They were a mighty race of people who, millennia ago, allegedly held sway over entire swathes of the planet. They were, in many ways, far more advanced than our own civilization. Such was the level of renown that surrounded this ancient and majestic culture. Their legend, even today, continues to live on. More correctly, for some it does. For others, the entire matter is one that should be relegated to the world of folklore and mythology. In all likelihood, the truth can be found in a hazy, foggy, combination of the two. We are talking about the story of the ill-fated land, and inhabitants, of Atlantis.
Although countless words and numerous books have been written on the rise and fall of Atlantis, they can almost all be traced back to the work of none other than Plato, the famous Greek philosopher who was born around 420 B.C.E. It was Plato’s Critias that introduced people to the world of Atlantis. Plato’s story told of an unsuccessful attempt by the Atlanteans to invade and conquer the people of Athens, the capital of Greece. Although Critias is presented as fiction, many researchers of the Atlantis enigma are of the opinion that Plato had acquired his information from archaic, secret texts that told the truth of the astoundingly advanced society that existed long before our own.
So the story goes, the ancient gods of Greece—or space aliens, one can take one’s pick—elected to apportion various parts of the planet to equally various gods. Atlantis’s lord and master was the god Poseidon. Like so many other gods that came before and after him, Poseidon lusted after human, mortal women—one young woman in particular, named Cleito. Demonstrating that the gods were actually as flesh and blood as the rest of us, Poseidon and Cleito had a number of children, the first being a character named Atlas—a man who had a lengthy reign over Atlantis, eventually ceding rule to his firstborn.
And in their intercourse with one another. They despised everything but virtue, caring little for their present state of life, and thinking lightly of the possession of gold and other property, which seemed only a burden to them; neither were they intoxicated by luxury; nor did wealth deprive them of their self-control; but they were sober, and saw clearly that all these goods are increased by virtue and friendship with one another, whereas by too great regard and respect for them, they are lost and friendship with them..
Sadly, the state of harmony did not last, as Plato recorded, also in the pages of Critias:
When the divine portion began to fade away, and became diluted too often and too much with the mortal admixture, and the human nature got the upper hand, they then, being unable to bear their fortune, behaved unseemly, and to him who had an eye to see grew visibly debased, for they were losing the fairest of their precious gifts; but to those who had no eye to see the true happiness, they appeared glorious and blessed at the very time when they were full of avarice and unrighteous power.
A definitive wrath of god-style punishment followed, one in which Atlantean cities fell, people died in multitudes, landscapes shifted, volcanoes spewed forth, and finally, the land of renown sunk beneath the waves—taking its secrets with it—somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean. But was the story of Atlantis really just that—a story—after all? Or, could it have had a basis in reality?