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 b.c.). (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