Archive 7104 – Amended
Following the publication of an English translation of Roland Horn’s review of Thorwald C. Franke’s book about Platonic Myths, Thorwald wrote to me as follows;
“Hello Tony,thank you for the translation of Roland’s review. But there is something important lost in translation: You will find in Roland Horn’s text many occurrences of “mythos” and “logos” with small first letter and in Italics: This represents the original Greek word, in contrast to the modern word “myth” (German as well as English) which is derived from the Greek “mythos” but has a different meaning today than it had in Plato’s time. Therefore, you should write “mythos” everywhere where Roland Horn did it. I prepared a corrected translation for you in the attachment, doc and pdf. The red words are the corrections. The word “myth” is used only in the modern concept of a “Platonic Myth”, and in the short names of these “Platonic Myths”, such as Phaeton myth, Atlantis myth, etc. The Atlantis myth is not a myth, it is a Platonic Myth, and “Atlantis myth” is just an abbreviated form of saying: “Platonic Myth of Atlantis”, or even better: “Platonic Myth of primaeval Athens and Atlantis”. In the eyes of Plato, the concept of a Platonic Myth did not exist. He just wrote “stories” of various qualities: mythos, logos, and analogy (e.g. the Cave). Only much later, they were all lumped together as Platonic Myths.Yes, it is confusing …. the idea of Atlantis being “just a myth” lives for a good part from this confusion.With best regards Thorwald”
I am happy to accede to his request and have now published the amended text, with highlights, below.
The author approaches the not quite simple topic by dealing with the vague concept of the
“Platonic myth” and presenting an empirical finding. Among other things, the narrative perspective
and the level of meaning are important to him. Franke provides an overview of the range of
variations in Platonic myths, notes that some aspects seem to contradict each other, and wonders
how all these explanations in Plato’s dialogues could be understood under a term of Platonic myth.
There is a lack of a common thread that allows all these different explanations to be brought into a
logical order and to form a concept of Platonic myth that is not arbitrary but understandable and
To this end, he first deals with the basic concepts of mythos and logos. These are, mind you, ancient
Greek terms that do not have too much to do with the definition of the word “myth” in the German
(or English) language. A complete dissolution of familiar
mythical concepts of myth is necessary in
order to understand Plato.
Franke notes that mythos in Plato’
s core essentially means an unsupported statement – a statement
without evidence, without witnesses, without argumentation and without certification; a statement
that stands as a mere assertion by its spokesman, who does not have sufficient trustworthiness
among his listeners that could be regarded as support for the statement. Therefore, this statement
could be wrong – but it does not have to be. It may as well be true. It could also be simply invented.
“A true mythos would cease to be a mythos the moment it became known to be true.
Also The same
for a false mythos. The essence of the mythos is the ambiguity about whether it is true or false.”(p.
The author deals intensively with the term eikos mythos. This term refers to a “probable myth” and
Franke emphasizes explicitly that this eikos mythos is explicitly used in the scientific presentation in
the Timaeus myth. One must assign a much more sober meaning to the word mythos than the
modern word myth has. The logos differs from the mythos in that it has an underpinning.
According to Franke, philosophers such as Timaeus and Critias, who spoke about Atlantis in the
respective dialogues, are able to “tell probable mythoi [plural of mythos, note RMH] because of
their quality as philosophers and because of their expertise, which approach the actual truth, as in
the Timaeus myth.”(p. 52)
Franke continues to deal with typical misconceptions about mythos and logos. Thus, he addresses
the claim of many Plato researchers that in Plato logos and mythos merge into each other or
disappear and merge. It is simply wrong. In Plato’s case, the two terms are clearly separated and
separated, as Franke notes. Moreover, parables are no mythoi ical.
The author goes on to discuss historical wrong courses in detail and another approach of Franke is
the term “Platonic myth” itself. In painstaking detail work, Franke finally finds his common thread.
He states: “The central aspect of all Platonic myths is the question of trust in their truth, of the
confidence of probability in the respective presentation. This is the common thread that connects all
Platonic myths and with which one can unite all Platonic myths in a common order scheme.” (p. 81)
Franke describes Plato as a “truthful weaver of knowledge” who wants to free the mythoi from its
untruth and no longer want to see untruth spread. In addition, he credibly explains that a poet does
not necessarily have to be an inventor, as is often claimed. On the contrary, within the framework of
“Plato’s Truth Program,” “poets, as those who ‘make’ mythos, are obliged to approach the truth as
closely as possible in their poetry.”Furthermore, Franke recognizes in the writings of Plato – with
clear references – that untrue mythoi are “forbidden”. In summary, Franke rightly states that Plato as
a philosopher is to be taken completely seriously.
At the end of the main part, Franke deals with the topic of Atlantis and clarifies that the Atlantis
story is one of the Platonic myths and is probably the most complex Platonic myth of all. Franke
was able to lay a foundation for the fact that “a theory of Atlantis can be considered well-founded if
it can build on the secure foundation of a thoughtful conception of the phenomenon of Platonic
The main part of the book ends on p. 114. This is followed by numerous long appendices with
topics such as “Constellation and Analysis of Platonic Myths”. In addition to all other Platonic
myths, Franke discusses here in detail the Theut myth, which is based on an Egyptian folk tale
according to which, after the god Theut in Egypt invented the script. This topic is dealt with by Plato
in the Phaedrus Dialogue. For Plato, this is at least a real tradition from Egypt.
Also interesting are Franke’s explanations of the Phaeton myth, which is part of the Atlantis myth.
Franke notes that Plato exceptionally demythologizes the Phaeton myth and emphasizes that this
mythos does not imply a fall of a celestial body such as a comet to Earth, especially since Phaeton
and the chariot of the sun god “clearly stands for the sun itself and not for celestial bodies, as they
actually, fall to earth again and again.”
With regard to the Nomoi Dialogue, Franke refers to the explicit statement in the text that Egypt is
ten thousand years old and that this statement is not meant in a figurative sense. This 10,000 years is
to be regarded as a lower limit so that this figure “fits perfectly with the 11,340 and more years of
Herodotus for the age of Egypt”. However, Franke brushes aside this interesting statement with the
words “In truth, of course, Egypt was not founded until around 3000 BC, as we know today” and
assumes a “typical misperception from the Egyptian late period”. I believe that there is more room
for manoeuvre on this issue.
In another appendix, Franke compiles the group of Platonic myths and in yet another, he discusses
in detail different opinions on the subject. Particularly interesting are his views on the
Wikipedia page on the keyword “Platonic myth”. The book is completed by two reviews that have it
I consider the book to be absolutely recommendable, as it clears up numerous misunderstandings. It
is an exemplary and absolutely thorough research work, as you rarely find it!