Sacred Texts  Classics  Plato


by Plato

360 BC

translated by Benjamin Jowett

New York, C. Scribner's Sons, [1871]


  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-affectioned 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-