The Classical Quarterly (New Series)

Research Article

Crantor and Posidonius on Atlantis

Alan Camerona1

a1 Columbia University, New York

The story of Atlantis, inspiration (on a recent estimate) of more than 20,000 books, rests entirely on an elaborate Platonic myth (Timaeus 20d–26e, continued in Critias 108d–121c), allegedly based on a private, oral tradition deriving from Solon. Solon himself is supposed to have heard the story in Egypt; a priest obligingly translated it for him from hieroglyphic inscriptions in a temple in Sais. It might be added that (unlike his modern readers) Plato is less concerned with Atlantis than with her rival and conqueror, the Athens of that antediluvian age 9600 B.C. That Plato himself made the whole story up (fashionable recent theories about Thera notwithstanding) is indeed virtually demonstrable. This is not the place for such a demonstration (not that any amount of proof could destroy the faith of the true believer), but it is at any rate possible to eliminate completely one of the crucial props on which belief has always leaned.