PLATO'S MYTH: TIMAEUS OR CRITIAS?

T. G. ROSENMEYER
10: recent attempts to date the Timaeus, comparatively little attention
been paid to its companion piece, the Cri/ias.
l
The usual procedure
to study the Timauu intensively, and to look at the Critias in passing,
to verify certain conclusions formed concerning the Timaeus, or
to .P?lnt to it as the unexpected vehicle of an even more surprising
politIcal novella, the Atlantis myth. This perfunctory treatment of the
Critias, which will be found to prevail in practically all general works on
Plato, is connected with the assumption, tacit and therefore, I believe,
unchallenged, that the Cri/ias was written after the completion of the
Timaeus. And indeed, it is a most natural assumption. In the Theaeletus,
and PoN/ieus we have a trilogy which apparently was planned
In the order in which we print the dialogues today; just so the Timaeus,
Cri/ias, and a supposedly planned Hermocrates must have formed an-
other trilogy. The guess appears to become a virtual certainty when we
look at the introductory section of the Crttias which clearly alludes to
the Timaeus as the dialogue which preceded it.
And yet, once we look a little more carefully at that introductory
section, we find a detail that will disturb us. Timaeus ends his speech
(106a) which, he says, dealt with the god who has long existed, i.e., the
cosmos, the universe, the object of natural science and metaphysics.
Now Critias takes over' and the first thing he says is that it is more
. '
dIfficult to talk about men than about gods, and that therefore he must
ask his audience for more tolerance and forbearance than had been
required in the case of Timaeus. Here is the gist of his words: "It is
easier to talk about the gods than about men. We are satisfied with an
approximate portrayal of the earth and mountains and rivers and
and the whole ouranos and the things which are and circulate around It.
But jf someone tries to portray our own bodies, then we sharply criticize
omissions and mistakes in the picture" (107a 7-d 5). .
The obvious implication of this passage is that human bodIes, and
men in general, have not been described in t?e Timams .. But equally
obviously, that just is not so; as much as a thIrd of the Ttmaeus as we
'Two radical attacks on the problem may be singled out fOT special mention: J.
Zuercher, "Ueber die Abfassungszeit des TimaioJ und PIti/<lMJ," P"7
61
(195:)
Plato wrote a Timacus, but the version which we have is the result of
b d G E L
0 "The Ploce of the T,m,ulIl In
y Xenocrates, ca. JJO ».0.; an . . . wen, . " .
Plato' D' I .. Cr,o 3 (1953) 79-95: the Tim'I'm was written soon after the Ripli {u,
S la ogues, -<:. . I' d Th nt paper was read
thus representing the last phase of Plato's midd e peno. e N h
before the 1956 meeting of the Classical Association of the PaCIfic Coast, ort ern
Section, in Portland, Oregon.
163
THE PHOENJX, Vol. 10 (1956) 4.
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164
THE PHOENIX
have it today is taken up with a discussion of animal life and man
(69c ff.), and man not only as a bundle of matter but also as a moral
being (e.g., 89d ff; also 41d ff.). Some of Plato's most trenchant obser-
vations on the subject of voils, ",vXq, and moral ltvlt'YK'l are, after all, to
be found in this dialogue. It might be argued that even the section on
human and animal life is essentially a treatment of the "god who has
long existed," inasmuch as man is here seen not in an ephemeral social
condition but as a lasting component of the cosmic system.' Still, it is
hardly likely that Critias would have made his remark about the com-
parative difficulty of discussing gods and men, if the Timaeus had then
already been designed to contain its present chapters on man as a physical
and non-physical being. Let us, then, propose the following hypothesis:
at the time when the introductory section of the Critias was written, the
Timaeus, if indeed it had gone beyond the planning stage, did not as yet
contain a discussion of man; i.e., the Timaeus was planned as a theogony
in the true sense of the word.
3
With this hypothesis in mind, we may now perhaps approach a second
question. \Vhy are there two versions of the Atlantis myth, one at the
beginning of the Timaeus (20d-26d), the other constituting the bulk
of the fragmentary Critias? Let us look at the two versions in detail,
beginning with the version in the Timaeus. First (20d ff.) CritiaS re-
capitulates the traditio of the tale: how Solon received it from the
Egyptian priest, how the Egyptian priest had compared the institutions
of his own country with those of an alleged aboriginal or Ur_Athens, an.d
how the tale had come down to Critias through the generations of hIS
family. We should note that the nature of the Athenian institutions is
not detailed, but merely inferred from the nature of the Egyptian insti-
tutions, which are themselves only briefly summarized. On the other
hand, there is a wealth of detail about things which are of no importance
for the Atlantis myth itself, about the succession of civilizations, and
cyclical catastrophes, and Solon's status as a poet, and the snobbishness
of the Egyptians.
In the next section (24d ff.), we hear about the greatest deed of the
Ur-Athenians, their repelling of the Atlantians. But again, no detail,
·C/. the ambiguous formulation (exclusive or inclusive /) 'TEAEV'TaV .ls a.v(JpW1rWV
q,uaw, Tim. 27a, and 'YEVEUfWS a.v(Jpw.,..LVT/< 90e .
. "Talk of onginal and revised versions is out of f:.shion today, and has been for some
t1me. C/. the scathing remarks of rutter, in Bursian 157 (1912) 60: .' ... die suess
en
Traeumereien .. . die revidierte Neuauflagen einer ganzen Reihe p\atonischer Schriften
zum haben." Nevertheless, the peculiar condition in which the Timaeu.s
and Cnftas.have been handed down, makes it probable that the Tima<us, like the Laws.
was not wrItten at one sitting. In any case, far from proposing a revis ion of the work as
does. I merely want to plead for a revision of the plan. Such a change of plan.
even In the absence of external data, may be verified internally in the case of a composite
structure, such as a trilogy.
PLATO'S ATL.-\:-:TIS MYTH 165
either about the :\.thenians or about the Atlantians' all we find out
abo hi' '
ut t e atter 1$ that they had a great empire, and that they were the
\\'e also learn that the Athenians liberated all within the
I ars of Hercules, and that afterwards there was a deluge which caused
At! .
antis to be submerged and Athens to be swallowed by an earthquake.
Here we get the impression that we are listening to an abstract,
a summary or list of contents. embellished as Plato likes to
embelhsh his introductions with seemingly irrelevant pleasantry and
personalia. This impression is confirmed in what follows (25e ff.).
C- .
ntlas gives his reasons why he had not told the story before, and ex-
presses his willingness to tell it all. In other words, this is a preface,
whose leanness is relieved only by the apparent humour with which
Plato dwells on the truth of the tale his Critias is about to tell. In fact,
.is so much harping on the word truth, and the of the
,adlllO, that the reader is soon convinced of the fact that he IS about to
lIsten to a pseudO$" and he is willing to suspend his disbelief. Socrates
certainly is; in fac; he declares that such a story is ideally suited to the
festival of the goddess whom they are celebrating today-. the
athenaea, in point of fact; but surely in our thIS festIval
merges with that on which Critias heard the tale from hIS grand:ather
i
the Apatouria; and that is, to use a popular etymology, Festival?
De ' . h settlmg down In
cepuon. However that may be, Just w en we are ., 1
ou h' . ' dos Crltlas sudden y
r cus IOns In preparation for a gennaton pseu, h Ik
ell: .' d d oses that e ta
Cuses hlmsel( pushes Timaeus for war ,an prop d . '
Ii' . of ba tImIng
. rst (27a 2). One wonders whether there IS a worse case
In the whole of Greek literature. n the com-
Now to the Cr;/;as. After the introductory 0 vchange
P
. • h I gy and alter an
aratlve difficulty of theology and ant ropO 0 ». I C" starts
. h H 1 b k direct 1, rltlas
WIt ermocrates to which we shal , come ac II h t nine thousand
as follows: "Let me begin by observlOg first of a , t a h' h was said
d' the war w IC
Was the sum of years which had elapse slnce
l
t 'de the pillars of
t h h ho dwe t au 51 •
o ave taken place between t ose W . I m noW gOIng to
Hercules and all who dwelt within them. T;IS (. eleven lines of
describe" (108e 1-4) This sentence, and t e °h 0..,.. A1US They were
• . in t e •
depend for their effect on the versl:>:rable time after it,
WTltten after it and perhaps some consld d fj the war was In the
h
' , h' h counte rom ' f
t e figure nine thousand, whlc IS ,ere U A h ns' an evident lapse 0
T, d of r- t e . h' h
tmaeus counted from the foun atlOn h rlier version w Ie we
. b ck to t e ea h d
memory. In addition to referrIng us a , . g the summary we a
f
h ummarlzln b
now have in the Timtleus, and ,urt er s (. details which had not een
found there the new section gIves us a. e
W
fi
its submersion formed a .
. '. h h t AtlantIS a ter. I her words,
mentIOned earlIer; suc as, tad f an allIance. not ,
b
·h the lea er 0 cll lOtTO-
mud ank and that At ens was f, II and stately as su
, . not as U
We have here a second introductIOn, .
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166
THE PHOENIX
ductions in Plato usually are. but full enough to prevent the sequel from
coming upon us too abruptly.
And yet, the abruptness is noticeable: "In the days of old, the gods
had the whole earth distributed to them by allotment" (109b Iff).
This, at long last. is the true beginning of the Atlantis myth. What fol-
lows is Platonic mythopoeia at its best. From the divine distribution of
land. and the participation in the process of Athena and Hephaestus,
we turn to a piece of geological archaeology, the lay-out and nature of
the land of Attica, climaxing in a description of the topography of Athens.
all in severely scientific terms, and of the distribution of classes in the city.
The description of Atlantis follows, and it is this which engages Plato's
powers of imagination to their fullest. Poseidon creates the ten royal
ancestors of Atlantis, and arranges the island in concentric rings, two of
land and three of water. We hear of the richness of the soil, the technical
accomplishments of the engineers, the extravagance of the buildings:
baths, harbour installations, barracks. Then we are transported to the
central plain outside the city, with its canals and its magnificent irrigation
system. The soil makes the man; and so finally we hear of the military
organization of Atlantis, and its civil administration, with its kings, and
the royal conventions with bull-baiting, sacrifice. and prayer. This is
Utopia, a maritime empire of vast dimensions ruled by a federation of
kings. Plato designs it as a Utopia, to confront it with a Utopia of quite
another stripe: Ur-Athens, which in the end saved Europe and Africa
from the imperial yoke.
We should note, however, that even for Plato, who lavishes such
brilliant colours on the construction of this house of cards, the Utopia
remains unreal. The total impression is one of miniature life. Plato starts
with the concentric rings which Poseidon arranges for the future habi-
tation of the Atlantians. These rings are conceived on a minor scale, like
the breakwaters which shelter the harbour installations of the Piraeus, or
like the walls surrounding an Attic fort. But as the tale proceeds, the
rings seem to grow before our eyes until each ring, and each segment of
a ring, is crowded with plains and mountains and walls. and harbours, each
of them in turn quickened with tumult and activity. The mountains
teem with forests and villages and other agglomerations of life. Is Plato
parodying the city builders of the school of Hippodamus? Is this a satyr
play to his Laws? Whatever the motivation of it all, it is clear that here
we have the real tale, to which the version in the Timaeus is merely an
introduction. In fact, we cannot avoid the conclusion that the two
versions belong together as introduction and main tale, and that the new
shorter preface (Critias I08e-I09a) was put before the tale when the
two separated and the introduction put into the Timaeus.
therefore, we are tempted to conjecture that the Critias was
written first, before the Timaeus; we now add the proposition that the
167
PLATO'S ATLANTIS MYTH
was mutilated in order to bring about the Timaeus in its present
l ape. The mutilation was not, of course practised on a living body' for
the C: • . . ' '
nllas was unfinlshed when Plato turned to the Timaeus.· At the
';:" of ,he f",men< whieh we hav.-and ,he<e i, no <au,e foe ,uppo,in,
t at It was ever anything more than a fragment-Critias stresses the
virtue of the Atlantians, and almost reluctantly admits that
In the end the law of physical degeneration-a constant Platonic motif-
.. d even 'he Ad.n,ian' '0 mo,,"y defeodve. So Zen" we a<e
d, decides to chasten them, in order to reduce them to their old
virtue .•• and here the fragment breaks off. We may eJ(pect that Zeus
announced to the other gods that he would fill the Atlantians with hybris,
so that they would march against Athens; the war, and their defeat, will
detlat h . . d"
. e t em, and perhaps even make them virtUOUs again; Ivtne
Inter . . .
venuon IS capable of reversing the cosmic trend toward degeneratIOn.
The trouble is, of course, that they already hold almost all of Europe
and Africa. What is more important, Plato did not see the end of the war
as an occasion for corrective justice, as outlined in the Protag
oras
,
Gorgias, and Laws but rather as destruction on both sides. It is thus
futile to speculate 'what the Critias, if completed, might have give',1 us.
All that we can say is that the Critias waS planned to present us. with a
of m.n in a"ion, of ,000.1, po!ideol man living and £,h"o, an,'
dlggmg his own grave.
6
I have referred to the original Timaeus .as Plat.o s
Theogony' this would have been his Works and DayS. Only while Hes
lOd
preferred'to draw a picture of individual man, beset with problems
within his community and attempting to solve them through process of
law, Plaw ,." up ,wo du" '" vie wi,h .a<h o,hee, and ,he mode of
,hoi, .omp .. i'io
n
i, no' 'h' ,,>e.h fo' Ie,al ,ed,,,,, bu' and
political confrontation . and ultimately war. It is tnterestlng
h .'. h' rrL uprernely optimiStiC
owever, that Just as HeslOd made IS J "eogony aSh
d . . f ..' nly to counter the ymn
ocument to sing the praises 0 cosmiC JUStice, 0 . • PI
with his frightening comments on the outlook for soclet;y. Just so atO
fi . f A th cosmiC level. only to
rst cheers US with his apotheOSIS 0 YOur on e f
draw the lesson of o.v6:'("1/ in the social realm and preach the message 0
degeneration. . d f Critias has
In the introduction of thecritias as we It to; theme
a k d L' • f h' audience lor IS u .. · '
s e lor tolerance on the part 0 .15 • . 'll grant your
Socrates speaks as folloWS: "Certainly, we HW;nllocrates' for
r . I h by antiCipatIOn to ' .
equest, and we wII grant t e .sam
e
little while hence, he Will
I have no doubt that when hiS turn comes ad I d r then that he
k
h
· h have ma e. n or e , •
rna e the same request W IC you
h
PlatO had not
• . "1080-
109a
SUggests t at
" However, the new introductton Cr.
t
• " h" part of the project.
Immediately ";ven up his intention of completing t flS I that both Atl.
ntlan
, and
"'. f f h sort 0 peop e
'Tim. 90b characterizes the ate 0 t e hil h""
A h
" . h h practise P osop "
t enlans are, as against t ose W 0
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168
THE PHOENIX
may provide himself with a fresh beginning, and not be compelled to
say the same things over again, let him understand that the indulgence
is already extended by anticipation to him." A little later Hermocrates
himself says a few words, and then Critias refers to him as "you who are
stationed last and have another ahead of you" (J08a-c). Hermocrates
also was to talk about men. In fact, his speech may have been planned
as a continuation of Critias' speech, perhaps in the same dialogue.
Socrates' somewhat awkward arrangement for the elimination of pre-
liminaries reminds us of the equally mechanical disposition at the begin-
ning of the Theaetetus, that from now on the narrative "I said" and
"he said" will be omitted. In any case, the incident seems to suggest
that the speeches of Critias and Hermocrates were closely connected.
One may speculate what the function of Hermocrates was to be. Did
Plato mean him, the successful repeller of an imperialist invasion of
Sicily, to tell us how the Athenians defended themselves against the
invading Atlantians-a most ironical situation, which might well have
appealed to Plato? In that case Critias would have told only half the
myth, and most probably Hermocrates would have taken over half way
through the dialogue. Or was it planned that Hermocrates was to speak
after the myth, and to lead a theoretical discussion of international
relations? Or was he to build a new city, along the lines of the Republic
or the Laws, superior not only to Atlantis but even to Ur-Athens because
fortified against the decay which affected them?
To me, this last suggestion is the most appealing, that Hermocrates,
perhaps starting with the defence and ultimate disappearance of Ur-
Athens, in turn was to build up a new city, a city destined to realize the
"OtiS of the Timaeus on the social level, and make for a permanent social
life; in other words, another Republic, or Magnesia. And here is the reason
why this seems likely. In the Critias, the belief is throughout that
Timaeus was the first speaker, that Critias is the second, and that
Hermocrates will be the third. There is, in the Critias, no reference to an
earlier meeting at which Socrates himself had been the speaker. In the
Timaeus as we have it today, there are three allusions to the fact that
Hermocrates is a partner in the conversation, and once he even opens his
mouth (20c 4), to prompt Critias to tell his tale, or rather what turns
t<;' be his introduction. But he is not openly referred to as one who
w.ill give a lecture of his own; and at the point just before Timaeus begins
his (27a-b), where the later disposition of the subject is discussed
by Cntlas, no part is assigned to Hermocrates and Critias talks as if he
and Timaeus are the only ones involved in eranos of lectures. Not
quite; for inl?tead of Hermocrates, we find that Socrates himself
was the third speaker in the trilogy, and that he had preceded the
other two.
This intelligence, which is entirely unexpected for one who had first
PLATO' S ATLANTIS MYTH
169
looked t J C·· .
hat Ie rlltas, IS emphasized several times. It now appears (17a 2)
at all three had been with Socrates the day before and had heard him
the best city. That the discussion referred to'is not precisely that
Ich Plato published as the Republic, is obvious, if only from the fact
t at the company was not the same. Instead of Adimantus and Glaucon
w.
e
have Timaeus and Critias and Hermocrates.
6
But the recapitulation
given of that discussion of the day before shows that the conversation
must. have had much in common with that of the Republic, for it stresses
certam facts, such as the sharing of wives, and the nuptial number, and
the institution of the guards, which were then unmistakably linked with
the Republic. That only the more startling aspects of Plato's Utopia
sho.uld be stressed in this resume is perhaps to be explained from his
deSire to announce publicly, in spite of mockery and parody, that he
no cause to change his mind on these more extravagant issues. This
IS, of course, mere speculation. Much more important, Plato uses the
new feature, the fiction that a Utopia had been discussed the day before,
to motivate the introduction and summary of the Atlantis myth which
he had now taken over into the Timaeus. This is what Socrates has to say
wi th reference to the previous day's talk: "I should like, before proceeding
further, to tell you how I feel about the state which we have described.
I. might compare myself to a person who, on beholding beautiful anima!s
either created by the painter's art, or, better still, alive but at rest, IS
seized with a desire to see them in.motion or engaged in some struggle or
conflict to which their forms appear suited. This is my about. t.he
state which we have been describing. There are conflicts all
undergo, and I should like to hear someone tell of our own
on a struggle against her neighbours .•. " (19b--c). By t.hls unhkely
stratagem of Socrates expressing a wish to become Py.gmaho?, and see
the eternal form of the state subjected to degenerative actIOn,
justifies the presence of the part of the Atlantis myth which we find In
the Timaeus. Plato had not managed to finish the Critias; the planned
Hermocrates, if it was ever planned as a separate dialogue, naturally
by the wayside too and so Plato had to find another place for the dlsd-
. .' .' .. II H ocrates' preserve' an
CUsslOn of the Ideal city whIch was ongma Y erm . • (
Plato did make room for it by placing it first, and creatmg a sort 0
acephalous trilogy. . ive'
Now the Timaeus and Critias must be seen In a new perspect . •
instead' of forminoo the opening and middle portions of a
'" b . aI' d 0 vmg agalOs
toward its final climax, the two were to e Ize las edv k place
. . . . h ch had a rea Y ta en . ,
the ImagIned background of a dISCUSSIon WI . I the case
This would of course be unparalleled in the Platonrc corpus. n
.. ' hom Socrates reports his conversation
'To argue that the anonymous audIence to w (th T;mluus or that Plato later
with Adimantus etC. may have bee? the 0 !; srems me mistaken.
utilized the anonymity of that audIence (or suc a purpo , ,
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170
THE PHOENIX
of the hypothetical dialogue Philosopher, we would have the reverse
situation, if that dialogue was, as some scholars believe, never meant to
be written, but merely to be divined as the ultimate fruit of the study of
Theaetelus-Sophist-Politicus. That sort of imagined telos makes sense.
But what can possibly be the purpose of a trilogy which starts with an
imagined first movement? Does Plato mean to suggest that the kind of
exposition which Socrates had given in the Republic required the kind of
complementary tales that are told by Timaeus and Critias? In what sense
do the three form a whole? What is the dynamic curve of such a constel-
lation ?7
These and similar questions need merely to be asked to show the
inadequacy of the scheme as it has come down to us. The whole trouble,
we are now prepared to believe, was apparently caused by the dropping
of the contemplated Hermocrate.t, and by the transfer of the introduction
of the Atlantis myth from the Critias to the Timaeus. It is this last point
which constitutes the crucial problem: what may have been Plato's
purpose in publishing a Timaeus which at its beginning is disfigured by
a patently irrelevant fraction of the Atlantis story? "Irrelevant" di-
gressions, and seemingly trivial intrusions, are of course among the most
important devices of Plato's literary art. The digression in theTheaetetus,
on the philosopher and the politician, which to many generations of
scholars seemed to have a merely adventitious function in the dialogue,
can now be recognized as a most meaningful, and even indispensable part
of the discussion. In purely empirical, not to say humdrum terms, it
allows us a glimpse into the higher conflict which will eventually set
aside the sensationalist pretensions. Could the same be true of the
Atlantis summary in the Timaeus? Does it afford us a non-dialectical
glimpse of what, if treated philosophically, might have been the climax
of the dialogue? For it deals with the social prospect of man, as against
the physical and intellectual condition of man which is approached
directly, and scientifically, in the body of the treatise. Those scholars,
therefore, who feel that all Platonic thought has at its apex social phil-
osophy, may argue that the most vital issues in the Timaeus are touched
upon in the Atlantis summary rather than in the speech of Timaeus;
hence we would have to count it as a parallel to the digression of the
Theaetetus, less subtle perhaps, but functional nonetheless.
The position of the Atlantis summary may puzzle us. The only other
dialogueS which gives us a myth so near the beginning of the discussion
'Against Owen (p. 90), therefore, I hold with Corn ford that Plato started
writing the Timaeus and Critias without thinking of the Republic. Against Corn ford, I
do not feel that the finished product is completely independent of the Republic.
~ T . h e Pa/iJicus myth does not come quite so early, particularly if we consider that its
posltlOn should be calculated within the whole trilogy as much as within the Politicus
itself. -
PLATO'S ATLANTIS MYTH
171
is the Pro/,!goras, and it may be significant that in both cases, in
b e [rmaeus and the Pro/agoras, the myth is told by a sophist and not
r ocrates. But It should be obvious by now that the myth was not
Ph anned to stand at the beginning, but that it was meant to follow after
e conclusion of Timaeus' speech. The trilogy of Timaeus-Critias-
whether designed as two or as three dialogues had been
conc d d' h' '
elve as a IptyC, to unfold against the central myth of the Critias.
Thu,s, structurally, the Atlantis myth was analogous to the Simonides
of the Pro/agoras rather than to the Prometheus myth. In that
POSitIOn, and with the fulness to which even our fragment testifies the
A I . ' t antis myth would have allowed us to progress from the eternity of
the cosmic structure, via the cataclysmic vision of the ancient war, to
the exigencies of the political debate. In that position, the Atlantis myth
would have warned us that it is action which counts, and that the science
of the Timaeus has a merely propaideutic purpose. But now we find the
summary of the Atlantis tale in the Timaeus, a myth within a scientific
myth, a digression at the very start of a discussion on which it seems to
have no bearing; in this new position, do we find the Atlantis tale equally
meaningful? For one thing, the summary is so scanty that without a
reading of the Critias we would not know what Plato really had in mind.
A,nd one may suspect that when he put the summary into the TimaeuS
hiS mind was filled with the detail which he had conceived for the Critias,
and he failed to see that by itself the summary would not convey much,
Still, the crucial question remains. '"vhy did Plato transfer the intro-
duction from the Critias to the Timaeus? Had anything happened to
the Timaeus which demanded this change of plans? And here we come
back to our earlier difficulty: the presence of a section on man in the
Timaeus. Apparently, when Plato was writing the Timaeu
s
.. he came too
realize that the scientifiC perspective which he had chosen did n?t permit
him to separate the theological from the material, as he
had intended. The result was a treatise which starts With the gods and
ends with man. This was perhaps unavoidable, in view of the Con-
nexion between the human and the cosmic as it meets us, for tnsta.nce,
in the Symposium. But it did upset the original plan; at the same t1m.c'
there was the danger that readers would view the on
h
. 'h d" b' ub speCIe (JeurnlfatJl.
t e same light as the section on t e IVlne elng. s f
. PI ' d th summary 0
I t may be proposed therefore, that atO Inserte e h h' h
Atlantis as a hint to his readers that man is not to be placed on t arb·lg
1
,'b' d at least has been so su 1
ect
p ateau' that hiS nature IS su "ect to ecay. or A I '
.' , I d Th then the t anUS
In the history of WhiCh we have knoW
e
ge, us,, h
section in the Tim4
eus
should be explained with refer.ence to h
ro
:
d
f
h
d' I gu In thiS connelCtOn, It a
pological increment at the en 0 tela 0 e: ' f I' its new
, ' f ' "'''hethe
r
It IS success u In
a warning or deprecating unction. " . ' . d 't
b
' n d' It IS tOO cursory, an I
position and its new role may' e questt
O
e ,
,
;1 .

_: I
! , !

172 THE PHOENIX
comes too early, to function properly, and in any case most of us will
feel that the Timaeus is after all ITlainly concerned with the gods, the
cosmos, and only secondarily with man, and that therefore the digression
only falsifies the perspective. It seems irrelevant, and ill-timed, unless
indeed it is merely an advertisement of the fact that the Critias will
follow later. This possibility we may, I think, reject out of hand.
I realize there is too much hypothesis in what I have suggested.
There must be better, and even simpler, explaaations of the difficulties
which we have noted. But these difficulties exist, and they ITlust be faced
in some way or other. It is remarkable how rarely scholars have asked
themselves what effect the abandonment of the Critias may have had on
its companion piece, the Timaeus.
9
But is it not likely that the re-
linquishing of the Crilias would leave some scars also on the Timaeus?
Why the Critias was left incomplete would be futile to ask. I have tried to
indicate that some of the discrepancies between the two dialogues, and
some of the internal features of the Timaeus, may be understood as
resulting from the abandonment of the Critias, and the remodelling
of the Timaeus, so as to include man within the area to be discussed.
tO
·Wilamowitz (Platon, vol. I, 591ft; vol. 2, 255ff.) clearly saw some of the puzzles in
'the structure of the Timaeus, but did not proceed to venture an explanation.
10
1 believe that it is possible to demonstrate that the Critias is one: of Plato's last works.
Terminology, affinities with what P. Clochl; h as identified as Isocrates' fourth period,of
political thought (LEC 1936, 394ff.), and a certain archaic stiffness comparable to that
of the Phi/thus, suggest a late date. If so, the consequences for the Timatus are obvious.
,

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