Monday, October 18, 2010
The Mystery of Atlantis by Charles Berlitz
Is anyone interested in Atlantis? It's one of those topics that always makes my ears perk right up. Like in cartoons. I love the thought that there was this amazing civilization existed and thrived before us. And I love exploring all the things that the existence of Atlantis would explain. The idea of a sunken continent waiting to be found somewhere in the depths of the Atlantic is just too cool.
This particular book by Charles Berlitz was published in the 1960s so I can't say that I'm up-to-date on Atlantis-related research. But it's been on my shelf for over ten years, I think, I picked it up in a used bookstore when I was still a poor student. Apparently I had more interesting things to do with my time though because the book was still untouched last month.
Berlitz goes through various aspects of the Atlantis theory - references in ancient texts, oral traditions of various cultures, actual deep-sea findings. The oral tradition part interested me most. Why is it that cultures on the west coast of Europe talk about ancestors coming from the West or about a land of plenty to the West and cultures on the east coast of South and Latin America talk about the things to the East? So many mythical stories refer to wise men coming from either East or West, bringing wisdom and knowledge. Some scholars think that these are actually the ancient Gods, that the Greek and Roman Gods were actually memories of the kings of Atlantis. Interesting, eh?
Many cultures also have the story of the flood and only a handful of people (always with animals) escaping to safety. It's possible that this could also refer to the sinking of Atlantis and the rebuilding of life somewhere else, i.e. whichever land mass was closest.
By the way, apparently both the Canary Islands and the Azores could apparently be Atlantis' mountain peaks. Cool eh? Apparently, when the people of the Azores were first discovered (by the Spaniards maybe?) it was remarked upon that they weren't very advanced. They didn't even have the knowledge of boat-building, which was (is) surprising for an island population. But of course if they were Atlantis' mountain people, they didn't need boats, they had a whole continent to run around on.
Oh and Berlitz says that the Basques still now talk about being descendants of the kings of Atlantis. I wonder if this is true, but don't know anyone to ask.
In any case, I find this all terribly interesting. To me, it makes sense that Atlantis existed. It would explain a lot of similariities and all that. And Plato did write about it a really long time ago. Although Berlitz did quote a scholar (I can't remember her name) who said that Plato simply used a writing technique when he talked about Atlantis - he used something huge that was clearly false to establish that his writings were fiction. It's like starting a book with 'When Hitler won the war...'. So apparently going off to explore the Atlantic ocean floor is missing the whole point.
I believe in it anyway and I want to read more about it - any recommendations? I think I have a couple more book on Atlantis on my shelf, but let me know if you've read any good ones.
As an interesting aside, to me anyway, Charles Berlitz is the grandson of Maximilian Berlitz, who founded the famous Berlitz language schools. Apparently, when he was growing his grandfather instructed everyone around him, family and staff, to each speak to him in a different language. He grew up speaking something like eight languages fluently, but remembers believing that everyone in the world had their own language and wondering why he was the only one who didn't. Isn't that sad?
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On Atlantis I only ever read the one from Marion Zimmler Bradley - The Fall of Atlantis - and it was ok. It was ok but not fabulous.
I don't know any Basques, but have a good friend from the Açores and he can tell you some stories. Who discovered the islands is still up for debate, but I think it will be between the Portuguese and the Phoenicians...
I'm sure your friend's stories are really interesting!
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