At the heart of symbolism

“Critias” by Plato

Bust representing Plato

Dialogue between Timaeus, Socrates, Hermocrates and Critias

In old societies, notably Greek and Latin, humanity had to go through four principal ages (golden age, silver age, bronze age and iron age). These four ages corresponded to a progressive distance from the Primordial state, the Principle at the source of all beings and all things. This myth impregnated the accounts of many authors. In his dialogue, Plato evokes, through Critias, a sort of golden age of Greece, the radious times of Homer where the shepherds used to live in a kind of Garden of Eden:

In the primitive state of the country…

There was abundance of wood in the mountains. Of this last the traces still remain, for although some of the mountains now only afford sustenance to bees, not so very long ago there were still to be seen roofs of timber cut from trees growing there, which were of a size sufficient to cover the largest houses; and there were many other high trees, cultivated by man and bearing abundance of food for cattle. Moreover, the land reaped the benefit of the annual rainfall, not as now losing the water which flows off the bare earth into the sea, but, having an abundant supply in all places, and receiving it into herself and treasuring it up in the close clay soil, it let off into the hollows the streams which it absorbed from the heights, providing everywhere abundant fountains and rivers, of which there may still be observed sacred memorials in places where fountains once existed; and this proves the truth of what I am saying. Such was the natural state of the country, which was cultivated, as we may well believe, by true husbandmen, who made husbandry their business, and were lovers of honour, and of a noble nature, and had a soil the best in the world, and abundance of water, and in the heaven above an excellently at tempered climate.

(Translated by Benjamin Jowett)