Finding the Lost City of Atlantis: Fact, Fiction, and an Enduring Interest

When Plato first introduced us to Atlantis, he could have never predicted how it would capture the world’s imagination. Even after thousands of years, scientific advancements, and a greater understanding of geography, the stories he told still strike a chord. But what is it that still piques our interest even though, as many academics assert, Atlantis almost certainly a work of fiction?

Finding the Lost City of Atlantis

When Plato revealed the legend in his dialogues the Timaeus and the Critias, he described a half-human, half-god race that existed 9,000 years before his time. Even with the technology we have today, describing what went on in Plato’s time (360 B.C.) is tricky. So, quite how Plato was able to paint an accurate picture of what went on 9,000 years before his time is questionable.

A Life of Bliss that Disappeared Without a Trace

Be that as it may, he described a utopia where gold, silver, exotic wildlife, and a great naval race lived on concentric islands. Dissected by great moats and linked by a large canal, the islands were places of plenty where people lived prosperous, moral, and spiritual lives. By all accounts, Atlantis was a civilization more advanced than not only the Ancient Greeks but the one we live in today. This, in many ways, is why the story still holds weight today. As civilizations, we’re always striving for perfection and, according to Plato, Atlantis achieved that until it all came crashing down.

Greed and jealousy suddenly infected the islands and spread like wildfire. The once-mighty race became “morally bankrupt” according to Charles Orser, curator of history at the New York State Museum. As a punishment, the gods unleashed fury. Floods, volcanic eruptions, and earthquakes caused devastation and sent Atlantis crashing to the bottom of the ocean, never to be seen again. Even those without a PhD in history will see the moral of this story, which is yet another reason the legend of Atlantis lives on.

Bringing the Lost City Back into View



Hollywood is almost as obsessed with telling the story as Plato was. From Atlantis – The Lost Continent (1961) to box office hits like Aquaman from Warner Bros, the movie industry has embraced the legend like no other. What’s interesting is that Atlantis has remained so intriguing that it doesn’t have to be the central theme of a movie. Take, for example, the 1989 sci-fi movie Journey to the Center of the Earth. Loosely based on Jules Verne’s novel of the same name, the Cannon Group creation sees a couple run into a cave and find Atlantis. From there, chaos ensues after the Atlanteans decide to invade the surface of the earth.

It’s a similar story in the gaming world. Atlantis: The Lost Tales, by Cryo Interactive Entertainment (absorbed into Microids Gaming) is a fantasy adventure video game where players have to navigate a series of puzzles. Then you’ve got the Atlantis: City of Destiny slot. One of the many pop culture online slots, this five-reel game spins players through the lost city, dredging up ancient artifacts with every revolution. Then just as it was 9,000 years ago, the stars align and bless players with riches. However, like the story, greed is the undoing of all who play. In fact, that’s the moral running through every modern-day tribute to Atlantis.



An Eternal Struggle We All Identify With

Like many of his contemporaries, James Romm, a professor of classics at Bard College, believes Atlantis was a myth. However, in his words, the story has “a lot of elements people love to fantasize about.” Even though archeologists have found no evidence of the lost city and every expert seems to have a different opinion on where it’s located, people still want to believe. Why? Because it’s a life we all aspire to have.

But, more importantly, it’s a life we all recognize is hard to achieve. The appeal of Atlantis is not its utopian promise but the struggle to find it. Plato’s message was clear: achieve perfection and the only way is down. We like the idea of Atlantis, but we really like the thought of it being unobtainable and tough to handle. That’s the struggle of life and, in reality, why Atlantis continues to float in the seas of our imaginations.

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