The legend of Atlantis begins with Plato who wrote two Socratic dialogues Timaeus and Critias. These are the only two existing written records which refer to the lost continent. The fact that Plato wrote about the fabled city gives credence to the existence of such a place. Like Homer before him and the legend of Troy, Plato heard the story of Atlantis and retold it. According to a number of sources, Plato while a boy was listening to his great grandfather, Solon and other men who recounted the story. Much like the Homer’s Iliad, the legend of Atlantis has a basis in fact, and it’s a matter of washing out the dregs to get to the gold.
Many of Plato’s dialogues were written as teaching tools, parables and oft times, Socrates his mentor and teacher was the main character leading the discussions. In a sense, it was Plato’s way of eulogising his teacher who was condemned to death for coercing and leading the Athenian youth astray with his teachings. The dialogues were a written response to the theory of an “ideal society” led by a discussion from Socrates. It was not long after Plato wrote his Republic, a further idealised approach to how a society should run, the policies, principals, rights of individuals and laws enforced.
The character of Timaeus may or may not have been a real person but Critias did exist. Critias was Plato’s great grandfather who heard the story from Dropides, (his grandfather) who in turn heard the story from Solon. Solon was an Athenian lawmaker who lived in the 7th century BCE. Solon travelled to other cities to gather information on laws and while in Egypt he learned of the legend of a lost continent from an Egyptian priest. Solon was the source of the information, and he was hailed as a great Athenian and not known for exaggeration.
The Timaeus script mentions Atlantis briefly, yet is a significant part as it refers to the meeting between Solon and the Egyptian priest and a descriptive passage on Atlantis. This passage alludes to the many great floods the planet suffered which may have come from an ancient Sumer legend. There is a reference the Egyptians and Athenians share a common goddess after whom the city was named after. The priest goes on, mentions the war between Atlantis and Athens and the eventual destruction of Atlantis.
The Critias text is much more comprehensive discussion on Atlantis, giving specific details of the island, the people, how they lived and technology used. There are references to the number of kings, types of animals and various flora, and the structure of buildings. He even mentioned hot and cold running water!
The information written as dialogues came from true accounts however, Plato did embellish as did Homer. He was also making a point as to no matter how powerful a city or country may be, hubris will get you in the end.
In my next post, I will look at the many colourful characters who wrote about Atlantis. Thank you for tuning in and reading.
Just as a side note, Plato does make an appearance in book 2 in my series Servant of the Gods.
As always, your comments are valued and welcomed.
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Historical fiction fantasist Luciana Cavallaro, a secondary teacher, meanders from contemporary life to delve into the realms of mythology. Subscribe to her FREE short story.