Re: Atlantis - The Lost Continent

Paul Smith (
Fri, 12 Jul 1996 03:46:24 GMT

> Thomas R. Holtz, Jr. wrote:
> >
> > For those interested in Atlantis: please, Please, PLEASE reread Plato
> > youself (Penguin Books has translation of the Timeaus and Criteaus
> > (horrible misspellings, my copies are at home))!! There is a LOT of
> > misinformation on the subject, perpetuated by Atlantologists, out there.

Cyber Guy wrote:
> Ha Ha - I can't believe the off hand dismissal without inspection. How
> unscientific. Have you ever been cave diving off Yucatan? An Olmec type
> head in a cave under almost 400 feet of water is pretty hard to confuse
> with a natural limestone erosive product - so is a cave painting and
> other artifacts, including stalactites showing the cave was open to the
> air at some time. The existence of such things has nothing to do with
> 'Atlantis' but I personally SUSPECT that the 'great flood' was from
> melting ice!!!! (unless some tipped the planet on its axis and the oceans
> sloshed about a lot) Have you ever seen the sunken city out on one of
> the Pacific islands - stone buildings and carvings etc. underwater. Fact
> is theres all kinds of stuff that can be covered under 400 feet of post
> glacial melt. And which would have to be added into the equation of
> history. Just as things like green glass under layers of mud hut
> civilizations in the mid east. All is NOT as it appears on this planet.
> cyber guy

I'm fairly new to this newsgroup so I was wondering how anyone got round to talking
about Atlantis? I haven't logged on-to alt.nutters.harmless by mistake have I? What
about the more serious business of posthumously (?) insulting Neanderthals and trying to
provoke Elaine Morgan? It's not that the subject of Atlantis is inherently worthless - I
find it endlessly facinating myself - it's just that there are good reasons for thinking
that trying to pin the legend down to an single, definitive geographical location is
going to be a wild goose chase.

Assuming that Plato wasn't telling a complete pack of lies (and remember that he was
primarily concerned with telling a moral fable about the virtues of aristocracy rather
than reporting fact), the *legend* of Atlantis was Egyptian. How did Egyptians get an
idea about a lost sunken city? Well, ever since the last ice age sea levels have been
going up and down (mostly up)while different bits of the European coastline have been
going up or down for various reasons, including uplift of land once the covering
ice-sheets melted. This means that the sight of sea ports under the waves or stranded
away from the coast could have been as familiar to the Mediterranian sailors of the day
as they are now, as were - probably - stories of harbours having to be rebuilt because
of changes in the shoreline.

Storytellers have always worked by cutting and pasting older stories until the factual
content becomes lost or irrelevant, and this could have happened here. So no need to go
round looking for underwater ruins and trying to slap the lable "Atlantis" on one of
them. It's quite easy to see how this might have happened, just think of the
Nibelungenlied - where real historical figures are brought together who, in reality,
lived six centuries apart. And if you think that only Dark Age bards worked like that,
think of those far-fetched 1960's war films, 633 Squadron, Operation Crossbow and
Mosquito Squadron. Oddly enough, the plots were based on real events in World War II,
it's just that they were cut up, re-arranged and pasted together again with a good
dollop of imaginative glue to make them more interesting. In the absence of /very/ good
evidence to the contrary, it is much easier to believe that some such process created
the Atalntis legend since appropriate narrative materials would have been to hand.

PS. Good, if not uncontroversial, descriptions of the political and ideological
background of Plato's story can be found in I.F. ("Izzy") Stone's The Trial of Socrates
and Karl Popper's The Open Society and its Enemies,Part I: Plato.


Paul Smith.

Paul Smith & Bea Hemmen, De Gildekamp 21-47, 6545KE,
Nijmegen, The Netherlands.
Tel: 024-3782438, E-mail:
"God save us from our naughtiness" 16th C. English Prayer