classical Atlantis story, the one where for first time the name Atlantis is
used, is the one told by the
Ancient Greek philosopher Plato in two of his dialogues, Kritias and Timaeus (427-347 BC).
Could the disaster at Santorini have been the source of the Atlantis
myth? The Santorini blast was one of the largest volcanic explosions
known. The earthquakes, destructive waves, extensive ash fall, darkened
skies, crop failure and resulting starvation must have been terrifying.
It is possible that some memory of this event survived a thousand years
of retelling until Plato?s time.
tells us in great detail the story of a
high-standing, flourishing civilization with divine origins that
lived on an island or a small continent outside the columns of
Hercules (mostly interpreted as the Straits of Gibraltar). The
race of the Atlantians was strong and healthy, had all the virtues and lived in peace as long
the portion of their divine nature still was strong. But with time it
faded and was more and more diluted. "When the human nature
got the upper hand" (Plato, Critias 121b), they became sinful and invaded
by crimes. As a consequence, they were bound to loose their paradise. Towards
the outer world, they started to fight wars and subjected other races to their
cruel power. Only the Athenians, by virtue of their own military and moral power,
were able to stop and defeat Atlantis from subduing the world. By then, the Gods'
anger against Atlantis was so strong, that they destroyed it in a single
day and night, by earthquakes, and sunk it into
the sea, leaving only a mass of mud behind.
As to the support the authenticy of his account,
Plato - through the words of Kritias - sustains that he used an old Egyptian
report that he had obtained from his grandfather, who had got it from a friend who
in turn got it from the Great Solon who lived around
640-560 BC. Solon was told the story during one of his
travels by Egyptian priests at Sais, but also got a copy of it with written in
old Egyptian, that he later translated.
1. Land disappeared in an earthquake and was replaced by sea (just like Plato's descriptions).
Some details of Platon's story are clearly describing
volcanic phenomena. Such are the colours Platos describes of
being typical of the rocks of Atlantis: black (lava), white
(pumice and ash) and red (lava). These are the colours of
Santorini. The warm and cold springs are typical of volcanic
places and still found on Santorini today. Most obvious, the way
the gods, i.e. nature for us, destroyed Atlantis: by earthquake,
fire and lightning. Lightning is always accomanying huge eruption
columns and probably the most impressive sign of a terrible event
if observed from far. From close rage, nobody could have
survived. Another hint is the mentioned mud that remained at the
site of Atlantis. It is enough to translate mud with the enormous
masses of pumice and ash from the eruption that floated on the
2. The exiting archaeological findings on Thera (near
Akrotiri) clearly demonstrate that before the Minoan eruption there was a
developed, rich, and probably oligarchic marine community whose
flourishing economy was provided by intensive trade, shipping,
and probably vine, too, - like at present. Both Minoans (the people who had settled Santorini) and Atlanteans were sea going traders.
do not know what happened to these people. So far, no human body
has been found killed by the eruption. It seems that they had
been warned in time to evacuate the island. That means even if
Platos completely invented the story, it is still true. Something
like he describes has happened on Santorini 1640 BC.
3. Both civilizations used rituals involving bulls in their religion.
4. The disaster destroyed an enemy of Athens.
Atlanteans had attacked Athens; and Greek myths told of war between
Minoans, the people who had settled Santorini, and the Greeks.
5. The Minoan island of Crete in particular had a sophisticated culture with large palaces, just like Atlantis.
6. 1. Plato tells about a circular island with concentric
structures. Santorini today does have an impressive concentric
geographic setting and had it also before the Minoan eruption. This has come out as a result of detailed geologic studies during
the past 20 years, see the chapter of the reconstruction of the
ring-shaped pre-Minoan island with a
central shield. Furthermore Heiken and McCoy (1990) indicated
that the famous picture in the West House from the Akrotiri
excavations most likely represents a relatively naturalistic
portrait of Thera. It shows an inhabited and flowering island
landscape and the departing Therean fleet, and actually some
concentric water-land ring structures are visible, too.
7. Plato writes that Atlantis was situated in the ocean,
beyond the "Pillars of Hercules". The "Pillars of
Hercules" were at Platon's time the Straigts of Gibraltar
and this would put Atlantis into the Atlantic Ocean. Further,
Plato tells that Atlantis was bigger than Libya and Asia
together. If one believes Plato literally, Atlantis was then
outside of the Mediterranean region. But it is also possible that
Solon or Plato either were misinterpreting their old sources or
that Plato put it willingly far beyond the Greek-influenced
- The first possibility could be explained by the fact that the
original text was much older and the Pillars of Hercules had not
necessarily always been associated with the Straigts of
Gibraltar; it could very well have meant a place within the
- Putting Atlantis and its civilisation far away from the ancient
world would also suit Plato's intention of providing a antitheses
to the Greek society and its values that he defends. This is
clearly Plato's major purpose in his account. - The same is
true for Plato's words, "bigger than Libya and Asia
together". Also it has been interpreted that Plato or
someone before him in the chain of the oral or written tradition
of the report accidentially changed the very similar Greek words
for "bigger than" ("meson") and
"between" ("mezon"). If this was the case,
Atlantis could be identical with Santorin (Luce,
1969). Besides, it is geologically not possible that a large
continent could disappear in a dramatic event, i.e. in a very
short time span. There is nowhere on earth such evidence.
8. Galanopoulos and Bacon (1969) argue
that the date for the destruction of Atlantis Plato gives as 9000
years before his time should be read as 900
years and that there was an erroneous translation by Solon from
the old Egyptian number system. Plato lived ca. 300 BC and
Solon's journey to Egypt had taken place about 300 years earlier.
Adding the figures, the Atlantis event should have taken place
around 1500 BC, in good agreement to the recent datings of the
Minoa eruption 1640 BC. It is also imaginable, that 900 years
looked not far enough in time for Platon (or Solon etc.). Putting
it far into the past adds weight to the historic self-conception
of the Athenians. Also, as far as Archeologists know (and they
know a lot about the past of Athens...), there is no trace of a
highly advanced Athenian culture at around 9000 BC. According the theory, 9000 years must be wrong, or invented.