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The ancient writings of Plato are the only known reference for this legendary city and they continue to foster debate, after two thousand years. The story first occurs in Plato's two dialogues "Timaeus" and the "Citius." The tale centers around Solon, a great Greek legislator and poet who travels to Egypt. While there, he hears the story of Atlantis from priests.
According to Solon, the history of Atlantis began at the very beginning of time. It was then the immortal gods divided the world among themselves. The god Poseidon received Atlantis, an island larger than Libya and Asia combined.
The story goes on to describe Atlantis as a vast island-continent, west of the Mediterranean, surrounded by the Atlantic ocean. The residents were peaceful, wealthy and advanced for the time period. The island was a capital of trade and abundant with natural resources, with a climate so perfect, each year produced not one, but two harvests. Their leaders supposedly held power over other islands and other continents.
But the civilization vanished and according to Plato, it happened in just one day and one night. Greed and corruption had entered their world, so the Gods punished the residents, or so the legend goes.
Some type of massive geologic event sucked Atlantis into the sea, leaving many to believe either an earthquake or volcano eruption was to blame. Of the two, the volcano theory gets the most attention, since a volcano can cause flooding, unusual weather and even earthquakes.
The possible location of Atlantis has caused major disagreement both in the past and today. Just about every area on earth has been suggested as the probable location of the Atlantis. Antartica, South America, England, Africa, under the South China Sea, and Bimini in the Bahamas to name just a few. However, one name turns up often, and that's Santorini in Greece.
Experts believe a large section of the bay on Santorini's western shore once contained a volcano which connected with a neighboring island. When the eruption happened (around 17th century BC) a large portion of the island collapsed and formed a caldera. The island today is cresent-shaped, due to the catastrophe. This was no small eruption and scientists speculate it threw debris seventeen miles into the air and affected weather patterns for years. The two smaller islands which lie within the bay were created by lava eruptions later. This closely matches Plato's story of what happened at Atlantis.
Nevertheless, others point to Bimini, an out-of-the-way island in the Bahamas chain. Around the island are submerged rock formations in straight lines, which look to some like roads. Also found beneath the waves are man-made columns, which give rise to the idea of Atlantis. Famous physic, Edgar Cayce, mentioned Bimini as the location of Atlantis in some of his writings.
Besides the question of location, no one really knows whether Plato believed in the real existence of the island or whether it was entirely a mythical place. Many have asserted Plato must have believed in the island's existence because he included so much telling detail in its description. Others reject this claim and say the detail doesn't mean a thing.
Another question centers on the time period of the story. Solon and Plato's dates put Atlantis back to the early Stone Age. Experts say such an advanced civilization could not have existed at the time. One possible explaination is Solon mis-read the Egyptian dates of "100" for "1000."
Whatever the case, we are still searching for Atlantis and may be for quite some time.