Atlantis: Critias’ Trail of Clues

We’ve been through this before with a dilettante German archaeologist by the name of Heinrich Schliemann (1822-1890). Proceeding methodically in calm defiance of the widespread belief in his time that Homer’s Iliad is pure fiction, Schliemann followed its every clue to the location of the lost city of Troy. Nine levels of successive building and destruction were to be eventually excavated at the site he located, illustrating the strategic and economic importance through the lost ages of this metropolitan tollbooth of Black Sea commerce.

With Plato’s Atlantis, we’re back at square one. Academic after academic, some entrenched and some self-appointed, line up to profess their skepticism, trusting in the venerated process by which so many have sealed their reputations as immovable pillars of modern material reductionism.

Plato had no plausible reason to lie to us about Atlantis any more than had Homer before him about Troy. It was Plato, let’s not forget, who established the Academy that would forge the mind of Aristotle, the founder of the modern scientific thinking the skeptics would have us believe they so stubbornly defend in dismissing Plato’s Atlantis.

On the matter of natural catastrophes, the only real absurdity in our interpretation of Critias is becoming increasingly evident in light of the frequent near misses both reported and projected of NEOs in the modern era: the possibility that there were no hits worth writing about over the 9,000 years covered by his remarks to those present at Socrates’ gathering. The rational view based on the statistical inevitability is quite the contrary: we should expect any surviving records spanning that much time to echo the direct sighting or at least the consequences and aftereffects of several catastrophic bolide impacts.

In the matter of the substance behind the Atlantis legend as opposed to its value in making a point, the real absurdity lies not in our suspension of disbelief in the writings of Plato but in the idea that Critias would have had to concoct a fictional account of events in the remote past of Socrates’ gathering in order to present to them a morality lesson in collective hubris. On the contrary, we should expect Critias (and Plato) to have had rich pickings among real events for this purpose and moreover a preference for real events so as to make his morality lesson worth anything at all. Given that he wished as might anyone in his position to make as strong an impression as possible, why choose a lesser among these real-life examples over the greatest?

So let’s put our rickety reputations (or lack thereof) aside and follow the clues that Plato left to us through the putative person of Critias, who in the Timaeus has already described in striking visual form such cataclysmic natural disasters through the ages as we either experience first-hand or narrowly miss on a regular basis today. The only difference today is that we’re aware of these near misses by near-Earth objects and of every volcanic or seismic catastrophe the world over, no matter how distant they may seem to those of us fortunate enough to have been thus far spared their impartial ravages.

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