History of Atlantis Story from Plato: Literal or Symbolic Story?

Central Oregon–Join one of our favorite presenters, Bob Harrison, who takes us through the history, exploration, and archaeology of the fabled island of Atlantis.

Atlantis has been the subject of historical and literary debate since Plato first brought it up in Athens in the fifth century B.C. It reflected something he overheard from his uncle Solon, the great liberal Athenian lawgiver, discussed at a symposium some years earlier. Solon had visited Egypt (a real tourist destination for Greeks and Romans) and had met with Egyptian priests at Memphis (Egypt’s northern capital), who told him the story of Atlantis from hieroglyphic inscriptions dated 10,000 years earlier (10,500 B.C.). It depicted a highly advanced civilization that traded with Egypt and had been destroyed by an apocalyptic event.

Atlantis went down under the sea never to be seen again. Since it was past the Pillars of Hercules, historians presumed it must have been in the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean, or even Brazil. The search continues in those locations. The mystic Edgar Casey had a vision it would be found at Bimini in the Bahamas. The steps found underwater at that location, however, went nowhere, like the rest of the sites.

There had always been a mythical ethos to this whole story since no recognized civilization existed as far back as Solon indicated (10,000 B.C.). Finally, it was realized that the Egyptian hieroglyphic sign for the number 100 had been mistranslated by the Greeks as 1,000. That meant that 10,000 years was really 1,000 years and that 15,000 B.C. was really 1500 B.C. and that the Pillars of Hercules was not at Gibraltar but at the Straits between the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. The only possible civilization at that location and time that met Solon’s description was that of the Minoans who inhabited Crete and the surrounding islands in the Eastern Mediterranean (Aegean Sea). Archaeologist Sir Arthur Evan excavated this location in the 1940s and has paved the way for new insights into the mystery of Atlantis as something far beyond a morality tale.

Bob Harrison currently teaches history classes at COCC. He recently gave a fascinating two-part lecture on Alexander the Great.

Please note: the dates for these lectures may need to be adjusted to our speaker’s schedule. Updates and preregistration will be announced via email and classroom announcements.