The Atlantis Story: A Short History of Plato's Myth Review

The Atlantis Story: A Short History of Plato's Myth
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The Atlantis Story: A Short History of Plato's Myth ReviewThis is not yet another pro-con debate over the reality of Atlantis, its possible locations and permutations---thankfully. The author, a noted authority on Plato, affirms the only reasonable theory about Atlantis: Plato invented it in order to make a philosophical or political point. Atlantis is no more "real" than Plato's Republic, another didactically invented entity. What he does so masterfully is to show how various nationalists,occultists, and assorted cranks used the Atlantis fable for their own ends. Sometimes they wrote quite erudite treatises, borrowing heavily from contemporary geology, anthropology, oceanography and other sciences to patch together a hodge-podge of pseudo-scholarly deductions. Some folks, having read these texts, and not having a grounding in the sciences or even basic logic, accept these dense texts as authoritative--such as that by the well-meaning amateur Ignatius Donnely. I enjoyed the professor's condensed and interesting tour of the Atlantis "researchers" as well as the charlatans. The author allows that Plato may have had some ancient lore in mind (whether Minoan Crete, or Thera/Santorini) when he crafted his allegory, but this was simply to lend it some verisimilitude. As the book demonstrates, Plato did not intend for people to take his tale literally. I was a bit put off by some of the (thankfully few) digressions into philosphical heirs of Plato, but on the whole this was an entertaining and highly enlightening book. Regretfully the author died within a few months of publication and will not be around to write a revised edition answering some of his critics or inquirers.
The Atlantis Story: A Short History of Plato's Myth OverviewThe history of the development through the ages of Plato's Atlantis story-the imperialist island state that disappeared in a cataclysm, leaving Athens to survive it . . .
Instead of simply focusing on the various attempts to 'find' Atlantis - all of which are futile for the very good reason that Plato made the island up - the author re-examines the very different uses made of the myth in different contexts and periods. He shows how Plato's myth was reinterpreted in the medieval period and after through conflation with the search for the lost tribes of Israel; how it became involved with the debate about whether Europe should look back to its origins in the Classical or Biblical worlds; how the myth was reinterpreted with a more geographical emphasis following Columbus' discovery of America; and how it was used in the Enlightenment to add colour to nationalist attempts to claim antiquity by finding unrecognised origins.
Written in a clear and interesting way, Pierre Vidal-Naquet's original ideas rest on deep knowledge supported by primary references and illustrations.

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