The Natural Disaster Behind the Legend of Atlantis
During the second millennium BC, the Minoans, based out of the Mediterranean island of Crete, created history’s first naval trade empire. They also developed a particularly sophisticated and advanced civilization for that day and age. Then it all came crashing down, due in large part to a natural disaster: the Thera Volcanic Eruption, circa 1642 – 1540 BC, in what is today the Greek island of Santorini. It was one of the most powerful volcanic blasts in recorded history, estimated to have been about four times stronger than the gigantic Krakatoa explosion of 1883. The eruption sundered the island of Thera, and wiped out the flourishing Minoan settlement of nearby Arkotiri and surrounding islands.
Tsunami in Crete
In addition to the immediate devastation of Thera and the surrounding islands, the eruption produced powerful tsunamis that devastated Crete, contributing to the decline of the Minoan civilization and paving the way for its extinction. Such a disaster, coming out of the blue like a bolt of lightning, gave rise to the legend of the vanished civilization of Atlantis, which was doomed by a natural catastrophe and swallowed by the sea. However, the impact of the Thera Eruption went beyond serving as the source material for a myth about a vanished civilization. It was one of history’s most impactful natural disasters, with consequences not only in its own era, but with knock-on effects and a chain of causation leading directly to the world in which we live today.