Very few places have inspired the amount of fascination that Atlantis has, which is funny considering Atlantis is totally fictional… or is it? Believe it or not, some people think it existed at some point in time. Atlantis isn’t just an underwater kingdom. It’s a story written by a timeless philosopher born before Christ that tells the story of how a superior race of beings ended up underwater. Then again, they might not have been superior at all. Most cultures have a variation on Atlantis, and a lot of fictional universes have some callback to it. We’re going to talk about that in a bit, but first, we need to paint a picture of what Atlantis looked like and who lived there.
Atlantis is a lot more than just an allegory, or even an underwater kingdom that may be out there, waiting to be discovered somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean. It’s a testament to how a story thousands of years old can survive the test of time, to the point where other writers and storytellers can put their own spin on it. It shows how philosophy can be taught to us with a simple, cool story, and how even underwater kingdoms can serve as political propaganda. This isn’t even getting into Atlantis’ influence on pop culture. There’s a lot to unpack here, so we’re just going to jump right in: here are a few things you need to know about the lost city of Atlantis.
15. Atlantis Was Huge
Per the original writer of the Atlantis story, Atlantis was a giant city to the point where the size almost seems impossible to our modern ears. “For the ocean, there was at that time navigable; for in front of the mouth which you Greeks call, as you say, ‘the pillars of Heracles,’ (i.e., Hercules) there lay an island which was larger than Libya and Asia together.” Think about that. Even with the limited scope of the geography that people had during the time of the ancient Greeks when the story was written, Libya and Asia combined is still a pretty sizable city. Considering the sheer mythological presence of Atlantis, it’s no surprise that the city is huge, but imagine how big it must have seemed to the ancient Greeks. This also raises the question of the original Atlantis being an underwater city, because “an island” doesn’t exactly scream below sea level. These weird disparities are part of the reason why people haven’t found the island yet.
14. Poseidon Built It
Atlantis isn’t just a huge city, it’s literally a labor of love. According to the original legend, the city of Atlantis was built by Poseidon. This might not seem like a total surprise considering that Poseidon is the sea god, but it might come as a surprise that he built it to impress a regular human woman named Cleito. He built it on a big hill nearby, named it Atlantis, but before he did that, he walked through the world, looking for the biggest island he could find. When he found the island, he saw a bunch of people that were more beautiful and intelligent than anyone else in the world. That’s where he saw his future wife and fell head over heels for her. This might be considered a weird kind of relationship goal, to be honest. It must be kind of awesome to meet a guy who builds an elaborate, gargantuan city for you, and can destroy your enemies. It’s kind of like a deity themed way of finding you a guy who can do both.
13. Plato First Told The Story
Plato wrote the story of Atlantis, which isn’t surprising as a lot of interesting and cool philosophy comes from him. The story comes from a document called the Timaeus, which was a Socratic dialogue written around 360 BC that was about the “perfect” state. Plato put forth the story of Atlantis, which has been read and translated over the millennia. He began by describing Atlantis as in the mysterious Atlantic Ocean and the size of Libya and Asia combined, and then launched into a description of Atlantis’s empire. “Now in this island of Atlantis there was a great and wonderful empire which 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 Heracles as far as Egypt, and of Europe as far as Tyrrhenia.” Even by today’s standards, that’s a pretty big empire.
12. The Hill Of Cleito
The Hill of Cleito was where Poseidon’s mortal wife lived in Atlantis. She was the woman he’d built Atlantis for. When they got married, he built her a house on that hill, and by all accounts, she lived quite well. She had five sets of twin boys by Poseidon, one of which was Atlas, the king of Atlantis, who had a ton of sons of his own. That hill was where the palace ended up being built. The city was ruled by ten rulers to represent Atlas and his nine other brothers, and they had absolute power. However, with power comes responsibility, and eventually, things started to go south when the laws Poseidon cast down started to get forgotten. The rulers of Atlantis ended up acting a lot more like humans and a lot less like gods, which is what they were. There’s a lot to get into on that one, but we’ll do that later as we learn more about Atlantis. There’s another theory that Poseidon imprisoned Cleito there because he didn’t trust her, which is the opposite of relationship goals.
11. Statues Of Gold
Remember those five pairs of twins we mentioned earlier? When they weren’t busy running the city and eventually forgetting the rules of their father, they were building temples. The ten of them built a gargantuan temple for Poseidon and topped it off with a giant statue of him in a chariot being driven around by winged horses. The statue hasn’t been found because Atlantis is a story, but it was fabled to have been built entirely in gold. That giant gold statue was placed in a temple that had a roof that spiraled up so high, that it split the clouds apart. We come from a culture that knows how to get extravagant when it comes to our houses of worship. If you don’t believe me, check out any Catholic cathedral or evangelical super-church. However, no matter how extravagant we are with our churches, there’s no way they’d even come close to what this temple looked like.
10. The People Of Atlantis Were Rich (And Giant)
It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that a culture that was building huge temples with golden statues had a lot of money. However, the sheer scope of that wealth might be a little much to quantify in our heads. This city was rich enough that it didn’t need to trade with others to get by. It was totally self-sufficient, and the people in the city grew their own food. They also raised animals for food or other purposes. They had a ton of rare metals and the means to produce alloys like brass, which is no small accomplishment. Additionally, they made crystals for fun, which is a weird sort of hobby, but they at least had the leisure time to make them, unlike a lot of other societies where everyone had to work to survive. Some citizens of Atlantis even had the stones to play around and experiment with volcanoes!
9. There’s A Book About Atlantis
A historian named Edgar Cayce went out of his way to find out everything worth knowing about the lost city of Atlantis. It took him years, but when he found out everything he needed to know, he wrote a book about it. The book is called Edgar Cayce On Atlantis, and it’s a very interesting read. In the book, he talks about how the lost city of Atlantis will rise again, “like the sun rises from the sea.” He also got into certain details about the city, like how the entry to the hall of records of the city can be found around the right paw of the sphinx of Egypt. That sphinx was evidently placed there to protect them city from people entering before their time. According to his book, entry into Atlantis will only happen at the right time. There are a ton of books about Atlantis, but this one of the books that explores the idea of Atlantis being a real, physical place.
8. Aliens Lived There
According to theorists, there’s a good chance that everyone who called themselves ‘Atlanteans’ could also call themselves aliens. Their physiology seems totally different from the physiology of normal humans. They are believed to be a lot taller and fairer skinned than normal humans. According to legend, the aliens came here around 50,000 years ago from somewhere called the Lyran star system. The average life span of ‘Atlanteans’ was something like eight hundred years, and they were incredibly healthy and strong. They could be considered a prototype for our human race, but everything about the ‘Atlanteans’ screams that they might be aliens. Luckily, they’re less like monsters and more like Tolkien’s race of elves.
7. These Aliens Were Crazy Powerful
The ‘Atlanteans’ weren’t just superhuman physically, they had special powers, too. The general theory is that they could do crazy things, like control the weather, mess with natural disasters and even manipulate the fabric of time and space. They’d use their abilities to do things like cause thunderstorms simply because they liked thunderstorms better than clear weather. I don’t know about you, but the more I learn about the ‘Atlanteans,’ the more I realize that they might just be Plato’s version of the X-Men. The X-Men were also created to make a political point like the ‘Atlanteans’ were. The X-Men were about highlighting social injustice while the ‘Atlanteans’ were about painting a picture of a perfect society that’s eventually doomed because of their own pride.
6. Then Again, They Might Not
For everyone who thinks the ‘Atlanteans’ were superhuman and even demigod-like, there’s another person who thinks that ‘Atlanteans’ were just your average barbarians. After all, their society was certainly not perfect, and it does fall eventually. We touched upon the fact that the ‘Atlanteans’ were created to make a political point earlier, and that point might be driven home even harder if the ‘Atlanteans’ are less than superhuman. The story illustrates how even the most average society can create something great and legendary, but that same society can drive their creations right into the ground, too. They might be beyond what we can comprehend, but even things that are beyond what we understand can be barbaric in nature, and that barbarism can’t be canceled out. This makes sense for the Greeks, who had gods who were just as flawed and fallible as any human, perhaps worse.
5. No One Knows Where It Might Have Stood
It’s almost impossible to know where Atlantis might have stood. For one, the city is fictional, and for another, there is no land mass that’s anything like what’s described in the myth of Atlantis. According to Plato, Atlantis was a big island the size of Libya and Asia combined, which is pretty sizable even given the limited scope of the world for the time period. He also said it was somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean. Not surprisingly, current technology is unable to pick up on a city in the ocean. That hasn’t stopped believers though: Atlantis is protected from prying eyes, after all. There was a point where people believed that Atlantis rested in a place called the Azores, but that theory has been debunked thanks to new research, which puts Atlantis somewhere in Spain or Morocco’s waters.
4. Atlantis In Pop Culture
Atlantis has been a fixture in pop culture for some time now. It’s shown up as a location in countless anime and manga and was even the focus of an acclaimed Disney movie. Atlantis was also the focus of a lot of books at the turn of the 20th century when genre literature was starting to become a thing. One good example of that is Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Since then, other authors have put their own spin on the tale, like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Eoin Colfer, and Neil Gaiman. This is putting aside all the movies that have been made, including the Disney film Atlantis: The Lost Empire. There’s also The Little Mermaid‘s interpretation of the city. As for TV, shows like American Dragon: Jake Long and Doctor Who have also put their own interpretations in Atlantis.
3. Scientists Don’t Believe It
Considering that the story of Atlantis is a fictional story told by a Greek philosopher, it should come as no surprise that scientists don’t believe it ever existed. Science tends to shine its cold, bright lights on anything truly fantastical or even fun. Sure, some scientists are actively trying to find the place, but most scientists are confident that an underwater kingdom made by gods is not a thing. After all, Atlantis was never meant to be a real place. It was supposed to be a way for Plato to illustrate some moral truths and paint the picture of what happens with truly Utopian societies. Making Atlantis a real place violates the spirit of Plato’s original story. According to L. Sprague de Camp in his book Lost Continents: The Atlantis Theme in History, Science, and Literature: “you cannot change all the details of Plato’s story and still claim to have Plato’s story. That is like saying the legendary King Arthur is ‘really’ Cleopatra; all you have to do is to change Cleopatra’s sex, nationality, period, temperament, moral character, and other details, and the resemblance becomes obvious.”
2. There’s A Moral To The Story
Atlantis was never about ‘Atlanteans.’ Rather, Plato used his underwater utopia to tell a story about a seemingly Utopian but morally bankrupt society being overcome by a smaller force of people trying to do good things: the Athenians. Ken Feder, the author of Frauds, Myths and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology, summarizes the story well: “A technologically sophisticated but morally bankrupt evil empire — Atlantis — attempts world domination by force. The only thing standing in its way is a relatively small group of spiritually pure, morally principled and incorruptible people — the ancient Athenians. Overcoming overwhelming odds … the Athenians can defeat their far more powerful adversary simply through the force of their spirit. Sound familiar? Plato’s ‘Atlantean’ dialogues are essentially an ancient Greek version of ‘Star Wars.'” ‘Atlanteans’ weren’t just people with superhuman abilities, they were conquerors, and if Atlantis was real, they’d want to crush us like bugs. Let’s be happy it’s not, then.
1. People Love Atlantis
Even though ‘Atlanteans’ would have wanted us subjugated to their will, people still love the idea of Atlantis. Atlantis is one of those myths that took on a life of its own after Plato first told the tale. Plato would roll over in his grave if he saw how we were interpreting the Atlantis story, and he wouldn’t want us idealizing them. If anything, he’d want us to want to be less like the ‘Atlanteans’ and more like the Athenians who took them down and set in motion the eventual sinking of the city. The lost city of Atlantis has never been lost. It can be found in Plato’s original tale and the different interpretations of Atlantis that have shown up throughout the course of time. We might be better off learning about the story and what it means than trying to find the place. A place doesn’t have to be physically real for it to be real.
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