Critias

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Critias is the name of one of the late philosophical dialogues of Plato and the second part of his planned trilogy about the battle between the mythical island of Atlantis and Athens which according to legend took place 9000 years before Plato's time.

Critias begins by describing the Athenian society of 9000 years before their time as an ideal society. The landscape differed fundamentally from the current Athenian landscape, which was completely redesigned by earthquakes and floods. Greece was a land of green hills and fertile soils. There was a surplus of fruit and grain, and water from the wells flowed abundantly. The Athenian peasants and warriors were virtuous, hardworking and moderate.

Critias then gives an account of the origins of Atlantis. It would have been an island west of the Pillars of Heracles (the present Strait of Gibraltar) in the Atlantic Ocean. The gods divided the parts of the earth by lottery and the island of Atlantis fell to Poseidon. The sea god fell in love with Clio, an earthy woman with whom he had several children. Atlas, the eldest son, became ruler and king of Atlantis.

Critias continues with a detailed description of the island with its palace and temples, its canals and fortifications. He tells how the walls of the buildings were covered with the lost Orichalcum, a metal nearly as precious as gold. For many generations the Atlanteans were virtuous and they remained indifferent to the temptations of gold and property. But in the end they mixed with ordinary people and too many of their good qualities were corrupted. Zeus, the supreme god, saw it and punished Atlantis... The story ends abruptly here. According to Plato's Timaeus the island was swallowed by the sea, making Athens the most powerful state in the Mediterranean.

Intertextuality

As is the case with Symposium, Apology, Menexenus, Protagoras, Crito, Phaedrus and Timaeus, we could ask ourselves whether this is a dialogue in the true sense of the word. Symposium for example is a series of speeches, likewise in other dialogues Socrates is not always the main speaker. In Critias Plato chooses for the narrative. Although there are three participants in the conversation, Socrates' and Hermocrates' part is limited to an introductory role. The main role is clearly taken by Critias, who in a long monologue tells the rest of the story. Critias was preceded by Timaeus and would be followed by Hermocrates. The last dialogue was probably never written [1]. We encounter the same speakers as those from the Timaeus: Socrates, Timaeus of Locri, Hermocrates and Critias.

References

  1. Eberz, J., "Die Bestimmung der von Platon entworfenen Trilogie Timaios, Critias, Hermokrates". Philologus 69: 40-50, 1910.