It’s been in mythology for millennia — There was once an advanced ancient civilization that catastrophically vanished thousands of years ago. The “Lost Continent of Atlantis” has been the subject of countless books, articles, movies and general speculation throughout much of recorded history. But if this civilization was that advanced and powerful, why haven’t we found its ruins?
The story of Atlantis apparently originated in the fourth century B.C. with the Greek philosopher Plato, who described the island in two of his Socratic dialogues. According to the original version, Atlantis was sophisticated and advanced state that succumbed to imperialistic ambitions and waged war against Asia and Europe. When it attacked Greece, underdog Athens emerged as the leading city-state and soundly defeated the invaders. In addition, such unchecked ambition got the attention of the gods and Atlantis was punished by a series of natural disasters that caused it to disappear forever into the sea.
The original version is clearly a parable about two cities in competition, with a small but righteous city (hometown Athens) vanquishing a mighty aggressor (Atlantis). Certainly there are historic parallels — think Athens-Persia and Rome-Carthage. Next, add in the fact that the Mediterranean island of Santorini almost completely disappeared in a volcanic explosion and you have a darn good narrative. But in context, the story has to be a myth, closely correlating with Plato’s notions of The Republic and the deteriorating cycle of a state’s life. A detailed and critical reading of Plato certainly supports that.
And yet, Atlantis is the myth that refuses to die. The story began resurfacing in the writings of philosophers, then in works by luminaries like Sir Francis Bacon, whose novel The New Atlantis was published posthumously in 1626. Why the resurgence?
One reason is the European’s views of the world were rapidly forced to change through contact with Indigenous peoples throughout the Americas and Pacific during the Age of Exploration. “The western world was desperate to try and understand how there could be new continents with people in them, where they came from, and how they fit into biblical or classical history,” says archaeologist David S. Anderson, who will explore Atlantis’ appeal in his upcoming book Weirding Archaeology. Rather than conceding that Indigenous peoples could have developed their own advanced civilizations, Europeans used the story of Atlantis to explain the societies they found in the Americas.
And in the present political climate, it’s easy for some to conclude the ruins have been found, but scientists have conspiratorially decided to keep their location secret for whatever reason.
So perhaps the best approach is to take Plato’s yarn at face value — as a cautionary tale of the evils of unchecked power and ambition. There could be something to be learned here… if we only realize it.
Taken from “Why the Myth of Atlantis Just Won’t Die” by Erin Blakemore (https://www.nationalgeographic.com/premium/article/atlantis-myth-plato-archaeology-false? ).