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

I have hard of Colchis and I know it had bee considered.

has anyone heard about the connection of atlantas to jason and the argonauts, where the golden fleece area of 'colchis' in next to atlantis? this places atlantis between crimea and donbass.

The location of Atlantis has kept scholars busy for decades and they are no closer now than they began their search.
Civilization has not been one of progress. Between centuries of progress have been numerous dark ages. Everyone knows about the Dark Ages that engulfed Europe following the collapse of the Western Roman Empire. A dark age engulfed the Greece and the Aegean world following the Trojan War in which the Greeks forgot how to read and write. Mesopotamia underwent a dark age between 2200 and 2500BC when it languished through a 300 year drought. Greece's loss of literacy presents one of the problems with understanding Atlantis.
There were several Pillar's of Hercules, the most misleading is the Strait of Gibraltar, a relative newcomer to the list. By misleading, I mean that forced researchers to head into the Atlantic Ocean. Another one is on an island west of Santorini. The Hellespont was another P of H. There was another P of H situated that Malta could have been Atlantis. A Mediterranean Sea with substantially less water would have enlarged Malta and allowed other near by areas to become islands.

An often overlooked part of the story is the war between Atlantis and Athens. Would there be a pretext for war if Atlantis was located for example in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean? I think not. The Atlanteans were supposed to have fielded a massive fleet and army of a combined strength of 1.2 million men. To me, the logistics moves the location into the Mediterranean Sea area. Malta, the surrounding islands and part of Libya becomes a likely candidate. Malta has some submerged large structures, another plus.

Most of my information comes from the book below.
"Meet Me In Atlantis: My Obsessive Quest To Find The Sunken City". - Mark Adams. In his book, Adams interviews several scientists, each having a different prospective location for Atlantis. Adams does not actually search for the city.

I am going to make a couple other comments as replies to other posters to end my comments here.

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

As we all have the right to our own opinion, I don't usually find myself replying to article comments, especially to those who choose to hide their true identity behind fake names. In this particular case though, I felt I should make an exception. Not so much because your comments are downright personal (I wonder if you could equally communicate your points across without all the slinging mud?) but because I felt the readers of Ancient Origins in this case deserve a reply.

While I also agree that the linguists who originally translated Plato's text from ancient Greek to English may be fine scholars, we must always remember that they are primarily translators. While they translate a document from one language to another, they often leave the true meaning of the text to be interpreted by the reader, as in the original Greek format. When it comes to Greek, we must not ignore that it has a very different syntactic structure than the English language that we use to translate it. What often seems strange to those who first try to learn Greek is the inversion of the possessive adjective in respect to the noun.  Similarly, inversions like these may also exist in the sequence of entire sentences. For example, in an independent clause, an item which is stressed, i.e. which is uttered with emphasis or is contrastive, in Greek generally goes at the beginning of the clause, rarely at the end. The middle position is occupied by an item receiving no particular emphasis. In a series of clauses in a sentence, as in the translated text below, a prominent item goes at the beginning of its clause if it relates to the previous context, and at the end if it relates to the following one (the emphasis in the example below should be placed on the first sentence of the first paragraph, as well as on the last sentence of the second one.)

 

<em>For it is related in our records how once upon a time your State stayed the course of a mighty host, which, starting from a distant point in the Atlantic ocean, was insolently advancing to attack the whole of Europe, and Asia to boot.

 

(For) the Ocean that was at that time navigable; for in front of the mouth which you Greeks call, as you say “the Pillars of Hercules” [Strait of Gibraltar] there lay an island which was larger than Libya and Asia together; and it was possible for travelers of that time to cross from it to the other islands and from the islands to the whole of the continent over against them which encompasses the veritable ocean ...</em>

 

When seen this way, a different meaning emerges out of the two paragraphs. In this case, and contrary to past assumptions, Plato does not point to the direction of Atlantis across the ocean. The phrase “your state stayed the course of a mighty host”, at the beginning of the clause, is where the emphasis first should be placed. While in this sentence, Plato clearly reveals the very close proximity of Atlantis to Greece, in the rest of the sentence he poetically describes the might of Atlantis and its capacity that stretched around the world to a “distant point” and another continent across the ocean. Of course, once he illustrates their incredible capability, he then describes their audacious and warlike character and their plans to “advance against the whole of Europe and Asia.”

The same rule applies when analyzing the remaining text. In this case, the revelation of a continent across the ocean is not where the emphasis should be placed. As explained earlier, in a series of clauses in a sentence, prominent items usually are either placed at the beginning or at the end of their clause. The middle part of a sentence is occupied by items that should receive less emphasis. According to this rule, and in this particular case, the explanation of how Atlantians were able to reach the continent across the ocean, at the end of the clause, is where the emphasis should be placed and not on the continent itself that is mentioned earlier (the part that many automatically are drawn to when they first read the text). Not knowing where the emphasis on a clause should be placed, can cause a great deal of confusion as often, and depending where the emphasis or a comma goes, two separate meanings can emerge out of the same paragraph.

In short, when a story from ancient Greek is translated to English, the translated sentences may require proper "repositioning" in order for an English reader to make better sense of it. For instance, when understanding the syntactic structure of the Greek language and how to properly "read it", Plato’s second paragraph above, to an English reader should read as follows:

 

<em>... and it was possible for travelers of that time to cross from it (the island of Atlantis) to the other islands, and from the islands to the whole of the continent over against them which encompasses the veritable ocean.... (For) the (Atlantic) Ocean that was at that time navigable; for in front of the mouth which you Greeks call, as you say “the Pillars of Hercules,” there lay a continent which was larger than Libya and Asia together.</em>

 

When seen in this context, the continent across the ocean outside the Pillars of Hercules (one that the Atlantians were able to reach by island hopping) is no longer the place of origin, but the destination. In this paragraph, Plato simply describes the might of Atlantis by depicting their incredible capability to travel half way around the world by island hopping,  (via Orkney islands, Faroe Islands, Iceland and Greenland.) Incidentally, the existence of Haplogroup X in North America not only confirms that a Mediterranean gene migrated there 10,000+ years ago (as Plato suggested in the properly interpreted text) but heavy concentrations of haplogroup X in Orkney islands, Faroe Islands, Iceland and Greenland) also show that it made it there by island hopping. Is this some strange coincidence? Conversely, we have no genetic evidence to show a possible migration of genes from west to east. In other words, no proof whatsoever that Atlantians arrived into the Mediterranean from the west, or any other place outside the Strait of Gibraltar, as you argue.

As for the island's dimensions, I believe this is a subject for interpretation. For example, while ancient Greeks used different words to describe length (distance) and other words to describe land coverage (surface area), we know one of the words they used, the word "pous" (it means foot) was used not only to describe length (as in linear feet) but also to describe total coverage (as in square feet).

Just as in the case of the word "pous," I believe in the case of Atlantis, Plato used the word "stadia" (in Greek it means stadiums) to imply ground surface and not length. When he said the oblong valley was 3000 stadia, I don't think he meant 3000 stadia long (as in 555 kilometers long) but the oblong valley covered an area of 3000 stadia (roughly 555 square kilometers). If he wanted to imply length, why did he use stadia instead of any other measuring unit available to him one that best describes a great length. For example, instead of 3000 stadia he could have said the oblong valley was 18 "Stages" long, as this also equals to 555 kilometers in length. (By the way, "250 dolichos" or "75 schoinos" also equal to 555 kilometers in length). My point is this. Just like today when we measure long distance we don't say "I run for 8,800 yards" but instead we say "I run for 5 miles". To relay long distance we always use the highest unit available to us, in our case we use miles and not yards or anything else. On the other hand, when describing land coverage we also sometimes use football fields (in Greek stadia or stadiums) as a unit of measurement to indicate land coverage ("the small lake is about 5 football fields in size".)

While of course anyone can argue with this point, the truth is, when using "stadia" to suggest ground surface rather than length, by some "strange coincidence" we actually have a site that for the first time perfectly matches with Plato's description. Region by region, all the physical aspects are in the right order, the right shape and in the right proportion, including the island of Santorini (a setting of concentric rings of earth and water) which falls exactly within 9 kilometers from the primary island). What are the chances for that to happen? Considering that when insisting on the traditional ways of reading and understanding Plato that always led us to a dead end, we must not ignore the possibility that the prehistoric island of the Cyclades Plateau (now under 400 feet of water) must have been the place Plato was referring to (regardless if, and just as in the case of Troy, the rest of Plato's story was real or not).

Finally, after the destruction of Atlantis there is the case where I suggested Plato compares some small remaining islets to the bones of the wasted body of Atlantis.

First and foremost, in the example you used you misquoted Critias. The accurate quote in regards to the remaining small islets reads exactly as below and not as you quoted (while it sounds almost the same, word by word is very different and it clearly leads to a different meaning. (I hope the misquote was not intentional just to help your point).

 

<em>The consequence is, that in comparison of what then was, there are remaining in small islets only the bones of the wasted body, as they may be called; all the richer and softer parts of the soil having fallen away, and the mere skeleton of the country being left.- (Republic. Timaeus. Critias, page 597).</em>

 

Although, in this paragraph Plato may have initially started to talk about Attica, he ultimately compares Attica's transformation to another body of land off of Attica's coast, one that ultimately sank and in its place only small islets remained. Although, we all know that Attica was transformed to some extent by the sudden rise of the Mediterranean, I must point that it never turned into small islets as Plato clearly implies in this sentence (Plato said "there are remaining in small islets only the bones of the wasted body". In your example you said "as in the case of small islands".)

In the end, I must say that is very easy to criticize others work and/or to attack them on a personal level while hiding behind a fake name. In the future though, should you feel the need to carry yourself in that manner, it would be more appropriate if you used your real name as well as list your credentials on the general subject. Most importantly though, if you choose to rely on a quote to help you make a point, be absolutely sure you are using the quote in its original format (word by word) and not how you "remember" it. As I pointed out earlier, in Greek, a single comma or a few extra words, or reading the text in the wrong way leads to a whole different understanding of things.

 

 

 

 

 

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