Term Paper: Atlantis or Any Lost Worlds

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¶ … catalog of earthly wonders, only a few exist in that realm of unsubstantiated rumor upheld by the broadest variety of source. The Lost Continent is, truly, one of these wonders - a city made of both earth and sea, created by Triton, Poseidon, Atlas, or whatever other ancient God created it as a point of union between the earthly and the divine, the surface and the underneath. What is striking, is that within Western culture, Plato is one of the first known mentions of Atlantis in a theoretical discourse - completely fictional account - used to explain the nature of the physical universe. but, the concept of the Lost Continent, whatever the name assigned, is one that has been shared by scientific exploration, philosophical discourse, mythology and legend, religious and spiritual writing, science fiction and film, and remains in our popular culture as is evidenced by the semi-annual announcements that some explorer is believed to have discovered evidence of a city lost beneath the surface of the ocean. While the legend of a Lost Continent, brought low by natural, divine, alien, or other forces, is certainly part of our general popular culture, facts about such a place and evidence of it (or them) is non-existent. However, this does not necessarily indicate a scientific reality that there is truly no Lost Continent. As we will explore, scientific exploration can generally only effectively explain what we know about something, what we can see feel or hear. But science is necessarily mute on things that either have not yet been found or simply don't exist. One cannot prove that something no one find - but at the same time, that is simply not evidence that something does not exist. Rather, that is the realm of faith and of legend, of believing something to be true even when there is no rational reason to do so. Atlantis, Rutas, Lemuria (or whatever the name) truly exists in the imagination of the world - but did it / they ever truly exist? Let us explore this idea and see what we can determine.

One of the most persistent and pervasive legends about the world involve the concept of the Lost Continent. In these legends, and the name is essentially quite unimportant at this point, an island, part of a peninsula, or other land-mass of varying sizes depending upon the account, once existed above the surface of the ocean.

The legends typically say that in ancient history, a civilization of people lived on that land-mass or "continent," they are generally perceived to pre-date written history and, in many accounts were an "advanced" civilization producing works of art, music, philosophy, science above and beyond their time.

At some point a catastrophic natural disaster occurred to the continent reducing it to rubble and either gradually or suddenly, it fell beneath the surface of the water never to be seen or heard from again.

The origins of these tales can be found in both Western and Eastern histories.

Plato, certainly, is among the first of the European world to create the idea of a Lost Continent called Atlantis. In his view, Atlantis existed as a vehicle to express his understanding of the nature of the physical world. Two Platonean dialogues involve accounts of Atlantis, and in both Critias and Timaeus, he refers to Atlantis as the cradle of ancient civilizations. Atlantis is the center of a Socratic demonstration of the "failed society." This society is set up in direct opposition to Athens which, in Socratic thought, is the "Perfect Society."

Atlantis, then, in Plato's dialogue, serves as the theoretical counterbalance to Athens and takes on the role of being the polar opposite to that city, particularly in the nature of the descriptions found in the Republic.

For Socrates, then, who many have argued is a fictional character himself as the only accounts of his existence are provided to us by Plato, Atlantis is the evil foil in his story - the immoral pole against which Athens is measured.

About 9,000 BC, one of the greatest...catastrophes had occurred - a destruction by water. At this time, Solon was told [in Timaeus], Athens already existed, and out of the ocean, beyond the Pillars of Hercules (which we now know as the Straits of Gibraltar), there was an island-continent called Atlantis, 'as large as [North Africa] and Asia combined," (Wilson, Flem-Ath, & Flem-Ath, the Atlantis Blueprint: Unlocking the Ancient Mysteries of a Long-Lost Civilization 4).

Plato's work in Timaeus asserts that Socrates had traveled to Egypt and had received word of the Lost Continent from a translation of an ancient Egyptian/Athenian history tract engraved on a particular set of columns (Joseph, 150). While "students" of Plato, namely Crantor, have claimed to have found and confirmed the existence of said columns - such artifacts either never existed or are lost to history at this point. Because, at least in the Western tradition, while the nature of the Lost Continent legend does not shift much from Plato in terms of broad descriptions, the "known" facts about it do vary widely.

Many authors have sought to support Plato's account of Atlantis on the basis that his accounts are not flowery, not overflowing, and certainly reasonably argued. Ignatious Donnelly wrote,

If Plato had sought to draw from his imagination a wonderful and pleasing story, we should not have had so plain and reasonable a narrative. He would have given us a history like the legends of Greek mythology, full of the adventures of gods and goddesses, nymphs, fauns and satyrs....there is no ideal republic delineated here. It is a straightforward, reasonable history of a people ruled over by their kings, living and progressing as other nations have lived and progressed since their day," (Atlantis: The Antediluvian World 22).

The problem with this take on Plato's account is that Donnelly clearly is mis-reading Plato. Plato's use of Atlantis was to showcase Athens - to provide an ideal counter within the stories of Athens so that his rhetoric would have weight without offending anyone - Socrates may have been killed for his philosophy, for challenging the status quo, but Plato certainly did not.

For philosophers, explorers, religions, and scientists, the concept of Atlantis has spread widely to encompass just about every possible permutation of a societal origin story that one might be able to imagine. The problem, then, is who to believe? The majority of the widely published accounts of a Lost Continent in western history have been by fiction writers, by philosophers, the occasional religion, and the odd scientist. What we can read from the sheer volume of written accounts, theories, and "first hand" experiences with Atlantis is that there are some concepts that simply do not go out of style.

So, if we as a people believe continue to tell each other and ourselves that something existed at some point in history before people wrote such things down, that an entire civilization of human beings lived on this land, and that the whole package - people and land - fell beneath the surface of the ocean never to be heard from or seen again, does that make it true?

If we accept that the earliest recorded history of Atlantis comes from Plato, then it stands to reason that all western accounts of that place stem in some or great part from the Dimaeus and Critias dialogues.

As such, all post-Platonic accounts of Atlantis have been written or concocted in direct relation to a work of very questionable factual basis. Again, we have to question Plato's science and knowledge of the natural world before any histories were written. What makes more sense, that Atlantis actually existed as a land-mass and fell kit and kaboodle into the ocean? Or that it was a creation of Plato or any number of his predecessors as a device to help establish a sense of moral balance, to have a Devil's advocate, within their rhetoric designed to convince the world of a particular social ideal? If we take the following into consideration, the answer to this question seems relatively easy: 1) there is no physical evidence that any such continent ever existed, no geographic, archaeological, or other tangible proof, 2) the first major western account is in Plato, who was not a historian, geologist, archaeologist, or scientist for that matter - he was a philosopher specializing in rhetorical arguments using completely fictional characters to act out his moral plays, 3) all following accounts in Western thought are derived from Plato.

If the Lost Continent ideal existed only in this line of thought, then it would be easy to simply debunk the theory as popular legend designed precisely to catch the imagination and to be used in certain moral or cautionary tales. However, there have been records found throughout the known world, some of which predate Plato and would have had absolutely no contact with him, of lost continents, civilizations, and islands. Perhaps within the myths and legends of other cultures and… [END OF PREVIEW]

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