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Atlantis: We Will Never Know


Fantasy is a tough sell in the twentieth century.
The world has been fully discovered and fully mapped.
Popular media has effectively minimized the legend and the
fantastic rumor, though to make up for this it has
generated falsities not as lavish but just as interesting.
Satellites have mapped and studied the earth, leaving only
a space frontier that is as yet unreachable. But standing
out is a charming fantasy the modern world has yet to
verify or condemn: the lost continent of Atlantis.
The father of the modern world's perception of Atlantis is
Plato (circa 428- circa 347 BC). (1) The Greek philosopher
spoke in his works Timaeus and Critias of a continent in
the Atlantic ocean larger than Africa and Asia Minor
combined which rivaled Athens as the most advanced in the
world. (2) According to the legend surrounding Plato's
dialogues, the island of Atlantis was violently thrown into
the sea by the forces of nature, and its few survivors
managed to swim ashore and relate their story. (3) There
the legend was passed by word of mouth until an Egyptian
priest related the story to Solon, a character in Timaeus.
The priest admired the achievements of prehistoric
Athenians, because when the rulers of Atlantis threatened
to invade all of Europe and Asia the Athenians, on behalf
of all Greeks, defeated the Atlanteans to avoid
enslavement. (4)
The works of Plato opened the floodgates to endless
speculation on whether the continent described was fact or
fiction. Atlantis has since been placed in Spain, Mongolia,
Palestine, Nigeria, the Netherlands, Brazil, Sweden,
Greenland and Yucatan. Every nook and cranny of the globe
has been hypothesized; mountain peaks, desert lands, the
ocean floor and even the barren wasteland of Antarctica
have been mentioned in theories. (5)
While some of these theories are compatible with Plato's
works and are within relative reason, numerous crackpot
theories have been developed using the lost continent as a
basis. One of these theories, posted on the computer
internet where it has access to over fifteen million
people, talks in twenty-one pages of pre-historical lands
with names like Oz and Luxor. These world wide web pages
list over two hundred separate articles of proof for the
existence of Atlantis, as in the following: (6)
"Most all ancient civilizations believed in the TITANS, the
race of giant humans that inhabited Earth long ago.
Different races knew them by different names. These 7 to 12
foot humanoids were thought to be legendary until the
excavation of over a dozen skeletons 8 to 12 feet tall,
around the world, shocked archeologists. These skeletons
were positively human. Some of these skeletal remains are
on Maui, in lava caves, near Ulupalakua and Olowalu. The
Spanish Conquistadors left diaries of wild blond-haired,
blue-eyed 8 to 12 foot high men running around in the Andes
during the conquest of the Incas. A couple were reportedly
captured but died en route to Europe. 

If giant animals (dinosaurs) were possible then why not
giant men? And why are these goliaths populating both
Eurasia and the Americas? Only on a land bridge created by
the vast continent of Antarctica can there be a sufficient
bridge for the spread of these giants."(7)
This text, written by self-proclaimed Atlantologist Steve
Omar, represents Plato's text taken to the extreme- using
his ideas as a basis for outlandish and unfounded ideas.
These unverified fantasies make a dubious complement to the
other dark side of the Atlantean fantasy: hoaxes. Atlantis
has been "discovered" many times, but most notably in the
fall of 1912 by Dr. Paul Schliemann. Schliemann introduced
himself as the grandson of the famous Heinrich Schliemann,
the archeologist who discovered the ruins of ancient Troy
in 1873. His "discovery" made front page news (The New York
American, October 1912) and boasted of an advanced
civilization with aircraft, power-driven boats and the
like. Schliemann said his grandfather told him on his
deathbed of the family's secret: the location of Atlantis.
Schliemann's claims made waves, but didn't hold water; when
pressed for details, Schliemann was unresponsive and
eventually disappeared from public view. (8)
Unfortunately, the falsities concerning Atlantis frequently
overshadow the possibilities. The subject has gathered its
share of honest journalists as well. Ignatius Donnelly
wrote the first extensive study of the possibility of
existence in 1882, and his views have not been found to be
false with twentieth century technology. Donnelly believed
in Atlantis, but believed it to be worldly; his reasons for
Atlantis's existence are unable to be proven, but make
sense. Some examples: -There is nothing improbable in
Plato's narrative; it describes rich, cultured and educated
people but doesn't mention things of fantasy like giants,
hobgoblins etc. (9) -Plato speaks of hot and cold springs
in the center of Atlantis, a feature common to islands with
volcanic activity. Chances are Plato didn't know this. (9)
-Plato says in his stories that the Poseidon, the Greek god
of the sea, is always seen on a chariot with horses because
he was originally the god of Atlantis, where horses were
domesticated. But when Atlantis fell to the sea, the Greeks
believed Poseidon brought his horses with him. (9)
Responding partly to Donnelley's theories and partly to the
urge to discover, some 20th century archeologists have used
twentieth century technology to look for Atlantis. But many
have dismissed Atlantis as glorified myths of volcanic
eruptions in the island of Thera in 1450 BC. The eruption
may have destroyed that island and caused a small
earthquake and tsunamis that ruined the civilization of
Crete, but didn't sink a continent. (10)
Therefore, none of Donnelley's theories can be proved
without the actual discovery of the continent. The legend
of Atlantis is only a huge collection of theories and
guesses, but theories and guesses also led to the discovery
of the lost Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum,
discovered after being buried and preserved by the volcanic
ash of nearby Mt. Vesuvius. Because of this, the mystery of
Atlantis's existence will tantalize the world until the
continent is either proven or disproven. (11) 


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