The lost city of Atlantis is a legendary city located in an island that submerged in the middle of the ocean due to the anger of the gods. The name Atlantis comes from the Greek word that means “island of Atlas”. In Greek mythology, Atlas was the primordial Titan (giant) who held up the celestial spheres.
The description of a tribe called Atlantean who lived in Libya was first mentioned by the Greek born in Turkey historian Herodotus (ca. 484 – 425 BCE). In his Book IV of History, he describes them as living in the area of Mount Atlas in North Africa and in Book I he mentioned that the ocean west to them is called the “Atlantis Sea”.
However, the most complete source of information concerning the lost city of Atlantis can be found in Timaeus and Critias – written by the Greek philosopher, Plato (ca. 428 – 348 BCE).
PLATO AND ATLANTIS
In this first post about Atlantis, I would like to summarize only what was written in Plato’s Timeaus and Critias. In my next posts about Atlantis I will discuss other details and opinion/theory from other authors.
In Timaeus and Critias, there were four people present in a discussion/story telling: Critias, Hermocrates, Timaeus and Socrates. Although Plato was the one who wrote the book, he himself was not mentioned as present during the discussion. The discussion is intertwined with stories of the gods, bloody religious traditions and social interpretation and if we remove all these, we are left with the following information:
1. Timaeus and Critias was written by Plato at 360 BCE.
2. The story of Atlantis was known to them via Solon.
Note: Solon (638 – 558 BCE) was a Greek statesman, lawmaker and poet. He was often credited as having laid the foundations for Athenian democracy).
3. Solon heard the story from Egyptian priests that he visited who claimed that the Athenians had forgotten their true history because their civilizations had been destroyed several times by natural calamities.
4. The fall of Atlantis happened during a war that took place 9,000 years previous to the discussion that is ca. 2,500 years before now – so it’s around 11,500 years ago.
5. The event took place even before the time of Theseus.
Note: Theseus was the mythical founder of Athens. Athens, the capital of Greece has recorded history spanning around 3,400 years with earliest human presence around the 11th – 7th millennium BCE.
6. The war was between those who dwelt outside the Pillars of Heracles and those who dwelt within.
Note: The Pillars of Heracles are two points that were believed by ancient Greeks to mark the limit of their known world. The points are two high lands jutting out (pillars) into the sea:
- one is positioned in the British overseas territory of Gibraltar, off the southwestern top of Europe on the Iberian Peninsula, flanking the entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar. Gibraltar is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea and has no contact with the Atlantic Ocean.
- the other one is (arguably) Jebel Musa (meaning the “Mount of Moses”) on the African side of the Strait, that is in Morocco.
7. Those who dwelt inside the Pillars of Heracles were the Greeks/Hellenes lead by the city of Athens and the one who dwelt outside were the Atlanteans commanded by the kings of Atlantis.
8. Atlantis was an island greater in extent than Libya and Asia.
Note: The understanding of Libya and Asia of the Greeks then was not the same as today. At that time, Libya is referred to a landmass the size of modern North Africa and Asia as modern Middle East.
9. After it sunk by an earthquake, Atlantis became an impassable barrier of mud to voyagers sailing from hence to any part of the ocean.
10. The names in the story are Hellenized even for the Atlanteans because Solon intended to use the tale for his poem and enquired into the meaning of the names and he found that the early Egyptians in writing them down had also translated them into their own language. Thus, Solon recovered the meaning of several names and when copying them out again translated them into Greek language.
ABOUT THE ATHENIANS:
11. The Athenians were descendants of the half brother and sister god/goddess – Hephaestus and Athene (they were both children of Zeus). The Athenians were prosperous, beautiful, healthy, brave and virtuous people.
12. They already had Gymnasia back then. The Acropolis also already existed but was larger and surrounded by soil unlike the outcrop rock during the story telling.
Note: While there is evidence that the hill was inhabited as far back as the fourth millennium BC, it was General Pericles (ca. 495 – 429 BC) in the fifth century BC who coordinated the construction of the site most important buildings including the Parthenon, the Propylaia, the Erechtheion and the temple of Athen Nike. (Ref: Hurwit 2000, p. 87 & “History”, Odysseus – retrieved 2 December 2012)
13. The story had been forgotten by the Athenians because of a great deluge and only the illiterate people who lived on the mountains had survived. Many floods had happened during the 9,000 years until the time of the discussion whereby many cliffs had been eroded and fallen into the sea. Many of the woods that once existed have disappeared. Many water springs had disappeared after an earthquake.
14. Back then the Athenians land stretched from the Isthmus (of Corinth – a narrow land bridge which connects the Peloponnese peninsula with the rest of mainland Greece) to Cithaeron (a mountain in today’s central Greece). Oropus (a small town in East Attica, Greece) was the boundary on the right and the River Asopus the boundary on the left. It was a fertile land with temperate weather that was able to support great army.
ABOUT THE ATLANTEANS:
15. The patron and main god of Atlantis was the god of the sea - Poseidon.
16. Atlantis was an island with its fairest and most fertile part in the center. The center was a plain with a not very high mountain in it. On that mountain dwelt a primeval couple of that land who had a daughter named Cleito. Poseidon fell in love with her and when they had intercourse, the land broke into alternate zones of three seas and two lands larger and smaller, encircling one another.
17. Poseidon and Cleito had 5 pairs of twin male children so Poseidon divided the land into 10 kingdoms and gave the best portion to the first son.
18. The first son (twins?) was named Atlas and Poseidon named the ocean around the island as Atlantic.
19. The names of the rest of the children are Ampheres, Evaemon, Mneseus, Autochthon, Elasippus, Maestor, Azaes and Diaprepes.
20. Atlantis had such an amount of wealth as was never before possessed by kings and is not likely ever to be again. The kingdom then controlled many islands from beyond the Pillars of Hercules and lands as far as Egypt and Tyrrhenia (part of Mediterranean Sea of the western coast of Italy). All the kings and descendants were rulers and inhabitants of divers islands in the open sea. Poseidon gave the region of Gades (modern day Cadiz, Spain) to the second son to rule but there is no mention about the names of the regions for the rest of his sons. No Atlantean king was to ever make war on another Atlantean king.
21. In the middle of the island was the palace and a holy temple dedicated to Poseidon and Cleito that had strange barbaric appearance, inside there was a pillar with sacred inscription of law made by Poseidon. Every 5 or 6 years alternately all the Atlantean kings would meet to discuss and judge any transgression that had happened, then they would sacrifice a bull and let the blood fell upon the pillar, they drank wine with a clot of blood and use the rest to purify the pillar.
22. Inside the temple was a giant statue of Poseidon standing on a chariot of 6 winged horses surrounded by 100 Nereids (sea nymphs) riding on dolphins. Around the temple were statues of the descendants of the ten kings and there were many great offerings from the people of Atlantis and foreigners alike.
23. Atlantis had extensive trade with foreign countries. Atlantis had rich sources of metal, they used brass, tin, silver, gold and a most precious metal after gold called orichalcum (probably a mixture of copper and gold) to decorate their buildings. They also quarried three kinds of stones: black, red and white stones.
24. Atlantis had temperate climate with cliffs on most sides and it had high and beautiful mountains on the North. It had cold and hot waters flowed from underground.
25. The lost city of Atlantis had a canal from the sea to an inner lagoon. They had many triremes (war galley with three banks of oars), naval supplies and war chariots.
26. Atlantis also had very rich flora and fauna. It had all kinds of animals wild and tame, it even had elephants. It had all kinds of woods, fruits (having rind, for drink or ointments), chestnuts, also fragrant things (roots, herbage, wood or distilled essence from fruits and flowers). On top of that, the Atlanteans also had twice harvests in a year. The land was really fertile and there was abundance of food.
27. The kings of Atlantis ruled in wisdom, gloriously and blessed for a great time until the end the kings became unrighteous and full of greed. So the god of gods, Zeus decided to inflict punishment to correct that once an honorable race….
… then the rest of the text written by Plato is missing.
WHERE IS ATLANTIS?
Many locations in almost all continents of the world have been proposed as the location of Atlantis. Here is the list:
- Thera (Santorini)
- Black Sea
- Azores Islands
- Canary Islands
- Northern Spain
- Great Britain
- Scandinavia (Denmark, Ireland, Finland, Sweden)
- South America, Cuba
- North Pole
IS ATLANTIS REAL?
The truth is there are many legends of sunken cities around the world. Some are even found already such as the Yonaguni site in Japan, Lion City of Qiandao Lake, China, etc. Sunken cities are not only mentioned in world myths and pagan myth (such Ys in Breton, or the land of Coxcox in Aztec myth) but also told in religious stories, in the Abrahamic religions (i.e. Judaism, Christianity and Islam) it is the unnamed city of Noah, in Hinduism it is Dvaraka the city of Khrisna and Buddhism is the unnamed island of the carpenters.
However, of all the stories of sunken cities Atlantis remains the most well-known and researched around the world. Is it real? I believe it is. What do you think? Based on the above information from Plato’s writings: where do you think is Atlantis most likely located?
* Timaeus and Critias by Plato (translated by Benjamin Jowett)
* History Book IV (Herodotus)
* Hurwit 2000, p. 87
* “History”, Odysseus (retrieved 2 December 2012)
* To read Timaeus and Critias online visit: