The Lost City of Atlantis

Words: 1602
Topic: History
Updated:

The existence of the Lost City of Atlantis has been written about by several authors ranging from psychics {such as Edgar Cayce and Rudolph Steiner} and historians {like Lewis Spence and Diodorus Siculus} to treasure-hunters {such as Mannannan Osin and Cuchulain Fionn} and scholars {like David Zink and Ignatius Donelly}.

All these writings have one thing in common: they are not primary accounts but later versions based on a single primary account.

The only primary account of the Lost City of Atlantis comes from Greek scholar Plato who wrote about it in Critias and Timaeus in 355 B.C. Plato declared that Atlantis was a large island that existed in the Atlantic Ocean 9,000 years before his time. He went on to provide a detailed description of its geography, people and government (Andrews, 6&7).

Over the years, the Lost City of Atlantis went on to develop into a legend that has not only thrilled scholars, but the general public too. Its allure has been exacerbated ever since the 1970 television series Man from Atlantis starring Patrick Duffy as a charismatic web-footed hero who could survive underwater turned out to be a blockbuster hit (Wheeler & Phillips).

Even countries have added to its fame with the U.S naming one of its space shuttles Atlantis, and the Bahamas designating one of its exotic islands’ names as Atlantis Paradise. Computer technology has predictably cashed in on its popularity by coming up with computer games like The Rise of Atlantis, Atlantis Quest and Jewel of Atlantis.

However the tendency of scholars as well as the people of the world has so far been to view Plato’s primary account as fiction. This perception has suddenly changed in the light of two startling discoveries made earlier this year.

Plato declared that Atlantis was a huge and strong city that existed on an Atlantic Ocean island. He went on to describe its location as lying to the west of the ‘Pillars of Hercules’ {modern-day Gibraltar Strait}. Atlantis was originally established by Poseidon, the Greek God of the Sea.

The city derived its name from ‘Atlas’ which was the name of Poseidon’s eldest son {Poseidon had ten sons in the form of five twins}. Poseidon separated the city into ten parts, and allowed his ten sons to rule each of them (Krystek).

Plato described the structure of the city of Atlantis as an astonishing engineering and architectural wonder. The city comprised a large number of well-designed roads, buildings and other structures that were surrounded by several unique circular walls and canals. Prominently located in the middle of the city was a hill.

A temple dedicated to Poseidon was constructed on top of the hill. An important feature of the temple was a magnificent gold statue of Poseidon driving a six-winged horse chariot (Krystek).

Atlantis and its inhabitants existed for several years during which they earned the favor of the Greek Gods. This ideal state of affairs began to change when the people deviated from the path of morality and started increasingly succumbing to greed and corruption. The Greek Gods responded by becoming more and more angry upon noticing the devious behavior of the people.

Their anger reached such great proportions that the Gods did not respond by just punishing the erring people by unleashing penalties that could be severe {like starvation or disease} but limited in nature, but decided to hand down complete and total destruction and annihilation (Krystek).

The severe punishment of the Greek Gods on the people of Atlantis took the form of a massive earthquake which made the land tremble mightily, followed by a huge flood involving gigantic waves from the surrounding ocean that swept inland, totally destroying everything in its path.

The twin catastrophes caused the entire city to sink to the ocean floor. Neither the city of Atlantis nor any of its inhabitants were ever seen again since that disaster which Plato said took place around 90 centuries before his time (Krystek).

From the time Plato described the Lost City of Atlantis in 355 B.C., it acted as an irresistible magnet that drew people to search for it.

Several intensive studies of the Atlantic Ocean bed in the area around the Atlantic Ridge were carried out during which core samples, glacial residue, lava rock, coral sand deposits and plant growth were minutely examined.

While the studies claimed to indicate that parts of the Atlantic Ridge existed above the ocean surface before 10,000 B.C. (Andrews, 8), there was no evidence connecting it to the Lost City of Atlantis.

As the seemingly futile search for hard evidence continued, the allure of the Lost City of Atlantis did not match other existing legends such as the Bermuda Triangle mainly because there was no connecting physical evidence {for example, it is well known that several ships and aircraft have vanished without trace in the Bermuda Triangle}.

This perception of Atlantis underwent a radical change this year when not only were two startling discoveries made, but the second of the two discoveries unearthed the long-missing physical evidence.

The first discovery was made by an aeronautic engineer named Bernie Bamford. He claims to have found an island civilization in the shape of a triangle on the Atlantic Ocean floor near the Canary Islands off the African west coast. The triangle contains a grid of crisscrossing lines that resembles the map of a huge metropolitan city.

The immense size of the grid precludes it from having originated from natural causes. Bamford, who made the discovery in February this year, spotted it while browsing though Google Ocean, which utilizes a mixture of satellite photographs and marine surveys to come up with its information (Wheeler et al.).

Bamford estimates that the submerged civilization sank nearly 120 centuries ago {approximately 9,700 B.C.}. While Bamford’s discovery generated great interest all over the world, perhaps the best acclaim came from a person reputed to be among the world’s foremost scholars on Atlantis {Dr. Charles Orser, historical archaeology curator at New York State University}. Dr. Orser declared that the location of new discovery {620 miles off the west coast of Africa} closely matches the location of the city of Atlantis as described by Plato (Wheeler et al.).

The second discovery was made by the Pavlopetri team comprising British and Greek marine geologists and archaeologists. The discovery, also in 2009, while made with the help of digital technology, was aided by shifting sands on the ocean floor as well as the site’s enclosure in a secluded bay.

The team’s discovery marked the culmination of several years of hard work involving ineffectual attempts to correctly survey the site ever since it was first pinpointed by a British oceanographer four decades earlier (Smith).

The submerged civilization lies on the Atlantic Ocean bed off the town of Neapolis in South Greece. It covers an area of 30,000 square meters of land. It contains a well-planned network of buildings, roads, religious structures, tombs and courtyards.

In addition, a huge number of pottery pieces are strewn over the entire area. Experts have confirmed that several ceramic pottery pieces date 50 centuries back. The fact that the sunken city was not re-inhabited has caused the entire site to be considered as symbolizing a frozen moment of the past (Smith).

The most interesting part of the sunken city is an area of 9,000 square meters on which comparatively new buildings were constructed. The main structure in this area is a megaron, that is, a massive building with a huge hall in the shape of a rectangle.

The entire set up indicates that the area was evidently occupied by an elite section of society. The Pavlopetri team is presently working on several theories {such as sea level alterations, sudden ground collapse due to earthquake or tsunami} to find out why the city sank, but it is almost certain the cause was a combination of an earthquake and tsunami (Smith).

Global reaction to the Pavlopetri team’s discovery has predictably been characterized by enthusiastic interest not the least because of the hard evidence uncovered for the first time. Dr. John Henderson, associate professor of underwater archaeology at the University of Nottingham categorically and firmly declared what has been foremost on everyone’s mind: “There is no doubt that this is the oldest submerged city in the world. There are older sunken sites in the world, but nothing can be considered to be planned towns such as this, which is why it is unique” (Smith).

In conclusion, while the Bamford discovery is also good, it still needs to be authenticated by physical proof. As of now, there is no indication of how long it will take, or indeed if at all, such proof exists.

However, the Pavlopetri team’s discovery is exciting not only because of the physical evidence involved and its overall close resemblance to Plato’s description of Atlantis, but also due to the fact that it predates Plato’s time – the submerged city is estimated to have existed between 2,800 B.C. to 1,200 B.C.(Smith) while Plato’s lifetime was 429 B.C. to 347 B.C. (Andrews, 6).

Full-fledged efforts are currently under way by the Pavlopetri team to uncover as many details as possible from its discovery. While the search for the Lost City of Atlantis seems to have at last ended, it is hoped that the discovery is the harbinger of more such findings.

This wish is well articulated by Dimitris Sakellario of the Greek Institute of Oceanography: “Less than 1% of the world’s ocean floors have been surveyed. This [the Pavlopetri discovery] is an extraordinary find but there is still a lot more down there that has to be found” (Smith).

References

Andrews, Shirley. “Atlantis – Insights from a Lost Civilization.” USA: Llewellyn Publications. 2004.

Krystek, Lee. “The Lost Continent: Atlantis.” Unmuseum.org. 2006. 26 Nov. 2009.

Smith, Helena. “Lost Greek City that may have Inspired Atlantis Myth gives up Secrets.” Guardian.co.uk. 2009.

Wheeler, Virginia & Phillips, Rhodri. “Is this Atlantis?” The Sun Newspaper. 2009.