When so many have tried and failed, on the face of it, it seems like a lost cause. Yet search for Atlantis we do, sometimes physically; sometimes fancifully in films, books, and comics. It is a subject that has spawned serious discussion, and crank theories in equal measure since Plato first mentioned it in his dialogues Timaeus and Critias circa 360 BCE.
According to Plato, Atlantis was a naval power that conquered many parts of Western Europe and Africa 9,000 years before the time of Solon, the great, great grandfather of Critias. Solon learned of Atlantis through Egyptian priests at Sais in around 600 BCE, where the history of ancient Athens and Atlantis had been recorded in Egyptian hieroglyphics. The priests of Sais translated the tale into Greek, and Solon returned home with the epic.
If this did indeed happen, and even that part of the story is up for debate, why the tale lay ignored for the next 200 years is unexplained. Instead, Plato tells us that it is he who decided to breathe new life into the story, and that the tale he is giving to the world has been adapted for a local audience. Plato explains that many names of gods in the dialogues, for example, have been changed to sound more Greek, retaining the meanings of the names, but not their original forms.
From there, more questions abound. If Plato changed the names of the gods, what else did he change? How does the story match up with our current understanding of archaeology and pre-history? How can we be sure, if the story is true, that it is even a faithful retelling of it?
The truth is, until evidence surfaces that can prove otherwise, we can never be sure. We can make educated guesses, but no more than that.
And so unfolds a 2,600 year old treasure hunt. The allure of a lost city. The promise of fame and fortune. And a myriad of competing theories that often tell us more about the searcher, than the tale of Atlantis itself.