Superphysics Superphysics
Chapter 2

Ancient Egypt and Atlantis

by Plato
9 minutes  • 1909 words
Table of contents

This tale was attested by Solon, who was the wisest of the seven sages.

He was a relative and a dear friend of my great-grandfather, Dropides, as he himself says in many passages of his poems. He told the story to Critias, my grandfather, who remembered and repeated it to us.

He said that ancient Athens did great and marvellous actions which have passed into oblivion through lapse of time and the destruction of mankind. One in particular is greater than all the rest.


Critias told this story to me when he was nearly 90 years old and I was about 10.

It was day of the Apaturia which is called the Registration of Youth wherein:

  • boys recited the poems of several poets
  • the parents gave prizes for recitations

Many of us sang the poems of Solon, which at that time had not gone out of fashion.

One of our tribe, either because he thought so or to please Critias, said that in his judgment Solon was not only the wisest of men, but also the noblest of poets.

Critias brightened up at hearing this and said, smiling:

Yes, Amynander. Solon found factions and troubles stirring in his own country when he came home. This forced him to attend to other matters instead of:

  • making poetry the business of his life
  • completing the tale which he brought from Egypt

If he did this, he would have been as famous as Homer or Hesiod, or any poet.

It was about the greatest action which the Athenians ever did, and which should have been the most famous. But, through the lapse of time and the destruction of the actors, it has not come down to us.

Tell us the whole story. How and from whom Solon heard this veritable tradition?

In the Egyptian Delta, at the head of which the river Nile divides, there is a district called Sais with a great city also called Sais where King Amasis came from.

The citizens have a deity for their foundress. called ‘Neith’. They assert that she is the same as the Athena of the Hellenes.

They are great lovers of the Athenians, and say that they are in some way related to them.

Solon went to Sais and was received there with great honour. He asked the priests who were most skillful in such matters, about antiquity. He discovered that neither he nor any other Hellene knew anything about history.

He wanted to them to speak of antiquity. So he began to tell about the most ancient things in our part of the world—about:

  • Phoroneus, who is called ‘the first man,’ and Niobe.
  • after the Deluge, of the survival of Deucalion and Pyrrha.

He traced the genealogy of their descendants. He tried compute how many years ago those events happened.

Then one of the very old priests said:

‘O Solon, you Hellenes are never anything but children. There is not an old man among you. In mind, you are all young. There is no old opinion handed down among you by ancient tradition, nor any science which is hoary with age. This is because there have been, and will be again, many destructions of mankind arising out of many causes. The greatest have been brought about by the agencies of fire and water. Other lesser ones were by innumerable other causes.

There is a story, which even you have preserved. It says that once upon a time, Paethon, the son of Helios, yoked the steeds in his father’s chariot. But he was unable to drive them in the path of his father. And so he burnt up all that was on the earth, and was himself destroyed by a thunderbolt.

This has the form of a myth. But it really signifies:

  • a fall of the bodies moving in the heavens around the earth, and
  • a great conflagration of things on the earth which recurs after long intervals

At such times, those who live on the mountains and in dry and lofty places are more liable to destruction than those who dwell by rivers or on the seashore.

From this calamity, the Nile, who is our never-failing saviour, delivers and preserves us.

When the gods purge the earth with a deluge of water, the survivors in your country are:

  • herdsmen and shepherds who dwell on the mountains, but those who, like you,
  • people who live in cities that are carried by the rivers into the sea.

Whereas in Egypt, the water never comes down from the sky since it always comes up from below. This is why the traditions preserved here are the most ancient.

Wherever the extremity of winter frost or of summer sun does not prevent, mankind exist, sometimes in greater, sometimes in lesser numbers.

Whatever happened either in your country or in ours, or in any other region of which we are informed—if there were any actions noble or great or in any other way remarkable, they have all been written down by us of old, and are preserved in our temples.

Whereas just when you and other nations are beginning to be provided with letters and the other requisites of civilized life, after the usual interval, the stream from heaven, like a pestilence, comes pouring down, and leaves only those of you who are destitute of letters and education.

And so you have to begin all over again like children, and know nothing of what happened in ancient times, either among us or among yourselves.

Those genealogies that you mentioned are no better than the tales of children because:

  1. You remember a single deluge only. But there were many previous ones
  2. You do not know that there formerly dwelt in your land the fairest and noblest race of men which ever lived, and that you and your whole city are descended from a small seed or remnant of them which survived.

This was unknown to you because, for many generations, the survivors of that destruction died, leaving no written word.

There was a time, before the greatest deluge, when the city which now is Athens was first in war and in every way the best governed of all cities. It was said to have performed the noblest deeds and to have had the fairest constitution of any of which tradition tells, under the face of heaven.

Solon marvelled at his words, He earnestly requested the priests to inform him exactly and in order about these former citizens.

A goddess founded your city Athens 1,000 years before ours to repulse the invasion from Atlantis receiving from the Earth and Hephaestus the seed of your race.

Afterwards, she founded ours, of which the constitution is recorded in our sacred registers to be 8000 years old.

If you compare these very laws with ours you will find that many of ours are the counterpart of yours as they were in the olden times. Our society is made up of:

  • a caste of priests separated from all the others [intellectuals and researchers]
  • artificers, who ply their several crafts by themselves and do not intermix [merchants and businessmen]
  • shepherds, hunters, husbandmen [workers]
  • warriors in Egypt are distinct from all the other classes [warriors]
    • These are commanded by the law to devote themselves solely to military pursuits.
    • Their weapons are shields and spears, a style of equipment which the goddess taught of Asiatics first to us, as in your part of the world first to you.

Our law from the very start studied the whole order of things. It extended even to prophecy and medicine which gives health, out of these divine elements deriving what was needful for human life, and adding every sort of knowledge which was akin to them.

All this order and arrangement the goddess first imparted to you when establishing your city. She chose the spot of earth in which you were born because she saw that the happy temperament of the seasons in that land would produce the wisest of men.

The goddess was a lover both of war and of wisdom. She selected and first of all settled that spot which was the most likely to produce men likest herself.

There you dwelt, having such laws as these and still better ones, and excelled all mankind in all virtue, as became the children and disciples of the gods.

Many great and wonderful deeds are recorded of your state in our histories. But one of them exceeds all the rest in greatness and valour.

The Atlanteans

These histories tell of a mighty power which, unprovoked, made an expedition against the whole of Europe and Asia, and to which your city put an end.

  • This power came forth out of the Atlantic Ocean, for in those days the Atlantic was navigable.
  • There was an island in front of the straits which you call the Pillars of Heracles.
  • That island was larger than Libya and Asia put together. It was the way to other islands.
    • From those islands, you could pass to the whole of the opposite continent which surrounded the true ocean [Pacific Ocean].

This sea within the Straits of Heracles is only a harbour, having a narrow entrance [Mediterranean Sea].

But that other is a real sea [Atlantic Ocean].

  • The surrounding land may be most truly called a boundless continent [Americas].

In this island of Atlantis, there was a great and wonderful empire which ruled over the whole island and several others, and over parts of the continent.

  • They ruled over parts of Libya as far as Egypt, and of Europe as far as Tyrrhenia.

This vast power, gathered into one, and endeavoured to subdue at one blow Egypt, Greece, and the whole of the region within the straits.

Then, Greece shone forth in virtue and strength. She was pre-eminent in courage and military skill, and was the leader of the Hellenes.

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.

  • She preserved from slavery those who were not yet subjugated, and generously liberated all the rest of us who dwell within the pillars.

Violent earthquakes and floods happened afterwards.

In one day and night of misfortune, all your warlike men in a body sank into the earth. The island of Atlantis similarly sank into the sea.

This is why the sea in those parts is impassable because there is a shoal of mud in the way caused by the subsidence of the island.

I have told you, Socrates, what the aged Critias heard from Solon and told to us.

When you were speaking yesterday about your city and citizens, the tale which I have just been repeating to you came into my mind.

I was astonished at how, by some mysterious coincidence, you agreed in almost every particular with the narrative of Solon.

The lessons of our childhood make a wonderful impression on our memories.

I am now ready to tell you the whole tale.


What else can be better than this, which is natural and suitable to the festival of the goddess, and has the very great advantage of being a fact and not a fiction?

How or where shall we find another if we abandon this? We cannot, and therefore you must tell the tale, and good luck to you; and I in return for my yesterday’s discourse will now rest and be a listener.

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