Plato’s Account of Atlantis
The myth of Atlantis was first described by Plato (427-347 BCE), citing his source as Solon (615-545 BCE), a politician and poet who did a lot of traveling. Solon apparently got his information from Egypt. The Egyptian priests informed Solon that around 9570 BCE, there was already a great civilization at Athens that the present Greeks have already forgotten. The society was ruled by warriors who loved the simple, communal lifestyle and had no interest in great wealth. They had been able to defend the city against the island continent of Atlantis, which lay west beyond the Pillars of Heracles (Straits of Gibraltar) and was ruled by a coalition of kings descended from the sea god, Poseidon, and whose chief king was Poseidon’s son, Atlas.
The Atlanteans were at one point almost godlike in their purity of heart, but they became greedy and corrupt over time. They ruled an empire stretching as far as central Italy in Europe to the borders of Egypt in Africa, but grew even greedier and sought to conquer the Athenians, but were defeated. As the war ended, the gods decided to punish the Atlanteans for their pride, and over the course of a day and a night, violent earthquakes and floods swept the island and destroyed it.
The account Plato gives in Critias describes the Atlantean society. The island had virtually everything the Altanteans needed to remain self sufficient from fresh water, abundance in metal ores, luxuriant vegetation, and animals including elephants. As a result, the kings of Atlantis were quite wealthy. Each had its own royal city, but the greatest city was that ruled by the descendents of Atlas.
Truth or Fiction?
The account given by Plato is quite tame compared to modern sci fi authors. There were no flying machines, civilians with psychic powers, or hints that the Atlanteans could manipulate cosmic forces. However, the elaborate wealth of the civilization led Plato’s ex-pupil, Aristotle, to reject the story entirely. It is also odd that Plato would have made up the story.
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