AtlantisFrom Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaJump to: navigation, search For other uses, see Atlantis (disambiguation).
Athanasius Kircher's map of Atlantis, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. From Mundus Subterraneus 1669, published in Amsterdam. The map is oriented with south at the top.Atlantis (in Greek, Ἀτλαντὶς νῆσος, "island of Atlas") is a legendary island first mentioned in Plato's dialogues Timaeus and Critias, written about 360 BC. According to Plato, Atlantis was a naval power lying "in front of the Pillars of Hercules" that conquered many parts of Western Europe and Africa 9,000 years before the time of Solon, or approximately 9600 BC. After a failed attempt to invade Athens, Atlantis sank into the ocean "in a single day and night of misfortune".
Scholars dispute whether and how much Plato's story or account was inspired by older traditions. In Critias, Plato claims that his accounts of ancient Athens and Atlantis stem from a visit to Egypt by the legendary Athenian lawgiver Solon in the 6th century BC. In Egypt, Solon met a priest of Sais, who translated the history of ancient Athens and Atlantis, recorded on papyri in Egyptian hieroglyphs, into Greek. Some scholars argue Plato drew upon memories of past events such as the Thera eruption or the Trojan War, while others insist that he took inspiration from contemporary events like the destruction of Helike in 373 BC or the failed Athenian invasion of Sicily in 415–413 BC.
The possible existence of a genuine Atlantis was discussed throughout classical antiquity, but it was usually rejected and occasionally parodied by later authors. Alan Cameron states: "It is only in modern times that people have taken the Atlantis story seriously; no one did so in antiquity". The Timaeus remained known in a Latin rendition by Calcidius through the Middle Ages, and the allegorical aspect of Atlantis was taken up by Humanists in utopian works of several Renaissance writers, such as Francis Bacon's New Atlantis and Thomas More's Utopia. Atlantis inspires today's literature, from science fiction to comic books to films. Its name has become a byword for any and all supposed advanced prehistoric lost civilizations
Plato's accountFurther information: Timaeus (dialogue) and Critias (dialogue)
A 15th-century Latin translation of Plato's TimaeusPlato's dialogues Timaeus and Critias, written in 360 BC, contain the earliest references to Atlantis. For unknown reasons, Plato never completed Critias. Plato introduced Atlantis in Timaeus:
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 there was at that time navigable; for in front of the mouth which you Greeks call, as you say, 'the pillars of Heracles,' there lay an island which was larger than Libya and Asia together; and it was possible for the 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 that veritable ocean. For all that we have here, lying within the mouth of which we speak, is evidently a haven having a narrow entrance; but that yonder is a real ocean, and the land surrounding it may most rightly be called, in the fullest and truest sense, a continent. Now in this island of Atlantis there existed a confederation of kings, of great and marvelous power, which held sway over all the island, and over many other islands also and parts of the continent.
The four persons appearing in those two dialogues are the politicians Critias and Hermocrates as well as the philosophers Socrates and Timaeus of Locri, although only Critias speaks of Atlantis. In his works Plato makes extensive use of the Socratic dialogues in order to discuss contrary positions within the context of a supposition.
The Timaeus begins with an introduction, followed by an account of the creations and structure of the universe and ancient civilizations. In the introduction, Socrates muses about the perfect society, described in Plato's Republic (c. 380 BC), and wonders if he and his guests might recollect a story which exemplifies such a society. Critias mentions an allegedly historical tale that would make the perfect example, and follows by describing Atlantis as is recorded in the Critias. In his account, ancient Athens seems to represent the "perfect society" and Atlantis its opponent, representing the very antithesis of the "perfect" traits described in the Republic.
According to Critias, the Hellenic gods of old divided the land so that each god might own a lot; Poseidon was appropriately, and to his liking, bequeathed the island of Atlantis. The island was larger than Ancient Libya and Asia Minor combined, but it afterwards was sunk by an earthquake and became an impassable mud shoal, inhibiting travel to any part of the ocean. The Egyptians, Plato asserted, described Atlantis as an island comprising mostly mountains in the northern portions and along the shore, and encompassing a great plain of an oblong shape in the south "extending in one direction three thousand stadia [about 555 km; 345 mi], but across the center inland it was two thousand stadia [about 370 km; 230 mi]." Fifty stadia [9 km; 6 mi] from the coast was a mountain that was low on all sides...broke it off all round about... the central island itself was five stades in diameter [about 0.92 km; 0.57 mi].