The Lost Continent of Atlantis

The following is an article from Uncle John's Endlessly Engrossing Bathroom Reader.

Atlantis is one of the longest lasting -and most easily disproved- myths in world history. Yet people just keep looking for it.


According to the ancient Greek philosopher Plato, Atlantis was a continent larger than Asia and Africa combined, sitting on the western edge of the Mediterranean Sea. Its capital city was built in a perfect circle, composed of alternating bands of earth and water. At its center was a temple to the Greek god Poseidon, surrounded by walls of solid gold and coated in silver. The city was equipped with canals, tunnels, racetracks, and a prodigious merchant fleet, all remarkable achievements for more than 12,000 years ago and more than 9,000 years before the golden age of ancient Greece.

Athanasius Kircher's Map of Atlantis, 1669

And then... it vanished. As the Atlantian army attempted to conquer the known world, having already enslaved much of Asia, Africa, and Europe, it was defeated by an early incarnation of Greece. In what the Greeks believed to be an act of divine intervention, the continent of Atlantis was destroyed in 24 hours by violent earthquakes and floods, sending it to the bottom of the sea.

There's just one big problem with this story: It's just a story. Everything "known" about Atlantis was laid out in two of Plato's dialogues: Timaeus and Critias. The story may have been based on real events,such as the volcanic eruption on the Greek island of Thera. It may also have been inspired by much older mythological tales such as the Trojan War. Or it may have been purely an invention of Plato's imagination. We may never know for sure. No evidence of any civilization matching Plato's description has ever been discovered, but his descriptions are so vivid that for centuries many have believed Atlantis to be real.


Plato may have started the legend, but it was popularized (and expanded upon) in modern times by late 19th century Minnesota congressman, academic, and eccentric Ignatius Donnelly. He dabbled in astronomy, geology, botany, religion, law, and science fiction, all in order to help him prove that Atlantis was real. Donnelly had two major pieces of "evidence."

* The first was the Biblical story of the Great Flood and similar flood tales from around the world. That would explain how Atlantis sank and disappeared: It was the same flood that prompted Noah to build his ark.

* The second piece of proof: the banana. Since it's seedless, Donnelly believed its propagation would require humans to plant the fruit as they migrated from one part of the world to the next. And since the banana is native to Africa, Asia, and South America, there would have to be some sort of land bridge that banana planters would have used. The land bridge: Atlantis, of course.

Map from Ignatius Donelly's Atlantis: the Antediluvian World, 1882.

Based on Plato's writings, Donnelly pinpointed Atlantis's original location as just outside the Mediterranean Sea. The Azore Islands, west of Spain, would be the exposed portion of the highest peaks of the sunken continent. Donnelly's addition to the myth: He proposed that Alantians were technologically advanced, inventing the compass and gunpowder thousands of years before the rest of the world invented written language.


Rudolf Steiner, a 20th century German philosopher, added more to the theory of Atlantis, suggesting it was the place where the physics of life on Earth were developed. According to Steiner, millions of years ago on Atlantis, solid objects behaved more like liquids, liquids behaved more like gasses, and humans had not yet split into two separate genders. The technologically advanced humanoids on Atlantis, located off the coast of India, drove flying cars, which they powered with "spiritual energy" and the life force found in plant seeds. And where did Steiner discover this?  In his book Cosmic Memory, he claimed that he "was not at liberty to disclose" his sources, but his number one source was clearly his own vivid imagination.


In the 1940s, German researcher Otto Muck joined Donnelly's "theories" with a sprinkling f actual science. Muck theorized that a cataclysmic volcanic explosion, triggered by a hammering of meteors, is what ultmiately destroyed the Atlantian empire. Like Donnelly, Muck hunted down parallel tales of a big flood in many world mythologies. Unlike Donnelly's, Muck's description and dating of the event is much more exact. Using a calendar system inspired by the ancient Mayans (who Muck believed were colonists from Atlantis), he claimed to have calculated the destruction of Atlantis down to the hour: about noon on June 6, 8498 B.C.

While Donnelly looked to bananas, Muck's preferred theory involved eels. In his book The Secret of Atlantis, he discusses the European eel, which hatches in an area of the mid-Atlantic Ocean called the Sargasso Sea, and migrates to freshwater streams all over Europe. Muck's explanation: The eels used to migrate to Atlantis. When it disappeared, they had nowhere else to go, so they started migrating to Europe.


Modern geology and oceanography simply do not allow for the existence of a continent the size of Atlantis anywhere in the Atlantic Ocean. Bananas and eels notwithstanding, the thousands of years spent searching for evidence that proves the existence of Atlantis has yielded exactly... nothing. But that hasn't stopped the true believers. Atlantis hunters like to get creative with Plato's data, theorizing that he somehow fudged the location, which means that Atlantis could be anywhere. Theories have placed the lost continent near Ireland, near Bolivia, in the South China Sea, and in the Bahamas.

Google Earth image, 2009.

Or maybe Atlantis is right in front of us. In February 2009, British newspapers reported that Atlantis was visible on the Google Earth satellite imaging service. A look at the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Morocco indeed yields a strange series of lines and angles.  Google says the discrepancy is the result of an error in processing the satellite image. But this happens to be near Spain and the Mediterranean Sea -the exact spot where Plato said Atlantis was.


The article above is reprinted with permission from Uncle John's Endlessly Engrossing Bathroom Reader.

Since 1988, the Bathroom Reader Institute had published a series of popular books containing irresistible bits of trivia and obscure yet fascinating facts.

If you like Neatorama, you'll love the Bathroom Reader Institute's books - go ahead and check 'em out!


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Rudolf Steiner was born clairvoyant, but to understand these spiritual experiences he turned to the scientific method. His quest for knowledge began by developing his principles of what it means to “know”. These principles of free thinking and free morality are described in his fundamental book, the "Philosophy Of Freedom". For anyone wanting to learn about Steiner's philosophy of life a free online study course is available at .
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