For centuries many people from scholars to authors, to the average individual have been fascinated by the amazing tale of Atlantis. The idea of such an advanced civilization that we lost, and still haven’t found, has captured the imagination of countless people across time. Some
people write the tales of Atlantis off as mere myth, others believe strongly in its existence, creating theories of what happened, where it was located, and why we haven’t found any physical evidence.
In every media source we have, there are examples of Atlantis: novels (Ten Thousand Leagues Under the Sea), movies (Atlantis: The Lost Empire), comics (Aquaman), and video games (Tomb Raider) all centered on the possibility of this lost people. “In the Ultimate Marvel comics, Atlantis did exist and was home to a culture similar to Ancient Egyptians, but far more technologically advanced” (1). Whether you believe in its existence or not, tales of Atlantis will surely make you wonder.
Atlantis was first mentioned in the works of the Greek philosopher Plato. In his writings, he speaks of its strength and sophistication, specifically in his two dialogues Timaeus and Critias. He tells us Atlantis was an island that could be seen in the sea beyond the Pillars of Hercules “For the ocean, there was at that time navigable; for in front of the mouth which you Greeks call, as you say, the pillars of Heracles, (i.e., Hercules) there lay an island which was larger than Libya and Asia together; and it was possible for the travelers of that time to cross from it to the other islands, and from the islands to the whole of the continent”.
He described Atlantis as a circular city filled with canals, with a hill at the center, and a great temple at its summit. Within the temple, it was said, was a large statue of Poseidon riding a cart pulled by six winged horses. If Atlantis was real, it was certainly an impressive architectural feat for its time.
For those interested in exploring, there are many theories about Atlantis, and many theorized locations have been extremely far from where Plato placed the great island. A Greek seismologist named Angelos Galanopoulos claims that Atlantis was Santorini, an island in the Aegean Sea that was sunk in a volcanic eruption circa 1500 B.C. Unfortunately, these claims would change the dates of Atlantis by thousands of years, changing 9,000 years to only 900, a huge issue for historians. This legitimizes Plato’s claims because tochanginghe the very specific details in the tale of Atlantis changes the entire idea of the story.
Disregarding this, though, many of the details of this island’s culture are the same as that of Atlantis “Many of the details of the Atlantis story fit with what is now known about Crete. Women had a relatively high political status, both cultures were peaceful, and both enjoyed the unusual sport of ritualistic “bull leaping” (where an unarmed man wrestled and jumped over a bull).” And the details of Crete’s, or Santorini’s, destruction match with those of Atlantis “Twenty-five hundred years ago, though, it was a single large island with a volcano in the center.
volthe cano blew itself apart in a massive explosion around 1500 B.C. … a giant wave or tsunami, 120 feet high raced across the sea and hit neighboring islands, killing 36,000 people. Ash threw up into the air and blackened the skies for three days. The sound of the explosion was heard as far away as 3,000 miles. … One can hardly imagine a catastrophe more like Plato’s description of Atlantis’ fate than the destruction of Crete.”
Another unlikely location of Atlantis, suggested by Eberhard Zangger, is the city of Troy. In the same way, as Angelos Galanopoulos’ theory does, Zangger’s proposal changes significant details that Plato described in his works. This same problem occurs in every explanation that is offered for Atlantis’ existence “Cranks, however, are guilty of far greater crimes: they take the description of an island outside of the pillar of Hercules even more loosely. For them, it is carte blanche to place Atlantis nearly anywhere on the surface of the planet.”. From Antarctica to a sunken island found in a lake in Bolivia, every theory put forth challenges the original tale in a way that makes it very difficult to logically accept any of them.
One theory thought up by Professor Richard Freund, claims that Atlantis can be found underneath the marshlands off the coast of Spain. Using radar technology he and his team found what looks like a city that matches Plato’s original description of Atlantis. A ringed, canal-filled city that shows evidence of tsunami and other catastrophes, the city that is currently referred to as Tartessos could be Atlantis, or perhaps a city that Plato’s Atlantis was based on. Many scientists disagree with this theory, but just as many endorse it, in 1920 a historian by the name of Adolf Schulten theorized that Tartessos was the base of Plato’s tale, if not the actual city itself.
People who believe in Atlantis often reference Heinrich Schliemann, a German archaeologist who discovered Troy when the majority of the time’s scholars believed that the Iliad and Odyssey were completely mythical “Before Schliemann, the majority of classical scholars held the opinion that the Iliad was a poetic masterpiece woven entirely out of myths and imagination; Troy simply never existed. Schliemann, however, took Homer’s poems as seriously as a fundamentalist Christian takes the Bible … He found not just one Troy, but several.” (3) A large difference between Troy and Atlantis, though, is that Schliemann discovered Troy exactly where Homer claimed it was, while nothing has been found where Plato placed Atlantis. To add to this, scenes of Troy and the war depicted in the Iliad and Odyssey can be found on pottery and paintings, and the tales are often referenced in historical texts from the time “ Long-standing local legends and religious myths also allude to many of the characters. Many of the places mentioned in the Iliad were recognized by the Greeks of Plato’s time. There is even solid evidence that Iliad (and its companion work, The Odyssey) themselves have deep roots in the past.”. No sign of Atlantis can be found anywhere in art or literature, save for Plato’s dialogues, this leads us to wonder if Plato made Atlantis up.
Many scholars believe that Atlantis never existed at all, but that instead, it was one of Plato’s ‘noble lies(3), tall tales he often used to illustrate his point “In laying out the practices of forming the ideal state and citizenry, Plato discusses the tools to be employed in the education of the youth. One tool is the use of totally fabricated stories, presented to the youth as true history.”. In his dialogues, Plato would often tell extravagant tales, such as the tale of the Isles of the Blessed and Tartarus described in his work Gorgias, to illustrate a point he wanted to make.
When he first tells of Atlantis, Plato names a long list of people that the story was passed through before it reached him “it is then a matter of a tenuous thread of hearsay: 1) the priests tell Solon about the legend; 2) Solon tells Dropides; 3) Dropides tells his son, the elder Critias, who 4) tells his ten-year-old grandson, the younger Critias; 5) and finally this Critias, now a grown man, recounts the tale for Socrates and his guests in a semi-fictional dialogue recorded by Plato.” (3). Much like a game of telephone, it could be said that these tales were warped as they passed from person to person. With so many different people involved in passing the tale on, embellishments, misunderstandings, and basic misinformation could have easily been added, leading to the tale Plato recorded. Age alone can change the way we remember things, this, added to the number of people the tale passed through, brings us to question if Atlantis was nothing more than a fairy tale that got out of hand.
The tale of Atlantis is a tantalizing concept to many people, and whether you believe in it or not, you cannot deny how amazing it would be were it real. To have such an advanced civilization for its time destroyed would be a great tragedy. Unfortunately, with the many discrepancies in dates, locations, and the complete lack of any mention outside of Plato’s work, there is currently no proof, or even basic evidence, that the marvel that Atlantis is said to be ever truly existed.