In the first centuries of the Christian era, Aristotle was taken at his word and Atlantis was little discussed. In 1627, the English philosopher and scientist Francis Bacon published a utopian novel titled “The New Atlantis,” depicting, like Plato before him, a politically and scientifically advanced society on a previously unknown oceanic island. In 1882, former U.S. Congressman Ignatious L. Donnelly published “Atlantis: The Antediluvian World,” which touched off a frenzy of works attempting to locate and learn from a historical Atlantis. Donnelly hypothesized an advanced civilization whose immigrants had populated much of ancient Europe, Africa and the Americas, and whose heroes had inspired Greek, Hindu and Scandinavian mythology. Donnelley’s theories were popularized and elaborated by turn-of-the-20th-century theosophists and are often incorporated into contemporary New Age beliefs.
From time to time, archaeologists and historians locate evidence—a swampy, prehistoric city in coastal Spain; a suspicious undersea rock formation in the Bahamas—that might be a source of the Atlantis story. Of these, the site with the widest acceptance is the Greek island of Santorini (ancient Thera), a half-submerged caldera created by the massive second-millennium-B.C. volcanic eruption whose tsunami may have hastened the collapse of the Minoan civilization on Crete.