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WAS PLATO A POST-APOCALYPTIC FICTION WRITER?

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I was doing some research  for  my next podcast  episode on  post-apocalyptic fiction.  My current  work in progress novel is in fact a post post apocalyptic novel  about  werewolves and  how  their  world ends  not once but twice.  And  so while  researching  I was  curious about  something.  

You all know  that Plato wrote about  Atlantis, right? 

Well  if you didn’t know  the lost city  of  Atlantis  is always looked  and  thought upon as  a myth. A legend.   The city or continent with  advanced civilization and technologies  filled  with abundance and prosperity  that fell  beneath the sea  due to cataclysmic destruction because of a war  . 

So  the thing that I was curious about was  what if Plato was one of the first  post-apocalyptic  fiction writers?

I  know. I know. I’m far reaching but that’s what I do.  Read on if you want to  delve  deeper with me and find out through Plato’s writings about Atlantis  if he was in actuality  one of the first  post-apocalyptic  fiction writers. 

Post-apocalyptic fiction  can refer to any time after an apocalypse, either when things are a mess, or when order has finally been restored.

What is an apocalypse ?

An apocalypse  is  an uncovering, a disclosure or revelation of knowledge.  But can sometimes  be described  as an  catastrophic event.

Now let’s delve into Plato and whether he wrote  about  the apocalypse   that  refers  to the  events of Atlantis .

Plato was known as one of the most  prolific Athenian philosophers  of his time. Educated  in  both philosophy  and poetry  he  followed  the teaching of  Socrates .  He even  founded  his own  school in the year  387.

He wrote   a lot  of  literature  called  Dialogues . He  wrote 36  to be  exact. But it is said that his later dialogues  are not  in fact dialogues but explorations of  different topics.  We  can assume  at  this point and time  Plato  decided   to write  fiction ? And venture  into the  area  of  post-apocalyptic writing?

WHAT YEAR  DID HE  WRITE ABOUT ATLANTIS?

He first  wrote about Atlantis around the year 350 . So this  is way before he founded  his school. He  wrote two dialogues  about Atlantis entitled  the Dialogues of Timaeus and Critias.  He incorporates  the myth of  Atlantis  with  Greek  gods .

*(Lets  keep note  of these 2 things)

Today  writings  about Greek gods  would be considered  fantasy fiction.

But in  Plato’s day they were simply  factual historical writings.

WHAT DOES  HE WRITE ABOUT  ATLANTIS ?

PLATO  WRITES   IN HIS DIALOGUE  that  Atlantis  was an  island  founded by Poseidon and Cleito  who  divided   into 10  sections or kingdoms  and  gave each  section  to  have it ruled over by their children . There were abundant natural resources   for   the  people  of Atlantis to build their homes and live off  of.   It was literally a  continent filled by mountains,  sea, wealthy villages and meadows . Basically abundance all around .

He  also describes  how  Atlantis was shaped  and how long  it took for the creation  of  Atlantis  and how  it  began  to flourish.  But there were also  laws the people  had to abide by  that  were  inscribed  on the temples of the town and villages

These laws  were  as  follows:

  • They were not to take up arms against one another.
  • They were all to come to the rescue if anyone in any of their cities attempted to overthrow the royal house;
  • like their ancestors, they were to deliberate in common about war and other matters, giving the supremacy to the descendants of Atlas.
  • And the king was not to have the power of life and death over any of his kinsmen unless he had the assent of the majority of  all the ten kingdoms  of Atlantis.

HOW  DID THE DESTRUCTION OF ATLANTIS  OCCUR?

So Plato also writes that  the people  abided  by the laws for many generations and  they wanted  for nothing  .  Neither gold or money  or other possessions.  However  somewhere along the way they changed and I guess humanity got the  better  of them  and he describes  in Crtias that Zeus came along  and saw the people  weren’t listening  and made   some kind of speech.

Plato  wrote  about  what Zeus had said but  the writings of what he said  is apparently lost. 

But if you take a look at the dialogues  of Timaeus(25d) The destruction of Atlantis  happened  practically overnight. First there were violent earthquakes and floods. Then the people of the city simply   disappeared into the earth and the city sank into the sea. Finally mud swept over the city making the waters unpassable as they were too shallow.

Plato  writes  in   Critias (110d) Even though Atlantis was  in fact destroyed there were  still asteroids/comets  that  collided with the earth causing fire, thunder, earthquakes and floods  after  Atlantis destruction.   There were survivors. Mountain people who knew the names of the people of Atlantis. However, they did not know many details of them or their virtues. But Despite this fact  the people of the mountains survived  and thrived .

SO DID PLATO ACTUALLY WRITE  A UTOPIAN/DYSTOPIAN  APOCALYPTIC DIALOGUE?

On the site  LIBGUIDES Plato’s works  are  classified as a utopian and dystopian  and he is  labeled as one .

Plato himself  got the mention of Atlantis  from  an Athenian statesman named  Solon who  ventured  to Egypt and got the story    from there .   Solon was said  to be the first to write a poem about Atlantis but then this is disputed and  it is claimed  that Plato is  the  originator  of the Atlantis tale.

Well there are arguments and debates today  whether Plato’s Dialogues  about Atlantis  were  real or not. Some feel  like The Atlantis story is clearly a parable of  maybe an ideal city or society . A fiction based on some ancient political realities.

Some also  think that  his tale  of Atlantis  is about  the explosive disappearance of an island might have been a reference to the eruption of Minoan Santorini.  And also  that Atlantis as a tale  should be considered a myth.

There are  many   writers   right after Plato who takes his work and turns the   tale of Atlantis into a poem and other works of fiction 

In 1627   Francis Bacon’s  writes   New Atlantis   which is based off of Plato’s  two Dialogues.  This is the first instance  where   you can see  a classification  of where  the Atlantis  tale /myth  falls  into place. Francis work is  thus  considered  a Utopian  work in that time period .

WHAT  IS UTOPIAN & DYSTOPIAN FICTION AND  WHAT DOES IT HAVE TO DO WITH THE APOCALYPSE FICTION ? 

Utopian fiction is  fiction that tells stories  about perfect societies.

Dystopian fiction is the opposite.  An imperfect or undesirable society.

Sometimes  a   written  society can  be  ideal or horrific  depending  on how you  go about writing it  and this is the very reason why dystopian  and  utopian fiction is sometimes crossed over with post-apocalyptic fiction .  

Moreover,  utopian  fiction and  dystopian  fiction  are usually   deemed as umbrella  terms  of post-apocalyptic and apocalyptic  fiction. The only differences between the three  would be the written plots.

In the case of Plato when he writes about Atlantis and finally  its destruction

He  goes  from  ideal society(utopian)

To   a  society  that’s   ravaged by  both political, spiritual , moral  upheaval.  Simply put the  downfall of Atlantis  humanity  . (dystopia)

He literally  writes about it all  and  what  happened  after  the destruction.  Where did the people go ?  How did they respond to the devastation of Atlantis? How  did they rebuild? (post -apocalypse).

So  to answer  the question from my own observance and research

Was Plato  a post-apocalyptic fiction writer?  Yes.  And also a fantasy  writer? Yes

But that is only if you don’t  consider  his  writings  of Atlantis   to  be  historical fact.  

Remember  I told  you back then  when  the ancient philosophers wrote about  the Gods  they wrote them as being  historical writings. 

If you liked this blog post and you want to  see more content involving my work in progress During the Blue Hour Follow , Like , share  . But first  LET’S START A DIALOGUE

Do you think Plato’s  writings about  Atlantis  were  fact or fiction?

 I  want to know so let me know in the comments  below.

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