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

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Pavlopetri

Greece

Greece as the home of Atlantis was unknown until the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries when the Minoan Hypothesis began to evolve and is still one of the more popular theories today. Other locations in the Aegean have been proposed by researchers such as Paulino Zamarro and C. A. Djonis as well as three Italian linguists, Facchetti, Negri and Notti, who presented a paper(a) to the 2005 Atlantis Conference outlining their reasons for supporting an Aegean backdrop to the Atlantis story.

Mainland Greece has also been proposed as home to Atlantis. In the middle of the 20th century R. L. Scranton suggested Lake Copaïs in Boeotia, an idea later modified by Oliver D. Smith, who subsequently completely abandoned the idea of Atlantis as a reality. More recently, it has been proposed that Atlantis was just an allegory of Athens and that its port, ancient Piraeus, was partly the inspiration behind Plato’s description of Atlantis(b). On the other hand, the Dutch linguist, Joannes Richter, also views the Plato’s story as fiction and suggested that “probably Plato used the model of the draining and irrigation system at Lake Copais as a model for the ancient metropolis at the ‘island Atlantis’ in an imaginary war between Athens and Atlantis.”(c) 

The sunken Greek cities of Pavlopetri and Helike have also prompted suggestions of a connection with Plato’s lost island.

(a) https://atlantipedia.ie/samples/document-250811/

(b) Archive 2887 | (atlantipedia.ie) (see last paragraphs)

(c) https://www.academia.edu/41219454/The_War_against_Atlantis?sm=a (link broken) *

Syracuse

Syracuse in Sicily has been suggested as the model for Plato’s Atlantis by Gunnar Rudberg among others. However, it was not the only location proposed as the inspiration for his lost city, with Ecbatana, Dwarka, Helike and Pavlopetri being leading contenders. Nevertheless, in 1917, Gunnar Rudberg the celebrated Swedish classicist published a detailed study of the possible association of Syracuse with Atlantis. This was only available in Swedish until 2012 when Thorwald C. Franke had an English translation(a) of Rudberg’s interesting monograph published [881].

This ancient city was built in a natural harbour with a large island, Ortygia, in it. A causeway bridged a strait between the island and the mainland. There was a wall around Ortygia and its central citadel. The mainland part of the city was also walled.

Syracuse was founded around 743 BC by Archia, a Corinthian and over succeeding centuries developed into a major Mediterranean power, defeating the Carthaginians in 480 BC. In 413 BC the Athenian navy, one of the largest ever, was destroyed by the Syracusans. This happened when Plato was just a teenager and no doubt it would have left a lasting impression on him.

After the death of Socrates, Plato travelled throughout the Eastern Mediterranean. While in Syracuse, he was highly critical of the morality of the city and in doing so he angered its ruler Dionysius I. This resulted in his being sold as a slave but fortunately, his owner freed him. He then returned home to found his famous Academy. However, in later life, as his fame spread, Plato was enticed back to Syracuse to tutor the new ruler, Dionysius II.

To what extent his Sicilian experiences have influenced his writings is impossible to say. The idea that Plato was inspired by the layout of Syracuse to produce a more embellished and schematic version of it in his description of Atlantis is plausible, but no more than that.

What is virtually certain is that Syracuse was not a port before the deglaciation following the last Ice Age as it would have been too far inland due to lower sea levels.

(a) Book: Atlantis and Syracuse – Plato on Sicily – by Gunnar Rudberg – Atlantis-Scout *

Pavlopetri

Pavlopetri is the name given to a sunken Greek city off the southern Peloponnese, discovered as recently as 1967. An Anglo-Greek team of archaeologists have pavlopetridated the remains to between 2800 and 1200 BC and as such are referring to it as the oldest (known) submerged city in the world(a)(b).  This dating places it before the time of Plato and so it did not take long for commentators to suggest that it was possibly the inspiration behind aspects of Plato’s Atlantis narrative. However, the number of known submerged cities  in the Mediterranean has been numbered at around 200. Every time one is discovered there is usually an attempt made to associate it with Atlantis, which fades when it is realised that it fails to match many of the other descriptive identifiers noted by Plato.

What I find interesting about Pavlopetri is that apparently it is never referred to in any classical Greek literature. Sceptics often claim that the reality of Plato’s Atlantis is undermined by the fact that Plato is the only ancient author to mention it and yet, Pavlopetri, unknown until the last century, does exist without any known written reference!

An October 2011 BBC documentary City Beneath the Waves Pavlopetri revealed that the port city was more extensive than originally thought and that it traded with other Aegean states particularly the Minoans on Crete.

(a) https://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2009/oct/16/lost-greek-city-atlantis-myth

(b) https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090512093635.htm