The legend of the lost city of Atlantis has been popular for centuries – it appears to have originated with Plato in his tale Critias. It still holds a significant place in the popular imagination and continues to inspire books, movies and even TV series such as Stargate Atlantis. Some people have even wondered if there might be a connection with the TV show Lost.

What Is Atlantis?

Atlantis is a legendary lost city, possibly an entire continent. It is said to have been submerged beneath the sea, possibly as a result of volcanic activity or a huge earthquake. According to Plato this happened around 9,000 BCE.

What makes the idea of Atlantis so appealing is that it wasn’t just any city – it was, so the story goes, the rich heart of a great civilisation. Over the centuries this Atlantean civilisation has been credited with everything from cultural superiority through to secret, ancient wisdom, psi powers and connections with aliens and UFOs. Some people have even suggested that Atlantis was in reality an alien colony.

According to some of these more extreme versions of the Atlantis myth, the Atlantean civilisation could have survived the sinking of their island and continued as an undersea nation. Exactly why such an advanced people should choose to do this is unclear.

Where Was Atlantis?

The search for Atlantis has occupied many people and no definitive trace has ever been found. Edgar Cayce predicted that Atlantean remains would be found near Bimini Island and this prediction has been connected with the Bimini Road.

Throughout history various theories have been proposed that locate Atlantis all over the globe. Plato himself located it around the Straits of Gibraltar and Spartel Island has been suggested. One of the most popular possible locations is the island of Thera, known today as Santorini.

Spartel Island

The Spartel theory fits in well with Plato’s account, being located in the Straits of Gibraltar. Spartel Island is today 60m below the water, however research published in 2005 suggests that it could have been above the sea until hit by a tsunami around 12,000 years ago. This is roughly consistent with Plato’s assertion that Atlantis was destroyed some 9,000 years before he was writing. However Spartel Island appears to have been much smaller than would be expected of Atlantis and no trace of man-made structures has been found.

Thera / Santorini

According to this theory, the legend of Atlantis is a misreporting of the ancient Minoan civilisation. The Minoans were based in Crete and some 75km to the north of Crete was the island group called Thera (or Thira). Today this is more commonly referred to as Santorini.

The islands that make up Santorini are volcanic. The main volcano erupted massively at some point during the period 1650 to 1600 BCE. This eruption destroyed the main city on the island and the resulting tidal wave and climate changes might have been significant factors in the downfall of the Minoan civilisation. For this theory to be accurate Plato must have been seriously misinformed, having both the location and date wrong.

Does Atlantis Exist?

Did Atlantis ever really exist? Was it just a folk tale that caught on? Or perhaps just a metaphorical setting invented by Plato? No-one knows.

If there was indeed a civilisation as advanced as the Atlantean one was reputed to be then it is surprising that no confirmed traces have ever been found. However the oceans of the world are very large and there’s a great deal down there that we have yet to explore.

Whatever the truth behind the legends, the allure of possible vast riches and ancient wisdom will probably mean that people continue to search for Atlantis for many years to come.