Why is it that after thousands of years, so many of us still search for the answer to this mystery? Did it exist or didn't it. We can't seem to let go of it, as if deep down we know it existed, as though we possess some collective memory of it within our subconcious, which doesn't let us accept it as myth. Like the ghost of someone long gone that lingers on until the mystery of their death has been resolved and they can finally be at peace, their story having been told.
Ever since the first recorded history of Atlantis, written by the Greek philosopher Plato over 2,360 years ago, debate has raged as to whether or not Atlantis ever really existed. Plato described it as an extraordinary Utopian society, thriving around 9,600 BC, which valued peace, art and wisdom, possessed advanced technological knowledge for the time, and enjoyed riches beyond that of any subsequent civilization. The land was said to have been very fertile, with abundant food, water, animals, wood, and flowers. But, as the story goes, after several generations of ruling the leaders became increasingly greedy and corrupt, and started to wage war on their neighbouring countries. They conquered parts of North Africa and Europe and were about to attack Egypt and Athens, when the Athenian army valiantly drove them back and defeated them. It is shortly after this victory by the Athenians that violent and devastating earthquakes, and the resulting tidal waves and floods, destroyed the Athenian army, as well as the entire Island continent of Atlantis, submerging it beneath the sea "in a single day and night".
The question is : Did Plato write this as a moralistic story, or as a true historical account?
Plato's 2 writings pertaining to Atlantis are the "Timaeus", and the "Critias", written in 360BC, at which time Plato would have been aged about 67 or 68. These are the earliest known written records about the Lost Continent of Atlantis, all other written references to Atlantis have been written since, and have been based on these writings by Plato.
The Timaeus and the Critias are actually written in the form of dialogues between 4 main characters: Socrates (.Greek philosopher, and Plato's teacher.), Critias (.poet & historian.), Timaeus (.an Italian astronomer.), and Hermocrates (.a general from Syracuse.). All were real people.
The Timaeus includes only a passing reference to Atlantis, but the second writing, the Critias, has a much more in depth description of Atlantis leading upto it's downfall.
The story is told by the character Critias, who was possibly Plato's maternal great-grandfather. Critias had heard the story as a child from his own Grandfather, Critias the Elder, who had heard it from his father Dropides, who had heard it from his friend Solon, a great Athenian Law-giver reputed to have been an honest and true man.
Solon had been told the story of Atlantis during his stay in Sais, Egypt, by an elderly Egytian priest who claimed to have acquired the knowledge directly from ancient records in his keeping. After hearing of the account, Solon had intended to record it himself, for posterity's sake, but for one reason or another he never did.
Just for the record, Solon really did visit Sais, Egypt, although the date Plato gives for this is about 20 years off. This at least is indisputable fact.
The Egyptian records that the priest was referencing have to this day never been found. But there are theories that hidden in a hall underneath the sphinx, or in the top of the great pyramid, is a secret chamber containing ancient records of invaluable historical, and perhaps future, importance. Several excavations have been attempted to find this secret room, but all have lead to dead ends. It is unknown exactly where this rumor originated, it may have been Edgar Cayce, an American psychic / clairvoyant of the early 1900's, who predicted (sometime before his death in 1945) that in 1998 a "Hall of Records" would be found.
According to Cayce, the contents of the hall and the location are as follows:
"A record of Atlantis from the beginning of those periods when the Spirit took form, or began the encasements in that land; and the developments of the peoples throughout their sojourn; together with the record of the first destruction, and the changes that took place in the land; with the record of the sojournings of the peoples and their varied activities in other lands, and a record of the meetings of all the nations or lands, for the activities in the destruction of Atlantis; and the building of the pyramid of initiation, together with whom, what, and where the opening of the records would come, that are as copies from the sunken Atlantis. For with the change, it [Atlantis] must rise again. In position, this lies -- as the sun rises from the waters -- as the line of the shadows (or light) falls between the paws of the Sphinx; that was set later as the sentinel or guard and which may not be entered from the connecting chambers from the Sphinx's right paw until the time has been fulfilled when the changes must be active in this sphere of man's experience."
Plato was writing the Timaeus and the Critias as the first 2 parts of a trilogy, which was to follow on from one of his previous works called The Republic, and it is believed that in this trilogy Atlantis was going to play a significant part.
But as you will notice when you read the Critias excerpt below, he never finished it! It breaks off at the most exciting part, never to be finished, or if it was finished, the end part has been lost. So, out of the trilogy only the first book was completed, the second was half done, and the third was never even started.
Timaeus : Click here to read the excerpt regarding Atlantis from this first dialogue.
Plato, also known as Aristocles, was born in Athens approx 427 - 428BC, and died peacefully in 347BC at around 80 years of age. He was a respected Greek philosopher, and a student of Socrates, the Grandfather of Western Philosophy. When Socrates was executed in Athens in 399BC, Plato was deeply affected and spent several years travelling and learning, before returning to Athens at age 40 to set up a school of philosophy, which remained in operation for over 900 years (until the Christians closed it down suspecting it would undermine their religion). It's most famous student was Aristotle.
None of the explanations put forward by Atlantologists stay 100% true to Plato's description. Major pieces of his description are often conveniently overlooked so that a researcher's particular theory makes more sense. For example, the location of Atlantis is quite clearly described by Plato, but researchers have nonetheless "found" Atlantis pretty much everywhere else.
Here are a few of the proposed locations, and the books written about them:
(You can get the basic idea of each theory by reading the blurb on the back cover or reading the reviews)
Antarctica : " The Atlantis Blueprint " by Colin Wilson and Rand Flem-Ath
Thera : " " by Charles R. Pellegrino
Thera : " "
Thera : " " by Walter L. Friedrich, translated by Alexander R. McBirney
Cyprus : " " by Robert Sarmast
Central America : " " by Ivar Zapp & George Erikson
The most popular theories as to the destruction of Atlantis are exactly what Plato described, earthquakes and floods. The floods more than likely attributable to the tidal waves that would have been caused by the earthquakes.
Another theory is that there was a volcano on the island that errupted with such force that the island was buried in molten lava.
Yet another theory is that an asteroid hit the Island, exerting the destructive power of hundreds of atomic bombs.
Someone has even put forward the idea that Atlantis was purposely flooded by extra terrestrials in an attempt to kill some rebels of their own planet who fled here to Earth and landed in Atlantis, where they interbred with humans... @_@
Many experts believe that Plato, being a master storyteller, created the story of Atlantis to illustrate a philosophical point; that a perfect society was corrupted and became greedy, waged war on their neighbours, and were then divinely punished for it.
Could he have been imagining what may happen to his own home of Athens if it didn't check itself and it's people soon? A warning perhaps to the Athenian leaders that they may be heading down the same path of greed and corruption, so much so as to warrant them all a similar divine punishment?
Some of the details in Plato's description are the story's own worst enemies in some ways. The biggest problem is the date given to the destruction of Atlantis, which is around 9,600BC. For there to have been a race that technologically advanced at that particular time would re-write our known history of our own species, because human civilization as we would think of it has only been around since about 5000BC.
To be more precise, in 9,600BC our species are thought to have still been hunter-gatherers. The earliest city that we have evidence of is from about 8000BC called Catalhoyuk, in Turkey, and it is much more primitive than what Plato describes. Also Plato talks of domesticated cattle, and the earliest evidence researchers have found of domesticated cattle is 6,000BC. The architecture that Plato speaks of is far more advanced than what researchers believe would have been in use at that time, as more sophisticated buildings didn't start to show up until around 5,000BC at the very earliest. In fact there is almost no archaeological evidence that could support the claim that a society such as that described by Plato would have existed at the time stated.
On the other hand, there was no actual date given by the Egyptian Priest who first spoke of Atlantis to Solon, what he said was that it existed 9,000 years ago.
Some have theorised that the Egyptian Priest was actually referring to years in the sense of the ancient Egyptian lunar calendar where a year was actually a month. This may have confused people in the retelling of it in Greece because the Greek calendar was similar to our own, with 9000 years being 9000 years. ( I'm not really sure of the specifics of the lunar calendar, and the 1 month = 1 year, so don't quote me! )
But if this was the case, it would set the year of the destruction of Atlantis at a much more acceptable date, say between 1000 - 1500 BC.
Many believe that Plato was basing his account of Atlantis on the history of the Minoan civilization, which would coincide well with these new dates. The history of the Minoan civilization and the description of Atlantis have a suspicious amount in common at any rate.
Why can we find the same plants and animal species on continents that are thousands of miles apart from each other?
If Atlantis existed in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, it would have served as a land bridge between these continents, allowing the animals and plants (via the animals) to migrate between. Experts in many different fields of research, not Atlantis experts, have stated that they think there must have been a land mass connecting the continents together somehow.
In the Timaeus dialogue, Plato said Atlantis was "the way to other islands, and from these you might pass to the whole of the opposite continent".
Also, can it be mere coincidence that several ancient cultures seem to have spontaneously acquired certain knowledge and skills that were seemingly beyond their level of development at the time? The ability to build a perfect pyramid for example, this skill could not have been developed by several different cultures independantly of eachother in such a short period of time. One theory is that they inherited this knowlegde from a previous culture.
The Atlanteans were said to possess advanced skills and knowledge, particularly of engineering, consider the sophisticated irrigation systems and the canals as described by Plato. It is a possibility that the Atlanteans were the original pyramid builders, and they shared their knowledge with their neighbours. The pyramids are extremely sophisticated structures, often built so that their angles align perfectly with constellations in the heavens or with perfect north south east and west.
German Author Erich von Däniken believes these coincidences are attributable to "ancient astronauts", aliens who visited Earth in ancient times and shared techonologies with the ancient people. And a lot of people believe that the inhabitants of Atlantis were in fact aliens. They were said to be taller than the average person, more beautiful, etc.
There have been suggestions they may have been aliens fleeing their own recently destroyed planet (Mars has been implicated), and they landed on earth and colonized Atlantis. There are many bizarre theories..
The renowned American psychic Edgar Cayce ( 1877 - 1945 ) conducted "readings" on thousands of people in his time, often talking to them about their previous lives. Some of the people he interviewed had, in a previous life, lived in Atlantis, and from these people he collected some unbelievably detailed descriptions of the place.
Cayce also made many predictions, a couple assosciated with Atlantis. The most interesting and exciting of these Atlantis predictions is this :
"A portion of the temples may yet be discovered under the slime of ages and sea water near Bimini... Expect it in '68 or '69 - not so far away."
Sure enough, in 1968 (some 23 years after Cayce's own death) the Bimini Road was discovered in less than 15 feet of water on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean, at North Bimini Island in the Bahamas. The Bimini Road is a half mile long road of perfectly aligned limestone rocks, most spectacular when viewed from the air. Some skeptics believe that these rocks are a natural formation, and not man-made. But now, thanks to new evidence uncovered at the area, many experts disagree.
Have a look at the images below and draw your own conclusions.
This is what the stones look like from an aerial view.
Underwater photos of the Bimini Road
It is most intriguing that this site was "discovered" exactly when and where Edgar Cayce had predicted Atlantis to rise. An extraordinary coincidence?
Where does the Bimini Road lead? It descends into the sand and nobody knows how far down it actually goes.
Is "road" even a correct description? It would appear not. In the last few years intense research has been done in the area to try to uncover the mystery of these stones.
Dr. Greg Little, a Psychologist and Prehistorian, and esteemed author of over 30 books (including "Edgar Cayce's Atlantis ") has lead the research team, and has made some amazing discoveries. The most startling is that beneath the gigantic and seemingly precisely placed stones, is another layer of stones, exactly the same. This discovery would tend to suggest that it is not a road at all, but perhaps a wall. And it makes the argument a lot tougher for the skeptics who believe it to be a natural formation!
Greg Little's team has uncovered markings on some of the rocks that seem to to be deliberately carved holes or tool marks. They have also found what appear to be anchors from ancient ships, on which tests are still being conducted to determine the the era that they may be from.
While Dr. Little is not convinced that it is the site of Atlantis, he is convinced that it was an ancient shipping dock, but to which civilization it belonged is unclear. The design of the ship docks, if indeed that is what they are, resemble ancient docks of Cuba, Asia, and parts of Africa.
Even if Dr Little is not convinced, the Bimini Road is believed by many to be part of the ruins of Atlantis.
On the opposite side of the Atlantic Ocean from Bimini, another location has recently been investigated as a possible candidate for the remains of Atlantis. Spartel Island, now just a mud shoal submerged 60 metres underwater, lies just west of the Straights of Gibraltar (known in ancient times as the pillars of Heracles / Hercules). It is in the exact place that Plato described Atlantis to have existed.
"There was an island situated in front of the Pillars of Hercules; the island was larger than Libya and Asia put together," it was "the way to other islands, and from these you might pass to the whole of the opposite continent".
Geological evidence collected at the site of Spartel Island confirms the island was ravaged by earthquakes and tsunamis around 11,600 years ago.
The exact place, the exact time, the exact conditions.
But the man responsible for the most recent research expeditions at this site, Marc-Andre Gutscher, has seemingly given up hope. At the recent conference in Milos regarding Atlantis he seems to have become discouraged upon hearing the arguments put forward by some of the other experts, who stressed that a civilization such as that which Plato described could not possibly have existed in 9,600BC....
While I am no expert on the theories about Atlantis, I am an enthusiastic lover of mysterious things and places, and Atlantis has intrigued me and inspired me since the first time I heard of it.
I have a lot more reading to do on the subject, as there is a wealth of books available and many many theories that have been put forward, and perhaps after more research I may feel differently about it all. But at the moment, as I write this, I believe the most exciting possibilities for the location of Atlantis to be the area of Bimini and the Bimini Road in the Bahamas, or the recently investigated site of Spartel Island, as described above. I can only hope that Marc Andre Gutsher or some other researcher decides someday to continue the search there.
With our technology advancing in leaps and bounds, we have never stood a better chance of finding Atlantis than we do now. And It may be our generation that finds it, after 11,600 years.
So get out there and look people!
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