Atlantis: The Lost City
The story of Atlantis begins quite literally with two of Plato’s dialogues, Timaeus and Critias. These accounts are the only known written records which refer specifcally to a lost civilization called Atlantis. Many people believe the tale to be complete fiction, the creation of a philosopher’s imagination used to illustrate an argument. Others believe that the story was inspired by catastrophic events which may have destroyed the Minoan civilization on Crete and Thera. Still others maintain that the story is an accurate representation of a long lost and almost completely forgotten land.
While little known during the Middle Ages, the story of Atlantis was rediscovered by Humanists in the Early Modern period. Plato’s description inspired the utopian works of several Renaissance writers, like Francis Bacon’s “New Atlantis”. Atlantis inspires today’s literature, from science fiction to comic books to films, its name having become a byword for any and all supposed advanced prehistoric lost civilizations.
According to Plato
Over 11,000 years ago there existed an island nation located in the middle of the Atlantic ocean populated by a noble and powerful race. The people of this land possessed great wealth thanks to the natural resources found throughout their island. The island was a center for trade and commerce. The rulers of this land held sway over the people and land of their own island and well into Europe and Africa.
This was the island of Atlantis.
Atlantis was the domain of Poseidon, god of the sea. When Poseidon fell in love with a mortal woman, Cleito, he created a dwelling at the top of a hill near the middle of the island and surrounded the dwelling with rings of water and land to protect her.
Cleito gave birth to five sets of twin boys who became the first rulers of Atlantis. The island was divided among the brothers with the eldest, Atlas, first King of Atlantis, being given control over the central hill and surrounding areas.
At the top of the central hill, a temple was built to honor Poseidon which housed a giant gold statue of Poseidon riding a chariot pulled by winged horses. It was here that the rulers of Atlantis would come to discuss laws, pass judgments, and pay tribute to Poseidon..
To facilitate travel and trade, a water canal was cut through of the rings of land and water running south for 5.5 miles (~9 km) to the sea.
The city of Atlantis sat just outside the outer ring of water and spread across the plain covering a circle of 11 miles (1.7 km). This was a densely populated area where the majority of the population lived.
Beyond the city lay a fertile plain 330 miles (530 km) long and 110 miles (190 km) wide surrounded by another canal used to collect water from the rivers and streams of the mountains. The climate was such that two harvests were possible each year. One in the winter fed by the rains and one in the summer fed by irrigation from the canal.
Surrounding the plain to the north were mountains which soared to the skies. Villages, lakes, rivers, and meadows dotted the mountains.
Besides the harvests, the island provided all kinds of herbs, fruits, and nuts. An abundance of animals, including elephants, roamed the island.
For generations the Atlanteans lived simple, virtuous lives. But slowly they began to change. Greed and power began to corrupt them. When Zeus saw the immorality of the Atlanteans he gathered the other gods to determine a suitable punishment.
Soon, in one violent surge it was gone. The island of Atlantis, its people, and its memory were swallowed by the sea.
Most of the historically proposed locations are in or near the Mediterranean Sea: islands such as Sardinia, Crete and Santorini, Sicily, Cyprus, and Malta; land-based cities or states such as Troy, Tartessos, and Tantalus (in the province of Manisa), Turkey; and Israel-Sinai or Canaan. The Thera eruption, dated to the 17th or 16th century BC, caused a large tsunami that experts hypothesize devastated the Minoan civilization on the nearby island of Crete, further leading some to believe that this may have been the catastrophe that inspired the story. A. G. Galanopoulos argued that the time scale has been distorted by an error in translation, probably from Egyptian into Greek, which produced “thousands” instead of “hundreds”; this same error would rescale Plato’s Kingdom of Atlantis to the size of Crete, while leaving the city the size of the crater on Thera; 900 years before Solon would be the 15th century BC. In the area of the Black Sea the following locations have been proposed: Bosporus and Ancomah (a legendary place near Trabzon). The Sea of Azov was proposed in 2003. The map above illustrates potential locations in the Mediterranean region.
The location of Atlantis in the Atlantic Ocean has certain appeal given the closely related names. Popular culture often places Atlantis there, perpetuating the original Platonic setting. Several hypotheses place the sunken island in northern Europe, including Sweden (by Olof Rudbeck in Atland, 1672–1702), or in the North Sea. Some have proposed the Celtic Shelf and Andalusia as possible locations, and that there is a link to Ireland. The Canary Islands have also been identified as a possible location, west of the Straits of Gibraltar but in proximity to the Mediterranean Sea. Various islands or island groups in the Atlantic were also identified as possible locations, notably the Azores. However detailed geological studies of the Canary Islands, the Azores, and the ocean bottom surrounding them found a complete lack of any evidence for the catastrophic subsidence of these islands at any time during their existence and a complete lack of any evidence that the ocean bottom surrounding them was ever dry land at any time in the past. The submerged island of Spartel near the Strait of Gibraltar has also been suggested.
Caribbean locations such as Cuba, the Bahamas, and the Bermuda Triangle have been proposed as sites of Atlantis. Areas in the Pacific and Indian Oceans have also been proposed including Indonesia, Malaysia or both (i.e. Sundaland) and stories of a lost continent off India named “Kumari Kandam” have inspired some to draw parallels to Atlantis, as has the Yonaguni formation of Japan. Antarctica has also been suggested.
Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. Text is derived from Wikipedia.
Filed under: Mystery | 60 Comments