The Walls of Atlantis (cont.)
By Doug Fisher
However if the wall being described was indeed the one encircling the outer
harbor, one can easily imagine nonstop day and night activity where the people
inhabiting space on the wall would be actively involved in trade with merchant ships
in the harbor.
Figure 4 -
The true configuration of the three walls of Atlantis conforming to Critias' linking heightened day and night interactivity between inhabitants on the
wall and merchant ships in both the outermost harbor and within the 5.7-mile channel.
It also clarifies Critias' original vision, "After crossing the three outer
harbors, one found a wall which originated at the sea a distance of fifty stades
from the largest circle and harbor; It ran round everywhere with its ends
converging at the seaward mouth of the channel."
But what of the comment that the wall existed a 'distance of fifty stades
from the largest circle and harbor'?
Since, as we established, Critias is referring to the wall surrounding the
outer harbor, it becomes clear that he is describing the full extent of this
same wall explaining that it extended out beyond the outer harbor the length of the
canal to the sea or as he plainly states, "one found a wall which
began at the sea" not a wall located at the sea. (Figure 4) And again this fits perfectly with the
context, first of all reaffirming that the channel to the sea was 5.7 miles in
length and then explaining the interaction in the channel between those who
dwelt on the wall with the merchant ships. This leads to my interpretation of
the passage which proves contextually more consistent, maintaining focus on the
wall's significance by linking interaction with trade ships in both the channel
and harbor to the entire length of the wall:
"And after crossing the three outer harbors, one found a wall which
originated at the sea a distance of fifty stades from the largest circle and
harbor; It ran round everywhere with its ends converging at the seaward mouth of
The whole of this wall had numerous houses built on to it, set close
together; while the sea-way and the largest harbor were filled with ships and
merchants coming from all quarters, which by reason of their multitude caused
clamor and tumult of every description and an unceasing din night and day."
This is indeed the layout of the three and only three walls described by
Critias and portrays most accurately the outer wall as he envisioned it.
Contextually all the elements align perfectly. He conveys his vision by describing
crossing the three harbors, bringing himself and his audience to a wall along the outer harbor
in front of the 50-stadium channel. From this vantage point a separate wall 5.7 miles away
would have been too far removed to have even been mentioned. In fact, since the sides of the land rings were
said to be higher than the ships in the harbor, most of this remote wall would not have even been
visible from this point.
"Moreover, through the circles of land, [115e] which divided those of
sea, over against the bridges they opened out a channel leading from circle to
circle, large enough to give passage to a single trireme; and this they roofed
over above so that the sea-way was subterranean; for the lips of the landcircles
were raised a sufficient height above the level of the sea."
However with this new interpretation all mentioned elements are suddenly in
play and visible from this one single location. Crossing the outer harbor and
sitting in front of the entrance
to the channel, Critias' audience could simultaneously perceive being fully surrounded in the harbor by a brass clad
wall while also envisioning this great structure extending far down each side of the
5.7-mile channel. From this same vantage point, we are also able to envision the
many merchant ships moving about both the harbor and the channel—both lined
with docks accessible from the wall similar to the portrayal in figure 1—and
realize the great amount of excitement the ships' presence would generate for the multitude who dwelt on the wall, 'clamor and tumult of every description and an unceasing
din night and day'.