Home » A journey to Atlantis


"Listen then, Socrates, to a tale which, though passing strange, is yet wholly true, as Solon, the wisest of the Seven, once upon a time declared."
[Critias, in Tim. 20de].

A bust of Plato.


Everything we have received from antiquity about Atlantis is contained in two dialogues by Plato, the Critias and, to a lesser extent, the Timaeus.

Every other reference we have is almost certainly derived ultimately from the authority of these two dialogues.

Plato and his thought

Who was this Plato chap anyway? This page has a brief biography and introduces his dialogues, his political thought and adds a few notes on his relevance in the present day.

Plato's myths

A look at how Plato makes use of "myths" in his dialogues, as well as providing a brief run-down of these particular tales.

Plato's words

Texts of Platonic myths in translation: from the Protagoras, Gorgias, Meno, Symposium, Phaedo, Republic, Phaedrus, Statesman, Laws - and, of course, the Timaeus and Critias.

Athanasius Kircher's map of Atlantis.


A series of pages which seek to home in on Plato's conception of Atlantis. Was it real? Did Plato make it up? Where could it possibly be found? How big and powerful was Atlantis?

Also important is an understanding of the dialogues in which the tale was couched. Who were the speakers and what do we know about them?

What is Atlantis?:

This page summarises Plato's island of Atlas, looks for clues as to the reality of Atlantis, investigates Plato's possible sources, why Plato's ancient Athens had to be destroyed and notes the unfinished nature of the Critias. Includes a discussion of the career of Plato's Syracusan friend Dion and the possible influence of the destruction of Helice on the Atlantis myth.


Where is Atlantis?:

Where does Plato locate Atlantis? Where are the Pillars of Heracles according to Plato's predecessors and contemporaries? Where did the notion of the shallow, impassable sea come from? Also, a digression on reports of monsters in the Atlantic. The page traces the Greeks' westward exploration, the developing role of Heracles as a reflection of his Tyrian counterpart Melqart, and a possible early Boeotian colony in north west Africa, as well as covering the development of the concept of the Pillars in Homer and Hesiod, Stesichorus, Hecataeus, Pindar, Herodotus, Euripides, Herodorus, pseudo-Scylax and among Plato's contemporaries.

Who were the Atlanteans?:

Plato gives a list of thirteen names of people - Evenor, Leucippe, Cleito, Eumelus-Gadeirus and, of course, Atlas and the four younger sets of twin brothers - who lived at the beginning of the Atlantean civilisation.

Dating Atlantis:

An investigation into the date of Atlantis' supposed destruction, with an emphasis on the 9,000 year datum.

Atlantis' size, infrastructure and military:

How big do the dialogues claim Atlantis is? What do Libya and Asia signify? This page also investigates the grand infrastructure projects undertaken in the capital area of Atlantis and seeks to attain numbers for the island's armed forces.

Characters and transmission:

Who were Critias, Timaeus, Socrates, Hermocrates and Solon? How does Plato describe the transmission of the story of Atlantis? What are Plato's dates for Solon's career? What about Amynander? And was Plato there when the four discussed Atlantis?


Why invent Atlantis?

This page examines six theories as to why Plato may have devised his Atlantis myth. These are: a thought experiment such as is proposed in the Timaeus by Socrates; a critique of the rhetoric associated with the Sophists; a response to contemporaries accusing Plato's Republic constitution of being derivative; Plato's response to his failures at the court of Dionysius II of Syracuse; an example of a "Noble Lie" upon which to found a community; and a warning to the Athenians of Plato's day.

A fresco of Minoan women at play.


Examining the historical background to the Atlantis myth, with particular reference to ancient Athens and Egypt.

This section also includes a piece on the popular "Minoan hypothesis" which associates Atlantis with that great Bronze Age civilisation centred on Crete, as well as the notion that the "Sea Peoples" noted in Egyptian documents from the end of that period might be from some candidate for "the real Atlantis."

Atlantis, Greece and the lure of Egypt:

For the ancient Greeks, the great civilisation of Egypt, with its storied history and hoary past, held an irresistible appeal. Both Solon and Plato were said to have visited. This page also seeks to answer the question of whether or not the "Sea Peoples" came from Atlantis.


Thera, Crete and Atlantis:

One of the more popular theories about Atlantis posits a connection with the eruption of Thera and the end of the Minoan civilisation, named for the famous King Minos, centred upon the island of Crete. But did the Greeks of Plato's time remember the Thera eruption? Does a misunderstanding or scribal error make the Minoan hypothesis more plausible?

Truth, lies, Apaturia:

What are the concepts muthos and lógos? What is truth? What were the significance of the Apaturia and Panathenaea festivals which feature in the dialogues?


The Phaethon myth and ancient catastrophism:

Plato states that Solon first heard of Atlantis from an ancient priest at Egyptian Saïs, though the philosopher himself held the Egyptians to be somewhat suspect as eyewitnesses.

Concentric red, white & black squares.


A series of pages which seek to home in on Plato's conception of Atlantis. Was it real? Did Plato make it up? Where could it possibly be found? How big and powerful was Atlantis?

Also important is an understanding of the dialogues in which the tale was couched. Who were the speakers and what do we know about them?

The opposite continent:

One of the more neglected themes dealt with in the Timaeus-Critas is Plato's innovative suggestion of a continental land mass existing beyond the Atlantic. This page looks at the etymological connection to Anaximander's ἄπειρον and the Aperaea of the Odyssey, before tracing precursors and analogues in the works of Herodorus, Theopompus and Plutarch and, moving beyond the Greek world, among the Persians, Babylonians, Indians and even the Norsemen!


What is the significance of red, white and black?:

Stones of these colours, says Plato, were used in buildings on the citadel at Atlantis. The colour theory of the Timaeus is invesigated, as well as the white and black horses in the myth of the chariot of the soul from the Phaedrus, before seeking precursors in ancient Uruk, among the early Indo-Europeans and Apuleius' description of Isis.

Sacred springs:

There are hot and cold springs at Atlantis and Troy. Similar springs appear elsewhere in Homer's works, as well as in Pomponius Mela (the Fortunate Isles), Pausanias (the Styx and Alyssus), and in the underworld according to Plutarch and Orphic sources. Also covered are the Asbama in Anatolia, the Illyrian "Land of Bliss" and the qrtj from which the Nile begins in Egyptian material. The possibility that Atlantis was a volcanic island is also considered.


Twins in ancient Greek myth:

Plato's depiction of five sets of twins being born to Poseidon and Cleito in Atlantis requires closer examination in light of myths involving twins in wider Greek mythology. Featured on this page are the Aloidai, Aeolus and Boeotus, Chrysaor and Pegasus, Lycus and Nyctimus, and the Moliones.

A bust of Hesiod.


This section investigates claims that Atlantis was known independently of Plato's work, both within ancient Greece and without.

A number of theories - many rather on the fringe of the argument - are covered here.

Who else wrote about Atlantis?:

A variety of writers other than Plato are said to have (more or less independently) made references to Atlantis. This essay features those few which are most commonly cited, namely Hesiod, Herodotus, Hellanicus of Lesbos, Aristotle, Theophrastus, Theopompus, Crantor, "Marcellus," and Claudius Aelianus, as well as some supposed Indian references to Atlantis.


Atlanteans in Africa:

A people known as Atlantes or Atlanteans appear in north-western Africa in the works of Herodotus and, alongside Amazons and Gorgons, in Dionysius Skytobrachion.

Was Thoth an Atlantean and other Egyptian matters:

Addressing a number of dubious claims that Atlantis was the precursor civilisation of pharaonic Egypt, including Thoth as an Atlantean (obviously), alongside a supposed western origin for the Egyptians in Diodorus Siculus, Laurence A. Waddell on Menes' western expedition, Carleton S. Coon's description of Osiris' homeland and the Auriteans.


Atlantis and the druids?:

Some have claimed that a reference to Gaulish druids' origin stories appearing works by Timagenes and Julius Caesar refer to the destruction of Atlantis.

Sir Graham