An A-Z Guide To The Search For Plato's Atlantis

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Heupel, DuWayne (t)

DuWayne Heupel is the author of Atlantis in Context[1230] in which he concludes that the Atlantis story was an invention by Plato to promote his concept of an ideal form of government and “demonstrate the dangers of national hubris.” However, it would seem to fail as a morality tale when Plato also included the demise of the ‘righteous’ Athenians in his narrative. This is compounded by his reference to another ideal city, Magnesia, in Laws. Why did he need to create two model cities?

Nevertheless, Heupel includes a lot of historical background to Athens and the people referred to by Plato, although by his own admission, he does engage in some speculative conclusions. He also claim that elements in Plato’s story were possibly inspired by real places, like Carthage, Atalanta and Thera and real events such as the Persian and Peloponnesian Wars. What I find strange about that is that the places listed by Heupel are not mentioned at all by Plato, but locations, such as Tyrrhenia and Libya, which are included in the text, are apparently not considered to be relevant by Heupel. It seems clear that Heupel accepts that there are actual historical underpinings to the Atlantis story, but in my opinion has chosen the wrong ones.

The late Anthony N. Kontaratos, listed twenty-two direct and indirect instances, in Timaeus and Critias, where Plato has asserted the truthfulness of the Atlantis story. As far as I’m aware, there is nothing comparable with this anywhere else in Plato’s writings. This alone should persuade listeners/readers that at least Plato believed he was transmitting a true story. However, Plato did have some reservations regarding details in Solon’s narrative, as expressed in Critias 118c-d. If Plato had invented the whole story, it is highly unlikely that he would create exaggerations in an invented tale and then draw attention to them, unless, of course, he was engaging in a double bluff! For my part, I believe that this is highly improbable and that his reluctance to blindly accept all that was transmitted to him was outweighed by the trustworthiness of Solon, his source. Solon was held in such high regard by the people of Athens that for a writer to invoke his name as an informant, without good reason, would be comitting literary suicide. This would be similar to unjustifiably quoting George Washington or Nelson Mandela. It is equally improbable that Plato would invoke the names of his family in support of a hoax.

Therefore, it is not unreasonable to assume that Plato, in good faith, wrote down the story of Atlantis as recorded by Solon. Unfortunately, trust in Solon is not enough to explain away the difficulties in the narrative, including the very item that raised the initial doubts in Plato’s own mind.

For my part, I believe that the balance of probabilities favours the acceptance of the reality of Atlantis and worthy of continuing research.