CHENNAI: As a columnist, I couldn’t help but look around for inspiration to strike. Up, down, left, scratch of the head, week after week.
This week, all I saw was water. Water that stretched beyond the limits of my eyesight, almost like an old-age tribute to Poseidon, some place in Greece. Which, of course, got me thinking about Greece, and I found myself suddenly at the lost city of Atlantis.
What if Atlantis existed beyond the books and imagination of Plato?
The first question, of course, is about its location. Atlantis is rumoured to have, surprisingly, been located in the Atlantic Ocean: and while that was hard to guess from its unassuming name, it’s even harder to estimate its size. With no indication as such, the size would have to be rounded off to the size of your everyday living, breathing empire – irrespective of whether the empire lived and breathed above or below the surface.
Now, why does the existence of this topographically vague empire even matter? If we were to trust Plato blindly, the empire of Atlantis was said to be an illustrious; with generous contributions to a plethora of fields, and a healthy dose of advancement for a civilisation rumoured to have existed 15,000 years ago.
For humanity, this means a spurt in the growth of mankind, the entirety of the human race would also flourish earlier. Or would we?
Although often mistakenly associated with utopian ideals, our Atlantians were not looking at world peace. Like most people with power, their ambition, combined with their resources and ruthlessness would have resulted in the colonisation of other areas in and around the Atlantic. In the case of Europe, the tables would have turned; imperialism would have been enforced on them before they would have even conceived of the idea.
In the case of Africa, however, things would have sadly remained the same. The ancient civilisations had a way of looking at outsiders as ‘barbarians’. The Greeks had their own methods of disposing of such barbarians, and the Atlantians would have undoubtedly come up with their own barbaric ways of getting rid of their barbarians. Maybe we could have had an Atlantian Hitler – albeit one with an impressive handle bar moustache.
As with all civilisations, we must also consider their potential decline; in this case, fables trace it back to the fury of gods. Given how the civilisations of that era believed that natural disasters were just the gods childishly acting out for inadequate prayers, it is very possible that our hypothetical Atlantis would be wiped out in an unprecedented natural disaster. Similar to the Mayans and the Aztecs, the superior civilisations would have suddenly and abruptly disappeared, taking with them their advancements.
For all the colonies, this would mean anarchy, with the centre of command suddenly cut off. This would have ushered it with another Black Age: dark, dreary times with allies suddenly combating each other and everyone assisting humanity to take two steps back.
You can also attempt to look at their decline optimistically: with the fall of Atlantis, us humans would have learnt from this incident and been better prepared and less superstitious in the face of natural disasters. But then again, the existence of a new continent would have affected the seismic plates’ activity, and perhaps global warming would have embraced us a decade earlier.
However, as the scenario is played out, one thing is certain: the rise and fall of a glorious empire, in an entirely new continent, would not have altered the course of history as much as we would expect it to. How we examine the concepts of government, as well as power, would have more or less been the same.
History always catches up, that sneaky thing. Of course, we’re playing out our hypothetical scenario adhering to logical restraints. If Atlantis had, in fact, been an underwater city, we’re looking at an entirely different ball game; one that hopefully involves mermaids.
(The Chennai-based author writes poetry, fiction and more)