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#Dusanic Plato Atlantis 01

L'antiquité classique
Plato's Atlantis
Slobodan Dušanić
In accordance with Plato's political and philosophical conceptions, the Atlantis of the Timaeus-Critias must be understood as a
cumulative symbol of the corrupt Athens and the corrupt Syracuse at the same time. The topical facets of the two dialogues
reveal an engagement of Plato's Academy in the political events of 357-355 B.C., the approximate context of the TimaeusCritias. Special attention has been devoted to the dialogues' dramatic date, the occasion of the conversation and the choice of
characters, to the images of the royal ritual and the natural catastrophe, and to the genealogy of the Atlantid kings.
Citer ce document / Cite this document :
Dušanić Slobodan. Plato's Atlantis. In: L'antiquité classique, Tome 51, 1982. pp. 25-52;
doi :
Fichier pdf généré le 06/04/2018
1 . There have been many attempts at locating the remains of Atlas'
island as described in the Timaeus and the Critias. In recent decades it
has become popular to equate Atlantis with Minoan Crete or Thera
before the volcanic destructions of the sixteenth and fifteenth century
B.C. l. Though a combination with Bronze Age Crete or Thera seems
less implausible than others of a similar order, there can be little doubt
that the 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 arguments against such an
of the Atlantis myth 2, and the thesis of its parabolic character
hardly needs detailed corroboration. On the one hand, the place of the
myth within the Timaeus and, more specifically, its relevance to the
physical and politico-psychological teaching of the dialogue show that
we are dealing with a philosophical illustration, not with a realistic
account of a lost kingdom. On the other, the bulk of the elements in
* The English quotations from the Timaeus and the Critias are based on the
translations by B. Jowett (the Timaeus) and A. E. Taylor (the Critias).
1 Cf. J. V. Luce, The End of Atlantis. New Light on an Old Legend, London 1969,
with bibl. Among the recent contributions in this line, note A. Raubitschek's paper
Plato and Minos read to the Sixth Congress of Classical Studies (Madrid, 1 974). I have
not seen J. M. Ross' article, Is there any truth in Atlantis ?, in Durham University
Journal, 69, 2, p. 189-199 [cited in JHS, 98 (1978), 176, n. 2].
2 See e.g. B. Jowett, The Dialogues of Plato3, III (Oxford 1892), 519; Th.
Gomperz, Griechische Denker, III (Leipzig 1902) [p. 200 ff. of G. G. Berry's transi.,
London, 19697]; E. Barker, Greek Political Theory. Plato and His Predecessors,
London, 1918, 311 ff. ; U. von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, Platon, I (Berlin 1920),
595 ff. ; A. Rivaud, Platon. Oeuvres complètes, X [Paris, 1925 (coll. Belles Lettres)],
27 ff. ; A. E. Taylor, Plato, London, 1926, 439 f. ; L. Robin, Platon, Paris, 1935, 203 ;
R. Hackforth, in Class. Rev., 58 (1944), 7 ff. ; F. M. Cornford, Plato's Cosmology,
New York, 1957, 8 ; R. Weil, L '"Archéologie" de Platon, Paris, 1959, 18 ff. ; Α.
Stewart-G. R. Levy, The Myths of Plato, London, 1960, 408 ff. ; P. Friedländer,
Platon3, I (Berlin, 1964), 214 ff., 327 ff. ; P. Vidal-Naquet, in REG, 77 (1964),
420 ff. ; W. Welliver, Character, Plot and Thought in Plato's Timaeus-Critias, Leiden,
1977 ; Ch. Gill, in Class. Phil., 72 (1977), 287 ff.
Plato's description of Atlantis, and of primitive Athens likewise, are
either purely symbolical or refer to actual phenomena of the classical
epoch ; they do not reflect an isolated tradition, whose existence would
have been difficult to explain in itself, about an ancient empire and its
war with Athens. Even the disappearance of Atlantis in violent
earthquakes and floods - the part of the legend which formed perhaps
the strongest support for the Minoan hypothesis - may be understood
as alluding to a natural catastrophe which had occurred within Plato's
lifetime, as we shall see. Lastly, the myth has such a complex bearing
on Greek political problems current in the 350's, and contains so many
links to Plato's own position in the party and foreign affairs of Athens
and Syracuse of the same period, that the compromise solution (H.
Herter et al.) - postulating a genuine old tradition modified to be
wrought into a didactic tale - becomes both unnecessary and
While the Atlantis myth has been recognized, with good reason, by
the majority of modern Platonists as a parable, no consensus has been
reached on the parable's character and precise purpose. To spare a long
history of the problem 3, we shall note only major contributions that, in
the author's opinion, have facilitated the proper understanding of the
moral of the story.
The most obvious message of Atlantis is ethical : a small but just city
triumphs over a mighty aggressor. It was understood by some ancient
readers of the Timaeus and the Critias — notably, Theopompus repeats
it through the picture of the Μεροπίς γη with its communities of the
Μάχιμοι and Ευσεβείς - 4, and stressed by many modern commentators
of the two dialogues 5. Other details of the conflict between wealth and
3 It may be followed from the works cited above, notes 1-2, as well as from T. H.
Martin, Études sur le Timée de Platon, I (Paris, 1841), 257 ff. ; J. Breamwell, Lost
Atlantis, London, 1937 ; and H. Herter, in Bonn. Jahrb., 133 (1928), 28 ff. ; Rhein.
Mus., 92 (1943/4), 236 ff. Cf. also pp. 79 ff. of the bibliography Plato 1950-1957
compiled by H. Cherniss, in Lustrum, 4 (1959).
4 FGrHist, 1 15 F 75(c), cf. Ε. Rohde, in Rhein. Mus., 48 (1893), 1 10 ff. ; G. J. D.
Aalders, in Historia, 27 (1978), 317 ff. The politico-philosophical relationship
between the Meropis and the Atlantis will be dealt with elsewhere.
5 See above, n. 2. To the earlier scholars from the list, however, the literary aspect
of the myth seemed more important than the parabolic one ; for some of the more
recent, on the other hand, its philosophical (see e.g. Hackforth) or politicophilosophical (see e.g. Vidal-Naquet ; Gill [who justly speaks, p. 298, of "a cautionary
tale - and possibly a protreptic - for an Athenian audience"!) function dominates the
ethical function.
modesty, a maritime and an agrarian society 6, an engineering science
and a spiritual force 7, are fully in accordance, it has been realized, with
a parable of a kind to be expected from the writer of The Laws.
Rather early, the exegesis pointed out certain features of the myth
which tend to bring it nearer to Plato's time and its political topics.
Instead of an abstract enemy, Atlantis has been seen as representing an
aggressive power belonging to the realities of the fifth and/ or fourth
century. No definitive identification has been agreed upon, since the
philosopher blended in his description of the island - intentionally, no
doubt - features characteristic of more than one nation and landscape 8.
The general impression left by Plato's Atlantis being that of a barbarian
civilization 9, two possibilities have been usually envisaged for its
interpretatio histórica : Persia or Carthage. The partisans of the former
could cite in its favour the inevitable parallel between the prehistoric
Athenians of the myth and the Μαραθωνομάχοι, besides some elements
in the Atlantean architecture (the walls with variegated surfaces, the
temple covered with metals) 10 and the Atlantid inclination for canals n,
both recalling Babylon and Ecbatana n. The case for Carthage may
seem somewhat stronger : Atlantis lies in the West, the Mount Atlas
and the "voracious" elephants (Crit., 1 \4e f.) point to North Africa 13,
while the names of Gadira and Gadirus (ib. , 114b) have clearly Semitic
6 On the contrast between Poseidon's patronage over Atlantis and Athena's over
her city important observations were made as early as Wilamowitz, op. cit., 595 ("So
war auch der Streit der Götter, den der Westgiebel des Parthenon darstellt, in
sinnreicher Umbildung wirksam").
7 An element rightly emphasized by Taylor, A Commentary on Plato 's Timaeus,
Oxford, 1928, 50 f.
8 Plato's wish to create a complex symbol of the negative πόλις by combining and
assimilating elements found in several historical instances makes it evidently difficult
to identify the actual contexts of all his borrowings ; we refer in the subsequent
analysis of the problem only to those features which are typical of one state, rather
than international, and which, we may assume, were intended by Plato himself to
betray their origin.
9 Cf., e.g., Crit. , 1 1 6 d (εΐδός τι βαρβαριχόν). But cf. Plut., Per. , 1 3, 5 (the Odeum ~
the Great King's Pavilion, a case of imitation duly cited by Gill, loc. cit., 298, η. 53).
10 Crit., 1 1 6 b-d.
11 Ib., 115dff., 118 dff.
12 The best discussion in that sense is Frkdländer's (op. cit., I, 214 ff., 330 f. ; cf. J.
Bidez, Éos ou Platon et l'Orient, Bruxelles, 1945, 33 f.) ; according to his convincing
argument, the main sources of Plato's information on the East were Herodotus (cf. also
Vidal-Naquet, loc. cit., 427 f.) and Ctesias.
13 Cf. e.g. Hdt., IV, 191.
connotation 14. Not the least, the maritime nature of Poseidon's
kingdom fits well in that equation 15. An important variant of the Punic
interpretatio of Atlantis is the Sicilian one 16. The fifth century
antagonism of Athens and Syracuse, implicitly referred to through the
introduction of Hermocrates into our dialogues, certainly makes the
isle of Syracuse a candidate for the enemy of an idealized Athens, the
more so as Sicily's Punic affinities tend to associate it with Carthage. In
view of its geographical position and insularity, Sicily could suit
admirably, and the details of the Atlantean central islet are strongly
reminiscent of Ortygia (Crit. , 116). No need to say that, morally, the
Syracuse of the two Dionysii, imperialistic, luxurious, scientific and
licentious as it was, was at least an equal to the Atlantids in their
wicked phase.
P. Vidal -Naquet's fine article, Athènes et l'Atlantide. Structure et
signification d'un mythe platonicien, brought two remarkable novelties
in the interpretation of the myth and the myth's connection with the
thought of the Timaeus 17. First, it shows that Atlantis should be sought
within Athens herself, that it embodies only an aspect of Plato's native
town. The French scholar 18 duly enumerates the Attic or nearly- Attic
elements in the description of Atlas' empire : the (Cleisthenic) decimal
division of the territory and powers (Crit. , 1 1 3 e), the ports and forts
recalling Piraeus and Munychia(/¿?., 117 d-f), the mining of orichalcum
(ib., 1 14 e) which seems to allude to the silver of Laurium 19, the
appearance of Poseidon's temple (ib., 116 d-f), resembling the
14 Cf. Hübner, in RE, VII (1910), 439 f.
15 See on the whole matter e.g., M. Pallotino, in A rcheol. Class., 4 (1952), 229 ff. ;
C. Corbato, /¿>., 5(1953), 232 ff.
16 G. Rudberg, in Éranos, 17 (1919), 1 ff . (cf. Atlantis, in Platónica selecta,
Stockholm, 1956, 51 ff.) ; G. Ryle, Plato's Progress, Cambridge, 1966, 233 ff.
17 hoc. cit., 429 ff. (cf. P. Lévêque-P. Vidal-Naquet, Clisthène l'Athénien, Paris,
1964, 134 ff.). Regrettably, these results have not received the attention they deserve
[e.g. Welliver does not mention them and the OCD 1 ( 1 970, p. 143) still cites the Theran
18 Who lists several of his predecessors in surmising, if not revealing, a second
Athens behind Atlantis (loc. cit., 429, η. 44). The Attic identification of Atlantis follows
rather naturally from an "historical" reading of the Timaeus-Critias (cf. Gill, loc. cit.,
294, η. 29) ; I myself reached it independently.
19 Orichalcum also may be here a composite symbol, for both the silver of Laurium
and the marble of Parnassus and Hymettus (the ancients sometimes qualified
orichalcum as λίθος : cf. Ε. R. Caley, Orichalcum and Related Ancient Alloys, New
York, 1964, 16 ff.). See Xen., Poroi, 1, 4 f.
Parthenon. The last item implicitly refers to the strife of Athena and
Poseidon over Attica 20, and to the great problem of Athens' dichotomy
in its agrarian and the maritime components, which in turn coincides
with the imperialism, wealth and insularity21 of the Atlantids
confronted by the virtuous farmers. Second, it proposes a philosophical
explanation of the legend along the lines of the Timaeus' physics :
whereas prehistoric Athens means there, in the Platonic terminology,
the One, Atiantis represents its imitation gradually degenerated through
the agency of Otherness.
Vidal-Naquet's comments on the philosophical side of the myth,
though basically correct - for the Timaeus' physics and psychology
display the well known parallelism - have remained nevertheless
rather imprecise. They do not explain the conflict and final destruction
of both the protagonists of the story 22 ; such a conflict and issue are
imaginable on the level of human psychology but not in the heavens 23.
For Plato, the health of the body 24 depended on the quality of the soul
(Charm., 1 56 b ff. ; cf. Tim., 86 b if.), which, according to the later
dialogues, depends on the harmony of the soul's intellectual and
unintellectual (i.e. ambitious and passionate) parts, generally at war
with one another. An analogous state of affairs is met with in the polis,
whose preservation demands the cohesion of its two antagonistic
constituents - the two states of the Republic -25 corresponding
respectively to the reason and appetite in a man's psyche. The Atlantids
of the Timaeus symbolize, to my thinking, 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
constantly implies analogies with the Timaeus' physical and individual
psychology. Several of Plato's statements - Vidal-Naquet's interpreta20 Cf. above, n. 6, and Crit., 109 c, 113 b-c.
21 Referring to Ps.-Xen., Ath. Pol., 2, 24 ; Thuc, I, 92, 5 and Xen., Poroi, 1 , VidalNaquet Hoc. cit., 436, η. 79) appropriately notes that "une comparaison entre
l'Athènes impérialiste et une île n'est nullement insolite".
22 The relevant remarks of Vidal-Naquet (loc. cit. , 443 f.) are not quite apposite.
23 Leg., X, 897b ff. Cf. e.g. G. M. A. Grube, Plato's Thought, London, 1935, 146 ff.
(p. 147, η. 1).
24 An important matter, Leg., Ill, 697 b ; V, 728 d-e.
25 IV, 422 e ; VIII, 551 d-e (wealth ~ craftsmen ~ passion, cf. Barker, op. cit., 5,
173 f., 249 ff., 289 ff.).
tion of them is undoubtedly justified - emphasize the Sameness of the
terrestrial Athens and the influence of the Otherness on the maritime
Atlantis in her last period26, while the name of Leucippe,
grandmother 27, reveals that the Atlantid origin was in the ambition 28
to degrade eventually into appetite. This accords not only with Plato's
assertion of the Atlantids' negative change 29, but also with the
evolution of his own judgment concerning the θυμός, the upper
subdivision of the soul's unintellectual part. Socially, the θυμός is
identified with the soldiers in the Republic and stands nearer to the
intellect (the philosopher rulers) than to the επίθυμηηκόν (the
Craftsmen) 30. In the Timaeus, however, it goes with the appetite, just
as the entire expansionism of a sea-power deserves nothing but
condemnation. According to Plato, the moral transformation of
Atlantis resulted from an historical process 31, and we shall try to show
that Timaeus' negative attitude to (political) ambition reflects a course
of historical events centred around Athens (and Syracuse) of the late
sixties-early fifties of the fourth century. But before closing the
foregoing digression on the psychology of the Timaeus and the Atlantis
myth, we should call attention to an additional facet of Timaeus'
teaching on the nature of the soul, both individual and collective. It is
clear that the soul's Otherness of the dialogue corresponds with the
relative notions (a) of the deteriorating cycle 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 frame of the universe), and (b) of
απεφον (politically matching an imperfect democracy) 32 or the
duality", which is, according to the Philebus, defined
through the interaction of the pairs of a series of opposites, such as
26 Loc. cit., 432 (on Tim., 56 d ; Crit., 1 12 c-e) and 436 ff. (on Crit., 1 12 b, 1 13 e,
1 1 7 a ; on the numbers in the Critias).
27 Crit., 113d; cf. below, ch. 3.
28 The white steed of the soul in the Phaedrus (253 d) ; the change of the steed's sex
is a consequence of an "unrighteous" life (Tim., 90 d f.).
29 Crit., 121 b-c. Cf. Isocr., 8, 89 ff.
30 IV, 435 c (the three forms of the soul analogous to the three classes of the state) ;
III, 414 b et al. (the rulers and the guardians vs. the craftsmen).
31 Crit., 121 a-b ("on notera l'emploi d'un vocabulaire qui désigne couramment
l'impérialisme" : Vidal-Naquet, loc. cit., 440, n. 103).
32 Cf. the simile with the παντοπώλων : Rep., VIII, 557 d.
θερμόν — ψυχρόν on the physical level 33. Now, Atlantis, fleshly and
democratic (Cleisthenic), contrasted by the One of prehistoric Athens,
must be analogously composite in a political sense. That circumstance
provides, in the opinion of the present author, Plato's theoretical
foundation for the complexity of the Atlantis symbol, which unites the
pairs of Athens-Syracuse, antithetical structurally 34, and of AthensPersia and Syracuse-Carthage, antithetical ethnically 35. Doubtless, the
symbol is something more than an abstractly logical construction, in a
similar way as the whole Timaeus is mythical rather than exact 36. The
construction was made for political purposes and from political
material which was topical in the middle of the 350's, the approximate
date of the Timaeus and the Critias for the majority of Platonists
relying on the stylometric evidence 37.
This view, unorthodox as it is 38, requires a detailed analysis of a
number of allusions hidden in the two dialogues and in other Platonic
writings, as well as an evaluation of certain literary problems posed by
33 The entire correspondence has been ably delineated by Vidal-Naquet, loc. cit. ,
434 f.
34 Cf. Leg., Ill, 693 d, for the "two matrices ... of constitutions" (monarchy and
35 Cf. Rep., V, 470 b-e ; Politicus, 262 c ff. A class of the state and a part of the soul
may be subdivided themselves (Rep., II, 423 a ; 443 d-e) ; that a component of foreign
origin could enter them (Persian into Athens, Carthaginian into Syracuse) is a novel
possibility, which seems to have been a product of Plato's experience from practical
politics (below, ch. 2), coinciding presumably with his picture of the "receptacle"
whose elements are constantly passing into one another (Tim., 49 ff.). Cf. Ps. Xen.,
Ath. Pol., 2, 8 ; contrast Xen., Poroi, 2, 3 ff.
36 "A probable tale" in Plato's own (and frequently repeated) formulation. Its
meaning has been much debated ; I am inclined to think, with Taylor (Plato, 442), that
Plato "possibly himself could not have made a hard-and-fast distinction between
philosophical content and mythical form".
37 See e.g. Taylor, Commentary, 3 ff. ("after 360 and probably not immediately
after that date") ; H. Gauss, Philosophischer Handkommentar zu den Dialogen Platos,
III, 2 (Bern, 1961), 156 (354 B.C.) ; cf. Vidal-Naquet, loc. cit., 433, η. 66. For an
earlier (and untenable) dating, G. E. L. Owen, in Cl. Quart., 3 (1953), 79 ff. ; Ryle, op.
cit., 238 ff.
38 Of the two interpretations of the Atlantis myth whose results are the closest to
ours, Welliver (op. cit., 41-45; cf. Gill, loe. cit., 294 ff.) does not take into
consideration the possibility of allusions to the events of the fourth century, and VidalNaquet (cf. his reference to the Social War, loc. cit., 433, η. 66 ; 442) does that only
summarily ; both the scholars deal with Athens in that connection, leaving aside the
Syracusan problem. The prejudice against Plato as a cabinet thinker, a bad citizen (B.
G. Niebuhr) and an enemy of liberty and democratic Athens (K. R. Popper), has
seriously retarded the understanding of the Timaeus-Critias and some other dialogues.
the Timaeus-Critias. The latter task has been done with a considerable
success in the recent study by W. Welliver. To put his conclusions
briefly and omit points which remain disputable or marginal, he has
demonstrated one thing beyond doubt - Socrates' discrimination
between Timaeus, a true philosopher and statesman, and Hermocrates
and Critias, the other interlocutors in the conversation, who are
depicted as less virtuous and more militant - 39 and made another very
probable - that our dialogues as preserved form an entity 40, not a torso
with the unfinished Critias and the unwritten Hermocrates, possibly
even with an unwritten fourth part of the alleged tetralogy 41. The
incompleteness of the Critias is only feigned, to strengthen the effect of
Plato's message 42, since the parabolic purpose of the myth has been
fully achieved through the announcement, in the Timaeus (25 c-d), of
the final catastrophe of the two cities, and the revelation, at the end of
the Critias, of the event's cause, the Atlantid ύβρις. The unity of the
Timaeus-Critias, likely as it is, tends to support our thesis that the fall
of Atlantis forebodes the fall of the imperialistic Athens and Syracuse
c. 356-355 B.C., which makes a circumstantially prophetic
both unnecessary and impossible. As to the distinction between
Hermocrates and the other two, it accords well with an 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 discrimination is especially sensible at Tim., 20 a, Critias' jealousy of
Timaeus at Crit. , 1 06 c ff . ; in a fine stylistic analysis of Critias' speeches, Welliver
discloses "the several hints of harshness and greed in his nature" (op. cit. , 27) ;
Hermocrates is less explicitly characterized but it is evident that he is at one with
Critias. Cf. Welliver, op. cit., 8 ff. (whose theory of Critias' and Hermocrates'
dramatic agreement against Timaeus appears, however, far-fetched).
40 Welliver infers (op. cit., 34 f.), not unconvincingly, from several passages
[notably from Tim. , 27 a-b ; see for the modern discussions of Proclus' testimony ad
Tim., 20 a-b (I, p. 72 a Diehl) Rivaud, op. cit., 15 f.], that Plato premeditated "the
design as we have it, including the appearance of incompleteness". The conjecture
(Welliver, op. cit., 58 ff.) that the Timaeus-Critias were originally written as a
continuous work, immaterial for our discussion, does not seem probable.
41 For the earlier speculations concerning the alleged project of a Timaeus-CritiasHermocrates trilogy or a Timaeus-Critias-Hermocrates-Socrates tetralogy see e.g.
Welliver, op. cit., 3 ff.
42 Though Welliver (op. cit., 46 ff. ; cf. above, η. 39) qualities the Timaeus-Critias
as a tragedy, its epic affinities are more marked (Atlantis ~ Scheria, cf. Vidal-Naquet,
he. cit., 426 f.) and its apparent incompleteness recalls the apparent incompleteness of
the Iliad, where the destruction of Troy is foreshadowed but not narrated (cf. infra,
n. 176 ; Taylor, Plato, 462, on the Trojan story and Crit. ,12\ b-c).
factual framework of the dialogues (their dramatic date, the occasion of
the conversation and the choice of the characters ; the images of the
royal ritual and the natural catastrophe) and of the Atlantid genealogy
(Crit., 113d- 114 c) respectively.
2. A continuation of the discourse of the Republic 43, the discourse
of the Timaeus took place at a festival of Athena (7m?., 26 e), the
Panathenaea according to Proclus (in Remp., I, p. 18 Kroll) who ought
to be right on that point 44. The year of the reunion of Socrates,
Timaeus of Locri, the Syracusan general 45 Hermocrates and Critias the four dramatis personae of the Timaeus, whom the fifth, unnamed
guest of Socrates would have accompanied but for illness (Tim. , 17a)is uncertain and widely disputed, together with the identification of
Critias - the tyrant or his homonymous grandfather ? - 46, but A. E.
Taylor's arguments for a date very shortly before the peace of Nicias
(421 B.C.) seem cogent for several reasons 47.
43 Cf. Tim., 17 c- 19 b. It has been sometimes doubted, unnecessarily, that this
passage represents a recapitulation of a part (principally the Books II- V) of the Republic
(see e.g. Rivaud, op. cit., 19 ff. ; Ryle, op. cit., 230 ff.) ; the discrepancies between the
summary and the earlier dialogue, a typical example of Platonic licence, are due to the
changes which modified, between c. 370 and c. 355, the philosopher's aims (thence
La. the chronological difficulties dealt with in the next note, and the occurrence, in the
Timaeus, of the new interlocutors). See also Gill, be. cit., 287 f., n. 6.
44 As the Panathenaea (both the Great and the Lesser were celebrated late in
Hecatombaeon) and the Bendidea (19th Thargelion), the occasion of the conversation
reproduced by the Republic (I, 327 a, 354 a), did not fall within the same month, the
chronological indications at Tim., 17 a, 26 e are inexact but they do not authorize the
conclusion (Taylor, Commentary, 45) that Tim., 26 e alludes to "some other festival
connected with Athena, e.g. the Plyntheria". The incongruity is intentional and
emphatic, since - in Plato's text - both the festivals have their symbolic values (see
45 Procl., ad Tim., 20 a (I, p. 71 e Diehl).
46 For a discussion of the alternatives see Taylor, Commentary, 23 ff. ; Welliver,
op. cit., 50 ff. Though relevant indications contained in the Timaeus-Critias are
contradictory [Plato's anachronisms being generally meaningful, the contradiction was
probably deliberate (cf. above, notes 43 f.) and intended to underline the modernity (cf.
Tim., 27 b, on the "Athenians and fellow citizens") of the character of "Critias"], it
must be the tyrant (cf. Vidal-Naquet, loc. cit., 420, η. 3), as shown La. by the
relatively late dramatic date of the two dialogues [it should be contrasted with the
testimony on the tyrant's grandfather (born before α 540 B.C. ?) contained in the
schol. Aesch., Prom., 128].
47 Taylor, Plato, 436 ff. (263 f.) : note the data on the age of Socrates and
Hermocrates, and the indications that the politico-chronological context of the
Republic and the Timaeus is roughly the same.
Politically, the reference to the Republic has a manifold significance
corresponding, on the philosophical level, to Plato's cyclic conception
of history. The great dialogue criticizes Athenian democracy, inter alia,
for its tendency to deteriorate toward a despotic régime embodied
(Plato implies) in the demagogue Callistratus of Aphidna48. The
candidate for tyrant begins his evil career with 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
eliminated Timotheus, the leader of an aristocratically patriotic group,
who was at the same time Plato's relative and protector in Athenian
affairs49. After the eclipse of Callistratus and his "moderates"
(361 B.C.), Timotheus1 party was gradually faced with another
opposition, that of Aristophon's and Chares' radicals. Aggressive and
ill-disposed towards Timotheus' diplomatic conception of the
of the Second Maritime League, the latter provoked the Social
War and eventually impeached Timotheus for failing to co-operate
with Chares at Embata 50. The affair (winter 356/5 ?) 51, whih clearly
represented a pendant of that occurring in 373, ended in Timotheus'
voluntary exile (died in Chalcis, 354 B.C.). Now, there seem to be
several indirect references in the Timaeus-Critias to the trial of 356/5
or its immediate context. Critias, the notorious prosecutor of
Theramenes 52, is fond of the judicial terminology (Tim., 27 b ; Crit.,
108 a-b) and, to quote W. Welliver's formulation ", tries "to gain a
forensic advantage" over Timaeus. The name of the fictitious Locrian 54
48 S. Dusanic, L 'Académie de Platon et la koinè eirenè athénienne de 371 av. J.-C,
in RÉG, 92(1979), 342 ff.
49 Together with Chabrias (who fell at Chios in 357) : FGrHist, 328 F 223.
50 Iphicrates with his son (Timotheus' son-in-law) Menestheus was prosecuted on
the same occasion and on the same charge, but their case was less important
51 For the chronology of the eventful years 357-355 see (e.g.) R. Sealey, in REG, 68
(1955), 114 ff.
52 Cf. Friedländer, op. cit., Ill, 357 : "Es kann auch kein Zufall sein dass er (Piaton)
als Hauptsprecher ... zwei Männer wählte (Critias and Hermokrates), die in den
Bürgerkriegen ihrer beiden Heimatstädte den Tod fanden".
53 Op. cit., 25 (on Crit., 107 äff.).
54 Timaeus is evidently an unhistoricaT figure [R. Harder, in RE, VI, A (1936),
1204 ; cf. RiVAUD,op. cit., 17 f.), with some features of Dion. Be it noted that, at the
same time approximately, Dion was also threatened by a public trial (Plut., Dion,
53, 2).
may be explained as a hypocoristicon of Τιμόθεος 55 ; if the former
figures with Hermocrates as a pair of positive and negative heroes from
West Greece, the positive counterpart of the Athenian Critias is absent,
an absence which could have been easily understood metaphorically the illness of the Timaeus' unnamed dramatis persona is political,
analogous to the political murder spoken of in the Republic ? - 56 and
brought into connection with Timotheus' status after Embata 57. What
is more, the main subject of the trial of 356/5, the Athenian attitude to
the allies, is also the main subject of the Critias, just as it figures among
the major themes of both the trial of 373 and Plato's own comments, in
the Republic primarily, on the Athenian foreign policy of 373 and
371 58.
The relevance of the Timaeus-Critias to the problem, culminating in
the events of 357-355, of the Athenians' relations to their League and
the Greek world in general, is manifest. Socrates tells us that the two
dialogues - whose date of composition, to reiterate, is placed c. 356355 - should deal with a struggle between Athens and her neighbours
ending in a "becoming manner" {Tim., 19 c, cf. 20 b) ; the moral of the
Atlantis story patently condemns the aggressiveness of "the empire
which had rule over the whole (Atlantean) island and several others"
(Tim., 25 a) 59 ; the personage of Hermocrates recalls the Athenians
failure not only in Sicily but also in the Ionian War, a préfiguration of
îs See e.g. A. Fick-F. Bechtel, Die griechischen Personennamen 2, Göttingen, 1894,
266. The name of Er was constructed by Plato (in the myth of his Republic) in an
analogous manner [ < Erpand ( = Orontes), cf. the article cited above, n. 48].
56 VIII, 565 e, 566 b-c ; X, 615 c (on the political "parricide" and "fratricide" of
Ardiaeus = Callistratus see my comments in the article above, note 48).
57 For previous attempts at identifying the anonymous fifth (Philebus, Plato,
Philolaus, Cleitophon, Theaetetus, or even Pericles), see Proclus, ad Tim., 17 a (I,
p. 18 ff. Diehl) ; Rivaud, op. cit., 18 f. ; Welliver, op. cit., 44. The cross blending of
Timotheus and Dion in the virtuous figure of Timaeus and that of the unnamed
absentee, parallelled by the blending of Athens and Syracuse in the Atlantis symbol,
obviously follows Plato's formula of the unity and plurality of man (as given e.g. in the
58 On that aspect of the Republic see the paper referred to supra, note 48.
" "... and over parts of the continent" (ib.), a reference to Attica, the Aegean
Polynesia and the Thracian and the Asiatic coasts (cf. ib., 25 a 1 ff.). The last point
would be reminiscent of the Delian League but may allude also to later attempts, such
as Chares' of 356/5, to stretch the sphere of Athenian influence to the soil of western
Asia Minor.
the Social War 60. Even the choice of Timaeus' (fictitious) domicile
seems to have been tendentious in that connection 61 since Plato
mentions in the Laws (I, 638 b), as typical examples of international
brutality, the subjection of Ceos by Athens (363/2 B.C.) and of Locri
by Syracuse (late in the 360's). The former incident makes one think of
the fatal conflict of Athens with her allies in 357 62, the latter illustrates
the expansionism of the corrupt Syracuse, which the Platonic letters
criticize more than once 63. Thus the parallellism of aggressive Athens
and aggressive Syracuse appears to be complete at the time of the
writing of the Timaeus-Critias, a circumstance that explains both the
combination of the Athenian and the Syracusan elements in the
Atlantis parable, and Plato's position in the party constellation of the
two cities : Locri had suffered from Dionysius II (who was to ill-treat
the Locrians once again, after his 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 after Embata 64. No
wonder that the Timaeus-Critias plead for a peaceful solution 65 of the
Greek conflicts present in about 356/5, along the line of Timotheus' 66
60 Cf. Isocr., 8, 30. - On Hermocrates' anti- Athenian activity in the West and the
East see Th. Lenschau, in RE, VIII (1912) 883 ff. (cf. the comparison of the disasters of
413 and 409 at Theag. 129 c f.). Κ. Hilderbrandt's qualification of Hermocrates as an
allegory of Dion (Piaton, Der Kampf des Geistes um die Macht, Berlin, 1933, 374)
means a drastic misunderstanding of Plato's Athenian patriotism.
61 It is usually ascribed to Plato's intention to represent Timaeus as a Pythagorean
from Magna Graecia (cf. Taylor, Plato, 436 with n. 1) but, the problem of Timaeus'
Pythagoreanism apart, it is evident from the wording of the dialogue that the mention
of the Locrian origin of Timaeus had a political purpose (Rivaud, op. cit. ,18; note the
praise of the Locrian constitution at Leg., I, 638 b).
62 The more so as the defection of Ceos in 363/2 led to the confrontation of
Chabrias and Aristophon, the defection of Rhodes, Chios, Byzantium and Cos in 357
to that of Timotheus and Aristophon. For Plato's relations with Chabrias and
Timotheus, above, n. 49.
63 E.g., VII, 332 e ff., 334 c, 336 d ff. ; VIII, 357 a-b.
64 See for Locri and Dionysius (e.g.) Arist., Pol., 1307 a [Leg., I, 638 b refer to the
suppression of a Locrian rebellion against the tyrant, not to his subsequent misdeeds
there (contra, Friedländer, op. cit.. Ill, 513, n. 86), Oldfather, in RE, XIII (1926),
1335 ; H. Berve, Die Tyrannis bei den Griechen, II (München, 1967), 662 f.], for Ceos
and Aristophon M. N. Tod, GHI, II, 142 ; schol. Aeschin., 1, 64.
65 Implicitly [the moral of the whole myth ; the dramatic date close to Nicias' peace ;
the link with the Republic, which defends the Pan-hellenism and the Athenian koine
eirene of 371 ; cf. Tim., 19 c (the logoi allude probably to the embassy spoken of in
Isocrates 8, 25) and the phrase from Crit. 1 12 d quoted infra, n. 66] but firmly.
66 Timotheus (for whose customary regardfulness of the allies see Isocr., 15,
121 ff.) must have postponed his operations around Chios in order not to hinder the
and Dion's practical policy. The same attitude was taken by other
traditionalists in that critical situation, notably by Isocrates, the intimate
friend of Timotheus, in his "On the Peace" and the "Areopagiticus" 67.
It may be finally surmised that the unity of the virtuous Athenians and
Syracusans on one the hand, and of their evil counterparts on the other,
does not follow only from Plato's philosophical formula of the
interrelation of "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
circles of Dion and Timotheus, and between those of their Syracusan
and Athenian radical opponents respectively68. In all probability, the
complete success of the Sicilian cause of Plato, Dion and Timotheus
would help to create, inter alia, an effective policy of Attico-Syracusan
mutual support 69, while the reverse would encourage anti-Athenian
feelings at Syracuse 70 and, possibly, anti-Syracusan feelings in
Athens 71. Plato alone, however, could not have accomplished
anything ; his influence upon the political events seems to have been
insufficient (cf. Ep., 1, 318 c), like (in Proclus' parallel) Socrates'
capacity of putting his state into an historical process (Tim., 19 b ff).
negotiations with the rebels at Athens (see the previous note) ; as to that, the doubts of
P. Cloché (La politique étrangère d'Athènes de 404 à 338 avant Jésus-Christ, Paris,
1934, 161) are unjustified. Similarly, Dion was disposed against the tyranny of
Syracuse over Sicily (Ep., 7, 332 e ff. 335 e ff. ; Plut., Dion, 29, 1, and pass.). Note
Crit., 1 12 d : "(the Athenian hoplites) ... at once guardians of their fellow citizens and
freely followed leaders of the Hellenes at large" (cf. Isocr., 8, 30).
67 For some examples of coincidental reactions of Plato, Isocrates and Xénophon to
the crisis of 357-355 see our notes 2 1 , 29, 60, 66, 71, 85, 87, 8«, 92, 109, 160, 164, and
the end of ch. 2 (on Xen., Poroi, 5, 8-10).
68 Though not expressly attested (but see the next note on Ephippus' Geryones), the
existence of contacts between Timotheus' and Dion's groups is very probable, in view
of several hints contained in Demosthenes' speech (20) against Leptines (dealt with in
another paper of mine). That Dion's murderer Callippus also had an Athenian backing
[among Timotheus' enemies, to judge from Callippus' (and his father's) connection
with Callistratus, J. K. Davies, Athenian Propertied Families, Oxford, 1971, 274 f.]may
be inferred from Plut., Dion, 58, 1, and Ep., 7, 334 b,c, 336 d.
69 366/5 B.C. was probably an antecedent, as I have tried to demonstrate it
elsewhere (on Ephippus' frg. 5, Kock, II, p. 252 f.), Talanta, XII-XIII (1982), 18-20.
See also below, for the parallel Himera-Salamis.
70 Cf. e.g. Plut., Dion, 14, 2 ; Ep., 1, 334 b, 336 d.
71 Which are indirectly criticized by Isocr., 8, 84 f. ? Cf. Plut., Nie., 13, 6 ; 14, 6 ;
Ps.-Plat.,£Vvx, 392 b-c.
The theme of Attico-Syracusan relations corresponds with the theme
of the external menace. 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 Platonic formula of the indeterminate
dyad. The character of Hermocrates, who was ready to fight Athens
with Persian aid n, and the reference of the Timaeus-Critias to the
Republic, where the respective similarity of two kinds of Athenians
with their Persian correlates serves as the basic motif of the myth of
Er73, show that the occurrence of the Persian and Carthaginian
elements in the description of Atlantis is not accidental. A joint action
of the Carthaginians and the Great King against Syracuse, Athens and
the Pan-hellenic cause was held a real danger, by the Isocrateans at
least, to the point of creating Ephorus" famous parallel between the
battles of Himera and Salamis 74. During the first half of thé fourth
century it seemed that the same polarisation may have penetrated into
the Greek world itself ·. Dionysius the Elder or his son replace Carthage
in that parallel between the eastern and western enemies of hellenism
as drawn by several commentators on the then political situation 75. A
further step would find an adversary to the Pan-hellenic interests
within the polis, composite in a way comparable to the compositeness
of the individual psyche. Not only did Plato's theoretical considerations
lead to such a conclusion76, it was suggested by his own political
experience. Again, one finds it instructive to look at the political relities
of the middle of the 350's. In Syracuse, Dion's opponents in party
affairs and constitutional reforms, especially the radicals, were ready to
search for Carthaginian support in their illegal activity - or at least
Plato used to insinuate their treacherous intentions 77. In Athens,
Aristophon with Chares defended, against Timotheus, an aggressive
anti-Persian attitude which objectively rallied the Great King to the
72 Above, n. 60. Even Critias was something of a traitor (cf. Xen., Hell., II, 3, 36 f.).
73 Above, notes 48, 55.
74 FGrHist, 70 F 186, cf. Ph. Gauthier, RÉA , 68 (1966), 5 ff. ; Y. Garlan, BCH, 94
(1970), 630 ff.
75 Dionysius I : Lys., 3, 5 ; 8 ·, Isocr., 4, 126, 169 ; Diod., XV, 23, 5. Dionysius II :
FGrHist, 70 F 21 1 . Cf. Garlan, ¡oc. cit.
76 Cf. Rep., VIII, 556 e (on "the impulse from outside" diseasing an unhealthy
state) ; Leg., IV, 704 c, 705 a, 705 c ff. (on "the pernicious imitation of an antagonist").
77 Ep.,1, 349 c (Héraclides).
rebellious allies and the Athenian enemies in the Aegean at large 78.
The radical line in both the places was detrimental to Plato's friends,
the interests of the local population, Pan-hellenism and the unity of
State which is "an ultimate postulate of (Platonic) knowledge" 79.
There is an impressive image in the Critias, enigmatical so far 80,
which also seems to hint at the complex of Athenian problems centred
around Persia and Athens' hegemony in the Greek world. The gloomy
ritual of the royal oath and sacrifice described at 1 19 d- 120 c has
distrinct affinity with the Athenian feasts, especially with the Great
Panathenaea, the feast of the imperialistic League, as the Panathenaic
occasion of our dialogues and Plato's reference to the penteteric interval
separating two such rituals 81 immediately reveal to the reader. Its
protagonists, the ten kings of Atlantis, act as the Athenian strategi in the
disguise of priests, which accords well with the importance of the
strategi in the actual festivals of Athena82. A number of details
underlines their cruelty 83, deceitful intentions 84 and the carnivorous
78 Diod., XVI, 22, 2 ; Demosth., 2, 28 f. [who pleads, as Timotheus' partisan,
implicitly (XX, 60 ; 68 : 355 B.C.) and explicitly (XIV : 354 B.C.), for peaceful relations
with Susa], etc. The choice of Critias, who had more than one point of resemblance
with Aristophon-Chares, for the raconteur of the war between the prehistoric
Athenians (~ Miltiades' generation) and Atlantis (~ Darius' Persia) contains a critical,
even ironical allusion to Chares' operations of 356/5, especially his boastful
comparison of his victory with Marathon (Plut., Arat., 16, 3), see infra.
19 Barker, op. cit., 218, 405. That the relationship between the Greeks and the
barbarians had its place in Plato's logical divisions leading to the definition of
statemanship is shown e.g. by the Politicus, 262 d.
80 It has been popular to search for its origin in the East ; for some references see
Cherniss, in Lustrum, 4, 81 , 83. Cf. Rivaud, op. cit., 244 ff. ("la partie peut-être la plus
étrange du Critias"). See also below, notes 95, 105 ; Dusanic, Platon et Athènes ..., in
2ivaAntika 31 (1981), 150 ff.
81 Crit. , 1 1 9 d ; the alternate interval of six years (the alternation of five and six
shows here "equal respect for even numbers and odd") is less easy to interpret. It
possibly alludes to the prytanies succeeding each other at the periods of thirty-six and
thirty- five days respectively (Ath. Pol., 43) ; for the bearing of Plato's calendrical ideas
on the criticism of the Cleisthenic decimality see M. Piérart, Platon et la Cité grecque,
Bruxelles, 1973, 102 f., 67 f.
82 Cf. Demosth., 4, 26. See also G. Busolt-H. Swoboda, Griechische Staatskunde 3,
II (München 1926), 1 1 26 f. with ?. 6.
83 Contrast Leg., VI, 782 c (on the pious peoples who "offer no animal in
84 Rivaud, op. cit., 245, and Ch. Picard, in L 'Acropole, 8 (1933), 8 f., appropriately
cite Hdt., Ill, 15 and Aristoph., Eq., 83 to decipher the purpose of Crit., 120 a-b (the
drinking of the bull's blood). An analogous tendency may be sought behind the
nature of their state 8S. Obviously, in Plato's opinion, all this resulted
from gradual transformation of the Athenaea to the Panathenaea 86,
which meant also a Theseia and Poseidonia of some sort87, a
transformation going together with the deterioration of the city itself.
Two elements of the ritual seem prominent. Firstly, the kingly sons of
Poseidon represent the ruling structure not only of Athena's city but of
the Maritime League as a whole - thence they pass judgments and
deliberate, as allies, "on their common affairs", giving "the chief
command to the house of Atlas" i.e. Athens (Crit. , 1 1 9 d, 1 20 c-d) -, a
natural extension 88 in view of (e.g.) the dominant role of the
Hellenotamiae within the fifth century confederation, and of the
strategi within that of both the fifth and fourth century 89. The Great
Panathenaea are of course the most natural context of these
deliberations - the feast coinciding with the reassessment of the f????
in the time of the Delian League 90 - as well as of the sacrifice of the
reference to the Apatouria (Tim., 21 b), the "Feast of Deception" (Welliver, op. cit.,
14 f., 20 f.).
85 The contrast between the mention of the banquet at Crit. 1 20 b and the praise of
vegetarianism at Leg., VI, 782 c-d, has also its political points, against Chares (schol.
Demosth., 3, 31 ; cf. Isocr., 7, 10) and popular gluttony (cf. Tim., 72 e f. ; Isocr., 7,
29), analogous to those put forward by Antiphanes' Philothebaios against Aristophon
(?) c. 363/2 (see T. ?. L. Webster, Studies in Later Greek Comedy, Manchester, 1953,
39 f.).
86 That description
Plato had little
of a respect
work day
for ofthethePanathenaea
philosopher may
(frg. be
1 1).concluded
Cf. Euthyphr.,
also from
6 c.
87 A process condemned generally by Isocrates too (7, 29 f., 52 f.). For the
evolution, due to Theseus (cf. Plut., Thes., 24, 3 f.), of the Athenaea to the
Panathenaea see R. Herter, in RE, Supplb. XIII (1973), 1213 f., for the Poseidonic
elements traceable in the actual celebration of the Panathenaea and partly resulting
from fifth century innovations (the sacrifice of the bull instead of the cow ; the ?µ???a
?e?? ; the use of the mast of a ship for bringing the peplos to the goddess, etc.) see L.
Ziehen, in RE, XVIII (1949), 471 ff., 485 f., 461 [cf. Crit., 116 c : the sanctuary of
Cleito and Poseidon ( ~ the Parthenon) correlates negatively with the Hephaesteon (cf.
ib., 109 c-d, on the common lot of Athena and Hephaestus)].
88 Isocrates (8, 1 34) too speaks of the strategi as being the virtual lords of the Second
Confederacy, despite the guarantees of the members' autonomy, solemnly given in the
Charter of the League (H. Bengtson, Staatsverträge, II2, no. 257, 1. 19 ff).
89 Of the competences of the fourth-century strategi which may be alluded to in
the corresponding paragraph of the Critias, one should note the judicial and fiscal as
important in the case of Ceos in 363/2 (Bengtson, Staatsverträge, II2, no. 289,
1. 57 ff. : not an ordinary but a portentous occasion, especially impressive for Plato
[supra, n. 64] and otherwise).
90 R. Meiggs-D. Lewis, GHl, 69, 1. 26 ff. ; cf. Ps.-Xen., Ath. Pol., 3, 5 (see also R.
Meiggs, The Athenian Empire, Oxford, 1972, 240). The dramatic date of the Timaeus,
bull, which symbolizes through the offerings of the allies the unity of
the organization 91. Also, the occurrence of a stele of orichalcum whose
text contains the laws of the Atlantid xocvov and "an oath calling down
grievous curses on the disobedient" (Crit., 119 c,e) must point
primarly 92 to the Charter of the Second Athenian Confederacy, which
has an important provision against the attempts at destroying the
League or subverting its constitution 93. A reform of the fourth century
confederation, which became for Plato and his followers highly
desirable c. 356-355, was bound to stumble upon these "laws".
Secondly, the description of the royal sacrifice provides an implicite
criticism of some tendencies characteristic of the internal politics of
Athens, concering the Athenian ephebia in the first place. Several traits
of the image Crit., 1 19 d - 120 c - the dark robes of the kings, their
sitting "by the embers of their sacrifice, on the bare earth, and by
(120 c) - show that we are dealing with a rite from a hero-cult 94. A
significant particular, the meaning of which has not been recognized 95,
links it to Theseus : the bull was chased by the aid of wooden clubs and
lassoos (1 1 9 e), in the same way as the famous Marathonian steer 96. To
have Theseus here conforms with the negative evolution of the
Athenaea already mentioned, and with Plato's condemnation of
maritime Athens, among whose creators Theseus and Theseus'
successor Cimon certainly belong 97. Similarly, an act of the hero-cult
may have been associated with the festival of the Panathenaea which
shortly antedating Nicias' peace of April, 421, may have fallen on the Great
Panathenaea of 422 (August), which probably saw a new assessment (cf. Meiggs, op.
cit., 340 f.).
91 E.g. Meiggs-Lewis, GHI, 69, 1. 55 ff. (425/4 B.C.) ; S. Accame, La lega ateniese
del secólo IV a.C, Roma, 1941, p. 230, 1. 2 ff. (372 B.C.). Cf. Meiggs, op. cit., 304 f.
92 One should reckon with other messages too, a general protest against the
democratic ??µ?? p???? (cf. Isocr., 7, 39 ff.) and an allusion to the Oath of Plataea (see
93 Bengtson, Staatsverträge, II2, no. 208, 1. 51 ff. (1. 52 f. : ? ????? ? ?d??t?? ~Crit. , 1 20 c : ?d??????t? te ?a? ?d??a???).
94 Picard, loc. cit., 8. Cf. Eitrem, in RE, VIII (1912) 1123 ff. for some points of
contact with the actual rituals of the Greek hero-cult.
95 The article by Stengel, in BphW, 1907, 1060, cited with approval by Ziehen, in
RE, XVIII, 492, has remained inaccessible to me.
96 Herter, loc. cit., 1086.
97 Cf. Crit., 1 10 a ; Rep., Ill, 391 c ; Leg., IV, 706 b-c (Theseus) and Gorg., 519 a
seems to have included the praise of the dead 98. But the ritual has a
more precise connotation. Theseus, the tribal eponymous heroes and
the Athenian ephebi - the decimal division of their organization
completely corresponds with the decimal devision of Atlantis - 99 form
a well-known entity, expressed inter alia through the ephebic
participation in many rites consecrated to Theseus and the Athenian
heroes 10°. The ephebo-Thesean aspect of the image also explains three
of its characteristic details, the colour of the robes 101, the method of
bringing the victim to the place of sacrifice 102, the kings'
103, and throws an additional light on Critias' reference to the Apatouria 104. Furthermore, it gives a clue to identifying the second
component of the stele-of-laws symbol. The inscription with the "oath"
and the "grievous curses" 105 cannot represent only the inscription of
the Charter of the Second Confederacy. It must obviously be
understood as a complex notion constituted from both the Charter and
the text of the oaths of the ephebi and of the Athenians before Plataea, a
text which, as everybody knows, contains rather suggestive ??a? 106. It
98 Ziehen, RE, XVIII, 483. Socrates and Critias remark, in the Timaeus (21 a, 26 e),
that Critias' story will be appropriate to the Panathenaea, and the famous speech of
Isocrates dealing with Athens' history bears the name of the Panathenaicus.
99 In that respect the a?t? ?a? tf ?f' a?t?? ???e? (Crit., 120 b) seems especially
interesting (cf. e.g. the mention of the ta??a???? in the Plataean Oath, 1. 25).
100 Ch. Pélékidis, Histoire de l'éphebie attique, Paris, 1962, 225 ff. The author's
doubts as to the reltionship between the Theseia and the Epitaphia are not wholly
justified (cf. e.g. Herter, loc. cit. , 1 1 24).
101 Cf. Pélékidis, op. cit., 15 f. (Aegeus' death and the ephebic black chlamydes ; the
latter had to be dedicated to heroes [Crit. 120 dl, cf. e.g. Aristoph., A v., 1488 ff).
102 Cf. ib., 223 f., especially p. 223, note 5 (the ??a?t? t??? ß??? ~ Crit., 1 19 e 2 f.).
103 Cf. ib., 227 [??at?? (Crit. 120 b) ~ f???? of the Oschophoria].
104 On the link between Theseus and the Apatouria, Herter, loc. cit., 1053 ;
Pélékidis, op. cit., 67 f. ·, that between the Apatouria and the ephebia is self-evident
(Vidal-Naquet, in Proc. Camb. Philol. Soc, 194 (1968), 49 ff. ; Pélékidis, op. cit.,
63 ff).
105 Whose emphatic value has been rightly acknowledged by Picard, loc. cit. , in a
paper which I did not know at the time of writing my article on the Cyrenean d?????
t?? ????st???? [in Chiron, 8 (1978, 55 ff.)]. Picard was inclined to see Plato's source for
the arai mentioned in the Critias in the Cyrenean text (which actually seems to have
been inspired, c. 362 B.C., by Platonic theory) and though that precise derivation of his
cannot be exact, it has the merit of bringing the study of the corresponding part of the
dialogue near to the mid-fourth century laboratories of the political theoreticians and
for gers.
106 L. 39 ff. (P. Siewert, Der Eid von Plataiai, München, 1972, 6 f.).
is not the place here to discuss the difficult question of the authenticity
of these last oaths - some of their elements are, no doubt, early if not
genuine 107 - but M. Guarducci's thesis postulating a political
fabrication published c. 356 108 best suits our own conclusions drawn
from the Critias ; the purpose of Plato's allusion to the text which we
now read on the stele from Acharnae implies a topic roughly
contemporary to, or at least politically important at, the date of
composition of the two dialogues. There was more than one
circumstance bringing together the Charter and the épigraphie
prototype of the Acharnae stele. Both inaugurate militant organisms 109,
with definite aims unacceptable to the pacifists of the 350's (the Charter
being anti-Lacedaemonian, the stele anti-Persian and anti-Theban) and
with stress upon the disputable ideal of liberty no ; this last recalls the
covenant of Plataea, historical or constructed in the fourth century ni,
whose content was conducive to the First and subsequently to the
Second Maritime League. On the material level, it should be noted that
the Charter was set, understandably m, beside the statue of Zeus
Eleutherios (1. 64-66), in a place which connotes Thesean, ephebic,
anti-Theban and heroic (in the sense of the cult of the dead) 113 themes
107 Cf. P. Siewert, in JHS, 97 (1977), 102 ff.
108 RFIC, 39 (1961), 62 ff. M. Guarducci puts Miltiades' and Themistocles' decrees,
and the Plataean Oath, in the period of the "rinovato furore antipersiano" of 357-355,
without referring to the Timaeus-Critias -, she appropriately comments upon the
relevance of the Marathonien symbol to Chares' political line in that epoch. From the
abundant later production, I should cite the virtual consent of R. Etienne and M.
Piérart [BCH, 90 (1975), 63 ff., an exhaustive and important discussion, with bibl.].
109 The militarism going together with human losses and the Epitaphia, Isocr., 8,
87 ; Plut., Mor., 187 e (Hegesippus).
1,0 L. 10 of the Charter, 1. 24 of the Acharnae inscription. For Plato's attitude to
popular liberty see the locus ciassicus, in Rep., VIII, 561 b ff. (i.a. it is uneducational
and warlike ; Plato's agoranomi in the Laws are less soldiers than the ephebi, cf.
Piérart, op. cit., 275).
1 ' ' Plut. , A rist. ,21, 1 f. (resulting, at Plataea, in the cult of Zeus Eleutherios and the
dead), cf. e.g. Meiggs, op. cit., 507 f. (conditionally favourable to authenticity) and
Étienne-Piérart, loc. cit. (arguing for apocryphal character).
1.2 Cf. above, n. 110 (and Accame, op. cit., 64 f.).
1.3 Thesean : Euphranor's painting in one part of the Stoa (Paus., I, 3, 3 ff. ;
Democracy and Demos reveal the picture's message). Ephebic and anti-Theban :
Euphranor's painting in the other part [Paus., loc. cit. ·. Grylus, the hero at Mantinea,
and, so to say, an ephebic ideal (cf. H. R. Breitenbach, in RE, IX, A, 1 967, 1 576 f.) like
Theseus himself] ; the decoration of the portico, the general idea of which has
remained rather obscure, was made during the years following 362 and marking the
of the Acharnae monument and the ritual described at Crit. , 1 19 d
1 20 c. One could even venture the assumption that the epigrahic
prototype of the Acharnae stele was also exhibited, c. 356 B.C., in the
portico of Zeus Eleutherios or thereabout (cf. Isocr., 7, 41 : st???) 114.
The anti-Theban tendencies current c. 356 B.C. and provoking
Plato's direct or indirect references to the Apatouria 115, Theseus 116,
and the Plataean oath 117 explain another outstanding feature of our
dialogues. Aggressive as well as unfavourable to the cause of the Panhellenism, such tendencies were a priori bound to be disliked by the
philosopher, who had had several friends among the learned Thebans
(Simmias and Cebes notably) 118. Timotheus, too, passed for a
Boeotophile or nearly so u9, and his political line led between the
hostility to Thebes, characteristic of the moderates, and the extreme
sympathy for that great democratical centre, characteristic of the
radicals 120. Now, the Boeotian problem became acute on the eve of the
Sacred War, when Athens decided to side with Phocis against the
rise of the radicals. The dead : Paus., I, 26, 2 ; X, 21, 5 f. (the "plate of gold", Crit.,
1 20 c, probably belongs here) ; Euphranor's pictures may have also represented the
tribal eponymi [K. Robert, in RE, VI (1907), 1 193].
114 Naturally, the place was well-known to Plato (Theag., 121a, Eryx., 392 a ; both
the dialogues refer to the catastrophe of 415-413). An additional note on the
topography of the ritual is needed : Plato (Crit. , 119c) situates it, with the stele of
orichalcum, "in the sanctuary of Poseidon in the center of the island" [if his
Poseidonion is equated even here with the Parthenon, we have to remind ourselves
that the frieze of the Parthenon refers through the representation of the Panathenaic
Procession to Theseus' synoecism, the eponymous heroes (Ziehen, in RE, XVIII, 457,
464) and the ephebic cavalry (O. W. Reinmuth, The Ephebic Inscriptions of the Fourth
Century B.C. , Leiden, 1971, 137 ; there may be an interesting coincidence between the
mention of the war chariots in the Critias, 119 a, and the ?p?ß?t?? ????, Herter, loc.
cit., 1228, though the former may also hint at the battle in Euripides' Suppliants)],
which corresponds to the position of the Theseion (Plut., 77ies., 36, 4 : "in the heart of
the city") if not of the portico of Zeus Eleutherios.
115 The day when an Athenian (Melanthus ~ black) killed a Boeotian (Xanthus ~
white) by a trick (above, n. 84).
116 Above, n. 113; cf. Theseus' role in Euripides' Suppliants.
117 Cf. its 1. 32 f According to Plutarch, A lc, 15, the Ephebic Oath could have been
associated with the continental expansionism [which, in Critias' and Thirty Tyrants'
version (cf. Plut., Them., 19, 4), was no ideal, of course].
118 Note that prehistoric Athens rules over Megaris and Oropia but not further to
the West (Crit. 110 d-e).
1,9 Cf. e.g. G. L. Cawkwell, Historia 12, 1963, 94.
120 For an analogously neutral attitude in 355, taken probably by a partisan of
Timotheus, see Demosth., 20, 108 ff.
Thebans (356 B.C.) 121. As Xénophon openly confesses in his Poroi (5,
8-10), the pacifists - with Plato, no doubt - thought that for the
Athenians a position of neutrality disposed to a peaceful Pan-hellenic
settlement of the conflict (under Athenian guidance) was the best
solution, from both the political and religious standpoint. Pious men and Plato, with his respect for Delphi, was certainly among them could approve neither the Phocian sacrilege nor the Theban political
manipulation of the Amphictiony and sacred matters in general m.
Naturally enough, the dramatic events concerning the oracle gave rise
to many discussions on the reality of divine retribution ; these
discussions, according to Diodorus, used to refer to another catastrophe
(an earthquake followed by tidal waves) which some years before
(373 B.C.) befell Delphi 123 with two cities of Achaea, Hélice and
Bura 124. The case of 373, which was to be feared as a possible
precedent in 356 125, was also connected to a political action in which
Plato seems to have been personally interested 126. The students of the
phenomenon allowed, Diodorus says, two explanations, citing either
"natural circumstances determined by necessary causes" (natural
scientists) or "the anger of gods" (religious people) ; Plato certainly
believed in the latter alternative 127 but, because of the importance of
Delphi and the problem of sacrilege in about 356 128, held it advisable to
clear up the theoretical foundations of the matter through the
theological physics of the Timaeus 129. At least two names in the
Timaeus -Critias reflect the apologetic purpose of the dialogues : Critias
121 Bengtson, Staatsverträge, II2, no. 310. The decision had its prehistory, cf. Syll.3,
122 Cf. Rep., II, 364 b ff, for a criticism of the false religiosity.
123 J. Pouilloux, in RÉA, 64 (1962), 300, n. 1. It was that catastrophe which seems
to have been put down by Dionysius I to an Athenian sacrilege, Diod., XVI, 57, 1 ff.
124 Diod., XV, 48 ; XVI, 57, 1 ff. and 67, 1 ff. (announced by XV, 48, 4).
12î On the periodicity of destructions, Tim., 22 c-f ; Leg., Ill, 677 a.
126 The revival of the Panionion on the initiative of Timotheus (?), cf. note 1 32 of
the article cited above, n. 48.
127 Cf what is told of the cataclysms such as Deucalion's at Crit., Ill d ff., 121 b f.
Even the scientific (Taylor, Plato, 461) or pseudo-scientific account of denudation on
Attica (Crit., 1 10 e ff.) may have been intended to associate the contest between
Athena and Poseidon (Apollod., Bibl., Ill, 14, 1).
128 And 422-421 (the dramatic date of the Timaeus) too, Diod. 12, 73, 1 ; Thuc. 5,
32, 1.
129 It may be that one of Plato's politico-philosophical opponents (like Polyxenus)
was also engaged in the discussions of 356.
connotes an atheist (notorious through his Sisyphus), and Atlas the
materialistic philosophy, as an overlooked phrase of the Phaedo (99 c)
informs us. Without considering their Delphic aspect, an exegete of the
Timaeus and the Critias cannot find a satisfactory common
for their political and cosmological themes 13° : our proposition has
the further advantage of identifying the historical model of the disaster
of Atlantis and of primitive Athens. Like Delphi and the Achaean cities
in 373, they ended in an earthquake and tsunamis ; such destructions,
belonging to the periods when the God retires from the rudder of the
world-ship m, tend to menace the innocent but disunited bodies
(prediluvian Athens, Delphi in 373) in addition to the guilty (Atlantis
and Achaea) 132, and it can hardly be a mere coincidence that Proclus,
in illustration of the Timaeus, 25 c, points to the great natural
catastrophe of 373 133.
3. The foregoing observations are corroborated and completed to a
degree by an analysis of the names comprised in the Atlantid
genealogy 134. To my knowledge, there has so far been no
comprehensive discussion of the problems posed by it 135, though
Plato's choice of a mythological anthroponym, never purportless, tends
to hint, in passages of some bearing, at real, usually contemporary
personage. Two notices, in the Banquet (221 c-d) and the Phaedrus
(261 b-c), may even lead us to the conclusion that the philosopher
occasionally played with his listeners a game of deciphering such
no Qf tayior piato, 440 ("no logical connexion").
131 Cf. Politicus, 268 e ff. (note the ß?a??? te?e?t. at 270 e) and above, notes 124,
132 It would not be implausible to find in the comment on the "prophets" at Tim.,
72 b a reflex of Plato's unfavourable judgment on the Delphic priesthood in function
during the 360's and the 350's [Riv. ston. dell'Ant., 10 (1981), 12 fl.
133 Proclus' testimony (based on a biography of Plato ? ; cf. Diog. Laert., Ill, 1,
20 f.) has been cited, with a justified remark on the source of Plato's idea of
terminating the Attico-Atlanteanwar by a special type of the natural disaster ["... pretty
certainly suggested to Plato by the occurrence of the same thing on a lesser scale in his
own lifetime" (i.e. in 373 B.C.)], by Taylor, Commentary, 56.
134 The prosopography of prehistoric Athens (Crit., 110a: Cecrops, Erechtheus,
Erichthonius, Erysichthon), not unconventional, does not call for a detailed
examination (cf. Rivaud, op. cit., 235 ff. , who glosses it duly : "Platon semble avoir
choisi pour premiers rois d'Athènes, les héros qui engagèrent la lutte avec les enfants
du Dieu tutélaire de l'Atlantide").
135 That of Rivaud (op. cit., 237 f.) being perhaps the most important.
allusions 136. As Plato's own texts show, the obvious method of
identification was twofold, to treat the name etymologically 137 or to
qualify it according to the character or fate of its mythological
bearer 138, but other possibilities must also be reckoned with, especially
in the case of constructed names. And one should beware of too simple
solutions : like the implications of the choice of the dramatis personae
dealt with in the previous chapter, or the nature of their
in the dialogues, the pattern of the Atlantid genealogy appears
complex and multidetermined 139.
The case of the ancestors of Atlas and his brothers seems rather
transparent : an able (Evenor, "Man of good" 140) and ambitious
(Leucippe, "Spirit" 141 ; Cleito, "Fame" 142) race united with Poseidon,
the initiator of Athens' maritime orientation. The marriage of Cleito to
Poseidon foreshadows the historical deterioration of Athens (Syracuse),
which is spoken of at the end of the Critias. While Evenor has, within
the genealogy, a purely symbolic role 143 revealed through the
etymological meaning of his name, Poseidon represents a mythologically real character, who deeply influenced Athenian life of the fifth
and fourth century. Leucippe's and Cleito's part lies somewhere
between the two, for they are symbols and mythological allegories at
the same time, Leucippe standing for Melanippe (see below), Cleito for
Athena as assimilated by Poseidon 144.
Poseidon with Cleito "begot five twin births of male offspring and
divided the whole isle of Atlantis into ten parts" (Crit., 1 14 a) ; the five
136 Cf. L. Robins just remark ad Phaedr., 261 b (éd. Belles lettres).
137 Crit. , 1 1 3 a : the Atlantid names are translatable. "La saveur étymologique des
noms (of the Atlantids)" has been stressed (and overstressed in some cases) by VidalNaquet, Ioc. cit., 436, η. 82.
138 Cf. Symp., 221 c (Achilles ~ Brasidas, Nestor /Antenor ~ Pericles) ; Phaedr.,
26 1 c (Nestor ~ Gorgias, Odysseus ~ Thrasymachus/Theodorus).
139 Cf. e.g. Friedländer, op. cit., I, 222.
140 Vidal-Naquet, Ioc. cit.
141 Above, text and note 28.
142 Vidal-Naquet, ioc. cit.
143 Other known Evenors (see for Leocritus' son below, n. 156) have no relevance
144 Cf. our notes 87, 151 (Cleopatra ~ όβρψοπάτρη) and the attribute εΰδοξος of
(Athena) Nike in Simonides. Plato may have seen a sign of the analagous evolution,
negative in its final effect, of Athena toward a martial deity, in the Athena Areia of the
Ephebic Oath (1. 18, cf. 2 f.), Siewert, in JHS, 97, 109 f. ("a later intrusion").
pairs (Atlas, Eumelus or Gadirus ; Ampheres, Euaemon ; Mneseus,
Autochthon ; Elasippus, Mestor ; Azaes, Diaprepes) consequently form
two series, of senior (Atlas, Ampheres, Mneseus, Elasippus, Azaes) and
junior (Eumelus/ Gadirus, Euaemon, Autochthon, Mestor, Diaprepes)
brothers respectively. The absence of women has been emphasized 145
but not explained ; very probably, it implies Plato's critical attitude to
the Atlantids as a male warriors' club 146 lacking the order, purity and
culture typical of the feminine factor H7.
Now, the decimal constitution of Poseidon's Atlantid offspring
evidently reflects the Cleisthenic constitution of democratic Athens
with its negative by-products such as the body of the strategi. But its
duality - the elders and the youngers - has remained puzzling 148 and,
rather surprisingly, the mythological model of the Atlantid bipartite
dynasty has not been recognized. One can hardly doubt, however, that
Plato got his inspiration for this part of the Critias in the famous
genealogy of Boeotus and Aeolus 149 ; not only was the model popular
enough to allow the ancient reader to make an identification, it must
have been especially familiar to the Academy through Eurypides
(whose Melanippe happens to be quoted in the Banquet, 111 a), Plato's
wisest tragedian (Rep., VIII, 568 a). Several items common to the two
genealogies suffice to establish Plato's debt (the names of Poseidon,
Melanippe > Leucippe 15°, Cleito ~ Cleopatra 151 ; the fact that twins
figure in both the lineages), which, in its turn, makes us believe that the
Critias' bipartite stemma was intended to connote two parts of the
145 Rivaud, op. cit., 237.
146 Contrast Crit., 110 c.
147 For feminine order and purity see Leg., VII, 702 e, for the cultivating role of
women cf. the roles of Aspasia in the Menexenus and of Diotima in the Banquet. Y.
Brès' notes on Plato's attitude to women, though suffering from a certain modernizing
tendency [cf. L. Brisson, in REG, 86 (1973), 229], are essentially well-oriented (La
psychologie de Platon \ Paris, 1973, 221 ff.).
148 Vidal-Naquet (loe. cit., 438) ascribes it to the Otherness of Atlantis.
149 On it, Kruse, in RE, XV (1931), 418 ff.
150 The contrast of black and white makes here Melanippe an automatic association
(cf. above, notes 28, 115).
151 Cleopatra (Cleito may be taken as an abbreviation of her name, cf. above, n. 55)
replaces Arne of the Boeotus-Aeolus stemma ( = Cleito of the Atlantid) both as the
mother of grateful twins and as a wife of Poseidon [on Phineus as Poseidon's son and/
or maritime deity, Jessen, in Roschers Myth. Lex., Ill (1897-1909), 2374 f.]. Cf. Kruse,
toc. cit., 421 ; Κ. Ziegler, in RE, XX (1941), 219 ·, Eitrem, in RE, XI (1921) 732 f.
Greek world, similar to its actual source concerning Boeotia and
Aeolia. Plato himself suggests that conclusion to the reader in more
than one way, notably by connecting the elders, through Atlas, to
Athens 152, and the youngers, through Eumelus1 Semitic by-name, to
Syracuse. Of the further indications along the same line, mention
should be made of the ancient equation Aeolia-Sicily 153, and of the
philoboeotism of the Athenian radicals of the fourth century 154 ; the
former tends to identify Aeolus' (Eumelus') brothers with the bad
Syracusans, the latter the whole group of Atlas with Plato's and
Timotheus' enemies in Athens.
In all probability, the stemma was built with a threefold purpose, to
display mythological resemblence to its Aeolus-Boeotus model, to
provide symbolic names illustrative of the politico-philosophical
tendency of the Timaeus-Critias, and to allude through onomastic
coincidences to actual characters active in Athens and Syracuse during
the late 360's and early 350's, as was previously done in the Republic
and many other dialogues of Plato. Naturally, a single name may have
performed two or even three functions at the same time, especially the
second and third function, and refer to phenomena occurring in Athens
and Syracuse alike ; it was a certain parellellism of the Athenian and
Syracusan crisis c. 356-355 B.C. that made desirable the construction
of Atlantis as a cumulative symbol of the corrupt Athens and corrupt
Syracuse. It is impossible for a modern reader of the Critias to
understand all the messages of the genealogy, but the majority of
names allow of satisfactory interpretations along the lines traced here ;
no need to say that the Atlantid genealogy, like other ancient
genealogies 155, must be prevailingly mythological in its beginning, and
prevailingly historical at its end.
The fidelity to the mythological model(s) of the stemma may explain
the inclusion, besides Poseidon, Melanippe, and Cleito, of the
152 Cf. what is said on "the chief command" at Crit., 120 d.
153 Tümpel, in RE, I (1894), 1032 f., 1037 f. (the blend of the Thessalian and the
Sicilian Aeolus in Euripides' Melanippai).
154 Thrasybulus of Steiria and Aristophon of Azenia are the most prominent
examples. Atlas himself has important connections with Boeotia, K. Wernicke, in RE,
11(1896), 2128.
155 Cf. e.g. F. Jacoby's comment on the titles Ήρωλογία/Γενεαλογίαι of Hecataeus'
mythographic work and on Herodotus' distinction between the πρότερη γενεή and
άνθρωπηΐη λεγομένη γενεή (FGrHist, I, p. 3 1 8 f.).
Thessalian names Eumelus and Euaemon in Aeolus1 group 156, and the
quasi-Boeotian names Atlas and Ampheres in Boeotus' group 157.
Elasippus, an - ίππος anthroponym, fits well into a Poseidonic
genealogy 158.
The second function belongs to the names Evenor, Leucippe and
Cleito (these last being also mythological), further on to Mneseus
("Revengeful") 159, Autochthon 160, Mestor (~ μήστωρ άϋτης, "Author
of the battle-din") 161, and Diaprepes ("Magnificent") 162. It may be
combined with the first in the cases of Atlas 163, Euaemon
("Aristocrat") 164 and Ampheres (~ "Boatman") 165 while the qualities/
political watchwards contained in the meaning of these anthroponyms
may have also hinted at particular men notorious for possessing the
given quality or using the given watch ward 166.
156 The Thessalians Eumelus and Euaemon, figuring in the Iliad [that circumstance
is rightly stressed upon by Rivaud, op. cit., 237, since Homer must have been Plato's
chief source of inspiration in these matters (cf. the case of Evenor and Mestor, Rivaud,
op. cit., 237, notes 3 f.)], are naturally Aeolian (Euaemon was even Aeolus' grandgrand-son), Hoefer, in RE, VI (1907), 1079 ; Escher, ib., 834. Eumelus (Alcestis, the
mother of tragedy,
the betterwas
a popular
of thefigure
two Thessalians
referred to several
of that times
name inandtheheroine
179 b-f, 180 b, 208 d) may have been etymologically associated with Atlas and
Hesperus, Diod., IV, 27, 1.
157 For Atlas see above, n. 154, for Ampheres cf. Amphiaraus [the mythonym
occurring in several variants, e.g. Άμφις Othe Theban Άμφεΐον, in RE, I [1894],
1884) and Άμφιέρεως, in RE, I, 1186].
158 Melanippe's lineage contains an Hippotes and an Hippe.
159 Timotheus' and Dion's placability in both foreign and home policy corresponded
to Plato's ideas (cf. e.g. the approval of amnesty in Ep., 7, 325 b) but not to Athenian
and Syracusan practice c. 356 B.C. (see for instance Ps.-Demosth., 49, 66 f. ; Plut.,
Dion, 47-48, 1).
160 Autochthony was a political slogan of the radicals in Athens (Isocr., 8, 49) and
of the anti-Athenians in Syracuse (cf. Diod., V, 1, 3 ; 4, 3 ff.) ; on the philosophical
level, it may connote materialism (Soph., 245 e ff.).
161 ¡liad, IV, 328 ; cf. μήστωρ φόβοω, ¡Had passim.
162 Rivaud, op. cit., 237 with n. 7, remarks that "le mot διαπρεπής n'apparaît que
dans les textes bien postérieurs, par example dans le pseudo-Heraclite, qui le donne
comme épithète aux Hespérides".
163 Cf. Phaedo, 99 c.
164 The noble origin of the Athenians was also among the slogans mentioned by
Isocrates (8, 50).
165 An allusion to the Maritime League (cf. άμφήρης [δόρυ], L-S-J, s.v., [Ill) ?
166 Cf. below, for Mestor and Diaprepes. Possibilities for an identification of other
items are too numerous to be discussed (except perhaps of Eumelus who as a type of
the unsuccessful horse-racer may have stood for Dionysius I, Diod., XIV, 109, 1 ff.).
To the third category one could safely attribute those names which
are neither mythologically nor etymologically characteristic. There is,
in the strict sense, only one such, Azaes, whose possible connection
with αζα, "heat (of ambition)", is too distant to be reckoned with in an
edifying genealogy. The identification with Aristophon, the negative
protagonist of the (Timaeus ') Critias ' background, seems unavoidable :
his deme was Azenia - the form of the anthroponym Azaes is all the
more understandable as ancient 167 (and modern) etymologists derive
the Attic Azenia and the Peloponnesian Azania from the short αζα
"dryness of soil" - and the personal allusion under such a geographical
label could be expected in view of both Athenian political usage 168 and
the parallel provided by Plato's other metonomasy of a geographical
type 169. But it is likely, considering the normal tendency to progressive
laicization in a Greek genealogy, that at least two closing pairs of the list
purport entirely to historical opponents of Plato, Timotheus and Dion.
That is especially the case of Diaprepes, who is with Azaes the only
member of the dynasty having no namesake in the whole repertory of
Greek mythology 17°. Its meaning, analogous to the meaning of an
ironical address to Dionysius II in the slightly earlier Third Letter
(318 b: ώ θαυμάσιε, "Sir Marvelous") m, would seem to pertain to the
Sicilian tyrant. The last but one brother on the Syracusan side may
have been, etymologically, the pragmatic and war-like counsellor of
Dionysius and Plato's great rival, Philistus 172. His Athenian
Elasippus, seems to bear a name paraphrasing the name of the
politician Hegesippus 173, the proposer of the sacrilegious AtticoPhocian alliance in 356, Chabrias' personal enemy and a complete
radical 174. Finally, it is interesting to notice that any allusion to Chares
167 Eustath., ad Dion., 414 ; ad IL, 28, 8. - Azeus (Paus., IX, 37, 1) evoked by
Rivaud, op. cit., 237, η. 6, is a minor figure immaterial in this matter.
íes which, in the fourth century, cites the demotica, e.g. in the prescripts of the
decrees (a significant context, Phaedr., 258 a), and in the lists of officials.
169 Armenius, the father of Er in the myth of the Republic, epitomizes Orontes'
Armenian origin (above, n. 55).
170 As Rivaud, op. cit., 237, has already underlined.
171 Plato uses the same epithet also in a friendly meaning (Phaedr., 257 c) ; for an
analogous ambivalence see Weluver, op. cit., 6 with n. 3 (on φίλος).
172 On the personage, R. Laqueur, in RE, XIX (1938), 2428.
173 The first parts of the two names are almost synonymous.
174 On him, W. Kroll, in RE, Supplb. IV (1924), 713 f. (note the trustworthy
anecdote in Diog. Laert., Ill, 24).
is absent, at least according to our interpretation of the stemma 175. That
may have been due to the shortness of the list but also to the rules of
discussion in the Academy - the Timaeus-Cfitias, sophisticated and
demanding of the reader Platonic pre-knowledge as they do, were
obviously intended to be analized by senior students of Plato's politicophilosophical school - 176 which seem to have excluded topics of little
importance or undignified nature m.
Faculté de Philosophie,
Cika Ljubina 18-20, Belgrade, Yougoslavie.
Slobodan Dusanic .
175 With regard to Chares' conspicuous role in the events of 357-355, an allusion to
him under the names of Ampheres, Mneseus (or Mestor) would seem too vague.
176 The narrowness of the circle to whom the Timaeus-Critias seem to have been
consecrated tends to explain the fact that the political messages of the two dialogues fell
into oblivion ; understandably, the political context of Atlantis became absolete before
long, with the appearance of the Macedonian danger, which contributed to the same
effect. Aristotle's comment on the fabulous island, preserved by Strabo (II, 102 ; XIII,
598), indicates perhaps that the Stagirite knew what the Atlantis myth meant ; at least,
his comparison of Atlantis with the "wall of the Achaeans" Uliad, VII, 433, 441 ; XII,
1 ff. et pass.) is best understood, in the light of a passage from the Laws (IV, 706 f.), as
alluding to Plato's disapproval of Athens' maritime orientation.
177 The tactfulness
frg. 11 ; of Plato and his pupils became a commonplace of comedy
Ephippus' frg. 14 ; the anecdote Plut., Dion, 20, if probably
unhistorical, reflects nevertheless the etiquette of the Academy) ; Chares, on the other
hand, was a type of simpleton, and it is significant that neither Iphicrates ever refers to
him by name.
P.S. Accepted for publication in the Ant. Class, early in 1979, this paper does not
discuss a number of recent articles and books which bear on the problem of Plato's
Atlantis, including vol. V of W. K. C. Guthrie's History of Greek Philosophy.