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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 mytho-history.
Praise for Richard Ellis
"An illuminating introduction to Earth's last frontier."
"Deep Atlantic, by the same author that brought us Monsters of the Sea and The Book of Whales, is a valuable contribution not only to the public at large but to the scientific community--a fascinating account of the exploration and discovery of a world that few know about and even fewer have seen firsthand."
--Robert D. Ballard, The Times (London)
"Ellis brings to bear a scientist's knack for detail, an explorer's capacious experience, and a writer's instinct for the truly curious."
--Los Angeles Times
Monsters of the Sea
"In this captivating volume, Ellis introduces the lay naturalist to sea-monster lore. Although others have broached the topic before, he brings to the discussion a broader and refreshingly new view of the subject . . . Masterful, cleverly illustrated, and up-to-date."
"Richard Ellis has found precisely the right tone of scholarliness, urbanity, and bemusement to deal with this subject of universal and timeless appeal."
--The Boston Globe
"Monsters of the Sea is interesting and meaty, full of peculiar and often unidentifiable marine animals, and very enjoyable to consume."
--Times Literary Supplement