Book Review, The Sunken Kingdom

The Sunken Kingdom

The Sunken Kingdom
By Peter James
Random House, 1995
ISBN 0-224-03810-9

The question of where and what was Atlantis has been an ongoing puzzle for both scholars and laymen for some 2,400 years since Plato wrote his accounts Timaeus and Critias .

This book has an extensive review of many of the the past studies on the subject (which includes a fascinating overview of Hellenic history), many of which had the common theme that Atlantis was somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean.

There are some hilarious examples of historians trying to reconcile Plato's claim that a war between Athens and Atlantis took place some 9,000 years before Plato's time - considerably before any civilizations developed in the area. This was explained by some historians that the Egyptian scribes relating the story misplaced a decimal point, making it really about 900 years. But - the Egyptians did not use the decimal system notation! Their symbols for 9,000 and 900 were vastly different characters - not likely to be mistranscribed.

From there, the author moves on to examining the world Plato lived in, from many of the issues and influences in his life, to the society and its value systems. Using the premise that the original story that became Atlantis probably had some historical basis of fact, the author presents an analysis of the several generations of people and the language barriers that the story Plato appears to have relied on for his accounts in Timaeus and Critias which may have shaded his understanding. This apparently included some possibly unreliable accounts by some elderly people who perhaps had not quite remembered all the significant details, or perhaps supplied a few of their own.

Going back to Greek history, the author examines the portion of the Atlantis story that supposedly came from Egyptian sources and also the question of Plato's familiarity with Egypt per se. And comes to the conclusion that Plato did actually visit Egypt, but the Atlantis story did not originate there. Or perhaps was poorly- known there.

The author then moves on to examining other possible sources of the precursor of this Atlantis story. And looks at Homer's epic, the Odysseywhich has some interesting parallels with some of the specifics in the Atlantis story. But concludes that nothing is the writings from many Greek authors could truly be regarded as a prototype for the Atlantis story.

Another area that is examined in detail is whether any geographic area in the western Mediterranean and their consequent legends could account for Atlantis. After examining many areas and mythologies, the author dismisses this area.

The geoarcheolgist Zanagger's book, The Flood from Heaven, published in 1993 is examined to see if that author's discussion of the story of the legendary King Tantalus is applicable. And is led to examine material Zannager apparently did not see - local legends and data, such as collected by the geographer Strabo in the first century BC.

That study led to the author making a personal trip to Lydia in Turkey to examine the local evidence. After an extensive examination, the author comes to a conclusion that the Atlantis tale was in fact based on an actual ancient city in present day Turkey.

This book is a good resource for studying Greek and Egyptian history in extensive detail, with some 24 of detailed note references to supplement the text and some 10 pages of bibliographic references.

A most interesting detective story and well told.

Reviewed by E. Stiltner
Copyright (©) 2000

More information is available at the publisher's website -

You are visitor number to visit this page since September 21, 2000.