Plato and “the Famous Flood”

In Book III of his Laws, Plato has his characters discuss the origins of human government. Beginning with 677a and running for some pages thereafter, the characters discuss in particular “the famous flood,” the massive destructions caused by it, and the slow, painful recovery of mankind afterward. In his dialogues Critias (111-112) and Timaeus (22), time periods for this flood are given alternatively as 10,000 years before Plato’s own time and 9,000 years before Solon’s time.

Whatever the exact date may be, Plato’s time references for “the famous flood” are inextricably tied up with the Atlantis tradition. Plato’s account has the story of Atlantis coming through Critias the Younger, an ancestor of whom got the story from the great lawgiver Solon (638-558 B.C.), who himself got it from the Egyptians, who are supposed to have kept some of the best historical records in the Ancient World. If Plato’s time references are correct, they place “the famous flood” at around 9500 B.C. However, some scholars believe that ancient scribal errors added a “0″ to the figure, so that the actual date of the “famous flood” would have been just 900 years, not 9000 years before Solon – or about 1628 B.C.

Just for comparison, the literalistic reading of Old Testament chronology proposed by Archbishop Ussher placed the Flood in 2348 B.C. While I’m not generally inclined to be favorable toward biblicist literalism, plus-or-minus 720 years is a pretty small time discrepancy between two ancient sources regarding such an epoch-making event. I don’t know what any of this means, really, and I’m certainly not capable of offering a learned reconstruction of all of ancient chronology, inclusive of the Bible. I just know that I find questions, or should I say, mysteries, like this terribly interesting.

This entry was posted in Ancient Greece, Christianity and Classical Culture, Plato, The Ancient World. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.