Plato`s Later Work
The Atlantis report is part of a very extensively planned later work by Plato. It was supposed to be a debating duel between Timaios, Kritas and Hermokrates. Only the first speech, the one by Timaios, was completed. The second speech, which contains the Atlantis report, Plato broke off, when it had reached about a quarter of the first speech. Originally Plato had the intention to write far more about the Atlantians.
What did he want to report in the missing approximately three quarters?
As he had announced: The decline of the Atlantians, the war, and finally the fall.
What did Plato want to hand down to the posterity?-
The first speech describes the existence, the nature, the creation up to human kind. The second speech starts on this point and continues with a passed down story, which starts with the creation of man by God. He develops a state construction of extraordinary size and power. The detailed description about the constitution of this state and its rulers is followed by one paragraph in which Plato mentions the slowly starting degeneration of the Atlantians and Zeus’s intention to punish them for that. At this point Plato’s legend breaks up.
This work, which was meant to contain three speeches, remained unfinished apart from the first speech. After this Plato wrote at an advanced age, his extensive work Nomoi. - And it is, as expected, the continuation of the investigations which he had started in Timaios and broken up in Kritias.
Timaios deals with the creation up to human kind. Nomoi starts with the examination of states, which were still governed according to divine laws. (In the beginning paradisiacal conditions rule). After that, the third volume deals with the destruction of mankind. In a flood, which Plato now analysis, he writes in farley similar words as in the announcement of the Atlantis report, that only a few shepherds on the mountains would survive this flood "On the tops of the mountains preserved sparks of the human race." (The expulsion from paradise respectively the doom in the flood) - All towns drowned, politics, literacy, art and craft. Millions of years, Plato wrote, this knowledge was withheld from human kind, until it was rediscovered shortly before his time. Millions of years (thousand multiplied by thousands of years), hence millions of years after the highly developed human kind has declined, their knowledge, which these people already had, remained unknown to the following generations, until it had been rediscovered shortly before Plato's time. Such he wrote in the third volume of Nomoi!!!
Sensational for this time. Only now the thesis becomes little by little accepted, that homo sapiens has lived already in the times of the dinosaurs.
When Plato planned to continue his Atlantis report in Kritias and therefore intensively studied this field, it became clear to him that such developments as the paradisiacal conditions in the beginning of human kind, the slow disintegration and destruction, as well as rise of the now heavily decimated human race, could not happen in a couple of millenniums, but needed millions of years. When he recognised this, it became clear to him, that no one could still remember how this had all happened. Hence the continuation of the Atlantis report, as he had originally planned it in the speech of Kritias, a war of the Athenians against the Atlantians, became pointless.
Still being certain, that somewhere a place must exist, which gives witness of such a doom, and that the Atlantis legend is about this place, he left the legend as it was reported to him.
In the continuation of Nomoi, Plato analysis the question, how the human kind has developed after these disasters, of which there must have been several. The small scattered groups procreated within a very long time, until it came again to the foundation of towns. Each group brought its own customs to the new community and stuck with it. This led to inconsistencies and conflicts. So Plato's theory. It was necessary to make laws, which applied to everybody. And the education of children must be orientated in that way, that the youth would devote towards the beautiful and the good things. The main part of the work Nomoi is dedicated to this aim.
The Atlantis report was already in Plato's time a legend with all characteristics of a legend, thus, that there is a true bit in it, which must be fathomed. As legends are most of the times passed down orally, location and dating, even contents might be inaccurate or wrong and mixed with the products of phantasm. It became clear to Plato, when he considered all this, that he couldn't use this legend to support his theory, even though it seemed very important to him.