Atlantis: Lost City or Mythical Island?

By | May 10, 2019

test article image
A representation of Atlantis. Source: (

Often with folklore and legend, it is impossible to uncover the primary source. Either the original texts are lost, or the stories are passed down from one generation to the next without written documentation. However, that is not the case with the story of Atlantis. Its origin has been traced to Plato’s dialogues, “Timaeus” and the “Critias,” which were written in 360 B.C. While these dialogues are received as fictional, the belief that Plato’s Atlantis was a real location has persisted throughout the years.

In Plato’s dialogues, the legend of Atlantis is told by Critias, who heard it from his grandfather. The events of the story allegedly occurred more than 9,000 years before the time of Critias and were passed down orally. However, there is no evidence that the legend of Atlantis existed outside of Plato’s dialogues. No other philosopher wrote about it before Plato and Aristotle were recorded as saying Plato could “conjure nations out of thin air.” This seems to suggest that Atlantis existed only in Plato’s mind.

test article image
Strait of Gibraltar. Source: (

Plato describes Atlantis as a technologically advanced civilization, corrupted by power. In geographical terms, it is an island “larger than Libya and Asia Minor put together” and it is located in the Atlantic “just beyond the Pillars of Hercules.” Many searching for proof of its existence have narrowed its location to the vicinity of the Strait of Gibraltar. In Plato’s story, the inhabitants of Atlantis grew too ambitious, conquering much of Africa and Europe. They were eventually driven back by Athenian armies and the gods punished them with earthquakes and floods until the entire island sank into the ocean.