Critias

Critias

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Critias born in Athens
Classical Athens
The city of Athens during the classical period of Ancient Greece was a notable polis of Attica, Greece, leading the Delian League in the Peloponnesian War against Sparta and the Peloponnesian League. Athenian democracy was established in 508 BC under Cleisthenes following the tyranny of Hippias...

, son of Callaeschrus, was an uncle of Plato
Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

, and a leading member of the Thirty Tyrants
Thirty Tyrants
The Thirty Tyrants were a pro-Spartan oligarchy installed in Athens after its defeat in the Peloponnesian War in 404 BC. Contemporary Athenians referred to them simply as "the oligarchy" or "the Thirty" ; the expression "Thirty Tyrants" is due to later historians...

, and one of the most violent. He was an associate of Socrates
Socrates
Socrates was a classical Greek Athenian philosopher. Credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, he is an enigmatic figure known chiefly through the accounts of later classical writers, especially the writings of his students Plato and Xenophon, and the plays of his contemporary ...

, a fact that did not endear Socrates to the Athenian public. He was noted in his day for his tragedies, elegies and prose works. Some, like Sextus Empiricus
Sextus Empiricus
Sextus Empiricus , was a physician and philosopher, and has been variously reported to have lived in Alexandria, Rome, or Athens. His philosophical work is the most complete surviving account of ancient Greek and Roman skepticism....

, believe that Critias wrote the Sisyphus fragment
Sisyphus fragment
The Sisyphus fragment is a 42-line excerpt in iambic trimeter from an ancient Greek satyr play written either by Euripides or Critias. The words are spoken by Sisyphus, a character in the play. The play itself is no longer extant...

; others, however, attribute it to Euripides
Euripides
Euripides was one of the three great tragedians of classical Athens, the other two being Aeschylus and Sophocles. Some ancient scholars attributed ninety-five plays to him but according to the Suda it was ninety-two at most...

.

Life


After the fall of Athens to the Sparta
Sparta
Sparta or Lacedaemon, was a prominent city-state in ancient Greece, situated on the banks of the River Eurotas in Laconia, in south-eastern Peloponnese. It emerged as a political entity around the 10th century BC, when the invading Dorians subjugated the local, non-Dorian population. From c...

ns, Critias, as one of the Thirty Tyrants
Thirty Tyrants
The Thirty Tyrants were a pro-Spartan oligarchy installed in Athens after its defeat in the Peloponnesian War in 404 BC. Contemporary Athenians referred to them simply as "the oligarchy" or "the Thirty" ; the expression "Thirty Tyrants" is due to later historians...

, blacklisted many of its citizens. Most of his prisoners were executed and their wealth was confiscated. Critias was killed in a battle near Piraeus
Piraeus
Piraeus is a city in the region of Attica, Greece. Piraeus is located within the Athens Urban Area, 12 km southwest from its city center , and lies along the east coast of the Saronic Gulf....

, the port of Athens, between a band of pro-democracy Athenian exiles led by Thrasybulus
Thrasybulus
Thrasybulus was an Athenian general and democratic leader. In 411 BC, in the wake of an oligarchic coup at Athens, the pro-democracy sailors at Samos elected him as a general, making him a primary leader of the successful democratic resistance to that coup...

 and members and supporters of the Thirty, aided by the Spartan garrison. In the battle, the exiles put the oligarchic forces to flight, ending the rule of the Thirty.

Critias asserted that "religion was a deliberate imposture devised by some cunning man for political ends."

Plato's description


Critias appears as a character in Plato
Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

s dialogues Charmides
Charmides (dialogue)
The Charmides is a dialogue of Plato, in which Socrates engages a handsome and popular boy in a conversation about the meaning of sophrosyne, a Greek word usually translated into English as "temperance", "self-control", or "restraint"...

 and Protagoras
Protagoras (dialogue)
Protagoras is a dialogue of Plato. The traditional subtitle is "or the Sophists, probative". The main argument is between the elderly Protagoras, a celebrated sophist, and Socrates...

, and according to Diogenes Laërtius
Diogenes Laertius
Diogenes Laertius was a biographer of the Greek philosophers. Nothing is known about his life, but his surviving Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers is one of the principal surviving sources for the history of Greek philosophy.-Life:Nothing is definitively known about his life...

, he was Plato's great-uncle (Diogenes Laërtius, Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers
Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers
Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers is a biography of the Greek philosophers by Diogenes Laërtius, written in Greek, perhaps in the first half of the third century AD.-Overview:...

, III:1). The Critias character in Plato's dialogues Timaeus
Timaeus (dialogue)
Timaeus is one of Plato's dialogues, mostly in the form of a long monologue given by the title character, written circa 360 BC. The work puts forward speculation on the nature of the physical world and human beings. It is followed by the dialogue Critias.Speakers of the dialogue are Socrates,...

 and Critias
Critias (dialogue)
Critias, one of Plato's late dialogues, contains the story of the mighty island kingdom Atlantis and its attempt to conquer Athens, which failed due to the ordered society of the Athenians...

is often identified as the son of Callaeschrus – but not by Plato; and given the old age of the Critias in these two dialogues, he may be the grandfather of the son of Callaeschrus.