‘…nine thousand was the sum of years which had elapsed since the war which was said to have taken place between those who dwelt outside the Pillars of Heracles and all who dwelt within them; this war I am going to describe. Of the combatants on the one side, the city of Athens was reported to have been the leader and to have fought out the war; the combatants on the other side were commanded by the kings of Atlantis…’
In his two dialogues, Critias and Timaeas, Plato describes an old war between the Athenians and Atlanteans. The above quote describes how much time had elapsed as told by Egyptian priests to Solon. The figure of 9,000 years has been in dispute as experts have determined the recording of years by the Egyptians may have been misinterpreted by Solon’s interpreter. Whatever the argument, the number has become a legendary part of the Atlantis myth.
Wars, since time immemorial, plagued humanity. Power, greed, control and enslavement pepper the world’s timeline. It still happens today. What made Plato’s dialogues so remarkable was the discourse between Socrates and his students and the description of a fabled land destroyed by natural forces. Atlantis was the super power of its day, it had everything a strong nation needed to ensure imperium. They did not start out warlike. They were a peaceful people, ruled by just kings and the nation flourished. They traded with nearby nations and grew in stature. This growth, both in military power and wealth, changed them. Their benevolent character was overcome by the desire for supremacy and riches.
What happened next was predictable. War. Athens fought back and according to a speech given by Timaeas, they won.
‘…Solon, your country shone forth, in the excellence of her virtue and strength, among all mankind. She was pre-eminent in courage and military skill, and was the leader of the Hellenes. And when the rest fell off from her, being compelled to stand alone, after having undergone the very extremity of danger, she defeated and triumphed over the invaders, and preserved from slavery those who were not yet subjugated, and generously liberated all the rest of us who dwell within the pillars.’
So who did the Athenians really fight? Could Plato be referring to the war against Troy? Or was it an older battle? The Minoans were a great power in the region and though there’s little information as to whether they were militant, they did have a strong army. Then there’s the myth of King Minos whose son was killed while in Athens attending an athletic event. There followed a war between the two which the Athenians lost. King Minos then demanded retribution with 10 Athenian youths and maidens to be sent to Crete every 9 years. It is possible Plato used the stories of Troy and King Minos to create his dialogues.
Of course, this is all my supposition. What do you think?
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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 http://eepurl.com/bhESs1