Unless you have been living under water all your life then you will most certainly have heard of the legend of Atlantis. This lost city has always inspired much debate over whether it was fiction or reality, and has been described as everything from a utopian society to a planet full of aliens. The idea of Atlantis was born in the dialogues Timaeus and Critias, written by Greek philosopher Plato in around 360 BC so it’s by no means a recent invention. Since then though, the story of what Atlantis was like and how it came to sink beneath the sea has been through thousands of revisions and opinions, most of them quite fantastical.
The original idea of the legend of Atlantis was that it was an ancient naval power pretty keen on invasions. According to Plato, Atlantis went one step too far in trying to invade Athens and sunk that same day “in a single day and night of misfortune.” After Plato came other writers and philosophers, many of whom were keen to add their own opinions on what happened to Atlantis; there was still no real proof that it had ever actually existed, although plenty of references were made to it by major figures, such as Hellenistic Jewish philosopher Philo and even Saint Clement of Rome.
The idea of Atlantis as a utopian society was the brainchild of Francis Bacon, who wrote an essay in the 1600s called The New Atlantis. However, Bacon’s account places Atlantis off the coast of America, rather than in the centre of Europe, which gives it shaky foundations. After this, the legend of Atlantis then began to be merged into other legends, including one that contented it was actually a continent sized piece of land of highly intelligent human beings and another that it sank during Noah’s biblical flood. One of the most sinister ways that Atlantis has been incorporated into human history is by the Nazis who talked about Aryan Atlanteans and propagated the idea that they were a ‘root race’ that succeeded the Nazi idea of Aryan perfection.
In the 1960s, as we began to understand a lot more of the natural world around us, the fantastical legends around Atlantis began to subside as the simple idea of a shift in tectonic plates was accepted as a much more practical explanation for the sinking of an island. Whilst the actual location of Atlantis is disputed, the practical geographical explanations all point to the Mediterranean, most probably in and around the Greek islands such as Santorini and Crete. Many of the more respected experts now highlight a catastrophic volcano eruption called the ‘Thera eruption’, which took place in the 16th or 17th centuries and devastated the Minoan civilisation on the island of Crete, as the most probable inspiration for the legend.
In recent times, the sunken settlement of Pavlopetri, which lies just off the southern Peloponnese below the seas of Greece has been thought to be the closest archaeological discovery to support the legend of Atlantis. It is certainly the oldest sunken settlement in the world and has been dated to 2800 to 1200 BC. Exploration of the area has found a planned settlement, covering some 30,000 square metres, with homes, tombs, a town hall and a ton of ancient pieces of pottery. Whether or not this is Atlantis will probably never really be established – given that only 1% of the ocean’s floor has even been surveyed, who knows what else is lurking down there waiting to be discovered.
John is a travel writer from Azamara Club Cruises who have a wide choice of cruises around the Greek Islands – you might not find Atlantis but you will br treated to the sort of service the Greek Gods themselves would have been happy with!
This guest post was written for Travel & Leisure Group leading European timeshare resales company specialising in those looking to buy timeshare in Europe, or worldwide.