Thursday, July 23, 2009

Atlantis Part 2

Where do I sign up for the job? For someone to pay me to go tramping around the globe looking for lost cities? The idea has captured the imagination of many, but I believe there is no evidence that it actually existed.
In Plato's account, Atlantis was a naval power lying "in front of the Pillars of Hercules" that conquered many parts of Western Europe and Africa subjecting its people to slavery 9,000 years before the time of Solon, or approximately 9600 BC. After a failed attempt to invade Athens, Atlantis sank into the ocean "in a single day and night of misfortune".

The Athenians led an alliance of resistors against the Atlantean empire, and as the alliance disintegrated, prevailed alone against the empire, liberating the occupied lands.

The island was larger than Ancient Libya and Asia Minor combined, but it afterwards was sunk by an earthquake and became an impassable mud shoal, inhibiting travel to any part of the ocean."
One TV show I saw said that the story described Atlantis as being larger than Europe Asia and Africa combined. This would be way too big to fit in the Atlantic Ocean. They suggested that it was a mistranslation, and that the text really read “in the middle of.” This supports the idea that the island of Crete was the inspiration for Atlantis.

The eruption on the island of Thera around the 17th or 16th century BC, caused a large tsunami which is believed to have devastated the Minoan civilization that existed on nearby Crete. And some historians believe that the time scale has been distorted by an error in translation, probably from Egyptian into Greek, which produced "thousands" instead of "hundreds", this error would rescale the time to 900 years before Solon, a much more realistic date than 9600 BC.

The Island being larger than Ancient Libya and Asia Minor combined, as says in Wikipedia is also much more realistic.

People who go off in search of Atlantis overlook some very important elements of the story. Critias. In the dialogue sees ancient Athens as the "perfect society" and Atlantis, its opponent, is the opposite. It is not described as a Utopian society but as a ruthless war making society that invades Europe and attacks Athens.
If such a devastating war really happened, there would be more of a record of it.
Also notice that the tsunami also killed the soldiers of Athens, not just Atlantis.
Also there is this little detail that after it sank it became an impassable mud shoal, inhibiting travel to any part of the ocean.

People get so caught up in the idea that they just don’t see that Plato is clearly using what has become a standard device of fiction — stressing the historicity of an event (and the discovery of hitherto unknown authorities) as an indication that what follows is fiction. Edgar Allen Poe used this device, as did Michael Crichton in Jurassic Park. The idea is to illustrate a point through parable.
Science lends no support. Continental drift, and plate tectonics demonstrate the impossibility of a lost continent. And satellites have mapped the ocean floor. You can get an Atlas or a globe that shows the mid ocean mountain ranges which curve in an exact mach to the edges of the continents, and there is no hidden land mass there.

Some scholars have pointed out that there is another Pillars of Hercules in the Mediterranean, and reckoning from that Pillars Crete again becomes a candidate. Perhaps a distant point in the Atlantic Ocean could refer to what to the Greeks at the time may have seemed the vast expanse of the Mediterranean.

I think that Plato probably did mean the Atlantic Ocean. If you create an imaginary place, you need to put it somewhere that is not well known. If he had placed it in the Aegean Sea then people would have said, “I’ve sailed all over that sea and I never saw any Continent.” The Atlantic, past the Straight of Gibraltar, was unknown; therefore anything could be there. Jonathon Swift placed one of his lands in Japan, then little known. Eldorado, the city of gold, was supposed to be in the New World somewhere. H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allen Poe put fictitious places in the then little explored Antarctica.

Technology, which allowed further exploration, erased those places from possible existence. Yet still people cling to the ideal of an Atlantis. The idea that a perfect world once existed, but is now gone, and maybe we could find it again. If only we look hard enough.

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