Atlantis in Plato

Here are some excerpts from Plato mentioning Atlantis

Timaeus atr. 360 B.C.

 Many great and wonderful deeds are recorded of your state in our

histories. But one of them exceeds all the rest in greatness and

valour. For these histories tell of a mighty power which unprovoked

made an expedition against the whole of Europe and Asia, and to

which your city put an end. This power came forth out of the

Atlantic Ocean, for in those days the Atlantic was navigable; and

there was an island situated in front of the straits which are by

you called the Pillars of Heracles; the island was larger than Libya

and Asia put together, and was the way to other islands, and from

these you might pass to the whole of the opposite continent which

surrounded the true ocean; for this sea which is within the Straits of

Heracles is only a harbour, having a narrow entrance, but that other

is a real sea, and the surrounding land may be most truly called a

boundless continent. Now in this island of Atlantis there was a

great and wonderful empire which had rule over the whole island and

several others, and over parts of the continent, and, furthermore, the

men of Atlantis had subjected the parts of Libya within the columns of

Heracles as far as Egypt, and of Europe as far as Tyrrhenia. This vast

power, gathered into one, endeavoured to subdue at a blow our

country and yours and the whole of the region within the straits;

and then, Solon, your country shone forth, in the excellence of her

virtue and strength, among all mankind. She was pre-eminent in courage

and military skill, and was the leader of the Hellenes. And when the

rest fell off from her, being compelled to stand alone, after having

undergone the very extremity of danger, she defeated and triumphed

over the invaders, and preserved from slavery those who were not yet

subjugated, and generously liberated all the rest of us who dwell

within the pillars. But afterwards there occurred violent

earthquakes and floods; and in a single day and night of misfortune

all your warlike men in a body sank into the earth, and the island

of Atlantis in like manner disappeared in the depths of the sea. For

which reason the sea in those parts is impassable and impenetrable,

because there is a shoal of mud in the way; and this was caused by the

subsidence of the island.

Critias Plato Atr. 360 B.C

  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.


  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.


  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-*