It wouldn’t be right to claim the Search for Atlantis if we would start our book reports with nothing else than Plato’s Timaeus and Critias.
About 360 BCE, Plato wrote two dialogues named Timaeus and Critias, giving us the first story of the island of Atlantis. This was a story about a glorious but forgotten past that took place 9,000 years before Solon’s time; this forgotten and secret knowledge was passed to Solon from priests, on his journey to Egypt.
Atlantis, aka The Island of Atlas (“Ἀτλαντὶς νῆσος” in Ancient Greek), placed somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean (outside the “Pillars of Hercules”), was an empire ruling several other islands and parts of the continents of Africa and Europe. A magnificent city beyond comparison; arranged in concentric rings of alternating water and land, with rich soil. Engineering and architecture at its best, with harbours and barracks, canals and a magnificent irrigation system. Atlantis was ruled by kings and an advanced civil administration, as well as an organized military, having rituals similar to Athens for bull-baiting, sacrifice, and prayer.
But then it waged an unprovoked imperialistic war on the remainder of Asia and Europe. When Atlantis attacked, Athens showed its excellence as the leader of the Greeks, the much smaller city-state the only power to stand against Atlantis. Alone, Athens triumphed over the invading Atlantean forces, defeating the enemy, preventing the free from being enslaved, and freeing those who had been enslaved.
After the battle, there were violent earthquakes and floods, and Atlantis sank into the sea, and all the Athenian warriors were swallowed up by the earth.
A different story talks about a hubris against the gods, resulting in Atlantis sinking into the sea as a punishment for their pride and arrogance.
Modern academia is pretty sure that this is just a myth, a city which existed in Plato’s mind only, as a parable of the ideal state in The Republic.
But was it true? After 9,000 years, who can tell if a story is just fiction? That’s why we’re here, to find out the truth behind the myth and try to find the real Atlantis.
The following are some passages from the book referring to Atlantis.
Plato’s Atlantis in Timaeus
…The Egyptian priest went on,
“Many great and wonderful deeds are recorded of your state in our histories. But one of them exceeds all the rest in greatness and valour. For these histories tell of a mighty power which unprovoked made an expedition against the whole of Europe and Asia, and to which your city put an end. This power came forth out of the Atlantic Ocean, for in those days the Atlantic was navigable; and there was an island situated in front of the straits which are by you called the Pillars of Heracles; the island was larger than Libya and Asia put together, and was the way to other islands, and from these, you might pass to the whole of the opposite continent which surrounded the true ocean; for this sea which is within the Straits of Heracles is only a harbour, having a narrow entrance, but that other is a real sea, and the surrounding land may be most truly called a boundless continent.
Now in this island of Atlantis there was a great and wonderful empire which had rule over the whole island and several others, and over parts of the continent, and, furthermore, the men of Atlantis had subjected the parts of Libya within the columns of Heracles as far as Egypt, and of Europe as far as Tyrrhenia.
This vast power, gathered into one, endeavoured to subdue at a blow our country and yours and the whole of the region within the straits; and then, Solon, your country shone forth, in the excellence of her virtue and strength, among all mankind. She was pre-eminent in courage and military skill and was the leader of the Hellenes. And when the rest fell off from her, being compelled to stand alone, after having undergone the very extremity of danger, she defeated and triumphed over the invaders, and preserved from slavery those who were not yet subjugated, and generously liberated all the rest of us who dwell within the pillars.
But afterwards, there occurred violent earthquakes and floods; and in a single day and night of misfortune all your warlike men in a body sank into the earth, and the island of Atlantis in like manner disappeared in the depths of the sea.
Atlantis in Plato’s Critias
The Attic politician Solon, travelled a lot after he had given his countrymen new and more just laws in 594 BC. On his journey, he came to Sais in Egypt and was told about the continent Atlantis. Back in Athens, he told of it to friends and family. The tale was passed on to Plato centuries after that. And Plato wrote the tale down in one of his dialogues.
Far West in the Atlantic Ocean, Plato tells, there was a prosperous and fertile island that was lorded over by just and mighty kings. Their realm flourished. Kings were succeeded by sons that were as just as they themselves had been, and the laws were top. What is more, the people adhered to them?
The island kingdom had fertile fields, orchards of olives and other orchards. Many minerals were dug up from the earth there. There were cattle and also wild animals for hunters. Atlantis was paradise itself.
There were many sports arenas where youths managed to gain health. In towns or cities, there were ports full of ships. Trading was fair.
Atlantis became mighty and sent its fleet across the ocean and into the Mediterranean Ocean through the strait of Gibraltar. And a little later Atlantis dominated the whole basin, but for the area where we find ancient Greece. Wealth amassed in Atlantis, where they took to building palaces that were panelled with ivory inlaid with gold and silver.
Luxury living spread. But so long as the people obeyed their wise kings and the good laws, things went well. But the might and splendour of Atlantis bred corruption, alas. Then laws were not as much esteemed and lived up to as earlier. Envy and injustice won an entrance. Bad circles of influences started and didn’t stop.
The patron of Atlantis was Poseidon (Neptune), brother of Zeus (Jupiter). The temple of Poseidon stood on top of the Acropolis in the middle of the island. The laws of the kingdom were written on a pillar there, so they were for all to see.
Now Zeus and his brother Poseidon intervened: The unjust inhabitants had to be punished by the natural catastrophe Solon retells from, and others. A horrible earthquake, volcano eruption and a tidal wave left ruin and death behind. Atlantis sank into the ocean and was gone.
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