Plato, the Source of Atlantis Legend
The original source of the Atlantis legend is from two dialogues
written by Plato, the Timaeus and the Critias.
Here we cover the main facts as given by Plato.
The Island of Atlantis was located "before the pillars of Hercules".
The pillars of Hercules were the straits of Gilbralter.
Atlantis, according to Plato, sank in "a single day and night of
For the alledged source of the story here is the version from History
of Atlantis by Lewis Spence:
Critias: Listen then, Socrates, to a tale which,
strange though it be, is yet perfectly true, as Solon, the wisest
of the seven once said. He was a relation and friend of Dropidas,
my great-grandfather, as he tells us himself in his poems, and dropidas
assured my grandfather, Critias, who, when an old man, repeated
it to us, that there were great and marvellous exploits achieved
by Athens in the days of old, which, through lapse of time and in
the course of generations, have vanished from memory.
Notice that in the above Plato ascribes this "tale" to a revered ancestor
and asserts it is "perfectly true". In multiple places Plato has the
characters assert that the tale is true.
Roughly this gives a timeframe for the sinking of about 9,600 B.C.
Under some analysis one can argue that the Timaeus gives a time
for the sinking of after 8570 B.C. while the Critias gives a time
of approximately 9421 B.C.
Plato's estimate for the size of Atlantis seems internally inconsistent.
At one point he describes it as "larger than Libya and Asia". Libya
here refers to the Mediteranean coast of North Africa. Asia probably
refers to Asia Minor or roughly the Middle East. This makes Atlantis
In contrast, Plato also says the center area of the city was "oblong
shape, extending in one direction three thousand stadia, but across
the centre inland it was two thousand stadia". Since a "stadium"
is a unit of measure that is about .11 miles, this makes the "flat"
area of Atlantis 330 miles by 220 miles. That is much less than
a continent. Also some other descriptions in the dialogues make
Atlantis seem still smaller. Interestingly, some Greek words within
the dialogue also suggest quite different sizes for the land mass.
As for its topography, Critias says "The whole country was said
by him to be very lofty and precipitous on the side of the sea."
Plato portrays the Atlanteans as having a fine character. However,
before their submergence their character took a turn for the worse.
For many generations, as long as the divine nature lasted
in them, they were obedient to the laws, and well-affectioned towards
the god, whose seed they were; for they possessed true and in every
way great spirits, uniting gentleness with wisdom in the various
chances of life, and in their intercourse with one another. They
despised everything but virtue, caring little for their present
state of life, and thinking lightly of the possession of gold and
other property, which seemed only a burden to them; neither were
they intoxicated by luxury; nor did wealth deprive them of their
self-control; but they were sober, and saw clearly that all these
goods are increased by virtue and friendship with one another, whereas
by too great regard and respect for them, they are lost and friendship
By such reflections and by the continuance in them of a divine
nature, the qualities which we have described grew and increased
among them; but when the divine portion began to fade away, and
became diluted too often and too much with the mortal admixture,
and the human nature got the upper hand, they then, being unable
to bear their fortune, behaved unseemly, and to him who had an
eye to see grew visibly debased, for they were losing the fairest
of their precious gifts; but to those who had no eye to see the
true happiness, they appeared glorious and blessed at the very
time when they were full of avarice and unrighteous power.
We have historical records of Socrates, Critias, Dropidas, Solon,
and of course of Plato.
Solon was a prominent figure of Greece. He died in 539 B.C. His
recorded by Plutarch in 75 A.D.
Dropidas was mentioned in the poems of Solon.
Socrates was condemned to death by the government by a vote of
281 to 220.
Plato lived 428-348 B.C.
His works have been placed online along with 52 other
Greek writers by MIT.
One more thing. We generally say that Plato is our original source.
Indeed, it was his writing that awakened the West today to the idea
of Atlantis. However, it has now been shown that the remembrace
of Atlantis was spread thoughout the cultures of the world.
"No Religion Higher Than Truth"
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