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In a nutshell: Atlantis is a fictional place invented by Plato that some people think was a real place. Some think that Atlantis was a civilization started by aliens. But it disappeared one day in a giant explosion.

Atlantis was the name of an island in a story told by the philosopher Plato (424-347 BCE). In the story, Atlantis had a lot of ships and was always attacking other countries. Then, in a single day and night more than 8,000 years before Plato's time, it sunk into the ocean. Nobody in Plato's day took the story literally. They knew it was an allegory, a made-up story with a moral lesson. Plato made up the Atlantis story to make a point about the perfect society. He wasn't reporting a historical fact. This is obvious since nobody in all of Athens' history had ever mentioned a battle with Atlantis until Plato made it up.

There weren't any countries with lots of ships until just a few hundred years before Plato's time. Let's just say that times were pretty simple 10,000 years ago. There weren't any large nations yet. Most people in those days were hunters and gatherers of wild foods.

Fast forward to 1882 and a character named Ignatius Donnelly who wrote a book saying that Atlantis really was an island nation that disappeared a long time ago. About one hundred years later, a few other writers not only said Atlantis was a real island sunk somewhere beneath the Atlantic ocean, but they even drew maps of where they thought it was. Some even said that aliens from other planets lived on Atlantis.

Many people today don't know that Atlantis was just a place in a story, not a real island. But if it were a real island, we couldn't prove that those who say that aliens lived on Atlantis are wrong. Why not? Because the island has disappeared. Since it's disappeared, people can say just about anything they want about it and nobody can prove otherwise. Some say the Atlanteans invented airplanes and powerful explosives. Some say they discovered very advanced healing methods. Some say that they blew themselves up with nuclear weapons.map of Atlantis 1882

Even though Atlantis never existed except in a story, many people have claimed to know where it was located. Take your pick: one of the islands in the Mediterranean that was destroyed in a volcanic eruption, earthquake, or tsunami; off the coast of Spain; an island off the coast of Spain, off the coast of India, or somewhere in the North Sea; near Sweden, Ireland, or Cyprus; or under Libya, Antarctica, or the Caribbean.

Skeptics think Atlantis is located in a corner of a wild imagination.

Last updated 18-Jan-2012

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