Sunday, December 12, 2010

Dr. Beachcombing classifies historical mysteries

The inestimable Dr. Beachcombing, while mulling on the (un)reality of Atlantis, comes up with a happy classification scheme:
Now with some historical mysteries we have an established reality and luscious legends sprouting up like nettles all around. For example, Princess Diana (to get all British), Charlemagne or, thinking of yesterday’s post, ‘tulipomania’. Beachcombing will call these type A mysteries. The challenge with these is to separate history and myth.

Then there are type B legends where we have a mass of legends and there may (or may not) be, behind them, the glimmering of something historical. Robin Hood, Madog, El Cid and a dozen other names trip off the tongue. Here the challenge is to establish if there is any history to separate from myth.

What Beachcombing finds fascinating about Atlantis is that it does not fit into either category A or B. In fact, he will have to usher on a third category type C to do justice to the great continent.

Type C mysteries are mysteries that may include ’real’ legends (meaning beliefs established among a given people) and these legends, if they exist, may contain real historical events. Here the challenge is to establish if there are any legends. In other words we are, with type C, at two removes from the truth. This is not like Merry King Cole, say, (a type B mystery) where we are wondering whether there is history in the legend. This is Atlantis where we do not even know if there is a genuine myth behind Plato’s ramblings or whether Plato invented the whole thing himself. As to history, that is a long way down the menu…

More on Atlantis here.

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