PLATO’S ATLANTIS TEXTS
Translated by R.G. Bury
[20d] Critias here mentioned to us a story derived from ancient tradition; and now, Critias, pray tell it again to our friend here, so that he may help us to decide whether or not it is pertinent to our prescribed theme.
That I must certainly do, if our third partner, also approves.
Assuredly I approve.
Listen then, Socrates, to a tale which, though passing strange, is yet wholly true, as Solon,
[20e] the wisest of the Seven, once upon a time declared.
Now Solon–as indeed he often says himself in his poems–was a relative and very dear friend of our great-grandfather Dropides; and Dropides told our grandfather Critias as the old man himself, in turn, related to us–that the exploits of this city in olden days, the record of which had perished through time and the destruction of its inhabitants, were great and marvellous, the greatest of all being one which it would be proper
[21a] for us now to relate both as a payment of our debt of thanks to you and also as a tribute of praise, chanted as it were duly and truly, in honour of the Goddess on this her day of Festival.1
Excellent! But come now, what was this exploit described by Critias, following Solon’s report, as a thing not verbally recorded, although actually performed by this city long ago?
I will tell you: it is an old tale, and I heard it from a man not young. For indeed at that time, as he said himself,
[21b] Critias was already close upon ninety years of age, while I was somewhere about ten; and it chanced to be that day of the Apaturia which is called “Cureotis”. The ceremony for boys which was always customary at the feast was held also on that occasion, our fathers arranging contests in recitation. So while many poems of many poets were declaimed, since the poems of Solon were at that time new, many of us children chanted them. And one of our fellow tribesmen–whether he really thought so at the time or whether he was paying a compliment
[21c] to Critias–declared that in his opinion Solon was not only the wisest of men in all else, but in poetry also he was of all poets the noblest. Whereat the old man (I remember the scene well) was highly pleased and said with a smile, “If only, Amynander, he had not taken up poetry as a by-play but had worked hard at it like others, and if he had completed the story he brought here from Egypt, instead of being forced to lay it aside owing to the seditions and all the other evils he found here on his return,–
[21d] why then, I say, neither Hesiod nor Homer nor any other poet would ever have proved more famous than he.” “And what was the story, Critias?” said the other. “Its subject,” replied Critias, “was a very great exploit, worthy indeed to be accounted the most notable of all exploits, which was performed by this city, although the record of it has not endured until now owing to lapse of time and the destruction of those who wrought it.” “Tell us from the beginning,” said Amynander, “what Solon related and how, and who were the informants who vouched for its truth.”
[21e] “In the Delta of Egypt,” said Critias, “where, at its head, the stream of the Nile parts in two, there is a certain district called the Saitic. The chief city in this district is Sais–the home of King Amasis, –the founder of which, they say, is a goddess whose Egyptian name is Neith, and in Greek, as they assert, Athena. These people profess to be great lovers of Athens and in a measure akin to our people here. And Solon said that when he travelled there he was held in great esteem amongst them; moreover, when he was questioning such of their priests
[22a] as were most versed in ancient lore about their early history, he discovered that neither he himself nor any other Greek knew anything at all, one might say, about such matters. And on one occasion, when he wished to draw them on to discourse on ancient history, he attempted to tell them the most ancient of our traditions, concerning Phoroneus, who was said to be the first man, and Niobe; and he went on to tell the legend about Deucalion and Pyrrha after the Flood, and how they survived it, and to give the genealogy of their descendants;
[22b] and by recounting the number of years occupied by the events mentioned he tried to calculate the periods of time. Whereupon one of the priests, a prodigiously old man, said, “O Solon, Solon, you Greeks are always children: there is not such a thing as an old Greek.” And on hearing this he asked, “What mean you by this saying?” And the priest replied, “You are young in soul, every one of you. For therein you possess not a single belief that is ancient and derived from old tradition, nor yet one science that is hoary with age.
[22c] And this is the cause thereof: There have been and there will be many and divers destructions of mankind, of which the greatest are by fire and water, and lesser ones by countless other means. For in truth the story that is told in your country as well as ours, how once upon a time Phaethon, son of Helios, yoked his father’s chariot, and, because he was unable to drive it along the course taken by his father, burnt up all that was upon the earth and himself perished by a thunderbolt,–that story, as it is told, has the fashion of a legend, but the truth of it lies in
[22d] the occurrence of a shifting of the bodies in the heavens which move round the earth, and a destruction of the things on the earth by fierce fire, which recurs at long intervals. At such times all they that dwell on the mountains and in high and dry places suffer destruction more than those who dwell near to rivers or the sea; and in our case the Nile, our Saviour in other ways, saves us also at such times from this calamity by rising high. And when, on the other hand, the Gods purge the earth with a flood of waters, all the herdsmen and shepherds that are in the mountains are saved,
[22e] but those in the cities of your land are swept into the sea by the streams; whereas In our country neither then nor at any other time does the water pour down over our fields from above, on the contrary it all tends naturally to well up from below. Hence it is, for these reasons, that what is here preserved is reckoned to be most ancient; the truth being that in every place where there is no excessive heat or cold to prevent it there always exists some human stock, now more, now less in number.
[23a] And if any event has occurred that is noble or great or in any way conspicuous, whether it be in your country or in ours or in some other place of which we know by report, all such events are recorded from of old and preserved here in our temples; whereas your people and the others are but newly equipped, every time, with letters and all such arts as civilized States require and when, after the usual interval of years, like a plague, the flood from heaven comes sweeping down afresh upon your people,
[23b] it leaves none of you but the unlettered and uncultured, so that you become young as ever, with no knowledge of all that happened in old times in this land or in your own. Certainly the genealogies which you related just now, Solon, concerning the people of your country, are little better than children’s tales; for, in the first place, you remember but one deluge, though many had occurred previously; and next, you are ignorant of the fact that the noblest and most perfect race amongst men were born in the land where you now dwell, and from them both you yourself are sprung and the whole
[23c] of your existing city, out of some little seed that chanced to be left over; but this has escaped your notice because for many generations the survivors died with no power to express themselves in writing. For verily at one time, Solon, before the greatest destruction by water, what is now the Athenian State was the bravest in war and supremely well organized also in all other respects. It is said that it possessed the most splendid works of art and the noblest polity of any nation under heaven of which we have heard tell.”
[23d] Upon hearing this, Solon said that he marvelled, and with the utmost eagerness requested the priest to recount for him in order and exactly all the facts about those citizens of old. The priest then said: “I begrudge you not the story, Solon; nay, I will tell it, both for your own sake and that of your city, and most of all for the sake of the Goddess who has adopted for her own both your land and this of ours, and has nurtured and trained them — yours first by the space of a thousand years, when she had received the seed of you from Ge
[23e] and Hephaestus, and after that ours. And the duration of our civilization as set down in our sacred writings is 8000 years. Of the citizens, then, who lived 9000 years ago, I will declare to you briefly certain of their laws and the noblest of the deeds they performed:
[24a] the full account in precise order and detail we shall go through later at our leisure, taking the actual writings. To get a view of their laws, look at the laws here; for you will find existing here at the present time many examples of the laws, which then existed in your city. You see, first, how the priestly class is separated off from the rest; next, the class of craftsmen, of which each sort works by itself without mixing with any other; then the classes of shepherds, hunters, and farmers, each distinct and separate. Moreover, the military class here,
[24b] as no doubt you have noticed is kept apart from all the other classes, being enjoined by the law to devote itself solely to the work of training for war. A further feature is the character of their equipment with shields and spears; for we were the first of the peoples of Asia to adopt these weapons, it being the Goddess who instructed us, even as she instructed you first of all the dwellers in yonder lands. Again, with regard to wisdom, you perceive, no doubt, the law here–how much attention
[24c] it has devoted from the very beginning to the Cosmic Order, by discovering all the effects which the divine causes produce upon human life, down to divination and the art of medicine which aims at health, and by its mastery also of all the other subsidiary studies. So when, at that time, the Goddess had furnished you, before all others, with all this orderly and regular system, she established your State, choosing the spot wherein you were born since she perceived therein a climate duly blended, and how that it would bring forth men of supreme wisdom.
[24d] So it was that the Goddess, being herself both a lover of war and a lover of wisdom, chose the spot which was likely to bring forth men most like unto herself, and this first she established. Wherefore you lived under the rule of such laws as these, — yea, and laws still better, — and you surpassed all men in every virtue, as became those who were the offspring and nurslings of gods. Many, in truth, and great are the achievements of your State, which are a marvel to men as they are here recorded; but there is one, which stands out above all
[24e] both for magnitude and for nobleness. For it is related in our records how once upon a time your State stayed the course of a mighty host, which, starting from a distant point in the Atlantic ocean, was insolently advancing to attack the whole of Europe, and Asia to boot. For the ocean there was at that time navigable; for in front of the mouth which you Greeks call, as you say, ‘the pillars of Heracles,’ there lay an island which was larger than Libya and Asia together; and it was possible for the travellers of that time to cross from it to the other islands, and from the islands to the whole of the continent
[25a] over against them which encompasses that veritable ocean. For all that we have here, lying within the mouth of which we speak, is evidently a haven having a narrow entrance; but that yonder is a real ocean, and the land surrounding it may most rightly be called, in the fullest and truest sense, a continent. Now in this island of Atlantis there existed a confederation of kings, of great and marvellous power, which held sway over all the island, and over many other islands also and parts of the continent; and, moreover,
[25b] of the lands here within the Straits they ruled over Libya as far as Egypt, and over Europe as far as Tuscany. So this host, being all gathered together, made an attempt one time to enslave by one single onslaught both your country and ours and the whole of the territory within the Straits. And then it was, Solon, that the manhood of your State showed itself conspicuous for valour and might in the sight of all the world. For it stood pre-eminent above all
[25c] in gallantry and all warlike arts, and acting partly as leader of the Greeks, and partly standing alone by itself when deserted by all others, after encountering the deadliest perils, it defeated the invaders and reared a trophy; whereby it saved from slavery such as were not as yet enslaved, and all the rest of us who dwell within the bounds of Heracles it ungrudgingly set free. But at a later time there occurred portentous earthquakes and floods,
[25d] and one grievous day and night befell them, when the whole body of your warriors was swallowed up by the earth, and the island of Atlantis in like manner was swallowed up by the sea and vanished; wherefore also the ocean at that spot has now become impassable and unsearchable, being blocked up by the shoal of mud which the island created as it settled down.”
[25e] and when you were speaking yesterday about the State and the citizens you were describing, I marvelled as I called to mind the facts I am now relating, reflecting what a strange piece of fortune it was that your description coincided so exactly for the most part with Solon’s account. I was loath, however,
[26a] to speak on the instant; for owing to lapse of time my recollection of his account was not sufficiently clear. So I decided that I ought not to relate it until I had first gone over it all carefully in my own mind. Consequently, I readily consented to the theme you proposed yesterday, since I thought that we should be reasonably well provided for the task of furnishing a satisfactory discourse–which in all such cases is the greatest task. So it was that, as Hermocrates has said, the moment I left your place yesterday I began to relate to them the story as I recollected it,
[26b] and after I parted from them I pondered it over during the night and recovered, as I may say, the whole story. Marvellous, indeed, is the way in which the lessons of one’s childhood “grip the mind,” as the saying is. For myself, I know not whether I could recall to mind all that I heard yesterday; but as to the account I heard such a great time ago, I should be immensely surprised if a single detail of it has escaped me. I had then the greatest pleasure and amusement in hearing it,
[26c] and the old man was eager to tell me, since I kept questioning him repeatedly, so that the story is stamped firmly on my mind like the encaustic designs of an indelible painting. Moreover, immediately after daybreak I related this same story to our friends here, so that they might share in my rich provision of discourse.
Now, therefore, — and this is the purpose of all that I have been saying,–I am ready to tell my tale, not in summary outline only but in full detail just as I heard it. And the city with its citizens, which you described to us yesterday, as it were in a fable,
[26d] we will now transport hither into the realm of fact; for we will assume that the city is that ancient city of ours, and declare that the citizens you conceived are in truth those actual progenitors of ours, of whom the priest told. In all ways they will correspond, nor shall we be out of tune if we affirm that those citizens of yours are the very men who lived in that age. Thus, with united effort, each taking his part, we will endeavour to the best of our powers to do justice to the theme you have prescribed. Wherefore, Socrates, we must consider whether this story is to our mind, or
[26e] we have still to look for some other to take its place.
What story should we adopt, Critias, in preference to this? For this story will be admirably suited to the festival of the Goddess which is now being held, because of its connection with her; and the fact that it is no invented fable but genuine history is all-important. How, indeed, and where shall we discover other stories if we let these slip? Nay, it is impossible. You, therefore, must now deliver your discourse (and may Good Fortune attend you!), while I, in requital for my speech of yesterday, must now
[27a] keep silence in my turn and hearken.
Consider now, Socrates, the order of the feast as we have arranged it. Seeing that Timaeus is our best astronomer and has made it his special task to learn about the nature of the Universe, it seemed good to us that he should speak first, beginning with the origin of the Cosmos and ending with the generation of mankind. After him I am to follow, taking over from him mankind, already as it were created by his speech, and taking over from you
[27b] a select number of men superlatively well trained. Then, in accordance with the word and law of Solon, I am to bring these before ourselves, as before a court of judges, and make them citizens of this State of ours, regarding them as Athenians of that bygone age whose existence, so long forgotten, has been revealed to us by the record of the sacred writings; and thenceforward I am to proceed with my discourse as if I were speaking of men who already are citizens and men of Athens.
Bounteous and magnificent, methinks, is the feast of speech with which I am to be requited. So then, it will be your task, it seems, to speak next, when you have duly invoked the gods.
[108c] But men of faint heart never yet set up a trophy, Critias; wherefore you must go forward to your discoursing manfully, and, invoking the aid of Paion1 and the Muses, exhibit and celebrate the excellence of your ancient citizens.
You, my dear Hermocrates, are posted in the last rank, with another man before you, so you are still courageous. But experience of our task will of itself speedily enlighten you as to its character. However, I must trust to your consolation
[108d] and encouragement, and in addition to the gods you mentioned I must call upon all the rest and especially upon Mnemosyne. For practically all the most important part of our speech depends upon this goddess; for if I can sufficiently remember and report the tale once told by the priests and brought hither by Solon, I am well nigh convinced that I shall appear to the present audience to have fulfilled my task adequately. This, then, I must at once proceed to do, and procrastinate no longer.
[108e] Now first of all we must recall the fact that 9000 is the sum of years since the war occurred, as is recorded, between the dwellers beyond the pillars of Heracles and all that dwelt within them; which war we have now to relate in detail. It was stated that this city of ours was in command of the one side and fought through the whole of the war, and in command of the other side were the kings of the island of Atlantis, which we said was an island larger than Libya and Asia once upon a time, but now lies sunk by earthquakes and has created a barrier of impassable mud,
[109a] which prevents those who are sailing out from here to the ocean beyond from proceeding further. Now as regards the numerous barbaric tribes and all the Hellenic nations that then existed, the sequel of our story, when it is, as it were, unrolled, will disclose what happened in each locality; but the facts about the Athenians of that age and the enemies with whom they fought we must necessarily describe first, at the outset,–the military power, that is to say, of each and their forms of government. And of these two we must give the priority in our account to the state of Athens.
[109b] Once upon a time the gods were taking over by lot the whole earth according to its regions,–not according to the results of strife: for it would not be reasonable to suppose that the gods were ignorant of their own several rights, nor yet that they attempted to obtain for themselves by means of strife a possession to which others, as they knew, had a better claim. So by just allotments they received each one his own, and they settled their countries; and when they had thus settled them, they reared us up, even as herdsmen
[109c] rear their flocks, to be their cattle and nurslings; only it was not our bodies that they constrained by bodily force, like shepherds guiding their flocks with stroke of staff, but they directed from the stern where the living creature is easiest to turn about, laying hold on the soul by persuasion, as by a rudder, according to their own disposition; and thus they drove and steered all the mortal kind. Now in other regions others of the gods had their allotments and ordered the affairs, but inasmuch as Hephaestus and Athena were of a like nature, being born of the same father, and agreeing, moreover, in their love of wisdom and of craftsmanship, they both took for their joint portion this land of ours as being naturally congenial and adapted for virtue
[109d] and for wisdom, and therein they planted as native to the soil men of virtue and ordained to their mind the mode of government. And of these citizens the names are preserved, but their works have vanished owing to the repeated destruction of their successors and the length of the intervening periods. For, as was said before, the stock that survived on each occasion was a remnant of unlettered mountaineers which had heard the names only of the rulers, and but little besides of their works. So though they gladly passed on these names
[109e] to their descendants, concerning the mighty deeds and the laws of their predecessors they had no knowledge, save for some invariably obscure reports; and since, moreover, they and their children for many generations were themselves in want of the necessaries of life, their attention was given to their own needs
[110a] and all their talk was about them; and in consequence they paid no regard to the happenings of bygone ages. For legendary lore and the investigation of antiquity are visitants that come to cities in company with leisure, when they see that men are already furnished with the necessaries of life, and not before.
In this way, the names of the ancients, without their works, have been preserved. And for evidence of what I say I point to the statement of Solon, that the Egyptian priests, in describing the war of that period, mentioned most of those names – such as those of Cecrops and Erechtheus and Erichthonius and Erisichthon and most of the other names
[110b] which are recorded of the various heroes before Theseus–and in like manner also the names of the women. Moreover, the habit and figure of the goddess indicate that in the case of all animals,
[110c] male and female, that herd together, every species is naturally capable of practising as a whole and in common its own proper excellence.
Now at that time there dwelt in this country not only the other classes of the citizens who were occupied in the handicrafts and in the raising of food from the soil, but also the military class, which had been separated off at the commencement by divine heroes and dwelt apart.1 It was supplied with all that was required for its sustenance and training, and none of its members possessed any private property, but they regarded all they had
[110d] as the common property of all; and from the rest of the citizens they claimed to receive nothing beyond a sufficiency of sustenance; and they practised all those pursuits which were mentioned yesterday, in the description of our proposed “Guardians.” Moreover, what was related about our country was plausible and true, namely, that, in the first place, it had its boundaries at that time marked off by the Isthmus, and on the inland side reaching to the heights of Cithaeron and Parnes;
[110e] and that the boundaries ran down with Oropia on the right, and on the seaward side they shut off the Asopus on the left; and that all other lands were surpassed by ours in goodness of soil, so that it was actually able at that period to support a large host which was exempt from the labours of husbandry. And of its goodness a strong proof is this: what is now left of our soil rivals any other in being all-productive and abundant in crops and rich in pasturage for all kinds of cattle;
[111a] and at that period, in addition to their fine quality it produced these things in vast quantity. How, then, is this statement plausible, and what residue of the land then existing serves to confirm its truth? The whole of the land lies like a promontory jutting out from the rest of the continent far into the sea and all the cup of the sea; round about it is, as it happens, of a great depth. Consequently, since many great convulsions took place during the 9000 years–for such was the number of years
[111b] from that time to this –the soil which has kept breaking away from the high lands during these ages and these disasters, forms no pile of sediment worth mentioning, as in other regions, but keeps sliding away ceaselessly and disappearing in the deep. And, just as happens in small islands, what now remains compared with what then existed is like the skeleton of a sick man, all the fat and soft earth having wasted away, and only the bare framework of the land being left. But at that epoch the country was unimpaired, and for its mountains it had
[111c] high arable hills, and in place of the “moorlands,”1 as they are now called, it contained plains full of rich soil; and it had much forestland in its mountains, of which there are visible signs even to this day; for there are some mountains which now have nothing but food for bees, but they had trees no very long time ago, and the rafters from those felled there to roof the largest buildings are still sound. And besides, there were many lofty trees of cultivated species; and it produced boundless pasturage for flocks. Moreover, it was enriched by the yearly rains from Zeus,
[111d] which were not lost to it, as now, by flowing from the bare land into the sea; but the soil; it had was deep, and therein it received the water, storing it up in the retentive loamy soil and by drawing off into the hollows from the heights the water that was there absorbed, it provided all the various districts with abundant supplies of spring waters and streams, whereof the shrines which still remain even now, at the spots where the fountains formerly existed, are signs which testify that our present description of the land is true.
[111e] Such, then, was the natural condition of the rest of the country, and it was ornamented as you would expect from genuine husbandmen who made husbandry their sole task, and who were also men of taste and of native talent, and possessed of most excellent land and a great abundance of water, and also, above the land, a climate of most happily tempered seasons. And as to the city, this is the way in which it was laid out at that time. In the first place, the acropolis, as it existed then, was different from
[112a] what it is now. For as it is now, the action of a single night of extraordinary rain has crumbled it away and made it bare of soil, when earthquakes occurred simultaneously with the third of the disastrous floods which preceded the destructive deluge in the time of Deucalion. But in its former extent, at an earlier period, it went down towards the Eridanus and the Ilissus, and embraced within it the Pnyx; and had the Lycabettus as its boundary over against the Pnyx; and it was all rich in soil and, save for a small space, level on the top.
[112b] And its outer parts, under its slopes, were inhabited by the craftsmen and by such of the husbandmen as had their farms close by; but on the topmost part only the military class by itself had its dwellings round about the temple of Athene and Hephaestus, surrounding themselves with a single ring-fence, which formed, as it were, the enclosure of a single dwelling. On the northward side of it they had established their public dwellings and winter mess-rooms, and all the arrangements in the way of buildings which were required for the community life
[112c] of themselves and the priests; but all was devoid of gold or silver, of which they made no use anywhere ; on the contrary, they aimed at the mean between luxurious display and meanness, and built themselves tasteful houses, wherein they and their children’s children grew old and handed them on in succession unaltered to others like themselves. As for the southward parts, when they vacated their gardens and gymnasia and mess-rooms as was natural in summer, they used them for these purposes. And near the place of the present Acropolis
[112d] there was one spring– which was choked up by the earthquakes so that but small tricklings of it are now left round about; but to the men of that time it afforded a plentiful stream for them all, being well tempered both for winter and summer. In this fashion, then, they dwelt, acting as guardians of their own citizens and as leaders, by their own consent, of the rest of the Greeks and they watched carefully that their own numbers, of both men and women, who were neither too young nor too old to fight, should remain for all time as nearly as possible the same, namely, about 20,000.
[112e] So it was that these men, being themselves of the character described and always justly administering in some such fashion both their own land and Hellas, were famous throughout all Europe and Asia both for their bodily beauty and for the perfection of their moral excellence, and were of all men then living the most renowned. And now, if we have not lost recollection of what we heard when we were still children, we will frankly impart to you all, as friends, our story of the men who warred against our Athenians, what their state was and how it originally came about.
[113a] But before I begin my account, there is still a small point which I ought to explain, lest you should be surprised at frequently hearing Greek names given to barbarians. The reason of this you shall now learn. Since Solon was planning to make use of the story for his own poetry, he had found, on investigating the meaning of the names, that those Egyptians who had first written them down had translated them into their own tongue. So he himself in turn recovered the original sense of each name and, rendering it into our tongue,
[113b] wrote it down so. And these very writings were in the possession of my grandfather and are actually now in mine, and when I was a child I learnt them all by heart. Therefore if the names you hear are just like our local names do not be at all astonished; for now you know the reason for them. The story then told was a long one, and it began something like this.
Like as we previously stated concerning the allotments of the Gods, that they portioned out the whole earth, here into larger allotments and there into smaller, and provided for themselves
[113c] shrines and sacrifices, even so Poseidon took for his allotment the island of Atlantis and settled therein the children whom he had begotten of a mortal woman in a region of the island of the following description. Bordering on the sea and extending through the centre of the whole island there was a plain, which is said to have been the fairest of all plains and highly fertile; and, moreover, near the plain, over against its centre, at a distance of about 50 stades, there stood a mountain that was low on all sides. Thereon dwelt one of the natives originally sprung from the earth, Evenor by name,
[113d] with his wife Leucippe; and they had for offspring an only-begotten daughter, Cleito. And when this damsel was now come to marriageable age, her mother died and also her father; and Poseidon, being smitten with desire for her, wedded her; and to make the hill whereon she dwelt impregnable he broke it off all round about; and he made circular belts of sea and land enclosing one another alternately, some greater, some smaller, two being of land and three of sea, which he carved as it were out of the midst of the island; and these belts were at even distances on all sides, so as to be impassable for man;
[113e] for at that time neither ships nor sailing were as yet in existence. And Poseidon himself set in order with ease, as a god would, the central island, bringing up from beneath the earth two springs of waters, the one flowing warm from its source, the other cold, and producing out of the earth all kinds of food in plenty. And he begat five pairs of twin sons and reared them up; and when he had divided all the island of Atlantis into ten portions, he assigned to the first-born of the eldest sons
[114a] his mother’s dwelling and the allotment surrounding it, which was the largest and best; and him he appointed to be king over the rest, and the others to be rulers, granting to each the rule over many men and a large tract of country. And to all of them he gave names, giving to him that was eldest and king the name after which the whole island was called and the sea spoken of as the Atlantic, because the first king who then reigned had the name of Atlas. And the name of his younger twin-brother,
[114b] who had for his portion the extremity of the island near the pillars of Heracles up to the part of the country now called Gadeira after the name of that region, was Eumelus in Greek, but in the native tongue Gadeirus,–which fact may have given its title to the country. And of the pair that was born next he called the one Ampheres and the other Evaemon; and of the third pair the elder was named Mneseus
[114c] and the younger Autochthon; and of the fourth pair, he called the first Elasippus and the second Mestor; and of the fifth pair, Azaes was the name given to the elder, and Diaprepes to the second. So all these, themselves and their descendants, dwelt for many generations bearing rule over many other islands throughout the sea, and holding sway besides, as was previously stated, over the Mediterranean peoples as far as Egypt and Tuscany.
Now a large family of distinguished sons sprang from Atlas;
[114d] but it was the eldest, who, as king, always passed on the sceptre to the eldest of his sons, and thus they preserved the sovereignty for many generations; and the wealth they possessed was so immense that the like had never been seen before in any royal house nor will ever easily be seen again; and they were provided with everything of which provision was needed either in the city or throughout the rest of the country. For because of their headship they had a large supply of imports from abroad,
[114e] and the island itself furnished most of the requirements of daily life,–metals, to begin with, both the hard kind and the fusible kind, which are extracted by mining, and also that kind which is now known only by name but was more than a name then, there being mines of it in many places of the island,–I mean “orichalcum,” which was the most precious of the metals then known, except gold. It brought forth also in abundance all the timbers that a forest provides for the labours of carpenters; and of animals it produced a sufficiency, both of tame and wild. Moreover, it contained a very large stock of elephants; for there was an ample food-supply not only for all the other animals, which haunt the marshes and lakes and rivers,
[115a] or the mountains or the plains, but likewise also for this animal, which of its nature is the largest and most voracious. And in addition to all this, it produced and brought to perfection all those sweet-scented stuffs which the earth produces now, whether made of roots or herbs or trees, or of liquid gums derived from flowers or fruits. The cultivated fruit also, and the dry, which serves us for nutriment, and all the other kinds that we use for our meals–the various species of which are comprehended under the name “vegetables”—
[115b] and all the produce of trees which affords liquid and solid food and unguents, and the fruit of the orchard-trees, so hard to store, which is grown for the sake of amusement and pleasure, and all the after-dinner fruits that we serve up as welcome remedies for the sufferer from repletion,–all these that hallowed island, as it lay then beneath the sun, produced in marvellous beauty and endless abundance. And thus, receiving from the earth all these products, they furnished forth
[115c] their temples and royal dwellings, their harbours and their docks, and all the rest of their country, ordering all in the fashion following.
First of all they bridged over the circles of sea which surrounded the ancient metropolis, making thereby a road towards and from the royal palace. And they had built the palace at the very beginning where the settlement was first made by their God and their ancestors; and as each king received it from his predecessor, he added to its adornment
[115d] and did all he could to surpass the king before him, until finally they made of it an abode amazing to behold for the magnitude and beauty of its workmanship. For, beginning at the sea, they bored a channel right through to the outermost circle, which was three plethora in breadth, one hundred feet in depth, and fifty stades in length; and thus they made the entrance to it from the sea like that to a harbour by opening out a mouth large enough for the greatest ships to sail through. Moreover, through the circles of land,
[115e] which divided those of sea, over against the bridges they opened out a channel leading from circle to circle, large enough to give passage to a single trireme; and this they roofed over above so that the sea-way was subterranean; for the lips of the land circles were raised a sufficient height above the level of the sea. The greatest of the circles into which a boring was made for the sea was three stades in breadth, and the circle of land next to it was of equal breadth; and of the second pair of circles that of water was two stades in breadth and that of dry land equal again to the preceding one of water; and the circle which ran round the central island itself was of a stade’s breadth. And this island,
[116a] wherein stood the royal palace, was of five stades in diameter. Now the island and the circles and the bridge, which was a plethrum in breadth, they encompassed round about, on this side and on that, with a wall of stone; and upon the bridges on each side, over against the passages for the sea, they erected towers and gates. And the stone they quarried beneath the central island all round, and from beneath the outer and inner circles, some of it being white, some black
[116b] and some red; and while quarrying it they constructed two inner docks, hollowed out and roofed over by the native rock. And of the buildings some they framed of one simple colour, in others they wove a pattern of many colours by blending the stones for the sake of ornament so as to confer upon the buildings a natural charm. And they covered with brass, as though with plaster, all the circumference of the wall which surrounded the outermost circle; and that of the inner one they coated with tin; and that which encompassed the acropolis itself
[116c] with orichalcum which sparkled like fire.
The royal palace within the acropolis was arranged in this manner. In the centre there stood a temple sacred to Cleito and Poseidon, which was reserved as holy ground, and encircled with a wall of gold; this being the very spot where at the beginning they had generated and brought to birth the family of the ten royal lines. Thither also they brought year by year from all the ten allotments their seasonable offerings to do sacrifice to each of those princes.
[116d] And the temple of Poseidon himself was a stade in length, three plethra in breadth, and of a height which appeared symmetrical therewith; and there was something of the barbaric in its appearance. All the exterior of the temple they coated with silver, save only the pinnacles, and these they coated with gold. As to the interior, they made the roof all of ivory in appearance, variegated with gold and silver and orichalcum, and all the rest of the walls and pillars and floors they covered with orichalcum. And they placed therein golden statues, one being that of the God standing on a chariot and driving six
[116e] winged steeds, his own figure so tall as to touch the ridge of the roof, and round about him a hundred Nereids on dolphins (for that was the number of them as men then believed)1 ; and it contained also many other images, the votive offerings of private men. And outside, round about the temple, there stood images in gold of all the princes, both themselves and their wives, as many as were descended from the ten kings, together with many other votive offerings both of the kings and of private persons not only from the State itself but also from all the foreign peoples over whom they ruled. And the altar,
[117a] in respect of its size and its workmanship, harmonized with its surroundings; and the royal palace likewise was such as befitted the greatness of the kingdom, and equally befitted the splendour of the temples.
The springs they made use of, one kind being of cold, another of warm water,1 were of abundant volume, and each kind was wonderfully well adapted for use because of the natural taste and excellence of its waters; and these they surrounded with buildings and with plantations of trees such as suited the waters;
[117b] and, moreover, they set reservoirs round about, some under the open sky, and others under cover to supply hot baths in the winter; they put separate baths for the kings and for the private citizens, besides others for women, and others again for horses and all other beasts of burden, fitting out each in an appropriate manner. And the out flowing water they conducted to the sacred grove of Poseidon, which contained trees of all kinds that were of marvellous beauty and height because of the richness of the soil; and by means of channels they led the water to the outer circles over against the bridges.
[117c] And there they had constructed many temples for gods, and many gardens and many exercising grounds, some for men and some set apart for horses, in each of the circular belts of island; and besides the rest they had in the centre of the large island a racecourse laid out for horses, which was a stade in width, while as to length, a strip which ran round the whole circumference was reserved for equestrian contests. And round about it, on this side and on that, were barracks for the greater part of the spearmen; but the guard-house of the more trusty
[117d] of them was posted in the smaller circle, which was nearer the acropolis; while those who were the most trustworthy of all had dwellings granted to them within the acropolis round about the persons of the kings.
And the shipyards were full of triremes and all the tackling that belongs to triremes, and they were all amply equipped.
Such then was the state of things round about the abode of the kings. And after crossing the three outer harbours,
[117e] one found a wall which began at the sea and ran round in a circle, at a uniform distance of fifty stades from the largest circle and harbour, and its ends converged at the seaward mouth of the channel. The whole of this wall had numerous houses built on to it, set close together; while the sea-way and the largest harbour were filled with ships and merchants coming from all quarters, which by reason of their multitude caused clamour and tumult of every description and an unceasing din night and day.
Now as regards the city and the environs of the ancient dwelling we have now well nigh completed the description as it was originally given. We must endeavour next to repeat the account of the rest of the country,
[118a] what its natural character was, and in what fashion it was ordered. In the first place, then, according to the account, the whole region rose sheer out of the sea to a great height, but the part about the city was all a smooth plain, enclosing it round about, and being itself encircled by mountains which stretched as far as to the sea; and this plain had a level surface and was as a whole rectangular in shape, being 3000 stades long on either side and 2000 stades wide at its centre, reckoning upwards from the sea. And this region,
[118b] all along the island, faced towards the South and was sheltered from the Northern blasts. And the mountains which surrounded it were at that time celebrated as surpassing all that now exist in number, magnitude and beauty; for they had upon them many rich villages of country folk, and streams and lakes and meadows which furnished ample nutriment to all the animals both tame and wild, and timber of various sizes and descriptions, abundantly sufficient for the needs of all and every craft.
[118c] Now as a result of natural forces, together with the labours of many kings which extended over many ages, the condition of the plain was this. It was originally a quadrangle, rectilinear for the most part, and elongated; and what it lacked of this shape they made right by means of a trench dug round about it. Now, as regards the depth of this trench and its breadth and length, it seems incredible that it should be so large as the account states, considering that it was made by hand, and in addition to all the other operations, but none the less we must report what we heard: it was dug out to the depth of a plethrum and to a uniform breadth of a stade, and since it was dug round the whole plain
[118d] its consequent length was 10,000 stades. It received the streams which came down from the mountains and after circling round the plain, and coming towards the city on this side and on that, it discharged them thereabouts into the sea. And on the inland side of the city channels were cut in straight lines, of about 100 feet in width, across the plain, and these discharged themselves into the trench on the seaward side, the distance between each being 100 stades. It was in this way that they conveyed to the city
[118e] the timber from the mountains and transported also on boats the seasons’ products, by cutting transverse passages from one channel to the next and also to the city. And they cropped the land twice a year, making use of the rains from Heaven in the winter, and the waters that issue from the earth in summer, by conducting the streams from the trenches.
As regards their manpower, it was ordained that each allotment should furnish one man as leader of all the men in the plain who were fit to bear arms;
[119a] and the size of the allotment was about ten times ten stades, and the total number of all the allotments was 60,000; and the number of the men in the mountains and in the rest of the country was countless, according to the report, and according to their districts and villages they were all assigned to these allotments under their leaders. So it was ordained that each such leader should provide for war the sixth part of a war-chariots equipment, so as to make up 10,000 chariots in all, together with two horses and mounted men;
[119b] also a pair of horses without a car, and attached thereto a combatant1 with a small shield and for charioteer the rider who springs from horse to horse; and two hoplites; and archers and slingers, two of each; and light-armed slingers and javelin-men, three of each; and four sailors towards the manning of twelve hundred ships. Such then were the military dispositions of the royal City; and those of the other nine varied in various ways, which it would take a long time to tell.
[119c] Of the magistracies and posts of honour the disposition, ever since the beginning, was this. Each of the ten kings ruled over the men and most of the laws in his own particular portion and throughout his own city, punishing and putting to death whomsoever he willed. But their authority over one another and their mutual relations were governed by the precepts of Poseidon, as handed down to them by the law and by the records inscribed by the first princes on a pillar of orichalcum, which was placed within the temple of Poseidon in the centre of the island;
[119d] and thither they assembled every fifth year, and then alternately every sixth year–giving equal honour to both the even and the odd–and when thus assembled they took counsel about public affairs and inquired if any had in any way transgressed and gave judgement. And when they were about to give judgement they first gave pledges one to another of the following description. In the sacred precincts of Poseidon there were bulls at large1 ; and the ten princes, being alone by themselves, after praying to the God that they might capture a victim well-pleasing unto him,
[119e] hunted after the bulls with staves and nooses but with no weapon of iron; and whatsoever bull they captured they led up to the pillar and cut its throat over the top of the pillar, raining down blood on the inscription. And inscribed upon the pillar, besides the laws, was an oath which invoked mighty curses upon them that disobeyed. When, then, they had done sacrifice according to their laws and were consecrating
[120a] all the limbs of the bull, they mixed a bowl of wine and poured in on behalf of each one a gout of blood, and the rest they carried to the fire, when they had first purged the pillars round about. And after this they drew out from the bowl with golden ladles, and making libation over the fire swore to give judgement according to the laws upon the pillar and to punish whosoever had committed any previous transgression; and, moreover, that henceforth they would not transgress any of the writings willingly, nor govern nor submit to any governor’s edict
[120b] save in accordance with their father’s laws. And when each of them had made this invocation both for himself and for his seed after him, he drank of the cup and offered it up as a gift in the temple of the God; and after spending the interval in supping and necessary business, when darkness came on and the sacrificial fire had died down, all the princes robed themselves in most beautiful sable vestments, and sate on the ground beside the cinders of the sacramental victims throughout the night, extinguishing all the fire that was round about the sanctuary;
[120c] and there they gave and received judgement, if any of them accused any of committing any transgression. And when they had given judgement, they wrote the judgements, when it was light, upon a golden tablet, and dedicated them together with their robes as memorials. And there were many other special laws concerning the peculiar rights of the several princes, whereof the most important were these: that they should never take up arms against one another, and that, should anyone attempt to overthrow in any city their royal house, they should all lend aid, taking counsel in common, like their forerunners,
[120d] concerning their policy in war and other matters, while conceding the leadership to the royal branch of Atlas; and that the king had no authority to put to death any of his brother-princes save with the consent of more than half of the ten.
Such was the magnitude and character of the power which existed in those regions at that time; and this power the God set in array and brought against these regions of ours on some such pretext as the following, according to the story. For many generations,
[120e] so long as the inherited nature of the God remained strong in them, they were submissive to the laws and kindly disposed to their divine kindred. For the intents of their hearts were true and in all ways noble, and they showed gentleness joined with wisdom in dealing with the changes and chances of life and in their dealings one with another. Consequently they thought scorn of everything save virtue and lightly esteemed their rich possessions, bearing with ease
[121a] the burden, as it were, of the vast volume of their gold and other goods; and thus their wealth did not make them drunk with pride so that they lost control of themselves and went to ruin; rather, in their soberness of mind they clearly saw that all these good things are increased by general amity combined with virtue, whereas the eager pursuit and worship of these goods not only causes the goods themselves to diminish but makes virtue also to perish with them. As a result, then, of such reasoning and of the continuance of their divine nature all their wealth had grown to such a greatness as we previously described. But when the portion of divinity within them was now becoming faint and weak through being ofttimes blended with a large measure of mortality,
[121b] whereas the human temper was becoming dominant, then at length they lost their comeliness, through being unable to bear the burden of their possessions, and became ugly to look upon, in the eyes of him who has the gift of sight; for they had lost the fairest of their goods from the most precious of their parts; but in the eyes of those who have no gift of perceiving what is the truly happy life, it was then above all that they appeared to be superlatively fair and blessed, filled as they were with lawless ambition and power. And Zeus, the God of gods, who reigns by Law, inasmuch as he has the gift of perceiving such things, marked how this righteous race was in evil plight, and desired to inflict punishment upon them, to the end that when chastised they might strike a truer note.
[121c] Wherefore he assembled together all the gods into that abode which they honour most, standing as it does at the centre of all the Universe, and beholding all things that partake of generation and when he had assembled them, he spake thus:…