The myth of Atlantis from Plato to comics: a book reconstructs its history and evergreen charm

Atlantisthe lost city described around 360 BC by the Greek philosopher Plato, has never stopped over the centuries to arouse the interest of posterity and stimulate travel and attempts at discovery and then inspire novels, short stories and films. Today, he tells us Marco Ciardi in his Welcome to Atlantis, published by Carocci, it is above all the comics that revisit the theme of Atlantis, creating stories in which the various protagonists of the strips intertwine their fireplace with the Atlanteans.

The interpretations of the myth of Atlantis

Marco Ciardi is full professor of History of Science at the University of Florence with a passion cultivated since childhood for comics. Thus, to his academic activity he adds an in-depth study of themes related to fantastic literature which he analyzes in the light of his “scientific” sensibility. Over the years he has deepened the myth of Atlantis from the point of view of the history of science, writing two books and numerous articles, to then extend the discussion to “pseudoscience” and to the imaginary, until meeting again Jules Verne and many other authors that were familiar to him from childhood. Over the centuries, the story of Atlantis has produced hundreds of interpretations that can be traced back to three main strands.

At the basis of the myth a geological event?

There are those who have believed that Atlantis really existed and Plato provided precise information on the geographical position, the geological conformation and its urban and social configuration. A second line of interpretation considers the story of Atlantis an inaccurate memory of an important geological event that took place in a distant time, then reworked and fictionalized by the Greek philosopher. These two positions were dominant from the fifteenth century until the mid-twentieth century when, following the scientific results and the conclusions of the specialists of Plato’s thought, the interpretation was imposed that Atlantis was born essentially from the imagination of the Greek philosopher, with the only addition that “perhaps” could also have drawn on some historical reminiscence, however reworked in a way
absolutely original and personal.

Stories of the Lost City

In Welcome to Atlantis all the themes and their innumerable variations are retraced which over the centuries have derived from the Platonic story and which in broad terms were already cataloged in the main studies that appeared at the end of the nineteenth century. In substance Atlantis, located in the heart of the ocean of the same name, was the place of origin of the first civilization to appear on earth, to which all the legends of the peoples of antiquity referred, from the Greeks to the Nordics and the Americans. The survivors who escaped the catastrophe landed in various regions of the world, some of which had already been colonized previously. From their story derived the myths about the floods and deluges of the ancient peoples. Despite the efforts made in the past − Ciardi mentions the oceanographer’s unsuccessful attempt as the last one and records Jacques Cousteau with his ship Calypso − the lost city is only found in the stories, films and in the very rich production of comics that the author passes reviewed in his book.

Traditionalism and the myth of Atlantis

Atlantis would therefore be only a fable, capable of producing a lot of good literature over the centuries and many pleasant “strips” in recent decades, but still a fable nonetheless. However, Plato’s story can be examined not only scientifically, but also with the
method that philosophers such as Julius Evola and René Guenon called “Traditional”, for which the ancient myths are not only fairy tales but narrations of a sacred history, which breaks into the world, founds it and makes it as it is today. Plato in the dialogues Timaeus And Critias tells of an island-continent in which lived a civilization that participated in a divine essence, which inspired moderation, wisdom, the ability to combine the pursuit of well-being and wealth with the observance of virtue.

Myths according to Mircea Eliade

In the succession of many generations this essence “often mixed with much mortal nature”, ended up with extinction. Human nature took over and then the behavior of the Atlanteans degenerated to the point that Jupiter decided to sink the island into the depths of the ocean. Its profound meaning therefore refers to a conception of cyclical history, where from a Golden Age − variously denominated in the various Indo-European civilizations −, in which humanity was in direct contact with the divine, one progressively passes to a secularized society , where man is the only measure of all things. If this point of view is assumed, it matters little that Atlantis, the earthly Paradise, the island of Thule, Avalon and the other original places of oriental religions, can or cannot be physically found. «Myths – wrote the historian of religions Mircea Eliade – reveal that the world, man and life have a supernatural origin and history and that this history is significant, precious and exemplary».

The myth of Atlantis from Plato to comics: a book reconstructs its history and evergreen charm – Secolo d’Italia