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Does Atlantis exist?
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Atlantis does not exist

The legend that Atlantis is real was only popularised in the 19th Century by a writer named Ignatius Donnelly. His book on Atlantis spawned debate and discussion surrounding the legendary island. Today, the vast majority of historians and scientists are in agreement that Atlantis does not refer to a specific geographical location.


The story of Atlantis was relayed by Plato in his dialogues around 360 B.C. According to his dialogues, the city of Atlantis was an island located in the Atlantic Ocean. Atlantis was a highly successful and utopian civilisation, with great military power and a colossal capital city. Due to increasing greed and the immorality of the people, the island supposedly sunk into the sea. Although it is widely accepted that Atlantis is fictional, some researchers and writers have still produced several theories regarding the actual location of Atlantis. Despite this, most credible Ancient historians and philosophers dispute the existence of Atlantis, and claim that it was invented as a tool for Plato’s philosophical musings.

The Argument

The idea that Atlantis refers to a real place was largely popularised in the 19th century due to a book by the writer Ignatius Donnelly, 'Atlantis, the Antediluvian World', which suggested that advances in the ancient world were due largely to a pre-existing, earlier, civilisation like that of the Atlantis mentioned by Plato.[1] Today, as is widely accepted, 'most historians and scientists throughout history have concluded that Plato’s account of the lost kingdom of Atlantis was fictional'.[2] There is not enough tangible evidence to link Plato's island of Atlantis to a real historical event or geographical location. One main problem is the fact that Atlantis is only mentioned in Plato's works Timaeus and Critias. There are no other historical documents which support the existence of a lost civilisation in the Atlantic Ocean. Furthermore, advances in modern technology mean that should Atlantis exist; it could be located through scientific means. As has been written, 'despite modern advances in oceanography and ocean-floor mapping, no trace of such a sunken civilization has ever been found.'[3] In addition to lack of written, historical evidence, there is therefore also a distinct lack of scientific evidence. The most likely theory regarding Atlantis is that it was created for Plato to relay his philosophical ideas. This is the belief of James Romm, a Professor of Classics at Bard College. He believes that Plato's 'ideas about divine versus human nature, ideal societies, the gradual corruption of human society—these ideas are all found in many of his works. Atlantis was a different vehicle to get at some of his favorite themes.'[4] The moral degeneration of the Atlantians, which destroys their civilisation and island, is a warning from Plato about how a seemingly perfect society can bring about its own destruction.

Counter arguments

It is simply not true that the "belief" in Atlantis as a real place started only at the end of the 19th century with Ignatius Donnelly, or with the discovery of America. In antiquity, almost all authors thought of Atlantis as a real place. The first skepticism towards the age of Atlantis of 9,000 years arouse only with Christianity when some Christians believed that the earth was not more than 6,000 years old. It was not until the 19th century that the tables turned, and science started to predominantly believe in the non-existence of Atlantis. Ignatius Donnelly is not the first Atlantis believer, he is only one of the first pseudoscientific Atlantis believers because he still took the Atlantis story literally true although this was not possible anymore in this time. Plato himself still believed in gods. Plato also believed in a cyclical pattern of human history as we find it not only in the Atlantis story. The correct interpretation is within the context of Plato's time, and there we find that all ancient Greeks had a wrong idea of the age of Egypt (from where the Atlantis story allegedly is). If you read the Atlantis story literally, you end with fantasies, or with the idea that Plato invented it. But if you know the historical context, if you know what typical mistakes existed in Plato's times, then you see that it is meant to be a real place.



Rejecting the premises


This page was last edited on Monday, 9 Nov 2020 at 21:39 UTC