Around 350 BC, the Greek philosopher Plato wrote about an island situated in front of the Pillars of Hercules, that disappeared under the sea in one day and one night. According to Plato, the capital of Atlantis was built on a hill and surrounded by rings of water, which were joined by tunnels large enough for a ship to sail through. A huge canal connected the outer rings of water to the ocean.
The possible existence of the island of Atlantis has intrigued scholars and scientists over the centuries.
In 1800s a man called Ignatius Donnelly wrote a bestselling book called Atlantis, the Antediluvian World. After studying flood history, Ignatius put forward the suggestion that Atlantis was not fiction, but the recording of a natural disaster.
Most modern academics insist that Plato created the story, and was perhaps inspired by events that happened during his lifetime, but that the island never existed.
Grainne, the writer of our Kit stories, took inspiration from the legend to create an adventure for the intrepid young girl and her friends, while etymology expert Alex has been looking into the origins of the word Atlantis.
The subject of dreams, of magical tales and many a search, Atlantis has long captured our imagination. But where did all of this spring from?
All the original historical references to the fabulous lost city of Atlantis are to be found in dialogues recorded by Plato in about 360 BC.
He describes it as having been an amazingly advanced place, with technological wonders, and it is this that has fed the fires of stories and mythology over the centuries.
You may already have noticed the similarity of the name “atlantis” to the name of the ocean – the Atlantic. This is no accident; they come from the same place. Not only that, but a third word is also connected; “atlas”.
“Atlantis” means “the island of Atlas”. So who or what is Atlas? Apart from being a book full of maps that you might have used in a geography lesson, he is a Titan, or a giant, in Greek mythology.
According to the legend, he led the Titans in a war against the gods of Olympus, and as a punishment he was made to hold up the sky on his shoulders.
His name is thought to have come from this: it is formed from the root τλα- or τλη- (tla/ tli), which gave the word τλήναι (tlinai), which meant “to take on, to lift, to bear”.
Funnily enough, since we are talking of the sky, the Greek word for the sunrise, ανατολή (anatoli), also comes from this root – the sun “lifts”.
So there you have it: Atlantis is the Island of the Sky-Bearer!
Alex Tigers is a British translator living and working in Greece. She has been interested in and studying etymology since a young age when she started learning French at school and wondered why so many words seemed similar to English. Apart from translating, Alex also writes poetry and children’s stories.
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