What's The Deal With Atlantis?
(And Why It Definitely Never Existed)

There's a lot of people talking about Atlantis lately, and claiming that it actually existed. You'll often hear people talking about how it was visited or even created by extraterrestrials, how it brought spiritual enlightnment to the world, and things like that. But the thing is, these fantastical claims are simply not in evidence, anywhere - much less in the only two texts we have that actually mention Atlantis, Timaeus and Critias. In fact, these claims actually have very sinister origins that far too few people are aware of.

If you like the idea of Atlantis, or consider yourself Atlantean in some sense, then this article probably isn't going to be a fun read for you. However, these are serious issues that we can't afford to turn our heads away from.

First uploaded: November 28, 2021.

Table of Contents

Critical Thinking vs. Atlantis Belief

Critical thinking begins by asking yourself one very simple question: "How do we know that for sure?" This tends to branch out into other questions such as,

The trouble is, your typical conspiracy theory and alternate history theory isn't really rooted in critical thinking at all. Very often, it just comes down to somebody trying to rationalize the things they really want to believe. White Europeans really wanted to believe that white Europeans were the superior race, so they started coming up with all kinds of pseudoscientific rationalizations to explain away the culture and accomplishments of other people, such as that their monuments and cultures actually came from other people, such as Hyperboreans, Atlanteans, and even aliens.

You see, white European culture has been in possession of an extremely horrible and irrational way of thinking for a long time now: the belief that the world is fundamentally dog-eat-dog and that if you're not on the top and exercising your dominion over others, then you're being used, abused, and humiliated. This incredibly toxic way of thinking had white Europeans scrambling for reasons to try and justify why they deserved to be the ones on top.

(And seriously, white people today really need to deprogram themselves out of seeing literally everything as a competition for dominance and calm the heck down. I don't think you realize how much joy you're sucking out of life and just how much harm you're doing to yourself and those around you.)

So, let's get critical and actually ask ourselves the important question: How did we come by the knowledge of Atlantis?

We only have two ancient sources on the story of Atlantis, and both of them are by Plato: Timaeus and Critias. Literally, that's it - two books, both of them by the same guy. And that's really not a promising start. Atlantis was supposedly a big deal, which means that if it actually existed then we should be able to find it clearly and explicitly mentioned in other ancient books that aren't written by Plato, including ones that pre-date him. The fact that no such literature has turned up casts a lot of doubt on this story's veracity.

Okay, so what do these works say about Atlantis?

Plato first tells us about Atlantis in Timaeus, which starts where his Republic left off. Critias, Timaeus, and Hermocrates meet up with Socrates again and have a little recap of their previous discussion on what an ideal state would look like. This narrative context is very important.

Socrates eventually tells the others that he would like to hear a story about their own city, Athens, going to war and demonstrating its greatness thereby. He complains that the local poets just don't have the right kind of background upbringing to tell such a tale (because he's an elitist snob here, I guess) and basically says that only Critias, Timaeus, and Hermocrates are up to the job.

Hermocrates steps forward and says that Critias literally just told them a story exactly like that yesterday. (Isn't that just convenient?) Critias steps forward and says that the story he's about to tell was told to him by his grandfather (also named Critias), who heard the story from his father Dropides, who heard it from his friend Solon, who heard the story in Egypt.

Critias actually names the exact place Solon supposedly heard this story from. He claims that it came from the city of Sais. He claims that the people of Sais consider their patron goddess Neith to be the same as the goddess Athena, and consider themselves related to the Athenians. He says that Solon heard this story from the local priests, whom he claims are well-aquainted with Greek ideas.

Plato writes Critias as saying that the priest told Solon that there have been many cataclysms in the past for various reasons. This priest in this narrative claims that Egypt has far older myths and lore than Athens by virtue of its geography making it safer from natural disaster, and claims that the Athenians pretty much lose all of their historical knowledge whenever one of these cataclysms inevitably wipes out the literate members of society and they lose pretty much all of their written records.

The priest tells Solon that Athens used to be inhabited by the noblest, most attractive people who ever lived, and basically had the best army and the best government that ever existed. He says that the goddess Athena founded Athens nine thousand years ago, and founded the city of Sais a thousand years later. The priest in this narrative tries to demonstrate a connection between Athenian and Egyptian culture by pointing out similarities in their laws and customs, and attributes this similarity to their common patron goddess.

The priest claims that the island of Atlantis was the size of Libya and Asia (keep in mind, these are ancient definitions of Libya and Asia, not modern ones - think Herodotus's map, not a modern globe) put together, and describes the people as foreign invaders who launched unprovoked attacks against Europe and Asia. He says that the island was located right in front of the Strait of Gibraltar, which for those who aren't aware, is the short stretch of ocean separating the south coast of Spain from the north coast of Morocco by all of about fifteen miles.

The priest says that the Atlanteans had a vast empire that ruled the whole island plus several others, and had colonized Northwestern Africa and Western Europe, and intended to colonize Athens and Egypt next. According to the priest, the mighty and heroic Athenians successfully defeated Atlantis and liberated their colonies in Africa and Europe.

After this, earthquakes and floods occurred, and all of Athens's mighty warriors were pulled into the ground, as was the very island of Atlantis itself. The priest says that this is why nobody can pass through the strait of Gilbralter and sail through the Atlantic Ocean, because the remains of Atlantis left shallow, muddy shoals that made the ocean impassible.

You might notice that this account is very different from what modern New Agers describe. Far from being a paradise of spiritual enlightenment, Atlantis is portrayed more as an evil empire bent on conquest. There's no suggestion that the Atlanteans gave Greece or Egypt their culture or spirituality; rather, the story credits Athena/Neith for that.

Critias brings the gang back together for another chat, and Critias sets about telling everyone more about the things Solon allegedly heard from the priests of Sais. He claims that in the days of old, the gods had divided the whole Earth among themselves by allotment and didn't fight over territory, but minded their own business and guided their own people. He claims that Athenians didn't have gender roles back in these days, and so women were also warriors. He claims the warrior class lived apart from the rest of society, and regarded everything they had as common property. Farmers farmed, shepherds shepherded, nobody gave in to greed or vanity, everybody was very attractive, and life was basically great.

Critias notes that a bunch of foreign people in the story are going to have Greek names. He says that the reason for this is because Solon discovered that the Egyptians had translated everyone's names into their own language, and that Solon chose to translate them all into Greek. (I guess that's one way to cover for a lack of knowing any foreign names.)

He claims that Poseidon was alloted Atlantis to rule and fathered five sets of male twins with a mortal woman. Apparently, Poseidon likes it rough, because their lovemaking produced Atlantis's famous concentric rings of land and water. (Fun fact, Poseidon is also a god of earthquakes.) Poseidon also gave the island two springs of water - one that gave cold water, and one that gave hot water. (So basically, he gave Atlantis hot and cold running water.) He divided Atlantis into ten portions, and made his sons rulers over them. And for many generations, everything was great. Atlantis was a fabulously wealthy nation, being rich in wood, fragrant plants, all kinds of animals, and a precious red metal known as orichalcum.

Critias goes on to describe the temple, and describes a statue of Poseidon in it. The narrative claims that the statue depicts Poseidon in a chariot with six winged horses, surrounded by a hundred nereids riding on dolphins.

Critias eventually describes the army of Atlantis, and it's pretty in line with what the Greeks of Plato's time would be familiar with - horse-drawn chariots, javelins, slings, bows and arrows, and the like. There's nothing here that suggests any kind of lost or alien technology whatsoever.

Atlantis's law included the death penalty, and bulls were ritually slaughtered at Poseidon's temple. The narrative also tells us that the Atlantean kings had to occasionally suppress uprisings from their citizens, which would indicate that many of them were actually extremely unhappy with the government. These are things that would be very familiar to Greeks of Plato's time, but fly in the face of what modern New Agers often claim Atlantis was like.

Critias claims that the Atlantean kings dutifully followed the law of Poseidon and avoided falling into corruption for generations due to their initial divine parentage, but grew corrupt as their lineage grew more and more human. And then he claims that Zeus and the other gods decided to punish the Atlanteans in the hopes that they might improve.

And this is pretty much where the story ends, because the narrative just ends mid-sentence and that's it. Still, it's pretty easy to guess where it was headed: The Atlanteans don't change their ways; in fact, simply they grow worse. They go out waging war and conquering Europe and Africa, unstoppable until at last they come upon the morally-superior Athenians, who kick their asses on account of having the gods' favor.

One final thing I want to point out: we don't know whether the conversations in these books actually took place, or whether they were an invention of Plato's. It's entirely possible that he simply wrote about fictional conversations between some real people. We don't actually know whether Solon actually visited any priests in Sais, or whether Plato made the whole thing up himself.

Why Atlantis could not have existed

I did skip over a few details about Atlantis, but if you're curious to see what I didn't go over you can easily read both Timaeus and Critias for yourself. The long and short of it is that Atlantis is consistently described as the kind of civilization that Plato and his contemporaries would be familiar with, not as some kind of New Age utopia. It's fantastically large and fabulously fancy, but it's not what we would call advanced or enlightened by any stretch.

Modern Atlantis believers are simply picking and choosing the parts they like while simply ignoring the details that don't fit their narrative. They ignore where it says Alantis was located near the Strait of Gilbralter so they can place it anywhere they imagine resembles an ancient city. They ignore the part where Atlantean kings practiced animal sacrifice so they can claim they shared their own moral values. They disregard how Athenians and Egyptians were said to have recieved their culture from Athena/Neith, not from Atlanteans. And most damningly, they ignore the part where the Atlanteans aren't even the main characters of this story at all. Rather, the main characters are the Athenians. This is established upfront when Socrates asks to hear a story about a glorious Athenian victory.

Anyone who chooses to ignore all of these details is no longer really talking about Atlantis, but simply carrying on with their own wishful thinking. And this in turn means that they have no ground to claim Timaeus or Critias as their authority. It's like making up a city on Mars and naming it Metropolis, and trying to claim that Superman comics are evidence that your made-up Martian city really exists.

Now, let's look at some of the claims these works make, and see if they hold up to scrutiny.

First of all, Timaeus claims that Athens was established 11,000 years ago, and suffered a series of cataclysms that wiped out the literate members of society each and every time, supposedly explaining why the Athenians don't remember Atlantis. It seems very odd that these disasters would somehow take out all the literate people each and every time. Remember, literate members of ancient societies didn't just include priests and kings. It also included merchants, scholars, and diplomats. People like this often tend to travel, and therefore wouldn't all be at home to be affected by such a disaster. (Remember, Egypt was explicitly said to be safe from these kinds of disasters. We can assume that there would be a number of other places that would be safe enough from the destruction in this narrative, too.)

There's also no evidence of the kind of Athenian civilization Critias describes existing 11,000 years ago. Sure, the region has been inhabited since the Neolithic period, but the city-state of Athens itself originated in the Mycenaean period, around 1700-1100 BCE.

The books claim Atlantis had a vast empire that extended across Western Europe and Northern Africa. If such were the case, then we should be able to find numerous artifacts attesting to their presence in these regions, including but not limited to monuments, buildings, jewelry, weapons, personal care tools, and wrecked ships and chariots. We should be able to find objects made of orichalcum, and find things inscribed with Atlantean writing. But no such thing has ever turned up.

Timaeus places Atlantis just outside the Strait of Gibraltar, so we should assume that if Atlantis existed, then it would be there and nowhere else. Consequentially, a large number of Atlantean artifacts should turn up around this region - the ocean off the coasts of Portugal, Spain, and Morocco should be full of Atlantean artifacts. However, we don't find any such thing.

Some people have tried to argue that artifacts from 11,000 years ago would simply end up buried too far for us to find, but nothing could be further from the truth! We've found many human artifacts from around that point in time, and artifacts from even older periods. The famous Venus of Willendorf is an estimated 25,000 years old. 16,000 year old stone tools have been found in Texas. 9000 year old artifacts have been dredged up from the Doggerland region. The idea that Atlanteans would leave behind no findable artifacts is simply absurd.

The Atlanteans clearly worship Poseidon as a sea god, as evidenced by the iconography in his temple. However, during the Mycenean period, (1700-1100 BCE), Poseidon was apparently reckoned as more of a chthonic god who was also associated with underground waters. The interpretation and iconography described in Critias, however, very much dates to Plato's time. (And of course, it's unlikely that Poseidon even existed at all some 11,000 years ago. People probably had chthonic deities, sure, but none of them were probably Poseidon, as such. Mythology evolves.)

Critias also depicts Zeus as the head of the pantheon. However, Zeus doesn't seem to have been the primary deity of the Greeks until the Hellenistic period. His name doesn't appear in many Linear B tablets; however, Poseidon is frequently given the title "Wanax," or "King."

Finally, the geology of Atlantis just doesn't hold up under scrutiny. The Tales of Times Forgotten post The Truth About Atlantis goes over why this is, so I suggest you give it a read.

Once again I reiterate: Anyone who chooses to dismiss the details in the books and swap them out with something they find more palatable or plausible is no longer talking about Plato's Atlantis, but rather an imaginary city of their own devising. Therefore, they cannot claim Timaeus or Critias as evidence of its existence. All New Age interpretations of Atlantis are therefore discredited by default.

What about places that look like Atlantis, or events that sound like Atlantis?

Every now and then, somebody will point to something that maybe, more or less, kind of looks like Atlantis. For example, some people have claimed that the Richat Structure in Mauritania resembles the concentric rings described in Critias. And because Mauritania is kind of, sort of, more or less close to the location Plato described, people conclude that it must be the remains of Atlantis.

This kind of thinking overlooks a historical reality: people knew things about the world they lived in, told these things to other people, and wrote about them in books. It's entirely possible that the Greeks of Plato's time knew about the Richat Structure due to descriptions of it getting around through trade routes, and that the description in Critias was simply inspired by it.

It's also not like people didn't know about geological activity (remember, Poseidon was the god of earthquakes), so it wouldn't have been difficult for them to imagine up an earthquake that could hypothetically suck down an entire city. Most people have the very basic ability imagine things they've seen and heard about on much bigger scales.

Whoever initially made up the story of Atlantis, be it Plato, Critias, Solon, or even the Egyptian priests of Sais, lived in a bustling world of cultural interaction and exchange, with years of history and mythology to riff on.

All so-called evidence of Atlantis only looks like evidence if you don't know or care what evidence looks like; and only if you haven't bothered to read Timaeus and Critias, or are simply cherry-picking from those texts.

In closing

The claims that New Agers make about Atlantis simply aren't supported by the texts they cite as authority. There are literally only two ancient texts that mention it, both of them written by the same man, and neither one of them depict Atlantis as an enlightened crystal utopia. Plato's Atlantis is thoroughly the sort of place that an Athenian man living in the 5th century BCE would imagine up, as demonstrated by Atlantis's armies using weapons such as bows and javelins and Atlantis's kings performing animal sacrifice.

Additionally, if Atlantis ever had existed, it would have left behind far more evidence. We have plenty of artifacts that pre-date the time Plato sets Atlantis in, so there's no reason we wouldn't find anything from Atlantis if it really existed, either. The fact that we can't find so much as a single Atlantean hairpin is damning.

I hope I've managed to demonstrate that Atlantis could not have actually existed, and that those who claim it does are either misinformed or simply cherrypicking from a couple of documents that largely do not support their beliefs. Belief in Atlantis isn't just some harmless personal choice; rather, it's deeply rooted in white supremacy and has been part of fascist spiritual beliefs from the early 20th century up until today. Right now, it's disturbingly easy to find people on the Internet talking about how they're the direct descendants of Atlantis and carry the superior Atlantean DNA, or claiming that the "truth" of Atlantis was hidden by Jews.

If you personally considered yourself some kind of Atlantean being up until this point, then I really thank you for sticking through. I can understand that believing that you are Atlantean can give one a sense of meaning, purpose, and even identity in a world that quite frankly just sucks right now. Still, it's important to understand how people with hateful agendas can use this kind of thing against us, and against vulnerable minorities. Remember, you don't have to be Atlantean to be spiritual or find a meaning in life. However, the dangers of falling for and perpetrating fascist propaganda cannot be overstated. Also, if you have been led to think that hypnotic trances are an effective means of retrieving memories (such as past life memories), then I highly recommend that you give What's The Deal With Michelle Remembers? The Book That Started A Witch Hunt a read, because as it turns out, they are simply not.

I hope you found this article useful and informative. If you liked it, please share it with your friends and on your social media. Literally anything we can do to oppose fascist propaganda helps, so it would be great if you could help me get the word out. And since I'm a mere mortal with mere mortal needs, it would be excellent if you'd consider supporting me on Patreon, or just getting me something from my wishlist. Also, the External Resources section will have links to my sources and other content relevant to this, so don't forget to check those out, too.

Other Pages You Might Like:

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Sketchy Spiritualities & Shady Pseudohistories: What People Need To Know
What Conspiracy Theorists & Bad "Psychics" Have In Common
Some Observations On Conspiracy Propaganda
A Beginner's Guide To Spotting Cranky Websites & Culty Groups
Addressing Claims Of Alien Theorists & Believers
Why New Age Spirituality Even Is Creepier Than You Thought

External Resources

This Is How We Know the Egyptian Pyramids Were Built as Tombs
Mycenaean Deities
Did Aliens Build the Pyramids? And Other Racist Theories
The Harmful Pseudoarchaeology of Mythological Atlantis
Racism is behind outlandish theories about Africa’s ancient architecture

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