Notes on Plato’s Timaeus and Critias
Plato Plato or Platon (429-347 B.C.E.)
democracy Literally, “rule of the many.” Shortly after 500 BCE, Athens began a remarkable political experiment, radical democracy. That is, each adult male citizen was permitted a single vote on nearly all judicial, civic, and policy matters. Greek society was remarkable in the ancient world because it defined citizensregardless of genderfree and equal stakeholders in the life of the city rather than as subjects of a monarch or ruling class. Citizenship was a matter of blood, soil, and common religion; for this reason, non-citizens could never hope to buy citizenship or to earn it by other means.
Despite these progressive ideas, Athenian voting rights were restricted to adult males born on Athenian soil to parents also born on Athenian soil. Therefore, slaves, resident foreignersand their descendantsenjoyed few of the legal, social and religious prerogatives and protections of the state. Thus, even the poorest Athenian man could voteor be elected by lot to a poweful Athenian officeand had other rights and prerogatives unavailable even to the richest resident foreigner.
oligarchy Literally, “rule of the few.” Unlike Athens, most Greek cities were oligarchies, independant states run by a small handful of aristocrats who inherited their voting rights. To maintain civil order, most oligarchies crafted some sort of compromise with “the many,” permitting them a limited voice in domestic and foreign policy.
Heracles The original Greek spelling of the latinate Hercules. The Encyclopedia Mythica features the following brief article on this well-known Greek hero:
Heracles (Latin: Hercules) is the son of the god Zeus and Alcmene. His gift was fabulous strength; he strangled two serpents in his cradle, and killed a lion before manhood. Heracles' main antagonist was Hera. She eventually drove him mad, during which time he killed his own children and his brother's. He was so grieved upon recovery that he exiled himself and consulted the oracle of Apollo. The oracle told him to perform twelve labors
These Twelve Labors were:
* Kill the lion of Nemea. He strangled it without further ado.
* Kill the nine-headed Hydra. Two new heads would grow on the Hydra from each fresh wound, and one was immortal. Heracles burned the eight and put the immortal one under a rock.
* Capture the Ceryneian Hind. After running after it for many months, he finally trapped it.
* Kill the wild boar of Erymanthus. A wild battle, but pretty straightforward: Heracles won.
* Clean the Augean Stables of King Augeas. He succeeded only by diverting a nearby river to wash the muck away.
* Kill the carnivorous birds of Stymphalis.
* Capture the wild bull of Crete.
* Capture the man-eating mares of Diomedes.
* Obtain the girdle of Hippolyta, the queen of the Amazons (not all that easy, actually).
* Capture the oxen of Geryon.
* Take the golden apples from the garden of the Hesperides, which was always guarded by the dragon Ladon. Heracles tricked Atlas into getting he apples by offering to hold the Earth for Atlas. When he returned with the apples, Heracles asked him to take the Earth for a moment so he could go get a pillow for his aching shoulders. Atlas did so, and Heracles left with his apples.
* Bring Cerberus, the three-headed dog of Hades, to the surface world.
Heracles was now free to return to Thebes and marry Deianira. Later the centaur Nessus tried to abduct Deianira; Heracles shot him with a poisoned arrow. The dying Nessus told Deianira to keep his blood, as it would always preserve Heracles' love. When Deianira later feared she was being supplanted by Iole, Deianira sent Heracles a garment soaked in Nessus' blood. It poisoned Heracles, who was taken to Olympus and endowed with immortality after death.
Classical Antiquity This term typically refers to the history of all Mediterranean cultures from the introduction of writing in Greece around 750 BCE to the fall of the Roman Empire in the fifth century CE.
Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1623), an English philosopher, statesman, and writer who advocated the scientific method and is credited as one of the founders of the “scientific revolution” in the west. Published numerous essays on subjects ranging from the scientific method, to the nature of good and evil, and ethics. He died of pneumonia contracted, some say, by experimenting with snow as a means of refrigerating a chicken’s carcass.
Sir Thomas More (1478-1535), an English lawyer, writer, and statesman who served in Henry VIII’s court as Lord Chancellor until he was cashiered and executed for refusing to recognize the king as head of the Church of England. He coined the word “utopia” when he published his book on the imaginary island of the same name in 1516.
Sir Arthur Evans (1851-1941), a British archaeologist most famous for discovering the Palace of Knossos on Crete. He dubbed the builders of the Palace and the town that surrounded it Minoans, after King Minos of myth. This culture developed an alphabet, known as Linear A, but it has so far resisted translation. We do not, therefore know what language the Minoans spoke or, for that matter, what they called themselves.
most devastating While it is difficult now to piece together the full extent of the damage caused by the explosion of the volcano on ancient Thera (modern Santorini), it is estimated that the force of the explosion was twice that of Krakatoa and 40 times greater than Mt. Saint Helens. It blew a 30 square mile hole in the ocean floor, ejecting debris in all directions for hundreds of miles. The force of the explosion instantly carbonnized Phaistos, a Minoan city on the southern coast of Crete, 70 miles away and the shockwave knocked the upright pillars flat at Knossoss in a moment. Stones from the Theran crater, some weighing many tons have been recovered from the waters of the Black Sea, an astonishing 400 miles away. Ash deposits two feet thick fell on the coast of Turkey and islands of the Ionian Sea. A Chinese chronicle from around this time laments: “the Sun was distressed...during the last years of Chieh ice formed in [summer] mornings and frosts in the sixth month [July]. Heavy rainfall toppled temples and buildings...Heaven gave severe orders. The Sun and Moon were untimely. Hot and cold weather arrived in disorder. The five cereal crops withered and died.”
Edgar Cayce (18771945), an American sefl-described “psychic diagnostician.” As a young man, Cayce from acute laryngitis for more than a year. He was reportedly cured of this affliction by hynotic suggestion. Soon, Cayce was putting himself into hynotic trance, usually to diagnose ailments and perform healings. He became famous as a psychic and healer and several institutions, including a hospital were founded to help him organize the enormous volume of mail he received requesting readings and cures. He made a number of seemingly fantastic predictions, including that a “hall of records” existed beneath the Sphinx; while no such hall has been discovered, several scientific surveys suggest that there are several as yet unexplored tunnels and cavities under the Sphinx.
Excerpt As the Timaeus dialogue opens, Socrates has invited Timaeus, Critias, and Hermocrates to his home to continue a discussion they’ve been having on the qualities and institutions that would define an ideal government. Socrates had presented his own ideas on how the ideal government might be set upat least in theorythe day before. This earlier conversation is recorded in The Republic and Socrates summarizes some of its highlights in the opening lines of the Timaeus dialogue (presented here). The Timaeus dialogue is primarily about the creation of the world (not presented here). But, before the speakers get to Timaeus’ creation account, another member of Socrates’ party, Critias, explains that he was reminded of a story while he was listening to Socrates describe the ideal government. This story, we eventually learn, describes the greatness of Athens 9000 years ago and its eventual war with another great power, Atlantis.
poets This is one of many examples of Plato’s suspicion of poets and the “lies” they tell. He implicitly denies that they are inspired by the gods and therefore speak a kind of metaphysical truth. For Plato, the myths of the poets are poor copies of the Eternal Model of Reality that the philosopher more accurately discerns through reason and careful contemplation. And, despite his disclaimer, Socrates does mean to depreciate the value of poetsat least as far as their metaphysical speculations are concerned.
Sophists As new ideas poured into Athens, numerous philosophical schools developed, including a highly pragmatic strain of philosophy known today as Sophism. Because Plato and Aristotle dismissed the Sophists as money-grubbing pretenders to wisdom, most historians have, until recently, followed suit. Indeed, our word sophistry is a potent pejorative designating ingenious but invalid arguments designed to fool the gullible. Now, however, most experts have concluded that the Sophists were not a cohesive philosophical school but members of a larger intellectual movement, some of whom made real contributions in science, mathematics, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, anthropology, and pedagogy during the fifth century BCE. While most of the Sophists’ extensive writings have been lost, the fragments that survive suggest that they were far more than intellectual snake-oil salesmen. Indeed, the Sophists resemble modern college professors in several ways. They were public intellectuals who made a living training the moneyed class’ children for productive future careers. They also seem to have adopted a skeptical stance toward claims, such as Plato’s, that there are absolute truths and a higher, transcendent reality invisibly influencing the human world.
In this line, Socrates dismisses any contribution Sophists might make to their present discussion of an ideal State because they are “wanderers” and, presumably, don’t have an ultimate allegiance to any state. This position is not very charitable of Plato, who probably wrote this dialogue after spending twelve yeaers as a wandering philosopher himself. Indeed, he left Athens again to spend two years in Syracuse (one of Athens’ rivals during the Peloponnesian War) teaching a prince, Dionysus II, in the hopes of making him a “philosopher-king.”
promised banquet Socrates is punning here. He, Timaeus, Critias, and Hermocrates are, in fact, participating in a symposium, a common social gathering among the elites of Athens that typically featured a feast, a great deal of drinking, and other entertainments, including singing, dancing, even orgies. The symposia that Plato describes, however, are “feasts of reason” where Socrates and his companions, after a good meal, discuss philosophy. So, Socrates is both being literalhe and his companions are gathered for an actual banquetand figurativehe hopes the promised discussion about the ideal State will be a “feast of reason.”
Solon and the Seven Sages Solon (638558 BCE) was one of seven semi-legendary rulers during the Greek Archaic Period (c. 750500 BCE). He is credited with a number of important reforms that paved the way for Athenian democracy. These reforms included opening political participation, in varying degrees, to all Athenian men possessing sufficient wealth. Solon also created a rudimentary constitution and Athens’ system of jurisprudence, including the invention of trial by a jury of one’s peers. Thus, rather than powerful rulers arbitrarily acting as judge, jury, and meting out inconsistent and capricious punishments, all citizens, including the wealthy and powerful, were subject to the same laws. It is no accident, then, that the great law-giver, Solon, is cited as the authority for the story of Atlantisa story intended to illustrate how a well-ordered state lives and makes war.
Solon was also a noted poet and, according to ancient custom, wrote down his legal and social reforms in verse. His poetic output has been almost entirely lost to us, but it was said to have included reflections on the meaning of life and the beauty of homosexual love.
the goddess The goddess referred to here is Athena and the festival they are celebrating is the Panathenaia. Like all Greek cities, Athens used a lunar calendar to mark time. All festivals were determined by the phases of the moon and lunar months were kept in the right position during the solar year by the occasional addition of intercalary months, and many of the festivals reflect the agricultural cycle. The Panathenaia comes in the month of Hecatombaion (roughly, July) after the harvest of wheat. By Plato’s time, the Panathenaia was celebrated every four years, over the course of several days, and included sacred games (similar to the Olympic games) and the public reading of poetry. It was said that the tyrrant Peisistratus (607528 BCE) instituted the Panathenaia in honor of the goddess who protected the city that bears her name. He is said to have commanded that competitive poetry readings be held during this festival, which explains the references Timaeus, Critias, and Socrates make to poetry readings during the goddess’ festival.
Apaturia An annual Greek religious festival held in nearly all Greek towns where Ionian Greek was spoken. At Athens it took place in the month of Pyanopsion (OctoberNovember) and lasted three days, on which occasion the various phratries (clans) of Attica met to discuss their affairs. This festival’s name probably means “the festival of common relationship.” Scholars assume from ancient reports about practices in Crete, Sparta, Ionia, and Athens that boys routinely underwent initiations into same-age “herds” (agela) as well as into the phratries of their fathers. Phratries were political-religious associations that served approximately the same socializing functions as modern college fraternities, trade guilds, and men’s clubs do, but did so more self-consciously and systematically than their modern counterparts. It was through these clubs that boys made the transition between childhood and manhood. Indeed, the essence of a boy’s initiation into a phratry was to transfer him symbolically from childhood and his mother’s custody to an intermediary status between childhood and adulthood where, first and foremost, he would belong to his “blood-brothers.” The activities pursued in these clubs included hunting, sports, various religious observances, and ritual combat that built strong bonds between age-mates and imparted such important skills and qualities as survival in the wild, resourcefulness, and even training in the particulars of a given craft. Even after a boy grew up, married, and assumed full citizenship, his allegiance to his blood-brothers was of the utmost importance in maintaining social cohesion.
Homer or Hesiod Homer (ca 800-725 BCE) was the legendary early Greek poet and aoidos (“singer”) traditionally credited with the composition of the Iliad and the Odyssey. These poems are usually dated to the 8th or 7th century BC; whether Homer himself was a historical individual who lived during this period is debated by scholars. Tradition holds that Homer was blind, and various Ionian cities claim to be his birthplace, but there is no concrete evidence proving that Homer was a real person.
Hesiod (ca 775-700 BCE) was another legendary Greek poet about whom we know very little. A creation myth, The Theogony, is attributed to him, as is the poem, Works and Days, which features the well-known myth of Pandora’s jar and Prometheus stealing fire from Olympus.
Sais Known as Zau in ancient Egyptian and today as Sa el-Hagar, Sais was located in Egypt’s Delta (the point at which the Nile empties into the Mediterranean Sea). While it was an important cultural and trading center, especially during the 26th dynasty (664-552 BCE), not much of it remains today. Much of what we today know about its former glory comes from Herodotus’ description of Sais’ temples, royal palaces, and tombs rather than archeological excavations of the site itself. There have been a few digs around the city, but they have for the most part been small and unsuccessful.
Amasis Amasis, who was probably the 5th ruler of Egypt during the 26th Dynasty (664-552 BCE), has been called the last great Egyptian Pharaoh. He probably ruled between 570 and 526 BCE. Amasis was actually the king’s Greek name. His birth name was Ahmose II, which means “The Moon is Born, Son of Neith.” His throne name was Khnem-ib-re, meaning “He who embraces the Heart of Re.” From Herodotus, we learn that he was a likeable, popular ruler who is said to have had such a strong inclination for drink that he sometimes delayed state matters in order to indulge in drinking bouts. The Persians, under Cambyses II, invaded Egypt in 525 BCE, putting an end to a fully independant Egypt. There were Pharoahs and periods of relatively more independance after Amasis, but they never regained the independance and glory of their dynastic past.
Neith Nit (Net, Neit, Neith) was the predynastic goddess of war and weaving, the goddess of the Red Crown of Lower Egypt and the patron goddess of Zau (or Sau, Sai, Sais) in the Delta. In later times she was also thought to have been an androgynous demiurgea creatorwho had both male and female attributes. The Egyptians believed her to be an ancient and wise goddess, to whom the other gods came if they could not resolve their own disputes. Generally depicted as a woman, Nit was shown wearing either a shield crossed with two arrows, or a weaving shuttleor the Red Crown of Lower Egypt. She was also often shown carrying a bow and arrows, linking her to hunting and warfare, or a sceptre and the ankh, which signified “life.” More rarely, she was depicted in the form of a cow.
Images of Nit (Neith)
Hellenes The name by which the Greeks knew themselves in Plato’s time. According to tradition, Hellen was the son of Deucalion and Pyrrha (the only survivors of a great flood); later, he became the forefather of the Greeks (Hellenes). His sons were Aeolus, Dorus and Xuthos: forefathers of the Aeolian, Dorian, Achaean and Ionian peoplesall of whom were Greek-speakers that called themselves Hellenes.
Athena The Greek goddess of wisdom, war, the arts, industry, justice and skill. She became the favorite child of Zeus, but not without difficulty. Her mother was Metis, goddess of wisdom and Zeus’ first wife. In fear that Metis would bear a son mightier than himself, Zeus swallowed Metis, who nevertheless began work on a robe and helmet for her daughter. The hammering out of the helmet caused Zeus terrible headaches and he cried out in agony. Skilled Hephaestus ran to his father, splitting his skull open. From the wound Athena emerged, fully grown and wearing the robe and helmet her mother had made for her. Some say, that Athena was the virgin mother of Erichthonius. According to this myth, Hephaestus attempted to bed Athena, but she eluded him and his seed spilt on the ground. Erichthonius sprang from the earth in that spot. According to another myth, Athena and her uncle Poseidon contended for possession of Athens. It was decided that the one that could give the finest gift should have it. Leading a procession of citizens, the two gods mounted the Acropolis. Poseidon struck the side of the cliff with his trident and a spring welled up. The people marveled, but the water was as salty as Poseidon’s sea and it was not very useful. Athena’s gift was an olive tree, which was already bearing fruit. The people acclaimed Athena winner of the contest for her more practical gift. Athena named her city Athens.
Athena’s companion was the goddess of victory, Nike, and her usual attribute is the owl. Athena possessed the Aegis.
Phoroneus (From Encyclopedia Mythica) The son of the river-god Inachus and the Oceanid Melia. He was the king of the Peloponnesus and introduced there Hera’s service. He also encouraged people to together in cities and brought them civilization, by, for example, teaching them how to use fire. He was venerated especially in Argos.
Niobe (From Encyclopedia Mythica) Niobe is one of the more tragic figures in Greek myth. She was the daughter of Tantalus and either Euryanassa, Eurythemista, Clytia, or Dione (no one seems to know for sure) and had two brothers, Broteas and Pelops. Niobe was the queen of Thebes (the principle city in Boetia), married to Amphion, King of Thebes.
Niobe and Amphion had fourteen children (the Niobids), and in a moment of arrogance, Niobe bragged about her seven sons and seven daughters at a ceremony in honor of Leto, the daughter of the titans Coeus and Phoebe. She mocked Leto, who only had two children, Apollo, god of prophecy and music, and Artemis, virgin goddess of the wild. Leto did not take the insult lightly, and in retaliation, sent Apollo and Artemis to earth to slaughter all of Niobe’s children. Apollo killed the seven sons while they practiced their athletics. The last son begged to be spared, but the arrow had already left Apollo’s bow, and the boy was struck dead. Artemis killed the seven daughters with her lethal arrows. (Some versions have a few of the children being spared.)
At the sight of his dead sons, Amphion either committed suicide or was also killed by Apollo for wanting to avenge his children’s deaths. In any event, Niobe’s entire family was dead in a matter of minutes. In shock, she cradled the youngest daughter in her arms, then fled to Mt. Siplyon in Asia Minor. There she turned to stone and from the rock formed a stream (the Achelous) from her ceaseless tears. She became the symbol of eternal mourning. Niobe’s children were left unburied for nine days because Zeus had turned all of the people of Thebes into stone. Only on the tenth day did the gods have pity and entomb her children.
Niobe is weeping even to this day. Carved on a rock cliff on Mt. Sipylus is the fading image of a female that the Greeks claim is Niobe (it was probably Cybele, the great mother-goddess of Asia Minor originally). Composed of porous limestone, the stone appears to weep as the water after a rain seeps through it
This myth vividly illustrates the vicious nature of the gods. Often, the gods would strike deadly revenge on mortals merely for acting on human weaknesses. Leto had Niobe’s entire family killed because of an arrogant comment. This theme of deadly revenge is common in myths of Artemis and Apollo. For example, Artemis turns Actaeon into a stag which his hunting dogs devour because he accidentally saw her naked after a bath. Apollo is as equally unforgiving. He took lethal action against the mortal Marsyas after Marsyas challenged Apollo to a contest of music and lost. Apollo skinned him alive. Clearly, the myth of Niobe demonstrates the wrath of both Apollo and Artemis and is a warning to mortals not to compare themselves to the gods.
Deucalion and Pyrrha (From Encyclopedia Mythica) Deucalion is the son of Prometheus and Clymene. When Zeus punished humankind for their lack of respect by sending the deluge, Deucalion and his wife Pyrrha were the sole survivors. They were saved because of their piety. Prometheus advised his son to build an ark and they survived by staying on the boat.
When they were finally able to get back on land (on Mount Parnassos), they gave thank offerings to Zeus and consulted the oracle of Themis how they might replenish the earth with humans once again. They were told to throw the bones of their mother behind their shoulder and the human race would reappear. Since the mother of all is Earth, they threw stones and reformed the human race. The stones thrown by Pyrrha became women, those thrown by Deucalion became men.
hoary Grey or white with age; associated, by analogy, with hoar frost which accumulates in a thick icy covering.
Phaeton (From Encyclopedia Mythica) The son of the sun-god Helios. When Phaeton (“the shining one”) finally learned who his father was, he went east to meet him. He induced his father to allow him to drive the chariot of the sun across the heavens for one day. The horses, feeling their reins held by a weaker hand, ran wildly out of their course and came close to the earth, threatening to burn it. Zeus noticed the danger and with a thunderbolt he destroyed Phaeton. He fell down into the legendary river Eridanus where he was found by the river nymphs who mourned him and buried him. The tears of these nymphs turned into amber. For the Ethiopians however it was already too late: they were scorched by the heat and their skins had turned black.
Helios (From Encyclopedia Mythica) Helios is the young Greek god of the sun. He is the son of Hyperion and Theia. He became the father of Aeëtes, Circe, and Pasiphae by the Oceanid Perse. His other children are Phaethusa (“radiant”) and Lampetia (“shining”) and Phaeton.
Each morning at dawn he rises from the ocean in the east and rides in his chariot, pulled by four horsesPyrois, Eos, Aethon and Phlegonthrough the sky, to descend at night in the west.
Helios was worshipped in various places of the Peloponnesos, but especially on Rhodes, where each year gymnastic games were held in his honor. Rhodos was also where the Colossus of Rhodes (the sixth of the seven wonders of the ancient world) was built in his honor. This huge statue, measuring 32 meters (100 ft.), was built in 280 BCE by Charès of Lindos. In the earthquake of 224-223 BCE the statue broke off at the knees. On other places where he was worshipped, there were herds dedicated to him, such as on the island of Thrinakia (occasionally equated with Sicily). Here the companions of Odysseus helped themselves to the god’s sacred animals. People sacrificed oxen, rams, goats, and white horses to Helios.
He was represented as a youth with a halo, standing in a chariot, occasionally with a billowing robe. A metope from the temple of Athena in the Hellenistic Ilium represents him thus. He is also shown on more recent reliefs, concerning the worship of Mithra, such as in the Mithraeum under the St. Prisca at Rome. In early Christian art, Christ is sometimes represented as Helios, such as in a mosaic in Mausoleum M or in the necropolis beneath the St. Peter in Rome.
His attributes are the whip and the globe, and his sacred animals were the cock and the eagle. Helios sees and knows all, and was called upon by witnesses.
conflagration A great fire.
goddess Again, referring to Athena. The elder Critias reasserts the similarities between Athena and Nit (Neith), the patron goddess of Sais. Both goddesses are associated with warfare and skillful crafts.
Earth In Greek, Gaia. (From Encyclopedia Mythica) Gaia or Gaea, known as Earth or Mother Earth (the Greek common noun for “land” is ge or ga). She was an early earth goddess and it is written that Gaia was born from Chaos, the great void of emptiness within the universe, and with her came Eros. She gave birth to Pontus (the Sea) and Uranus (the Sky). This was achieved parthenogenetically (without male intervention). Other versions say that Gaia had as siblings Tartarus (the lowest part of the earth, below Hades itself) and Eros, and without a mate, gave birth to Uranus (Sky), Ourea (Mountains) and Pontus (Sea).
Gaia took as her husband Uranus, who was also her son, and their offspring included the Titans, six sons and six daughters. She gave birth to the Cyclopes and to three monsters that became known as the “Hecatonchires.” The spirits of punishment known as the Erinyes were also offspring of Gaia and Uranus. The Gigantes, finally, were conceived after Uranus had been castrated by his son Cronus, and his blood fell to earth from the open wound.
To protect her children from her husband, (he was fearful of the great strength of Cyclopes and the Hecatoncheires and sought to kill them), Gaia hid them all within herself. One version says that Uranus was aghast at the sight of his offspring so he hid them away in Tartarus, which are the bowels of the earth. Gaia herself found her offspring uncomfortable and at times painful, when the discomfort became to much to bear she asked her youngest son Cronus to help her. She asked him to castrate Uranus, thus severing the union between the Earth and Sky, and also to prevent more monstrous offspring. To help Cronus achieve his goal Gaia produced an adamantine sickle to serve as the weapon. Cronus hid until Uranus came to lay with Gaia and as Uranus drew near, Cronus struck with the sickle, cutting the genitalia from Uranus. Blood fell from the severed genitals and came in contact with the earth and from that union was born the Erinyes (Furies), the Giants, and the Meliae (Nymphs of the manna ash trees).
After the separation of the Earth from the Sky, Gaia gave birth to other offspring, these being fathered by Pontus. Their names were the sea-god Nereus, Thaumas, Phorcys, Ceto and Eurybia. In other versions Gaia had offspring by her brother Tartarus; they were Echidna and Typhon, the later being an enemy of Zeus. Apollo killed Typhon when he took control of the oracle at Delphi, which Gaia originally provided, and then the “Siby”" sang the oracle in Gaia’s shrine.
It was Gaia who saved Zeus from being swallowed by Cronus, after Zeus had been born, Gaia helped Rhea to wrap a stone in swaddling clothes, this was to trick Cronus in to thinking it was Zeus, because Cronus had been informed that one of his children would depose him, and so to get rid of his children he had swallowed them, Gaia’s trick worked and Zeus was then taken to Crete.
Gaia being the primordial element from which all the gods originated was worshiped throughout Greece, but later she went into decline and was supplanted by other gods. In Roman mythology she was known as Tellus or Terra.
Hephaestus (From Encyclopedia Mythica) Hephaestus, the god of fire, especially the blacksmith’s fire, was the patron of all craftsmen, principally those working with metals. He was worshiped predominantly in Athens, but also in other manufacturing centers. He was the god of volcanoes. Later, the fire within them represented the smith’s furnace. Hephaestus was associated with Mount Etna, which is on the island of Sicily. Known as the lame god, Hephaestus was born weak and crippled. Displeased by the sight of her son, Hera threw Hephaestus from Mount Olympus, and he fell for a whole day before landing in the sea. Nymphs rescued him and took him to Lemnos, where the people of the island cared for him. But other versions say Zeus threw him from Mount Olympus after Hephaestus had sided with his mother in a quarrel. This legend says that Hephaestus fell for nine days and nine nights, and he landed on the island of Lemnos. It was on Lemnos where he built his palace and his forges under a volcano.
To gain revenge for his rejection by Hera, Hephaestus fashioned a magic throne, which was presented to her on Mount Olympus. When Hera sat on the throne, it entrapped her, making her a prisoner. The gods on Mount Olympus pleaded with Hephaestus to return to their heavenly domain and release Hera, but he refused. Dionysus gave the smith god wine, and when Hephaestus was intoxicated, Dionysus took him back to Mount Olympus slumped over the back of a mule. This scene was a favorite in Greek art. Hephaestus released Hera after being given the beautiful Aphrodite as his bride. Dionysus was rewarded by being made one of the Olympian Pantheon.
Hephaestus is known as the son of Hera and Zeus, although Zeus had nothing to do with the conception. Hephaestus was parthenogenetic, meaning he was conceived without male fertilization. Hera was jealous of Zeus after he had an affair with Metis, from which the goddess of prudence was pregnant with Athena. However, Gaia had warned Zeus that Metis would bear a daughter, whose son would overthrow him. To prevent this, Zeus swallowed Metis, so he could carry the child through to the birth himself, although Zeus could not give birth naturally. As revenge, Hera produced (parthenogeny) Hephaestus, and legend says, that Hephaestus split the head of Zeus with an axe, from which Athena appeared fully armed.
One particular legend says that Hephaestus wished to marry Athena, who was also a patron of smiths, but she refused because she found him ugly. Another legend says that Athena disappeared from their bridal bed but Hephaestus did not see her vanish, and spilt his seed on the floor. In a similar version the semen fell from Athena's thigh and from it was produced Erechtheus, who became a king of Athens. (This relates to Erechtheus being the son of Gaia, Earth.)
Aphrodite, in some versions, was the wife of Hephaestus, and he was suspicious that Aphrodite had been committing adultery. To catch her being unfaithful he fashioned an extraordinary chain-link net, so fine and strong no one could escape from it. Then one day he surprised Aphrodite and the war god Ares as they lay together in bed. He threw his magic net over them and hauled them before the Olympian gods and exhibited them as they were, naked and wrapped in each others arms. Hephaestus asked the assembled gods for just retribution, but they did the total opposite. The gods roared with laughter at the sight of the naked lovers, after which they allowed the couple to go free. According to Homer’s Iliad Hephaestus had a wife called Aglaea, who was one of the Charites (Graces).
Being a great craftsman Hephaestus manufactured wonderful articles from various materials, primarily from metal. With help from the Cyclopes, who were his workmen and assistants, he fashioned the thunderbolts for Zeus and his sceptre. He made weapons and armour for the other gods and heroes. For Athena, he made her shield or aegis and for the god of love, Eros, he made the arrows. Hephaestus made the wonderful chariot which the sun god Helios rode across the sky; though, in some versions, Helios rode in a golden cup or goblet. The lame smith-god also fashioned the invincible armour of Achilles. Hephaestus helped to create the first woman, with the assistance of other gods, after Zeus had ordered that there be a new kind of human. Zeus plotted against Prometheus because he and his race of mortals had only included one gender, which was male, and so Hephaestus formed the first woman from clay. Her name was Pandora (all gifts) and from a supernatural jar, she released the evils of the world on mankind.
Hephaestus is usually shown as an animated cripple bent over his anvil. He wears a beard and is normally depicted as being ugly, and in some art forms he walks with the aid of a stick, which is how Homer describes him. Hepheastus was worshiped mainly in Athens, where the Temple of Hephaestus and Athena (the Hephaesteum, also known as the Theseum) still stands. It is the most complete example of a “Doric” temple still in existence. (The Doric is one of the three orders in Greek architecture.) It was built in 449 BCE and stands on a hill close to the Agora at the foot of the Acropolis. Hephaestus and Athena Ergane (protectress of craftsman and artisans) were honoured with the festival “Chalceia” on the 30th day of the month Pyanopsion. The Romans took Hephaestus as one of their own gods, calling him Vulcan (Volcanus).
unprovoked An apparent contradiction. When Critias delivers a more detailed and systematic account of ancient Athens and Atlantis below, he suggests that Atlantis waged war against the Athenians because they had become “debased” (morally and spiritually corrupt).
Pillars of Heracles The ancient name given to the promontories that flank the entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar. The northern “pillar” is Gibraltar, located in modern-day Portugal; the southern “pillar” is Monte Hacho in Ceuta, Africa. The Jebel Musa, west of Ceuta, in Morocco, is by some considered the southern Pillar. Either way, according to this tradition, Atlantis would lie somewhere due west of the narrow Strait of Gibraltar. See the map of Greek and Phoenician settlements below.
Libya and Asia The ancient Greeks knew relatively little of the actual extent of Asia and Africa and Plato’s reference to them here encompasses only the areas on both continents that had Greek colonies. Specifically, Greek contact with Asia during the time of Solon was limited to the areas bordering the Black Sea and the Persian Empire (modern-day Iraq and Iran). They knew nothing of sub-Saharan Africa, beyond what the Egyptians reported. So, the claim that Atlantis was the size of Libya and Asia put together would not have meant the same to the Ancient Greeks as it does to us. See map below (the Pillars of Hercules are marked where Europe and Africa nearly meet).
Area of Greek and Phoenician settlement ca. 550 BCE
Tyrrhenia The ancient name for the Etruscan’s domain, occupying the western coast and islands of the Italian Peninsula (see map above). Who, exactly, the Etruscans were remains one of the mysteries of history. Herodotus claimed that they had migrated from Anatolia, led by a Lydian prince named Tyrrhenus (or Tyrrsenius). Thus, the Greeks knew the Etruscans as the Tyrrhenoi and their land as Tyrrhenia.
leader of the Hellenes That is, Athens was the leader of the Greek-speaking peoples. In the ancient world, the Greeks lived in “city-states,” which means that every Greek city of any size was, essentially, an independent nation. Thus, while Korinth, Athens, Sparta, and Thebes spoke the same language, had most customs in common, and practiced similar versions of the same religion, they were independent of one another politically. The story being told here assumes that Athens led a coaltion of Greek city-states against the Atlanteans.
the world of reality Critias claims that his history is factual, and not a myth or a “likely story” like the one Socrates told about the ideal state the day before (recorded in the Republic).
the being Timaeus refers to the demiourgos (the Demiurge), the Creator he described in the portion of the Dialogue of Timeaus omitted from the Atlantis-related materials presented here. This first speech of Timaeus reminds the reader of the context that Plato created for this dialoguea symposium hosted by Socrates for the purpose of discussing the ideal state.
Theseus (From Encyclopedia Mythica) Theseus was a king of Athens famous for many exploits, and appearing in works by many authors and on countless vases. There is some confusion about Theseus' parentage, some say he is the son of Aegeus and Aethra, and others the son of Poseidon and Aethra. Apollodoros and Hyginus say Aethra waded out to Sphairia after sleeping with Aegeus, and lay there with Poseidon. The next day, Aegeus, who had been visiting Aethra at Troizen, left for his home city of Athens. As he left, he left sandals and a sword under a large rock; should Aethra bear a male child, she was to send him to Athens to claim his birthright as soon as he was old enough to lift the rock and retrieve the items. Aethra gave birth to Theseus, who came of age and set off for Athens with the sword and sandals, encountering and defeating six murderous adversaries along the way. When Theseus reached Athens, Medea, the wife of Aegeus, persuaded Aegeus to have the as-yet-unrecognized Theseus sent on a suicide mission and capture the savage Marathonian Bull. Much to her disappointment, Theseus succeeds; so Medea tells Aegeus to give him poisoned wine. Aegeus recognizes Theseus’ sword as he is about to drink and knocks the goblet from his lips at the last second.
According to Plutarch and Philochoros, on the way to Marathon to kill the bull, Theseus encounters a fierce storm and seeks shelter in the hut of an old woman named Hecale. She promises to make a sacrifice to Zeus if Theseus comes back successful. He comes back, finds her dead, and builds a deme in her name. Some time after Theseus return to Athens, trouble stirs and blood flows between the houses of Aegeus in Athens and Minos, his brother in Crete. War and drought ensues and an oracle demands that recompense be made to Minos. Minos demands that seven maidens and seven youths are to be sacrificed to the Minotaur every nine years. Theseus is among the chosen victims and sails off to Crete, promising to Aegeus that his ship’s black flag would be replaced with a white flag if Theseus is victorious. In Crete, Minos molests one of the maidens and Theseus becomes angry and challenges him, boasting of his parentage by Poseidon. Minos, son of Zeus is amused and asks Theseus to prove his heritage by retrieving a ring from the depths of the ocean. Theseus, being a son of Poseidon, succeeds. Ariadne, a young woman in Crete already betrothed to Dionysus, falls in love with Theseus and helps him defeat the Minotaur. Ariadne then leaves Crete with Theseus, who abandons her on Dia (at Athena’s behest, according to Pherekydes).
In returning to Athens Theseus forgets to switch the black sail with the white one. Aegeus, consequently, watching from afar believes his son is dead and hurls himself into the sea, which is thereafter named the “Aegean.” After Aegeus’ death, Theseus must contend against Pallas for the throne. Theseus gets wind of a planned assassination plot against him and spoils the ambush, killing Pallas and gaining the throne.
Theseus and a good friend of his by the name of Pirithous wanted to marry daughters of Zeus, and begin their quest by abducting Helen. Theseus wins a bet and gets Helen, but must accompany Pirithous to Hades to recover Persephone for him. There is much disagreement here about what happens in Hades, but many traditions say only Theseus makes it back out.
Theseus does two noteworthy patriotic acts for Thebes: 1) he accepts Oedipus at Kolonus; and 2) he helps Adrastus bury “the Seven,” the legendary heroes who fall in the struggle for the throne of Thebes. Late in his life Theseus loses popularity in Athens and is exiled. He wanders to Scyrus where he is hurled off a cliff by Lycodemes.
Cecrops (From Encyclopedia Mythica) Cecrops was half man and half snake, born from the soil (chthonic), and one of the legendary ancestors of the Greeks. He was the founder (and first king) of Athens. He taught the inhabitants to bury the dead, get married, and how to read and write. During his reign, Poseidon and Athena contended for the lordship of Attica, and Cecrops decided in favor of Athena. The citadel, or Acropolis, of Athens was named Cecropia in his honor.
Erechtheus (From Encyclopedia Mythica) Erechtheus the First, known as Erechtheus or Erechthonios (not to be confused with Erechthonius the Second, believed to be the son of Pandion and the nymph Zeuxippe), was, according to legend, an early king of Athens. Thought to be the son of the goddess Gaia, Erechtheuswhom the Iliad refers to as the “earth-born king of Athens”was raised by Athena, the patron of Athens, as her own child. Erechtheus was worshipped, together with Athena, on the Acropolis after he gained divine honors during his life. He was also associated in his lifetime with Poseidon, god of the sea, and Cecrops, the mythical king of Athens who was half man and half snake. The snake was also the sacred animal of Erechtheus, and opinion is divided as to whether Cecrops and Erechtheus were actually one and the same person. Others say that Cecrops was the son of Erechtheus. Erechtheus had two daughters, Creusa and Procris, who married Cephalus.
According to legend, Erectheus resided atop the Acropolis in his palace. Some myths state that Poseidon killed Erechtheus with his trident, whereas in other versions, it was Zeus who killed Erechtheus with his thunderbolt. After his death the palace was refashioned and used as a temple. Homer records that this was the first temple on the Athenian Acropolis.
Poseidon at that time was trying to gain control of Athens, and challenged Athena to see who had the most to give to the people. Poseidon struck the ground with his trident and a salt water spring flowed from that very spot. Athena also struck the ground with her spear, and miraculously an olive tree sprang up, fully grown and bearing fruit. The olive tree proved to be far more useful than a salt-water spring, and Athena won the contest, but neither she or Poseidon were given the honor of having the temple, which had been built on the site of the contest, named after them. Instead, the temple was named “The Erechtheion”; it also kept its name when, in the 5th century BCE, it was replaced by the temple we see today.
Erechtheus was said to have founded the “Panathenaia,” a festival honoring Athena during which the cult statue of Athena Polias, housed within the Erechtheion, receives its new “peplos” (woolen gown). The sacred snake of Erechtheus was depicted on the inside of the shield which the chryselephantine (gold and ivory) statue of Athena Parthenos held in her hand. The statue was the work of Pheidias the famous Greek sculptor, who also sculpted the great statue of Zeus at the sanctuary of Olympia.
Erichthonius (From Encyclopedia Mythica) According to the tradition the parents of Erichthonius were Hephaestus, the god of fire and smithies and Gaia, the goddess of the earth. Apollodoros describes a strange encounter between Hephaestus and Athena, who he tried to rape. He was unsuccessful, but his sperm impregnated the earth and Erichthonius was born. Because Gaia did not like such a situation, she did not want this child and so Athena took care of Erichthonius. She brought him within a closed basket into the sanctuary of the Athenian Acropolis and insisted that her priestessesAglauros, Herse and Pandrosos, the daughters of the first Athenian king Cecropsnot open the basket.
Once, when Athena was absent, while bringing from the peninsula Pallena a mountain for the Acropolis, her orders were broken. According to the historian Pausanius, Pandrosos obeyed, but her sisters were curious and opened the chest or basket containing Erichthonius. Unfortunately, a crow saw them and immediately flew to Athena to tattle. The goddess was just returning to the sanctuary, when she heard of this event. She became so angry that she lost the mountain, the top of which fell to the earth andis now known as the hill Lykabettos. Meanwhile, the daughters of Cecrops went mad and threw themselves from the Acropolis. Apollodoros’ version differs from Pausanius’, but the result is the same.
Erichthonius, under the protection and guidance of Athena, became the king of Athens. It is said that he was the first use horses to pull a chariot and the first to cultivate the earth with plough. He also taught the Athenians the use of silver, which was deemed a metalmore important than gold. To honor the goddess (Athena) who adopted him, he inaugurated the Panathenaean festival in her honor.
Erichthonius, then, was the chthonic father of Athens. His name derives from the Greek words eris, which means “troubles,” and chthonios, whichmeans “born from the earth.” His connection with mother-earth, Gaia, is represented by two guardian snakes. In a later myth, Erichthonius was described as a snake with human head, not unlike Cecrops.
Erysichthon (From Encyclopedia Mythica) Erysichthon was the son of Triopas. He was an arrogant and impious man who dared to fell timber in the sacred grove of Demeter. As punishment, Demeter (Ceres in the Latin) sent Famine to dwell in Erysichthon’s entrails, causing him to be tormented by insatiable hunger. He ate up everything in sight, selling his possessions to buy more. Still he was not satisfied. Finally he sold his own daughter. She appealed to Poseidon, who had taken her virginity, for assistance, and Poseidon granted her the power to change into any shape she wished, thus enabling her to escape her new master. Her father discovered her ability and sold her many times thereafter. Even this was not enough to satisfy his raging hunger and eventually he began to gnaw upon his own limbs, continuing his desperate quest for food until he had consumed himself entirely.
the goddess in full armour Plato here refers to typical depictions of Athena, a beautiful female figure arrayed for battle. He uses Critias to provide some sort of rational explanation for the discrepancy between this image of a powerful female and the common assumption in his own time that women were weak in body and mind, little better than children.
whole country The ancient Greek homeland consisted of numerous islands dotting the ultramarine waters of the Aegean and Ionian seas, the rugged Balkan Peninsula, the northern shore of the Black Sea, and the western coast of Anatolia (modern Turkey) between Rhodes and the Bosphorus. The Greek mainland is mountainous and while none of its peaks is exceedingly tall, its mountain ranges tend to be rocky and steep. The relative narrowness of the Balkan Peninsula and the jagged contours of the coastline are such that few communities in Greece were more than 50 miles from the sea. Thus, the Greek homeland, except in Thessaly, Messena, Crete, and the colony of Sicily, had comparatively few large, open areas for grazing and farming but many bays, inlets, and harbors for fishing and sea-trade.
The climate enjoyed in the region, like that of southern California, is characterized by a relatively brief rainy season in winter, mild springs and autumns, and hot, dry summers. Snow seldom falls but in the mountains, though winter at or near sea-level tends to be chilly, wet, and windy. Occasionally, in the ancient world and now, this pleasant pattern fluctuates between its extremes, producing massive flooding in wet years and withering drought in dry ones. Despite its climatic advantages, Greece’s soil was (and remains) some of the poorest in Europe for farming. This probably explains why, as early as the eighth century B.C.E., Greek settlers began establishing hundreds of colonial outposts throughout the Mediterranean, including a number of important cities in Italy and on Sicily. So significant was their presence on the Italian peninsula that the region came to be called Magna Graecia, or “Great Greece.”
Map of the Balkan Peninsula and Eastern Mediterranean territories of ancient Greece
Map of “Great Greece” (Magna Graecia)
Acropolis The Athenian Acropolis (literally, “high city”) is the most recognizable mesa in the world. The earliest signs of human habitation date to the late Neolithic Period (c. 6,0004,000 BCE). But, during the Greek “Golden Age” of Plato’s youth, the Acropolis’ most impressive architectural monuments were constructed. Through these monuments, the Greeks sought to express what they considered the fundamental order and harmony of the universe. Even today, nearly 2500 years later, the Parthenon, Erectheion and other structures remain standing and still have the power to awe visitors and testify to the wealth and skill of the ancient Greeks.
< Acropolis (Aerial view with modern city in the background)
Plan of the Ancient Acropolis
Eridanus and Ilissus Rivers that at one time formed the natural boundaries of the Athenian acropolis. The Eridanus formed the northern border of the city (see city plan above) and the Illissus formed the south-western border (just below the Odeum of Herodes in the above city plan).
Pnyx The hill Pnyx, while not a spectacular landform, was the official meeting place of the Athenian democratic assembly. In the earliest days of Athenian democracy (after the reforms of Kleisthenes in 508 B.C.), the assembly met in the Agora (a marketplace and public meeting area below the Acropolis’ northwest side). Sometime during the early 5th century BCE, the place of public assembly was moved to a hill south and west of the Acropolis. This new meeting place came to be called “Pnyx” (from the Greek word meaning “tightly packed together”).
The Hill Pnyx, as seen from the Acropolis. The Assembly met in the “bald spot” in the center of the photo.
Lycabettus Possibly meaning, “where the wolves run,” the hill Lycabettus is largest natural landform in Athens and is located on the opposite side of the Acropolis from the Hill Pnyx. According to myth, Lycabettus was formed when Athena, in shock and anger, dropped the top of a mountain she was carrying upon hearing that her wishes concerning Erechthonius’ basket had been disobeyed.
The Hill Lycabettus
gymnasia From the Greek word meaning, “to be naked,” gymnasia were, at first, places for physical exercise, but eventually became something akin to private schools for the children of the elite and a place for men to gather, socialize, and pursue intellectual and homoerotic relationships. The athletic contests for which the gymnasium supplied the means of training and competition formed part of the social and spiritual life of the Greeks from earliest times. We see them, for example, as part of the funeral rituals that Achilles organized to honor his fallen friend, Patroclus, in Homer’s Iliad. But athletic contests were also held in honor of heroes and gods. The victor in any athletic contest, though he gained no material prize, was rewarded with the honor and respect of his fellow citizens. Training of competitors for the greater contests was a matter of public concern and special buildings were provided by the state for such use, with management entrusted to public officials. A victory in the great religious festivals was counted an honor for the whole state.
Poseidon (from Encyclopedia Mythica) Poseidon is a god of many names. He is most famous as the god of the sea. The son of Cronus and Rhea, Poseidon is one of six siblings who eventually “divided the power of the world.” His brothers and sisters include: Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades, and Zeus. After Zeus and his allies had defeated the Titans, the universe was divided among him and his brothers (Hades and Poseidon). Poseidon became ruler of the sea, Zeus ruled the sky, and Hades got the underworld. The other divinities attributed to Poseidon involve the god of earthquakes and the god of horses. The symbols associated with Poseidon include: dolphins, tridents, and three-pronged fish spears.
Sailors prayed to Poseidon for a safe passage over the sea. Therefore, many men drowned horses as sacrifices in Poseidon’s honor. As sea-god, he lived on the ocean floor in a palace made of coral and gems, and drove a chariot pulled by horses. However, Poseidon, like the sea itself, was a moody divinity and he often became suddenly vengeful or violent. But, when he was in a good mood, Poseidon created new lands in the water and provided a calm sea. When he was in a bad mood, Poseidon would strike the ground with his trident, causing earthquakes, shipwrecks, and drownings. In the Iliad and elsewhere, he is referred to as “Earth-Shaker.”
Poseidon was similar to his brother Zeus in exercising his power on women and in typifying the Greek ideal of masculinity. He had many love affairs and fathered numerous children. Poseidon once married a Nereid, Amphitrite, and produced Triton who was half-human and half-fish. He also impregnated the Gorgon Medusa to conceive Chrysaor and Pegasus, the flying horse. The rape of Aethra by Poseidon resulted in the birth of Theseus; and he turned Caeneus into a man, at her request, after raping her. Another rape involved Amymone when she tried to escape from a satyr and Poseidon saved her. Other offspring of Poseidon include: Eumolpus, the Giant Sinis, Polyphemus, Orion, King Amycus, Proteus, Agenor and Belus from Europa, Pelias, and the King of Egypt, Busiris.
One of the most notorious love affairs of Poseidon involves his sister, Demeter. Poseidon pursued Demeter and to avoid him she turned herself into a mare. In his lust for her, Poseidon transformed himself into a stallion and eventually covered her. Their procreation resulted in a horse, Arion. Poseidon is Greek for “Husband” (possibly of wheat), and therefore it is thought that he and Demeter (goddess of wheat) are a good match because they reign as the god and goddess of fertility.
Another infamous story of Poseidon involves the competition between him and the goddess of war, Athena, for the city of Athens. To win the people of the city over, Poseidon threw a spear at the ground and produced the Spring at the Acropolis. However, Athena won as the result of giving the people of Athens the olive tree. In his anger over the Athenian’s decision, Poseidon flooded the Attic Plain. Eventually, Athena and Poseidon worked together by combining their powers. Even though Poseidon was the god of horses, Athena built the first chariot. Athena also built the first ship to sail on the sea over which Poseidon ruled.
Poseidon often used his powers of earthquakes, water, and horses to inflict fear and punishment on people as revenge. Though he could be difficult and assert his powers over the gods and mortals, Poseidon could be cooperative and it was he who helped the Greeks during the Trojan War. Poseidon is an essential character in the study of Greek mythology.
Statue of Poseidon (Note the horse’s head in his right hand.)
50 stadia (from Activemind.com) The stade was a Greek unit of length, roughly equivalent to .11 miles. So, 50 stadia is equal to about 5-and-a-half U.S. miles. Critias is specific about a number of measurements. Here are the conversions:
Canal From Sea
* Canal 300' wide, 100' deep
* 50 stades from the sea was a hill where the rings of Sea and Land were built (5.5 miles)
* Next ring of water was 1 stade - 600'
* Center land was 5 stades in diameter - 3000' (.5 miles)
* Surrounded on both sides by a wall covered with orichalcum
* Next set of water / land rings were 2 stades in width - 1200'
* Surrounded on both sides by a wall covered with tin
* Ring closest to sea and its internal land both 3 stades in width - 1800'
* Surrounded on both sides by a wall covered with brass
* Contained horse racing track
* Wall which circled the outer ring at a distance of 50 stades (11 miles in diameter)
* Bridges were 100 feet wide (a sixth of a stadia)
* Towers and gates on the bridges
* Guarded at either end
* Oblong, 3000 stadia long, 1000 stadia wide (330 miles long and 110 miles wide)
* Open to the sea on the south (where the canal exited to the sea)
* Surrounded by mountains to the north
Ditch around the Plain
* 100 feet deep
* 1 stade wide
* 10,000 stade long (surrounding the whole plain) (1100 miles long)
* Plain consisted of 10 stade square lots - 1.1 mile x 1.1 mile
- 1.1 miles = 5808 ft there we get 33,732,864 sq. ft = 774.4 acres
- acre = 43560 sq. ft or 4840 sq. yd.
- for total of 60,000
√ total acres = 46,464,000
earth-born primeval The ultimate origin of the Greek-speaking peoples is a matter of considerable mystery and debate. Evidence from myth and the archaeological record suggests that they probably migrated from Anatolia (modern-day Turkey) to the Peloponnese (the southern-most region of the Greek peninsula) no later than the late Bronze Age (1500-1100 BCE). We have a few written records that demonstrate that the Myceneans, who rose to power c. 1500 BCE, spoke an archaic form of Greek. Scattered throughout Greek myth and its early histories, such as the one by Herodotus, are numerous references to “chthonic” peoples; that is, to non-Greek peoples whose ancestors, it was believed, literally sprang up from the earth. Generally speaking, these chthonic peoples were depicted in Greek literature as savages or unrefined rustics. There is some evidence in myth that the Greeks destroyed or assimilated such peoples. Evanor and Leucippe, then, were thought to be pre-Greeks, born from the earth herself. Poseidon, by “marrying” Cleito, essentially transforms the original, earth-born inhabitants of Atlantis into Greeks, or a people very much their cultural equal.
Atlas The account given by Critias of Atlas’ birth is a variant of the more widely held account. According to Encyclopedia Mythica: Atlas is a scion of the Titans, the Greek race of giants, and the son of Iapetus and the nymph Clymene. He is the father of the Hesperides, the Hyades and the Pleiades. He was also thought to be the king of legendary Atlantis (“Land of Atlas”).
In the revolt of the Titans against the gods of the Olympic, Atlas stormed the heavens and Zeus punished him for this deed by condemning him to forever bear the heavens upon his shoulders. Hence his name, which means “bearer” or “endurer.”
To complete the eleventh of his twelve labors, Heracles had to obtain the golden apples of the Hesperides, and he asked Atlas for help. Heracles offered to bear Atlas's burden in his absence, when he went to retrieve the apples. Atlas agreed to perform the task readily enough, since he did not plan on ever bearing that burden again. When Atlas returned with the apples, Heracles requested him to assume the load for a moment, saying he needed to adjust the pad to ease the pressure on his shoulders. After Atlas bore the heavens again, Heracles walked off with the golden apples.
When Atlas refused to give shelter to Perseus, the latter changed Atlas into stone, using Medusa’s head. On the place where Atlas stood, now lie Mount Atlas (north-western Africa). In art, Atlas is usually depicted as a man bearing a globe.
they arranged the whole country There have been many attempts over the ages to render Critias’ description of Atlantis visually. Here’s a recent one:
orichalcum (from Wikipedia.com) The term derives from the Greek, meaning “mountain copper”or “mountain metal.” The Romans transliterated “orichalcum” as “aurichalcum,” which was thought to mean, literally, “gold-copper.” It has been althernatively held to be a gold-copper alloy, a copper-tin, or a copper-zinc brass, or a metal no longer known to man. The Andean alloy, tumbaga, fits the same description, being a gold-copper alloy. Actually, it is not known for certain what orichalcum was. In later years, “orichalcum” was used to describe chalcopyrite or brass. However, these attributions are difficult to reconcile with Critas’ text because he states that the metal was “only a name” by his time.
Nereids (from Encyclopedia Mythica) The Nereids are the fifty daughters of Nereus and Doris who dwell in the Mediterranean Sea. These beautiful women were always friendly and helpful towards sailors fighting perilous storms. They are believed to be able to prophesy and belong to the retinue of Poseidon.
In ancient art, particularly on Greek black-figure vases, the Nereids are portrayed fully clothed. For example, on a Corinthian vase (6th century BCE) where they stand around Achilles’ deathbed, dressed in mourning garb. In later art, they were portrayed naked or partially naked, riding dolphins, seahorses, and other marine creatures.
dedicated by private persons The statues mentioned here were probably votive offerings, a common form of sacrificial offering given to a god in fulfillment of a vow. Any anxious situationpersonal illness, the uncertainties of a business venture, the dangers of a long voyage, success in war, and relief from drought, pestilence, famine, or plaguemight be the occasion of such a vow. These vows were usually made out loud in front of as many witnesses as possible and took the form of an “if-then” formula: “If Apollo delivers me from this sickness, then I will place a statue in his honor in the holy city of Delphi.” If the outcome of such a prayer were successful, the petitioner would be under an irrevocable obligation to fulfill the vow. The wealthy were obviously in position to dedicate the most opulent offeringsstatues of marble or precious metals, for example. Critias’s description of numerous statues rendered in precious metals, then, is meant to indicate the immense wealth of the Atlanteans.
altar Sanctuaries in ancient Greece were not buildings, but sacred outdoor spaces in which buildings might or might not be found. The altar upon which blood sacrifices were performed were nearly always outdoors. Where sanctuaries featured temples, the altar was usually located either just north or just south of the building’s east-facing façade.
Acropolis Many ancient Greek cities featured an acropolis (“high city”). Because these landforms provided an easily defended citadel in case of seige, it is not surprising that a land as perfectly situated as Atlantis would also feature one.
triremes The era’s state-of-the-art battleship. It could be rowed, sailed, and used as a battering ram against enemy craft. Undersea archeological discoveries suggest that triremes were typically 121 feet long, 18 feet wide, and carried a crew of 170 oarsmen and 30 additional crew.
the order of the other nine governments varied One of the most distinctive features of ancient Greece to emerge during the early Archaic Period was the polis, a word often translated as “city-state” and from which the English words politics and policy derive. “City-state” scarcely captures the emotional and intellectual resonance that the term polis had for the Greeks, but it does suggest the fierce political independence and cultural distinctiveness that each polis cherished. Originally, a polis was little more than a defensive structure to which scattered farmers might retreat when under attack. Eventually, the term polis referred not only to these ancient defensive structures but also to the urban centers that grew up around them and the agricultural lands and villages in the adjoining countryside over which they exerted control. Greek poleis viewed themselves as independant countries; and, as a result, their forms of government and laws could differ substantially from place to place. Critias indicates that Atlantis’ 10 poleis differed from one another in the same way.
accustomed manner Homeric epic provides a relatively complete description of blood sacrifice in the ancient world and a variety of ritual signs indicate that this ritual was considered especially sacred. Before making sacrifice, worshipers would bathe, don clean clothing, adorn themselves with special personal items, and wear garlands of woven twigs on their heads. The sacrificial animal, as the third book of the Odyssey and several other sources specifically state, was to be without blemish. Like the human participants, the victim too was washed and “dressed,” its horns gilded and festooned with ribbons. The victim was accompanied to the altar by a procession (pompe in Greek), whereupon a circle was marked out, encompassing the animal, the altar, and the participants. Standing in a circle or semi-circle around the altar and with the sacrificer facing east, all participants faced the altar as a basket containing barley groats (in which was hidden the sacrificial knife) and a vessel filled with holy water were marched around the circumference of the sacred circle. Stretching forth their hands, each participant received some of the consecrated water on his or her hands. The victim’s head also received some of the water, which often resulted in its appearing to nod as a sign of its consent to be sacrificed. Each participant then took a handful of barley from the sacrificial basket and fell silent. With arms upraised, the sacrificer offered a prayer and, as he finished, all participants threw their handful of grain toward the animal and the altar. The sacrificer then uncovered the knife and, still concealing it, approached the victim, cut a few hairs from its forehead, and threw them into the altar’s flames.
Once these sanctifying preliminaries were accomplished, the victim was slaughtered. Smaller animals were held above the altar as their throats were cut. Large animals, like oxen, were first struck down with a blow from an ax before their heads were raised, their throats cut, and their arterial blood captured in a waiting bowl. Whatever the size of the animal, it was of the utmost importance that the victim’s blood be splashed over the altar and down its sides. As the fatal blow fell, the women in attendance were obligated to make loud and shrill lamentation. Then, in short order, the animal was skinned and butchered; its internal organs, especially the heart and liver, were the first items to be roasted upon the altar fire and eaten by the inner circle of participantsa great honor! The inedible parts of the animalhooves, horns, and especially thigh bones and tailswere the gods’ portion. So, after the entrails had been tasted, the gods’ items were respectfully arranged and then committed to the flames. Small cakes and other food offerings were often added to this consecrated portion and wine was liberally sprinkled over all, causing the fire to roar which was interpreted as a sign of the divine presence. After the fire died down, preparations for the communal meat meal could begin. Usually the meat was spitted and roasted over the altar’s flames or boiled in a cauldron suspended from a tripod. The cheerful character of the ensuing meal probably resembled that of a modern backyard barbeque; enjoyable and boisterous though the feasting was, however, it was nevertheless a holy occasion. As a sign of this, the participants were ordinarily forbidden to take any meat away from the feast or to leave any leftovers.
libation It was customary to make a “drink offering” to the gods whenever one drank any liquid, particularly formal occasions like festivals, weddings, and symposia. One would fill a vessel, offer a brief prayer, and spill a few drops of the liquid on the groundor variations on this theme.
the fairest of their precious gifts Here, the philosophical purpose of the Dialogue of Critias is suggested. Like the Athenians of Plato’s time, the Atlanteans excelled in all manner of human endeavorsengineering, architecture, art, literature, science, war-making, civic organization, and statecraft (law and politics). However, Critias introduces the notion that because of their wealth, power, and achievements, the Atlanteans became corrupt. They began to measure virtue (the greatest good that human beings can strive for) in terms of money, status, and military might. The Athens of Plato’s time suffered the same fate. They grew wealthy and powerful and sought to dominate all Greek cities and the world beyond, thus increasing their already magnificent wealth and formidible military might. For a few short years, it appeared to some that Athens would succeed; but, even their allies distrusted them and eventually assisted a Sparta-led war against them. Plato lived to see the humiliation of Athens, a defeat from which his city never fully recovered. This similarity between the Atlantis Critias describes and the Athens in which Plato lived has led many scholars to conclude that, despite the dialogue’s insistence on the factual basis of the Atlantis myth, Plato in fact intended this story as an allegory about the dangers of wealth and power.