By Richard Ellis
(Vintage, Paperback, 9780375705823, 336pp.)
Publication Date: August 10, 1999
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Ever since Plato created the legend of the lost island of Atlantis, it has maintained a uniquely strong grip on the human imagination. For two and a half millennia, the story of the city and its catastrophic downfall has inspired people--from Francis Bacon to Jules Verne to Jacques Cousteau--to speculate on the island's origins, nature, and location, and sometimes even to search for its physical remains. It has endured as a part of the mythology of many different cultures, yet there is no indisputable evidence, let alone proof, that Atlantis ever existed. What, then, accounts for its seemingly inexhaustible appeal?
Richard Ellis plunges into this rich topic, investigating the roots of the legend and following its various manifestations into the present. He begins with the story's origins. Did it arise from a common prehistorical myth? Was it a historical remnant of a lost city of pre-Columbians or ancient Egyptians? Was Atlantis an extraterrestrial colony? Ellis sifts through the "scientific" evidence marshaled to "prove" these theories, and describes the mystical and spiritual significance that has accrued to them over the centuries. He goes on to explore the possibility that the fable of Atlantis was inspired by a conflation of the high culture of Minoan Crete with the destruction wrought on the Aegean world by the cataclysmic eruption, around 1500 b.c., of the volcanic island of Thera (or Santorini).
A fascinating historical and archaeological detective story, Imagining Atlantis is a valuable addition to the literature on this essential aspect of our mythohistory.
Richard Ellis is the author of seven previous books, including The Book of Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises, Monsters of the Sea, and Deep Atlantic. He is also a celebrated marine artist whose paintings have been exhibited in museums and galleries around the world, and has written and illustrated articles for numerous magazines, including Audubon, Reader's Digest, National Geographic, and Scientific American. He lives in New York City.
From the N.Y. Times Book Review: a front cover welcome for Richard Ellis'
"Entertaining, thorough account"
of the lost island of Atlantis, the legend of whose downfall was created by Plato and has for two and a half millennia fascinated everyone from Francis Bacon to Jules Verne to Jacques Cousteau and the mythmakers of many cultures.
Quite simply the best book on Atlantis ever written...Anyone interested in lost civilizations should look no further.--Brian Fagan, Los Angeles Times
Ellis takes us on a magnificent journey that leads us to a better understanding of earthquakes, tsunamis, flood myths, volcanology, architecture, archaelogy, the works of Jules Verne and Arthur Conan Doyle...A real treat--Daniel McMahon, Washington Post
Engaging, lucid, and full of lore--The New Yorker