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article imageBehind the Atlantis myth: Isn't there any truth?

By Eko Armunanto     May 29, 2013 in Science
Ever since the first recorded history of Atlantis, written by the Greek philosopher Plato over 2,360 years ago, debate has raged as to whether or not Atlantis ever really existed. Why some of us still search for the answer to this mystery?
Plato described Atlantis as an extraordinary Utopian society, thriving around 9,600 BC, which valued peace, art and wisdom, possessed advanced technological knowledge for the time, and enjoyed riches beyond that of any subsequent civilization. Atlantis was said to have been the nearest thing to paradise that the earth has seen. The land was said to have been very fertile, with abundant food, water, animals, wood, and flowers. But, as the story goes, after several generations of ruling the leaders became increasingly greedy and corrupt, and started to wage war on their neighboring countries. They conquered parts of North Africa and Europe and were about to attack Egypt and Athens, when the Athenian army valiantly drove them back and defeated them. It is shortly after this victory by the Athenians that violent and devastating earthquake, and the resulting tidal waves and floods, destroyed the Athenian army, as well as the entire Island continent of Atlantis, submerging it beneath the sea in a single day and night.
Atlantis has been so intriguing, Hollywood movies such as Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001), Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959), and 10,000 BC (2008) – just to name a few, were all inspired by, or based on, the Plato’s Atlantis. All the evidences to confirm its existence must be out there waiting, said those who argue that Plato’s name would have been forgotten centuries ago if his writing had not contained so much truth about human condition. Some people view Atlantis as fiction while others believed it’s real.
The existence of the lost world Atlantis has only been examined through some of its earliest commentators, especially Crantor and Posidonius, who both supported Plato to different extent – instead of by archeological artifacts. The great ancient geographer Strabo made his only mention of Atlantis, discussing the lost work of Posidonius, in a passage discussing earthquakes:
“However, he (Posidonius) is right in attributing to earthquakes and other similar causes, which we also have enumerated, the risings, slips, and changes which at various periods come over the earth. He did well, too, in citing the opinion of Plato, that the tradition concerning the Island of Atlantis might be received as something more than a mere fiction, it having been related by Solon on the authority of the Egyptian priests, that this island, almost as large as a continent, was formerly in existence, although now it had disappeared.” – Strabo Geography by H.C. Hamilton and W. Falconer, M.A., Ed
Professor N. Boneff, who held the Chair of Astronomy at the University of Sofia, and was a member of the Bulgarian Institute of Astronomy, wrote an essay “An Asteroid as the Possible Cause of the Atlantis Catastrophe” saying his work was to show that the catastrophe of Atlantis could well have been due to extra territorial causes. “We have naturally supposed that the Atlantis Myth is not totally without historical basis. It appears Aristotle did not believe it, while Posidonius felt Plato's story could be based on facts,” he wrote.
Atlantis’ evidences are also explained in a website claims itself as The Official Authorized Website of Egerton Sykes’ Atlantology, of which one passage says:
“In the March 1956 issue of Atlantis, Robert A. Bradley published Ancient Hindu Astronomy. The Hindu acknowledges Asuramaya of Atlantis as the compiler of tables on which their astronomy is based. Asuramaya credits them to Narada, who either evolved them or gave credit in such a manner than the historians failed to record it. The Hindu claim to have traced the course of human events back 1700 million years ago — a period that includes three major catastrophes that depopulated the Earth without greatly altering its orbital characteristics. The records are admittedly broken by long periods of silence due to the necessity of each succeeding civilization learning out of its own experiences, and learning how to interpret the scattered records of the preceding civilization that frequently perished before the new races were born.”
The website says Egerton Sykes (1894-1983) was not only the creator of the largest private collection on Atlantis in the world, he was also a mythologist, amateur archaeologist, writer, and editor, who prided himself on knowing every scientist around the world in the field of Atlantology from 1912 to 1950. It defines Atlantology as a science of cooperation, in that scholars in many diverse fields, including anthropology, archaeology, astronomy, biology, cartography, classical literature, diffusionism, Egyptology, geography, geology, history, Hoerbiger’s Theory, linguistics, mathematics, metaphysics, mythology, oceanography, and religion, all contribute to the subject.
“But unfortunately, early in its development, Atlantology was kidnapped by occultists and spiritualists, and the world of science, wrestling with their own growing pains, merely looked over their shoulders, shrugged, and kept single-mindedly moving forward. It was survival of the fittest in the big bad world, and the underdeveloped Atlantology was forced to remain in the dust for almost a century. It was well known that the study of Atlantology would endanger one’s reputation as a scientist,” it further explains.
There are many theories about where Atlantis was—in the Mediterranean, off the coast of Spain, even under what is now Antarctica. “Pick a spot on the map, and someone has said that Atlantis was there,” says Charles Orser, curator of history at the New York State Museum in Albany, cited by National Geography.
Contrary to the notion that Plato’s name would have been forgotten centuries ago if his writing had not contained so much truth about human condition, James Romm, a professor of classics at Bard College in Annandale, New York, said Plato created the story of Atlantis to convey some of his philosophical theories.
“He was dealing with a number of issues, themes that run throughout his work. His ideas about divine versus human nature, ideal societies, and the gradual corruption of human society—these ideas are all found in many of his works. Atlantis was a different vehicle to get at some of his favorite themes,” he said.
Atlantis inspires today's literature, from science fiction to comic books to films. Its name has become a byword for any and all supposed advanced prehistoric lost civilizations. “Modern interpretations regarding Atlantis are an amalgamation of diverse, speculative movements that began in the 16th century” said Kenneth L. Feder, Ph.D, a professor of archaeology at Central Connecticut State University who was asked by a producer to put together a documentary about Atlantis for ABC, to follow the release of the network's parent company, Disney's, animated feature Atlantis: The Lost Empire.
In his book “Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology” – McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. November 2007, the professor takes a skeptical look at what he calls “outrageous claims” in the field of archaeology. He explains archaeological myths and misunderstandings by comparing phenomena that might otherwise appear unexplainable to similar occurrences and events that are scientifically documented.
The possible existence of a genuine Atlantis was discussed throughout classical age, also known as “antiquity period”, but it was usually rejected and occasionally parodied by later authors. “It is only in modern times that people have taken the Atlantis story seriously; no one did so in antiquity” – Alan Cameron, Greek Mythography in the Roman World, Oxford University Press (2004).
For those who believe Atlantis as nothing more than a great story, as Plato himself was being known as a master storyteller at the time, the biggest problem is the time period given to the Atlantis (9,600BC) along with its technologically-advanced human race. Compared to contemporary historical accounts, the earliest Neolithic Revolution, which has scientifically been accepted as The Rising of Civilization, began on the development of agriculture around 8,000 BC. Plato claimed that the story of the lost continent was derived from ancient Egyptian records, but in fact no such records have ever come to light, nor has any direct mention of Atlantis been found in any surviving records made before Plato's time. Every book and article on Atlantis that has ever been published has been based on Plato's account; subsequent authors have merely interpreted or added to it.
“If you are a non-scientist and support the idea that Atlantis was possible, you are confused. If you insist Atlantis was real, you are a ‘crackpot’ and might be asked if you also believe in the Tooth Fairy, Mother Goose or some other nursery rhyme character. If you are a scientist and you discuss the possible past reality of Atlantis, you may lose credibility in your field, may lose funding or worse. All of these supporters of the possible validity of Atlantis are also subject to ridicule,” says Rod Martin, Jr in Atlantis and the Art of Skepticism.
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