Moreover, inasmuch as Plato insisted Atlantis was not a fiction but ‘fact’ drawn from Egyptian documents, and indeed suffused his account with what Vidal-Naquet calls, quoting Barthes, ‘reality-effects’ – precise measurements and detailed descriptions of Atlantis’s topography and its monuments – he raises interesting questions about the truth-effects of historical discourse, and the relationship between abstract imaginative constructions and facts on the ground. For what Vidal-Naquet found ‘striking and special’ about the story was that, as well as being a myth, it was also a contemporary political document in which Atlantis stood for Persia and also for modern thalassocratic Athens. The real war embedded in the mythical war was between a real, imperial classical Athens and an imaginary ideal anti-Athens, projected onto the field of prehistory.
11 June 2008
A lost city
James Davidson explores the roots of the Atlantis myth in "Plato Made it Up":