Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Atlantis - Part 1

Last night, after our usual Buddhist meeting, a few of my friends and I went out for a drink and we got caught up in a debate about many topics; among which Atlantis.

I have spent years researching the topic and have previously written a number of articles about the subject. My AdlandPro friends will have read these articles already ... but my new friends haven't so, I am reposting them here in Facebook.

The lost continent of Atlantis has been the topic of speculation for decades. Theories are abundant all over the world but not one has ever provided concrete, substantial, evidence of its whereabouts or even of its existence at all.

There are theories that Atlantis is to be found near Crete, another that claims it is in South China Sea somewhere, another saying that it lays under Antarctica and yet another near the Açores. There is, also, a theory that Atlantis never even existed at all.

All the information available on this topic is too vast but I will put together a 2 or 3 part condensed series to help you come to your own conclusions. The ultimate decision to believe what you will is up to you.

The first ever documented reporting of Atlantis dates back to 355 BC with the philosopher Plato, who was a student of Socrates until the latter died in 399 BC, after which time Plato travelled extensively, especially throughout Egypt. In 387 BC, Plato founded an academy for science and philosophy that became the model of modern day universities. His most famous student was probably Aristotle whose philosophies prevail in modern day societies.

Two of his Platos’ dialogues, Timeaus and Critias, hold the only known original references to the island of Atlantis, which is said to have existed 9000 years before Plato’s time and, which apparently had been forgotten by his current Athenian society. These dialogues are, basically, conversations between Socrates, Hermocrates, Timeaus, and Critias about ideal societies and Plato’s way of airing his discord about Athenean ruling of his time.

In the dialogues, Egyptian priests conveyed the story of Atlantis to Solon. Solon passed the tale to Dropides, the great-grandfather of Critias and Critias learned of it from his grandfather also named Critias, son of Dropides.

Here is one of the extracts from the dialogue that refers to Atlantis:

Many great and wonderful deeds are recorded of your state in our histories. But one of them exceeds all the rest in greatness and valour. For these histories tell of a mighty power which unprovoked made an expedition against the whole of Europe and Asia, and to which your city put an end. This power came forth out of the Atlantic Ocean, for in those days the Atlantic was navigable; and there was an island situated in front of the straits which are by you called the Pillars of Hercules; the island was larger than Libya and Asia put together, and was the way to other islands, and from these you might pass to the whole of the opposite continent which surrounded the true ocean; for this sea which is within the Straits of Hercules is only a harbour, having a narrow entrance, but that other is a real sea, and the surrounding land may be most truly called a boundless continent.

Now in this island of Atlantis there was a great and wonderful empire that had rule over the whole island and several others, and over parts of the continent, and, furthermore, the men of Atlantis had subjected the parts of Libya within the columns of Hercules as far as Egypt, and of Europe as far as Tyrrhenia. This vast power, gathered into one, endeavoured to subdue at a blow our country and yours and the whole of the region within the straits; and then, Solon, your country shone forth, in the excellence of her virtue and strength, among all mankind. She was pre-eminent in courage and military skill, and was the leader of the Hellenes. And when the rest fell off from her, being compelled to stand alone, after having undergone the very extremity of danger, she defeated and triumphed over the invaders, and preserved from slavery those who were not yet subjugated, and generously liberated all the rest of us who dwell within the pillars.

But afterwards there occurred violent earthquakes and floods; and in a single day and night of misfortune all your warlike men in a body sank into the earth, and the island of Atlantis in like manner disappeared in the depths of the sea. For which reason 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. (Bibliography: Timaeus & Critias – Plato)

The fact that the Atlantic ocean is mentioned, by name, and the fact that the “Pillars of Hercules", referred to here, is what we now call the Straight of Gibralta, coupled with the fact that Plato spent most of his travelling time in Egypt and the evidence suggesting that the tale was handed down by an Egyptian priest, rules out any possibility of Atlantis lying anywhere other than the Atlantic Ocean and close to that side of Europe, undermining the theory of Atlantis being in the Indies and the South China Sea.

The story continues:

Poseidon had established that nation and fathered five sets of twins on the island. The firstborn, Atlas, had the continent and the surrounding ocean named for him. Poseidon divided the land into ten sections, each to be ruled by a son, or his heirs.

This suggests that Atlantis was a very large continent and not a mere drop in the ocean but it also contradicts slightly with Plato’s account of the island being 300 miles long and 200 miles wide, (480 km by 320 kms).

However, another theory, according to Rainer Kühne, a German physicist, satellite photos of southern Spain suggest that the “island” of Atlantis was in fact a region of the southern Spanish coast that was destroyed by a flood between 800 B.C. and 500 B.C. The only problem is that Plato wrote about it in 355 BC and it is said to have existed 9000 years prior to that, so for this theory the dates do not coincide.

Ulf Erlingsson, a Swedish geographer, believes Plato combined elements from different times and places in the background description for his utopia. The distribution of the Atlantean empire seems to match that of the megaliths (large rough stone monuments) in Western Europe and North Africa. The geographic description of the island Atlantis, he suggests, is based on an island that is still standing today—Ireland, that shares the same dimensions and features a central plain that is open to the sea.

“I have looked at geographical data of the whole world. Of the 50 largest islands, Ireland is the only one that matches Plato’s description of the landscape,” he added.

The only problem with this theory is that Ireland has never suffered any serious enough volcanic activity said to have destroyed the lost continent.

So where is Atlantis? We know it is somewhere in the Atlantic sea, but where?

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