Friday, November 07, 2008 11/7/08-Atlantis

In today's excerpt--Plato writes of Atlantis, an island in the Atlantic Ocean, which was the great outer sea named for the Greek god Atlas:

"The classical writers and sages who warned of ship-devouring sea monsters also described fantastic and mysterious lands that lay out in the middle of these foreboding seas. They wrote of idyllic islands with names such as Saint Brendan, the Fortunate Islands, or the Hesperides, Antilla, Brasil, and Salvagio. All of these places, they claimed, were inhabited by gods or demigods or by humans living in a perpetual state of happiness. There was even talk of the existence somewhere far out into the Atlantic of a land known as the Terrestrial Paradise, claimed to be the original Garden of Eden.

"Most fabled of all was the island utopia called Atlantis, first mentioned and described by the classical Greek philosopher Plato in his dialogues Timaeus and Critias, written around 360 BCE. According to Plato, Atlantis, the kingdom of the god of the seas, Poseidon, was rich in advanced knowledge and commerce and was ruled by benevolent leaders. It was also a nation determined to extend its domain. 'Now in this island of Atlantis,' the philosopher wrote in Timaeus, 'there was a great and wonderful empire which had rule over the whole island and several others, and over parts of the continent and furthermore, the men of Atlantis had subjected parts of Libya within the columns of Heracles as far as Egypt and of Europe as far as Tyrrhenia.'

"Plato's legend, however, did not have a happy ending. The people of Atlantis, he proclaimed, eventually became greedy; their leaders became arrogant; and, as punishment, angry gods flooded and sank the island. Plato's account spawned generations of debate as to its veracity. Aristotle, Plato's student, rejected the story, although the Greek historian Plutarch (first century CE) espoused it in his writings. Perhaps the most vivid 'confirmation' came from Proclus, one of the last major Greek philosophers, in the fifth century CE. In his commentary on Plato's Timaeus, Proclus wrote:

" 'That an island of such nature and size once existed is evident from what is said by certain authors who investigated the things around the outer (Atlantic) sea. ... The inhabitants of it preserved the remembrance from their ancestors of the immeasurably large island of Atlantis and which had really existed there and which for many ages had reigned over all islands in the Atlantic sea and which itself had likewise been sacred to Poseidon.' "

Martin W. Sandler, Atlantic Ocean, Sterling, Copyright 2008 by Sterling Publishing, pp. 3-7.


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