Atlantis is a fictional island mentioned in an allegory on the hubris of nations in Plato’s works Timaeus and Critias, wherein it represents the antagonist naval power that besieges “Ancient Athens”, the pseudo-historic embodiment of Plato’s ideal state in The Republic.In the story, Athens repels the Atlantean attack unlike any other nation of the known world, supposedly bearing witness to the superiority of Plato’s concept of a state.The story concludes with Atlantis falling out of favor with the deities and submerging into the Atlantic Ocean. While present-day philologists and classicists agree on the story’s fictional character,there is still debate on what served as its inspiration. Plato is known to have freely borrowed some of his allegories and metaphors from older traditions, as he did, for instance, with the story of Gyges.This led a number of scholars to investigate possible inspiration of Atlantis from Egyptian records of the Thera eruption,the Sea Peoples invasion, or the Trojan War. Others have rejected this chain of tradition as implausible and insist that Plato created an entirely fictional account, drawing loose inspiration from contemporary events such as the failed Athenian invasion of Sicily in 415–413 BC or the destruction of Helike in 373 BC.
The only primary sources for Atlantis are Plato’s dialogues Timaeus and Critias; all other mentions of the island are based on them. The dialogues claim to quote Solon, who visited Egypt between 590 and 580 BC; they state that he translated Egyptian records of Atlantis.Written in 360 BC, Plato introduced Atlantis in Timaeus. The four people appearing in those two dialogues are the politicians Critias and Hermocrates as well as the philosophers Socrates and Timaeus of Locri, although only Critias speaks of Atlantis. In his works Plato makes extensive use of the Socratic method in order to discuss contrary positions within the context of a supposition.
The Timaeus begins with an introduction, followed by an account of the creations and structure of the universe and ancient civilizations. In the introduction, Socrates muses about the perfect society, described in Plato’s Republic (c. 380 BC), and wonders if he and his guests might recollect a story which exemplifies such a society. Critias mentions a tale he considered to be historical, that would make the perfect example, and he then follows by describing Atlantis as is recorded in the Critias. In his account, ancient Athens seems to represent the “perfect society” and Atlantis its opponent, representing the very antithesis of the “perfect” traits described in the Republic.
In or near the Mediterranean Sea
Most of the historically proposed locations are in or near the Mediterranean Sea: islands such as Sardinia,Crete, Santorini (Thera), Sicily, Cyprus, and Malta; land-based cities or states such as Troy, Tartessos, and Tantalis (in the province of Manisa, Turkey); Israel-Sinai or Canaan;and northwestern Africa.
The Thera eruption, dated to the seventeenth or sixteenth century BC, caused a large tsunami that some 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.In the area of the Black Sea the following locations have been proposed: Bosporus and Ancomah (a legendary place near Trabzon).
Others have noted that, before the sixth century BC, the mountains on either side of the Gulf of Laconia were called the “Pillars of Hercules”,and they could be the geographical location being described in ancient reports upon which Plato was basing his story. The mountains stood at either side of the southernmost gulf in Greece, the largest in the Peloponnese, and that gulf opens onto the Mediterranean Sea. If from the beginning of discussions, misinterpretation of Gibraltar as the location rather than being at the Gulf of Laconia, would lend itself to many erroneous concepts regarding the location of Atlantis. Plato may have not been aware of the difference. The Laconian pillars open to the south toward Crete and beyond which is Egypt. The Thera eruption and the Late Bronze Age collapse affected that area and might have been the devastation to which the sources used by Plato referred. Significant events such as these would have been likely material for tales passed from one generation to another for almost a thousand years.
In the Atlantic Ocean
The location of Atlantis in the Atlantic Ocean has a certain appeal given the closely related names. Popular culture often places Atlantis there, perpetuating the original Platonic setting as they understand it. The Canary Islands and Madeira Islands have been identified as a possible location, west of the Straits of Gibraltar, but in relative proximity to the Mediterranean Sea. Detailed studies of their geomorphology and geology have demonstrated, however, that they have been steadily uplifted, without any significant periods of subsidence, over the last four million years, by geologic processes such as erosional unloading, gravitational unloading, lithospheric flexure induced by adjacent islands, and volcanic underplating.
Various islands or island groups in the Atlantic were also identified as possible locations, notably the Azores.Similarly, cores of sediment covering the ocean bottom surrounding the Azores and other evidence demonstrate that it has been an undersea plateau for millions of years.The area is known for its volcanism however, which is associated with rifting along the Azores Triple Junction. The spread of the crust along the existing faults and fractures has produced many volcanic and seismic events. The area is supported by a buoyant upwelling in the deeper mantle, which some associate with an Azores hotspot. Most of the volcanic activity has occurred primarily along the Terceira Rift. From the beginning of the islands’ settlement, around the 15th century, there have been about 30 volcanic eruptions (terrestrial and submarine) as well as numerous, powerful earthquakes.The island of São Miguel in the Azores is the site of the Sete Cidades volcano and caldera, which are the byproducts of historical volcanic activity in the Azores.
The submerged island of Spartel near the Strait of Gibraltar has also been suggested.
In 2004, Swedish physiographist Ulf Erlingssonproposed that the legend of Atlantis was based on Stone Age Ireland. He later stated that he does not believe that Atlantis ever existed but maintained that his hypothesis that its description matches Ireland’s geography has a 99.8% probability. The director of the National Museum of Ireland commented that there was no archaeology supporting this.
THE LAND OF LOST
The fact that Atlantis is a lost land has made of it a metaphor for something no longer attainable. For the American poet Edith Willis Linn Forbes (1865-1945), “The Lost Atlantis” stands for idealisation of the past; the present moment can only be treasured once that is realised. Ella Wheeler Wilcox finds the location of “The Lost Land” (1910) in one’s carefree youthful past. Similarly, for the Irish poet Eavan Boland in “Atlantis, a lost sonnet” (2007), the idea was defined when “the old fable-makers searched hard for a word/ to convey that what is gone is gone forever”.
For some male poets too, the idea of Atlantis is constructed from what cannot be obtained. Charles Bewley in his Newdigate Prize poem (1910) thinks it grows from dissatisfaction with one’s condition,
And, because life is partly sweet
And ever girt about with pain,
We take the sweetness, and are fain
To set it free from grief’s alloy
in a dream of Atlantis. Similarly for the Australian Gary Catalano in a 1982 prose poem, it is “a vision that sank under the weight of its own perfection”.W. H. Auden, however, suggests a way out of such frustration through the metaphor of journeying toward Atlantis in his poem of 1941.While travelling, he advises the one setting out, you will meet with many definitions of the goal in view, only realising at the end that the way has all the time led inward.
A few late-19th century verse narratives complement the genre fiction that was beginning to be written at the same period. Two of them report the disaster that overtook the continent as related by long-lived survivors. In Frederick Tennyson’s Atlantis (1888), an ancient Greek mariner sails west and discovers an inhabited island which is all that remains of the former kingdom. He learns of its end and views the shattered remnant of its former glory, from which a few had escaped to set up the Mediterranean civilisations.In the second, Mona, Queen of Lost Atlantis: An Idyllic Re-embodiment of Long Forgotten History (Los Angeles CA 1925) by James Logue Dryden (1840–1925), the story is told in a series of visions. A Seer is taken to Mona’s burial chamber in the ruins of Atlantis, where she revives and describes the catastrophe. There follows a survey of the lost civilisations of Hyperborea and Lemuria as well as Atlantis, accompanied by much spiritualist lore.
William Walton Hoskins (1856–1919) admits to the readers of his Atlantis and other poems (Cleveland OH, 1881), that he is only 24. Its melodramatic plot concerns the poisoning of the descendant of god-born kings. The usurping poisoner is poisoned in his turn, following which the continent is swallowed in the waves. Asian gods people the landscape of The Lost Island (Ottawa 1889) by Edward Taylor Fletcher (1816–97). An angel foresees impending catastrophe and that the people will be allowed to escape if their semi-divine rulers will sacrifice themselves. A final example, Edward N. Beecher’s The Lost Atlantis or The Great Deluge of All (Cleveland OH, 1898) is just a doggerel vehicle for its author’s opinions: that the continent was the location of the Garden of Eden; that Darwin’s theory of evolution is correct, as are Donnelly’s views.
Atlantis was to become a theme in Russia following the 1890s, taken up in unfinished poems by Valery Bryusov and Konstantin Balmont, as well as in a drama by the schoolgirl Larisa Reisner.One other long narrative poem was published in New York by George V. Golokhvastoff. His 250-page The Fall of Atlantis (1938) records how a high priest, distressed by the prevailing degeneracy of the ruling classes, seeks to create an androgynous being from royal twins as a means to overcome this polarity. When he is unable to control the forces unleashed by his occult ceremony, the continent is destroyed