Atlantis: Examining the Legendary Tale of Plato
A parallel example, of Plato’s legend of Atlantis, is Homer’s Iliad. Just as in the case of Atlantis, for several centuries we thought that the city of Troy—the centerpiece in Homer’s epic saga—was a myth. All that changed obviously when Heinrich Schliemann, an amateur archaeologist, found Troy in 1868 while following location tips from Homer’s book.
In the case of Troy, after discarding all the details regarding beauty queens, demigods, Trojan horses and scaling back the armies to more rational levels, it was ultimately acknowledged the setting, as well as the bulk of this story, were real. Essentially, Homer’s entirely fictional story, which he filled with principles and common elements from his own time, apparently revolved around a true setting and a real incident which took place nearly six centuries before his time.
The walls of the acropolis belong to Troy VII, which is identified as the site of the Trojan War (c. 1200 BC). ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )
Another example that proves the “true part” of a story does not always rest in the details, is the account that surrounds the historic Battle of Thermopylae. In this case, we have ancient reports of a famous battle which in order to reasonably authenticate, we had to know the factions involved as well as their military force. Do we have such a legitimate testimony? Not exactly! What we have is far from real. More specifically, Herodotus wrote that King Leonidas, with 300 Spartans, along with few thousand Greeks, fought against 2.6 million Persians, followed by two million support personnel. The poet Simonides reported that the Persian army reached four million. Ctesias, a Greek physician and historian downscaled the Persian forces to 800,000.
Greek phalanx formation based on sources from the Perseus Project. ( Public Domain )
Just as in the case of Atlantis, once more, we are presented with conflicting and grossly exaggerated figures. If these guys were the ‘credible’ sources we got this true story from, why then did we discard their details and create our own? After brushing aside the troop count as quoted in all ancient accounts, modern calculations indicate that the Persian force could not have been higher than 300,000 troops.
In the case of Thermopylae, amongst other debatable details, did the ancient Greek historians inflate the size of the Persian army? Of course they did, as the story undoubtedly sounds better that way. Ultimately though, and regardless of the enormous inconsistencies in the facts, we accept this story as real. Interestingly, Troy and Thermopylae are not isolated cases in our recorded history, which is full of stories with serious discrepancies and circumstances where mythological places, or “fairy-tales,” eventually turned out to be true. Such, among others, was the Palace of Knossos in Crete, which it was associated with the Minotaur (a mythical beast of half man and half bull.)
So, a fundamental question remains. Was Atlantis simply a cautionary tale or is it possible that Plato crafted a tale based on a real setting and a prehistoric civilization known to ancient Greeks, while he supplemented all the ‘modern’ details (including the familiar Minoan aspects) as Homer similarly did few hundred years before him? If true, the ‘true-part’ of this story, as in the case of Troy, should not rest in the details, but in the detection and authentication of Plato’s “lost island.” Identifying a perfectly matching site, one that preferably exhibits signs of an advanced civilization in the area, should be the first step in solving this mystery.
Is it possible then that the “mighty host” who “stayed the course” (inhabited the path) to mainland Greece be that of the prehistoric island of the Cyclades Plateau? Certainly every element of this site seems to match Plato’s given chronology as well as physical description. If so, can the signs of an early Neolithic presence in the immediate area be the remnants of an even older civilization that was able to recover on the surrounding islands after the Great Flood at the end of the last Ice Age? And finally, was that lost civilization capable of navigating to the Americas via island hopping as Plato claimed?
According to the same study, and as best demonstrated in the book “ Uchronia Atlantis Revealed”, the enormous island/continent Plato mentioned on the opposite side of the Atlantic, “across from the Pillars of Hercules" (Strait of Gibraltar,) one that “encompasses that veritable ocean” and is “larger than Libya and Asia combined," was that of America and not of Atlantis, as many had speculated in the past (see also Ancient Origins article titled, The Legendary Hyperborea and the Ancient Greeks: Who Really Discovered America? )