Atlantis, originally mentioned by Plato, was supposedly an ancient culture and island that he said was destroyed by a natural disaster (probably an earthquake) about 9,000 years before Plato's own time. Plato's Timaeus and Critias are the only written mentions of Atlantis, in which he gives some information on the size and location of the Atlantis island. Atlantis might be a work of pure fiction, however, possibly intended to illustrate Plato's philosophy on the ideal government. Plato's account purports to be based on a visit to Egypt by the Athenian lawgiver Solon. Sonchis, priest of Thebes, translated it into Greek for Solon.
With rare exceptions, such as Francis Bacon's book The New Atlantis, interest in Atlantis then languished for 2,200 years until the 1882 publication of Atlantis: the Antediluvian World by Minnesota politician and sometime crankish writer Ignatius Donnelly. Donnelly took Plato's account of Atlantis seriously and attempted to establish that all known ancient civilizations were descended from its high-neolithic culture.
Aristotle wrote of a large island in the Atlantic that the Carthaginians knew as Antilia. It is interesting that this name makes sense in Portuguese: ante-ilha meaning before/against-island. Proclus, the commentator of "Timaeus" mentions that Marcellus, relying on ancient historians, stated in his Aethiopiaka that in the Outer Ocean (the Atlantic) there were seven small islands dedicated to Persephone, and three large ones; one of these, comprising 1,000 stadia in length, was dedicated to Poseidon. Proclus tells us that Crantor reported that he, too, had seen the columns on which the story of Atlantis was preserved as reported by Plato: the Sais priest showed him its history in hieroglyph characters. Some other writers called it Poseidonis after Poseidon. Plutarch mentions Saturnia or Ogygia about five days' sail to the west of Britain. He added that westwards from that island, there were the three islands of Cronus, to where proud and warlike men used to come from the continent beyond the islands, in order to offer sacrifice to the gods of the ocean.
An important Greek festival of Pallas Athene, the Panathenaea was dated from the days of king Theseus. It consisted of a solemn procession to the Acropolis in which a peplos was carried to the goddess, for she had once saved the city, gaining victory over the nation of Poseidon, that is, the Atlanteans. As Lewis Spence comments, this cult was in existence already 125 years before Plato, which means that the story could not be invented by him. The historian Ammianus Marcellinus wrote that "the intelligentsia of Alexandria considered the destruction of Atlantis an historical fact, described a class of earthquakes that suddenly, by a violent motion, opened up huge mouths and so swallowed up portions of the earth, as once in the Atlantic Ocean a large island was swallowed up. Diodorus Siculus recorded that the Atlanteans did not know the fruits of Ceres. In fact, cereals were unknown to American Indians. Pausanias called these island "Satyrides," referring to the Atlantes and those who profess to know the measurements of the earth . He states that far west of the Ocean there lies a group of islands whose inhabitants are red-skinned and whose hair is like that of the horse. (Christopher Columbus described the Indians similarly.)
A fragmentary work of Theophrastus of Lesbos tells about the colonies of Atlantis in the sea. Hesiod wrote that the garden of the Hesperides was on an island in the sea where the sun sets. Pliny the Elder recorded that this land was 12,000 km distant from Cadiz, and Uba, a Numidian king intended to establish a stock farm of purple Murex there. Diodorus declares that the ancient Phoenicians and Etruscans knew America, the enormous island outside the Pillars of Heracles. He descibes it as the climate is very mild, fruits and vegetables grow ripe throughout the year. There are huge mountains covered with large forests, and wide, irrigable plains with navigable rivers. Scylax of Caryanda gives similar account.
Marcellus claims that the survivors of the sinking Atlantis migrated to Western Europe. Timagenes tells almost the same, citing the Druids of Gaul as his sources. He tries to classify the Gallic tribes according to their origins, and tells about one of them that they were colonists who came there from a remote island. Theopompus of Chios, a Greek historian called this land beyond the ocean as "Meropis". The dialogue between King Midas and the wise Silenus mentions the Meropids, the first men with huge cities of gold and silver. Silenus knows that besides the well-known portions of the world there is another, unknown, of incredible immensity, where immeasurably vast blooming meadows and pastures feed herds of various, huge and mighty beasts (perhaps buffaloes?). Claudius Aelianus cites Theopompus, knowing of the existence of the huge island out in the Atlantic as a continuing tradition among the Phoenicians or Carthaginians of Cadiz. Perhaps the Byzantine friar Cosmas Indicopleustes understood Plato better than the ancient and modern "Aristotelians", says Merezhkovsky. In his Topographica Christiana he included a chart of the terrestrial globe: it showed an inner sphere, a compact mainland surrounded by sea, having no visible support and being suspended, as it were, in the air; and this was surrounded by an outer sphere, with the inscription, "The earth beyond the Ocean, where men lived before the Flood."
Later esoteric writers such as Helena Blavatsky, Edgar Cayce and Jane Robert/Seth proposed that Atlantis was an ancient, now-submerged, highly-evolved civilization. The metaphysical significance being that it was a land from which many of us continue to reincarnate, with Cayce adding that the Atlanteans also had ships and aircraft powered by a mysterious form of energy crystal.
The work Toward the Light has some description of Atlantis, including its exact geographical location.
Geology has demonstrated that no continent such as Atlantis has existed in the mid-Atlantic, so later enthusiasts have placed it in a bewildering variety of places, ranging from Sri Lanka, Peru, and Scandinavia, to the supposed center of the hollow Earth.
This opinion of the geologists refers to the impossibility of a sunken continent and not to a sunken island in the Atlantic Ocean. That island must have been much smaller than Australia, so one cannot call it a continent. Plato has never claimed that a whole continent has disappeared, he only referred to an island, in front of another continent.
Not all geologists deny the possibility of a sunken island in Central America. After the Charles Berlitz book The Mystery of Atlantis, a Canadian Hungarian geologist-topographer's book was published, entitled Atlantis: The Seven Seals. The author, Z.A. Simon, called the attention to these controversies. He included some supporting conclusions of Dr. J. Manson Valentine, M. Dmitri Ribikoff, E. Umland and C. Umland, Robert B. Stacy-Judd, Dr. David Zink, John P. Cohane, Peter Tompkins, Pino Turolla, Captain Alexander, Francis Hitching, James Bailey, Dr. C.J. Cazeau, Dr. S.D. Scott, Brad Steiger and William R. Fix.
The June 1981 edition of Marine Geology shows some radiocarbon dates on mangrove peat, based on the estimate of Broecker and Kulp, listing dates between 5590 and 3680 BC, with connection of the gradual sinking of the Florida-Bimini region. Most recently the rate of the sea level's rise has slowed to 4.5 inches per century. Prior to that time it was one foot per century. Near Andros Island, underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau found a huge submerged cave 165 feet beneath the surface. There are stalactites and stalagmites in it, that can be formed in the open air only. Marine sediments on the walls of the grotto enabled scientists to estimate its submersion around or after 10,000 BC. The submarine topography of the Bahamian region shown in the huge Russian Atlas Mira by detailed isobaths, catches the attention of a topographer. The sea floor on the northern side of Cuba, Haiti and Puerto Rico indicates a definite system of submerged valleys of ancient rivers, combined with sunken mountain ranges. The "Tongue of the Ocean" at Andros Island is undoubtedly an underwater ravine caused by terrible tectonic forces, surrounded by almost vertical walls, as a "memento" of the catastrophe. The Bahamas is the only region of the world where Atlantis can be located, if it ever existed.
Simon offers an "accurate" map of Plato's rectangular island with its given dimensions as 2,000 by 3,000 stadia, overlaying its outline on the suspected ancient irregular shoreline of that traditional island in the Bahamas region. (An Attic stadium corresponds to 177.6 meters.)
Among those who believe in an historical Atlantis, the leading theory holds that Plato's story of the destruction of Atlantis was inspired by massive volcanic eruptions on the Mediterranean island of Santorini during Minoan times.
Recently, a theory proposed by J.M. Allen has focused attention on the Altiplano in Bolivia. Allen took Plato's physical description of the location of Atlantis and compared it to physical features found in the Altiplano, and he found that they matched Plato's description on almost all counts, but for a factor of 2. Allen reasons that this error makes sense because pre-Columbian South Americans counted in base 20. Another piece of evidence that Allen cites is Plato's mention of a gol/copper alloy called orichalcum that is only found in the Andes. Allen also claims that the very name of the place, Atlantis, comes from two Native American words, atl meaning "water", and antis meaning "copper". Supporters of the South American Atlantis also cite scientists finding evidence of cocaine derived chemicals in Egyptian mummies. Cocaine, coming only from the coca plant found exclusively in South America, is explained as evidence that there was pre-Columbian cross-Atlantic contact that could have led to the tale of a disaster reaching the ears of Plato via Egypt. This theory is currently being investigated by Allen and others.
Another recent theory is based on a recreation of the geography of the Mediterranean at the time of Atlantis' supposed existence. Plato states that Atlantis was located beyond the Pillars of Hercules, the name given to the Strait of Gibraltar linking the Mediterranean to the Atlantic Ocean. 11,000 years ago the sea level in the area was some 130 metres lower, exposing a number of islands in the strait. One of these, Spartel, could have been Atlantis, though there are a number of inconsistencies with Plato's account.
Yet another theory that fits in with geography of 11,000 years ago sites Atlantis in the Antarctic archipelago - technically in the South Atlantic Ocean - where it would have been drowned by the rise in sea level after the last Ice Age. How cold the local climate would have been is a matter for speculation. Troy, Minoan Crete (or possibly Santorini) and other ancient port cities are asserted to be colonies.
Atlantis has also been the subject of such films as the 1961 Atlantis, the Lost Continent, Disney's 2001 animated feature Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Gainax's Anime series Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, The French film Atlantis - Le creature del mare, and many others. A complete listing of the appearances of Atlantis in modern media would be too extensive to include here. Jules Verne's classic 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea also included a visit to Atlantis aboard Nemo's submarine Nautilus.
In the original Superman universe, both Aquaman and Lori Lemaris were said to have come from a sunken Atlantis, in Lori Lemaris's case, her people surviving by becoming mermaids and mermen. In the Marvel Universe, the people live in a similar manner, as blue skinned water breathers with Prince Namor The Submariner as their ruler.
Recent underwater discoveries off the west coast of Cuba have led some to speculate on an Atlantean connection. However, even before these discoveries were announced, author Andrew Collins had explored the Cuba connection in a book titled "Gateway to Atlantis." Collins supports his hypothesis with a great deal of indirect but compelling historical and geographical evidence. He finally suggests present-day Isle of Youth and the shallow sea bottom that surrounds it as a possible location for Atlantis.
Other "Lost Lands"
Other supposed "lost lands" have been proposed, of which the most famous are Lemuria and Mu. Yet others are listed on the Phantom Islands page.
Atlantis was also the name of a NASA space shuttle.