Sunday, November 22, 2015
Atlantis: The Antediluvian World By Ignatius Donnelly 1882 Review
See also The Lost Continent of Atlantis - 100 Books on DVDrom
Mr. Donnelly, who writes with an enthusiasm which only an unquestioning faith in his theory can beget, undertakes to establish in this book—
That there once existed in the Atlantic Ocean, opposite the mouth of the Mediterranean Sea, a large island, which was the remnant of an Atlantic Continent, and known to the ancients as Atlantis; that Plato's description of such an island was not fable, but veritable history; that it was the region where man first rose to civilization, and became a populous and mighty nation, whence settlements were made, all around the Mediterranean, and in Western Europe and Africa, in the regions of the Baltic, Black, and Caspian Seas, and in parts of America; that it was the true Antediluvian world, the seat of the gods, and the happy lands, under whatever name the ancients of different nations called them; that the gods and goddesses of the ancient Greek and other nations were the kings, queens, and heroes of ancient Atlantis, and that the acts attributed to them in mythology are confused recollections of historical events; that the Peruvian and ancient Egyptian mythologies represented an original Atlantean sun worship; that Egypt and Egyptian civilization were derived directly from Atlantis; that the implements of the "Bronze age" were also derived thence, and iron was first used there; that the Phœnician alphabet, the parent of all the European alphabets, and the Maya alphabet of Mexico, were derived from there; that this island was the original seat of the Aryan and Semitic families of nations, and possibly also of the Turanians; and that the nation perished in a convulsion by which the whole island was sunk into the ocean with most of its inhabitants, but that a few escaped in ships or on rafts, and spread the news through the world, whence the flood legends of the various nations.
A semi-historical support is claimed for the principal feature of this theory in Plato's record of what the Egyptian priests are said to have told Solon of Atlantis and its destruction, and in corroborative incidents in other ancient literature. The possibility of such a catastrophe as the destruction of the island is affirmed upon geological evidence. The deep-sea surveys have furnished evidence of the existence of an immense elevation in the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, the contour and profile of which are in harmony with the descriptions of the ancient Atlantis. Some peculiarities of the flora and fauna of the two continents which have puzzled naturalists could be easily accounted for if the existence of an intermediate continent as an original center of distribution could be predicated. The flood legends of all nations are quoted and examined by Mr. Donnelly, and shown to be reconcilable with this theory, and through it with each other. Numerous remarkable features of community in the civilizations of the Old World and the New—seeming evidences of former intercourse between the two continents, which seem to be constantly increasing—and many now hard problems in anthropology would no longer be difficult to account for, but would appear quite natural if we were allowed to suppose that men have radiated in all directions from a primary home in Atlantis. Numerous legends in the mythologies of Eastern and Western nations, curiously like each other in some features, seem to point to such a place. The Book of Genesis is found by Mr. Donnelly to be a fairly good history of Atlantis. The origin of bronze has been an impenetrable mystery. In the nature of things, copper, and perhaps tin, must have been first used separately; yet no evidence of the use of either has ever been found, except of copper in the neighborhood of Lake Superior, where implements of that metal and the marks of ancient workings of the mines have been found. Mr. Donnelly postulates as a solution of the mystery, that the Atlanteans invented bronze and introduced it into other parts of the world, and that they may have been acquainted with Lake Superior copper. Hundreds of coincidences are traced between features of the monuments, traditions, and customs of the ancient Eastern nations and of the ancient Americans, and are referred to Atlantis for explanation. Mr. Donnelly gives especial attention to lingual and alphabetic analogies, and devotes a whole chapter to tracing resemblances between the Maya alphabet, as recorded by Bishop Landa, and the Phœnician alphabet; and he suggests analogies between American and Old-World word roots. No branch of speculation is more seductive than this, and none more easily misleading. The authenticity of the Landa alphabet has been questioned by Dr. Valentini; but Dr. Le Plongeon is represented as claiming that he has demonstrated it, and has discovered affinities between the Maya and the ancient Egyptian and the Aryan languages. His testimony thus comes in aid of Mr. Donnelly's conclusions. It is in place to remark here, also, that at least four papers read at the late meeting of the American Association—those of Dr. Phené on "Affinities between America and other Continents," of Dr. Haliburton on "Atlas and the Atlantis," of Mr. Hale on the "Origin of the Indians," and of Professor De Hass on "Geological Testimony to the Antiquity of Man in America"—embody views parallel with some of the arguments in this book. Mr. Donnelly is sometimes carried away by his enthusiasm, and leaves his readers in danger of being carried away with him. No thought of looking at the other side, or of critical examination, is apparent. The work is a kind of lawyer's brief, on which the reader may ask to be excused from making up his mind till the other side has been heard and the court has delivered its charge. It brings forward a strong array of circumstantial evidence of the possible former existence of the Atlantean Continent, and of the origin of mankind and civilization from it, against which, so far as we know, no positive evidence is offered by history or science. The theory would explain a thousand things which are not explained and seem otherwise inexplicable, and would not make a single problem more difficult. But its verification, we fear, must await the realization of Jules Verne's vision, which enabled the travelers in the fancied submarine ship to reach and make a complete exploration of the sunken city, the capital of the antediluvian empire. Mr. Donnelly even foreshadows such a realization, and suggests that it is not impossible that "the nations of the earth may yet employ their idle navies in bringing to the light of day some of the relics of this buried people," and that as a hundred years ago we knew nothing of Pompeii or Herculaneum, or of the Indo-European bond of languages, or of the monumental history of Egypt and the Mesopotamian empires, or of the ancient civilizations of Yucatan, Mexico, and Peru—"who shall say that one hundred years from now the museums of the world may not be adorned with gems, statues, arms, and implements from Atlantis, while the libraries of the world shall contain translations of its inscriptions, throwing new light upon all the past history of the human race, and all the great problems which now perplex the thinkers of our day?"
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