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Ancilla to the Pre-Socratic Philosophers, by Kathleen Freeman, [1948], at


Critias of Athens lived from about 480 B.C. to 403 B.C.

He wrote in verse and prose. His verse works included a poem in hexameters on the poets; elegiacs on inventions, on Constitutions, and other subjects; experimental verses; and plays. He also wrote in prose on Constitutions; and his other prose works included Conversations, Aphorisms,

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and various speeches or essays now lost. He was 'a philosopher among amateurs, an amateur among philosophers'.

1. (Hexameters: On Anacreon): . . . And he who once wove poems for women's song, Anacreon, whom Teos gave to Greece, the stimulator of banquets, the deceiver of women, the antagonist of flutes, lover of the lyre, sweet, free from pain. Never shall love of thee grow old, or die, so long as the boy serves the water mixed with wine, from left to right, and female choirs ply the dance all night long, and the bowl, the daughter of bronze, sits on the top of the Cottabos, struck by the drops of Bacchus!

2. (Elegiacs): The Cottabos is from Sicily, a noble art, which we set up as a target for the shots of wine-lees; also the wagon is Sicilian, best in beauty and magnificence . . . The throne is Thessalian, the most luxurious seat for the limbs. Miletus, and Chios, island-state of Oenopion, have the greatest works of art in sleeping-beds. The Etruscan gold-wrought goblet is the best, and all bronze which adorns the home for any purpose. The Phoenicians invented writing, aid to thought. Thebes first put together the chariot-seat, and the Carians, curators of the sea, the ships that carry merchandise. But the potter's wheel, and the child of earth and oven, glorious pottery, useful household ware, was invented by her who set up the trophy at Marathon.

3. (Orpheus invented the dactylic hexameter).

4. (One hexameter and one iambic line: To Alcibiades): Now I will crown the Athenian, son of Cleinias, Alcibiades, hymning him in new ways; for it was not possible to fit his name into elegy. Now it will lie in iambics not unmetrically.

5. (The same): The resolution which brought you back, I said it before all, and drafted it, and completed this act. The seal of my tongue lies upon this (word).

('Constitutions' in metre: The Constitution of the Spartans)

6. This custom too is fixed at Sparta, to drink always the same beaker of wine, and not to drink healths, giving back one's cup and calling on a name, nor to hand it to the right round the circle of the company. . . .

The Lydian hand, the Asiatic, devised the large vessels, and

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the custom of passing (the cup) to the right in drinking healths, and calling on a name to which one wishes to drink. Then, from so much drinking, they loosen their tongues in base speech, and enfeeble their body; a dim cloud settles on the eye, forgetfulness dissolves memory from the thoughts, and the mind totters. Slaves have uncontrolled natures. Expense that wears away the house falls on it. But the Spartan youths drink only so much as to lead the thoughts of all towards cheerful hope, and friendly speech, and moderate laughter. This kind of drinking is good for the body, the mind and the property; it is well fitted for the works of love and for song, the harbour of cares, and for health, most delightful of all goddesses for mortals, and Moderation, neighbour of piety . . . For the drinking of healths beyond the right measure brings, after joy, enduring pain. But the Spartan way of life is balanced—to be able to eat and drink conformably with thought and work. There is no day set apart for excessive drinking (at Sparta).

7. Chilon, a Spartan, was the author of 'Nothing too much'; all that is good is attached to 'Right Season'.

8. (I would wish for) the wealth of the Scopadae, the magnanimity of Cimon, the victories of Arcesilas of Sparta.

9. More men are good through habit than through character. 1

Plays 2

10. (Of the plays attributed to Euripides, three are spurious: 'Tennês', 'Rhadamanthys', 'Peirithôus').

(From 'Tennês')

11. (Tennês: eponymous hero of Tenedos).

12. Alas! Nothing is just in the present generation.

(From 'Rhadamanthys')

12a. (End of hypothesis discovered at Oxyrhynchus).

13. Nobody will take us away . . .

14. . . . Who live in Euboea, neighbouring State . . .

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15. Our loves in life are of every kind. One man longs to have nobility, another cares nothing for this, but wishes to be called the master of many possessions in his halls. Another is pleased to speak what is utterly unsound from his mind and to persuade his neighbours with wicked boldness. Others seek shameful gains from mortals rather than honour. But I wish to win none of these: I would choose to have a reputation of fair fame.

(From 'Peirithôus')

15a. (New fragments discovered at Oxyrhynchus: 'Peirithôus'): (On Ixion): Divine madness sent Ate. He had a cloud for wife and sowed a rumour full of Hybris among the Thessalians, that he had had intercourse with the daughter of Cronos. For such boasts he paid penalty to the gods, being whirled round on the wheel of madness, driven by a gadfly, unknown to men. Nor did a tomb cover him, but he was torn asunder by the (?) of the North Winds: my father, having sinned against the gods.

(Dialogue between Heracles and Theseus)


I must stay: I cannot betray a comrade.


You speak worthily of yourself and Athens, for you always help the unfortunate. It is disgraceful to me to have an excuse to go home. For how do you think Eurystheus would rejoice if he heard that I had helped you in this, to be able to say that the toil had been undergone in vain?


Well, for what you wish you have everywhere my goodwill, not under compulsion but freely, (goodwill) hostile to foes, kindly to friends. . . .


(The rest is too much mutilated for restoration).

16. (Aeacus in Hades, to Heracles): Ha, what is this? I see someone hurrying thither with confident mind. Tell me truly, stranger, who are you who approach these regions, and for what reason?

(Heracles replies): I have no hesitation in disclosing the whole tale. My native land is Argos, my name is Heracles, I am the son of Zeus, father of all the gods; for Zeus came to my mother's marriage-bed, as is said in truth. I come here perforce, obeying the commands of Eurystheus, who sent me to fetch the hound of hell alive to the gates of Mycenae, and he thought that in this he had invented a task impossible for

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me to fulfil. On this quest I have travelled round to the remote regions of all Europe and Asia.

17. (Mention of the Plêmochoê, earthenware vessel used on the last day of the Eleusinian Mysteries).

Chorus: In order that we may pour forth these vessels into the earthy chasm.

18. Time, unwearying and full, with ever-flowing stream, self-begetting; and the Twin Bears with swift-moving wings, who guard the Pole of Atlas.

19. (I call on) thee, the self-made, who hast woven the nature of all things in the aetherial whirl, round whom Light, and dusky Night with shimmering colour, and the innumerable throng of the stars, for ever dance.

20. (Theseus is) bound in the unwrought fetters of honour.

21. He spoke with mind not untrained who first threw out the new saying that Fortune is the ally of sensible men.

22. A good character is more securely based than law; for no orator can ever overturn it, whereas he can upset the latter with speech and often maim it.

23. Is it not better not to live than to live miserably?

24. (Usually attributed to Euripides1

Fame reveals the good man even in the hollows of the earth.
No, but Hades received me when still living.
Aphidnus, son of Earth who has no mother.

(From 'Sisyphus', satyric play)

25. There was a time when the life of men was unordered, bestial and the slave of force, when there was no reward for the virtuous and no punishment for the wicked. Then, I think, men devised retributory laws, in order that Justice might be dictator and have arrogance as its slave, and if anyone sinned, he was punished. Then, when the laws forbade them to commit open crimes of violence, and they began to do them in

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secret, a wise and clever man invented fear (of the gods) for mortals, that there might be some means of frightening the wicked, even if they do anything or say or think it in secret. Hence he introduced the Divine (religion), saying that there is a God flourishing with immortal life, hearing and seeing with his mind, and thinking of everything and caring about these things, and having divine nature, who will hear everything said among mortals, and will be able to see all that is done. And even if you plan anything evil in secret, you will not escape the gods in this; for they have surpassing intelligence. In saying these words, he introduced the pleasantest of teachings, covering up the truth with a false theory; and he said that the gods dwelt there where he could most frighten men by saying it, whence he knew that fears exist for mortals and rewards for the hard life: in the upper periphery, where they saw lightnings and heard the dread rumblings of thunder, and the starry-faced body of heaven, the beautiful embroidery of Time the skilled craftsman, whence come forth the bright mass of the sun, and the wet shower upon the earth. With such fears did he surround mankind, through which he well established the deity with his argument, and in a fitting place, and quenched lawlessness among men . . . Thus, I think, for the first time did someone persuade mortals to believe in a race of deities.

(From unspecified dramas)

26. After the shadow, Time grows old most speedily.

27. Whoever in his dealings with his friends does all according to their pleasure is creating an immediate pleasure which will turn to future enmity.

28. It is terrible when one who is not wise thinks himself so.

29. Is it better to have rich stupidity rather than wise poverty as one's companion in the house?

Prose fragments

30. (Title: 'Constitution of the Athenians').

31. (From 'Constitution of the Thessalians'): The Thessalians are agreed to have become the richest of the Greeks in their clothes and way of life: by which they became the cause of the Persian invasion, because the latter envied them their luxury and expenditure.

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(From 'Constitution of the Spartans'):

32. I begin with birth: how can a man become physically best and strongest?—If the father takes exercise and eats well and hardens himself, and the mother of the future child is physically strong and takes exercise.

33. The Chian and Thasian drink from big beakers, handing (them) to the right, the Attic from small ones, handing to the right; the Thessalian pledges big cups to whomever he wishes; but the Spartans each drink the cup beside them, and the wine-bearer pours in just so much as each will drink.

34. Apart from these things, (to come to) the smallest matters of daily life: Spartan shoes are the best, their cloaks the pleasantest and most convenient to wear; the Spartan goblet is the most suitable for war and the easiest to carry in one's wallet. The reason why it is best is: the soldier is often obliged to drink from water that is not pure; therefore in the first place the drink is not too clearly visible; and second, it has an incurving rim which catches impurities.

35. (Comparison of Spartan household furniture with the Milesian bed and chair, and the Chian bed, and the Rhêneian table).

36. (The early Spartans) used to leap into the air, and before descending, made many movements of their feet, which they called 'to dance the tong-dance'.

37. (Spartiates and Helots: the distinction between slave and free is greatest in Sparta): Because of mistrust, the Spartiate at home takes the handles off their (the Helots’) shields. Not being able to do this in war, because of the frequent need for speedy use, he goes round always carrying his spear, thinking to overcome the Helot with it if he tries separate mutiny with the shield only. They have also devised bolts, which they believe to be strong enough to withstand any attack from the Helots.

38. (From an unspecified 'Constitution': reference to 'trousers' and 'breeches').

39. (From his 'Aphorisms') . . . Neither what he perceives with the rest of his body, nor what he knows with his mind. Men know (this) who are accustomed to be healthy in mind.

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(From 'Conversations'):

40. If you yourself would practise in order to become sufficiently able in mind, you would thus least be wronged by them (i.e. the sense perceptions?).

41. (Word for 'impulse').

41a. (Plato, Charmides 161B): Self-restraint is to mind one's own business.

42. (From 'On the Nature of Love', or 'of the Virtues'): He is bad-tempered who is vexed over trifles, and over big things either more than other men, or for a longer time.

43. (Title: 'Popular Prooemia').

(From unspecified prose works)

44. (Critias, blaming Archilochus for vilifying himself, says): Otherwise, if he had not published this view of himself in Greece, we should not have known either that he was the son of Enîpô, a slave-woman, nor that he left Paros because of poverty and destitution and went to Thasos, nor that when there he was on bad terms with the inhabitants, nor that he vilified friends and foes equally. Moreover, we would not have known that he was an adulterer, nor lustful and violent, if we had not learnt it from him, and—most disgraceful of all—that he threw away his shield. So that Archilochus was not a good witness for himself, leaving behind such a reputation and such a name.

45. (Before Themistocles took up politics, he had an inheritance of three talents; when he was banished and his property confiscated, he was found to have one hundred talents. So too Clean had nothing of his own before he entered politics, but afterwards he left behind a property of fifty talents).

46, 47. (Comparison of Critias’ style with that of Xenophon).

48. A feminine form is the greatest beauty in men; in women, the opposite.

49. Nothing is certain, except that having been born we die, and that in life one cannot avoid disaster.

50. (Homer's father was a river).

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51. The Pythian contest (quoted to show word-order).

52. (after the earthquake at Sparta, Cimon persuaded the Athenians to send them help).

Separate words

53. See through.

54. Speaker.

55. Quickhanded.

56. Dirtiness.

57. Prosode ('song sung to the lyre').

58. Two-drachma men.

S9. To drink beaker after beaker.

60. Purchase of fish. To buy fish. To watch the price of fish.

61. False witnesses.

62. To be scattered.

63. So far as depends on courage.

64. Cloaksellers.

65. Leggings.

66. Ring-engravers.

67. Dealer in music-strings.

68. Perfumier.

69. Hairnet-maker.

70. Dealers in brass, iron, vegetables, cheese, emetics, tow, wool, incense, roots, silphium, green-groceries, utensils; seed-gatherer, seedsman; sellers of pots, drugs, weapons, pictures, birds.

71. Acquit. Serve as dicast throughout.

72. Towndweller.

73. Shrewdness.

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Spurious or uncertain

74. (Graeco-Syrian Maxims: the name is uncertain, and the matter has nothing in common with the work of Critias).

75. (Plato, Republic 368A: 'Glaucon's admirer', who wrote elegiac verses in praise of 'the sons of Ariston', may be Critias).


155:1 Cp. Democritus, Frg. 242.

155:2 See Companion, pp. 411-52, for reasons for attributing these plays to Critias.

157:1 Attribution to Critias by Welcker and Wilamowitz; the latter gives to Critias Eur. Frg. inc. 964 also (Vors. Vol. II, 14, 5).

Next: 89. The Anonymous Writer Quoted by Iamblichus