Plato described Atlantis as a island nation existing in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. It was said to be populated by a great and powerful race and was a center for trade and commerce during that era. The sheer scale of everything Plato said about Atlantis, from the grandeur of its buildings to the enormous timescale involved, has provided a controversial debate that has lasted for over 10,000 years.
Plato’s Description of Atlantis
Plato claimed to have received his information from his family. The fact that Plato would never perpetrate a fraud involving deceased members of his revered family, and the common knowledge that Plato was never known for wholesale fabrication, suggests that Plato indeed told the story as a truthful account of this mysterious civilization.
Plato introduced Atlantis in this text:
“For it is related in our records how once upon a time your State stayed the course of a mighty host, which, starting from a distant point in the Atlantic ocean, was insolently advancing to attack the whole of Europe, and Asia to boot. 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,’ 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 over against them which encompasses that veritable ocean. For all that we have here, lying within the mouth of which we speak, is evidently a haven having a narrow entrance; but that yonder is a real ocean, and the land surrounding it may most rightly be called, in the fullest and truest sense, a continent. Now in this island of Atlantis there existed a confederation of kings, of great and marvelous power, which held sway over all the island, and over many other islands also and parts of the continent.”
In Timaeus and Critias, written in 360 BC, Plato described Atlantis as being remarkably modern for its day. It was said to have many man-made canals used for navigation and water supply. The people there were very wealthy and had considerable natural resources such as abundant plants and wildlife.
The Atlantean Inhabitants
Some scholars believe that the inhabitants of Atlantis were even more ‘advanced’ than our modern civilization (and possibly wiser) contradicting the prevailing view of a slow, steady, linear ascent of human civilization from primitive beginnings to our modern technological society. In fact, some believe that that not all Atlanteans died in their cataclysmic event but rather survived and are the ancestors of all of our modern day ‘intelligent’ people. Given this belief, all of our modern day technology is simply a rediscovering of the knowledge and information possessed by the Atlantean culture.
Surrealistic tales of Atlantean intelligence propose that they had developed such technologically advanced mechanisms such as time machines, machinery to transport themselves into some sort of altered dimension, futuristic weaponry, and advanced communication devices. Some tales indicate that the Atlanteans had perfected cloning of their powerful race and/or had created intelligent robotic clones of themselves. Other Atlantis accounts tell of a ‘alternate Earth’ that the Atlanteans periodically visited, possibly by the use of the previously mentioned portal machinery.
The Destruction of Atlantis
Legend has it that as their wealth and knowledge reached unfathomed levels, the people of Atlantis began to falter and become greedy. Some legends tell us that as punishment, the god Zeus pummeled the metropolis and the entire island nation sank into the sea killing all of its habitants. Some take a more practical view and believe that an earthquake or great flood destroyed the metropolis in a single night of terror. Others believe the Atlanteans, reaching unbelievable levels of success, simply self-destructed and destroyed themselves.
In Critias, Plato describes the destruction of Atlantis:
“But at a later time there occurred portentous earthquakes and floods, and one grievous day and night befell them, when the whole body of your warriors was swallowed up by the earth, and the island of Atlantis in like manner was swallowed up by the sea and vanished; wherefore also the ocean at that spot has now become impassable and unsearchable, being blocked up by the shoal mud which the island created as it settled down.”
Modern Day Search for the lost island of Atlantis
Is the story of Atlantis true or a myth? If the story is historical fact, how could the ruins of such a metropolis elude researchers intent on proving its existence? Did all the Atlanteans perish or did some survive and become predecessors to our modern civilizations?
Survival and migration of Atlanteans
Some historians believe that the Atlanteans survived their cataclysm and migrated to other places. Common belief is that their migration took them to Egypt where the continued to forge new and innovative methods of technology. This theory concludes that that the great Egyptian marvels, such as the Sphinx and the great Egyptian writings, resulted from this influx of technologically advanced Atlantean people. Others feel that Solon, the supposed family member who originally passed the story on to Plato, may have mistaken Egypt itself for the city of Atlantis.
Location of Atlantis disputed
Some researchers believe that the shifting continents may have displaced Atlantis to a location not nearly as close to the Atlantic Ocean as Plato described. Prevailing evidence using advanced calculations indicates that the lost civilization may indeed lie under the ice of Antarctica.
Readings from the infamous Edgar Cayce, indicate that Atlantis may have been located near the Bimini Island in the Bahamas. There is evidence that the Bimini Island may have once been a mountain region with the largest part of the island now submerged beneath the ocean. Cayce believed that Atlantis actually suffered three destructive events. The first destroyed their major power source (what the power source was in not known). The second actually split the islands into 3 separate entities. The third and final catastrophe caused all three of the islands to sink into the sea. Cayce concluded his reading of the City of Atlantis with a warning – between 1958 and 2008 our modern society would be presented with the same opportunities and challenges that the Atlanteans faced. Our response to those challenges will dictate our fate just as it did the Atlanteans.
Probably the most sound scientific explanation of the location of Atlantis places it off the southern coast of China. This location of this site makes if somewhat difficult to study but a general scientific consensus of the world’s ‘map’ around the end of the Ice Age indicates that a great portion of that continent is now located underwater. Depth studies of the region also indicate that there are three areas that are particularly shallow, all being less than 100 meters under the water.
Maps of Atlantis
Below are maps of the mythical island of Atlantis.
Athanasius Kircher’s map of Atlantis, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. From Mundus Subterraneus 1669, published in Amsterdam. The map is oriented with south at the top.
Map of Atlantis according to William Scott-Elliott (The Story of Atlantis, Russian edition, 1910).
A map showing the supposed extent of the Atlantean Empire. From Ignatius L. Donnelly’s Atlantis: the Antediluvian World, 1882