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Almost before I had finished, Sulla broke in. ‘Hold on, Lamprias,’ he said, “and put to the wicket of your discourse1 lest you unwittingly run the myth aground, as it were, and confound my drama, which has a different setting and a different disposition. Well, I am but the actor of the piece, but first I shall say that its author began for our sake — if there be no objection with a quotation from Homer2:
An isle, Ogygia, lies far out at sea,3
a run of five days off from Britain as you sail westward; and three other islands equally distant from it and from one another lie out from it in the general direction of the summer sunset. In one of these, according to the tale told by the natives, Cronus is confined by Zeus, and the antique <Briareus>, holding watch and ward over those islands and the sea that they call the Cronian main, has been settled close beside him.4 The great mainland, by which the great ocean is encircled,5 while not so far from the other islands, is about five thousand stades from Ogygia, the voyage being made by oar, for the main is slow to traverse and muddy as a result of the multitude of streams.6 The streams are discharged by the great land-mass and produce alluvial deposits, thus giving density and earthiness to the sea, which has been thought actually to be congealed.7 On the coast of the mainland Greeks dwell about a gulf which is not smaller than the Maeotis8 and the mouth of which lies roughly on the same parallel as the mouth of the Caspian sea.9 These people consider and call themselves continentals <and the> inhabitants of this land <islanders> because the sea flows around it on all sides; and they believe that with the peoples of Cronus there mingled at a later time those who arrived in the train of Heracles and were left behind by him and that these latter so to speak rekindled again to a strong, high flame the Hellenic spark there which was already being quenched and overcome by the tongue, the laws, and the manners of the barbarians. Therefore Heracles has the highest honours and Cronus the second. Now when at intervals of thirty years the star of Cronus, which we call ‘Splendent’ 10 but they, our author said, call ‘Nightwatchman,’ enters the sign of the Bull,11 they, having spent a long time in preparation for the sacrifice and the <expedition>, choose by lot and send forth <a sufficient number of envoys> in a correspondingly sufficient number of ships, putting aboard a large retinue and the provisions necessary for men who are going to cross so much sea by oar and live such a long time in a foreign land. Now when they have put to sea the several voyagers meet with various fortunes as one might expect; but those who survive the voyage first put in at the outlying islands, which are inhabited by Greeks,12 and see the sun pass out of sight for less than an hour over a period of thirty days,13 — and this is night, though it has a darkness that is slight and twilight glimmering from the west. There they spend ninety days regarded with honour and friendliness as holy men and so addressed, and then winds carry them across to their appointed goal.14 Nor do any others inhabit it but themselves and those who have been dispatched before them, for, while those who have served the god together for the stint of thirty years are allowed to sail off home, most of them usually choose to settle in the spot, some out of habit and others because without toil or trouble they have all things in abundance while they constantly employ their time in sacrifices and celebrations or with various discourse and philosophy, for the nature of the island is marvellous as is the softness of the circumambient air. Some when they intend to sail away are even hindered by the divinity which presents itself to them as to intimates and friends not in dreams only or by means of omens, but many also come upon the visions and the voices of spirits manifest. For Cronus himself sleeps confined in a deep cave of rock that shines like gold — the sleep that Zeus has contrived as a bond for him —, and birds flying in over the summit of the rock bring ambrosia to him, and all the island is suffused with fragrance scattered from the rock as from a fountain; and those spirits mentioned before tend and serve Cronus, having been his comrades what time he ruled as king over gods and men. Many things they do foretell of themselves, for they are oracular; but the prophecies that are greatest and of the greatest matters they come down and report as dreams of Cronus, for all that Zeus premeditates Cronus sees in his dreams15 and the titanic affections and motions of his soul make him rigidly tense <until> sleep <restores> his repose once more and the royal and divine element is all by itself, pure and unalloyed.16 Here then the stranger17 was conveyed, as he said, and while he served the god became at his leisure acquainted with astronomy, in which he made as much progress as one can by practising geometry, and with the rest of philosophy by dealing with so much of it as is possible for the natural philosopher.18 Since he had a strange desire and longing to observe the Great Island (for so, it seems, they call our part of the world), when the thirty years had elapsed, the relief-party having arrived from home, he saluted his friends and sailed away, lightly equipped for the rest but carrying a large viaticum in golden beakers. Well, all his experiences and all the men whom he visited, encountering sacred writings and being initiated in all rites — to recount all this as he reported it to us, relating it thoroughly and in detail, is not a task for a single day; but listen to so much as is pertinent to the present discussion. He spent a great deal of time in Carthage inasmuch as <Cronus> receives great <honour> in our country,19 and he discovered certain sacred parchments that had been secretly spirited off to safety when the earlier city was being destroyed and had lain unnoticed in the ground for a long time.20 Among the visible gods21 he said that one should especially honour the moon, and so he kept exhorting me to do, inasmuch as she is sovereign over life <and death>, bordering as she does <upon the meads of Hades>.

1 Cf. De Sollertia Animalium, 965 B.

2 On the text of this sentence cf. Class. Phil. xlvi (1951), pp. 148-149.

3 Odyssey, vii. 244. On the geographical introduction to the myth see the Introduction, § 5, and especially Hamilton, Class. Quart. xxviii (1934), pp. 15-26, who points out the parallel between Plutarch's geographical scheme and Plato's location of Atlantis in Timaeus, 24 E 25 A.

4 Cf. De Defectu Oraculorum, 420 A and on the text Class. Phil. xlvi (1951), p. 149. For Briareus as a guard set by Zeus over Cronus and the Titans cf. Hesiod, Theogony, 729-735 and Apollodorus, i. 7 ( = i. 2. 1). The pillars of Heracles are said to have had the older name Βριάρεω στῆλαι (cf. Aelian, Var. Hist. v. 3 = Aristotle, frag. 678) and before that Κρόνου στῆλαι (cf. Charax, frag. 16 = Frag. Hist. Graec. iii, p. 640); cf. also Clearchus, frag. 56 (Frag. Hist. Graec. ii, p. 320) and Parthenius, frag. 21 (Diehl) = frag. 31 (Martin).

5 Cf. Timaeus 24 E 5 25 A 5.

6 Plutarch's language really implies that the way is so long — not just that it takes a long time — because the sea is hard to traverses3

7 Cf. Strabo, i. 4. 2 (c. 63): ἥν ῾ι.ε. Θούλνἠ φησι Πυθέας . . . ἐγγὺς εἶναι τῆς πεπηγυίας θαλάττης, and Pliny, Nat. Hist. iv. 16 (104): ‘ a Tyle unius diei navigatione mare concretum a nonnullis Cronium appellatur ’ (n. b. that for Apollonius Rhodius [iv. 327, 509, 546] the Adriatic is the Cronian sea); cf. Tacitus, Agricola, § 10 and Germania, § 45. Plutarch denies that the sea is really congealed as it is reputed to be and explains its nature in imitation of Plato ( Timaeus, 25 d 3-6, Critias, 108 E 6 109 A 2); but, since he cannot adduce as the cause of the muddy shallows the ‘settling of the island, Atlantis, under the sea,’ he falls back upon alluvial deposits from the rivers on the great continent, a notion familiar from many sources (cf. De Exilio, 602 D with Thucydides, ii. 102. 6; Aristotle, Meteorology, 351 B 28-32; Herodotus, ii. 10; Strabo, i. 2. 29-30 [cc. 36-37]). For the ‘congealed sea’ cf. further K. Müllenhoff, Deutsche Altertumskunde, i (1890), pp. 410-425; E. Janssens, Hist. ancienne de la mer du Nord2 (1946), pp. 20-22; J. O. Thomson, Hist, of Ancient Geography, pp. 148-149, 241, and 54-55 (on Avienus, Ora Maritime, 117-129).

8 The Sea of Azov, the size of which Herodotus had greatly exaggerated (iv. 86); Strabo reduced its perimeter to 9000 stades (ii. 5. 23 [c. 125]).

9 The Caspian was thought to be a gulf of the outer ocean from the time of Alexander until Ptolemy corrected the error (Alexander, chap. 44; Strabo, xi. 6. 1 [c. 507]), though Herodotus (i. 202-203) and Aristotle (Meteorology, 354 A 3-4) had known that it was connected with no other sea.

10 Φαίνων as the name of the planet Saturn occurs in De An. Proc. in Timaeo, 1029 B (acc.: Φαίνωνα); Aëtius, ii. 15. 4 (where mss. vary between Φαίνωνα and Φαίνοντα, cf. Diels, Dox. Graeci, p. 344 ad loc.); [Aristotle], De Mundo, 392 A 23 (Φαίνοντος); cf. Cicero, De Natura Deorum, ii. 20. 52. There is a similar variation in the mss. as between Στίλβοντα and Στίλβωνα (cf. Diels, Dox. Graeci, p. 345 on Aëtius, ii. 15. 4), though at 925 A supra the mss. of De Facie agree on Στίλβοντα.

11 Taurus is the sign of the moon's exaltation (cf. Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, i. 20 [p. 44. 2, Boll-Boer]; Porphyry, De Antro Nymph. 18), and it is for this reason that the expedition begins when Saturn enters this sign. For the ‘thirty years’ cf. Aëtius, ii. 32. 1 (Dox. Graeci, p. 363); Cleomedes, i. 3. 16-17 (p. 30. 18-21 [Ziegler]); Cicero, De Natura Deorum, ii. 20, 52.

12 These islands lie out westward or north-westward from Ogygia, cf. 941 A supra. It has not previously been said that they are inhabited by Greeks; in fact, 941 B seems to imply that Greeks live only on the mainland.

13 I have tried to preserve the ambiguity of Plutarch's language, though he probably meant to say ‘less than an hour each day for thirty days’ (so Kepler understood, who thought that the reference was to Greenland). For the length of summer-days in Britain and in Thule cf. Cleomedes, i. 7. 37-38 (pp. 68. 6-70. 22 [Ziegler]) and Pytheas and Crates in Geminus, vi. 9-21 (pp. 70-76 [Manitius]). Pliny, Nat. Hist. iv. 16 (104) says that in Thule at the summer solstice there is no night at all, i.e. while the sun is in Cancer; but he adds here, what he had before (ii. 75 [186-187]) ascribed to Pytheas, that some think that in Thule there is a continuous day of six months duration.

14 Cf. Class. Phil. xlvi (1951), p. 149 and note 91.

15 For the sleep of Cronus as his bonds and for the spirits who are his servitors cf. De Defectu Oraculorum, 420 A. For the sleeping Cronus cf. also Kern, Orphicorum Fragmenta, frags. 149 and 155; in these ‘Orphic’ or Neo-Platonic passages, however, Cronus prophesies, furnishes Zeus with plans, or thinks the world order before Zeus is aware of it (cf. Damascius, Dub. et Sol. 305 v-306 r [ii, pp. 136. 19-137. 8, Ruelle] and Proclus, In Cratylum, p. 53. 29 ff. [Pasquali]), which is the opposite of what Plutarch's words imply. Because of Tertullian, De Anima, 46. 10 (f. 156) J. H. Waszink (Tertullian, De Anima, p. 496) thinks it certain that the ultimate source of the story was one of Aristotle's lost dialogues. Pohlenz (R. E. xi. 2013. s.v. ‘Kronos’) supposes that Plutarchs source was Posidonius and that Posidonius was inspired by Nordic legends3 The feature of the birds that bring Cronus ambrosia appears to have been adapted from the story of Zeus's nectar; cf. Sept. Sap. 156 F and Odyssey, xii. 63-65. Besides J. H. Waszink ( Tertullian, De Anima, p. 496) see the same author's articles in Vigiliae Christianae, i (1947), pp. 137-149 (especially pp. 145-149) and in Mélanges Henri Grégoire, ii (1950), pp. 639-653 (especially pp. 651-653). Waszink mistakenly believes that in Plutarch's story ‘special demons convey to Zeus [the thoughts that arise in Cronus's dreams] who makes use of them for his government of the universe,’ and consequently he overlooks the important difference between Plutarch's version and the ‘Orphic’ passages that I have pointed out in this note.

16 Cf. Class. Phil. xlvi (1951), pp. 149-150.

17 This is the first mention of ‘the stranger,’ unless he was referred to in the lost beginning of the dialogue. Hitherto he has merely been implied by the indirect discourse and τὸν ποιητήν in 941 A supra; cf. the reference in note c there.

18 φιλοσοφίας . . . χρώμενος is highly condensed; it must be construed: φιλοσοφίας δὲ πῆς ἄλλης ῾ἐμπειρίαν ἔσχἐ, χρώμενος ῾αὐτῇ ἐφ᾽ ὅσον̓ τῷ φυσικῷ ῾δυνατόν ἐστιν̓. For the distinction between ἀστρολογία and φυσική here referred to cf. Geminuss quotation of Posidonius in Simplicius, Physica, pp. 291. 23-292. 9 (Diels).

19 For the special position of Cronus at Carthage cf. De Superstitione, 171 C, De Sera Numinis Vindicta, 552 A; Diodorus, v. 66. 5.

20 Nothing in the subsequent account supports the frequently expressed notion that the myth is supposed to have been discovered in these parchments, and 945 D infra expressly invalidates any such assumption.

21 Cf. Timaeus, 40 D (τὰ περὶ θεῶν ὁρατῶν), 41 A (ὅσοι περιπολοῦσιν φανερῶς . . . θεοί); Epinomis, 985 D (τοὺς ὄντως ἡμῖν φανεροὺς ὄντας θεούς).

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