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Full text of "Ancient Classic Texts before 400 B.C."

Critias 
By Plato 

Translated by Benjamin Jowett 

Persons of the Dialogue 

CRITIAS 

HERMOCRATES 

TIMAEUS 

SOCRATES 



a 



Timaeus . How thankful I am, Socrates, that I have arrived at last, 
and, like a weary traveller after a long journey, may be at rest! 
And I pray the being who always was of old, and has now been by me 
revealed, to grant that my words may endure in so far as they have 
been spoken truly and acceptably to him; but if unintentionally I 
have said anything wrong, I pray that he will impose upon me a just 
retribution, and the just retribution of him who errs is that he should 
be set right. Wishing, then, to speak truly in future concerning the 
generation of the gods, I pray him to give me knowledge, which of 
all medicines is the most perfect and best. And now having offered 
my prayer I deliver up the argument to Critias, who is to 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 forbearance 

for what I am about to say. And although I very well know that my 

request may appear to be somewhat 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 difficult; and I shall argue that 

to seem to speak well of the gods to men is far easier than to speak 

well of men to men: for the inexperience and utter ignorance of his 

hearers about any subject is a great assistance to him who has to 

speak of it, and we know how ignorant we are concerning the gods. 

But I should like to make my meaning clearer, if Timaeus, you will 

follow me. All that is said by any of us can only be imitation and 

representation. For if we consider the likenesses which 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 indistinct and deceptive 

mode of shadowing them forth. But when a person endeavours to paint 

the human form we are quick at finding out defects, and our familiar 

knowledge makes us severe judges of any one who does not render every 

point of similarity. And we may observe the same thing to happen in 

discourse; we are satisfied with a picture of divine and heavenly 

things which has very little likeness to them; but we are more precise 

in our criticism of mortal and human things. Wherefore if at the moment 

of speaking I cannot suitably express my meaning, 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 

indulgence conceded to me in what I am about to say. Which favour, 

if I am right in asking, I hope that 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 a little while 
hence, he will make the same request which you have made. In order, 
then, that he may provide himself with a fresh beginning, and not 
be compelled to say the same things over again, let him understand 
that the indulgence is already extended by anticipation to him. And 
now, friend Critias, I will announce to you the judgment of the theatre. 
They are of opinion that the last performer was wonderfully successful, 
and that you will need a great deal of indulgence before you will 
be able to 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; and 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 . 

Crit. 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 and goddesses whom you have 
mentioned, I would specially invoke Mnemosyne; for all the important 
part of my discourse is dependent on her favour, and if I can recollect 
and recite enough of what was said by the priests and brought hither 
by Solon, I doubt not that I shall satisfy the requirements of this 
theatre. And now, making no more excuses, I will proceed. 



Let me begin by observing first of all, that nine thousand was the 

sum of years which had elapsed since the war which was said to have 

taken place between those who dwelt outside the Pillars of Heracles 

and all who dwelt within them; this war I am going to describe. 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, which, 

as was saying, was an island greater in extent than Libya and Asia, 

and when afterwards sunk by an earthquake, became an impassable barrier 

of mud to voyagers sailing from hence to any part of the ocean. The 

progress of the history will unfold the various nations of barbarians 

and families of Hellenes which then existed, as they successively 

appear on the scene; but I must describe first of all 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 the precedence 

to Athens . 

In the days of old the gods had the whole earth distributed among 

them by allotment. There was no quarrelling; for you cannot rightly 

suppose that the gods did not know what was proper for each of them 

to have, or, knowing this, that they would seek to procure for themselves 

by contention that which more properly belonged to others. They all 

of them by just apportionment obtained what they wanted, and peopled 

their own districts; and when they had peopled them they tended us, 

their nurselings and possessions, as shepherds tend their flocks, 

excepting only that they did not use blows or bodily force, as shepherds 

do, but governed us like pilots 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, having a common nature, 

and being united also in the love of philosophy and art, both obtained 

as their common portion this land, which was naturally adapted for 

wisdom and virtue; and there they implanted brave children of the 



soil, and put into their minds the order of government; their names 
are preserved, but their actions have disappeared by reason of the 
destruction of those who received the tradition, and the lapse of 
ages. For when there were any survivors, as I have already said, they 
were men who dwelt in the mountains; and 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. The names they were willing 
enough to give to their children; but the virtues and the laws of 
their predecessors, they knew only by obscure traditions; and as they 
themselves and their children lacked for many generations the necessaries 
of life, they directed their attention to the supply of their wants, 
and of them they conversed, to the neglect of events that had happened 
in times long past; for mythology and the enquiry into antiquity are 
first introduced into cities when they begin to have leisure, and 
when they see that the necessaries of life have already been provided, 
but not before. And this is reason why the names of the ancients have 
been preserved to us and not their actions. This I infer because Solon 
said that the priests in their narrative of that war mentioned most 
of the names which are recorded prior to the time of Theseus, such 
as Cecrops, and Erechtheus, and Erichthonius, and Erysichthon, and 
the names of the women in like manner. Moreover, since military pursuits 
were then common to men and women, the men of those days in accordance 
with the custom of the time set up a figure and image of the goddess 
in full armour, to be a testimony that all animals which associate 
together, male as well as female, may, if they please, practise in 
common the virtue which belongs to them without distinction of sex. 

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 originally 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, but they regarded all 

that they had as common property; nor did they claim to receive of 

the other citizens anything more than their necessary food. And they 

practised all the pursuits which we yesterday described 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 in the direction of the sea, 

having the district of Oropus on the right, and with the river Asopus 

as the limit on the left. The land was the best in the world, and 

was therefore able in those days to support a vast army, raised from 

the surrounding people. Even the remnant of Attica which now exists 

may compare with any region in the world for the variety and excellence 

of its fruits and the suitableness of its pastures to every sort of 

animal, which proves what I am saying; but in those days the country 

was fair as now and yielded far more abundant produce. How shall I 

establish my words? and what part of it can be truly called a remnant 

of the land that then was? The whole country is only a long promontory 

extending far into the sea away from the rest of the continent, while 

the surrounding basin of the sea is everywhere deep in the neighbourhood 

of the shore. Many great deluges have taken place during the nine 

thousand years, for that is the number of years which 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 round and sunk out of sight. The consequence 

is, that in comparison of 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 richer 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, as they are termed by us, of Phelleus 



were full of rich earth, and there was abundance of 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 abundance of 
food for cattle. Moreover, the land reaped the benefit 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 close clay soil, it let 
off into the hollows the streams which it absorbed from the heights, 
providing everywhere abundant fountains and rivers, of which there 
may still be observed sacred memorials in places where fountains once 
existed; and this proves the truth of what I am saying. 

Such was the natural state of the country, which was cultivated, as 

we may well believe, by true husbandmen, who made husbandry their 

business, and were lovers of honour, and of a noble nature, and had 

a soil the best in the world, and abundance of water, and in the heaven 

above an excellently attempered climate. Now the city in those days 

was arranged on this wise. In the first place the Acropolis was not 

as now. For the fact is that a single night of excessive rain washed 

away the earth and laid bare the rock; at the same time there were 

earthquakes, and then occurred the extraordinary inundation, which 

was the third before the great destruction of Deucalion. But in primitive 

times the hill of the Acropolis extended to the Eridanus and Ilissus, 

and included the Pnyx on one side, and the Lycabettus as a boundary 

on the opposite side to the Pnyx, and 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 there dwelt artisans, and such of 

the husbandmen as were tilling the ground near; the warrior class 

dwelt by themselves around the temples of Athene and Hephaestus at 

the summit, which moreover they had enclosed with a single fence like 

the garden of a single house. On the north side they had dwellings 

in common and had erected halls for dining in winter, and had all 

the buildings which they needed for their common life, besides temples, 

but there was no adorning of them with gold and silver, for they made 

no use of these for any purpose; they took a middle course between 

meanness and ostentation, and built modest houses in which they and 

their children's children grew old, and they handed them down to others 

who were like themselves, always the same. But in summer-time they 

left their gardens and gymnasia and dining halls, and then the southern 

side of the hill was made use of by them for the same purpose. Where 

the Acropolis now is there was a fountain, which was choked by the 

earthquake, and has left only the few small streams which still exist 

in the vicinity, but in those days the fountain gave an abundant supply 

of water for all and of suitable temperature in summer and in winter. 

This is how they dwelt, being the guardians of their own citizens 

and the leaders of the Hellenes, 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-that is to say, about twenty thousand. Such were the ancient 

Athenians, and after this manner they righteously administered their 

own land and the rest of Hellas; 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 when 

I was a child, I will impart to you the character and origin of their 

adversaries. For 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 Hellenic 
names given to foreigners. I will tell you the reason of this: Solon, 



who was intending 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 when I was 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 for themselves temples and instituted sacrifices. And Poseidon, 
receiving for his lot the island of Atlantis, 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 centre of the whole 
island, there was a plain which is said to have been the fairest of 
all plains and very fertile. Near the plain again, and also in the 
centre 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, and he had a wife named Leucippe, 

and they had an only daughter who was called Cleito. The maiden had 

already reached womanhood, when her father and mother died; Poseidon 

fell in love with her and had intercourse with her, and breaking the 

ground, inclosed the hill in which she dwelt all round, making alternate 

zones of sea and land larger and smaller, encircling one another; 

there were two of land and three of water, which he turned as with 

a lathe, each having its circumference equidistant every way from 

the centre, so that no man could get to the island, for ships and 

voyages were not as yet. He himself, being a god, found no difficulty 

in making special arrangements for the centre island, bringing up 

two springs of water from beneath the earth, one of warm water and 

the other of cold, and making every variety of food to 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 

him king over the rest; the others he made princes, and gave them 

rule over many men, and a large territory. And he named them all; 

the eldest, who was the first king, he named Atlas, and 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 gave the name 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 to the elder the name of Azaes, and to the younger that of 

Diaprepes . All these and their descendants for many generations were 

the inhabitants and rulers of divers islands in the open sea; and 

also, as has been already said, they held sway in our direction over 

the country within the Pillars as far as Egypt and Tyrrhenia. 

Now Atlas had a numerous and honourable family, and they retained 

the kingdom, the eldest son handing it on to his eldest for many generations; 

and they had such an amount of wealth as was never before possessed 

by kings and potentates, and is not likely ever to be again, and they 

were furnished with everything which they needed, both in the city 



and country. For 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 uses 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 an abundance of wood for 
carpenter's work, and sufficient maintenance for tame and wild animals. 
Moreover, there were a great number of elephants in the island; for 
as 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 mountains and on plains, so there was for the animal which 
is the largest and most voracious of all. Also whatever fragrant things 
there now are in the earth, whether roots, or herbage, or woods, or 
essences which distil 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 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 harbours 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 palace in the habitation of the 

god and of their ancestors, which they continued to ornament in successive 

generations, every king surpassing the one who went before him to 

the utmost of his power, until they made the building a marvel to 

behold for size and for 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 harbour, 

and leaving an opening sufficient to enable the largest vessels to 

find ingress. Moreover, they divided at the bridges the zones of land 

which parted the zones of sea, leaving room for a single trireme to 

pass out of one zone into another, and they covered over the channels 

so as to leave a way underneath for the ships; for the banks were 

raised considerably above the water. Now the largest of the zones 

into which a passage was cut from the sea was three stadia in breadth, 

and the zone of land which came next of equal breadth; but the next 

two zones, the one of water, the other of land, were two stadia, and 

the one which surrounded the central island was a stadium only in 

width. The island in which the palace was situated had a diameter 

of five stadia. All this including the zones and the bridge, which 

was the sixth part of a stadium in width, they surrounded by a stone 

wall on every side, placing towers and gates on the bridges where 

the sea passed in. The stone which was used in the work they quarried 

from underneath the centre island, and from underneath the zones, 

on the outer as well as the inner side. One kind was white, another 

black, and a third red, and as they quarried, they at the same time 

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 colour to please the eye, and to be 

a natural source of delight. The entire circuit of the wall, which 

went round the outermost zone, they covered with a coating of brass, 

and the circuit of the next wall they coated with tin, and the third, 

which encompassed the citadel, flashed with the red light of orichalcum. 



The palaces in the interior of the citadel were constructed on this 

wise: -in the centre was a holy temple dedicated to Cleito and Poseidon, 

which remained inaccessible, and was surrounded by an enclosure of 

gold; this was the spot where the family of the ten princes first 

saw the light, and 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 which was a stadium 

in length, and half a stadium in width, and of a proportionate height, 

having a strange barbaric appearance. All the outside of the temple, 

with the exception of the pinnacles, they covered with silver, and 

the pinnacles with gold. In the interior of the temple the roof was 

of ivory, curiously wrought everywhere with gold and silver and orichalcum; 

and all the other parts, the walls and pillars and floor, they coated 

with orichalcum. In the temple they placed statues of gold: there 

was the god himself standing in a chariot-the charioteer of six winged 

horses-and of such a size that he touched the roof of the building 

with his head; around him there 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 placed statues of gold of all the descendants of the 

ten kings and of their wives, and there were many other great offerings 

of kings and of private persons, coming both from the city itself 

and from 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 greatness of the 

kingdom and the glory of the temple. 

In the next place, they had fountains, one of cold and another of 

hot water, in gracious plenty flowing; and they were wonderfully adapted 

for use by reason of the pleasantness and excellence of their waters. 

They constructed buildings about them and planted suitable trees, 

also they made cisterns, some open to the heavens, 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; and there were 

separate baths for women, and for horses and cattle, and to each of 

them they gave as much adornment as was suitable. Of the water which 

ran off they carried some to the grove of Poseidon, where were growing 

all manner of trees of wonderful height and beauty, owing to the excellence 

of the soil, while the remainder was conveyed by aqueducts along the 

bridges to the outer circles; and there were many temples built and 

dedicated to many gods; also gardens and places of exercise, some 

for men, and others for horses in both of the two islands formed by 

the zones; and in the centre of the larger of the two there was set 

apart a race-course of a stadium in width, and in length allowed to 

extend all round the island, for horses to race in. Also there were 

guardhouses 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 all things were quite ready 

for use. Enough of the plan of the royal palace. 

Leaving the palace and passing out across the three you came to a 
wall which began at the sea and went all round: this was everywhere 
distant fifty stadia from the largest zone or harbour, 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; 
and the canal and the largest of the harbours 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 now I must endeavour to represent the nature 
and arrangement of the rest of the land. The whole country was said 
by him to be very lofty and precipitous on the side of the sea, but 
the country immediately about and surrounding the city was a level 
plain, itself surrounded by mountains which descended towards the 
sea; it was smooth and even, and of an oblong shape, extending in 
one direction three thousand stadia, but across the centre inland 
it was two thousand stadia. This part of the island looked towards 
the south, and was sheltered from the north. The surrounding mountains 
were celebrated for their number and size and beauty, far beyond any 
which still exist, having in them also many wealthy villages of country 
folk, and rivers, and lakes, and meadows supplying food enough for 
every animal, wild or tame, and much wood of various sorts, abundant 
for each and every kind of work. 

I will now describe the plain, as it was fashioned by nature and by 
the labours of many generations of kings through long ages. It was 
for the most part rectangular and oblong, and where falling out of 
the straight line followed the circular ditch. The depth, and width, 
and length of this ditch were incredible, and gave the impression 
that a work of such extent, in addition to so many others, could never 
have been artificial. Nevertheless I must say what I was told. It 
was excavated to the 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 in length. It received the streams which 
came down from the mountains, and winding round the plain and meeting 
at the city, was there let off into the sea. Further inland, likewise, 
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, and by them they brought 
down the wood from the mountains to the city, and conveyed the fruits 
of the earth in ships, cutting transverse passages from one canal 
into another, and to the city. Twice in the year they gathered the 
fruits of the earth-in winter having the benefit of the rains of heaven, 
and in summer the water which the land supplied by introducing streams 
from the canals. 

As to the population, each of the lots in the plain had to find a 
leader for the men who were fit for military service, and the size 
of a lot was a square of ten stadia each way, and the total number 
of all the lots was sixty thousand. And of the inhabitants of the 
mountains and of the rest of the country there was also a vast multitude, 
which was distributed among the lots and had leaders assigned to them 
according to their districts and villages. The leader was required 
to furnish for the war the sixth portion of a war-chariot, so as to 
make up 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 heavy armed soldiers, 
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 offices and honours, the following was the arrangement from 
the first. Each of the ten kings in his own division and in his own 
city had the absolute control of the citizens, and, in most cases, 
of the laws, punishing and slaying whomsoever he would. Now the order 
of precedence among them and their mutual relations were regulated 
by the commands of Poseidon which the law had handed down. These were 
inscribed by the first kings on a pillar of orichalcum, which was 



situated in the middle of the island, at the temple of Poseidon, whither 
the kings were gathered together every fifth and every sixth year 
alternately, thus giving equal honour to the odd and to the even number. 
And when they were gathered together they consulted about their common 
interests, and enquired if any one had transgressed in anything and 
passed judgment and before they passed judgment they gave their pledges 
to one another on this wise: -There were bulls who had the range of 
the temple of Poseidon; and the ten kings, being left alone in the 
temple, after they had offered prayers to the god that they might 
capture the victim which was acceptable to him, hunted the bulls, 
without weapons but with staves and nooses; and the bull which they 
caught they led up to the pillar and cut its throat over the top of 
it so that the blood fell upon the sacred inscription. Now on the 
pillar, besides the laws, there was inscribed an oath invoking mighty 
curses on the disobedient. When therefore, after slaying the bull 
in the accustomed manner, they had burnt its limbs, they filled a 
bowl of wine and cast in a clot of blood for each of them; the rest 
of the victim they put in the fire, after having purified the column 
all round. Then they drew from the bowl in golden cups and pouring 
a libation on the fire, they swore that they would judge according 
to the laws on the pillar, and would punish him who in any point had 
already transgressed them, and that 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 which each of them-offered up for himself and 
for his descendants, at the same time drinking and dedicating the 
cup out of which he drank in the temple of the god; and after they 
had supped and satisfied their needs, when darkness came on, and the 
fire about the sacrifice was cool, all of them put on most beautiful 
azure robes, and, sitting on the ground, at night, over the embers 
of the sacrifices by which they had sworn, and extinguishing all the 
fire about the temple, they received and gave judgment, if any of 
them had an accusation to bring against any one; and when they given 
judgment, at daybreak they wrote down their sentences on a golden 
tablet, and dedicated it together with their robes to be a memorial. 

There were many special laws affecting the several kings inscribed 
about the temples, but the most important was the following: They 
were not to take up arms against one another, and they were all to 
come to the rescue if any one in any of their cities attempted to 
overthrow the royal house; like their ancestors, they were to deliberate 
in common about war and other matters, giving the supremacy to the 
descendants of Atlas. And the king was not to have the power of life 
and death over any of his kinsmen unless he had the assent of the 
majority of the ten. 

Such was the vast power which the god settled in the lost island of 
Atlantis; and this he afterwards directed against our land for the 
following reasons, as tradition tells: For many generations, as long 
as the divine nature lasted in them, they were obedient to the laws, 
and well-af f ectioned towards the god, whose seed they were; for they 
possessed true and in every way great spirits, uniting gentleness 
with wisdom in the various chances of life, and in their intercourse 
with one another. They despised everything but virtue, caring little 
for their present state of life, and thinking lightly of the possession 
of gold and other property, which seemed only a burden to them; neither 
were they intoxicated by luxury; nor did wealth deprive them of their 
self-control; but they were sober, and saw clearly that all these 
goods are increased by virtue and friendship with one another, whereas 
by too great regard and respect for them, they are lost and friendship 
with them. By such reflections and by the continuance in them of a 
divine nature, the qualities which we have described grew and increased 
among them; but when the divine portion began to fade away, and became 



diluted too often and too much with the mortal admixture, and the 

human nature got the upper hand, they then, being unable to bear their 

fortune, behaved unseemly, and to him who had an eye to see grew visibly 

debased, for they were losing the fairest of their precious gifts; 

but to those who had no eye to see the true happiness, they appeared 

glorious and blessed at the very time when they were full of avarice 

and unrighteous power. Zeus, the god of gods, who rules according 

to law, and is able to see into such things, perceiving that an honourable 

race was in a woeful plight, and wanting to inflict punishment on 

them, that they might be chastened and improve, collected all the 

gods into their most holy habitation, which, being placed in the centre 

of the world, beholds all created things. And when he had called them 

together, he spake as follows-* The rest of the Dialogue of Critias 

has been lost. 

THE END