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Atlantis

Atlantis: We Will Never Know

Fantasy is a tough sell in the twentieth century.

The world has been fully discovered and fully mapped. Popular media has

effectively minimized the legend and the fantastic rumor, though to make up for

this it has generated falsities not as lavish but just as interesting.

Satellites have mapped and studied the earth, leaving only a space frontier that

is as yet unreachable.

But standing out is a charming fantasy the modern world has yet to verify or

condemn: the lost continent of Atlantis.

The father of the modern world's perception of Atlantis is Plato (circa

428-circa 347 b.c.). (1) The Greek philosopher spoke in his works Timaeus and

Critias of a continent in the Atlantic ocean larger than Africa and Asia Minor

combined which rivaled Athens as the most advanced in the world. (2) According

to the legend surrounding Plato's dialogues, the island of Atlantis was

violently thrown into the sea by the forces of nature, and its few survivors

managed to swim ashore and relate their story. (3) There the legend was passed

by word of mouth until an Egyptian priest related the story to Solon, a

character in Timaeus. The priest admired the achievements of prehistoric

Athenians, because when the rulers of Atlantis threatened to invade all of

Europe and Asia the Athenians, on behalf of all Greeks, defeated the Atlanteans

to avoid enslavement. (4)

The works of Plato opened the floodgates to endless speculation on

whether the continent described was fact or fiction. Atlantis has since been

placed in Spain, Mongolia, Palestine, Nigeria, the Netherlands, Brazil, Sweden,

Greenland and Yucatan. Every nook and cranny of the globe has been hypothesized;

mountain peaks, desert lands, the ocean floor and even the barren wasteland of

Antarctica have been mentioned in theories. (5)

While some of these theories are compatible with Plato's works and are

within relative reason, numerous crackpot theories have been developed using the

lost continent as a basis. One of these theories, posted on the computer

internet where it has access to over fifteen million people, talks in twenty-one

pages of pre-historical lands with names like Oz and Luxor. These world wide web

pages list over two hundred separate articles of proof for the existence of

Atlantis, as in the following: (6)

"Most all ancient civilizations believed in the TITANS, the race of

giant humans that inhabited Earth long ago. Different races knew them by

different names. These 7 to 12 foot humanoids were thought to be legendary until

the excavation of over a dozen skeletons 8 to 12 feet tall, around the world,

shocked archeologists. These skeletons were positively human. Some of these

skeletal remains are on Maui in lava caves near Ulupalakua and Olowalu. The

Spanish Conquistadors left diaries of wild blond-haired, blue-eyed 8 to 12 foot

high men running around in the Andes during the conquest of the Incas. A couple

were reportedly captured but died en route to Europe. If giant animals

(dinosaurs) were possible then why not giant men? And why are these goliaths

populating both Eurasia and the Americas? Only on a land bridge created by the

vast continent of Antarctica can there be a sufficient bridge for the spread of

these giants."(7)

This text, written by self-proclaimed Atlantologist Steve Omar,

represents Plato's text taken to the extreme- using his ideas as a basis for

outlandish and unfounded ideas.

These unverified fantasies make a dubious complement to the other dark

side of the Atlantean fantasy: hoaxes. Atlantis has been "discovered" many times,

but most notably in the fall of 1912 by Dr. Paul Schliemann. Schliemann

introduced himself as the grandson of the famous Heinrich Schliemann, the

archeologist who discovered the ruins of ancient Troy in 1873. His "discovery"

made front page news (The New York American, October 1912.) and boasted of an

advanced civilization with aircraft, power-driven boats and the like. Schliemann

said his grandfather told him on his deathbed of the family's secret: the

location of Atlantis. Schliemann's claims made waves, but didn't hold water;

when pressed for details, Schliemann was unresponsive and eventually disappeared

from public view. (8)

Unfortunately, the falsities concerning Atlantis frequently overshadow

the possibilities. The subject has gathered its share of honest journalists as

well. Ignatius Donnelly wrote the first extensive study of the possibility of

existence in 1882, and his views have not been found to be false with twentieth

century technology. Donnelly believed in Atlantis, but believed it to be

worldly; his reasons for Atlantis's existence are unable to be proven, but make

sense. Some examples:

-There is nothing improbable in Plato's narrative; it describes rich, cultured

and educated people but doesn't mention things of fantasy like giants,

hobgoblins etc. (9)

-Plato speaks of hot and cold springs in the center of Atlantis, a feature

common to islands with volcanic activity. Chances are Plato didn't know this.

(9)

-Plato says in his stories that the Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea, is

always seen on a chariot with horses because he was originally the god of

Atlantis, where horses were domesticated. But when Atlantis fell to the sea, the

Greeks believed Poseidon brought his horses with him. (9)

Responding partly to Donnelley's theories and partly to the urge to

discover, some 20th century archeologists have used twentieth century technology

to look for Atlantis. But many have dismissed Atlantis as glorified myths of

volcanic eruptions in the island of Thera in 1450 b.c. The eruption may have

destroyed that island and caused a small earthquake and tsunamis that ruined the

civilization of Crete, but didn't sink a continent. (10)

Therefore, none of Donnelley's theories can be proved without the actual

discovery of the continent. The legend of Atlantis is only a huge collection of

theories and guesses, but theories and guesses also led to the discovery of the

lost Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, discovered after being buried and

preserved by the volcanic ash of nearby Mt. Vesuvius. Because of this, the

mystery of Atlantis's existence will tantalize the world until the continent is

either proven or disproven. (11)



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