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Plato's Atlantis

Plato's Atlantis will explore of how the 'lost civilisation' introduced in the dialogues 'Timaios' and 'Kritias' has been interpreted, misinterpreted and sought for from Antiquity to the present day.

Plato's myth of Atlantis has exercised a fascination on the imagination since the time of the Ancient Greeks. But, when we read his dialogues 'Timaios' and 'Kritias', are we are looking at a real place and a real geological event remembered in mythical terms, or witnessing some other type of myth-making: is it true that Atlantis once existed? Is Atlantis the fountain-head of all civilization? Is there a basis of fact which Plato has embellished for his own purposes? Is Plato’s tale derived from earlier mythological traditions? What is Plato’s tale really about? How has the tale been used by historians, mystics, archaeologists, politicians and religious thinkers from antiquity, the middle ages  and the renaissance through to modern times?

We will explore geophysical, archaeological and historical theories ranging from the academically credible to the downright bizarre. Moving from the depths of the Atlantic to the islands of Santorini and Crete, we will study locations as diverse as Scandinavia, Palestine and the Caribbean. In analysing flood myths from across the globe, we will unravel the ‘mystery of Atlantis’ in a sane, scholarly and perhaps surprising way.

Date created:

2017-01-13 09:49
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Resources for this course

Displaying 1 - 20 of 35
Type Resource Description People Full details
Image collection Babylon city map, George Smith, Ashurbanipal's Flood Tablet

Having left Egypt, assuming he really went there, Herodotus probably travelled via Tyre to the River Euphrates and down to Babylon, from where he...

Steve Kershaw view
Link ATLANTIS, PYTHGOREANISM AND STICHOMETRY

By opening the Timaeus with the words, 'One, two, three...', Plato invited future commentators to speculate on the Pythagorean nature of his...

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Link THE LIFE OF PLATO

There is an overview of the life of Plato in Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, Book 3. This link takes you to a...

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Link INUNDATION OF ATALANTE (426 BCE) - DISCUSSION

Strabo and Diodorus Siculus mention tsunamigenic earthquakes in the region of Atalante, with the former basing his account on a lost catalogue of...

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Link INUNDATION OF HELIKE (HELICE), 373 BCE

A disastrous event occurred in 373 BCE that could have inspired Plato’s thinking regarding his Atlantis story: Helice, a city on the Corinthian...

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Link HELIKE (HELICE), 373 BCE

Helice, a city on the Corinthian Gulf, was destroyed by a tsunami in 373 BC. This could have inspired Plato’s thinking regarding his Atlantis...

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Link INUNDATION OF HELIKE (HELICE), 373 BCE

This link gives information about the inundation of Helike of the Corinthian Gulf in 373 BCE.

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Link PLATO'S TIMAEUS (TIMAIOS)

Without Plato there would be no Atlantis. If the dialogues Timaeus (Timaios) and then the Critias (Kritias) ...

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Link A BRIEF HISTORY OF ATLANTIS: PLATO'S IDEAL STATE

The text book for the course is Kershaw, S.P., A Brief History of Atlantis: Plato's Ideal State, London: Robinson, 2016. It can be...

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Link THUCYDIDES AND ATLANTIS

‘In order to understand the myth [of Arlantis], you need first to read Thucydides’ (Vidal-Naquet, P., The Atlantis Story: A Short History of...

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Link INUNDATION OF ATALANTE (426 BCE)

An even took place in 426 BCE that some scholars think might have come to influence Plato in his Atlantis story: earthquakes, tsunamis, and the...

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Link PLATO'S 7th LETTER

Plato’s Seventh Letter provides some evidence for his visits to Italy and Sicily.This link takes you to a translation.

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Link HELIKE PROJECT

Helice, a city on the Corinthian Gulf, was destroyed by a tsunami in 373 BC. This could have inspired Plato’s thinking regarding his Atlantis...

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Link INUNDATION OF HELIKE (HELICE), 373 BCE

This link takes you to a BBC production about the inundation of Helike in 373 BCE.

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Link INUNDATION OF HELIKE (HELICE), 373 BCE

This link takes you to some interesting research by the Laboratory of Marine Geology & Physical Oceanography of the University of Patras into...

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Link PLATO'S CRITIAS (KRITIAS)

The Atlantis myth is unique in the corpus of Greek mythology in that it has no antecedents, and it has no genealogical relationship to any earlier...

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Image collection Saite official, c. 570-526 BCE, Saite official, c. 570-526 BCE

[Plato, Timaeus 21e] Critias replied, ‘In Egypt, at the apex of the Delta, where the stream of the River Nile divides, there is an...

Steve Kershaw view
Image collection This clay map of Babylon shows the Tuba area of the city, two gateways, a section of the inner wall of the city, and a waterway fed by the River Euphrates. c. 600-500 BCE, probably from Babylon, modern Iraq. Cat. ME 35385, A clay tablet fragment giving detailed measurements of Babylon's the inner city wall, called Imgur-Enlil, at the start of Nebuchadnezzar's reign (ruled 605-572 BCE, making him contemporary with Solon, who, according to Plato's story, received the Atlantis tale from Egyptian priests). It names the Zababa and Urash Gates. From Sippur or Babylons, modern Iraq. Cat. ME 54634abylon, This clay tablet fragment dating from c.700-500 BCE records traditions from much earlier times, and refers to the Babylonian Flood Myth. The Babylonian world is shown in bird's-eye view asa disc surruonded by a ring labelled 'Bitter River' (not unlike the Greek Oceanus). The City of Babylon straddles the River Euphrates, which flows southwards through marshes into the sea. Inscribed circles indicate cities and areas within Mesopotamia in loosely accurate geographical locations., Beyond the outer edges of the known world are 8 triangular regions, which are tghe homes of strange/legendary beings. One id identified as the mountain where the Babylonian 'Ark' landed after the Great Flood. This lies across the water, far beyond the Mountain of Urartu (Ararat in the Bible) on the very rim of the world. There is no hint of Atlantis here. c.700-500 BCE, probably from Sippar, modern Irag. Cat. ME 92687, Lion from the Ishtar Gate of Babylon (the eighth gate to the inner city), c.BCE on the orders of King Nebuchadnezzar II. Pergamon Museum, Berlin, The Ishtar Gate of Babylon (the eighth gate to the inner city), c.BCE on the orders of King Nebuchadnezzar II. . These details do not appear in Herodotus' account of Babylon. Pergamon Museum, Berlin

Herodotus' History includes a memorable description of the city of Babylon, which may have had a considerable influence on Plato's...

Steve Kershaw view
Document THE FLOOD MYTHS OF DEUCALION, NOAH, GILGAMESH, ATRAHASIS AND HATHOR

In the Timaeus 22a-b, Plato's Critias tells us that, 'on one occasion, when [Solon] wanted to lead [the Egyptian priests at Sais...

Steve Kershaw view
Link HERODOTUS ON BABYLON

Herodotus' History includes a memorable description of the city of Babylon, which may have had a considerable influence on Plato's...

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