The Lectures and Remarks of Plato on the Condition of Past Ages
Sparkler: Wait, Sidonia, wait!
Sparkler: I just saw you in the market. You were standing beneath the city wall, and so I assumed that you were listening to Plato's oration.
Sidonia: Correct in every respect, Sparkler. But I expected to see you there, since you always celebrate the feast of Gog.
Sparkler: I was about to cross the Fleet, and join you, when Madrigal stopped me.
Sidonia: What did he want?
Sparkler: Only something about a parish meeting. But, as a result, I missed Plato's opening remarks. I heard only his ending, when he spoke of his sorrow at the darkness of past ages.
Sidonia: It was all very interesting. There was a period when our ancestors believed that they inhabited a world which revolved around a sun.
Sparkler: Can it be true?
Sidonia: Oh yes. They had been told that they lived upon a spherical planet, moving through some kind of infinite space.
Sidonia: That was their delusion. But it was the Age of Mouldwarp. According to Plato, the whole earth seemed to have been reduced and rolled into a ball until it was small enough to fit their theories.
Sparkler: But surely they must have known--or felt?
Sidonia: They could not have known. For them the sun was a very powerful god. Of course we were all silent for a moment, after Plato had told us this, and then he laughed.
Sparkler: He laughed?
Sidonia: Even when he had taken off the orator's mask, he was still smiling. Then he began to question us. 'Do you consider me to be small? I know that you do. Could you imagine the people of Mouldwarp to be much, much smaller? Their heads were tiny, and their eyes like pinpoints. Do you know,' he said, 'that in the end they believed themselves to be covered by a great net or web?'
Sparkler: Impossible. I never know when Plato is telling the truth.
Sidonia: That is what he enjoys. The game. That is why he is an orator.
Sparkler: We who have known him since childhood--
Sidonia: --never cease to wonder.
Sparkler: But who could be convinced by such wild speculations?
Sidonia: Come and decide for yourself. Walk with me to the white chapel, where he is about to begin his second oration.From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from The Plato Papers by Peter Ackroyd. . Excerpted by permission of Anchor, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.