Legend of the Lost City of Atlantis Lesson for Kids

Instructor: David Wilson

David has taught college history and holds an MA in history.

One of the greatest legends in all of history has been the Lost City of Atlantis, an advanced civilization that was thought to have sunk beneath the ocean centuries ago. Learn about this legend and its significance in this lesson.

Lost and Found

When was the last time that you lost something? Everyone has lost something at one point or another. Sometimes it's small, like some quarters in your pocket, and sometimes you lose the keys to your house or car. But what about losing something even bigger—could you lose an entire building? It sounds odd, but one of the great legends of history tells the story of the Lost City of Atlantis, which sunk into the ocean thousands of years ago. This legend hasn't just survived through the ages but inspired many people to go looking.

Origins

We first heard about Atlantis from the Greek philosopher, meaning writer and thinker, named Plato. If not for Plato's mention of Atlantis, we would never have heard of it. In two of Plato's books, he talks about an advanced kingdom that was ruled by people who were half man and half god. Atlantis, Plato said, was a utopia, meaning a perfect place without hunger, poverty, or unhappiness. Atlantis had existed thousands of years ago, Plato said, and it grew rich because of its gold and silver and had wild animals found nowhere else.

Painting of Plato, the man who described Atlantis
Plato painting

However, this great civilization had a tragic ending. In a night and a day, Plato wrote that the sea swallowed the islands of Atlantis whole. While he claimed that the story of the city had been passed down by survivors, his two books are the only record we have of it. In fact, even other ancient Greeks didn't totally buy the story—some thought Atlantis existed, others thought that Plato was trying to make a comparison to their society.

Search Party

With so much uncertainty about Atlantis, many scientists and writers through history have tried to claim that they knew the true location. Some thought that Atlantis must be near Greece itself, while others thought that since Plato mentioned the island was originally near the coast of Spain that it might still be there. Other suggestions ranged far—some even thought that Atlantis might be in Antarctica!

Painting depicting Atlantis being consumed by the sea
Painting of Atlantis

About 350 years ago, a scientist named Olaus Rudbeck argued that Sweden was the original city of Atlantis, and that all human languages came from Swedish. While the Swedes really liked this idea, it never caught on in other places. About 150 years ago, an American writer named Ignatius Donnelly claimed that the ancient civilization spread its culture to all parts of the world.

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