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[677a]

Athenian
Do you consider that there is any truth in the ancient tales?

Clinias
What tales?

Athenian
That the world of men has often been destroyed by floods, plagues, and many other things, in such a way that only a small portion of the human race has survived.

Clinias
Everyone would regard such accounts as perfectly credible.

Athenian
Come now, let us picture to ourselves one of the many catastrophes,—namely, that which occurred once upon a time through the Deluge.1

Clinias
And what are we to imagine about it? [677b]

Athenian
That the men who then escaped destruction must have been mostly herdsmen of the hills, scanty embers of the human race preserved somewhere on the mountain-tops.

Clinias
Evidently.

Athenian
Moreover, men of this kind must necessarily have been unskilled in the arts generally, and especially in such contrivances as men use against one another in cities for purposes of greed and rivalry and all the other villainies which they devise one against another. [677c]

Clinias
It is certainly probable.

Athenian
Shall we assume that the cities situated in the plains and near the sea were totally destroyed at the time?

Clinias
Let us assume it.

Athenian
And shall we say that all implements were lost, and that everything in the way of important arts or inventions that they may have had,—whether concerned with politics or other sciences,— perished at that time? For, supposing that things had remained all that time ordered just as they are now, how, my good sir, could anything new have ever been invented? [677d]

Clinias
Do you mean that these things were unknown to the men of those days for thousands upon thousands of years, and that one or two thousand years ago some of them were revealed to Daedalus, some to Orpheus, some to Palamedes, musical arts to Marsyas and Olympus, lyric to Amphion, and, in short, a vast number of others to other persons—all dating, so to say, from yesterday or the day before?

Athenian
Are you aware, Clinias, that you have left out your friend who was literally a man of yesterday?

Clinias
Is it Epimenides2 you mean?

Athenian
Yes, I mean him. For he far outstripped everybody you had, my friend, by that invention of his of which he was the actual producer, as you Cretans say, although Hesiod3 had divined it and spoken of it long before. [677e]

Clinias
We do say so.

Athenian
Shall we, then, state that, at the time when the destruction took place, human affairs were in this position: there was fearful and widespread desolation over a vast tract of land; most of the animals were destroyed, and the few herds of oxen and flocks of goats that happened to survive afforded at the first but scanty sustenance

1 Deucalion's Flood: cp. Polit. 270 C.

2 Cp. Plat. Laws 642d.

3 Hes. WD 640f. νήπιοι, οὐδὲ ἴασιν ὅσωι πλέον ἥμισυ παντός, οὐδ᾽ ὅσον ἐν μαλάχηι τε καὶ ἀσφοδέλωι μέγ᾽ ὄνειαπ. Hesiod's allusion to the “great virtue residing in mallow and asphodel” is supposed to have suggested to Epimenides his “invention” of a herbal concoction, or “elixir of life.”

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