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Atlantis
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Plato

Atlantis
Morethan2,500yearsago,alegendfirstbegantospreadaboutasocietyof
thepastthatenjoyedanabundanceofnaturalresources,greatmilitary
power,splendidbuildingandengineeringfeats,andintellectualachievements
faradvancedoverthoseofotherlands.CalledAtlantis,itwasdescribedasa
continentsizedareawithrichsoil,plentifulpurewater,abundantvegetation
andanimals,naturalhotspringsforhealthandvigor,andsuchmineral
wealththatgoldwasinlaidinbuildingsandwasamongthepreciousmetals
andstoneswornasjewelry.Slavesperformedmanuallabor,allowingalarge
elitetopursueknowledge,enjoysportingevents,andcontinuallyimprove
uponanalreadythrivingsociety.
Intheensuingcenturies,noconclusiveevidenceofAtlantishasbeenfound,
butitsattributeshaveexpandedtoincludeadditionalengineeringand
technologicalfeatsthatenhanceitslegendarystatusinthepopular
imagination.In1882,IgnatiusDonnelly(18321901)publishedAtlantis:The
AntediluvianWorld,arguingthatallcivilizationisaninheritancefrom
Atlantis.Listingnumerousparallelsbetweenancientculturesspacedfar
awayfromeachother,Donnellyarguedthattheircommonnessresultedfrom
contactwithAtlanteans.
Similaritiesdoindeedexistamongvariousancientcultures,asdosignificant
differences.Floodmythsandsunworship,forexample,mightbebasedona
sharedteaching,ortheymightbeseparatereactionstobeneficientanddestructiveelementsofnature.
PyramidswerebuiltinEgyptandtheAmericas,buttheyarealsosignificantlydifferentintheirstructures.
ThewallsofpyramidsintheAmericasdidnotconvergetoformatruepoint,astheydidinEgyptrather,the
wallsreachedacertainleveluponwhichaplatformwasbuiltandoftenatempleerected.IfAtlantisdid
indeedfallsomewherebetween8500and9500b.c.e.,whataccountsforthelongtimelaguntilthepyramids
wereerectedinEgypt(generallydatedaround2500b.c.e.)andNorthAmerica(generallydatedafter200
c.e.)?

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Sincethe1800s,Atlanteanshavebeencreditedforhavinghadthetechnologytogenerateelectricity,build
flyingmachines,andharnessnuclearpowerforenergyandwarfarealldevelopedmorethan9,000years
beforesuchthingscameintobeinginmodernsociety.OtherclaimshaveAtlanteansknowledgeableabouta
formidabledeathray,secretsforlevitation,andpureformsofenergythroughcrystals.ManyAtlantis
enthusiastsfirmlybelievethattheinhabitantsofthelostcontinenthadcosmicconnectionswith
extraterrestrialsandmayactuallyhavebeenacolonyestablishedonEarthbyalienexplorers.
SinceAtlantiswasfirstdescribed,claimshavebeenmadethatcertainmembersofthecivilizationescaped
destructionduringitscatastrophicfinaldaysandmanagedtoimparttheirknowledgetootherpeoplesofthe
world,helpingcivilizeprimitivesocieties,passingonthesecretofwrittenlanguage,andsupervising
constructionofsomeoftheworld'smostmysteriousstructuresoftheancientworld.ThepyramidsofEgypt
andtheAmericas,theSphinxinEgypt,andthemegalithsofwesternEuropeareamongthestructures
attributedtothegeniusofAtlanteans.
Accordingtomostaccounts,Atlantiswassuddenlydestroyedbyacataclysmofearthquakesandfloods
andswallowedupbythesea.Nodefinitiveremnantshaveeverbeenfound,andtheexactlocationofthe
"lostcontinent"remainsdebatable.TheideaofAtlantiswasfirstexpressedintheworksofPlato(c.
428348or347b.c.e.),theGreekphilosopher,whostressedthataperfectworldexistsinIdeas.For
example,ashoe,accordingtoPlato,existsasanideabeforeacraftspersonmakesthematerialobject
identifiedasashoe.Thematerialworld,then,isareflectionofideas,neverquitereachingtheperfectionof
ideas,butwhichserveasmodelsforwhichtheadeptsmightstrive.
WhilePlatousedthemodelofAtlantistorepresentaworldofperfectorderincontrasttoallthatwas
imperfectintheworldaroundhim,helabeledthestoryofAtlantis"literallytrue"asignificantdeclaration.
ForPlatowassuspiciousoffictionandart.Ifideasaretheprimaryreality,andthematerialworldisa
reflectionofideas,thenart,asareflectionofthematerialworld,istwiceremovedfromreality,accordingto
Plato.HisclaimthattheAtlantisstoryisliterallytruehelpssustainthecontinuinglegendofAtlantis.It
remainsalegend,oranIdea,however,untilsomematerialproofshowsthatAtlantisexistedinthematerial
world.Aristotle(384322b.c.e.),anotherofthegreatGreekphilosophers,viewedtheAtlantislegendas
fiction.
Plato'swritingscompriseseverallettersand25dialogues.Hisviewsandthoseofhismentor,Socrates(c.
470399b.c.e.),werepresentedasdramaticconversationsexploringsuchtopicsastruth,theoriginofthe
worldanditscomposition,thepurposeofhumankind,andwhatanindividualshouldchooseasanaimoflife.
AtlantisisdiscussedintwoofPlato'sdialogues,TimaeusandCritias.Timaeusprovidesadescriptionofthe
islandcontinentandhowAtlanteansconqueredalltheknownworldexceptfortheAthenians(Platowasan
Athenian).Critias,namedaftertheprimaryspeakerinthedialogue,Plato'sgreatgrandfather,presentsa
historyofAtlanteancivilizationanddescribestheidealsocietythatflourishedthere.Critiasnotesthatthe
storieswereoriginallypassedonbyanancestor,Solon(638558b.c.e.),apoliticianandpoetwhotraveled
widely.CritiasandSolonwerebothancestorsofPlato.
Solon,asthestorygoes,wasinformedbyEgyptianpriestsinthecityofSais,locatedintheNiledelta,that
therewasoncealandevenolderinhistorythanEgypt,whichtheGreeksacknowledgedasbeingcenturies
olderthantheirownsociety.ThepriestsdescribedalargeislandcontinentcalledAtlantisthatprospered
some8,000yearsearlier,whichdatesAtlantisbefore8500b.c.e.Thecontinentwaslocatedbeyond"the
PillarsofHercules,"theGreektermfortherocksthatformtheStraitsofGibraltar,thewesternmostpointof
theMediterraneanOcean.BeyondthestraitsistheAtlanticOcean.
Therewereseveralcitiesonthecontinent.Theprimarycity,alsocalledAtlantis,waslocatedinthecenterof
aseriesofconcentricringsthatalternatedbetweenringsofwaterandland.Thewaterringsservedas

canalsfortradeandhelpedformaseriesofnaturaldefensesthatmadeaninvasionofAtlantisextremely
difficult.
ThecityofAtlantis,intheinnermostcircle,hadpalacesandtempleswherewiseandpowerfulrulerslived.
TherulingcoalitiondescendedfromPoseidon,theGreekgodofthesea.PoseidonandClietohadfivesets
oftwinsons,accordingtoGreekmythology,eachofwhichwasgivenaregionofAtlantis.Atlas,thefirstborn
son,wasgiventhelargestprovince,whichbecamethecityofAtlantis,anamethatderivesfromAtlas.The
fineststructureontheisland,theTempleofPoseidon,honoredthegodandservedasthehomeofthe
primaryruler.
Atlantishadapowerfularmyofprofessionalsoldiers,asdideachoftheothernineregionsofthecontinent.
ThecultureofAtlantispromotedlearning,throughwhichadvancesinengineeringandsciencemadetheland
bountiful,beautiful,andpowerful.Inadditiontomagnificentarchitecturalstructures,anetworkofbridgesand
tunnelslinkedtheringsofland,andcleverusesofnaturalresourcesprovidedsecurityandabundance.
Manygrovesprovidedsolitudeandbeauty,racetrackswereusedforathleticcompetitions,andirrigation
systemsensuredgreatharvests.
InPlato'saccount,thepeopleofAtlantiseventuallybecamecorruptandgreedy,puttingselfishpursuits
abovethegreatergood.Theybeganinvadingotherlandswiththeideaofworlddomination.Angeredby
thesedevelopments,Poseidonsetaboutdestroyingthecivilization,batteringthecontinentwithearthquakes
andfloodsuntilAtlantiswasswallowedupbytheocean.
ThatdescriptionofthedestructionofAtlantishasbeenlinkedbysometoothercataclysmiceventsstories
ofagreatdelugeintheBible,theEpicofGilgamesh,andfloodmythsinothersocieties.Somecontendthat
theendoftheIceAgebetween12,000and10,000b.c.e.likelyresultedinrisesofwaterlevelsinvarious
partsoftheworldandthatearthquakes,volcaniceruptions,andclimatechanges,eitherincidentalor
associatedwiththeIceAge,occurredduringthetimeidentifiedwiththedestructionofAtlantis.
ThelocationofAtlantishasbeenclaimedoneachofthesevencontinents,andinseveralspotsinthe
world'soceansandseas.Additionally,manyoftheancientworld'swondershavebeenattributedto
Atlanteanswho,presumably,escapedthedestructionoftheirhomelandandspreadtheiradvanced
engineeringskillselsewhere.
ThetextofPlato'sdialoguesuggeststheAtlanticOcean"beyondthepillarsofHercules"asthelocationof
Atlantis.Aslateasthetwentiethcentury,abeliefpersistedthatalandbridgeonceexistedintheoceanand
ranbetweenEuropeandAfricaandNorthandSouthAmerica.Suchalandlinkconcepthelpsexplain
similaritiesinfloraandfaunaexistingoncontinentsspreadthousandsofmilesapart.ThemidAtlanticridge,
aseriesofunderseamountains,hasbeenpresentedasaremnantofthelandbridge,orastheremainsof
Atlantis.
JacquesCollinaGirardoftheUniversityoftheMediterraneaninAixenProvencehadbeenstudyingpatterns
ofhumanmigrationfromEuropeintoNorthAfricaattheheightofthelastIceAge,19,000yearsago,when
hisreconstructionofthearearevealedanancientarchipelagowithanislandatthespotwherePlatowrote
Atlantisexisted.TheislandwasnamedSpartel,anditlayinfrontofthePillarsofHerculestothewestofthe
StraitofGibraltaratatimewhenthesealevelwas130meterslowerthanitistoday.AccordingtoCollina
Girard(NewScientist,September2001),theslowriseofpostglacialsealevelswouldgraduallyhave
engulfedtheislandandthearchipelago9,000yearsbeforePlato.
WhiletheconceptofanislandbeingswallowedbytheseaintheareabeforethePillarsofHerculesseemsa
viabletheory,thereisasyetnoevidencediscoveredtoprovethatacontinentexistedinthemidAtlantic
Ocean.TheshallowwatersaroundthenorthwestcoastofAfricaandextendingtotheCanaryIslandsisan
areathatmayhavebeenabovetheoceanatonetimeandhasbeensuggestedasalocationforAtlantis,but
nophysicalremainsofhumanhabitationhavebeenlocatedthere.
AlanF.Alford,aleadingauthorityonancientmythology,spentfiveyearsinvestigatingPlato'saccountof
Atlantis,and,inDecember2001,announcedhisconclusionthatthemythofthelostcontinenttookplace
onlyinPlato'smind.InAlford'stheory,theGreekphilosopherinventedAtlantisasametaphorfortheancient
versionofthecontemporary"BigBangTheory."Atlantis,asasymbolforalostparadise,representedakind
ofcataclysmofallcataclysmsthatbroughtaboutthebeginningofalltime.
Thediscouragingtheoriesoftheskepticaldolittletodiminishtheenthusiasmofthosewhoearnestlybelieve
inthephysicalrealityofAtlantis.TheAtlanticOceanlocationforthelostcontinentreceivedrenewed
attentioninthelate1960s,specificallytheregionnearBiminiIslandintheBahamas,anislandchainoffthe
coastoftheUnitedStates.Fuelingtheexcitementoverwhatappearedtobediscoveriesofactualroadways,
walls,andbuildingsunderthewaterwasthefactthattheywerefoundintheexactlocationandatthesame
pointintimeasprophesiedbyEdgarCayce(18771945),apsychic,whose"lifereadings"forclients
revealedthatmanyoftheirpresentlifepsychologicaltraumaswerebeingcausedbyaterribleincidentthat
thesuffererhadexperiencedinapastlife.Manyofthepresentlifetraumasofhisclients,accordingto
Cayce,wereduetothesufferingstheyhadexperiencedaspeoplewholivedinAtlantisinapreviouslife.
CaycehelpedpopularizeamodernizedviewofAtlantisasasuperiorcivilizationthathaddevelopedplanes,
submarines,xray,antigravitydevices,crystalsthatharnessenergyfromthesun,andpowerfulexplosives.
Hetheorizedthatanexplosionin50,000b.c.e.blewAtlantisupintofiveislandsanotheroccurredin28,000
b.c.e.andthethird,theonedescribedbyPlato,occurredaround10,000b.c.e.Cayceclaimedthathehad
beenanAtlanteanpriestfromaround10,500b.c.e.whohadforeseenthecomingdestructionandsentsome
ofhisfollowerstoEgypt.ThosefollowersdirectedthebuildingoftheSphinxandthepyramids.
In1940CaycepredictedthatremnantsofAtlantiswouldriseagainneartheBahamasinthelate1960s.In
1967,twopilotsphotographedarectangularstructureintheoceanoffthecoastofAndros,thelargestisland
oftheBahamas.Anotherconfigurationofstone,intheshapeofa"J,"wasfoundbydiversofftheislandof
Bimini.TheJshapedformationwasbelievedtobearoadofstone.Extensivedivingexpeditionsbecame
commoninthearea,andsomediversclaimedtohaveseenremnantsoftemples,pillars,andpyramids.
However,noneweredocumentedbyextensiveexcavations.
TheJshapedstructurebecamepopularlyknownastheBiminiRoadandwasacauseofcelebrationamong
enthusiastsofAtlantisandCayce.Geologicaltests,however,showthattheJshapeisactuallyalimestone
beachrock.Fracturesintheformationgiveittheappearanceofaconstructionofblocks,buttheentire
formationshowsthesamegrainsandmicrostructureaqualitydifficulttoreplicateinaseriesofblocks.
Radiocarbontestingofshellsinthestoneshowthattheformationisrelativelyyoungabouttwoorthree
thousandyearsold,some9,000yearsyoungerthantheallegedfinaldestructionofAtlantis.Finally,the
curveoftheJparallelsthebeachlineofthenearbyisland,showingithasbeenshapedbythesamecurrents
affectingtheisland.
TherectangularstructureoffthecoastofAndros,ontheotherhand,wasindeedmanmadeitwasastorage
facilitybuiltinthe1930swherespongescouldbedepositedaftertheywerecollectedinthesurrounding
ocean.Despitetheseexplanations,enthusiasmovertheBahamasitecontinuesamongbelievers.
AnothertheorysuggeststhatAntarcticawasoncelocatedinthemidAtlanticandhadamoretemperate
climatewhereacivilizationoncethrived.Antarctica,thus,hasbeenclaimedasthesiteofAtlantisandofa
similartypeofadvancedcivilization.
ThequestionofwhereAtlantiswaslocatedstillpersists.AmongthemanypossiblesitesforAtlantisonthe
sevencontinentsorundertheseas,twopopularlocationsarebasedonareasthat,likeAtlanticOcean
regions"beyondthepillarsofHercules,"canberelatedtoPlato'stime.OnesiteistheislandofCrete,where
thethrivingMinoancivilizationfellintodisarrayaround1400b.c.e.TheothersiteisinpresentdayTurkey,
knowninancienttimesasAnatolia,whereassociationswithAtlasandhisdescendantswerestrong.

LittlewasknownaboutMinoanculturebeforethediscoveryin1900ofagreatpalaceatKnossosonthe
islandofCretebytheBritisharchaeologistSirArthurEvans(18511941).Henamedtheculturethatcreated
KnossosandthrivedonCrete"Minoancivilization"afterMinos,thelegendarykingofCrete.Thepalaceat
Knossoswasprobablydamagedbyanearthquakeabout1700b.c.e.,adatethatmarkedtheendofone
phaseoftheearlyhistoryofCrete.MinoancivilizationhadregularcontactandtradewithancientEgypt,
whichliessoutheast,acrosstheMediterranean,fromCrete.Crete,then,qualifiesasalandfartothewest
(inthosedays)ofEgyptwhereAtlantiswassaidtobebytheEgyptianpriestswhospokeofthecontinentto
Solon.
ArchaeologicalexcavationsearlyinthetwentiethcenturyunearthedremarkableartifactsofMinoan
civilization.Then,in1939,GreekarchaeologistSypridonMarinatos(19011974)discoveredpumice,
volcanicash,onCrete.MarinatosconnectedtheashtothetremendouseruptionofavolcanoonThera,a
nearbyisland.Theeruptionwasreportedinancienthistories.Theexplosionwouldhavecreatedhavocon
Creteandperhapsatidalwavethatsweptovertheisland.Toillustratethatpossibility,Marinatoslikenedthe
Theraexplosiontothe1886eruptionofMt.Krakatoathatcouldbeheardathousandmilesawayandcreated
tidalwavesthatkilled36,000people.ThevolcanicashonCretehelpedpreserveexcellentartifactsof
Minoancivilization,includingwholestreetsandhousesaswellasfrescoesandpottery.
However,whilePlato'stextcitesearthquakesandfloodsashavingdestroyedAtlantis,thereisnomention
ofavolcano.ThedateoftheTheravolcano,around1500b.c.e.,doesnotmatchtheperiodofthedownfall
ofAtlantis,whichEgyptianprieststoldSolonhadoccurred8,000to9,000yearsearlier.The1500b.c.e.date
doescoincideiftheclaimof8,000yearsisreducedto800years.ThattacticwassuggestedbyGreek
geologistAngeloGelanpoulousin1969:hetheorizedthatalldatesandmeasurementsrelatedbySolonwere
exaggeratedandwereactuallyonetenthaslargeasclaimed.Gelanpoulous'theoryprovidedsomeneat
correlations,buttheyworkonlyinafewcircumstances.
AnotherproblemwithidentifyingthefallofAtlantiswiththedestructionofMinoancivilizationisaninexact
correlationbetweentheeruptionofTheraandthedemiseofancientCrete,whereMinoancivilization
continuedonforanothercenturyafterthevolcaniceruption.Infact,duringtwentiethcenturyexcavations,
somevolcanicashwasfoundbeneathanelaboratepalace,showingthatconstructionsooncontinuedafter
theeruption.Furthermore,therewasnoapparentdisruptionintradebetweentheMinoansandEgyptians.
ThevolcaniceruptioncausedhavoconCrete,butitdidnotdestroyMinoancivilization.
ThekingsofKnossosattainedtheirgreatestpowerabout1600b.c.e.,whentheycontrolledtheentireAgean
areaandtradedextensivelywithEgypt.ThesubsequentdestructionofKnossosandthecollapseofMinoan
culturecoincidedwiththebeginningofthemostflourishingperiodofMycenaecivilizationinGreecethis
coincidencesuggeststhatitmayhavebeenthewarlikeMycenaewhoattackedanddestroyedMinoan
civilization.
Lydia,anancientcountryofAsiaMinor(nowTurkey),waslocatedinthevalleysoftheHermusandCayster
rivers(nowtheGedizandBykmenderesrivers).KnownearlierbythenameMaeonia,ithadfertilesoil,
richdepositsofgoldandsilver,andamagnificentcapital,Sardis.Lydiaprosperedasapowerfuldynasty
beginningabout685b.c.e.Duringthesixthcenturyb.c.e.,Lydiaattaineditsgreatestsplendorundertherule
ofKingCroessus.TheempireendedwhenthePersianrulerCyrustheGreat(c.585c.529b.c.e.)captured
Sardisabout546b.c.e.AfterthedefeatofPersiabyAlexanderIII(c.356323b.c.e.),kingofMacedonia,
LydiawasbroughtunderGrecoMacedoniancontrol,andthenin133b.c.e.itbecamepartoftheRoman
provinceofAsia.
LydiawasacrosstheAgeanSeafromGreece.AlegendarykingofLydiawasnamedTantalis:hisname
soundssimilartoAtlantis,andhesharedmanymythicattributesamongLydiansthatthegodAtlashad
amongGreeks.LikeAtlas,TantaliswasaleaderoftheTitans,thegroupofgodswhowereoverthrownby
Zeus.InGreekmythology,ZeuspunishedAtlasbybanishinghimtothewestandmadetoholdupthesky.
AsimilarfatewassharedbyTantalisinmythsofAnatolia(anoldnamefortheregioninAsiaMinorthat
includesTurkey).
Accordingtothatmyth,TantalisruledoverafabulouslywealthycityhefoundedonMt.SipylusinLydia.His
citywasshatteredbyearthquakeandfloodandwasreputedtohavesunkwhenhelostthefavorofthe
Olympiangods.
Duringthe1990sruinswerefoundonthenorthernslopeofMt.Sipylus.Theareahadundergoneseveral
phasesofchangethroughthecenturies.AmongtheruinswasastatueofthegoddessCybelethatwas
datedaround1400b.c.e.,atimewhentheHittiteruleovertheareawasoverthrownbylocalsaffiliatedwith
theMycenaecivilizationofGreece.TheareaofTantalishadbeenconquered,andperhapsrazed.Or,it
subsequentlywasburiedduringanearthquake,andeventuallysubmergedbyalake.Theareaisinamajor
faultzone,andheavyearthquakedamagetothecitiesofLydiawasdocumentedin17c.e.Amongthe
hardesthitoftwelveancientLydiancitieswasMagnesiaatSipylus,intheregionwhereTantaliswas
located.
LakeSaloeinTurkeyhaslongbeenidentifiedwiththelostcityofTantalis.Thelakewaspumpedoutin
moderntimestoprovidemorelandforfarming.Itisnowafertileplainwithnearbyrivers.Anoldcaravan
routewasfound,certainlynotaremnantofamightyempire,butthetantalizingprospectthatTantaliswas
Atlantisremains.
EnthusiastsofthelostcontinentweretantalizedonceagaininDecember2001whenexplorersusinga
miniaturesubmarinetoprobetheseaflooroffthecoastofCubaannouncedtheirdiscoveryofstone
structuresdeepbeneaththeoceansurfacethatweresuggestiveofruinsleftbyanunknownhuman
civilizationthousandsofyearsago.RepresentativesoftheCanadianbasedAdvancedDigital
Communications,togetherwithexpertsfromtheCubanAcademyofSciences,saidthatthestructureswere
discoveredatadepthofaround2,100feetandweredistributedasifremnantsofanurbanarea.Estimates
oftheancientcityundertheseaweresomewhereinthevicinityof6,000years,therebymakingthemabout
1,500yearsearlierthanthegreatGizapyramidsofEgypt.Whetherthisnewintriguingsiteprovestobe
AtlantisorevidenceofalandbridgethatoncelinkedCubatomainlandLatinAmerica,itiscertaintobe
controversial.
DelvingDeeper
Cawthorne,Andrew."ExplorersView'LostCity'RuinsunderCaribbean."abcNews.com,December6,2001.
[Online]http://abcnews.go.com/wire/SciTech/reuters20011206_346.html.
Copley,Jan."SeaLevelStudyRevealsAtlantisCandidate."NewScientist,September19,2001.[Online]
http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id'ns99991320.
Donnelly,Ignatius.Atlantis:TheAntediluvianWorld.1882.evisedEdition.Ed.byEgertonSykes.NewYork:
Harper&Row,1949.
Harpur,James,andJenniferWestwood.TheAtlasofLegendaryPlaces.NewYork:Konecky&Konecky,
1997.
Hill,Amelia."MythofAtlantisAllTookPlaceinPlato'sMind."TheObserver,December16,2001.[Online]
http://www.observer.co.uk/international/story/0,6903,619567,00.html.
Muck,Otto.TheSecretsofAtlantis.NewYork:TimesBooks,1978.
Plato.TheTimaeusandKritias.Trans.byDesmondLee.London:PenguinBooks,1977.
Spence,Lewis.TheHistoryofAtlantis.NewYork:UniversityBooks,1968.

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