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Atlantis: Truth or Tall Tale?


More of this Feature

• Part 2: Other Sources

Elsewhere on the Web

Huge List of Atlantis- Related Facts
• 
The Story of Atlantis
• 
Plato's Dialogues That Mention Atlantis
Atlantis in the Mediterranean Sea
Atlantis in Bolivia
Atlantis in the South China Sea

Fun Stuff

• Disney Movie on Atlantis

Part 1: In the Beginning

Was Atlantis a real place? Or is it just a made-up story?

We may never know.

But that doesn't stop the story of Atlantis from being told.

Later this month, the latest Disney movie will focus on the "lost island" of Atlantis. Here is some background on the mythical island:

The first mention of Atlantis comes in the writings of Plato, the ancient Greek philosopher who lived more than 2,000 years ago. Plato liked to write in "Dialogues," which contained discussions between two or more people. Two of these dialogues mention Atlantis. Plato says the island was in the Atlantic Ocean. He says it was a very large island that was destroyed in a single day by a disaster 11,000 years ago, or 9,000 years before he wrote. What happened? Was it an earthquake? Was it a flood? Plato says it was both. Further, Plato says it was the result of the people of Atlantis growing greedy and self-important. Their punishment, delivered by Zeus (the king of the gods) was destruction.

Was this really what happened? Or was it a cautionary tale, an example of what could happen to the Greeks if they weren't careful? The mention of Zeus lends support to the cautionary tale theory. But the sheer numbers of other mentions of the mysterious island may prove otherwise.

Another possibility was that the story was based on the destruction of Thera, an island community very near where Plato lived and very recent disaster (at least in his day). About 1500 B.C., Thera was destroyed by a volcanic explosion. Again, Plato could have been using the story of Thera to illustrate his point about not being too greedy and simply changed the name to Atlantis.

Thera, however, was in the Mediterranean Sea, not the Atlantic Ocean. Plato said Atlantis was in the Atlantic Ocean.

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