Plato on the Flood, from Timaeus

O Solon, Solon, all you Hellenes are never anything but children, for there is not an old man among you.

Solon in return asked him what he meant.

I mean to say, he replied, that 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.

And I will tell you why. There have been, and will be again, many destructions of mankind arising out of many causes; but the greatest have been brought about by the agencies of fire and water, while there are other lesser ones by innumerable other causes.

Once upon a time Paethon, the son of Helios (the Sun or Apollo in the Greek pantheon), yoked the steeds in his father’s chariot, but he was not able to steer them n the path of his father, burnt up all that was upon the earth, and in the end he himself destroyed by a thunderbolt.

Now while this has the form of a myth, but it really signifies the declination of the bodies moving in the heavens around the earth, and the great conflagration of things upon the earth, which recurs after long intervals; so at such times those who live upon the mountains are in dry and lofty places normally are suddenly more liable to destruction than those who dwell by rivers or on the seashore.

And so Nile, who is our never-failing saviour, delivers and preserves us. But, on the other hand, when the gods purge the earth with a deluge of water,the survivors are herdsmen and shepherds who dwell on the mountains, while those like you, live in cities are carried instead by the rivers into the sea and the Nile is cursed and its former assistance is all but forgotten.

So whereas water comes down from above onto the fields and after the usual interval, they stream from heaven, like a pestilence, and comes pouring down, leaving only those of you who are destitute of letters and education; so that you have to begin all over again like children, and so know nothing of what happened before, much less what happened in ancient times, and instead you claim that “all was lost” when in truth none of you seek it out.

So Solon, in the first place, you remember a single deluge only, but there were many previous ones; in the next place, 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 and what is lost you always think is less than what you have now.

……………CRITIAS (Plato dialoge “Timaeus”)

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