Fantasy is a tough sell in the twentieth century.
The world has been fully discovered and fully mapped. Popular media has
effectively minimized the legend and the fantastic rumor, though to make up for
this it has generated falsities not as lavish but just as interesting. Satellites have
mapped and studied the earth, leaving only a space frontier that is as yet unreachable.
But standing out is a charming fantasy the modern world has yet to verify or condemn:
the lost continent of Atlantis.
The father of the modern world's perception of Atlantis is Plato (circa 428-
circa 347 b.c.). (1) The Greek philosopher spoke in his works Timaeus and Critias of a
continent in the Atlantic ocean larger than Africa and Asia Minor combined which rivaled
Athens as the most advanced in the world. (2) According to the legend surrounding
Plato's dialogues, the island of Atlantis was violently thrown into the sea by the
forces of nature, and its few survivors managed to swim ashore and relate their story.
(3) There the legend was passed by word of mouth until an Egyptian priest related the
story to Solon, a character in Timaeus. The priest admired the achievements of
prehistoric Athenians, because when the rulers of Atlantis threatened to invade all of
Europe and Asia the Athenians, on behalf of all Greeks, defeated the Atlanteans to avoid
The works of Plato opened the floodgates to endless speculation on whether the
continent described was fact or fiction. Atlantis has since been placed in Spain,
Mongolia, Palestine, Nigeria, the Netherlands, Brazil, Sweden, Greenland and Yucatan.
Every nook and cranny of the globe has been hypothesized; mountain peaks, desert lands,
the ocean floor and even the barren wasteland of Antarctica have been mentioned in
While some of these...