Articles about history, for students, and about teaching history, for teachers ...

The Real Destruction of Atlantis

The ancient Greeks believed an island empire ruled the sea in the distant past. The lords of Atlantis built a mighty civilization, but their pride eventually angered the gods, who destroyed their island with earthquakes and fire, sending it beneath the sea.

Atlantis in Comic Books, Fantasy … and History?

the destruction of Atlantis

Terror Antiquus by L. Bakst (1908)

The Atlantis myth has fascinated Westerners for centuries, and it often reappears in modern fiction. The superhero Aquaman comes from Atlantis, for instance, which in DC Comics survives as an underwater civilization. And in J.R.R. Tolkien’s writings, Atlantis appears as the island empire of Numenor, which is destroyed for excessive pride but leaves behind the ancestors of heroes and kings from The Lord of the Rings, including Aragorn (Strider).

Some scholars think Atlantis is pure fiction, but others think the Greeks got the story from distant history. The leading contender for the real Atlantis is the Minoan settlement on the island of Thera.

The Minoans of Atlantis

The Minoans were Bronze Age people who lived on the large island of Crete and built great palaces there. We don’t know what they called themselves, but we use the name “Minoans” because of the Greek myth of Crete’s King Minos. Crete’s palace of Knossos was a giant maze to the primitive Greeks across the Aegean Sea, and the palace lords enjoyed watching acrobats jump over charging bulls. So real history probably gave rise to the Greek myth of Minos, king at Knossos, and the Minotaur (bull-headed monster) in a maze under his palace.


Gibel Atlantidy (The Fall of Atlantis), by N. Roerich (1928/9)

The Minoans built towns on Aegean islands other than Crete, including Thera, which lies between Crete and Greece. The Minoans of Thera and elsewhere likely dominated the Greeks through sea power, so stories of empires and excessive pride make sense, from a Greek point of view.

Unfortunately for the Minoans, Thera was a volcano. And sometime around 1600 B.C., it erupted spectacularly, blasting much of the island to smithereens. A few ridges of land survived — now called the islands of Santorini — but most of Thera fell beneath the sea, including the great Minoan towns.

It’s possible that centuries later, the ancient Greeks dimly remembered the disaster of Thera and the arrogant Minoans, giving us the Atlantis myth.

This is one of the stories told in my book, The Jericho River! In fact, we just posted an excerpt from the book, involving the Minoan palace at Knossos, in Crete.

© 2018 by David W. Tollen. All rights reserved.

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial