Meet Me in Atlantis: My Obsessive Quest to Find the Sunken City by Mark Adams is a curious tale, filled with an energetic mix of academics and amateur scholars, and spiced up with a few theoreticians from the wackier reaches of the internet and Atlantisology.
All that we actually know about the famous lost city that sunk beneath the waves after a cataclysmic earthquake is found in the work of Plato. He may be describing something that sort of actually happened in some form once (a city destroyed by an earthquake, a tidal wave, an eruption on an island), inventing a story to make a philosophical point, describing a technologically-advanced super civilisation founded by aliens, or he has been misquoted and mistranscribed for a couple of millennia and everyone has just been chasing their tails.
Actually, pretty much all the people Adams encounters are chasing their tails. Most of them do not agree on even where to start looking, and they positively (if we extend the tailed-thing metaphor a little further) pounce on anything, no matter how bizarre, that supports their own particular theories, while ripping each other’s prize exibits of truth to bits… One of the great things about Plato’s mix of accurate-sounding measurements and odd vagueness is that anything can be reduced to him either exaggerating or understating whatever the particular factor is. Which means you can say “He really meant this…” or “That bit is just a metaphor, but this bit over here isn’t, because it matches this thing that I know/feel is what he meant”.
I think this is an arena for people who really, really like to argue. While they cannot win, neither can the other sides, as all base their arguments on facts and “facts” and deductions and guesses.
Which is sort of a win, if you know that you are actually right.
Adams is very interesting about why we want there to even be a lost city, what its lost-ness, and our hopes and dreams about its found-ness, mean. Adams also takes an interesting detour into philosophy in an attempt to explain the context of the original tale, and explores Plato’s ideas, and the philosophical tricks he plays, and the techniques he is using to see why he might have spun this tale/reported the truth.
You can choose which is the correct end of that sentence, just like you can choose which Atlantis theory is the right one, which is the fun thing about the whole endeavour which has gobbled millions of dollars and much human energy over the years.
The ur-Atlantis story hovers out there, perfect, sublime, almost one could say, platonically.