|QUESTION: Did the City of Atlantis once exist or was it just a myth?
By Athena Inciong
There are many arguments that speculate the existence of Atlantis. Many historians and scientists engage in disputes over its existence. Through the use of research, evidence and many sources, these historians and scientists attempt to discover the answer to the question regarding the existence of Atlantis. This controversial question is the biggest issue that splits these historians and scientists into the two sides of the fence. Due to the vast amount of research that these historians and scientists undergo, numerous amounts of sources and evidence from different origins are found and are therefore an issue that impacts their arguments about Atlantis’ existence. Consequently, various arguments were raised which resulted in these disputes between many historians and scientists. Although there were many arguments, a lot of research and evidence disapproved the theory of Atlantis. Even though there were historians who researched reliable sources about its existence, there was not enough proven evidence, or geographical evidence that supported its existence.
Atlantis was believed to have existed around 11 thousand years ago and was an ancient but advanced civilisation, populated by a noble and powerful race with a very superior lifestyle and was located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean which was destroyed by its own excesses. It was described as an advanced empire which ruled over many lands from Libya to Europe. Due to the natural resources found throughout the island of Atlantis, the people of the land possessed great wealth and Atlantis was the centre for trade and commerce. It was alleged that Atlantis no true leader and lived happily for a long time and they had a special stone called the Stone of Destiny which guarded the city and gave it electricity. Over time, the Atlanteans became greedy and used the stone’s mystical powers for their own needs and for pure greed. Due to their lack of responsibility and their desire to scavenge and raid near by countries, they were punished. The Sea Gods held a meeting and decided to punish the civilisation due to their actions. Poseidon, the God of the Sea sent a large tidal wave over the large city of Atlantis causing it to sink into the depths of the Atlantis Ocean and Atlantis wasn’t seen since. It was believed that a Greek philosopher called, Plato was the only person who saw the lost city and described his beliefs and views in his series of dialogues; Timaeus and Critias.
Carlos Barceló, an author and a historian wrote a book called ‘Atlantis’ 1about the theories and the findings concerning its existence. Throughout the book, Barceló makes references with many other historians and scientists, for example, Jose Alvarez Lopez, Plato, and Charles Berlitz. This reference allows him to articulate the stance on the issue and support the fact that Atlantis indeed existed. Throughout the first chapter of the book, Barceló quotes historian, Jose Alvarez Lopez “Geology, Anthropology, Zoology…Thus, throughout one century scientific arguments in favour and against the existence of Atlantis have appeared…Concluding this interminable list of facts in favour of the existence of an ancient, evolved, terrestrial civilisation that had totally disappeared…” Through the reference of that quote, Barceló further entails his belief in the existence of Atlantis. The great level of knowledge that Jose Alvarez Lopez demonstrates regarding the scientific side of the existence of Atlantis allowed Barcelo to construct a very potent argument supporting its existence. It is evident that Barceló’s reference to Lopez and his argument favouring the existence of the island-continent inspires him and therefore allowing his argument to be more compelling. Barceló continues to quote Jose Alvarez Lopez, “The high level of evolution in some cereals and cultivated plants like the banana plant suggests the prehistoric knowledge of genetics unexplainable without the presence of a great civilisation”, from this quote that Barceló chooses to use from the historian, it is easy to recognise the amount of depth that historian Lopez goes through in his writings about the existence of Atlantis. Barceló uses this quote, again, to justify his belief in the Lost City and its mere existence. This allows Barceló’s perspectives and his discussion to be much more vulgar and powerful and furthermore strongly emphasises his perceptions of Atlantis having existed. Carlos Barceló’s book written about Atlantis is very detailed and the information provided inside is very precise. He includes in his book, numerous historians and scientists who have researched the Lost City. In doing so, Barceló creates a more reliable source due to his quotations and copies of the historians and scientists research and their findings.
Plato2 became the most important source for historians who wanted to find out about Atlantis and who believed it’s true, there being no other primary ancient account of Atlantis, and Plato is the most reliable. He was a Greek philosopher who was born at approximately 427B.C and died 347B.C. Plato was a student of Socrates and he taught him what he knew. After Socrates death, Plato travelled to many places and that was when he discovered Atlantis. Plato’s findings and research are all left in his two dialogues; Timaeus and Critias. Many other historians tried to back Plato’s story up. The philosopher Crantor3, a student of Plato’s student Xenocrates, attempts to find proof for Atlantis’ existence. Although his work on Plato’s ‘Timaeus’ is lost, another ancient historian, Proclus4, believed that Crantor did in fact travel to Egypt and found columns with the history of Atlantis that had been written in hieroglyphic characters, but Plato never mentioned these columns. A passage from Proclus’ 5th century AD commentary on Timaeus described the geography of Atlantis; “That an island of such nature and size once existed is evident from what is said by certain authors who investigated the things around the outer sea…seven islands in that sea in their time… also three others of enormous size…the extent of which was a thousand stadia [200 km]; and the inhabitants of it—they add—preserved the remembrance from their ancestors of the immeasurably large island of Atlantis which had really existed there and which for many ages had reigned over all islands in the Atlantic sea…” This very much described the place of Atlantis, the islands of Atlantis and the size of Atlantis. This quote is significant in recognising the existence of Atlantis, because of it’s great impact on historians today, this quote made by Proclus is reliable in the fact that he was a historian who followed the steps of Crantor and Plato and had written evidence to prove his search and findings.
Did Atlantis really exist? On the other hand, there are quite a few other historians and scientists who beg to differ. Could Atlantis be another ‘Pluto’5 case? Pluto was believed to be a planet until many years later when scientists discovered that in actual fact, it wasn’t a planet due to its small size. So could Atlantis be just like that? Many historians and scientists don’t believe that Atlantis existed due to the fact that there was not enough substantial evidence to prove Atlantis had been there beforehand. Although there are historical evidence and a few scientific findings, this does not reveal, nor display any essential evidence as to where it was actually situated or if there was actually an Atlantis situated in the middle of the ocean. When continental drift6 became well known in the 1960’s, the question as to whether the ‘Lost Continent’ existed or not had risen. Some theories propose elements that Plato’s stories were only derived from earlier myths. Dr Julia Annas, a Plato scholar7 said “The continuing industry of discovering Atlantis illustrates the dangers of reading Plato. For he is clearly using what has become a standard device of fiction — stressing the historicity of an event (and the discovery of hitherto unknown authorities) as an indication that what follows is fiction. The idea is that we should use the story to examine our ideas of government and power. We have missed the point if instead of thinking about these issues we go off exploring the sea bed. The continuing misunderstanding of Plato as historian here enables us to see why his distrust of imaginative writing is sometimes justified.” Dr Julia Annas further describes the inexistence of Atlantis. She further justifies the point that Atlantis was only a myth and a fantasy of Plato. This is important in recognising the reliability of Plato. Since Plato was the only main and important source that describes Atlantis’ existence, clearly, he is not enough to justify the Lost City’s actual existence. By relying on him, there is a lack of diversity of sources and therefore narrows down their argument to mostly, only the perspectives of Plato.
There being no substantial evidence, Atlantis was believed to be another ‘bedtime story’ which had been told time and time again over the years. Furthermore, a belief that Atlantis was only a myth because there were Roman and Greek Gods like Zeus and Poseidon furthermore denotes the fact that like the Roman and Greek Gods were described, Atlantis too was only a myth, only a legend that merely exists within the writings of Plato and within the imagination of many.
In conclusion, there have been many debates over the existence of Atlantis. But these debates lead to a belief that Atlantis in fact didn’t exist. For obvious reasons, there is not enough substantial or geographical information and evidence to prove it actually did exist, leading many to believe that Atlantis was just that, a name given to a myth.