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Legendary sunken island in the Atlantic Ocean west of Gibraltar. The main sources for the legend are two of Plato's dialogues, Timaeus and Critias. According to Plato, Atlantis had a rich civilization, and its princes made many conquests in the Mediterranean before earthquakes destroyed the island and it was swallowed up by the sea. Plato also supplied a history of its ideal commonwealth, and Atlantis is sometimes imagined as a utopia. The legend may have originated with the eruption c. 1500 BC of a volcano on Thíra, which was so powerful that it gave rise to earthquakes and tidal waves.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Atlantis, visit Britannica.com.