In the 4th century BCE, Plato wrote his dialogues Timaeus and Critias, and compared the virtues of two cities—Athens and Atlantis. The story of Atlantis originated with Solon, Athenian law maker and his ancestor. Solon, while travelling the Mediterranean world and learning about the laws of the various cities was told the legend by Egyptians at Sais. The descriptions of Atlantis are detailed and give clues as to which civilisation it may refer to and the location. Yet these descriptors are not unique which makes it difficult to pin down precise whereabouts of Atlantis. In this post and those to follow I will draw on Plato’s Critias to extrapolate details which may point to this fabled island.
‘And Poseidon, receiving for his lot the island of Atlantis, begat children by a mortal woman, and settled them in a part of the island, which I will describe.
Looking towards the sea, but in the centre of the whole island, there was a plain which is said to have been the fairest of all plains and very fertile. Near the plain again, and also in the centre of the island at a distance of about fifty stadia, there was a mountain not very high on any side.
Poseidon… enclosed the hill in which she dwelt all round, making alternate zones of sea and land larger and smaller, encircling one another; there were two of land and three of water, which he turned as with a lathe, each having its circumference equidistant every way from the centre, so that no man could get to the island, for ships and voyages were not as yet.’
Compare with a reconstructed map of Thera before the volcanic eruption 1500 BCE. You can see the outlines of the land that sat above the sea level.
Alternate zones of water
Of which 3 were mentioned
The following passage confirms the structure of the island, which is evidenced by the famous Akrotiri wall friezed.
‘First of all they bridged over the zones of sea which surrounded the ancient metropolis, making a road to and from the royal palace.
And beginning from the sea they bored a canal of three hundred feet in width and one hundred feet in depth and fifty stadia in length, which they carried through to the outermost zone, making a passage from the sea up to this, which became a harbour, and leaving an opening sufficient to enable the largest vessels to find ingress.
Moreover, they divided at the bridges the zones of land which parted the zones of sea, leaving room for a single trireme to pass out of one zone into another, and they covered over the channels so as to leave a way underneath for the ships; for the banks were raised considerably above the water.
Now the largest of the zones into which a passage was cut from the sea was three stadia in breadth, and the zone of land which came next of equal breadth; but the next two zones, the one of water, the other of land, were two stadia, and the one which surrounded the central island was a stadium only in width. The island in which the palace was situated had a diameter of five stadia.
All this including the zones and the bridge, which was the sixth part of a stadium in width, they surrounded by a stone wall on every side, placing towers and gates on the bridges where the sea passed in.
The stone which was used in the work they quarried from underneath the centre island, and from underneath the zones, on the outer as well as the inner side. One kind was white, another black, and a third red, and as they quarried, they at the same time hollowed out double docks, having roofs formed out of the native rock. Some of their buildings were simple, but in others they put together different stones, varying the colour to please the eye, and to be a natural source of delight.’
Stone of white, black and red all natural rocks found on Santorini.
Such attention to detail has to come from somewhere, right?
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As always, your comments are valued and welcomed.
Historical fiction fantasist Luciana Cavallaro, a secondary teacher, meanders from contemporary life to delve into the realms of mythology. Subscribe to her FREE short story.