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Paradise on earth

 Post- Atlantis. Sacred Lands by EyeseeBlack
Post- Atlantis. Sacred Lands by EyeseeBlack

They say that Atlantis was an earthly paradise. It was an immensely wealthy city. Plato describes it as a powerful kingdom that sank, in a night and a day into the ocean due to a series of earthquakes and fire sent by the Olympian Gods and Goddesses, led by Zeus King of the Olympians. It is said that the greed of the Atlanteans angered Zeus and he decided to destroy them. Most of what we know about Atlantis is from what Plato has said. It is mentioned in Plato’s dialogues “Timaeus” and “Critias”.

Atantis has always fascinated people throughout history. But did that incredibly advanced civilization actually exist? Well some people believe it did and others call it a myth. Archworld spoke to the experts on Atlantis – the lost city.

Archt. Nirodha Gunadasa points out that a city resembles the urban form of politics that created it. When we look at the city of Atlantis as described by Plato, we can understand the type of politics that would generate that kind of an urban arrangement.

“The Atlantis city is encircled by a ring of water. A water body. If you are going to visit the city of Atlantis, what you find first is this water body. After that ring of water, there is a ring of land made out of precious metals with wild beasts. When you pass that ring of land, there is the second ring of water. Beyond that water body there is another ring of land once again made out of precious metals and inhabited by wild beasts. Beyond that is the third ring of water. The city center is inside the third ring of water. The diameter of this city according to Plato is 127 stadia (approximately 24 km),” said Archt. Gunadasa.

Gunadasa points out that if you look at any of the medieval cities (cities created from the time of the collapse of Roman civilization to the period of renaissance), the major concern of the city is protection against enemy attacks. These are enemy attacks with medieval day weaponry such as arrows, swords and catapults. The moat and a rampart around the city is identical in all medieval cities. The moat is usually inhabited by deadly crocodiles. In the case of Atlantis, the rings of water and land strips with beasts, is a more sophisticated or exaggerated arrangement to perform the function of the moat and the rampart. (It is a system of defense against medieval weaponry)

“In medieval cities, the size of the city is defined by the outer wall and the water body. There is no possibility for the city to grow beyond that limit. That is because the size of the city is limited by the distance a person can walk. In a time where the only high speed transportation system was the horse carriage, a city cannot exist as one entity, if it grows beyond a certain limit. The limit was one mile. In the case of Atlantis, when we remove the outskirts of water bodies and ring islands, the size of the city is almost the same as that of a typical medieval city. The size of a modern city cannot be defined by the walking distance of a person, because of the many possible transportation options we have.

So, as an architect looking at the city plan of Atlantis, I do not notice a city inhabited by people with advanced weaponry or advanced transportation systems. Atlantis is a city that depicts typical medieval weaponry and transportation systems. If an advanced civilization had been there with advanced technology, the form of the city would have been much different. So I don’t think an advanced civilization called Atlantis ever existed,” explained Archt. Gunadasa

According to Archt. Gunadasa there are many mysterious places on earth that have been called Atlantis. One is the “Eye of the Sahara” in Mauritania. Some claim that it is the location of Atlantis, as the concentric rings reflect Plato’s description of the city. However, Archt. Gunadasa himself believes that this explanation is quite a stretch. Scientists have a theory as to how the Eye of the Sahara was formed. They believe that the structure was formed nearly 100 million years ago. Shortly after its formation the structure exploded in a volcanic eruption breaking the rock in the very center of the structure. The rest of the structure eroded over time, with the different concentric rings, 3 kilometers and 7-8 kilometers from the center respectively, made of different types of rock that eroded at different speeds. Over time, this formed the Eye structure that we see today. The concentric rings reflect Plato’s description of the city. But there is no real evidence to show that any large city occupied this place

While Archt. Gunadasa does not believe that Atlantis existed, he added that there are many ways a city could be destroyed overnight. A large scale earthquake, a volcanic eruption or a meteorite collision can do it. There are mysterious sunken places on earth that happened due to the movement of plates. So, a tragedy of the nature Plato described can definitely happen.

“Superstition and myth can prevail in societies for thousands of years as long as there are people with a mindset to believe without inquiring. The story of Atlantis is fascinating and mysterious. It is powerful enough to arouse the curiosity of humanity even for maybe another thousand years. These kind of stories I believe enrich our culture. I wish more and more drama and movies will be made about Atlantis in the future, astonishing the people of this world,” said Archt. Gunadasa.

Dr. Sureshika Piyasena has taught Greek and Roman Civilization at Bishop’s College, Colombo 03. She is a graduate of Miranda House, University of Delhi, India. She holds a PhD in English from Jawaharlal Nehru University, India. She has taught English Language and Literature at the University of Sri Jayewardenepura in Sri Lanka, City University of Hong Kong, and The Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong. Her areas of research interest are in Feminist theory, Comparative Literature, and Gender studies. She is currently teaching English at Stafford International School, Colombo 07.

ArchWorld spoke to Dr. Piyasena about her views concerning Atlantis.

Ignatius Loyola Donnelly (1831 – 1901) was the Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota. He served as a Congressman and was a state senator. He was also a journalist and author. In 1882, he published his most famous work on the Subject of Atlantis. Donnelly concluded that Atlantis was real.

“Yes there is a possibility that it was a real place or a real civilization but there is not much evidence to support this. Most scholars believe it was fictional. Yes, Plato is considered as one of the founders of Western philosophy, but we have to put his work in context. The divide between fiction and non-fiction were not looked at as binaries at the time. Storytelling was very much a part of education and a way in which ideas were expressed. Stories were used for epistemological and didactic purposes. If you take texts like the Aeneid by Virgil, history and literature go hand in hand. Even religion was taught through stories and narratives. Texts could not be printed so they were mainly read out and had to catch the attention of the listener. The very story of Atlantis has a moral in it. It sounds very didactic. So he may have created this myth as a means to get his point across and he would not have viewed it as ‘lying’ as we consider it today,” explained Dr. Piyasena.

According to the website: Atlantis –HISTORY, Plato (through the character

Critias in his dialogues) describes Atlantis as an island larger than Libya and Asia Minor put together, located in the Atlantic just beyond the Pillars of Hercules—generally assumed to mean the Strait of Gibraltar. Its culture was advanced and it had a constitution suspiciously similar to the one outlined in Plato’s “Republic.” It was protected by the god Poseidon, who made his son Atlas, king and namesake of the island and the ocean that surrounded it. As the Atlanteans grew powerful, their ethics declined. Greed was their undoing. Their armies eventually conquered Africa as far as Egypt and Europe as far as Tyrrhenia (Etruscan Italy) before being driven back by an Athenian-led alliance. Later, by way of divine punishment, the island was destroyed by earthquakes and floods, and sank into the ocean.

“Greek and Roman history is replete with wars and the rise and fall of different empires and civilizations. So if there was such a civilization it is quite probable that they did conquer many places and then was pushed back by the powerful Athenian led alliance. However, unfortunately there is a lack of evidence,” explained Dr. Piyasena.


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