Deriv; Bust of Plato, map of Santorini, 1703, underwater ruin.

Atlantis: Examining the Legendary Tale of Plato

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Around 360 BC, in his dialogues of Timaeus and Critias, the Greek philosopher Plato introduced an incredible story, a tale of an enigmatic island civilization which has since captivated the imagination of every generation that followed. This was the story of Atlantis, thought to be one of the most advanced societies of the ancient world, an idyllic island paradise of skillful navigators capable of crossing the Atlantic Ocean to conquer and explore!

"For it is related in our records how once upon a time your State stayed the course of a mighty host, .....and it was possible for travelers of that time to cross from it (from Atlantis) to the other islands and from the islands to the whole of the continent over against them which encompasses the veritable (Atlantic) ocean ..." – Plato

Plato’s Tale

Today, popular theories place Atlantis in locations like off the coast of Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean, around the Azores islands in the middle of the Atlantic, somewhere in the Bermuda Triangle off the coast of the United States, or even in more exotic locations such as Antarctica and Indonesia. Of course more mainstream studies point to the tiny island of Santorini, the island of Crete, Malta, Spain, and other archaeological sites around the Mediterranean. Overall, there are countless theories on the location of Atlantis, while more seem to surface every year.

Artist’s representation of Atlantis.

Artist’s representation of Atlantis. Source: BigStockPhoto

Despite all the scientific and nonscientific speculation though, and due to the lack of tangible evidence in the past, the vast majority of modern historians believe that Plato’s tale of Atlantis is either a myth, or they assume Plato crafted a story around a fictional place while using a mix of real elements from later times.

Is it possible then that the story of Atlantis was entirely a figment of Plato’s imagination? It is certainly possible, although if the story is not real, how otherwise can we explain the tangible evidence that supports Plato's story, including a recently discovered site that perfectly matches Atlantis' description.

Essentially, and contrary to a common belief that Plato’s Atlantis may have been somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean, a recent study shows that Plato's island of Atlantis was in the Mediterranean Sea and just few kilometers north of the island of Santorini. This now-underwater primary island, along with the island of Santorini, fits Plato's entire description of Atlantis.

Lost in Translation

To successfully decode Plato’s puzzle, and to ensure that the meaning from the original Greek story was not lost during translation, the English version was compared to the Greek format which has entirely different syntactic structure. (Actually, when it comes to Greek, sometimes even a single comma can cause a short sentence to have two different meanings. A good example is a famous quote from the oracle of Delphi. "Go, return not die in war" can have two entirely opposite meanings, depending on where a missing comma is supposed to be - before or after - the word "not.") This recent evaluation of Plato's text revealed that simple errors and flawed interpretations by early translators led many researchers in the past to look for Atlantis in all the wrong places. Consequently, unlike all past “discoveries,” including recent ones that led to more speculation rather than real evidence, for the first time, there is a tangible site where all the physical characteristics perfectly match Plato’s account.

Lost Island Found

It seems that 11,000 years ago, according to Plato the story of Atlantis took place, many of the Cyclades Islands were connected by a flat terrain, today called the “Cyclades Plateau.” This now-400 feet (122 meters) underwater plateau formed the body of a large island, while the modern islands of the Cyclades fashioned rows of mountains that emerged in all the “right places,” when those are compared to Plato’s story!

Just as Plato described Atlantis, the northern portion of this island was entirely comprised of mountains which reached the shores. There was an oblong valley directly below this mountainous region, and a second valley closer to the center of the island that was encircled by low rise mountains. This central valley was two thirds in size of the oblong valley. Moreover, Santorini itself, a setting of an island within an island, and a place where many mainstream archaeologists in the past had placed the crown-city of Atlantis, falls precisely within 5.6 miles (nine km) from the grand island, and as Plato depicted (See image below, from the book “ Uchronia Atlantis Revealed ”.)

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Comments

Your argument that Plato was referring to surface area instead of length when using the unit "stadia" is definitively repudiated in the specific case of the plain of Atlantis. In one passage, he describes the plain as follows: "As to the population, each of the lots in the plain had to find a leader for the men who were fit for military service, and the size of a lot was a square of ten stadia each way, and the total number of all the lots was sixty thousand." If the size of a single lot was ten stadia each way, then each lot would have an area of 100 square stadia, and there being 60,000 of them, the total area of the plain would come out to be 6,000,000 square stadia.

Earlier in Critias, Plato describes the dimensions of the plain as follows: "it was smooth and even, and of an oblong shape, extending in one direction three thousand stadia, but across the centre inland it was two thousand stadia." The word "oblong" is defined as follows: "having an elongated shape, as a rectangle or an oval." Given that the area of a rectangular area can be calculated by multiplying its length and width, this plain would have an area of 3,000 x 2,000 stadia = 6,000,000 stadia squared. If Plato did not mean units of length but rather units of area when using the unit of measure of stadia, how can you explain the fact that area of the plain comes out to be identical - namely 6 million stadia squared, in both cases?

Clearly, you must concede the argument in the specific case of the unit stadia being used to measure the plain's dimensions. And if a stadia was referring to a unit of length in the particular case of the plain, why would it be used as a unit of area anywhere else in the dialogue? By the way, I don't have to even have to address your convoluted argument that Atlantis was supposedly anywhere in the Aegean Sea because I have repudiated the premise on which it stands - that Plato used the unit of measure of stadia as units of area rather than length. If this is wrong, as I have demonstrated above, then there is no way a roughly 80,000 square mile plain can be squeezed into the Aegean Sea, as you have argued. ____________

As for your claim that the "small islets" could have been referring to Atlantis, and not Athens, I have the following to say. If you read the passage where Plato describes the transformation of Attica with more care, you will notice that he did not actually say that the "small islets" were a remnant of either Attica or what you think Atlantis was: "And, just as happens in small islands, what now remains compared with what then existed is like the skeleton of a sick man, all the fat and soft earth having wasted away, and only the bare framework of the land being left." When he uses the words "just as" to begin the phrase that mentions the small islands, he is COMPARING what has happened in Attica (which was a general erosive process that converted a fertile, hilly land to a bare and rocky promontory) to an analogous erosive process that he claims happens in small islands. He speaks of "small islands" in a general sense, and does not identify them as either Atlantis or Athens. Now this is a subtle point - I expect that you will fail to grasp it even when it is pointed out to you. For your information, the specific translation and page of Critias that I am referencing is this one: http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.01... It is absolutely irrelevant whether I use my real name or a pseudonym. Your arguments and theory will not stand up to the scrutiny of anyone who has actually read and understood Plato's dialogues.

Christos Djonis's picture

I truly now understand why the Orthodox Christian Church prohibits the Bible to be translated from its original ancient Greek format. The Orthodox church believes, and understandably so, that translations of the Bible over the centuries can ultimately change the Bible's original meaning and/or even content. For example, the Rapture (also called "pre-tribulation"), a popular term used by some Protestant Evangelicals for the rising of the faithful from the dead, according to the Orthodox Church this is a new term that was added to the Bible in the 1830's which was introduced by Margaret McDonald. John Nelson Darby (1800-1882) next picked up the theory of the Rapture and made it popular. The so-called doctrine of the Rapture made its way into the footnotes of a translation of the Bible by Cyrus Ingerson Scofield and the Scofield Reference Bible. This version of the Bible was widely used in England and America and therefore it turned out as an accepted doctrine of belief.

Long story short, Plato's account and other ancient texts, which all have been repeatedly translated over the centuries, to a certain extent (and whether you realize it or not), are gone through similar transformations. For instance, the ultra-modern translation you are quoting Plato from ("Perseus Catalog, 2013 Edition") is quite different when you compare it to a classic one, one from the 1800's (like "The Dialogues of Plato, translated by B. Jowett, M.A., 1892 Edition") which I much rather use when it comes to Plato. For example, in regards to the remaining islands argument, the modern translation (page 111) states, "just as happens in small islands". This statement, as you also said yourself, clearly compares Attica's condition to that of small islands. The classic translation though, (page 597) says "there are remaining in small islets only the bones of the wasted body," which clearly implies of a landmass that got "wasted" and ultimately transformed into small islands (this landmass obviously could not have been Attica.) Which one is right? Obviously the modern version which came into place 120 years later is the one who decided to change the particular paragraph. You may want to ask Perseus why?

Personally, I find the modern translation you are using unacceptable. In my opinion is quite overdone with so much new content added to it (words, sentences, syntactic structure changes) that at times it allows for the original text to change (just as in the example of "the islands".) This brings me to my final point. As I also mentioned before, while all these translations (new and old) were done by "fine scholars" (as you called them,) at the end of the day (especially when you begin to compare them all) they are just merely translations (if not personal interpretations) and in most cases they are not capable to capture and relay the meaning from the original ancient Greek format. In my article, this is what I called "flawed interpretations" and your modern version is a prime example of that!

Okay, I'll concede that the Jowett translation says what you say it does. But it still doesn't mean that it could be Atlantis. I'm assuming that you lost the argument that "stadia" could have been referring to a unit of area instead of a unit of length, as you did not mention this in your reply. If that is the case, Atlantis cannot possibly fit into the Aegean Sea; hence your theory cannot be correct. I am not saying that your theory is entirely without value - there might have been an ancient civilization on the Cyclades plateau - perhaps the Ancient Greeks who supposedly lived at the same time as the Atlanteans.

lizleafloor's picture

Thank you for your input. You have quite an opinion on the work here, but I’m not certain personal attacks, such as calling the author ‘stupid’ or ‘shameful’ are in order. Surely you can make a point without slinging mud. Mr. Djonis has been (and all our guest authors and writers are)  kind enough to put their work out there, and we encourage and appreciate disagreement, but most of all intelligent and respectful discourse. 

Egregious errors like the one Djonis made need to be called out with the strongest language possible. The dialogues of Plato are not very lengthy compared to most classical texts. Is it too much to ask that an author who has actually published work on the subject to actually check his own facts? If he won't, then others will do it for him.

I apologize for the personal attack, but if were to claim expertise in a subject and yet know so little about it, I would expect others to attack me just as I attacked the author.

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