The Atlantis story remains one of the most haunting and enigmatic tales from antiquity, and one that still resonates very deeply with the modern imagination. But where did Atlantis come from, what was it like, and where did it go to?
Atlantis was first introduced by the Greek philosopher Plato in two dialogues the Timaios and Kritias, written in the fourth century BC. As he philosophises about the origins of life, the Universe and humanity, the great thinker puts forward a stunning description of Atlantis, an island paradise with an ideal society. But the Atlanteans degenerate and become imperialist aggressors: they fight against antediluvian Athens, which heroically repels their mighty forces, before a cataclysmic natural disaster destroys the warring states.
His tale of a great empire that sank beneath the waves has sparked thousands of years of debate over whether Atlantis really existed. But did Plato mean his tale as history, or just as a parable to help illustrate his philosophy?
The book is broken down into two main sections plus a coda - firstly the translations/commentaries which will have the discussions of the specifics of the actual texts; secondly a look at the reception of the myth from then to now; thirdly a brief round-off bringing it all together.
Why today's leaders should pay heed to Plato's tales of an ideal state, and its ruin
The myth of Atlantis has fascinated people for centuries. Plato's dialogues Timaeus and Critias imagine an enormous island paradise, home to a prosperous society. But the Atlanteans degenerate and engage Athens in an imperialist war, before a cataclysmic natural disaster plunges Atlantis beneath the waves.
This new translation of the dialogues, with commentary and critical discussion, makes clear their contemporary relevance. The author follows the quest for the island from Scandinavia to Antarctica, and also explores how the myth of Atlantis has been interpreted and manipulated by successive generations - used by the Conquistadors to justify their annexations in the sixteenth century, and by Himmler to prove the Aryan supremacy in the twentieth. Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.
Plato's dialogues appear remarkably prescient in our 'post-truth' world. Not because they invite a search for a mysterious lost continent, but because of their warnings about the pernicious effects of wealth and power on a ruling class: Atlantis-style luxury, excess, corruption and imperialism can lead only to decay and disaster. The Timaeus and Critias should be prescribed reading for every political leader.
|ABrief History of Atlantis
|Stephen P. Kershaw