Plato first told the island of Atlantis through the character Critias in his dialogues. He describes the island as more massive than Asia Minor and Libya put together. It was located in the Atlantic just beyond the Pillars of Hercules, which is believed to be the Strait of Gibraltar. It had an advanced culture, and it had a constitution very similar to the one that Plato wrote about in “Republic.” The god Poseidon protected the island. Poseidon made his son, Atlas, King, and the island’s namesake and the surrounding ocean. As the Atlanteans grew powerful, their ethics declined. Their armies would conquer Africa as far as Egypt and Europe as far as Tyrrhenia before they were driven back by the Athenian alliance. Later, as a form of divine punishment, the island was flooded and experienced many earthquakes, and would sink into the muddy sea.
Plato’s Critias said that he heard Atlantis’s story from his grandfather, and his grandfather had heard it from the Athenian statesman Solon. Solon lived 300 years before Plato. Solon learned the story from an Egyptian priest, who said it occurred 9000 years before then.
Of those who believe that Atlantis is real, they have speculated that they have located the lost continent in places like the Atlantic Ocean, Antarctica, Bolivia, Turkey, Germany, Malta, and the Caribbean. However, Plat was extremely clear about where Atlantis was located, “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.”
Of course, you could say that Plato took license with the truth, either out of error or with the intent to deceive. With some added, dismissed, or misinterpreted versions of Plato’s work, almost any location could “fit” his description.
Whether or not Plato believes his own story, his intent in sharing it was to boost his ideas of an ideal society, using stories of ancient victory for Athens. It has historically been a controversial story. His follower, Crantor, believed the story. Strabo, on the other hand, recorded Aristotle’s joke about Plato’s ability to create nations out of thin air and then destroyed them.
During the first few centuries of the Christian era, they took Aristotle at his word, and Atlantis was rarely if ever, discussed. In 1627, Francis Bacon published a utopian novel called “The New Atlantis,” which depicted a scientifically and politically advanced society on an unknown oceanic island. In 1882, US Congressman Ignatious Donnelly published “Atlantis: The Antediluvian World.” This caused a frenzy of works trying to locate and learn more about the historical Atlantis. Donnelly believed that the advanced civilization had immigrants who populated most of ancient Europe, Africa, and the Americas and that their heroes inspired various mythologies. These theories were popularized and elaborated upon by the turn of the 20th century by theosophists.
Those who were inspired by Donnelly expanded on his theories, and they added their own thoughts as to where Atlantis was located. One of these people was Charles Berlitz. During the 1970s, Berlitz claimed Atlantis had been a real continent located off the Bahamas that had fallen victim to the infamous Bermuda Triangle. This is a region of the Atlantic where several ships had disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Those who support this idea point to discovering what appeared to be humanmade walls and streets found just off Bimini’s coast. Scientists have evaluated these structures and said that they are natural beach-rock formations.
There is another theory that Atlantis was a more temperate version of what is now Antarctica. This idea was based on the work of Charles Hapgood. He wrote the 1958 book, Earth’s Shifting Crust. According to Hapgood, around 12,000 years ago, the Earth’s crust shifted, which displaced the continent that became Antarctica from a location much further north than where it is located today. The more temperate continent held an advanced civilization, but the sudden change to its current frigid location doomed the inhabitants, and their amazing city was buried under ice. Before the scientific world, this idea came about with a full understanding of plate tectonics, which dismisses his shifting crust idea.
Another theory explains that Atlantis was a mythical retelling of the Black Sea Flood. For this theory to be correct, one has to presume that Atlantis was fictional. The story of Atlantis’ demise was inspired by an actual historical event, which was the breaching of the Bosporus by the Mediterranean Sea and the subsequent flooding of the Black Sea. This happened around 5600 BCE. During that time, the Black Sea was a freshwater lake, half the size its current size. The flooding covered up the civilizations known to flourish along the shore with hundreds of seawater feet in a short amount of time. As the inhabitants of the area scattered around, they shared the tale of the flooding, and this may have led to Plato’s account of Atlantis.
A more recent theory about Atlantis concerns the civilization that flourished on the Greek islands of Crete and Thera over 4000 years ago. These were the Minoans, who were named after the legendary King Minos. This was believed to be Europe’s first great civilization. The Minoans build amazing palaces, constructed paved roads, and they were the first to use a written language. At the height of their power, however, this civilization suddenly disappeared from history. This has been an enduring mystery that has created a link between Plato’s Atlantis and the doomed civilization. Historians thought that around 1600 BCE, a massive earthquake shook Thera’s volcanic island, which triggered and erupted that spewed out 10 million tons of rock, ash, and gas into the atmosphere. Tsunamis that followed were large enough to wipe out the Minoan cities throughout the area, which was a devastation that could have made the Minoans vulnerable to invaders from the Greek mainlands.
There have been times that historians and archaeologists located evidence, a suspicious undersea rock formation, a prehistoric city in coastal Spain, that could be the source of Atlantis. Of these, the site that has the most acceptance is the Greek island of Santorini. The town is a half-submerged caldera caused by the massive second-millennium BCE volcanic eruption whose tsunami might have hastened the collapse of Crete’s Minoan civilization.
There has been a recent finding of Atlantis. It has been hiding off the coast of Britain. At least, that’s according to British historian Matthew Sibson. In a YouTube video on his channel Ancient Architects, he claimed that in 2019, “Rocktall is the most likely location for Atlantis and there are clear and obvious manmade features that leave no doubt of a lost ancient civilization.” Like I stated earlier, he had to assume that Plato made an error in his writing. After studying Plato’s text, he knew there was no large island located between the Strait of Gibraltar and America’s. He assumed that Plato had exaggerated the size of the island for effect. That’s why he believes that Rockall is the place. He explains that Plato stated that Atlantis wasn’t simply a city, but an island that led to other islands, then to the enormous continent opposite of Greece, which can only be the Americas. He said, “The only sizeable piece of continental crust under the sea, our side of the Pillars of Hercules is Rock all.” He also explained that a person could island-hop from Rockall to the Americas by way of Iceland and Greenland.
While it may be fun to believe that there is some lost city waiting to be discovered at the bottom of the ocean, most scientists and historians throughout all of history believe that Plato made up the lost kingdom of Atlantis. People believe that he invented Atlantis as his vision of the ideal civilization and intended the story of its demise to serve as a cautionary tale of the gods punishing the humans for their hubris. There are no other written records of Atlantis outside of Plato’s dialogues, which includes numerous texts that survived ancient Greece. Furthermore, despite our modern advances in oceanography and ocean-floor mapping, there has never been any trace of a sunken civilization to be found.