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A Brief History of Atlantis

Stephen P. Kershaw

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Brief Histories, Ancient Greece, Prose: non-fiction, Classical history / classical civilisation, Philosophy, History of Western philosophy

The Atlantis story remains one of the most haunting and enigmatic tales from antiquity, and one that still resonates very deeply with the modern imagination. But where did Atlantis come from, what was it like, and where did it go to?

Atlantis was first introduced by the Greek philosopher Plato in two dialogues the Timaios and Kritias, written in the fourth century BC. As he philosophises about the origins of life, the Universe and humanity, the great thinker puts forward a stunning description of Atlantis, an island paradise with an ideal society. But the Atlanteans degenerate and become imperialist aggressors: they fight against antediluvian Athens, which heroically repels their mighty forces, before a cataclysmic natural disaster destroys the warring states.

His tale of a great empire that sank beneath the waves has sparked thousands of years of debate over whether Atlantis really existed. But did Plato mean his tale as history, or just as a parable to help illustrate his philosophy?

The book is broken down into two main sections plus a coda - firstly the translations/commentaries which will have the discussions of the specifics of the actual texts; secondly a look at the reception of the myth from then to now; thirdly a brief round-off bringing it all together.

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Stephen P. Kershaw

Dr Steve P. Kershaw has spent a great deal of time in the world of the Ancient Greeks, both intellectually and physically. He has been a Classics tutor for some 25 years, operating at all levels from complete beginner to Masters degree.

He currently operates out of the Oxford University Department for Continuing Education, creating and teaching undergraduate courses for the weekly class programme, the Masters in Literature and Art, summer schools, and online. Steve has just been commissioned to write Oxford University's new online course on 'The Minoans and Mycenaeans', which will include investigations into the Atlantis tale in relation to the impact of the Late Bronze Age eruption of the Santorini volcano on Minoan civilisation. As Professor of History of Art, he runs the European Studies Classical Tour for Rhodes College and the University of the South. He also teaches courses at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Former students include the Princess of Jordan, and he translated Matthew Pinsent's 4th Olympic Gold Medal for him after his victory in Athens. As a guest speaker for Swan Hellenic Cruises and the Royal Academy (through Cox and Kings) Steve has travelled extensively throughout the Mediterranean.

In 1990 Steve edited Pierre Grimal's Concise Dictionary of Classical Mythology, later converted to The Penguin Dictionary of Classical Mythology, and in 2007, partly as a result of a course on Greek Mythology that he taught at Oxford University, he wrote A Brief Guide to the Greek Myths for Constable & Robinson, described by Paul Cartledge the Professor of Ancient History at Cambridge University as 'eminently sane, highly informative, and reasonably priced'. It is currently used as a set book for Oxford University's online course on Greek Mythology. His Brief Guide to Classical Civilization was published by Constable & Robinson in 2010, and A Brief History of the Roman Empire followed in 2013 - this is also used as a set book by Oxford University for its 'The Fall of Rome' online course.