The island city-state of Atlantis is one of the great myths in literature. First appearing the dialogs of the ancient Greeks, the mysterious land has become a huge part of pop culture. While the stories themselves conflict greatly, there are a number of things that we know about the fabled island nation.
Plato Probably Made it Up
The story of Atlantis was first told by Plato and most evidence points to him being the source of the popular myth. The very first mentions of the nation show up in his dialogs and the government he describes is virtually identical to the one he recommends in The Republic. He’s certainly not the first or only person to come up with the idea of a lost island nation, though, and his descriptions of Atlantis have gone on to become the basis for an incredible number of stories set in the fictitious island nation.
It’s Total Fiction
Thanks to archaeological records, we can be fairly sure that there was never a ‘real’ city of Atlantis. Modern scientists are fairly clear on the fact that there wasn’t a super-advanced island nation that sank beneath the waves and most modern scholars believe that it makes much more sense as an allegorical story than as a real place. This has not, however, stopped countless people from believing that Atlantis must somehow have been a real place. In fact, a fair number of people have proposed incredibly wild explanations for what it really could have been.
Atlantis Could Be Anything
If you take a look at the literature on the topic, Atlantis could be virtually anything. Plato himself referred to it as an island made by and cared for by the gods. Edgar Cayce thought of it as the home of an ancient and advanced civilization. Others have even gone so far as to say that Atlanteans were actually aliens from a faraway star system. The only thing that people can really seem to agree on is that Atlanteans were far more advanced than humans of their time – and, in some ways, more advanced than modern humans as well.
It Might Have a Real Basis
While there is almost certainly not a real Atlantis, it might have some basis in the real Greek world. Long before Plato set down the story of Atlantis in 355 BC, an entire neighboring civilization had risen and fallen. The Minoan civilization, which was centered on the island of Crete, was truly alien to that of the ancient Greeks and had fallen thousands of years earlier. The strange, wealthy civilization had even been destroyed by a natural disaster – and what was left could certainly have sparked stories about a great nation brought low by a terrible catastrophe.
Even if Atlantis wasn’t based on the Minoans, the Greeks were more than familiar with the rise and fall of a number of empires. For the Greeks, what was important was the example set by Atlantis rather than where it really might have been.