Timaeus and Critias (Penguin Classics) Revised Edition
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About the Author
Thomas Kjeller Johansen studied philosophy and classics at Trinity College, Cambridge. He is now University Lecturer in Ancient Philosophy at Oxford University and Tutorial Fellow of Brasenose College, Oxford. His publications include Plato’s Natural Philosophy: A Study of the Timaeus-Critias (Cambridge 2004).
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is understood to be convoluted and controversial. It can be fun.
If one reads carefully, it is easy to tell that this is a fictious work by plato, perhaps with real historic connections. We call such a piece today a historic-fiction, so that would make Timaeus and Critias from Penguin Classics, ancient-fiction.
But Atlantis is not the real focus of the work. The real focus is the ancient civilization of Athens. The story provides respectful details of Atlantis because, according to the story, Atlania attacks Athens in an all out invasion. Athens, however, prevails.
There are some who would argue that Plato is not refering to the real atlatic ocean because of an island in the south of Greece that seams to fit the details. The problem is that Plato makes a very distinct description: Atlania had a dominating power over much of the world, including a reference to a land far across the ocean, including all of North Africa. That would make Atlantis a very powerful nation indeed.
If there was rivalry between Athens and Atlantis, as described in Plato, then they could not both have existed so close as being on the same continent and have Atlantis gain such strength.
So, either Atlantis is a fiction in totality (a very real possibility that can be seen in the story's set up) or is a myth that is based on a great deal of truth.
How many gods did Greece believe in? I don't know, but even the ancient greeks believed that there was ONE God who made the whole of the universe. Then God made Kronos, who then made the lessor Gods such as Athena and Atlas (the father of Zeus). Plato details all this in the first part of the book, referred to as Timaeus.
I recommend this to anyone who is interested in the Atlantis impact on our modern day world.
Top international reviews
This must be one of my favourite Plato reads. The explanation of the purpose of the universe, the introduction of a demiurge as the architect of the universe, the detailing of the theory of the four elements and the triangles at molecular level creating the physical world, I found fantastic. The subsequent introduction of the World Soul making the universe a single living thing I found compelling. It does make “Timaeus & Critias” a fantastical journey through the worldview and mindset of some of the ancient Greeks. This is even more so as the Pre-Socratics never seem far away from Plato’s speculations.
As always, Plato’s works give the reader a lot to do, but his prose as well as Thomas Johansen’s introduction and excellent explanatory notes make this a great read. Furthermore, listening to Peter Adamson’s podcast and reading his accompanying book, Classical Philosophy: A history of philosophy without any gaps, Volume 1 is an excellent and enjoyable companion to classical philosophy in general and Plato’s themes, theories and context more specifically.
I was mildly irritated by the translator's disparaging comment about the neo-platonists, since the Process comunity has its origins in neo-platonism, obviously with a modern world view both in science and theology. Other than that, I can definitely recomend this book.
parts of general interest however, and this book offers the chance to read these, and as much of the more convoluted matter as
pleases you, in clear English, without any financial investment that hurts ! I read it 55 years ago for exams, more fun this time !!
For easier Plato (with intriguing picture of Socrates) you can try The Apology,, The Symposium, the first parts of The Phaedo,,
and the Republic itself. (They raise lots of questions and challenges for the thoughtful reader)..
how many words it needs