108. Critias by Plato (c.355 BC)

Plot:  Socrates has explained his ideal society to his friends Timaeus, Critias and Hermocrates in The Republic, and asked them to supply some real-world evidence of its likely success. Timaeus started with an account of the creation of the Universe and Mankind in Timaeus (see post 107) and now Critias describes the lead up to the ancient battle between Athens and Atlantis in this fragment. Whether it was ever finished, or if the third part of the trilogy to be supplied by Hermocrates was ever written will never be known.

My version is included in the Plato volume of Great Books of the Western World, published by Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1952.

My thoughts:

Critias offers Ancient Athens as a workable example of Socrates’ (Plato’s) Republic, with the warrior caste of men and women living selfless, communal lives of service to the state.

Equally virtuous were the ten kings of Atlantis, until they gradually became more debased and selfish, until Zeus decided to punish them. This is where the surviving fragment ends, but presumably the war with Athens, and finally the earthquake which sinks Atlantis are divinely ordered.

The island of Atlantis, beloved by Poseidon, consisted of concentric circles of land separated by canals, with the Royal Palace on the centre island. A lush, fertile land where there lived

” a great number of elephants in the island, for as there was provision for all other sorts of animals, both of those which live in lakes and marshes and rivers, and also for those that live in mountains and on plains …. 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”

I haven’t been including most fragments in my reading unless they are the only surviving text for a renown author (e.g Sappho) or of some personal interest. Plato was apparently the first author to mention Atlantis so I was intrigued to see its description here.

Personal rating: 4/10

Next :  Probably Plato’s Laws


  1. There is quite a detailed description of the geography and architecture, and a little on the rulers and people, but it stops abruptly just as Zeus gathers the gods to discuss the Atlanteans’ downfall. Shame it is incomplete – the copy I read was only 9 pages of close written text.

    Liked by 1 person

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