Did Atlantis really exist?

The story of Atlantis appears in accounts of two conversations between the Greek philosopher Socrates and his friends, Critias and Timaeus, written down by Plato over 2,000 years ago.

In the first account Atlantis was said to be a large island opposite the pillars of Hercules (the straits of Gibraltar). The king of Atlantis wanted to conquer lands around the Mediterranean but Athens resisted. The island of Atlantis and its people were later destroyed by the sea.

In another story the gods bring about the destruction of the island because of the arrogance of its inhabitants. The debate about whether Atlantis really existed has been going on ever since.

Some have claimed to have found ruins of sunken cities beneath the sea. One intriguing possibility is that the story of Atlantis is an account of the destruction of the island of Santorini in a volcanic eruption which is said to have brought Minoan power on Crete to an end. The story of Atlantis may simply be a warning about what happens to people who think themselves all powerful. Or it may be a half-remembered story
about the eruption of Santorini. Whatever the case it has captured our imagination and it will continue to feature in films and books.

Answered by Bryan Sitch, Manchester Museum.