Plato wove a brief story about a Lost Continent of Atlantis into one of his Dialogs, and Homer (or "Homer") has hints of a somewhat similar legend in his Odyssey; from so slender a source was developed a long-lasting tale of a continent in the Atlantic, somewhere west of the Straits of Gibraltar, once covered with civilization, which sank suddenly under the waves. Soundings over the whole bed of the Atlantic Ocean have never encountered a submerged continent;
geographers have dismissed the possibility that there ever was one, and geologists won't admit that a continent could sink. Long before Plato the Hebrews (see Book of Isaiah) talked often, and almost rhapsodically, about Tarshish, a busy, populous place very far away, even farther away than Isaiah's "isles of the sea," but no geographer had ever found it. Also, the ubiquitous Phoenicians, and the Egyptians as well, had a similar tradition; once an Egyptian expedition set out in search of it. These two latter traditions, plus Plato's myth, hung in the air for centuries, tantalizing geographers and inspiring a huge occult and esoteric literature---even Conan Doyle wrote two tales on the theme, in one about a lost continent under the sea, in the other, about one far up on a mountainous plateau.
Lewis Spence, a specialist in occult history and geography, wrote The Problem of Atlantis (William Rider & Sons; London; 1925), and Atlantis in America (Ernest Benn; London; 1925). The latter surprised Americans but did not convert them. The multiplication of Atlantis' continued; James Churchward published his The Lost Continent of Mu; and somebody discovered another, not far from Guadalcanal, in the Southwest Pacific, called by the queer but romantic name of Lemuria, probably suggested by the animal called the Lemur. This multiplication of the Lost Atlantis was welcomed by men who had never believed in even one of them; it confirmed them in their unbelief.
While this multiplication of Lost Continents proceeded, areheologists in Greece, the Near East, and Egypt were uncovering unbelievably large masses of inscriptions and documents, among which (though only a fraction of them have been translated and analyzed) were a number of mentions of Atlantis, or clues to it. By assembling and correlating these data scholars have shown that in all likelihood Atlantis was in reality an island off the coast of southern Spain, east a little way from Gibraltar, which was a trading center for the eastern Mediterranean, to which came ships from Britain and far-off Norway, and caravan routes from western Europe. The bed under the water between this island and the mainland rose, it ceased to be a "continent'' (the word was often used to mean a large island) ; Atlantis disappeared not by sinking beneath the sea but by rising above it.
If it is be true---and there is every reason to believe that it is. - how ironical that Atlantistums out to have been not a mystery of the sea but of the land ! and that instead of being the center of a web of far-ranging sea toutes, it was the terminus of a system of land routes !
But if a man should bemoan the loss of a legend of a golden and glittering continent which sank into the ocean, along with old stories, and poesies, and symbolisms, he can more than recover those losses if he will tum to the old roads, or trails; they are veridic and historic ; their story is known; and that story is far more freighted with the richness of true tales, and marvels, and poesies, and symbolisms than ever was the mythic Atlantis. These old trails, or roads, or ways are the poetry of ancient geography. They also were one of the supreme symbols to ancient man for his religions, so many of which were described as The Way, or The Road, or The Gate. There was the great Amber Road which wandered down from the Baltic through the Black Forests of Germany and across France until it branched, and one branch came on down to Atlantis; over it slow mule caravans brought amber, which for centuries was more desired than gold. There were the two great Silk Trails, or Silk Roads, over which camel and horse caravans brought bales of silk into the west from far-off China. There was the tremendous Road of the Turcomans, over which one branch of our Sanskrit-speaking ancestors made their slow progress across to Afghanistan, and then down into India, leaving behind them, after the Way had been followed for centuries, hundreds of caves filled with wall paintings, and rich with libraries of old manuscripts.
Here in the United States was one of the most remarkable of the old roads, the Turquoise Trail (the stone originally was called The Turkish Stone, whence its beautiful name) which wound over the western deserts from Los Cerillos, near Santa Fe, in what is now New Mexico, out to the coast to the bay where San Diego now stands. It was trodden by so many Indians for so many centuries that their moccasins wore it deep into the rock, so that sections of it still are easily visible from an airplane.
The Trail itself always was neutral ground, and any traveler on it could pass without danger through strange places or warring tribes; the myths, and legends, and symbolisms of it run like a subterranean river through the ceremonies of the South-western Indians.
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