“Beyond the Pillars of Hercules and within the Ocean of Atlas there lies Atlantis – rich in wisdom, power and wealth.”
Atlantis, according to Plato (Critias & Timaeus) was beyond the the Pillars of Hercules or the Straits of Gibraltar. If we are to take the story literally then Atlantis is definitely not in the Mediterranean. (Sorry all you Santorini enthusiasts.)
So, what do we know about Atlantis? It was an island, probably smaller than Southern Italy. It was somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean but close enough for its ships to to pass the Straits of Gibraltar and enter the Mediterranean.
It’s civilisation originated towards the end of the last Ice Age. Later, it had significant trade with other nations. There were elephants (imported?) and chestnut trees. It was close enough to Africa to be able to dominate the lands of Libya. Orichalcum could be mined on the island. It was probably volcanic. It was destroyed by an earthquake (volcanism).
If we accept that Plato’s description is accurate and don’t tamper with the story of Atlantis to make it fit other possible locations then we need to look for a volcanic island (or the remains of one) in the Atlantic beyond the straights of Gibraltar but close enough to North Africa for it to have been able to control the coastal lands of Libya up to the borders of Egypt.
If we faithfully follow this description we do find an actual place. We find the volcanic Canary Islands. Quite a great deal of Plato’s description matches this location. They are volcanic, on the ancient but disputed trade route to the Americas, were once considerably more fertile than they are today, are still unstable and have unusual (if limited) ruins. Pliny the Elder (AD23 – 79) reports the Canary Islands were uninhabited in the time of Hanno the Navigator (c. 600 BC), but nevertheless contained the ruins of buildings.
“He (Juba II) said that in this island there are traces of buildings; that while they all have an abundant supply of fruit and of birds of every kind, Canaria also abounds in palm-groves bearing dates and in conifers; that in addition to this there is a large supply of honey, and also papyrus grows in the rivers,” From the Translation of The Natural History of Pliny the Elder by H. Rackham, first published 1942, Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press.