This is the history of the development through the ages of Plato's "Atlantis" story - the imperialist island state that disappeared in a cataclysm, leaving Athens to survive it...Instead of simply focusing on the various attempts to 'find' Atlantis - all of which are futile for the very good reason that Plato made the island up - the author re-examines the very different uses made of the myth in different contexts and periods. He shows how Plato's myth was reinterpreted in the medieval period and after through conflation with the search for the lost tribes of Israel; how it became involved with the debate about whether Europe should look back to its origins in the Classical or Biblical worlds; how the myth was reinterpreted with a more geographical emphasis following Columbus' discovery of America; and how it was used in the "Enlightenment" to add colour to nationalist attempts to claim antiquity by finding unrecognised origins. Written in a clear and interesting way, Pierre Vidal-Naquet's original ideas rest on deep knowledge supported by primary references and illustrations.
Pierre Vidal-Naquet was Director of Graduate Studies at the Ecole des hautes etudes en sciences sociales in Paris until his death in 2006. He was one of the most famous French Classical scholars in the post-war period. His earlier books in the field of Classics translated into English include: Myth and Tragedy in Ancient Greece, The Black Hunter: Thought and Society in the Greek World; Economic and Social History of Ancient Greece. Janet Lloyd is one of the best known translators into English of French studies of the Classics; her many translations include for University of Exeter Press Plato and the City, by Jean-Francois Pradeau.