THE DIALOGUE OF THE GODS
The story of Atlantis originated with Plato in two dialogues, Timaeus and Critias, written towards the end of his life. The detailed description of the island is in Critias which he left unfinished . Timaeus and Critias were planned as part of a trilogy in which the third book was to be the contribution of Hermocrates. But Plato wrote another massive work, the Laws and died before he could go back and finish Critias. In fact the Laws became an expansion of the political and legal system of the ideal state that Socrates had asked Hermocrates to outline in his contributions to the trilogy. Its length and detail outgrew the modest scale planned for the original trilogy. The point at which Critias' story ends in mid- sentence is where Zeus has summoned the gods of Mt. Olympus to consider what to do about the people of Atlantis whose moral conduct is considered to have become so degenerate that they deserve punishment. We have already learned from Critias' contribution in Timaeus that Atlantis was destroyed in a cataclysmic flood and sank beneath the sea, and the same disaster also destroyed Bronze Age Athens and Mycenaean Attica. In the Timaeus, Critias first tells Socrates the extremely plausible origin of the Atlantis story. He heard it from his grandfather , whose close friend the poet and traveller Solon, heard it from Egyptian Saïte priests. They told the history of periodic catastrophes, floods and other upheavals that punctuated history, and of one in particular, that destroyed an island kingdom and devastated most of the known world, including Greece, about 9000 years before Solon's time. Athens was described then as “..pre-eminent in war and conspicuously the best governed in every way, its achievements and constitution being the finest of any in the world.....”.
Critias goes on in the next book of the trilogy to describe Atlantis in such convincing detail, that it was believed to be a genuine historical island kingdom. Hundreds of books and articles have been written about Atlantis, speculating about where it was. But, despite much archaeological research, no trace has been found. A recent book by the historian Peter James - 'The Sunken Kingdom' - reviews all the theories, and concludes that Plato drew the Atlantis story from multiple legends and histories, but used it as an allegory to illustrate the moral decline of a state at war with the virtuous Athens during the Golden age. James personally favours the legendary kingdom of Tantalis , a Bronze age Hittite state destroyed by a cataclysmic flood near Mt; Sipylus, as the most likely source for Plato's Atlantis. Plato intended his imaginary allegorical Atlantis to represent contemporary Athens at the end of the Peloponnesian war, defeated, and ruled by tyrants.
CopyrightCedric Green, Beleterie 2002, les Grands Theves 2018
Unfinished last section of Plato's Critias (translated by Desmond Lee)
"This was the nature and extent of the power which existed then in those parts of the world and which god brought to attack our country. His reason, so the story goes, was this. For many generations, so long as the divine element in their nature survived, they obeyed the laws and loved the divine to which they were akin.
They retained a certain greatness of mind, and treated the vagaries of fortune and one another with wisdom and forbearance, as they reckoned that qualities of character were far more important than their present prosperity. So they bore the burden of their wealth and possessions lightly, and did not let their high standard of living intoxicate them or make them lose their self control, but saw soberly and clearly that all these things flourish only on a soil of common goodwill and individual character, and if pursued too eagerly and overvalued destroy themselves and morality with them. So long as these principles and their divine nature remained unimpaired the prosperity which we have described continued to grow.
But when the divine element in them became weakened by frequent admixture with mortal stock, and their human traits became predominant, they ceased to be able to carry their prosperity with moderation. To the perceptive eye the depth of their degeneration was clear enough, but to those whose judgment of true happiness is defective they seemed, in their pursuit of unbridled ambition and power, to be at the height of their fame and fortune. And the god of gods, Zeus, who reigns by law, and whose eye can see such things, when he perceived the wretched state of this admirable stock decided to punish them and reduce them to order by discipline.
He accordingly summoned all the gods to his own most glorious abode, which stands at the centre of the universe and looks out over the whole realm of change, and when they had assembled addressed them as follows: . . . ."
|Here Plato laid down his pen .........||CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD FULL PDF FILE OF DIALOGUE to print out or read online|