Atlantis: the eruption in myth
The collective memory of a catastrophe of such dimensions can live on for centuries in the minds and literature of mankind. The floods and momentarily altered sea-levels caused by the eruption of Santorini could possibly lie behind the ancient Greek myth of Deucalion in which Zeus, in his wrath at the vice of man, floods the world saving only two people, Deucalion and his wife Pyrrha. Perhaps the most vivid recollection has lived on in the story of the sunken civilisation of Atlantis. All our ‘information’ about Atlantis comes from two dialogues of Plato, the Timaeus and the unfinished Critias, written at the beginning of the 4th century bc. In them Plato refers to a conversation between Solon and a venerable Egyptian priest who tells the Greek sage the story of the ideal, proto-civilisation of Atlantis, with its virtuous people and methods of government. It ruled an area, he says, encompassing much of the southeastern Mediterranean, even though the continent itself was placed by Plato, somewhat counter-intuitively, beyond the Pillars of Hercules (Straits of Gibraltar). When the people of Atlantis later became arrogant and no longer respected their gods they were beset with wars until finally ‘in a single day and night’, after violent earthquakes and floods, the island-continent disappeared into the depths of the sea. Similar ‘morals’ occurs in far earlier Babylonian literature (the Epic of Gilgamesh) and in Hebrew literature (Genesis); and Flood-myths are common also to Indian, Persian, Chinese, Islamic and Pre-Columbian traditions. But the particular fate of Atlantis as described by Plato, as well as his emphasis on its prosperity and sphere of influence, do suggest that the memory of a glorious Bronze Age civilisation in Greek waters and the catastrophe of Thera are important elements in the weave.

Santorini Island is part of the Cyclades Island Group, Greece.

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