Most people who read this ancient text do so because it is the source of the Atlantis mythology (together with Plato's Timaeus). While I believe that Plato may very well have partially based his Atlantis on an actual city that was destroyed (e.g., the island of Thera), it seems fairly obvious that Plato's purpose in writing about Atlantis in these two works was to illustrate his ideal state as described in The Republic.The Republic, Timaeus, and Critias are all written as conversations involving Plato's teacher, Socrates. At the very outset in Timaeus, Socrates refers directly to The Republic:"... the chief theme of my yesterday's discourse was the State--how constituted and of what citizens composed it would seem likely to be most perfect."Socrates later declares that just as a person observing animals at rest would like to see the animals "engaged in some struggle or conflict to which their forms appear suited," he would like to see "the State about which we have been describing" in conflict.Critias (in the narrative of Timaeus) then proceeds to tell Socrates and the others about Atlantis, asserting:"The city and citizens, which you yesterday described to us in fiction, we will now transfer to the world of reality. It shall be the ancient city of Athens, and we will suppose that the citizens whom you imagined, were our veritable ancestors, of whom the priest spoke: they will perfectly harmonise, and there will be no inconsistency in saying that the citizens of your republic are these ancient Athenians."The narrative in Critias continues the conversation and the comparison not only between Atlantis and ancient Athens, but also between each of these states and the ideal state described in Plato's Republic.The greatest value, then, in reading both Timaeus and Critias is not in finding Atlantis, but rather in understanding Plato's Republic.§--
This little fragment is where we get the myth of Atlantis. Although the surviving fragment is pretty boring--mostly redundant descriptions of Atlantis' wealth in unnecessary detail--Plato continues to astound me as a writer more than a philosopher. In a rather postmodern trick, Plato tells a story (through Critias the narrator) of a story he heard as a child from Solon (a very unreliable source), which Solon had heard from Egyptian priests (an even less reliable source for a Greek). AND, Plato is the earliest known thinker to propose a "noble lie" for leaders. So, what Plato has done here, is not only give us one unreliable narrator, but three. Even in our day, when this kind of gimmick is everything, no one has been this playful. While the myth of Atlantis has fascinated people for centuries, it is, as a result of the above facts, nonsense. It never existed. Critias even says it reminds him of Plato's hypothetical ideal state, "which we discussed yesterday." This Atlantis is no more real than the Republic, and it sounds a lot like the Republic until the kings get corrupt, namely the warrior class of Guardians. I can only recommend this to the true believer. Most humans really have no use in reading this. But you can find it here: http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/critias...Scot Quaranda
Though just a fragment, it is an interesting work by Socrates that is part of a trilogy which includes his most popular work, The Republic and also the Timaeus. These three stem from a conversation between Socrates, Timaeus, Hemocritus, and Critias during an Athenian festival. It tells the story that Critias learned from his great grandfather Seneca about a time when Atlantis existed and was meant to tell of a great battle between ancient Athens and Atlantis. Being only a fragment, it only gets as far as describing how Atlantis came to be, what it looked like, how the government was set up and begins to introduce the corruption of the people and power there that led to Zeus determining a need to teach them a lesson. As a note, I found the editors commentary to be pure drivel and would recommend skipping it if you happen to pick up this particular version which can be found for free on Archive.org. He is full of himself and a skeptic to an extreme that I found painful.Fred Fanning
I am a big fan of Plato. This is a great dialogue with a lesson for us to learn.Viji Sarath (Bookish endeavors)
A popular read mostly because of the story of Atlantis it seems to focus on. It was a boring read. Not much in the terms of philosophy,or in the terms of beauty of writing style. This dialogue is also incomplete like many of Plato's other works.Ibis3
After a long hiatus, I picked up Plato's dialogues again in 2005, starting with a re-read of Timaeus and Critias which I'd read at least a couple of times before. No review or notes written at the time.