Unreal City: Legend and Science

Among all the legends that excite human imagination, one of the most mysterious tells about the Island of Atlas — a powerful empire that had prospered thousands of years before Ancient Egyptians ever started to erect their pyramids, and that possessed the knowledge which mankind struggled to revive for ages ever since the island sank into nonexistence. In 41st Disney’s Animated Classics Atlantis: The Lost Empire a vivid image of the city is given and the legend around it is unfolded.

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Atlantis is said to have been a settlement of people who possessed miraculous powers due to a magic crystal uniting the power of people’s emotions. It served as a source of energy to the nation who made use of its might developing science and technology to level mankind could re-attain millennia afterward. The prosperity of the nation was reflected in the architectural style of their city: a majestic arrangement of massive constructions, featuring a group of temples and royal palaces in the middle and smaller mansions scattered all around them, with hanging bridges over the multiple water canals which at some points dropped their waters down in picturesque waterfalls. Multilayer domes dominate the city landscape, bulging out of the abundant verdure of natural gardens. Vast open fields serve as runways for aircraft, and the overall sense of spaciousness overcomes the visitor.

The majestic character of the place is expressed by architectural forms of tall steady buildings, many of which feature such classical means of expressing power and prosperity as rows of thick columns along with galleries of pantheons, huge rounded domes of the palaces inside the Atlantis, and control towers on the outskirts of the city, tall ritual towers with mysterious symbolic carvings and ornaments on them, endless staircases soaring up endlessly and suggesting an ascent to the divine. The style of Atlantis echoes (or, rather, chronologically foreshadows) that of Egyptian pyramids, Greek dipteral, Buddhist temples, and Mayan constructions.

Due to the circumstances of decline, which befell the city at the chronotope of the cartoon, the former grandeur of the city was marred by signs of decay: the stone of the buildings darkened, the tiles of the passageways cracked and moss enveloped the walls of the once lustrous place. The surreal impression is enhanced by the placement of Atlantis in space: separated from land by a fathomless abyss, it seems to be floating in the air, supported by water streams.

Estimating the real-world counterpart of Atlantis appears an exciting task, as the city architecture summarizes and absorbs a multitude of styles and trends existing on the planet. The synthetic character of Atlantis architecture allows linking it to architectural models of places ranging from the constructions erected in South America to those created by man in the Eastern countries. The high degree of symbolism and the idea of worship in architecture resembles the temples of Egyptians, Greeks, and Buddhists, and the detailedness of complex ornaments can be also observed in the worship objects created by Aztecs. According to the story, as it first appears in Plato’s Timaeus and Critias (and is later developed by many enthusiastic authors like Scott-Elliot), the culture of Atlantis had appeared and vanished long before any of the mentioned civilizations ever sprung to existence. Thus, as long as the legend is veritable, the posterior creations turned out to be the discrete reincarnations of a rich culture that appeared so productive that its fragments sprouted in scattered human communities to an extent that allowed raising the latter to the level of the greatest civilizations ever.

References

Plato. Timaeus and Critias. London, UK: Penguin Books, 1977.

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Scott-Elliot, William. The Story of Atlantis. A Geographical, Historical and Ethnological Sketch. 1896. 2009. Web.

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