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L’Antiquité Classique

PLATO'S ATLANTIS Author(s): Slobodan Dušanić Source: L’Antiquité Classique, T. 51 (1982), pp. 25-52

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1. There have been many attempts at locating theremainsof Atlas'

island as describedin the Timaeus and theCrítias.In recentdecades it has become popular to equate Atlantiswith Minoan Crete or Thera beforethe volcanic destructionsof the sixteenthand fifteenth century B.C. l. Though a combinationwith Bronze Age Creteor Thera seems less implausible thanothersof a similar order,therecan be littledoubt thatthe idea of treating Plato's story about the vast island as historical in a simple sense should be abandoned entirely. Platonic scholarship

has already adduced conclusive argumentsagainst such an interpreta- tion of the Atlantis myth2, and the thesis of its parabolic character hardly needs detailedcorroboration.On theone hand, the place of the myth withinthe Timaeus and, more specifically, its relevanceto the

physical and politico-psychologicalteaching of the dialogue

we are dealing with a philosophical illustration,not with a realistic

account of a lost kingdom. On the other, the bulk of the elementsin

show that

* The Englishquotations fromtheTimaeusandtheCrítiasarebasedon the

translations by B. Jowett(theTimaeus)andA. E. Taylor(theCrítias).

Cf.J.V. Luce,TheEnd of Atlantis.New Light onanOld Legend, London1969, withbibl. Among therecentcontributionsinthisline,noteA. Raubitscheks paper PlatoandMinosreadtotheSixth Congress ofClassicalStudies(Madrid,1974).I have notseenJ.M. Ross'article,Is there any truthinAtlantis?,inDurham University Journal69,2,p. 189-199[citedinJHS,98(1978),176,n. 2].





B. Jowett,The Dialoguesof

Plato3, III (Oxford1892),519; Th.

Gomperz,GriechischeDenker, III (Leipzig1902)[p. 200ff.ofG. G. Berry'stransi.,

London,19697];E. Barker,GreekPolitical Theory. Platoand His Predecessors, London,1918,311ff.; U. vonWilamowitz-Moellendorff,Platon, I (Berlin1920),

595ff.; A.

27ff.; A.E. Taylor,Plato,London,1926,439f.; L. Robin,Platon,Paris,1935,203; R. Hackforth,inClass.Rev.,58(1944),7 ff.; F. M. Cornford,Plato's Cosmology,

New York,1957,8 ; R. Weil,

Stewart-G.R. Levy,The Mythsof Plato, London,1960,408ff.; P. Friedländer, Platon3,I (Berlin,1964),214ff.,327ff.; P. Vidal-Naquet, in RÉG,11 (1964), 420ff.; W.Welliver,Character,Plotand Thought inPlato'sTimaeus-Critias,Leiden, 1977; Ch.Gill,inClass.Phil., 72(1977),287ff.

Rivaud,Platon.Oeuvres complètes, X [Paris,1925(coll.Belles Lettres)],

Archéologie" de Platon, Paris,1959,18ff.; A.

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Plato's description of Atlantis, and of primitive Athens likewise, are

either purelysymbolical or referto actual phenomena of the classical epoch ; they do notreflectan isolatedtradition,whose existencewould have been difficultto explain in itself,about an ancient empire and its war with Athens. Even the disappearance of Atlantis in violent earthquakes and floods - the part ofthe legend which formed perhaps

the strongestsupport

as alluding to a

lifetime, as we shall see. Lastly, the myth has such a complex bearing

on Greek politicalproblems currentin the 350's, and containsso many linksto Plato's own position in the party and foreign affairsof Athens and Syracuse of the same period, thatthe compromise solution (H.

Herteret al.) - wrought into a

probable. While the Atlantis myth has been the majority of modernPlatonistsas

reachedon the parable's characterand precisepurpose. To spare a long history ofthe problem3, we shallnote onlymajor contributionsthat, in

the author's opinion, have facilitatedthe properunderstanding of the moral of the story. The mostobvious message ofAtlantisis ethical: a smallbut just city

triumphs over a mightyaggressor. It was understood by some ancient readersof theTimaeus and theCrítias - notably,Theopompus repeats it through the picture of the Meponigyf) with its communitiesof the Máxtpoc and Euasßeig - 4,and stressed by many moderncommentators ofthetwo dialogues 5.Otherdetailsoftheconflictbetweenwealthand

forthe Minoan hypothesis - may be understood

natural catastrophe which had occurredwithinPlato's

postulating a genuine old traditionmodifiedto be didactic tale - becomes both unnecessary and im-

recognized, with good reason,by a parable, no consensushas been



It may befollowedfromtheworkscitedabove,notes1-2,aswellas fromT. H.

TitnéedePlaton, I (Paris,1841),257ff.; J.Breamwell,Lost


79ff.ofthebibliography Plato1950-1957

FGrHist,115F 75(c),cf.E. Rohde,inRhein.Mus.,48(1893),110ff.; G. J.D.


Atlantis, London,1937; andH. Herter,inBonn.Jahrb.,133(1928),28ff.;

Mus.,92 (1943/4),236ff.Cf.also pp.

comniledbvH. Cherniss,inLustrum,4 (1959).

Aalders,in Historia,27 (1978),317ff.The politico-philosophicalrelationship betweentheMeropis andtheAtlantiswillbedealtwithelsewhere.


Seeabove,n.2.Totheearlierscholarsfromthelist,however,the literaryaspect


ofthe myth seemedmoreimportant thanthe parabolic one;

recent,on the

philosophical (seee.g.Vidal-Naquet; Gill[whojustlyspeaks,p.298,of

tale -


otherhand,its philosophical (see e.g.

Hackforth)or politico-

a cautionary

and possibly a protreptic foranAthenianaudience"])functiondominatesthe


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modesty, a maritimeand an agrariansociety6, an engineering science

and a spiritual force7,are fully in accordance, ithas been realized, with

a parable of a kind to be expected fromthe writerof The Laws. Rather early, the exegesis pointed out certainfeaturesof the myth

which tend to bring it nearerto Platos time and its politicaltopics.

Insteadof an abstract enemy, Atlantishas been seen as

aggressivepower belonging to the realitiesof the fifthand/or fourth century. No definitiveidentificationhas been agreed upon, since the philosopher blendedin his description of theisland - intentionally, no doubt - featurescharacteristicofmorethanone nationand landscape 8. The generalimpression left by Plato s Atlantis being thatofa barbarian civilization9, two possibilities have been usually envisaged for its

interpretatio histórica: Persia or Carthage. The partisans of the former could cite in its favourthe inevitable parallel between the prehistoric Atheniansof the myth and the Mapadajvoßäxoi, besides some elements in the Atlanteanarchitecture(the walls with variegatedsurfaces, the temple coveredwithmetals) 10 and theAtlantidinclinationforcanals n,


seem somewhat stronger : Atlantislies in the West, the Mount Atlas and the "voracious" elephants(CnY., WAef.) point to NorthAfrica 13, whilethenames ofGadira and Gadirus {ib., 114 b) have clearly Semitic

representing an

recallingBabylon and Ecbatana 12 The case for Carthage may


6 OnthecontrastbetweenPoseidon's patronage overAtlantisandAthena'sover




complexsymbol ofthe negativenófoçbycombining and

borrowings; we referin

evidently difficult



Cf.,e.g.,Crit.,116d (sISóç tl ßapßapixov). Butcf.Plut.,Per.,13,5(theOdeum ~

her cityimportant observationsweremadeas early asWilamowitz,op. cit., 595("So

war auchderStreitderGötter,den der Westgiebel des Parthenondarstellt,in

sinnreicher Umbildungwirksam").

Anelement rightlyemphasizedbyTaylor,A Commentary onPlato'sTimaeus, Oxford,1928,50f. 8

assimilating elementsfoundinseveralhistoricalinstancesmakesit

to identify theactualcontextsofall his

analysis ofthe problemonly tothosefeatureswhichare typical ofonestate,rather

thaninternational,andwhich,we mayassume,wereintended by Platohimselfto betray their origin.

theGreat King'sPavilion,a caseofimitation duly cited byGill,loc.cit.,298,n.53).





Ib 115dff 118dff.

ThebestdiscussioninthatsenseisFriedländer's (op.cit.,I,214ff.,330f.; cf.J.

Bidez,ÉosouPlatonetl'Orient, Bruxelles,1945,33f.);

argument, themainsourcesofPlato'sinformationontheEastwereHerodotus(cf.also


according tohis convincing


13 Cf. e.g.Hdt.,IV, 191.

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connotation14. Not the least, the maritime nature of Poseidon's kingdom fitswell in that equation 15.An important variantofthePunic interpretatio of Atlantis is the Sicilian one l6. The fifth century

antagonism of Athensand Syracuse,implicitly referredto through the introductionof Hermocratesinto our dialogues, certainly makes the isle of Syracuse a candidateforthe enemy of an idealized Athens,the moreso as Sicily's Punic affinitiestendto associateitwith Carthage. In view of its geographical position and insularity,Sicily could suit admirably, and the details of the Atlanteancentralislet are strongly reminiscentof Ortygia (Crit. , 116). No need to say that,morally, the

Syracuse of the two

licentiousas it was, was at least an equal to the Atlantidsin their

wicked phase.

Dionysii, imperialistic,luxurious, scientificand

P. Vidal-Naquet's fine article,Athèneset l'Atlantide.Structureet

signification d'un mytheplatonicien, brought two remarkablenovelties

in the

thought oftheTimaeus 17 . First, itshows thatAtlantisshouldbe sought

withinAthensherself, thatitembodies

town. The Frenchscholar 18 duly enumeratesthe Atticor nearly-Attic elementsin the description of Atlas' empire : the (Cleisthenic)decimal divisionof the territory and powers {Crit., 113 e), the ports and forts recalling Piraeusand Munychia (ib.,117 d-f), the mining oforichalcum (ib., 114 e) which seems to allude to the silver of Laurium 19, the

appearance of Poseidon's temple (ib., 116 d-f), resembling the

interpretation of

the myth and the myth's connectionwith the




of Plato's native

14 Cf.Hübner,inRE,VII (1910),439f.


Seeonthewholematter e.g., M.Pai.lotino,inArcheol.Class.,4 (1952),229ff.;

C. Corbato,ib.,5 (1953),232ff. I<s G. Eranos,17 (1919),1ff.(cf.Atlantis,in Platonicaselecta, Stockholm,1956,51ff.); G. Ryle,Plato's Progress,Cambridge,1966,233ff.

Lévêque-P.Vidal-Naquet, ClistheneIAthenien,Paris,






they deserve

[e.g. WelliverdoesnotmentionthemandtheOCD


(1970,p. 143)stillcitestheTheran


Wholistsseveralofhis predecessors


in surmising,

ifnot revealing, a second

AthensbehindAtlantis(loc.cit.,429,n.44).TheAtticidentificationofAtlantisfollows rather naturally froman"historical"reading oftheTimaeus-Critias(cf.Gill,loc.cit.,

294,n.29); I

compositesymbol, forboththesilverofLaurium

myself reachedit independently.


Orichalcumalso may beherea

and the marbleof Parnassusand Hymettus (theancientssometimes qualified

orichalcumas Xido; ■.cf.E. R. Caley,OrichalcumandRelatedAncientAlloys, New


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Parthenon.The last item implicitly refersto the strifeof Athena and

Poseidon overAttica 20 ,

in its agrarian and the maritime components,

with the imperialism, wealth and

confronted by thevirtuousfarmers. Second, it proposes a philosophical

explanation of the legend along the lines of the Timaeus' physics :

whereas prehistoric Athensmeans there,in the Platonic terminology, theOne, Atlantis represents itsimitation graduallydegeneratedthrough the agency of Otherness. Vidal-Naqueťs comments on the philosophical side of the myth, though basically correct - forthe Timaeus' physics and psychology display the well known parallelism - have remained nevertheless

theconflictand finaldestruction

of both the protagonists of the

rather imprecise.They do not explain

and to the greatproblem ofAthens' dichotomy

which in turncoincides

insularity 21 of the Atlantids

story 22 ; such a conflictand issue are

imaginable on thelevelofhuman psychology butnotin theheavens 23.


(Charm., 156 bff. ; cf. Tim., 86 b ff.),which, according to the later

dialogues, depends on the harmony of the soul's intellectualand unintellectual(i.e. ambitious and passionate) parts,generally at war withone another.An analogous stateofaffairsis metwithin the polis,

whose preservation

two antagonistic


respectively to thereasonand

ofthe Timaeus symbolize, to mythinking, the lower part of the social soul, the prehistoric Athenians its intellect,their clash dramatically warning of the expected end of the body (cf. Tim. 87 a f. 88 a), the disunited and unharmonious state of Plato's days. The parable

constituents -

the two states of the Republic - 25

Plato,the healthofthe body 24 depended on the quality ofthesoul

demands the cohesion of its

appetite in a man's psyche. The Atlantids


constantlyimpliesanalogies withtheTimaeus

psychology. Several of Plato's statements - Vidal-Naquet's interpreta-

physical and individual



Cf.above,n.6,andCrit.,109c, 113b-c. Referring toPs.-Xen.,Ath.Pol.,2,24; Thuc.,I, 92,5 andXen.,Poroi,1,Vidal-

Naquet (loc.cit.,436, n.79) appropriately notesthat"une comparaison entre

l'Athènes impérialiste etuneîlen'estnullementinsolite".

TherelevantremarksofVidai.-Naquet(loc.cit.,443f.)arenot quiteapposite.



Leg.,X,897bff.Cf. e.g. G.M.A.Grube,Plato's Thought,London,1935,146ff.

An importantmatter,Leg.,Ill, 697b ; V, 728d-e.

IV,422e ; VIII,551d-e(wealth ~ craftsmen ~ passion, cf.Barker,op.cit.,5,

(p. 147,n. 1).




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tionof themis undoubtedlyjustified - emphasize the Sameness of the terrestrialAthensand the influenceof the Othernesson the maritime

Atlantis in her last

grandmother 27 ,

to degradeeventually into appetite. This accords not only withPlato's assertion of the Atlantids' negative change 29, but also with the

evolution of his own judgment concerning the dupóç, the upper subdivision of the soul's unintellectual part. Socially, the Ounóç is identifiedwith the soldiersin the Republic and stands nearerto the intellect (the philosopher rulers) than to the ¿mdußrrnxov (the

Craftsmen)30.In the Timaeus, however, it goes withthe

as the entire expansionism of a sea-power deserves nothing but condemnation. According to Plato, the moral transformationof

Atlantisresultedfroman historical process31, and we shall try to show thatTimaeus' negative attitudeto (political) ambitionreflectsa course of historicaleventscentredaround Athens (and Syracuse) of the late sixties-early fiftiesof the fourth century. But before closing the foregoingdigression on the psychology oftheTimaeus and theAtlantis


teaching on the natureof the soul, bothindividualand collective.It is

clear thatthe soul's Othernessof the dialogue corresponds with the relativenotions (a) of the deterioratingcycle in the life of a state ( Republic, VIII-IX : the regress from timocracy down to tyranny) and of the universe (Statesman, 269 c ff.: heading for destruction, that cycle is explained by the bodily frameof the universe), and (b) of ãnecpov(politicallymatching an imperfectdemocracy) 32 or the "in- determinate duality", which is, according to the Philebus, defined through the interactionof the pairs of a series of opposites, such as

period2<, while the name of Leucippe,


revealsthatthe Atlantid origin was in the ambition 28


we should call attentionto an additional facet of Timaeus'

26 Loc.cit.,432(onTim.,56d ; Crii.,112c-e)and436ff.(onCrit.,112b, 113e,

117 a ; onthenumbersintheCrítias).



isa consequence ofan


Crit.,113d ; cf.below,ch.3.


the change ofthesteed'ssex

"unrighteous" life(Tim.,90df.).


30 IV,435c

(thethreeformsofthesoul analogous tothethreeclassesofthestate);

III,414b etal.(therulersandthe guardians vs.thecraftsmen).






Cf.thesimilewiththe~avjonájXiov■. Rep.,VIII,557d.

Crit.,I¿i a-bron notera remploi aun vocaouiaire qui aesigne couramment

loc.cit.,440,n. 103).

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depßöv - ipvxpóv on the physical level 33. Now, Atlantis,fleshly and democratic(Cleisthenic),contrasted by the One of prehistoricAthens, mustbe analogouslycomposite in a political sense. That circumstance provides, in the opinion of the present author, Plato's theoretical foundationforthe complexity oftheAtlantis symbol, which unitesthe

pairs of Athens-Syracuse, antithetical structurally34,

Persia and

symbol is something more thanan abstractlylogical construction, in a similar way as thewhole Timaeus is mythical ratherthanexact 36.The

constructionwas made for political purposes and from political materialwhich was topical in themiddleofthe 35(Ts, the approximate date of the Timaeus and the Critias for the majority of Platonists

relying on the stylometric evidence 37

and of Athens-

Syracuse-Carthage, antithetical ethnically 35 Doubtless, the



This view, unorthodoxas it is 38


requires a detailed analysis of a

numberof allusions hiddenin thetwo dialogues and in otherPlatonic writings, as well as an evaluationof certain literaryproblemsposed by

33 Theentire correspondence hasbeen ably delineated byVidal-Naquet,loc.cit.,

ofconstitutions" (monarchy and

34 Cf.



III, 693d,forthe"twomatrices

democracy). 35 Cf. Rep.,V,470b-e;

may besubdividedthemselves (Rep.,II,423a ; 443d-e); thata

origin couldenterthem(PersianintoAthens,Carthaginian into Syracuse) isa novel

possibility, whichseemstohavebeena

politics(below,ch.2), coincidingpresumably withhis picture ofthe "receptacle" whoseelementsare constantlypassing intooneanother(Tim.,49ff.).Cf.Ps.Xen.,

Ath.Pol.,2, 8 ; contrastXen.,Poroi, 2, 3 ff.

Politicus,262c ff.A classofthestateanda part ofthesoul


of foreign

product ofPlatos experience from practical

frequentlyrepeated) formulation.Its

"A probable tale"in Plato'sown(and


meaning hasbeenmuchdebated; I aminclinedtothink,withTaylor(Plato,442),that

Plato "possibly himselfcouldnothavemadea hard-and-fastdistinctionbetween philosophicalcontentand mythicalform".


e.g.Taylor,Commentary, 3 ff.("after360and probably not immediately

afterthatdate"); H. Gauss,Philosophischer Handkommentarzu den DialogenPlatos,

III, 2 (Bern,1961),156(354B.C.); cf. Vidal-Naquet,loc.cit.,433,n.66. Foran

earlier(anduntenable)dating, G.E. L.Owen,inCl. Quart., 3(1953),79ff.;



Ofthetwo interpretations oftheAtlantis myth whoseresultsaretheclosestto

ofallusionstotheeventsofthefourth century,


Niebuhr)andan enemy of liberty anddemocraticAthens(K. R.

Popper), has

ours,Welliver (op. cit.,41-45; cf. Gill, loc. cit.,294ff.)does nottakeinto

considerationthe possibility

Naquet(cf.hisreferencetotheSocialWar,loc.cit.,433,n.66; 442)doesthat only summarily; boththescholarsdealwithAthensinthatconnection,leaving asidethe

Syracusanproblem. The prejudiceagainst Platoas a cabinetthinker,a badcitizen(B.


seriously retardedthe understanding oftheTimaeus-Critiasandsomeother dialogues.

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theTimaeus-Critias.The lattertaskhas been done witha considerable success in the recent studyby W. Welliver. To put his conclusions briefly and omit points which remain disputable or marginal, he has demonstratedone thing beyond doubt - Socrates' discrimination between Timaeus, a true philosopher and statesman,and Hermocrates and Crítias, the other interlocutorsin the conversation, who are depicted as less virtuousand more militant - 39 and made another very probable - thatour dialogues as preserved forman entity40,nota torso with the unfinishedCrítias and the unwrittenHermocrates,possibly even with an unwrittenfourth part of the alleged tetralogy4'. The incompleteness oftheCrítiasis only feigned, to strengthen theeffectof Plato's message42,since the parabolic purpose of the myth has been fully achieved through the announcement, in the Timaeus (25 c-d),of the final catastrophe ofthetwo cities, and the revelation,at theend of

the Crítias, of the event's cause, the Atlantid Oßpi$. The unity of the

Timaeus-Critias,likely as it is, tendsto support our thesisthatthe

of Atlantisforebodesthe fallof the imperialistic Athensand Syracuse

c. 356-355 B.C., which makes a circumstantiallyprophetic Hermo- crates both unnecessary and impossible. As to thedistinctionbetween Hermocratesand the other two, it accords well withan interpretation of the Timaeus-Critias in the light of practical politics. Such an interpretation is developed in the sequel, through an analysis of the


39 The discriminationis especially sensibleat Tim.,20a, Critias' jealousy of

TimaeusatCrit.,106c ff.; ina

discloses"theseveralhintsof harshnessand greed in hisnature" (op. cit., 27); Hermocratesis less explicitly characterizedbutitis evidentthathe is at onewith Critias.Cf. Welliver,op. cit.,8 ff.(whose theory of Critias'and Hermocrates'

dramatic agreementagainst Timaeus appears,however,far-fetched).

fine stylisticanalysis ofCritias' speeches, Welliver


Welliverinfers (op.cit.,34f.),not unconvincingly, fromseveral passages



The conjecture

Fortheearlier speculationsconcerning the allegedproject ofa

Timaeus-Critias -

[notably fromTim.,27a-b; seeforthemoderndiscussionsofProclus' testimony ad

Tim.,20a-b(I, p. 72a Diehl)Rivaud,op.cit.,15f.],thatPlato premeditated "the

design as we haveit,including the appearance of

(Welliver,op. cit.,58ff.)thattheTimaeus-Critiaswere originally writtenas a

continuouswork,immaterialforourdiscussion,doesnotseem probable.



trilogy or a Timaeus-Critias-Hermocrates-Socrates

tetralogy see e.g.

Welliver,op.cit.,3 ff.

Though Welliver (op.cit.,46ff.;

cf.above,n.39)qualifies theTimaeus-Critias


asa tragedy, its epic affinitiesaremoremarked(Atlantis ~ Scheria,cf.Vidal-Naquet,

loc.cit.,426f.)andits apparentincompleteness

theIliad, wherethedestructionof Troy is foreshadowedbutnotnarrated(cf. infra,

n. 176; Taylor,Plato, 462,onthe Trojanstory andCr/7.,121b-c).

recallsthe apparentincompleteness

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factualframeworkofthe dialogues (theirdramaticdate,theoccasion of the conversationand the choice of the characters; the images of the royal ritualand the natural catastrophe) and of the Atlantid genealogy {Crit., 113 d - 114c) respectively.

A continuationof the discourseof the Republic 43 the discourse

of the Timaeus took place at a festivalof Athena (Tim., 26 e), the Panathenaea according to Proclus(in Remp., I, p. 18 Kroll)who ought

of the reunion of Socrates,

Timaeus of Locri, the

the fourdramatis personae of the Timaeus, whom the fifth,unnamed guest ofSocrateswould have accompanied butforillness(Tim., 17 a)- is uncertainand widely disputed,together with the identificationof Critias - the tyrant or his homonymousgrandfather ? - 46,but A. E. Taylor's arguments fora date veryshortly beforethe peace of Nicias (421 B.C.) seem cogent forseveralreasons47.



to be right on that point44.



Syracusangeneral 45 Hermocratesand Crítias -

43 Cf.Tim.,17c-19b. It has beensometimesdoubted,unnecessarily, thatthis


the discrepancies betweenthe

(see e.g.Rivaud,op.

summary andtheearlier dialogue, a typicalexample ofPlatoniclicence,areduetothe

changes whichmodified,betweenc. 370andc.

i.a.the chronological difficultiesdealtwithinthenextnote,andtheoccurrence,inthe

Timaeus, ofthenewinterlocutors).SeealsoGill,loc.cit.,287f.,n.6.

a recapitulation


part(principally theBooksII-V)ofthe Republic

cit., 19ff.; Ryle,op. cit., 230ff.);

355,the philosopher's aims(thence


As thePanathenaea(boththeGreatandtheLesserwerecelebratedlatein

Hecatombaeon)andtheBendidea(19th Thargelion), theoccasionoftheconversation

reproducedby the Republic(I,

chronological indicationsatTim.,17a, 26e areinexactbut they donotauthorizethe

conclusion(Taylor,Commentary, 45)that77m.,26e alludesto"someotherfestival

connectedwithAthena,e.g. the

emphatic, since - below). 45

Plyntheria". The

327a, 354a),didnotfallwithinthesamemonth,the

incongruity is intentionaland

inPlato'stext - boththefestivalshavetheir symbolic values(see

Procl.,ad Tim.,20a (I,p. 71e Diehl).

Fora discussionofthealternativesseeTaylor,Commentary, 23ff.; Welliver,


contradictory[Plato'sanachronisms beinggenerallymeaningful, thecontradictionwas probably deliberate(cf.above,notes43f.)andintendedtounderlinethe modernity (cf.


mustbe the tyrant (cf.Vidal-Naquet,loc.cit.,420,n.3), as showni.a. by the


540B.C.?) containedin the

schol.Aesch.,Prom.,128]. 47


age politico-chronological contextof the

Hermocrates,and the indicationsthatthe

Republic andtheTimaeusis roughly thesame.


cit.,50ff. Though relevantindicationscontainedin theTimaeus-Critiasare

relatively latedramaticdateofthetwo

on the tyrant'sgrandfather




notethe dataon the

of Socratesand

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Politically, the referenceto the Republic has a manifold significance corresponding, on the philosophicallevel, to Plato's cyclicconception of history. The greatdialogue criticizesAthenian democracy, interalia , for its tendency to deterioratetoward a despotic régime embodied (Plato implies) in the demagogue Callistratusof Aphidna48. The candidatefor tyrantbegins his evil careerwith a political trial against his main opponent{Rep., VIII, 565 c ff.),a transparent allusion to the cause célèbre of 373, through which Callistratus temporarily eliminatedTimotheus,theleader of an aristocraticallypatrioticgroup, who was at the same time Plato's relativeand protector in Athenian affairs49.After the eclipse of Callistratus and his "moderates" (361 B.C.), Timotheus' party was gradually faced with another opposition, thatof Aristophon's and Chares' radicals. Aggressive and ill-disposed towardsTimotheus' diplomaticconception of the manage- mentof the Second Maritime League, the latter provoked the Social War and eventuallyimpeached Timotheus for failing to co-operate

withChares at Embata 50.The affair(winter356/5 ?)

represented a pendant of that occurring in 373, ended in Timotheus'

voluntary exile (died in Chalcis, 354 B.C.). Now, there seem to be severalindirectreferencesin theTimaeus-Critiasto the trialof 356/5 or its immediate context. Critias, the notorious prosecutor of Theramenes52, is fondof the judicial terminology (Tim.,27b; Crit.,


, whih clearly

108 a-b) and, to quote

forensic advantage"

W. Welliver's formulation tries"to



overTimaeus. The name ofthefictitiousLocrian 54

48 S. Dušanic,L ' AcadémiedePlatonetla koinèeirenèathéniennede371av.J.-C.,

inRÉG, 92(1979),342ff.



Together withChabrias(whofellatChiosin357): FGrHist, 328F 223.

Iphicrates withhisson(Timotheus'son-in-law)Menestheuswas prosecuted on

thesameoccasionand on thesame charge, buttheircase was less important politically. 51

Forthe chronology oftheeventful years 357-355see (e.g.) R.Sealey,inREG,68 (1955),114 ff.


Cf.Friedländer,op.cit.,III,357: "EskannauchkeinZufallseindasser(Piaton)

Hauptsprecher zweiMännerwählte(Critiasand Hermokrates),die in den


Bürgerkriegen ihrerbeidenHeimatstädtedenTodfanden".



cit., 25(onCr/7.,107äff.).

evidently an unhistorical * figureIR.Harder,inRE, VI, A (1936),

1204; cf.Rivaud,op.cit.,17f.),withsomefeaturesofDion.Beitnotedthat,atthe



sametime approximately,



by a public trial(Plut.,Dion,

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may be explained as a hypocoristicon of TiyóOeoç 55 ; if the former figures withHermocratesas a pair of positive and negative heroesfrom West Greece,the positivecounterpart oftheAthenianCrítiasis absent,

an absence which could have been easily understood metaphorically

the illness of the Timaeus

analogous to the political murder spoken of in the Republic ? - 56 and

brought intoconnectionwithTimotheus'statusafterEmbata 57 What is more,themain subject ofthetrialof 356/5, theAthenianattitudeto

theallies,is also themain subject oftheCrítias,just the major themesofboththetrialof 373 and Plato's

the Republic primarily, on the Athenian foreignpolicy of 373 and 37 1 58. The relevanceoftheTimaeus-Critiasto the problem,culminating in the eventsof 357-355, of the Athenians'relationsto their League and the Greek world in general, is manifest.Socratestellsus thatthe two

dialogues - whose date of composition, to reiterate,is placed c. 356-

355 - should deal witha struggle betweenAthensand her neighbours

ending in a "becoming manner"(Tim., 19 c, cf.20 b) ; themoralofthe Atlantis storypatently condemns the aggressiveness of "the empire which had rule over the whole (Atlantean)island and several others" (Tim., 25 a)59 ; the personage of Hermocratesrecalls the Athenians failurenot only in Sicily but also in the Ionian War, a préfiguration of



unnamed dramatis persona is political,


as it figuresamong own comments, in

55 See



A.Fick-F.Bechtel,Die griechischen Personennamen2,Göttingen,1894,

(onthe political"parricide" and"fratricide"of

266.ThenameofEr wasconstructed by Plato(inthe myth ofhis Republic) inan

analogous manner[< Erpand ( = Orontes),cf.thearticlecitedabove,n.48].

VIII, 565e, 566b-c; X, 615c

Ardiaeus = Callistratussee my commentsinthearticleabove,note48).



previousattempts at identifying the

anonymous fifth(Philebus,Plato,

Philolaus,Cleitophon,Theaetetus,orevenPericles),seeProclus,ad Tim.,17a (I,


TimotheusandDionin thevirtuous figure ofTimaeusandthatoftheunnamed absentee,parallelledby the blending ofAthensand Syracuse intheAtlantis symbol, obviously followsPlato'sformulaofthe unity and plurality ofman(as givene.g. inthe

Sophist). 58

18ff.Diehl); Rivaud,op.cit.,18f.; Welliver,op.cit.,44.Thecross blending of

Onthat aspect ofthe Republic seethe paper referredto supra, note48.



andover parts ofthecontinent(ib.),a referenceto Attica,the Aegean

Polynesia andtheThracianandtheAsiaticcoasts(cf.ib.,25a 1ff.).Thelast point

wouldbereminiscentoftheDelian League but may alludealsotolater attempts, such

asChares'of356/5,tostretchthe sphere ofAthenianinfluencetothesoilofwestern


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the Social War 60. Even the choice of Timaeus' (fictitious)domicile

seems to have

mentionsin the Laws (I, 638 b), as typicalexamples of international

brutality, the subjection of Ceos by Athens(363/2 B.C.) and of Locri by Syracuse (latein the 360 s). The formerincidentmakesone thinkof thefatalconflictofAthenswithherallies in 357 62,thelatterillustrates

the expansionism

criticizemore than once 63 .

and aggressiveSyracuse appears to be complete at the time of the writing of the Timaeus-Critias, a circumstancethat explains both the combination of the Athenian and the Syracusan elements in the

Atlantis parable,

two cities: Locri had sufferedfrom Dionysius II (who was to ill-treat

the Locrians once again, afterhis expulsion from Syracuse in 356, a

disaster predictable as early as 356/5), and Ceos from Aristophon, the head of the radicals and Timotheus' prosecutor afterEmbata 64.No wonderthatthe Timaeus-Critias plead fora peaceful solution 65 of the Greekconflicts present in about 356/5, along theline ofTimotheus' 66

been tendentiousin that connection 61 since Plato

of the corruptSyracuse, which the Platonic letters

Thus the parallellism of aggressive Athens

and Plato's position in the party constellationof the

60 Cf.IsocR.,8,30. - OnHermocrates'anti-Athenian activity intheWestandthe

EastseeTh.Lenschau,inRE,VIII(1912)883ff.(cf.the comparison ofthedisastersof


allegory ofDion{Piaton,Der Kampf desGeistesumdieMacht, Berlin,1933,374)

meansa drastic misunderstanding ofPlato'sAthenian patriotism.

Theag. 129c f.).K.Hilderbrandt's qualification ofHermocratesasan


Itis usually ascribedtoPlatos intentionto represent Timaeusas a



from Magna Graecia(cf.Taylor,Plato, 436withn. 1)but,the problem ofTimaeus'

Pythagoreanismapart, itisevidentfromthe wording ofthe dialogue thatthemention

oftheLocrian origin ofTimaeushada

praise oftheLocrianconstitutionat Leg.,I, 638b).

politicalpurpose(Rivaud,op.cit.,18 ; notethe

The moreso as thedefectionofCeos in 363/2ledto theconfrontationof

Chabriasand Aristophon, thedefectionofRhodes,Chios,Byzantium andCosin357

to thatof Timotheusand

Timotheus,above,n.49. 63 E.g.,VII,332e ff.,334c, 336dff.; VIII,357a-b.


Aristophon. For

SeeforLocriand Dionysius(e.g.)Arist.,Pol.,1307a [Leg.,I, 638b refertothe

suppression ofa Locrianrebellion against the tyrant, nottohis subsequent misdeeds

there{contra,Friedländer,op.cit.,III, 513,n.

1335; H. Berve,Die TyrannisbeidenGriechen,II (München,1967),662f.],forCeos


Implicitly[themoralofthewhole myth; thedramaticdateclosetoNicias' peace; thelinkwiththe Republic, whichdefendsthePan-hellenismandtheAtheniankoine

eireneof371; cf.Tim.,19c

Isocrates8,25)andthe phrase fromCrit.112d

86),Oldfather,inRE, XIII(1926),

Aristophon M. N. Tod,GHI,II, 142; schol.Aeschin.,1,64.


(the logoi allude probably tothe embassyspoken ofin

quotedinfra,n.66]but firmly.

Timotheus(forwhose customaryregardfulness of thealliessee Isocr.,15,

121ff.)musthave postponed his operations aroundChiosinordernottohinderthe


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and Dion's practical policy. The same attitudewas taken by other

Isocrates, theintimate

traditionalistsin thatcritical situation,notablyby friendof Timotheus, in his "On thePeace1'and

It may be finally surmisedthatthe unity ofthevirtuousAtheniansand Syracusans on one thehand, and oftheirevil counterparts on the other, does not follow only from Plato's philosophical formula of the interrelationof "the one" and "the many" or from his theoretical

comparison of the Athenian and Syracusan role in foreign affairs

c. 356/5 B.C., but also from the actual collaboration between the

circlesof Dion and Timotheus, and betweenthose of their Syracusan

and Athenianradical opponentsrespectively 68 In all probability, the

complete success of the Sicilian cause of Plato, Dion and Timotheus

would help to

mutual support 69 ,



anything; his influence upon the political eventsseems to have been insufficient(cf. £/?.,7, 318 c), like (in Proclus' parallel) Socrates' capacity of putting his stateinto an historical process (Tim., 19 b ff.).

the "Areopagiticus" 67



create, inter alia, an effective policy of Attico-Syracusan

while the reversewould encourage anti-Athenian

Syracuse 70 and, possibly, anti-Syracusan feelings in



. Plato alone, however, could not have accomplished

negotiations withtherebelsatAthens(seethe previousnote); astothat,thedoubtsof

P. Cloché{La

1934,161)are unjustified.Similarly, Dion was disposedagainst the tyranny of

politiqueétrangère d'Athènesde404à

338avantJésus-Christ, Paris,

Syracuse over Sicily(£/?.,7,

Crit., 112d : "(theAthenian hoplites)

freely followedleadersoftheHellenesat large" (cf.Isocr.,8, 30).

332e ff.335e ff.; Plut.,Dion,29, 1,and pass.). Note

atonce guardians oftheirfellowcitizensand

Forsome examples ofcoincidentalreactionsofPlato,Isocratesand Xenophon to


theendofch.2 (onXen.,Poroi,5,8-10).



Though not expressly attested(butseethenextnoteon

Ephippus'Geryones), the

veryprobable, inview

existenceofcontactsbetweenTimotheus'andDion's groups is

ofseveralhintscontainedinDemosthenes' speech(20)againstLeptines (dealtwithin

another paper ofmine).ThatDion'smurderer Callippus alsohadanAthenian backing

[among Timotheus'enemies,to

withCallistratus,J.K.Davies,Athenian PropertiedFamilies,Oxford,1971,274f.]may beinferredfromPlut.,Dion, 58,1,and £/?.,7, 334b,c,336d.

judge from Callippus'(andhisfather's)connection

366/5B.C. was probably an antecedent,as I havetriedto demonstrateit



Seealsobelow,forthe parallel Himera-Salamis.

Ephippus'frg.5,Kock,II, p.


Whichare indirectly criticized byIsocr.,8,84f.? Cf.Plut.,Nic.,13,6 ; 14,6 ;

e.g.Plut.,Dion, 14,2 ; tp., /,334b,336d.


Ps.-Plat.,Eryx., 392b-c.

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The themeof Attico-Syracusan relations corresponds withthetheme of the externalmenace. As we have seen, the fusion of a corrupt Athens with Persia, and of a corrupt Syracuse with Carthage, is possible, even necessary, in the Platonicformulaof the indeterminate dyad. The characterof Hermocrates,who was ready to fight Athens with Persian aid 72,and the referenceof the Timaeus-Critiasto the Republic, where the respectivesimilarity of two kinds of Athenians withtheirPersian correlatesserves as the basic motifof the myth of Er 73 show that the occurrence of the Persian and Carthaginian

elementsin the description of Atlantisis not accidental.A joint action

ofthe Carthaginians and the Great King againstSyracuse, Athensand the Pan-helleniccause was held a real danger,by the Isocrateansat least, to the point of creatingEphorus" famous parallel between the battlesof Himera and Salamis 74. During the firsthalf of the fourth


century it seemed thatthe same polarisationmay have penetrated into theGreekworlditself: Dionysius theElder or hisson replaceCarthage

in that parallel

as drawn by severalcommentatorson thethen political situation 75 A further step would find an adversary to the Pan-hellenic interests

withinthe polis, composite in a way comparable to the compositeness oftheindividual psyche. Not only did Plato'stheoreticalconsiderations lead to such a conclusion76,it was suggestedby his own political experience.Again, one findsitinstructiveto look at the political relities of the middle of the 350's. In Syracuse, Dion's opponents in party affairsand constitutionalreforms,especially theradicals,were ready to

search for Carthaginiansupport

Plato used

Aristophon with Chares defended,against Timotheus, an aggressive anti-Persianattitudewhich objectively rallied the Great King to the

betweenthe easternand westernenemiesof hellenism


activity - or at least

to insinuate their treacherousintentions 77 In Athens,

in their





74 FGrHist,70F 186,cf.Ph.Gauthier,RÈA,68(1966),5 ff.; Y. Garlan,BGH,94

Above,n.60.EvenCritiaswas something ofa traitor(cf.Xen.,Hell.,II,3,36f.).



Dionysius I Lys.,3,5 ; 8 ; Isocr.,4, 126,169; Diod.,XV,23,5. Dionysius II :


FGrHist, 70F 211.Cf.Garlan,loc.cit.

76 Cf.


556e (on "the impulse fromoutside"diseasing an unhealthy

state); Leg.,IV,704c,705a,705c ff.(on"the pernicious imitationofan antagonist").



349c (Heraclides).

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rebelliousallies and the Athenian enemies in the Aegean at large 78 .

The radical line in both the places was detrimentalto Plato's friends, the interestsof the local population, Pan-hellenismand the unity of

Statewhich is "an ultimate postulate of (Platonic) knowledge"

There is an impressiveimage in the Critias, enigmatical so far 80, which also seems to hintat the complex of Athenian problems centred

around Persiaand Athens' hegemony in

ritual of the royal oath and sacrificedescribed at 119 d-120 c has distrinct affinity with the Athenian feasts,especially with the Great

Panathenaea,the feastof the imperialisticLeague, as the Panathenaic

penteteric interval

separating two such

protagonists, theten kings of Atlantis, actas theAthenian strategi in the

disguise of priests, which accords well with the importance of the in the actual festivalsof Athena82. A number of details


underlinestheir cruelty 83 deceitfulintentions 84 and the carnivorous



theGreekworld. The gloomy

occasion ofour dialogues and Plato's referenceto the

rituals 81 immediately reveal to the reader. Its


78 Diod.,XVI, 22, 2 ; Demosth.,2, 28f.[whopleads, as Timotheus' partisan,

68: 355B.C.)and explicitly (XIV: 354B.C.),for peaceful relations


withSusa],etc.ThechoiceofCritias,whohadmorethanone point ofresemblance

with Aristophon-Chares, fortheraconteurof thewar betweenthe

Athenians( ~ Miltiades' generation) andAtlantis( ~ Darius'Persia)containsa critical,

even ironicalallusionto Chares'

comparison ofhis victory withMarathon(Plut.,Arai., 16,3),see

Barker,op.cit.,218,405.Thatthe relationship betweentheGreeksandthe

barbarianshad its

statemanship isshown

Ithasbeen popular tosearchforits origin intheEast; forsomereferencessee Cherniss,inLustrum,4,81,83.Cf.Rivaud,op. cit.,244ff.("la partiepeut-être la plus

étrange duCritias").Seealsobelow,notes95,105; Dušanič,PlatonetAthènes ,in


Cr/7.,119d ; thealternateintervalofsix years (thealternationoffiveandsix


operations of 356/5,especially his boastful

infra .





in Plato's logical divisions leading to thedefinitionof

thePoliticus, 262d.

showshere "equalrespect forevennumbersandodd")is less

possibly alludestothe prytaniessucceeding eachotheratthe periods of thirty-six and

thirty-fivedaysrespectively iAth.Pol.,43);


Bruxelles,1973,102f.,67f. 82

easy to interpret. It

forthe bearing ofPlato'scalendricalideas