Monday, September 20, 2010

The Mystery of the sunken city of Atlantis Part.I

The Mystery of the sunken city of Atlantis, lost and glittering somewhere on the ocean floor, has fascinated people for centuries. But few realize that the source of the legend isn’t some crackpot dreamer but the father of Western thought, Plato, the Greek philosopher.  Indeed, the only references to the Atlantis from antiquity occur in two of Plato’s dialogues: Critias and Timaeus. In them, Plato describes a vast island paradise, rich in metals and dotted with luxurious gardens, that existed somewhere off the coast of the Straits of Gibraltar. The city, which had conquered the surrounding regions with its mighty navy, was protected by Poseidon, the god of the sea. However, when the island’s inhabitants became corrupt and began to worship other gods, Poseidon punished them with “a single day and night misfortune in which the island of Atlantis disappeared into the depths of the sea”.

Plato reveled in allegories and fables, and some scholars- including Plato’s student, Aristotle- have speculated that the legend of Atlantis was merely a philosophical device, a way to highlight the dangers of national conceit. But some historians believe otherwise, and have searched antiquity for signs of an actual even that might correspond to this devastating cataclysm. The search reached a peak of intensity during the 15th century, the age of European exploration; any newly discovered territory was a candidate to be the Lost city. In fact when America was first discovered, many considered it Atlantis-although there was no evidence that the new world was ever submerged in water.

In fact, the United States itself has harbored more than its share of Atlantis fanatics. Congress man Ignatius Donnelly published his best selling Atlantis: The Antediluvian World in 1882, which posited that Atlantis was an island continent that existed between the Old and New worlds. Donnelly claimed that the existence of Atlantis explained the similarities between the pre Columbian civilizations of America and ancient Egyptian culture, including the building of pyramids and the 365 day years. Both cultures originated on Atlantis, said Donnelly, and moved to their respective continents when the island was submerged.