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By Plato

Translated by Benjamin Jowett

Persons of the Dialogue

Timaeus. How thankful I am, Socrates, that I have arrived at last,
and, like a weary traveller after a long journey, may be at rest!
And I pray the being who always was of old, and has now been by me
revealed, to grant that my words may endure in so far as they have
been spoken truly and acceptably to him; but if unintentionally I
have said anything wrong, I pray that he will impose upon me a just
retribution, and the just retribution of him who errs is that he should
be set right. Wishing, then, to speak truly in future concerning the
generation of the gods, I pray him to give me knowledge, which of
all medicines is the most perfect and best. And now having offered
my prayer I deliver up the argument to Critias, who is to speak next
according to our agreement. 

Critias. And I, Timaeus, accept the trust, and as you at first said
that you were going to speak of high matters, and begged that some
forbearance might be shown to you, I too ask the same or greater forbearance
for what I am about to say. And although I very well know that my
request may appear to be somewhat and discourteous, I must make it
nevertheless. For will any man of sense deny that you have spoken
well? I can only attempt to show that I ought to have more indulgence
than you, because my theme is more difficult; and I shall argue that
to seem to speak well of the gods to men is far easier than to speak
well of men to men: for the inexperience and utter ignorance of his
hearers about any subject is a great assistance to him who has to
speak of it, and we know how ignorant we are concerning the gods.
But I should like to make my meaning clearer, if Timaeus, you will
follow me. All that is said by any of us can only be imitation and
representation. For if we consider the likenesses which painters make
of bodies divine and heavenly, and the different degrees of gratification
with which the eye of the spectator receives them, we shall see that
we are satisfied with the artist who is able in any degree to imitate
the earth and its mountains, and the rivers, and the woods, and the
universe, and the things that are and move therein, and further, that
knowing nothing precise about such matters, we do not examine or analyze
the painting; all that is required is a sort of indistinct and deceptive
mode of shadowing them forth. But when a person endeavours to paint
the human form we are quick at finding out defects, and our familiar
knowledge makes us severe judges of any one who does not render every
point of similarity. And we may observe the same thing to happen in
discourse; we are satisfied with a picture of divine and heavenly
things which has very little likeness to them; but we are more precise
in our criticism of mortal and human things. Wherefore if at the moment
of speaking I cannot suitably express my meaning, you must excuse
me, considering that to form approved likenesses of human things is
the reverse of easy. This is what I want to suggest to you, and at
the same time to beg, Socrates, that I may have not less, but more
indulgence conceded to me in what I am about to say. Which favour,
if I am right in asking, I hope that you will be ready to grant.

Socrates. Certainly, Critias, we will grant your request, and we will
grant the same by anticipation to Hermocrates, as well as to you and
Timaeus; for I have no doubt that when his turn comes a little while
hence, he will make the same request which you have made. In order,
then, that he may provide himself with a fresh beginning, and not
be compelled to say the same things over again, let him understand
that the indulgence is already extended by anticipation to him. And
now, friend Critias, I will announce to you the judgment of the theatre.
They are of opinion that the last performer was wonderfully successful,
and that you will need a great deal of indulgence before you will
be able to take his place. 

Hermocrates. The warning, Socrates, which you have addressed to him,
I must also take to myself. But remember, Critias, that faint heart
never yet raised a trophy; and therefore you must go and attack the
argument like a man. First invoke Apollo and the Muses, and then let
us hear you sound the praises and show forth the virtues of your ancient

Crit. Friend Hermocrates, you, who are stationed last and have another
in front of you, have not lost heart as yet; the gravity of the situation
will soon be revealed to you; meanwhile I accept your exhortations
and encouragements. But besides the gods and goddesses whom you have
mentioned, I would specially invoke Mnemosyne; for all the important
part of my discourse is dependent on her favour, and if I can recollect
and recite enough of what was said by the priests and brought hither
by Solon, I doubt not that I shall satisfy the requirements of this
theatre. And now, making no more excuses, I will proceed.

Let me begin by observing first of all, that nine thousand was the
sum of years which had elapsed since the war which was said to have
taken place between those who dwelt outside the Pillars of Heracles
and all who dwelt within them; this war I am going to describe. Of
the combatants on the one side, the city of Athens was reported to
have been the leader and to have fought out the war; the combatants
on the other side were commanded by the kings of Atlantis, which,
as was saying, was an island greater in extent than Libya and Asia,
and when afterwards sunk by an earthquake, became an impassable barrier
of mud to voyagers sailing from hence to any part of the ocean. The
progress of the history will unfold the various nations of barbarians
and families of Hellenes which then existed, as they successively
appear on the scene; but I must describe first of all Athenians of
that day, and their enemies who fought with them, and then the respective
powers and governments of the two kingdoms. Let us give the precedence
to Athens. 

In the days of old the gods had the whole earth distributed among
them by allotment. There was no quarrelling; for you cannot rightly
suppose that the gods did not know what was proper for each of them
to have, or, knowing this, that they would seek to procure for themselves
by contention that which more properly belonged to others. They all
of them by just apportionment obtained what they wanted, and peopled
their own districts; and when they had peopled them they tended us,
their nurselings and possessions, as shepherds tend their flocks,
excepting only that they did not use blows or bodily force, as shepherds
do, but governed us like pilots from the stern of the vessel, which
is an easy way of guiding animals, holding our souls by the rudder
of persuasion according to their own pleasure;-thus did they guide
all mortal creatures. Now different gods had their allotments in different
places which they set in order. Hephaestus and Athene, who were brother
and sister, and sprang from the same father, having a common nature,
and being united also in the love of philosophy and art, both obtained
as their common portion this land, which was naturally adapted for
wisdom and virtue; and there they implanted brave children of the
soil, and put into their minds the order of government; their names
are preserved, but their actions have disappeared by reason of the
destruction of those who received the tradition, and the lapse of
ages. For when there were any survivors, as I have already said, they
were men who dwelt in the mountains; and they were ignorant of the
art of writing, and had heard only the names of the chiefs of the
land, but very little about their actions. The names they were willing
enough to give to their children; but the virtues and the laws of
their predecessors, they knew only by obscure traditions; and as they
themselves and their children lacked for many generations the necessaries
of life, they directed their attention to the supply of their wants,
and of them they conversed, to the neglect of events that had happened
in times long past; for mythology and the enquiry into antiquity are
first introduced into cities when they begin to have leisure, and
when they see that the necessaries of life have already been provided,
but not before. And this is reason why the names of the ancients have
been preserved to us and not their actions. This I infer because Solon
said that the priests in their narrative of that war mentioned most
of the names which are recorded prior to the time of Theseus, such
as Cecrops, and Erechtheus, and Erichthonius, and Erysichthon, and
the names of the women in like manner. Moreover, since military pursuits
were then common to men and women, the men of those days in accordance
with the custom of the time set up a figure and image of the goddess
in full armour, to be a testimony that all animals which associate
together, male as well as female, may, if they please, practise in
common the virtue which belongs to them without distinction of sex.

Now the country was inhabited in those days by various classes of
citizens;-there were artisans, and there were husbandmen, and there
was also a warrior class originally set apart by divine men. The latter
dwelt by themselves, and had all things suitable for nurture and education;
neither had any of them anything of their own, but they regarded all
that they had as common property; nor did they claim to receive of
the other citizens anything more than their necessary food. And they
practised all the pursuits which we yesterday described as those of
our imaginary guardians. Concerning the country the Egyptian priests
said what is not only probable but manifestly true, that the boundaries
were in those days fixed by the Isthmus, and that in the direction
of the continent they extended as far as the heights of Cithaeron
and Parnes; the boundary line came down in the direction of the sea,
having the district of Oropus on the right, and with the river Asopus
as the limit on the left. The land was the best in the world, and
was therefore able in those days to support a vast army, raised from
the surrounding people. Even the remnant of Attica which now exists
may compare with any region in the world for the variety and excellence
of its fruits and the suitableness of its pastures to every sort of
animal, which proves what I am saying; but in those days the country
was fair as now and yielded far more abundant produce. How shall I
establish my words? and what part of it can be truly called a remnant
of the land that then was? The whole country is only a long promontory
extending far into the sea away from the rest of the continent, while
the surrounding basin of the sea is everywhere deep in the neighbourhood
of the shore. Many great deluges have taken place during the nine
thousand years, for that is the number of years which have elapsed
since the time of which I am speaking; and during all this time and
through so many changes, there has never been any considerable accumulation
of the soil coming down from the mountains, as in other places, but
the earth has fallen away all round and sunk out of sight. The consequence
is, that in comparison of what then was, there are remaining only
the bones of the wasted body, as they may be called, as in the case
of small islands, all the richer and softer parts of the soil having
fallen away, and the mere skeleton of the land being left. But in
the primitive state of the country, its mountains were high hills
covered with soil, and the plains, as they are termed by us, of Phelleus
were full of rich earth, and there was abundance of wood in the mountains.
Of this last the traces still remain, for although some of the mountains
now only afford sustenance to bees, not so very long ago there were
still to be seen roofs of timber cut from trees growing there, which
were of a size sufficient to cover the largest houses; and there were
many other high trees, cultivated by man and bearing abundance of
food for cattle. Moreover, the land reaped the benefit of the annual
rainfall, not as now losing the water which flows off the bare earth
into the sea, but, having an abundant supply in all places, and receiving
it into herself and treasuring it up in the close clay soil, it let
off into the hollows the streams which it absorbed from the heights,
providing everywhere abundant fountains and rivers, of which there
may still be observed sacred memorials in places where fountains once
existed; and this proves the truth of what I am saying. 

Such was the natural state of the country, which was cultivated, as
we may well believe, by true husbandmen, who made husbandry their
business, and were lovers of honour, and of a noble nature, and had
a soil the best in the world, and abundance of water, and in the heaven
above an excellently attempered climate. Now the city in those days
was arranged on this wise. In the first place the Acropolis was not
as now. For the fact is that a single night of excessive rain washed
away the earth and laid bare the rock; at the same time there were
earthquakes, and then occurred the extraordinary inundation, which
was the third before the great destruction of Deucalion. But in primitive
times the hill of the Acropolis extended to the Eridanus and Ilissus,
and included the Pnyx on one side, and the Lycabettus as a boundary
on the opposite side to the Pnyx, and was all well covered with soil,
and level at the top, except in one or two places. Outside the Acropolis
and under the sides of the hill there dwelt artisans, and such of
the husbandmen as were tilling the ground near; the warrior class
dwelt by themselves around the temples of Athene and Hephaestus at
the summit, which moreover they had enclosed with a single fence like
the garden of a single house. On the north side they had dwellings
in common and had erected halls for dining in winter, and had all
the buildings which they needed for their common life, besides temples,
but there was no adorning of them with gold and silver, for they made
no use of these for any purpose; they took a middle course between
meanness and ostentation, and built modest houses in which they and
their children's children grew old, and they handed them down to others
who were like themselves, always the same. But in summer-time they
left their gardens and gymnasia and dining halls, and then the southern
side of the hill was made use of by them for the same purpose. Where
the Acropolis now is there was a fountain, which was choked by the
earthquake, and has left only the few small streams which still exist
in the vicinity, but in those days the fountain gave an abundant supply
of water for all and of suitable temperature in summer and in winter.
This is how they dwelt, being the guardians of their own citizens
and the leaders of the Hellenes, who were their willing followers.
And they took care to preserve the same number of men and women through
all time, being so many as were required for warlike purposes, then
as now-that is to say, about twenty thousand. Such were the ancient
Athenians, and after this manner they righteously administered their
own land and the rest of Hellas; they were renowned all over Europe
and Asia for the beauty of their persons and for the many virtues
of their souls, and of all men who lived in those days they were the
most illustrious. And next, if I have not forgotten what I heard when
I was a child, I will impart to you the character and origin of their
adversaries. For friends should not keep their stories to themselves,
but have them in common. 

Yet, before proceeding further in the narrative, I ought to warn you,
that you must not be surprised if you should perhaps hear Hellenic
names given to foreigners. I will tell you the reason of this: Solon,
who was intending to use the tale for his poem, enquired into the
meaning of the names, and found that the early Egyptians in writing
them down had translated them into their own language, and he recovered
the meaning of the several names and when copying them out again translated
them into our language. My great-grandfather, Dropides, had the original
writing, which is still in my possession, and was carefully studied
by me when I was a child. Therefore if you hear names such as are
used in this country, you must not be surprised, for I have told how
they came to be introduced. The tale, which was of great length, began
as follows:- 

I have before remarked in speaking of the allotments of the gods,
that they distributed the whole earth into portions differing in extent,
and made for themselves temples and instituted sacrifices. And Poseidon,
receiving for his lot the island of Atlantis, begat children by a
mortal woman, and settled them in a part of the island, which I will
describe. Looking towards the sea, but in the centre of the whole
island, there was a plain which is said to have been the fairest of
all plains and very fertile. Near the plain again, and also in the
centre of the island at a distance of about fifty stadia, there was
a mountain not very high on any side. 

In this mountain there dwelt one of the earth born primeval men of
that country, whose name was Evenor, and he had a wife named Leucippe,
and they had an only daughter who was called Cleito. The maiden had
already reached womanhood, when her father and mother died; Poseidon
fell in love with her and had intercourse with her, and breaking the
ground, inclosed the hill in which she dwelt all round, making alternate
zones of sea and land larger and smaller, encircling one another;
there were two of land and three of water, which he turned as with
a lathe, each having its circumference equidistant every way from
the centre, so that no man could get to the island, for ships and
voyages were not as yet. He himself, being a god, found no difficulty
in making special arrangements for the centre island, bringing up
two springs of water from beneath the earth, one of warm water and
the other of cold, and making every variety of food to spring up abundantly
from the soil. He also begat and brought up five pairs of twin male
children; and dividing the island of Atlantis into ten portions, he
gave to the first-born of the eldest pair his mother's dwelling and
the surrounding allotment, which was the largest and best, and made
him king over the rest; the others he made princes, and gave them
rule over many men, and a large territory. And he named them all;
the eldest, who was the first king, he named Atlas, and after him
the whole island and the ocean were called Atlantic. To his twin brother,
who was born after him, and obtained as his lot the extremity of the
island towards the Pillars of Heracles, facing the country which is
now called the region of Gades in that part of the world, he gave
the name which in the Hellenic language is Eumelus, in the language
of the country which is named after him, Gadeirus. Of the second pair
of twins he called one Ampheres, and the other Evaemon. To the elder
of the third pair of twins he gave the name Mneseus, and Autochthon
to the one who followed him. Of the fourth pair of twins he called
the elder Elasippus, and the younger Mestor. And of the fifth pair
he gave to the elder the name of Azaes, and to the younger that of
Diaprepes. All these and their descendants for many generations were
the inhabitants and rulers of divers islands in the open sea; and
also, as has been already said, they held sway in our direction over
the country within the Pillars as far as Egypt and Tyrrhenia.

Now Atlas had a numerous and honourable family, and they retained
the kingdom, the eldest son handing it on to his eldest for many generations;
and they had such an amount of wealth as was never before possessed
by kings and potentates, and is not likely ever to be again, and they
were furnished with everything which they needed, both in the city
and country. For because of the greatness of their empire many things
were brought to them from foreign countries, and the island itself
provided most of what was required by them for the uses of life. In
the first place, they dug out of the earth whatever was to be found
there, solid as well as fusile, and that which is now only a name
and was then something more than a name, orichalcum, was dug out of
the earth in many parts of the island, being more precious in those
days than anything except gold. There was an abundance of wood for
carpenter's work, and sufficient maintenance for tame and wild animals.
Moreover, there were a great number of elephants in the island; for
as there was provision for all other sorts of animals, both for those
which live in lakes and marshes and rivers, and also for those which
live in mountains and on plains, so there was for the animal which
is the largest and most voracious of all. Also whatever fragrant things
there now are in the earth, whether roots, or herbage, or woods, or
essences which distil from fruit and flower, grew and thrived in that
land; also the fruit which admits of cultivation, both the dry sort,
which is given us for nourishment and any other which we use for food-we
call them all by the common name pulse, and the fruits having a hard
rind, affording drinks and meats and ointments, and good store of
chestnuts and the like, which furnish pleasure and amusement, and
are fruits which spoil with keeping, and the pleasant kinds of dessert,
with which we console ourselves after dinner, when we are tired of
eating-all these that sacred island which then beheld the light of
the sun, brought forth fair and wondrous and in infinite abundance.
With such blessings the earth freely furnished them; meanwhile they
went on constructing their temples and palaces and harbours and docks.
And they arranged the whole country in the following manner:

First of all they bridged over the zones of sea which surrounded the
ancient metropolis, making a road to and from the royal palace. And
at the very beginning they built the palace in the habitation of the
god and of their ancestors, which they continued to ornament in successive
generations, every king surpassing the one who went before him to
the utmost of his power, until they made the building a marvel to
behold for size and for beauty. And beginning from the sea they bored
a canal of three hundred feet in width and one hundred feet in depth
and fifty stadia in length, which they carried through to the outermost
zone, making a passage from the sea up to this, which became a harbour,
and leaving an opening sufficient to enable the largest vessels to
find ingress. Moreover, they divided at the bridges the zones of land
which parted the zones of sea, leaving room for a single trireme to
pass out of one zone into another, and they covered over the channels
so as to leave a way underneath for the ships; for the banks were
raised considerably above the water. Now the largest of the zones
into which a passage was cut from the sea was three stadia in breadth,
and the zone of land which came next of equal breadth; but the next
two zones, the one of water, the other of land, were two stadia, and
the one which surrounded the central island was a stadium only in
width. The island in which the palace was situated had a diameter
of five stadia. All this including the zones and the bridge, which
was the sixth part of a stadium in width, they surrounded by a stone
wall on every side, placing towers and gates on the bridges where
the sea passed in. The stone which was used in the work they quarried
from underneath the centre island, and from underneath the zones,
on the outer as well as the inner side. One kind was white, another
black, and a third red, and as they quarried, they at the same time
hollowed out double docks, having roofs formed out of the native rock.
Some of their buildings were simple, but in others they put together
different stones, varying the colour to please the eye, and to be
a natural source of delight. The entire circuit of the wall, which
went round the outermost zone, they covered with a coating of brass,
and the circuit of the next wall they coated with tin, and the third,
which encompassed the citadel, flashed with the red light of orichalcum.

The palaces in the interior of the citadel were constructed on this
wise:-in the centre was a holy temple dedicated to Cleito and Poseidon,
which remained inaccessible, and was surrounded by an enclosure of
gold; this was the spot where the family of the ten princes first
saw the light, and thither the people annually brought the fruits
of the earth in their season from all the ten portions, to be an offering
to each of the ten. Here was Poseidon's own temple which was a stadium
in length, and half a stadium in width, and of a proportionate height,
having a strange barbaric appearance. All the outside of the temple,
with the exception of the pinnacles, they covered with silver, and
the pinnacles with gold. In the interior of the temple the roof was
of ivory, curiously wrought everywhere with gold and silver and orichalcum;
and all the other parts, the walls and pillars and floor, they coated
with orichalcum. In the temple they placed statues of gold: there
was the god himself standing in a chariot-the charioteer of six winged
horses-and of such a size that he touched the roof of the building
with his head; around him there were a hundred Nereids riding on dolphins,
for such was thought to be the number of them by the men of those
days. There were also in the interior of the temple other images which
had been dedicated by private persons. And around the temple on the
outside were placed statues of gold of all the descendants of the
ten kings and of their wives, and there were many other great offerings
of kings and of private persons, coming both from the city itself
and from the foreign cities over which they held sway. There was an
altar too, which in size and workmanship corresponded to this magnificence,
and the palaces, in like manner, answered to the greatness of the
kingdom and the glory of the temple. 

In the next place, they had fountains, one of cold and another of
hot water, in gracious plenty flowing; and they were wonderfully adapted
for use by reason of the pleasantness and excellence of their waters.
They constructed buildings about them and planted suitable trees,
also they made cisterns, some open to the heavens, others roofed over,
to be used in winter as warm baths; there were the kings' baths, and
the baths of private persons, which were kept apart; and there were
separate baths for women, and for horses and cattle, and to each of
them they gave as much adornment as was suitable. Of the water which
ran off they carried some to the grove of Poseidon, where were growing
all manner of trees of wonderful height and beauty, owing to the excellence
of the soil, while the remainder was conveyed by aqueducts along the
bridges to the outer circles; and there were many temples built and
dedicated to many gods; also gardens and places of exercise, some
for men, and others for horses in both of the two islands formed by
the zones; and in the centre of the larger of the two there was set
apart a race-course of a stadium in width, and in length allowed to
extend all round the island, for horses to race in. Also there were
guardhouses at intervals for the guards, the more trusted of whom
were appointed-to keep watch in the lesser zone, which was nearer
the Acropolis while the most trusted of all had houses given them
within the citadel, near the persons of the kings. The docks were
full of triremes and naval stores, and all things were quite ready
for use. Enough of the plan of the royal palace. 

Leaving the palace and passing out across the three you came to a
wall which began at the sea and went all round: this was everywhere
distant fifty stadia from the largest zone or harbour, and enclosed
the whole, the ends meeting at the mouth of the channel which led
to the sea. The entire area was densely crowded with habitations;
and the canal and the largest of the harbours were full of vessels
and merchants coming from all parts, who, from their numbers, kept
up a multitudinous sound of human voices, and din and clatter of all
sorts night and day. 

I have described the city and the environs of the ancient palace nearly
in the words of Solon, and now I must endeavour to represent the nature
and arrangement of the rest of the land. The whole country was said
by him to be very lofty and precipitous on the side of the sea, but
the country immediately about and surrounding the city was a level
plain, itself surrounded by mountains which descended towards the
sea; it was smooth and even, and of an oblong shape, extending in
one direction three thousand stadia, but across the centre inland
it was two thousand stadia. This part of the island looked towards
the south, and was sheltered from the north. The surrounding mountains
were celebrated for their number and size and beauty, far beyond any
which still exist, having in them also many wealthy villages of country
folk, and rivers, and lakes, and meadows supplying food enough for
every animal, wild or tame, and much wood of various sorts, abundant
for each and every kind of work. 

I will now describe the plain, as it was fashioned by nature and by
the labours of many generations of kings through long ages. It was
for the most part rectangular and oblong, and where falling out of
the straight line followed the circular ditch. The depth, and width,
and length of this ditch were incredible, and gave the impression
that a work of such extent, in addition to so many others, could never
have been artificial. Nevertheless I must say what I was told. It
was excavated to the depth of a hundred, feet, and its breadth was
a stadium everywhere; it was carried round the whole of the plain,
and was ten thousand stadia in length. It received the streams which
came down from the mountains, and winding round the plain and meeting
at the city, was there let off into the sea. Further inland, likewise,
straight canals of a hundred feet in width were cut from it through
the plain, and again let off into the ditch leading to the sea: these
canals were at intervals of a hundred stadia, and by them they brought
down the wood from the mountains to the city, and conveyed the fruits
of the earth in ships, cutting transverse passages from one canal
into another, and to the city. Twice in the year they gathered the
fruits of the earth-in winter having the benefit of the rains of heaven,
and in summer the water which the land supplied by introducing streams
from the canals. 

As to the population, each of the lots in the plain had to find a
leader for the men who were fit for military service, and the size
of a lot was a square of ten stadia each way, and the total number
of all the lots was sixty thousand. And of the inhabitants of the
mountains and of the rest of the country there was also a vast multitude,
which was distributed among the lots and had leaders assigned to them
according to their districts and villages. The leader was required
to furnish for the war the sixth portion of a war-chariot, so as to
make up a total of ten thousand chariots; also two horses and riders
for them, and a pair of chariot-horses without a seat, accompanied
by a horseman who could fight on foot carrying a small shield, and
having a charioteer who stood behind the man-at-arms to guide the
two horses; also, he was bound to furnish two heavy armed soldiers,
two slingers, three stone-shooters and three javelin-men, who were
light-armed, and four sailors to make up the complement of twelve
hundred ships. Such was the military order of the royal city-the order
of the other nine governments varied, and it would be wearisome to
recount their several differences. 

As to offices and honours, the following was the arrangement from
the first. Each of the ten kings in his own division and in his own
city had the absolute control of the citizens, and, in most cases,
of the laws, punishing and slaying whomsoever he would. Now the order
of precedence among them and their mutual relations were regulated
by the commands of Poseidon which the law had handed down. These were
inscribed by the first kings on a pillar of orichalcum, which was
situated in the middle of the island, at the temple of Poseidon, whither
the kings were gathered together every fifth and every sixth year
alternately, thus giving equal honour to the odd and to the even number.
And when they were gathered together they consulted about their common
interests, and enquired if any one had transgressed in anything and
passed judgment and before they passed judgment they gave their pledges
to one another on this wise:-There were bulls who had the range of
the temple of Poseidon; and the ten kings, being left alone in the
temple, after they had offered prayers to the god that they might
capture the victim which was acceptable to him, hunted the bulls,
without weapons but with staves and nooses; and the bull which they
caught they led up to the pillar and cut its throat over the top of
it so that the blood fell upon the sacred inscription. Now on the
pillar, besides the laws, there was inscribed an oath invoking mighty
curses on the disobedient. When therefore, after slaying the bull
in the accustomed manner, they had burnt its limbs, they filled a
bowl of wine and cast in a clot of blood for each of them; the rest
of the victim they put in the fire, after having purified the column
all round. Then they drew from the bowl in golden cups and pouring
a libation on the fire, they swore that they would judge according
to the laws on the pillar, and would punish him who in any point had
already transgressed them, and that for the future they would not,
if they could help, offend against the writing on the pillar, and
would neither command others, nor obey any ruler who commanded them,
to act otherwise than according to the laws of their father Poseidon.
This was the prayer which each of them-offered up for himself and
for his descendants, at the same time drinking and dedicating the
cup out of which he drank in the temple of the god; and after they
had supped and satisfied their needs, when darkness came on, and the
fire about the sacrifice was cool, all of them put on most beautiful
azure robes, and, sitting on the ground, at night, over the embers
of the sacrifices by which they had sworn, and extinguishing all the
fire about the temple, they received and gave judgment, if any of
them had an accusation to bring against any one; and when they given
judgment, at daybreak they wrote down their sentences on a golden
tablet, and dedicated it together with their robes to be a memorial.

There were many special laws affecting the several kings inscribed
about the temples, but the most important was the following: They
were not to take up arms against one another, and they were all to
come to the rescue if any one in any of their cities attempted to
overthrow the royal house; like their ancestors, they were to deliberate
in common about war and other matters, giving the supremacy to the
descendants of Atlas. And the king was not to have the power of life
and death over any of his kinsmen unless he had the assent of the
majority of the ten. 

Such was the vast power which the god settled in the lost island of
Atlantis; and this he afterwards directed against our land for the
following reasons, as tradition tells: For many generations, as long
as the divine nature lasted in them, they were obedient to the laws,
and well-affectioned towards the god, whose seed they were; for they
possessed true and in every way great spirits, uniting gentleness
with wisdom in the various chances of life, and in their intercourse
with one another. They despised everything but virtue, caring little
for their present state of life, and thinking lightly of the possession
of gold and other property, which seemed only a burden to them; neither
were they intoxicated by luxury; nor did wealth deprive them of their
self-control; but they were sober, and saw clearly that all these
goods are increased by virtue and friendship with one another, whereas
by too great regard and respect for them, they are lost and friendship
with them. By such reflections and by the continuance in them of a
divine nature, the qualities which we have described grew and increased
among them; but when the divine portion began to fade away, and became
diluted too often and too much with the mortal admixture, and the
human nature got the upper hand, they then, being unable to bear their
fortune, behaved unseemly, and to him who had an eye to see grew visibly
debased, for they were losing the fairest of their precious gifts;
but to those who had no eye to see the true happiness, they appeared
glorious and blessed at the very time when they were full of avarice
and unrighteous power. Zeus, the god of gods, who rules according
to law, and is able to see into such things, perceiving that an honourable
race was in a woeful plight, and wanting to inflict punishment on
them, that they might be chastened and improve, collected all the
gods into their most holy habitation, which, being placed in the centre
of the world, beholds all created things. And when he had called them
together, he spake as follows-*  The rest of the Dialogue of Critias
has been lost. 



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Translation of "The Deeds of the Divine Augustus" by Augustus is
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