| Stories from Plato and Other Classic Writers|
|by Mary E. Burt|
|Twenty-seven stories adapted for young children from selections of works of classic writers of the ancient world. The stories were chosen by the author for their inspirational value, either 'because they contained fine moral points, or else because they were poetic statements of natural phenomena which might enhance the study of natural science.' Writers represented in the collection include Plato, Homer, Hesiod, Aristophanes, Pliny, and Ovid. Ages 6-9 |
ATLANTIS, THE LOST ISLAND
 IT often happens that some little boy says, "I wish I were rich," thinking that if he had a
great deal of money he could buy, for his awn enjoyment, all the toys and candies
and good clothes that heart could desire. It is very easy to forget that the earth is the
Lord's and the fulness thereof," and that no one on the earth can be any richer than
any other person, except by being more deeply in debt. It easy to imagine that if
we had money or lands they would be our own, but this must look quite
 absurd to Him who has lent us His goods for a few years to use as if they
were our own, for the welfare of all.
It is quite certain that Plato believed that a man's true riches were in his Mind
and not outside of him that a man was rich who had the power to get money,
and the power and will to use it well for others, the ability and will being all
the riches there were about it and that that man was the richest of all who did
not care for riches. Plato hoped to make his fellow citizens see that the love of
money and a show of wealth were vulgar, so he told them the story of a lost island.
 Long ages ago, the gods had the whole earth. Each one knew what was proper for
himself to have, so no one tried to get more than was his share, and each one put as
many people on his own land as could be happy there.
When the gods had peopled their districts, they tended human beings as good
shepherds tend their flocks, not by driving them, or striking them, but like guides
who go ahead to show the way. Each god loved his own people, and set his own
kingdom in order.
Athena was the Goddess of Wisdom, and she loved learning and hard work. She
knew how to spin and weave, and make wise
 laws, and conquer in battle. She chose for her subjects only brave people, and she
put patriotism into their hearts, and gave them noble natures.
They did not care for riches, or desire to live in palaces, but they built small houses,
in which they lived and grew old. They built splendid temples in which to worship,
and fine public houses, for they loved the gods and their country better than they
loved themselves. There were only twenty thousand of these people, but they were
so strong that they could not be conquered by a million soldiers.
The god of the waters, Poseidon, had quite a different kingdom. He
 received for his portion the island of Atlantis, and he married Cleito, a mortal
woman, and settled down in a pretty part of the island. On the side toward the
sea, and in the centre of the island, there was a fertile plain which was very
beautiful. There was a low mountain running across the island, about seven
miles from the sea, and it kept off the cold north winds, so that the long south
slope, where most of the people lived, was warm and pleasant. Poseidon loved
Cleito so much that he resolved to surround her home with embankments and
canals so high and deep that no other king could come and carry her off. So he broke the
 ground all round the hill on which she dwelt, making a high belt of earth in the
form of a ring which encircled her, and outside of that was a ring of water, so
wide that it looked like a sea. Then came another ring of land, and another ring
of water, affording such a protection to the princess that no one could ever hear
anything about her, and no ship could get into the rings of water, and no man
could get to the island. Poseidon contrived to supply the island with fresh water
by bringing up two streams from under the earth. He caused them to come up as
fountains, one of warm water and one of cold, and he made every
 variety of food to spring up from the earth.
Poseidon and Cleito had ten sons, five pairs of twins, and each son received a part
of the kingdom as his own. The oldest son, Atlas, became king of the island, and
named it after himself, Atlantis, and he gave the name to the Atlantic Ocean. He was
a large, strong man, and it is said that he. held up the sky and plucked the golden apples.
The people of the empire of Atlas became very rich. They brought many things from
foreign countries. They dug gold and silver out of their mines. They cut valuable wood
from their forests.
 They had elephants, and horses, and oxen, and all other kinds of tame animals and wild
animals, every sort that can live in mountains or plains, or in lakes, marshes, rivers, canals,
and ditches. And they had roots, and herbs, and flowers, and fruit, and everything to eat
and drink in infinite abundance. They spent their time in building docks, and harbors,
and bridges, and temples, and palaces, until everything was a marvel of luxury and beauty.
They built a stone wall around one embankment, with towers and gates, and they covered
the next one with tin, and the outer one with brass. They built a temple to Poseidon over six
 hundred feet long, and covered the pinnacles with silver and gold. They ornamented the
roof with ivory, and gold, and silver, and lined the floor with a precious metal. In the
temple they placed statues of gold. There was one of Poseidon himself standing in a
chariot, driving six winged horses—it was of such a size that his head touched
the roof. And around it were a hundred water-nymphs riding on dolphins' backs.
There were images and golden statues of kings and their wives there were fountains,
and trees, and cisterns, and the king's bath, and baths for women, and baths for men,
and baths for horses and cattle there
 were aqueducts, race-courses, guardhouses, naval stores, ships, and such a crowd of
rich, elegant, lazy, proud people, charioteers, fighters, archers, slingers, stone—shooters,
skirmishers, pugilists, that it would be tiresome to mention them. The ten kings had absolute
control of the city and country. They made the laws, and drove the people about like slaves,
striking, punishing, and slaying any one whom they disliked. Now, to people who had no
eyes to see the truth, these wretched folks still appeared glorious and blessed at the very
time when they were filled with avarice and riches. But they began to appear base to those who had
 eyes to see truly. They had lost their most precious riches, they had been unable to bear
up under good fortune, for their lower natures had become their masters. Then they
began to look at the little kingdom ruled over by Athena, where the people loved hard
work and virtue, and were very comfortable in poverty. And they saw that the divinity
of their own natures had become diluted by being mixed with wealth.
So the god of Atlantis directed his great power against the little kingdom of Athena,
and there the story ends, but it is easy enough to guess the rest of it; for the island of
Atlantis, if there ever
 was one, has sunk beneath the sea.
It does not make a grain of difference whether there over was an Atlantis or not. Plato's
story was just as true as if he had said, "There will be a Roman Empire, which will fall
because its people will love riches better than virtue."
The principle always holds. No nation can stand except through the uprightness and
simplicity of its citizens.
"When men are good and true, and stand shoulder to shoulder, a nation is strong; it
is strong in its quantity of life, and not in its lands or gold.
 A thing is worth what it can do for you not what you pay for it.
The wealth of a nation depends upon the number it can employ in making good and useful things.
Peace of heart, contentedness in simple employments, these are a nation's wealth."
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