Recently, a group of scientists have claimed that they have stumbled upon the remains of the ancient lost city of Atlantis.
Merlin Burrows, a fantastically named high-tech search company, claims it has finally found the lost city of Atlantis via satellite. The company says the legendary city is now a bunch of 10,000-year-old ruins in Spain.
“We find anything that has been lost, forgotten or hidden with pin-point accuracy,” says the company website. It searches for national treasures, ancient war ships and other things you’d expect a company called “Merlin Burrows” might want to find.
I hope their discovery is the real deal, but history is filled with people claiming they’ve found Atlantis. Still, the potential finding got me thinking about the legend. The first mention of Atlantis came from everyone’s favorite Greek philosopher, Plato (quiet Aristotle fans, this isn’t your moment). In Plato’s writings, Atlantis fights ancient Athens. Athens wins, and Atlantis sinks into the sea.
Plato may have just been using Atlantis as an allegory to explain his philosophy, but over the years, people have imagined a real city of Atlantis. In some stories, modern people manage to find a still-functional hidden city, filled with wise people and amazing technology. But Plato’s Atlantis is far from a utopia.
“Atlantis is not a place to be honored or emulated at all. Atlantis is not the perfect society,” writes Ken Feder, an archaeology professor. “Quite the contrary, Atlantis is the embodiment of a materially wealthy, technologically advanced, and militarily powerful nation that has become corrupted by its wealth, sophistication, and might.” Sound familiar?
Still, I don’t think people’s fascination for Atlantis is really about Plato or ancient ruins. It’s wrapped up in a longing for the past. People think of Atlantis as an amazing civilization full of lost wisdom. If we could just talk to an Atlantean, perhaps we could mend the broken chain that once connected the past to the present. We could learn the secrets to happiness that must have been our birthright. We could discover where we went wrong, and how we could reverse the mistake.
Atlanteans are pretty similar to aliens. People want to meet them not to learn more about them, but to learn about us. What a disappointment it would be if we found aliens, and they turned out to be just as clueless as we are.
Perhaps that’s why part of me hopes Merlin Burrows didn’t really find Atlantis. If the company found the city, and it’s just a bunch of ancient ruins, the hope is lost. As long as we never find Atlantis, we can keep believing in it.