Let’s Visit Atlantis!

Let’s take a little weekend getaway.  I say we go to Atlantis.  Let me get the map first…

Hmm… Well, since apart from Northing being down this map seems to be fairly easy to read.  It seems as though Atlantis is a giant island in the middle of the Atlantic betwixt Africa and the Iberian Peninsula and the Americas.  Should be easy to get to.  Problem with that statement, there is no island that large in the middle of the Atlantic.  I have flown over the Pond several of times and I have never seen any large island.  So, if it is not there, where is it?  This week’s Fun Fact Friday will be a bit of an adventure in finding the lost island of Atlantis.

The first time that this island was ever mentioned is by Plato.  I have read a lot of Plato being a philosopher and out of all the dialogues it is only mentioned in the Timeaus and in the Critias.  These dialogues place the island somewhere in the Atlantic much like the map above does.  Also, like the map, it says that it faces tà Gádeira.  That particular place is in fact in modern day Spain and is now called Cádiz.  That would mean that it would most likely have been in the Atlantic and somewhat close to Spain.  Given that you would think that there would be remains of this sunken city that could easily be found.  Every map that I have seen places it somewhere in the Atlantic close to Spain. Plato gives us another clue in his dialogues as to its location.  However, It gets a bit tricky when it comes to the next clue.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Strait_of_gibraltar.jpg

Plato places Atlantis beyond the Pillars of Hercules.  What does that mean and where are they?  It is pretty much agreed upon that the Pillars of Hercules two points on either side of the Strait of Gibraltar.  Which would place it some where in water in the lower left of this picture from NASA, most likely further out in the Atlantic.  The northern “pillar” is not much of a debate as most people agree that it is what is called the Rock of Gibraltar.  It is the southern “pillar” that is up for debate.  Most people place it as either Monte Hacho of Ceuta or Jebel Mesa of Morocco.  Either is possible since both are across from the Rock of Gibraltar.  If I had to say one way or the other, I would say it is probably Jebel Mesa simply because it is the easiest thing to see from the Rock of Gibraltar.  It is also quite a bit taller than Monte Hacho and stands out easily from the surrounding countryside.  The term “Pillars of Hercules” comes from the myth of the Twelve Labours of Hercules and this particular one is that these Pillars marked the farthest west that he ever went.  The areas surrounding Gibraltar and the coastal are of Africa has been settled for quite a long time, even going back as far as the Ancient Greeks.  There is really no debate on that part either.  The term has been used for centuries and I do not see a reason to believe that the Pillars of Hercules would be anyplace else.

With all of this information pointing to the ruins of Atlantis being in the Atlantic outside of the Strait of Gibraltar it leaves one a little confused as to why there are no ruins left from this civilization.  Where did it go when it sank?  Surely the ruins would be somewhere on the seafloor.  Not so fast!  There is one thing that people seem to forget when they go searching about and insisting that Atlantis was a real location.  If you actually read the Platonic dialogues you discover that Plato never says that the island ever existed.  It is true!  Plato used this mythical utopic island as an allegory.  Amazingly, people understood that back then and over the years have forgotten about that fact.  Even other people that I was in my philosophy classes with seemed to have either forgotten that or not even really read the dialogues.  So where did he get the idea for the “fall of Atlantis”?  Well, from what I can gather it was probably inspired by an actual event that took place around the time that Plato was writing.  This was the destruction of the city of Helike.  Helike was thought to not exist, but in 2001 an excavation in Achaea proved otherwise.  Atlantis sank after failing to invade Athens and this was probably inspired by an actual event as well, the Athenian attempt to invade Sicily between 415 BC and 413 BC which was a failure.

There are other theories that say that Atlantis is located elsewhere.  Actually, there are a lot of them and if I went to just introduce them this post would be a lot longer than it already is.  That being said, I do not really put much stock into them since Plato is the one that came up with the concept of Atlantis and he gives very specific locations as to where it is located.  That location would be in the Atlantic Ocean outside of the Strait of Gibraltar.  Since it never existed in the first place it seems a bit silly to argue over where it is or was.

So, there you have it.  You now know a bit more about Atlantis.  I hope you all enjoyed it.  This particular Fun Fact was inspired by a very brief passing mention in a conversation that I had with some friends last night at a church banquet.  There is your story José.  Enjoy it.

Until next time!

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