Atlantis, definition and study. A-Z index of Cognitio.

Atlantis is a legendary island whose myth is mentioned for the first time by Plato in the Timaeus and Critias dialogues in the 4th century BC. According to Plato’s account, would be a naval power located “beyond the Columns of Hercules,” which would conquer many parts of Western Europe and Africa nine thousand years before Solon’s time (approximately in 9600 BC).

After failing the invasion of Athens, Atlantis would sink into “a single day and night of disaster” by Poseidon.

The name of the island comes from that of Atlas, legendary governor of the Atlantic Ocean, son of Poseidon, who would also, according to Plato, be the first king of the island.

Plato’s Time and Critias dialogues, written around 360 BC, contain the first references to Atlantis. Plato introduces Atlantis into Timaeus (17-27):

“In front of that mouth that is called, as you say, Columns of Heracles, there was an island. That island, then, was larger than Libya and Asia put together, and those who proceeded from it offered a passage to the other islands, and from the islands to the entire continent that stood on the opposite side, around what is really a sea. But after a while, though terrible earthquakes and drifts, during a day and a night, all of your warrior’s complexes collapsed beneath the ground, and the Atlantis Island, just as submerged by the sea, disappeared”.

The news that Plato tells of Atlantis is most likely to come from the Greek tradition, from Crete and perhaps from Egypt and from other sources lost to us, all literally reinterpreted by the philosopher.

The hypotheses about the actual location of Atlantis are the most varied. While it is true that Plato in his two dialogues explicitly speaks of “a larger island of Libya and of Asia Minor put together” beyond the Columns of Hercules (supposedly they were on the Strait of Gibraltar), some scholars, ‘real difficulty in imagining an island-continent in the Atlantic that disappeared in a short time without leaving almost any trace, they chose alternative locations. 


At first, it was thought of America, which in fact is a continent in the middle of the Atlantic (Atlantic), but at Plato’s time it was by no means known and that, as far as it is known, has not known recent cataclysms. 

North Pole

The first to elaborate the hypothesis of a Nordic Atlantis was most probably the Swedish Olaus Rudbeck, who in the seventeenth century placed – for nationalistic reasons – the lost continent in Sweden. His ideas were resumed, modified and rationalized by the astronomer and French author Jean Sylvain Bailly, who in the second half of the eighteenth century came to position Atlantis in the remote Siberian regions, near the Spitzbergen island.

In the Mediterranean

Most of the recent hypotheses indicate the placement of the mythical island no longer in the ocean or in other remote places, but closer to the Mediterranean or its immediate surroundings, where Plato probably had to have drawn the various elements to build his story. Geographical knowledge of the Greeks at Plato’s era was in fact very vague and limited to the Mediterranean basin and was in fact sufficiently precise only in the Aegean.


One of the most singular theories studied and deepened in the first half of the twentieth century, argues that the myth of Atlantis would be nothing more than the deformed and ingrained memory of the Minoan Civilization ( the Cretan civilization of the Bronze Age) at 1450 BC, under circumstances not yet clear.


Among the many places where the terrible maritime threat of Atlantis is located, there are two that closely concern Sicily: the homonymous canal and Malta. This proximity led to Maltese Giorgio Grognet de Vassé – a proponent of the theory that he sees on Malta a remnant of Atlantis – to assert that a statue of Atlantis was kept in the Syracuse museum: a capital. Grognet de Vassé was in fact convinced that the Atlantis after the destruction of their island had been divided into colonies (the same Ancient Egypt, according to Maltese, was nothing more than an Atlantis colony) and that capital recalled the particular Egyptian style incomputable proof of Atlantis presence in those places).

Atlantis, definition and study. A-Z index of Cognitio.



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Atlantis, definition and study. A-Z index of Cognitio.