it at all, as a matter of fact. But based on the different translations I’ve read, I’d say that this is a reasonably accurate representation of Plato's idea.
In addition, I’ve read even more studies on the book trying to represent what’s said in the text with the knowledge we have today. Enough on this right now. If you want to check my work, that is possible. Since you can find sources, resources, and reading suggestions on our website, diggingupancientaliens.com. There you also find contact info if you notice any mistakes or have any suggestions. And if you like the podcast, I would appreciate it if you left one of those fancy five-star reviews I've heard so much about.
Now that we have finished our preparations let's dig into the episode.
Introduction to the book
Before dealing with the story itself, we need to set the mood and a good picture. I'd also recommend listening to episode 39, "Among gods, aliens and poets," before this one since it deals with how the Greeks viewed myths. Critias Dialog is the second book in an uncompleted trilogy where the events occur the day after Plato's dialog "The Republic." In this work, Plato tries to answer two central questions. "What is justice" and "is a just person more happy in life than a unjust person." To answer this, an imaginary city is constructed with words, and the characters name it Kallipolis.
But in the first book of the trilogy "Timeus," the attendants from the previous night, Critias, Socrates, Hermocrates, and Timaeus, meet up in the courtyard of a house in Athens. Plato does not state whose house this is, but from the words he uses, it's often assumed to belong to Critias. The book starts with Plato assigning each attendant a turn order for presentations, Timeus first, Critias second, and Hermocrates third.
Plato also summarises the virtues he had attributed to his perfect society Kallipolis and wishes it was possible to see this city in motion. Timeus say that Critias happened to know about a state that was just like Kallipolis. Critias gives the short version of the Atlantis story and says he will tell more when it's his turn as a way to repay Soctates for yesterday's speech. We also learn that Critias heard this story when he was ten told by his grandfather during the Apaturia. This was a festival with a storytelling competition. Timeus, after this teaser, proceeds with his talk on the cosmic origin and the creation of man.
So it's at the end of Timeus talk our story today starts. A final comment, within the text, we will encounter a measurement called Stadia or Stadion. Translated to metrics, a stadia is between 150 to 200 meters. And without further ado, we will take our places and listen to the conversation.
1892, Translated by B. Jowett, some edits Fredrik
PERSONS OF THE DIALOGUE: Critias, Hermocrates, Timaeus, Socrates.
Timaeus: And there I’ve come to a pleasing end of my account, Socrates. It is like a good rest after a long journey, so pleasing to me is liberation from this long speech! I offer my prayer to the god who has just been created in my speech (though, of course, he was created long ago, in fact) is that for our sakes, he may keep safe everything that was well said and that if we inadvertently struck a false note he will impose the appropriate penalty — and the proper sentence when someone is out of tune is to make him harmonious. I pray for the gift of knowledge, the most perfect and effective medicine, so that in the future, any account we give of the creation of gods may be accurate. And now, having offered my prayer, I now deliver the argument to Critias, who will speak next according to our agreement.
CRITIAS: And I, Timaeus, accept the trust, and as you at first said that you were going to speak of high matters and begged that some forbearance might be shown to you, I too ask the same or greater tolerance for what I am about to say. And although I very well know that my request may appear to be somewhat ambitious and discourteous, I must make it nevertheless. For will any man of sense deny that you have spoken well? I can only attempt to show that I ought to have more indulgence than you because my theme is more complex. You see, Timaeus, it's easier for someone to appear competent speaking to humans about gods than talking about mortal men. When the audience's condition is one of inexperience and blatant ignorance of a topic, it's effortless for someone to address it — and we all know how we're placed when the issue is the gods.
But I would like to clarify my meaning if you allow me. All that is said by any of us can only be imitation and representation. For if we consider the likenesses that painters make of bodies divine and heavenly, and the different degrees of gratification with which the eye of the spectator receives them, we shall see that we are satisfied with the artist who is able in any degree to imitate the earth and its mountains, and the rivers, and the woods, and the universe, and the things that are and move therein, and further, that knowing nothing precise about such matters, we do not examine or analyze the painting; all that is required is a sort of dark and deceptive mode of shadowing them forth. But when a person endeavors to paint the human form, we are quick at finding defects, and our familiar knowledge makes us severe judges of anyone who does not render every point of similarity. And we may observe the same thing happen in discourse; we are satisfied with a picture of divine and heavenly things with a tiny likeness to them. Still, we are more precise in our criticism of mortal and human things. Wherefore if I cannot express my meaning at the moment of speaking, you must excuse me, considering that to form approved likenesses of human things is the reverse of easy. This is what I want to suggest to you and at the same time to beg, Socrates, that I may have not less but more leniency given to me in what I am about to say. A favor, if I am right in asking, I hope you will be ready to grant.
SOCRATES: Certainly, Critias, we will grant your request, and we will grant the same by anticipation to Hermocrates, as well as to you and Timaeus; for I have no doubt that when his turn comes to a bit of while hence, he will make the same request which you have made. In order that he may provide himself with a fresh beginning and not be compelled to repeat the same things, let him understand that the indulgence is already extended by anticipation to him. And now, friend Critias, I will announce the judgment of the theatre. They believe that the last performer was wonderfully successful and that you will need much indulgence before you can take his place.
HERMOCRATES: The warning, Socrates, which you have addressed to him, I must also take to myself. But remember, Critias, that faint heart never yet raised a trophy. Therefore, you must go and attack the argument like a man. First, invoke Apollo and the Muses, and then let us hear you sound the praises and show forth the virtues of your ancient citizens.
CRITIAS: Friend Hermocrates, you, who are stationed last and have another in front of you, have not lost heart as yet; the gravity of the situation will soon be revealed to you; meanwhile, I accept your exhortations and encouragements. But besides the gods, goddesses, and the muses whom you have mentioned, I would especially invoke Memory; for all the essential part of my discourse is dependent on her favor, and if I can recollect and recite enough of what was said by the priests and brought here by Solon, I doubt not that I shall satisfy the requirements of this theatre. And now, making no more excuses, I will proceed.
Start of the Atlantis story
First, let me begin by observing that nine thousand was the sum of years that had elapsed since the war which was said to have taken place between those who dwelt outside the pillars of Heracles and all who lived within them; I will describe this war. Of the combatants on the one side, the city of Athens was reported to have been the leader and to have fought out the war; the combatants on the other side were commanded by the kings of Atlantis, an island which, as we said, was once larger than Libya and Asia. However, earthquakes have caused it to sink by now, leaving behind unnavigable mud, which obstructs those who sail out there into the ocean. The progress of history will unfold the various nations of barbarians (non-Greeks) and families of Hellenes (Greek families), which then existed as they successively appeared on the scene. Still, I must first describe the Athenians of that day and their enemies who fought with them and then the respective powers and governments of the two kingdoms. Let us give precedence to Athens.
In the old days, the gods distributed the whole earth among themselves. There was no quarreling; after all, it makes no sense for the gods not to know what is appropriate for each of them. Since they do have such knowledge, it is illogical to believe that they would dispute claims and try to gain what correctly belonged to another one of them. They all of them, by just distribution, obtained what they wanted, and created communities in these lands, and having done so, began to look after us, his property and creatures, as shepherds tend their flocks, except, only that they did not use blows or physical force, as shepherds do, but governed us like the captain from the stern of the vessel, which is an easy way of guiding animals, holding our souls by the rudder of persuasion according to their own pleasure;—thus did they guide all mortal creatures.
Now different gods had their allotments in different places, which they set in order. Hephaestus and Athene, who were brother and sister and sprang from the same father, also have a similar nature and are united in the love of philosophy and art. Both obtained Atens to share, an area naturally adapted for wisdom and courage. They created brave men out of the soil and put into their minds how to structure the political system.
Although only the names of these initial Athenians have been preserved, the destruction of their successors and a long extension of time have erased their accomplishments. For when there were any survivors, as I have already said, they were men who dwelt in the mountains. They were ignorant of the art of writing and had heard only the names of the chiefs of the land but very little about their actions. They were content to name their children after their forefathers. Still, they were unaware of their bravery and rituals, save for the odd obscure tale about this or that. As they and their children lacked the necessities of life for many generations, they directed their attention to the supply of their wants. Of them, they conversed to the neglect of events that had happened in times long past. Mythology and the inquiry into antiquity are first introduced into cities when they begin to have leisure. When they see that the necessaries of life have already been provided, but not before.
And this is the reason why the names of the ancients have been preserved to us and not their actions. The proof I have is that, according to Solon, the account of the war those priests gave included not only most of the names of Cecrops, Erechtheus, Erichthonius, Erysichthon, and the other predecessors of Theseus but also attributed most of their achievements to each of them by name, and did the same for their wives. Another factor pertinent to how the goddess is depicted is that, according to Solon, women and men trained for the military at this time. Because of this custom, people started to picture the goddess wearing armor. It served as a reminder that both sexes of social creatures are equally suited by nature to practice the virtue unique to their species.
And we will continue the story after a short message from our sponsors.
Now the country was inhabited in those days by various classes of citizens. There were artisans, and there were husbandmen, and there was also a warrior class initially set apart by divine men. The latter dwelt by themselves and had all things suitable for nurture and education; neither had any of them anything of their own. They regarded all they had as common property, nor did they claim to receive of the other citizens' anything more than their necessary food. And they practiced all the pursuits we described yesterday as those of our imaginary guardians.
Concerning the country, the Egyptian priests said what is not only probable but manifestly true, that the boundaries were in those days fixed by the Isthmus and that in the direction of the continent. They extended as far as the heights of Cithaeron and Parnes. The boundary line came down toward the sea, with the district of Oropus on the right and the river Asopus as the border on the left. The land was the best in the world and was, therefore, able to support a vast army raised from the surrounding people in those days. Even the remnant of Attica, which now exists, may compete with any region in the world for the variety and excellence of its fruits and the suitableness of its pastures to every animal, which proves what I am saying. Still, in those days, the country was fair as now and yielded far more abundant produce.
Why should we believe this image? Why is it accurate to refer to the soil of contemporary Attica as a vestige of that soil? Attica is merely a promontory that sticks out into the sea from the rest of the mainland and is surrounded by a seabed that drops off abruptly to a significant depth close to the shore. Many great deluges have occurred during these nine thousand years, for this is the number of years that have elapsed since the time of which I am speaking. And during all this time and through so many changes, there has never been any considerable accumulation of the soil coming down from the mountains, as in other places. But the earth has fallen away all around and sunk out of sight. The consequence is that in comparison to what then was, there are remaining only the bones of the wasted body, as they may be called, as in the case of small islands, all the more affluent and softer parts of the soil having fallen away, and the mere skeleton of the land being left.
But in the primitive state of the country, its mountains were high hills covered with soil, and the plains, we named the Stony Fields (Phelleus), were full of rich earth, and there was abundant wood in the mountains. Of this last, the traces still remain, for although some of the mountains now only afford sustenance to bees, not so very long ago, there were still to be seen roofs of timber cut from trees growing there, which were of a size sufficient to cover the largest houses; and there were many other high trees, cultivated by man and bearing an abundance of food for cattle. Moreover, the land reaped the benefit provided by Zeus of the annual rainfall. Not as now losing the water which flows off the bare earth into the sea, but, having an abundant supply in all places, and receiving it into herself and treasuring it up in the compact clay soil, it let off into the hollows the streams which it absorbed from the heights, providing everywhere abundant fountains and rivers. At the locations of historical springs, there are still shrines from the past that serve as reminders of the authenticity of this story of the country.
Such was the natural state of the country, which was cultivated, as we may well believe, by genuine farmers, who made farming their business. They were lovers of honor and of a noble nature. They had the best soil in the world, an abundance of water, and in the heaven above, an excellently attempered climate. Now the city in those days was arranged like this. First, the Acropolis was different compared to now. The fact is that a single night of excessive rain washed away the earth and laid the Acropolis bare. At the same time, there were earthquakes. Then an extraordinary inundation occurred, the third before the great destruction of Deucalion, the Greeks ancestor. But in primitive times, the hill of the Acropolis extended to the Eridanus and Ilissus. It included the Pnyx on one side and the Lycabettus as a boundary on the opposite side to the Pnyx. It was all well covered with soil, and level at the top, except in one or two places. Outside the Acropolis and under the sides of the hill dwelt the artisans and the farmers working the ground nearby.
The warrior class dwelt by themselves around the temples of Athene and Hephaestus at the summit, which they had enclosed with a single fence like the garden of a single house. On the north side, they had public buildings and erected dining halls to use during the winter. They had all the facilities which they needed for their everyday life. The temples were not adorned with gold and silver, for they did not use the metals for any purpose. They took a middle course between meanness and ostentation. They built moderate houses where they and their descendants could grow old and bequeath similar homes to others just like themselves. But in the summertime, they left their gardens and gymnasia and dining halls, and then the southern side of the hill was used by them for the same purpose. Where the Acropolis now is, there was a single fountain, which was choked by the earthquake, and has left only a few small streams which still exist in the vicinity. Still, in those days, the fountain gave an abundant water supply for all and had a suitable temperature in summer and winter.
This is how they dwelt, being the guardians of their own citizens and the leaders of the Greeks, who were their willing followers. And they took care to preserve the same number of men and women through all time, being so many as were required for warlike purposes, then as now—about twenty thousand. Such were the ancient Athenians, and after this manner, they righteously administered their own land and the rest of Greece; they were renowned all over Europe and Asia for the beauty of their persons, and for the many virtues of their souls and of all men who lived in those days they were the most illustrious. And next, if I have not forgotten what I heard as a child, I will impart the character and origin of Athens's enemies. Friends should not keep their stories to themselves but have them in common.
Yet, before proceeding further in the narrative, I ought to warn you that you must not be surprised if you should perhaps hear Greek names given to foreigners and non-Greeks. I will tell you the reason for this: Solon, who intended to use the tale for his poem, enquired into the meaning of the names and found that the early Egyptians, in writing them down, had translated them into their own language and he recovered the meaning of the several names and when copying them out again translated them into our language. My great-grandfather, Dropides, had the original writing, which is still in my possession, and was carefully studied by me as a child. Therefore if you hear names such as are used in this country, you must not be surprised, for I have told how they came to be introduced. The tale, which was of great length, began as follows:—
I have before remarked in speaking of the allotments of the gods that they distributed the whole earth into portions differing in extent and made temples and instituted sacrifices for themselves. And Poseidon, receiving the island of Atlantis for his lot, begat children by a mortal woman and settled them in a part of the island, which I will describe. Looking towards the sea, but in the center of the whole island, there was a plain that is said to have been the fairest of all plains and very fertile. Near the plain, still in the center of the island at a distance of about fifty stadia, there was a mountain not very high on any side. In this mountain, there dwelt one of the earth-born primeval men of that country, whose name was Evenor. He had a wife named Leucippe, and they had an only daughter called Cleito. The maiden had already reached womanhood when her father and mother died; Poseidon fell in love with and had intercourse with her. He separated the hill where she lived from the surrounding area to create a defense for his concubine. Surrounding it by progressively larger concentric rings made up intermittently of land and water. He created rings equally spaced from the center, with two rings made of land and three of water. Each had its circumference equidistant every way from the center so that no man could get to the island, for ships and voyages were not as yet.
Being a god, Poseidon found no difficulty making special arrangements for the center island, bringing up two springs of water from beneath the earth, one of warm water and the other of cold. Making every variety of food spring up abundantly from the soil. He also begat and brought up five pairs of twin male children, and dividing the island of Atlantis into ten portions, he gave to the first-born of the eldest pair his mother's dwelling and the surrounding allotment, which was the largest and best, and made the child the king over the rest. He made the others into princes and gave them rule over many men and a large territory.
And he named them all; the eldest, the first king, he named Atlas; after him, the whole island and the ocean were called Atlantic. To his twin brother, who was born after him, and obtained as his lot the extremity of the island towards the pillars of Heracles, facing the country which is now called the region of Gades in that part of the world, he gave the name which in the Hellenic language is Eumelus, in the language of the country which is named after him, Gadeirus. Of the second pair of twins, he called one Ampheres and the other Evaemon. To the elder of the third pair of twins, he named Mneseus and Autochthon to the one who followed him. Of the fourth pair of twins, he called the elder Elasippus and the younger Mestor. And of the fifth pair, he gave the elder the name of Azaes and to the younger that of Diaprepes. So all his sons and their descendants lived there for many generations. In addition to ruling over numerous other islands in the ocean, they also, as I said before, governed all the land this side of the Pillars of Heracles up to Egypt and Etruria.
Now Atlas had a numerous and honorable family, and they retained the kingdom, the eldest son handing it on to his eldest for many generations. They had such an amount of wealth as was never before possessed by kings and potentates and is not likely ever to be again. They were furnished with everything they needed, both in the city and country. Because of the greatness of their empire, many things were brought to them from foreign countries, and the island itself provided most of what was required by them for the use of life. In the first place, they dug out of the earth whatever was to be found there, solid as well as fusile, and that which is now only a name and was then something more than a name, orichalcum, was dug out of the earth in many parts of the island, being more precious in those days than anything except gold. There was abundant wood for carpenter's work and sufficient maintenance for tame and wild animals.
Moreover, there were a significant number of elephants on the island; for there was provision for all other sorts of animals, both for those which live in lakes and marshes and rivers and also for those which live in the mountains and on plains, so there was for the animal which is the largest and most voracious of all.
Third, whatever fragrant things there now are in the earth, whether roots, or herbage, or woods, or essences which distill from fruit and flower, grew and thrived in that land; also the fruit which admits of cultivation, both the dry sort, which is given us for nourishment and any other which we use for food—we call them all by the common name of pulse, and the fruits having a hard rind, affording drinks and meats and ointments, and good store of chestnuts and the like, which furnish pleasure and amusement, and are fruits which spoil with keeping, and the pleasant kinds of dessert, with which we console ourselves after dinner when we are tired of eating—all these that sacred island which then beheld the light of the sun, brought forth fair and wondrous and in infinite abundance.
With such blessings, the earth freely furnished them; meanwhile, they went on constructing their temples and palaces and harbors and docks. And they arranged the whole country in the following manner.
First of all, they bridged over the zones of sea which surrounded the ancient metropolis, making a road to and from the royal palace. And at the very beginning, they built the court in the habitation of the god and their ancestors, which they continued to ornament in successive generations. Every king surpassed the one who went before him to the utmost of his power until they made the building a marvel to behold in size and beauty.
And beginning from the sea, they bored a canal of three hundred feet in width and one hundred feet in depth and fifty stadia in length, which they carried through to the outermost zone, making a passage from the sea up to this, which became a harbor, and leaving an opening sufficient to enable the largest vessels to sail. Moreover, they divided at the bridges the zones of land which parted the zones of the sea, leaving room for a single trireme to pass out of one zone into another, and they covered over the channels to leave a way underneath for the ships; for the banks were raised considerably above the water.
The next ring of land was the same size as the greatest ring of water, where the sea had been channeled. The land ring of the second pair was the same size as the water ring from the first, and the ring of water was two stades wide. The island (where the palace was) had a diameter of five stades. In contrast, the ring of water immediately around it was just one stadia wide.
All this, including the zones and the bridge, which was the sixth part of a stadium in width, was surrounded by a stone wall on every side, placing towers and gates on the bridges where the sea passed in. The stone used in the work they quarried from underneath the center island, and from underneath the zones, on the outer and inner sides. One kind was white, another black, and a third red, and as they quarried, they simultaneously hollowed out double docks, having roofs formed out of the native rock. Some of their buildings were simple, but in others, they put together different stones, varying the color to please the eye and to be a natural source of delight. The entirety of the wall going around the outer ring was covered with a paste made out of brass or bronce. The next wall was coated with tin, and the third, encompassing the Akropolis, was covered with orichalcum and gleamed like fire.
We will learn more about how Atlantis palaces inside the Citadel were constructed after this short little break.
The palaces in the citadel's interior were constructed like this:—In the center was a sacrosanct temple dedicated to Cleito and Poseidon, surrounded by a low wall of gold. This was the spot where the family of the ten princes first saw the light. Thither the people annually brought the fruits of the earth in their season from all the ten portions, to be an offering to each of the ten. Here was Poseidon's own temple, a stadium in length, half a stadium in width, and of a proportionate height, with a strange non-Greek appearance. All the outside of the temple, except for the pinnacles, they covered with silver and the pinnacles with gold. In the temple's interior, the roof was of ivory, curiously wrought everywhere with gold, silver, and orichalcum. All the other parts, walls, pillars, and floor, were coated with orichalcum. In the temple, statues of gold were placed. One depicted Poseidon standing in a chariot drawn by six winged horses and of such a size that he touched the roof of the building with his head. Around him were a hundred Nereids riding on dolphins, for such was thought to be the number of them by the men of those days. There were also in the interior of the temple other images which had been dedicated by private persons.
And around the temple on the outside were statues of gold of all the descendants of the ten kings and their wives. There were many other great offerings of kings and private persons, coming both from the city itself and the foreign cities over which they held sway. There was an altar too, which in size and workmanship corresponded to this magnificence, and the palaces, in like manner, answered to the kingdom's greatness and the temple's glory.
In the next place, they had fountains, one of cold and another of hot water, in gracious plenty flowing; and they were wonderfully suited in respect of both the taste and the water's quality. They constructed buildings around them and planted suitable trees. Also, they made cisterns, some open to the heaven, others roofed over, to be used in winter as warm baths. There were the kings' baths and the baths of private persons, which were kept apart. There were also separate baths for women, horses, and cattle, and each was appropriately organized. Of the water which ran off, they carried some to the grove of Poseidon, where we're growing all manner of trees of incredible height and beauty, owing to the excellence of the soil. At the same time, the remainder was conveyed by aqueducts along the bridges to the outer circles.
Many temples were built and dedicated to many gods in these outer rings. But also gardens and places of exercise, some for men and others for horses, in both of the two islands. In the center on the largest island, there was constructed a Hippodrome. In width and in length allowed to extend all around the island for horses to race in. Also, there were guard houses at intervals for the guards, the more trusted of whom were appointed to keep watch in the lesser zone, which was nearer the Acropolis, while the most trusted of all had houses given them within the citadel, near the persons of the kings. The docks were full of triremes and naval stores, and everything was ready for use. Enough of the plan of the royal palace.
Leaving the palace and passing out across the three harbors, you came to a wall that began at sea and went all around: this was everywhere distant fifty stadia from the largest zone or dock and enclosed the whole, the ends meeting at the mouth of the channel which led to the sea. The entire area was densely crowded with habitations. The canal and the largest of the harbors were full of vessels and merchants coming from all parts, who, from their numbers, kept up a multitudinous sound of human voices and din and clatter of all sorts night and day.
I have described the city and the environs of the ancient palace nearly in the words of Solon, and I will now describe the plain as it was fashioned by nature and by the labors of many generations of kings through long ages. The entire area was extremely high, with sheer cliffs along the shoreline; there was nothing but a plain close to the city, encircled by mountains descending to the sea. The plain, which stretched 3,000 stades in one direction and 2,000 stades inland from the sea, was uniformly flat and essentially oblong-shaped. The island's entire area facing south was protected from the northern winds. The mountains surrounding the plains were famous in those days for their vast numbers, size, and beauty. It said that no mountains today could compete with these. In the mountains, there were numerous prosperous villages with rural populations, rivers, lakes, and meadows that provided food for all species of animals, both domestic and wild, and there was an abundance of timber of different types, more than enough for any task or occasion.
I will now describe the plain as it was fashioned by nature and the engineering and planning of many generations of kings through long ages. As I mentioned, the plateau was mainly rectangular and oblong, and where falling out of the straight line followed the circular ditch. This ditch's depth, width, and length were incredible and gave the impression that it could never have been created by man. Nevertheless, I must say what I was told. It was excavated to a depth of a hundred feet, and its breadth was a stadium everywhere; it was carried round the whole of the plain and was ten thousand stadia long. It received the streams that came down from the mountains and winded around the plateau and then circulated the city, washing any discharge into the sea.
Further inland, straight canals of a hundred feet in width were cut from it through the plain and again let off into the ditch leading to the sea. These canals were at intervals of a hundred stadia. By then, they had brought the wood from the mountains to the city. They conveyed the fruits of the earth in ships, cutting transverse passages from one canal into another and to the town. Twice in a year, they were able to harvest their crops. In the winter, they benefited from the rains provided by Zeus, and in summer, the water which the land supplied by introducing streams from the canals.
It had been decided that each plot (there were 60,000 in total, each ten by ten stades in area) was to supply one officer for the number of men living in the plain who were to be available for military service. Naturally, there were a large number of men from the mountains and the rest of the country, and they were all assigned to these plots and their commanders, district by district and village by village. The leader was required to furnish for the war the sixth portion of a war chariot, making a total of ten thousand chariots; also two horses and riders for them, and a pair of chariot horses without a seat, accompanied by a horseman who could fight on foot carrying a small shield, and having a charioteer who stood behind the man-at-arms to guide the two horses; also, he was bound to furnish two hoplites, two archers, two slingers, three stone-shooters and three javelin-men, who were light-armed, and four sailors to make up the complement of twelve hundred ships. Such was the military order of the royal city. The order of the other nine governments varied, and it would be wearisome to recount their several differences.
As to how the power was wielded, the following was the arrangement from the first. Each of the ten kings has his own section and city. He had absolute control of the citizens and, in most cases, of the laws, punishing and slaying whomsoever he would. But among the kings themself, they were ruled by the laws and command of Poseidon, as passed down to them by tradition. The first kings inscribed the rules on a pillar of orichalcum, which was situated in the middle of the island at the temple of Poseidon. The kings were gathered together there every fifth and every sixth year alternately, thus giving equal honor to the odd and to the even number. And when they were gathered together, they only discussed matters of general interest. But they also tried testing each other to see if any of the kings had transgressed against the rules. If that happened, they would try the offender.
At the temple dedicated to Poseidon were ten consecrated bulls kept. When the ten kings were alone at the temple, they would pray to Poseidon, asking permission to capture one sacrificial bull that would please the god. Armed with sticks and rope, since metal weapons were not allowed. When they had caught one, they took it to the temple and the stele, where they cut the throat above the stele and let the blood wash over the inscriptions. It was not only the laws written on the pillar but also a wove that would call down a horrible curse on anyone who broke the laws inscribed.
After slaying the bull accustomedly, they burnt its limbs, filled a bowl of wine, and cast in a clot of blood for each of them. The rest of the bull was put in the fire after purifying the column all around. Then they drew from the bowl in golden cups and poured a libation of blood and wine on the fire. They swore that they would judge according to the pillar's laws and punish those who had transgressed them at any point. For the future, they would not, if they could help, offend against the writing on the pillar, and would neither command others nor obey any ruler who commanded them, to act otherwise than according to the laws of their father, Poseidon. This was the prayer that each of them offered up for himself and his descendants while drinking and dedicating the cup out of which he drank to the god Poseidon. After they had supped and satisfied their needs, when darkness came on and the fire about the sacrifice was cold, they all put on the most beautiful azure robes. Then while sitting on the ground, at night, over the embers of the sacrifices by which they had sworn, after turning out the light in the whole temple. The kings received and gave judgment if any of them had an accusation to bring against anyone. When they had given judgment, at daybreak they wrote down their sentences on a golden tablet. They dedicated it together with their robes to be a memorial.
Many special laws affected the kings, all inscribed in the temple and on the stele. The most important was the following: They were not to take up arms against one another and were all to come to the rescue if anyone in any of their cities attempted to overthrow the royal house. As their ancestors, they were to deliberate in common about war and other matters, giving supremacy to the descendants of Atlas. And the king could not sentence his relatives to death unless most of the ten kings agreed.
So much for elaborating on the great power that once resided in Atlantis. According to the story, the god assembled this force and sent it against certain regions for the reasons listed below. For many generations, as long as Poseidon's spirit was strong in them, they followed the laws and got along well with the gods, who were their relatives. The people stuck to principles they perceived as true and perfectly wise. Due to their practical manner and in which they reacted to changes in life, they looked down on everything except virtue. The people of Atlantis saw their prosperity as trivial and could easily bore the burden, as one might say, of the amount of gold and other possessions. Even if they had large amounts of wealth and luxury, they were not overcome with greed and drunkenness. With sober eyes, they saw that while prosperity and wealth are good, it’s better with friendship and virtue. That wealth might disappear, and friendships wither from materialistic goals and ambitions.
With all of this noble reasoning and the divine spirit that they had within them, they could thrive in all the ways I’ve brought up. But the holy spirit within the people of Atlantis started to shrivel and fade due to the constant dilution of the divine with mortality. The mortal side started to become the dominant part of their soul, making them incapable of bearing the heavy load of their prosperity. Corruption grew among them. Anyone with sight could see the vileness of their actions as they started to destroy the grandest of their valuables. However, those blind to the true way to happiness would see this as the Atlantians finally having the most desirable and enviable life. When the noble reasoning was gone, the Atlanteans got infected by greed and a thirst for power.
Zeus, the ruler of the gods, who govern by law, was bestowed with the eyes to see these types of things. He could see the rot taking hold of the divine bloodline and wanted to punish them. Bring by punishment more harmony into the life of the people. Zeus summoned all the gods for a meeting in one of the most beautiful halls in his home. This place is located in the center of the universe and has a view of the whole creation. When the gods had taken their seats, Zeus said:
Well, what Zeus said, we don’t know. Plato never finished this story or the third book in the series, which would have been the speech from Hermocrates. But I’m sure that the end is that the Atlanteans win over Atlantis due to their virtues but that the gods ultimately punish everyone with a deluge. But this story will serve us well in the next episode, where we will deal with Jimmi Corsetti's claims about the location of Atlantis. See, there was a grander plan with this all along.
But till then, remember to leave a positive review anywhere you can, such as iTunes, Spotify, or to your friend at the trench. I would also recommend visiting diggingupancientaliens.com to find more info about me and the podcast. You can also find me on most social media sites, and if you have comments, corrections, suggestions, or just want to write an email in all caps, you can find my contact info on the website.
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Sandra Marteleur created the intro music, and our outro is by the band called Trallskruv, who sings their song "tin foil hat." Links to both these artists will be found in the show notes.
Until next time, keep shoveling that science!
Sources, resources, and further reading suggestions
Fine, G. ed., (1999a). Plato 1 - Metaphysics and Epistemology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Fine, G. ed., (1999b). Plato 2: Ethics, Politics, Religion, and the Soul. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Fine, G. ed., (2011). The Oxford handbook of Plato. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press.
Gill, C. (1979). Plato and Politics: The Critias and the Politicus. Phronesis, [online] 24(2), pp.148–167. Available at: https://www.jstor.org/stable/4182064.
Lampert, L. and Planeaux, C. (1998). Who’s Who in Plato’s ‘Timaeus-Critias and Why’. The Review of Metaphysics, [online] 52(1), pp.87–125. Available at: https://www.jstor.org/stable/20131098.
Pass, D.B. (2021). History and Philosophy in the Interpretation of Plato’s Critias. TAPA, 151(1), pp.69–99. doi:https://doi.org/10.1353/apa.2021.0002.
Plato (1892). Critias. Translated by B. Jowett. Oxford University Press.
Plato (1944). The Timaeus and the Critias Or Atlanticus. Translated by T. Taylor. Washington DC: Bollingen Foundation, pp.229–249.
Plato (2000). Timaeus. Translated by D.J. Zeyl. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub. Co.
Plato (2004). Republic. Translated by C.D.C. Reeve. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub. Co.
Plato (2008). Timaeus and Critias. Translated by R. Waterfield. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp.101–121.
Plato (2014). Plato : Timaeus and Critias. Translated by A.E. Taylor. London: Routledge.
Santas, G. (2010). Understanding Plato’s Republic. Oxford: John Wiley & Sons.
Welliver, W. (2016). Character, Plot and Thought in Plato’s Timaeus and Critias. Leiden: Brill.
“Folie hatt” by Trallskruv
Lily of the woods by Sandra Marteleur