We have all heard of Atlantis, the legendary island that sank into the sea in a single day and night. But who came up with it, was Atlantis a real place, and is there more to the story than this?
We get the story of Atlantis from the Greek philosopher Plato. Really, from two of his writings, Timaeus and Critias. The books date to around 360 BC.
In them, Plato wrote that the Greek sage Solon was given the story in Egypt by a priest. Upon his return, Solon shared the story with his relative Dropides. Then Dropides passed it down to his son Critias, who told his grandson, also named Critias, who finally shared it with the philosopher Socrates and others who were present.
This list should not be taken as historical fact but as a true account of what Plato wrote. Whether we decide to believe in the legend is our own choice, but we can probably agree that this might have been the first recorded game of telephone.
10. We Know The Location
Many books and TV shows have been made about the possible location of Atlantis. A quick Google search will show that some people say Santorini is Atlantis, while others believe that the waters off Bimini are hiding a road to the lost city. However, if we look at Plato’s text, it tells us where the submerged island once stood.
The text reads that Atlantis “came forth out of the Atlantic Ocean.” It goes on to say that “there was an island situated in front of the straits which are by you [referring to ancient Greeks], called the Pillars of Heracles.”
Today, we call these the Straits of Gibraltar, where Spain and Africa are separated by a narrow strip of sea. While not quite GPS coordinates, this narrows the island’s location down from a tourist trap in the Bahamas.
In 2011, University of Hartford archaeologist Richard Freund and his team found “memorial cities,” or cities that were built in the image of Atlantis. The series of cities were found buried in the swamps of Donana National Park, just north of Cadiz, Spain.
As it turns out, Cadiz sits right outside the straits. This has Freund convinced that the real Atlantis was buried in the mud flats of the Atlantic. His findings match the story’s text that “the sea in those parts is impassable and impenetrable, because there is a shoal of mud in the way; and this was caused by the subsidence of the island.”
Cadiz is also said to be one of the oldest cities still standing in Western Europe. It is believed to have been built by the Phoenicians around 700 BC, but some records claim the city goes as far back as 1100 BC. Greek myth says that the city dates back even before this.
Why is this important? Long ago, the city’s name was Gades. This is convenient since the text tells of an Atlantean prince called Gadeirus by the prehistoric citizens of Gades. He was given the far eastern side of Atlantis.
This part of the island would have faced modern-day Cadiz. That’s why the story says that Cadiz, or Gades, was named after the prince. Of course, Plato wrote all this at least 340 years after the city’s founding, so maybe he was being liberal when he was naming Atlantean princes.