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Lost city of Atlantis sparks the imagination

Published February 28. 2015 09:00AM

I came across an interesting story on a website called "Epoch Times"(www.theepochtimes.com) in a section devoted to "Beyond Science: Archaeology" with regard to an apocryphal precious metal called orichalcum.

According to the article, orichalcum was a mythical metal used in the ancient lost city of Atlantis. While no smoking gun evidence of Atlantis has ever been uncovered, adventurers, scholars and dreamers alike believe this mysterious civilization flourished long ago before disappearing into the mists of time. Atlantis has inspired writers, producers and so many others to visualize or imagine what this city might have been like.

The Greek philosopher Plato compared it to ancient Athens to illustrate concepts of how the "state" should function and what an "ideal state" is like. He wrote about a battle between the Athenians and the Atlanteans in which the Athenians defended themselves against the more powerful island nation of Atlantis. In the end, Atlantis falls out of favor with the gods and slips into the ocean and is lost forever.

Historians and scholars have fallen into two camps, those who believe Plato was using a plot device to discuss principles about the state and those who believe Plato was writing about history, either a literal Atlantis or a metaphorical one based on an actual nation. No one has either proven or disproven that Atlantis was a real place. This has not stopped people from searching for this mythical city.

While Atlantis in Plato's writings was a specific location which some believe was in the Atlantic Ocean somewhere, explorers and speculators have generalized the term to represent ancient lost civilizations. It truly is the representative of the "lost civilization" in our world. Many distinguished people have speculated Atlantis was a real place. The psychic Edgar Cayce, the "Sleeping Prophet," recorded many readings about the island nation claiming many people were reincarnations of ancient Atlanteans.

He made a prophecy Atlantis would resurface in the 1960s, which led it back into the spotlight and inspired new stories and speculations about it.

While I am not old enough to remember the 1960s, I do remember in the late 1970s my first experience related to Atlantis through television. For one or two seasons in the late '70s, "The Man From Atlantis" was a science-fiction adventure show featuring future Dallas star Patrick Duffy as the title character. While it probably is campy by today's standards, I remember it as a neat fantasy adventure and it was probably inspired by the Cayce prophecy's impact on pop culture.

While that is my first memory of Atlantean inspiration, another was the reference in "Journey to the Center of the Earth." This film was one that I always waited to see on "Dialing for Dollars," a local TV movie program that used to run from 4 to 6 p.m. on channel 16.

I can remember asking Mom and Dad if we could watch the film while we ate dinner on tray tables in the living room. Sometimes they complied. In the film, the adventurers found the remains of Atlantis deep below the surface in the caves headed toward the middle of the world.

Pop culture was not the only source of Atlantis. Explorers, oceanographers and others have made attempts to explain Plato's inspiration by tirelessly searching and speculating on the existence and location of Atlantis. Their hypotheses have placed Atlantis in several places throughout not only the Atlantic but in other oceans.

Though speculation of an island or small continent sinking below the ocean is believed by many to be far-fetched, several discoveries over the years seems to suggest Atlantis may have actually existed. After all, undersea explorers have found other evidence of ancient cities or constructions beneath the ocean. Off the coast of Florida, beneath the ocean surface is a road on the seabed. Other communities have been found beneath the sea off the coasts of the world's older countries as well like Italy, Egypt and Greece.

The fact these other locations exist lends credence to the possibility somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean is hidden Atlantis or a city/island that inspired Plato. It is understandable that explorers who have found a sunken ship over two millennia old off the coast of Sicily were excited to discover a precious metal about which the modern world has only read.

The ship apparently was heading toward Gela near Southern Sicily when it was sunk, probably from a storm, according to the article. In its hold were large amounts of this unknown metal which resembled Plato's description of orichalcum that he wrote was used to decorate the inner wall around the citadel in Atlantis.

Scientists have examined this metal and determined it is an alloy which for some reason ceased being made millennia ago. They believe it is a mixture of copper, zinc and other trace metals. Why it stopped being manufactured is anyone's guess, but it makes one speculate whether this is just another piece of evidence in the camp that Atlantis was a real place. Perhaps someday the mystery will finally be solved.

Till next time …

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